The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 10-9

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Charlie Parker

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/

Second Session

THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2010

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Fin.: Tax Increases - Halt, Mr. A. MacMaster 550
Health: Dialysis Ctr. - Funding, Mr. M. Whynott 550
Justice - Correctional Facility (Cumb. Co.), Hon. M. Scott 550
Sewage Sludge (Biosolids): Usage - Moratorium Declare,
Mr. J. Morton 551
Fin.: Tax Increases - Halt, Mr. L. Glavine 551
Sewage Sludge: Usage (Col. Co.) Discourage,
Mr. C. Porter 551^
Curves Fitness Ctr.: Healthy Living Tax Receipts - Validity,
Mr. C. Porter 552
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Health Emergency Care in N.S. Interim Rept.,
Hon. Maureen MacDonald 552^
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health - Emergency Care in Nova Scotia,
Hon. Maureen MacDonald 552
Environ.: Biosolids - Usage, Hon. S. Belliveau 556
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 229, Rainmen - Prem. Basketball League Championship: Bid
- Support, The Premier 561
Vote - Affirmative 562
Res. 230, Sibson, Elaine: WCB Chair - Appt.,
Hon. M. More 562
Vote - Affirmative 562
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 231, Grant, Shauntay: CD Release - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Paris 563
Vote - Affirmative 563
Res. 232, Canoe '09: Organizing Comm. - Recognize,
Hon. Maureen MacDonald 563
Vote - Affirmative 564
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 19, Motor Vehicle Act,
Hon. W. Estabrooks 565
No. 20, Health-care Sustainability Advisory Council Act,
Ms. D. Whalen 565
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 233, Cape Breton Nova MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 565
Res. 234, Thirsty Church (Col. Co.): Dedication - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Casey 566
Vote - Affirmative 566
Res. 235, East. Passage Fire Combat Team: Scott Firefit Championships
- Congrats., Ms. B. Kent 566
Vote - Affirmative 567
Res. 236, Hfx. Atlantic MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Ms. K. Regan 567
Res. 237, Nickerson, Gary: Justice Min. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 568
Vote - Affirmative 569
Res. 238, Antigonish Farmers Mutual Insurance Co. - Anniv. (100th),
Mr. M. Smith 569
Vote - Affirmative 569
Res. 239, Bedford Legion: Fundraising/Donation - Congrats.,
Ms. K. Regan 569
Vote - Affirmative 570
Res. 240, Fin. - Min. (N.S.): Min. (N.B.) - Listen,
Mr. A. MacMaster 570
Res. 241, Lawton's (Kentville) - Best of Kings Award (2010),
Mr. J. Morton 571
Vote - Affirmative 572
Res. 242, MacKay, Wayne - Contract: PSC - Table,
Mr. A. Younger 572
Res. 243, Mahone Bay Classic Boat Fest.: Vols. - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Bain 573
Vote - Affirmative 573
Res. 244, Lutwick's Boat Building & Repair:
Investments in Fisheries Funds - Congrats.,
Ms. P. Birdsall 574
Vote - Affirmative 574
Res. 245, Prem. - HST Hike: Middle Class - Penalizing Stop,
Mr. L. Glavine 575
Res. 246, Chandler, Jonathan/Horne, Tyler: SPCA Fundraising -
Commend, Mr. C. Porter 575
Vote - Affirmative 576
Res. 247, Canso Lions Club: Commun. Serv. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Boudreau 577
Vote - Affirmative 577
Res. 248, LeBlanc David, Maxine: MS Treatment - Campaign Congrats.,
Hon. M. Samson 577
Vote - Affirmative 578
Res. 249, African Heritage Month: Leading Ladies - Congrats.,
Mr. A. MacLeod 578
Vote - Affirmative 579
Res. 250, Truro-Bible Hill MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Hon. W. Gaudet 579
Res. 251, Justice: Bill C-25 - Support,
Hon. M. Scott 580
Vote - Affirmative 580
Res. 252, Chester-St. Margaret's MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Mr. A. Younger 580
Res. 253, Tatamagouche: 300th Anniv. - Recognize,
Hon. K. Casey 581
Vote - Affirmative 582
Res. 254, Sackville-Cobequid MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Hon. K. Colwell 582
Res. 255, Aucoin, Harold: CGA Fellowship Award - Congrats.,
Mr. A. MacMaster 583
Vote - Affirmative 583
Res. 256, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Mr. H. Theriault 583
Res. 257, Wright, Spencer/Smith, Mary -
Hants West's Vols. of Yr. Certificates, Mr. C. Porter 584
Vote - Affirmative 585
Res. 258, Pictou East MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Mr. L. Glavine 585
Res. 259, Reid, Gillian: Intl. Conf. - Success Wish,
Mr. K. Bain 586
Vote - Affirmative 586
Res. 260, Comeau, Clarence: Death of - Tribute,
Hon. W. Gaudet 586
Vote - Affirmative 587
Res. 261, Sampson, Lynette: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Mr. A. MacLeod 587
Vote - Affirmative 588
Res. 262, Queens MLA: Election Misleading - Remind,
Ms. D. Whalen 588
Res. 263, Currie, Doug: Vol. Efforts - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Scott 589
Vote - Affirmative 589
Res. 264, Wilson, Dave/Bear River Plastics: Innovation - Congrats.,
Mr. H. Theriault 589
Vote - Affirmative 590
Res. 265, World Autism Day (04/02/10) - Acknowledge,
Ms. D. Whalen 590
Vote - Affirmative 591
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 93, Prem. - Yarmouth: Marketing Init. - Details,
Hon. W. Gaudet 591
No. 94, Prem.: Yarmouth Meeting - Discussions,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 593
No. 95, Health - ER Rept.: Serv. (24/7) - Continuation,
Ms. D. Whalen 594
No. 96, Fin. - Prem./Cabinet: Tax Break - Confirm,
Mr. L. Glavine 596
No. 97, Prem. - Emergency Care Rept.: Cost - Justify,
Hon. K. Casey 597
No. 98, Health: Acquired Brain Injury - Supports,
Mr. A. Younger 599
No. 99, Prem. - Yarmouth: Marketing Init. - Details,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 600
No. 100, Health - Islands Health Ctr: Nurse Practitioner/Physician -
Scheduling, Ms. D. Whalen 602
No. 101, Educ. - Holy Angels HS: Operation - Continue,
Hon. K. Casey 603
No. 102, Educ. - Universities: Review - Details,
Ms. K. Regan 604
No. 102, Nat. Res. - Campsite Booking: Contact Ctr.
- Contract Details, Mr. L. Glavine 606
No. 103, ERD - High-Speed Internet: Web Site - Update,
Mr. C. Porter 606
No. 104, TCH: Black Cultural Ctr. - Emergency Funding,
Hon. K. Colwell 608
No. 105, ERD: Minacs Call Ctr. - Update,
Mr. A. MacMaster 609
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Hon. Manning MacDonald 611
Mr. C. Porter 615
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 3:02 p.m. 620
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:57 p.m. 620
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Graduate Tax Credit - Impact:
Ms. K. Regan 621
Hon. M. More 623
Hon. K. Casey 626
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 9th at 9:00 a.m. 628

[Page 549]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 8, 2010

Sixty-first General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Charlie Parker

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We'll start today's proceedings.

I'm going to start off with reading the late debate under Rule 5(5). This is for the moment of interruption:

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP's graduate tax credit will have little impact on retention rates in the province and does nothing to help low-income Nova Scotians gain access to post-secondary education.

It is submitted by the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, and that will be at the moment of interruption.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

[Page 550]

549

MR. ALLAN MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition entitled Say No to Tax Increases. It comes to us from the members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. These petitions were signed by small business owners, their employees, and customers. All are in agreement that an HST increase is not going to help them add value to our Nova Scotia economy.

I am honoured to carry the voice of these people. These small business owners are the people who create primarily non-tax-dependent employment for our province, and I'm happy to carry their voice to the floor of the Legislature. May their voices be heard.

There are 1,399 signatures here and I will affix my signature to make it an even 1,400.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville.

MR. MAT WHYNOTT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause:

"Therefore, we the undersigned dialysis patients, family and friends, call on our government to understand that the hemodialysis unit at the QEII HSC falls short of even being adequate. Funds are needed now to improve the current facilities and planning needs to start to build a new unit to better meet the needs of the patients and families that require this life sustaining treatment."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, here we are on day eight of this legislative sitting. I think it's going to be remembered as the sitting of petitions against this government, which continues every day to break promises. I will remind the House I have a headline here that says, "Dexter says he'd keep Tory promises" - of course he's breaking them every day.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this petition on behalf of the residents of Cumberland County who say:

[Page 551]

"We, the residents of Cumberland County implore that Premier Darrell Dexter keep his word and build a correctional facility in Cumberland County!"

This petition is signed by 78 people - bringing the total to 525 - and I have signed it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. JIM MORTON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that has been organized, gathered, and signed by the residents of Kings County. The operative clause of the petition reads as follows:

"We the undersigned, residents of Nova Scotia, respectfully petition the Government of Nova Scotia to declare an immediate moratorium on the use of sewage sludge (biosolids) on Nova Scotia lands and to adopt with minimum delay safe options for sewage sludge disposal or destruction."

There are approximately 2,800 names on this petition and I have affixed my signature as required.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, Say No to Tax Increases:

"We, the undersigned, petition the Legislature to preserve businesses and jobs by NOT increasing taxes. Balance the books over the medium term by rolling back the massive spending increases of recent years."

This petition contains 1,400 names and I have signed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause reads:

"We understand that waste disposal is a real and constant concern in today's society, but we strongly believe that spreading sewage sludge on farm fields

[Page 552]

is not a viable alternative. It's simply too dangerous - to human beings and to our planet as a whole. In that light, we urge you to discourage the practice in Colchester County."

It is signed by five individuals who are residents of Colchester County and I have affixed my signature as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 50 individuals who all attend the Curves Fitness Center in the Windsor, Hants West area. The operative clause reads:

"We have been issuing healtH[sic] living tax receipts throughout the year to members that have left for a variety of reasons and encouraged them to hold onto their receipt for tax purposes. We are angered to now have to explain to members, past and present, that their receipts are no longer useful or valid."

I have affixed my signature to that as well.

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a report, Emergency Care in Nova Scotia, Interim Report, of Dr. John Ross, Provincial Adviser on Emergency Care. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 553]

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my government is committed to patient safety and quality health care across the province. A health system that puts quality and patient safety first is better managed, is more attractive to health care providers, and will serve Nova Scotians better.

Emergency room closures has become a chronic problem in smaller rural hospitals and at the same time our larger emergency departments in our regional hospitals are under greater strain with patients enduring long waits. These are long-standing problems that did not develop overnight and they won't be solved overnight. But I am pleased to say, Mr. Speaker, that we are making progress.

My government took an important step in addressing these concerns last September with the appointment of Nova Scotia's first provincial adviser on emergency patient care. We asked Dr. John Ross to provide leadership by working with district health authorities, doctors, and other health care providers to ensure that emergency departments deliver the kind of health care that Nova Scotians need. We also asked him to investigate the root causes of the ongoing closures and put province-wide plans in place to address these closures.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to acknowledge receipt of Dr. John Ross' interim report, tabled here today, which will also be posted on our government Health Web site for all to see.

After just five months on the job, Mr. Speaker, his interim report summarizes his progress and observations during his visits to district health authorities and communities. It highlights the need to collect and share reliable, consistent data for emergency departments and the need to increase access to primary health care that will give people more options. It also highlights the need to take an integrated systems approach that recognizes the interdependencies among hospitals, districts, and the province's ambulance system.

Dr. Ross' report identifies the need for establishing clear provincial standards to establish an organized and consistent approach to providing hospital emergency services and ensure that all Nova Scotians receive quality emergency care.

Mr. Speaker, I have asked Dr. Ross to lead the development of this set of standards, in consultation with districts and communities, as he continues his work to ensure that families have access to the emergency care they need. These standards will be released once Dr. Ross has completed his consultation and recommends them for approval. Establishing standards for Nova Scotia's emergency care centres will be another step forward in meeting our government's commitment for providing better health care for families. Nova Scotia will be the first province in Canada to enact provincial standards.

Dr. Ross will continue working in emergency rooms across the province, meeting with health care professionals and community members in the remaining district health

[Page 554]

authorities to ensure the collective voices of all Nova Scotians are reflected in his final report. With his interim report Dr. Ross has set the groundwork for a collaborative provincial approach to improving the whole emergency care system. It provides meaningful information that will support the right decisions for families in difficult times.

Mr. Speaker, last November my government passed legislation to increase accountability by requiring districts to consult with communities on emergency room closures. Most of these meetings have now taken place, and this Spring I will table a report in this Legislature concerning emergency room closures. Dr. Ross' final report will help form the basis of the government's plan to ensure that families have access to the emergency care they need, when they need it.

In the 2010-11 budget, $3 million has been allocated for an Emergency Department Protection Fund which will be used for initiatives identified in the plan. I anticipate Dr. Ross' next report in the summer. Mr. Speaker, Dr. Ross has joined us today in the gallery, and I would ask that he stand and be recognized by all members. (Applause)

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank Dr. Ross for this report and for his continuing leadership role in improving access to emergency care in Nova Scotia. I appreciate his experience, his candour and his commitment - as well as his humour - that he brings to this work.

A copy of Dr. Ross' report is being sent to all district health authorities, community health boards, and municipalities. It is also available on the department's Web site, and I encourage everyone to read it and become engaged in improving emergency care for all Nova Scotians. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, minister. The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to begin by thanking the minister for giving us an advance copy of her statement today so that we could be prepared and know the content of that. I'd also like to acknowledge Dr. Ross, who is with us today, and thank him for the work he has done to date on the interim report. It is also important to acknowledge that the report has been released immediately, as we asked for last week. As information becomes available, I think it is important that the public have an opportunity to assess it as well.

Quite frankly, in reading through this, there's a good analysis of the issue that faces us, but I don't think there's a lot of new information there, Mr. Speaker. We knew these issues existed, and they were known in the last election as well when the government made its promise of keeping the emergency rooms open 24/7. The complexity was not unknown

[Page 555]

to the members of the NDP Government. These are familiar problems and if you listen to constituents and Nova Scotians you know the kind of problems with access they're having.

It's clear to me that this report is setting the table for the closure of some emergency rooms in the province. Let me quote from the interim report. It says, "In some locations with very low night visit rates . . . service hours could be safely reduced . . ." The report goes on to state, "Five of the hospitals that I reviewed averaged less than one patient per night in 2008/09."

We knew the issue of emergency room closures was not as simple as the NDP election promise of keeping the rooms open 24/7, full stop. It just doesn't hold water, they knew better during the election. This is just another promise made by the NDP Government and it's a promise that they're preparing to break. We are getting used to the NDP way of doing business - make a promise, hire a consultant, the consultant will say it's a bad idea and then break that promise.

They will use Dr. Ross' report to help them deliver bad news to communities. However Dr. Ross still has two more district health authorities to visit, two more districts to visit and there's a lot more work left to be done. Those of us in the Liberal caucus will be eagerly awaiting his final report.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I too want to thank the minister for providing us with an advance copy of her statement today. I want to thank Dr. Ross for his work in this matter.

I do want to underline a few things. The previous member said it - there are a lot of things in here that we've heard before and we have heard it over and over again. These are the things the NDP knew prior to the election and yet they made lots of great promises to keep all ERs open all the time.

The NDP tend to continually hire consultants so that they can blame them for some really tough decisions that are going to be made, but I can say Dr. Ross was a heck of a lot smarter than some of those consultants today by saying he would not be recommending the closure of ERs in this province. My kudos to him for saying that because now this government has no one to stand behind when they have to make some tough decisions to close ERs in this province.

We'll look quite attentively on what the further recommendations are going to be. They're coming sometime in the summer. I wish Dr. Ross Godspeed in gathering the rest of the information required and provide it to the minister so the minister can move on to closing ERs like this government is going to have to do. Thank you.

[Page 556]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment.

HON. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, with your permission, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a special guest in the gallery today.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. BELLIVEAU: I draw the attention of the House to Dr. David Burton in the east gallery today. Mr. Burton is a soil scientist and a professor with the Department of Environmental Sciences at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. As a soil specialist, Dr. Burton is very interested in the use of soil nutrients such as biosolids. I will be speaking to that issue this afternoon so I am pleased Dr. Burton is here to show his support for the biosolid use in our beautiful province. On behalf of all members present, I would like to welcome Dr. Burton to the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House on this occasion to thank the member for Kings North for tabling a petition on biosolids. He is representing the wishes of some of his constituents and doing his duty as an elected member. In fact, I am very glad that he has brought this issue to the attention of the House because it provides an opportunity to speak to the facts of biosolids. I think this is very important because there has been some public comment on this issue in recent months that seems to influence, unfortunately, more by perception than by facts.

Biosolids are renewable and primarily organic material. It is useful material and is rich in nutrients and makes a very good addition to soil to help keep the plant growth. I think it is unfortunate that some people may have a perception of this material that is not accurate, that perception is not fully informed by good science.

Biosolids are a good form of soil enhancement and natural fertilizer. They can be used to help growth in parks, in our forestry, on lands affected by industry and other uses. In Nova Scotia, biosolids must meet provincial guidelines and regulations for their storage and applications to the land. These guidelines are new and are the most stringent in all of Canada.

These guidelines on biosolids in Nova Scotia were brought in by our government last October. The guidelines set a high standard of quality. The highest quality biosolids are called Class A. Only Class A biosolids, the highest quality, meet strict standards, are allowed for use on farmlands. The lower quality, Class B, is not allowed on farmlands and Class B biosolids can only be applied on non-farmland with approval from the Department of Environment. That bears repeating, in Nova Scotia, the highest quality biosolid material is subject to the highest testing standards in the country.

[Page 557]

Our government continues to co-lead a national biosolids committee under the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment, which is working to establish a consistent, natural approach to biosolid management. This matter has been reviewed so closely here that I think the national committee would be wise to follow the Nova Scotia lead on biosolid management. We are leading the way in responsible, science-based management of this material. (Applause)

[12:30 p.m.]

Nova Scotia's new and stricter biosolid guidelines were developed through extensive consultation. They were developed from recommendations by an independent committee of citizens, facility managers and wastewater researchers, regulators and representatives from all levels of government.

Biosolids help to protect our environment. The biosolids process keeps treated wastewater sludge from entering the environment by heating and treating it until a useful soil supplement is created. Nova Scotia's new guidelines are based on the latest biosolid science and research. In Canada, biosolids must also be federally approved for use. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has done a great job on research on biosolids and has concluded that land application of high-quality biosolids is safe for the environment and humans.

I believe one of the difficulties with this issue is the incorrect perception that is out there. Let's look closely at some of the facts about the useful resource. Biosolids are a dry, crumbly, almost odorless material that can be easily absorbed into the soil. The material is a far cry from the unattractive image that some people may have. Biosolids are created by applying very high temperatures, and other treatment processes, to the sludge that comes from the primary treatment at wastewater treatment plants. A treated substance is then put through another treatment process. This treatment process changes the sludge, it becomes a very different substance. The process removes harmful bacteria, the material is also treated to remove or reduce compounds like pharmaceuticals, which, if present, would be in extremely small amounts to begin with, basically in parts per billion.

Mr. Speaker, when proper guidelines and regulations are followed, biosolids will not pose a health risk to individuals' crop production or the environment. Nova Scotia requires the highest standards of biosolids testing in Canada and the biosolids used in our province must be tested for and must meet strict standards for nutrients, metals and other compounds. In fact, our government has added several more compounds to the list of things that must be tested for. The science is clear, the guidelines are strong, the material is useful and biosolids have been widely used in many jurisdictions for many years.

[Page 558]

Mr. Speaker, our society is adapting to an environment that is changing and we need to rely on science to adapt and to put less into the environment and to be resourceful. The land application of biosolids is an ancient practice that has been improved through modern environmental thinking and proven safe by science.

Mr. Speaker, I know that Nova Scotians want to form good choices based on reliable information. I urge you, if you have any questions about biosolids, to visit the Web site of the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Environment. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

MR. SPEAKER: I will just remind members there's a little bit too much chatter in the Chamber. It's hard for me and hard for others to hear the speaker so just a reminder in that regard.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for providing me an advance copy yesterday of the statement so I could review that. The minister is no doubt aware that the Liberal members for Preston and Kings West have both frequently spoken in this House on the issue of biosolids over the past three years, representing the concerns of many of the people they represent. Much of that concern is not just over knowing what to believe. As well, the minister may be aware that I, myself, have spoken frequently at conferences on this issue. So it's one I think many of us are familiar with.

I was asked last year by a member of the media whether I would buy vegetables in a store that had been grown using biosolids and my answer to him was that there is likely very little in the stores that you can buy that isn't grown using biosolids of some sort and has been for many, many years and that's one of the issues, that there's a fairly significant misunderstanding of that both in Nova Scotia and elsewhere.

The minister stated in his remarks that, "I think it is unfortunate that some people may have a perception of this material that is not accurate. That perception is not fully informed by good science." I would agree generally with that statement but I think the issue of public perception goes a little bit deeper than that. Often the negative perception of biosolids is based largely on lumping all categories of biosolids together in one group. So the perception is, in my view, accurate for certain classes and not accurate for other classes but, unfortunately, the public doesn't have easy access to information to make that distinction.

While I generally agree with the minister's remarks and the fact that biosolids have been used in various types in Nova Scotia and around the world, I think the minister's department and the Department of Agriculture fails when it comes to educating the public and ensuring they have access to information about what is being spread on fields in Nova

[Page 559]

Scotia and this, Mr. Speaker, includes biosolids that originate not only from human sources but animal sources as well, which are often equally at risk of containing pharmaceuticals and heavy metal remnants. In fact, such biosolids are not tested in any way in Nova Scotia, or to my knowledge in any other province for that matter, prior to being applied on farms but also when combined in manufactured soils to use on even urban gardens.

As well, there are some markets that sell products labelled as not being grown using biosolids when, in fact, they may use non-human biosolids and yet the department has not regulated the use of this marketing moniker so that consumers can make clear and informed choices. It's worth noting that testing for many heavy metals and other contaminants is done of the Class A biosolids that the minister spoke about prior to application, but it's difficult for the public to find a source of information where they can review it themselves.

So I would encourage the department to make use of its Web site to publish this type of information. As well, if the minister truly believes and stands by what he is saying today, then the best thing the department can do is to widely distribute information to communities, particularly rural communities, with respect to information that they have on the relative safety of biosolids of the farm material. It is simply not enough for the minister to stand up today and say biosolids are safe. The government has a responsibility to not only say the materials used on Nova Scotia farms is safe but to prove that it is safe and ensure that residents, consumers, and farmers all have access to information they need to make their own informed decisions.

I trust the minister will have his department move forward in this regard, and I thank the House for its time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, want to thank the minister for the statement and for providing an advance copy yesterday for our review.

The minister went into great detail today about expert advice, but I want to remind the minister about a recent court case. The jury was out; they were attempting to make a decision on evidence presented by two ballistic experts, both stating emphatically they were offering 100 per cent concrete proof. Mr. Speaker, individuals want to be listened to - they do not want to be told "experts indicated." How many times has the minister responded to concerns of Nova Scotians and literally sat down around the table and listened to the concerns being expressed about this issue? Expert advice will only take you so far.

I responded to a letter from a lady in Hantsport expressing her concerns on this issue back in early February. I explained that farmers in the Annapolis Valley were facing difficult times, but they were using biosolids because the cost is about $800 for a load compared to the cost of about $3,000 for fertilizer. I won't get carried away with the price of fertilizer

[Page 560]

today, Mr. Speaker, but I hope the Minister of Agriculture has something in his magical 10-year plan for agriculture dealing with the cost of fertilizer. That is going to be an important step as we move forward.

The minister spoke earlier that he even suggested to Canada's national committee, under the Canadian Council of Ministers, it would be wise to follow Nova Scotia's lead on biosolids. All I can say to this is, I trust the government is not getting ahead of itself. The letter from the lady in Hantsport, which the minister also read, talks about the biosolids coming from the enviro-facility near Halifax which treats human, commercial, and industrial sewage. The Nova Scotia Environmental Network and the Municipality of Kings County are solidly opposed to the spread of biosolids.

Mr. Speaker, this is where I get back to consultation - has the minister met with the Nova Scotia Environment Network and the Municipality of Kings? The minister mentioned in his statement that lower quality class biosolids are not allowed on farmland - is the minister aware if the biosolids coming from the enviro-facility are Class B and, if they are, do they have a permit from the Department of Environment?

Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, I have raised a few important issues dealing with biosolids, and it is important that they are addressed, such as the petition I presented a few short moments ago. Individuals in Colchester County believe there is also a very real possibility of serious economic backlash if sewage sludge is allowed to become a regular part of agriculture.

The residents of Colchester County are not that concerned about the human waste going onto farm fields, saying that if it was the only thing that went into the treatment plants, sludge would be relatively safe. They are concerned about the thousands of industrial household toxic chemicals taken in by our treatment plants, including a potentially lethal mixture of heavy metals, asbestos, and pesticides.

Mr. Speaker, these are a few concerns I'm hearing. I do hope that the minister's experts know what they are doing and I am only urging the minister to consult with Nova Scotians somewhat more than he has been doing.

I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this issue today.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, member. Any further ministerial statements?

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I wonder, before I do the resolution, if I might make some introductions of some folks who are in your gallery.

[Page 561]

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, sitting in your gallery are representatives of the Halifax Rainmen and their title sponsor, Rogers. The Halifax Rainmen just won a spot in the PBL playoffs and Halifax is hosting the PBL All-Star Weekend. Rogers has been a very generous supporter of the team and for this we are very fortunate. At a time when most companies aren't sponsoring teams as they did in the past, Rogers has stepped up and really become a great partner for our team.

I'd like to introduce Susan Gordon, who is visiting from Toronto; she is the VP of National Marketing/Marketing Services for Rogers. Next is Kevin MacIntyre who is the Director of Marketing, Atlantic Region, Rogers; and Andre Livingston, the president and CEO of the Halifax Rainmen who many people here would be familiar with. (Interruption) I wish he did. (Laughter) The next two guys I would like to borrow this weekend because I'm in the Grand Masters Championship, so they can come along any time.

With us, too, are two players, Gary Ervin, now Gary is the only player in Rainmen history to score a triple double and he did that twice, once was just last night and unfortunately I was not there to see it. Of course, we all know our own version of Air Canada, Eric Crookshank, who Haligonians have adopted as their own star player. Last, but not least, is Coach Les Berry, the Nova Scotian native, who is - not to put too much pressure on you - but who is going to bring a championship home to Nova Scotia. (Applause)

So, Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome them to the House and I would ask all members to give the Rainmen and the Rogers team our warm welcome and say, good luck in the playoffs. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 229

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

Whereas Atlantic Canada's only professional basketball team, the Halifax Rainmen, have won a spot in the Premier Basketball League's playoff competition, with the first game to be here at home next Thursday night; and

Whereas the Rainmen title sponsor Rogers has been a very supportive and generous partner for our professional provincial basketball team; and

[Page 562]

Whereas Halifax will play host to the All Star Weekend May 1st and May 2nd at the Halifax Metro Centre in a showcase of the best talent the Premier Basketball League has to offer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Rogers for their continued partnership of the Rainmen and encourage all Nova Scotians to come out and support this team in its bid to be the Premier Basketball League Champions of the 2009-10 season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

[12:45 p.m.]

The honourable Minister of Labour and Workforce Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 230

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

Whereas this government believes that workplace safety is a shared responsibility among all Nova Scotians and remains one of our top priorities; and

Whereas the province continues to work with its partners including the Workers' Compensation Board, which plays an important role in the process; and

Whereas Elaine Sibson, with her years of experience and designation as fellow chartered accountant and her experience as managing partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been named the new chair of the Workers' Compensation Board as former chair Ray Ivany has retired from the board to become president of Acadia University;

[Page 563]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Elaine Sibson, FCA, on being named the first full-time female chair of the Workers' Compensation Board, as well as thank Chris Power, who served as acting chair, and will continue on as deputy chair and thank Ray Ivany for his years of service and wish him well in his new role.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 African Nova Scotian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 231

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

Whereas Shauntay Grant is a talented and accomplished writer, spoken word artist, broadcast journalist, musician and Halifax's third Poet Laureate; and

Whereas Ms. Grant's body of work regularly includes reflections on growing up in the province's African Nova Scotian community and the importance of maintaining her culture and heritage; and

Whereas in February, Ms. Grant celebrated the release of her first CD Wordrhythm, a fusion of poetry and music;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to Shauntay Grant on the release of her first studio recording.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 564]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health Promotion and Protection.

RESOLUTION NO. 232

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

Whereas in August 2009 Nova Scotia played host to more than 1,000 athletes, coaches, and officials from 59 countries at the World Sprint Canoe Kayak Championship on Lake Banook while more than 60 million people watched via television; and

Whereas Nova Scotia already has some of the best canoe and kayak athletes in the world; and

Whereas the success of the 2009 World Sprint Canoe Kayak Championship leaves $880,000 in legacy funds for the future training of young Nova Scotian athletes who aspire to compete on the world stage;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the hard work of the organizing committee in making Canoe 09 the success it was, and thank all those volunteers, community members, and athletes who supported, attended, and competed at the event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Dartmouth North.

[Page 565]

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery, where today we are joined by 20 young men and women who are all student athletes at the Maritime Hockey Academy in Burnside. On a number of occasions over the last number of years, I've had a wonderful opportunity to go in and speak to the students on a wide range of issues, and on each occasion I always encourage them to come to the House and see the Assembly at work. I'm happy to welcome them today, along with principal Al MacDonald, teacher John Greenwood, and Sarah White. If the House would give the students a warm welcome, I would appreciate it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome all our guests here today and hope they enjoy the proceedings of the House.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, also in the west gallery, I'd like to draw everybody's attention to three people in particular. Mike Savage, the MP for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Chris Rafuse, who is the owner of Rannoch House, for people with acquired brain injury syndrome in Dartmouth, and of course the world's best constituency assistant, Sarah Douglas, and Mike's assistant too, Percy Fleet - can't forget about him, second-best. If they could stand and receive the welcome of the House that would be great. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to all our guests here today.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 19 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Hon. William Estabrooks)

Bill No. 20 - Entitled an Act to Create a Provincial Advisory Council on the Sustainability of Health Care. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

NOTICES OF MOTION

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 233

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

[Page 566]

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts, and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Cape Breton Nova by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova that he misled his constituents in the last election and he broke his promises to the very people who voted for him.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 234

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

Whereas a small community church in Londonderry Station, Colchester County, recently participated in the Aviva Community Fund, a national Internet voting contest, with $250,000 available to the lucky winners; and

Whereas after weeks of voting by dedicated supporters, this Thirsty Church - so named because it had no plumbing, no washrooms and no running water - pushed through to the final round as the only Nova Scotian candidate but was not successful in being awarded any funding; and

Whereas in spite of their disappointment, the Thirsty Church now has a well, running water, and will receive other needed upgrades in the Spring thanks to donations from many local businesses, volunteers, and supporters throughout Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Thirsty Church and the community for their innovation, hard work, dedication, and determination not to give up on a cause that is so important to them.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 567]

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

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 235

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

Whereas the Eastern Passage Fire Combat Team competed in the Scott Firefit Maritime Regional Championships in Stephenville, Newfoundland and Labrador; and

Whereas the team, after training very hard over the past year, won the bronze medal with a time of 125 minutes, 41 seconds; and

Whereas this medal allowed them to compete in the Scott Firefit National Championships in Quebec, and placed second in volunteer team time and relay time;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate Eastern Passage Combat Team members Robert Sandeski, Steve Gallant, Cory Detchkoff, Scott Fahie, Brian Tilley, Logan Daily, and Craig Henman for their successes in the Firefit challenges and exemplifying the significant strength, endurance, and passion that our Nova Scotia firefighters must have, and wish them every success in their upcoming competitions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 568]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Bedford-Birch Cove.

RESOLUTION NO. 236

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts, and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Halifax Atlantic by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic that she misled her constituents in the last election and she broke her promises to the very people who voted for her.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 237

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'll try hard to do this one so people can actually vote for it.

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

[Page 569]

Whereas on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General presented the Justice Minister's Award for Leadership in Crime Prevention; and

Whereas the winner of the media category was Gary Nickerson, news director of Radio CJLS covering Yarmouth, Shelburne, and Digby Counties; and

Whereas Gary Nickerson was a major contributor in forming the senior safety program in the county of Clare and is dedicated to assisting local police with requests that require informing the public;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Gary Nickerson on receiving this award for his commitment and leadership in educating and encouraging members of his local communities to become leaders in crime prevention.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 238

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

Whereas the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company has been in operation in northeastern Nova Scotia since 1910; and

Whereas the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company is owned by its policyholders; and

Whereas on Tuesday, April 6, 2010, the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company held its 100th Annual General Meeting;

[Page 570]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company on its 100th Anniversary, and wish it continued strength and success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Bedford-Birch Cove.

RESOLUTION NO. 239

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

Whereas the Bedford Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion conducts its annual Poppy Campaign in advance of Remembrance Day each autumn; and

Whereas all monies collected during the Poppy Campaign are used to benefit veterans and their communities; and

Whereas this year the Bedford Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion donated $10,000 to the Cobequid Community Health Centre Foundation to help purchase major pieces of medical equipment;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the members of the Bedford Legion, who so far have donated in excess of $100,000 to the Cobequid Community Health Centre, and wish them well in their fundraising efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[1:00 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 571]

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 Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 240

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

Whereas in the April 7th edition of The ChronicleHerald, the Minister of Finance was asked how the lower sales taxes in New Brunswick will affect cross-border shopping and was quoted as saying, "It's certainly within the realm of the possibilities, within the next 12 months, that problem will disappear." - suggesting that New Brunswick will be raising taxes; and

Whereas the New Brunswick Minister of Finance responded to this unsolicited advice by stating in the April 8th edition of The Halifax ChronicleHerald, "As a matter of fact, we are doing all we can to make New Brunswick the most competitive tax jurisdiction that we can . . . We believe that is the way to stimulate investment and to grow the economy."; and

Whereas in that same newspaper article, the New Brunswick Progressive Conservative Leader stated that if he won the next election he would not consider raising taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage the Nova Scotia Minister of Finance to listen to the advice from the New Brunswick Government, rather than trying to give it.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 572]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. GARY RAMEY: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to make an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. RAMEY: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today I have two constituents from my area, Mr. Ralph DeMone and Mr. Dave Ferguson, both of whom worked on my campaign team and who are good, solid folks from down there, and I would ask that the Legislative Assembly welcome them in the traditional way. Would you stand up guys, please? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 241

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

Whereas the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, EKCC, is the chief advocacy group for more than 300 businesses, organizations, and individuals in eastern Kings County; and

Whereas the EKCC held its annual Best of Kings Celebration on Wednesday, March 10th at the Old Orchard Inn in Greenwich; and

Whereas Lawton's Drugs in Kentville was awarded the prize for Best Pharmacy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the management and staff of Lawton's Kentville for their achievement in being named as the Best of Kings in 2010, and acknowledge their exemplary contributions to the Kings County community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 573]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 242

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

Whereas the Minister of the Public Service Commission has confirmed that a former NDP candidate in Cape Breton South has been hired on a three-year personal services contract through the Department of Health Promotion and Protection; and

Whereas the position is fully funded by the provincial government and located in a provincial government office; and

Whereas the minister has indicated to this House that there is nothing unusual about the position despite it being fully funded by the province, but posted by CBRM;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Public Service Commission table the personal services contract for Mr. Wayne McKay in this House no later than Monday, April 12th.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 243

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's identity as a tourism destination is synonymous with the many cultural festivals and events that take place across this province; and

[Page 574]

Whereas a tremendous amount of time and energy is required to host the Mahone Bay Classic Boat Festival, which has been attracting thousands of visitors for two decades; and

Whereas the Mahone Bay Classic Boat Festival has been cancelled this year because of lack of volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly express profound gratitude to all volunteers who help keep our many community festivals alive and encourage all Nova Scotians to donate whatever time they are able to give to a local event that will help distinguish their community, its cultural traditions, and our provincial identity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Lunenburg.

MS. PAM BIRDSALL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MS. BIRDSALL: I would like to introduce my daughter, Claire Worthington, in the east gallery. Would you stand up? My daughter, Claire, is here visiting from Toronto and it's the first time she has been able to be here in the House with my new job. I would ask everyone to give my daughter a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 244

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

[Page 575]

Whereas Nova Scotia's NDP Government is committed to creating secure jobs our economy needs and boat building is a traditional industry and a significant source of employment in rural Nova Scotian communities; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has a global reputation for boat building and the long-term viability of boat building is important in our rural communities and the province's economy; and

Whereas Lutwick's Boat Building and Repair in Mahone Bay specializes in the building and restoration of yachts and custom boats;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Lutwick's Boat Building and Repair on receiving funds through investments in fisheries to help Nova Scotia's boat building industry open new global markets.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 245

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

Whereas on March 30, 2009 the Premier outlined why he wanted his current job by saying, "It's time for a government that will make things better for the families of this province", but only one year later he has only made things more expensive for the families of this province; and

Whereas with far too much at stake, this NDP Premier now throws up his hands instead of dealing with this province's real problems; and

Whereas with far too much at stake, this NDP Premier and this NDP Government always take the easy way out;

[Page 576]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly advise the Premier to heed his own words of only one year ago, to stop throwing up his hands, taking the easy way out, and to stop penalizing middle-class Nova Scotians and the working poor with the NDP HST hike.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 246

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

Whereas fundraising is a significant way for non-profit organizations, such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to obtain the funds necessary for their day-to-day functions; and

Whereas Jonathan Chandler, aged eight, and Tyler Horne, aged nine, from Falmouth, Hants County, played a few gigs in the area last summer out of the back of a van under the name Band Dog Rock and donated their commissions to the local branch of the SPCA; and

Whereas this most worthy cause could use more people like Jonathan and Tyler as a large majority of money raised by the SPCA is used for vet bills - every animal is checked, needled and spayed or neutered before going to a foster home;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly commend the efforts of Jonathan Chandler and Tyler Horne on their most generous and honourable acts of kindness and wish them all the best with their future fundraisers as well as their musical endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 577]

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-Sheet Harbour.

MR. JIM BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to make an introduction before I read the resolution.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. JIM BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, today in the east gallery I am very pleased to have two very important people. My spouse, Patti, who has a long history of community development and social activism in our community; and sitting next to her today is my oldest son, Lee, who is taking a bit of a leave from his Education studies in Newfoundland, to, I'm very proud to say, offer his love and care to his sick and ailing grandmother in Antigonish. So, I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 247

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

Whereas the Canso Lions Club has been serving the people of Canso and its surrounding communities for over 41 years; and

Whereas the Canso Lions Club continues to donate to and support local groups, individuals and organizations on a monthly basis; and

Whereas the Canso Lions Club hosts many community events like the free Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, February 6, 2010, which saw 16 Lions members serve over 150 people;

[Page 578]

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Canso Lions Club on their continued and well-valued community service to the residents of Canso and surrounding area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 248

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

Whereas Maxine LeBlanc David, a resident of Poirierville, Richmond County, has been dealing with Multiple Sclerosis for 13 years; and

Whereas Maxine LeBlanc David is hopeful that a new development with Dr. Zamboni's discovery will soon become available; and

Whereas Maxine LeBlanc David has launched a campaign to raise awareness about a possible new treatment option called "The Liberation Treatment";

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Maxine LeBlanc David for embarking on a letter writing campaign to raise awareness of this new treatment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 579]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 249

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

Whereas part of this year's African Heritage Month festivities was to honour leading women in the African Nova Scotian community; and

Whereas the honorees were Edith Cromwell of Annapolis County, Ada Fells of Yarmouth County, Geraldine White of Amherst, Beryl Brathwaite of Whitney Pier, May Sheppard of Halifax and Willena Jones of Truro; and

Whereas these women came from diverse backgrounds, but all have created inroads and opportunities in their respective communities due to their hard work and dedication;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate all African Heritage Month's leading ladies and thank them for their dedication to making their communities, and Nova Scotia in general, a better and more equitable place to live.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 250

[Page 580]

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts, and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Truro-Bible Hill by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill that she misled her constituents in the last election and she broke her promises to the very people who voted for her.

[1:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 251

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

Whereas when a court sentences someone for a crime committed, Canadians expect the full sentence to be served; and

Whereas the federal Conservative Government, under the leadership of Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, recently had Bill C-25 come into effect, that strictly limits the

[Page 581]

amount of credit granted to criminals for time served in custody prior to conviction and sentencing; and

Whereas the rights of the victims need to be paramount, instead of the people who have committed the crime;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly support the federal Conservative Government and Justice Minister Nicholson in their measures to ensure that criminals serve a sentence that reflects the severity of their crimes and to remove the two for one credit system

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 252

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts, and no increases in no increase in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Chester-St. Margaret's by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

[Page 582]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's that she misled her constituents in the last election and broke her promises to the very people who voted for her.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 253

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

Whereas it has been 300 years since the earliest European settlers, the Acadians, settled in Tatamagouche, Colchester North, in 1710; and

Whereas the Tri-Centennial Planning Committee is preparing a four-month celebration in honour of the village's birthday, which will be officially kicked off in mid-June and continue until the end of September; and

Whereas several events including the Tatamagouche Tattoo Festival, Wild Blueberry Festival, Maritime Day, Golden Oldies Weekend, historic trail walks, and Oktoberfest have already been scheduled;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly recognize the community of Tatamagouche for 300 years of recorded history and diverse heritage, and wish them success with their many planned celebration events.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 583]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 254

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts and no increase in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Sackville-Cobequid by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses and causing people to consider moving out of the province in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid that he misled his constituents in the last election and he broke his promise to the very people who voted him in.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

It's good to know no one is left out here.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 255

[Page 584]

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

Whereas Harold Aucoin of Cheticamp was recently honoured by the Certified General Accountants Association of Nova Scotia with its Fellowship Award; and

Whereas the Fellowship Award is presented to those individuals who make a special contribution to the association, the profession and the community; and

Whereas Harold serves on professional boards, counsels small business and still devotes the time and effort his young family needs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Harold Aucoin on receiving the CGA Fellowship Award and wish him continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 256

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and now pay for their deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Colchester-Musquodoboit

[Page 585]

Valley by making their life more expensive, hurting local businesses and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that he has misled his constituents in the last election and he broke his promise to the very people who voted for him.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 257

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

Whereas volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others for a particular cause without payment for their time and their services; and

Whereas volunteers Spencer Wright and Mary Smith of Ardoise, Hants West, were recently awarded certificates for Volunteers of the Year for their countless hours of dedication and contribution to their community; and

Whereas volunteering their time and efforts in the community in ways such as helping with bingos, acting as DJ, assisting at the canteen, grocery shopping for supplies and writing the donation letters, these two wonderful people are showing what it really means to a part of your community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Spencer and Mary on caring about others in their community and thank them wholeheartedly for making a difference.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 586]

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 Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 258

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member, my friend , the member for Pictou East, ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this NDP budget has proved that the honourable member for Pictou East ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Pictou East by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Pictou East that he misled his constituents in the last election and he broke his promises to the very people who voted for him.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 259

[Page 587]

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

Whereas Gillian Reid of Glace Bay, a political science student at Cape Breton University, is getting worldwide insight into critical world issues; and

Whereas Gillian is travelling in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, taking part in a conference for young women, from April 4th to April 8th; and

Whereas Gillian is one of only 50 people selected from around the world to attend this conference and will have international exposure to other students, promoting global awareness and leadership skills;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Gillian on representing our province on a world stage, and wish her luck and success throughout this international conference and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 260

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

Whereas Clarence J. Comeau, a well-known Saulnierville businessman, passed away on Sunday, March 14, 2010; and

Whereas over the years Mr. Comeau's entrepreneurial spirit led him to establish several businesses throughout Clare, his proudest achievement being co-founder of Comeau's Sea Foods Limited; and

[Page 588]

Whereas Mr. Comeau was a good, honest man who worked hard all his life, supporting his family and many causes in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize the life and accomplishments of Clarence Comeau, and send our most sincere condolences to his family and friends.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 261

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

Whereas Lynette Sampson, daughter of Francis and Joyce Sampson of Sydney River, is a tireless community volunteer with organizations such as the Horizon Achievement Centre and Loaves and Fishes; and

Whereas Lynette began swimming, at the age of one and a half, in the Myra River, at her family cottage in Marion Bridge; and

Whereas Lynette has now been selected as the only Cape Bretoner and one of only eight swimmers on the 50-person team from Nova Scotia heading to the 2010 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games in London, Ontario, from July 11th to July 17th;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly join me in congratulating Lynette Sampson on her many accomplishments, and wish her luck at the Canada Summer Games in July.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 589]

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

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 Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 262

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

Whereas in the last election the honourable member for Queens ran on a platform that promised balanced budgets, no program cuts, and no increases in taxes; and

Whereas this deficit-driven NDP budget is proof that the honourable member for Queens ran a campaign based on false and misleading information; and

Whereas the NDP has created two deficits in one year and will now pay for these deficits by increasing the HST, which will directly hurt the residents of Queens by making life more expensive, hurting local businesses, and causing people to consider moving out of the community in order to find work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly remind the honourable member for Queens that she misled her constituents in the last election and she broke her promises to the very people who voted for her.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

[Page 590]

RESOLUTION NO. 263

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

Whereas Doug Currie of Wentworth was honoured for his 50 years of volunteerism during a Midget AAA hockey tournament in Springhill recently; and

Whereas Doug is a 73-year-old who began helping with minor hockey at the age of 23 when his younger brother was in Pee Wee Division in Amherst and he loved watching his brother so much that he decided to help out with the kids and has been doing just that ever since; and

Whereas Doug Currie volunteered with the Cumberland Midget AAA for 37 years and another 13 with the Minor AAA Midget team, was president of minor hockey for two terms, Chair of the Bluenose Tournament for two terms, and is current president of the Minor AAA Midget Hockey League and prior to that he was the president of Midget AA Hockey League;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate Doug Currie on his volunteer efforts and making a difference in the lives of these children and wish him continued success in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 264

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

[Page 591]

Whereas Bear River Plastics, located in Cornwallis Park, manufactured and installed a 150-foot plastic wave break system at the Dartmouth Yacht Club; and

Whereas the yacht club was so pleased with the results they ordered an additional 150 feet of wave break to be installed this Spring; and

Whereas the company has been asked by the United Nations to provide a quote on supplying five sections of the wave break to Haiti recently;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Dave Wilson and his company on their new innovation, and wish him much success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Halifax Clayton Park.

[1:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 265

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

Whereas on December 18, 2007, the United Nations adopted a resolution which designated April 2nd as World Autism Awareness Day in perpetuity; and

Whereas this UN resolution is one of only three official disease-specific United Nations days which brings the world's attention to autism spectrum disorder that affects tens of millions of children and adults worldwide; and

Whereas World Autism Day shines a bright light on autism as a growing global health crisis;

[Page 592]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly acknowledge April 2nd as World Autism Day and resolve ourselves to ensuring compassion, inclusion, and hope for Nova Scotians with autism.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery where, once again, we're joined by some young men and women, all student athletes at the Maritime Hockey Academy, from Grade 4 to Grade 7. As mentioned earlier, I've had the opportunity to speak to the students on a number of occasions over the last number of years and have always encouraged them to come to see the activity and performance in the House. So I'm glad they took that opportunity. Today they're joined by teachers Joe Hines, Malcolm MacKinnon and Ms. Joelle St. Onge. So I would like to ask the House to give our guests a warm welcome if they would like to stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome all our guests here today and hope they enjoy the proceedings of the House.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time now is 1:32 p.m. Just a couple of reminders, all electronic equipment is to be turned off during Question Period and, secondly, I would ask that all members, with questions or answers, address them through the Chair.

The honourable member for Clare.

PREM. - YARMOUTH: MARKETING INIT. - DETAILS

[Page 593]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier travelled to Yarmouth for the first time in awhile. He then triumphantly announced that the NDP Government would spend $200,000 on a marketing initiative intended to bring more visitors to southwestern Nova Scotia. So my question to the Premier is, is this $200,000 announcement the only marketing funds that the people of southwestern Nova Scotia will see this year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the announcement we made yesterday was aimed at the Maritime market. It is specifically to address where almost 50 per cent of the current visitors to southwestern Nova Scotia actually come from that market. It is in addition to any other funds that are either raised locally or are normally provided in the departmental budgets.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. On March 31st of this year, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development announced that the province had saved $600,000 by buying out Bay Ferries early.

My question to the minister is, is the $200,000 announced yesterday by the Premier from the $600,000 you saved last week?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, the short answer to that question is yes, we did save $600,000 and $200,000 of that has gone to Team West.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on the Premier's trip yesterday, the Premier mused about tough choices and used the ferry in Yarmouth as a model. The Premier doesn't know one thing about tough choices. If he wants to talk about tough choices, maybe he should ask the hundreds of people affected by the NDP's reckless decision to cancel the ferry in Yarmouth because the tough choices these people in businesses are faced with are, where do I find a new job? How many staff members will I have to lay off in order to keep my business open?

My question to the Premier is, what is your government prepared to do to help these people find a job and keep these businesses open?

THE PREMIER: Well, I thank the member opposite for the question and, in fact, exactly why that decision was made was so that the resources that we do have could be focused on making sure that we're strengthening the economy in southwestern Nova Scotia.

I can tell the member opposite that on April 16th, Team Southwest Nova Scotia, which will be co-led by our members from Team West will be meeting in Yarmouth and I understand the ACOA minister is going to be in Yarmouth the next day. The point of this is to ensure that there is, in fact, a planned economic strategy in place for southwestern Nova

[Page 594]

Scotia that will create the kinds of jobs that will sustain families and communities to make sure that there is a long term health for this region of our province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

PREM.: YARMOUTH MEETING - DISCUSSIONS

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, yesterday after almost four months of making the most short-sighted decision of the Premier's short premiership, you finally visited Yarmouth to discuss the future with the area, with local council representatives. I've got to say, I need to give the Premier full marks for walking through the protestors, looking into the eyes of the people that he has affected.

My question to the Premier is, what were you thinking as they chased you down Main Street after your meeting?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, nobody chased anyone anywhere. The reality is that I appreciate the fact that people who feel strongly on issues come out to these things. The reality is that they're right to feel strongly and feel passionately about it. We make these decisions because they are the hard ones but they are also the right ones.

That is the reason why I was in Yarmouth yesterday, it was to talk with municipal representatives, but you shouldn't say that this is the first time that's happened. In fact, I met with municipal officials on a couple of occasions already, I have met with union representatives for the workers with Bay Ferries and I have met with other departmental staff, with other levels of government in relation to this matter.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you what he was thinking - he was trying to figure out how to make his short legs go faster, running down towards The Vanguard. (Interruptions) The girls told me afterwards, I tell you, that guy can walk pretty darn fast. They walked all the way down to The Vanguard so he could do an interview there.

Changing the course a little bit here, I'm just wondering what the Premier told the councils in his meeting yesterday.

THE PREMIER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I told them, I delivered the message that we believe that there is a strong economic future for southwestern Nova Scotia, that we want to be a part of that, we want to make sure that the investments that the Government of Nova Scotia makes are designed to take advantage of the resources, of the talents, of the innovative spirit, of the entrepreneurialship of this region of the province. We're committed to do that with partners in the municipalities, we're committed to do that with the federal government partners and we're committed to do that with the people of the region. (Applause)

[Page 595]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, even though he did come, and I'm very happy that he did, I am very happy that he had the chance to talk to municipal representatives, he really has not spoken to the many of the people affected. He did not take the time yesterday to talk to any of those protesters. He didn't talk to the people who lost their jobs. He didn't talk to the people who have to close their shops. He didn't talk to the people who will probably lose their jobs because we're going to experience the worst tourism season that we have ever, ever had to experience.

So my final supplementary, since I know that the Premier's heart is not made of stone, and I know he probably had a little trouble looking at those people and really having a chance to talk to them, I was wondering if he might take this opportunity, look straight into that camera, or into that camera, and tell them why he threw them under the bus?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the people who threw Yarmouth under the bus sit on that side of the aisle. It was years of poor economic planning, years of failed investments, years of making decisions on the basis of patronage instead of on the basis of common sense that is costing Yarmouth so dearly today. So, we're going to take another approach. We're going to make sure that the investments that we make are in the people of Yarmouth. We're going to make sure that the investments that we make are in strengthening the economy of the region. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

HEALTH - ER REPT.: SERV. (24/7) - CONTINUATION

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today, Nova Scotians received their first glimpse of the $100,000 emergency room study that is underway. One could say this ER report is nothing more than a shield to enable government to deliver more bad news, as we saw with the Deloitte Report which gave the government its ammunition to raise the HST.

Dr. Ross mentioned hospitals where only one patient arrives per night on average and he also states: "In some locations with very low night visit rates (and very, very low true emergency visits) service hours could be safely reduced . . ."

My question to the minister is, is this statement sufficient to enable your government to break its promise of ensuring 24/7 emergency room opening in Nova Scotia, yes or no?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is amazing that the Official Opposition thinks you can take a complicated issue like emergency rooms and reduce it to yes or no answers. (Applause) Dr. Ross' report has laid the groundwork (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

[Page 596]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Dr. Ross' report has laid the foundation for a very, very important change, I think, in the quality and the accessibility of emergency rooms and other forms of emergency care across the province. His report speaks to issues such as expanding the use of paramedics, the use of nurse practitioners. These are all very important in getting us to the place that we need to be to provide accessible, high-quality emergency care for Nova Scotians. (Applause)

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, what is truly is amazing is that the NDP, in their campaign, could take complicated issues and boil them down to unequivocal statements that you can keep every emergency room open 24/7 in this province. That's an empty promise that I intend to remind the government about as often as I can.

On Page 7 of the report, Dr. Ross mentions that five hospitals reviewed averaged less than one patient per night. We are not so naive as to consider that the minister doesn't know what those five hospitals are, which ones they are. My question to the minister is, will the minister name in the House today the five hospitals that Dr. Ross mentioned on Page 7 of his report?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Ross's report gives us the foundation for moving forward and improving health care in Nova Scotia, and particularly emergency care in Nova Scotia. There would be nothing to be gained to start naming hospitals that have low emergency room attendance. Dr. Ross today, in his press conference, refused to do that. I'm wondering if the honourable member is trying to agitate that those are hospitals that need to be closed?

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the fact there were five named without the actual names of the hospitals is going to lead to a lot of unrest and concern right across the province. I would like to table another item that I have here, which is a blog from Shelburne County. It references the DHA's emergency room meeting that is to be held on the 14th. The blog states, "At recent public meetings, executives of the planning and policy division of the NDP Government have suggested that there will need to be emergency room 'consolidations' in the future."

This leads one to believe that some communities currently with services will not have the same services in the future. My question to the minister is, given the interim ER report and this blog comment referring to consolidations, could you say or admit today whether or not the government is poised to break its 24/7 emergency room empty promise?

[1:45 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I've been wondering about the research of the Liberal Party during Question Periods the last few days. Now I know it's on

[Page 597]

the blogs. My report with respect to emergency rooms around the province will be tabled in this House this Spring, as I indicated earlier today during the session. At that time the data that we have with respect to usage in emergency rooms will be brought forward. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

FIN. - PREM./CABINET: TAX BREAK - CONFIRM

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. When the minister was confronted yesterday with the plain fact that he gave his Premier, his Cabinet, and himself an income tax cut, his response was that our caucus was out of touch. While the minister, the Premier, and the Cabinet are enjoying tax breaks, the NDP just made life more expensive and harder for middle-class Nova Scotians and for the working poor. This isn't back-of-the-envelope math, this is simply the reality of the Finance Minister's budget. I'll table the McInnes Cooper brief on the Nova Scotia budget today, which clearly outlines the tax break that people between $83,000 and $217,000 will be getting. My question to the minister is, will the minister admit to the people of Nova Scotia that he gave his Premier, his Cabinet, and himself an income tax break in the budget?

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the income tax system in Nova Scotia already had four tax brackets when I walked into office, which is one more than anywhere else in the country. In addition to that, there was a surtax on the fourth bracket, which kind of functioned as a fifth bracket, but not really.

What we did is, we said that when we're going to implement a true fifth bracket, that surtax was no longer necessary. With these measures, Nova Scotia continues to have, by far, the most steeply progressive income tax system in the country, and people at the upper end of the scale pay substantially more than people at the middle part of the scale.

What I'm wondering from the Liberal Party, is it the Liberal Party policy that the fourth tax bracket should be higher?

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, we'll get a chance to handle that during estimates, but today I'd like to cut through the minister's rhetoric and clarify exactly what he did in his budget.(Interruptions)

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

MR. GLAVINE: According to figures released by our caucus yesterday morning, confirmed by McInnes Cooper, by eliminating the high income surtax, this NDP Government has given an income tax break to any Nova Scotian earning between $83,000 and $217,000. This clearly includes the Ministers of the Crown and the Premier. This NDP Government

[Page 598]

gave out this break while throwing the middle class and the working poor under the Dexter bus.

Mr. Speaker, my first supplemental question goes to the Premier. Will the Premier explain why he gets a tax break while working Nova Scotians are forced to pay for it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the 26,000 tax filers who fall into that category will all be paying the increased HST, which will be substantially more, so the member should understand that.

The member should also understand that what this budget does is it eliminates the HST on children's clothing, it puts in place an affordability tax credit for the lowest income Nova Scotians, it puts in place a poverty reduction tax credit, Mr. Speaker.

This is a budget that is great for seniors. Mr. Speaker, this is a budget that substantially makes life better for many, many people in this province.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, what this member understands is that hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians are upset and disappointed with the HST. This NDP Government campaigned on making life more affordable for Nova Scotia families. Since then the NDP has introduced two deficit budgets, increased the HST by two percentage points, killed the international ferry service out of Yarmouth, endangered entire industries and put in jeopardy hundreds of full-time and part-time jobs. In reality, the NDP has only made life more affordable for the NDP.

The Premier stands to gain over $450 this year and, and in case he needs help figuring this out, Mr. Speaker, we've already done his taxes for him and I table this. As we all know, the Premier's life has been a little more affordable while taxpayers in Nova Scotia picked up his exorbitant barrister fees.

My question, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier be paying for his newly-reduced barrister fees with part of the money he stands to gain from his own Finance Minister's budget changes?

THE PREMIER: You know, Mr. Speaker, I think it is always a sad day when the Opposition feels that they have to resort to personal attacks in the House of Assembly. The purpose of the budget that was introduced by the Finance Minister was to ensure that we brought the finances of the province back to balance and that we did that in a way that ensured that the lowest income Nova Scotians had any increase in the HST offset through tax credits, and in fact, to make sure that they are the ones who are better off as a result of the efforts made by this caucus.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

[Page 599]

PREM. - EMERGENCY CARE REPT.: COST - JUSTIFY

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. Today the government released a preliminary report on emergency care in Nova Scotia. As individuals began to read the report, they quickly realized that there was nothing new or substantive contained within it, in spite of the great expense incurred by the taxpayer. The common themes of temporary closure, wait times, staffing, compensation and patient usage should not be new to the minister and the deputy.

My question to the Premier is this, in times of fiscal restraint, how can his government justify paying consultants to provide information that was already common knowledge to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the irony of that question is not lost on the person who asked the question. The government that brought in Corpus Sanchez, that spent more money on consultants year after year than any government that we saw, the reality is that Dr. Ross' report lays the foundation for stronger emergency room service in this province.

MS. CASEY: I think, Mr. Speaker, what the Premier has already said confirms what I want to say. Since September 22nd of the past year, Dr. John Ross has been doing the heavy lifting that this government should be doing. There is no dispute, Dr. Ross is an excellent physician. He's knowledgeable in his field but the fact remains that the government is shifting their work onto somebody else. So my question to the Premier is this, why are we paying a consultant to do the work that the talented staff at both the Department of Health and the DHAs are able and willing to do?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Ross is an expert in emergency medicine and isn't that exactly who you would want to have providing you with advice on how to strengthen your emergency room system?

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, working relationships and the means for communication between the department staff and DHAs are very positive. The sharing of information occurs on a daily basis and baseline data is readily available. So my question to the Premier is this - why do you refuse to accept and respect the institutional knowledge that exists within your department and with the DHAs?

THE PREMIER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think much of what the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party says is true, that there is a good working relationship, that there is a lot of valuable institutional knowledge. Of course, that doesn't explain why it is they have managed to allow the system to get into this kind of trouble in the first place, but what is going to happen is Dr. Ross is going to take those relationships, take that institutional

[Page 600]

knowledge, take the research that he has brought forward and the talent that he brings to bear, and ensure that we have a stronger emergency service in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY - SUPPORTS

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. As the minister is no doubt aware, a commitment was made by her department to ensure that the needs of those with acquired brain injury in our province would start to be addressed in year four of the continuing care strategy. It's now year five and there has been no action on that. While acute care received in the health care system is by all indications excellent, post-acute care help in the community is non-existent. Would the minister please tell the House when individuals with acquired brain injury can expect fully integrated supports as promised for last year in the continuing care strategy?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing this really important issue to the floor of the Legislature. The honourable member indeed is correct. The 10-year continuing care strategy introduced by the former government indicated that a strategy with respect to acquired brain injury would be developed in year four but that has not occurred. I did meet with the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia quite early in my office after becoming minister and we have discussed the importance of developing such a strategy and we are currently looking at how we will plan to move that particular initiative forward because it is a very important initiative.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, we are hearing that this could be delayed until as long as 2016 and I hope that's not accurate, but if it is, that's entirely unacceptable. This government spends a lot of time suggesting it needs to study things before a decision is made but addressing this now would help the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health address some of the health care costs. I'm sure the minister is aware of Avery Harvey who is an individual who, with the proper environment and rehab, could be doing much better than he is. Yet the minister's department is paying $15,000 a month to have somebody watch him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with no rehabilitative benefit.

Mr. Speaker, there's a facility in my own riding, for example, called Rannoch House which is equipped to provide exceptional care for acquired brain injury and currently provides support through the alternative funding family support but they are trained to do more. Yet the Department of Health will not let them do that nor will the Department of Community Services allow them to convert to a small options or residential care facility. It

[Page 601]

seems the minister would rather pay $15,000 per month to watch Avery and others instead of providing temporary licences to Rannoch House.

My question for the minister is, why will she not instruct her department to at least provide a temporary licence to places like Rannoch House, which would not only help the health budget immediately but would provide better care to people like Avery?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the individual that he makes reference to, but as the honourable member knows, I can't discuss details of an individual's situation here in the Legislature.

There are a number of beds around the province for people with Acquired Brain Injury Syndrome, including Peter's Place, and there is another place - I don't know if it's in the honourable member's constituency or not - that's operated by, I believe, the Brain Injury Association in the Dartmouth area. As I acknowledged in the earlier response, we need to develop a strategy, and a strategy would very much look at rehabilitation services and housing in the community, and that is yet to come.

MR. SPEAKER: I would remind members, both questioners and answerers, if you can try to keep it a little briefer. The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance likes to say, this crowd over here likes to ask us for answers and on how he would save money, and here's one where they're spending $15,000 per month instead of spending maybe $1,000 per month, but they say they don't know how to solve the problem.

I know the minister understands the issues, yet the fact of the matter is that this is a problem. There are people suffering now, and all the places the minister mentioned do not have beds to support these people, and so we're taking care of them in the hospital.

My question is, Chris Rafuse is sitting in the gallery today, runs Rannoch House - will the minister meet with Ms. Rafuse after Question Period to discuss this issue with her and report back to the House on a short-term solution to not only Avery's problem but the problem faced by many of these patients in Nova Scotia?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would be more than happy to meet with the individual that the honourable member refers to; however, after Question Period may not be possible. I'm doing estimates here on the floor of the House and I'll be preparing to do estimates. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

[Page 602]

PREM.: - YARMOUTH: MARKETING INIT. - DETAILS

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. In my previous question, and I think for the answer to the question from the member for Clare, you spoke of your $200,000 announcement. The press release seems very concise, that you'll be flowing the money to the Yarmouth and Acadian shores. Even the title of it says, "Province Invests $200,000 To Market Yarmouth and Acadian Shores." It goes on, "Yarmouth and Acadian Shores will be positioned as an exciting getaway and vacation destination within the lucrative Atlantic Canada market."

Mr. Speaker, I would say, could the Premier elaborate on this commitment?

THE PREMIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to. This is a commitment of $200,000 that is used to promote, as the member noted, Yarmouth and the Acadian shores. It is designed to enhance the reach of the marketing strategy into what is already the primary market for this area of the province.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: During the meeting that you had first with the Town Council and then secondly with representatives of the other municipalities, you told these folks that these dollars were over and above the Ministers of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, and Economic and Rural Development's $600,000 for Team West. Could the Premier reiterate his commitment here in the House?

THE PREMIER: No, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is wrong about that. In fact, I was very clear that it is part of the $600,000 that was given to Team West for the purposes of ensuring that money goes toward matters associated with southwest Nova Scotia. I was crystal clear.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the Premier was not crystal clear, as a matter of fact, probably everybody at that meeting had heard him say something completely different.

Mr. Speaker, we heard a lot of doublespeak there, we heard a lot of spinning, so I guess that the commitment that he made yesterday had only a tail-light warranty and that once he was clear of the county that it was no longer valid. So why did you intentionally mislead Mayor Mooney and the other councillors?

MR. SPEAKER: No, honourable member, that is unparliamentary, you cannot say "intentionally mislead". I would ask you to retract it.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Well, Mr. Speaker, why did he mislead Mayor Mooney and the council?

[Page 603]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is an astounding thing, because I was in that meeting and that member was not. So he doesn't know what it was that I said. What I can assure him was that I was very, very clear in what I said, that this money was coming out of this fund. I also made it clear that we intend to work with Destination Southwestern Nova for the purposes of ensuring that the tourism industry in the region is supported.

I also made it clear, Mr. Speaker, that funding announcement would in no way compromise any other application or any other solicitation that they were making of the provincial government for support. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

HEALTH - ISLANDS HEALTH CTR.: NURSE PRACTITIONER/PHYSICIAN

- SCHEDULING

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is again to the Minister of Health. Recently, residents seeking care through the Islands Health Clinic are finding that they are able to schedule appointments on days when both the physician and the nurse practitioner are available. I will table the schedule for April for the Islands Health Centre to help the minister. While no one is criticizing that the clinic needs to be open and functioning, it has left many to wonder whether this is an efficient use of resources from both a human as well as a cost perspective. My question to the minister is, with an exploding budget and scarce human resources, how can the minister justify having both the physician and nurse practitioner available on certain days at the Islands Health Centre?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, you never know what is going to come up from the Opposition, do you? One day you don't have enough providers in an area and the next day you have too many.

After the former nurse practitioner was let go, the district health authority for that area, under my direction, was asked to ensure that there was adequate coverage for the people in those communities, that they not be left abandoned, as I was accused of having done many times in this House by members on that side of the floor.

We have three nurse practitioners providing services there on different days and we have been able to secure the services of a husband and wife doctor/nurse team and, of course, the excellent service from the paramedics on Brier Island continues to be available. (Applause)

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the difficulty there, but this looks so much like just trying to keep the people in Digby Neck quiet because of their uproar about losing their nurse practitioner. Twice this week, once next week and another day of the week after that, there will be a physician at the clinic when, at the same time, either the Digby ER

[Page 604]

or the Soldiers Memorial ER will be closed. We can't find a doctor to work in the ER but we have a doctor and a nurse working in the clinic. That just doesn't make any sense, financially, at this point in time. My question to the minister is, does she not agree that it is a waste of money to have a doctor operate a clinic that was really set up and could be run very well by a nurse practitioner?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the honourable member, is she seriously asking me to withdraw health care providers from the Digby-Long Island area? Is that what she's asking me to do here today?

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the government has been unable to solve the problem of having a full-time nurse practitioner at the Islands Clinic, as they promised in the Fall. It has been one of the empty, unfilled positions for months. I'm seriously suggesting that the minister didn't do the right thing then and that we are not using the appropriate resources.

I'd like to remind the minister of one of her most favourite musings - the necessity of having the right health care provider, providing the right type of care in the right setting. This simply smacks of being the exact opposite. We've heard that this is happening now with the ERs closed, while there is a doctor in Digby Neck and the volume of patients is very low.

My question, Mr. Speaker, because I know you're anxious to hear it, from a clinical perspective is, why is it okay to have both a nurse practitioner and a physician on duty in the clinic when ERs are closed and some patients are unable to access their family physician?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know I would imagine, the whole concept of nurse practitioners are to work in teams. Nurse practitioners actually work with doctors in collaboration. There is nothing untoward about having a nurse practitioner and a doctor working together just as a nurse and a doctor working together.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

EDUC. - HOLY ANGELS HS: OPERATION - CONTINUE

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, my question, finally, through you, is to the Minister of Education.

On December 23, 2009, I wrote to the minister requesting immediate action to ensure that Holy Angels High School would continue to operate. In a January 29th response the minister said: It will receive in a timely manner every consideration possible, recognizing the urgency of the situation.

[Page 605]

Since two months have passed, Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, what action have you taken to ensure that Holy Angels will not close?

HON. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I took the opportunity to visit the school and met with representatives of the staff of the school advisory council, the school board, and the sisters who own the property, and had a tour of the building. I am awaiting, as I mentioned at that time, a report and advice and recommendations from the school board. I understand that they are doing a survey and a consultation on the issue, and I believe they are also surveying seven other schools in terms of possible reviews. I eagerly await their recommendations.

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I have to say I'm disappointed, so I'm going to ask my next question to the Minister responsible for the Status of Women Act. There are 310 young women presently attending Holy Angels, the only all-girls school in Nova Scotia. Holy Angels, which dates back to 1885, has a tradition of delivering quality education for young women. My question to the minister is, in your role as being responsible for women in Nova Scotia, what actions have you taken to ensure the institution remains open?

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Well, my action is to support my colleague who is taking the appropriate steps by taking the opportunity to go visit the school and to talk with them, because of being a very accessible Cabinet Minister. She is willing to listen to people when they have a concern, and she's doing the right thing now that it's in the hands of the school board and she's awaiting the report from them.

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I'll give a third try.

To the Deputy Premier. Since the Deputy Premier just met with the Cape Breton- Victoria Regional School Board, I'm sure he recognizes the contribution Holy Angels makes to the education of young women across the province and the value it brings to Cape Breton. So my question is, what steps have you taken to ensure that Holy Angels remains open?

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I'll leave it to your wise counsel, but the Rules of the House say they have to ask questions that I have a ministerial responsibility. I do not have a direct ministerial responsibility for that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable member for Bedford-Birch Cove.

EDUC. - UNIVERSITIES: REVIEW - DETAILS

MS. KELLY REGAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education.

[Page 606]

In several media reports this week, Finance Minister Graham Steele has said universities need to spend their money more wisely. Tim O'Neil is currently conducting a review of universities in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, has your government's Finance Minister already conducted the review of universities himself?

MR. SPEAKER: Just a reminder that Christian names are not to be used. It's the honourable member or the honourable minister you should address your question to - and you've addressed it to whom?

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, our government carefully consults so that we understand the implications of the decisions we make. Certainly Mr. O'Neil will be reporting to the Premier - I believe the timeline suggests probably around June. We will take his recommendations and the information and options he provides to us very seriously, and after careful review and study we will be making decisions, probably around supporting universities and using public money as effectively as possible to further post-secondary education in this province.

MS. REGAN: Mr. Speaker, in view of the Finance Minister's comments, does the minister believe that universities in this province are being profligate in their spending?

[2:15 p.m.]

MS. MORE: I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, would you mind having that question repeated, please?

MS. REGAN: In view of the Finance Minister's comments, do you believe that universities in this province are being profligate in their spending - are they spending unwisely, too much?

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, to the contrary. I believe our government has repeated over and over again that we recognize we have a world-class university system but, because of the financial situation that we've inherited, all sectors of public spending are required to use money more smartly, more strategically, and this study is meant as an attempt to help both government and universities do that.

MS. REGAN: Mr. Speaker, in view of the minister's answer where she said she does not believe universities are spending unwisely, I'm just wondering, have you spoken to your colleague, the Minister of Finance, about his remarks and asked him not to presuppose what Tim O'Neil is going to say?

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I can only repeat that we have the utmost respect for both our university system and also Dr. O'Neil, and we eagerly await the information the

[Page 607]

universities provide and the recommendations and options that Dr. O'Neil will present to us. We'll certainly take them under careful review and, if there's anything we can do to make sure that public money is directed to the priorities of both the post-secondary education system and our government, we will do everything possible to encourage that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

NAT. RES. - CAMPSITE BOOKING: CONTACT CTR.

- CONTRACT DETAILS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The process of booking campsites in parks in Nova Scotia is not without its challenges, especially since we go through a contact centre in Ontario. When the Progressive Conservative Party was in power they signed a contract with this Ontario firm to manage the reservations. My question to the minister is, is this contract still in effect and when will it end?

HON. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the contract is still in effect and I don't have the date when it ends, but I can get that for the member.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, campers have been complaining for years that this system is not working well. The firm from Ontario doesn't handle the reservations correctly. The employees don't know the geography of Nova Scotia well. Campers have been complaining about the level of customer service. My question to the minister is, why can't we provide this service in Nova Scotia, offer a Nova Scotia solution, and create jobs and economic development?

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, to the member, it's a really reasonable question, the problem is nobody from Nova Scotia bid for the contracts.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, complaints about fees for changing reservation bookings are rampant amongst campers, why can't this process be formed in Nova Scotia? Even if the fees for changing reservations are necessary, at least those fees would go back into our economy, fueling jobs and economic development in our province. My question to the minister is, will your department closely examine this practice and try to rectify the concerns of campers?

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have to inform the member and members of the House that since I've been minister we have reviewed this practice. I want the member to be aware that we have about 90,000 people a year who camp in our campgrounds. The number of complaints we get, I think, are in the single digits but I can confirm that. They are so small

[Page 608]

in number. It shows, I think, Nova Scotians and visitors to the province are very pleased with the ability to reserve campsites and the fees associated.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

ERD - HIGH-SPEED INTERNET: WEB SITE - UPDATE

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. The company hired to do high-speed Internet for Hants County leads people to believe they can get an update on their Web site. If you go there, it says areas in Hants County in green are fully served, blue are partially served, and red not served at all. However, 47 communities, or every community listed for Hants County, are in red and defined as not yet served.

Mr. Speaker, people in places such as Poplar Grove, McKay Section and Bramber, to name a few, want to know when they can expect to have high speed Internet. It is the responsibility of this minister to know this information. So will he ask the company to provide more accurate updates to their Web site so people waiting can stay informed?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, taking into consideration what the honourable member has asked, I certainly will have a conversation with the service providers.

MR. PORTER: Thank you, minister. Mr. Speaker, through you again to the Minister of Economic and Rural Development, I will tell you what an issue it has become. Karen Taylor, a resident of the North River Road in Mosherville, Hants County had the Internet company actually call her and tell her high-speed Internet was available.

She had an appointment for March 19th. Service individuals arrived and tried for two hours only to be told there were too many jitters. She asked what they meant by jitters and they replied that too many things were in the way, they wouldn't be able to hook her up for up to another 18 months until they might have, and I say might have, more powerful towers or longer poles. Has the minister been made aware that some Nova Scotians, because of jitters, might be forced to wait another 18 months or longer for high speed Internet because you told me two days ago, I believe it was now, it would be by the end of June. Who's correct - the company installing the service saying 18 months or the minister?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, a couple of things, first of all, I like to think that I'm always right and, secondly, I never heard the term jitters before so I can't comment on it. I would say, what I would like to do, and I send an invitation to the member opposite that if he would like to join me, I would be more than willing to accommodate him along with myself to have a meeting with the people in charge of the broadband at ERD.

[Page 609]

MR. PORTER: Mr. Speaker, that's an offer that I've been waiting for quite some time, given that we tried to access information through FOIPOP to no avail; we've just been shut down. We've been asking many questions with regard to EastLink and the service provider with no answers, so I look forward to that meeting being arranged very soon.

Mr. Speaker, through you again to the minister, another individual - and I'm going to give this example, Don Aldous, a resident of Lower Burlington, personally paid $1,000 for a high-speed connection through a satellite provider and pays $70 per month to maintain it. However, even this is not enough to run things like video conferences, which he has to travel here to Halifax to do. Don can actually see one of the Internet company's new towers from his home office window, but he can't get an answer about when he will get new, improved high-speed Internet. Will Don get it by the end of June, and do you know what Don's monthly costs will be?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to comment too much on the individual's situation without knowing all the details of it, but I would certainly like to take a closer look at this. Again, if the member opposite is willing to provide me with more detail, I will certainly have staff find out what they can and answer the questions appropriately. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

TCH: BLACK CULTURAL CTR. - EMERGENCY FUNDING

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. I'm glad to see the minister has provided emergency funding of $30,000 to the Black Cultural Centre. However, this is a stop-gap measure that will not help the centre in the long term. My question is, does the minister believe stop-gap measures are appropriate for the centre?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, thank you. What I do believe in is consultation, and I'm happy to say that I personally, and my staff, have been meeting with the Black Cultural Centre on an ongoing basis for the last little while, and we will continue to meet with this valuable organization - not only to the cultural community of Nova Scotia, but to the entire community of Nova Scotia.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the measures being taken by this government do not do enough to ensure the stability of the Black Cultural Centre. The centre is required to reapply for grants every few months despite its longstanding reputation. This financial uncertainty is an ongoing concern. My question to the minister is, what are your plans to ensure the centre receives stable funding?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, again, we are in a dialogue with the Black Cultural Centre, and I think it's fair to say that the Black Cultural Centre has been around for over 25 years.

[Page 610]

It's a well-established item in the Province of Nova Scotia we are working with. When it comes to the Black Cultural Centre or any of those organizations that we work with, we try to do with as opposed to for. Thank you.

MR. COLWELL: There is a great demand for the work the Black Cultural Centre does, but it simply does not have the resources. I know the minister recognizes the value of this centre, and it could be a major attraction for tourism and an economic driver in the region. There is no other centre like this anywhere in the country. My question is, what are the minister's long-term plans to ensure the services provided by the Black Cultural Centre are maintained?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, the long-term viability and the long-term plans of the Black Cultural Centre will be determined as we continue to meet with them. I know that Bill Greenlaw has been part of those meetings - he's in charge of our museums for the Province of Nova Scotia. The dialogue, as far as I'm concerned, has been great. The Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs has been involved, and we will continue to meet with Dr. Oliver as we pursue mutual dreams.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Inverness.

ERD: MINACS CALL CTR. - UPDATE

MR. ALLAN MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. This is actually a very serious matter. Two weeks ago I spoke with Andrew Clark with Aditya Birla Minacs about the call centre in Port Hawkesbury. There were 94 jobs lost there and we spoke for about an hour on the phone, I was concerned about that. At the time there was no mention of further job losses but I heard this morning that the call centre is closing. It is a loss of a lot of jobs in the Strait area. I would like to ask the Minister of Economic Development if there is anything that he could offer to the members of the House, by way of an update on the call centre?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member opposite, it is a sad day when you have to stand up in the House and ask a question that is related to job losses in the Province of Nova Scotia. For the member opposite - and again, I invite him, if he would like to meet with me later we can further discuss this because we might run out of time here during Question Period.

I would also like to say, Mr. Speaker, that what we have is in place, we have a transition team in place. The transition team is made up and they've already had one meeting, they will be meeting again within the next 24 hours. The transition team is made up of not only Economic and Rural Development, it also includes Labour and Workforce Development. It is made up of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, it is made up of the local RDA in the area. So a lot of the stakeholders are involved. What we will be

[Page 611]

doing is working toward what the steps are going to be. I will certainly be more than happy to keep you abreast of developments.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. MACMASTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his response and I can certainly appreciate the need for business in Nova Scotia to make decisions that make sense for their business models. Over the past few months I've noticed that a number of call centres have consolidated their operations into more urban areas of the province. While that is good for urban areas, these jobs mean a lot, they have a greater impact in rural areas of the province.

I would like to ask the minister if his department would consider basing future incentives, which I understand are in the form of payroll tax rebates, to offer those incentives with some advantage for companies willing to locate to rural areas.

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I respect the question. We have close to 19,000 individuals working in call centres around the Province of Nova Scotia. Of those 19,000 people, or close to 19,000, the majority of those call centres are located in rural Nova Scotia.

One of the things you'll find is that certainly in the past 10 months - and it could be even longer but I'm saying the last 10 months since we've been the government - I've seen less of call centres. I understand the benefits of the tax rebates and the incentives and they are performance-based, but certainly what we've been seeing in Nova Scotia, there's been a trend. I don't want to downplay the role that contact centres have played in Nova Scotia, because I think they have played a very valuable role in the Province of Nova Scotia, but I think we're getting more and more away because what I've seen in recent months is I've seen more interest from IT centres, from financial services.

Again, I would just, if I may, Mr. Speaker, the next time don't hesitate . . .

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, before I call Resolution No. 1, if the floor would permit me a bit of a preamble on it and that would be that on Monday the Official Opposition's member, when responding to the Budget Speech, he adjourned debate. Through unanimous consent of the House, we will go back to that debate on this Monday and we will waive the 15 minutes each Party has going into that, so I would need unanimous consent of the House to do that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed that on Monday that we would do that?

[Page 612]

It is agreed.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in my place today to say a few words as we move into debate on Supply. I will start off by making a few remarks regarding the area of the province that I am most familiar with and the area that I feel very deeply about and that is Cape Breton and, more particularly, the area surrounding the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, that economy, in the past 10 or 12 years, has been transitioned from an industrial economy to a very painfully slow transition to a more knowledge-based economy, led by a proliferation of call centres in our area over the past decade, and I'll get to that in a moment. The demise of steel and coal in what was formerly known as Industrial Cape Breton has been very worrisome for the people in that area because of the fact that nothing substantial has been put in place to take the place of the many good-paying jobs that were lost as a result of the demise of those heavy industries.

Regarding call centres - and I might remind the Minister of Economic and Rural Development that the payroll tax rebate system in Nova Scotia, to alleviate the unemployment in this province, was brought in by the Liberal Government of John Savage and Russell MacLellan in order to provide an incentive for call centres to locate in Nova Scotia and the previous government and the current government have both made substantial use of those payroll rebate systems that were put in place by a Liberal Government in the 1990s.

[Page 613]

I can tell you that call centres were a welcomed addition to our economy in Cape Breton but they certainly are not going to save the Cape Breton economy. The amount of money that is paid out to call centre workers is less than adequate, in a lot of cases, to sustain families and, in fact, it would take two people in any family working full time to come even close to call centre incomes being able to sustain a household in my area, and I'm sure that's the case throughout the province.

The other difficulty is that with call centres, when the technology changes, and it is evolving all the time and it is changing, we never know how long these call centres are going to last, Mr. Speaker. They're going to come and go and that's a concern and it is a concern to all Nova Scotians, I'm sure, who, in some areas, depend heavily on call centre jobs. So, I don't think we can look down the road to a sustained economy, in my area at least, based on call centre jobs. They're important, and I would never diminish the importance of those jobs, but certainly there have to be other advances put in place to grow the economy of my area.

What would be important in my area is to seriously consider some of the issues that have been, sort of, on the order paper - to use the language we use in this House - in my area for some few years now and they, of course, involve the Donkin Mine project. It's important that those jobs that are going to come in that industry come sooner than later and I know there are a number of considerations there and we haven't had any signal from the government yet that those jobs are going to be coming any time soon and that disturbs me a little bit because I believe that the government should be proactive in ensuring that these industrial jobs return to our area.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of the Port of Sydney and the need to get on with the dredging of Sydney Harbour, the need to make the Port of Sydney a gateway, the need to create jobs in the future in the transportation industry in my area of the province. That need, of course, is also going to involve some substantial government intervention at some point, both at the federal level, certainly the provincial level, and we have, again, no signal from the provincial level that they're treating the development of the Port of Sydney seriously.

I would hope that that will change and we'll see an early resolve to the questions that the proponents of the Port of Sydney have been asking: namely, when can we expect some assistance to get on with dredging Sydney Harbour and to get on with establishing the Port of Sydney based in the Sydney/Point Edward area for future development of the transportation industry.

Along with that, another problem that's still up in the air, and no resolve yet from the current government, is the situation with the railway. This situation has to be resolved very soon because the deadline is coming past. I understand from the Minister of Economic and Rural Development that another month has been given for some agreement to be put in place

[Page 614]

between the railway people and the provincial government regarding a subsidy. That link is a transportation link from Sydney to the mainland; it's a vital link in order to get our goods to market. If we're going to develop the Port of Sydney, we have to have a transportation system that's available, and right now the whole question of the railway is still up in the air.

I spoke in this House last week about the need to do something with the railway, but also the need to look after the people who live alongside the railway, who are experiencing some tax problems there. This government is well aware of what they are and, as a matter of fact, previous letters from the then-Leader of the Opposition, now Premier, simply stated that we'll fix that problem. I would hope that the government, through the good offices of the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, will do just that in the coming weeks so we can get on with subsidizing that railway, the people down there will be happy with an agreement made with the railway people, and we'll indeed have a necessary link from Cape Breton to the rest of the world as we develop the Port of Sydney down the road.

Also, some of the initiatives that were put in place in the Sydney area in the past that have disappeared are also of grave concern. I would hope that the government will give consideration to bringing some of those initiatives back, and I speak now about the film industry, which was pretty vibrant there for a while in Cape Breton with an enhanced tax credit system and with the training that went on with the CBC production Pit Pony, and also the movies that were done in Cape Breton: New Waterford Girls, The Bay Boy, Squanto. ATV productions on Saturday morning, live out of Sydney in years gone by. All of these things have gone because of the lack of political will, I guess, in this province to ensure that the film industry thrives in Cape Breton. Now what we have over in Point Edward is the set of Pit Pony still standing there as a reminder of government's failure to keep the film and television industry alive in Cape Breton.

What we have done is we've trained a number of people in that industry. Now they're all going elsewhere for work in the film industry, some of them up here. I would rather see a vibrant film industry in Cape Breton in the future. Hopefully someday this government, at least, will realize the importance of spreading the film industry around this province in a major way.

The other issue, of course, is the whole question of relations between the government and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. At some point something has to happen with the relationship between the government and this very large municipality in Nova Scotia, a very substantial municipality which is experiencing some real financial difficulties these days. The deficit of that municipality this year could hit $130 million. Those are the figures that I've been given. Now that's something this government is going to have to deal with at some point - you simply can't ignore that. The provincial government can't ignore the fact that this government needs to sit down with the municipal government. I look, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is over there, and I'm sure that her staff are

[Page 615]

telling her that there have to be negotiations and dialogue with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to solve some of their financial problems.

How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about six minutes.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it would seem to me at the present time that the major economic developer in Cape Breton in terms of creating jobs has been myself over the past number of years, and I will tell you why I say that. The elections that I've been involved with in the last 17 years coming to this place, there have been some interesting elections held and I've contributed to my opponents getting meaningful work after the ballots were counted in those particular elections.

I refer, of course, to the 2003 election when the Tory candidate of the day - Scott Boyd - ran against me. We all know who he was.

AN HON. MEMBER: How did he do?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, he didn't do too well, but he got the consolation prize - he went to work in the Cabinet Office in Sydney for awhile and now he's back in broadcasting. Following him, in that election we had a gentleman by the name of Mike MacSween who, I believe, works with the NDP now. He tried for the brass rail and ended up working for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations - he got the consolation prize too. Then his partner caught the spirit in the next election and she decided to take on the role of giant killer - I guess as some people would say - and for her efforts, and they were very good efforts, she got rewarded with a job as outreach worker for the NDP in Cape Breton. Then, in the next election, along came Wayne McKay. He tried to take over in Cape Breton South and, of course, he fell short, and he ends up getting a Health Promotion and Protection job in the government.

[2:45 p.m.]

So I mean those three people have added to the employment rolls of Cape Breton and I consider myself as the person who gave them meaningful employment, because everybody can't get elected to this place but at least you can help them, start them in a new career. And then we come to another gentleman who ran for the Tories. He was, Scott, I believe his name was - yes, Scott. He ran in the last election and he ends up - he's the outreach worker for the Tories in Cape Breton. Is it Scott?

AN HON. MEMBER: Steve.

[Page 616]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Steve Tobin. Pardon me, how soon I forget. Stephen Tobin, yes, and he ends up - he's now the outreach worker.

So the only employment initiatives that are going on in Cape Breton are the ones that I've been promoting. So I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I'm looking forward to future elections when I can contribute to the employment situation in Cape Breton by sending more people to government jobs - particularly on that side of the House. Anyway, I bring that up because - and it's a bit of levity, but do you know what? - I think that at least one thing I know for sure is that the government opposite and the Tory Party before that, really you know have taken my advice and said, look, if they can't beat me at the polls, at least give them a job - and that's what they did. They're all good people and now they're gainfully employed.

I can't say that for the other 15 per cent of the people - and I'm not going to live long enough to get them all a job, but I will say that there is a serious problem in Cape Breton with the employment numbers right now and something has to be done about that. I believe that the problem, Mr. Speaker, is so serious in Cape Breton that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the Minister of Economic and Rural Development, and the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal have to sit down with Destination Cape Breton - they have to sit down with the other players who are trying to promote the Port of Sydney and come up with some strategy that will improve the lives of the people in my area.

Mr. Speaker, I'll end my remarks today, and I'll be back at this before the session is over in a couple of months' time, I guess, but anyway I want to just for a moment talk about the whole area of tourism. A bill came to the House by the Minister of Economic and Rural Development and Tourism, Culture and Heritage just recently regarding the tax situation for the people to grow the tourism budget in Cape Breton, because the province wasn't paying any attention to it. That's the only reason why Destination Cape Breton wanted to have a tax, to take their destiny in their own hands and promote tourism in Cape Breton.

I congratulate them for that and I'll be supporting my bill that already cleared this House last year, that the minister brings back. It was held up by the previous Cabinet in Nova Scotia for whatever reasons, and I would hope that this Cabinet sees fit to make sure that bill is proclaimed on the day it passes this House because I'm a firm believer in democracy, Mr. Speaker, and if this House approves a bill, that bill should become law, not sit in the Cabinet Rooms or at the whim of the Cabinet to wait a year before it is proclaimed.

If this House, the House of the people, proclaims a bill or passes a bill in this House, that bill should become law, Mr. Speaker. I can't wait for the debate on that tourism bill in Cape Breton, because I'm going to have the dialogue with the minister and I'm going to challenge him to put in that bill that on the day that bill passes third reading in this House, that the Cabinet proclaims it as law and the people of Cape Breton, through Destination Cape

[Page 617]

Breton, can get on with moving the economy forward in regard to tourism. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants West.

MR. CHUCK PORTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's an honour to take a few minutes today and bring some comments as we get ready to go into estimates. I want to start - I'll just pick up where the former speaker left off, with regard to bills going through the House and not yet being proclaimed. There's also one that has gone through that I put through this House, which is very much tourism-related as well. It was a bill with regard to the birthplace of hockey, so I would remind members on that side of the House that we'd like to see that bill proclaimed and put into place as well. That's important to the people in the Town of Windsor, specifically Windsor-West Hants, given that hockey is, indeed, our game - although some may debate that, we know what's right.

Mr. Speaker, I never had a chance in the Fall, once we came back to the House, to speak a great deal as we went into whatever it was we were doing at that time. Anyway, I want to take just a few minutes and talk about some of the people where I come from, specifically family, and all the work they do in helping us get here and things like that. It is a pleasure, actually an honour, to be a member of this House regardless of what side of it you sit on. It's a big deal to go through and campaign and win an election. In my case, more specifically, win an election when the political tide was changing, to be able to hang onto a seat, and that was a great thing for the folks of Hants (Interruption) Paula who? No, I don't recall how she did, except I heard some talk about a consolation prize a few minutes ago, and I think that was what she got, perhaps, was a consolation prize.

That's fine, good on her for once again putting her name on the ballot and getting out there and doing the work that is required to try to get elected as members in this House. Again, it's a great honour, and again, I want to get back to family for just a minute, Mr. Speaker. It's important to recognize those people who support us. My wife, a never-ending supporter, works hard. My children - and luckily my children all take after my wife, both in looks and in their attitude, and they are right out there. They are all good-looking kids, so luckily, as I said, they take after her.

It takes a lot of people to get here. We had a great team, and I think it's appropriate to just take those few minutes and talk about that. There's a number of things I do want to talk about. I want to talk about the people, a lot of volunteers in all our areas, but specifically now, Mr. Speaker, times are a little tougher. We saw the budget the other day go through and listened to it, and we're going through and taking it piece by piece, and we'll ask many, many questions over the coming days and weeks, however long we - a couple of months, I heard the former member who just spoke, perhaps we'll be here talking about this budget - but it's going to be tough moving forward.

[Page 618]

Things that we used to be able to put money into, perhaps, will not be there in the days and the weeks and the months ahead, maybe years ahead. These organizations are out there working, they're raising money - the church groups, community groups, breakfasts, dinners, and so on - and they are working hard to do that. Ellershouse, for example - a phenomenal breakfast there every last Saturday of the month, and they've been at it for a couple of years now and just doing a wonderful job, and thank God they are. I know they've applied for funds, but funds unfortunately are just not available at this time, or so they have been told, to make the renovations they require, and the upkeep of churches, and the same with regard to community halls.

There are a number of community halls that are looking for funds, as always. We just don't seem to be able to find those dollars. Hopefully the new budget will allow, once we get into the detail of it, for some of that kind of funding, but they're out there working hard.

We're fortunate to have our fire service. We just built a new fire station this past year. It is soon to open, a grand opening in Brooklyn - it has a civic centre and a new fire station, and I'm proud to say that we made a little announcement there last year, the previous government, of $400,000, which was a great help to that facility.

One of the big things, and I raised it today in this Chamber in Question Period, was broadband in this province. Now there was a commitment that was made, as we all know, for the end of 2009. The strange part, Mr. Speaker, was that right up until November, through various e-mails, there were commitments that we were on track for the end of 2009, only to learn a little bit later on that we were nowhere near being on track, or on time, for the commitment that was previously made.

I think the people can understand that there are issues - technology is a wonderful thing - but there are issues that go along with that. When you're talking about rural Nova Scotia, you do have areas where there are things like trees, things in the way, hills, valleys and so on. Those are all understandable, but the people are frustrated because of what's being told, or I should say not being told to them and made available to them. It was good to hear the minister today, perhaps, be able to set us up with a meeting because we have not been able to find out anything.

I hear weekly, sometimes daily, three or four days a week, from constituents who are business people. It's not just the everyday user who wants to get on and search the Web and do what recreation-type users might do - they want to get on and they want to do business. They're unable to do that business and they were promised, in years past, that they would be able to do business after the end of 2009. Unfortunately, they are just unable to do that and I can understand, and appreciate very much, the extra costs they go through, sometimes going into Windsor from some of the rural areas to go to libraries and that's just one example in my area of what has to happen.

[Page 619]

In some cases, as I spoke to today, Mr. Don Aldous has to drive to Halifax to do a video conference for his business. I don't disagree with them - it's just unacceptable at this point in time, after we've been told it should happen. I look forward to that service being put out there.

I don't understand why we're so long getting bits and pieces here, bits and pieces there, of this service put into place. This colour scheme of the red and the blue and the green on status of where we are and us being red and no status - 47 communities and no status at all, nothing available to any of these folks in Hants County. The question really is, why is it taking so long with no explanation?

We look forward to getting some detailed explanation as to, can we meet that June target? If we can't, I would only ask that we are telling people that we are not able to meet that June expectation so they can make other arrangements and they can plan and budget for their travels from Burlington to Halifax if that's the case. It will be quite a disappointment if we're not there by then. We've heard dates from March to May now, and June, and it's going to be very frustrating if we are not soon linked up with the rest of the world. We have a lot of businesses throughout rural Nova Scotia working at home in various capacities with various types of companies. I'm going to leave that, I know I only have a few minutes but I want to get onto our health care issues.

We're very fortunate where I come from, Windsor. Hants Community Hospital represents a very large base, both in East and West Hants. Mostly West Hants, but we have quite a few from East Hants who also use the facility. We've been fortunate that we've not experienced any emergency room closures throughout these past few years. Times have been tough.

As most would know in this House, I know a little something, I have a little background in health care, and we have been very fortunate not to experience that, although the reason for that, I think mostly, is the fact that we have three doctors who have been there for many, many years who will not allow those doors to close. They are Dr. Cathryn Smith, Dr. Bill Enright and Dr. Mark Kazimirski. If it weren't for those three physicians, I don't know what we would really do in the Hants Community Hospital in Windsor. These three folks also offer clinics.

I want to be clear, we do have physicians who come from other areas, from Halifax and the Valley, and do their shifts and rotations at the emergency room, but during last summer, I know there were times when some of these doctors were on vacation - and rightly so, they are deserving as any other hard working folks - there were periods where the hospital was threatened to be closed down. But because of others like Cathryn and Mark and Bill, the hospital doors remained open. As I said, we service a big area.

[Page 620]

It's concerning today, I haven't had a chance to go through that report yet. I look forward to the interim report and Dr. John Ross - whom I've known for quite some time and does great work, I'm anxious to read that report - although he lists five hospitals, he doesn't name them from what I've heard from Question Period earlier today. It will be interesting to see who those five are and what does that really represent.

There were words used tonight- integrated systems, by way. You can read a lot into words like that. Integrating generally means we're going to see cuts, things coming together. Does that mean that we're going to close rural ERs that may only see patients at night? This talk has gone on for years, this is not new. The biggest thing here, the people and myself, members on this side of the House, Nova Scotians in general all heard about the promises that were made, not only about not closing emergency rooms but there were solutions. I think that the NDP and the minister, all had good intentions, are learning that the answers maybe that they thought they had, they don't have, that the troubles are not easy to cure at this point in time.

Health care spending is out of control. It's phenomenal what we are doing with the health care system, it cannot continue to grow. I think that everybody on that side of the House - and I know the minister - and I think generally speaking, Nova Scotians know that we have to find a fix before too many more years go by. It's not only taking up half our provincial budget, it will be taking up two-thirds or three-quarters and one day it was projected it will soon take it all. What about our education from there and our community services and things like that? There will be nothing left if we don't soon get a hold of what it is we're going to do with health care.

I hope that Dr. Ross has some solutions, certainly more than what we've seen in this first interim report. Again, all due respect to Dr. Ross, I have not had a chance to go through in detail and I'm looking forward to doing that in the next few days because I do have a bit of a passion for the health care side of things.

I think that there are an awful lot of things - that it's no one partisan that can offer solutions to this issue. I think that there are opportunities for a variety of things. The nurse practitioner, which I spoke about before in this House, is a great asset to Nova Scotia and I look forward to seeing many more of those. I would like to see more paramedics because they are, indeed, qualified. P3s are more than qualified to work in emergency rooms and if there was bridge training that would need to happen, orientation like that would need to happen to require these medics to come in and work in emergency rooms to help offset waiting times for emergencies.

[3:00 p.m.]

We keep talking about waiting times and waiting times strategies, none of it reflects the waiting time of sick people waiting in emergency rooms, ambulance stretchers tied up

[Page 621]

at hospitals for hours on end and taking the system down is basically what it's doing and it just keeps repeating itself. There's no advantage.

We need to figure out, how are we going to make it better and I think that there are solutions out there and it goes right back to the bed situation I've spoken about before in this House as well. We have long-term care patients sitting in places like Unit 500 in Hants Community Hospital or Unit 200 taking up a critical care bed while we wait for the nursing home. Now I have said and I don't mind saying it again, I'm totally opposed to the way that we place our patients in nursing homes.

The central entry system does not work - the single entry system, in my opinion, is a failure. I say that based on experience of having worked for many years in a system whereby a patient would be in the hospital and require a bed. The doctor would pick up the phone and call the administrator at that facility and say, hey there Miss Samson, I have a patient, Mr. Parker, who's going to need a bed in the nursing home - just as an example, Mr. Speaker, just as an example - going to need a bed and arrangements would be made and that patient was generally transferred fairly quickly.

There were no waits, there was no sending him 100 or 200 or 300 kilometres away somewhere, away from family where they weren't accessible or very difficult to be accessed by family and the visitations and so on. We'll all reach that point sometime, or I hope we will, where maybe we'll, if we have to be there, the system will still be able to accommodate us and maybe it will or maybe it won't but we definitely have to start because it's so deep, it goes far.

Again, just in closing and I know you indicated I just have a couple of minutes left, I want to thank those people who continue to work everyday in the health care system. The paramedics, the nurse practitioners, the doctors, the nurses, the people that are working in nursing homes, the CCAs, the CNAs and LPNs and whatever the changed acronyms are these days - all very dedicated to the work that they're doing. I know that I'll have more opportunities as we move through the days and the weeks here to speak again. With that, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member.

The motion is carried.

[3:02 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Hon. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[5:57 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Hon. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[Page 622]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government's business for today. We will meet tomorrow between the hours of 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The business of the day is Supply.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The motion before the House is for the House to now rise and meet again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

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

The motion is carried.

The House stands adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

We have arrived at the moment of interruption. This evening's late debate has been submitted by the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition. The resolution to be debated:

"Therefore be it resolved that the NDP's graduate tax credit will have little impact on retention rates in the province and does nothing to help low-income Nova Scotians gain access to post-secondary education."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Bedford-Birch Cove.

GRADUATE TAX CREDIT - IMPACT

MS. KELLY REGAN: Mr. Speaker, the NDP's graduate tax credit is a measure that they campaigned on, and I will give them credit because they've kept this election promise,

[Page 623]

unlike so many of the others that have been broken since they've taken office. They should take credit for that: they did promise this tax credit, and they have delivered it. We actually thought it was a good idea; in fact, we campaigned on it in the penultimate election. We thought it was a good idea back then, but since then we've done some investigation on it. We dropped it because it's not a good idea. New Brunswick and Manitoba have instituted similar programs and they have had no net gain in graduates.

It seems to me that if we are going to implement programs at a time of restraint, then we should be darn sure that they're actually effective. We should be really certain that, in fact, they do what we say they're going to do. This program does not pass that smell test.

[6:00 p.m.]

Even the student groups don't want this program - they say it's not what they need, it's not of help to students. Students who need to find access to education need help up front. I'm not saying that when they come out they're not going to be poor, but there are a lot of students who simply cannot afford to go to school because of the high cost. So the money that we're spending on this program, I would submit to you, would be much better spent on a program that helps students up front, that helps students get into post-secondary education.

Instead, what we have is a program that comes at the end. The problem with it is that students aren't staying here because they can't find good-paying jobs. They have to pay off their student loans. The evidence shows that this program does not do what the minister says it does, because the kids who actually are staying here would have stayed here anyway. They're not staying because they're getting a graduate tax credit, they're staying here because they have family or other commitments here.

We have students coming out with massive, massive amounts of debt, and because there are fewer jobs here, they cannot stay here. They go to Alberta, they go to Ontario, where they're going to have lots of job opportunities, where the salaries are higher, where they can pay off their student loans. This is not helping our students. Now the cost of the tax credit is $18 million in 2010, $23 million in 2011, and this is according to the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations.

I must say it was interesting listening to CBC Radio this morning because we had both the ANSSA and the Canadian Federation of Students on, representatives from both, and they were both saying the same thing: This is not what we need; this is not what we want. It doesn't help our students cope with massive debt - jobs help our students cope with massive debt afterwards and we don't have that yet.

On a number of occasions the minister has spoken about evidence-based programs. When I asked the minister about pilot projects and that sort of thing, and she was very pragmatic saying that if we're going to institute a program we want to make sure it works so

[Page 624]

this is why we do pilot programs. She was very good about explaining it to me. But, in this particular case, there isn't any evidence that they work; in fact, there's evidence to the contrary.

When New Brunswick and Manitoba instituted the same kind of a program, it didn't work for them. So I have to say that I agree with the student groups that are saying, what's the point of this? If we are going to spend $18 million this year, $23 million next year, we should be spending that money effectively. We should be spending that money in a way that will make a big difference for our students, not in giving them tax credits for something they were going to do anyway.

The Liberal Party feels that the Government of Nova Scotia should eliminate the graduate retention rebate program and replace it with something that would - first of all, they should talk to the students and find out what they want, what do they need?

I know that the minister has written in her Political Speak column that it's a good program for keeping university and college graduates in Nova Scotia. She says, quite rightly, that is crucial to our province's economic future, an educated and well-trained workforce helps keep local organizations strong and businesses competitive and this investment should provide graduates with an economic advantage to staying here in Nova Scotia. What she says is true in the sense that those are things that we want - the problem is this program does not achieve that.

Previously, during Question Period, I asked the minister about the Graduate Tax Credit and on October 1st she said, "Mr. Speaker, that rebate is as much of a worker recruitment and retention tool as it is to keep graduate students in the province." So we have sort of a bit of a contradiction there. I have to say that to me it does not make sense to institute a program that does not do what we expect it to do - and it's $18 million in 2010, and it's $23 million in 2011.

Yesterday the Minister of Finance said in the House: What would you cut? What would you cut? He wanted to know what we would cut in order to pay for Lucentis. I would submit to you that it makes sense to keep people from going blind rather than paying graduates to do what they were going to do anyway. And that is what the evidence shows - that in New Brunswick and Manitoba, when they instituted the same kind of program, there was no net effect for its graduates.

Mr. Speaker, am I almost done? Three more minutes. Okay, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't going to go over or anything like that.

I do believe that the minister is genuine in her desire to keep graduates here. She knows, and I agree, that it's very important for us to retain workers, and that this is a problem that we are facing, that it is looming, that we are seeing some effects of already here in Nova

[Page 625]

Scotia. But I have to say that it seems wrong-headed to me to institute a program that has no evidence behind it, that in fact has evidence that contradicts it.

We should be helping students to get into education. We should be helping students to not have to take out vast amounts of loans to be able to complete their education and we should help them find jobs afterwards. We should be doing job creation to make sure that they stay here but to say, here is some money to stay here, when the only ones who are taking us up on it are, in fact, the kids who would have done it anyway; it does not make good economic sense to me. I think that at a time when we are cutting back, when we are looking at various kinds of restraints, it does not make good economic sense. There are so many areas in education where we could use money to great effect that to spend it on something that does not have evidence behind it, does not make sense to me.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, this issue can actually be viewed through three different lenses - you have Finance, Education, and Labour and Workforce Development. I guess since I wear two of those hats, that's why I was delegated to late debate tonight. So I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about the Graduate Retention Rebate.

This is a very important goal for our province because we want to encourage skilled young Nova Scotians to stay, or return, and build a life here in Nova Scotia. The purpose of the Graduate Retention Rebate is exactly that. It's an effort to retain or bring back our graduates and we want very much to keep the talent, the expertise, and the enthusiasm that young Nova Scotians can bring to our workforce. As I've said many times, often on the floor of this Chamber, the Graduate Retention Rebate is designed as an attraction and retention tool. It's not a tool to increase access or affordability of tuition; as important as those are, we have other processes to aid in that particular part.

We want a continuum, a menu of supports for young people so that they are both encouraged to continue on to post-secondary education, but also encouraged after they graduate to stay here in the province. It's no secret that we want these graduates to start their careers here at home rather than take jobs in other provinces or other parts of the world. If Nova Scotia's economy is going to grow, we need those talented young workers here in Nova Scotia. So we want them to return to their roots, or put down roots, and help them get started and help them with the financial burden that they often face when they graduate from our post-secondary institutions.

So at some point I hope to have time to actually go over how the rebate works but I'm going to continue on and talk a little bit about the changing demographics in our province and that's why this rebate program is being tested in this new context. Soon many of our workforce are set to retire and that's going to create a void that will need to be filled in order for us to sustain our economy. Many of those positions that will open up because of

[Page 626]

retirements will undoubtedly go to these young graduates from both Nova Scotian colleges and universities and Nova Scotians who have attended those colleges and universities outside Nova Scotia. So to those who are just starting their careers in Nova Scotia after years of research, study and training, our message is simple, we want to help you and we want you to stay or return to this province.

Nova Scotia is and always will be hiring and the rebate is our way of giving new graduates a head start. Each young mind that we manage to keep is like a seed that will grow to become a much larger plant in the garden that is our province's economy. Now, over the last few weeks I've heard a lot of discussion from students and student organizations about the rebate program, and the Graduate Retention Rebate is a new program. It's a commitment that our government made and one we intend to keep. We're going to test it for several years, evaluate it, fine-tune it if necessary, but we certainly see it as a very important tool in our menu of supports to people interested in post-secondary education and in staying in this province to start their careers, raise their families, and build a life here. I'm confident that in time this program will be very effective in helping new graduates begin fulfilling careers and be productive, successful Nova Scotians.

I understand that many students and parents are concerned about student debt, and the province has measures in place to help students with debt management. There's the Repayment Assistance Program and the Payment Deferral Program; they help students manage their debt while they are getting established. I give credit to the previous government for their support of those debt-management assistance programs.

For 2010-11, bursaries from the Nova Scotia University Student Bursary Trust will provide students who are Nova Scotian students with $1,283 to put towards their tuition. Our government is continuing those valuable programs because we want to help all Nova Scotian students, regardless of whether they choose to stay in the province after they finish school or not, because I acknowledge and my government acknowledges that starting a career in Nova Scotia is not for everyone. I applaud young Nova Scotians who choose to start their careers elsewhere, and it's my hope that they'll always keep in mind that they have the option to return to Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians are among the brightest and most talented workers in the world, and no matter where they decide to live and work, their home province will always be proud of them.

We want our young people to know that their contribution to our province would be valued, so while we commend those who find work in other places, we want them to seriously consider opportunities right here at home. I hear every day from families whose young people are returning to this province. They're optimistic that there's a future here, that the economy is turning around, and it's so encouraging. This includes the generation that my own sons are in, and I'm delighted one of them just returned to the province last week, and many of their friends and former colleagues are coming back to Nova Scotia. It's exciting to hear about those things.

[Page 627]

[6:15 p.m.]

We have a top-notch post-secondary university and college system and I want to give credit to all those institutions. (Applause) We have 11 universities and 13 Nova Scotia Community College campuses, along with a significant number of private career colleges. We rival any province in quality and variety of educational choices. All combined, our institutions are producing hundreds of Nova Scotian graduates each year, and this rebate program is an incentive to those graduates. It's our province's way of telling graduates that we are most interested in them and the skills that they have to offer.

I just want to finish by thanking everyone for raising this important topic in the House of Assembly this evening. It's important that we give this rebate a chance to work. Certainly it's encouraging - I just heard as recently as today from a family that's benefitted from applying for it for last year. As these stories multiply and we do our evaluation of the success and the take-up of the numbers of people who will take advantage of this rebate program, I think we'll be able to thoroughly investigate its value. I just want to say that our government encourages young Nova Scotians to look for opportunities to build a life, raise a family, and have a strong, long career here in Nova Scotia, and certainly this Graduate Retention Rebate, I think, is going to be a useful tool in encouraging young people, after they graduate from community college and university, to stay in this province, or return if they've graduated from one of the recognized universities and colleges under this program. So thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging the minister. I recognize the position she is in, I recognize the challenges she faces, and I would like to say that I believe she has a sincere interest in doing what is best for all students in the province. I would also like to acknowledge the critic from the Official Opposition and former critic and all members in the House who I think do understand that having an educated population in our province has been and will continue to be an asset.

I do recognize that the minister faces a lot of challenges, with where is the best place to put the dollars in an education budget. One of the lessons that I learned very quickly, and I am sure she will learn if she hasn't already, is that when students in our universities and community colleges have a message, it's wise to listen to them.

Back in 2007, we began what we call the Student Assistance Review and I am sure that document is there for the reading of the minister. The intent of that was to go out and to listen to what university students were having to say, to make sure that we heard what they had to say and that they had an opportunity to present that in a constructive manner.

[Page 628]

University students appreciated that and were most respectful and most cooperative and provided a lot of information and direction.

The result of that review was released in April 2008 and it did very much to guide the decisions of our government to where we could use our limited dollars to the students' best advantage. One of the things that we had done was to begin to bring the tuition down to the national average because it was well above the national average. We put together a plan that would bring that to the national average by 2010-11.

I'll be anxious to talk to the minister about where that strategy is at this point but it certainly was recognized, as Statistics Canada recognized that as being a strategy that certainly was worthy of recognition and had been effective, because the results that they shared in 2008-09 showed that we were the only province in Canada that had not had an increase in our tuition. Part of that was due to the memorandum of understanding with universities, which froze tuition, and another part was due to efforts to put money into helping students with that tuition costs, which brings me to the students and the message that they gave us during that process.

They were saying, very much, that they believed that the dollars that were needed had to be upfront dollars. We had a Graduate Tax Credit, at that time, and although they appreciated that, their message was clear and I understand it. If we don't have the money to go to college, then getting a credit when we graduate is meaningless. That was a very strong message and that caused us to look at how we can make sure that they do have the dollars to go to university. So not to be necessarily critical of a program, I would ask the minister to give some thought to that because that was very much their message and I think it is their message today. I think that's what I'm hearing from students from all of the student union groups, from the students at community colleges and from the 43 private career colleges.

We have a huge population here of students and we want to make sure, as the minister says, that they stay. In order for them to get the university training they need, they have to have some ability to get registered in the universities.

When I was minister, I had an opportunity to visit all the universities and when I stopped - I remember at Acadia University one day and I met with the executive of the student council and I asked them what their home province was. There were five in the room, four of them, their home province was not Nova Scotia. I was intrigued by that and I said, what brought you to Nova Scotia? What brought you to Acadia University? And I was very proud as a Nova Scotian and as the minister at the time to hear them say, the quality education program that's delivered in universities in Nova Scotia is one of things that attracted them.

This was at the height of high tuition costs. So, I said, tuition didn't drive you away? They said, it was the quality of the programming, the reputation that Nova Scotia has for high

[Page 629]

quality university programs that brought them. Some of them also said they appreciated small universities, some said they appreciated a smaller community, a smaller town - they were from Ontario and Alberta. But I thought their message about quality education was something of which we should all be very proud.

For students who are coming here regardless of the cost of tuition, or for students in Nova Scotia who want to go to university to get their training, I'm not convinced that an after graduate tax is the best use of those dollars. We looked at putting together and we did put a bursary trust fund together; we put $66 million into that, which goes directly to tuition when students register for their very first year. In fact, it appears as a credit on their tuition invoice when they get it in the beginning. That was one of the things the students said they appreciated.

My recommendation would be put more of the money that you have available into that kind of a bursary upfront program. I think the students will probably tell the minister that - they're telling the media that, I hope they tell the minister that. If she doesn't get that direction and those suggestions, then it's hard to act on them.

The other thing that I think we did and I enjoyed as a minister was to sit down in a very casual, small group setting with students. They are very constructive, they have great insight and they have lots of ideas and they're experiencing it. We can talk about what we think is good for somebody else but let's talk to the people who are impacted directly by it. They're very willing to talk, they're not shy about expressing their opinion, but they did it in a constructive way. They will let you know when they appreciate that. They'll also let you know when they don't. I think listening to them is a bit of advice I might pass on.

The minister spoke about debt reduction and we know that some students do have to use student loans in order to go through university. You give them some incentive, some dollars and some breaks on their tuition so they can begin the program and then if they do have to have a student loan, you can give them some help with the repayment. The minister mentioned, and again I'll be asking about the status of this program - when we're looking at the debt repayment plan where the repayment amount is directly related to the income of the student. So, if you have somebody who doesn't get a very high paying job when they first graduate, then the amount of money they have to pay back on their loan is directly related to that income.

That program, again, was well received by students. The other program we put in place was Direct Lend where we were able to reduce the interest rate by 2 per cent. Students were getting their loan at 0.5 per cent above prime.

So there were a number of things, and I'm sure that it takes, as the minister said, a menu or a whole group of programs that come together to help students. My comment specific to this is I would suggest that the dollars would have been better spent upfront so

[Page 630]

that more students would be able to begin their university program and I think that will give us more opportunities for more students to get the education they need so they can contribute to a healthy economy in our province and they will stay in Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the late debate this evening has now expired. I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late debate.

The motion for adjournment was made earlier.

The House will now rise to sit again tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 6:27 p.m.]