Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|ARRIVAL OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR||1|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||2|
|INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:|
|An Act Respecting Oaths of Office, Hon. R. Landry||13|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE|
|Moved - Mr. M. Smith||13|
|Seconded - Mr. G. Ramey||19|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Hon. S. McNeil||25|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Mar. 26th at 10:00 a.m.||28|
HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MARCH 25, 2010
Sixty-first General Assembly
Hon. Charlie Parker
Mr. Gordon Gosse, Hon. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Alfie MacLeod
[The Second Session of the 61st General Assembly was opened with historic ceremony on a cool, sunny day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Mayann E. Francis, preceded by members of the Official Escort, her Private Secretary, her ADC and by Mr. Ken Greenham, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Charlie Parker; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Neil Ferguson, Q.C.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Table of the House.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Making Life Better for You and Your Family
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen, the people of Nova Scotia, I am pleased to welcome you to the Second Session of the 61st General Assembly.
On this day, with the hope of spring in the air, our economy is growing again. Our health care workers have shown us that we can weather a global pandemic. Even when intolerance rears its ugly head, our society is still a place where morality and equality rule. Our ability to rise to any challenge is a defining quality of the people of this province.
When Amherst's Willard Boyle shared the 2009 Nobel Prize for Physics, every Nova Scotian felt a touch of pride. We felt the same way last month when Cole Harbour's Sidney Crosby scored one of the most famous goals in the history of this country. With Canada's pride at stake, a hero rose. A Nova Scotian again came to the nation's aid in its moment of need.
When we look at Nova Scotia today, we see a province that treasures its past even as it takes pride in the accomplishments of its present. A province that this year marks the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Grand Chief Membertou, which signalled the peaceful intentions between the Mi'kmaq and the nations of Europe. A province that next year hosts the country's best young athletes during the 2011 Canada Games. This summer, Nova Scotia will welcome Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh with warmth and enthusiasm, for a visit that celebrates service to country.
Nova Scotians are invited to take part in this year's Canadian Naval Centennial, celebrating this province's involvement with the Navy since its establishment and our pride in the modern Canadian Navy. During the Centennial year, my government will propose legislation to create an annual Cadet Day, and to further protect the civilian jobs of reservists. Our rich naval history was recognized last month when Canada Post issued a stamp honouring Nova Scotia's remarkable William Hall. In 1857 Mr. Hall became the first Canadian sailor, the first Nova Scotian, and the first person of African descent to win the Victoria Cross.
Today we also remember former legislators who served this province with pride: Joe Casey, former Deputy Speaker and member of the Legislature for Digby
and Digby Annapolis; Charles MacArthur, former MLA for Inverness; and Garnet Brown, former Cabinet Member and MLA for Halifax-Eastern Shore.
We also remember three exceptional women who devoted their lives to their families and communities: Mrs. Theresa McNeil and Mrs. Edith Cromwell, who are recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia, and Willena Jones, who was one of the six Leading Ladies honoured this year for African Heritage Month.
And we pause to honour and thank Sergeant Kirk Taylor, a Nova Scotian soldier killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan.
Nova Scotia is a forward-looking province. A province with ambition. A province with the talent and the drive to make the 21st Century its own. Attaining dreams takes hard work. Seizing the future takes determination. Sometimes, difficult choices must be made now to ensure a better future later.
Today we stand at a crossroads. For too long provincial governments have simply reacted to events. They allowed short-term expedience to trump long-term vision. Now it is time for a new trajectory.
My government's vision is clear: to help Nova Scotia retake control of its destiny. To stop settling for less. To get this province back on track. For this is a government that cares deeply and has the resolve required to get the hard work done. A government that will act wisely and decisively to make life better for Nova Scotians while always remembering that decisions made today will impact future generations of Nova Scotians.
The provincial debt continues to rise. It now stands at the second highest, per capita, among the provinces. And our resource revenues are declining. This path is unsustainable. The heavier our financial burden grows, the more it threatens government's ability to deliver vital public services like health care and education. My government inherited this situation. To do nothing is not an option.
The challenge is undeniable: tough decisions must be made today if Nova Scotia is to seize the moment and re-shape its future. The people of this province elected a government that would make the right decisions for Nova Scotia's families. And that is what we intend to do.
Earlier this week my government finished the most extensive budget consultation process in this province's history. Finance Minister Graham Steele and his staff held 24 meetings to hear directly from Nova Scotians about how to deal with the serious fiscal challenges we face. Make no mistake, the 2010 budget will be fair. It will make the right decisions, because government's job is to find the right
balance of priorities, values, programs, and services. My government is demonstrating genuine leadership. It is taking on the hard work to get our finances back to balance. It is making life better for families in every region.
Our four-year plan has four key components. First, my government will bring better health care to you and your family. Second, we will create good jobs and grow the economy. Third, we will make life more affordable. Fourth, we will get Nova Scotia back to balance and ensure that government lives within its means.
Acting wisely and making the right decisions now will lay the foundation for lasting prosperity. It begins with health care.
Better health care for you and your family
Wait times are too long, emergency rooms too crowded, and for too long, governments have made health care decisions without a clear focus on Nova Scotia patients. This must change. This year, a new Quality Initiative will be developed to promote and improve patient safety and health service quality 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 better serve Nova Scotians.
Emergency Room access is a long-standing issue. It cannot be fixed overnight. But we are already making headway. Last September, Doctor John Ross was appointed as the province's first-ever Advisor on Emergency Care. He will present his initial report in the near future. Dr. Ross' 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. The Emergency Department Protection Fund will be used to fund specific initiatives in the plan. In the meantime, government, district health authorities, and local communities are talking about how to resolve chronic ER closures.
Later this spring, the Minister of Health will table the first annual report examining the problem of chronic ER closures, so that Nova Scotians can make informed decisions. My government will follow through on the commitment to relieve stress on the emergency system by opening new acute-care beds in Capital Health. The establishment of a Rapid Assessment Unit will help patients move faster through the ER to admission. Hours and resources at the Cobequid Centre will be enhanced to further reduce ER pressure. Making more collaborative primary health care teams available around the province will reduce unnecessary ER visits and support Nova Scotians as they manage their own health needs.
My government will undertake a new Mental Health Strategy to revamp mental health and addiction services. And the provincial Mental Health Court is already helping to ensure that those who suffer with mental illness are treated with the respect and care they deserve, while ensuring that the justice system is also well served.
Cancer patients will soon receive better care and shorter wait times because of the expansion of radiation therapy services in Halifax and Sydney. Nova Scotia already has the only breast screening program in Atlantic Canada with integrated screening and diagnostics. This spring, my government will add five new digital mammography machines to support the growth of this important prevention program.
The province is taking important steps to reduce the burden on those who rely on health care the most - senior citizens. By April 2011, another 360 new long-term care beds will be open around the province. We will also support seniors with chronic conditions by introducing more nurse practitioners into nursing homes. My government understands that a better health care system means finding new, more efficient ways to deliver health care. That is precisely what it is doing.
According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, Nova Scotia spends 6.3 per cent of its total health care costs on administration, compared to a national average of 5.3 per cent. My government will work to close this gap and will reallocate spending to support front-line and primary health care. My government will increase accountability and transparency in setting priorities for major health capital projects.
A new Drug Information System will be developed to enhance patient safety and monitor drug use to make sure health dollars are being used wisely. As part of a move toward better care, just months ago, Nova Scotia launched the first system in Canada that gives paramedics travelling in ambulances access to potentially life-saving information about patient allergies, medical conditions, and medication. Pharmacists can now help people refill their medication even if they can't reach their doctor. As well, you will soon be asked to consider legislation that will further expand their scope of practice to include administering vaccines by injection, among other changes.
Thanks to Healthlink 811, the province's new 24/7 telecare service, an ill person in Canso, or a worried parent in Kentville, can phone an experienced registered nurse who can provide health advice on the spot. This service proved its worth when 811 nurses handled up to 1,800 calls a day during the H1N1 crisis.
Caregivers play a vital role in helping their loved ones. In consultation with stakeholders, my government will change the existing Caregiver Allowance Program to improve support and benefits for caregivers. Patterns are set for life in childhood. Improving the health and well-being of our children is a great investment. Government will do that through a childhood obesity strategy and continued focus on promoting active, healthy living for all families. This government is committed to better health care for you and your family.
Creating good jobs and growing the economy
Everyone everywhere knows that this is a time of global economic anxiety. Nova Scotia must also overcome its own distinct challenges. The challenges we have inherited are difficult. Nova Scotia had the worst economic growth of any province in the region during the past two decades. Without a vibrant economy, a province stagnates. Its young people leave. Its future dims.
My government envisions a different future, and Nova Scotia's revival is now underway.
The province's prosperity requires increased productivity. We need to continue to create good jobs. We need to take back control of our economic future.
When Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Ltd. went looking for a place to produce towers and blades for wind turbines, it could have gone anywhere in the world. But it chose the town of Trenton, because Nova Scotia's infrastructure, ingenuity, work ethic, and spirit of partnership are as good as, or better than, any in the world.
When Lockheed Martin went looking for somewhere to build a new training and testing facility for its naval technology, it too could have gone anywhere in the world. But it chose Dartmouth, because of our seasoned defence-industry workforce and enviable business environment.
In both cases, my government's investments are based on the confidence all Nova Scotians have in our collective abilities. Nova Scotia is poised to be a world leader in renewable energy and defence. Strategic investments will ensure that this province lives up to its immense potential.
NewPage Port Hawkesbury Corporation is a perfect example of a smart, strategic company employing more than 500 people in Cape Breton. Such enterprises are the true engine of job creation. My government will keep working in
partnership to capitalize on Nova Scotia's strengths and create more sustainable jobs.
Nova Scotia, together with federal and municipal governments, has committed almost $230 million to over 100 road, water, and other infrastructure projects. Those jobs will stretch from Cape Breton to Yarmouth. At the same time, my government's five-year plan to pave provincial roads will also get Nova Scotians back to work.
Creating secure jobs is a good investment. That's why last year the province guaranteed a $20 million loan to the Halifax shipyard so that it could build nine patrol frigates, bringing jobs and other economic spinoffs to our province.
Again, my government is showing leadership. Being proactive is how a government controls its destiny and ensures that prosperity is shared by everyone. Its decision to raise the Equity Tax Credit will free up over $1 million in new incentives to support investments in Nova Scotian enterprises in the next year. By providing incentives to businesses, the new Manufacturing and Processing Investment Credit is boosting innovation and productivity in the province's manufacturing and processing sectors, particularly in rural Nova Scotia. My government is working to complete the Broadband for Rural Nova Scotia Initiative, making this province one of the most connected jurisdictions in North America.
Tourism has always been a winner for our province, generating $1.3 billion in economic activity last year. My government will build on its work with communities, businesses, and individuals to develop and promote tourism and niche travel experiences with a particular emphasis on southwest Nova Scotia. Our booming cultural industry will continue to shine a spotlight on this province nationally and internationally.
The construction industry is front and centre in our effort to maintain and create jobs. My government's New Home Construction Rebate spurred the construction and purchase of 1,500 new homes.
As a trading province, Nova Scotia has always grasped the big picture. The success of export-oriented companies like Oxford Frozen Foods, Michelin, and Clearwater Seafoods shows that connecting with markets far away creates good jobs at home. In today's global economy, the only way to compete and win is to aggressively search for opportunities.
The province's efforts to build relationships and increase trade with the Caribbean, the European Union, and the United States are paying off, with Vietnam and India emerging as other potential areas of opportunity. Being a strategic gateway
into the United States and a critical link to the global transportation system offers immense economic advantage for Nova Scotia.
Through our new Gateway Secretariat, Nova Scotia will play a leadership role in forging an aggressive Gateway marketing and business development strategy focused on North America and Asia. It also reflects a new reality of the world economy: when our region or country prospers, so does our province. This is why Nova Scotia will keep working in partnership with other provinces and the federal government to pursue common, mutually beneficial economic opportunities.
One thing that is certain about Nova Scotia's future is that our traditional industries need to remain strong and competitive if this province is going to succeed. My government is acting right now to make that happen. The province's "buy local" campaigns are boosting sales of Nova Scotia produce, wine, fish, and value-added products.
Later this year my government will release a 10-year strategy designed to help Nova Scotia's farmers develop new opportunities, manage risk, and become more environmentally sustainable. We are just as committed to rebuilding a strong fishery. My government will continue to help this important industry by developing and promoting the harvesting, storage, shipping, and processing techniques needed to ensure success. A new aquaculture strategy, due later this year, will help this sector build upon its world-class strategic advantages.
By the end of 2010, our new approach for managing our forests, minerals and parklands will be in place. That will usher in a new era in our province's stewardship of its abundant natural assets. In the coming months my government will release a water management strategy, which was developed through extensive consultation.
My government is also working to achieve the goals of the Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act. Significant progress has recently been made. Changes to the building code will improve energy efficiency in new construction, and approaches to redeveloping contaminated sites are under consideration.
My government understands that the status quo has to change if we are to reduce our dependence upon coal and oil and the damage it does to the environment. Natural gas sitting off and on our shores is a logical place to begin the change that is required. Developing this cleaner-burning resource also means good jobs and royalties that help pay for our schools, hospitals and roads. But we also need to burn less carbon.
Last year Nova Scotia became the only province in Canada to place hard caps on greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector, an initiative that won us awards at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen. Reaching this goal is not easy for a province that gets nearly 85 per cent of its electricity from coal and oil, but innovation is the road to progress.
By the end of 2010 Nova Scotia will generate enough wind power to turn the lights on in the equivalent of 80,000 homes, a 400 per cent increase from a year ago. This Spring we will release a plan that will show how we will meet our commitment for 25 per cent renewable electricity by 2015. And early next year, Nova Scotia will become one of two spots in the world moving forward with clear plans for commercial tidal production. We are determined to seize the opportunities afforded by our natural resources
Our province is home to the highest tides in the world, and we intend to ensure that we create an energy supply and build the foundations of an industry that will become known the world over as the "Fundy" standard.
Once Nova Scotia was known for shipbuilding, coal and steel. Now, clean energy could be Nova Scotia's next big industry. Nova Scotia's ambitions in the area of clean energy are world-class. That's why my government invested $60 million with Daewoo to create green jobs and help stimulate the province's wind power industry, and why it is intensifying efforts to pursue new sustainable energy opportunities wherever they arise.
Approximately $300 million will be invested in Nova Scotia through programs for energy efficiency and energy conservation over the next four years. This represents significant opportunities in the green economy, because only a government that knows where it is going can lay a foundation for the future of a province.
Good ideas and ambition are not always enough. We must also deal with a looming labour shortage. Nova Scotia is the first province in Canada to have more seniors than youth. Soon more people will be leaving the labour force than entering it. That simply cannot be allowed to happen. We need skilled workers. We need healthy and safe workplaces. We need innovative thinking.
Past governments did not see this coming, or they thought the workforce problem would somehow take care of itself. My government promised that education and training would be its answer to the impending workforce shortage. It is keeping that promise. High school students are gaining more hands-on work experience through co-op programs and job placements.
The province's new cutting-edge Skilled Trades Centres are drawing more young Nova Scotians into the trades. Last year the province distributed grants to public school boards to promote skilled trades and trades-related training throughout the province. My government will continue to work with the Mi'kmaq community to attract Aboriginal Nova Scotians into the trades. Along with the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, regional school boards, and the Nova Scotia Community College, the province has also launched a three-year program designed to attract youth to the construction industry.
This year my government will invest another $2 million in the Nova Scotia Community College to make room for 250 more students. Over the next two fiscal years, the province will contribute $31.5 million to support infrastructure projects at our universities and the Nova Scotia Community College, approved under the federal Knowledge Infrastructure Program. This provincial funding is leveraging $56.7 million from the federal government and $42.3 million from other sources to enable a total of $130.5 million in infrastructure projects. It is also working with the province's community colleges and world-class universities to ensure that their programming reflects the realities of today's workforce and economy.
My government will also provide support to current and older workers. The new Recognition of Prior Learning pilot initiative will help ensure that no one should have to spend time, energy, and resources learning over again what they already know and can do.
Last year my government delivered over 150 workplace education programs to 1,575 Nova Scotians because we know that people with jobs also need to keep current with the changing needs of the workplace. Its newly launched Adult Learning and Link Continuing Care Assistant Programs help adult learners gain the literacy, skills-training, and practical work experience they need to enter the work force. The Targeted Initiative for Older Workers - jointly run by the province and the federal government - smooths the way for age advantaged workers to re-enter the workforce. When workers are displaced by a closure or downsizing, my government is there with support services to help people to find new jobs or enter education and training programs.
To ensure that our best and brightest stay at home, the province is providing a tax rebate of up to $15,000 over six years to university graduates and up to $7,500 to college graduates who stay and work in Nova Scotia. Through the Labour Market Agreement, my government will continue to invest in employment support programs to help under-represented groups find work. And let us not forget about the province's new immigration strategy, to be launched later this year. It will champion welcoming communities that are inclusive and supportive of newcomers. But the
strategy will also try to match skilled international immigrants with the needs of Nova Scotia's employers.
Making life more affordable
A strong economy is one of the pillars of a strong community, as is affordability. All Nova Scotians should have the opportunity to be part of and contribute to their communities. My government will transform the Employment Support and Income Assistance program to increase economic independence and enhance social inclusion. The program will be client-focused, and will give lasting support instead of being a last resort. This new philosophy will transform the program into one that achieves positive outcomes for clients and their children, to the benefit of all.
My government is continuing with year two of the province's housing stimulus plan, spending $128 million to build affordable housing units and to upgrade existing ones across the province. To make life more affordable for families, my government has also taken the provincial portion of the HST off basic electricity. Almost 400,000 households are benefiting from the rebate.
In addition to increasing long-term-care beds, my government will continue to make life better for seniors by funding a host of programs that provide recreational opportunities for older Nova Scotians while also making their lives safer, more comfortable, and more accessible. My government kept its pledge to eliminate security deposits charged to seniors in nursing homes. In this session, my government will introduce legislation to provide fairer treatment of people injured in an auto accident, while keeping insurance premiums affordable.
Some of the most vulnerable in our society make their homes in residential care settings and community-based small options homes. During this sitting of the Legislature, my government will introduce amendments to give the Minister of Community Services more effective oversight, in the rare cases where it is needed, over the management of these centres, in response to troubling cases of abuse and mistreatment. To further ensure the safety and well-being of our most vulnerable citizens, all small options homes will be licensed. This desire to reduce the burden on families is rooted in the core values of my government. It is our responsibility to make life better for Nova Scotian families. Just as it is our duty to ensure the sound stewardship of taxpayers' money.
Getting back to balance and ensuring government lives within its means
In 2009 my government ended the most outrageous MLA allowances, including the public purchase of private MLA assets. The Auditor General then
reported how excessive MLA expense allowances had been provided with little or no guidance to protect the public interest. It is time for change, and a complete break with the discredited expense system. Very soon my government will introduce new House of Assembly Management legislation, to establish a new, open, and accountable system, with clear guidelines for appropriate constituency expenses. It will require that expenses be posted on-line and will eliminate non-receiptable allowances. One thing is absolutely clear: the new system will ensure that taxpayers' money is not wasted. It will also enable the government to face its most pressing challenge: getting back to balance and living within its means.
To determine the province's true fiscal situation, my government conducted a review of the province's finances and appointed an Economic Advisory Panel to make recommendations on how to proceed. Both reports confirmed that only tough decisions will restore the province to a solid fiscal standing. Yet balancing the budget in the coming fiscal year would do serious harm to Nova Scotia's economy and destabilize public services. It would hurt people, rather than make their lives better. So we will balance the budget, as we promised, because the province's future depends upon it. But it will not happen this year.
The upcoming budget will outline in detail our multi-year fiscal strategy to help government manage the province's finances and get Nova Scotia back to balance. Already underway is a multi-year plan to sharpen the effectiveness and efficiency of every government department, while still ensuring that Nova Scotian families get the services and support they need. For my government, above all else, will never leave people behind.
Forty years ago bulldozers razed the last building in the community of Africville, leaving a hole in the heart of generations of African Nova Scotians who made their homes there. But healing must start somewhere. And, so, my government will contribute $1.5 million over three years to help build a church and interpretive centre on the former Africville site.
The province is extending French language supports for Acadians and francophones. My government is reaching out to at-risk youth through its promised after-school Lighthouses Program which offers young people recreational, social, and educational opportunities that can make a difference in their lives.
My government is also keeping its commitment to increase funding for transition houses and women's centres. Even while facing difficult financial challenges, my government is working hard to keep its commitments to Nova Scotians and achieve much needed change. It values the views and contributions of people from all walks of life, from the urban centres to the distant rural roads. This
government is ready to make the right decisions and enable a better life for Nova Scotia families.
My government will take on the difficult challenges the province faces while seizing the opportunities provided by Nova Scotians' talent, drive, ambition, and optimism.
God bless Nova Scotia.
God bless Canada.
God save the Queen.
[The Speaker and Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escorts and the Sergeant-At-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour, the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
[INTRODUCTION OF BILLS]
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. ROSS LANDRY: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a bill entitled An Act Respecting Oaths of Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor, has been pleased to made a Speech to the members met in the General Assembly of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy that the Chief Clerk will now read.
The honourable Premier.
HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Speech be taken as read. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Antigonish. (Applause)
MR. MAURICE SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today in this the Second Session of the 61st General Assembly to move the Speech from the Throne as read by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis.
To begin, I wish to thank Her Honour for her presence and for the exemplary way in which she carries out her many duties as the Queen's representative here in Nova Scotia. The Lieutenant Governor's role is a very important one in our system and Her Honour's diligence and poise in carrying out those duties add stature to the role.
Mr. Speaker, before I start the main portion of my speech, I would like to acknowledge several people who are in the gallery. My wife, Jane, as well as Reverend Tom MacNeil, pastor of St. Ninian's Cathedral in Antigonish, is with us this afternoon, and my brother-in-law, Richard Lancaster, and his wife, Bernadette, are here too.
Mr. Speaker, earlier this afternoon we had, in the Chamber, a number of distinguished guests in the form of some of our judges, I am pleased to say that when they entered the room there were then five graduates from the Law Class of 1973 in the room. The Chief Judge of the Family Court, John Comeau, was present, as well as the Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, Brian Gibson, and in addition we have the Chief Clerk, Rod MacArthur, who also was a classmate, and my colleague next to me, also a graduate of the 1973 Law Class. (Interruption) We're getting to that.
Although I was elected in a by-election on October 29, 2009, in Antigonish, I only had the opportunity to sit for four days in the Legislature before the Fall session ended. However, I can say that an MLA does not sit idle between sessions of the General Assembly; indeed, I am constantly amazed at how it is possible for any MLA who has both MLA duties and ministerial duties to satisfy all of their responsibilities - how much more difficult it must be for ministers who have more than one portfolio. I know that I am kept very busy on constituent affairs and find very little time for any work outside the purview of the MLA's duties.
I was a Legal Aid lawyer for 34 years, and towards the end of that career I carried a caseload of some 115 active files and managed two stand-alone law offices. Any thinking that I had prior to my election that being elected would somehow be a less onerous job has long since dissipated. (Laughter) I have exchanged my 115 active files for responsibility to the 18,836 constituents of Antigonish. Of those, 14,600 live in the county and 4,236 live in the town - of
course, that does not count the influx of students we have every year when they return in their thousands to attend St. Francis Xavier University.
I suppose my only complaint of my new role and job is that it seems that there is never enough time to get work done. I am spending so much time meeting with constituents, to be apprised of their issues and concerns, that there seems to be little time left over to work on the problems that they present to me.
I'm very fortunate to have a community that is aware of just what a big job it is that I have and they have shown a great deal of patience in giving me the time to get up to speed. The learning curve is a steep one. I am hopeful that they will understand that for the next couple of months my more frequent absence from my constituency office is merited by my need to be present here in the House, serving their interests at this level.
Like every community, Antigonish has a wish list of things we would like to see come to our community to improve our quality of life here and, as well, help our community to grow and prosper. The challenge in bringing investment and seeking support for initiatives at a local level is a challenge for all of us, not just for the elected officials. We need to work in concert with each other to make sure that our common goals are achieved. I am pleased to say that I have the support from the Antigonish Town and County municipal governments who, of course, are dealing for the first time ever with an NDP MLA representing the constituency in the first-ever Nova Scotia NDP Government. Therefore, I would like to acknowledge the support given to me by the municipal leaders, our Mayor Carl Chisholm and Warden Herb Delorey, and their staffs. They have taken me under their wings and have helped guide me through some of the public functions that we jointly attend.
Since my election on October 20, 2009, my time has been fully occupied with constituency business. The first task was hiring a constituency assistant, Meaghan MacIntyre, who is present here today. We are both learning on the job, but Meaghan has come to her new position with a lot of experience. She was the manager of a bookstore just prior to joining me in this new venture, and she has talents which the experience of running a business has given her and which will greatly assist us in enabling our office to run smoothly. Already Meaghan is becoming the person people realize is the one they really need to talk to to get things done.
We had our Open House on December 21st and quickly found that being on Main Street is the way to go. We have an open door policy and keep regular business hours. People like to know that their MLA is available, and we will try to maintain this approach to being available to everyone who wants or needs to see us.
Some of the public activities I have been involved with since my election late in October have been very enjoyable and exciting. It is hard to beat the hype and excitement associated with the Olympic torch travelling across Canada, and we in Antigonish had a great day of celebration as we hosted the torch in our community. St. F.X. was front and centre in this celebration. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to table the latest edition of the St. F.X. Alumni News, which testifies to the wonderful day and event which we all enjoyed: carrying the torch.
The Remembrance Day ceremonies in Havre Boucher and Antigonish were truly heartwarming and special occasions with large numbers of the community in attendance. I have a nephew who is engaged in the Afghan conflict and is on his second tour of duty there. Every day we live with the worry of the success of the mission overall and, of course, are concerned about the safe return of all our military and employed personnel. (Applause)
Since I was elected, there has been an historic meeting between the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs and the Cabinet, hosted at Paq'tnkek, Antigonish County, by Chief Gerard Julien. This, too, was a very special event which will go a long way to foster and encourage goodwill between our communities.
Needless to say, December was a busy time with all of the attendant festivities of the season, as well as getting our office up and running. It was a great pleasure to be on the lead float of the Christmas Parade, which was a large wagon being powered by a team of Belgian horses. I said to my wife, Jane, as we were riding down Main Street and waving to the crowds, "Did you ever believe when we were here at the university 40 years ago that one day we would be taking part in the Christmas Parade in Antigonish?"
Of course, there have been many ribbon-cutting ceremonies and congratulatory handshakes for achievements by our many successful organizations and citizens, and those are far too many to list. However, there is one that I want to single out. One event which I would like to note is the 40th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the local chapter of the Kinsmen. On February 20th a gala dinner-dance marked the occasion with the elected representatives of all three governments in attendance. Suffice to say that ours is a very vibrant community with an involved and committed citizenry.
On the horizon there are also some events which will be very special occasions for the community. The Coady International Institute, which has just celebrated the opening of its new facility at St. Francis Xavier University, will be inaugurating an interpretive centre which will be a state-of-the-art information centre about the Coady, which will be open to both local and tourist users.
Our Main Street is vibrant and many of its businesses are second and third generations of successful enterprises. For example, this year the Antigonish
Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company will celebrate its 100th year of operations. This is a local, family-owned business which has been very successful and has continued to grow and provide its services throughout Eastern Nova Scotia.
I've already mentioned St. Francis Xavier University several times. I don't believe I can say enough about St. Francis Xavier. I am a 1970 graduate, so this year I will be celebrating my 40th year as an alumnus of St. F.X. It is with great pride that I wear the X ring and am pleased to tell all members of the House and guests today what a simply fabulous university St. F.X. is. (Applause)
St. Francis Xavier University is dedicated to advancing education, knowledge and leadership through the development of tomorrow's global citizens. The university is committed to students by focusing on a foundation of excellence: outstanding teaching, exceptional hands-on research experiences and life-enriching personal opportunities that are often centered on making positive contributions to society.
St. F.X. is widely recognized as one of the top post-secondary institutions in Canada. Since its founding in 1853, St. F.X. has helped shape the world in which we live. The university brings together over 4,500 full- and part-time students from across Canada and around the world for quality programs in the traditional arts, sciences, business, education, as well as the world-famous Coady International Institute.
The Antigonish university plays a lead role in the knowledge economy of the province where the yearly direct and indirect economic impact between operations and capital investments exceeds $300 million to the communities surrounding northeastern Nova Scotia. With an employee base of 700, our students, faculty and staff are committed to making meaningful contributions to our communities at home and abroad through international internships, service learning experiences and community outreach initiatives. It's all a part of an educational experience built on the values of social justice and equality.
Antigonish is also the home of the Sisters of St. Martha. Their mother house at Bethany has been a beacon of goodwill and community service for the past 110 years that the order has been in existence. Many of you may not be aware, but the Sisters of St. Martha were originally brought into existence in order to be a support for the fledgling St. Francis Xavier University in its earlier days. The order later branched out to become involved in health care services, not only in Nova Scotia but across North America.
The Sisters of St. Martha own seven hospitals in Canada, three in Nova Scotia, two in Alberta and two in Saskatchewan. In addition, they administered three hospitals in Nova Scotia and also the St. John's Hospital in Lowell, Massachusetts. One of the sisters, Sister Mary Ignatius Floyd, was a pioneer in the development of
hospital activity. She was very instrumental in the development of hospital insurance in Nova Scotia. In 1957 she was appointed to the Nova Scotia Hospital Services Planning Commission and her work culminated in the creation of the Nova Scotia Hospital Services Insurance Plan. The order of Sisters of St. Martha is indeed a tremendous asset to our community and we are very proud of the work and service that the sisters have given over the many years of their vibrant community involvement.
Overall Antigonish Town and County, my constituency, are thriving and are a wonderful place to live and raise a family. As a community we are constantly trying to make things better. An apt example of this is the New Field Project which is now on the cusp of realizing a dream of many who have worked long and hard to bring this concept to fruition. Just since June, the fundraising efforts of those who are spearheading this project have secured $750,000 in pledges from within the community.
Not only is it a wonderful place to live, it is a wonderful place to visit. I'm very proud to be able to say that Antigonish is a very popular tourist destination with lots of activities. We are well endowed with natural beauty and have fine beaches located very close to the town and throughout the county. We have craft shops, galleries, world-class restaurants, a summer farmers' market, a very successful and world-renowned Highland Games, a very fine 18-hole golf course, a summertime professional repertory theatre and the university art gallery. There is nothing we lack to make a pleasurable stay at Antigonish part of any tourist's needs or wants.
Mr. Speaker, although we have only been elected since June 2009, already our government has made some substantial and beneficial changes which will impact positively on the lives of Nova Scotians. Very soon after becoming elected, we moved quickly to deal with some of the issues surrounding the expenses and allowances of MLAs. In September, a wage freeze was announced for MLAs and political staff. The $45,000 paid to MLAs upon leaving office was eliminated. The technical fund in the amount of $2,500 per year per MLA was eliminated. The practice of MLAs taking office furniture and equipment with them when they left office was eliminated. In October a reduction in the monthly allowance of approximately $865 per MLA per month was announced, which provided a fiscal year saving of $200,000 overall. Then, in December, the per diem for committees that do not meet was also eliminated.
Further, following the Auditor General's report, the $150 monthly allowance paid to MLAs was eliminated. The $84 per diem was reduced to $38 and expenses are now to be posted online and all allowances that didn't formally require receipts must now have receipts. In addition, Cabinet Ministers and the Speaker are no longer paid for chairing committees and amounts allowed to be used for advertising have been reduced to 10 per cent of the monthly constituency allowance.
As you've just heard in the Speech from the Throne, legislation will be passed to further solidify these changes and to make open and transparent the whole of MLA remuneration and expenses and allowances.
Significant investments have been made in job creation, notably the Daewoo turbine manufacturing plant which will be located in the former TrentonWorks site in Trenton, Nova Scotia. This is a tremendous boon to all of Nova Scotia, particularly so to the area which I serve as many jobs will be available for people in Antigonish Town and County once this project is up and running.
The additional funding to the Halifax Shipyards by way of repayable loan will create up to 1,000 jobs over the next three years. The NewPage Port Hawkesbury biomass initiative will create 150 jobs in eastern Nova Scotia. The securing of timber rights and land for Northern Pulp company will ensure the sustainability of the Abercrombie pulp plant which will again secure employment for the northeastern area of the province and is a positive initiative for all of the province. The ongoing highway projects are too numerous to mention but significant for the Antigonish area is the twinning of Highway No. 104 which not only provides significant employment during construction, but is a huge capital asset to the area.
We have already kept many of our campaign commitments. We have removed the 8 per cent GST on home electricity. We have removed the security deposit which seniors had to pay to go into nursing homes and we have increased the minimum wage. These are all benefits to the general population of the province and make a significant improvement to the lives of today's families.
The introduction of the 10 per cent Manufacturing and Processing Investment Tax Credit has now been initiated and the tax rebate for new home construction introduced. These are all commitments which we have made and kept.
Mr. Speaker, it is a very great honour to be chosen by the people of your own community to represent them as their voice in government. I continue to be appreciative of that support and am honoured by their confidence in me. I will do the best I can to represent all of my constituents in Antigonish and to make their voices heard at the caucus table when important decisions concerning the province are being made.
It is truly an honour and a privilege for me to be part of this historic government. With confidence in the future, I move that the Speech from the Throne, as presented by Her Honour, the Honourable Mayann Francis, be accepted as read. Thank you. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.
MR. GARY RAMEY: Thank you very much Mr. Speaker. Merci beaucoup, M. le Président.
It's an honour and a privilege to rise in my place to second the Speech from the Throne as read today by Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis, in this historic chamber. Before doing so, however, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my wife, Debbie and my sons, Stefan and James, for giving me the latitude to pursue my work in public service.
As all members of this House realize, the work that we do involves a significant amount of time away from family and friends and I'm grateful for the understanding and patience accorded to me by these loved ones who are always so kind, generous and supportive. I'd also like to thank my very conscientious, kind, loyal and efficient constituency assistant, Ms. Janet Calhoun. I wish to bring greetings and best wishes to three of my constituents, Carmen O'Neill, Dave March and Don Calhoun, all of whom are in the gallery today with my wife and my constituency assistant.
Mr. Speaker, I'd also like to thank all the people of Lunenburg West who have been so supportive and who, because of their kindness and generosity to me on a daily basis, give me the inspiration and motivation to work hard - not only for them, but for all Nova Scotians.
Finally, I wish to thank Her Honour for all the good work she does on behalf of our province. Mr. Speaker, I wish you and all members of this House best wishes as we enter this very important session of the Legislative Assembly.
Back in the Fall, during the first sitting of the 61st legislative session, I spoke about bringing change to my constituents. As a matter of fact, I said, "Mr. Speaker, the people voted for change and change they will get." Well, that's exactly what has transpired. During the election campaign we produced a very simple and straightforward plan outlining the goals and objectives of our government over a four-year period.
This document, easy to read and elegant in its simplicity, ensured that anyone who so wished could easily track the progress of this administration. Because it was produced in an easy-to-read format, the reader could simply look at the goal or objective stated, note the year in which it was to be accomplished, and then simply tick off whether this had actually occurred.
I remember - and I'm still seeing, I might add - the derision and scorn heaped upon us at the time by certain members of the Opposition who ostensibly felt that we should have created some heady and unreadable tome loaded with jargon
and buried in semantics. That was the traditional approach, of course, so I can see why that would have been desired. As on so many things then and now, our approach has been different. I hope that Nova Scotians kept that report-card-like pamphlet and that they deign to examine it often. Those who do will see a chronicle of commitments made and kept in a timely and efficient manner.
The Premier announced during the election campaign that the provincial portion of the HST would be removed from the electrical bills of Nova Scotians if the NDP was elected as the governing Party in this province. This commitment was fulfilled in October 2009. (Applause)
Our government realized early on that if we were to have a secure and robust economy, it would be necessary to support, sustain, and encourage business activity in this province. With that in mind, our government put together a series of progressive business initiatives.
To kick-start the economy during a worldwide economic downturn, a one-year new home construction rebate program was put in place which provided a 50 per cent rebate on the GST for those who qualified. Although criticized by the Opposition, this was extremely well received by home builders and new home buyers alike and was a major factor in easing the burden of the recession in our province. In keeping with the theme of promoting business, the equity tax credit was boosted from 30 per cent to 35 per cent effective January 1, 2010. The maximum claim rose from $15,000 to $17,000, resulting in over $1 million of new incentives going to support small business co-operatives and community economic development initiatives in the province.
Our government, to fulfill its commitment to create 2,200 new jobs, also put in place a Manufacturing and Processing Tax Credit worth 10 per cent of eligible investments made on or after January 1, 2010. This initiative to boost innovation and productivity in Nova Scotia's manufacturing and processing sectors is already taking root.
Mr. Speaker, not to rest on our laurels, this government has recently brought to the province Daewoo Industries of South Korea, that will manufacture wind turbine components at the formerly vacant TrentonWorks plant, bringing hundreds of needed, highly skilled, well paid jobs to central Nova Scotia, while at the other end of the province, the move to revitalize the Shelburne marine facility will bring many highly skilled and good quality jobs to this region as well.
We made a commitment to grow the economy of Nova Scotia and we're doing just that. (Applause) Our province has embarked on one of the most aggressive programs in Canada in relation to the development of renewable energy. The goal is 25 per cent of energy coming from renewable resources by 2015. To meet these objectives, Dr. Wheeler of Dalhousie University is heading up a task
force to meet with stakeholders and put forth a plan outlining how to reach these targets.
As we move forward with wind energy, Fundy tidal power, and other sources of green, renewable energy, we will be growing the economy while decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels. Coupled with this new and encouraging economic activity must come education and training. To grow our industrial base we need to ensure we have a smart, highly-skilled, adaptable work force. We need to stop out-migration of our brightest and best minds and encourage those who have left to return home.
Early on, our government proposed a tax incentive to keep college and university students in Nova Scotia. The Graduate Retention Rebate offers graduates with a recent university degree a tax reduction of up to $15,000 over six years, to a maximum of $2,500 per year, whereas college students holding a diploma or certificate will be eligible for a tax reduction of up to $7,500 over six years, to a maximum of $1,250 per year.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to these measures, we were pleased to reach a mutually-agreeable settlement with our invaluable community college teachers, and we provided stable funding for our universities. In an equally important negotiation, on a recent trip to Vietnam, the Premier signed 12 MOUs to provide Nova Scotia institutions of higher learning a supply of foreign education students, solidifying stable growth for them while making Nova Scotia a smart destination in the international marketplace. (Applause)
The great poet John Donne said, "No man is an island." To extend this metaphor, no province or country operating in a global economy can act alone either. Mr. Speaker, we are working hard to ensure that our beloved province will never be an island in this sense. Although we have made significant and important strides in the business and educational sectors, we have not neglected our social commitments. As New Democrats, we believe strongly in egalitarian principles formulated by our predecessors.
Mr. Speaker, we made a commitment to keep emergency rooms in this province open. During the previous sitting of the Legislature, the Opposition Parties appeared to take delight in daily reminding those of us on the government side that this commitment had not been realized. The chronic problem related to keeping emergency rooms in this province open has been a systemic and ongoing one. Successive governments have not been able to solve this conundrum. Rather than take a band-aid or scatter-shot approach to this issue, we resolved to get it right the first time. We employed a medical expert in this field, Dr. John Ross, to study this serious issue and report to us on how to fix it. In addition, the Honourable Maureen MacDonald introduced legislation in this House on October 28, 2009, to provide
public accountability to communities experiencing emergency department closures. This legislation fulfills that commitment for accountability.
Mr. Speaker, we also made a commitment to end security deposits for seniors in long-term care facilities, as my colleague mentioned. I am pleased to say this commitment has been kept. Seniors entering these facilities will no longer pay these fees and those who have already paid will have them rebated by the end of April 2010. We've also been working on a plan to cover out-of-province travel and accommodation arising from out-of-province medical care. This plan is now in its final stages and is expected to be in place soon.
A major goal of our government is the development of a well-planned and thoughtful poverty reduction strategy. Far too many men, women, and children in our province live in poverty. A multi-departmental approach to addressing this issue is now underway and great progress has been made.
One positive offshoot of this strategy is Target 100, a partnership between Co-op Atlantic and the Department of Community Services. Target 100 will see 100 Community Services recipients removed from the Community Services rolls and employed by co-operatives, in well-paid jobs with benefits, giving those in the program the joy and dignity of a well-paid and sustainable job. It is an important step toward tackling this difficult and vexing problem and speaks to the notion that poverty issues are complicated and not the purview of one government department, but rather are of an all-encompassing nature requiring new and innovative approaches for solutions. Our strategy on this file is working and we will continue to expand and gain momentum going forward.
Mr. Speaker, our government has maximized every federal dollar available for infrastructure related projects. Almost $230 million has been committed to community projects providing much needed improvements to municipal and highway programs. These projects not only benefit communities, but contribute to secure jobs for Nova Scotian families. One of the offshoots of this commitment is an ambitious five-year paving plan which will improve road infrastructure in the rural areas of the province. This program has already benefitted my constituents, as well as many others in the province, and will continue to do so going forward. While we are engaged in this process, we are also working with stakeholders to develop better materials and techniques to employ in road building and construction.
Mr. Speaker, our government made a commitment to continue to preserve lands for the use of all Nova Scotians. With this in mind, we have continued to add to the land bank by establishing a Community Land Trust. Although criticized by some for purchasing lands for the trust at this time, it is important to remember a few critical facts. Firstly, no one is creating more land and, secondly, land placed on the market for sale does not stay there forever. Sadly, when land is for sale, it is not always the best time to purchase. If lands of cultural, environmental, recreational or
historical significance become available, the option to purchase must always be considered before the opportunity to purchase no longer exists.
Most Nova Scotians seem to realize this truism even though some Opposition members appear to miss the point by accident or design. This chronicle of commitments made and kept is by no means an exhaustive list, but is merely an example of the kind of progress that has been made in just nine months in office.
Mr. Speaker, all of this has been accomplished within the envelope of living within our means and getting back to balance. Within weeks of taking office, we kept our commitment to do an independent review of the province's finances. Part of the Deloitte review was to initiate a regimen of expenditure management with a target of 1 per cent savings.
Mr. Speaker, immediately upon taking office, we reduced the size of Cabinet from 18 to 12, saving taxpayers $850,000. On September 17th, we eliminated the $45,000 paid to MLAs who resigned or lost an election. This was followed by an announcement eliminating the MLA Tech Fund, as my colleague mentioned, saving roughly $130,000. On September 20th, a wage freeze for MLAs and political staffers came into effect. In October, we initiated a 21 per cent reduction in MLA allowances and in December, eliminated per diems for committees that didn't meet.
Mr. Speaker, these measures were in effect before the Auditor General's report was released, facts often - indeed, I would say consistently - overlooked by some. As of March, the $1,050 monthly allowance to MLAs was eliminated and the daily per diems were reduced from $84 to $38. In total this is the biggest overhaul of MLA and staff expenses ever undertaken in this province, a significant part of which occurred within a few months of taking office and long before, as I just stated, the Auditor General's report was released. (Applause)
Mr. Speaker, in keeping with this fiscal restraint policy, all government departments have been asked to find areas to save and the finance minister has spoken out often, and I believe clearly, against so-called March madness spending. Our government was not the creator of these fiscal policies related to MLA expenses, but we will be the government that sends them packing.
I would be remiss if I did not briefly mention the many good things that have occurred in my riding of Lunenburg West directly related to the current administration. (Interruptions) They seem to be stirred up over there for some reason. In August, a total of $13 million was spent on paving projects and culvert replacements resulting in important improvements to our roadways. In October, a $10 million investment was confirmed for the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre in Bridgewater. On February 2nd, the South Shore Fieldhouse Society received a $750,000 grant to support the very good that work they do. Earlier this month, the
Bridgewater Seniors' Safety Program received an $18,000 grant while the Drumlin Hills Tenants Association - that's a home for elderly people or a residence for elderly people - received a $6,315 disbursement. Recently the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg received a $5,000 Age Friendly Communities Grant and, Mr. Speaker, also this month, the Bridgewater Church Wee Wisdom Nursery School and Day Care Centre received an $85,753 renovation grant as did the Small World Learning Centre with $67,805, of investing money into our very, very young population.
Several fire departments in my riding received grants of various amounts including Pleasantville with $20,000; Hebbville $10,000; Hemford and District, $10,000; Lapland $10,000; Bridgewater Fire Department $7,000; Chelsea and District Fire Department Community Centre $5,000; and the LaHave District Fire Department, $3,000. These funds that support our local volunteers are very much appreciated and the service these volunteers provide to communities are second to none, Mr. Speaker.
In conclusion, it is important to note that we live in one of the most beautiful places in the world (Interruption) And I appreciate that. (Laughter) Where the beauty of the scenery is eclipsed only by the beauty of the people. We have always been known as a tough but resilient lot. I once heard a Maritime fisherman referred to as a cast iron marshmallow. This toughness tempered with compassion, you see, will see us through. Our province is on the move, but we still have many challenges ahead.
In the days that follow, it is my hope, at least, that partisan politics will be put aside to foster the greater good, that lively and constructive, rather than mean-spirited debate will be the order of the day and that Nova Scotia will blossom into the outstanding bloom that we all know it can be.
Mr. Speaker, M. le Président, I am pleased to second the motion that the Speech from the Throne, as presented by Her Honour, Mayann Francis, be accepted as read. Thank you, merci beaucoup. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of co-operation, I thought they were standing for me. (Laughter) I want to reassure the people in the gallery that I will be brief. (Applause) But for those of you on the floor, I invite you back tomorrow morning.
I want to, first of all, extend my congratulations to the member for Antigonish on moving the Speech from the Throne and telling him that I had the opportunity many times to visit St. Martha's - my mother has a cousin who is a sister there, Sister Loretta McGrath. I had the opportunity to visit them after the last
campaign and she invited me to lunch and as I was going in, I began shaking hands and one of the good sisters reminded me that the election campaign was over. (Laughter) I also want to recognize and congratulate the member for Lunenburg West on his seconding of the Speech and I want to thank him for setting the tone of this session. (Laughter)
As well, we welcome a new member to our House, the member for Inverness, Allan MacMaster. (Applause) When he was introduced earlier, I wanted to toughen him up and I told him tomorrow I expected him to comb his hair and my wife said to me when I said that, she told me that boy looks just fine the way he is, let him alone. (Laughter)
I want to acknowledge my wife who is here and the many other spouses who are in the gallery today and thank them for their commitment to public service on behalf of all Nova Scotians. (Applause)
There are some young people here, two of whom are with me - four of them are with me but two of them, I guess, belong to me - my daughter Colleen, she's my favourite daughter. Many of you have seen Colleen here on a number of occasions, she is a student at Saint Mary's University. As well today my son Jeffrey is here. Jeff is 18 years old, he is a Grade 12 student at Bridgetown Regional High School, as well Sam Wright, Sam is a young man from Clementsport who I had the opportunity to coach in hockey, everything he knows about hockey, I taught him, and he no longer plays. (Laughter) Annie Kerr is here as well from Bridgetown High School. Annie and Jeff are School Athletic Federation Scholar Athletes this year, representing their school. Jeff actually looks like his father, but takes after his mother. (Applause)
These last number of months have been difficult months to be an MLA in the Province of Nova Scotia for those of us who have had the pleasure and privilege of being one, but it has also been a difficult two months on our families and those who care for us. So I would like to acknowledge all of them, those who are here and those who are not here, for standing beside us and supporting us through what has been some difficult times. (Applause)
It has also been a time to reflect, a time to re-evaluate. I want to thank the government for acknowledging my mother in the Speech from the Throne - Edith Cromwell was also a constituent of mine. Both had extraordinary lives and made a tremendous contribution - very strong women, many times being referred to as role models for women. As one of those sons, I think she was a pretty good role model for the boys too. (Applause)
As I've been reflecting over the last few months, I've been asked why I ran for public office and, you know, that conversation I had actually with my mother. She lived next door to me and we had many conversations about public policy, but
really about why I thought I should pursue a career in politics. I felt it was a natural extension for what I had been doing - I sat on the community health board, I worked in economic development, I ran a small business, I coached sports, and it was a natural extension for what I had been doing. It was a way to serve the community that I live in and a way to make a contribution in a positive way. I honestly believe that what we do in this House matters to Nova Scotia.
When I decided to take a run for the leadership, I spoke to her again. As all mothers would be, she was quite concerned, of course, about the amount of time it would take away from Colleen and Jeffery but also the rough and tumbleness of politics and, quite frankly, the dirtiness of politics. She expressed that concern to me, but I believed and she believed that the work we do in this House impacts Nova Scotian lives every day and it matters to the people of this province. I hope that if my children have the ambition to seek public life, to respond to Nova Scotians, whether it is in this House or outside of this House, that they follow their dreams and do not settle - do not settle, follow your dreams to respond to the needs of Nova Scotians.
As I had the opportunity to walk through those doors in 2003 - I was elected in August and I had never set foot in this House - I came in August and I had the privilege to walk through those doors as the member for Annapolis in September of 2003. I took my seat back there. We actually thought, Junior and I, the member for Digby-Annapolis, we were going to have to remodel this place so we could get out in the hallway a little bit and have a little room, but at that same time when I took my seat here there were thousands of Nova Scotians entering school for the very first time, and those same students this September will be going into junior high. I want you to think about the decisions that we have made collectively since 2003 that have impacted those children.
This place matters to Nova Scotians. We returned millions of dollars to low- income seniors who were paying a Pharmacare premium they didn't have to pay because this place matters to Nova Scotians; we passed legislation that allowed people with disabilities the dignity of managing their own home care and creating a quality of life that they wanted; and we eliminated smoking in cars carrying children. We affected Nova Scotian lives in a positive way because the work that we do collectively matters to Nova Scotians.
It has been a privilege for me to be able to sit in this House and it is a privilege for all of us, but the reality is we are going to come and go. Some of us are going to get the opportunity to walk out those doors because we decided to do so; some of us are going to walk out those doors and never come back because our constituents are going to tell us we're not coming back. Either way, this institution will be here. It's not about us, it is about this institution, because the men and women who were before us and the men and women who will come after us will make decisions that matter to Nova Scotians and they will affect their lives.
Of all the challenges facing us - and there are many, as I'm sure the Premier knows - I believe the greatest challenge we have, as an elected body - and that's all of us - is to begin to build a relationship of trust with the voters of Nova Scotia. Election after election participation has been going down and the last two months have not helped. But as we move into this session, we must not lose focus on the fact that the work we do matters. I know it matters every day because people walk into my constituency office looking for help and we respond. I know they walk into your constituency offices and you respond, to the best of your ability.
In order for our province to thrive, in order for those young people and the young people across this province to have an opportunity the live and work in this province, Nova Scotians have to have faith in those of us who sit in this House and they have to have faith that the decisions we make are in the best interests of our province. I have faith in the members of this House that collectively we could deal with the issues of the last two months and we can chart a course going forward.
I will probably not respond as favourably tomorrow to the Speech from the Throne as the member for Lunenburg West, but I will do my best because I honestly believe, as I know all of you do, that this work matters. When I get an opportunity to stand in front of Grades 10, 11 and 12 classes, I tell them you must be engaged because I'm going to make a decision that will affect your future, we all will. What we do matters and let's not lose sight of that.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to adjourn debate and start again tomorrow. Thank you very much. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member.
There is a motion to adjourn debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried. Debate is adjourned until tomorrow.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to thank all the speakers who spoke today for their eloquence in moving and seconding the speech and beginning the reply, which I understand will continue tomorrow, from the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
At the conclusion of this session this afternoon, on your behalf, sir, I would like to invite all members of the House and all the guests in the gallery to the Red Chamber for a reception.
MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. FRANK CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move that this House do now rise to meet from the hour of 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. After the daily routine we will continue with debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
I move that we do now rise.
MR. SPEAKER: We are adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
[The House rose at 3:59 p.m.]