The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 09-25

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/

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2009

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health - H1N1 Immunization Programs,
Hon. Maureen MacDonald 1511
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 728, Heatley, Jennifer: Global Ministerial Conf. on Road Safety -
Representative, Hon. W. Estabrooks 1514
Vote - Affirmative 1514
Res. 729, Foster Fam. Appreciation Wk. (10/18-10/24/09):
Foster Families - Commend, Hon. D. Peterson-Rafuse 1514
Vote - Affirmative 1515
Res. 730, McQuarrie, Pat/CCG: Life-Saving Rescue - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Jennex 1516
Vote - Affirmative 1516
Res. 731, Solid Waste - Resource Mgt. Strategy: Renewal - Congrats.,
Hon. S. Belliveau 1517
Vote - Affirmative 1517
Res. 732, Canada's Citizenship Wk. (10/19-10/25/09):
Cdn. Citizens (2009) - Congrats., Hon. R. Jennex 1517
Vote - Affirmative 1518
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 45, Canning Library and Heritage Centre Exemption Act,
Mr. J. Morton 1518
No. 46, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act,
Hon. S. McNeil 1518
No. 47, Dietitians Act, Hon. Maureen MacDonald 1519
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 733, MacMaster, Allan/Smith, Maurice: By-Election Wins -
Congrats., Hon. S. McNeil 1519
Vote - Affirmative 1519
Res. 734, MacMaster, Allan/Smith, Moe: By-Election Wins - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Casey 1519
Vote - Affirmative 1520
Res. 735, Christian Counseling Ministries - Anniv. (15th),
Ms. L. Zann 1520
Vote - Affirmative 1521
Res. 736, Main-à-Dieu Library - Anniv. (40th),
Mr. A. MacLeod 1521
Vote - Affirmative 1522
Res. 737, Pritchard, Barbara: Cdn. Music Ctr. Ambassador - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Preyra 1522
Vote - Affirmative 1523
Res. 738, D'Eon Boatbuilding: Tobago House of Assembly Longliner -
Congrats., Hon. C. d'Entremont 1523
Vote - Affirmative 1524
Res. 739, Roberts, Mike/Drivetech Ltd. - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Skabar 1524
Vote - Affirmative 1525
Res. 740, Bragg, Courtney/Equal Voice: Experiences Prog. -
Launch Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 1525
Vote - Affirmative 1525
Res. 741, Simons, Justin & Tina: Haunted House & Trail Walk -
Congrats., Hon. M. Scott 1526
Vote - Affirmative 1526
Res. 742, Harbour Lites New Horizons Club -
Importance Recognize/Vols. Commend, Mr. S. Prest 1526
Vote - Affirmative 1527
Res. 743, MacNeil, Dennis - Pengrowth/N.S. Energy Scholarship,
Mr. K. Bain 1527
Vote - Affirmative 1528
Res. 744, Sackville Heights Elem. Sch.: Terry Fox Run - Participation,
Mr. M. Whynot 1528
Vote - Affirmative 1529
Res. 745, Walker, Sr. Joan: Ministry - Anniv. (50th),
Hon. C. Clarke 1529
Vote - Affirmative 1529
Res. 746, Kings Reg. Dev. Auth. - Econ. Dev. Assoc. (Can.) Award,
Mr. J. Morton 1529
Vote - Affirmative 1530
Res. 747, Cook, George & Phyllis - Reg. Woodlot Owner of Yr. Award
(Cent. N.S.), Hon. K. Casey 1530
Vote - Affirmative 1531
Res. 748, Mahone Bay: Celebration of Honour Event - Congrats.,
Ms. P. Birdsall 1531
Vote - Affirmative 1532
Res. 749, Membertou First Nation: Come to Life Init. - Congrats.,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1532
Vote - Affirmative 1532
Res. 750, Tracadie United Baptist Church - Anniv. (187th)
Mr. J. Boudreau 1532
Vote - Affirmative 1533
Res. 751, Budge, Kevin - Peace Officer Exemplary Serv. Medal,
Mr. K. Bain 1533
Vote - Affirmative 1534
Res. 752, Christakos, George, Gina & Fam./Brooklyn Warehouse -
Congrats., Mr. L. Preyra 1534
Vote - Affirmative 1535
Res. 753, Fed. of Acadian Parents - Anniv. (25th),
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1535
Vote - Affirmative 1536
Res. 754, Valley Credit Union: Serv./Contribution Annapolis Valley -
Congrats., Mr. J. Morton 1536
Vote - Affirmative 1537
Res. 755, St. Anne's Church (Alder Pt.) - Anniv. (50th),
Hon. C. Clarke 1537
Vote - Affirmative 1538
Res. 756, LaHave Manor: Commun. Work - Congrats.,
Ms. P. Birdsall 1538
Vote - Affirmative 1539
Res. 757, Joseph, Mark/Lees, Richard/Cdn. Military: Serv. - Thank,
Hon. M. Scott 1539
Vote - Affirmative 1539
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 203, Salvation Army: Good Neighbour Energy Fund -
Gov't. Contribution, Hon. S. McNeil 1540
No. 204, Educ. - Ministerial Assistantships, Hon. K. Casey 1541
No. 205, SNSMR - HARP: Cuts - Effects,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1542
No. 206, Health: Digby Neck/Islands - Nurse Practitioner,
Mr. H. Theriault 1543
No. 207, Prem.: Junior Ministers - Roles & Responsibilities,
Hon. C. Clarke 1545
No. 208, TIR - Winter: Snow/Ice Control - Funding,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1547
No. 209, Health - Digby Neck: Nurse Practitioner - Min. Involvement,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1548
No. 210, Health - H1N1 Vaccine: Uptake - Monitoring,
Ms. D. Whalen 1550
No. 211, Fish. & Aquaculture - Fish Stock: Seal Population - Impact,
Mr. A. MacLeod 1552
No. 212, Educ.: Tuition Rate (N.S.) - Reduction,
Ms. K. Regan 1553
No. 213, Volunteerism: Ground Search & Rescue Vols. -
Insurance Coverage, Hon. M. Scott 1555
No. 214, ERD: Sm. Bus. - Mentoring Services,
Hon. K. Colwell 1557
No. 215, Health: N.S. to N.B. Hosp. Transfers - Charges,
Hon. M. Scott 1558
No. 216, TIR: Public Land Sales - Review,
Mr. A. Younger 1560
No. 217, Health - Cobequid Ctr.: Commun. Asset - Confirm,
Mr. K. Bain 1561
No. 218, Gaming - Normalization: Gov't. Strategy - Confirm,
Mr. L. Glavine 1563
No. 219, ERD - Williston House: NSBI Loan - Resolution,
Hon. C. Clarke 1564
No. 220, ERD - Bell Aliant Call Ctr. (Sydney): Jobs - Relocation,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1566
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
Bill 41, Multi-Year Funding Act, Hon. Manning MacDonald 1567
Hon. S. McNeil 1567
Hon. D. Peterson-Rafuse 1570
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1573
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1576
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1579
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 676, Dart. Gen. Hosp.: Overcrowding - Address
- notice given Oct. 19/09 - (Mr. A. Younger) 1579
Mr. A. Younger 1579
Hon. Maureen MacDonald 1583
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1585
Ms. D. Whalen 1588
ADJOURNMENT, The House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 22nd at 2:00 p.m. 1592
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 758, Harper, Charlotte: Horse and Garden Farm Efforts -
Commend, Mr. C. Porter 1593
Res. 759, Helliwell, Patricia/Watkins, Geraldine:
W. Hants Fam. Resource Ctr. - Contribution, Mr. C. Porter 1593

[Page 1511]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2009

Sixty-first General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Charlie Parker

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, We will start with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place today to advise the members of the Legislature that we are well underway with our plans for Nova Scotia's pandemic H1N1 and seasonal flu immunization programs. Our Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Robert Strang, will announce many of the details later today at 3:30 p.m.

[Page 1512]

1511

As I stand here now, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health, along with Dr. David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and other key officials are announcing the authorization of the H1N1 flu vaccine. This means that the Government of Canada has deemed the new vaccine to be safe and effective to use. We are one step closer to giving the H1N1 vaccine to all Nova Scotians.

My key message to you, Mr. Speaker, all members of this House, and all Nova Scotians today is to please get the H1N1 vaccine. It is your best defence - our best defence - against H1N1. The new vaccine will be available in a multitude of locations. More specifics will be provided in the days ahead. Right now, public health and other health care professionals are gearing up across the province to be part of this country's largest-ever immunization campaign. During this response to influenza, I know that districts, unions, governments, and others are all pulling in the same direction with the same goal: to keep Nova Scotians safe and healthy.

The complexities are enormous. That is why we are so fortunate to have a dedicated team of public health and health care professionals across this province who are working so well together. As Minister of Health and as Minister of Health Promotion and Protection, I have every confidence they will get the job done and done well.

In closing, I would be remiss if I did not thank all honourable members in this House for their support and the support of our work to manage an incredibly challenging public health event. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to respond to the minister's statement today. First of all, I do appreciate that I was given a copy in advance, although I know it was a short time there, but we had a chance to speak as well to the Chief Public Health Officer today and the Deputy Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. I appreciate that very much as well.

I think the government's willingness to keep the Opposition members very much in the loop is a sign of the co-operation that's needed as we go forward with this kind of major program. This is, as the minister said, the largest-ever immunization program or campaign in Canada, and the aim is to have every single Nova Scotian inoculated. That's very important as we go forward for the safety and protection of all of us.

I want to assure the House and the minister and the people of Nova Scotia that we certainly support that endeavour and that we see this as an extremely important campaign for all of us. It is good news that the vaccine is going to be approved and used soon. It's actually

[Page 1513]

ahead of schedule, from what many of us knew from following news reports. I think that's an opportunity for us here in Nova Scotia to hopefully get a head start.

[2:15 p.m.]

Again, I think it's very important that all of us appeal to all ages to see that they will take the vaccine and that we speak to the people in our own ridings and urge them, through whatever avenues that we have as MLAs, to encourage all the residents to take that, all of the citizens of Nova Scotia. I know there is a particular need with young people who may be more vulnerable and perhaps less informed. So we want to make sure that they have no objection, and that they will also be willing to take the vaccine and help in this endeavour. So with that, I would like to thank the minister again for her announcement.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure as well to stand to make quick comments on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus. H1N1 is one issue that has been floating around for some time now. Many people in Nova Scotia have been wondering what the vaccine issues are going to be, who should be taking it, how they're going to be working in conjunction with the regular flu shot, of course, as it goes around.

Mr. Speaker, I can say that I have full confidence in our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Strang. I know the federal government, the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq and, of course, Dr. David Butler-Jones are phenomenal individuals who will work hard to make sure that the regulations, the rollout of this issue, will be done without very much difficulty. I, too, offer my best to the minister and say that we all have great opportunity to talk to our constituents, our groups, in order to make sure that people get the H1N1 vaccination in order to avert the possibility of a pandemic in Nova Scotia. So thank you very much for this opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if I could make an introduction before I read my resolution?

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you. In the east gallery today we have two impressive young women who are the co-chairs of the Nova Scotia Road Safety Youth Committee and I would ask them to stand - Sara Blades and Jennifer Heatley. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

[Page 1514]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

RESOLUTION NO. 728

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

Whereas Jennifer Heatley, executive director of the Atlantic Collaborative on Injury Prevention and co-chair of the Nova Scotia Road Safety Youth Committee, has been selected as the youth representative for Canada at the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Moscow on November 19th and November 20th; and

Whereas motor vehicle collisions are a leading cause of death and injury in Nova Scotia under the age of 45; and

Whereas improving road safety is a priority of this government, all MLAs in this House, and of our many partners;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize and applaud Jennifer Heatley for being a leader in youth road safety and a youth representative for Canada at the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Moscow.

Make sure you tell them you're a proud Canadian, young lady.

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 Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 729

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

[Page 1515]

Whereas Foster Family Appreciation Week in Nova Scotia is being celebrated from October 18-24, 2009, and foster care resource teams are working across the province to raise awareness about the rewards of fostering a child or youth; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia foster parents work as part of a team of professionals who ensure children and youth receive the love and support they need; and

Whereas Nova Scotia is committed to attracting and training caring families who can help children and youth, and in recent years Nova Scotia has made great strides in recruiting and retaining foster parents with significant success;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Nova Scotia's existing 800 foster families, and encourage more families to open their hearts and homes to children in need during Foster Family Appreciation Week.

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 Premier on an introduction.

HON. DARRELL DEXTER (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, in your gallery I would like to introduce to the House Maurice (Moe) Smith. Mr. Smith was elected last evening in the by-election in Antigonish. Of course, there is a period of appeal that will be waiting to exhaust itself and then he will be joining us here on this side of the House. With him is his wife Jane Smith, Richard and Bernadette Lancaster and Frank and Mary Smith, his family. I would hope that all members of the House give Mr. Smith a warm welcome. (Standing Ovation)

Mr. Speaker, for the record, we would also like to extend congratulations to Allan MacMaster on his successful election last evening as well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Emergency Management.

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, before I present my resolution, may I give an introduction?

[Page 1516]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MS. JENNEX: In the east gallery this afternoon, I was very pleased to look up and see two very good friends from Kings South, Joan and Roger Boutilier. Also, I would like to add that yesterday the honourable member for Kings West presented a resolution about Roger and his accomplishments with running. It was two weekends ago that myself, Joan, and Roger participated in the Harvest Marathon; I did the five, Joan did the half, and Roger did the full. So I would like the House to extend them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Emergency Management.

RESOLUTION NO. 730

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

Whereas the Canadian Coast Guard and its members bravely contribute to the safety, accessibility and security of Canadian waters; and

Whereas Mr. Pat McQuarrie, Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services Officer, received and interpreted an urgent but difficult to understand mayday call during Hurricane Bill; and

Whereas Mr. McQuarrie quickly dispatched Coast Guard first response personnel who implemented a swift and effective rescue of a man in the water in the Purcells Cove area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its gratitude on behalf of all Nova Scotians to the Canadian Coast Guard and Mr. McQuarry and his colleagues for executing a life-saving rescue during Hurricane Bill, and for the vital role that they play in keeping this province and those who live here safe.

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 1517]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 731

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

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has adopted a waste disposal target of 300 kilograms per person per year by the year 2015; and

Whereas the renewal of the province's Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy will guide us towards achieving this target; and

Whereas as part of this ongoing renewal many concerned Nova Scotians and groups have volunteered their time to share their insights on ways the province can continue turning waste into resources to help the environment and the economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate those individuals and groups participating in and contributing to the province's Solid Waste-Resource Management Strategy renewal.

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 Immigration.

RESOLUTION NO. 732

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

[Page 1518]

Whereas the week of October 19th to October 25th is designated as Canada's Citizenship Week, a time for all Canadians to celebrate and reflect on the privileges and responsibilities of being a citizen in this great country; and

Whereas each year about 170,000 immigrants become Canadian citizens; and

Whereas about 800 immigrants have taken the Oath of Citizenship in Nova Scotia so far this year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating all those who have become Canadian citizens this year, and in thanking those who have chosen Nova Scotia as their new home.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 45 - Entitled an Act to Enable the Village of Canning to Transfer Certain Lands to the Canning Library and Heritage Centre Association. (Mr. Jim Morton)

Bill No. 46 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 27 of the Acts of 2000. The Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. (Hon. Stephen McNeil)

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, could I be permitted to make an introduction prior to introducing this bill?

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly.

[Page 1519]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I'd like to take this opportunity to welcome to the House Darlene Bogers, the president-elect of the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association, and Jennifer Garus, the executive manager of the association, who are in the east gallery. I'd ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Bill No. 47 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Practice of Dietetics. (Hon. Maureen MacDonald)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 733

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

Whereas in this House we all cherish the democratic process; and

Whereas we all respect those community-minded people who put their names on the ballot, with the goal of representing their friends and neighbours; and

Whereas this House will soon welcome two new members to our ranks;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate the two candidates who, as the votes were tallied at the end of last night, will represent their constituents in this House: Allan MacMaster of Inverness and Maurice Smith of Antigonish.

[2:30 p.m.]

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 1520]

The honourable Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 734

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

Whereas two provincial by-elections were held in Antigonish and Inverness last evening with more than 16,000 voters expressing their right to elect a representative for their constituencies in the Nova Scotia Legislature; and

Whereas investment adviser and Judique resident Allan MacMaster captured the Inverness seat for the Progressive Conservative Party, and Moe Smith won the seat in Antigonish for the NDP; and

Whereas Allan and Moe are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to take their seats in this historic Chamber and represent the views expressed to them as they campaigned door to door last month;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Allan MacMaster of Inverness and Maurice Smith of Antigonish, while also applauding the work of all candidates who took part and let their names stand in the October 20th by-election.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 735

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

[Page 1521]

Whereas the Truro branch of the Christian Counselling Ministries, which will celebrate their 15th Anniversary on October 24, 2009, helps many youth and their parents develop coping skills in areas such as marriage breakups; and

Whereas the Christian Counselling Ministries will be holding both parent and youth workshops addressing such issues as sexuality, substance abuse, and self-injury; and

Whereas the Christian Counselling Ministries will celebrate their anniversary by holding a community banquet;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Christian Counselling Ministries on celebrating their 15th Anniversary and wish them 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 Minister of Community Services.

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I wish to take this opportunity to make an introduction. I would like to introduce Brigitte Neumann and Anita Neumann. Brigitte was our executive director for many years for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, and her niece is here today. If they would like to stand, along with Naomi Black and Louise Carbert, who are involved with Equal Voice Nova Scotia.

I had the pleasure today to be involved in the launching of Equal Voice Experiences which is a mentorship program to encourage young women to go forth in their life through politics. It was a great pleasure today. Along with these fine ladies, I would like to introduce Francoise Gagnon, who is the senior program director for Equal Voice, and Courtney Bragg, who is our Atlantic Canada Youth Coordinator. Courtney actually was a Page here in Province House. Today we were the first province in all of Canada launching this mentorship program so we should be very proud of these ladies and I would ask everyone to welcome them here today. (Applause)

[Page 1522]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 736

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

Whereas on October 29, 2009, the Main-à-Dieu Library will be celebrating their 40th Anniversary; and

Whereas the Main-à-Dieu Library opened their doors for the first time in 1969 and has struggled for the last few years to maintain their quota; and

Whereas the community of Main-à-Dieu should be very proud of this accomplishment and this branch will remain open, giving great cause for celebration;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Main-à-Dieu Library and the whole community for this, their 40th Anniversary.

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 Citadel-Sable Island

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, before I read my notice of motion I'd like to do an introduction, if you don't mind. Seated in the east gallery today is a wonderful community activist and publicly spirited person who also has the great distinction of being my campaign manager in the last election, Anne Marie Foote. I'd like her to rise and receive the warm applause of this House. (Applause)

The member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage also asked me to add that she is a constituent of hers.

[Page 1523]

RESOLUTION NO. 737

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

Whereas Halifax pianist and musical innovator Barbara Pritchard has performed at a wide variety of musical festivals, recitals, and concerts and taught at the Dalhousie University Department of Music; and

Whereas in celebration of its 50th Anniversary this year, the Canadian Music Centre has chosen to recognize publicly 50 outstanding Canadian performers and conductors who have played exceptional roles in shaping the Canadian music scene and raising the profile of Canadian music; and

Whereas these Ambassadors will be honoured at a special concert and birthday celebration at the National Arts Centre in November and Barbara Pritchard was named a Canadian Music Centre Ambassador, one of only five such designations made to Atlantic Canadians, and the only Nova Scotian;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Barbara Pritchard on being honoured and recognized as a Canadian Music Centre Ambassador for her music and cultural contribution to our 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.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 738

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I kind of feel like I should be introducing someone here.

[Page 1524]

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

Whereas d'Eon Boatbuilding Ltd. of Middle West Pubnico recently completed a 65-foot longliner for the Tobago House of Assembly, called The Capital of Paradise 1; and

Whereas this impressive structure was christened May 13th and served as an adequate celebration of the eight months of hard work put in by staff to construct the vessel; and

Whereas d'Eon Boatbuilding Ltd., first established in 1944, has been long known as a world-class boatyard, and this project for the Government of Tobago simply serves as the most recent example of their commitment and professionalism;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate d'Eon Boatbuilding Ltd. for this impressive accomplishment and acknowledge their significant contribution to the economy of southwestern Nova Scotia over the last several decades.

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 Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 739

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

Whereas Divetech Limited is an innovative underwater inspection and survey company based in Amherst that uses waterproof cameras as a cost-effective and functionally-efficient alternative to the use of professional divers; and

Whereas Divetech was chosen to search Gaspereau Lake for the sunken Lockheed Hudson bomber, of which the exact location has remained a mystery for 66 years; and

[Page 1525]

Whereas the owner of Divetech, Mike Roberts, believes he has found the bomber after only a few hours' search and will return to the lake to confirm his findings this winter, when the water is more clear;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly extend congratulations to Mike Roberts and wish him well in his future endeavours with Divetech Limited.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 740

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

Whereas Equal Voice is a national non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of women in politics; and

Whereas today at the Legislature, the Equal Voice Experiences program was officially launched to encourage young women to be more politically active; and

Whereas the Experiences program is coordinated in Atlantic Canada by Courtney Bragg, a former Page of this House;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Courtney Bragg and the Equal Voice organization on the launch of the Experiences program, and wish them every success in mentoring young women in politics.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 1526]

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 Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 741

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

Whereas kids big and small are gearing up for another "spook-tacular" day of thrills and chills at the Simons' annual Haunted House and Trail Walk at their 1023 Valley Road home this coming Saturday, October 24th; and

Whereas as in previous years, Justin and Tina Simons will accept food bank items and cash donations that will go to the Springhill elementary schools for their great work; and

Whereas highlights for this year will include an extended walking trail and more hair-raising sights in the haunted house, with hours running from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. for the faint of heart and from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. for the more daring;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Justin and Tina Simons, and their family and friends, on the hard work and dedication they put into this exciting fun evening for the children of their community and wish them all the best 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.

[Page 1527]

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 742

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

Whereas the Harbour Lites New Horizons in Musquodoboit Harbour is a senior citizens club that was established in 1977 and has since played a vital role in building a healthier community by offering programs, activities, events, and celebrations for our seniors; and

Whereas the property was donated by Mrs. Verna MacDonald, and today they have 47 members and nine honorary members from Upper Lakeville to Dartmouth; and

Whereas the members of the Harbour Lites New Horizons will host their annual Christmas Tea in October on October 24th from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and will open the door for all to show they are a group of seniors helping seniors;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly recognize the importance of this senior citizens club and commend the volunteers who dedicate their time and their love to the well-being of senior citizens in the Harbour Lites New Horizons Club.

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 743

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

[Page 1528]

Whereas Nova Scotia's petroleum industry has resulted in a wide range of Nova Scotians finding work in rewarding and well-paying jobs; and

Whereas the Pengrowth-Nova Scotia Energy Scholarship is awarded annually to 12 students pursuing energy-related studies at a university who want to work in the petroleum industry and energy sector, with $3 million having been awarded since the program's inception in 2005; and

Whereas Baddeck's Dennis MacNeil was named in early October as one of the 12 Pengrowth-Nova Scotia Energy Scholarship winners of $10,000;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly congratulate Dennis MacNeil of Baddeck on his diligent efforts in being named one of the $10,000 Pengrowth-Nova Scotia Energy Scholarship recipients and wish him every success as he works toward a future in Nova Scotia's promising energy industry.

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 Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 744

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

Whereas on Friday, September 11th, 2009, Sackville Heights Elementary School and its students participated in the Terry Fox Run; and

Whereas the school and community recognize the importance of this annual event; and

[Page 1529]

Whereas the students of the school are committed to continued participation in the Terry Fox Run for years to come;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Sackville Heights Elementary School and extend very best wishes in their future endeavours.

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 745

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

Whereas Sister Joan Walker celebrated 50 years with the Sisters of St. Martha; and

Whereas at the age of 22, she left her family of 16 brothers and sisters to dedicate her life to the Church and service; and

Whereas Sister Walker still does full-time ministry and is presently posted in Lethbridge, Alberta, doing jail chaplaincy and over the years has served in Ottawa and St. Kitts in the West Indies;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Sister Joan Walker for 50 years of dedication and service with the Sisters of St. Martha and wish her continued success in her ministry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1530]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 746

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 Kings Regional Development Authority has been chosen as the recipient of an Economic Development Association of Canada marketing award for its winery and vineyard attraction project Web site; and

Whereas the website contains a comprehensive set of resources for those exploring winery and vineyard business opportunities in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Kings Regional Development Authority has a long and proud history of providing business and economic leadership throughout Kings County;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate the board of directors and the staff of the Kings Regional Development Authority on being the recipient of an Economic Development Association of Canada marketing award and for its valued leadership in community and economic development in Kings County.

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 Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

[Page 1531]

RESOLUTION NO. 747

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

Whereas George and Phyllis Cook are the owners of a 600-acre woodlot in Central New Annan, Colchester County; and

Whereas this old Acadian forest is unique because of its diversity, growing three age classes of trees, providing a home to a variety of wildlife, producing fields of blueberries and even possessing a giant oak tree that may be the oldest tree in the province; and

Whereas the Cooks have received the 2009 Regional Woodlot Owner of the Year Award for Central Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate George and Phyllis Cook for being so successful at practising sustainable forestry management.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 748

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

Whereas the Town of Mahone Bay has a rich history of hard-working citizens who put their own dreams aside for the benefit of their community and their country; and

Whereas the Cenotaph located in the centre of town lists 39 brave and generous men and women who sacrificed their lives in wars past; and

[Page 1532]

Whereas the Town of Mahone Bay is initiating its first Celebration of Honour on Sunday, November 1st, 2009, an event that will see 39 flags planted in the Field of Honour along the Mahone Bay shoreline;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend the Town of Mahone Bay for starting the Celebration of Honour event and remember all those who gave their lives for the greater good as we approach Remembrance Day.

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. 749

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

Whereas Membertou First Nation was featured in this month's Nova Scotia Come to Life initiative, with an article entitled Membertou Welcomes the World; and

Whereas this article outlining the entrepreneurial spirit and success enjoyed by the people of Membertou coincides with Mi'kmaq history month in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the business development currently taking place comes as a result of the countless hours of hard work and planning undertaken by the staff, Band Council and, in particular Chief Terry Paul, who is now in his 25th year as chief;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly congratulate the Membertou First Nation for all their hard work and success and for once again receiving the recognition they so rightly deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1533]

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 Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 750

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 Tracadie United Baptist Church is celebrating its 187th Anniversary in 2009; and

Whereas the church was started in 1822 with a congregation consisting of the descendants of Black Loyalists who came to the area in the 1700s and this church has always served as a focal point for the surrounding communities; and

Whereas the congregation will highlight this historic milestone with a celebration to be held on October 25, 2009;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Tracadie United Baptist Church, the deacons and the entire congregation on their 187th Anniversary with very best wishes for future success.

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 1534]

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 751

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

Whereas the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal recognizes those persons who have dedicated themselves to preserving Canada's public safety through long and outstanding service; and

Whereas the awards are national in scope and are part of the Canadian Honours System, in recognition of service rendered to the country; and

Whereas DFO Officer Kevin Budge from Ingonish Beach was recently presented his Exemplary Service Medal by Her Honour, Mayann Francis, for 30 years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Kevin Budge on receiving this prestigious medal and thank him for his 30 years of service.

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 on an introduction.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to direct the attention of the House to the west gallery. Dr. John O'Connor, Chair of the Shubenacadie Canal Commission, is with us today. I understand he is going to be saying hello to the Minister of Natural Resources a bit later, after watching the lively and entertaining Question Period. So if everybody would like to welcome him to the House, that would be great. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island.

RESOLUTION NO. 752

[Page 1535]

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

Whereas in 2007 Gina and George Christakos, with the assistance of their parents Pat and Leo, opened the Brooklyn Warehouse restaurant at the corner of Almon and Windsor Street, offering an exceptional dining experience while placing an emphasis on local products; and

Whereas George and his sister Gina have operated their business as a partnership and have received numerous accolades in the short time that their business has been operating, including being named best new restaurant by The Coast in 2008, recommended in Where to Eat in Canada in 2009, featured on CBC's Living Halifax and have received countless favourable food reviews; and

Whereas Brooklyn Warehouse was honoured by the Provincial Best Business Award by the Canadian Youth Business Foundation on October 20, 2009;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly thank the Canadian Youth Business Foundation for fostering youth entrepreneurship and congratulate George, Gina and the Christakos family on the success of Brooklyn Warehouse restaurant and their outstanding service to our 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.

The honourable member for Argyle.

RESOLUTION NO. 753

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Monsieur le Président, à une date ultérieure, je demanderai l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

[Page 1536]

Attendu que les 25 et 26 septembre 2008, la Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse célébrait son 25e anniversaire à l'occasion de son Assemblée générale annuelle tenue à Dartmouth; et

Attendu que le président de la Commission nationale des parents francophones décernait à Anne-Marie d'Entremont de Pubnico-Ouest une plaque; et

Attendu que Anne-Marie a reçu ce prix parce qu'elle a défendu avec conviction, détermination et dévouement le droit de promouvoir la langue acadienne française dans les écoles de la Nouvelle-Ècosse et à tous les niveaux de gouvernement, local, provincial et fédéral;

Par conséquent, qu'il soit résolu que tous les membres de cette Assemblée se joignent à moi pour féliciter la Fédération des parents acadiens de la Nouvelle-Écosse à l'occasion de son 25e anniversaire et Anne-Marie d'Entremont pour son engagement envers la préservation de la langue acadienne et lui souhaitent bon succès dans ses projets futurs.

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

Whereas on September 25 and 26, 2009, the Federation of Acadian Parents of Nova Scotia celebrated their 25th Anniversary at their annual general meeting in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Anne-Marie d'Entremont of West Pubnico was awarded a plaque by the president of the National Commission of Francophone Parents; and

Whereas Anne-Marie received this award because throughout her whole life, she has defended with conviction, determination and devotion the right to promote the French Acadian language in Nova Scotia in the schools and in all levels of government locally, provincially and federally;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the Federation of Acadian Parents of Nova Scotia on their 25th Anniversary and Anne-Marie d'Entremont for her dedication for the preservation of the Acadian language and wish her continued success in her efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1537]

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 754

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

Whereas for the fifth year in a row, credit unions have ranked first in overall customer service in an independent survey of thousands of Canadians; and

Whereas Valley Credit Union is actively involved in the Drive Away Hunger Program, a program that has collected almost 2 million pounds of food across Canada; and

Whereas Valley Credit Union supports the Special Olympics Association and has endorsed the new Habitat for Humanity organization in the Valley;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate Valley Credit Union for achieving excellence in its service to members and for its numerous contributions to the Annapolis Valley communities.

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 755

[Page 1538]

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

Whereas a small church in the heart of the community of Alder Point celebrated its 50th Anniversary, which includes an equally long tenure of service, celebration and ministry; and

Whereas St. Anne's Church still has an active choir, and I would say a good one, is still a pastoral council, has also services, dedication and masses; and

Whereas the St. Anne's Society is still active, with the oldest members, 95 years of age, bringing youthful enthusiasm and joy to the parish;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating St. Anne's Church on its 50th Anniversary celebrated October 19, 2009, and wish them every success with their continued and renewed faith in their church's mission of service and glory to God.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 756

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

Whereas the LaHave Manor supports, encourages and challenges the growth and development of adults with special challenges, thereby enhancing their quality of life in the most independent environment; and

[Page 1539]

Whereas the LaHave Manor is kicking off the festive season with a Christmas Gala fundraising event on November 21st; and

Whereas this event will feature entertainment from Order of Canada and East Coast winner Lennie Gallant, the Aviators and the Bluebirds as well as an auction hosted by the Municipality of Lunenburg's Mayor Don Downe;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the LaHave Manor for the important work they do in the community and wish them success on their Christmas gala.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[3:00 p.m.]

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 Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 757

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

Whereas Canadians are called upon to serve in uniform throughout the world, amongst those to first respond are Springhillers as has been proven through history with a commitment to military, police and corrections by Springhillers who have served in many facets of uniformed life; and

Whereas Canadians are involved in the mission in Afghanistan and Springhillers are no strangers to this event, with many serving in various capacities as our country continues to try to offer the same lifestyle to Afghan residents as we take for granted each and every other day in our country; and

[Page 1540]

Whereas Sergeant Mark Joseph and Richard Lees of Springhill are serving in Canadian military missions at this time with Mark in Afghanistan and Richard taking part in flying Canadians back and forth between various locations throughout the world;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia Legislature thank Sergeant Mark Joseph, Richard Lees and all our Canadian military who continue to make us so proud as they work to make our world a better place.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 3:02 p.m. and we'll go to 4:32 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

SALVATION ARMY: GOOD NEIGHBOUR ENERGY FUND

- GOV'T. CONTRIBUTION

HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Your government has chosen to cut the amount of money that families who qualify for the HARP program will receive. Last year an eligible family could receive $450. This year, that same family will only receive $200. That amounts to about half a tank of oil or about two weeks of heat. We are receiving many calls from families worried about this cut. We know that this cut will result in families looking for other sources of help and one of those sources will be the Salvation Army's Good Neighbour Energy Fund. My question to the Premier is, how

[Page 1541]

much money will your government be contributing to the Salvation Army's Good Neighbour Energy Fund?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think as everyone knows, the cost of oil in the province has actually dropped over the last year and the cost of electricity went up. So what we did is, we balanced out what was needed among the various consumers and made the program more equitable. There will not be a contribution from the government to the Salvation Army this year.

MR. MCNEIL: Last year 1,400 families got help from the Salvation Army's Good Neighbour Energy Fund. They were also eligible to qualify for the $450 rebate under the HARP. It was obvious that cutting this $200 will have a huge impact on this family and now that your government is also abandoning the program, the Good Neighbour Energy Fund from the Salvation Army, I want to ask you a question, Mr. Premier, why are you abandoning those families who need our help the most?

THE PREMIER: As I pointed out, what we did was re-balance the program to make sure that it adequately met the needs of all Nova Scotians. The fact of the matter is that since last year, the price of home heating oil has gone down and the price of electricity has gone up. This program is designed to recognize those fundamental changes.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows these are two different programs. One is administered by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the other is administered by a non-profit organization in our province, the Salvation Army. He knows that these cuts will have a devastating impact on the Nova Scotians who need our help the most. He made a decision, his government made a decision to set aside $341 million to pay a bill to universities in advance. They set aside $81 million to buy land across this province. Mr. Premier, I want you to be able to stand up and tell those Nova Scotians who will be cold this winter and those children who will be hungry why you abandoned them?

THE. PREMIER: What the Premier also knows is that two-thirds of the community plan that is operated by the Salvation Army is still intact, including $400,000 contributed by the province.

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

EDUC. - MINISTERIAL ASSISTANTSHIPS

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. A review of the list of the MLAs who have been given department assignments indicates that no member has been appointed to work with the Minister of Education. Recognizing that this is the second-largest department of government and recognizing that Labour and Workforce

[Page 1542]

Development is also the responsibility of that minister, will the Premier tell this House why such an important department as Education has been overlooked in these assignments?

THE PREMIER: I'm glad to see that the Interim Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party is lobbying on behalf of the Minister of Education. The reality is, Mr. Speaker, we allocated out ministerial assistantships to look for specific areas that we wanted to have some additional help in, and those were the ones we assigned.

MS. CASEY: Thank you, and I am lobbying on behalf of any Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, in the press release on June 29th the Premier said that these MLAs would "oversee policy and program development that helps government keep commitments." Will the Premier be specific with the list of commitments that have been assigned to these MLAs whose mandate it is to make sure they are kept?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for the question, and of course, in each case the particular departments have particular program reviews that are underway. They have particular projects that they are pursuing, so the individual assignments between ministerial assistants and the particular departments would take place as a result of consultation between the minister and the ministerial assistant. So they would be different from department to department.

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, the quote did say government commitments, so I believe the Premier would be well aware of government commitments that need to be kept.

The press release of June 29th states that the MLAs will ". . . build relationships with important stakeholders". My question to the Premier is this, will he table in this House a schedule of meetings where the MLAs have met with the stakeholders, and identify the stakeholders who participated?

THE PREMIER: Well, Mr. Speaker, of course, I suppose we could find that information by going department by department. I know that certainly with respect to my ministerial assistant, he has met with various Aboriginal leaders around the province to assist me in my duties as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, and that would be true throughout the departments. I can ask the individual ministers if they can find that information. It's certainly nothing that would be a secret. It's part of the normal operations of governments. Despite what the member for Yarmouth thinks, meetings with members of the community are not secret meetings.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

SNSMR - HARP: CUTS - EFFECTS

[Page 1543]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. We all know that actions have consequences. For instance, this government's decision to cut the amount given for heating under the HARP program for families with low incomes is having consequences across this province. For instance, the Food Bank in Glace Bay - the coordinator of the Food Bank, Patricia Hurley, is already preparing to see an increase in the number of people needing her help because of this cut. My question for the minister is, why is this government choosing to reduce the support to families who need it the most and download that responsibility to community organizations?

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, the HARP program is a little bit more than it was two years ago. We looked at the cost of fuel from last year to this year and it had gone down by half. The program is reflective of the economy, it's reflective of the times. Electricity costs have gone up, so therefore that's reflective, and oil has gone down. (Interruptions)

What we've done is we took the program that was (Interruptions) offered in the budget . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, minister.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): That's the way it works in the House of Assembly, thank you. Mr. Speaker, $250 is not a lot of money to the people who make decisions on that side of the House, but $250 can be half a month's food for a family trying to make ends meet in this province. That's why the Glace Bay Food Bank knows what to expect. My question for the minister is, what steps are being taken to help those organizations such as food banks and churches who are going to suffer the consequences of your actions?

MS. JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. As you know, everyone in this House is concerned about the well-being of Nova Scotians. I don't know how that specific question applies to my department. Thank you.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, that specific question applies to her department, her Cabinet and her government because you made the cut, Madam Minister. That's why it applies to you.

There are 350 families from Glace Bay and surrounding communities who sought help from the food bank last year. Sometimes they were sent there by the Department of Community Services as a last resort because they had nowhere else to go. This year there will be more and it's because of that government's decision. My question for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, what message do you have for those people who will have to use the food bank in Glace Bay because of your decision to do away and lower the heating rebate?

[Page 1544]

MS. JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, there is no specific answer I can give to that particular question, coming from Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. If you don't mind, can I please ask the honourable Minister of Community Services?

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, what our government has done is widen the scope of finances to be made available to more Nova Scotians and that is because we are looking at the fact that the oil costs have gone down, but there are many, many people who actually only utilize electricity. Those are people who are vulnerable and need some help with their electrical bill. Actually, this provides more help for more people and Community Services is there for each and every person that comes through our doors and we work with them on an individual basis. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honouable member for Digby-Annapolis.

HEALTH: DIGBY NECK/ISLANDS - NURSE PRACTITIONER

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Yesterday the Minister of Health played mediator. She called a representative of the island's liaison committee in advance of Question Period to protect herself in case a question was asked. She then commented to the media that she wants the DHA and the community members to get together, but only to explain the situation, not to fix it. What the minister is unaware of is that this is not good enough for the community. They see this minister as someone who is able to do better. My question to the minister is, why is the minister refusing to address the situation herself when it comes to the issue of the nurse practitioner on Digby Neck and the Islands?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. As Minister of Health, I am not the employer for the health care providers at the clinic in Digby Neck, including the nurse practitioner. The employee-employment relationship is between the district health authority and the individual that the community is advocating for. The decision to terminate employment at the end of a 12-month probationary period was made by the district health authority.

I am of the opinion that the district health authorities need to be accountable to the community as much as the Minister of Health. I would like to see the community and the DHA sit down and discuss their differing perspectives with respect to what has occurred there. I understand that will occur quite rapidly, and I await the outcome of those discussions

[Page 1545]

and will not predetermine what the outcome of those discussions will be. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, let me, in as few words as possible, outline the frustrations of the people in those communities. They see the minister ultimately responsible for the health and well-being of 1,500 people in that area. The Islands Health Centre has been, in the past, a revolving door for nurse practitioners. They come and they go, and they come and they go, creating further frustration in the community. They once again feel that, without leadership from the minister, the provision of primary health care to the residents will be ad hoc. There will be no certainty, there will be no commitment to that community.

My question again is, given that the minister is ultimately responsible for the delivery of primary health care in this province, why has she been unable to put even one Department of Health solution on that table?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want the honourable member and members to know that I've spoken with the warden in the area, I've spoken with representatives of the community health board in the area, I've spoken with members of the community liaison committee in the area and I've spoken with the district health authority CEO and personnel for the area. There is an employee-employment relationship here between the district health authority and a member of the staff at that clinic, or a former member of the clinic, and I believe that the most productive thing I can do is to get members of that community and the district health authority to sit down together at the table and have a full discussion and see where that discussion leads. Thank you.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day - whether she likes it or not - the Minister of Health is responsible for $71 million that goes to South West Health. This community sees nothing but uncertainty again - an uncertainty that existed under the previous government and one this minister is content to allow to continue. Our area of the province has been particularly hard on nurse practitioners and this situation, if not changed, will make it hard to recruit more nurse practitioners, both locally and provincially.

My question is, will the Department of Health take control of the money allocated for the island's community health clinic in order to provide stability and ensure that a nurse practitioner who cares about that community stays where she is?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there are 33,000 health care workers who are in employment relationships with DHAs, long-term care facilities, and similar kinds of clinics across the Province of Nova Scotia. I think residents in that area should be very comforted by the fact that this Minister of Health will not interfere in employment relationships, but will require that DHAs have accountability directly to the communities where they are providing the services, and that is what I have done. (Applause)

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

[Page 1546]

PREM.: JUNIOR MINISTERS - ROLES & RESPONSIBILITIES

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. The Premier has created a Cabinet structure of at least 20 ministers and, now, junior ministers. The Premier campaigned on reducing the size of Cabinet and like most other promises, has done the exact opposite now that he's in government. Yesterday my Leader asked the Premier for greater clarity, of which he has been evasive and again today he's avoiding accountability for this increase in the size of Cabinet. The veil of secrecy from the NDP continues on this, and on other fronts, as Nova Scotians are witnessing a disturbing trend. Will the Premier inform this House specifically what written direction he has provided to his ministers on the role and responsibility of the now eight junior ministers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know it's very disappointing for the member for Cape Breton North and his caucus colleagues, that they find themselves in the position they find themselves. But the reality is, we kept the commitment that we made. We shrunk the size of Cabinet to 12, we have put in place ministerial assistants to assist with the burden that some of the ministers have and they do so at no cost, at no remuneration whatsoever. The only things that are defrayed are some of the expenses associated with travel around the province, or with respect to those kinds of ancillary matters, which would be the same for individual members of caucuses who are travelling on caucus matters. That is a level of efficiency that that caucus simply isn't used to. (Applause)

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, I'm very comfortable in my role in this House and the role that was given to me by the people of Cape Breton North to come and hold this Premier accountable. He is dodging the issues and trying to step around them. He can talk as long as he wants because Nova Scotians are looking for answers and not trying to place the blame. The Premier, you've heard it, there's more spin and less clarity from him and his government.

We're now aware that the massive size of the executive branch of 20 ministers and junior ministers reaches into departments and operational matters as detailed yesterday about the assignment of the junior minister for Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal - the member for Queens - to study gravel roads, just for starters, and we're hearing more of it rolling out across this province. What is less clear is the level of authority extended, the budget staffing and reporting. Will the Premier commit to table in this House a report of costs associated with his junior ministers and the specific direction and detailed project assignments that he's provided them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it'd be laughable if it weren't so unbelievable. The reality is that the ministerial assistants act on behalf of the ministers to take on such roles as the ministers will assign to them from time to time. For example, we're all very busy, they act to attend a meeting or event that a minister might not be able to attend. It's a very

[Page 1547]

efficient use of members of the Legislature to ensure that stakeholders, that people across the province get the kind of representation and the kind of active engagement of a government, that they never saw in the last government.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you saw the Premier's nose growing with that answer as well. As the Premier is well aware, Cabinet duties include confidentiality and maintaining it. So far eight junior ministers have been appointed; however, no oath of office has been administered. Yet these junior ministers will be directly involved with departmental and government projects, will be using budget resources, formulating and implementing policy and directing staff. As the Premier now said yesterday, there was no cost - today he's indicating cost. As we can see, there's more to this story than the Premier will disclose.

My question is, will the Premier explain why he chose to balloon the size of Cabinet without a proper structure and accountability mechanism in place and what direction has he had from the Conflict of Interest Commissioner on the role, function and potential conflict of his junior ministers?

MR. SPEAKER: I would remind all honourable members to be careful in their choice of words in their questions or in their answers.

THE PREMIER: You know, Mr. Speaker, I think the easiest and most reasonable way for the member opposite to resolve this question is to simply look at the budget for the Cabinet in this government, and what they will find is it is for 12 members of the Executive Council - unlike the amount that was expended by that government on their Executive Council.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

TIR - WINTER: SNOW/ICE CONTROL - FUNDING

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. During the debate on Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal estimates, the minister gave a rather extensive soliloquy in response to a question. It was on many subjects. It had to be, because it was very extensive. However, the minister spent some time talking about snow fighters and the work that they do. So my question to the minister is, could the minister tell Nova Scotians if he feels that we're going to be having an inordinately warm winter this year?

HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for that question, I think. I'm not into weather forecasts. I'm aware of the fact, of course, that when it comes to soliloquies, I perhaps can wax poetic like the best of them. However, this is an issue that has attracted some attention within the department. It's a training course that has received some merit. The people who have received the course - the men and women who

[Page 1548]

have received the course - have benefited from it, and it's a worthwhile program that hopefully will make sure that we are efficient and that we have our snow removed in a timely fashion from the roads and streets in this province.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the reason I asked the minister about the weather is quite simple. He plans to spend $15 million less on snow and ice control this year than was spent last year. Snow and ice control is very important. It's important for the safety of Nova Scotians, and in a very unpredictable season, to have proper winter management on the roads.

Mr. Speaker, in case the minister thinks that last year was an exceptionally snowy year, I would like to remind him that in 2007-08 the province spent $17.7 million more than they plan to this year. My question is, would the minister please explain to all those snow fighters and to all Nova Scotians why he doesn't take their safety seriously and why he has reduced their expenses by 30 per cent this year?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Glace Bay for this important question. When snow removal budgets are determined, the process that has been explained to me is that they look at an average over a five-year period. They drop the high and the low and they work through the remaining three numbers to come up with a budget for the upcoming year. That has been the process for the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, not just with this government but with previous governments.

I'm also aware of the fact that when it comes to this important issue, it's always important to make sure that we have the respect and time for these men and women who are doing this job. This is a difficult job. They will have the proper equipment. There will be the proper number of hours and overtime hours, and Nova Scotia's roads and streets in this province will be safe during the snow season.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Well, Mr. Speaker, that is quite a rosy and probably unrealistic assumption - what he has to do with the realities of winter in Nova Scotia, when he cuts the department's expenses by 30 per cent, and instead takes on the job of Cindy Day predicting the weather in Nova Scotia. So I would like to ask the minister, why is it that this minister and the government are going to leave Nova Scotians in this province ill-prepared for this winter? (Interruptions)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, you know, I'm getting some rabbit tracks. My neighbour, Peter Coade, will be interested in the fact that I listen to him with his weather, but I think I'm more of a Rube Hornstein than Cindy Day - but this is an important matter. Let's look at what we have ahead of us when it comes to the unpredictable situation when it comes to weather in this province. I look at the situation and I know that when the time comes, our roads will be properly maintained. They'll be sanded, they'll be salted, and they'll be done in a safe manner.

[Page 1549]

The issue, of course, that I'm concerned about is that the member opposite is making light of a fact that, of course, we have to be very clear with. I want you to know this is a concern that will be addressed, this is a concern (Interruptions)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The honourable Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue and the member for Glace Bay is asking his usual fourth question, so I look at the fact that when it comes to the Sammy Snowplow program, you be in one schoolyard when one of those snowplows arrives in and the man or woman behind the wheel gets out of the truck and says, we're going to tell you about safety and snowplows and it's nothing to be made light of. It's a very valuable program.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HEALTH - DIGBY NECK: NURSE PRACTITIONER

- MIN. INVOLVEMENT

HON. CHRISTROPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to stand today and ask a question to the Minister of Health, trying to back up the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis. The residents of Digby Neck feel that they have been abandoned. In 2002, the Progressive Conservative Government tried innovative ways to address the challenges in Digby County such as the implementation of a nurse practitioner pilot in Digby Neck.

Now, Karen Snider is a well-respected nurse practitioner in Digby Neck who is well engaged in the community. Karen built a home and wanted to stay. Karen was told that her services were no longer needed by the district health authority. The residents now want to know what happened to Karen and they want to have a full-time nurse practitioner in place. My question, through you to the minister: Will the minister get personally involved in getting this issue resolved for the residents of Digby Neck?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, I have spoken with members of the community health board, with the warden, with members of the liaison committee and I've also spoken with the CEO of the district health authority. I cannot discuss personnel matters here on the floor of the House. The employment and employee relationship is between the DHA and this individual. I've asked the DHA that made the decision to meet with the community and those meetings will occur fairly soon, perhaps as early as tomorrow or Friday. I will not prejudge the outcome of those discussions.

[Page 1550]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I thank the minister for her answer, that she is getting personally involved in this issue, but the NDP campaigned on promises of keeping emergency rooms open, there was even a TV advertisement that listed the hospitals that had closures previously. The NDP have not changed anything and things continue to be the same or getting worse. The nurse practitioner program that provided treatment and health care to residents of Long and Brier Islands of Digby Neck was well received by the community and was one of the first programs in the province to be implemented because our government recognized the importance of the service in that area.

What steps will the minister take to ensure that the residents of Digby County are treated fairly and have accessibility to health care services?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as a former Minister of Health, the honourable member would know full well that the DHA provides the services into communities around the province. I have encouraged the DHA to be accountable to the community, to meet with the community, to have a fulsome discussion with them, to have an open mind. I've also encouraged members of the community to meet with the DHA, to have a fulsome discussion and to do so with an open mind and that will occur and I will not prejudge the outcome of that process and we'll see where it goes. I believe that's the most constructive role that this minister can play.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Being a previous Minister of Health, my shirt would have been rolled up and in that community in trying to find a solution. (Interruptions)

In the release issued by South West Health, it states, " . . .these changes to the schedule create concern in the community". May I remind you, may I remind the minister how she must adhere to her ministerial oath, that she ultimately bears the full responsibility for the actions of the district health authorities under the Department of Health. Residents of Digby Neck are told that there is no nurse practitioner, to go to the Digby Hospital . . .

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

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, if you ask the member for Digby-Annapolis whether I've been down to his community when he had a problem, he would say yes, just look over at him.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if they can't see their nurse practitioner, they've got to go to the Digby Hospital but the Digby Hospital's emergency room is closed most of the time. It is going to be closed over nine times this week. They have to drive to either Annapolis or Yarmouth now. Annapolis is closed most of the time.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister, is there not another consultant that you could hire to get this job done?

[Page 1551]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we pay district health authority staff very well to do their jobs and part of their job is being accountable to the community. I have communicated that very clearly to the district health authority and part of the accountability process is meeting with the community, hearing their concerns and taking it from there. Thank you very much.

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

HEALTH - H1N1 VACCINE: UPTAKE - MONITORING

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health as well. Earlier today in the House, in her ministerial statement, the minister did brief us, as members of the House, on the status of the H1N1 vaccine for our province. Given what we do know, we know that other provinces are already experiencing a second wave and that it is only a matter of time before it hits Nova Scotia as well.

All Nova Scotians will have the opportunity to receive a vaccine and it is in Nova Scotia's best interest that everyone be vaccinated. My question today for the minister is, can the minister please explain how she will monitor the uptake of the H1N1 vaccine in Nova Scotia?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for her question. We have, as a province, we were the first province to experience an outbreak of H1N1 in the country and we have in place a process of surveillance, in terms of continuing the monitoring of where there are clusters. As H1N1 moves across the country from west to east, we anticipate indeed that we will see more cases here in the not-too-distant future.

Mr. Speaker, immunization is the key to reducing and preventing the extent of the outbreak of H1N1 and public health officials and DHA officials, all of our health care providers across the province, will be feeding back information to the Chief Medical Officer with respect to the uptake of the H1N1 vaccination. It is a priority for us to ensure that people get vaccinated. It is the best defence we have against this virus.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, across Canada plans are being rolled out to vaccinate every citizen. Clinical evidence is showing that younger groups are most at risk while, anecdotally, they are also the most reluctant to get vaccinated. Reaching this target group of young people through social marketing will be crucial.

My question to the minister is, will the minister please inform the House how she plans to measure the success of the media campaign that will be in place to reach younger, more reluctant people?

[Page 1552]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of targeted groups, I would say, young people being one group, young people and parents. Additionally, we want to make sure that our First Nations community, our homeless populations and people who are in the shelters also are vaccinated.

The Department of Health Promotion and Protection, through public health, have developed a very good network of contacts and plans, in conjunction with the district health authorities, to ensure that all of the populations, including vulnerable populations and hard-to-reach populations, are very much a target of this campaign to ensure that all Nova Scotians get vaccinated because that is the best protection we all have against the H1N1 virus.

[3:45 p.m.]

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear that all of the hard-to-reach groups will be targeted, but I am particularly concerned with young people who may have a reluctance or an aversion to having the vaccination in the first place.

We're very fortunate in Nova Scotia to be about two weeks ahead of schedule in terms of receiving the vaccine here. My concern is that, if the uptake is not happening, we need to adjust the media messages and the social marketing efforts to reach young people and perhaps others as well. You can't just wait for data to arrive from the DHAs, because time will be of the essence. My question to the minister would be, could she please share with us her plan for responding to any possible low uptake rate, either geographically or by age group?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member that the safety of all people in the province is our primary concern. We understand that there are particular target populations that, in particular, can be hard to reach. We have a social marketing campaign that will be running in conjunction with the social marketing campaign of the federal government. We will be monitoring the uptake very carefully in terms of vaccinations, and I would encourage all of the members of this Chamber to promote the need for vaccination with their constituents and all of those groups that we come into contact with. Vaccination against H1N1 is the absolute best policy. It's the best protection we have against this particular form of influenza.

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

FISH. & AQUACULTURE - FISH STOCK: SEAL POPULATION

- IMPACT

MR. ALFIE MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you will be to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The honourable Minister of Fisheries and

[Page 1553]

Aquaculture knows first-hand the devastating impact that the seal population can have on the fish stocks. While he was a member of the Opposition he agreed with the government that something needed to be done. My question is this, now that he's the minister and no longer sitting on this side of the House, what have your actions been so far?

HON. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, the particular issue that the member is alluding to with the seal issue regarding Hay Island - I want to refresh the new members in this House that in 2007 there was a unanimous resolution supporting a humane seal harvest on Hay Island. Thank you.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, well, that's right, Mr. Minister. I remember that resolution in 2007 - I was one of the ones who voted for it. But I didn't ask him what he did in 2007, I was asking what he did since he became minister, and I don't think he can answer that. Right now, my question to the minister is, Hay Island, an area off Cape Breton, there was a limited seal hunt that took place. Now with the rate of growth of the seal population, it may well prove that that limited hunt was not enough. My question to the minister is, can he pledge to this House today his support to the hunt and also can he commit to expanding it if the seal population continues to grow?

MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I just want to refresh the member's memory. I think we had this question somewhere similar in the budget estimates. My very first call, as the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, was to the honourable Minister Shea in Ottawa, and I call tell all members here that this particular topic was on the agenda then. I have since then gone to Ottawa in the last three weeks, and I aggressively took a proactive approach and asked the minister for this topic to be on the agenda in P.E.I., which I just participated in a few days ago. This is on my radar; I'm very aware of this issue. Thank you very much.

MR. MACLEOD: Mr. Speaker, I truly believe that it is on the minister's radar, I'm just hoping he doesn't flick the switch off. The question is that this is an important issue. Part of the issue is knowing enough time in advance, so that the hunt can take place. We need this minister to sit down with the Minister of Environment and make sure that this hunt can take place sooner than later.

My question at this time is to the Minister of Environment and my question is, is the Minister of Environment in support of the seal hunt on Hay Island?

MR. BELLIVEAU: Thank you again, Mr. Speaker. Again I want to inform the members of this House that I have a very close relationship with the Minister of Environment. Also, I just want to point out that the member opposite, on this particular issue I kind of give you a highlight or review of this resolution that was passed unanimously in 2007. I also want to point out that the member opposite, his particular government had 10 years to deal with this issue. My very first phone call was to the federal minister. It was on

[Page 1554]

the agenda then, it was on the agenda now and this particular minister will not take 10 years to deal with the issue. Thank you very much.

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

EDUC.: TUITION RATE (N.S.) - REDUCTION

MS. KELLY REGAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday's Statistics Canada Report shows that Nova Scotia has the second-highest tuition in the country. Our students are paying $779 more than the average Canadian undergraduate. The government must think this is okay because they are quick to take credit for tuition reductions but they fail to say what they will do to bring our tuition down to the national average. Waiting for other provinces to raise their tuition fees isn't good enough. My question to the minister, how are you going to reduce tuition to meet the national average?

HON. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. It is actually a proud time to be a Nova Scotian because we are the only province that actually saw a tuition decrease. I want to fully commend the former government for taking the initial steps towards the lowering and freezing of tuition costs in Nova Scotia. We are fully committed to making sure that they meet the national average within the next two years.

Certainly we've taken a lot of steps, and I have to say we're building on the foundation of the previous government, in terms of increasing access to university, freezing tuition and lowering it as much as we can with the educational trust that is in place. So this going to enable more people to go to university and stay in our province when they graduate. Thank you.

MS. REGAN: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's tuition fees dropped by a mere $181 from last year. Now that's going in the right direction and the previous government deserves some credit for that, but that's little consolation when our students are paying the second-highest tuition across the country, at $5,696 average tuition.

Mr. Speaker, this limited progress was due to the fact that universities were able to negotiate a three-year funding agreement, so undergraduate students knew that even though their tuition was high, it at least would not be going up again and some day they might even see a small decrease. So my question to the minister is, will you commit to renegotiating a multi-year funding agreement with our universities beyond 2011, yes or no?

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I think the members of this Chamber know full well by now that I don't give a simple answer to complex issues. Certainly the MOU enabled the universities to freeze tuitions and it is interesting that we're being criticized on the one hand for securing the stability of university funding for the next year, but on the other hand the

[Page 1555]

Opposition Parties are recognizing that it goes a long way to making sure that tuition is affordable in this province.

This is the first time that Nova Scotia has not been the highest university tuition in Canada. Now Ontario has that distinction so I think we need - our progress is slow but it's going in the right direction. We're very proud that at least we're second and hopefully it's going to be much lower in the future.

MS. REGAN: With all due respect, waiting for other provinces to raise their tuition fees isn't good enough. The government was not criticized for having an MOU, they were criticized for paying it out a year early, contrary to the Deloitte report.

While this government is busy taking credit for lower tuition fees, they've conveniently forgotten to address graduate tuition fees. Average graduate tuition in Nova Scotia increased by $334 over last year. On average, Nova Scotia's graduate students pay $2,060 more than their counterparts across the country. My final question to the minister is, will the minister admit she is playing students off one against the other for the NDP's political advantage, and when will she lower all tuition for all students?

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I think we should actually be listening to the students on this and they're choosing Nova Scotian universities. We're increasing the numbers who are coming both from out of province, from other parts of Canada and also from around the around the world, and they recognize that internationally we have centres of excellence in all of our 11 universities. We're very proud of the standards and the programs that they offer. Certainly our enrolment is going up and so the students from right across Canada, if not the world, are choosing to come to Nova Scotia, so they do not see the tuition as a major barrier. Of course we're trying to lower them and encourage even more students to enjoy a post-secondary education.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

VOLUNTEERISM: GROUND SEARCH & RESCUE VOLS.

- INSURANCE COVERAGE

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Volunteerism. Yesterday I raised the issue of the plight of 1,100 provincial Ground Search and Rescue volunteers who are without liability insurance. I'm asking the province at this time to provide them with insurance coverage or they're saying they will need to withdraw their services.

In Monday's Cape Breton Post, Paul Vienneau , spokesman for Cape Breton Search and Rescue, stated the reason for this follows a lawsuit against the Golden Search and

[Page 1556]

Rescue volunteers of British Columbia earlier this year. As Mr. Vienneau said, "When you are volunteering and you have a chance to lose your house, it is scary."

We all have to realize the very valuable service that Ground Search and Rescue provides, the millions of dollars that are saved in this province but especially the human resource aspect of this whole issue. I'm asking the minister today, will she advocate within her department and the government to ensure this association is treated with the respect they deserve and make the insurance a top priority for the Province of Nova Scotia Government?

MS. MORE: I'll speak generally to the issue but certainly if the honourable member wants more details on Ground Search and Rescue, I may refer that to the Minister of Emergency Management.

We've known for many years that access to insurance has been a problem within the voluntary sector. At the moment, quite frankly, it is much more stable than it had been two or three years ago in that most organizations are able to get the insurance that they're looking for at lower prices than they were being charged some years ago. But it is an issue that the government is reviewing very carefully, because it's a pressure point for thousands of organizations that keep our communities running and provide very critical programs and services across the province.

It's an important issue, we're taking it seriously, and in due time we hope to be able to provide further options for these organizations. But if you're talking specifically about Ground Search and Rescue, I think the Minister of Emergency Management would be a better person to answer that question.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, the question I asked of the minister was whether she would support these very valuable volunteers who are under her direction, as she's representing them in the province, and so I was asking if she would offer her support at the Cabinet Table for the requests they're making.

Yesterday in Question Period I had asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, who is responsible for EMO, when she became aware of this issue. She said, "I found out about this situation yesterday morning with the news release that went forward. The spokesperson of the group sent me an advance release of that, probably half an hour before it was released. So that is the time that I found out." So I'll table that.

In the October 19th edition of the Metro, they quote the minister as saying, "She said she's been aware of the issue since coming into office in June. 'This has been on my radar and this is an issue we need to be looking at and making sure we are supportive of the ground search and rescue,' she said."

[Page 1557]

So, Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, who is responsible for EMO, will you make this a top priority with your department through EMO? Will you meet with the Ground Search and Rescue immediately to resolve this very important issue?

HON. RAMONA JENNEX: Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer the multitude of questions coming from the honourable member. Just to clarify, the issue of insurance for Ground Search and Rescue was on my radar very early in my mandate, in terms of making sure that first responders are adequately insured. The issue around withdrawing the services was only brought forward to my attention on Monday. They're two very different issues.

Now, in terms of top priority - absolutely. As soon as I found out about this difficulty, I called the staff, and I've had a meeting already with staff. They are exploring different options; actually, there are four or five options on the table right now. Now, the options need to be discussed along with the president of the Ground Search and Rescue, who contacted me immediately after Question Period yesterday. So at this time staff at EMO is organizing a meeting with the incoming president of Ground Search and Rescue.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the Minister of Emergency Management, I'm sure everybody appreciates the minister meeting with her staff, but we need for her to meet with the Ground Search and Rescue so this can be averted as soon as possible. It's unfortunate that the department would wait for them to call when they know it's an issue. Surely you can pick up the phone and call them and say, let's get together today and let's resolve this issue.

The executive director has stated that they get $54,000 a year from the government, and they believe liability insurance would cost in the area of $30,000. I think we would all agree that where volunteerism is having so many challenges in this province today - this is 100 per cent a volunteer group that I know raises many dollars in my own area and offers great service, and they are asking to be covered, liability-wise, so they can do their job and not worry about lawsuits. So my question again to the minister is, if you truly value the work of the 1,100 volunteers of Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue, will you today commit to extend liability insurance to the dedicated volunteers of this wonderful association so they can know that they can continue to do their great work on behalf of Nova Scotians without fear of any such liability issues?

MS. JENNEX: Thank you very much for the question. This issue, when it was brought forward to me, at the extent that it is, was like an onion. When I started peeling back the layers, I found out that this issue has been going on for 15 years. The issue of insurance is definitely going to be taken care of. We are going to be (Interruptions) Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I know that I'm to respond to the honourable member's question, but I would like to also add from a comment coming from the floor that I did not know the extent of this

[Page 1558]

problem. I'm finding that it is a problem that has been long-standing. It has been a 15-year situation.

[4:00 p.m.]

There was no budget line in the budget coming on May 4th for any issue of insurance or any extra funding for Ground Search and Rescue. So what I'm saying and I would like to answer the question with this. I am meeting with the president and I will be meeting to explore options and the support of Ground Search and Rescue is a mandate for me and for this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

ERD: SM. BUS. - MENTORING SERVICES

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. One of the most important things that government can do for business in Nova Scotia, especially small business, is provide mentoring services. If entrepreneurs are assisted with such things as developing business plans, they can be set up for long-term success. My question to the minister is, who are the people mentoring businesses and what is their experience and background in the private sector?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place. The response to the question is that NSBI does a very good job mentoring people in business, they have a wealth of people from a diverse background in the business community and also through Economic and Rural Development, we also have a mentoring program there as well.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight a specific example of a business plan that seems to be a little bit odd. The minister should know this one well since the Crown Corporation's business plan bears his signature. When I was looking at the business plan for the Nova Scotia Art Gallery, what jumped off the page was a projected revenue increase for the gallery shop of 862 per cent over last year's actual revenues.

Within the plan there was no mention of how they plan to accomplish this and there was no justification for such a drastic change in revenue. My question is, since the minister has previously stated how important business plans are and how important mentoring is, is he able to explain the dramatic increase in revenue?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Art Gallery has been operating over the last number of years with deficits. This is nothing new for the Nova Scotia Art Gallery. One of the things that the Art Gallery is doing is they are preparing a business plan because they certainly have grand plans for the future, and my request to the Art Gallery is to come forward with those business plans once they are complete.

[Page 1559]

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I looked into this issue myself and found that there is no expected change in the operation of the gallery shop. The numbers reflect a change in how salaries are allotted in the budget. Nowhere does the business plan speak of the fact that the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage has published a document that looks like there will be an extreme boost in revenues. I would like to think that the Minister of Economic and Rural Development would insist on more transparency in a planning document. This example speaks to the minister's failure to lead by example and is troubling since he is precisely the minister who should be taking the lead when it comes to mentoring small businesses.

My question is, if the minister is not willing to be transparent and accountable with his own business plans, how can we expect him to provide any leadership with small-business mentoring programs?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, both in Tourism, Culture and Heritage and in Economic and Rural Development, I place great emphasis on the staff who are employed there and I have the utmost confidence in the staff. They work with people, individuals, and organizations such as the Nova Scotia Art Gallery, such as people from the private sector, they provide a mentoring. We also have the options within the small-business storefront operations as well. We have RDAs.

Mr. Speaker, we are well equipped in this province to not only offer day-to-day mentorship but also offer guidance to those individuals and organizations that are producing business plans. We do that, we will continue to do that, and the staff do that very well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HEALTH: N.S. TO N.B. HOSP. TRANSFERS - CHARGES

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, through you, my question is for the Minister of Health. The minister would be aware that when Nova Scotians are hospitalized out of the province, for example, in Moncton, New Brunswick - which happens quite often in my part of the province, in northern Nova Scotia, particularly Cumberland County residents - when they are sent out of the province and hospitalized in Moncton for everything from orthopaedic procedures to cancer treatments, and maybe she is not aware of this, when they are placed in facilities and they have to be transferred between facilities, for example, between the Moncton City Hospital and George Dumont Hospital, the New Brunswick Government is charging Nova Scotia citizens $750 for the trip each way. Is the minister aware of that?

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, no, I wasn't aware of that, but I thank the member for bringing that to my attention.

[Page 1560]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I have a feeling that that was the easy part. I want to table some billing that Mr. Ross Hunter and Mrs. Dorothy Hunter, his wife, of Springhill, are facing, a huge challenge today. Mrs. Hunter was hospitalized earlier this year in Moncton in mid-summer in George Dumont Hospital. She then had to be transported between the Moncton City Hospital and George Dumont Hospital for her cancer treatments.

Mr. and Mrs. Hunter are seniors, they are on fixed incomes, which I know the minister can appreciate. In fact, as they transferred Mrs. Hunter, Mr. Hunter offered on many occasions to take her himself and they told him not to worry about it, that it was something that was covered. Then he found out that they are being charged - I'm sorry, it is $650 per trip each way, so it is a bit different than what I said, but the total amount, nevertheless, and I just submitted the bills, Mr. Speaker, for the minister's perusal, $7,800 they are being charged.

Mr. Speaker, it is very unfair but, worse than that, Mr. Hunter tried and he couldn't pay this. He was informed that this would go to collection if he didn't pay immediately.

I would ask the minister, would she engage her staff to engage New Brunswick Government staff to see if they can help the Hunters in regard to this issue?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly have staff look into this. (Applause)

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that. Just for the information of the House and of the minister, when New Brunswick residents for example, who live in Sackville, would find themselves at the Cumberland County Regional Hospital and become in-patients, if they are transferred between that hospital and a Halifax hospital, this province does not bill those New Brunswick residents for that service - our rules and policy allow for those transfers the same as Nova Scotians.

I would ask the minister to again contact the New Brunswick Government to ensure that Nova Scotia residents are treated as fairly in New Brunswick as we treat their residents - and particularly intervene on behalf of the Hunters because they cannot pay this bill, they are in a desperate situation and they need the minister's help at this time. I would ask the minister to ensure that the policy of Nova Scotia reflects New Brunswick's, and also to help the Hunters if she will.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, certainly I'll take the request from the member under advisement and we'll look into it. I'm suspecting that this is probably a policy that has been in place for some time, and perhaps was in place when the member was a member of a former government. Any information that they can provide us with respect to this, I would greatly appreciate. Thank you.

[Page 1561]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

TIR: PUBLIC LAND SALES - REVIEW

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. On Monday the minister talked about the funding of the new Halifax library in his 43-minute soliloquy in response to a question about the Cabot Trail. The library is, without doubt, an important project and I am sure that most, if not all, the members of this House are very happy to see that project go forward. However, the municipality has stated that in their plans to raise the money to fund their portion of this project, they will be disposing of a number of publicly owned properties in the area - these include the current Halifax library building, and parcels, which provide much-needed support to the Spring Garden Road business community.

Mr. Speaker, last week when I asked questions of a similar nature about the World Trade and Convention Centre, the minister indicated that he would be reviewing any matter of public interest. I'm wondering whether he will be reviewing these proposed land sales in this matter as well?

HON. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I'm glad to know - that was a 44 minute soliloquy, incidentally, not 43. You must have been in my office this morning because there is a current document that I'm looking at on this very topic, a document that I will be going over with staff when my deputy returns from where he's representing the province and myself in Vancouver.

It's an issue, of course, that's of great importance, it's an issue that's of great interest to all of us in this House and, of course, to the councillors up the hill and it will be taken care of in a timely fashion.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I still haven't heard the answer of whether he's gong to review those land sales. Maybe to give the minister a little bit more information, he should be aware that the Halifax Memorial Library was constructed in 1951 as a war memorial in tribute to the casualties of both World War I and World War II. While the new library would understandably mean that the current building would no longer serve as a public library, there are many other public uses for the building, or if HRM needs the funds from the building, they could retain ownership and lease the building. However, it has been stated that the building will be sold and possibly demolished. My question to the minister is, does he support the sale of a public war memorial?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. This is an important topic and under no circumstances were you going to in any way reflect that I am the proud son of a Canadian paratrooper who joined the forces, landed in Normandy

[Page 1562]

on the North Shore and laid in a wheatfield on June 5th, so don't go down that road when it comes to memorials, when it comes to wars.

We're going to make sure this is done in a timely fashion. This is something we're going to make sure that we're going to take in a serious manner and we're going to make sure whether it's a statue outside of that great British Prime Minister of the day, Winston Churchill, or that particular structure. It will be done in a tasteful, timely fashion.

MR. YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly had no intention of comparing our families' histories when it comes to war. The fact is, that's two questions the minister has not answered.

When the minister announced that he would be looking at the convention centre, he indicated he would be reviewing municipal view planes and other heritage issues. When questioned in the House he said all matters of public concern would be addressed. Well, the current library is not only a public war memorial, but it is also the grave site for the former poor house, which was on that site. My question to the minister - and I would ask that he answer this very simple question - is, when the agreement is reached with the municipality, will he ensure that the heritage assets on that site are protected, the publicly funded war memorial is not sold and the grave sites are protected? Thank you.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth East for the question. I do share his passion and interest in history. Again I want to assure him that when this decision is made and the review is underway and we look at the possibilities of what's going to happen to this piece of property, I will assure you the HRM people will be consulted. In addition to that, the heritage people will be consulted and it will all be done in a timely fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

HEALTH - COBEQUID CTR.: COMMUN. ASSET - CONFIRM

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In recent days and weeks the Minister of Health has spoken about the value of the Cobequid Health Centre as being of great value and a place to help divert patients to be assessed when other hospitals within HRM have reached a Code Census. My question is, does the minister still believe today that the Cobequid Centre in Sackville is a great asset to the people it serves?

[4:15 p.m.]

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the honourable member for the question. As the honourable member no doubt knows, the community surrounding the Cobequid Health Centre is a community that has grown astronomically and

[Page 1563]

continues to grow. That particular health care facility, that state-of-the-art health care facility, staffed by a very devoted and committed group of health care providers, supported by a community that values that centre, is of value in that community, is of value to the Department of Health, is of value to this government and indeed to the province.

MR. BAIN: The minister also spoke about reviewing the hours of operation at the Cobequid Centre regarding its potential to be a 24-hour facility and I believe that there have been reviews. However, the review has not been about extending the hours of operation to assess and treat patients, its review instead has done just the opposite.

I'll table a document that instead tells EHS paramedics that they are not to bring patients to Cobequid after 8:00 p.m. Can the minister tell us and all Nova Scotians how this is benefiting patient care and long waits at other hospitals?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say to the honourable member that what this government plans for the future of the Cobequid Health Centre is to expand the hours of operation of that centre. We've made that commitment, we said we would do that in year one of our mandate. We are currently in the process of doing the planning so that can occur. I look forward to the day, as does this government and the members of this government, to see Cobequid operating 24/7.

MR. BAIN: I hate to see what the long-range plan would be because the ambulances were allowed to arrive until 10:00 p.m. It's being reduced, it's being taken away instead of approved. This minister and this government told people on the doorsteps that they had all the answers. They have no answers and the only plan we've seen so far is to spend money on consultants reaffirming what we already knew.

My final question to the minister, where will the paramedics be diverted to after 8:00 p.m. when all other hospitals are on divert in the HRM and what will it cost the system for longer transport times?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, you know, the members opposite like to stand up quite often in this House and make allegations without any evidence to back them up. (Interruptions) What I want to assure the members and the public is that the Cobequid Health Centre, the planning to use that facility to its full capacity is currently underway. I look forward to the day when we see that centre, in the not-too-distant future, being used to its full capacity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

GAMING - NORMALIZATION: GOV'T. STRATEGY - CONFIRM

[Page 1564]

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Part I of the Gaming Control Act. It seems that the public face of gambling in this province is being normalized. The province's approach has been to show how gambling is simply one more lifestyle choice. Even substituting the word 'gaming' for 'gambling' has had a normalizing effect. My question to the minister is this, is it the strategy of the province to normalize gambling?

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the gambling prevalence study done by the Department of Health Promotion and Protection shows that the vast majority of Nova Scotians can gamble without any risk to themselves. There is a small percentage, about 7 per cent, who are at low, medium or high risk and that is where all the efforts of government are directed.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, regardless of how socially responsible the province may be regarded right now, there are still some nagging issues to confront. Capital Health states that one in four Nova Scotians who regularly use VLTs go on to experience problems with gambling and that nearly 40 per cent of all money spent on gambling is by problem gamblers. Sometimes problem gamblers are high profile.

The most recent public case of Mr. Pillay who was Queen's Counsel, who embezzled $1.3 million from his clients, is one tragic example. Mr. Pillay was known to frequent the Halifax Casino at all hours of the day. Nova Scotians are paying dearly for the abject failure to properly identify the problem gambler. The vast majority of problem gamblers go unnoticed to all but love ones, who bear the brunt of the addiction and end up suffering the most. There are serious concerns and they need to be dealt with. My first supplementary is to the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. Does the minister have a strategy to counter the province's normalization approach and the significant damage that can result.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member that this government does not have a policy to normalize gambling in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation pointed out during estimate debates that the five-year gaming strategy will come to an end this Spring. A strategy that will address the concerns that Nova Scotians have with problem gambling is essential. A new approach is important in light of the recent cases and is especially vital considering that most problem gamblers not public figures, are more difficult to identify and treat.

Mr. Speaker, my final question for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation - will the next five-year gaming strategy continue on the same path as it has or will we see a new direction from this government?

[Page 1565]

HON. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the current five year gaming strategy expires in April 2010. It has had come successes and it has had some failures. It's time for this government to review that gaming strategy. The work on that is already starting and we hope that all members with an interest in gaming, all stakeholders will participate, so that we can reach a provincial consensus on what we want to see happen over the next five years of our gaming strategy.

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

ERD - WILLISTON HOUSE: NSBI LOAN - RESOLUTION

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Economic and Rural Development. As the minister is aware through the estimates debate, both the member for Cape Breton South and I raised the concern of Williston House, an assisted living facility that works in partnership with the well-respected Cove Guest Home. Both the Cove and Williston House are not-for-profit care facilities and the volunteer board members have been calling on the provincial government through Nova Scotia Business Inc. to forgive a previous loan that was intended to be forgiven in the amount of $250,000. Between the Cove and Williston House, 146 persons receive care from 200 workers and countless volunteers and, in fairness to the minister, it's a longstanding issue but we're now to the point that we need a near-term solution.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister inform this House of the follow-up he has had with NSBI and what measures he can take to help this deserving community care facility?

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, I've had very thorough briefings with NSBI and the client. This debt is probably about 10 years old. There has been numerous correspondence by NSBI to bring about a solution to this problem or to this issue. As a matter of fact, I want all members of this House to know that currently NSBI has placed an offer on the table to this client and still, as of today, has not had a response from the client.

I've got to say, Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry for being long-winded here but this is a very important question. This client and NSBI entered into an agreement, as I said, approximately 10 years ago, a written agreement. They entered this agreement knowingly as did NSBI and I trust that both parties will work towards a resolve of this.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I know the minister is aware that at the time the loans were extended, when they were amalgamated into NSBI, the terms of a forgiven loan were not put in there because they carried them forward with their commercial policies. A settlement offer was made at one point of $150,000 on the original principal of $250,000. However, the interest charges have more than doubled the balance outstanding.

[Page 1566]

The loan is preventing the Community Lodge Housing Society, which owns Williston House, from expanding their current 32-unit facility and constructing a new 66-unit facility for assisted living. I know the minister and his colleagues recognize the value of such facilities. However, during this period of economic uncertainty a $7.5 million project will provide much-needed work, in addition to up to 25 new full-time employees.

Mr. Speaker, will the minister commit to working with the volunteer board, NSBI, and his colleagues to find a suitable resolution to this problem, and agree to meet with the Community Lodge Society members as soon as possible and at the convenience of the minister, recognizing it is a pressing community matter?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, again, there's a process that is taking place here. NSBI and the client hopefully - I certainly know from the NSBI perspective that, again, I reiterate, offers have been made. I think it is incumbent upon the other side that are setting down - there's got to be a process of give and take, of back and forth. The evidence that I've seen thus far hasn't indicated that there's been a free exchange going back and forth. Again, I reiterate that NSBI has made the offer.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not trying to trip up the minister. We had a longstanding problem, and I know former ministers were trying to work through that, work through the policies. What we do understand is that what the minister is being told by the agency is not consistent to the amount of efforts that have been ongoing to clarify this, but more importantly, not to be hung up on volunteers who have raised money and trust for the community, for assisted living, from being able to realize an opportunity.

Again, the reason for this, Mr. Speaker, and for clarity, is that the loan is a problem because the society cannot access CMHC funding with a loan that is encumbered on the same property. They have to remove that in order to get the financing to move forward. They are not asking for government money. They are asking to get access to capital and again, to note, $7.5 million in a time of economic uncertainty is not worth the government holding it up.

My final question to the minister, in fairness, is to ask NSBI if NSBI, for whatever reason, will not or cannot facilitate this, will he commit further to work with his colleagues in Cabinet to help find a resolution to this issue this Fall, so in the Spring construction season can be realized and this important project proceed?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, my response is that I think when you're trying to reach a resolve, I think it's very important that both parties talk. So again, there's been an offer made by NSBI; there's been no return conversation with respect to whether that offer is going to be accepted or rejected. The NSBI will continue to keep me updated on this file. I will be watching it very closely, and I would encourage the members opposite to encourage the client to respond to NSBI's request.

[Page 1567]

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

ERD - BELL ALIANT CALL CTR. (SYDNEY): JOBS

- RELOCATION

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, let's see if we can resolve this one. Mr. Speaker, on Thursday of last week 38 workers in Sydney's Bell Aliant call centre learned that the doors will be shut and the centre will be closed. These 38 workers are being told that jobs are being shifted to other centres, including New Brunswick. If they choose not to relocate, their jobs would be gone. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, was the minister briefed of this decision and if so, when?

[4:30 p.m.]

HON. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, with respect to Aliant, I didn't hear about it until after the fact, when Aliant made the decision that they were going to relocate some of their employees and I heard about it then.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether he heard about it in the newspaper, or whether a Bell Aliant official called him to meet with him about the gravity of the situation regarding employment in the Sydney area. My question to the minister again is, did the minister meet with Bell Aliant to discuss the future of these employees who were being told in Sydney, and other parts of Nova Scotia, that they have to be relocated, some of them to New Brunswick? Has the minister - I know he says that he has been made aware of it - was he talking to Bell Aliant and did he make representation to Bell Aliant to stop that move?

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, NSBI informed me about the relocation of some of the jobs and there would be an opportunity for those individuals to be relocated. (Interruption) What I recall, Mr. Speaker, if I may, I think I heard about it either the day before or the day of. That's what I recall.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, he heard about it the day before or the day after, he's not sure. I want to know if he heard from Bell Alliant about the move of jobs out of Cape Breton to New Brunswick and if he did hear about it, he's sitting here doing nothing about it. All he's doing is telling this House that he heard about it somewhere and he's not saying from whom. Tell the people of Sydney that you're going to do something about it.

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I'll try to be as clear . . .

[Page 1568]

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 41.

Bill No. 41 - Multi-Year Funding Act

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

HON. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak to Bill No. 41. It was brought in by the member for Cape Breton South to deal with the issue that many non-profit organizations are feeling across our province when it comes to funding. It is a bill that would allow (Interruption) It's the first time anyone has ever said to me, Mr. Minister. It's a bill that would allow multi-year funding arrangements or funding agreements with non-profit organizations across our province.

It has been brought up in this House today, the issue of dealing with heating this winter and the fact that non-profit organizations across Nova Scotia are going to be relied upon to help those Nova Scotians, who are the most vulnerable, to meet their heating needs this winter. It is just one example of the tremendous work that happens from non-profit organizations across Nova Scotia. I'm sure the Minister of Community Services is well aware there are almost 6,000 registered, non-profit organizations in our province who do about $2 billion worth of service, with a contribution of about 400,000 Nova Scotians.

One of the challenges though, as you begin to meet with many organizations, is the issue of funding. The fact always comes up is that they receive a budget, they begin to work and meet the needs of Nova Scotians, and six months later they're back into the process of trying to lobby government again to see whether or not that funding could be cut, or whether that funding would be maintained or increased in the next year.

[Page 1569]

What we're encouraging this government to do is build a partnership with non-profit organizations across Nova Scotia and lay out the multi-year funding arrangements not unlike, quite frankly, the MOU that was in place with universities, so they knew for a three-year period what their funding would be. We believe that arrangement should take place in the non-profit sector, reaching out to those Nova Scotians who are in our communities on daily basis meeting the needs of so many Nova Scotians that government has been unable to meet.

We believe if we can lay out that funding arrangement for a three-year period it would allow many of these organizations to really focus on what they really want to do and what their passion is, and that is to meet the needs of the clients they are trying to serve, as opposed to working on arrangements of fundraising, how they meet the budget in the following year.

It really begins to allow them to build the collaboration within the non-profit organization units, to allow them to work together, once they know that they'll have a fiscal envelope to deal with this issue over a three- or four-year period.

What we're asking the minister to do is to put together a working group that she would be part of, with the volunteer sector of our province, to be able to lay out the structure and who would fall under this working act, what non-profits would qualify to lay this out.

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the minister is aware, the Province of New Brunswick moved into a multi-year funding arrangement that was led by Claudette Bradshaw, who was a former federal minister who took on the task for her province to reach out and build some collaboration between non-profits, to set guidelines and rules about how we lay out our funding. To me, this would send a real signal to the non-profit organizations.

I want to say to the minister, and I am sure she is well aware of it, it's not just money, I think this would allow them a sense of clarity, it's not just about money. It would provide them with some stability over a three-year period but it really would, I think, allow them to understand how much we value the work they do, how much we understand the challenges they face as members of this House and I think it would be an opportunity for us to say thank you in a way that would be meaningful to them, as they meet the requirements and mandate of their organization.

When you think about it, if we had to deal with and cover the costs associated with all the things that the non-profit sector has been covering, there's just simply no way that we could do it. But if we lay out this multi-year funding, allowing them to focus on the things they do and then also allow them to begin to leverage other dollars that are there, and build, I think, the real partnership that would allow each non-profit that is providing different services, to build that collaboration.

[Page 1570]

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that happens, as I am sure the minister is well aware, when you're dealing with a small pot of money that all the non-profits are applying to, once they receive their budget for one fiscal year they move towards the six-month mark, then they start looking for - well, is that funding going to change, what is going to happen? They begin to then realize that one non-profit organization is competing against another non-profit organization to see how much of that pot of money they can receive.

That is not the way, in my view, that it should be operating. It's not the way that I believe we get the best outcome for those Nova Scotians who need our help the most. I believe if we can build with them the collaboration, helping them understand that their funding arrangements will be there for a period of time and then put on the table the supports that could be part of this and recognize the collaboration, recognize one non-profit organization working with another to meet the needs of their clients, to meet the needs of those Nova Scotians who need our help the most, Mr. Speaker.

This is really, and again I'll go back, it really is about the partnership. It's about making sure that they understand that we, in this House, and I don't mean just the Government members because, as they know, this is a bill brought forward by the member for Cape Breton South, that they understand that all members in this House recognize that we value what they do.

Mr. Speaker, we, as a caucus, have attempted to go out and meet with non-profit organizations and many Nova Scotians, to hear their concerns and what challenges they face. One of the things that was startling to me, and I would say to most members of our caucus, is when you go and meet a non-profit organization and they tell you how difficult it is to get volunteers, because they are a bit disillusioned at times because they've joined an organization because they believe in the values and they believe in the goal of the organization but they find that they're spending more of their time raising money than they are in actually delivering the service to the people they wanted to come out and help - this arrangement would go a long way to helping organizations to plan outward, beyond.

This bill speaks specifically about the Department of Community Services and dealing with the non-profit sector, but if you look at the bill there are also pieces in it which will allow this to move beyond the Department of Community Services to other departments that are dealing with non-profit organizations, to allow those organizations to feel and understand that financial stability which is required - and I know the minister, prior to being in this House, has dealt and been part of organizations that have been out working in the community and working hard and doing great work. She, I know, would understand these challenges that are before us, and I think she would know that this has been an ongoing problem. It has been one, as a member of those organizations, you would have felt and heard about and I'm sure, as the minister, you're hearing some of it from the organizations.

This is not costing the government anything; this wouldn't be costing the government. What it means is that we would have to plan - we would have to be out planning

[Page 1571]

two- and three-, four-year cycles and making those partnerships and building on them. I don't believe that's too much to ask of us as a province, to reach out and build that partnership and planning arrangements with the non-profit organizations that are out there working on our behalf.

Mr. Speaker, 400,000 Nova Scotians participate and work with non-profit organizations. That's 400,000 - it's over a third of our population who would understand this challenge and I believe would welcome the adoption of this bill as we go forward. They're providing us with $2 billion worth of services in meeting the needs and the challenges that are facing sometimes the most vulnerable in our community.

I want to encourage the minister to seriously look at this piece of legislation, not just from her point of view as the minister but from her point of view as an active member of the non-profit organizations, from an active member of her community, and recognize the real value that is being put forth in this bill. It allows her some flexibility to craft it to the needs of her department, but it is one that I believe is long overdue and one that we should be adopting and allowing the non-profits to move forward.

With those few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I'll take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, as you know, we are debating Bill No. 41, an Act to Develop a Multi-Year Funding Framework. I would like to say thank you to the honourable member for his words and his comments. I totally agree with him in the fact that the volunteers of our province are the heart of our province, and a lot of the accomplishments that are made in Nova Scotia are due to the fact that we have a volunteer base, and we need to encourage that volunteer base.

The honourable member who put forward the bill obviously has good intentions on behalf of the non-profit organizations who depend upon government funding for their existence, and I understand that, and I also share the honourable member's wish to provide non-profits with the financial stability that they are speaking of in this bill, especially when it comes to budget forecasting - in fact, I dare to say that the entire House of Assembly would share that same wish.

I do understand what the honourable member is speaking about, and is concerned about, because I have been very actively involved in the non-profit sector. I have been a volunteer myself, and proudly received an award from the Province of Nova Scotia for the years of volunteerism that I have given to this province. I have been a volunteer on the board of directors of a family resource centre, a senior citizens' home, and also many other different types of community based, non-profit organizations.

[Page 1572]

I have also worked in the volunteer profession with such organizations as the Canadian Living Foundation Breakfast for Learning, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Therefore I am well versed in the budget challenges that non-profits face. Setting out budget commitments over a three-year period in advance, will not always alleviate those financial issues. This is part of the concern that I have just at this point. Because there are so many unpredictable occurrences in today's world that there could be an emergency need or another need that was not predicted by one of the non-profit organizations. Therefore the government funding allotment and the discussion of how much they need could fall short.

[4:45 p.m.]

I can tell you about one group that has been given some good news with regard to their budgeting. Of course, we've mentioned that in the House and that's the transition houses of Nova Scotia and the women's centres. Our government has confirmed we will provide $0.5 million to those houses and centres around Nova Scotia when we deliver our budget in the next fiscal year.

There are a lot of organizations across the province who receive funding from government. We recognize the valuable service these organizations provide to Nova Scotians every day. These organizations may receive funding from many sources, they may receive funding from only one source. For those organizations who receive funding from government, there are many sources within government that they receive that funding from and not just from Community Services. They may receive it from Education, Justice, Health, Health Promotion and Protection, Economic and Rural Development, Tourism, Culture and Heritage and from the various offices of government, such as Acadian Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs, African Nova Scotian Affairs.

Therefore, any discussion about the way government funds non-profit organization is much broader than just one department. Particularly when one considers that many of the non-profit organizations often receive funding from more than one department so it complicates the ability of going forth with this particular bill at this time. We do agree that service agreements would strengthen accountability, there's no question of that. At Community Services we are committed to developing service agreements with all of our service providers and agencies receiving funding from the department.

We have implemented service agreements for such areas as services for persons with disabilities program and are developing agreements with the child care sector, transition houses and others. That is one area that I became aware of quickly in my new position and have requested staff to go forward with those service agreements.

[Page 1573]

Our staff work with these organizations throughout the year and look very closely at all of their budget needs. If a group is having any kind of particular difficulty with their budgeting or their financial situation or planning, we are always willing to work with them. Staff do work with them to help them to try to alleviate whatever financial constraints or barriers that they're facing so they can continue to provide their valuable service to their clientele, to their community and to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Unfortunately, with the budget we had to work with this year, we were not able to provide any increase this year. I would have liked to be in the position to do more and to do it today, but the reality is that the money is just not there. I came into the Department of Community Services knowing that many of these agencies and these very valuable organizations actually did not receive any increases - some of them up to 10 years.

I know, I hear their cries for more funding and I do realize that it is a very critical situation. So that's why I'm committed as Minister of Community Services to go forth, but I have to do that in an holistic approach, where I look at the big picture rather than looking at a bandage approach. Often the bandage approach may give you some political points but I'm not willing to do that on the backs of Nova Scotians.

What I'm willing to do is to focus on what the true needs are. What the appropriate policies and services that we can offer that mean long-term sustainability for these non-profit organizations that will also encourage the volunteer base. As we all know in the province, that's one of the challenges that are being faced each and everyday with the volunteer sector, the non-profit organizations, is the fact they're losing their volunteer base. Being a volunteer myself, I understand where those pressures come from because society - we're so busy in our everyday lives that often to find even 10 minutes or 20 minutes a day to offer to a non-profit organization is really a struggle.

Therefore, we not only need to look at the funding allocation and how it is being funded, we have to look at the total global picture and what is happening. That means, as the Minister of Community Services working also with the Minister of Volunteerism and also, the same Minister of Education. Because that's one of the areas that we do need to start at a young age and encourage young children that volunteerism is a wonderful way to gain experience.

I do really understand where the honourable member is coming from. I think it's a great idea but I think that we need some time to take an holistic approach so we make sure that the puzzle fits together, that there are not any loose pieces, that's what my concern is. Our government is committed to living within our means of the province, and we will be undertaking an expenditure management review process to ensure that we are using all of our resources wisely. Part of that review will include the way we fund the many non-profit organizations.

[Page 1574]

Once we have that opportunity, as I mentioned, we will certainly look at this and what the honourable member is putting forth and all of his wonderful suggestions. It is our government's pledge to ensure we are doing things the most effective and efficient way and I understand that this work could be done without the creation of a legislated working group.

Therefore, as Minister of Community Services, as I said, I agree that this is a wonderful and a good concept contained within the bill. However, at this time, I cannot support the bill that is proposed because of those factors and wanting to take that holistic approach, making sure that the end result is a sustainable result for non-profit organizations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to stand today and speak for a little bit about Bill No. 41 that's been presented by the Official Opposition when it comes to multi-year funding. I thank the Minister of Community Services for speaking today because really within her department, there are a huge number of volunteer organizations that are funded by her department. Whether they be transition houses, whether they be youth health centres and it will run the gambit of housing associations, etcetera.

This is one issue that has probably been around for a number of governments, looking at ways to provide multi-year funding to some of these volunteer organizations in most cases. I can say that with the bringing in started by the Liberal Party back in, I believe it was 1997, and then fully realized by our government subsequently, I think by 2002, which was the acceptance of GAAP - or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles - does create a bit of a problem when it comes to this bill.

Bill No. 41 lays out basically what should be happening, what multi-year funding framework means. It means the development of three-year consecutive fundings and service agreements between organizations receiving funding from the minister. It lays out that the working group shall consult, as needed, with the following departments and agencies: the Department of Finance, the Treasury and Policy Board, and the Policy and Priorities Committee. It really sets a date that the working group shall, for the purpose of developing that multi-year funding framework, develop and establish the qualifications, the funding applications, service agreement templates, and what have you.

I think if this was an easy issue, this would have been an easy thing to do, it would have been done a really long time ago. It would have been done back in the 1970s, for all I know. A lot of these organizations that are funded by the Department of Community Services, a lot of them have been around for a very, very long time.

[Page 1575]

Mr. Speaker, that is sort of speaking a little bit from my experience for a number of short months as Minister of Community Services, and knowing the gamut of organizations that are out there. As a volunteer myself, working with the fire department in Eel Brook, working on a number of different boards, I can say it would be wonderful to know exactly what your budget is going to be year over year and have it confirmed to you, but you try to wonder exactly how that is going to work.

Also, when you look at a difficult year - and this is precipitated a little bit, that the Liberal Party brings this bill in - a lot of these organizations were unable to get their budget lines, because of the budget, the election, and subsequently sitting in this House over the last number of weeks, trying to debate this budget. So a lot of these organizations are still going, I still really don't know what my budget line or what my grant is going to be.

I can say that a lot of these organizations have, year over year, received the same grant. So how do we actually turn that grant, with history - how do we turn it into a year over year agreement? I really can't answer that question, because I'm not too sure myself. I know any time that we asked for multi-year funding agreements - and there were a lot of opportunities to help our organizations - when we asked, the accountants walk in and tell us exactly why we can't do that.

I hope, as we discuss this bill - and, Mr. Speaker, this is an Opposition bill, and chances are it is not going to see the light of day after we finish discussing it today - but I'm hoping that the discussion here today is that - well, I hope for the honourable member for Cape Breton South that this is discussed further and moves on through this reading, on to the Law Amendments Committee, and becomes law, because it then creates an issue for the accountants, the people in the Department of Finance, the people in Treasury and Policy Board, to seriously consider multi-year funding. As I said, because of GAAP, that doesn't allow them to do that. Because of the provincial Finance Act, you can't do that.

Mr. Speaker, this provides a mechanism in which to move on from where we are today. We can say that - I think we've all been volunteers in one capacity or another in this province, and all of us know the importance of having some kind of dollars available to us in order to do our work. Some of the grants, though, what we see today is that the grants are small. They are the same grants that have been around for a number of years. It is always a challenge for departments to find those extra dollars with which to increase them.

[5:00 p.m.]

I am wondering through this, and I hope the member for Cape Breton South can further explain this one a little bit more, how the increases might fit into this issue or will it talk about base funding, and I apologize for not reading this from one end to the other, but depending on what that base grant is today, are we building in an escalator on that? Is it

[Page 1576]

based on a regulator escalator or does it go along with the economy. What is that escalator that's going to be seen into it?

I think you're really creating a true line item, I mean today as grants go out and there you go, in this particular case you're almost trying to bring it within the budget of the department in a way because you're really setting for a budget to budget, year over year. Hopefully what will happen is that those organizations can come back and say, well, I actually spent this much, or I didn't spend this much. Are we going to roll that into - I'm not going to say consolidate a statement of the province but do you roll some of these things up, which does create a whole bunch of other issues as well as you roll around.

Mr. Speaker, I can say in my six years of sitting on that side of government, this issue has come up a lot of times and I'm sure when the Liberals were in power back in the 1990s, I'm sure they had that discussion as well on exactly how to do it. I know that they probably had some of the same accountants that came forward and told them, well, you really can't do that. (Interruption) Bean counters, I like that one too. I'll call them accountants right now. You can call them CAs but they're not all CAs and if you call them CAs and they're not, they get upset. Excuse me, I'll drink a little water here. I'm trying not to get the affliction our Leader had earlier today of losing her voice.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at the organizations not only funded by the Department of Community Services but, you know, let's say it would be a trail association through Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, or Health Promotion and Protection, I mean Health Promotion and Protection as well has a number of grants to organizations as they roll around. I saw a listing within this bill of other departments in there. I see that they have looked at that one because it talks about the Department of Education again, the Department of Natural Resources, the Department of Environment and the Department of Health and Department of Health Promotion and Protection. I'm going to bet that even though that's a pretty good list of departments within the province that there could be other organizations brought into this. The Department of Seniors probably could be added to this, the Office of Acadian Affairs could be rolled into this one as well.

If we take the example of the Office of Acadian Affairs, with the Office of Acadian Affairs they have a three to four year funding agreement with the federal government set forth with a MOU - Entente Canada-Nouvelle Ecosse or the Canada Funding Agreement. That funding agreement talks about over the next four years, we're going to supply you with x amount of dollars in order to provide Francophone service in this case to the population of Nova Scotia with specific government services. Whether they be translation services for this House or whether they be translation services on the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations 1-800 line. So there are good precedents there to be able to utilize those dollars.

Mr. Speaker, as I wrap up a little bit - I've got about two minutes here - I think there's an expansion that can go with this bill. I think that, you know, even without passing this one,

[Page 1577]

and like I said, it will probably stop here. But I hope that the Government House Leader will see fit to bring this on his agenda and move it forward on behalf of the Liberal Party and really lay down the law to our bean counters to say that we should be able to do this. It would require a little more than a letter from an organization saying I need this kind of money or looking at financials and saying I need this kind of money. It would require maybe a little more work when it comes to certain agreements with these organization but at the end of the day, you know - and I forget the number of organizations Community Services has that they provide funding to. They provide dollars to 40, I can't remember what it was, 200, it's a silly number of organizations. So I hope that they have the opportunity to do that. So I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to this.

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

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise in my place today to say a few words about Bill No. 41, a bill that I introduced earlier in the session, which is essentially a bill providing for multi-year funding for groups in our various communities throughout the province.

I believe very strongly in this bill for a number of reasons. Perhaps I might say, off the top, that too long have volunteer organizations in this province had to rely on cap-in-hand funding at the whim of the government - whatever government that is, whether it is the current government or previous governments or governments to come - in terms of looking for some kind of continuity in their operations. It has been well documented in this province that if it wasn't for volunteer organizations in all our communities throughout Nova Scotia, we just wouldn't have the resources to provide a number of the programs that people have come to expect from their government and from the citizens they serve.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to - the minister outlined some of the challenges that her department will have, and not only her department, but other departments of government that deal with volunteer organizations. You know I've said it oft times in this House, when it comes to community volunteer funding, and the same as Community Services funding, the bottom line should not be what the accountants and the people who are doing budget requirements say. The bottom line should be demonstrating a feel for the need to service these groups in our province, here in Nova Scotia. If you add it all up, it is billions of dollars' worth of work that has gone on in this province that the taxpayer does not have to pay for, because of these volunteers.

The minister quite rightfully pointed out that she was a volunteer, and I applaud her for that, along with the other 400,000 volunteers who have been identified in Nova Scotia, who make life a lot better for the rest of us here in Nova Scotia, who tend to sit here in the House and stand in our places and lament the fact that perhaps we don't have enough money for some of these organizations. We should also be very aware of the fact that there's not

[Page 1578]

enough money in the world to take the place of the volunteers who are out there, providing the necessary services.

It is perhaps problematic for me to understand, and I'll give you one example: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Cape Breton. They wrote the government, the current minister, looking for some additional funding, an increase in funding for this year. It disappointed me somewhat that the minister did not respond. The deputy minister responded to the letter that came from Big Brothers Big Sisters. In that letter, the deputy minister outlined the fact that they didn't have any money. He went through paragraphs saying what a wonderful organization it was, and then the kicker came when it said, but sorry, we can't give you any additional funding for this year.

That was somewhat disappointing, and I would have hoped that the minister perhaps would have taken that letter, called somebody from Big Brothers Big Sisters and said, look, I received your letter and perhaps I'll give you five minutes in Halifax, or 10 minutes, we have some issues here with funding, but I'm prepared to sit down and talk about those issues and perhaps talk about a funding agenda for your organization that may see us in better shape to give you some money next year or the year after. But no, all they got was almost like a form letter from the deputy minister saying, you're a wonderful organization but so long, you're not getting any money.

Now as far as I'm concerned, that is something that the minister might want to correct in the future, because if somebody wrote me, as a minister, I responded. I know the minister is new at the job and I believe she really believes in what she is trying to do. I can sense that. I know that she speaks very passionately about her job.

I guess my message is, don't let the bureaucrats run away with the agenda here. They will if you let them. I refer to an incident earlier today regarding Williston House in Sydney and the minister certainly didn't get the briefing that we got on that issue. I mean, you have to remember who is running the show here. It's not the bureaucrats, it's the ministers opposite, and they should be taking charge of the agenda, whenever possible at least.

The multi-year funding framework means ". . . the development of three-year consecutive funding and service agreements between the organizations receiving funding and the Minister." Now, I think the next paragraph here, the working group is very important in this bill and really what it says is working group means a group established under Section 3 of the bill, and a working group is established ". . . consisting of five members of the Nova Scotia Volunteer Advisory Council designated by that Council and the Minister to develop a multi-year funding framework for designated non-profit organizations funded by the Province."

Now, the minister outlined her concerns regarding the funding of such an agreement and in the bill it says that the working group shall meet and consult with the following

[Page 1579]

departments and agencies and with designated non-profit organizations in the development of a multi-year funding framework and that would be headed by the Department of Finance. Of course, we'd look at the financial resources of the implications of that and also the Treasury and Policy Board, and the Priorities and Planning Committee. The working group would meet with the dedicated volunteer organizations, come up with a framework so as to alleviate the problem the community groups would have about going cap in hand each and every year trying to do a one-upmanship on other groups. I think the proposals that would come in would be judged on their merit and funded outward on their merit.

I think it's a very good proposal that the government should entertain so that we get away from this uncertainty of operation. I've never seen such an uncertainty - for example, the problems that you had with transition houses because they didn't know from one day to the next whether they were going to be open. Every Woman's Centre - the one that I'm familiar with in Sydney and the others throughout the province - has got to go every year, cap in hand, and depend on the largesse of the government of the day each and every year. It's very difficult to operate in that frame of mind when you don't know whether you're going to be open next week. Two or three years of planned operations with planned funding would make it a lot easier for these groups to do what they're supposed to, helping people in their various sectors rather than continuously lobbying government for funding each and every year in order to stay afloat.

That's the situation that a lot of these groups find themselves in, including Boys and Girls Clubs, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, which you're very familiar with and did a lot of volunteer work there before you came to this august Chamber some years ago and I would suspect that you're still keeping an eye on what's going on with the Boys and Girls Clubs in your area and you know the difficulty of having to go cap in hand each and every year looking for funding, as do I with some of the groups in my area, and I'm sure that right across Nova Scotia you'll find the same thing.

I believe that a number of the members opposite, while it may be a policy decision of government not to want to go with this type of bill, I would think that individually they would probably welcome the sort of mechanism by legislation that would permit these groups to apply for funding on a three-year basis so they can operate without the fear of having to close down in any given period of time because of lack of funding.

It doesn't mean that automatically you're going to get three years' funding, you have to put a proposal in to government that makes sense and you have to put a proposal in to government that would see government realize the wisdom of outward funding these particular community groups to alleviate their problems with continuity and to give some stability to the people they're trying to serve.

I know that some of the groups that you and I are familiar with down in our neck of the woods are constantly looking for money and they're constantly looking to encourage

[Page 1580]

government of whatever stripe, whether it was this government or the one before that or the one before that, that the value of their operation should really be appreciated by government and in that way, if a proposal comes in and it makes sense, if it helps people in the community - and governments normally fund them every year anyway, most of them. It's a laborious situation where people have to come here, lobby outside the doors of this Chamber on a regular basis to try to get funding that should be projected out to ensure the continuity of their organizations in the future.

[5:15 p.m.]

I know my time is getting short and I would be really remiss, since I'm standing on my feet here, I would be really remiss in not moving second reading of Bill No. 41. So, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 41.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the members across the way bringing this piece of legislation forward, because it is important, and I think the minister has stated the importance for her as the new minister, but the importance of the government to talk on this issue to make sure that we understand the issue and that we're going to look at the issue. I think the minister had indicated that's going to happen over the next number of years.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Motions Other Than Government Motions.

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 676.

Res. No. 676, re Dart. Gen. Hosp.: Overcrowding - Address - notice given Oct. 19/09 - (Mr. A. Younger)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MR. ANDREW YOUNGER: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to commence debate on Resolution No. 676. The operative clause reads:

[Page 1581]

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health immediately put in place a short-term plan to address overcrowding and the lack of beds at the Dartmouth General Hospital."

I'm pleased to speak to this resolution concerning the Dartmouth General Hospital, and I will again recognize in the gallery Dr. John O'Connor, who in fact is a retired medical doctor and has been a physician at the Dartmouth General Hospital, and I'm glad that he's here with us today.

I'd like to start by reviewing the situation yesterday in Question Period, which - as we come to find out more information today, Question Period yesterday becomes all the more frustrating.

Yesterday I asked the minister and the Premier about ministerial accountability and the short-term solutions at the Dartmouth General. Let me first get on the record and say that I have no doubt that the Minister of Health cares about this situation, and I have no doubt that the Premier also cares about this situation, not only because it affects his own riding, but also because he was a board member of the Dartmouth General Hospital a number of years back. I am increasingly convinced that the Minister of Health unfortunately doesn't understand why I'm concerned about this.

Yesterday the minister spoke about having Dr. Ross get in there, and it was unclear whether she was talking about him visiting the Dartmouth General or another hospital, because she talked about a patient who had been at the Victoria General Hospital, which doesn't even have an ER - and I understand that was the patient who works at Wal-Mart during the day, and we're still perplexed as to how somebody stays in hospital and goes to work at Wal-Mart during the day. I'm glad the minister found out about that situation and, as I understand it, rectified it.

I'm also glad that she's been able to move a few patients out. But, as if to prove my point, in moving a couple of Community Services patients out, what we didn't know yesterday - and had we known, I certainly would have brought this up - they were still in Code Census, even after moving them out. In fact, there was a Code Census Monday, and then one has been called at the Dartmouth General again this morning. You have to wonder here.

In fact, today, despite the fact that those Community Services patients - it almost sounded like the minister was trying to suggest that's a major issue there, and I'm sure it's part of the issue, I'm confident there's an issue there. But the fact is, there were 12 patients at the Dartmouth General awaiting admittance - 12. It's the middle of the week, at a time when the chief of staff there is telling us that this is usually a really slow time. One patient was placed in a bed, and the Code Census had to be called because they weren't able to handle the load in the emergency department this morning.

[Page 1582]

They then had to place three patients in what they call over-Census areas in the Dartmouth General. Let me explain to the members of the House what "over-Census" means. That means that they go and put a patient in a waiting room or a TV lounge and sit them in a chair and hope that they get better while they try to move somebody else out to somewhere like Sheet Harbour or a nursing home and suddenly free up a bed where somebody else might be waiting for it. Or I guess they tell them to stop going to work at Wal-Mart in the morning.

This is a really serious issue. As of lunchtime today, there were nine patients who had been admitted from the emergency in the Dartmouth General and were waiting for a bed. There were 20 patients in the waiting room who - they'd done their first triage, but couldn't be seen by a doctor because there was nowhere to put them in the emergency room - the doctors and the nurses are immensely hard-working at that hospital, as they are at all our hospitals - 20 patients who could not been seen by a medical professional at lunchtime today because the hospital was no longer able to free up beds in the hospital.

I hope this explains somewhat why I'm concerned about the situation because in the past week there have been as many Code Censuses or Code Oranges or code whatever we're going to call them this week, as there have been in the average month in 2009. The minister has been the minister for 125 days and I know that she has a lot on her plate, I'm not debating that. As I've said before, I do believe that she cares about this but I don't believe she understands the gravity and the uniqueness of the situation at the Dartmouth General Hospital. It is unique for another reason, one of many other reasons

But one of the reasons why it is unique is because, in fact, at the Dartmouth General Hospital a Code Census is more serious than it is at the QE II, and it is because they mean different things at the two different hospitals. At the Dartmouth General Hospital, a Code Census isn't called until after they already have people waiting in hallways on stretchers and in some of these rooms. They don't call it until they've run out of places to squeeze people. At the QE II they call a Code Census before they have to start squeezing people into beds. That's a fundamental difference.

That means that the situation at the Dartmouth General Hospital is extremely serious and the advice- I mean we've heard it today from the Progressive Conservatives that EHS is telling its paramedics, don't take patients to the Cobequid Health Centre after 8:00 p.m., to their emergency, because they won't be able to handle you.

One of the solutions offered by the minister last week was, well people are being transferred to the Cobequid Centre, well, they can't be transferred there, they can't be transferred to the QE II on many days and instead we're shifting over to beds.

Now, 15 years ago - and this was before the minister's time as Health Minister, of course - the government of the day built the fifth floor at the Dartmouth General Hospital; that fifth floor which was meant to accommodate additional beds and serve the areas of Cole

[Page 1583]

Harbour, Eastern Passage, Dartmouth and so forth, still remains unfinished. It remains all roughed- in but there are no beds, there are no units on that floor, there is no staff.

The minister has gotten up frequently and talked about making the Cobequid Health Centre 24 hours a day. Well, that might be important. I'm not debating whether if that in and of itself is important but it doesn't take away the fact that there still is a staffing, a funding shortage at the Dartmouth General Hospital that hasn't been addressed. Wouldn't it make sense to address those funding challenges before you start opening all kinds of other ones? They can't get enough nurses, they can't get enough doctors and they don't have enough human resources or enough money to open and maintain the beds that were built and have been waiting for 15 years for the Department of Health to outfit them.

I've talked to a number of doctors who work at the Dartmouth General. I've talked to a number of nurses over the past few weeks and they all unanimously give the exact same short-term solution. I know that Dr. John Ross is coming forward with a long-term solution, and I'm eagerly awaiting that and I hope that he offers you the solutions, I really do.

Mr. Speaker, the issue here in my view is that there is an immediate problem in that hospital and the immediate problem every one of those health care professionals I've spoken to has indicated that the only immediate solution at that hospital is to add beds, in fact, the minister suggested that moving around things at the QE II would help alleviate pressure at the Dartmouth General. In fact, that was proven wrong last week when they did exactly that and space freed up at the QE II and it got worse on the same day and the next two days at the Dartmouth General.

When I've spoken to a number of the senior health professionals at the Dartmouth General, they said to me, in fact, that the minister was wrong and that, in fact, that has no impact and never has had an impact. I'm sure that this is the advice that the minister may be getting from staff or assistants but it frustrates me that the minister has used that answer a couple of times in the past week that they're going to free up beds at the QE II Health Science Centre and that is going to help Dartmouth, when in fact the health professionals say that's been tried over and over and over again and it has never improved the situation and last week, as I said, in fact, the situation worsened, which proved that case.

Mr. Speaker, I brought this resolution forward for the very reason that there is an immediate crisis in that hospital that is unique in the Capital Health system. There is an immediate issue that has to be resolved. It is not an issue that is going to be resolved by sending people to an emergency room that closes at 10:00 p.m. and in fact ambulances do not even go there after 8:00 p.m. A hospital that doesn't even have the specialist for many of the critical care cases that the Dartmouth General deals with.

Mr. Speaker, I started my time by saying that I do believe that the minister and the Premier care about the situation and I'm sincere in that, I'm very sincere in that. I do believe that the minister cares about this. I do believe that the Premier cares but I don't think they

[Page 1584]

understand the gravity of what's going on at the Dartmouth General compared to other hospitals in the capital district. I don't think that they understand the need for an immediate solution, a solution which every health professional I talked to at that hospital tells me will only be solved by beds. I don't think the minister understands the fact that this hospital has been underfunded for so long and it still has an entire floor waiting for the department to outfit and she's talking about putting money into another health centre, which is great, but they still need also to come up with the money to finish this one that's been waiting for so long.

Mr. Speaker, I would really encourage the Minister of Health to address this issue on an immediate issue, with real solutions. Real solutions that are immediate to that hospital. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased to have an opportunity to rise in my place and speak to this really very serious and important issue with respect to the long-standing problems of the pressures at the Dartmouth General Hospital in the emergency room.

Mr. Speaker, I'm very privileged to have living in my constituency Dr. John Gillis, who is an emergency room physician who practises at the Dartmouth General. As a matter of fact, I recall a conversation I had with Dr. Gillis some time ago, shortly after Dr. Ross had called the code orange at the QE II hospital. Dr. Gillis said to me at that time, it's an everyday occurrence at the Dartmouth General Hospital, what had occurred at the QE II hospital was an everyday occurrence.

The honourable member who spoke ahead of me in his address admitted that this is a long-standing problem, a problem that has existed for 15 years. He likes to stand in his place and talk about the 108 days or 111, I don't know how many days, it is now, Mr. Speaker, 125 days that I've been the Minister of Health. I like to say that it's four months and two days, but who's counting. I don't presume to have all of the answers but I can tell you that the idea that the fifth floor of the Dartmouth General Hospital can be transformed overnight to ease the pressure at the Dartmouth General is not accurate.

The member himself was clear in saying that that floor is an unfinished floor. The member himself was clear in indicating that the challenge of getting health human resources is very difficult. There are no instant, overnight answers to this problem. There are certainly short and medium and longer term things that have to be done.

[5:30 p.m.]

[Page 1585]

Mr. Speaker, I'm one of those people who's not at all afraid to seek out expert advice and assistance and I was very pleased in the four months and two days that I've been Minister of Health to have been able to recruit Dr. John Ross to provide us with some expert advice and assistance.

Our department has already done, and is doing, much good work and much planning with respect to addressing this problem. I want the members of this Chamber to know that on the second Monday that I was on the job, the Capital District Health Authority announced that the Hants Community Centre Emergency Department would be experiencing closures. We immediately met with officials from the Capital District Health Authority and, through the good efforts, the excellent efforts of that DHA, including Barbara Hall, the vice president of patient services over there, I believe the title is, we were able to prevent emergency room closures in Windsor.

We were able to do the same thing in the Parrsboro area. One of the things that we have been able to do is work with the various DHAs with respect to the financial envelope that they have available to them, in combination with the new master agreement that allows for some flexibility with respect to the financial compensation for physicians in the staffing of emergency departments.

Mr. Speaker, not all DHAs and not everyone is very knowledgeable, I suppose, on some level, about these tools that have been built into this new master agreement. We make people in the Department of Health, with expertise, available on a regular basis around the province to the DHAs. I have had conference calls with the CEOs of the DHAs across the province. I have indicated that keeping emergency rooms open is a priority for this government, that we want them to make that a priority. We want them to work with the Department of Health and we'll make people available to help them look at the flexibility of financial arrangements that are there.

Now, Mr. Speaker, back to the Dartmouth General Hospital. The honourable member spoke about the Code Census being a different variety, if you will, having some different features than the Code Census at the Capital District Health Authority, Queen Elizabeth II site, and I understand that to be the case. I also understand that the Dartmouth General Hospital only adopted Code Census about 18 months ago, as a tool. That's what I've been told.

I've also been told that while we need to be concerned about the pressures on our emergency rooms and, as the honourable member said, I and the Premier and this government are concerned, and we are working on short- and medium- and long-term goals dealing with that, we also need to be careful about the impressions we leave when we talk about Code Census. Code Census really is a mechanism inside those facilities to harness all of the human resources, all of the health care workers in those facilities. When they hear about Code Census, it's a call to arms, if you will, to look at the use of existing resources

[Page 1586]

with a view to saying, is there a bed that is unutilized? Is there someone who has been discharged who is still here? Is there someone awaiting discharge but the attending physician or the necessary paperwork hasn't gotten done, and let's get that done because there's a backup in the emergency department and we need to do that?

Let's understand what Code Census is all about, Mr. Speaker. Code Census is about patient safety. It is about the safety of the patients who are there right now in the emergency room and the need to be able to move people.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing I think it's really important for us to understand is that we have had a great deal of attention on wait times for surgeries. Part of what goes on in our acute care facilities is that surgeries are being booked, and there's a prediction factor based on, you know, how many beds you think you're going to need based on people being transferred in through the emergency department or coming in for surgery and having to remain in hospital after surgery. To try to find the balance between the appropriate number of surgeries being scheduled and accommodating people who are coming in and need acute care beds in our hospitals is a difficult balance.

I would really be reluctant to see us going down the road to find the short-term solutions that the Opposition think are so readily available when, in fact, the only short-term solution - the solution you can get right now with the snap of a finger, Mr. Speaker - is only available by cancelling surgeries. I know what would happen if we cancelled surgeries. The honourable member who brought forward this resolution would be in here, he would be howling about the cancellation of surgeries. So we have to find that balance between the use of our beds.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, I know that in the coming months, not so far away, we're going to see the opening up of quite a number of long-term care beds in the Capital District Health Authority. The availability of these beds will mean that people who are currently occupying hospital beds and making it difficult for the flow from emergency rooms into the upper floors in the acute care facilities should ease somewhat, and that, I would say, is a more medium-term solution. So we are doing a number of things, and this government is not only a caring government, it's an acting government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to stand this evening to speak to this resolution brought forward by the member for Dartmouth East. The Dartmouth General Hospital is one that has been seeing growing pains over the last number of years, one where the community continues to get larger and, of course, that hospital is finding itself in a bit of a problem on being able to service the individuals who have to use that facility.

[Page 1587]

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the minister, you know, as much as we'll stand over on this side and criticize that over the last 125 days very little has happened in that respect, I also understand the enormity of trying to solve the issue of Code Census, Code Orange, whatever we want to make fun of or talk about in this Legislature. It is a serious issue where these emergency rooms, the one at Dartmouth General and the one at the QE II, are continually finding themselves over. It's not just the emergency rooms we're finding over, but the rest of the hospital we're finding over as well.

So, Mr. Speaker, I can say if this would have been easy, if this issue would have been easy, I would have done it. If it would have been easy, Jamie Muir would have done it. If it would have been easy, Angus would have done it. If it would have been easy, the Liberals would have done it. For 15 years the Dartmouth General Hospital - I mean when was it built, it was actually built before that, it was probably, I don't know, it was built sort of at the end of the 1980s, in that range, and it was probably built too small at that time - but if you need to look at the clientele, the patients who visit each hospital, if you look at the one over here on this side of the harbour, you have the provincial site. You have the site in which people come in for cardiac surgeries, stents - you name it, it happens here. If you talk about cancer, mostly it happens on this side, for the whole province. So it is a provincial scope of things that happen on this side of the harbour.

So the capability that when it does go to Code Census on this side of the harbour, there is an availability to get people moving around the province. If somebody is waiting and recuperating, well they can recuperate better in Yarmouth than they can in Halifax, let's say - they might be a minor surgery or what have you. What we have in the population at the Dartmouth General Hospital, the majority of the people who are over there are from Dartmouth and area, so the capability of the health authority to be able to move these individuals to another location is very challenging. It really can't happen.

Mr. Speaker, we were talking about when Code Census was brought in - or Code Orange or whatever you want to call it at this point - Code Census was brought into the Dartmouth General Hospital about one and a half years ago, so the minister was correct on the 18 months. They have been using it quite regularly, it seems, since it was brought in. Of course the issue of Code Census didn't start being used at the QE II until, I believe, somewhere in January or February of this year.

Mr. Speaker, I know a couple of suggestions have been floating around on the floor about as a solution, being able to utilize Cobequid Health Centre in a more efficient manner. The Cobequid Health Centre was built to be exactly that - a community health centre. Albeit it is very large, albeit it has many great services in it, and diagnostic equipment. It also has a medium-sized emergency room.

Mr. Speaker, the next step in order to utilize the Cobequid Health Centre as a 24/7 emergency room requires an in-patient unit. It doesn't require more beds in the ER or it doesn't require the fact of bringing in either more doctors or nurses or emergency specialists;

[Page 1588]

it requires an actual in-patient unit so that people can stay 24/7. It also means cafeteria services, it also means cleaning services, it also means all those ancillaries that would have to go with it in order to provide Cobequid Health Centre with a 24-hour hospital. As I said, that's the difference between what Cobequid is today, which is a health centre.

Mr. Speaker, I hope to see the day when an in-patient wing or unit or whatever you want to call it - a tower, whatever, is going to have to go with it in order to better serve the residents in the Bedford-Sackville and surrounding areas. That wasn't the intention when the facility was first put in - it was to be a community health centre. But we know that since that's growing, that it is going to continue to be used even more. The option of using Cobequid Health Centre as the backup right now is very difficult in a Code Census situation because it has no beds.

So the member for Halifax East - sorry, Dartmouth East, there is no Halifax East - for Dartmouth East, I know. (Interruption) You know, us way down in Yarmouth County, we look at Halifax as being the whole thing, I hate to tell you that. HRM, I guess they call it . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't tell Gloria McCluskey that.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I know, and she's probably going to send me a note now because I said it - a stern one, I'm sure.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of trying to find the expansion at Dartmouth, I think, revolves around two things. One is the fit-up of that fifth floor, and there is a presentation by the Capital District Health Authority on an expansion to the Dartmouth General Hospital. But the caveat that goes with both of those issues, of course, is cost.

In my time as Minister of Health, over the three years that I was there, I saw at least two, if not three, different proposals for that floor. One minute, it was maybe to try to replace a transitional unit, so we're going to build a transitional unit. The next time it came along, it was an in-patient unit, and the next time it came along it was actually a surgical floor. So what is it, what is it going to be?

[5:45 p.m.]

I think an in-patient unit is what we need at the Dartmouth General Hospital, but the cost associated with that floor is probably going to put you out and I can't remember the exact numbers. I'm sure the minister has seen some of those ripples but it's like $10 million or more, which is insane when you think about it. That we have a building that is all fitted up with windows and a roof that had to be fixed. We had to fix the leaks in the roof and the floor that had never actually ever been used. So there's the cost that has to go with that in order to try to alleviate some of the problems.

[Page 1589]

I can say the second one, which was the larger renovation or re-jigging of Capital District Health Authority to try to better serve the population - I think there was a tower that would have been added to the Dartmouth General Hospital, so there was sort of a thing on the side, you'd renovate the roof and anyway - their total project for updates to Capital District was probably somewhere close to $700 million. These are huge dollars that the minister and all the ministers, the Cabinet, are going to have to consider when they look at a budget, when they look at what they're going to have to do. There's a tremendous long-term problem, a structural size problem, finding room and this government has committed to adding beds into the system and I want to see that happen. I do support that issue because I understand the stress that those hospitals will have.

The immediate issue of Code Census is one that we need to try to find a solution more than yelling across this House. It's really to roll up our sleeves again and try to find that solution. I know that you have some phenomenal health care practitioners in the system who can come up with some solutions for you. Whether it's Dr. Howlett or whether it's others, I think they have some great ideas but they find their hands are tied, sometimes by either the district or by the department. All I could ask of the minister is to make sure that their hands aren't tied, make sure that they are able to at least try their solutions and try to better the situation that's happening there today.

As the member for Dartmouth East talked about, there was Code Census on Monday and this morning there was another Code Census, so it continues to happen day after day. The time to act is now to try to find a good solution to that and, hey, I'm more than happy to try to provide it. That's what this House is for, to try to find our solutions, you know, what are we going to have to do in order to have this happen? We would support an expansion of the system but of course at the same time, we would have to see the dollars and cents. Exactly how the dollars are going to be spent and how they're going to start rolling out because anything that you do in the health system has a tremendous cost. So it is more than just what's happening today but what's going to be happening in the future when it comes to emergency rooms in the Capital District Health Authority and right across our province.

I thank you again for the opportunity, I thank the member for Dartmouth East for bringing this resolution to the floor of the House and I look forward to further comments on this one.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise today and to finish the debate on Resolution No. 676, which was a resolution by the member for Dartmouth East, related to the Dartmouth General Hospital and the emergency room closures.

[Page 1590]

Certainly we have been talking about the pressure on our emergency rooms. It was good to hear from the minister about her concern for that, after four months on the job. She said four months and two days and I know we're all keeping somewhat of a count and there's a great deal to be done.

We are speaking about the Dartmouth General but while we're talking about it we have to look at the whole system and what is going on across the province with emergency rooms. We know that we have had a continual closure going on in emergency rooms, particularly our rural emergency rooms and small town emergency rooms for quite a number of years. It's become a chronic problem that principally our discussion here in the Legislature has focused on rural emergency rooms and small towns. Lately it's the cities and we're talking about over-crowding and difficulties at the Dartmouth General and the QE II and how they spill into other facilities around the city, where we don't have enough, clearly.

The Cobequid Health Centre has been mentioned as a possible solution. Again, there's a big cost to turning that into a 24/7 facility. As we're talking today, we're looking specifically at the Dartmouth General Hospital and looking at the problem that has arisen there.

I'd like to point out that whereas the resolution actually talks about the Dartmouth General Hospital now being put onto this Code Census up to five times, or on average of five times a month, we just have to look at the last week to see that, in fact, the Dartmouth General Hospital has had this Code Census operating for five days in the last week - three days last week, Monday this week and again today. Everybody there has been put on high alert.

The minister talked about what Code Census means. She said it is about patient safety and that it really means that throughout the hospital all of the staff receive this notice that we're on Code Census and everybody is on high alert. I'd like to say very clearly that I'm sure all of the members of this House would agree, you can't operate on high alert every day of the week, for weeks in and weeks out. That's just not the way you can operate. It's high pressure, it's tension, it's going to cause innumerable problems for the people who are working in those institutions and ultimately it will come to be meaningless. If every day is high alert, it doesn't mean anything.

I'd also like to just briefly talk about the term Code Census. I'm not really sure when that crept into our vocabulary and I think it's interesting that we've decided to rename the Code Orange to Code Census. To me it looks like a way of masking what is really going on. The Code Orange is a colour code, that's the code that they use, they use colour codes across the country in emergencies. Orange means warning, it is signaling a warning throughout the organization that problems are emerging, that everybody has to take special efforts, take some special precautions or help move patients out who could be moved out.

[Page 1591]

Mr. Speaker, it has meaning when you use a colour code. I really share with others that it's completely perplexing what a Code Census means. It doesn't immediately send me into an alert, that's for sure. It doesn't tell me that we're on the verge of something dangerous or troublesome or perhaps unsafe for the people in the hospital. To me it's just trying to massage language to take some of the sting out of it, some of the reality out of it. I really don't think that we're wise to have adopted a terminology that is not used in other hospitals across the country and that really has less meaning.

It is similar, Mr. Speaker, to what they do in the United States, particularly the Republican Party, who have been well-known for changing and massaging terms so that they have different meaning. A perfect example would be talking about program cuts and sort of renaming that, expenditure management. It doesn't sound nearly as bad, suddenly you've got expenditure management instead of some cuts to a program. I think that is a certain term that the Minister of Finance is quite fond of right now, here in our province, expenditure management.

We're trying to somehow water down our language so that it doesn't have the meaning and the implications that it should have. I think it's important to note that this Code Census is something that has just recently been done - let's change the way we talk about an emergency situation, where our emergency rooms are overcrowded, and we don't have space for people who are arriving at our doors.

Mr. Speaker, I think that the idea of a hazard and a warning is very important. Here we are talking about our Dartmouth General Hospital having five days of emergency Code Orange in one week, five days where staff have been put on high alert, as the minister said. I just think that this has to be treated with a lot more seriousness than it has been.

I wanted to go back to the issue about what is the short-term, medium-term, long-term solution. All of us are grappling with this and I heard the previous member speaking and saying it is not an easy solution, I'm sure, because if it were, somebody would have been taking some of these actions sooner.

In the case of the Dartmouth General Hospital, there's no question that we've been looking at a real, chronic underfunding of that institution. The very fact that it has an entire floor ready to go, that is safe, has windows, it is not leaking, let's compare that to the Victoria General Hospital which has a ward where you can't drink the water and you can't bathe in it because it is dangerous - and we have sick people in there. That's in the long-term care wing there, the water is unsafe. But here we have a whole floor, it just needed the funding to be completely outfitted and whatever the amount is, you know, really in the scheme of our $3.5 billion Health budget, I'm sure would be a good use of funds - but that isn't a short-term solution, and I'm not suggesting it is.

[Page 1592]

It's probably a mid-term to a longer-term solution, but doctors in the system have said that the Dartmouth General would not be on this Code Census if we had five or six more beds open in the hospital - five or six - and those beds exist now on the floors that are open. They're beds that have been closed in recent times, that because of cuts or because of other programs or expenditure problems, we've seen beds closed. It might be staffing issues, perhaps, that have caused that, but we have the beds and we have them on open floors today at the Dartmouth General. It's a question of the will to get those beds open. That would help immediately.

Mr. Speaker, we've been here talking about this for almost an hour and we haven't mentioned the fact that with these five Code Orange calls in the last week, we are in a time when we don't even have the seasonal flu outbreak and, you know, we're living actually in the shadow of what could be an outbreak of H1N1. All of us have wondered what will happen if a lot of people get seriously ill with the flu and have to come to the emergency rooms or come into the hospitals. I frankly am worried about that when I see us in what is a sort of normal time in the province, with this overcrowding and with the tension that's coming and pressure on the emergency rooms which, again, are sort of a gateway to the hospital. So I think we need to mention that this is a particularly worrisome thing, because we know that this is going to become a much bigger issue as we even get to the regular flu season, which does strike our senior population in a hard way.

So knowing that the H1N1, even as we're speaking here today, is being recognized out West as making a resurgence - they're seeing that in the western provinces and in the Northwest Territories, and I know that we will have some of that here. We can expect it, and I know we're preparing for it, but I'm concerned about the emergency rooms as the place where people will go to seek help when they are seriously ill with that, and we haven't even been able to manage the system when we're not suffering a pandemic or a major health scare. So that is a major concern to all of us as well.

Mr. Speaker, the answer isn't cancelling surgeries. Clearly, as was said earlier, we don't want to see that happen. People need that as well. So the answer is a few more beds, definitely, and I've talked here before, and spoken to the minister as well, about the platform item that we had in the Liberal platform about emergency rooms. We said the answer is to create a formal system of locums, which is allowing doctors to sign up for short-term shifts or weekends or periods of time where they can visit other emergency rooms. That's something that we would like to see in place, because that's something that can be done, again, in the short term. There are doctors in this province, as I've said before, who are travelling to other provinces to provide emergency room care and cover shifts there. We could reallocate them here in our own province.

The minister said that there were extra funds available that were made available to give some flexibility to some of the emergency rooms or health districts in the province, and that that had a positive effect. I'm not sure about that exactly, but if we have extra resources,

[Page 1593]

why wouldn't we create a locums list, allow people to have an incentive to go to these rural emergency rooms and city emergency rooms, and help cover the need where the need is greatest? That would give flexibility and that would give resources to the health districts, and help the minister as well as she makes her best efforts to deal with this situation.

Again, I know that she is a caring individual, as are all members of this House, and I just believe that this is an issue that requires, again, an urgent response and not having a Code Orange every day of the week, but actually putting in place some programs that will address the urgency.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to move adjournment, please.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for a great debate tonight.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise. Before doing so, the business tomorrow after the Orders of the Day and Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading - Bill Nos. 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 34, 38, 39, 40, and 44. Once we get through that, we'll adjourn. The House hours tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion for adjournment has been made.

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

The motion is carried.

The House will now rise until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:00 p.m.]

[Page 1594]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 758

By: Mr. Chuck Porter (Hants West)

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

Whereas farming has been a way of life in many cultures for thousands of years beginning with people taking wild grasses and using the seeds for food and planting for the next years food; and

Whereas Charlotte Harper, owner of Horse and Garden Farm, located in Windsor, Hants County, has undertaken the task of revitalizing an old farm and turning it into a place where volunteers wishing to work on a farm in exchange for free food, board and a chance to learn about organic farming are welcome; and

Whereas being apart of the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms organization provides a unique occasion for those interested in organic farming with a chance to travel while working on a variety of farms around the world;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly commend the efforts of Charlotte Harper and wish her all the best with her plans for expansion and growth.

RESOLUTION NO. 759

By: Mr. Chuck Porter (Hants West)

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

Whereas there will be a tree planted and a commemorative plaque placed in Victoria Park in the Town of Windsor, Hants County, in memory and thanks to two very special ladies who supported, worked and embraced the West Hants Family Resource Centre; and

Whereas Patricia Helliwell and Geraldine Watkins dedicated countless hours to the Family Resource Centre and the families of the Hants West area with their kindness and caring pouring into the lives of so many; and

[Page 1595]

Whereas Patricia and Geraldine should be remembered as people who had their hearts in the right place and took special care of those who visited the centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly commend the many years of contribution that Patricia Helliwell and Geraldine Watkins gave so graciously to the families of Hants West.