The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 06-23

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Cecil Clarke

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/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2006

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer, 37th Provincial General
Election, Hon. M. Scott 1636
Statement of Votes & Statistics - Volume 1, 37th Provincial
General Election, Hon. M. Scott 1636
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 871, Crooks, PO (1stClass) Damon: Courage - Commend,
Hon. M. Scott 1636
Vote - Affirmative 1637
Res. 872, Aikenhead, Sherri/MacKinnon, Melissa - Gemstone Award,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1637
Vote - Affirmative 1637
Res. 873, Olsen Carole - Cdn. Educ. Assoc.: Vice-Pres. - Election,
Hon. K. Casey 1637
Vote - Affirmative 1638
Res. 874, Campbell, Dennis: Hfx. Chamber of Comm. Award -
Nomination, Hon. L. Goucher 1638
Vote - Affirmative 1639
Res. 875, Family Resource Ctr. (C.B.) - Int'l. Partnerships Network
Award, Hon. J. Streatch 1639
Vote - Affirmative 1640
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 876, Broome, Alan & Anntoinnette: Boston Christmas Tree -
Provision, Hon. D. Morse 1640
Vote - Affirmative 1640
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 877, Conners, Wayne "Buzzy" - Age Positive Prog. Award,
Mr. F. Corbett 1641
Vote - Affirmative 1641
Res. 878, MacDonald, Kenneth Joseph: Death of - Tribute,
The Premier 1642
Vote - Affirmative 1642
Res. 879, Halifax Rifles: Reactivation - Support, Mr. D. Dexter 1642
Vote - Affirmative 1643
Res. 880, Kings - Edgehill/West Hants - Valley Games: Efforts
Congrats., Mr. C. Porter 1643
Vote - Affirmative 1644
Res. 881, Pictou Co. Chamber of Comm. - Achievement Awards:
Recipients - Congrats., Mr. C. Parker 1644
Vote - Affirmative 1645
Res. 882, Korean Peace Garden: Seuk Walling/Supporters - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 1645
Vote - Affirmative 1645
Res. 883, Saint James United Church - Anniv. (161st), Hon. C. Casey 1646
Vote - Affirmative 1646
Res. 884, Cole Hbr. Meeting House: Cole Hbr. Rural Heritage Soc./
Vol./Bd. Members - Commend, Mr. D. Dexter 1646
Vote - Affirmative 1647
Res. 885, Yar./Digby/Anna. Counties - Diving Search: Efforts -
Recognize, Mr. W. Gaudet 1647
Vote - Affirmative 1648
Res. 886, Breen, Joan et al - Terry Fox Run (25th): Completion -
Congrats., Hon. R. Chisholm 1648
Vote - Affirmative 1648
Res. 887, PAWEECA: Commun. Work - Thank, Ms. J. Massey 1649
Vote - Affirmative 1649
Res. 888, Clare Library Br. (Meteghan) - Anniv. (25th),
Mr. W. Gaudet 1649
Vote - Affirmative 1650
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 889, Pugwash Hbr. Fest.: Kempt, Bill/Organizers - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1650
Vote - Affirmative 1651
Res. 890, NSCAD: Expansion - Congrats., Mr. L. Preyra 1651
Vote - Affirmative 1652
Res. 891, Kieran Pathways Soc.: Efforts - Recognize, Mr. L. Glavine 1652
Vote - Affirmative 1652
Res. 892, Newcombville Elem. Sch.: Terry Fox Run - Fundraising,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 1652
Vote - Affirmative 1653
Res. 893, Health Prom. & Protection/Environ. & Lbr.: Diapers -
Educ. Prog., Ms. M. Raymond 1653
Res. 894, Manzer, Audrey - Joseph Howe Fellowship Award,
Ms. M. More 1654
Vote - Affirmative 1655
Res. 895, Com. Serv.: Income Policy - Increase, Mr. H. Theriault 1655
Res. 896, Black Rock Baptist Church Women: Fundraising - Applaud,
Hon. M. Parent 1656
Vote - Affirmative 1656
Res. 897, CBU Women Capers - Soccer Championship,
Mr. G. Gosse 1656
Vote - Affirmative 1657
Res. 898, Guides Assoc. (N.S.) Meet: Queens Co. Winners/Participants -
Congrats., Ms. V. Conrad 1657
Vote - Affirmative 1658
Res. 899, Poteri, Jack/Centennial Arena - WCB Award,
Ms. D. Whalen 1658
Vote - Affirmative 1659
Res. 900, Crowell, Randy: Col. Co. Sport Hall of Fame - Induction,
Hon. J. Muir 1659
Vote - Affirmative 1659
Res. 901, Camp Courage: Graduates - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1660
Vote - Affirmative 1660
Res. 902, Gerrior, Audrey: Retirement - Best Wishes,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1660
Vote - Affirmative 1661
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 204, Gov't. (N.S.): CAP Program - Funding, Mr. D. Dexter 1662
No. 205, Health: Nursing Home Beds (Middleton) - Election
Promise, Mr. S. McNeil 1663
No. 206, Educ.: Literacy Funding - Restore, Mr. D. Dexter 1665
No. 207, Agric.: Pork Ind. - Assistance, Mr. J. MacDonell 1666
No. 208, Agric.: Pork Ind. - Long-Term Plan, Mr. S. McNeil 1668
No. 209, Justice: Mental Health Consumers - Treatment,
Mr. D. Dexter 1669
No. 210, Volunteerism: CVI Cancellation - Response, Ms. M. More 1670
No. 211, Health: Transplants - Wait Times,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1672
No. 212, Sydney Tar Ponds: Cooling Pond Cleanup - Contract
Cancellation, Mr. G. Gosse 1673
No. 213, Energy - Dep. Min.: Conference Call - Minutes Table,
Mr. M. Samson 1674
No. 214, Health Prom. & Protection - Osteoporosis: Fractures -
Prevention, Ms. V. Conrad 1675
No. 215, Fish. & Aquaculture: Farm Expansion (Port Mouton) -
Oppose, Ms. V. Conrad 1677
No. 216, Educ.: Literacy Progs. - Funding, Mr. L. Glavine 1678
No. 217, TPW: Overpass Safety - Testing, Mr. C. Parker 1679
No. 218, TPW: Secondary Roads - Signage, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1681
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 91, Trade Union Act, 1682
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1682
Hon. B. Barnet 1683
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1684
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1685
Vote - Affirmative ^PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING: 1685

No. 87, Consumer Protection Act 1685
Hon. J. Muir 1685
Mr. P. Paris 1687
Ms. D. Whalen 1689
Mr. T. Zinck 1690
Hon. J. Muir 1698
Vote - Affirmative 1698
Vote - Affirmative
No. 89, Provincial Court Act 1699
Hon. M. Scott 1699
Mr. K. Deveaux 1699
Mr. M. Samson 1700
Hon. C. d'Entremont 1705
Hon. M. Scott 1706
Vote - Affirmative 1706
No. 92, Assessment Act 1706
Hon. J. Muir 1706
Mr. P. Paris 1707
Ms. D. Whalen 1707
Mr. L. Preyra 1712
Mr. G. Steele 1715
Hon. E. Fage 1719
Vote - Affirmative 1720
No. 94, Property Valuation Services Corporation Act 1720
Hon. E. Fage 1720
Mr. P. Paris 1721
Ms. D. Whalen 1723
Hon. E. Fage 1727
Vote - Affirmative 1728
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 102, Pugwash Village Grants Act 1728
No. 105, Pugwash Village Capital Grant Act 1728
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 4:17 p.m. 1729
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 4:21 P.M. 1729
CHW REPORTS: ~ 1729
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. - Rural Dev.: Communities - Consult,
Ms. V. Conrad 1731
Mr. H. Theriault 1733
Mr. L. Glavine 1735
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1736
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 15th at 2:00 p.m. 1738

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 903, Electropolis Studies: Windsor Location - Applaud,
Mr. C. Porter 1739
Res. 904, McIntyre, Jannah - World Highland Dancing Championship,
Mr. P. Dunn 1739
Res. 905, Gibson, Jamie - Male Athlete on the Yr.,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1740
Res. 906, War Brides: Contributions - Recognize, Mr. L. Glavine 1740
Res. 907, Huntley, Helen: Commun. Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. L. Glavine 1741

[Page 1635]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2006

Sixtieth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Cecil Clarke

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Wayne Gaudet

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin with the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova:

Therefore be it resolved that this government consult with communities about their own rural economic development.

That debate will be had at the conclusion of regular, ordinary business today.

We will now commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

1635

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

[Page 1636]

MR. SPEAKER: Members of the Assembly, I beg leave to table a report entitled Recommendations for Legislative Change, Report of the Chief Electoral Office, submitted by Elections Nova Scotia; also the Statement of Votes and Statistics, Volume I, submitted by Elections Nova Scotia.

The reports are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for Military Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 871

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

Whereas United States Navy Petty Officer (First Class) Damon Crooks visited Halifax as a crew member of the USS Doyle, which is assisting and supporting the Canadian Forces' evaluation of new tactical and strategic training; and

Whereas in response to a violent incident in downtown Halifax, he endeavoured to assemble his shipmates who were in the immediate area to ensure their safety; and

Whereas in an effort to defend one of his fellow naval members, he was fatally stabbed;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend United States Navy Petty Officer (First Class) Damon Crooks for his courage and dedication to the safety of his shipmates.

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 1637]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 872

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

Whereas on Tuesday, November 7th, Communications Nova Scotia staff members received Gemstone Awards from the Canadian Public Relations Society for their outstanding contributions to the field of public relations; and

Whereas Sherri Aikenhead and the mental health team at the Department of Health received a Jasper Award for the development of a booklet to help teens cope with depression; and

Whereas Melissa MacKinnon received an honourable mention in the low budget masterpiece category for the development of Communications Tips for the Department of Health;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Sherri Aikenhead and Melissa MacKinnon, Communications Nova Scotia and the Department of Health for the receipt of this prestigious award.

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 Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 873

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

[Page 1638]

Whereas Carole Olsen, Superintendent of the Halifax Regional School Board, was recently elected as the new vice-resident of the Canadian Education Association; and

Whereas the CEA Council is comprised of 36 elected and appointed directors, with 13 of the members representing provincial and territorial governments; and

Whereas since 1891, the CEA has brought educators from across the country together to discuss issues and influence public policy in education;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Carole Olsen on her election as vice-president of CEA and wish her well in performing this role.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 874

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

Whereas Dennis Campbell started his career in the motorcoach tour industry at the age of 15 as a tour guide; and

Whereas Mr. Campbell is now president of Ambassatours and a dedicated member of Nova Scotia's tourism industry, working in partnership with the department and with other tourism operators in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Mr. Campbell has been nominated by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce as Businessperson of the Year, one of the Chamber's 2007 Metro Halifax Business Awards;

[Page 1639]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the contribution Dennis Campbell and his company make to Nova Scotia's tourism industry and provincial economy, and wish him the best of luck when the awards are announced in February.

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. 875

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

Whereas the Family Place Resource Centre in Cape Breton was recognized by the International Partnerships Network under the category of Global Best for partnerships that demonstrate outstanding achievement in health and education; and

Whereas the staff and community partners of the Family Resource Centre developed this internationally recognized program to support the health and education of parents and children; and

Whereas I had the pleasure to meet with and to tour the centre and speak with the executive director, Joanna La Tulippe-Rochon, about their model community partnership practices;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and recognize the staff and community partners of the Family Resource Centre for this international award and for providing exemplary support to Cape Breton parents and their children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 1640]

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 Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 876

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

Whereas Nova Scotia annually sends a 40-foot Christmas tree to Boston as a gift in appreciation for help given following the Halifax Explosion and this has become a tradition since 1971; and

Whereas Alan and Antoinette Broome of New Ross agreed to provide the white spruce harvested this morning in spite of the weather; and

Whereas several departments and agencies co-operate with the Department of Natural Resources on the preparation, harvest and shipping of this tree to Boston each year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the effort that goes into this worthwhile project and the tremendous support provided to Nova Scotians by the people of Boston in a time of great need.

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

[Page 1641]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 877

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

Whereas many people pass though this world with a desire to help others, whether it is through organizations, through politics, or volunteering their time; and

Whereas Wayne Buzzy Connors has worn many hats when it comes to helping the people in and around his community; and

Whereas Wayne Buzzy Connors has received the first-ever annual Age Positive Program Award for his encouragement and support in having employers make hiring decisions based on skill and competence and experience, not just age;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank Wayne Buzzy Connors for his perseverance and dedication to the many people he has helped along the way, and extend congratulations for being the first-ever recipient of the Age Positive Program Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:15 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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 878

[Page 1642]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the tradition of Cape Breton fiddling has been fostered generation after generation because of the mentoring of talented musicians like the late Kenneth Joseph MacDonald; and

Whereas Kenneth Joseph was a lobster fisherman and tree harvester by trade, but spent a lot of his spare time as a long-time member of the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association; and

Whereas Mabou will miss Kenneth Joseph's beautiful music, which was the highlight of so many special events in our community, and his ever-present willingness to share his talent with new musicians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House mark with great sadness the passing of Kenneth Joseph MacDonald, but find comfort that his music will play on through the musicians whose talent he encouraged.

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 Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 879

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

Whereas in 1996, and again in 2005, this House called upon the Minister of National Defence to reactivate the Halifax Rifles as a reserve squadron that would participate in coastal defence; and

[Page 1643]

Whereas parliamentarians such as the late Senator Forrestal also championed the plan to reactivate the Halifax Rifles, now that the Reserves are growing in size and importance; and

Whereas the loyalty of the Halifax Rifles Association is evident in their sponsorship of the city's oldest Army Cadet Corps;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly reaffirm its support for reactivation of the Halifax Rifles, and urge the Premier and the Minister of Military Relations to emphasize this position in the communication with the current Minister of National Defence.

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 Hants West.

RESOLUTION NO. 880

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

Whereas the Call to Remembrance Games were established by the Royal Canadian Legion in 1995 to help promote Veteran Remembrance and Canada's military heritage with the younger members of our society; and

Whereas the winning teams receive funding towards additional Remembrance learning materials for their schools; and

Whereas the Kings Edgehill team won the 2006 Valley Games on October 26th, and West Hants took third place;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these two Hants West teams for their impressive regional games and for their outstanding efforts towards learning about and remembering our war veterans.

[Page 1644]

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 881

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

Whereas Pictou County Chamber of Commerce held their Annual Achievement Awards on November 13, 2006 at the DeCoste Centre in Pictou to recognize excellence in business and community life; and

Whereas Mel MacConnell of the Scotsburn Dairy Group was selected as Business Person of the Year, Convergeys New Glasgow won Business of the Year and Craig Fraser of C.F. Construction Ltd. as Entrepreneur of the Year; and

Whereas Stephen MacDonald, Sobeys West Side Plaza was selected as Employee of the Year, Maritime Steel and Foundries Limited won the Export Achievement Award, and Pictou County Food Bank won the Alex M. MacKay Non-Profit Organization of the Year Award, and in addition Ernest Mingo received the Lifetime Achievement Award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate all award recipients and commend the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce for their continued success in hosting the Pictou County Achievement Awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1645]

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. 882

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

Whereas Seuk Walling, President of the Korean Association of Nova Scotia, had a dream to create a Peace Garden in Halifax in memory of the Korean War veterans; and

Whereas the Korean Peace Garden was officially opened in the Stratford Way Park in Clayton Park West in July 2006 after fundraising and community support from the Korean Association, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Korean War Veterans Association and individual donors; and

Whereas on Remembrance Day, 2006, the community of Clayton Park began a new tradition at the Korean Peace Garden, where a remembrance ceremony was held to honour our veterans and remember their sacrifice;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Seuk Walling, the Korean Association , the Korean War Veterans Association, and the HRM for their vision and dedication to create this special peace garden.

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 Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 883

[Page 1646]

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

Whereas community churches have been a focal point of rural life; and

Whereas St. James United Church in Great Village is a work of architectural beauty and a heritage property; and

Whereas St. James celebrated its 161st Anniversary this year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the congregation of St. James United Church.

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 Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 884

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

Whereas the Cole Harbour Meeting House, formerly known as the Methodist Chapel, was built in 1831 and is celebrating its 175th Anniversary; and

Whereas the Meeting House, under the care and guidance of the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society since 1974, provides an invaluable service to the community of Cole Harbour and surrounding area as a tourist attraction, an educational resource, and home of archival pictures and information; and

Whereas the Meeting House is holding true to its vision statement "Echoes of Silent Voices" by taking on a new project under the direction of the board of directors, including Joyce MacAskill and Helen Fletcher, that will see the restoration of the ancient cemetery surrounding the facility;

[Page 1647]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize and commend the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society, volunteers and members of the board of directors, including Joyce MacAskill and Helen Fletcher, for their commitment to the efforts to maintain the Cole Harbour Meeting House and preserve the historical contributions made to this 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 Clare.

 RESOLUTION NO. 885

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

Whereas many volunteers have combed the shoreline along the coast of St. Mary's Bay, searching for missing diver Daniel Paul Maillet of Bangor; and

Whereas many volunteers have made numerous dives in search of this missing diver since October 14, 2006; and

Whereas searchers from Yarmouth, Digby and Annapolis Counties have participated in the coordinated search along our coast;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly recognize the efforts of so many individuals, and thank the many volunteers who have and continue to search for the missing diver.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1648]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 886

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

Whereas the Terry Fox Run was established to commemorate the memory of the man who attempted to walk across Canada in 1980 to raise money for cancer research; and

Whereas five local seniors from Liscomb have completed their 25th year of participation in this run; and

Whereas at least two of these seniors are in their seventies;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joan Breen, Loretta Baker, Florence Reid, Sylvia Hubley, and Florence Baker of Liscomb on their successful completion of their 25th Terry Fox Run.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 887

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

[Page 1649]

Whereas 21 years ago, a group of students and staff formed a society called PAWEECA - the Prince Andrew Woodlawn Environmental Enhancement and Conservation Association; and

Whereas this is the only federally recognized non-profit student-run charity in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas they have raised funds for Hurricane Katrina Relief, volunteered with the Dartmouth Seniors' Centre Telethon and are working on a Dominica school supplies project;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislative Assembly thank PAWEECA members for all the work they do in our local communities and those communities across the globe, and wish them much success in all their current and future projects.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 888

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

Whereas the Clare Library Branch in Meteghan recently celebrated its 25th Anniversary; and

Whereas the library personnel both past and present have been extremely helpful to our general public; and

Whereas the people of Clare truly appreciate the dedication the library staff provide to our community;

[Page 1650]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate all those who have worked at the Clare Library Branch as it celebrates its 25th 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 Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 889

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

Whereas the Village of Pugwash has a new major tourist draw - the Pugwash Harbour Fest - which was held the weekend of July 28th this past summer, with a kickoff reception in the Eaton Dining Hall hosted by the Pugwash Peace Exchange; and

Whereas yachters from all over the Northumberland Strait came to participate in races and enjoyed the hospitality of Pugwash while supporting local businesses; and

Whereas organizers pointed out that Pugwash offers an excellent harbour, beautiful weather and sunsets, warm waters and a world-wide reputation for world peace;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending our congratulations to committee chair Bill Kempt and his organizers for making the first annual such a successful event that is helping to build another popular Maritime tourist destination.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1651]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 890

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

Whereas on October 17, 2006, the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design and the architectural firm MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Limited, unveiled design plans for the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design's new Port Campus, a facility due to open in the Spring of 2007 on the Halifax waterfront; and

Whereas the new facility will feature prime studio space, top-of-the-line industrial arts equipment and architectural elements designed for the specific needs of art, craft and design education and production; and

Whereas Halifax's port is emerging as an artistic and cultural hub, and the presence of Nova Scotia College of Art & Design's new campus will only enhance the district's vibrancy and appeal to students, Nova Scotians, and visitors;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design as it prepares to expand into its new harbourside 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.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 891

[Page 1652]

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

Whereas the Kieran Pathways Society promotes active transportation throughout Kings County; and

Whereas the Grand Pre-Berwick corridor represents a linear city and due to the high population density it would benefit from a safe and convenient route for active travel; and

Whereas on November 15th the Kieran Society is holding a symposium regarding the development of active trail routes throughout Kings County;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly recognize the efforts put forth by the Kieran Pathways Society and pledge our support to increasing active trails around the province.

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. 892

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

Whereas charity begins at home; and

Whereas fundraising is always necessary to help charities in need; and

Whereas the students at Newcombville Elementary School in Lunenburg County raised over $1,600 for the Terry Fox Run;

[Page 1653]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the students at Newcombville Elementary School and the fundraiser organizer, Christine Moriarity, for their caring and support for the Terry Fox Run.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[12:30 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.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 893

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

Whereas in 1986, the estimated cost of keeping one child in disposable diapers averaged $3,000, and although diaper costs may have changed, babies have not; and

Whereas each North American child uses an average of 10,000 disposable diapers over its career, with Canada sending 4 million disposable diapers a day to landfills; and

Whereas disposable diapers are increasingly suspected of posing health risks to infants, although generations of parents and children have survived cloth diapers, and modern versions are easier than ever to use;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly request that the Departments of Health Promotion and Protection, and Environment and Labour undertake a joint public awareness campaign, educating the public on the relative advantages of cloth and disposable diapers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 1654]

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 894

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

Whereas the Dartmouth Historical Association instituted the Joseph Howe Fellowship Award to recognize outstanding people who have helped to preserve heritage, culture, or have been leaders in community services; and

Whereas the Joseph Howe Fellowship Award was presented to Audrey Manzer, a well-recognized Dartmouth volunteer and community leader; and

Whereas Audrey's activities include 35 years as chairman of the Dartmouth Lakes Advisory Board, and many years of service to the Banook Canoe Club, Dartmouth YM-YWCA, Dartmouth Natal Day Committee, Halifax Highland Games Association, and the Scottish Festival;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Dartmouth Historical Association and Audrey Manzer on the occasion of her Joseph Howe Fellowship Award presentation, and thank Audrey for her many contributions to the 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 Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 1655]

RESOLUTION NO. 895

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

Whereas there are many low-income people in the Province of Nova Scotia, including our seniors, who are struggling to make ends meet; and

Whereas the Department of Community Services has a program where people earning under $19,000 may apply for grants to repair their homes, and this figure has not changed to keep up with the inflation over the many years; and

Whereas many low-income and working poor families are in the earning range of up to $22,000 per year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly encourage the Department of Community Services to investigate this situation, and review their maximum income policy to reflect today's earnings for these people and help them qualify for a housing grant.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 896

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

Whereas women of the Black Rock Baptist Church have worked diligently on numerous projects for 75 years now; and

Whereas the women's most recent project was the involvement of the church's sewing circle, with the annual Christmas luncheon on November 4th at the Black Rock Community Hall; and

[Page 1656]

Whereas the Christmas luncheon was just a small example of a wide range of fundraising projects, including a poetic history by Jean Calkin in the Jolly Workers' 2003 cookbook, which have been launched by the women of the Black Rock Baptist Church over the past seven and a half decades;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud the ingenuity and exceptional fundraising abilities of the women of the Black Rock Baptist Church, and wish them continued 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.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 897

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

Whereas on Sunday, November 5, 2006, the Atlantic University Sport Women's Soccer Championship was decided; and

Whereas the Cape Breton University Women's Capers defeated the University of Prince Edward Island by the score of 2-0 to capture not only their second consecutive AUS title, but their third in four years; and

Whereas in doing so, the Cape Breton University Women's Capers advanced to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport Championship commencing Thursday, November 9, 2006 in Victoria, British Colombia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Coach Ness Timmons, his staff and the Cape Breton University Women's Capers on their accomplishment for putting Cape Breton University on the national soccer map and their fine play at the nationals in Victoria, British Columbia.

[Page 1657]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 898

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

Whereas the Labour Day Guides Meet, sponsored by the Nova Scotia Guides' Association, was held in Hibernia, Queens County in September 2006; and

Whereas this event features canoeing and woodsman/woman competitions on the waterfront; and

Whereas the overall women's division champion and overall men's division champion reside in Queens County;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize Robin McKinnon of Milton as the overall Women's Champion and Tim Labrador of Bangs Falls as the overall Men's Champion. We should also recognize MacKenzie Carver of Caledonia, Brandon Forrest of Caledonia, Jeff McKinnon of Milton and Jason McKinnon of Milton for accomplishments at the Labour Day Guides Meet.

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 1658]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 899

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

Whereas Centennial Arena has not had a Workers' Compensation claim for nearly 40 years; and

Whereas the Workers' Compensation Board has honoured Jack Poteri and his staff with an award at the arena's 2006 Annual General Meeting, recognizing this accomplishment; and

Whereas safety is a high priority at the Centennial Arena and Manager Jack Poteri credits his long-serving staff and monthly safety discussions for their exemplary safety record;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize Jack Poteri and his staff at the Centennial Arena for this remarkable accomplishment 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 Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 900

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

[Page 1659]

Whereas Randy Crowell is a 2006 inductee into the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame; and

Whereas Randy Crowell led the Truro Junior B Bearcats to league and Maritime titles in 1970-71 after leading the league in scoring with 115 goals and 70 assists; and

Whereas Randy Crowell, although best known in hockey, was also a high calibre fastball player, a university golfer, a Nova Scotia Junior Curling Champion and played in five Firefighter National Curling Championships;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Randy Crowell on being inducted into the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame and wish him continued success in coaching minor hockey as he gives back to the game some of the benefits he received.

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 Timberlea-Prospect

RESOLUTION NO. 901

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

Whereas 20 young women received their graduation certificates from Camp Courage on August 5, 2006 after a week of training in the demanding fields of police, fire and paramedic work; and

Whereas Camp Courage was coordinated by a firefighter, Andrea Speranza; and

Whereas all involved enthusiastically endorsed the Camp Courage experience;

[Page 1660]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the graduates of Camp Courage with sincere thanks to Andrea Speranza for her initiative.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 902

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

Whereas Audrey Gerrior has given more than two decades of service as the Guidance Secretary at Sir John. A. Macdonald High School; and

Whereas Audrey's professional, positive approach has made her a valuable member of the staff at Sir John A. Macdonald High School; and

Whereas this school year will be Audrey Gerrior's last as the Guidance Secretary at Sir John A. Macdonald High School;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank Audrey Gerrior for her dedication to the students and teaching staff of Sir John A. Macdonald High School with best wishes on her retirement.

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 1661]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the members, distinguished guests in your gallery today. I would ask the members of the International Association of Firefighters, professional firemen, who are here today to listen to debate on a bill that will be before this House later today respecting their association. Paul Boyle, Halifax; Peter Smith, Truro; Mike Mabey, Truro; Mark Bettens, CBRM; and Jody Wrathall, from the CBRM - by the way, Jody is also the President of that local. They're all here today to look at the proceedings of the House and to listen, with much interest, when their bill is presented to this House later today. So I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to our guests and all visitors in the gallery today.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour on an introduction.

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery opposite is a friend and a neighbour from Kings North, Martin Porskamp who is a very successful farmer there, and who is also involved in, as I believe, currently President of Pork Nova Scotia, and he is here to watch the proceedings and to speak on behalf of the pork commodity group. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again, welcome.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:42 p.m. and end at 1:42 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

GOV'T. (N.S.): CAP PROGRAM - FUNDING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is going to be through you to the Premier. This morning, the all-Party Committee on Economic Development heard that federal funding for the Community Access Program was cut from over $900,000 in 2005, to less than $400,000 this year, and that funding will seize altogether in April 2007. Approximately 200 CAP sites will have to close almost immediately. The

[Page 1662]

remaining 79 will be funded for a time, by the provincial library system, but there will be no more tutorials or community projects or one-on-one time for seniors. Over 180 young people in rural Nova Scotia will lose their jobs. So my question through you to the Premier is this, what is the Premier doing to ensure that the federal government continues to fund this important community program?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, indeed, through you to the member, he is correct, these CAP sites are very important in our rural communities, and throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. The government has taken a number of steps - I've actually raised this with the Prime Minister himself in a one-on-one meeting; we feel that strongly about it. The Department of Economic Development has taken a number of steps including some additional funding towards the CAP sites this year. In addition to that, a number of letters have been sent from the Province of Nova Scotia and, in fact, just the other day, I approved, from our perspective, Nova Scotia's perspective, a letter which is being sent to the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Council of Premiers from across the country, indicating the very issues that the member is bringing forth.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Premier's response because, unfortunately, many people across the province are not aware that the government has taken any initiative whatsoever with respect to these important programs. In fact, many of them believe that the government, rather, has been waiting for the federal government to initiate a response.

[12:45 p.m.]

So my supplementary question, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier is, how much longer are you prepared to wait for a reply from the federal government saying they are going to change their mind?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I didn't even wait for letters to be sent, I had a one-on-one meeting with the Prime Minister, himself, and raised this very important issue. It is an important issue to communities across our province. Perhaps in the third part of my question I'll get the minister to provide an update, a further update as to Economic Development's work on this file.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, your colleague, the Minister of Community Services, said at today's meeting that it would be best to lobby for continued federal funding, as the provincial government doesn't want to be the only partner sitting at the table. The federal government has produced nothing except a wall of silence since last March. In the meantime, local communities are investing $9 for every dollar of government funding. Perhaps the Premier would be prepared to share with us what the result of that conversation with the Prime Minister was that's going to ensure that this important program continues.

[Page 1663]

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Economic Development.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in my place in response to the question on the CAP program in this province. I can tell that member and all members of this House that this government, for the last four years, has increased funding to the CAP program. We know how important it is to all of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, it's the same thing as with Bay Ferries. This government came out, at the very first, we found a resolution to Bay Ferries, and we will find a resolve to the CAP sites in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

HEALTH: NURSING HOME BEDS (MIDDLETON) - ELECTION PROMISE

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last week in this House I asked a question of the Minister of Health concerning a promise made during the election that 40 nursing home beds would be provided for the Middleton area. Since then, the minister has taken every opportunity to skate around this issue. So my question to the Premier is, do you deny that the promise was made during the last election that 40 nursing home beds would be provided for the Middleton area?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, very clearly what we articulated last week was that the people of Middleton and people across the province, in a variety of communities, will have ample opportunity to see beds coming forward. Over 800 beds will be put forward over the next couple of years. Further to that, we have further commitments, but I have no doubt that the region in question that the member is raising will see some beds in that particular region, and again, that will be part of the process.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, the promise that was made during the last election didn't say a region, it said Middleton. We have confirmation from the former Mayor of Middleton, Sylvester Atkinson, that he was personally told by your candidate in the last election, Blair Hannam, at his nomination meeting, that the Minister of Health said that very day that Middleton and area would receive 400 - sorry (Interruption) We'll take 40, we'll work on the other 400 - 40 beds, which he confirmed at our local debate.

Overcome with joy at this announcement, Mr. Atkinson joined Mr. Hannam on the campaign trail and went door to door with the candidate, and at every door he listened to him promise that 40 beds will be in Middleton; door after door Mr. Hannam repeated that. So my question to the Premier is, will you follow through on this election promise?

[Page 1664]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I've already articulated the government's position on this. I want to ensure that the people of Middleton get the care they need, whether they're in a hospital or whether they're in a long-term care facility. I can assure that member that we'll be putting out a number of beds across the province. Perhaps this area will get more than 40 beds, perhaps it will be less. I don't know that number offhand, but that will come through, through the process.

Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to limit the number of beds in his area, if that's what he's suggesting, I certainly wouldn't agree with him on that.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure if the Premier expects the people of Annapolis to believe that he might offer them more than 40 beds. Maybe he'll delay that until after the next election, and will make that promise again so the people of Annapolis can entertain that thought. People like Mr. Atkinson can believe that people in this House when they give their word that they'll deliver 40 beds, they'll actually believe it might happen. God forbid that it might happen. What you did last week, quite frankly I think, has discredited every member of this House, by denying an election promise that took place. So my question is, will the Premier stick to that promise that was made, of 40 nursing home beds for Middleton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I will say very clearly is if I make a commitment on behalf of the government, we stick with the commitment. If the government makes a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia or the people of Middleton or the people of Pleasant Bay or the people of Shelburne or the people of Pictou, we will keep those commitments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC.: LITERACY FUNDING - RESTORE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my question through you to the Premier. I am tabling a press release issued by Premier Lorne Calvert of Saskatchewan, calling on Prime Minister Harper to reinstate federal literacy funding for the Saskatchewan Literacy Network. Premier Calvert called on the Prime Minister to restore $820,000 in literacy funding which was recently cut from the federal budget. The cut was part of a $1 billion purge from what the federal Tories referred to as non-essential items. You know this list, literacy, heritage, women's rights, Internet access for people in rural Canada - that's what they think of as non-essential items. My first question to the Premier is, when are you going to call on Prime Minister Harper to restore funding for literacy in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, letters have been sent from the Province of Nova Scotia in this regard. I raised this very issue in my face-to-face meeting with the Prime Minister. A resolution was passed in this House regarding the issues mentioned by the

[Page 1665]

Leader. So we have done our part. I'm wondering if he will be doing the same with the NDP Leader in Ottawa, with regard to the resolution that we passed unanimously in favour of not only our troops but also that the mission they're on in Afghanistan.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it amazes me that the Premier can't answer a simple question on the question of literacy. I'm going to table a press release from Premier Pat Binns of P.E.I. In his press release, Premier Binns states that he is happy with last week's announcement that federal funding will be restored to the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance. Premier Binns recently wrote to the Prime Minister regarding federal funding cuts and raised the issue personally with the Prime Minister. So I'd like to ask the Premier, if you've raised this issue with your federal counterpart, why is it that the money for literacy has not been restored in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member of the House of Assembly is obviously more interested in what's happening in other provinces than what's happening in Nova Scotia. The fact of the matter is that we have raised this issue, we continue to raise this issue. We will assure Nova Scotians - all Nova Scotians - that we will be treated fairly, and that will be the case.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, he obviously doesn't understand the gravity of what happens when you reduce funding for projects like this. The major projects that have been pulled include training for adult learners and workshops for their tutors. The cuts will affect 6,000 Nova Scotians currently in literacy programs as well as 30 per cent of Nova Scotians who do not have a high school diploma.

So my final question is, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, what have you done to restore the funding that offered a new beginning to 6,000 brave Nova Scotians who were improving their literacy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Education.

HON. KAREN CASEY: Thank you, Mr. Premier, and through the Speaker to the member opposite, we are concerned about the cuts in literacy. We recognize it does not affect the dollars that we have, and through our adult learning initiative $6.6 million will go towards 5,000 adults in this province and we will continue to support those people.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC.: PORK IND. - ASSISTANCE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I was pleased earlier to notice the Minister of Environment and Labour introducing the president of Pork Nova Scotia because they're sitting in the gallery opposite the minister. I was also glad to hear the

[Page 1666]

Minister of Economic Development talk about their support for Bay Ferries, but what we don't hear from this government is that they see agriculture as an important component of economic development in this province. (Applause) The Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Agriculture were both known as promoters of the pork industry when they were backbenchers, but they seem to have grown quite silent when they got to the Cabinet Table.

Pork producers are struggling and they have been for some time, Mr. Speaker. We found out today that they offered a plan to the province in August, to the minister, and still haven't heard of anything. They need help to stabilize their industry. They're seeking transitional short-term funding to keep the current producers in business, with a plan for the long term. So my question for the Premier is, I want to know, how does the Premier intend to help our pork producers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, indeed, I know that the 60 hog producers roughly that we have here in our province do very important work. They provide opportunity in many of our communities across our province. I have had the opportunity to go through plants such as Larsen's and Tony's and I'm very, very impressed with what our hog producers do, and those in the agricultural sector.

I can assure that member that this government takes very seriously the issue of agriculture. The minister has stated that he is reviewing what has been put forward, but we want to ensure that whatever money we invest, whatever investment is made on behalf of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, that we see long-term benefit for the sector, and we will continue to work with our hog producers to ensure that any plans put forward are long term, and to their benefit.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think he'll get any argument from pork producers on what the Premier just said, they want to see a long-term benefit. They want to see that it's in their best interests. They want to see that it's in the best interests of Nova Scotians, and the Premier should recognize when he's touring Larsen's that that plant can keep going with no hogs in Nova Scotia. They can bring hogs anywhere from the country to keep that plant going. So it's not just about those jobs, it's about the jobs created by hog producers in this province.

So there's no evidence that the Premier or the minister, or that Cabinet, has taken this issue seriously. They need an answer. They needed it yesterday. They don't have it. Time is of the essence, Mr. Premier, so tell this House today and tell those members in the gallery, are you going to give them transitional funding?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the acting minister, Mr. Speaker.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, this has been the government that has supported the farming industry extensively over

[Page 1667]

the last six years. (Applause) Specifically, the red meat industry has seen significant investments from this government and certainly if we look at the hog industry specifically, the industry certainly is dealing with some very difficult times in relationship to the price of feed and that's why late last year, this government made sure there was $1.8 million in funding relief and, as well, this year $3.5 million to the industry loan. We will continue to work with this industry and support these hog farmers.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That minister would know that he is going to go down in history as the worst Agriculture Minister this province has ever seen. That's the short version.

Mr. Speaker, Pork Nova Scotia's plan they have made is a Made in Nova Scotia solution to a problem that threatens the November 14, 2006 industry with an economic impact of $100 million on the provincial economy. So, Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the Premier is, why won't you help move this Made in Nova Scotia solution forward?

[1:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As I indicated, this government is committed to working with the hog industry, committed to working with the agriculture sector. We have been a friend of farmers, we have invested heavily in agriculture in the last number of years. We will respond appropriately but we will do so after ensuring that the appropriate discussions and the appropriate review has taken place, to ensure that not only are hog farmers protected in moving forward but that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia are also protected.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

AGRIC.: PORK IND. - LONG-TERM PLAN

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Acting Minister of Agriculture. Last week the Agriculture Minister made it sound like this government has given $10 million to the pork industry when, in fact, they have made available large loans to this industry. By continuing to saddle these producers with more debt, how does this government expect this industry to survive.

My question to the acting minister is, what is your long-term viable plan for this industry?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. As to the previous member's question, this government has supported the hog industry with outright support and with industry loans. They have been critical in ensuring that the hog industry continues to farm and exist here in Nova Scotia. We know there are very difficult

[Page 1668]

situations facing the red meat industry in this province and a long-term strategy and solution, as the Premier said, is the way to go. We are there, prepared to work with the hog farmers in Nova Scotia, to get to that long-term future.

MR. MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My first supplementary is to the Premier. In August, the industry presented the Minister of Agriculture with a solution to this problem. The minister said he would take this issue to Cabinet. It is our understanding that he has done so. My question to the Premier is, why has there been no answer?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, through the previous member who asked the question, we are in the process of not only reviewing what has been put forward but discussing and having discussions with the industry. There is a lot of work to be done on a file like this. If you truly want to see a long-term solution to this issue and a long-term plan put in place, it'll take a great deal of planning, it'll take the appropriate review and the appropriate work, not only for the benefit of our hog producers but also to the benefit of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I, like the member, come from an agricultural area, a community where agriculture is number one. With this government, we will ensure that we take the necessary steps to do all we can to help them succeed in the future.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Premier on the fact that it needs a long-term solution, but three Agriculture Ministers ago who stood in this House have been saying the same thing, long-term viability, long-term viability. Today, in the Standing Committee on Resources, the industry said they needed a response yesterday. So my question to the Premier is, when can they expect an answer?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the appropriate work is being done through the department. The minister stated very clearly that last week the minister has been doing a tremendous amount of work since taking over that portfolio, a portfolio he just started after the June election, but the appropriate steps and the process has to take place. At such time, once that's done, the government will respond.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

JUSTICE: MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMERS - TREATMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be through you to the Minister of Justice. We have been hearing a lot of reports in the news about mental health consumers being brought before the courts instead of being given the treatment they require. The high-profile situation around Jean Roberts led a judge to take the extraordinary step of ordering her into the Minister of Health's care in a very direct way.

[Page 1669]

The sad reality is that the public will never hear about most of these kinds of cases, so they do not understand the prevalence.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, I would ask, why is it that the province is still forcing mental health consumers to go through the courts to get the treatment they need?

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. As he indicated outside this House, our department is presently in the process of looking at other jurisdictions' mental health courts, how it was implemented and how successful it has been. I'm sure the honourable member would agree, there are many partners in a process such as this, so we're going down that road and we're reviewing how we may make our system better.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I heard the minister say something about mental health courts, and he's right that that is clearly one part of the equation. The government has an obligation, of course, to provide the necessary treatment services for mental health consumers so they never reach the courts in the first place. I believe that's a given, but there are and will continue to be situations where these individuals end up before the courts. The province has an obligation to make sure that that process is appropriate to the needs of these individuals. So my question, through you to the minister, is this, we raised this issue with the previous minister in 2004, who undertook to investigate the concept. My question is, what has the department done on this since then?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the member opposite, I can only answer to what the department has done since February. There have been several events since then which have taken a lot of time, but I can assure the honourable member that we are putting every effort into looking at what we can do to make our system better, as I indicated earlier. Again, that requires more than just a simple decision of the department. It involves the judiciary, it involves lawyers, it involves the Public Prosecution Service, it involves probation, it involves looking at other jurisdictions, and what has been successful. We are going to take advantage of that successful process in other jurisdictions and learn from their experience.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the minister is aware that his department wasn't invented in February, and I'm sure he has taken the opportunity to be briefed on what they did prior to his installation as minister. While I was in Newfoundland and Labrador recently, I met with those involved with the mental health court project. They reported very positive results and believe that the model has a lot to recommend itself. It is strongly supported by advocates there, like the Canadian Mental Health Association. So my final question to the minister is this, will the minister commit to establishing a mental health court project in Nova Scotia and to addressing any service gaps to ensure that these individuals get the treatment that they require?

[Page 1670]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I just simply have to say that I thank the honourable Leader of the Opposition for his support of the initiatives that we are undertaking now. Thank you very much for that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

VOLUNTEERISM: CVI CANCELLATION - RESPONSE

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Volunteerism. Recent federal cuts included the cancellation of the Canada Volunteerism Initiative. This short-sighted and unnecessary decision will severely impact on the voluntary sector across Canada, but especially in Nova Scotia. Our province depends on volunteers and their organizations to provide essential programs and services in every community. CVI funding provided a number of benefits for volunteers here in Nova Scotia, including community grants totalling $90,000, as well as networking, training and other opportunities to work together. So I ask the minister, since the federal government views support for volunteerism outside its priorities and as wasteful spending, how is your government going to fill the void created by the loss of CVI?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, we at Health Promotion and Protection, and volunteers in Nova Scotia, believe that CVI has done an excellent job on behalf of all Nova Scotians. The member opposite is right, there are 253,000 volunteers in Nova Scotia providing over $2 billion in economic value to our communities. People helping people. We have already begun the process of working very closely with them to see what we can do at the department to support the initiatives that they have, and will continue to work closely with them in the very near future.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I think CVI and the members of that network are looking for action immediately. I was one of many people who worked very hard to bring CVI to Nova Scotia and this initiative resulted from nearly 10 years of consultation at the national level. I know first-hand how the voluntary sector is currently struggling in Nova Scotia - higher operating costs, lack of adequate core funding, fundraising fatigue, volunteer stress, increased demands for expanded services, liability pressures, and insurance gaps. I ask the minister, what resources are you offering now to help the voluntary sector through these difficult times?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the member earlier, in the early preamble, our department has worked very closely with CVI; in fact I will be meeting with representatives from CVI in the next couple of days to talk specifically about what it is that we can do, but we've already begun the process of finding ways to meet their needs and their objectives through our interdepartmental initiatives, and we will continue to work with them to ensure the good work of the 253,000 Nova Scotians who help all of us, on a day-to-day basis here in Nova Scotia, continues.

[Page 1671]

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, well I'm sure the minister realizes that CVI funding will finish in February of next year, and this funding in the past has enabled the Nova Scotia network to start building, for the first time in our province, a united voice and a connection to work with government on critical risks to the voluntary sector. The network allows 400 groups throughout Nova Scotia to support many of the 253,000 volunteers in this province. So I ask the minister, how will your government enable this Nova Scotia network to continue its role in supporting volunteerism in this province, and will you commit the funds to allow it to continue?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, what I will commit is to do everything we can to ensure that CVI continues to get the level of funding that they had from the Government of Canada. I'll say to the member opposite that I've already written to Minister Oda, on the 27th of October, just two days after the announcement, requesting that they immediately reconsider their decision that they made with respect to the Canada Volunteerism Initiative. More importantly, we're the government that has enabled the first Minister of Volunteerism - I will do everything I can to ensure that we support all 253,000 volunteers here in Nova Scotia, so that we can help people help people here in Nova Scotia. It's an absolutely critical thing that we do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: TRANSPLANTS - WAIT LISTS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minster of Health. Mr. Ed MacDonald is a Cape Bretoner who is facing an all-too-familiar problem, in this province - not being able to get the help he needs from the health care system. Mr. MacDonald was diagnosed with the idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2002, and that requires him to be on oxygen 24 hours a day. The only known treatment for this disease is a lung transplant. Mr. MacDonald and his wife, Georgie, have packed their bags for Toronto, the only place where he can get on the transplant wait list. So my question to the minister is, what is his government going to do about the situation that Mr. MacDonald is now facing, and the situation that many other Nova Scotians find themselves in every day?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the concern that the member has for this particular case, on having to travel outside of Nova Scotia in order to receive certain services. As you know, Capital Health has been working over the last number of months trying to find ways to reinstate certain transplant programs. So I hope that through the next budgeting process and through work with Capital Health that we should be able to reinstate some of these services here in Nova Scotia.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that getting a lung transplant is a very expensive process - the surgery itself is covered. The

[Page 1672]

moving and living expenses of being in Toronto are not; they are, in some other provinces. Mr. MacDonald is also going to have to take anti-infection drugs for three months following his surgery, and that's at a cost of $9,000. All requests by his family to this government to help cover the costs of those drugs have been denied. My question to the minister is, how many more Nova Scotians will have to be in such a desperate situation before this government finally does something to help them?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, of course the member opposite brings up the issue of catastrophic drug and catastrophic drug coverage, one that many jurisdictions in Canada, especially those in the Maritimes, have the difficulty in funding. There has been a tremendous amount of work happening with the National Pharmaceutical Strategy, working with our federal colleagues, working with our provincial colleagues to come up with a program that is equitable to all Canadians.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I can guarantee you those comments are ringing hollow in Mr. MacDonald's ears right now. Mr. MacDonald has been a contributing member to his community and to our province his entire life. He worked for 35 years with the CBC in Cape Breton, relocating to Toronto, and having to cover the current and ongoing costs of the treatment is impossible on his retiree income. His family is raising money the only way they can - fundraisers and charity. Mr. MacDonald's life is now in the hands and hearts of his fellow Nova Scotians. So my final question to the minister is, will the minister help Mr. MacDonald at this, his hour of need?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite did allude to, this government does support the operation and some of the facilities around that operation. We'll continue to work closely with all members of Nova Scotia in order to help them through their tough times.

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

SYDNEY TAR PONDS: COOLING POND CLEANUP -

CONTRACT CANCELLATION

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency. As part of the plan to clean up the tar ponds, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency has mandated that the cooling pond cleanup be done through an Aboriginal set-aside contract. This means that only companies with at least 51 per cent Aboriginal ownership are eligible to do the work.

On July 10th of this year, a successful bidder was selected by the agency to perform the work. However, on August 3rd, the agency told this company that they would

[Page 1673]

not proceed with this award, instead re-tendering it this winter. Will the minister please explain why the agency cancelled the award of the cooling pond cleanup contract?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. There are times when tenders are let and circumstances are such that it is not in the public interests for us to proceed. In this situation, we've deemed it necessary to do a review and, indeed, have taken the decision to re-tender.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, it gets worse. Not only did the agency cancel the contract awarded to Municipal Capital and MB2 Excavating and Construction, but somehow the other bidders have found out how much their successful bid was for. This means that when the next tender is let, all the other bidders will go into it with a distinct advantage over this company. I ask the minister, can he explain how the detailed results of a confidential bidding process was made known to the other companies?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, I thank the honourable member for the question. The circumstances surrounding this contract and the decision not to proceed with the contract were such that we felt it was in the best interests of the public not to proceed, and took that particular decision.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, there's a reason that the tendering process was set up in the first place. It was intended to provide companies with the assurance that a fair and objective process would be used to award contracts - in this case, serious questions remain. So my question to the minister through you, Mr. Speaker, is, will the minister explain how this and other companies can expect fair treatment through the tendering process?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to ensuring that everyone is treated fairly through the tendering process and, indeed, that is part of the reason that the decisions taken with respect to this contract were taken - it was in the interests of fairness for all concerned.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

ENERGY - DEP. MIN.: CONFERENCE CALL - MINUTES TABLE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, we've heard from the National Energy Board that they will not be considering the economic effects to Nova Scotia in their hearings on the proposed bullet pipeline from New Brunswick to the United States. News reports last week indicated that the Deputy Minister of Energy, Alison Scott, told officials and industry representatives during a conference call that the province would support the New Brunswick pipeline - just days before the Minister of Energy said he would oppose the pipeline's application.

[Page 1674]

Mr. Speaker, it leaves us all to wonder exactly what were the directives given to the individuals who intervened on the province's behalf at the NEB hearings. Last Thursday, when asked, the Minister of Energy refused to address the comments made by his deputy minister. So my question today is, will the Minister of Energy table in this House the minutes of the conference call his deputy minister had regarding the proposed New Brunswick pipeline?

HON. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, actually I don't have the minutes of that conversation.

MR. SAMSON: Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, more and more we see the leadership coming from this minister, because it appears that other people have the minutes of this meeting except the Minister of Energy. So it's interesting. The minister said he fully supports his deputy minister last Friday, and yet today he tells us he hasn't even seen the minutes in which he is alleged to have made those comments. So now Nova Scotians see once and for all how much confidence they should have in either the deputy or the Minister of Energy in this case.

Mr. Speaker, the comments made by the deputy minister could potentially put an end to any hopes of LNG projects in this province. The Anadarko project at Point Tupper is at a crucial stage right now where it needs the complete support of this government and the Department of Energy if it's going to have any hopes of becoming a reality. So my question to the minister is, what confidence should Nova Scotians have in your deputy minister in light of her recent comments?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, to the member across the floor, I would suggest to him if he has the minutes of that meeting and if they're authored, for him to present them, table them in the House. Secondly, I have the greatest confidence in our deputy. Later on in the afternoon I had a brief conversation with the deputy and she assured me she had no such conversation. The position of this government is to protect the interests of Nova Scotians and industry in regard to that file and that's what we're doing.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are seeing the impact of high-level Tory patronage in our province. First, it was Heather Foley Melvin at Conserve Nova Scotia after she admitted that she had absolutely no experience in conservation. Now we have the results of the appointment of Alison Scott as Deputy Minister of Energy, a well-known Tory named by John Hamm, even though she had little to absolutely no experience in energy.

Mr. Speaker, the Port Hawkesbury Mayor, Billie Joe MacLean, whom I'm sure the Premier is well aware of, has publicly questioned and criticized the Department of Energy for its lack of leadership, and now we have the deputy minister giving up on our Nova Scotia LNG projects. My final supplementary is, in light of recent events, does the Premier still have confidence in Alison Scott, Deputy Minister of Energy?

[Page 1675]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure this House and all Nova Scotians that this government will stand up for its deputy ministers and CEOs of its agencies. I'm quite prepared to stand here today to speak to someone's credibility, such as Alison Scott. I have full confidence in her ability in running that department.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

HEALTH PROM. & PROTECTION - OSTEOPOROSIS:

FRACTURES - PREVENTION

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. One in three women and one in five men will suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis during their lifetime. Typical types of fractures include wrist, spine and hip. These can have devastating effects on quality of life, and need hospital and nursing home facilities for treatment. There were 699 hip fractures in Nova Scotia last year. The cost of these exceeds $15 million per year. My question to the minister is, why is your government not doing more to prevent fractures related to osteoporosis?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, in fact, we have an Injury Prevention Strategy in Nova Scotia, the first one in the country, I would say. We work very closely with the health care providers, the Department of Health, to ensure that Nova Scotians have the kind of safe environment that they expect and deserve.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, in some areas of Nova Scotia, people are waiting up to 441 days before bone density testing. Others are not being tested at all, because the closest testing unit is too far away from their homes. The cost for fracture treatment, and hospital/ nursing home stays for patients run in the millions. Many of these factures are preventable with early bone density testing and appropriate treatment. My question is, why is your department not saving the Department of Health millions of dollars annually by funding bone density units and treating osteoporosis before fractures occur?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite would know, or should know, that our department doesn't provide health care services. We are the Department of Health Promotion and Protection, and that's why we have invested in the Injury Prevention Strategy, the first of its kind in this country. We're very proud of that. I will work closely with the Minister of Health to ensure that our province, the people of Nova Scotia, becomes the healthiest province in this country.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, I'll direct this question to the Minister of Health. Access to specialized health care services in rural areas is poor at best. The wait times for bone density testing means that osteoporosis is under-diagnosed and under-treated. This means that more fractures occur, leading to increased demands and costs on our health care system. My question to the minister is, what is your plan for increasing the number of bone density testing units in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1676]

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I was very happy to attend a breakfast this morning put on by the osteoporosis association, bringing these facts forward. I want to thank all members of this House who had the opportunity to have breakfast with that group to bring information forward. I was very happy that they did speak of the things that were happening, that are happening in this province when it comes to osteoporosis. I can say that we do recognize that there is a need for bone density machines across this province. It is something that we'll be looking at through the 2007-08 planning process. I'll also say that we do have shorter wait times in Truro and in Yarmouth for those individuals who might be able to travel to those areas.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

FISH. & AQUACULTURE: FARM EXPANSION

(PORT MOUTON) - OPPOSE

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. The vocal opposition to the fish farm expansion proposed for Port Mouton Bay continues to grow. The community has formed an organization, has held numerous meetings, and has collected well over 1,800 signatures with the aim of saving Port Mouton. At a recent presentation, the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture described aquaculture as a natural fit for the South Shore, but the people who live in and around Port Mouton Bay strongly disagree. My question is, why won't this minister listen to the people and deny the application to expand this operation?

HON. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I've had a lot of correspondence from the people in that area in the last while. I have also had some correspondence from people who are in favour of that project. There are 10 different government agencies, provincial and federal, that are reviewing that application, and when all of the review is completed, we will be making a decision at that time.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, after tabling a petition with well over 1,800 names, I have heard very little support for this in my home communities. A 70-acre expansion in Port Mouton Bay will just not work for this community. Port Mouton Bay already has protected beaches, a thriving lobster fishery and this area attracts many tourists each year. If allowed to expand this operation, there is a direct threat to destroy what is already thriving, a centre of activity on the South Shore.

My question is, why won't this minister listen to the larger community and stop this proposed expansion?

[1:30 p.m.]

[Page 1677]

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I feel we're doing the right thing, as far as any aquaculture project goes in the province. As I said in my first answer, we have 10 different federal-provincial agencies that assess this application. When that assessment is completed, we will make our decisions and contacting the community as well.

MS. CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the residents in my communities do not have faith in the review process. The environmental regulations for fish farming are just not convincing enough for members of my community. I attended the presentation your department gave to the Region of Queens, and last evening I attended an open house provided by Aqua Fish Farms. I can tell you that the residents were telling me after that meeting that this still has not convinced them that this is the right thing for Port Mouton.

Tomorrow night the Friends of Port Mouton are holding a public meeting and we will hear from Inka Milewski, Science Advisor for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick, and to make sure that the minister has listened to and considered all sides of the debate, will he accept my invitation and attend tomorrow night's meeting? The drive is included. (Interruptions)

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hope my wife is not watching the proceedings of this debate. Anyway, I will check what I'm doing tomorrow evening and I will let the member know later. I'm not sure I'm available but if I am, I will.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC.: LITERACY PROGS. - FUNDING

MR. LEO GLAVINE: My question, Mr. Speaker, is for the Minister of Education. Last week the Minister of Education was unable to commit to this House and to the people of Nova Scotia the survival and continuation of the Tuition Support Program. What is more troublesome is this government's lack of leadership and its inability to lobby effectively for the interests of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia's literacy programs are no exception.

On November 1, 2006, the Government of P.E.I .announced new federal funding for the Literacy Alliance Program. P.E.I.'s Literacy Alliance will now receive $275,000 in funding over the next two years; however, funding for Nova Scotia's literacy programs has not been restored. My question to the minister is, why is this government unable to secure federal funding for Nova Scotia's literacy programs?

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, if we recall, the literacy funding was to community projects. It was not to school boards, it was not to the Department of Education. We regret that, it's not something that we're

[Page 1678]

happy about and, because of that, we have, as our Premier has said, written to Ottawa requesting that that be reinstated.

I had an opportunity in Ottawa myself to make that request, but in the meantime I would like to recognize the fact that we have put additional dollars into our budget. We are servicing 5,000 adults with our literacy program and we will continue to try to meet the need, in spite of that decline. Thank you.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's literacy programs are fundamental to many Nova Scotians who wish to better themselves and gain the tools necessary to do so. It seems as though this government is not committed to helping Nova Scotians achieve their goals. The federal government initially slashed $100,000 of Literacy Alliance's $140,000 budget; however, successful lobbying and pressure by the P.E.I. government resulted in the renewed funding for the program.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of P.E.I. did the right thing and lobbied successfully for literacy program funding. It's time for this government to do the right thing and lobby for the people of Nova Scotia. However, my question to the minister is, is this government prepared to go it alone and fund the province's literacy programs without federal funding?

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the member opposite that we have begun a process and we would hope the results of that lobbying will be as successful as he references in Prince Edward Island.

In the meantime, we have a commitment of $6.6 million in our budget and we will do what we can within our fiscal means to provide literacy support.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, when will this government finally stop making excuses and fight for the people of the province? We know this government has a track record of failure recently so literacy cuts should come as no surprise. First, there was a trip to Ottawa to lobby the federal government over equalization - no deal. Secondly, there was the $400 million request for the Atlantic Gateway - no deal.

Now, this government is going to leave literacy programs by the wayside. It is time this government put the people of Nova Scotia first. My question is to the Premier, what are you doing to secure a P.E.I.-style deal for our province where 36 per cent of the adult population has literacy problems?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, let's look back in time, not too long ago when the Liberal Party would have settled for $640 million from the offshore core - I'm not even sure it was that. This government, under the leadership of my predecessor, John Hamm, was able to get $830 million. That's the difference between this side and that side. (Applause)

[Page 1679]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW: OVERPASS SAFETY- TESTING

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. On September 30th of this year, a tragic overpass collapse in Quebec killed five people and left six others injured. A bridge that should have lasted for 75 years fell before half that time and a public inquiry will determine what went wrong and who is responsible.

Today there are many concrete testing techniques available, such as laser scanning, ground penetrating radar and even remote sensors. My question to the minister is, what testing has the Department of Transportation carried out on our overpasses since September 30th to provide assurances to the public that Nova Scotia's structures are safe?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have, as the honourable member knows, a regime whereby we do an inspection of all structures in this province on a continuous basis. I should, for the sake of the memory of the honourable member, remind him and everybody in the House that we've already indicated there is only one such structure in the Province of Nova Scotia that is similar to the one referenced in the Province of Quebec. That structure was initially examined carefully by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, but we also went beyond that and hired the services of SNC- Lavalin Inc. - I forget the exact initials - and I anticipate receiving their report in December with respect to that structure.

Everything to date indicates that structure is quite secure and we will confirm when we hear the results in December.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, one of the overpasses that is in poor condition in this province is on the West River East Side Road overpass on the Trans Canada Highway at Salt Springs in Pictou County. This structure was damaged by a large truck carrying forestry equipment almost two years ago. Traffic there is restricted to one lane on the overhead road and the rusty steel cables are exposed where the concrete has crumbled. It certainly raises safety questions. If one lane of the structure is unsafe, is the whole structure unsafe? My question is, if this overpass is unsafe, why is the department taking so long to repair it?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, we do regularly inspect all structures and in particular, ones that are brought to us as being issues. The one to which he refers is monitored continuously by the department and as resources become available, it will be addressed.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, bridges are like people, they have a certain life span and not all will survive their useful life. Thorough testing of structures is paramount as

[Page 1680]

some of our structures in this province are over 100 years old and, by the department's own estimate, Nova Scotia has a $560 million bridge deficit. So in light of this deficit, can the minister tell this House when the province might get caught up on the overpass and bridge repairs?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as a result of the annual evaluation that we do to all of our structures, those that are most in need of attention and repair and replacement are addressed as the priorities present themselves. We're quite confident that we're meeting those priorities. Now, that's not to say that we don't have a great deal of work to do beyond that but the priorities, with respect to safety, are being addressed on a continuing basis.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

TPW: SECONDARY ROADS - SIGNAGE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a letter that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works responded to the HRM about inappropriate signs on a portion of Nova Scotian roads. There is a current review underway and the key paragraph, the minister writes, is that with the review underway, until the review is complete, the department will remove advertising signs on secondary roads that interfere with regulatory signage. Based upon that letter, I would like the minister to explain why there are more than 90 signs within walking distance of the Department of Transportation and Public Works on the Prospect Road that have not been removed?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I realize that time is not going to permit me to provide an extensive answer to the honourable member's question. When you go and ask about an area along Prospect Road, without having had the opportunity to drive it and observe it, it becomes very difficult to provide an answer which would give the honourable member the level of satisfaction that he would seek in this House.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

[Page 1681]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 91.

Bill No. 91 - Trade Union Act.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise in my place in the House today to move this bill for second reading. An Act to Amend Chapter 475 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Trade Union Act.

Mr. Speaker, what this bill does is replace the right to strike of full-time firefighters with interest arbitration. I'm not going to speak very long on this bill today because I think the bill is self evident and I think that bill itself speaks for itself, but there are a couple of comments I would like to make. First of all, in my previous life as Mayor of Sydney for many years, from time to time, I would find myself deeply troubled by the fact that my fire department and my police department, at that time, could possibly entertain a resolution to go on strike because of a breakdown in communications between management and those two particular unions.

Now, at that time, I was more concerned about the safety of the citizens of Sydney than I was about the two unions I mentioned. In talking to some of the union people at that time, both the police and the firefighters, it was evident that most people I talked to wanted the right to strike replaced with compulsory arbitration and that was some 14 years ago, or further back than that. I don't think at that time the time was right. It was a difficult situation for some of the members of both of those bargaining units to sell to their unions, or to some of their fellow members. But things have changed, and I consider that the role of a firefighter in our community is an essential one and I think most Nova Scotians would agree with that, if not all Nova Scotians.

I believe the firefighters feel that their role is a role of duty, a duty to their employer but also a duty to protect the citizens of the municipality that they represent. Mr. Speaker, the last thing on their minds would be the entertaining of a possible strike action to achieve their goals, financial goals or working condition goals, in the municipality. Rather, I feel that the firefighters would love to set that aside and worry about their duty to the citizens of Sydney and not have to be in a position to perhaps strike to achieve justice.

[1:45 p.m.]

[Page 1682]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that firefighters are professionals in every sense of the word and should be treated as professionals by their employer, whomever that may be throughout Nova Scotia. I believe firefighters are fair people. They know that there are limitations to what they should expect from an employer, but I believe, again, and I'll refer back to this again, they are more concerned with their duty to their fellow citizens and to maintaining a situation where the citizens of a municipality can go to bed every night knowing there are firefighters on duty.

Mr. Speaker, I'll just refer back to the police department for a moment, that situation is taken care of in the CBRM. I'll go back to a situation when I was mayor, the police department did have a strike situation in the City of Sydney. They did not want to be out on the street at that time, but they were forced out by a lack of the ability to settle at the bargaining table. The strike action was there for them, and it was a pretty tense situation in the municipality that I was mayor in at that time. Thank heavens we resolved it very quickly.

I would hate to see a situation where a breakdown in communications between the professional firefighters and their employer, whoever that is throughout the province, would necessitate a strike. I don't think it's necessary, Mr. Speaker. I don't think it belongs in any sense of the word as any part of the negotiation process any more with professional firefighters who I believe provide a very essential service in our municipality, and I believe attach a sense of duty to that role that's very seldom seen in a lot of other jurisdictions.

I can tell you that in knowing these people, knowing them personally, knowing the role they perform throughout Nova Scotia, not only in my own municipality, I'm pleased to be able to stand here today. Mr. Speaker, it's as a result of those union members, the International Association of Firefighters, wanting this legislation themselves.

Mr. Speaker, this is the essence of democracy. Here we have people who want the legislation changed, so they can get on with performing their duty to their municipality without having to worry about a possible lockout or a possible strike action at any given time. We have to keep in mind that these ladies and gentlemen who work in the fire service want this legislation through themselves. It's on that basis, and a personal feeling of mine, that it's time that this bill came before this House. Having said that, I would hope that this bill will swiftly move on to the Law Amendments Committee and be approved at the Law Amendments Committee and sent back to this House for final approval and law.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion and Protection.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak long about this bill. I want to thank the member opposite for bringing this bill forward to allow us an

[Page 1683]

opportunity to at least debate this and to move it through the House through the regular process. I will say that I believe strongly that no firefighter would like to take the opportunity to be on strike. They always want to be doing the work they do. In all of our communities, we value the services of the firefighters. I know that as a citizen of this province and as a citizen of the Halifax Regional Municipality, in my lifetime I've had two occasions to have to call on the services of the fire department. Both were at times in my life when we needed them the very most. Certainly, any opportunity we can take as legislators to ensure that the services they provide are there for the communities and the families they protect is a good thing.

I thank the firefighters for bringing this initiative to government and to the House of Assembly. I believe that all legislators want to see good legislation passed through this House, but particularly legislation that ensures that a desperately-needed, vital service to Nova Scotians continues and a process is put in place that sees firefighters treated in a fair and reasonable way. I can tell you that my constituents, in those cases where we've been in situations where we've been negotiating on services like fire services, have always expressed to me the concern that the services be provided to their residents in a consistent way.

So I thank the firefighters here today who have brought this matter to the attention of the House. I thank the member opposite who tabled this bill and with that, I look forward to seeing this bill move through the process of this House and on to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I'm very pleased, as the Labour Critic in the NDP caucus, to have an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 91. All members of our caucus are in full support of the fire departments across the province. I represent a constituency where many of my neighbours are in the regional fire department and thanks to one of them, my sidewalks are mysteriously always done when I get up in the morning after a snowstorm. So I fully appreciate not just having fire department members in terms of the essential services they provide but some of the little perks, the benefits of having firemen as neighbours. I have to tell you it has really been quite wonderful, in my experience.

Mr. Speaker, as we are all aware, this is a Private Member's Bill that is being brought forward by a member of the Liberal caucus, the member for Cape Breton South. I believe that the calling of this bill today, during Government Business, signifies that this bill has the support of the government. Certainly, it's the position of the NDP caucus that we support this bill going forward to the Law Amendments Committee and we look forward to hearing the views of all the interested parties at the Law Amendments Committee as this bill proceeds through the House.

[Page 1684]

So, Mr. Speaker, as the member for Cape Breton South said in introducing the bill, the features of this bill are self-evident. It's a bill that speaks for itself and the member has spoken to the motivation underpinning this bill, which is certainly motivation that we fully understand in our caucus. With that, I look forward to seeing this bill move along quickly through this process. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member it will be to close the debate.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I want to thank members of the government and the NDP for their interventions on this particular bill. I'm pleased to move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 91, the Trade Union Act.

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

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Public Bills for Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 87.

Bill No. 87 - Consumer Protection Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I'm rising for second reading of the amendments to the Consumer Protection Act concerning payday lenders and the authority and powers of the Registrar of Credit. The Consumer Protection Act regulates the terms and conditions for issuing consumer loans, and each province and

[Page 1685]

territory has similar legislation. Now while consumer protection legislation is not new, business practices evolve requiring legislation to be strengthened. It's important that our Act be amended so it can effectively regulate the companies that make short-term loans and provide greater protection to people who need to borrow from them.

The financial services industry changed with the emergence of lenders issuing short-term loans. They've become known as payday loans, and a payday loan, for the benefit of the House, is typically for a few hundred dollars and has a term from one to four weeks. Lenders usually charge a series of fees in addition to the interest rate and these fees make the cost of borrowing these payday loans quite often very high when compared to conventional loans.

Mr. Speaker, over the past several years, a federal-provincial-territorial working group has developed a legislative framework for provinces and territories to use when drafting legislative amendments concerning payday lenders. The bill I am speaking on today is consistent with that framework. The fees associated with payday loans often generate, when calculated on an annual basis, a cost of borrowing in excess of the interest rates set under the Criminal Code of Canada's Section 347. On October 6, 2006, Bill C-26 was introduced in the House of Commons to provide an exemption for payday lenders in provinces that had legislative measures in place to regulate payday lenders. Our bill is intended to meet the requirement for the exemption that will be allowed when Bill C-26 passes.

Mr. Speaker, Manitoba has already introduced a bill to amend their consumer protection legislation to regulate the payday lenders. The bill being presented today is consistent with their legislation. Other provinces are expected to introduce similar legislation in the coming months. The amendments proposed in today's bill concerning business practices and borrowers' rights will apply only to payday lenders and payday loans as defined in the federal Bill C-26. The amendments concerning the powers and authority of the register of credit will apply to all lenders.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendments that govern payday lenders can be categorized into four areas: first, permitting of payday lenders; secondly, cost of borrowing; thirdly, obligations of payday lenders; and fourth, the rights of borrowers. Looking first at the powers and the authority are turning now to the powers and authority of the registrar of credit, today's bill also contains amendments that clarify the authority and powers of the registrar of credit to a minister and enforce the Act and its regulations.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, under the proposed legislation the registrar will have the power to impose terms and conditions for issuance, renewal, reinstatement and maintenance of a permit for any lender, including payday lenders. Also, the registrar will have the authority to compel lenders to refund monies ordered to borrowers where warranted. The current language of the Consumer Protection Act implies that the registrar of credit does have these powers but does not explicitly state them. Recently,

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a decision of the registrar was appealed to the courts based on this lack of explicit authority in the Act. The proposed amendments will eliminate any similar appeals in the future.

The Utility and Review Board has been designated to determine the maximum interest and fees payday lenders can charge. The amendments in today's bill represent a significant improvement in the regulation of payday lenders. Both the lenders and the borrowers will receive greater clarity and consistency from these regulations. As well, these amendments will provide a level playing field for all payday lenders in Nova Scotia by creating a consistent set of rules for operation. Payday lenders will have greater certainty about the regulatory system and will know what is expected of them to comply with the Act and regulations.

The consumer will benefit from the increased disclosure requirements and the requirement to display fee and rate schedules, which will allow consumers to make more informed decisions. The cooling off period will allow borrowers to rethink a decision and correct it if they change their mind, and what this means in the legislation is that borrowers have until the close of business the following day to end the contract without penalty. Allowing the borrower to cancel a payday loan at no cost if the lender doesn't disclose the borrower's right to cancel, should act as an incentive for the lender to ensure they do inform the borrower properly. Consumers will now be protected from being overcharged or facing the unexpected costs.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I will move second reading of Bill No. 87, the Consumer Protection Act.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

MR. PERCY PARIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise with respect to Bill No. 87 with some mixed feelings. I certainly want to acknowledge the minister and his department for recognizing the need for payday lenders to have some sort of regulation in the Province of Nova Scotia. Obviously, similar to other parts of Canada, there is a demand for the services of payday loans. That, in itself, indicates a need for protective measures as far as the consuming public is concerned.

In the case of the majority of payday loan customers, I don't know the statistical demographics of who supports and who caters to payday loan companies, but I would suspect they don't resemble myself or you, Mr. Speaker. The demographic does probably resemble some of those that are in financial need at a time in their life before they get that next paycheque for some immediate financial relief. I would think that these individuals place themselves at some risk, at some hardship with respect to having - I'm

[Page 1687]

certainly not going to judge them - but in their own minds they've come to the conclusion that they have to visit a payday loan vendor.

I would even go further to suggest that to a large degree - and again, I have no statistical data to support this - but I would suspect to a large degree, even these individuals from our society that are going to the payday loans, are the ones that probably can ill-afford it the most with the high interest rates and the existing terms.

I also see that they've probably met some bumps in their lives or there could be some sort of hiccup in their life, an immediate one that would force them to seek out this financial relief that payday loans do offer. I see Bill No.87 as a necessary first step and I want to reiterate and stress, I see it as a first step whereas consumers need to be protected from offensive interest rates and rollover hardships.

Not only do I see this as beneficial to the consumers, but I also think that from the area of protection for those payday loan companies that are existing, that they would want some sort of regulatory policies and procedures in place because it would protect them from the fly-in, fly-by-night organizations and groups that are going to pop up, and I think that have been popping up all over the country. It gives the payday loan lenders, hopefully, some added credibility, some responsibility and it would re-establish them on some moral higher ground than what they stand on now.

We can't ignore the increasing demands. It's my understanding from statistics that payday loans are popping up at, I guess to me, an alarming rate, not only here in Nova Scotia but right across the country. Government will see this, and I think that government recognizes this and is seeing this bill as a way of - I almost hate to use the word - control, having some sort of regulatory, and I will use the word control, over payday lenders, and also at the same time providing some protection to the consumers. Again, I've already mentioned the first step in the process, and I think we haven't hit the home run yet with respect to this bill, but certainly we've gone more than just being up at bat.

This bill will provide some accountability and responsibility on the part of the lenders. I'd recognize for the most part payday loan lenders, I think, are professionals. I'd like to think they are ethical. This bill only further enhances and reinforces the ground of moral obligation that we would want companies that reside here and take up residence here in Nova Scotia that will aspire to and reach for. It is probably with those things in mind, both from the consumer perspective and also from the business end of things that, again, I see this as not the home run but an important first step.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to rise today and speak on second reading on this payday loans bill which is before; I believe it's Bill No. 89. The

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concern we have is certainly for consumer protection, and it's for people who are really vulnerable in our society who don't have enough money to go from paycheque to paycheque. They don't even make it to the next paycheque. We often say, many people live paycheque to paycheque. When you see where the payday loan operators are, where those businesses have sprung up - as we know they've sprung up and have become a huge industry in about the last 10 years - they're generally in areas where people are more vulnerable, where they have less economic advantage and so on.

So our concern would be, Mr. Speaker, that those people who need to depend on this service, and it is, in fact, very important to a lot of them in order to survive, that they be given the best information, that there be clarity around what the costs are when they seek this service and are able to get these small loans advanced to them, and that the industry not be taking advantage of people who may not have the financial sophistication of others, may not know about the interest rates and so on that are being charged.

Really, the bill itself is the right thing to be doing. It coincides with legislation across Canada, which is in tune with some legislation federally that, I believe, had to change. The reason being that these loans are for such a short period of time that when you looked at their annualized interest rates, they were above the rate that was allowed under federal legislation. I guess it would be called usury or outrageous interest rates, which another financial institution would not be allowed to charge if you were taking out a loan. The reason for this is that these were not being called interest charges, they were fees, essentially, for the service of offering a short-term loan.

The federal government has adjusted their legislation, and now individual provinces are coming in line and trying to adjust to that situation and really recognize - I would say, fundamentally recognize the need for this industry that has sprung up, and that it is unique from other financial institutions. I think the key thing here - there are a couple of key points in the legislation, but number one - is there's now going to be no rollover loans allowed. Rollover loans are where you've taken a loan based on your next paycheque that you were to pay back within a couple of weeks' time, but, in fact, you're not able to pay it off so an extra charge is added on and we roll it over for another two-week or three-week period. That was a way that people were getting hopelessly behind, because the fees each time it rolled over were greater. What was intended to be just a short-term loan ends up becoming a much longer term, and the costs rise exponentially.

For that reason, Mr. Speaker, that was very damaging to people; as I say, the people who are needing to turn to these very short-term loans in order to make it to the next payday. I think the fact that those will now be prohibited is a big improvement, because, really, when the industry is operating as it should, it's just a way of lending money for a short period and being able to pay it back when you get paid. There shouldn't be extended periods of time, and that's also being covered in this legislation.

[Page 1689]

I think, overall, our major concern is that there be very good explanations and advertising of the information about what these loans are costing you. Mr. Speaker, I believe that will be covered in the bill, so anybody who is legitimately having one of these businesses and - as I say, there are something like 800 in Canada, there's a good number of these that are in business, and I think the vast majority are ethical, and they care greatly about the people they are there to help. So what we want to ensure is that all of them adhere to a high standard of conduct. In fact, it's interesting to note that there is an association, a national association of payday loan companies. They have done just that, in terms of trying to increase the professionalism and code of conduct for all of their members. The majority of companies that are in this business are, in fact, members of the national association, although not all of them, but the majority are.

For this reason, I think even among the industry itself, they are making every effort to set a high standard and ensure that their members behave in a way that will support communities and not cause problems that would leave people like ourselves in the Legislature to need to step in and make rules that would have to guide their behaviour. They would like to do it themselves, voluntarily, and set a high standard. A lot of the changes that are proposed in this legislation, I believe come from the code of conduct and ethics that the industry itself has laid out. So, in fact, they're providing some of the guidance themselves, and they are not in any way opposed to stricter regulations on the entire industry. That is because they, themselves, realize the future of their businesses depends upon society as a whole being comfortable with the service they're providing, and understanding that they are acting in the best way possible in protecting the people, as well, who are their customers.

I think the fact that we're now eliminating the rollover of loans and ensuring that there is very clear advertising at the point of sale, so to speak, at the offices themselves that will explain very clearly to any potential customer what the cost is, I believe those things will protect customers, the consumers in this case.

Mr. Speaker, with that being said, we look forward to seeing if there are any speakers who come to the Law Amendments Committee on this bill, and we certainly are, at this point, very supportive of the fact that it is lining us up with other provinces, aligning us properly with the federal government. I believe, overall, it will provide greater protection to consumers. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I take great interest in having this bill come forward today for second reading. I want to thank the minister responsible and the government for attempting to address a very, very important and crucial situation right across Canada.

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I'm going to table a document from the Canadian Payday Loan Association, but before I do so I just want to read a quick quote as to what actually a payday loan in their terms means. "A payday loan is an unsecured short-term loan to meet unexpected cash needs. Payday loans are for occasional use only and should not be used to cover continual shortfalls in a person's budgetary requirements. People who are having ongoing problems meeting their financial obligations should be consulting credit counsellors." I'll table that.

This bill, as has been mentioned, goes a long way in accordance with much legislation that is taking place across Canada, that will come in line with the bill that's currently before Parliament. I think it's important to understand that. Mr. Speaker, I think the fact that actually over 1,400 of these payday loan establishment are in place across Canada. I think in saying that, looking at the business aspect of it, I have to ask myself why, why have we seen such an influx of these payday loan businesses not just across Canada, but particularly in this province.

I'm quite alarmed by it, Mr. Speaker, because in the constituency I represent, there is a great divide between the well-to-do and the not so well-to-do. As my honourable colleague, the member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, stated, he doesn't have the stats or the demographics as to who uses these, but I have done some research and I've visited many of these locations inquiring as to the process that someone would have to go though to apply for loans. I've spoken with many people who do indeed use the financial institution or measure of getting through.

I believe the demographic that is being poisoned by this institution, or a form of lending right now, Mr. Speaker, is the working poor, those who work paycheque to paycheque, an even larger number surfacing in our province now. Fifty per cent of this province earns less than $25,000 a year, Mr. Speaker, and those are the ones who find themselves in need or unable to go to a bank for a small interest loan. Actually when we talk about the mainstream financial institutions, they can't compete with these payday loans people. I stand here today in my place because I'm concerned about not just the processes that these lenders take, but those people and the protections that are in place for them to use when they find themselves in need.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will look at - I want to go through the steps, as was told to me many times by several constituents, how they've gone about getting one of these payday loans, the process, once you walk through the doors, what they actually go through and what's required of them. What happens is you walk in, you deal with a teller. The teller asks for certain information and I'm going to table, again from another payday loan institution, another document.

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This is how they consider whether or not you qualify: "All you need to qualify is a steady source of income (from employment) and a personal chequing account, and you can get an advance of up to 50 % of your net pay . . . all you have to do is bring in a personal cheque, your most recent pay stub and your updated bank statement, and valid photo ID . . ." I will table that.

Now, I can tell you that it all sounds great and with this legislation I believe it's going to lessen the numbers because I think really that's what the industry wants, or the industry leaders. The larger organizations that are offering these payday loan services, they are pulling for legislation, Mr. Speaker, because what they want is the smaller institutions out of the way. I can tell you right now, I can walk down Wyse Road in Dartmouth North and I can see on one side of the street an industry leader, let's say, a payday loan industry leader. I can go across the street to the local shopping centre and I can see a not-so-formidable leading institution leader in the payday loan business.

The difference, Mr. Speaker, is that the smaller person, or the smaller individual, who has sought out this opportunity to benefit or extend this service to the consumer doesn't have the same set of values. They don't play by the same guidelines or have the same rules in place and that's unfortunate because I will tell you what happens to people who use these payday loan companies. It's not cheque to cheque. An individual can go in and apply for the loan. They receive the loan and in two weeks time, or a month's time, they end up going in to pay off their loan.

The problem is, Mr. Speaker - due to the interest rates and no matter what interest rate the URB sets for them - those individuals who seek out this service are now short on their paycheque. In many cases, and in most of the cases that I've dealt with, the individuals whom I've spoken to, usually what happens is they end up, the day they pay, borrowing again from that payday loan individual. I'll go back to some of the brochures that I've read and some of the individuals who operate in the industry, I can tell you that there are guidelines that state they want payday loan lenders, if you default on a loan twice in a year, they will recommend seeking counselling.

Well, this is great but, Mr. Speaker, I have a bigger problem with somebody who is continuously using this service. I'll go back to the document that I first tabled from the Payday Loan Association that stated it is a short-term loan for short-time, chaotic situations you are dealing with that come about, and not a continuous form of borrowing which a lot of individuals who seek out this service find themselves doing.

So I guess that looking at the legislation it is a wonderful step, it is a positive step, but is it all we can do? I think we are keeping in line with what is going across Canada right now and what is being formed in Parliament, but I think we can do more, Mr. Speaker. We have to do more, not just to make sure that these payday loan lenders are in line, but we need more protections for the consumer against themselves.

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It is not just the working poor who are using this service. I know many, many constituents of mine who are on disability pensions, old age pensions, who now seek out this service. Due to the rising costs of everyday living, Mr. Speaker, they find themselves short even at the end of the month when that comes in, when that senior receives their cheque, that money is usually gone within a week and if they are not seeking out the services of the food bank, they are seeking out the services of these payday loan lenders.

Mr. Speaker, again, the following month when that cheque comes in, that individual walks into that payday loan lender and they pay off that loan, but guess what? They are repeating that cycle, and that is what is scary. I am telling you right now, when you owe someone, when someone is breathing down your neck, it is not a good feeling, especially for our aging population who are increasingly using this service.

How do you break the cycle? How do you break the cycle? Are we going to rely on the payday lenders to educate people to stop them from having that second consecutive loan as we would hope? When an individual goes in on a continuous basis, Mr. Speaker, that is telling me that this person has a problem, that this person isn't budgeting their funds, that this person should seek counselling. Right now I can tell you that across the industry, I don't believe that is happening. I think an amendment could be brought forth, or should be brought forth again - that is just one step we can take to further protect the consumer.

I want to touch on families right now. A lot of families have been affected over the years by addictions to alcohol and gambling, and to those who deal with these addictions on a daily basis, I think I am stepping out on a limb, and I may be a little harsh, but I believe that the payday loan lender situation is the crack cocaine for the working poor. When I say that, a lot of times what happens, the number one cause, or a big contributing factor in marital breakups and family disputes and relationships is financial. A lot of situations I have had to deal with or have come in contact with, a certain member of the family goes out and borrows money from a payday loan. The following week they pay it off, their paycheque is short, Mr. Speaker. There are bills to be paid. The other member in that relationship finds out and it doesn't settle too well.

So we have a huge issue - and without citing names, I have come in contact with and I am in contact with one of these lending institutions. Right now I am awaiting a visit by a regional manager for the Maritimes to rectify a situation that went wrong. A gentleman who was on a military pension had been left on his own, his wife went off for a weekend away and he sought a payday loan advance because he didn't want to be home without money. He was dealing with depression, whatever, he goes out and gets the loan, Mr. Speaker, and in a week's time when his wife comes back, there's a barrage of anger. There is a barrage of verbal slings from the wife to the husband, and the wife saying how can you do this, these people are vultures. The husband tries to explain to

[Page 1693]

the wife he needed money, he needed food - I had to have something in the House, I was lonely, I was depressed.

I can tell you what happened, Mr. Speaker, the wife went to the payday loan lender, paid it off, which some payday loan outfits do. They will allow you a certain fee if you are able to pay it off before the date is due. To those who can afford it, for those who can afford it, it is a minimal amount of money. It's logical, Mr. Speaker, but what's not logical is that most people who are using these services aren't able to come up with that money beforehand. They are, indeed, waiting for their day that they get paid to go in and pay and then borrow again.

This particular case, the individual went in and paid off that loan early, and then was told there's an additional fee if she wanted the cheque back. An additional fee to have the cheque that was post-dated. Now she's paid off the loan, I don't understand where the additional fee came in. Therein lies the problem with some of these institutions. Where I became involved was because of the research that I've done, and knowing that some of these institutions actually charge a minimal fee of $4 to $6, let's say, if you indeed pay off early.

This particular payday loan lender took advantage of the individual. She went in and, of course, she was in a rage, she was frustrated, never lend to my husband again, I don't want to ever see you do this to my husband again. Mr. Speaker, these people took advantage of this lady, because she indeed paid off this loan six days early. When I meet with the regional general manager, it's not to see or understand or better understand his operations, I want that money back for those people. This institution, I won't even call it an institution, because these payday loan individuals are taking advantage. They aren't providing a service, this is not a service that Nova Scotians should have or people across this country should need to seek out.

I'll tell you something else, Mr. Speaker, something else that bothers me, when you get caught up in the cycle of using payday loans and that cheque goes through to your bank account, the bank now knows what borrowing habits you've been doing. When an individual who has a regular job but who is continuously, on a biweekly basis or a monthly basis, using this service and those cheques get processed and sent through his account, and if that gentleman or that lady needs a loan for a vehicle, needs a mortgage on their home, seeks out advice for tuition, their standard financial institution, recognized financial institution, now knows - as all know, they know where our money goes and how we spend it, one click of the button, they now know - that that individual has unsavoury borrowing habits. Can't help you.

Something catastrophic happens, you have to go to the bank for a loan, be it medical costs, be it vehicle damage, you need repairs on your car, and you go to the bank, and the bank says, well, you know what, it's fine, we'd love to do this, but let me

[Page 1694]

ask you about this, I see a trend here, every two weeks there's this cheque going through, and they know where it's coming from, Mr. Speaker.

There's an alarming number of people - if we could possibly do it, and I don't know if we can, Mr. Speaker, we have to honestly ask ourselves, why did payday loan institutions come to Nova Scotia? Why? Because 50 per cent of the province makes less than $25,000. Standard of living. People are in a pinch and these lending institutions are predatory. The brochures, when you go into these institutions and I've polled many of them, some of them aren't even written in both languages. Over the last few weeks in this House we've talked about literacy, we've seen the federal cuts to literacy, adult literacy, those people who could use these services.

I have to question these payday lenders, and the people who work for them. Are they prepared to go through an application and actually word for word spend time and make sure that that person who is borrowing that money fully understands the repercussions of the step that they just took? Mr. Speaker, if we could legislate that, I would feel more secure.

Mr. Speaker, again, I'm not here today standing in my place in favour of any of these lending institutions. Again, I'll say, it's the crack cocaine for the working poor, not just the working poor, but seniors who are constantly in a pinch at the end of every month. When that cheque comes in, it's gone - over 1,400. Is this legislation going to rid us, rid our societies, rid our provinces of some of them? Yes, it will, absolutely, because, the small guy in the pinch, the vulture that sought to take advantage of an industry that was blossoming, growing at rapid rates, because people across this country and across this province needed that extra little bit to get by, those are going to go, without a question.

[2:30 p.m.]

The faith I put in the URB - I want to go back and touch on the business aspect of it. The URB comes down and is going to decide what interest rate these financial - I apologize, Mr. Speaker, these lending institutions are going to impose. What's it going to be? They tell us that we have to charge enormous amounts of interest because of our overhead - 20 per cent of it is actually profit; 40 per cent of it, 30 per cent of it is for wages and salaries.

So, the URB comes out with a decision and says we're going to offer you a 30 per cent interest cap. That's it, that's what we're going to charge. Okay? Thirty is better than 60, but to someone, to an individual who is barely getting by, living paycheque to paycheque, when that loan comes due, when that 30 per cent is off the top, I'll ask you, where does that individual go? Is he in a better place because the URB said 30 instead of 60?

[Page 1695]

I beg to differ. I believe that all governments across Canada should strongly, strongly look as to why, the legitimacy of allowing these payday loan companies to set up in our provinces? Why? Let's go in and ask them exactly why. What is the benefit to those who use the service? I don't see any. I'm in a pinch, I need the money but, again, it's crack cocaine. Oh, jeez, that's great. I have a little bit of money, I can get ahead a little bit. I can pay a bill. Sounds great, but I am in again in two weeks' time and I'm borrowing off that person.

A bigger issue, Mr. Speaker, a bigger issue, unless I win a lottery, which we all know the odds of that, or perhaps I go through a cycle of a whole year and I get my income tax back, by gosh, I can breathe again, because I can break the cycle. I can go in and I can pay it and I can stay away from that individual payday loan company for a certain period of time - because the temptation's always going to be there. Income tax doesn't last long.

One of the bigger issues I think out there right now is the fact that my honourable colleague, the member for Halifax Clayton Park, had suggested, the rollovers. No more rollovers, legislation to eliminate rollovers. That's great. That's fantastic, but as I stated earlier, I can walk down Wyse Road on one side of the street and I can go see this gentleman and I can go across and I can see this lady, and where is the communication between the two when I walk in? I can go in and say here's my pay stub, here's my ID, here's my recent bank statement, I need to borrow this much money, thank you very much. I can go across the street and do the very same. I can drive down the road and I can hit a third one.

Mr. Speaker, as I stand here today, I can tell you that I have known and have met with, in the short time I've been an MLA, half a dozen, a dozen, and these are seniors who are running scared. Individuals who have sought out the services of these payday loan companies one at a time. They're on a rotating basis. That's the kind of legislation I would love to have put in place, communication amongst the individual payday loan lenders because, I'll tell you right now, when you have a senior citizen walk into your office and say I've changed my number, well, what for? I changed my address, Trevor. Well, I owe this guy and I'm scared because I owe this guy. How do you get in a cycle like that, Mr. Speaker? Where is the advice that the Payday Loan Association of Canada says, we will tell you, we will inform you that you should seek out counselling?

Mr. Speaker, what I have are seniors running around scared because they owe these companies money. They've fallen into the addiction. They've hit rock bottom so much so that they had to go to another one to get rid of one, but they didn't, two and three at a time, and what happens? Well, when you're 65, credit doesn't really matter. Chances are you're living on a pension that barely affords you to live. So if I've taken somebody two or three times, well, I got ahead, I'm a little scared. Well, I don't really care about my credit and that's what they'll tell you. They'll call you, they'll inundate you with phone calls. We all know what it's like to go through credit, but to have a

[Page 1696]

senior citizen running scared, changing their address, changing the phone, relocating, running away from these predators, I am very uncomfortable with that, very uncomfortable.

It's a positive step that we take here today in moving this to second reading, there's absolutely no question. But, to merely do it without the full understanding of what an individual goes through when they use or seek out this service is turning a blind eye to the real effects and the real reasons why these individuals come to our provinces to seek out the people who need these services. They take advantage of them, Mr. Speaker. We can't merely follow a line because the rest of the provinces across Canada are coming together and saying, oh, well, we have a big problem here. Let's look at the real issues. Let's investigate to see, as I've done, as many people have walked through my office and taken me through the process, because it's an understanding that you really need to draft up the type of legislation we need to really protect the consumer and not just against the lender, but against themselves.

Mr. Speaker, it's a hard, hard step to take. If you go back and you talk about addictions, gambling, even the Lottery Commission can't assist as they try to, as their efforts and attempts do with some of the monies and profits that come through that forum. If an individual has a habit, they know that the cash is available, I need money for the weekend, these are not ordinary situations. When these people, when these organizations come to our province, they have to understand the individuals whom they are going to deal with. Are they going to benefit them? Are they helping them? Are they getting them through a chaotic situation - sadly not the people whom I see that are using them, sadly, not the people whom I see.

Mr. Speaker, it's a positive step and I stand here today, as will the rest of my caucus colleagues, in support of the legislation, in support of the bill going forward. Am I happy? No. Does it matter? Yes, it does. To me it matters because the individuals who are being affected by these services, eventually all 52 MLAs who reside in this House at some point will have to deal with a situation where someone went overboard, when someone fed an addiction because they had the monies available to them through one of these services and they've gambled away their home, or they've given into their addiction to alcohol because they needed money for the weekend, the bills had to be paid, but the money was there. Am I for this legislation? Absolutely. Do I think we can do more? I think we should seek out more. I think we should work with our federal colleagues and the good provinces like Manitoba which more often brings out great legislation that we really should look at and adopt. Let's work with those individuals and seek out those individuals who are using the service. Why? If it's all about profit, Mr. Speaker, I can't stand here today and say that I'm happy, because when you put profit over people, all 52 of us in here at some point are going to have to deal with that social situation that's going to walk into our office. We all know that 80 per cent of the cases we deal with are social issues. When you talk about the working poor, paycheque to paycheque and seniors, I have to take issue with that.

[Page 1697]

Can I change it? I'll advocate for it, Mr. Speaker, I'll continue to speak out for it and make sure that when legislation comes through, when it's drafted up, we actually know and understand the ramifications, who it applies to and how it's going to affect them or not affect them.

Earlier, in the July session, I posed the question to the minister; today he answered it. Legislation is going through and again, I support it, Mr. Speaker. With that, I'll take my seat. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I'd like to thank my colleagues on the opposite side of the House for their endorsement of the amendments to the Consumer Protection Act. I look forward to it going to Law Amendments Committee. I would like to now close debate on Bill No. 87, the Consumer Protection Act, and ask for the vote on second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion before the House is for second reading of Bill No. 87. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader on an introduction.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to bring the members' attention to someone in the east gallery, a member from Pictou Centre, a resident who has offered and volunteered his skills and expertise to many groups in Pictou County, including the Festival of the Tartans. I would like the members to give a round of applause to Lloyd Tattrie. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 89.

Bill No. 89 - Provincial Court Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 1698]

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It gives me pleasure to rise to make a few comments in regard to an Act to Amend Chapter 238 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Provincial Court Act. Very simply, this bill allows for Nova Scotia to come in line with other jurisdictions in eastern Canada, such as I believe New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, giving the authority to the Attorney General, under the advice of the Chief Judge in this province, to appoint judges from outside this province to have the same powers in regard to trials and other matters of process.

I think all Nova Scotians would agree on an example such as language, that all Nova Scotians should have the opportunity and the right to appear in court and to have their issues addressed in their language of choice, either the English or French language, as they so require and request. So essentially this bill will address this issue. Again, it's something that other jurisdictions in eastern Canada have addressed and we think it's appropriate and very timely for passage of this bill. So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of Bill No. 89.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad to have a few moments to speak on Bill No. 89. This is a bill that, in many ways, addresses something that I've seen in the last few years in this province, which is a recognition of the rights of francophones in Nova Scotia to have access to services in their own language. I think part of this is constitutional since there is a constitutional right to a criminal trial in French. But I'm also assuming that part of this may also cover civil trials as well, potentially, although that might be "the devil is in the detail". Either way, I'm glad to see the government moving in this direction - it's good for francophones in this province.

If there aren't enough francophone judges or bilingual judges in this province who can hear trials, I would suggest that this is a very good opportunity to ensure that we do ensure, if there's a backlog, that it's being addressed. I would say in the long term that I would suggest to the government, and I'll put it on the record, that when they are selecting judges for Provincial Court, whether they be - I guess in this case now it's mostly criminal, though there may still be a few family appointments until we work out the unified court, that they take into consideration bilingualism as one of the factors they may want to use to ensure the new judges who are coming forward, as judges retire at the provincial level, are judges who can handle trials en français.

[2:45 p.m.]

I think that would be good for Nova Scotia; I think it would ensure we wouldn't have to be paying what are probably fairly excessive fees to bring a judge in from another province. I would also suggest they may want to talk to their federal counterparts

[Page 1699]

when they appoint judges to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal or the Unified Family Court under the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, that they also consider bilingualism as a factor so that we, as judges retire, through attrition, we can again have an opportunity to build up the number of judges who can hear trials in both languages.

I think that's a good thing; I would hope the government would do that in the long run, and I would encourage the Minister of Acadian Affairs maybe to talk to his colleagues about that. In the meantime, this will be a stop-gap measure to ensure that any backlog in trials will be addressed. It's a good piece of legislation, we're glad to see it go to the Law Amendments Committee, and hopefully passage this Fall.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as Justice Critic, it's a pleasure to rise and speak a few words on Bill No. 89, the Provincial Court Act.

As has been pointed out by both the minister and the House Leader for the NDP, this new legislation will allow the Attorney General to appoint a judge from another province to preside here in Nova Scotia if the Attorney General determines it to be appropriate. Under legislation, judges from outside Nova Scotia will have the same powers, duties, and daily rate of pay and benefits as judges enjoy in Nova Scotia. It also will allow that the judge from outside will hold office for as long as the Attorney General decides, so long as he or she is judge in their home province.

What are the benefits of this change? First of all, it's going to allow for a larger pool of judges, especially for French and possibly even other language trials in our province, because the way it's worded this could possibly apply to more than just the English and French languages. We don't know what other services will be provided in the future. I'd certainly welcome the opportunity to see even more languages being addressed in our province, especially when we talk about the need for immigration and welcoming people into our province from other countries. Overall, the benefit will be to make our justice system more accessible to all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns we do raise with this is that it's important to note that in the legislation it not only provides for French-speaking judges, but it goes to say wherever the Attorney General determines to be appropriate. I'm curious as to whether we're going down a road here where suddenly the Attorney General may be looking to other provinces to bring in judges for certain matters here in Nova Scotia. I know that has been done in the past with judicial reviews, for example, but as far as an actual trial I'm not sure if we've ever done that here, as a province, to bring in a judge from another jurisdiction. I'm not sure if that's what is being contemplated in the bill or allowing that to be the case - maybe the minister can address that when he closes debate on this.

[Page 1700]

Clearly, as an Acadian and as a French-speaking lawyer, there has been concern over the years about the ability to hold trials in French here in our province. The big concern has been having judges who were able to hear trials in French. While we're pleased to see the minister is looking at means of making it more accessible for Acadians and French-speaking Nova Scotians to have their hearings heard in the French language, I think it's also important to remind the minister that when appointments are being considered for the bench that the government should certainly undertake all efforts to try to put people on the bench who are French-speaking and who can clearly hold trials in the French language, so rather than having to bring in judges from outside, we can have judges from here in Nova Scotia who can offer that service.

Mr. Speaker, from the statistics we have, it's our understanding that we have 83 judges at all court levels in Nova Scotia and eight supernumeraries at the Supreme Court. Of those, three Supreme Court justices and two Provincial Court justices actually preside in French right now. Needless to say, that's a very small percentage of the overall judges we have here in our province.

Mr. Speaker, we're also concerned that this legislation will only apply to Provincial Courts, and we would like to see whether the government is prepared to also extend these services to Family Court, or even in the Supreme Court where trials are for more serious offences. We realize that these judges are appointed federally, but we'd certainly encourage the minister, in speaking to his federal counterparts, that when these judges are being appointed, that they do keep language as a consideration in determining which candidates are going to be named to the bench.

Mr. Speaker, there's also the question, as well, whether the government has actually approached the existing judges we have here in Nova Scotia to offer French-language services to our justices. We are seeing that more French language courses are being offered to our provincial civil servants; federal civil servants have had that for quite some time, and I'm curious as to whether the minister, through Acadian Affairs, has actually offered the same service to our own judges. Maybe there are some who would be more than happy to take up that opportunity to become bilingual judges. That's something that we also encourage the minister to look into, as well, and to take up with the members of the bench to see if there is an interest on that level as well.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's essential that we recognize the efforts of l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse. This is a group of French-speaking lawyers, which was formed - at least it was while I was in law school, so I would say it has been at least since 1994-95, when this group was formed. Since that time it has been very active in meeting with government ministers, civil servants and even with, in some cases, members of the Opposition to push for better services in our court system for both Acadians and French-speaking Nova Scotians.

[Page 1701]

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, having had the opportunity to attend court on a number of occasions, when you bring someone whose native language is French or Acadian, who's not overly comfortable with the English language, and you put them in a court setting, which, to start off with, puts a considerable amount of pressure on them, and in many ways makes them very anxious and nervous, it makes it extremely difficult for them to understand the instructions that are coming from the judge or the questions being asked when it's being done so slowly in English, and legal terms are being used, it makes it extremely difficult.

It's not only a matter of looking at judges who can offer trials in French, we also have to look at our judicial system, as well. The current Minister of Justice would be familiar with this, and especially his predecessor in Justice, who I want to commend for starting to address this matter. But, for example, sheriffs, who are such an essential part of our justice system - for many years in Nova Scotia, we did not have any emphasis on having bilingual sheriffs. I can tell you, and anyone who has attended court, especially on plea dates or even for minor matters, it is often the sheriffs who are called upon, after the judge has made a ruling, to actually explain to the accused what the ruling is.

In many ways, Mr. Speaker, the sheriff is the essential person outside of the judge, because the judge makes the decision, but it's the sheriff who is often called upon, he or she, to explain what that ruling actually was. For example, if it's a speeding ticket, to explain here's how long you have to pay, here's how much you have to pay, here's where you go to pay, and here's what happens if you don't pay. In many cases, if you had sheriffs who could speak French, it would certainly be a great service to French-speaking Nova Scotians who would better understand exactly what it is the judge has said, because even if you understand English, I can tell you, having been in court many times, the sheriffs are asked to explain, even when the judge gave his ruling in English, because they simply don't understand what it was exactly that the judge has said.

I know there was an effort by the previous minister to try to identify certain areas of our province where any new sheriffs being hired would be bilingual. I do hope that the current minister will encourage that even more, because sheriffs are an essential part of our justice system, especially our court system, and I'm sure that the minister is well aware of that. I know in my area, and now in the Port Hawkesbury area, we do have a bilingual sheriff, but I do know, for example, communities such as Pomquet in the Antigonish area are still looking for that service, as are many other areas in our province.

Let me again reiterate what the approach has been by the French lawyers. They have never suggested that anyone lose their employment - instead what they have said is when new positions come up, or when there are openings after retirements, use that opportunity to fill it with a bilingual person if the service warrants it in that area. So I believe it has been a very proactive approach, a reasonable approach, one that can easily be adopted by the government, and I look forward to seeing more job postings in the

[Page 1702]

Department of Justice which do have bilingualism as a requirement, not just as a preference, for specific areas of our province.

So again, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the French-speaking Lawyers Association. I'm sure this will be good news for them and it's again, I think, a reflection of some of the lobbying efforts that they have undertaken here in our province.

M. le Président, permettaismoi juste quelques minutes pour dire quelques mots sur le projet de loi no. 89 qui fait des changements au système de cour içi à la province de la Nouvelle-Écosse. M. le Président, comme vous le savez, la communauté acadienne et la communauté française, pendant plusieurs années, sont en train d'encouragé le gouvernement de faire certain qu'il y a des meilleurs services offrit en français à nos systèmes de cours içi à la province.

Comme je l'ai dis en anglais, à présent nous avons 83 juges à tous les niveaux de cours içi à la province de la Nouvelle-Écosse. De ce nombre là seulement trois juges de la Cour suprême et deux juges de la Cour provincial sont preparé maintenant a entendre des processus entièrement en français. Alors c'est claire que les changements qui sont proposés içi aujoud'hui permettrait au Procureur Général de nommer un juge hors de la province, si nécessaire, pour avoir un processus dans la langue française içi à la Nouvelle-Écosse.

Comme je l'ai dis plutôt, j'encourage le ministre qui est en train de nommé des juges içi à la province, qu'il se tient en idée d'avoir des juges qui va être nommé qui peuvent parlé français, comprendre le français et avoir des processus entièrement en français. Je pense que c'est essentielà notre système de gouvernement et notre système de justice que nous sommes preparé à offrir des services à la communauté acadienne et à la communauté francophone dans leur langue. J'encourage le ministre de justice d'offrir même autres services, par example, les shérifs qu'on utilise dans notre système de justice, c'est souvent eu qui sont demandé à donner les explications une fois qu'un juge fait un décision. Souvent si les personnes ne sont pas comfortables dans la langue anglaise il va avoir beaucoup de misère. Alors je sais qu'il a eu des démarches qui à été enterprise sur cette question et puis j'encourage que le ministre va tiendre ça en idée dans le futur.

Alors, M. le Président je veux prendre cette occasion pour félicité l'Association des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse pour les années qu'ils ont travaillé avec le gouvernement, avec les fonctionnaires, avec le gouvernement Fédérale, les langues officielles, et avec les partis d'opposition pour encourager des meilleurs services aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse au système de justice dans notre province dans la langue française. Je suis content du travaille et je les encourage de continuer avec ça.

Mr. Speaker, let me finish by saying it is great to see that the government is moving on trying to provide better services to the Acadian and French population in

[Page 1703]

Nova Scotia in our court system. I believe that when we look at our democracy, the operation of our court system is an essential matter that we want to make sure Nova Scotians clearly see that their rights are being respected, especially their language rights.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity again to remind all members of this House that it is great to be offering those services to our court system, but in our democratic state I believe one of the other places where Nova Scotians look for leadership, and to see where democracy is working at its best, is here in this Chamber, and as I speak today, November 14, 2006, it saddens me to, again, have to remind the House that we do not have translation services here in this Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to take this opportunity to commend the Chairman of the Law Amendments Committee, who is also the Minister of Justice, along with the support of the Minister of Acadian Affairs. We had translation services at the Law Amendments Committee. I believe possibly for the first time, we've ever had in this province. The issue there was the supplementary funding and the concerns that were coming from the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial and interested parties. I thought that worked extremely well at the Committee on Law Amendments. I believe all members there, the chairman included, was impressed with the service and how well it worked, and I believe it's time that we, as members in this Chamber, look at having those same services here.

[3:00 p.m.]

I believe that the funding would not be a major problem for us, but if we're going to have Nova Scotians of French and Acadian background look to our elected system and our democratic system as respecting their rights, there's no better place to start that but here in the House of Assembly. We've shown it could be done at the Law Amendments Committee. It certainly can be done in this Assembly as well. I do hope that the Minister of Acadian Affairs will continue to push for that matter and I do hope that even the Premier of the province would clearly indicate his desire to see that translation services be provided in this House of Assembly, in the very near future.

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I do look forward to Bill No. 89 moving to second reading and possibly maybe the Minister of Justice may want to address some of the comments that I raised during my remarks as well, but I commend the minister for bringing this forward and look forward to the comments that will come from the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: L'honorable Ministre responsable des Affaires acadiennes.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Merçi beaucoup, M. le Président. J'aimerais parlé pour un couple de minutes. I'd like to speak for just a couple minutes on Bill No. 89. I think this has been a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the Department of Justice and I want to thank the minister for bringing this bill forward on

[Page 1704]

behalf of citizens of Nova Scotia, especially the Acadian communities in which we all represent.

From many conversations, des beaucoup discussions qu'on a eu dernièrement avec l'AJEFNE ou l'Assocation des juristes d'expression française de la Nouvelle-Écosse, moi je pense que cela a donné beaucoup d'air à cette idée de vraiment avoir l'opportunité d'avoir des judiciaires en cours içi à la Nouvelle-Écosse des autres réligions, notamment de venir de Nouveau-Brunswick ou d'autres endroits du pays du Canada. Very much to bring other judges from other areas in the country in order to hear court cases in other languages, including French, which of course, really helps out the Acadian community in which most of represent.

Mr. Speaker, I think that through a larger committee that we have through the Office of the Acadian Affairs, which we're working with 17 different ministries and organizations within government, to bring baseline services available in two languages has been a tremendous success as we roll toward the issue of francophone services or French services in all corners of this province. Again, I commend the minister responsible, the Minister of Justice, for bringing this very important bill forward. I look forward to bringing this good news to the association, the AJFNE, or the Acadian Francophone juristes, during their AGM, which I think is being held on Saturday, I believe, at 5:00 p.m., in the Speaker's own riding. So we look forward to bringing this news to them, to see what their thoughts are. I think there is an opportunity at a future date to maybe expand on some of these services, in all departments across government. I do look forward to furthering discussion on French services for all Nova Scotians. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Merçi. If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable members opposite for their comments and suggestions and concerns around Bill No. 89. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party raised the issue of where it would be appropriate in the appointing of a judge. I want to assure the honourable member it would only be circumstances in consultation with the chief judge who would be determined appropriate. Obviously, the language issue is one. Other situations may be around issues of conflict of interest which may be required to appoint an outside judge.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this has the support of all Nova Scotians and I believe certainly from what I've heard here today, I believe that the members support this and I look forward to this going to Committee on Law Amendments for further debate. With that, I move second reading Bill No. 89.

[Page 1705]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 89. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 92.

Bill No. 92 - Assessment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise to be speaking on the amendments to the Assessment Act, Bill No. 92, that will extend the Cap Assessment Program again. The Cap Assessment Program was introduced in 2005. It was designed to help protect property owners from sudden and dramatic increases in property assessments by placing a limit, or a cap, on the amount of taxable assessment increase on eligible properties. In the current legislation it is unclear whether the Cap Assessment Program extends beyond the 2007-08 fiscal year and what this amendment does is remove that uncertainty and it will, indeed, extend the program.

The extension of this program will enable our government to continue to provide some relief to those Nova Scotians who, through no fault of their own, have been affected or would be affected by significant increases in property taxes.

Mr. Speaker, homeowners want protection from dramatic increases in property taxes and this legislation will help provide some of that protection. Now to be eligible for the cap, a property must be owned by a Nova Scotia resident and meet certain other eligibility criteria. To date more than 70,000 Nova Scotians have applied for the cap. Our government will continue the cap on sudden property assessment hikes and consider further steps, in consultation with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, to help Nova Scotians deal with higher property taxes.

Mr. Speaker, passing these amendments will be good for Nova Scotia property owners. I now move second reading of Bill No. 92, the Assessment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

MR. PERCY PARIS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I do agree with the minister that homeowners need protection. I would like to add that certainly since I've been an MLA,

[Page 1706]

one of the areas that I'm receiving increased phone calls about is due to property assessments. I live in a riding that is an aging riding and, as a result of that, I too, often get at least two or three phone calls a month from residents within the riding concerning their assessments. Concerning the real threat of them being pushed out of their family residence because they are on a fixed income and because the cap hasn't benefitted them enough, they feel that with the increased assessments and their fixed income, they can't keep pace.

Something that is missing with the cap is that it would seem from where I sit, that the cap would better serve for protections for more Nova Scotians if the cap was adjusted so that more Nova Scotians could qualify under the assessment cap. I think government has to be more proactive in their mindset when it comes to assessment caps and think about incomes of property owners. Therefore, it would make sense to me, Mr. Speaker, that the cap needs to be adjusted and maybe tied to the Consumer Price Index.

This bill is also dealing with the cap being extended to 2008-09 and subsequent municipal taxation years. Hopefully, again, to use the term I've already used, we're going to be more proactive about this. It's too bad the cap wasn't just automatic. So there are two things, I think, that I have concerns with, and one is not enough Nova Scotians being available under the existing cap, and, again, that it's not automatic. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today and say a few words on Bill No. 92, which is the amendments to the Assessment Act. I spoke in the past, when this Act was first introduced several years ago, I spoke against it at that time and said that it was wrong-headed and that it was not something that we felt was going to address the root cause or the real problems. I feel that the government had a commitment to come back in three years' time and let us know what the review of it was and how it was going, and they have not done so.

This bill that's before us today allows a continuation of the cap as it exists, no changes at all, no review being done, and it's simply going to come back and allow the government to roll it over year by year, and continue to do it in the absence of any further review. I think that is, again, the wrong thing to do.

When the cap was introduced, I was certainly prepared to see whether or not it would work effectively. What we understood - and I sat on the Law Amendments Committee at the time, and I heard from individuals who came and spoke very sincerely about the difficulty they were having or their family members were having in maintaining their homes. One woman in particular spoke about her mother who had an older home in Chester and had lived there all her life and was finding the assessments were rising to a point where she would be driven from her home.

[Page 1707]

Those kinds of questions were really compelling, and I know they exist in the Premier's own riding, in a lot of areas that particularly are coastal, the Baddeck area, areas that are attractive to people who come on a seasonal basis to live. We know there has been a real problem across the province in rising assessments; I mean a problem in terms of the individual's ability to pay.

That comes back to the mechanism we use to set our assessments, Mr. Speaker. Really, the system that's in place, what I'm told by the department and by others who work in it is that the market system is a very dependable way to assess the value of properties and that the formula used is a good formula, and that other jurisdictions come here to use and see how we do these annual assessments.

That may be, but there are two variables to the formula that sets our individual taxes. One is the assessment, which is based on market value, and the second is the individual municipality's rate that they apply to that assessment. So consumers, or homeowners, in this case, have been left with these two floating variables and no one, really, to hold accountable as their costs go up and up, and when they call their MLA, they're told that the rate can be adjusted by the municipality, which is true. The municipality often has hidden behind the fact that the assessments have risen so dramatically because of the market value of the properties.

So people who own homes and condominiums have not been happy because there's not one level of government that's solely responsible and because their rates keep rising and so do their taxes, and they're having a hard time staying in their homes. If the cap was intended to help people who are low income to maintain their homes, Mr. Speaker, it hasn't been effective. I think it has helped to shelter other people from high taxes. It may have helped people who had already bought the expensive homes or built new homes that were driving up the assessments around them, it may have helped them significantly, but my concern is that it hasn't done a great deal to help low-income Nova Scotians who were struggling to hang onto their home ownership.

I think we have something like about a 70 per cent home ownership in this province, which is a pretty high rate. I know in my own riding, which has so many apartments, it's very low. Overall, in the province, we have a high rate of home ownership, and that means a lot of the low-income people we've heard of today - I know one of my colleagues today mentioned that 50 per cent of Nova Scotians earn less than $25,000 a year. Well, it's very good to know that a lot of them own homes. If 70 per cent of our people are living in their own homes, then many low-income people own the home that they're living in. So we want to help them and shelter them from great increases in taxes and this cap hasn't really done that.

I mean I would have welcomed a review. If the department wanted to do the review and come back and show us who has been helped by the cap, how many people and how effective it has been, I would welcome that review. In fact, I've had

[Page 1708]

correspondence as well, Mr. Speaker, from the UNSM indicating that they are very unhappy to see this bill come forward, that they expected a review themselves They had been promised a role in the review - as the organization representing all of the municipalities in this province, the 55 different municipalities - they would have a voice in how this was going to go forward .They have been denied that voice as well by this bill coming forward for second reading today as it's doing.

[3:15 p.m.]

My concern is twofold: one that we haven't found a way to protect our low-income Nova Scotians as we really intended; the other is we haven't got information on how well this has worked in the last few years. As it was being introduced, there were certainly concerns, Mr. Speaker, about the fact that individuals had to take a step themselves and ask to be assessed for this cap program. A lot of us would have received - I did at my home, as well, in Clayton Park. I received the form that said you may need to send this in, you may be in an area where the assessments are rising so quickly that you might qualify.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that in last year's assessment, mine rose 9.9 per cent and I know other people who find that a little bit suspicious. I've even talked to municipal councillors who feel there's almost a conspiracy about rates going up 9 per cent. (Interruption) Yes. They say people are frightened to apply for the rebate because they think then that might push theirs up higher. So the fact that it's not an automatic thing, if your assessment rises over 10 per cent, you automatically would get the additional - that additional amount over 10 per cent would be sheltered from tax. You know it hasn't worked that way. It hasn't been an automatic. The department has required individuals to take the step to understand the forms, send them in to ask for this sheltering.

I would really like to know from the province who has done that, how many, where do they live, and how successful has it been? Again, the largest outcry, Mr. Speaker, had come from Lunenburg County, Chester, along our South Shore particularly, a big outcry about assessments. I know that led to the government looking for an answer at the time several years ago, in the wake of the 2003 election, wanting to respond to Nova Scotians who had a problem. But having adopted this cap, I don't think that they have even wanted to go back and review the problem again or really address it, you know, in a significant way.

The fact is here we see a piece of legislation that is saying let us just continue to do what we're doing whether or not it works, whether or not we have any evidence that it works. We can tell Nova Scotians we're doing something. So it's something to hide behind. It looks like there has been some action taken but really, in fact, Mr. Speaker, nothing is happening here . I think that it's such a difficult problem that it would seem to me the province just doesn't want to open that can of worms again and try to deal with

[Page 1709]

how do we protect low-income Nova Scotians and let them stay in their homes, how can we protect them from rising municipal taxes.

I think that UNSM would want to work with the province. One of the programs that was in place on HRM and still is - I became aware of it when I was a councillor and I know there are other former Halifax Regional Municipality councillors who sit in this Legislature - the Halifax Regional Council was not unusual in having a program that would protect low-income Nova Scotians or residents. People could apply if their income was below a certain threshold and I think it has gone up as high as $27,000. It was quite a high rate really. It was not extremely low and they had said people whose income falls at that level or below could apply for a sheltering, I believe it's a deferral of tax. So at some point down the road the municipality would recoup that tax but they would recoup it at the sale of the home or if the home was changing ownership, Mr. Speaker.

So even the municipalities have recognized the need to help their residents, you know, the councillors on all of those municipalities across the province are not unlike we are here, they want to respond to Nova Scotians who are in need and they want to do the best that they can for those people that they know have a genuine requirement. They have a need to keep a roof over their heads and be looked after.

Mr. Speaker, for that reason I feel that if the government would sit down with UNSM and with those municipalities, they would find that there may be an answer among all those people. They may have the answer and I do believe that - and I'd spoken at the time three years ago, when this went through, that the municipalities should be asked to all have a program like that. I don't know if each of them do, but I think through UNSM, they could introduce a program where all of them recognize the need to shelter people with low incomes or seniors with fixed incomes, so that they would not have to worry about the pressure and impact of these rising assessments. Because as you know, I don't think I need to quote figures on how quickly some areas have risen, but people have seen a doubling and more of their taxes over a short period of time, in certain hot spots.

Again, in District 10, which is Clayton Park West, I think it was a year ago, the increase was an average of 18 per cent. That, again, is an awfully big jump in a single year for an average for a district. I'm told, Mr. Speaker, that gets pushed up somewhat by new buildings as well, so they're not all existing ones, but because the assessment role has increased that much, new building, actually, does impact that. So it may have been partly fuelled by that.

But I've had the angry phone calls, as I'm sure other members of this House have, from people who are really - even people with good jobs and who are working, who really feel that it's offensive to see how much these increases are in their tax bill. Now, again, I'll go back to the fact that the tax bill is in the hands of the municipal

[Page 1710]

councillor. They can set the rate, but because the assessment is part of that formula, we do bear some responsibility here in this House, to see that if there are mechanisms used in other jurisdictions, if there's a better way out there, that we should be looking for it. I don't think it's sufficient to come up with a bill as we have today, which says, let's just keep doing it the way we've been doing it the last few years. Let's forget about the commitment, to report back to the House with some review of how this has worked.

Again, Mr. Speaker, just to bring you back to the original Act. It was patterned on a piece of legislation in California, which again, was addressing coastal properties that had gone up so much in their rates. At that time, in California, they set the annual increase or the amount that would be capped at something like 3 per cent. Here in Nova Scotia, under regulations, the Cabinet has set it at 10 per cent. So an individual homeowner, even with this cap system in place, is subject to as much as a 10 per cent increase every year in their assessment, which means that their taxes could go up if the rates aren't changed by municipalities, their taxes could go up 10 per cent. We're only sheltering the amount that might be above 10 per cent, saying that additional lift is exceptional. I would say that a 10 per cent lift is exceptional.

Really, if we were serious about protecting people in their homes that we would look at a lower rate. We would do it on some kind of a means test like the municipalities do, really saying that this isn't intended for everybody. It's not intended for people who don't need our help, it's intended for the people who really cannot afford to stay in their homes, who are living on fixed incomes.

Mr. Speaker, in essence, I feel that this bill should not be moving forward in the Legislature because I don't think that the government has done what it had promised to do, which was to provide a review of the existing program first. In the absence of that review - as I say, I'm going to wait and see what we hear at the Committee on Law Amendments. I hope that we will hear from Nova Scotians. If they feel this has been successful then I hope we hear from them. I would like to hear from the minister if there are intentions to do a formal review of this program. But in the meantime, we're certainly waiting for it to go through the Committee on Law Amendments and we will then decide what the next step is. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to speak here today on Bill No. 92, which extends the cap on home assessments. I think certainly in Halifax Citadel that was one of the biggest issues in the last campaign and since then. We got numerous complaints about the sudden dramatic increase in home assessments and essentially people being taxed out of their homes. In particular, I was surprised to see how many people who were living in homes that, on the surface, seemed to be relatively prosperous but were living under appalling conditions, particularly seniors in Halifax Citadel.

[Page 1711]

I know the perception outside the area is that this is probably one of the wealthiest parts of the province, but in reality, especially for seniors, they are land rich but cash poor. They're not able to maintain their homes. Many seniors are living in homes where the heating has been turned down, parts of the house have been shut off, and they really are living, not on the poverty line, but they're effectively living in poverty if they're cutting essential services in order to make ends meet.

Also, we met many young families that have inherited their homes, who really are struggling with raising families and are just not able to deal with these sudden dramatic increases. So we really welcome the extension of the cap, even though the cap is 10 per cent, which in and of itself is quite a challenge for most people. I think in general, the market-driven process is just not working. Some people are facing increases of 300 per cent to 400 per cent in their assessment value, and they don't seem to have any understanding of why that happens or what bearing that has on the level of services that they get, especially if they're looking around and seeing other levels of society, particularly politicians and other groups, having the system respond to their needs in terms of income, while they themselves find their costs rising but their revenues are fixed in many ways.

A fair tax system has to get beyond the market-driven process, although the market has to play a significant role in setting that price. In particular, we would like to see assessments set to the consumer price index, which is a fairer way of setting rates. It's linked to a basket of commodities, it tells you what's generally happening in society, the inflation rate, and it tells you something about ability to pay, especially for those whose incomes rise at least in some kind of sync with the consumer price index.

We also think that they should be linked somehow to means. Earlier this week or last week, the member for Richmond introduced a bill saying that people who have catastrophic conditions, health conditions, that those people should be allowed to dip into their pension funds, and we opposed it, Mr. Speaker, in large part because we think that was an extraordinary situation. But here we have a case where people in difficult situations, especially relating to health, ability, age and just ordinary working conditions - we can say to them, let's look at your means, let's look at your ability to pay, let's look at what this assessment increase and this area rate increase is going to do to your living conditions. We should use means as a way of determining that price.

There should be some link to the level of services received. Many people in my constituency feel their assessment rates and their area rates rise so dramatically, and they see no increase, they see no reason for that. They complain about snow removal, they complain about user fees, that recreational fees are being lost, and they say, how is it that we can have these tremendous increases in our assessment and in our taxes, when we're not seeing any connection to the service. There should be some connection to the service, there should be some connection to means, there should be some connection to the consumer price index, and perhaps sometime down the road we'll be able to look to

[Page 1712]

something more akin to a more progressive income tax system or a progressive assessment system that looks at overall income as a way of determining the assessments that people would pay.

In particular, I'd like to speak to, really, one set of issues but under the same general heading. There's a question of unfair funding for services at the municipal level, that the service exchange itself is unfair, that the province essentially has the authority to do a great deal with the municipalities, but it doesn't have the responsibility for bearing the brunt of those decisions, that the downloading of responsibilities to municipalities drives the frustration that's felt on the doorsteps.

Earlier this week, we passed, on second reading, a transfer of $500,000 in the supplementary funding to the French-language school boards. We supported that, it's the right decision in principle, but at the same time that's a loss of $500,000 from one board and it's transferred to the other. We need to know what we're going to do with that shortfall of $500,000. We see the issue of supplementary funding, where one school board has supplementary funding and those students get art, music and sports and others don't. There is a principle of equity that we're trying to establish in municipal taxation and municipal services that has to be addressed in our assessment system and it has to be addressed in the area rate.

A school that's being built in my constituency, Mr. Speaker, Citadel High School, is not going to have an auditorium. We have decided that art and music and all these community events are not important enough. It's not going to have an auditorium because it's not considered to be a financial necessity; yet at the same time we say to the school boards that they should have art and music and gym and all of these programs, they are all important and they are all connected to assessments.

[3:30 p.m.]

This week we're talking about policing and adding police officers and video cameras. The municipalities will take on this burden as well. The other municipalities are talking about equalization and equity in taxation across municipalities and providing equal access to service. There is a whole range of issues at the municipal level. We have this inequity between unfair funding and inadequate service in exchange for those services and those issues, too, need to be addressed because they're connected to assessments.

Also, we would like to say something about the appeals process itself. Yes, we do need a cap and we can argue about whether 10 per cent is low enough. We talked earlier about the consumer price index. But yes, if you qualify for the cap, it should be automatic. Why drag people through the bureaucratic process to fill out forms? If they quality, why not just give it to them and save them the burden? They will be paying 10 per cent of the tax anyway, we don't need to impose an administrative burden on them.

[Page 1713]

The forms should be easier to fill out, they should be easy to understand. Most seniors have no clue about what their rights are in this process. Most people are just not familiar with the intricacies of the Assessment Act. People should also get timely information as to when their rates are going to go up. In the last round they got the information after the appeal time had run out, after the deadline for appeals had passed. That hardly constitutes a fair process, Mr. Speaker.

So we see two other things this week that are going on simultaneously that point to the need for a review of this whole assessment process. Later today and perhaps tomorrow we're going to be looking at the Assessment Act and the transfer of assessment services. There's a great deal of debate there about how these assessments are set, what level they should be done at and how timely and how responsive they are. Yet there is no connection to the general principles of assessment, there is no connection to service exchange.

The HRM is also engaged at this moment in a tax review in the setting of its area rates and they have a committee that will be going around. Everywhere we look there are these concerns about assessments in terms of the overall increase in assessments, the process of assessments and what level of government is doing what. So this is a great opportunity for a formal review of our assessment situation and the relationship to the services you get in return.

I think we should have a closer look at this bill, it's an extension for another year and perhaps more. But we should look at these other larger issues, of whether or not assessments should be linked to the consumer price index, whether or not it should be linked to one's means and ability to pay for it, whether or not it should be linked to services received and whether or not we can establish it along the same lines of a progressive income tax system. Of course the cap process itself needs to be reviewed in terms of making it automatic to those who qualify and making the process less cumbersome.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to see this government move to a more thorough assessment of this situation and open up a dialogue with the UNSM and the HRM and other municipalities across the province so that we can come up with a fair way of setting assessments and establishing who gets what, when and how in this process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to take this opportunity to put on the record a few thoughts from my own constituency. The property assessment program and the cap, in particular, have been a source of some consternation in the area that I represent. Market value, as a principle, works reasonably well as a way of deciding on municipal services until you have a rapidly rising market. Or, to be more

[Page 1714]

precise, where you have a rapidly rising market in some places but not in others. Which is exactly, of course, the situation we've had in Nova Scotia for the past number of years.

I do want to pay particular tribute to my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect. Quite a number of years ago now, it must be three, four or five years ago, he was the first one to take this issue and put it on everybody's radar screen. The issue he brought to this House had to do with rapidly rising assessments for waterfront properties, in particular, of which he has quite a number in his own constituency.

He had noticed how the assessments were rising very rapidly for the waterfront properties, very much more rapidly than other properties. So what that did was it underlined the fundamental issues with using market value as a means of deciding on everybody's share of municipal services.

We've had this issue for a number of years where in some areas of the province, market values are rising very fast. Other areas of the province are rising very slowly and it has happened in the constituency of my colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, it has happened in mine, Halifax Fairview. I know it has happened next door in Halifax Clayton Park, in a number of places which are growing fast, this has become a real issue.

What we look for from the provincial government, I think, is some kind of a comprehensive, well thought out solution and that, of course, is exactly what is missing. The cap is, and always was, an interim solution. It's a way of dealing with the most egregious cases until the policy is fully thought out and is changed to reflect the new circumstances we find ourselves in.

So, to a certain extent, it has to be disappointing for all those property owners in Nova Scotia whose assessments have been rising to see the government's solution again this year is simply to extend the cap program. In and of itself, the cap program is fine. We've always supported the idea behind it and we support it again this year. But surely the government has to have more to offer than that, than simply extending this very temporary solution for yet one more year.

I want to talk very briefly about the problems I've seen in my constituency. I guess first and foremost is the problem of the lack of knowledge among property owners of the program and how it works. The government does have an advertising campaign but I wonder sometimes how often the government evaluates the effectiveness of the advertising campaigns it undertakes. Is it really reaching people? How many people know about the program as a result of the advertising program?

My experience as a representative for Halifax Fairview is that whatever information the government's distributing is not getting to nearly enough people. That's tied into the problem raised by the application process. This is not an automatic cap on one's property assessment, it's something for which one has to apply. You would think

[Page 1715]

the government would have learned by now that any process that requires an application brings in all kinds of issues that are quite apart from the public policy program for which people are applying. There is a serious problem in Nova Scotia with literacy. It is simply naive to believe that most adult Nova Scotians know how to fill out a form, especially dealing with something relatively technical, like property assessments.

I heard the minister stand up the other day - he said it somewhere, I can't remember if it was inside or outside the House - and he said he applied for the cap program for his home and he found it to be a fairly user friendly form. Well, I'm not surprised, he's a Ph.D. He's a very well educated person. The people that I deal with in my constituency are not Ph.Ds. They are not used to dealing (Intrruptions) well, the Ph.Ds in my constituency don't need my help. Not to say I don't have Ph.Ds, they're not the ones who are calling me for help.

The ones who are calling me for help tend to be the seniors who went through school when it was okay to leave after Grade 4 to go into the workforce, you know, the blue collar workers who got through life without ever really having to deal with a lot of forms, a lot of complicated processes. You know, I have to disagree with the minister. It is not that user friendly a form if you're not very well educated, or if you're not very literate, or if your eyesight is not as good as it used to be, all these things that we see among the population most in need.

I know all this, Mr. Speaker, because this year I decided to help the government which, you know, we on this side like to do, it's something that we take pride in as part of our Opposition, I decided to help the government by sending out my own leaflet to every single homeowner in my constituency telling them about the cap program. Now, the government relies on newspaper ads. They rely - I'm not sure what other media they use, but the one thing they don't do is send a leaflet to every single home and, again, even if they did, there's a certain number of people who wouldn't be able to read them or understand them.

I sent a leaflet and the response was wonderful. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Thank you, people would say, for telling us about this program. These people were often reasonably well educated, working people. You realize in circumstances like this how few people actually read a newspaper, you know. There are lots of busy working people who simply never open a newspaper and so if the only place the government puts ads is in the newspaper, well, those people aren't going to see them, but I put a leaflet in every single mailbox in my constituency saying here's the program, the deadline is coming up. Here's how it works. Here's how it benefits you. I really encourage you to apply. What that did was engendered quite a number of calls from people asking me to come out to help them fill out the form, which I did. So I sat at people's kitchen tables and I was able to see how they were reacting to the form.

[Page 1716]

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it's not a simple form. I have to disagree with the minister on that. It's not a simple form. For a very well educated person, used to dealing with government, used to filling out forms for this, that and the other thing, it's probably pretty straightforward, but that's not the typical user, not at all. I think in particular of one very elderly lady living alone and I sat at her kitchen table and helped her fill out the form, and without the assistance of me or somebody like me, she would have been utterly unable to apply for the cap program.

I think that often the government doesn't take this into account. That's why what we in the NDP have been saying from the time this program was started is it should be automatic. This should not be an application-based program because the people who get disqualified are the people who have difficulty filling out the form. The minister filled out the form for his house and, Mr. Speaker, I filled out the form for my house. My house is under the cap, I benefitted from the cap program, but we're not the people who are likely to lose out with a difference between an automatic program and an application program because we do that. We're used to doing that. We know how to do it.

I am afraid that there are tens of thousands of Nova Scotia homeowners who are losing out because of the difference between an automatic program and an application program. Why does it have to be done by application? For the life of me, I still do not understand and ever since this program started we've been saying to the government, make it automatic. Your computer system tells you who's eligible. It tells you whose assessment has gone up by more than 10 per cent. Why don't you just make it automatic and then if somebody wants to opt out of the program, well, heck, let them fill out an application form and opt out of the program. I can't imagine why anybody would want to opt out but opting in excludes often the very people who most need the program. That's the problem.

I don't understand, we never understood why it has to be an application-based program. The government has never offered us the least convincing reason why it needs to be an application-based program. It should be automatic and we say that again today as we have a bill in front of the House extending the program for another year.

Another problem with the program, Mr. Speaker, is that you apply for it based on your provisional assessment, your interim assessment. The actual assessment is based on your final assessment, but if there's a change between the provisional assessment and the final assessment, well, you're just out of luck.

Now many people receive an assessment increase in their provisional assessment of 3 per cent, 4 per cent, 5 per cent, and they would say to themselves - and these are the people who are even aware of the cap program, which is a decided minority of the population - they would say, well, the cap is at 10 per cent so there's no point in my applying, but then when they get their final assessment, it might have gone up by 15 per cent or 20 per cent.

[Page 1717]

[3:45 p.m.]

We even had a case earlier this year of a woman whose provisional assessment went up 3 per cent and her final assessment went up 390 per cent. That was a waterfront property. That is a problem, because she hadn't applied for the cap program, and by the time she got her final assessment to realize she should have, it was too late, the deadline had already passed.

That's another aspect of this program we have never understood, that the deadline for applying is before the date you get your final assessment. We've never understood why that has to be that way. It's almost Kafkaesque. You have to apply for a program before you know whether you qualify for it or not. That doesn't make an awful lot of sense, Mr. Speaker.

It's the only program I can think of where that's the case. If you explain it to people, they say, what, how could that be, that doesn't make any sense. You have to apply for it before you know whether you qualify. Just saying it, it sounds absurd. It is absurd. It needs to change.

I wanted to underline those problems today, Mr. Speaker, because despite our repeated requests to the government to fix the cap program so that it works better, to take into account low literacy levels, to take into account the very low level of knowledge among the population of the cap program, to take into account the fact that it ought to be an automatic process, to take into account the fact that people need to have an opportunity to apply for the program when they get their final assessment, not just their provisional assessment - those are the kinds of things we would like to see the government do, not to mention that we'd like to see the government come forward with a final fix, either they're going to stick with market-based and say we're going to stick with it for better or for worse, or we have another plan and here it is. But none of those things are happening.

The only thing before us is an extension of the same flawed program for another year. Meanwhile at Halifax City Hall, they are at least looking at the issue. They have recognized that market-based assessments aren't working well in a rapidly-rising market and they have struck a committee to explore alternatives. That's a good thing, but I have to ask, Mr. Speaker, why is the Halifax Regional Municipality leading this initiative? This is an initiative that should be led by the provincial government, because it is a provincial issue.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude. Of course we support the bill. We support extending the cap program for another year, but there are some significant flaws in the program, and it is disappointing to us to see that, again, for another year, the government has failed to address those flaws.

[Page 1718]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, just before I conclude debate, I did want to thank the members opposite for their useful suggestions and to re-emphasize the importance of passing this particular piece of legislation at this point, because if this House is interested in affording the protection of a cap to the citizens of Nova Scotia on their property tax, it has to be done at this juncture in time.

As well, I want to point out to members of the House that certainly the minister and his department have assured me that the other partner and the beneficiary of property assessments - the 55 municipalities from the Nova Scotia Union of Municipalities - require a year's notice of changes, and they're the second party that government has to come to an agreement with, rather than arbitrarily making decisions on their behalf. The minister has assured me that discussions and talks continue with the Nova Scotia Union of Municipalities in that regard, to the cap, and if there are better ways to afford it to all Nova Scotians.

So with those few remarks, I would like to move closure on Bill No. 92, the Assessment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 92. Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 94, the Property Valuation Services Corporation Act.

Bill No. 94 - Property Valuation Services Corporation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand before the members of the House to move this legislation, Bill No. 94, legislation to establish assessment services as a municipally controlled corporation and bring this forward for second

[Page 1719]

reading. This legislation will move Nova Scotia's property assessment services from the province to a municipally-controlled, not-for-profit corporation.

Mr. Speaker, since 2001 municipalities have paid for the full costs of property assessments, although services remain a division of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. We have completed many reviews of alternative service delivery, however. These include an examination by assessment management boards of other assessment jurisdictions in Canada where the service is delivered outside the provincial government. The result of this work is the creation of a not-for-profit municipally-controlled corporation. This corporation will work outside the direct operational control of the provincial government to deliver assessment services. The province will remain responsible for the legislative standards for the separation of the tax policy and tax administration. As well, Mr. Speaker, staff from the department have consulted with mayors and wardens throughout the province and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities regarding the preferred option of the service of assessment services.

At last year's annual UNSM meeting, a resolution was passed calling for the creation of an independent, municipally-controlled not-for-profit agency. The name of this agency is the Property Valuation Services Corporation. With a transition from government to a corporation we are very mindful of the concerns of assessment staff as well. It is our intent that all existing employees of Assessment Services will be transferred to the new agency. Employees will be designated to the new corporation through legislation, which will also include the protection of existing rights, terms and conditions of their employment. Compensation is and will continue to be consistent with the collective agreement. The Public Service Award will be continued for eligible employees as well.

Mr. Speaker, the proposed legislation will be proclaimed in stages. This means that the new entity, the corporation, will be established before designating employees. Therefore, employees will remain civil servants for a period after the corporation is established, during the transition period. A new corporate structure will be created for support services such as human resources, finance and legal services.

The corporation will be responsible to its stakeholders, principally, the 55 municipalities under the direction of the Assessment Management Board. I now move for second reading of Bill No. 94. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

MR. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, one of the things I have learned certainly in the last four months is that things aren't always as they appear to be. One of the things I have learned to do very well, and I think I get better at it all the time, that is trying to listen to all sides.

[Page 1720]

I do have some concerns with this bill, Mr. Speaker. Having said that, I hope I remain with an open mind. When I looked at this bill and I look at the history and the track record between the Province of Nova Scotia and the municipalities around assessments, it has sort of been - I don't know if we want to call it a football or a hot potato or what but - this is something that has gone back and forth two or three times, Mr. Speaker, over the years. I guess when I see that sort of history and track record, one has to wonder the reasons why.

Generally speaking, when I think of change, whether it's related to government, whether it's related to a bill, whether it's related to whatever, usually change is supposed to be about for the better. Generally change is about improving the quality of services. I guess I'm at a wee bit of a loss, Mr. Speaker, as to how this bill will improve the quality of services when it comes to assessments. One of the things that I think will happen as a result of this bill, if it does pass, is that MLAs, myself included, will have that luxury of being able to say at some point in time, when we get that phone call about assessments, we can always raise our hands in despair and say, well, it's no longer our responsibility, maybe you should call your councillor.

It begs the question, at least for me, Mr. Speaker, why is this process in place to begin with? I don't know, and I've been privy - this year I went to a conference by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities in Sydney. I listened to the transitional assessment services make a presentation. I've talked, even, to some union representatives. I'm not sure if this bill, this whole process - if it is the province downloading services to the municipalities or the municipalities requesting the services so that they can administer them. It may sound like a non-issue, an unimportant point, but I think it's one worth raising.

I wonder, when I was in Sydney, and I was there as an observer, and one of the things I found during my last four months, my first four months in the House of Assembly, is I find myself to be a good listener and ask questions sometimes only to myself or at the time that's appropriate. I know on one day when they were explaining the assessment services technology, as I was listening to how the technology was being rolled out, I was sitting there taking some notes, and in my notes there were a lot of questions that I had around the technology that potentially will be used for assessment services.

At that time, since I was a guest at the conference, I didn't think it was appropriate for me to ask the questions. So I continued to take notes, but when the presenters finished, much to my surprise, and I must say my pleasant surprise, some of the questions I had, the majority of the questions I had, were also those questions that some of the municipalities had. So I was able to sit through a question-and-answer period, and I must say, Mr. Speaker, that even today, some weeks later, for me at least, some of those questions remain unanswered.

[Page 1721]

When I hear of these assessment services being transferred to the municipalities, of course one of the most important things I think about is the process; what the process was or was not that was employed as far as the transition goes of these services. There doesn't seem, when I read through this bill and from what I've seen so far, there doesn't seem to be written anywhere a guarantee for discussion and negotiations, and I mean particularly with reference to employees, and those representatives of those employees.

I can see that this would raise some concerns with those employees. It certainly raises some questions, I think, from at least my perspective as to where we are going with this service and what the end result would be.

The questions I would think - we have unions in the Province of Nova Scotia that have worked long and hard for certain benefits. I guess one of my immediate questions is, what's going to happen to that hard work? What's going to happen to those new employees who come on-stream with Assessment Services - are they going to be treated in a like fashion as those so-called veterans who have been around for years and years?

[4:00 p.m.]

I guess the question would be, for those existing benefits such as long-term disability, a very important pension plan that has been established, I guess my concern would be how is that picked up? Where is it picked up? When is it picked up? More importantly, how does that roll out to those who first come onboard?

This raises an issue for me, one that's very, very dear to me, one of fairness. I would hope that during any process that we keep fairness foremost in our minds, especially when we're talking about government employees at any level. I don't see the process in place that would make me feel, at this point in time, comfortable with this bill. It certainly is a real concern, a real concern, of mine.

Again, I reiterated that process for negotiation and for a heart-to-heart discussion related to the transition of these services isn't one that's apparent to me. It could be here and maybe I've missed it, I'm sure the minister responsible will point that out, but I looked.

If I can just return to this issue around fairness and the potential unfairness that could arise here - there doesn't seem to be any plan that I can see that will eliminate any fears or concerns that I have around this bill and around the fairness, or I should say, maybe the potential unfairness related to the bill.

I want to return and I think a basic fundamental question has to be, why? I did a little bit of research into this bill, trying to find some answers as to why we would want to do this. What is it that inspires this sort of bill? I haven't found the answers to that

[Page 1722]

and that's part of some of the concerns I have. As I said in my opening remarks, I would like to think I would remain with an open mind. Thank you.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to talk today about Bill No.94, which is the Act to Establish the Property Valuation Services Corporation. I'm sure the speakers earlier and the minister have explained some of the detail around this bill, but I think it's worthwhile just giving a bit of background in terms of how it's come to be. This has been a fairly long process over the last five years.

In fact, in 2001 when I sat on Halifax Regional Council - I know again I have a colleague in the House who was there with me - at that time the government downloaded the cost of assessments to the municipalities. That was certainly how we saw it, as a downloading of a $14 million cost to the individual municipal units in this province. The idea was that the municipalities would now assume the cost of the entire assessment service.

Today, we know that is about 160 employees, the overhead for their office that was being run here by the province, all of the costs associated with assessing the properties, managing their technology, all of those costs were going to now be borne by the municipalities. HRM's share of that was just about 50 per cent - it came to around $7 million - which was an additional cost on the budget of HRM. So as you can appreciate, Mr. Speaker, the councillors were worried and they lobbied other levels of government, and they lobbied all three Parties, to say that they were concerned about this additional cost.

Mr. Speaker, what did happen was the change went through, the municipalities did absorb that cost and for a number of years were paying it when they had no say in how the office was run or what was being done, whether it was efficiently run, whether it had the best equipment, whether it was properly resourced. The change came about a couple of years ago that a committee was formed which included UNSM and they could be involved in some of the decision making around that office.

So bit by bit we have moved from having municipalities pay for the service with no say in how it was run, to having a committee where they had some input. Now, Mr. Speaker, we're moving to a corporation where the 160 employees of the Assessment Office are going to become the employees now of a brand new entity and they will no longer be employees of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and they will no longer be direct employees of the Province of Nova Scotia as they have been. They will now have, in place of an executive director, I think they will have a CEO as I understand it and they will be reporting to a board which is a board made up of UNSM and, I believe, provincial people as well.

[Page 1723]

In the meantime, this actually completes that transformation that I was referring to, so it is something that the municipalities have been asking for that they felt, if they were going to be paying these costs, they wanted to have control over just the efficiency of that office. I will say that one of the improvements this year, or in the last couple of years, has been the purchase of some very, I would say, cutting edge technology to help manage the huge assessment base that we have in the province. Even for a small province we have a great number of properties and the control of that information is extremely important because it is used for provincial purposes as well. It is used for the divvying up of different grants and monies to municipalities, and it is used as a basis of the value of a number of things that would be controlled by what our total assessment base is in the province or by municipality. So it is an important piece of information; it is also important to have the best geographic information to go with it.

What has happened is the board, the committee that has been managing the Assessment Office for the last short while . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Halifax Clayton Park has the floor.

MR. WHALEN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

So as I say, the committee that had come into place to start to give the municipalities more say had made the decision to invest in this better technology, and overall that is going to make this new corporation more efficient and more effective. That is very important because that means the dollars spent on this important service are going to be more effectively used and we are going to get better value for that work - and we are also going to be better supporting our employees who are part of that system.

As I mentioned, they will no longer be directly civil servants, as they have been, but one of our concerns in speaking to UNSM, Mr. Speaker, had been a concern for the employees when they had come to brief me and I know they have briefed the critic from the New Democratic Party as well. During that discussion my concern was that there would be no loss of jobs or no loss of benefits and seniority for people moving. It is a concern and I was sure that given the uncertainty around that entire division, there would be staff who would be very concerned about how this was going to impact them on a personal basis because if you have worked for the government for many years, you would want to ensure that you still had the same basic package that you were enjoying when you were in the previous job.

I have been given assurances that they will still be members of a union - I don't know if it is exactly the same but they would still be covered by a collective agreement and they will still have benefits that will be comparable to what they had before. So I think that is very important and it is important that anybody new who is hired into the system is also going to receive comparable pay and so on because transition, as you

[Page 1724]

know, Mr. Speaker, can be very traumatic for the employees and for the organization. The smoother this can be done with the least disruption for all, I think, would make it all the more palatable for us moving forward.

As I say, this is a natural extension of where we were before, allowing the municipalities now to have a greater say in how it is going to be managed.

In looking at the bill, as well, as I say, one of our concerns was the employees' protection; the other was a smooth transition and a proper framework of accountability for the assessment service. We certainly now will have a system where the municipalities will be paying for this, they'll be setting the rates that we spoke about earlier on the previous bill, and they will have control over how those assessments are set.

Mr. Speaker, it's going to be very important throughout the management of this new corporation that the method of setting our assessments remains as transparent and as clear as possible for Nova Scotians, because there will in fact be, in essence, the municipalities having control now of both variables that sets your individual household tax or residential tax. So you do want to be assured that the mechanisms that are being used are completely transparent and above board and clear to anybody who wants to look at them. That certainly has been the case with the market assessment means that we have used up to this point. We adopted it a number of years ago because the method of assessment had been difficult to defend. It was not as clear.

So I'm hoping that the new corporation will continue to operate with the same level of openness and transparency that has been the case. I know that when homeowners or property owners have inquires about property tax, the assessment office has always been very good about allowing them to see comparable properties, accessing the information of a number of other places, and that has become even more open in the last little while, where you can now go on-line and look at other properties and see what they are assessed at. That helps people to determine whether they want to appeal an assessment or whether they have any complaints about it. I think having more information will help a great deal.

Again, we have assurances that the employees are going to transition very smoothly to the new corporation, and that a lot of work has been done to ensure that they're part of the process, that they've been well briefed and their concerns have been taken to heart. So I feel that from the information that I've been given that they will be well looked after in this transition, and nobody will be suffering as a result of this change in governance, because that's really what is involved in this bill - it's just a change in who's going to manage and how it's going to be governed in terms of our assessment services.

What's interesting, Mr. Speaker, really, is that the majority of employees with the assessment office really are specialists in assessment and they don't have skills that

[Page 1725]

they would be apt to want to switch to other civil service positions. I worried about their mobility in terms of, if they're currently a civil servant . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much chatter in the Chamber, and I'd ask all members to bring the noise level down, so we can all hear the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park who has the floor.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, as I say, one of my concerns was that if these employees are no longer part of the civil service per se, they may lose the mobility they now have. Often, if you're currently a civil servant, you're able to apply for jobs in many other departments and offices and it gives you a chance for promotion and growth. But I was assured that the majority of staff working in that 160-member division are in fact working in the field as assessors and they have very specific training and experience to do that job. In fact, the greatest mobility there is to the federal government that apparently quite often comes and takes our employees, offering them good opportunities.

It isn't indicated that that would be a problem for them, to now be part of this new corporation. Again, they'll continue to do the same work with the same level of professionalism that we've come to rely on, and I believe it's just a question of who they report to now that is going to be different, having, as I say, a board in place to manage the services.

Really, Mr. Speaker, we're looking forward to seeing if there is any representation at the Law Amendments Committee, whether or not there will be individuals or organizations that may have some concern about this. We'll certainly be listening to those, but at the moment we do see this as a natural progression from the state that was instituted in 2001, when the municipalities began to bear the full cost of operating the assessment service. I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee as the next step. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues opposite for their interventions and certainly many of them, being former municipal councillors, are well versed on the issue. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has desired to have a non-for-profit corporation that would do the assessment services, since they are paying for it, and this legislation allows their wishes to be fulfilled and allows the employees who currently work in Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to be protected by the full benefits and measures of their employment entitlement now.

[4:15 p.m.]

[Page 1726]

So with that said, Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 94, legislation to establish assessment services as a municipally-controlled corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 94. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private and Local Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 102.

Bill No. 102 - Pugwash Village Grants Act.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Question.

MR. SPEAKER: The question has been called. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

Honourable minister, in our enthusiasm - we'll go to the honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I know everyone is supportive of this particular bill, but I would like to move it first, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 102.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 102. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1727]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to now call Bill No. 105.

Bill No. 105 - Pugwash Village Capital Grant Act.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 105, the Pugwash Village Capital Grant Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 105. Is the House ready for the question. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. PATRICK DUNN: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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

The motion is carried.

[4:17 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[4:21 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Cecil Clarke, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 12 - Education Act.

Bill No. 17 - Criminal Notoriety Act.

Bill No. 20 - Public Utilities Act.

[Page 1728]

Bill No. 21 - Justice Administration Amendment (2006) Act.

Bill No. 22 - Motor Vehicle Act.

Bill No. 23 - Wills Act.

Bill No. 58 - Justice Administration Amendment (Fall 2006) Act.

Bill No. 62 - Tobacco Access Act.

Bill No. 75 - Securities Act.

and the Chairman has been instructed to recommend these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the government's business for the day having been concluded, and tomorrow being a Liberal Opposition day, I would refer the matter to the Liberal House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you, Government House Leader. Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will meet between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Following the daily order paper and Question Period, we will be calling Bill No. 74 and Resolution No. 848. I move that we do now adjourn to meet tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the House to now rise and meet tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

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

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned.

And to continue to thrill and enthrall Nova Scotians, we go into our subject for this evening's late debate that was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 1729]

"Therefore be it resolved that this government consult with communities about their own rural economic development."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

ECON. DEV. - RURAL DEV.: COMMUNITIES - CONSULT

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important topic that I want to discuss here today. As we all know, rural economic growth is very important for Nova Scotia. We have many communities that are suffering the effects of out-migration, we have a declining business sector, we have a decreasing tax base and few opportunities to entice young people to stay or return here for work. So rural economic development is certainly a high priority for residents of rural Nova Scotia.

I want to speak on behalf of rural communities and the need for them to be a part of the rural economic development destiny. It's very important that communities are consulted about rural economic development decisions that come into their communities. I certainly am aware that we have the good work of our regional development authorities that assist communities in looking at their potential, to make decisions on what potential economic development would best be suited to their particular areas. I also know that there is certainly a direct lack of public consultation when it comes to communities deciding their own economic future.

I want to draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the recent controversy happening in my own particular communities of Queens County. In particular, I want to speak on the proposed development of a 70-acre fish farm being proposed for the communities of Port Mouton and, in particular being developed or being proposed to be developed in Port Mouton Bay. The communities definitely feel they have not been part of this very important consultation process. The communities have definitely been working toward sustainable economic development in their own right.

I just want to talk about the particular location for this proposed expansion. Of course, when I am talking about this particular site, I am sure most of us can identify with the potential growth for this area. Port Mouton Bay is surrounded by a number of pristine beaches. Port Mouton Island, which is under review and request from our municipality to have a beach on Port Mouton Island protected. The lobster fishery is the backbone of one of the industries there in Port Mouton Bay. Port Mouton Bay is also

[Page 1730]

surrounded by other pristine beaches, Hunts Point, Summerville Beach, Wamback Beach, and Carters Beach.

We have a growing tourism industry happening in Queens. There are lots of new businesses springing up in Port Mouton, and business people, fishermen and community residents are telling me that they are very much afraid that this expansion is going to have a direct impact on other economic development in their area. What they are also telling me is that the lead-up to the application for this licence for the expansion, that communities weren't directly involved in that consultation process. They also tell me that they are quite concerned that our government departments work in silos. What I mean by silos is that departments aren't talking to each other; they are not communicating. There are different mandates, and how they are very much interconnected. What I am hearing from community members is that they are quite concerned that the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage has not been consulted, and not only has the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage not been consulted, they are also telling me that the industry, the tourism industry, has not been consulted in regard to this proposed expansion.

I would like to just put out the concern there that the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage has a direct mandate to see the growth of tourism happen around our communities, along our coastline, and the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and particularly Queens, we rely heavily on that industry. We have seen a of progressive expansion over the last several years in the tourism industry, and what I am hearing is that the tourism industry in our area has not been consulted about this particular expansion.

They haven't been consulted in the ways that they feel would be most important to them, and that is understanding what the impact of this huge expansion would have on the tourism industry in Queens. Will it have a negative impact? We need to know. The industry needs to know. The industry needs to know what that impact looks like. Will it be an environmental impact, will it be an economic impact? If it is an economic impact, we need to see the numbers. We need to know what the tourism industry feels and what the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture can show or demonstrate that these two industries can work hand in hand, or live side by side.

What I am also hearing is that the business community, the growing business community in Queens has not been consulted. The Department of Economic Development has not been consulted in regard to what this particular expansion may mean. I certainly understand from the discussion paper that the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has produced, in relation to aquaculture farming, is that the mandate is that aquaculture has great potential for rural economic development and can certainly help boost the economy in rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 1731]

Well, I'm hearing differently from my community. What I'm hearing is this strategy for this expansion will create all of four jobs - and those four jobs, what economic impact will those four jobs have if it has a negative impact on other rural economic development in the area, expanded growth of tourism, expanded small businesses who will rely on tourism for their bread and butter?

[4:30 p.m.]

So I'm asking if departments are speaking with one another - are they looking at each of the department's mandates and determining or deciding whether or not each of the mandates coincide with one another and whether or not this expansion is actually the best scenario for economic development in Port Mouton?

Port Mouton is a growing community. We have many residents who are moving into our community and they are setting up shop. As recently as last month, I had calls from individuals in my community who have lost enormous amounts of money because people are not willing to develop in Port Mouton Bay unless they are assured this fish farm expansion does not go forward.

I'm not just talking $2,000 or $5,000 or $10,000 - I'm talking in excess of $500,000. In one case, an individual tells me he stands to lose $480,000 in residential development in the area of Port Mouton, and another gentleman tells me that he stands to lose $300,000 in development. This is development in the community of Port Mouton that would see numerous spinoff jobs.

So again, are our departments talking to one another? Are we consulting about what type of economic development should take place in rural Nova Scotia, and are rural communities being part of that process?

Also, I'm going to ask whether or not the Department of Environment is clearly part of this process - does the review process clearly demonstrate the concerns my community has in relationship to the environmental regulations? And, if we don't have the strictest of environmental regulations around the development of this proposed expansion, what does that mean to the communities over the next several years should this proposed expansion be allowed to be carried forward?

If there is a risk to the environment, do we have the numbers? Again, can we relate that to the economic numbers of the negative impact should something happen environmentally to those pristine beach areas?

I want to conclude by saying that I would stress very importantly that this government needs to consult with communities about their own rural economic development, and they need to be all-inclusive and partner with other departments in making sure the mandates coincide with one another. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1732]

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: I'm pleased to stand today and speak on rural economic development. Certainly that's what I've done all my life in my job in the fishery and as a community person in my community - I always work to try to make the rural area of my home a little bit better. I believe without economic development in the rural areas of this province, this province could be destined for a bad thing to come in the future.

We certainly need what has built this province, and that is our fishery. With our fishery down, I also believe in growing fish - maybe not like my colleague who just spoke, but if we were still dependent on the buffalo of this country, we'd be in hard shape to find a hamburger anywhere, so we had to start growing cattle and hogs, and that is still a problem, too, but we had to do it. I believe if we don't grow fish along with our wild fishery of this world, then we are certainly going to run out of fish, and the professor who spoke the other day said that in 50 years they would be gone. The best thing you could ever eat on this earth is fish, maybe other than seal, for the high protein omega-3 that it carries. I eat it all the time. I'll tell you, I never catch a cold. I truly believe in that kind of food.

If we could concentrate more on growing fish and seal hunting, I think - seal harvesting, I should say - we could make these rural areas even a little bit better. I mean, we have always had to change over our lifetime and be very diverse in what we do in rural areas, and we have to change with the times as the times change. If we don't, then that seems to be the problem we are having right now, we're going into a stagnant time, and more than a stagnant time, we're going into a decline. I am seeing our young people leave our area of Digby-Annapolis.

We are getting ready for the lobster fishery down there right now, on November 27th. The boats are having a job to get a third and fourth young man to go aboard those boats, because they have all gone to Alberta. There are some gearing their boats a little better so they don't have to take that extra person or two aboard. So that is more decline we are seeing in just that fishery alone this Fall coming. Worse than last Fall.

That certainly bothers me, it bothers me to see so many elderly people, and so many funerals that I attend, 150 people dying a year with 25 and 30 being born, and over 100 young people between the ages of 20 and 30 years old leaving for the oil fields. We are certainly in trouble if we don't change something in rural Nova Scotia. It is not only in Digby-Annapolis, it is all around our coast.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is something we have to do something about, and I believe we can do something about it. If we just want to set our mind to it there is nothing, there is nothing you can't do, there is not a problem you can't fix if you just want to set your mind to it and you do it. I don't know how far this problem has to go before we realize

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that. We have to make room for everything. If we have to grow fish for this province to prosper, then we have to do so, but we have to do that in a way it doesn't hurt the traditional fishery, and we have to do that in a way it doesn't hurt tourism. As the honourable member spoke about a while ago, we don't want to hurt anybody. We need to add to and make better, and I believe we can make rural Nova Scotia a lot better.

They are talking down home about putting in a quarry. So we sell our land to the United States to make their roads. That would create some jobs in rural Nova Scotia. How long will Nova Scotia last? They claim if you blew up all of Nova Scotia down to the waterline, it wouldn't quite cover the roads of the United States once. So how long would it take to grind up Nova Scotia? That is the question you have to ask. How long will that be sustainable for our area.

That doesn't work. We need renewable, sustainable resources in the coastal areas of the province, and we have that, we just have to make that better and make that work for all concerned. Anybody who doesn't want to see fish grow around the coastal areas I suggest that maybe they go out on the Prairie somewhere where that doesn't go on, because you can't stop something like a natural resource from prospering in this province.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with my colleague. So, with that, I will close, and thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, certainly living in rural Nova Scotia, living in the Annapolis Valley, we certainly in Kings County still have some growth taking place, but rural economic development is indeed a major topic on the minds of many people. In the most recent statistical review of employment, the Annapolis Valley placed last in a tie for job opportunities. So despite some very, very good things happening, we also have a number of weaknesses.

Now, I think really in all of Nova Scotia, and when I look at the riding that I represent of Kings West, I would go back to agriculture, forestry, fishing and tourism and the very quality of life as five areas that certainly can find areas of advancing rural economic development. If we take agriculture, currently if we look at what has taken place with the growing of grapes and the development of the wine industry and tourism around the wine industry; also blueberry production, we don't find certainly blueberries rotting on the branches of the blueberry bushes; and carrots, as many as can be produced are used by Oxford Foods. So in essence around agriculture, we have to find the niche market areas and expand and advance those. Of course, we can never forget the apple industry and, again, new varieties, new cultivars, certainly need to be supported. I think agriculture is going to take now that kind of investment to move it forward.

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Again, forestry is an area that I think has the potential for a lot of value added jobs. One that, in my area, did not receive any help from provincial or federal government was a box-making operation where they employ five people making strawberry boxes. On his own, he bought new equipment and doubled the number of workers to 10 and that's the kind of thing certainly that we need to be taking a look at.

I know even though we have a small fishery out of Harbourville, they have doubled the number of licences out of that port since getting the first phase of their wharf complete and now they're looking for development of the second phase. There are at least six to eight liners that come up from Yarmouth and Wedgeport to take part in the dogfishery. Again, another little advance for a small rural community that is coming back to life through those small initiatives.

I would also say that perhaps our many small little communities in rural Nova Scotia need another program like the Little Red Schoolhouse. The Little Red Schoolhouse Program was a wonderful initiative and put some life into community halls. I think something comparable to that will help keep Nova Scotians in their communities and I think help to keep them vibrant and if we keep the people there, I think, you know, it's a cycle and I think you'll see that some of these traditional industries will come back.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand in my place this evening to debate rural economic growth in Nova Scotia. If I may, just for a moment, give the members opposite some of my background. I was a small business operator and owner. I started my own business about 27 years ago, and at its peak I think I had approximately 100 employees in my company. I understand small business in rural Nova Scotia. I happened for a number of years to sit on a local council and I was the warden for a number of years.

Mr. Speaker, I can relate to what the council used to tell me as their leader and as their warden, that we do not need Halifax to come to Yarmouth to dictate what happens in Yarmouth. We want to tell Halifax what our needs are in our community. I am very, very pleased to be the Minister of Economic Development. Since I've been the Minister of Economic Development, I can assure you and all members of this House I have visited every RDA in this province and I intend to visit them more often than any other minister ever, because I believe that they are the tool for economic growth in rural Nova Scotia and all of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, they are the voice for the communities. They are endorsed by all three levels of government.

[4:45 p.m.]

I hear little rabbit tracks over across the way, but I can assure that member and all members that the RDAs is an organization that is working for all Nova Scotia and

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they have an excellent track record. They are providing information to all levels of government to promote their communities.

Mr. Speaker, we at the Office of Economic Development have worked very closely with NSBI. We are creating new jobs in this province. In our aerospace industry alone, we are estimating approximately 600 jobs annually for the next 10 to 15 years. That's growth, and that's growth not only in HRM, that's all across this great province. The members opposite accompanied me on a mission here approximately a week or so ago to the southern States, and we heard first-hand of what the aerospace industry is doing in North America. Let me tell you that Nova Scotia ranks as one of the top in North America. So that speaks for itself, it speaks to the education system we have. It speaks to a great government that Nova Scotians have, a government that listens to communities and works with the communities.

Mr. Speaker, Michelin has three plants in our province, employing over 3,000 people in rural Nova Scotia. This government introduced the Credit Union Program; that is unbelievable, the uptake on the Credit Union Program, how that has worked for small business in rural Nova Scotia. People are understanding now that program is there and it's up to each and every member of this House to let the members in their communities know that program is there. It's not only up to the Minister of Economic Development and the government, it's up to all members of the Legislature to work with their communities, to work with their chambers of commerce, their boards of trade.

Mr. Speaker, we can enhance economic growth all over this province, but we can only do it by working together co-operatively. It's very easy for the Opposition to stand on their feet and say the sky is falling, but the sky is not falling. This province is moving ahead. The job creation in the last four years by this government, it's unheard of in numbers of job creation and not only in HRM but in all parts of our province. I was just in the beautiful County of Queens announcing 200 jobs in that community and people were ecstatic that our government would work with the community to develop jobs in their community. We're working in Shelburne with a company right now to increase up to 30 to 35 jobs in that community, but we're working all over our communities.

Mr. Speaker, we're working in your community, if I may. We're talking to a company in your area to see what we can do to enhance the economic growth in your community as we are in all members' communities. The Office of Economic Development is not in isolation. We are there, we're open and transparent, and we are trying to put the proper tools in the hands of the communities to let the community set their own destiny.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that I live in rural Nova Scotia and I'm very proud of that. I live, I think, at the beginning of Nova Scotia. Some people think it's the end but I believe it's the beginning of Nova Scotia. It's the gateway to Nova Scotia. We have numerous tourists come through our communities. Every year, we have an abundance

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of tourists come through our communities and all the surrounding communities. (Interruption)

Well, I don't think there is an end to Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, I hear rabbit tracks from my own colleagues. I believe that Nova Scotia has a lot to offer and every community has a lot to offer, but I want to assure members of this House that the Office of Economic Development is doing everything in our power. We've heard criticism from the Opposition about the out-migration of our youth. I believe what we're doing right now, we're working with the Minister of Education, we are going to get into the high schools and let the youth know before they go to university, what there is out there for those people to stay at home and work in their home communities.

That's what we need to do. We have to educate our youth to let them know the opportunities that are at home - and good paying jobs. I would advise the members opposite to stay tuned tomorrow, there might be a good news announcement here in the province tomorrow with good paying jobs for this great province of ours. You never know what might happen. (Interruption) You take it whatever you want, but I would say, stay tuned because there is lots more good news coming from this government.

Under the leadership of our Premier, Rodney MacDonald, who lives in rural Nova Scotia - he understands the needs of this province, not only in urban but in rural Nova Scotia. He understands from agriculture to fisheries to industries to manufacturing. This government understands. That's why we are determined to work with each and every community in this great province of ours. Not in isolation, but with the municipalities, the RDAs, with the Chambers of Commerce. I want to work with my colleagues across the way. I want them to express to me the needs of their community and see what we can do collectively to work together, instead of throwing rocks at one another. I think that we all have a job to do.

My job is to work with everybody in this House. I've tried to prove that since I've been here. I will continue to prove that the same as every minister on this side of the House will. With those few notes, Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I thank my colleagues for taking the time to listen to me. I challenge them, if they have issues and concerns in their community, to bring it to this government's attention. Do not do it in isolation. Work with us and let's find a resolve to whatever the issue is in their community and if we do it collectively, we can find that resolve. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: With that comes the close of this evening's debate. We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 4:51 p.m.]

[Page 1737]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 903

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 the film industry has helped various communities across Nova Scotia by showcasing them on the big screen in movies and in television; and

Whereas this industry not only contributes millions of dollars annually to our economy, it helps develop our homegrown talent both in front of and behind the scenes, as well as bringing known actors to our shores; and

Whereas starting today, Nova Scotia conceived and produced the film Pushing Up Daisies, and will be beginning its production in locations around Windsor, and stars Rose Byrne from Star Wars, Episode II, and Troy; and Jay Baruchel from Almost Famous, and Million Dollar Baby;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House give Electropolis Studios a round of applause for choosing Windsor as one of its locations and wish them and their production crew all the best.

RESOLUTION NO. 904

By: Mr. Patrick Dunn (Pictou Centre)

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

Whereas 14-year-old Pictou County native Jannah McIntyre has recently been declared one of the top highland dancers in the world; and

Whereas Ms. McIntyre travelled to Dunoon, Scotland, in August of this year to compete in the World Highland Dancing Championship, where she claimed a sixth place medal overall after winning third place in the sword dance and fourth place in the seann truibhas; and

Whereas a veteran dancer of 10 years, this is the second time Ms. McIntyre has competed at the international event, and she works hard, practising several hours a week with the Holly MacDonald-Bent Highland Dancers and at home with her mom and younger sister;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their sincerest congratulations to Jannah McIntyre on her dancing achievements, a result such as this reminds us not only of our close connection to Celtic and Scottish culture, but of the world-class talent that is born and raised right here in Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 905

By: Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

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

Whereas Jamie Gibson of Glace Bay, a Grade 9 student at Morrison High School; and

Whereas Jamie Gibson received the Male Athlete of the Year honours; and

Whereas Jamie Gibson received this top honour for his contributions to basketball, baseball, hockey, as well as track and field;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Jamie Gibson on receiving the Male Athlete of the Year honours and wish him every success for what appears to be a bright future in athletics.

RESOLUTION NO. 906

By: Mr. Leo Glavine (Kings West)

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

Whereas post-WWII young women and their children from Britain and Europe boarded vessels for a transatlantic journey into a new life with the Canadian soldiers they had met, fell in love with and married; and

Whereas it was not always easy for war brides to adjust to their new home and families, after leaving behind everything they had known, there were many challenges that had to be overcome; and

Whereas in spite of these challenges, war brides have made significant contributions to our country, they have raised their families, contributed to many organizations and have added to the social diversity of our country;

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Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the over 45,000 war brides who have made Nova Scotia and Canada home and wish them every success as they celebrate with high tea at the Aurora Inn on December 5, 2006, during the Year of the War Bride.

RESOLUTION NO. 907

By: Mr. Leo Glavine (Kings West)

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

Whereas on April 20, 2005, in recognition of her outstanding community spirit and in honour of her get-up-and-go attitude, Helen Huntley was awarded the 2005 Berwick Volunteer of the Year Award; and

Whereas Mrs. Huntley's dedication to the Central Kings Crusaders, where for 23 years she has worked diligently, also organizations such as the United Church Women's Club and the program Wings Take Flight; and

Whereas Mrs. Huntley has been a dedicated community member and has set an example to others;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contributions made by Helen Huntley to the community of Berwick and wish her many years of health and happiness.