The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 06-24

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

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2006

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Scott 1744
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Scott 1744
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 908, Prov. Autism Ctr.: Fundraiser - Congrats, The Premier 1745
Vote - Affirmative 1745
Res. 909, Minister's Awards for Excellence - SNSMR:
Recipients - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1745
Vote - Affirmative 1746
Res. 910, Ground Search & Rescue Assoc.: Vol. Efforts -
Acknowledge, Hon. E. Fage 1746
Vote - Affirmative 1747
Res. 911, Justice - Commun. Safety Legislation: MP s - Lobby,
Hon. M. Scott 1747
Vote - Affirmative 1748
Res. 912, Music N.S. Awards: Winners/Nominees - Congrats.,
Hon. L. Goucher 1748
Vote - Affirmative 1748
Res. 913, Black Cultural Ctr. - Anniv. (23rd), Hon. B. Barnet 1749
Vote - Affirmative 1749
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 107, Midwifery Act, Hon. C. d'Entremont 1750
No. 108, Trade Union Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1751
No. 108, Trade Union Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald
No. 109, Occupational Health and Safety Act,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1751
No. 110, Environment Act, Ms. M. More 1751
No. 111, Industrial Development Act, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1751
No. 112, Domestic Violence Elimination Act, Ms. D. Whalen 1751
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 914, Dart. Minor Football Assoc.: Fundraising Night - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 1751
Vote - Affirmative 1752
Res. 915, Evans, Sheila: RCL Work (30 yrs.) - Thank,
Mr. K. Colwell 1752
Vote - Affirmative 1753
Res. 916, Beaton, Jennifer - Duke of Edinburgh Award,
The Premier 1753
Vote - Affirmative 1753
Res. 917, Miller: Toronto Mayor - Re-Election, Mr. K. Deveaux 1754
Vote - Affirmative 1754
Res. 918, Women, Status of - Domestic Violence: Elimination -
Legislate, Ms. D. Whalen 1754
Res. 919, MacNeil, James & Mary Leigh: Lotto 6/49 Jackpot -
Congrats., Mr. K. Bain 1755
Vote - Affirmative 1756
Res. 920, Burnstein, Shirley - Shirley Burnstein Hall: Dedication -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1756
Vote - Affirmative 1757
Res. 921, Adoption Awareness Mo. (11/06) - Acknowledge,
Mr. S. McNeil 1757
Vote - Affirmative 1757
Res. 922 - Paris-Jackson Family - Hants West: Clan Gathering - Thank,
Mr. C. Parker 1758
Vote - Affirmative 1758
Res. 923, Nat'l. Trucking Wk. (09/17 - 09/23/06) - Recognize,
Mr. C. Parker 1758
Vote - Affirmative 1759
Res. 924, Gov't. (N.S.): Digby Hbr. Auth. - Co-operate,
Mr. H. Theriault 1759
Mr. H. Theriault
Res. 925, Brown, Sgt. Alex/Lynds, Sgt. Jim: New Glasgow Police
Force - Retirement, Mr. P. Dunn 1760
Vote - Affirmative 1760
Res. 926, Hfx. Co. Girls Soccer Team - Bronze Medal,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1761
Vote - Affirmative 1761
Res. 927, Samson, Michel - Birthday (34th),
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1761
Vote - Affirmative 1762
Res. 928, Col. Co. Sport Hall of Fame: Official Opening -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1762
Vote - Affirmative 1763
Res. 929, Habitat for Humanity (Hfx. - Dart.): Vol./Fundraisers/
Sponsors - Thank, Mr. D. Dexter 1763
Vote - Affirmative 1764
Res. 930, Gilkerson, Williams - Gov.-Gen.'s Award: Nomination -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1764
Vote - Affirmative 1764
Res. 931, Evans, George: Arctic Star Emblem - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1765
Vote - Affirmative 1765
Res. 932, Gallant, Milton/Logan, Karen: Commun. Dedication -
Thank, Mr. P. Dunn 1765
Vote - Affirmative 1766
Res. 933, Moorehouse, Georgina: Avon Valley Gulf & Country
Club - Honorary Membership, Mr. C. Porter 1766
Vote - Affirmative 1767
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 219, Health - Nursing Home (Middleton): Promise - Confirm,
Mr. D. Dexter 1767
No. 220, Health: Nursing Home Beds (Middleton) - Explain,
Mr. S. McNeil 1769
No. 221, Health: Nursing Home Beds - (Anna. Valley) Promises -
Admit, Mr. D. Dexter 1770
No. 222, Health: Nursing Home Beds (Barrington) Time Frame,
Mr. S. Belliveau 1772
No. 223, Gov't. (N.S.) - Gas Reg.: Retailers (Rural) - Protection,
Mr. M. Samson 1773
Mr. M. Samson
No. 224, Health - Nursing Home Beds: Access - Fairness,
Mr. G. Gosse 1775
No. 225, Health: Villa Acadienne - Concerns,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1776
No. 226, Nat. Res.: Land Purchase (C.B.) - Purpose, Mr. L. Glavine 1777
No. 227, Health - Ambulance Fees: Consultant's Report - Table,
Mr. G. Steele 1778
No. 228, Com. Serv.: Affordable Housing (C.B.) - Wait List,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1779
No. 229, Environ. & Lbr.: Workplace Violence - Regs. Introduce,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1781
No. 230, Nat. Res.: Wildlife Sanctuaries - Habitat Protection,
Mr. C. MacKinnon 1782
No. 231, TPW: Crosswalk Safety - Ensure, Mr. W. Gaudet 1784
No. 232, Health - LifeFlight Air Ambulance: Mgt. Search -
Confirm, Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1785
No. 233, Health: Respiratory Therapists - Legislation Introduce,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 1786
No. 234, Prem. - Immigration: Credentials - Recognize,
Ms. D. Whalen 1787
No. 235, Energy - Home Insulation: Rebate Prog. - Introduce,
Mr. F. Corbett 1789
No. 236, Educ.: Teacher Training - Exclusions, Mr. G. Gosse 1790
No. 237, TCH - Black Cultural Centre - Funding, Mr. K. Colwell 1791
No. 238, Justice: Criminal Injuries Comp. Prog. - Restore,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1793
No. 239, Educ. - Literacy Training: Francophones - Funding,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1794
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 74, Poverty Reduction Strategy Act 1796
Mr. S. McNeil 1796
Hon. J. Streatch 1801
Mr. T. Zinck 1805
Ms. M. More 1807
Ms. D. Whalen 1809
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 848, TPW - Hwy. No. 101: Digby-Weymouth - Construct - notice
given on Nov. 10, 2006 1814
Mr. H. Theriault 1814
Mr. M. Parent 1817
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 113 - Environment Act, Hon. M. Parent 1821
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 848, TPW - Hwy. No. 101: Digby-Weymouth - Construct - notice
given on Nov. 10, 2006 1821
Mr. C. Parker 1821
Mr. W. Gaudet 1824
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1827
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Victoria-The Lakes: Beauty - Recognize:
Mr. K. Bain 1828
Ms. J. Massey 1830
ADJOURNMENT: House rose to meet again on Thur., Nov. 16th, at 12:00 noon 1832

[Page 1743]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2006

Sixtieth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Cecil Clarke

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Wayne Gaudet

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin with the daily routine, the subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the unique beauty of the constituency of Victoria-The Lakes.

That debate will be held at the conclusion of normal business today.

We will now commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

1743

[Page 1744]

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 9 - Municipal Government Act.

Bill No. 15 - Municipal Government Act.

Bill No. 84 - Wind Turbine Facilities Municipal Taxation Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 7 - Registered Nurses Act.

Bill No. 11 - Licensed Practical Nurses Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 908

[Page 1745]

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 Second Annual Autism Golf Ball was held last month in Halifax, raising over $85,000 to enhance support and awareness for the Provincial Autism Centre to help children and families affected by the autism spectrum disorder; and

Whereas the need for support, education, and services has never been greater, as the centre states that at least one in 166 people will be diagnosed with autism in their lifetime; and

Whereas during the evening, the Sobeys Green Jacket Award was presented to Ms. Irene MacLeod who, along with her husband, Brian, has been an unsung hero in her work to raise awareness and funds for those dealing with this disorder;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Provincial Autism Centre on a second successful fundraiser to help support their efforts, and also commend Irene MacLeod for her work complementing the tremendous efforts of the centre.

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. 909

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

Whereas the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Secretariat, comprised of Grant Brennan, Aileen Waller-Hebb, Rene Frigault, Georgina Dimock, Susan MacDonald, Sarah Hann and Deborah Bayer; the Point-of-Sale Team, comprised of Donna MacRury, Mary Archibald, Greg Sewell, Chad MacDonald, Wayne Richard and Yansong Gao; and

[Page 1746]

Perry Hamilton of the Geomatics Centre in Amherst received the 2006 Minister's Awards for Excellence; and

Whereas the Minister's Awards for Excellence is part of the new Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Employee Recognition Program; and

Whereas these awards recognize outstanding achievement by an individual or a team in support of the department's goals and objectives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank and congratulate the recipients of this year's Minister's Awards for Excellence for their outstanding support of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relation's goals and objectives.

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.

I would just note to all members, the noise level in the Chamber is getting quite loud, so if you'd be mindful of that.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 910

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 Nova Scotia Ground Search and Rescue Association represents 24 volunteer teams in our province; and

Whereas these member teams are 100 per cent volunteers and operate under the authority of the Emergency Management Office; and

Whereas since 1990, more than 5,000 Nova Scotians have taken the Ground Search and Rescue program to better serve their communities;

[Page 1747]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the volunteer efforts of members of the Ground Search and Rescue Association, and applaud their commitment to public safety.

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 Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 911

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

Whereas all Nova Scotians deserve to live in safety and security; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia is working with our community partners to develop and implement a range of initiatives and legislative measures to address crime; and

Whereas the federal government has also introduced several pieces of legislation designed to protect Canadians by strengthening both enforcement and consequences;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House and all Nova Scotians are encouraged to call on their Member of Parliament to support any legislation that will improve the safety of our communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1748]

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. 912

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

Whereas the 10th Annual Music Nova Scotia Awards was held in Liverpool, Nova Scotia on November 12, 2006; and

Whereas close to 500 musicians, music industry representatives and music fans attended the event, which showcased our rich and diverse musical talent; and

Whereas the province is a proud sponsor of our vibrant, world-class music industry, investing nearly $1.1 million since 2004 to help Nova Scotian artists develop and promote their music here at home and around the world;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the winners and nominees of this year's music awards and recognize the tremendous efforts of the event organizers for their work in raising the profile of Nova Scotia music.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 913

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

[Page 1749]

Whereas this past weekend, the Black Cultural Centre held its 23rd Annual Dinner; and

Whereas the Black Cultural Centre is an organization that has existed for the past 23 years and represents African Nova Scotians from across the province; and

Whereas the Black Cultural Centre has been an absolute resource for the minister and the staff during the beginnings of the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the Black Cultural Centre on their 23rd Anniversary and wish them success during the next 23 years of service to the African Nova Scotian 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 Dartmouth South-Portland Valley on an introduction.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I draw your attention to the west gallery where I'm pleased to introduce Kevin McLean and his paralegal services class from the Akerley Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College system and, in particular, my friend, Nicky Dauphinee. I invite them to rise and receive the warm welcome from the Legislature. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

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

The honourable member for Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery where I would like to introduce Sylvester Atkinson, who is a former mayor of Middleton, and Vera Errington, who is a councillor

[Page 1750]

in Middleton. Both of them have been long-standing members of the committee to encourage the government to bring a nursing home to Middleton. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Before I introduce this bill, I would like to introduce a few people who are in our gallery.

MR. SPEAKER: Please do.

MR. D'ENTREMONT: I would ask them to stand as I introduce them - they are here for the Midwifery Act, which we are about to introduce - Kerstin Martin, Kelly Chisholm, Karen Robb, and Maren Dietze of the Association of Nova Scotia Midwives; Jan Catano from the Midwifery Coalition of Nova Scotia; and Christine Saulnier from the Atlantic Centre for Excellence in Women's Health. I, too, give them the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Bill No. 107 - Entitled an Act Respecting Midwifery. (Hon. Christopher d'Entremont)

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

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Would I be permitted to make an introduction before I table my . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Please do.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, today in the east gallery we are joined by some members - not all members, but some members - of the Coalition Against Workplace Violence: Joan Jessome, President of the Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union; Mary-Lou Donnelly, President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union; and Janet Hazelton, President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. I would ask our guests to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

Bill No. 108 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 475 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Trade Union Act, Respecting First-contract Arbitration. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

[Page 1751]

Bill No. 109 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1996. The Occupational Health and Safety Act. (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

Bill No. 110 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Environment Act. (Ms. Marilyn More)

Bill No. 111 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 222 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Industrial Development Act. (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

Bill No. 112 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Establishment of a Domestic Violence Prevention Committee in Nova Scotia. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 914

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

Whereas on September 29, 2006, the Dartmouth Minor Football Association held its annual fundraising night at the Colby Ale House in Cole Harbour; and

Whereas the fundraiser was an overwhelming success with $7,500 raised by the association through a 50/50 draw, raffle of a glass turkey, and the main event - an auction; and

Whereas this fundraiser enabled the Dartmouth Minor Football Association to cover equipment costs and operating expenses so that over 70 young athletes have the opportunity to develop their skills and have a rewarding experience participating in this team sport;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend the Dartmouth Minor Football Association for its commitment to the youth of the community, and thank the executive community organizers and sponsors for their generosity, support and goodwill during their first annual fundraising night at the Colby Ale House in Cole Harbour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 1752]

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 915

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

Whereas Sheila Evans has earned the Lifetime Membership distinction, with over 30 years as a member of the Royal Canadian Legion; and

Whereas Sheila Evans, for the past three years, has held the position of service officer at the Centennial Legion Branch 160 in Westphal, helping the veterans first-hand with filling out forms, pension problems, et cetera, on-site or at their home; and

Whereas Sheila Evans has worked on special projects such as the Year of the Veteran Monument, as well as organized Christmas and Remembrance Day celebrations at the Centennial Legion, having residents of Camp Hill Hospital attend;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly join me in thanking Sheila Evans for her compassion, dedication and tireless work on behalf of our veterans of Nova Scotia for the past 30-plus years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

[Page 1753]

RESOLUTION NO. 916

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

Whereas the Duke of Edinburgh's Award is presented to commend young people who have met the standards of the program in both community service and self-improvement; and

Whereas the award - founded 50 years ago by His Royal Highness, Prince Phillip - helps foster personal excellence in our youth; and

Whereas this year, the Nova Scotia Division of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, Young Canadians Challenge, presented Jennifer Beaton of Port Hawkesbury with the Bronze Award Certificate;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Miss Beaton for this special honour and for challenging herself to reach the goals set by the program.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 917

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

Whereas the Province of Ontario conducted province-wide municipal elections on November 13, 2006, including the election of the mayor of the City of Toronto; and

[Page 1754]

Whereas David Miller was first elected the mayor of the City of Toronto in 2003 for a three-year term of office; and

Whereas David Miller was re-elected as the mayor of Toronto on November 13, 2006 with 57 per cent of the vote, defeating over 35 other candidates for the position;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate David Miller on his re-election as mayor of the City of Toronto and wish him and the new Toronto City Council the best of luck in the next four years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 918

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

Whereas according to the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women, 74 women, including two infants, have been murdered or died violently in Nova Scotia since 1989; and

Whereas the government has a role to play in the coordination of information and in raising awareness on women's issues, particularly violence against women; and

Whereas as long as women continue to be abused and murdered at the hands of their partners, the government has a responsibility to ensure proper policies and supports are in place;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly acknowledge that this government has not done enough to protect women from domestic violence and should act to introduce legislation and programs to eliminate domestic violence.

[Page 1755]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 919

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

Whereas despite the fact Christmas Day is officially over five weeks away, the MacNeil family of Christmas Island, Cape Breton County had 9.9 million reasons yesterday for celebrating Christmas in November this year; and

Whereas James and Mary Leigh MacNeil were one of four winners from across Canada in last week's $39.9 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot; and

Whereas the MacNeils purchased their ticket at the Grand Narrows Convenience Store, surprising owner Elaine MacNeil by asking her to check the ticket without telling her in advance they had won;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Jim and Mary Leigh MacNeil on their outstanding win and to store owner Elaine MacNeil who was also a winner, getting $99,000, or 1 per cent value for selling the winning ticket.

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 1756]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 920

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

Whereas Shirley Burnstein has been an active and respected member of Nova Scotia's musical community throughout her life as a performer, a musical director and especially as a teacher and has received numerous awards in recognition of her accomplishments; and

Whereas Shirley Burnstein has been an active and dedicated volunteer at the Northwood Community Centre since 1988 where she developed a musical program that led to the creation of the Northwood Players, a musical ensemble with over 80 members drawn both from Northwood and from the larger community and which performs throughout the region; and

Whereas Northwood will recognize Shirley Burnstein's years of commitment to bringing music to Northwood and the larger community by dedicating the Shirley Burnstein Hall, an activity and program centre at Northwood, in a ceremony on Thursday, November 16, 2006;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly thank Shirley Burnstein for her lifetime of service to the community and especially to Northwood Community Centre and extend congratulations to Shirley Burnstein on the occasion of the dedication of the Shirley Burnstein Hall.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 921

[Page 1757]

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

Whereas all children deserve a loving and stable home in which they can live; and

Whereas there are more than 100 children and youth in permanent care in Nova Scotia who are waiting to be adopted into a loving home and many of these children are older or have special needs; and

Whereas November has been designated as Adoption Awareness Month, a time to remember that every child and young person in Nova Scotia deserves a permanent and loving home of their own;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly acknowledge the work being done to help these children find a loving home and convey our gratitude to those who have adopted children.

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. 922

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

Whereas Windsor-West Hants is a memorable spot to gather with loved ones and dear friends; and

Whereas Windsor-West Hants is a place to explore our own history as you forge lasting friendships for the future; and

[Page 1758]

Whereas the family and extended family of my esteemed colleague from Waverley-Beaver Bank-Fall River gathered in Windsor during Sam Slick Days;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly give our sincere thanks and appreciation to the Paris-Jackson family for choosing to gather their clan in my constituency, which also happens to be an integral part of their ancestral 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 Pictou West.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 923

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

Whereas heavy trucks accounted for over 20 billion vehicle kilometres in 2004, a number expected to have increased for 2005 and 2006; and

Whereas trucking in Atlantic Canada accounts for the majority of goods stocked on store shelves, leading to the industry catch phrase, if you bought it, a truck brought it; and

Whereas September 17th to 23rd was designated as National Trucking Week in Canada, a time to recognize that it takes drivers, technicians, managers and countless personnel to move all the items we use on a daily basis;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize National Trucking Week, and thank the men and women of the trucking industry for their hard work and dedication.

[Page 1759]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 924

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

Whereas our coastal communities and fishing industry is an integral part of Nova Scotia's past, present and future; and

Whereas the Digby wharf is home to some 100 fishing vessels, 50 recreational boats, and protects the Town of Digby from storms of various kinds; and

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has done little to aid the people of this area who rely on the wharf;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly urge the Government of Nova Scotia to put the past behind them and work with the Digby Harbour Authority to come to a pleasant and productive resolution to this situation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

[Page 1760]

RESOLUTION NO. 925

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

Whereas two long-serving members of the New Glasgow Police Force retired on November 2nd of this year, after dedicating 34 years to their community; and

Whereas Sergeant Alex Brown and Sergeant Jim Lynds exemplified the superior qualities that are found in outstanding officers, such as accountability, respect and integrity; and

Whereas through their work, Sergeant Brown and Sergeant Lynds worked in partnership with the community to provide quality service and the best in maintaining law and order; they will now continue to serve their community through volunteer endeavours;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their best wishes for the future to Sergeant Alex Brown and Sergeant Jim Lynds of the New Glasgow Police Force on their retirement. The people of New Glasgow benefited for over three decades from their bravery and dedication, and can now look forward to benefiting from their volunteer service and dedicated community involvement.

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. 926

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

Whereas Halifax County's Under-14 Girls Soccer Team captured a Bronze Medal at the Nationals in Toronto, Ontario in October 2006; and

[Page 1761]

Whereas this medal recognizes a remarkable season of many accomplishments; and

Whereas Coach Ken Burton and Assistant Coach Mike Malone, all players, parents and team supporters should be proud of their achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Halifax County Girls Soccer Team on their Bronze Medal at the Nationals.

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 Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 927

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the MLA for Richmond was first elected to the House of Assembly in March, 1998, at the age of 25, becoming the youngest member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly this century; and

Whereas the MLA for Richmond grew up in the small French-speaking fishing village of Petit-de-Grat with his parents and three siblings, spending most of his summers working in the local fishery, until leaving for Dalhousie University, where he obtained a BA in History and his Law Degree; and

Whereas the Richmond MLA has been an advocate for Acadians and French-speaking people across the province, in hopes that all government services in the province are one day provided in both of Canada's official languages;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly give their warmest wishes to Michel Samson, MLA for Richmond, Interim Leader of the Liberal Party, who celebrates his 34th birthday today.

[Page 1762]

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. 928

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

Whereas the Truro Sport Heritage Society officially opened the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame on November 3, 2006; and

Whereas the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame now has a permanent home in the recently opened Marigold Centre, and consists of all of the Honour Roll Inductees in the 22-year history of the Truro Sport Heritage Society; and

Whereas as part of the official opening, seven members were added to the Hall of Fame - Mike Henderson, Jim Cumming, Randy Crowell, Dave Piers; and deceased athletes Hanson T. Dowell, Jack Learment and Vern "Newt" Hopper;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Truro Sport Heritage Society on the official opening of the Colchester County Sport Hall of Fame and thank it for its continuing contribution to the recognition of athletic excellence in Colchester County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1763]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 929

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

Whereas Habitat for Humanity is a national non-profit organization, bringing together volunteers and community partners, to build affordable houses; and

Whereas on Saturday, September 30, 2006, Habitat for Humanity Halifax-Dartmouth held a dedication ceremony in the Forest Hills-Cole Harbour area; and

Whereas this dedication ceremony saw three Habitat partner families receive keys and enthusiastically take possession of their new home;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the essential work Habitat for Humanity Halifax-Dartmouth is doing to promote home ownership and give thanks to the many volunteers, fundraisers and sponsors for their efforts to provide affordable housing in this 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 Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 930

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

Whereas each year, the Canada Council for Arts nominates writers in a number of categories to receive the Governor General's Literary Award; and

[Page 1764]

Whereas William Gilkerson of Martins River, Lunenburg County, has published 11 books and is well known around the world as a marine artist; and

Whereas William Gilkerson has been chosen as one of five finalists to receive the Governor General's Award in the Children's Literature Category, for his book, "Pirate's Passage";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate William Gilkerson on his nomination to receive the Governor General's Award in the Children's Literature Category.

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. 931

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

Whereas veteran, George Evans of Amherst, Nova Scotia received an honourable pin in the mail recently known as the Arctic Star Emblem; and

Whereas Mr. Evans received this recognition of service to his country, having served North of the Arctic Circle and West of the Urals between September 1939 and May 1945; and

Whereas he served on Convoy PQ16 from May 22 to July 8, 1942, as well as on Convoy JW53, from February to December 1943;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending our congratulations to veteran George Evans for receiving this honour and thank him for his military service in the Merchant Navy for our country.

[Page 1765]

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 Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 932

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

Whereas two New Glasgow businesses have recently helped ease the financial burden placed on some local families with back-to-school preparations; and

Whereas Milton Gallant of the UPS Store and Karen Logan of Pizza Delight worked together with Online Office Supplies to launch the program that included a special Web site; the Web site allowed for people to order supplies on-line and have them sent to the UPS Store and those making donations to Pizza Delight were rewarded with Pizza Delight store coupons; and

Whereas the program launched for the first time this year ran from August 22nd to September 30th and was very successful, prompting Mr. Gallant and Ms. Logan to work on next year's program and they hope it will be around for years to come;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Mr. Gallant and Ms. Logan for their community dedication. Such a worthwhile program can be used as an example to other communities and encourage more support for those among us who may sometimes need it, especially children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1766]

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. 933

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

Whereas Georgina Moorehouse was made an honourary member of the Avon Valley Golf and Country Club this past summer; and

Whereas Georgina has been playing Avon Valley since the club first opened in 1972 and is still a formidable force on the links; and

Whereas at 90 years of age, she teamed with Garnet Harvey this summer to play in the club's mixed championship, a tournament she and Garnet won in 1998 when Georgina was a younger 82 years of age;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly compliment Georgina Moorehouse for her ongoing athletic spirit and wish her many more summers of great golf at the Avon Valley Golf and Country Club.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:42 p.m. and end at 4:12 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 1767]

HEALTH - NURSING HOME (MIDDLETON): PROMISE - CONFIRM

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. My first question will be through you to the Premier. I am going to begin by tabling an article from The Valley Today in which the former Tory candidate for Annapolis admits that he promised a nursing home to the community of Middleton, but there is a kicker, Mr. Speaker, he says that it was if he was elected.

Well, Mr. Speaker, members of the Middleton and Area Nursing Home Society are here today to hear the words directly from the Premier and the Minister of Health. So, Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier I would ask this question, will Middleton get a nursing home, yes or no?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one thing that we can be very proud of over the last number of years, as a government, since 1999 - whenever we have made decisions in health care, we have always ensured that we have made them with the best possible evidence. We have used the information at hand and we will do the same for our continuing care strategy as to where the beds go across the province.

I indicated, Mr. Speaker, that areas such as Middleton - and I know that Middleton is one of those areas that has worked extremely hard on getting beds - I can assure that member and all members that they will be treated very fairly in this process. I have no doubt that there will be beds going into that region of the province.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, the former Tory candidate stated, ". . . the people of Middleton didn't elect me. So basically, they've turned down what I proposed, as far as I am concerned."

Well, the Conservatives promised more nursing home beds in 1999, the Conservatives promised more nursing home beds in 2003 but instead, they cut the number of nursing home beds. Mr. Speaker, through you I want to ask the Premier, why doesn't your government keep the promises made by the candidates that they endorsed, the candidate that they authorized, the candidate whose papers they signed, and the promises that they made to all of the families who need nursing home care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I stated yesterday, and I'll repeat my answer, the minister and the staff are doing the appropriate steps in this process for the continuing care strategy. There are over 800 beds going to be going out. Middleton, as with every other community, will be treated fairly in that process. They deserve no less. I wouldn't want to suggest that Middleton is going to get 40 beds; perhaps it will be more beds that they're going to get in this process. It has to be evidence-based, it has to be fair to the community, and it's not something that should be politicized here on the floor of the Legislature.

[Page 1768]

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Politicized, Mr. Speaker. This from the Premier who, during the campaign, had his candidate tell the people of Middleton at the all-Party debate that they were going to get a nursing home in Middleton. The people of Middleton remember those commitments, they remember the campaign literature, and they remember the specific references to the conversations with the Premier and the Minister of Health confirming the promise. So my question to the Premier is, when will he do the honourable thing and recognize the need that has existed for so many years, and put a nursing home in Middleton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I go back to my previous answer. The people of Middleton will be treated very fairly in the process that we have put forward. I would not want to suggest, as I said, they will get 40 beds, they may get more beds in that area. The reality is, it must be an evidence-based process. We have over 800 beds that are going out across the province. I will say this, this government made many commitments over the years. We made a commitment to balance the books of this province, and we did it. We made a commitment to get the Offshore Accord, and we did it. We made a commitment to grow the economy, and today, 400 more jobs here in Halifax. Those are the types of commitments that we made and we kept.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

HEALTH: NURSING HOME BEDS (MIDDLETON) - EXPLAIN

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier, and I'm afraid to ask it - he keeps digging the hole deeper and deeper, so I'm afraid. In the visitors' gallery with us today are some residents of the Middleton area. They've come to watch the democratic process in action. They've come to hear this government say out loud that the promises that were made, assured six months ago, to provide 40 nursing home beds was simply a figment of their imagination. The people of this province expect and deserve a democratic system with the promises that are made on and off the election trail fulfilled. So my question to the Premier is, what do you say to the residents of Middleton, including those who are here today, who are asking your government, where is our nursing home?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know that the member has brought this to the floor of the Legislature. In fact, he and I have spoken about this issue outside of the Legislature. I've said the same things outside this Legislature as I say here today, that there will be a fair process put in place. We will take a look, and I have no doubt the member was suggesting that Middleton should get 40 beds, perhaps it's more beds they're going to get. I don't know that until the process follows through the appropriate steps. I congratulate the committee that is working so hard to get that nursing home to see those beds. They are to be congratulated, certainly.

[Page 1769]

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Atkinson is in the gallery today. He met with Mr. Hannam and you, Mr. Premier, on June 2nd this past summer over a cup of Tim's best. You discussed nursing home beds once again. When told that Mr. Hannam and the minister had promised 40 nursing home beds for Middleton, you said, if that's what the minister said, that's what will happen. The Premier has accused me of playing games with this issue; well, Mr. Premier, I think it is my responsibility to stand up for the people of Annapolis, and I don't think broken promises are anything that should be taken lightly. The finger-pointing games that are being played are being played by your side of the House. While we sit here playing he said-she said, 2008 is quickly approaching. The process is a long process, and the people of Richmond certainly understand what lies ahead for the people of Middleton.

So my question for you, Mr. Premier, is, when will you stop playing games with the people of Middleton and get these beds into Middleton where you promised them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'll refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for the question in bringing this important issue, once again, to the floor of this Legislature. I also want to thank the member opposite for helping us out today and having a meeting with the group that I so happily had with our members from Middleton to discuss this issue, to try to explain where we are with the Continuing Care Strategy and how they fit within that strategy.

Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that all members of this House understand the process that we have put forward to make sure we're putting the right number of beds in areas of Nova Scotia the right way the first time.

MR. MCNEIL: My final question is for the Minister of Health. Middleton is just one town on a long list of areas waiting for more nursing home beds. There is a shortage of nursing home beds from one end of this province to the other. So my question to the minister is, will your government stick to its promises to the residents of Middleton and all Nova Scotians to provide the 826 nursing home beds you promised on schedule?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I think that all seniors and individuals who have to go off to nursing home care deserve the best that they possibly can have and, yes, we will honour our commitment through the Continuing Care Strategy to ensure that we have 826 beds right across this great province of ours.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: NURSING HOME BEDS (ANNA. VALLEY) - PROMISES ADMIT

[Page 1770]

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you know, it seems like the Premier is suffering from a little political amnesia so maybe we can refresh his memory. I'm going to table a campaign statement the Premier made during the Spring 2006 election. The Premier stated, "Our new PC team is making needed investments now for seniors and their families. It's long-term care here in Halifax, Sackville, Waverley, the Annapolis Valley and Shelburne."

Mr. Speaker, that was not the candidate for Annapolis speaking, nor was it the Minister of Health. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition on your question.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, they may think it's funny but there are an awful lot of people in this province who don't. It's a serious matter. This was not the candidate for Annapolis speaking nor was it the Minister of Health, it was the Premier, the commitment of the Premier. I tabled the statement. My question to him is, why won't he admit that he and the Conservatives promised new nursing home beds now for the Annapolis Valley?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government made a commitment to more beds here in Nova Scotia. The government will keep its commitment. In fact, soon after the election I was in Richmond County at the opening of the new Richmond Villa which had beds in it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government can move very quickly when they see a real need. This year alone the government has rolled out plans to open 31 new liquor stores as quickly as possible. They predicted that it would take mere weeks to move from call for proposals to signing the contract for a new liquor store. Meanwhile, families from Middleton must drive for hours to visit a loved one in a distant nursing home, passing those new liquor stores all along the way. So I would ask the Premier, when will the new nursing home beds for Middleton be treated with the same urgency and importance as the government gives to opening new liquor stores?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has put forward a very comprehensive Continuing Care Strategy. The Opposition is purely focused on beds, beds, beds. Well, not everybody wants to be in a nursing home either. The reality is, if you take a look at the Continuing Care Strategy, it also gives people the opportunity to stay at home as well. We expanded services in home care through home oxygen and a number of other initiatives. This government made a commitment in that Continuing Care Strategy for 1,300 new beds - 826 of them coming in the next couple of years. The government also made short-term commitments.

[Page 1771]

An example, as I gave in my previous answer, Mr. Speaker, is the Richmond Villa. A great example of a facility which will serve the people of Richmond County and the surrounding communities and a great example of what we can see across our province.

The government is very proud of the investments we are making and we will deliver on the commitments we have made to the people of our province. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has given people lots of opportunities to stay at home because they're not building any long-term care facilities for them to go to. The Premier promised in the election campaign that he would make sure long-term care would be there for seniors when they need it. The waiting lists for health care and nursing home care have kept growing because of the broken promises of this government. My final supplementary to the Premier is, when is his government finally going to get the priorities straight and ensure that long-term care is there in Middleton and in Barrington and in the other communities where it's needed?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we've been working very hard on this Continuing Care Strategy, making sure we're making the right decisions for the right reasons. The staff at the Department of Health have been giving yeoman's service to make sure we're doing this in the right manner. The Opposition seems to think that you can wave a wand and beds will appear. That won't happen. The hard work of this government will make sure that we protect the Province of Nova Scotia and the seniors in those facilities. Wave the wand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

HEALTH: NURSING HOME BEDS (BARRINGTON) - TIMEFRAME

MR. STERLING BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question again is for the Minister of Health. The community of Barrington has been waiting for a nursing home for 30 years - I repeat, 30 years - and counting. It is one of the communities that was promised nursing home beds during the recent election - 40 beds. Forty beds are desperately needed so seniors can stay in their own area instead of being sent far away from home where they need care. My question to the Minister of Health is, when can I mark down the date of the groundbreaking ceremony for 40 nursing home beds in Barrington?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I speak very highly of the work of the community of Cape Island and the community of Shelburne County on bringing this issue forward. I know we're working quite closely with the staff and the folks at Bayside to make sure we have beds in place in a short period of time.

[Page 1772]

MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I'll table a letter from the Minister of Health dated May 25, 2006 that states, "I am writing to provide you with a commitment for an additional 40 beds . . . we anticipate beds being opened in fiscal year 2009/2010."

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health stated in the media that Middleton has no promise in writing, but Barrington most certainly does. My question to the Minister of Health is, will his government honour this written commitment to Barrington?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to see the member opposite knows what a commitment is. It is seen on a piece of paper and we will commit to that date.

MR. BELLIVEAU: Mr. Speaker, empty promises have surrounded this issue for three decades - I repeat, three decades. Every day, every day this government delays building these beds, seniors and their families lose a little more faith that they are ever going to get a nursing home. My final question to the Minister of Health is, which category does Bayside expansion fall into - empty promises, propaganda or reality?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again, he has a commitment on paper. We made a commitment to the individuals and to the good citizens of Shelburne County to make sure we have an expansion at Bayside. We will commit to that.

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

GOV'T. (N.S.) - GAS REG.: RETAILERS (RURAL) - PROTECTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today we see a further result of this Premier's gas regulation system in Nova Scotia. We have the highest gas prices in the Maritime Provinces and we now have at least 11 retailers who may run dry of petroleum products in rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier said gas regulation would protect small rural stations, but under the Premier's system, with the support of the NDP, 11 stations do not know where they will get their next gas supply from. So what has regulation brought us? High gas prices, the majority of dealers opted out of regulation, and now 11 rural stations face closure. So my question is, how has the Premier's gas regulation system provided protection to the 11 stations looking for a gas supplier today, under his system?

[3:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 1773]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it sounds to me like the honourable member is now complaining that gas prices in Nova Scotia are not high enough. We're a very (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MUIR: I'm extremely disappointed with the actions taken by the particular distributor, in this case we all know who it is, it's Wilson's Fuels. The company has chosen to punish the smallest distributors in rural stations, and only those who have opted to go under the regulated system. What they are trying to do, and they said this quite openly to our department, we don't like regulation and we're going to punish those who opted for it.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is the Premier's system. He is the one forcing higher prices on Nova Scotians. He is the one forcing rural retailers to run out of gasoline. It has been a poorly administered system. It's a poorly structured system and no one is happy within this climate. The majority of Nova Scotians are opposed to the Premier's regulated system. I must say, it was a shame to hear the Premier yesterday, and I must say an even bigger shame to hear the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Affairs today, blame a corporate citizen, in our province, that is well-known for having supported communities throughout our province and having given some of the lowest gas prices over the years to Nova Scotian consumers, now being blamed by the Premier and by the minister for your system's own failure. So my question again to the Premier is, when will the Premier finally admit that gas regulation has been a failure to the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of gas wholesalers in this province and it's interesting that only one has decided to take the action that it did. I might say that on Friday, November 3rd, a representative of that corporation informed us that they would cut off the supply to small rural distributors, one by one, and I think actually the words were, we'll put a bullet in their head, as a protest against regulation. (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, who am I defending? I'm defending Nova Scotian consumers and defending a Nova Scotia company that supplied gas to rural areas when no one else would, when no one else was interested, supplied them with gas and kept those stations opens. I want to know what the Premier has to say to the people of Paradise, Boylston, Kennetcook, Baddeck, Debert, Whycocomagh, Shelburne, South Ohio, Dartmouth, Ingonish Beach and Sheet Harbour. All communities that now face the prospect of having no gas under your regulated system, but they certainly had gas under the competitive system. So my question to the Premier once again is, how much more

[Page 1774]

is it going to take with now 11 stations facing closure, before you finally admit that gas regulation has been a failure to the people of Nova Scotia.

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, regulation was put in. The gas retailers association of the province wanted it. It was intended to stabilize prices across the province. It has done that. There's no question that not everybody was in favour of regulation. I mean, there is no question that any of the distributors were not particularly interested in price regulation. I want to tell you that the independent, small rural people who are independent operators, the majority of them, when they were given the option of whether they - and I am not talking about the company-operated stations, obviously, but the majority of the independent, small retailers, who were independent, they opted for the regulated system and the guaranteed margins.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOME BEDS: ACCESS - FAIRNESS

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Health. Ann MacDonald's mother waited near the top of the list for a nursing home bed at the Harbourstone for 14 months before getting placed just this weekend. Beds open, but patients in hospital beds, transitional units, and adult protection cases get the beds first and there is not much left for people waiting in their home. My question to the Minister of Health is, why is there no balance in the policy to allow people in the community fair access to nursing home beds?

HON. CHRIS D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, there is pressure in that system right now, as questions came forward previously. As we move down the road of increasing the beds in the province, and of course Cape Breton is one of those areas which is getting a number of beds in the near number of days, I know there is some construction going on right now. So we are hoping that in the near future that the policy can be changed to accommodate the new beds in that system.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, this senior was assessed to require around-the-clock care in order to get on the waiting list in the first place. The sad irony is that if she experienced a health episode and landed in the hospital that she would have jumped her own waiting list to get a bed sooner. The government has stopped the studies in a 10-year plan to do something to address this crisis now. I ask the Minister of Health, what is his definition of a reasonable wait time to access a nursing home bed if you require the care?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: This government has been well aware that the waiting lists for nursing care are unacceptable and one we want to try to remedy, one we will

[Page 1775]

continue to work through our Continuing Care Strategy for the expansion in the system. Right now, the system is in a state that has to have the policies in place that certain people will get placed ahead of others in order to help out, as the member alluded to, in adult protection cases and other cases. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to changing that policy once those 826 beds are in the system.

MR. GOSSE: I also look forward to a change in that policy, Mr. Speaker, sooner than later. In 1999, this government campaigned on adding nursing home beds, but they cut nearly 100 instead. Another empty campaign promise. This senior is not alone, the story could be repeated hundreds of times across the Province of Nova Scotia. My final question to the minister is, how much longer will these seniors have to wait until they get the care they require?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up the issue of cuts in nursing home beds. What has happened in that instance is, of course, that through the Fire Marshal's Office, through Occupational Health and Safety, we have had to make some adjustment to some nursing homes in order to provide safe and effective care to those residents. I look forward, over the next number of months, to bringing forward where those beds will be located across this province, to be fair and equitable to all seniors in this Province of Nova Scotia.

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

HEALTH: VILLA ACADIENNE - CONCERNS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question this afternoon is for the Minister of Health. Nursing homes in Nova Scotia already face significant challenges in attempting to deliver the services they provide. Ensuring that our elderly, ill citizens receive the appropriate care should be their primary concern. For some of the facilities, however, there are pressing financial issues that are interfering with this. Villa Acadienne in Meteghan is an 86-bed, long-term care facility, and because of current pension solvency rules, is facing an annual increase of $212,000 to make up for this funding deficit. Mr. Minister, Villa Acadienne wrote to you in June seeking your help, but you have yet to respond. Why are you failing to take their concerns seriously?

HON. CHRIS D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, at this point, I am unaware of that letter and if the member could produce a copy, I would appreciate that and I would look into it as quickly as possible.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'll table a copy of that letter for the minister. Let me put this in perspective. This increase represents 5 per cent of the annual budget for Villa Acadienne, Mr. Speaker. Absorbing this cost will fall heavily on the backs of both taxpayers and the elderly ill residents of this facility and it seems very unnecessary. The reality, when considering pension funding for a nursing

[Page 1776]

home, is that they're not going anywhere. They're not going away. There will long be a need, and indeed an even greater need, for those beds. So I ask the minister, can the minister tell this House, when will he give this issue the focus it deserves and work with Villa Acadienne to resolve this issue?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Again, Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, I thank him for bringing the question to the floor of this Legislature. I will look forward to getting a copy of that letter and to doing my utmost to help out in this situation.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my final question will be for the Minister of Finance. Given the lack of response from the Health Department, Villa Acadienne wrote to the minister on August 25th. Yet, again, they haven't got any response from any minister of this government and I'll table that letter also. Their situation is serious. So I ask the minister, why does your government continue to ignore these pressing problems facing Villa Acadienne?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I refer that to the Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to look into the matter. There are many organizations and companies across Nova Scotia looking at their solvency requirements. We are looking at them individually and would be happy to respond to this, once we get the request.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

NAT. RES.: LAND PURCHASE (C.B.) - PURPOSE

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. On October 27, 2006, an Order in Council was issued authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to purchase 1,156 acres of land situated at Bengal Road in Cape Breton. Now, just to familiarize everyone with the region, this area, of course, is located in a Conservative riding, Cape Breton West.

Mr. Speaker, this is a large amount of land for the government to buy so I think this House deserves an answer. My question to the minister, why has your government purchased a considerable amount of land in this area?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for giving me a chance to get up to speak about the importance of acquiring more Crown land for conservation and other good purposes. This is a major commitment not only of this government but I want to pay kudos to the Premier; when he was running for the leadership, he made that a priority. It was one of his four pillars and, of course, we are following through on that commitment.

[Page 1777]

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, at $216 per acre, this calculates out to just under $250,000. It's a lot of taxpayers' dollars being spent by the government. This area is surrounding land that is currently owned by the Crown. So with all these taxpayers' dollars being spent to buy more Crown land, I think the people of this province have a right to know what the government is planning for this area. A question to the minister, will you tell this House today why your department purchased 1,156 acres near Bengal Road in Cape Breton?

MR. MORSE: Now to allow me to speak specifically to that purchase, these are certainly environmentally significant pieces of land. It allows us to join existing Crown land and it was a very strategic purchase as determined by my staff.

MR. GLAVINE: Well, Mr. Speaker, our staff recently contacted the Department of Natural Resources to find out more information about this land purchase. When asked about whether a copy of the report and recommendation of the minister dated October 3, 2006, was available, we were told it was Cabinet confidentiality and we were unable to obtain a copy. People of this province demand the government be open and transparent. Now, if the minister and his government are hiding something, I think now is the time to come clean and explain what this land is used for. My question to the minister is, since we're unable to obtain a copy of this particular report and recommendation, will you explain what the R&R, dated October 3rd, entailed?

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. Of course, when a recommendation comes forward, I always ask my staff to justify their choice and in this particular case one of the justifications, as you would expect from this government and in fact has been the hallmark of this Progressive Conservative Government for the last seven years, is we've been very fiscally responsible. In this case, the appraised value was a little bit over $300,000. The member opposite is right, the purchase price, the authorized purchase price is about $250,000. That's over a $50,000 gain for the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

HEALTH - AMBULANCE FEES: CONSULTANT'S REPORT - TABLE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, the Government of Manitoba announced that effective today all fees for inter-facility ambulance trips will be dropped. The news release quotes the Manitoba Minister of Health as saying, "Manitobans told us the fees for inter-facility transport weren't fair and we have listened."

AN HON. MEMBER: The Premier is a doer.

[Page 1778]

MR. STEELE: Meanwhile, back here in Nova Scotia, the Minister of Health has been sitting on a consultant's report on ambulance fees for almost one full year. That report almost surely contains recommendations to make the ambulance fee system more fair, but the minister not only refuses to act on it, he refuses to let anyone else even see it. My question to the minister is, why won't the minister table that report in this House today?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up an issue, and I haven't seen the information from Manitoba. I look forward to maybe reviewing that one, as well. We do have the best ground ambulance system, I would say, in North America. Currently, we do subsidize over 91 per cent of all transfers in this province, and we will continue to provide this wonderful service to all Nova Scotians.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that the excellence of the service provided by the paramedics does not address the issue which is the unfairness of the ambulance fee system. The paramedics have nothing to do with the fees. Over the past several years, I have acted for a dozen Nova Scotians who believe their ambulance bills were unfair. In every single case, the Department of Health has dropped any attempt at collection. The only conclusion is that the Department of Health knows the system of ambulance fees is broken, but the minister has been sitting on that consultant's report for one full year instead of trying to fix it. My question to the minister is, if Manitoba can address fairness issues in the system of ambulance fees, why can't Nova Scotia?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as the member alludes, the firm was hired to do an independent review of the ground ambulance fees. That review has been provided to the Department of Health, and we'll continue to review that by staff and hopefully have a recommendation come forward in the very near future.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, that answer would be understandable if the minister had received the report yesterday. He received it at the end of last November. It is long past time that this minister and this government dealt with the issue of fairness in ambulance fees. I ask the minister again, if he didn't release that report almost a year ago when he got it, and he won't release it today, then what on earth is he waiting for?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I can say this to all members of the House, that recommendations of this review have implications that will affect everyone, some negatively and some positively. It is important to weigh these carefully to ensure that decisions made are in the best interests of all Nova Scotians..

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

COM. SERV.: AFFORDABLE HOUSING (C.B.) - WAIT LIST

[Page 1779]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Community Services. There are over 700 people on a waiting list for seniors and family housing in Cape Breton County alone. Money has been set aside for new housing units to be built, and apparently 33 of these new units are supposed to be built in Cape Breton. As of today, none of these units have been completed.

Mr. Speaker, while 33 units, if they ever materialize, is a great start, it's simply not enough. That still leaves over 670 people on a waiting list, a list that's growing daily. My question to the minister is, what is the minister doing to help find affordable housing for the other 670 Cape Bretoners on this wait list?

HON. JUDY STREATCH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I thank my honourable colleague for the question. I know that his concerns are serious and, indeed, he speaks from the heart on this issue.

This government has committed $37.3 million under Phase I of the housing; $18.9 million will be committed under Phase II, Mr. Speaker. That RFP should be out by the end of this month and we look forward to rolling more projects out all across the province - indeed, in Cape Breton as well - and $23 million that we have in a federal housing trust that we will look forward to rolling out to address all the needs of all Nova Scotians.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when the minister finished speaking there, one fact is still obvious, there are still no units being built in Cape Breton.

We are all waiting patiently - some of us not too patiently - for the report on the asbestos found in the subsidized housing units in the Whitney Pier area. In the meantime, a lot of these units are being left empty. Many more housing units are in urgent need of repairs and are unfit to live in. People in Cape Breton are moving into private apartments in the meantime and some of these landlords are taking advantage of these vulnerable people. Some landlords are raising their rents to levels they know will be covered by Community Services but are refusing to make maintenance or repair calls since these residents have no other place to go.

My supplementary question to the minister is, what are you going to do to protect these Nova Scotians forced into low-rent situations with slum landlords while they linger on wait lists for affordable housing?

MS. STREATCH: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would remind all members of this House that under the Phase I commitment of the housing, we, indeed, have a total of over 200 units for the Cape Breton region. We have 30 new rentals, 104 rental preservation, which is extremely important, given that we have a tremendous 76 per cent of home ownership in Cape Breton. We have 65 home preservation projects that

[Page 1780]

have taken place and three rent supplements for students. So that's an over $1 million commitment on behalf of this government, a $4 million commitment on behalf of this government to the residents of Cape Breton.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr .Speaker, one thing I will say is that the minister is the best spin doctor to come out of that caucus in a long time, let me tell you. The fact of the matter is, there are still 700 people on the waiting list and there are still no more new units in Cape Breton.

My final supplementary. I received a call from the Housing Authority in Cape Breton to share some of the frustrations with the wait list. There is one woman in particular who is on a wait list for six different housing units and the best she can do is 23rd in line. Another woman who is 77 years old is 53rd on the wait list for a senior housing unit in her area. I hate to say this, Mr. Speaker, but by the time Community Services gets around to putting that poor lady into a unit, she probably won't need it anymore.

My final supplementary to the minister is, what does the minister say to these women who have been waiting and will continue to wait for affordable housing in their area while this minister and that department does nothing about new units in Cape Breton?

MS. STREATCH: I thank my honourable colleague for the compliment. I take his compliment and I use that in high regard. The fact is, over $14 million was spent on repair and renovation programs; over 730 of those were households in Cape Breton. I won't speak to the specifics of any case, Mr. Speaker, as this honourable colleague and all members of this House know I cannot do. But I certainly will make the commitment to all Nova Scotians to ensure that our department, indeed this government, responds to the needs of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member of Halifax Needham.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: WORKPLACE VIOLENCE - REGS. INTRODUCE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Earlier today, here at Province House, members of Nova Scotia public sector unions called on the minister to protect workers from violence on the job. The Nova Scotia Government & General Employees Union, the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union and the Canadian Union of Public Employees want to highlight the fact that in Nova Scotia workers are not protected from bullying, intimidation or violence under the current law. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, when is he going to introduce violence-in-the-workplace regulations to protect all Nova Scotia workers?

[Page 1781]

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the question, a very important issue, the issue of workplace violence. It's an issue that my department has highlighted as the key issue that they'll be dealing with under the Occupational Health and Safety Division this year. I have met - November 9th, I believe was the date - with the Coalition Against Workplace Violence, along with colleagues from the Departments of Education, Community Services and Health, and we talked then about the process that I'd be starting. I'm pleased to tell you that this morning I met with the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee, and the process of consultation has started. We will be presenting our final plan in March of next year.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it has been more than 10 years that consultation has gone on around this really important issue. A recent poll of 400 unionized workers conducted by Vector Research shows the type and the frequency of violence against Public Service workers is on the rise. Half the men and half the women polled had been victims of violence at work. The poll showed that one-third of workers and 40 per cent of teachers experience verbal threats, ridicule or harassment in the workplace. I'd like to ask the minister, in light of these worrying statistics, how can he possibly justify the delay in introducing regulations to protect Nova Scotia's workers from violence at work?

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, there's absolutely no delay on my part. We made the commitment that workplace violence would be what we would concentrate on. We are concentrating on it, we're working on it. The discussion process has started already, and it will culminate in March of next year when I'll be bringing a package before the Legislature. I'll be announcing our plans at that stage in response to the consultation that we're engaged in right now.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what the minister needs to understand is that as long as there are no regulations on workplace violence, there is no accountability for employers or indeed for this minister. We will have a difficult time reducing incidents of bullying and intimidation from workplaces if no one is accountable on this issue. My final question to the minister is, why won't he reconsider bringing forward violence-in-the-workplace regulations before the end of this year?

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the honourable member over there that the Occupational Health and Safety standards already impose a legal responsibility to protect workers. Now I realize that her question is beyond that legal responsibility, but I want that on the record. The reason why I'm having consultation is I want to do it right and I will do it right.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

NAT. RES.: WILDLIFE SANCTUARIES - HABITAT PROTECTIONS

[Page 1782]

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. If we have learned anything from this minister, it is that he is good at walking around questions with non-answers. When the department carried out its review on game sanctuaries, people said loud and clear that they wanted sanctuaries to have more protections. This minister has stated recently that a game sanctuary is a place where wildlife is protected. But wildlife cannot survive without habitat. When will this minister bring forward habitat protections for sanctuaries?

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased the member opposite has been paying attention to my answers. He's absolutely right. Game sanctuaries are a place where you're not able to hunt wildlife and that will certainly continue to be the case.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, we have several guests in the gallery today who are here to seek answers on the Blandford Game Sanctuary. There is a 200-acre clear-cut on the edge of this sanctuary and, with no habitat protections in place, clear-cutting may soon move into the sanctuary. If the minister is unwilling to change protections that come with sanctuaries, perhaps Blandford needs a new designation. My question is, will this minister work with his department to have Blandford designated as a nature reserve?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, of course there are various ways you can protect Crown land, indeed, any land in this province. Nature reserve is, in fact, one of them. There is a process in place to do that and I would certainly invite the people involved in this to bring it forward for consideration. However, I do want to be unequivocal in my support that there will be no hunting in that game sanctuary.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm getting nowhere with that minister, so I will move on to the Minister of Environment and Labour. The guests in the gallery are here to meet with the Minister of Environment later this afternoon about Blandford, so I will get their conversation started. What does the Minister of Environment think of the proposal to make Blandford a nature reserve?

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I'm very tempted to quote the Opposition Leader for the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago right now, but you would rule me out of order. This is what he said to the Prime Minister at the time, but anyway, I won't do it. The honourable member knows well what I would say if I could say it without being ruled out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Answer.

[Page 1783]

MR. PARENT: Anyway, yes, I'll answer the question. The question is that at the invitation of my colleague who is the MLA for that area, I set up this meeting for this afternoon and look forward very much to hearing from them because our government is absolutely committed to moving to 12 per cent of the land mass of Nova Scotia being a protected area and we're working towards that goal and making great progress.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

TPW: CROSSWALK SAFETY - ENSURE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the acting Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Last Tuesday, November 7th, there were four crosswalk-related injuries in the city in which pedestrians have the right of way. Two women were struck by a vehicle on South Park Street, one woman received serious abrasions. Another woman was hit by a car at a marked crosswalk on Coburg Road and injured her hip and leg. A man was crossing the street at a clearly marked walkway on Cogswell and North Park Street when he was struck by a car and received minor injuries.

This subject has been brought up by our caucus in the last two sessions and still we have seen little action from this government. My question for the acting minister is, what is your government doing to ensure more safety at crosswalks in Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the Road Safety Advisory Committee is reviewing this serious problem. Certainly there is a problem with some motorists not respecting pedestrians in crosswalks. We consider this a serious issue, and that's why the Road Safety Advisory Committee is reviewing the matter.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, fortunately nobody was killed during these recent incidents. However, there have been well over 500 injuries at crosswalks in Nova Scotia in the last six years. Clearly, this is not an issue only in Halifax, but for across the province. We need to address this problem. The fact is, pedestrians are being hit at marked crosswalks. It is our duty to increase awareness and education with regard to crosswalk safety. Motor vehicles must slow down, and the government must take action on this matter. So again, to the acting minister, will the department act now and commit to increase crosswalk awareness for both pedestrians and drivers?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that Nova Scotia does adhere to national standards with respect to crosswalk safety. We certainly want to do everything we can that would emphasize the importance to all motorists in Nova Scotia of crosswalk safety, and I will convey that to the minister involved.

[Page 1784]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear the minister indicating that they'll be doing whatever they can. Well, other provinces have safer, more effective ways to indicate crosswalks. In Ontario, speed bumps are located ahead of crosswalks to ensure motorists slow down before they reach the walkways. Saskatchewan has implemented a law requiring all crosswalk lights be red in colour to indicate drivers must come to a complete stop. Again to the minister, will your government investigate this matter and consider constructing speed bumps and equip crosswalks with red warning lights to ensure safety for pedestrians?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the Departments of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, Transportation and Public Works, and Justice are working on this very issue now and will be reviewing all of the measures across this country to ensure that Nova Scotians are protected as much as possible.

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

HEALTH - LIFEFLIGHT AIR AMBULANCE.: MGT. SEARCH - CONFIRM

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The consultant report on LifeFlight air ambulance service talked extensively about the strained relationship between staff and management. The minister has stated that he does not foresee difficulty in resolving the tension that exists in these relations. He has not, however, confirmed whether or not management will change hands, as the recommendations suggest. This uncertainty is a source of stress for the hard-working employees of the LifeFlight program. So my question to the minister is, will you confirm for the benefit of the LifeFlight employees whether new management will be sought out?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we have accepted the recommendations from the Fitch report. We're reviewing it in-house to see if there are some models that we can be looking at. I also have committed to the members of the LifeFlight team, who belong to the NSGEU, to sit down and chat with them, as well, before we bring any recommendations forward in the next bill.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, the minister's department has shown a lack of respect toward health care workers recently. They have allowed hospital workers to come dangerously close to a strike, and now they are allowing uncertainty to prevail in the already stressed-out workforce with the LifeFlight employees. So my question to the minister is, when is his government going to show the respect that these hard-working women and men deserve?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we respect every member of our health care teams across Nova Scotia. We will continue to work with them to make sure we're providing quality health care to all Nova Scotians.

[Page 1785]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I remember Bill No. 68. I remember the respect this government showed the paramedics of this province. The consultant's report outlined 29 recommendations, all of which the Minister of Health stated are priorities. The minister also had stated that he would bring them to Cabinet. My final question to the minister is, will you tell us what is being done to implement the recommendations brought forward by this report?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the report also underlines that we have one of the best air ambulance systems in all of North America; it also underlines that we need to be a model for other air ambulances across North America. We'll take those recommendations, as they are in our department, review them and make sure that we're doing the right thing for all Nova Scotians, and of course make sure that we take care of this very important program.

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

HEALTH: RESPIRATORY THERAPISTS - LEGISLATION INTRODUCE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question will continue to be for the Minister of Health. The Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists will be discontinuing their role in providing a regulatory function for the profession of respiratory therapists in Nova Scotia by January 1, 2008. If the Province of Nova Scotia has not fully implemented alternative regulations of the respiratory therapists by this time, there will be no body to oversee the regulation of this profession. The Respiratory Therapists Society of Nova Scotia has been in negotiation with this government and the previous government, seeking self-regulation, for 10 years.

My question to the minister is, your department has been aware of this issue for many years, what has stopped you from bringing forward legislation before the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists ceases their regulatory function?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, we all know that this piece of legislation is of course before the department, working with respiratory therapists. Unfortunately, I don't think the piece of legislation is ready for this sitting of the House, so we'll look forward to working with it over the next number of months.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, the Respiratory Therapists Society of Nova Scotia has met with senior policy advisers from the Department of Health, they've also met with various professional colleagues, the unions in this province, and throughout this whole process these meetings are of support, and these organizations have expressed an interest in seeing legislation come to the Legislature through the process. I ask the minister, why is your department not bringing forward legislation in this session?

[Page 1786]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to be very candid, the legislation was not ready for this sitting of the House; there is still work to be done on it. We will continue to work with all stakeholders in this issue to have this legislation before this House.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the Minister of Health understands the urgency to have regulation here in Nova Scotia concerning respiratory technologists. I personally know how long it takes to bring forward legislation and implement it. Respiratory technologists in this province number around 200, and they provide a number of essential services, including but not excluding treating, aiding and diagnosis of cardiopulmonary disease, neurological and sleep disorders, and providing life-supporting therapy for critically ill and the non-critically ill patients.

My final question to the Minister of Health is, why is your department not showing these essential professionals the respect they deserve by bringing forward the proposed self-regulating legislation in this session, before they end up losing the regulatory function with the national body?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to the previous answer that I gave, we respect all health care professionals in this province. We will continue to work with all those people to make sure - because they are a valuable part of our health care teams, and we want to make sure that we're doing the right thing, making sure that all information, all stakeholders are consulted. We look forward to bringing in a piece of legislation in the very near future.

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

PREM. - IMMIGRATION: CREDENTIALS - RECOGNIZE

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier, who was the former Minister of Immigration. In the January 2005 immigration strategy, which set out many goals for the province, the Premier, at that time the Minister of Immigration, but the report said, and I quote, "Immigrants may not be able to stay in Nova Scotia if they cannot find employment opportunities in their chosen fields."

Mr. Speaker, I am MLA for the area with the highest percentage of immigrants in the province and I can say that it is a daily occurrence that I hear from residents in my area who have a real problem with credential recognition. Canada has set the bar higher than ever before, for requiring newcomers to the country to have a high level of experience and education.

Mr. Speaker, my question for the Premier is, can he tell the House what has been done by his government to help immigrants have recognition of their credentials? Thank you.

[Page 1787]

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. For what is a very important issue, indeed it's not only an issue here in Nova Scotia but one that we are dealing with across the country with the First Ministers. One such example would be the CAP program done in association with the Medical Society, an example of leadership being taken in Nova Scotia through the Medical Society, through the Province of Nova Scotia, to ensure that new doctors coming here to our province or those who are within the country or in Nova Scotia, have an opportunity to have their credentials recognized and to practise throughout areas by being mentored by doctors throughout our province.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, this is an area that requires some real leadership from the province. The CAP program is in place but it's not really addressing the needs. I would like to point out that in the same immigration plan the Office of Immigration makes reference to waiting for the federal government, the Council of Atlantic Deputy Ministers of Education and Training and settlement partners to help them address the difficult issue of credential recognition.

At the same time, Mr. Speaker, our province is facing severe skill shortages and one of the most prominent areas being health care, which the Premier referred to. I think that this requires some real action across the board by the Premier. My question is, would the Premier table in the House a real plan to deal with credential recognition in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I will surely again highlight this with the minister and the minister and her staff are working within the scope of what they can do. Obviously our professional associations have a very important role to play in this. I congratulate the Medical Society for the leadership they have taken in this issue; we have to encourage and see more of this taking place across various associations. The government is willing to work with them, but we also have to be willing to work on a national level to see real results and this government is committed to doing so.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it's not unusual in my area of Clayton Park, and I'm sure in other areas of this province, that people move here to Nova Scotia and then their breadwinner returns to their home country to work because they aren't able to take their place here in our province. So it's a major problem for immigrants and, I would suggest, often the single biggest problem in terms of retention.

Mr. Speaker, immigration is a competitive business and the Government of Ontario has just introduced a bill called the Fair Access to Regulated Professions Act 2006, in which they have laid out a plan for clarity, for transparency in what's required and for a timeline for newcomers to get an answer. So my question for the Premier is,

[Page 1788]

given that this is such a huge problem for newcomers, would you support similar legislation in Nova Scotia to help deal with the issue of credential recognition?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm more than open to ensure that the legislation, as mentioned, is reviewed and if it made sense for Nova Scotia to move in that direction, we certainly would.

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

ENERGY- HOME INSULATION: REBATE PROG. - INTRODUCE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Energy. The B.C. provincial government gives homeowners a PST rebate on double-glazed windows, insulation and draft-reducing materials. A rebate like that would help energy efficiency here in Nova Scotia where our housing stock is much older and the climate is much harsher.

In addition to this tax rebate, which is worth $500, B.C. homeowners can claim up to $1,500 from their power company and apply for the EnerGuide Program. That's quite an incentive to retrofit, Mr. Speaker. So I want to ask this minister, when is he going to introduce a rebate program that substantively reduces the cost of insulating homes so our seniors and our poor can stay in them?

HON. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the member has been out of the province lately or not, but I want to tell you this government is focused and this government is offering a number of initiatives for Nova Scotians. If the member would like to meet with me later on outside of this House - because the list is so long it would be hard for me to answer the question here - I'll provide that member with a list of initiatives that this department, and this government, is doing for Nova Scotians.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, maybe I should speak louder, maybe the minister was taking a nap during the question. He didn't go a mile close to answering it and, obviously, he doesn't think Nova Scotians are worth the rebates that B.C. thinks their constituents are worth. That's his problem. This government only pays lip service when it comes to energy efficiency, Mr. Premier, very, very little do we get.

Previous programs in this province were designed to fail and it's similar to what this minister has brought forward. We need to retrofit in this province over 12,000 homes each and every year just for energy efficiency. This lot has come nowhere near that. So my question, Mr. Speaker, is, when are you going to do it?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, the EnerGuide program, up to $2,700; the wood stove rebate, up to $200; the old furnace rebate, up to $750; and the energy rebate by this

[Page 1789]

government, 8 per cent off their oil and electricity for Nova Scotians. Match that in British Columbia. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on your final supplementary.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, only that lot across the way would see giving less to Nova Scotians than what B.C. gives to their people as a good news item. You've done everything in halves. Every time they've come out with a program, it has been half measures, half takeups on behalf of Nova Scotians. The Premier today has talked about ability for seniors to stay in their own homes, yet you won't allow them to make them energy efficient. So when will you match other provinces that do real rebate programs and help our seniors and our poor stay in their own homes, not half measures?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I ask the member across the way, would he like for us to remove the EnerGuide, the wood stove, the oil furnace and the energy rebates that we've given Nova Scotians? Is that a yes or a no answer? Does he support or does he not support the 8 per cent that we've put in place to help people with their oil and their electricity? Let him stand in his place.

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

EDUC.: TEACHER TRAINING - EXCLUSIONS

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Acting Minister of Education. It has been 12 years since the Shapiro report changed the delivery of education programming in Nova Scotia. An outcome of this report was the limitation of teacher training to MSVU, Mount Saint Vincent; Acadia; St. Francis Xavier; and Université Sainte Anne. Other regionally sufficient universities, like Cape Breton University, were left out; the same universities that have sufficient minority populations as CBU does. I ask the acting minister, does he continue to support the exclusion of certain universities from undergraduate teacher training programs?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member would know, until the Shapiro report there were quite a number of universities doing very good work in teacher training here, including the Nova Scotia Teachers College which was shut down by the Liberal Government. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, one of the things about the Teachers College was that because it was solely devoted to teacher training. It had special programs, it went out and actively recruited members of Nova Scotia who were under-represented in the teaching profession. They continued to do that. In the case of the Mi'kmaq community, when the

[Page 1790]

Shapiro report came out, St. Francis Xavier University set up a program specifically intended for the Aboriginal community.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia currently trains only 58 per cent of its new teacher supply each year. The number of out-of-province licences is increasing each year. This year there were nearly 1,400 applications to English language university teacher training programs, but there was only room for 363 students. Barely one in four applicants got accepted. My question to the acting minister is, the math here is simple, and something needs to be done, when will your government get serious about teacher training?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable members knows and I know just as well as he does, there are two institutions, two of the existing universities in the province that are not authorized under the Shapiro report or the action taken following the Shapiro report that are offering teacher education. I know that the Department of Education has as part of its ongoing plans to review all of teacher education here in the province to ensure that not only are there an appropriate number of students being trained, but I guess it's fundamentally important and it's something I personally have a concern about, whether the program as it is now designed should be modified to keep it more in line with other Canadian jurisdictions.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the acting minister entertained the thought about the Mi'kmaq people. There are other issues at play. In April of this year, the Atlantic Policy Congress of Mi'kmaq Chiefs endorsed CBU's proposal that it offer a B.Ed. CBU has more Mi'kmaq students than any other university in Nova Scotia. My final question to the acting minister is, will the minister undertake to investigate giving CBU the authorization offering undergraduate teaching degrees?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I know that the President of CBU, Dr. Harker - who by the way had a very nice letter, op-ed piece in the paper the other day about Remembrance Day, which I appreciated - has written to the Department of Education posing that very question, and in due course he will get an appropriate response.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

TCH - BLACK CULTURAL CENTRE - FUNDING

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The Province of Nova Scotia offers residents and visitors alike the opportunity to acknowledge and embrace the rich cultural diversity that exists in this province. The Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia is no exception. Officially opened in September 1983, the Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia is the only one of its kind in Canada. Its mandate is to protect, preserve and promote Black culture in Nova Scotia. The centre is critical to sharing and understanding the rich African Nova Scotian

[Page 1791]

history that is part of this province. However, the centre suffers from a lack of sustainable funding that is needed to sustain itself. For the past few years, this government has cut funding by some $40,000 per year. My question to the minister is, will the minister and this government commit to long-term sustainable funding for the centre?

HON. LEONARD GOUCHER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. This government puts approximately $8 million a year into the cultural sector. The Black Cultural Centre is an important part of the culture of this province, and I am committed to ensuring that the Black Cultural Centre remains in a state that they can provide the services they provide to this province and their community, and I will commit to that.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, current levels of funding by the provincial government is completely unacceptable. The Black Cultural Centre is internationally recognized, attracting tourists and visitors from all around the world. Many individuals who currently work at the centre are volunteers who dedicate their time to promote African-Nova Scotia culture. The centre houses many artifacts and treasures that the museum would store and show to the public. However, despite the fact that the centre is regarded as a museum/library complex, it is not considered a museum, thus the centre does not receive museum funding to help deal with the maintenance cost or to pay operating costs, and to effectively secure all artifacts. My question to the Premier is, will the government do the right thing, help the centre and allow it to become classified as a museum?

[4:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the minister has outlined, the Black Cultural Centre is very important in telling the story of a very important aspect of our culture and heritage here in Nova Scotia. The government has been very committed to ensuring that we invest in this centre. We'll continue to do so in both the operational side for the cultural programs. Indeed we have made other infrastructure announcements, as well, having put a significant number of dollars into their new roof. But we remain committed to investing in the centre. As to the request he has put forward with regard to the museum, I would refer that to the minister and I'm sure he'd be able to talk to the member following Question Period, about that issue.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, the Black Cultural Centre is extremely important to all Nova Scotians. The survival and upkeep of this centre is essential to educating all Nova Scotians about the important contributions that African Nova Scotians have made to this province. The Black Cultural Centre is home to many important historical items belonging to the community. However, there are other known artifacts that are currently resting in other museums in Nova Scotia that not only belong to, but should be placed in the centre. This can only be accomplished if the centre is allowed to become a

[Page 1792]

museum with the proper funding. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier review the current protocols regarding museum classifications so the Black Cultural Centre can gain the recognition it rightfully deserves with the appropriate funding?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

HON. LEONARD GOUCHER: Mr. Speaker, if after session the honourable member and I could get together, we will try to put the right people together to get an answer for you on that as quickly as possible, from our division.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

JUSTICE: CRIMINAL INJURIES COMP. PROG. - RESTORE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Justice. Victims of crime suffer innumerable and potentially devastating long-term repercussions as a result of what they endure. Violent crimes can be particularly difficult to manage. One of the ways the government has helped victims is the Criminal Injuries Program, but the government cut back on this program six years ago, even though rates of violent crime against people have continued to increase in Nova Scotia, crimes like homicide, robbery and assault. I want to ask the minister, in light of the recent trends, will his government fully restore the Criminal Injuries Compensation Program?

HON. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comment and the question from the member opposite. Certainly criminal injuries compensation has been an issue in this Legislature for a number of years. As the honourable member, I think, mentioned one day when I had the discussion with her about the issue around counselling which is being offered at this time - certainly there's a huge demand on that and we'll continue to review criminal injuries issues, in fact, to make them stronger and better.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, you will be aware that until the year 2000, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Program helped victims with not only counselling but also child and spousal maintenance, lost income, funerals, moving expenses, dental bills, medical and drug costs and clothing. In 2000, this government cut this program back so that only counselling would be provided.

I have spoken here on the floor about a constituent of mine who was very negatively impacted by this decision, as many other Nova Scotians have been. I want to ask the minister, when will your government reverse the regulation changes made in 2000 that severely limited victims' rights under this program?

[Page 1793]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the member opposite, thank you for the question. I am happy to report that there are currently over 300 applications with the Criminal Injuries Counselling Program. In fact, $250,000 is budgeted for that program. It's a very good program and it does come to the aid of those receiving injuries as a result of crime in this province.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there was a time when that fund was two to three times greater than it is today. The funds were available to really compensate victims of crime. The Tory Government cut this program's budget by nearly 50 per cent. At a minimum, victims of crime deserve our respect, our support and our assistance, particularly in cases of violent crime. Being tough on crime is one thing, but being tough on the victims of crime is quite another and it's not acceptable. I want to ask the Minister of Justice, will your government commit today to an independent review of how well the current program is meeting all of the victims' needs in Nova Scotia?

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, since the honourable member brought up the issue of violent crime, I would like to say that about a month ago, Attorneys General from across this country from all political persuasions - New Democratic Party, Liberal and Progressive Conservative - met and we agreed on one thing, we support the federal government's initiatives on getting tough on crime. If those people want to do something legitimately about crime in this province and this country, I suggest when Question Period is over, go outside and dial 1-800-JACKLAYTON and tell him to get out of the way of the issue of the federal Justice Minister and bring about real change in this country that will bring law and order to every ( Interruptions) go do it.

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

EDUC. - LITERACY TRAINING: FRANCOPHONES - FUNDING

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Acting Minister of Education. We know that in the last few years there has been a lot of improvement and enhancements with regard to services for francophones and Acadians in Nova Scotia. Most of that, if not all of it, has been done specifically because of the efforts of Acadians who have put pressure on the government to ensure that we have improved services.

But, there's still more to be done. Specifically, I want to talk in the area of education. The Department of Education has a program called Learning for Life initiative in which they provide funding for literacy training with regard to anglophones in this province, both for students and for adults. But that same service is not provided to francophone students.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

[Page 1794]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, francophone students and adults in this province don't have access to the Learning For Life initiative so my question to the Minister of Education is, why does this government refuse to provide the funding for francophones to be able to receive the literacy training that anglophones receive in this province?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it would be my understanding that all of the school boards in the province receive funding for literacy. In addition, the adult learning associations are funded under the Department of Education and they apply for money and are given money as part of the regular funding process in the Department of Education.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my second question is to the Minister in charge of Health Promotion and Protection. The Department of Health Promotion and Protection in the last few years has created a teen guide to sexuality that has been distributed throughout schools in Nova Scotia, specifically in English for the anglophone students. Unfortunately, that same guide has not been produced in French for francophone students in this province. So my question to the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection is, when is this province going to produce a French version of the teen sexuality guide for the francophone students in this province?

MR. BARNET: It's a good idea, I guess we'll have to get right on it, Mr. Speaker. We will do it as soon as we possibly can.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am glad to have on the record the minister's commitment, and I am sure that francophones throughout the province will be glad to hear that, as well.

My last question is also to the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection. One of the key issues with regard to helping preserve and promote Acadian culture in this province is ensuring that those communities that are Acadian have the opportunity for a place to gather so they can celebrate their culture. That involves the ability to both refurbish old community centres and to build new community centres. So my last question to the Minister of Health Promotion and Protection is, what is his department doing to coordinate with the federal government to ensure that we are refurbishing and building new community centres in our Acadian communities?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I'll answer the member's question, but let me give him a late-breaking update on the first one. We are already working on that particular initiative and it will be completed shortly.

With respect to community facilities, Mr. Speaker, we work with all communities across this province to ensure they have access to our recreation facility development grant, including Acadian communities. We encourage communities to make application to that particular program so we can help and support them as they move through other

[Page 1795]

funding arrangements with the federal government to support communities, including community halls, in all parts of Nova Scotia.

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. It is a good question, a real good question, and I want to keep her in suspense until tomorrow, but I am preparing her today for a real good question on - I'm not even going to give you a hint, but it'll be a good one. I'll sit down now, Mr. Speaker, with that one. Thank you.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that was a hard act to follow. Would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 74.

Bill No. 74 - Poverty Reduction Strategy Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I won't keep the minister in suspense until tomorrow, we'll have our conversation today. I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 74, An Act to Establish a Committee to Develop a Poverty Reduction Strategy in Nova Scotia. I think in this House we talk about many issues. We talk about issues facing education, crime, and community services. I think underlying all of those issues is the issue of poverty. It is one that I think as a community we need to begin to seriously address.

I think in many ways I know the government's reaction is going to be to this bill, is that we are dealing with this issue now. I want to say to the minister, I think she is doing all she can within that department, but I think this issue goes beyond the

[Page 1796]

Department of Community Services. It is one that we need to begin to break down the silos between departments; it is one where we need to begin to bring in the Departments of Justice, Education, Community Services, and the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, all of those who are faced with the consequences of the issue of poverty.

Mr. Speaker, when you begin to look around our province and consider that one in five of our children are living in poverty, that is in Nova Scotia, that is something that all members of this House should be ashamed of and really embarrassed about, but it is something that is not squarely left in the hands of the Department of Community Services.

When you think that 11,400 of those children are living in working families, in families that have one parent who is working but are living below the poverty line, yet when you ask many Nova Scotians about the issue of poverty, they focus, and in their first reaction, to those who are on social assistance, well, that is a part of it, but I don't think it allows all of us to understand the entire scope of it. When you look at the 11,400 children in one-parent working families, and when you have one in five children living in poverty in Nova Scotia, in our province, that's just unacceptable. We have over 52,000 Nova Scotians who are on social assistance - how many more children are we taking in when we think of that number?

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, 25,000 Nova Scotians last year used the food bank in Nova Scotia - 25,000 Nova Scotians used the food bank, in Nova Scotia, last year. Those numbers are staggering, and when you look at that I think often we turn to the Minister of Community Services and we ask her to solve the problems facing that issue, and I think in many ways it's unfair. It's unfair to the department and to the people working in that department. I think until we are willing to follow the lead of Newfoundland and Labrador and other provinces that have said this issue is so encompassing, it's so large that it is not the responsibility of one department, the consequences of poverty don't fall solely in one department, nor should the solution to this problem - when I look at the issue, and we talk in this House and the Minister of Justice stood up today talking about crime and issues around crime, when you look at things that happen in this province around crime, especially with our young people, I think you can trace that back to the issue of poverty - plain and simple.

When you have children living in today's society with the pressures that are put on our youth around what they should wear to school, what sports they should play, what they're involved in, in many ways they're frustrated and their only choice, they believe, to attain that, whether it's something to eat, or to participate in those events, is to turn to crime and they become very angry - they become angry because we have failed to respond to their needs. We have failed to say to them we understand, we are doing everything we can to try to improve your life and the lives of your family, your greater

[Page 1797]

community, and our collective community. They don't see that - they see us turning our backs on them and saying that's not our problem, that is a problem that someone else is going to have to deal with. Well, that is our collective responsibility to being here.

When you look at the education system, this issue is fundamental to some of the problems that we see in the education system. It's well-documented - children going to school hungry do not learn as well, and they do not have the opportunity, because of poverty, to participate in after-school events. All of these things lead to some of the issues that we're faced with - and, unfortunately, the Minister of Community Services may try to be dealing with the family, but the Minister of Justice ends up dealing with the end result of this, and we, as a community, end up dealing with the end result of this. I think we've turned our backs on a generation of young people and it is time that we turn it around. It is time that we say to them that we don't have all the answers as government - we don't, but we're prepared to strike a committee.

All we're asking of government is to strike a committee to break down the walls between all the different departments and to reach out to the community, reach out to the men and women who are trying their best at this point to solve the issue of poverty and to deal with the results of poverty on the streets of Nova Scotia. They have some solutions; they have ideas. This is not about reinventing the wheel - I think this is about a collective will to understand the problem of poverty, to understand that the solution is coming together, the solution is bringing together all of the departments, all of the men and women who are dealing with this today in our communities, and whether it's in Halifax, whether it's in Annapolis Royal, whether it's in Sydney, bringing those people together under one umbrella to find the formula that we need to deal with this issue.

We had a Forum on Poverty here - it would be coming on to a year now, Mr. Speaker - and we talked about the issues, some issues that we, as a Community Services Committee, collected from some men and women living in poverty in Nova Scotia, and it dealt strictly with people on income assistance. The government has attempted to institute some of those recommendations and I know the minister and I disagree on one of them, on the extent to which that program will benefit Nova Scotians, and that is the one around going from a two-year program funding someone on social assistance, from two years to four years, allowing them to apply for a student loan.

I believe we've been very cautious on that program, Mr. Speaker. This is a program that I think should be opened up and offered to all low- income Nova Scotians on assistance who qualify, who qualify to be accepted into university, and then qualify to go on in their chosen field. I think that is one thing that we can work on; we can now break down the walls, once we begin to understand that this program, I believe, is not costing the government any money, it is a cost-saving, plus it will provide those Nova Scotians with a better quality of life in the future and provide all of us with the community that we so desperately want. We want to be able to reach out and help and give them an opportunity to move forward.

[Page 1798]

One of the other issues that we brought up in that forum was the issue around allowing people on social assistance to collect $3,000 a year over and above their assistance without clawbacks. The Minister of Agriculture has announced a program that I think needs some tweaking, to say it nicely. I think the intent of the program was correct, I think the idea behind it is right. I would have preferred to have seen it spread across more sectors than just agriculture and I believe it also affected the forestry industry and the Christmas tree operators. I would like to see us take a serious look at that now, now that we have had it in place for six months, to say is the administration of that proper? Is it becoming too incumbent for our agricultural businesses, our forestry businesses, to apply to that program. I think we may find there is an issue there that is restricting people from being able to take advantage of that.

I want to make this clear, and I hope government members are listening, I am in no way suggesting that we throw that out. I am very supportive of that idea, the principle behind it. I think what we need to look at is how do we make that better? How do we make sure that we are not inhibiting agricultural businesses or forestry businesses from coming forward and allowing people on social assistance to have that step forward?

I think we then begin to look at a broader base when we go from that into people - low income Nova Scotians who are working. How do we reach out and say what can we do in the present day way that we do business to just help small things? One of them, Mr. Speaker, may be around - which I know the minister will say that housing that the province provides is based on income and all those factors. I think, though, we can do better than that. We can say to Nova Scotians on assistance, we can say to low income Nova Scotians, especially those who work seasonally, we will reduce your rent a certain amount if you participate in an educational program; we will reduce if you go out and reach out and find a way to upgrade your skills. We can say to them, we can reduce your monthly rent. We can do that and allow that person to take the initiative to go out and not only improve their lives, but the lives of their children.

I think when we start to look at the issue of poverty, it just balloons, it spreads so beyond what the average Nova Scotian believes the issue of poverty deals with. I will say it again, I think if you ask the average Nova Scotian about the issue of poverty, they immediately look to the Minister of Community Services and they immediately think of people on social assistance. That is just so far from the reality that we are faced with. I don't think my constituency office is any different than anyone else's in Nova Scotia. The issues may vary, whether it is an urban or a rural area, but the issue of poverty is still simply poverty. We need to find a way to reach out and help.

Again I will say to the minister, I am not putting this issue solely on your desk. I think your colleagues, who are the Ministers of Justice, Education, the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Health, all have responsibilities in this issue. They need to reach out and help but they can't do it alone. I think we need to say to Nova Scotians that the silos in government are going to be broken down on this issue because

[Page 1799]

it is the single biggest issue that I believe is facing us today, I really believe that. If we can deal with this issue, we deal with so many things. Some of the toughest issues that we are faced with - this is an underlying issue to a certain extent in the domestic violence we see. It is an underlying issue in the anger our youth are feeling. It is an underlying problem with the growth that we're not seeing that we should be seeing in rural Nova Scotia.

You can reach out, and I want to say to the minster there are people today who don't sit in this House, who don't sit here, who are on the streets of Nova Scotia, helping and reaching out to people and saying, what can we do, how can we help you? Whether it is providing them with mental health services, whether it's directing them through the bureaucracy of us, the bureaucracy of government, it's a frightening experience for a lot of Nova Scotians to reach out and say, I need help with housing, I can't feed my family, I need help. It's tough for them to find the right place in government to go to.

One of the issues that we were faced with on the Forum on Poverty was people felt demeaned by coming to us, and that's not the way Nova Scotians should feel. They should feel that we're there to help, that we're responding to what they need, what matters, collectively, to all of us. No one in this House wants to see anyone in Nova Scotia in need or suffering, but it's happening and it's our job to find a way to respond.

When our income assistance rates are the second lowest in the country, only to Alberta, that's not something we should be trailing Alberta in. I would like to be trailing Alberta in a number of things, prosperity, the oil boom, but I don't want to be trailing them in the issue of how we support the most vulnerable people in our communities, in our society. The system, I think, needs to be really thrown out, I really believe that, and looked at. Is what we're doing right? We're afraid to ask that tough question. That's not a reflection on the minister today or the Department of Community Services. It's not.

I think we need to ask ourselves, why is the issue of poverty expanding? We're not closing the gap anymore. Regardless of what statistics say, you and I know, on the streets of Nova Scotia, that gap is growing, and 11,400 children in working families are living in poverty, in working families. That is a statistic that has stuck in my head now for two weeks, because each and every Nova Scotian believes that working families are not living in poverty, it's only people on social assistance. It's an issue that many Nova Scotians have ignored.

It's there, it's real, and it's one that we had better address today, or the issues of justice that we're dealing with, the issues of education are going to balloon to a point where we will not be able to deal with them. So I want to encourage the minister, what we're asking, what I'm asking is to have a committee struck . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member's time has expired.

[Page 1800]

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. JUDY STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, indeed all members of the House, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak here today about this government's commitment to the reduction of poverty in Nova Scotia. I'm pleased to be able to speak with a more clear voice on this occasion. I want to thank my honourable colleague for bringing this issue forward. I know he speaks with passion, and I know that he speaks from the heart. I share his concerns, and certainly I want to assure all members of this House that those concerns are taken very seriously. I thank him for his passion and his commitment to this very serious issue.

Mr. Speaker, poverty is a complex issue. It is an issue that requires the efforts of all levels of government, individuals and communities. I would thank my colleague, as well, for his acknowledgment that various departments must come together on this initiative. I'm a firm believer in bringing our individual silos together as we move forward with what is in the best interests of all Nova Scotians. We all take poverty seriously. This government has and will continue to dedicate serious efforts to reducing poverty in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I was honoured to attend the global Microcredit Summit on Poverty, hosted in Nova Scotia, here in Halifax. I was truly impressed by the commitment and dedication of leaders from around the world who work so hard every day to tackle global poverty through small personal loans. Some of the world's poorest people are empowered to earn a living and make better lives for themselves and their families. Microcredit is an example of an innovative approach to addressing poverty.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that this government will also look for innovative ways to reduce poverty here in Nova Scotia. As the Minister of Community Services, I have met with members of the community who share our interests and who share our concerns about poverty. We recognize the complexities of poverty and that it will take a joint effort and commitment to make a meaningful difference for those living in poverty.

[4:30 p.m.]

At the Department of Community Services, we provide programs and services aimed at helping Nova Scotian families and individuals. Many of our programs are designed to empower people and help them to achieve their goals. Our programs and services help people meet their basic needs, Mr. Speaker, and to achieve greater self-sufficiency; for at the end of the day, it's that self-sufficiency which will indeed provide

[Page 1801]

for the independence and the self-worth that comes with empowering individuals to move forward.

This year the Nova Scotia Government is investing an extra $32 million in Community Services programs and supports, bringing the total annual budget to a new high of $748 million. That's $0.75 billion as a commitment, a tangible financial commitment to people here in Nova Scotia. Through this investment, Mr. Speaker, government has helped thousands of Nova Scotians. I would like to provide a few examples of how we have been able to help: 30,000 families receive income assistance to meet their shelter, personal and basic needs; 10,000 individuals participate in employment supports for career development, upgrading, training programs and job opportunities; 50,000 families receive Pharmacare assistance to ensure their health and well-being; and 20,000 families live in social housing, including public housing, co-ops, and non-profit units.

Mr. Speaker, this government is also committed to helping Nova Scotian families with our own made-in-Nova Scotia, 10-year child care plan. It was announced in May of this year. More than $130 million will be committed to ensure quality child care for Nova Scotians. The Department of Community Services also provides a range of services and supports to meet the diverse needs of about 4,700 persons with disabilities. We provide those supports on a continuum of supports and programs basis, everything from the Independent Living Support Program, the Direct Family Support Program, and the Alternative Family Support Program - three very progressive moves that put this province ahead of many jurisdictions in an attempt to provide the dollars and the support on the front end. To ensure that, as families said to us loud and clear, they wanted their loved ones to be able to be in their communities and in their homes.

Mr. Speaker, we responded with the creation of those three programs. We know that the continuum of supports and programs is something that we must work on daily to ensure that we meet the needs of Nova Scotians. I've been able to stand in my place and make announcements in the past, as they pertained to programs and facilities, and I certainly hope that I'm able to do that in the very near future as well.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia foster families, as my honourable colleague spoke about adoptive families in the month of November - well, Nova Scotia foster families also receive the support that they need to provide 1,800 children with a home. That amazes me every time I come across that figure - over 1,800 children who are welcomed into homes of caring, loving Nova Scotians who take it upon themselves for no end result other than to do what is right, to do what is right in their hearts, and to provide for those children so that those children can have a loving family environment around them and participate in the activities and the loving relationships that go along with being in family environments.

[Page 1802]

We know that employment is key for many people to achieve self-sufficiency. That's why it is a big focus of our programs. I know that I've stood in this House before and I've spoken about the importance of education and employment. As the Minister of Community Services, as my honourable colleague referenced earlier, I had the great pleasure of launching two programs that have the potential to put more money in the pockets of Nova Scotians.

Harvest Connection is a voluntary program that links income assistance recipients to job opportunities during harvest season. Individuals can earn up to $3,000 a year by harvesting crops like apples, vegetables and Christmas trees on top of their basic income assistance. That's just the beginning. I know my honourable colleague would like to see us move in other directions. With every program we put in place, I think the onus is upon us to consistently review, to analyze if there are other opportunities available to us to provide the same type of programming to other industries and other sectors.

It would be irresponsible of me to suggest otherwise. So to my honourable colleague who has raised the issue, I am more than pleased to discuss with any member in this House how we can continue to expand upon and improve that program. Ultimately, as I've said before, it's that self-esteem, that self-sufficiency, that moving forward that truly empowers people. That is not a policy that any government can put into place. It's something we must believe in. Indeed, I believe in that and I know the staff at the department and this entire government believes that.

We also changed the rules to allow income assistance recipients to continue to receive assistance as they attend university or a post-secondary education program of more than two years. Career Seek is a new program from Community Services that will create opportunities for people to get the education they need for a brighter future. Again, I know there are members in this House who would like to see us expand upon that program, who would like to see us add additional spots.

Mr. Speaker, the program that we have in place now is an excellent step in the right direction. It's 50 spots for four years for a total of 200 Nova Scotians who otherwise may not be able to become empowered and to break the cycle and go on to achieve that self-sufficiency that we spoke about earlier; simply because of a policy restriction, those individuals weren't able to properly advance themselves.

Again, to the members here and the members who have expressed a concern on this issue to me, I commit to again reviewing on a regular basis the program. I look forward to working with the program to ensure that we maximize the opportunities for the Nova Scotians who truly do want to advance through this program. I've said this before and I'll say it again, as a former educator, I believe firmly in education, in empowering, in breaking that cycle. This is really a great step in the right direction and we will continue to build on Career Seek.

[Page 1803]

Government has also introduced low income Pharmacare for children, which is a phenomenal program. We are reaching some of those in this province who need us the most. Indeed, it was my pleasure as one of the first programs to have been put into place to put that Pharmacare Program for children into place to ensure the families who need it - the low-income families in Nova Scotia who truly need that program for their children do not have the worry of wondering where those dollars will come from if they need this program. I'm very pleased that the uptake on this program has been consistently growing and I certainly hope that all Nova Scotians who are able to access this program will do so, to put their minds at ease that the health of their children is certainly at the forefront of this government.

Mr. Speaker, as well, government has increased personal and shelter allowances in income assistance for a third consecutive year and we have made more affordable homes available. Again, I know there are those who would say that our rates are not enough, that we don't have a high enough rate, but I know that the multitude of programs that we have in place, that are in addition to the allowances provided for our clients, those additional programs can be in excess of $7,000 a year. Those include everything from child care to employment support, to special needs funding. All of those additional programs that we have in place that add onto those personal allowances and those shelter allowances indeed represent a much larger figure than just that dollar figure would. So I would ask members to keep that in mind, that when we talk about income assistance and employment support we aren't just referencing an allowance, we're referencing an entire program built around that.

These are just a few examples, Mr. Speaker, of how the Department of Community Services helps Nova Scotians every day. A bill has been introduced in this House that identifies a need to address poverty in Nova Scotia. I would like to assure the honourable member who brought this forward, and all honourable members, that poverty is a great concern to Nova Scotians and to this government. I certainly will be working with all members to ensure that our government is committed to developing a made-in-Nova Scotia strategy to address poverty.

We will begin our work on a multi-year poverty strategy to reduce poverty in Nova Scotia, and that strategy will focus on women and children and the creation of more meaningful employment opportunities for Nova Scotians. As part of the poverty consultation, the Department of Community Services will reach out to our federal, provincial and municipal counterparts. Consultations with the public, poverty advocates, social workers, educators, business and community leaders will also be necessary to help us understand these complex issues.

Mr. Speaker, I will take my place with those words said and I would encourage the honourable members to speak to me about this issue at any time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 1804]

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will be sharing my time with my honourable colleague, the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. I'm pleased today to have an opportunity to speak on the issue of poverty on a bill that was introduced by the member for Annapolis. I want to go back to a meeting that I had with one of my constituents during the recent election campaign.

I was travelling in a more well-to-do area, let's say, when I was confronted by one of my constituents - I didn't know who she was. She merely walked up in the middle of the evening and said, Mr. Zinck, I need you to tell me - and she didn't live in that particular area but she tracked me down, she knew I was out canvassing. She tracked me down and she said, Mr. Zinck, please tell me that you and the NDP will continue to support the fight for those people, those Nova Scotians who find themselves disadvantaged. Mr. Speaker, I take my place today to do so, in support of setting up this committee on poverty.

In doing so, I just want to also bring to light, however - although my honourable colleague hadn't been part of the campaigns in the past with the Liberals - I just want to cite some of the inefficiencies in addressing the issues of poverty when it comes to the Liberal Governments in the past. Mr. Speaker, poverty rose in the 1990s from 13 per cent to 17 per cent under Liberal Governments. The number of children living in poverty also increased to 38,000, hammered social assistance recipients with shelter allowance cuts, cuts to children's dental programs and eliminated assistance programs for low-income diabetics.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals also terminated rent controls in 1993, ending protection of tenants from massive rent increases. In 1993, they also accepted, from the federal Liberal Government, abandonment of housing. They watched silently as housing costs soared, jumping 73 per cent in 1996 alone. The Liberal Government also slashed housing allowance for Employment Support and Income Assistance recipients with relatives. They also allowed the present complement of affordable housing to slip into disrepair.

[4:45 p.m.]

When it comes to post-secondary education, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Governments of the past cut bursary programs to students in 1993 and they also forced tuitions to increase by more than 75 per cent, as they also watched food banks in the 1990s become an ever too prevalent residence on the community campuses. That was the Liberal Government of the past and I'm pleased today to know and recognize that there are current Liberal members who do acknowledge, as do many of us across this province, the fact that poverty hits us in the face every day. We can walk out of this House and stride up around the corner and we can see street people begging for change.

[Page 1805]

We can drive by any intersection throughout HRM and we can see street people begging for change.

Although the minister stood in her place today and stated all the beneficial programs to those out there in Nova Scotia, I can tell you Mr. Speaker, that only a bill such as Bill No. 74 would come forth, it's basically saying these programs aren't doing enough. We still have 50 per cent of our province making less than $25,000 a year. We have over 40,000 children in our province living in poverty. We have a massive issue and the programs that the honourable minister cited, the stats that she continuously cites, still don't address the issue of poverty.

Mr. Speaker, I have to agree with the honourable member for Annapolis, if we are seriously to stand here in this House and merely pay lip service to the issue, it's not going to happen. We have to collectively come together and acknowledge the fact - and what if we have one more committee? What if we had one more study done? What would the cost be - minimal to the amount of change that we could make for those lives and those people who suffer from poverty in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to speak out on this issue as will my caucus colleagues. Will we ever eradicate it? Only if we admit it, and I can tell you that I stand here today in support of Bill No. 74. Our Standing Committee on Community Services in the past has been beneficial to those people who need it most in this province.

Mr. Speaker, it's something that people have to realize and my honourable colleague, the member for Annapolis, mentioned it. Although 30,000 Nova Scotians rely on social assistance today, there's an even growing new class of Nova Scotians and that is the class of the working poor. If we don't address the needs of those individuals, it will be catastrophic to our education and to our health care, those two alone, and we know the budgets that are allotted for them.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take my place, but I do it in support of Bill No. 74.

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, for sharing his time with me. As many of you know, this has been a very important issue in my life. I've spent almost 40 years working in different ways on various community and provincial committees trying to alleviate poverty and create healthy communities across Nova Scotia.

I think it goes without question that we need a provincial strategy and it's somewhat ironic that today, the end date for the Global Microcredit Summit 2006, that we should be discussing this issue because, as it has been well-documented, the poor in Nova Scotia are the poorest in Canada and 16 per cent of our population live on

[Page 1806]

extremely low incomes. So it's one thing for the minister to stand in her place and list off all the different programs that supposedly are there to support people living on inadequate incomes. But, the other side of the coin is that the programs need to be tested, whether or not they're effective, timely, whether they're meeting the needs of low-income Nova Scotians. That's the real question.

I would think that if a government were so confident that what they're doing to help people living on low incomes, they would have absolutely no problem supporting developing a provincial strategy. For too long, individual departments, individual coalitions and organizations and individuals within our communities have been working in isolation on these issues. It's time that, in a province where we have limited resources, limited time, limited people and volunteers, we should be able to combine our resources and develop a strategy so that we know the resources are being used most efficiently and in as wise a manner as possible.

Other provinces in Canada and other countries around the world have developed a number of best practices so we know there are proactive strategies that can be developed to help people remain independent and have at least a minimum guaranteed income.

It's interesting that this issue, which is overlooked so many times by government, actually impacts on every other policy and strategy that they're trying to develop in this province - on the education strategy, economic development, on health. In fact, the most important determinant of poor health in this province and across Canada is your level of income. There's no way we're ever going to control health care costs in Nova Scotia until we develop and implement a strategy on poverty reduction; the two go together.

Until we recognize that, we're just wasting taxpayers' money. We need to know where we're headed. We need to make sure the time, effort and money that's put into reducing poverty in this province is being used as effectively as possible. I would suggest we need some political leadership. This is a shared problem among all political Parties in Nova Scotia. My suggestion would be that we need to add some political representation to the stakeholder committee as well so this isn't seen just to be an issue owned, so called, by a particular Party.

We're in crisis in Nova Scotia in terms of the impact and the consequences of so many people living on low incomes. It's affecting every other aspect of our budget. So, if there's any challenge that we should be looking at jointly, it is this one.

I think it would be a marvelous legacy on this, the last day of the 2006 Global Microcredit Summit, to have unanimous support for Bill No. 74, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act. I would like to suggest - we've been told as a standing committee on Community Services, we've been looking at this in some detail over the last year or year and a half and we've been told that our mandate as a standing committee on Community

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Services does not allow us to initiate a task force or a stakeholder committee, that's the responsibility of the government or the Legislature. So we need to see the action and the agreement coming out of this Chamber in order for this strategy to go ahead. It's a win-win for everyone. It's a win for all our political Parties, for organizations in this province and it's a win for the citizens of Nova Scotia.

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has verified that residents of Nova Scotia do not even have the basic rights of adequate income and adequate shelter in this province. Our social safety net is so full of holes, no wonder so many people are falling through. I would like to encourage all Parties to look for some mechanism whereby we can act on this bill and move forward in a collaborative manner and make sure the limited resources that we have are being spent in as wise a manner as possible.

It's our responsibility as politicians in this Legislature. I know that all citizens would support us in this because it would benefit everybody. It would provide cost containment for our rapidly-rising health care costs; it would have an impact on education; it would have an impact on our economic development. There are so many things that can be done, and we need to work together on these.

I would just like to finish by reinforcing the idea that too long we've worked independently, too long we've worked in isolation. We've made small improvements, we've slipped back, but surveys and analysis of research on the situation in Nova Scotia suggest that actually poor people in Nova Scotia are falling even farther behind. The buying power of their shelter and personal allowance rates, and some of the other programs that were mentioned by the minister, they actually have the buying power of someone on social assistance back in the late 1980s. That is not good enough, absolutely not.

We've said many times that the highest increase in food bank usage in Atlantic Canada is here in Nova Scotia - it's the third highest in Canada. That is nothing to be proud about. Feed Nova Scotia supplied over 145 meal programs in food banks in one year, including 101 in Halifax Regional Municipality, which is supposedly a higher income level than other parts of the province. Even more upsetting is the fact that 40 per cent of those food bank users were youth and children under the age of 18. This is not good enough.

I challenge the government to work with the Opposition Parties in somehow finding a way to move this multi-stakeholder poverty reduction committee forward. We need to know where we're going, we need to act on these issues now. Thank you.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased to be able to talk today about Bill No. 74, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Act. In the years that I've been here

[Page 1808]

in the Legislature we have not talked about poverty. It usually gets left to late debate, if at all, at a time when nobody is listening. It's not something that has the ear of government or the attention of our Legislature. I think days like today are encouraging to hear all members from different Parties speaking on this subject. I think the time has come for action, as other members have said today.

This bill actually calls for concrete action to take place, for Nova Scotia to look squarely at the problems before us. We've heard some staggering statistics today, and I have a few to add, as well, in terms of what poverty means in terms of the vast number of people in our province who are suffering from a lack of income, a lack of enough resources to pay for the daily necessities of life, and that's impacting their entire family. We're talking about thousands of people here in our small province. A bill like the one before us would call upon the government and all Parties to support a committee that would look at a strategy for Nova Scotia. That may sound a little weak - we'll have a committee and we'll get a strategy - but we have experience from other provinces in our neck of the woods, Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick have both sat down, came up with poverty reduction strategies, and they've had results already.

If you set out targets and you look at things that are achievable, as we did even at the Poverty Forum, which was a two-day event with many different groups coming in to talk to us about their suggestions for poverty reduction, you can make a difference, Mr. Speaker. You can identify things that don't cost a lot of money to the Province of Nova Scotia that will make a huge difference in the lives of our citizens right here who are struggling to get out of the difficulties they are in.

One of the things that struck me, from the Poverty Forum, as I sat there as a member of the Community Services Committee, was that people were saying, if you're poor, you don't ever want to act poor, you don't want to act hungry, because people blame you, they see you as being somehow deficient when, in fact, it's many of the systems that we have in place that have, in one way or another, come together to make life very difficult for these people. It is through no fault of their own. I think that one of the interesting studies that has just been done was commissioned by a number of women's resource centres, the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre, Every Woman's Centre in Sydney, and the Pictou County Women's Centre. They did a study of women and social assistance, Mr. Speaker.

The two documents that were just completed very recently, within the last month, are called: Struggling to Survive: Women on Employment Support and Income Assistance Provide Their Priority Areas for Policy Reform; and Survival Strategies: Women on Employment Support & Income Assistance (ESIA) in Nova Scotia Provide Their Key Recommendations for Policy Reform, that is the survival one. I think these two documents are full of honest, sincere suggestions that would work in our province. They outline the problems that women on social assistance are facing.

[Page 1809]

[5:00 p.m.]

Now we are talking today about a poverty reduction plan and I think it is important that I also frame the context of this. It isn't just a social assistance reform, it is the working poor, as well. We heard the figures about the many single-parent families who are working full time and living below the poverty line, that was 11,400 of the children who are living in poverty come from one-parent income families where they are working full time. So even working full time, our minimum wage is very low. People on minimum wage generally don't have benefits, so they don't have help paying for drug plans and sick benefits. It is very difficult for them.

I did, in my remarks, want to sort of complement what my colleague from Annapolis had begun with, and that is to put a little bit of the human face on this, as well. Poverty, unfortunately, has a very feminine face. A lot of women are forced to live in poverty because they have caregiving responsibilities. We could go on in the Legislature, and a lot longer than I have available today, to really talk about the many facets of poverty and the threads that come from this, because it is a women's issue, it is a rural issue, it has an urban face. It is so widespread in our province.

On the women's side it is important to note that 69 per cent of the people who work part time are women. Again, when you work part time, you don't get pension benefits, so you are apt to retire in poverty. You don't get any of the sick benefits or the Pharmacare plans that are available to others who have full-time and more stable jobs. So right away women are having more difficult times in getting work and having the benefits. That is often because they have the caregiving responsibilities for their children for many years, and then often for their aging parents after that.

So women have some extra stresses that may not be as prevalent in the lives of men. Also, in terms of earning power, women earn 64 cents for every dollar that men earn. So, again, probably because of the interruptions in their work life, even for comparable levels of education, women do not earn a comparable income.

I felt that even in my experience, which I must say has been much more blessed, and that is, if you take time out of your work, you will not earn the same as the people who you went to school with. I have higher education degrees, and taking 10 years at home with my children made a big difference in terms of the earning power that I had and the difficulty I had in returning to the workforce. Which brings me to several of the points that the minister raised in her comments.

I appreciate that she has been an educator, and I appreciate that the minister is, I think, aware and cognizant of the problems faced by many Nova Scotians, but there is so much that needs to be done, and to talk about a 10-year made-in-Nova Scotia child care plan, I'm sorry, child care is so important to this province, 10 years to limp along, even if it is more than $100 million, I am afraid that I get pretty worried when I hear

[Page 1810]

made-in-Canada plans and made-in-Nova Scotia plans. The made-in-Canada plans for Kyoto means we can wait until 2050 to reduce our greenhouse gases. A 10-year plan means that the crisis in our province will be even worse if we're waiting for daycare. We need to have things happen now. That is why a strategy could help us today to look at the things that are possible.

I wanted to talk about just a few of the recommendations from the committee that sat, the Community Services Committee, chaired by the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, just a few of those, because there are some very good ideas. One of them is the post-secondary attendance. Mr. Speaker, as a critic for women's affairs, as well, I am concerned that the new program that we have been touting and has just been announced - I think it is called Career Seek - will have limitations on what women can choose to study. If the minister or the department feel that the study is focused enough on a job orientation, then you can take it. Well, an awful lot of us sitting in this House, even if we went to university, probably didn't take a career that looked like pharmacy or physiotherapy or nursing, that's directly leading to a job, but we're contributing in this society and we have jobs that are important. You can't even do pharmacy - I heard pharmacy mentioned by the minister in the press conference - any more without a first degree in science - you don't move right into pharmacy.

You have to allow people to be educated, and I think they will find very useful and proper ways to contribute. But limiting their options in education, I think, is a real mistake. I know in the program that was urging the government to return to the plan where women could stay on social assistance and get student loans - which I will remind you are repayable, Mr. Speaker - that program that was in place before gave women choices, and the current one is not going to give them the same level of choices.

We saw women come out to those press conferences who are social workers and teachers and principals, who were at one time on social assistance with their families, and they were able to achieve some real success in their lives, set a high standard for their own children, and really give their children and themselves a chance at a really good life. So I don't like any program that's going to put in some really severe restrictions.

Mr. Speaker, some of the changes don't cost the government anything. The minister spoke about the Harvest Connection, which allows people now to go to work and earn up to $3,000. That was a recommendation of the committee as well, that people should be allowed to earn some money. Again, that doesn't impact on what we're paying as a government to the people who need support, but it allows people to earn that little bit extra to improve life for themselves and their children. That's what they do with the extra money, they buy winter coats and boots because they haven't got money for that extra, and they are able to feed their children better - or prepare for Christmas, which they wouldn't otherwise be able to celebrate.

[Page 1811]

My only problem here is, we've started a program - and that's good - but Harvest Connection isn't going to help in Clayton Park and it doesn't help in Dartmouth. It doesn't help urban people who are also living in poverty and would like to earn a little bit of money and be able to keep some of it. The federal government under - I guess it's Canada Disability that people can receive, has actually upped theirs by $1,000 recently. I think you're allowed to earn $5,000 a year now rather than $4,000, and there's no clawback of the benefits you receive for disability. I think that's a very positive thing, because in that case it allows people who are disabled to continue to do a little bit of work, which is excellent for their self-esteem and allows them to improve their standard of living. If a person is unwell or on social assistance, it helps a lot if they can get that experience.

Mr. Speaker, I want to give just a couple of examples of current policies that just make life difficult for women - one of them is the 70 per cent clawback which we have in place right now. In my own riding, I had a woman who has two children and is receiving benefits, and she wanted to be involved more in her children's life so she went as a school lunch monitor at our local school. For the little bit she earns, which is about $10 a day - so if she went every day, it would be maybe $50 for the week -70 per cent is clawed back by the government, because she's on social assistance.

Now, really, it is pretty demoralizing when that's the case. I have to say the current systems and policies that we have in place are discouraging people. They are really discouraging people. They have no hope. The whole system overwhelms them at times, absolutely overwhelms them. I have two other examples which were given to me by someone who works at a women's centre, so they're actual cases of people who had been at the women's centre.

One of them is a young mother, who lives in a rural community, whose child was taken from her because she was very young and, I guess, not able to care for it. This young mother is trying very hard to get custody of her child back from Children's Aid, or whoever has the child, and she's doing GED classes in order to upgrade because that will show that she's going to finish high school and be better able to care for her child. The trouble is the visitation times that she's given for her daughter actually conflict with her classes for GED. She's faced with an untenable choice - either I go visit my child, which if I don't go the system is going to say I don't care about the child, or I can continue to work on my GED, but I cannot be successful at both, because we've set up a system which doesn't allow me to do both. She's between a rock and a hard place, Mr. Speaker. Why would a system do that when you have a young woman who's trying hard to get out of the circumstances she's in?

Another one is very similar - a mother who is doing her high school. She lives in Antigonish and she needs to go to these classes in Port Hawkesbury. Five days a week she's supposed to be there, and Community Services helps, but guess what? They help with her daycare, but it's only three days a week. So she has three days a week that she

[Page 1812]

can go to school to get her high school, but she can't go the other two days because then she would be not caring for her children and not doing what she has to do. Her first responsibility is obviously the safety of her children. So what kind of system is in place that we don't allow the daycare to match the need of the retraining and the schooling that she needs? This happens time and time again and it is no wonder that people turn to us, or sometimes just give up and say it's impossible, I'm overwhelmed by the obstacles in my path.

Mr. Speaker, I referred to the survival strategies and document that was done. It was based on 91 different interviews of women on social assistance and I think it's important to put on the record here today that through those interviews, one on one, not one of those women wanted to continue to live on social assistance. For the record, all of us should be absolutely aware, and the public needs to be aware, that this is not an attractive outcome or not an attractive place to be for anybody. So women and men who are on social assistance are wanting to overcome the poverty and to work and support themselves in a different way, but we need to help. We need education. We need to help in so many ways. We need to give them supports that would allow them to raise their literacy level, to raise their skill level, and so on.

As was said earlier, really this is the single largest issue facing Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, even though we don't like to talk about it here, we talk about a lot of other things but we don't often talk about poverty. Even though the media doesn't want to cover anything about poverty, we could talk here for a whole week and I don't think they would put anything in the newspaper or on TV because it's not a very jazzy subject and I think it needs to be. It is the root cause of many of our social problems. We love to talk about crime in our cities, vandalism, youth out of control. We like to talk about obesity, ill health, poor diet, and we like to talk about affordable housing not being available, but we don't want to talk about poverty, and poverty is the root cause of all of this.

I know one of my colleagues spoke earlier about the fact that we won't get the health care spending under control until we start to address the cause of poverty because right now on social assistance or as a person working for minimum wage, you cannot afford to live and eat healthily and look after your family, and that's the bottom line. So as we heard, we have thousands of people living in poverty.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired for debate on Bill No. 74.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

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

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

[Page 1813]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 848.

Res. No. 848 - TPW - Hwy. No. 101: Digby-Weymouth - Construct - notice given Nov. 10/06 (Mr. Harold Theriault)

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, usually I would stand in my place and thank you for letting me stand here and speak about Digby-Annapolis but, tonight, I'm not too thankful about it and I'll tell you why, because I'm about to speak about Highway No. 101 between Weymouth and Digby, Nova Scotia, that was started some 30-odd years ago. I believe before I came here, three years ago, many members probably stood in this same place and probably said the same thing. So I feel like I'm just repeating and probably the next time I do it, I'll just set a tape recorder here while I go out and have some lunch or something because I'm kind of getting embarrassed of doing it myself just in three years, but I want to start with a government document here.

I'll give you a little background on Highway No. 101. "Highway No. 101 stretches approximately 300 kilometres from Bedford to Yarmouth. The Department of Transportation and Public Works (TPW) has begun planning for the construction of a new 26 kilometre section of Highway 101 between Digby and Weymouth North. This is the only segment of Highway 101 which has not been upgraded to a 100-series controlled access standard highway. Current traffic volumes on this section range from 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles per day. Upgrading the existing highway is not possible because of nearby development."

Now, just remember, Mr. Speaker, this document is quite old so the 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles is quite a few years back. The project scope: "The proposed highway is planned as a fully controlled access, four-lane, divided, wide median highway. Initial construction would likely be two lanes, . . ." which would be perfect for us ". . . because of the low traffic volumes."

Project schedule: "The objective of the planning process is to identify and preserve a corridor for this section of Highway 101 to be ready for construction at some time in the future . . . The alignment was approved in principle in June 2000. It was registered for joint federal and provincial environmental assessment (EA) under the Canadian Environmental Assessment and Nova Scotia Environment Acts. Completion of the EA is anticipated by the winter of 2006.", which has gone by. So, hopefully that is done, I believe it is probably not but I am going to make sure that I look into that.

[5:15 p.m.]

[Page 1814]

Instead of speaking for myself tonight, I want to speak for some people in that area. I have my first letter here, back on August 11, 1991, addressed to the Department of Transport, the Honourable Ken Streatch - this one is1991, and I'll just do a little - this was one that was written to me from an Albert Tunis who lived on that road and I'll just take a little quote from it: "Over the years, I have seen the traffic increase most significantly, particularly the heavy vehicles, such as tractor trailers, tankers and other large vans. The increase in traffic has become even more pronounced since the Dominion Atlantic Railway abandoned its service between Yarmouth and Digby. I do not have to tell you that the Highway, as presently situated, constitutes a serious safety hazard to the many people who live along its length."

Now this was back in 1991 but there are letters before that, back 30-odd years, the same thing, but that just gives you an idea. So anyway, the Honourable Kenneth Streatch knew about it too, and he probably repeated it in here too, just the same as I am repeating it.

Here is another one, it is a little later, from Heather Kaye who lives down along that way and here is another little quote; "Are the citizens who live in this approximate 30 km area not as important as folks who live in other areas of the 101? Death and carnage takes place all too often on this section of uncompleted highway. I cannot understand the total lack of highway development in this area. School buses must compete with logging trucks on a daily basis, heavy traffic travel this section daily (as there is no other road) from the Yarmouth ferry to Halifax. The Digby ferry unloads its vehicular cargo which travels east or west along this roadway. Corner stores have constant traffic coming and going pulling into and out of heavy traffic. Locals take their life in their hands as they enter or exit their driveways."

Here's another one that just came lately. This came from several people, it had a lot of signatures on it. I won't go into it but I can table it, if you want me to: Much has been said in the past by the affected residents about the state of the present section of Highway 101 from Digby to Weymouth. Time and again officials have been presented with information and testimony emphasizing the fact that the physical state of the highway is entirely unsuitable for heavy transports travelling by day and by night. The narrow road width, the hilly nature of the certain stretches, poor visibility of oncoming traffic, bumpy sections of highway, hidden driveways and other factors speak for themselves. Fatal accidents have been brought to the attention of officials and the miracle is that there have not been more to report. Stress is high for the residents who could not get their rest at night due to the heavy trucks speeding to and from the Digby ferry in the middle of the night. Damage to rock wells and home foundations is increasing. We believe that we deserve better for our tax dollars.

Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of letters here that I will so table. One is from Miss Faye Haley. She is the Chair of the Tri-County Regional School Board and this letter states that she is very afraid for the children who are coming on to that bus. There is an

[Page 1815]

elementary school there and she is very - we have one here from the Transportation Manager of the Tri- County District School Board who is also concerned about this highway and the school students who are on it.

This highway has 155 residential driveways and some of these driveways are 15- and 20-feet off this highway. These trucks are travelling at 110 kilometres an hour. They don't slow for the speed zones because they believe it's Highway No. 101 because people still say this is part of Highway No. 101, not a No. 1 highway section. This highway has two fire departments on it, three provincial parks, four churches, two gravel pits, 12 side roads, countless logging roads and dozens of small businesses. There are 6,000 vehicles per day as registered here by the department itself in 2003.

When they did the first one, that was probably back four or five years earlier than that, with 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles per day. So in 2003 it went up to 6,000 vehicles and if a count was done today, you'd probably be at 7,000 or 8,000. Just a few weeks ago, a few months ago, we had two tractor-trailer trucks on that road that left the road in the night. One, when it stopped, it was up to the front of a house - one of these houses that's 20-feet off the highway. If that truck would have gone off the road another 30 to 40 feet from where it did, closer to that house, that truck would have gone through that house that night.

Another one did the same thing exactly where a school bus stops. A trailer truck left the road at 4:00 a.m. exactly where that bus stops at 8:00 a.m. It's just a matter of time before a tragic, tragic accident happens there. There have been deaths on it before, but I'm talking tragic. A school bus full of children with a freight truck going at 110 kilometres an hour between those homes.

It's going to happen and I hope the next time I get up here in this House - I hope I don't have to, maybe I can just use a tape recorder and maybe get it from Hansard and just replay this, but I hope the next time I get up in this House to speak about Highway No. 101 that's not there, I hope that I'm not going to report a tragedy to this House that will make us mourn here for the whole session.

It's coming, Mr. Speaker, it's coming. It's an accident beyond maybe what we've ever known, it's going to come. The people who live on this highway are demanding that we, the government, the government of the time, of now, get the process going a little faster on this highway before we do have to report this happening.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I will take my seat. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for bringing this resolution to the House. It's a joy to talk about Highway No. 101. It provided some

[Page 1816]

history with regard to his resolution; I'll provide a little history with regard to my activity on Highway No. 101.

In 1999, I remember very clearly, when I was asked to run and the decision was made very quickly. In fact, I think the Opposition Parties had candidates in place before the PC Party did. I met with, at that time the Leader of the Third Party, who was to become the Premier of the province and go on to become one of the better loved and most honoured Premiers of the province. We met in the Wandlyn, I remember this, and he asked me what would be the priorities I would be advancing as a candidate, and I said, the number one priority I want to advance as a candidate is the twinning of Highway No. 101.

That was put before him in 1999 and I have been pushing the twinning of Highway No. 101 ever since with every respective Premier and Minister of Transportation, both federally and provincially.

I, of course, didn't come to this without extensive community involvement beforehand. The Twin to Win Committee, Joan Tracey was very active pointing this out; the doctors in the area, Ian Hearn Stewart, many of the nurses were very active in promoting the twinning of Highway No. 101; and the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce was very active in promoting it as well. Certainly there was widespread community support in Kings County and in my riding of Kings North for the twinning of Highway No. 101.

Subsequent to my election in 1999, this was then designated by the Province of Nova Scotia and the government at the time as the number one twinning project in Nova Scotia. I take great succour in the fact that I was listened to, but I want to state very clearly, Mr. Speaker, that the decision to make Highway No. 101 the number one twinning priority in all of Nova Scotia was not made because of political favouritism to my riding, to the riding of Kings South, to the riding of Kings West. It was made on evidence.

The evidence was there that showed that Highway No. 101 was the most unsafe highway in Nova Scotia, in terms not of accidents - the accident rate between that and other untwinned 100-Series Highways was roughly the same. It was the number of fatalities that resulted on Highway No. 101, particularly on the stretch that led from Mount Uniacke up to Berwick. That was the stretch that statistic showed time after time had the greatest number of fatalities, and it was that evidence that really, in the end, won the day, that made Highway No. 101 the number one twinning priority of the government from 1999 on.

Highway No. 101 was built, Mr. Speaker, particularly the section which I know best, from Halifax up to Coldbrook, just the other side of my riding, for 10,000 vehicles per day, and at the time, back in 1999, it reached peaks of 16,000 vehicles per day. So

[Page 1817]

it wasn't a case of the road being a bad road, it was a case of it was just beyond its capacity to sustain the amount of traffic that was travelling on the road. Many people said to me, Mark, why are you so committed to this, why are you pushing this so hard, why have you made this such a priority for you? It's bad drivers, it's poor drivers, if everyone drove carefully we wouldn't have the fatalities. I responded, yes, that's true, but the road was built for 10,000 vehicles per day maximum, from Halifax to Coldbrook, and it was peaking up to 16,000 vehicles per day, almost double what the road was built to take.

So I was very pleased, as a result of this activity, when agreements were signed and when work began. I remember very clearly, Mr. Speaker, when the section between Mount Uniacke and Ellershouse was twinned, a part of that section was concrete paving to try to evaluate whether concrete was a more effective and, in the end, more cost-effective means of twinning our 100-Series Highways, because it can stand up longer, and many of the materials are available here in the province.

I watched with great interest, and every day I would drive by it, Mr. Speaker. Many times I was almost late to the House because of all of the activity on Highway No. 101 in that section. I remember very clearly the ribbon-cutting, the announcement, the opening of it, officially, although people had been driving on it, in Mount Uniacke, I believe it was at the Lion's Hall there. I remember the Minister of Transportation and Public Works of the day, the Honourable Ronald Russell, with great pride, and he was joined at that time by the MP for the area, the honourable Scott Brison, with great pride.

Mr. Speaker, I remember that I was in the audience listening with people from Twin to Win, the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce, and others, and Mr. Russell had the grace to point out the lobbying work that I had been doing and the work I had been doing, making this section of Highway No. 101 a number one twinning priority.

Since then, Mr. Speaker, we've now moved on to the next phase. It was a little slower than I would have liked. Part of it was held up by the Liberal Government in Ottawa, and there was a bit of a philosophical difference between the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the Minister of Public Works, I forget which two ministers. One wanted more money to go into public transportation systems, the other was open to highway projects, and you had a philosophical difference between the two of them.

[5:30 p.m.]

There was a holdup there, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the work going forward a little bit. Finally that, too, was signed off on because Highway No. 101 benefits from the fact that it's cost-shared with the federal government, but that also makes the negotiation sometimes a little longer than I would like to see it. I remember being in Windsor and, again, there was the Honourable Ron Russell and on behalf of the federal government,

[Page 1818]

the Honourable Scott Brison, were signing. I was the only MLA there and I remember being so excited that now the next section was signed off.

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure every time I drive to see the work that's now being done at Avonport, to see the work that's being done at the infamous Ben Jackson interchange, and to see the bulldozers and the pickup trucks working hard. In fact, they work early in the morning, they work late at night, and it really is a pleasure to see the work that's being done on that section of highway.

As I said, I would like to have seen it start faster but, Mr. Speaker, it has now started and I can tell you that the people in my riding as they see this work being done - Avonport, down near St. Croix with the bridges, with Ben Jackson, the roadbed being leveled - they get very excited and they're very happy to see this being done because they realize that there have been fatalities on that highway that need not have happened if it was twinned. We would still have accidents. People need to slow down, they need to drive more carefully, but we will not have the fatalities when it's twinned and the evidence has proved that with the section that was twinned from Mount Uniacke up to Ellershouse.

Now, the speaker talked about the prioritization of the work which was really what his resolution dealt with. I find it a little odd, Mr. Speaker, in that, and understandable because I spoke to the minister at that time, I believe it was Ron Russell, saying skip over Windsor, forget about Windsor and start twinning from Kentville to Coldbrook and, of course, I made that argument because that's what affected my riding and I wanted the credit for getting that twinned there, et cetera, et cetera. To his credit, Ron held firm and he said, no, the road will be twinned methodically starting from Halifax out because that is where the most traffic is, that is what the evidence supports, and that is the best way to twin the road. The most cost effective way to twin the road is to start from the beginning and go out rather than doing little bits here and there for political reasons.

Well, Mr. Speaker, now the member wants us for political reasons not to follow an evidence-based policy but to jump over. I find it somewhat strange considering his neighbour beside him has been hammering at the government for, he's saying, doing political things in terms of Middleton and the nursing beds. In a sense, the honourable member is contradicting his neighbour because he wants us not to do it on evidence-based best policy, the best way of building a road, the cheapest way of building a twinned road, but he wants us to sort of jump over and build a little twinned section here and not move forward on this methodical basis. I think that, while I understand the honourable member and what he's trying to do and why he's trying to do it, I think this government has built Highway No. 101 on an evidence base, the number of vehicles per day, talking about twinning from Mount Uniacke up to Coldbrook and then passing lanes which are so desperately needed.

[Page 1819]

As Ron would remind me time and time again, this is the most cost-effective, best way to build a twinned highway. We want to use the taxpayers' money well. We want to get it twinned well. We want those passing lanes and we're going to do it in this progression mark and that's the way to do it. I respect him and I was so impressed that he refused to politicize this issue and that it was done on evidence, on scientific backing, on good economic sense, and I was proud of the government for doing that, Mr. Speaker, and very happy. I'm going to give the honourable member for Hammonds Plains-Upper Sackville a few . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The request is to revert to Introduction of Bills.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 113 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1994-95, the Environment Act. (Hon. Mark Parent)

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

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to have a few minutes to speak on Resolution No. 848. I thank the member for Digby-Annapolis for bringing it forward.

It is a very serious issue, not only about our 100-Series Highway, Highway No. 101 through the Annapolis Valley, or the lack thereof. It's really about Highway No. 1, also a secondary road that is still, unfortunately, part of our national highway system. In reality, we should have had a 100-Series Highway all the way from Halifax to Yarmouth long before this, but it seems to go along in spurts and starts and it's just a very, very slow process.

I know it's a real concern. There have been too many deaths, too many injuries, too many accidents on Highway No. 101 over the years, as there has been on a lot of the

[Page 1820]

100-Series Highways throughout this province; especially in those areas that are not yet twinned, especially those areas that are not converted to a 100-Series Highway at this point in time. The member points out parts of Digby County and Annapolis County are part of the national highway system that as of yet is not a 100-Series Highway.

In this country, we have a national highway system that runs all the way from Newfoundland to British Columbia. It's actually 38,021 kilometres long from coast to coast. Here in Nova Scotia, we have about 3 per cent of that total, 1,199 kilometres that are designated as part of our national highway system. This particular highway we're talking about - Highway No. 101, or parts of the No. 1 highway, whatever - from Bedford right through to Yarmouth, is a total of 309 kilometres. If you take the alternate route, along the South Shore from Halifax to Yarmouth, it's slightly shorter at 296 kilometres, but all part of our national highway system.

Unfortunately, as was mentioned, a lot of it is yet to be built as a 100-Series Highway and it's still a secondary road, including these 30 kilometres in Digby County. I think that's really unfortunate and a disgrace at this point in time that we have not finished our 100-Series Highway throughout the whole province. There's too much of that remaining as a secondary road. It's been more than 50 years since we had a national highway system from coast to coast, but yet there are many parts of Nova Scotia that are not yet 100-series.

It's the responsibility of the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation to convert these secondary roads into 100-Series Highways. I guess part of the reason they're giving for it not being done is outlined in the well known Nova Scotia Primary and Secondary Highway Systems - the 10 Year Needs that was commissioned by the department in the year 2001. In that, it outlined how much money it would take to build our 100-Series Highways and to have all our secondary roads up to scratch, that would be in top-notch condition.

The figure that was identified at that time was around $3.5 billion, it would take to complete our 100-Series Highways and to fix all our secondary roads up to standard. That figure was updated this year in 2006 during budget estimate. I asked the minister how relevant that figure was and he indicated at that time that it has actually now grown from $3.5 billion to over $4 billion as being our infrastructure deficit in this province.

That is a whole lot of money. Is the department addressing it? Are they budgeting for that amount of money to try to fix it? The answer is no. If you take a 10-year plan and you divide it by the $4 billion figure, that would be about $400 million a year.

Well, our budget last year was far less than that, in fact the average budget for the provincial Department of Transportation and Public Works over the last seven years is somewhere around $231 million, far, far short of the $400 million that is needed to address our 100-Series Highways and our secondary roads. So we need more money in

[Page 1821]

the provincial Department of Transportation and Public Works to look after our 100-Series Highways, as well as our secondary roads.

The other concern, Mr. Speaker, is that we're not getting our fair share of dollars from the federal government. Every time we fill our vehicles at the gas pumps, we are paying federal excise tax and last year in the Province of Nova Scotia, the federal government collected somewhere approximately $145 million in federal gas tax. That would be great and wonderful if that went to fix up our 100-Series Highways or even our secondary roads in this province. In reality, less than $5 million of that came back to Nova Scotia to go towards our 100-Series Highways or secondary roads. So we have less than 5 per cent - actually it was only 3.9 per cent last year or, on average over the last number of years, it has come back to Nova Scotia for 100-Series Highways or for secondary roads. So we need a much more aggressive Department of Transportation and Public Works here in Nova Scotia, to go after our federal counterparts, to get our fair share of dollars so we can build the Highway No. 101 or Highway No. 103 or Highway No. 104 and our secondary roads in this province. So there is much more work there that needs to be done, Mr. Speaker.

The other thing, as I mentioned, is the provincial budget, We are spending only about 6 per cent of our budget on highways and bridges in this province. I don't think that is enough. I want to refer for a minute, Mr. Speaker, to our neighbouring province of New Brunswick. They have done a wonderful job lobbying for their fair share of dollars from the federal government to put towards their 100-Series Highways. In fact, since 1993, the Province of New Brunswick has received a total of $740 million from Ottawa for their 100-Series Highways. How much has Nova Scotia received during that same period of time? Well actually our share - we've received only $187 million in the last 10 years. In fact, over the last 19 years, since 1987, Nova Scotia has received only $275 million for 100-Series Highways, so we're falling far short of our neighbouring province. It certainly indicates that we need a much more aggressive lobby to the federal Department of Transport to get our fair share, to get out Highway No. 101 or Highway No. 103 or Highway No. 104, all our 100-Series Highways looked after.

As an Opposition member, Mr. Speaker, I am not the only one who is saying this. There are many other people in this province and in this country who are saying that it is high time that we really started looking after our roads and fixing them up, because it is an economic enabler. It builds our economy, it keeps our people employed here not only building the roads but it then attracts new business to an area so that they want to establish a business in the area of the province where there are good roads. For example, I want to draw upon a recent report from the Canadian Automobile Association. Earlier this month, they linked the deteriorating state of Canada's roads and highways directly to the standard of living and prosperity for Canadians. They indicate that we need a national highway priority system or a national highway strategy that will lift this province up to equal what other countries are enjoying.

[Page 1822]

For example, in the United States they have a plan to invest $286 billion over the next six years in their highways and bridges and infrastructures in that country. The Canadian Automobile Association was saying that we as a country, and certainly as a province, have to be doing the same thing. By not doing it, we're undermining our economic development, we're undermining our tourism trade, our environment, and our commute times in this country. There's a strong lobby by a recognized group, the Canadian Automobile Association. They have about 5 million members in this country, and they say it's high time we really put our money where our mouth is and start spending on our highways and infrastructure in this country.

[5:45 p.m.]

Another group that's calling for a strong lobby to look after our infrastructure in this province is the chamber of commerce. The Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce held a workshop or a seminar in Truro about a year ago, I think it was last Fall, at the Glengarry Inn. They, too, are saying that it's so vital and important for economic development and for job creation and for tourism and all the other benefits of our society that we need to invest in our roads and our bridges and, really, a highway system that should be second to none. I attended that seminar in Truro and learned a lot from business people and municipalities and others who were present, and they feel it's the right way to go.

Finally, I'll mention the Nova Scotia Road Builders Association. They, too, are saying that we need to have a national highway program, we need to have much further investment, not only in our secondary roads but also in our 100-Series Highways. They're having a problem right now keeping qualified people here, because if there's not enough work for them then those people are going to other provinces to be employed where there is more opportunity. They would stay here in Nova Scotia, if there were contracts, if there were tenders, if there were jobs to do. Certainly there is much that needs to be done.

Mr. Speaker, in wrapping up, I'll just say that I appreciate what the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis brought forward, and there's no question we must do much more to invest in our roads and highways in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour and either I didn't' really understand what we were debating or he probably was debating something else, but for the record, I want to bring Resolution No. 848, that says, "Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly investigate Highway No. 101, and as soon as it is twinned between Windsor and Kentville . . .", and I repeat, is twinned between Windsor and Kentville, ". . . that the

[Page 1823]

Department of Transportation and Public Works commit to constructing a single Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth."

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying, and you're probably aware, that the only section along Highway No. 101 that's not completed is between Weymouth and Digby in Digby County. Now, as the previous speaker indicated, Highway No. 101 runs from Halifax right through the Valley, right up to Yarmouth. When you're driving along Highway No. 101, coming down from the Valley, Highway No. 101 stops in Digby and connects to the existing Highway No. 1 and runs down to Weymouth North and then, this is where it connects back to the provincial Highway No. 101, which runs and ends in Yarmouth.

Mr. Speaker, this debate has been ongoing for years and years, and continues. My honourable colleague indicated earlier in his opening comments, the debate about finishing that missing piece between Weymouth and Digby has been ongoing for over 30 years. Well, the government still has no immediate plans to move forward and construct this missing link on Highway No. 101. This stretch of highway is approximately 26 kilometres long and runs from Weymouth North to Digby. This road goes through the following communities of Weymouth North, Ashmore, Gilberts Cove, Plympton, Barton, Brighton, Marshalltown, and Conway, right into Digby.

Of course, Mr. Speaker, the heavy traffic from Highway No. 101 joins the local traffic along this stretch of road. The speed along this stretch of road goes from 90 kilometres per hour in Weymouth North, when you leave Highway No. 101, and later drops to 50 kilometres per hour in the Barton school zone, and then back up to 80 kilometres when you leave the school zone, and later back to 90 kilometres until you get to Digby, and you resume your speed of 100 kilometres per hour along Highway No. 101.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to understand the different speed zones along this stretch of 26 kilometres. Many times, the road passes in front of many homes along the way. At times, the road is almost pretty near on the doorsteps of many of these homes along the way. So with all these homes on this stretch of road, many vehicles are constantly turning off the road, and many vehicles are turning onto the road. So of course, Mr. Speaker, motorists have to be careful along this stretch of road.

As I indicated earlier, you have to drive through a school zone where school buses turn on and off this road to access the school ground in Barton. Also, the school buses make stops along this stretch of road to pick up and drop off students, so the safety of these students is also in question all the time. As my honourable colleague indicated, there are many businesses, there are several churches, there are two fire stations along this stretch of road where vehicles, again, slow down to stop at these locations and drive back on this road. So, Mr. Speaker, safety is a big concern along this stretch of road, and continues to be.

[Page 1824]

Yes, there have been accidents, and many accidents along this stretch of road. There have been some fatal accidents, and probably more to come. Mr. Speaker, when you take into consideration various factors of this 26-kilometre section of Highway No. 101, the design of this road, the traffic along this road throughout the year, from tourist season to year-round traffic, the homes, the businesses, the churches, the school, the two fire stations along this road with vehicles turning in and getting back on the highway, the other side roads connecting to this road, the speed limits along this road, the winter conditions along this road, the number of tractor-trailers travelling on this road daily, you start to have a better understanding of why there are accidents along this 26-kilometre road section, and why many people are afraid that more accidents will happen along this road. Speaking of being afraid, I know of some drivers who are afraid to drive along this stretch of road.

So, Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of debate over the years on this section of the road between Weymouth and Digby in Digby County. Everyone, including both levels of government, the federal and the provincial government, agree there needs to be a new section built between Weymouth and Digby. The question is, when? When? The people of Digby County would like to know when this new section of Highway No. 101 between Weymouth and Digby will be built. Well, we don't know, and I'm pretty sure that our government doesn't know, as well.

Mr. Speaker, when I look at the new highway agreement for Highway No. 101 and Highway No. 104 that was signed between the federal government and our provincial government, dated October 7, 2005, which expires in 2010, there is no mention of building a new section of Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth. So according to this new agreement, there is nothing planned for this area before 2010. Now, unless our provincial government decides to go ahead by themselves on this new construction project and pay for the full cost themselves, well, that's a possibility, but probably very doubtful.

Mr. Speaker, in this new five-year highway agreement, we're looking at a $61 million agreement between Ottawa and our provincial government. Projects identified in this agreement are cost-shared on a 50/50 deal. The federal government's contribution and our provincial government's contribution remains the same at $30.5 million from each level of government. This highway agreement will fund a number of projects along Highway No. 101; it will fund the twinning of two sections of Highway No. 101 between Falmouth and Avonport, and between St. Croix and Wentworth Road.

Also, this agreement, Mr. Speaker, will fund the construction of three new exits, one near Joggin Bridge near Digby, one in Lake Doucette in Clare, and the other one on the Brooklyn Road in Yarmouth County, but again, no mention of building a new section of Highway No. 101 between Digby and Weymouth.

[Page 1825]

Mr. Speaker, you can understand why the people of Digby County, and especially the people between Weymouth and Digby, are frustrated and disappointed. There's nothing in this highway agreement which runs from 2005 to 2010 for a new road to be built. My colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, has heard lots on this issue since he was elected three years ago. He has raised this issue time and again in this House on many occasions and continues to do so. So I'm sure we haven't heard the end from our colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis, on this very important issue, and rightly so, I might add.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I know my time is getting close to the end, the people living along Weymouth North and Digby need to know, and I hope our government will take this matter under consideration and decide to include it in our next highway agreement with our federal government, so people living along this stretch of road between Digby and Weymouth will know when to expect to see construction begin on this uncompleted section of Highway No. 101. It has been way too long. Accidents keep on happening, and, yes, probably more will continue to happen, but again, I hope especially the Minister of Environment and Labour will share this concern with his colleagues around the Cabinet Table. Truly, this section of the road needs to be included in our next highway agreement that we will sign off with our federal government. With those few comments, I will take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for debate on Resolution No. 848.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Liberal Party business for today. I would ask the Government House Leader to give us the agenda for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would move that the House now adjourn to meet on the morrow from the hours of 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. The government intends to call, as its order of business, Committee of the Whole House on Bills, Public Bills for Second Reading, and Private Members Public Bills for Second Reading.

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned.

We have now reached the moment of interruption.

The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes:

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"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the unique beauty of the constituency of Victoria-The Lakes."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

VICTORIA-THE LAKES: BEAUTY - RECOGNIZE

MR. KEITH BAIN: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to stand in my place in this historic Legislature and speak this evening. I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity to speak to members on both sides of the House about one of my favorite topics - the constituency of Victoria-The Lakes. I am proud and humbled to represent the people of this great Cape Breton constituency here at Province House. The constituency of Victoria-The Lakes boasts many attributes - both cultural and natural - and those attributes are the reason that our area is so attractive to residents and tourists alike.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as members know, the 298- kilometre Cabot Trail loops around the northern tip of Cape Breton Island. The trail passes through many communities in Victoria-The Lakes and is marked by breathtaking scenery and unforgettable, world-famous Cape Breton hospitality. Travelers on the Cabot Trail can take advantage of many noteworthy galleries, museums and attractions within the various communities.

Another favourite attraction is the Nova Scotia Highland Village. Highland Village is a living history and cultural centre that celebrates the Gaelic experience in Nova Scotia. Highland Village is located on a beautiful hillside in Iona, overlooking the world- renowned Bras d'Or Lakes. At the village, our province's rich Scottish Gaelic culture comes alive with costumed staff, farm animals, period buildings, and artifacts. Highland Village is open daily from May to October and I encourage all members, if they haven't already, to visit this unique attraction and learn more about an important part of our Celtic past.

Mr. Speaker, the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site is another attraction located in Victoria-The Lakes. As all members will know, Alexander Graham Bell is best known as the inventor of the telephone, but he was also one of the most outstanding figures of his generation in the education of the deaf. Bell first came to

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Baddeck in 1885 and returned the next year to establish a vacation home for his family, far from the formality and summer heat of Washington, D.C. He regularly spent a substantial part of the year at Beinn Bhreagh and both he and his wife, Mabel Hubbard Bell, played an active role in the social and intellectual life of the village. By the time the Bells arrived in Baddeck, the success of the telephone had freed him from the need to earn a living and, at Beinn Bhreagh, Bell continued his busy routine of experimentation.

Aeronautical work was a large part of his life at Beinn Bhreagh, from early kite-flying experiments to the success of the Silver Dart in February, 1909. The 100th Anniversary of the flight of the Silver Dart will be celebrated in 2009 in Baddeck. Mr. Speaker, this achievement was a product of Bell's collaboration with four young men - Casey Baldwin, Douglas McCurdy, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, and Glenn Curtiss - in the Aerial Experiment Association founded in 1907. In later years, Bell and Baldwin turned to experiments with hydrofoil craft that culminated in the development of the HD-4, which set a world speed record in 1919.

Bell's activities at Beinn Bhreagh had a significant impact on the economic and social life of Baddeck. The estate provided work for men and women both in traditional service occupations and in jobs connected with Bell's experiments. The descendants of Bell have continued to contribute to the Baddeck area over the years. Mabel Bell was primarily responsible for the management of Beinn Bhreagh and was deeply involved in village life, helping to establish the local public library and the first Home and School Association in Canada, as well as a reading club for young women.

Mr. Speaker, the major historical resources at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site are the largest collection of artifacts related to Bell's research, which he conducted both at Baddeck and elsewhere - books, photographs and copies of material from his personal archives, and various personal items, furniture, and awards received by Bell during his lifetime. Most artifacts are original, but there are some reproductions that are also valuable.

Mr. Speaker, visitors to the constituency of Victoria-The Lakes will never lack for something to do, whether it's golf or whale- watching, birdwatching, sea kayaking, or hiking. There is plenty to do; in fact there is really too much for me to mention everything this evening. I would, however, be remiss if I didn't mention the Gaelic College of Celtic Arts and Crafts in St. Ann's. The Gaelic College was founded in 1938 by Rev. A.W.R. MacKenzie as a school devoted to the study and preservation of the Gaelic language and Celtic arts and culture. Situated in the heart of the earliest Scottish settlements in Cape Breton, the college began as a school of Gaelic language in a small log cabin overlooking St. Ann's Bay.

From these humble beginnings, this unique institution has gained an international reputation for its contribution to the maintenance and preservation of Gaelic language

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and culture. It is the only institution of its kind in North America, and students of all ages and abilities travel here from around the world to study. Top calibre instructors offer programs in Scottish traditional disciplines including Gaelic language and song, music, dance and crafts.

Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I'm proud to represent Victoria-The Lakes for a good reason. The beauty and diversity of this area is known and envied all over the world. As I just briefly outlined, the area has developed an interesting tourist industry that enhances the breathtaking scenery and celebrates our past.

Mr. Speaker, it has indeed been a pleasure to have had the opportunity to speak this evening about this wonderful part of the province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to stand here this evening and listen to the honourable member across the way speak about a lovely part of the province, indeed, that members on this side of the House have been to many times on vacation and on retreat. In fact, we just came back from a retreat over there at the Glenghorm Beach Resort, a beautiful spot.

I can't help but stand here tonight - I've heard the honourable member talk about the Cabot Trail and the breathtaking scenery, the hospitality, the museums, the Bras d'Or Lakes, the Celtic past and, of course, where are we going to move to in the future?

What I do find ironic here is that at the same time the honourable member is talking about breathtaking scenery, in another part of the same island we're talking about strip mining. We're at odds with each other, I guess, in that if we're trying to bring in economic development and we're trying to increase our tourism visitors, then talking about strip mining is something that doesn't quite fit together and jibe.

We know that tourism hasn't been that great. In fact, July 2006, over July 2005, we are down somewhere around 12 per cent. RV visitors alone were down something around 24 per cent.

We have to be very cognizant of what we do in all parts of the province. I'm very lucky in just my little constituency, although we're not known as a tourist destination, we do have some things in my riding or close by. I'm near the Shubenacadie Canal, it goes through my area and we have Shubie Park. We have trail systems that cut through, we have some lakes that we can enjoy and the Dartmouth-Cole Harbour Heritage Museum is nearby. These are all the things that we need to be protecting in the province if we're going to talk about bringing more tourists in and keeping the things we do have in good repair.

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I know the honourable member did mention museums. He spoke at length about the Alexander Graham Bell Museum. Indeed, museums are certainly a part of our culture and our heritage here in the province. We have over 27 provincial museums and somewhere around 66 community museums. Those museums brought in over 500,000 visitors and that's what they continue to do, but a lot of these museums have been under -resourced for more than 10 years and there are things that need to be archived, there are things that need to be saved, there is the issue of are we replacing the staff there, the curators, are we doing those kinds of things, are we being proactive? Currently there is no apparent apprenticeship program for bringing in new staff - who are going to take over the duties? Who is going to fill in that gap? So there are issues like that that really need to be addressed.

We have just seen the federal government cut our Visitor Rebate Program and we do have over 300,000 international visitors per year in Nova Scotia. Are they going to be looking at us to come here and do conventions when they can't get these rebates now? The federal government has cut back the Museum Assistance Program by 50 per cent. That is going to have an effect. Just last week I did a question here on the Sydney Mines Fossil Museum, which is a unique attraction. The community really needs some economic development there and this is just a small part of that, but they have been fighting for a long time for the money that was promised to them.

So we can look back through the budget debate from the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage and look at what he was saying about it is his department's job to preserve and promote the assets we have, and these are the assets that the honourable member opposite talked about. These are the assets of our cities, our towns, the seacoast, the history, the culture, the hospitality we have, the museums and the breathtaking beauty of our province. I don't think we're doing enough to really protect some of those things within that list of assets that we have. We need to look at coastal management in the province. There is a coalition in Nova Scotia that put forward recommendations quite some time ago on how to protect our beaches, how to protect them as far as ecosystems that exist on our beaches go, Mr. Speaker, and how do we carry forward activities on our beaches in Nova Scotia.

I know there are a lot of beaches in Cape Breton. We were there on retreat recently, our MLA, Gordie Gosse, took some of us around to see all the sights. These are breathtaking visuals that you have there. I think it was the summer before last, I was over there by the Bras d'Or Lakes and visiting - I can't remember the name of the establishment but they have cottages there and there was a strip mine basically across the water from them. This was having an impact because people could end up coming there for a visit, not realizing the strip mine was there. I think we have to be so careful in how we move forward - and nobody is saying that we are against mining, we're just saying we have to be very careful about what communities want and what they need.

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We have to look at the economic development, what do they have there now? Is tourism going to be the future of those communities? I don't think you can ever consult too much with communities and listen to them. Now communities are not always going to get everything they want and certainly we see that every day but we have to, at the very least, listen to them. If we're going to protect - people are going to come to Nova Scotia for the natural beauty and for the way that we are, the people and our culture and our heritage. They are probably never going to come here for mega theme parks and those kinds of things.

Sometimes, Mr. Speaker, our weather doesn't always co-operate. Now today it has been great, but I don't think our weather is as big an issue with visitors as we may think because they are coming here for things they just simply cannot get anywhere else. We need to really protect our scenery, our coastal management needs to be looked at, we need to look at how we're protecting our lakes and our rivers.

Look at the Shubenacadie Canal, the lock system there, what a great future endeavour that would be, to be able to see people enter it at one end, exit where it ended when it was first built and stop along the way. You talked about kayaking, you know you can get in your kayak at one end maybe make it to the other, with all kinds of tourist points along the way. So I think those are the kinds of visions that the government needs to look at - keeping our trail system and continuing to look at our culture and heritage, and protecting that.

We really can't continue to underfund our museums. The Dartmouth Heritage Museum is still without a permanent home. I remember going to the museum when I was a youngster, and we don't have a permanent home for our museum. They're trying to do the best they can, make do with what they have right now, Mr. Speaker.

[6:15 p.m.]

I think we have to look at some of the issues we're dealing with right now in our tourism industry - Mr. Speaker, I know you are telling me I have one minute left - we have an issue with our ferry service, our roads are an issue, we have to look at our marketing campaign, and we need to really look at the arts and how they affect the cultural industry in Nova Scotia. We need to bring back the arm's-length arts council and reinstate them.

There are lots of things we can be doing. Hopefully the government will listen to some of our concerns and look forward to better numbers in tourism by protecting what we already have. With that, I will take my place. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. There being no other speakers, we stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:16 p.m.]

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