The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 06-28

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Cecil Clarke

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2006

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Private and Local Bills Committee, Mr. C. Parker 2181
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
EMO - Public Safety Advertising, Hon. E. Fage 2182
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1086, West Pubnico/Avoine, France - French Communities:
Preservation - Congrats., Hon. C. d'Entremont 2183
Vote - Affirmative 2184
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 121, Disabled Persons' Commission Act, Mr. S. McNeil 2184
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1087, Boutilier, Dana - Engineering Technologist of Yr.
Award, Ms. M. More 2185
Vote - Affirmative 2185
Res. 1088, Hargrove, Buzz - Liberal Party (Can.): Support -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 2186
Vote - Affirmative 2186
Res. 1089, Sanford, Gordon: Work Ethic - Applaud,
Mr. C. Porter 2186
Vote - Affirmative 2187
Res. 1090, Rec. N.S./Commun. Links: Vol. Sector - Commitment,
Ms. M. More 2187
Vote - Affirmative 2188
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 1091, Huntington's Disease Awareness Mo. (11/06) -
Recognize, Mr. W. Gaudet 2188
Vote - Affirmative 2188
Res. 1092, New Glasgow Fest. of Tartans - Anniv. (50th):
Organizers - Congrats., Mr. P. Dunn 2189
Vote - Affirmative 2189
Res. 1093, Agric.: Farm Crisis - Assistance, Mr. D. Dexter 2189
Res. 1094, Cape Breton: Econ. Potential - Recognize,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2190
Vote - Affirmative 2191
Res. 1095, McCulloch, Ms. Sam - Locks of Love: Donation -
Commend, Mr. C. Porter 2191
Vote - Affirmative 2192
Res. 1096, Julian, John - Birthday (80th), Mr. J. MacDonell 2192
Vote - Affirmative 2193
Res. 1097, Fish. - Lobster Fishery: Prosperity - Wish, Mr. H. Theriault 2193
Vote Affirmative 2193
Res. 1098, Crossman, Chief Bill/ Megeney, Capt. Vern -
Amherst FD: Serv. - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 2194
Vote - Affirmative 2194
Res. 1099, Long Lake Prov. Park Assoc. - Long Lake Prov. Park:
Protection - Congrats., Mr. G. Steele 2194
Vote - Affirmative 2195
Res. 1100, Cdn. Prog. Club (Hfx.-Cornwallis): Women of Excellence
Awards - Recipients Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 2195
Vote - Affirmative 2196
Res. 1101, Harris, Ms. Lindsay: Athletic Excellence - Commend,
Hon. D. Morse 2196
Vote - Affirmative 2197
Res. 1102, Agric. - Commodity Groups: Requests - Respond,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2198
Res. 1103, Allen, Shawn/Swain, Chris - Grassroots Award,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 2198
Vote - Affirmative 2199
Res. 1104, W. Pictou Cons. Sch.: Clean N.S. Init. - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 2199
Vote - Affirmative 2201
Res. 1105, Sullivan, Jerry - Birthday (90th), Hon. A. MacIsaac 2200
Vote - Affirmative 2200
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 1106, L&M Feed Service: Waste Reduction - Applaud,
Hon. K. Casey 2201
Vote - Affirmative 2202
Res. 1007, Gov't. (N. S.)/Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd. - Surplus Space:
Usage - Commend, Mr. L. Preyra 2202
Vote - Affirmative 2203
Res. 1108, Denyar, Bill - Atl. Prov. Chambers of Comm.:
President/CEO - Appt., Hon. M. Parent 2203
Vote - Affirmative 2203
Res. 1109, Moir Family - Dart.: Contribution - Congrats.,
Mr. T. Zinck 2203
Vote - Affirmative 2204
Res. 1110, McMaster, Dr. Buddy: CBU - Hon. Deg., The Premier 2204
Vote - Affirmative 2205
Res. 1111, Whitney Pier Hist. Soc.: Commun. Work - Acknowledge,
Mr. G. Gosse 2205
Vote - Affirmative 2206
Res. 1112, Thillaye, Jacquie/Hfx. Skatepark Coalition: Skatepark Proj. -
Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2206
Vote - Affirmative 2207
Res. 1113, Wishart, Jessica - UN Conf.: Attendance - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 2207
Vote - Affirmative 2207
Res. 1114, Stone, Jack & Darlene - Nature Trust Donation,
Ms. M. Raymond 2207
Res. 1115, Lockview HS - NSSAF Football Championship,
Mr. P. Paris 2208
Vote - Affirmative 2209
Res. 1116, Liverpool Reg. HS: Team Phoenix - Titan Comp.,
Ms. V. Conrad 2209
Vote - Affirmative 2210
Res. 1117, WWI - Last Veteran: State Funeral - Hold,
Mr. L. Glavine 2210
Vote - Affirmative 2210
Res. 1118, Morgan, Coach Rob - Sackville HS Football Team:
Contribution - Congrats., Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2210
Vote - Affirmative 2211
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 1119, Masthead News: Commun. Work - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2211
Vote - Affirmatives 2212
Res. 1120, Fish - Lobster Fishery: Impact - Recognize,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2212
Vote - Affirmative 2213
Res. 1121, Sobeys Green Bag for Life Campaign: Waste Reduction -
Commend, Mr. C. MacKinnon 2213
Vote - Affirmative 2214
Res. 1122, NSBI: Hedge Funds - Subsidization, Mr. H. Epstein 2214
Res. 1123, McKenzie, Duncan: Horseshoe Championships -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 2214
Vote - Affirmative 2215
Res. 1124, Smith, Michael "Bubbles"/Trailer Park Boys:
Achievement - Congrats., Mr. C. MacKinnon 2215
Vote - Affirmative 2216
Res. 1125, Prem. - Prime Minister: Corporate/Lbr. Contributions - Ban
Urge, Mr. G. Steele 2216
Res. 1126, Quigley, Celeste: Achievements - Congrats.,
Mr. T. Zinck 2217
Vote - Affirmative 2218
Res. 1127, Educ.: Arts & Culture - Fund, Ms. J. Massey 2218
Res. 1128, Pictou Lobster Carnival: Comm. Members - Commend,
Mr. C. Parker 2218
Vote - Affirmative 2219
Res. 1129, Cleary, Rebecca - Miss Can. Int'l. Pageant: Runner-Up -
Congrats., Mr. G. Gosse 2219
Vote - Affirmative 2220
Res. 1130, Feed N.S.: Staff/Vols. - Recognize, Mr. L. Preyra 2220
Vote - Affirmative 2221
Res. 1131, EMO - Flashlights: MLAs Desks - Store, Ms. M. Raymond 2221
Res. 1132, Newcombe, Cheryl: Volunteerism - Congrats.,
Mr. P. Paris 2222
Vote - Affirmative 2222
Res. 1133, N.S. Music Wk.: Participants - Congrats.,
Ms. C. Bolivar-Getson 2222
Vote - Affirmative 2223
Vote - Affirmative
Res. 1134, Borgenson, Susan: Novel Challenge - Congrats.,
Ms. V. Conrad 2223
Vote - Affirmative 2224
Res. 1135, Greater Molega Lake Lot Owners Assoc.: Vols. -
Congrats., Mr. A. MacLeod 2225
Vote - Affirmative 2225
Res. 1136, Unlimited Country - Christmas Celebration: Organization -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 2225
Vote - Affirmative 2226
Res. 1137, Wilson's Shopping Ctr.: Relay for Life - Fundraising,
Mr. S. Belliveau 2226
Vote - Affirmative 2227
Res. 1138, Queens Commun. Health Bd.: Health Initiatives -
Congrats., Hon. B. Taylor 2227
Vote - Affirmative 2227
Res. 1139, NSBI/Econ. Dev. Dept. - Job Retention: Necessity -
Inform, Mr. H. Epstein 2228
Res. 1140, Caledonia's Valley Credit Union Team: Award -
Congrats., Mr. P. Dunn 2228
Vote - Affirmative 2229
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 255, Health: Respite Beds - Rates, Mr. D. Dexter 2229
No. 256, Prem.: Christmas Day Retail Workers, Mr. M. Samson 2231
No. 257, Com. Serv. - Small Options Homes: Bed Freeze -
Status, Mr. D. Dexter 2232
No. 258, Com. Serv.: Commun. Living - Assurance,
Ms. M. More 2233
No. 259, Health: ER Closures - Resolve, Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-
Cobequid), 2234
No. 260, Health: Brain Injury Progs. - Provide, Mr. C. MacKinnon 2236
No. 261, Health: Physician Shortages - Address,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2237
No. 262, Energy - LNG Projects: N.S. Interests - Protect,
Mr. M. Samson 2238
No. 263, Educ.: French Immersion Prog. - Fees, Mr. P. Paris 2240
No. 264, Immigration: Nominee Prog. - Federal Support,
Ms. D. Whalen 2241
No. 265, TPW: Parking Fees/Fines - Changes, Mr. L. Preyra 2242
No. 265, TPW: Parking Fees/Fines - Changes, Mr. L. Preyra
No. 266, Agric.: Pork Ind. Proposal - Response, Mr. J. MacDonell 2244
No. 267, Fish. & Aquaculture: Status - Explain, Mr. H. Theriault 2245
No. 268, Hum. Res.: Civil Service Shortage - Concern,
Mr. G. Gosse 2246
No. 269, Nat. Res.: Voluntary Planning - Strategy,
Mr. C. MacKinnon 2248
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 117, Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act
Amendment [debate resumed] 2149
Mr. G. Steele 2149
Ms. J. Massey 2261
Mr. C. Parker 2276
Ms. V. Conrad 2290
Mr. L. Preyra 2304
Mr. T. Zinck 2320
Mr. P. Paris 2335
Ms. M. Raymond 2346
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2361
Adjourned debate 2376
No. 119, Elections Act 2377
Hon. M. Baker 2377
Mr. K. Deveaux 2377
Mr. M. Samson 2377
Hon. M. Baker 2378
Vote - Affirmative 2378
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 22nd at 2:00 p.m. 2379
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1141, Hutchinson, Fraser Peter: Wartime Exploits - Recognize,
Hon. W. Dooks 2380
Res. 1142, Yarmouth Rotary Club: Commun. Contribution -
Recognize, Hon. R. Hurlburt 2380
Res. 1143, McKenzie, John - Marine Hist.: Contribution -
Recognize, Hon. R. Hurlburt 2381
Res. 1144, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
Cassa Bus. Equip/Nominees - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2381
Res. 1145, Hill, Kyle: NASA Space Prog. - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 2382
Hon. R. Hurlburt
Res. 1146, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
BJ Wagner/Nominee - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2382
Res. 1147, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
Emin, Fred/Nominee - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2383
Res. 1148, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
Theriault, Arthur/Nominees - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2383
Res. 1149, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
Tri-Star Industries/Nominees - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2384
Res. 1150, Yarmouth & Area Chamber of Comm. Bus. Awards:
Doucette, Brenda/Nominee - Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2384

[Page 2181]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2006

Sixtieth General Assembly

First Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Cecil Clarke

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Wayne Gaudet

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We shall now commence with the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 72 - Halifax Regional Water Commission Act.

Bill No. 88 - Richmond Stora Enso Taxation Act.

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

2181

[Page 2182]

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I have a brief but timely message for members of the House. Starting this week, community newspapers across Nova Scotia will carry public safety advertising from our Emergency Management Office. The ad encourages all of us to think about emergency preparedness before dangerous winter storms hit our province.

We're inviting Nova Scotians to also use our Web site at gov.ns.ca/emo to find valuable tips and checklists to prepare them and their families, whether they are at home or travelling in their vehicles.

I also want to advise members that our federal partners at Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada are launching newspaper, television and magazine ads, as well, to promote the need for emergency kits.

The general advice for all of us is to be prepared with supplies for the first 72 hours, or three days, in any emergency since response teams are required to first attempt to reach those in the most urgent need of help.

If you've checked your desks, you will see that the Emergency Management Office has also provided each of you with a package today. It has a copy of the '72 Hours' brochure, a small EMO flashlight and some other promotional material. Mr. Speaker, please do provide one for each of the members.

If any of your constituents need more information, they can contact EMO Public Affairs and we will be happy to provide more materials or speakers for upcoming community events. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. STERLING BELLIVEAU: I want to congratulate the member opposite for doing this initiative. I think there's something that we need to be made aware of in our communities, especially in coastal communities throughout Nova Scotia. We're at the whim of seasonal changes and climate changes. The brochure, there's information in there. I think residents across Nova Scotia will be looking at this literature very

[Page 2183]

seriously. I also want to point out that I think some of the members in the House have already used some of the instruments that have been provided. Thank you very much.

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

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am pleased to stand and speak on this. I believe this is a good idea, as long as the people receive it in Nova Scotia - the proper people it will come in handy for. This little light, I was playing with it. You could put your keys on it and always keep that in your pocket. It reminds me of my jackknife that I carry, also. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a great thing to do. There are a lot of people, I believe, especially the elderly, who need a guide like this in their home, and also this little light that they can keep on their keys. They always know where their keys are. I believe it will be a great thing, like I say, as long as the people get this. That's the trick. It's no good giving it to us MLAs, you have to get it out to the people. Hopefully that can be done. With that, thank you.

[9:15 a.m.]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Acadian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 1086

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

Attendu que en quillet dernier, Aldric d'Entremont, préfet de la Municipalité du district d'Argyle, et Jacqueline d'Entremont, membre du Conseil d'administration du Village historique acadien de la Nouvelle-Écosse, se sont rendus à Avoine, une petite communauté d'environ 2,000 habitants située au centre de la France; et

Attendu que ils ont été reçu par le maire, Patrick Guionnet et la communauté, débutant ainsi que le processus de jumelage des deux communautés, et ont signé les premiers documents pour le jumelage d'Avoine et de Pubnico-Ouest; et

Attendu que en octobre, une délégation française d'Avoine s'est rendue à Pubnico-Ouest et, après avoir visité la région, le 8 october, le maire d'Avoine et le préfet de la Municipalité d'Argyle ont signé la Charte jumelant ainsi officiellement les deux communautés;

[Page 2184]

Par conséquent, qu'il soit résolu que tous les members de cette Assemblée se joignent à moi pour féliciter les citoyens de Pubnico-Ouest et d'Avoine pour leur dévouement envers la préservation de nos communautés francophones, et encouragent les autres à faire de même.

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

Whereas this past July, Aldric d'Entremont, Warden of the Municipality of Argyle, and Jacqueline d'Entremont, board member of the administration for the Village historique acadien of Nova Scotia, journeyed to Avoine, a small town in France with a population of 2,000 people; and

Whereas they were welcomed by Mayor Patrick Guionnet and the community, beginning the process of joining the two communities, and signed the first document twinning the Town of Avoine and the Village of West Pubnico; and

Whereas in October, a French delegation from Avoine journeyed to West Pubnico and, after several days of touring the area, on October 8th the mayor of Avoine and the warden of Argyle signed the Charter - officially twinning both communities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the citizens of West Pubnico, Nova Scotia, and Avoine, France, for their dedication to the preservation of our French communities and encourage others to follow their example.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 121- Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 130 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Disabled Persons' Commission Act. (Mr. Stephen McNeil)

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

[Page 2185]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1087

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

Whereas Dana Boutilier, President and CEO of Environmental Consulting & Contracting of Dartmouth, also known as ECCO, was recently recognized by the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists for his contribution towards scientific and engineering technology innovation; and

Whereas this innovation has built ECCO into a leading environmental company specializing in oil spill remediation, water quality treatment and phased assessments; and

Whereas ECCO had earlier this year received the Metro Halifax Business Silver Award for Small Business of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Dana Boutilier, ECCO President and CEO, for winning the Engineering Technologist of the Year Award of Canada for 2006, and thank Dana for his business and scientific leadership.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1088

[Page 2186]

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

Whereas Canadian Auto Workers national president Buzz Hargrove and his executive voted last week in favour of endorsing Liberal candidate Glen Pearson in the London-North-Centre by-election; and

Whereas the local union represents approximately 6,600 union members in the automotive, locomotive and military manufacturing, and health care sectors; and

Whereas union president Buzz Hargrove urged union members to side with the Liberal Party of Canada during the last federal election;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate Buzz Hargrove for his continued efforts to work with Canadian auto workers in lending his support to the Liberal Party of Canada.

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. 1089

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

Whereas Burlington, Hants County, resident Gordon Sanford enjoys a steady pace while he splits and piles 70 cords of wood for his customers every year; and

Whereas Gordon is quoted as saying "the work is just something to do"; and

Whereas Gordon is doing this kind of work at 86 years of age and should be admired for his stamina and work ethic;

[Page 2187]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature today applaud Gordon Sanford of Burlington, Hants County, for his exceptional spirit and work ethic, and wanting to help people stay warm this winter when it eventually turns cold.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 1090

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

Whereas Recreation Nova Scotia and Community Links were instrumental in bringing the national Canada Volunteerism Initiative, known as CVI; and

Whereas both organizations played leadership roles in building the Nova Scotia network of 400 groups supporting volunteers throughout the province; and

Whereas volunteers and community groups received funding, support, information, training and communication links through this initiative;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the board of directors, staff and members of Recreation Nova Scotia and Community Links for their vision, leadership and commitment to the voluntary sector, citizens and volunteers of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2188]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1091

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

Whereas approximately one in every 10,000 Canadians has Huntington's Disease and approximately five in every 10,000 are at risk of developing the disease; and

Whereas there is still no cure for Huntington's Disease and there are no known treatments to prevent Huntington's Disease or slow it down; and

Whereas the accelerating case of research for HD is offering more hope than ever before that a cure will be discovered one day;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly recognize November as Huntington's Disease Awareness Month and acknowledge the dedication provided by those who work to eliminate this affliction.

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. 1092

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

[Page 2189]

Whereas this year the New Glasgow Festival of the Tartans celebrated its 50th Anniversary in August; and

Whereas the festival, originally an athletic competition called "The Breamar", continued to celebrate the region's Scottish heritage and attract thousands from the world over who watch and/or participate in the annual five-day event; and

Whereas the ceilidh brought together a variety of people and events, some of which included a pipe band concert, an antique car show, garden parties, highland dancing competitions and a golf tournament; the two main attractions were, however, the street parade and the Scottish heavyweight competition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the organizers of the New Glasgow Festival of the Tartans on their 50th successful year. The dedication of the organizers and volunteers alike continue to do Nova Scotia proud as they celebrate aspects of our Celtic heritage and also showcase some of the best the province can offer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1093

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

Whereas the farm crisis endangers the future of Nova Scotia's agriculture industry; and

Whereas farmers were outspoken in their disappointment with the Premier when he met them during the recent election campaign; and

[Page 2190]

Whereas farm organizations remain disappointed with the reluctance of the Progressive Conservative Government to provide short-term or long-term plans;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia House of Assembly urge the government to heed the urgent calls, renewed this week by farm representatives, for immediate emergency assistance and a long-term plan to sustain a vital industry.

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 Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1094

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 November edition of Conde Nast ranked Cape Breton sixth in the top 10 must-see islands in North America; and

Whereas the magazine is a very high end travel magazine featuring some of the most exotic places in the world; and

Whereas Cape Breton has all the attractions tourists are looking for such as scenery, tranquility and hospitality;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly recognize the economic potential of Cape Breton as one of the must-see islands in North America and encourage the government to invest more in the region's tourism sector.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2191]

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. 1095

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

Whereas Locks of Love is a not-for-profit organization which assists less fortunate children under the age of 18 suffering from long-term medical hair loss; and

Whereas 10-year-old Sam McCulloch of Mosherville, Hants County, who has had waist-length hair for as long as she can remember, always vowed that if she ever got her hair cut that she wanted to share it with others; and

Whereas Sam recently donated her first hair cut of just over a foot long to Locks of Love;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Sam McCulloch for her unwavering determination to help other children in need and help restore their self-esteem and confidence.

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 Needham.

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

Whereas the Premier was Nova Scotia's first Minister of Immigration; and

[Page 2192]

Whereas the untendered contract to Cornwallis Financial to manage the province's economic immigration program was never properly explained; and

Whereas the donations to the Progressive Conservative Party of almost $5,000 a year from Cornwallis Financial could continue without a ban on corporate donations to political Parties;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House, the Premier has particular reasons for changing his mind on the issue of corporate and labour contributions to political Parties.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is out of order, it refers to a bill before the House.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1096

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

Whereas longevity is a much hoped for and seldom achieved goal; and

Whereas the journey is made better when the recipient is accompanied by a loving family and a caring community; and

Whereas Mr. John Jacob Julian, a.k.a. JJ, of Indian Brook First Nation, Shubenacadie, turns 80 years old today;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly recognize the accomplishment of turning 80 years of age and wish Mr. John Julian a very happy 80th birthday.

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 2193]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1097

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

Whereas the greatest lobster fishery in the world will commence on November 27, 2006; and

Whereas this great fishery extends from Halifax around the South Shore up to Digby with over 1,700 inshore fishing enterprises involved; and

Whereas this fishery is done at a time of harsh winter weather, but is a time of year when shellfish are at its best in the world;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly wish this fishery prosperity and great success for the good of not only these coastal community areas, but for this whole 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.

[9:30 a.m.]

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1098

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

[Page 2194]

Whereas Fire Chief Bill Crossman celebrated 30 years of service to the Amherst Fire Department; and

Whereas Captain Vern Megeney celebrated 25 years of service to the same department and received an award for best attendance; and

Whereas both men were recognized by fellow firefighters at their recent annual awards banquet;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending our congratulations to Chief Crossman and Captain Megeney for their awards and thank them and fellow firefighter members for their dedicated service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1099

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: M. le Président, à une date ultérieure, je demanderai l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que l'Association du parc provincial Long Lake est un comité de citoyens dédier à la préservation et la gérance du parc provincial Long Lake; et

Attendu que l'Association du parc provincial Long Lake a un calendrier avec des photographes pris par le photographe Jamie Steeves;

Par conséquent, qu'il soit résolu que l'Assemblée Législatif reconnait et félicite l'Association du parc provincial Long Lake pour son travaille pour promouvoir et protéger le parc provincial Long Lake, un joyau naturel au seuil du ville de Halifax.

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

[Page 2195]

Whereas the Long Lake Provincial Park Association is a citizens committee dedicated to the preservation and management of Long Lake Provincial Park; and

Whereas the Long Lake Provincial Park Association is working with the Department of Natural Resources to develop a much-needed and long-awaited management plan for Long Lake Provincial Park; and

Whereas the Long Lake Provincial Park Association is undertaking a fundraising calendar with beautiful shots of Long Lake Provincial Park taken by photographer Jamie Steeves;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly recognize and congratulate the Long Lake Provincial Park Association on its work to promote and protect Long Lake Provincial Park, a natural jewel on the doorstep of Halifax.

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. 1100

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

Whereas the Canadian Progress Club Halifax-Cornwallis will hold their 17th annual Women of Excellence Awards Dinner on Thursday, November 23rd, at the Westin Nova Scotia Hotel; and

Whereas the dinner honours outstanding women who play an important role in our professional community and this year 18 women will be honoured with receipt of a Women of Excellence Award; and

[Page 2196]

Whereas the proceeds from this event go to Phoenix Youth Programs, a long-term shelter for homeless and at-risk young people in Halifax and, over the years, the Progress Club has raised more than $450,000 for Phoenix Youth Programs;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Women of Excellence award recipients and thank the Canadian Progress Club Halifax-Cornwallis for their donations to Phoenix Youth Programs.

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 Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1101

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

Whereas Lindsay Harris of New Minas led the Nova Scotia Under-15 girls basketball team to victory over British Columbia for the bronze medal at the Canadian Midget Basketball Championships at Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, on August 5th; and

Whereas Lindsay Harris was named 1st Team All-Star; and

Whereas Lindsay led her team with 21 points in the contest, including 15 for 18 from the free-throw line, enabling her Nova Scotia team to win the bronze medal for a second straight year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Miss Lindsay Harris for her athletic excellence in representing our province and wish her continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2197]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

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

Whereas testimony and criminal trials detailed how the senior staff in the Liberal Premier's Office gave the Liberal Party fundraisers regular lists of all companies doing business with the province; and

Whereas those companies told investigators that they were then asked to make a contribution to the Liberal Party; and

Whereas this practice gave rise to criminal charges and convictions that won national scorn for Nova Scotian political practices;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Party should take the lead in urging an end to corporate donations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1102

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

Whereas earlier this year, a Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture report painted a dismal picture of an industry that has been continually buffeted by disaster for the past 10 years; and

[Page 2198]

Whereas during the past several months, commodity groups have asked the government for the assistance needed to deal with the immediate issues facing the industry to fix it; and

Whereas the president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture is calling on the Government of Nova Scotia to take action on a request made by a Nova Scotia commodity groups for emergency assistance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture is to take immediate action and issue responses, at least, to the requests he has received from commodity groups across the province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Immigration.

RESOLUTION NO. 1103

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

Whereas small businesses contribute to a healthy economy; and

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its 3rd Annual Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Shawn Allen and Chris Swain, owners of Cardinal Fire and Safety in Bridgewater for being the recipients of the Grassroots Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 2199]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1104

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

Whereas students in Grades 4 and 5 at West Pictou Consolidated School are working on a project with Clean Nova Scotia that is being created to change environmental awareness among students; and

Whereas the students will develop a plan to make their school more energy efficient by identifying school entrances for drafts, turning lights off in rooms not in use, and making sure leaky faucets are fixed; and

Whereas it is hoped that the students will take what is learned in school and encourage their families to become involved at home;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the students and staff of the West Pictou Consolidated School for becoming involved in Clean Nova Scotia's environmental initiative, and commend them for making a difference.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1105

[Page 2200]

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

Whereas Jerry Sullivan recently celebrated his 90th birthday in Antigonish; and

Whereas Mr. Sullivan was surrounded by his family, including his sisters Betty MacDonald and Mary Archibald, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and many friends; and

Whereas at 90 years of age, Jerry continues to live independently, keeps up on current events, reads the ChronicleHerald daily, is an avid Jeopardy fan and is a devoted Blue Jays fan;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in wishing Jerry Sullivan a happy 90th birthday and many more.

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, on your notice of motion.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to read the 'therefore be it resolved' clause again:

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the students and staff of the West Pictou Consolidated School for becoming involved in Clean Nova Scotia's environmental initiative, and commend them for making a difference.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2201]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1106

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

Whereas earlier this year, L&M Feed Services, located in Onslow, Colchester County, was named an award winner at the 8th Annual Nova Scotia Resource Recovery Fund Environmental Awards Celebration; and

Whereas Ian MacHattie, owner of L&M Feed Services, was recognized for innovation in waste reduction; and

Whereas L&M Feed Services, which opened in 1991, produces animal feed made completely from recovered food waste and is presently diverting 3,200 tons a year of organic waste from landfills;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud L&M Feed Services for their continued determination to reduce waste and protect our environment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1107

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

[Page 2202]

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional School Board are partnering to renovate the lower level of Saint Patrick's High School to temporarily house the Halifax Youth Attendance Centre, a centre for young offenders to receive counselling, drug treatment, education and job training; and

Whereas young people in conflict with the law need rehabilitation and educational programming, support services and access to channels through which to integrate with their peers and their communities; and

Whereas in order to be most effective, services for young offenders must not isolate them from their peers and communities but rather should be located in spaces that are close to home, familiar, and accessible to participants;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend the Government of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional School Board for their initiative and encourage the continued innovative and community-minded uses of surplus space in this province's schools.

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 Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1108

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

Whereas the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce is one of the leading Chambers in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce is involved in a myriad of activities that promote the well-being of the citizens of Kings County and enhance the morale of businesses in the area; and

[Page 2203]

Whereas for the past year the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce has been led by President Bill Denyar, who has been tireless in his service to chamber members in the wider community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature commend Mr. Bill Denyar on his service to the Eastern Kings Chamber of Commerce and wish him much success in his new challenge as the President and CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1109

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

Whereas over 100 members of the Moir family gathered during the Natal Day weekend to renew family ties, share memories and celebrate 117 years of history in Dartmouth and surrounding areas; and

Whereas during the late 1800s, the community of Dartmouth North experienced and enjoyed an industrial boom with the addition of a brewery and Dartmouth Ropeworks Company, who recruited skilled workers such as John and James Moir from Scotland; and

Whereas this was the third Moir reunion which kicked off Friday night at the Alderney Landing and included the book launch of Bob Moir's book, Dunning, Dundee & Dartmouth: A Moir Story, and continued through the weekend with events at Banook Canoe Club and a Sunday picnic in Victoria Park;

[Page 2204]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Moir family and descendants of the Moir brothers who now total over 650 members, for the significant contributions they have made to the Dartmouth and Halifax regions.

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.

[9:45 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1110

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 highlight of this year's 10th Anniversary Celtic Colours International Music Festival was the conferring of an honorary degree on Buddy MacMaster; and

Whereas Dr. MacMaster was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Cape Breton University in October; and

Whereas a friend to anyone wishing to continue the great tradition of Cape Breton fiddling, Buddy has been a mentor to so many and a true lifelong ambassador for both Cape Breton and Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dr. MacMaster on his invaluable contributions to the province's musical heritage and for this well-deserved recognition from the Island's university.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2205]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1111

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

Whereas the Whitney Pier Historical Society has tried to preserve the history of Whitney Pier and the diverse, rich culture that makes this community very unique; and

Whereas this society operates the Whitney Pier Historical Museum, one that is unique and unlike any other in Canada, attracting visitors from all across the globe; and

Whereas the Sydney Ports Corporation and the Atlantic Cruise Ship Services Cruise Season 2006 presented the Whitney Pier Historical Society with an award for their valuable contribution to the experience of cruise ship passengers;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly acknowledge the Whitney Pier Historical Society for the hard work and dedication to their community and their ongoing efforts to preserving our past, present and future heritage and culture.

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 Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1112

[Page 2206]

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

Whereas skateboarding, a recreational sport of considerable skill, has taken the world by storm for a generation of youth and young adults who are its devotees; and

Whereas due to the Herculean efforts of a small group of dedicated community volunteers, the Halifax Skate Park Coalition, Halifax can now boast the most expansive, modern and challenging public outdoor skateboard park in the province, on the Halifax Common; and

Whereas this 1,620 square metre, outdoor skate park is already being enjoyed by skateboarders intent on honing the moves of their sport;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate skateboarder mom, Jacquie Thillaye and the Halifax Skate Park Coalition, for the extremely successful conclusion of their project to construct an outdoor skate park for the recreational enjoyment of youth and young adults in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 1113

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

Whereas Kings University student, Jessica Wishart attended the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Nairobi, Kenya; and

Whereas Jessica was among Canada's youth delegation which, at 21 members, was the largest youth contingent at the conference; and

[Page 2207]

Whereas the youth delegates are passionate about the environment and are determined to voice their concern about inaction of governments in the face of climate change;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jessica Wishart for representing Canada's youth at the conference and wish her success in all her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1114

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

Whereas Jack and Darlene Stone of Harrietsfield are long-time supporters of the Nova Scotia Nature Trust; and

Whereas Jack and Darlene Stone have donated a significant package of land at Moody Lake as trade land, recognizing that these may not be ecologically unique, but they are an asset of value, which can be sold by the trust to support its conservation activities elsewhere; and

Whereas the federal government has now removed capital gains tax on ecological gifts, although the province has not followed suit and municipalities continue to tax donated lands as residential;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia House of Assembly recognize Jack and Darlene Stone for their generous and imaginative gift to the people of Nova Scotia through the Nature Trust, and resolve to remove the financial disincentives to donating conservation land in this province.

[Page 2208]

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 Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1115

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

Whereas on Sunday, November 19, 2006 at Burnside, Lockview High School and Dartmouth High played the championship game for the Tier Two Nova Scotia Athletic Federation; and

Whereas Lockview High Dragons won by the decisive score of 23-2;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the players, coaching staff and appropriate team personnel, in winning the Nova Scotia Athletic Federation Tier Two Football Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1116

[Page 2209]

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

Whereas virtual on-line simulation games are paving the way to educate our students about the real world of business; and

Whereas the Junior Achievement Titans team called Phoenix from Liverpool Regional High School prepared for and competed in the 2006 Titan Competition held in Halifax on November 20th; and

Whereas the team prepared for the competition by meeting once a week to practice using computer simulations and workbooks;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the accomplishments of the Liverpool Regional High School Team Phoenix members, Kristopher Snarby, Adam Campbell, Corban Hart, Matthew Baker, Hannah Frelick, Laura Purdue, Catlin Wolfe, Brittany Davison and Andrea Snarby.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1117

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

Whereas the passing of the last great war veteran will be a watershed moment in our country's history; and

Whereas it will be a time to commemorate the passing of the last living link to Canada's struggle in the blood of Flander's Field, we'll also be honouring and respecting all of those who served; and

[Page 2210]

Whereas state funerals rank among the highest honour the country can bestow on a person;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly encourage the federal government to recognize that by holding a state funeral, it will not only honour that individual but all of those who went before.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1118

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

Whereas football is alive and well in Lower Sackville; and

Whereas the students, staff and players have worked hard over the years to grow the football program at Sackville High; and

Whereas Coach Rob Morgan has given so much of his time and energy in the growth of the football program over the years and the staff and players should be proud of their accomplishments this season;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly recognize the contribution Coach Rob Morgan has made to the Sackville High football program and congratulate all the players and staff on the Sackville High football team on their successful year and wish them all the success in the next season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 2211]

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. 1119

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

Whereas the Masthead News has served as the eyes and ears of the community for 15 years; and

Whereas editor, Ron Driskill , with the assistance of Heather Balch and Keith Ayling, have provided valuable service to the communities of Tantallon, Hammonds Plains, Peggy's Cove Road, Highway 3 to Bayers Lake, the Prospect Road, St. Margaret's Bay Road, Chester, Chester Basin and the Western Shore; and

Whereas this community newspaper is much appreciated by the local residents and area businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and thank the Masthead News for its good work in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1120

[Page 2212]

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

Whereas the lobster season for Districts 33 and 34 officially opens on Monday, November 27, 2006; and

Whereas the lobster season in Districts 33 and 34 is the lifeline of these coastal communities; and

Whereas many other suppliers, such as trap builders, boat shops, bait and fuel, and a number of other businesses benefit from this natural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly recognize the benefit of the economic impact to our Nova Scotia economy and wish the fishery a safe and prosperous season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to make an introduction before going forward.

MR. SPEAKER: Please do.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery, perhaps he has just stepped out for a moment. He was going out the door. (Interruptions) Actually I will make that introduction in a moment. It was a good try. Thank you for the indulgence, I will be back though.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1121

[Page 2213]

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

Whereas Sobeys Inc. is taking steps to protect the environment by introducing the Green Bag for Life, it's a campaign which supplies reusable, washable grocery bags at a very low cost to shoppers; and

Whereas Sobeys Inc. will replace bags when they wear out, and the company encourages employees to educate shoppers about the Green Bag for Life campaign; and

Whereas Sobeys Inc. is committed to using a minimum of 5 per cent recycled material in plastic bags used on a day-to-day basis;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend Sobeys Inc. for their initiative to reduce waste by introducing the Green Bag for Life campaign, thus leaving a smaller footprint on our fragile environment.

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.

There's too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask all honourable members to bring down that noise factor.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1122

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

Whereas Citco Group Limited, an administrator of hedge funds based in Curacao, has announced that it will open an office in Halifax; and

Whereas the fund's plans are to grow towards employing some 350 persons over the next seven years; and

[Page 2214]

Whereas the fund will be assisted by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia through a payroll rebate of some $7 million, arranged through Nova Scotia Business Inc.;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offers its congratulations to Nova Scotia Business Inc. for having turned its attention, at least momentarily, away from subsidizing call centres for the purpose of subsidizing multi-million dollar hedge funds.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1123

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

Whereas horseshoe-playing has been a long-time sport and recreational endeavour in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Duncan McKenzie of New Waterford was the first Nova Scotian to win the Canadian Horseshoe Championships this year; and

Whereas Duncan comes from a long line of horseshoe players, such as brothers Hughie, Angie, Sandy, Jerry, Wayne and Bruce;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Duncan McKenzie on winning the 2006 Canadian Horseshoe Championships, and to all in this province who participate in this great sport.

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 Fairview.

[Page 2215]

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, in light of your earlier rulings, I rather fear that my resolution as written would have been out of order, so I have rewritten it, and I want to make sure that you listen very carefully to the 'therefore be it resolved', because (Interruptions)

I'm quite confident, Mr. Speaker . . .

[10:00 a.m.]

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

The honourable Speaker listens carefully to all members in this House.

Next speaker.

The honourable member for Pictou East. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 1124

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

Whereas Michael Smith, a.k.a. Bubbles of the Trailer Park Boys, hails from Thorburn, Pictou County; and

Whereas Bubbles and the other members of the cast of Trailer Park Boys are making fan bases in countries around the world; and

Whereas the Trailer Park Boys have broken into Hollywood with the Trailer Park Boys: The Movie;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate and commend Michael Smith (Bubbles) and other members of the cast of the Trailer Park Boys on their achievements to date, and wish them more success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2216]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1125

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize. I'm sure you know that I didn't mean that the way that some of the members meant it to be taken. If I expressed myself in a way that was inappropriate, I certainly apologize and take it back. You know I mean no disrespect.

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

Whereas the Premier was one of the few Nova Scotia MLAs to support Stephen Harper's bid for leadership of the federal Conservatives; and

Whereas the Premier echoes the Prime Minister's position on federal issues whenever possible; and

Whereas the Prime Minister has won the support of all federal Parties for a complete ban on corporate and labour contributions;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper indicating the unanimous support of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for a complete ban on corporate and labour contributions in federal politics.

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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1126

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

[Page 2217]

Whereas Celeste Quigley, resident of Dartmouth North and recent Dartmouth High School graduate, was the well-deserved recipient of three scholarships; and

Whereas the Future Shop Future Leaders Scholarship, the Jason MacCullough Memorial Scholarship and the UNB Entrance Scholarships are offered to graduating high school students proceeding to post-secondary educational institutions; and

Whereas Celeste has been contributing to her community at an early age through her efforts at the Boys and Girls Club as a junior leader, at the local community centre and who also took part in Teens Making A Difference;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Celeste Quigley on her efforts to become a future teacher and future leader in the community of Dartmouth North.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1127

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

Whereas funding shortfalls now threaten a whole new generation of artists; and

Whereas increased costs for band, drama, dance and other cultural activities inside and outside the public schools have put the arts out of reach for many young Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Nova Scotia students suffer from an underfunded educational system;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the role that arts and culture play in education and fund it accordingly.

[Page 2218]

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1128

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

Whereas each July, the Pictou Lobster Carnival celebrates the area's rich history with this fishery and its importance along the Northumberland Shore; and

Whereas the 2006 carnival drew thousands of people to the Pictou area and made a modest profit thanks to the generous sponsorship of the community; and

Whereas planning for the 2007 lobster carnival is well underway with co-chairs Anne Emmett and Jennifer Buchanan, Robin Dalton as executive officer, secretary Tammy Nichol, and treasurer Tammy Gillis;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend and thank the hard-working members of the Pictou Lobster Carnival Committee, and wish them good weather and much success in 2007.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 2219]

RESOLUTION NO. 1129

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

Whereas the 2007 Miss Canada International Pageant was held in Toronto from August 18 to August 26, 2006; and

Whereas Rebecca Cleary, a Whitney Pier resident, was a contestant in this prestigious event; and

Whereas Rebecca certainly made her mark in the pageant world, being selected first runner-up, truly an outstanding accomplishment;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Rebecca Cleary on her momentous achievement and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 1130

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

Whereas each month in the Province of Nova Scotia, more than 42,000 men, women and children face hunger and must rely on food banks and other programs to meet their families' food needs; and

Whereas Feed Nova Scotia is the central collection and distribution centre for food banks and meal programs across Nova Scotia, distributing more than 2 million

[Page 2220]

kilograms of food a year with the help of volunteers who contribute thousands of hours to the organization; and

Whereas the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for families living in poverty, and Feed Nova Scotia works especially hard to brighten the lives of people in need, through the food drives, Christmas Hamper Program and Adopt a Family Program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the staff and volunteers of Feed Nova Scotia and its more than 150 member agencies across Nova Scotia, and join them in striving to eliminate hunger and its root cause, poverty, during the holiday season and all year long.

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1131

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

Whereas the Emergency Measures Organization has launched its annual Be Prepared Campaign, recognizing that the season of extreme weather events is now approaching; and

Whereas the Emergency Measures Organization has kindly distributed promotional pens, pen lights and useful information to all members of the House; and

Whereas the power transmission grid in Nova Scotia seems to be growing ever more fragile, so that the lights in Halifax have already gone out several times this Fall due to salt fog;

[Page 2221]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House keep their flashlights in their desks because we never know when the salt fog might come back and the lights go out again.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I heard a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1132

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

Whereas Cheryl Newcombe of Windsor Junction has devoted over 25 years of volunteerism to the communities of Lakeview, Windsor Junction and Fall River; and

Whereas she has extended her volunteerism to include the larger community of Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, the Halifax Regional Municipality, the Province of Nova Scotia, with her leadership and dedication and hard work to residents' groups, ratepayer's associations, community groups, for charity organizations, government boards and commissions, has long been recognized and appreciated;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Cheryl Newcombe on her many and consistent years of volunteerism to the residents of Nova Scotia.

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 2222]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Immigration.

RESOLUTION NO. 1133

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Music Week provides excellent opportunities for Nova Scotians to enjoy excellent musical entertainment; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Music Week held its 2006 events outside of the City of Halifax for the first time; and

Whereas the 2006 Nova Scotia Music Week was celebrated in venues throughout Queens County;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Queens County volunteers, community members and local businesses who welcome performance and participants to their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1134

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

[Page 2223]

Whereas November is National Novel Writing Month, which is an international event intended to be a fun approach to novel writing; and

Whereas the goal of this challenge is to write a 170 page or 50,000 word novel between November 1st and midnight of November 30th; and

Whereas this competition has grown from 21 participants seven years ago to more than 70,000 participants worldwide this year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize Susan Borgenson of East Port Medway for taking on this challenge. Ms. Borgenson has called her novel Stones, and it is a literary fiction about immigrants, changing lives and the courage and strength of women. Ms. Borgenson is focusing on a Scottish teenager who moves to Canada in the early 1900s. We look forward to when this novel will be ready for publishing.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

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

Whereas midwives have helped women deliver babies since the beginning of history; and

Whereas midwives are health care providers who are experts in women's health care, giving prenatal care to expecting mothers; and

Whereas midwives strive to help women have a healthy pregnancy, a natural birth experience and give the support needed throughout their pregnancy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly recognize the importance of midwives in Nova Scotia and the contribution they provide

[Page 2224]

to the women during their pregnancy, and support the funding of their profession in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: That is out of order. It's a bill before the House, and you referred to a financial matter associated to a bill.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1135

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

Whereas communities of volunteers can help make things happen by working together; and

Whereas after a year of planning and work, the volunteers with the Greater Molega Lake Lot Owners Association helped replace Black Rattle Bridge; and

Whereas the volunteers have helped to shorten response times for emergencies in their area;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the volunteers with the Greater Molega Lake Lot Owners Association for their work and planning to make this area safer for all citizens.

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. 1136

[Page 2225]

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

Whereas Unlimited Country will host a community Christmas event in Upper Tantallon on Thursday, November 30, 2006; and

Whereas this valuable local business continues to show community spirit year- round; and

Whereas the efforts of the staff at Unlimited Country are much appreciated by area residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate and thank Unlimited Country for its initiative in organizing this annual Christmas celebration.

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1137

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

Whereas Wilson's Shopping Centre in Barrington Passage hosted a fundraising event on November 15, 2006, with all monies going towards the Relay for Life; and

Whereas this event helped raise over $5,200; and

Whereas 15 to 17 other non-profit organizations also raised additional funds in conjunction with the Relay for Life;

[Page 2226]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the volunteers, organizers, and especially the owners of Wilson's Shopping Centre for this very successful fundraising event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

[10:15 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1138

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

Whereas health care is all about personal and public responsibilities; and

Whereas individuals and community groups provide opportunities to improve the health of citizens; and

Whereas the Queens Community Health Board and the organizing committee recently celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Well Woman Day for women in Queens County;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Queens Community Health Board for their continued commitment to health promotion and primary health care initiatives in Queens County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2227]

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 Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1139

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Business Inc. has diversified its approach to job creation in our province by reaching out to the hedge-fund sector; and

Whereas four hedge funds have been reported to be prepared to set up offices in Halifax, all apparently to be subsidized through payroll rebates; and

Whereas the pattern of NSBI's job creation in Nova Scotia has been to induce companies to locate here through financial incentives, but it is far from clear that NSBI has any strategy for the retention of these companies beyond the period of the financial incentives;

Therefore be it resolved that this House inform NSBI and the Office of Economic Development that retention of jobs for the long term is a necessary part of the economic success of our province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1140

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

Whereas volunteers are essential to fundraising events for charitable organizations; and

Whereas Caledonia's Valley Credit Union Kedge Pedalers Big Bike Team were awarded the Team Spirit award, by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia, for their outstanding enthusiasm and participation; and

[Page 2228]

Whereas the team raised over $2,700 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation during the Big Bike event;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and thank co-captains Sheila Delong and Carla Malay and all the members of the Caledonia Valley Credit Union Kedge Pedalers Big Bike Team for their successful participation on behalf of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia.

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 East on that introduction again.

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the west gallery, I would like to introduce Phillip Stewart. Phillip is a resident of Thorburn in beautiful Pictou East. He is a very valued member of the staff of The Evening News, and Phillip has gained the respect of all who know him for the care that he has given his wife who has been suffering from a brain injury that occurred on Christmas of 2004, and in Pictou County we have great respect for Phillip. I would like the House to give him a very warm welcome. (Applause)

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

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 10:18 a.m., and conclude at 11:18 a.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH: RESPITE BEDS - RATES

[Page 2229]

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question this morning is for the Premier, through you, of course. Nellie Russell is a senior from the South Shore. Three months ago, Mrs. Russell's family put her in a respite bed at North Queens Nursing Home in Caledonia. The family has looked after Mrs. Russell for 15 years and they just couldn't do it anymore. When they informed the Department of Health of this, the elderly woman was moved to nursing home number two, at Shoreham in Chester, to another respite bed, but she was charged the full daily rate of $75.50, as punishment for her family not picking her up. This policy allows for extensions of respite care beyond 28 days, when the need arises, so I ask the Premier why was this senior charged $75.50 a day?

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

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of the case that the member opposite brings, but I'd be more than happy to look into the details of it and see if there's anything we can do.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's a shame that the minister's not aware of what his department is doing, but I'll inform him further. Last week Mrs. Russell was sent from Shoreham in Chester to Villa Acadienne in Meteghan - this is the second story in a week in which English-speaking seniors were taken to a French-speaking nursing home. The government has extended the right-to-refuse policy to francophones who are on the list to go to an English-speaking facility, so my question to the Premier is why doesn't the right-to-refuse policy extend to English-speaking seniors being sent to French-speaking nursing homes?

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

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I don't know where the member opposite is going on this one. He is saying that Acadians, who have difficulties speaking English, don't have the right to be in a francophone home - shame on them.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the minister deliberately misunderstood the question or not, but I'll try again. Mrs. Russell's family found out yesterday that she will now be moving back to Shoreham Nursing Home this week. This will mark this elderly woman's fourth move in three months. Every study and piece of evidence we know suggests that moving our elderly ill is one of the worst things that you can do to them. My final question to the Premier is, when will his government stop treating our seniors in such a detrimental manner?

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

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is basically allegating that we can't place them in certain places. Apparently the community member he speaks

[Page 2230]

of has been taken care of by the system. It's been unfortunate that she has had to be moved around. Of course, I can't speak to the details of this because I'm not too sure of the case that he speaks of, but I can say that the Continuing Care Strategy that this government put in in April, will protect the seniors, will make sure the beds are in place, will make sure the services are in place for all Nova Scotians.

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

PREM.: CHRISTMAS DAY- RETAIL WORKERS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today we've come to find out that many retailers around the province are signalling that they will be open on Boxing Day. However, there are growing concerns that retailers opening on Boxing Day means that some staff will be forced to come in on Christmas Day to prepare the store for opening. Christmas is one of the most treasured days of celebration in this province and Nova Scotians deserve to have this day of rest and jubilee with their family, however, this government's recent decision to not protect holidays has put this all at risk. My question to the Premier is, does your government support forcing retail workers to work on Christmas Day?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, thank you, to the Leader of the Liberal Party. Indeed, the law protects those workers at the present time.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, throughout the entire Sunday shopping debate, Nova Scotians never suggested that there should be shopping on statutory holidays. Rather than show leadership through this Legislature, your government has tried to run away from this very issue. While the thought of employees of large retail outlets being forced to work on Christmas Day is unfathomable for most Nova Scotians, this government's actions will soon make that a reality. My question is again to the Premier. Why will the Premier not protect employees of large retailers from having to work on Christmas Day?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the law does protect these workers.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the majority of Nova Scotians clearly do not support the Premier's policy of keeping families away from each other on Christmas morning. I guarantee you if you polled the individuals who are retail workers, the very people this really affects, you will discover that the number will be significantly higher. Christmas Day should be a day of rest and, more importantly, should be a day to spend with children and family. Mr. Premier, you can protect Christmas Day, and you can protect statutory holidays. My question to you again is, will you commit to this House today to protect Christmas Day and, indeed, all statutory holidays, for employees of large retail outlets?

[Page 2231]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, indeed, the government shared the same concern as the member has brought forward. That's why we made sure legislation was passed in this House to protect those workers so they did have that choice of whether they wanted to work on those days or not.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

COM. SERV. - SMALL OPTIONS HOMES BED: FREEZE - STATUS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question this morning is for the Minister of Community Services, through you, of course. This government has had a freeze on small options home beds for 11 years, with no end in sight. The results have been devastating to intellectually-challenged adults and people with long-term mental health issues who have few housing options available. Many families held a press conference this morning, and have come to the Legislature today for answers. So my question to the Minister of Community Services is, when will the freeze be lifted?

HON. JUDY STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the opportunity to rise and speak on this very important issue. The importance of services for persons with disabilities is clearly evident with this government's commitment of over $183 million; that's approximately 25 per cent of our budget. We want to ensure that the 4,700 Nova Scotians who we service are being serviced to the best ability that we can. As well, we offer a wide range of services and programs, and we will continue to offer a wide range, and that continuum of supports and programs will stay in place for the duration of this government and certainly, hopefully, long in the future.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't seem to realize what a dismal failure her department has been in this regard. A committee of experts and Community Services staff recommended licensing and expanding small options homes for intellectually- challenged adults and people with long-term mental illness who need support of housing. Instead, we've got a freeze on small options beds and interim standards that are over a decade old. So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, how can this government justify forcing disabled adults to wait for years for a supportive living environment?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, I would remind all members of this House the commitment made by this government for the three programs that provide support for persons with disabilities in their homes. Of course, I'm speaking about the Direct Family Support Program, the Alternative Family Support Program, and the Independent Living Support Program. Those three programs are upfront programs that provide support for individuals in their homes and in their community. As well, upon becoming minister, the five-bed transitional home in Dartmouth was announced, which provides transition for individuals who need transition back into the community. As well, we have, of course,

[Page 2232]

a residential review underway, and we're looking forward to fulfilling that continuum of supports and programs as we move forward, and I look forward to the information that comes back through that review as we move forward.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is willfully blind to the needs of the people in her care. We needed more small options and supportive living placements 15 years ago, and now we need them more than ever. Instead, they have gotten five studies in six years, and delay after delay, while disabled adults continue to wait for a place to call home. My final question to the minister is, why won't her department start to listen to the experts who have already weighed in on this issue and end the moratorium on small options homes?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate for my honourable colleague across the way, the listening and the action has resulted in direct family support, alternative family support, independent living support, a five-bed transitional home, and a transitional option at the Cobequid Health Centre. That's the commitment of this government to the people of Nova Scotia.

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

COM. SERV.: COMMUN. LIVING - ASSURANCE

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last week the minister announced a 25-bed group home in the old Cobequid Multi-Service Centre. This is good news for those11 men who have languished at Sunrise Manor for years waiting for a new home. However, the choice to build a 25-bed group home, while maintaining a freeze on community living placements, is sending a frightening message to families whose disabled adult children cannot get supportive housing. So my question to the minister is, what assurances can she offer these families that the government is not favouring institutional settings over community living?

[10:30 a.m.]

HON. JUDY STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honourable colleague for the question, and I know she asks it with all sincerity. The commitment to move forward with the Cobequid residential community, as the honourable member mentioned, is the fulfillment of a commitment made by this government and the former Premier. I'm pleased to be able to follow through on that commitment, and although I can't speak to the specifics of any cases, I know that the families are indeed extremely pleased with that commitment, as it warms their hearts to know that their families will be having a very loving and supportive home.

[Page 2233]

The renovations that we do, Mr. Speaker, will include such ideas as green space and park space to ensure that this residential community is, indeed, a loving environment. Again, this is an option. This is not for everyone, we recognize that. It's part of our continuum of programs and services that we provide to the people of Nova Scotia, and I look forward to the day when we can go and join those families in their new homes.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, I'd suggest to the minister that for the hundreds and thousands of other families waiting for community living placements that the government is moving too slowly and too late. These families are so concerned that they are holding a press conference while we're starting Question Period here this morning - they had planned to be here for Question Period to hear the minister's response themselves.

Five studies in six years, and the waiting list for community placements grows longer and longer. Families are frustrated at watching their adult children continue to be forced to live at home or in other inappropriate settings without the programming and services that they require. I ask the Minister of Community Services, is her department working towards phasing out small options homes, yes or no?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, this government and the Department of Community Services is committed to providing a continuum of services and programs, and that includes the programs I mentioned earlier which provide that on-the-ground, in-the-community, in-the-homes, financial and respite support. It includes small options; it includes the new Cobequid residential community; and it includes the five-bed transitional home that I mentioned. While I can't do everything today, the Department of Community Services, and certainly since becoming minister - we've moved in a progressive manner forward to ensure that the needs of all Nova Scotians are being met, and we will continue to do so.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, well, the reality is an 11-year freeze on new option beds, five studies in six years, and interim standards that are over a decade old - too little, too late, too slowly. That's not a very good track record on supportive housing. So my final question to the Minister of Community Services is, why does this population, one of our province's most vulnerable, continue to be treated this way?

MS. STREATCH: Mr. Speaker, to my honourable colleague across the way, I will repeat - a $183 million commitment on the part of this government, over a quarter of the department's budget, is dedicated to fulfilling the needs and requirements of persons in Nova Scotia who require the assistance of the department. Direct family support, alternative family support, independent living support, the five-bed transitional home in Dartmouth, and the Cobequid residential community are just fine examples of this government's commitment.

[Page 2234]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: ER CLOSURES - RESOLVE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, since this House has been in session, a mere 23 days, several communities in this province have had to cope with emergency room closures at local hospitals. These closures are happening more and more, and there is no end in sight - in fact, since this House has been in session, five of the nine district health authorities have had to announce ER closures in their hospitals, and some on more than one occasion. My question for the Minister of Health is, what exactly is your department doing to try to resolve the large number of emergency room closures in this province?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question in regard to staffing shortages within our district health authorities. As it stands today, we work closely with our district health authorities to make sure we have the correct recruitment policies in place to make sure that we have the physicians and staff in those emergency rooms - of course we still have some placements to be done, and we'll work hard to make sure that those are filled.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that ordinary Nova Scotians are taking a look - especially those living in communities that are impacted by ER closures - at what's being spent in health care in this province. They're comparing it to the service that they're receiving, and they're probably wondering exactly what's going on.

Mr. Speaker, in recent weeks the Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney, and Digby ERs have been closed. This past week alone North Cumberland Memorial, Soldiers Memorial and Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospitals have all had to close their ERs; in fact Lillian Fraser will be closed this coming Friday and all Fridays until further notice - how reassuring that must be for the people of Tatamagouche. My question for the Minister of Health is, what specific action plan has the Minister of Health developed to try and stop this revolving door of ER closures?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I say to the member opposite that all district health authorities are working to their utmost to make sure that services are available in rural areas, they're making sure that they're available and of course essentially at the main regional hospitals, within those areas, and I can say that the rural recruitment has seen some success as of late making sure that we also have specialists in those regional hospitals and in those ERs.

Mr. Speaker, I can say that I know that the people involved are working their hardest to make sure that all Nova Scotians are protected with health care services.

[Page 2235]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, this is not just about occasional closures - the ER in Glace Bay was closed for 15 straight days this past summer. Residents in the areas where ERs are closed are being told by their local DHAs to call 911 or go visit another emergency facility, and this has been going on for years. My final question for the minister is, does the minister seriously think that calling 911 is a fix to the ER closures in this province, or has your department completely abandoned the idea of coming up with a solution to this problem?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that if we cannot have a full complement in a hospital we're not offering safe health care, so we want to make sure that we are offering the safest health care that we possibly can and if that means closing an ER temporarily while a physician is not in place then we'll do so.

Mr. Speaker, I can say that all emergencies, please call 911, either that or go to the nearest emergency that you can possibly get to. I can say that since April 1, 2006, 21 new physicians have been recruited to Nova Scotia, 15 family physicians and six specialists.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

HEALTH: BRAIN INJURY PROGS. - PROVIDE

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Laurie Stewart had a heart attack on Christmas Day 2004, suffered a traumatic brain injury and now requires 24-hours per day care. There are no services offered to individuals with brain injuries in rural Nova Scotia. Laurie requires cognitive therapy and social stimulation, but instead, aside from a few hours per week provided by the VON, the Stewarts have to pay out of their own pockets for someone who is not qualified to work with brain injuries to sit down with her while Phillip is at work. Laurie Stewart's quality of life has diminished drastically because she cannot access the care she needs. My question for the minister, is your government going to provide programs to help Nova Scotians who have brain injuries?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite. I thank him for bringing this issue to the floor of the Legislature, as I feel horrible about this situation. I can't speak directly to that situation - I can say that through planning in the department we've been working quite diligently to try to find ways to have services for the brain injured in this province. Of course through our continuing care strategy you can see that is a giant step that we're going to have to do within that strategy, and we will do so.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Stewarts tried to access the Department of Health's Self Managed Care program which would provide Laurie with the care she

[Page 2236]

needs; however, because of Laurie's memory impairment she is unable to manage her own affairs and was denied - Phillip appealed this decision but was denied again. Despite the fact that the Stewarts are running a fiscal deficit each month, the Department of Community Services will not cover any of their expenses. Phillip and Laurie Stewart need your help. My question is this, when is your government going to realize that eligibility policies for programs exclude people in need from accessing services?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again to the member opposite, thank you for bringing this issue to the floor of the Legislature. All I can say, through you, is that the services that we're trying to develop within the department are the ones, of course, that would be income-tested, that would be making sure that eligibility is there, making sure that we're offering the right services in the right places, making sure that we have places to either, one, take care of these individuals or, two, making sure that we are able to have those services at home. Those are things we are working on within our Continuing Care Strategy.

MR. MACKINNON: Phillip and Laurie Stewart need your help now, Mr. Minister. Mr. Speaker, there are 18,000 people in Nova Scotia with brain injuries. Last year alone, 2,000 Nova Scotians acquired a brain injury. My question for the minister is, what are you going to do to help these people get the services that they need?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, again there are a number of services through our district health authorities, through our health care system, of course through mental health, as well. We will continue to do our best while we develop our true plan for people suffering with brain injuries.

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

HEALTH: PHYSICIAN SHORTAGES - ADDRESS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, the issue of doctor shortages in this province has been discussed already during the sitting of this House and, actually, even today. The minister has not, however, given any concrete answers on how his department plans to remedy this situation. The Chislings moved from Halifax to Tatamagouche when Mr. Chisling was forced to retire because of health issues. When they arrived in Tatamagouche, their local request to become a new patient with the local doctor was denied because they had access to a doctor in Halifax. So my question to the Minister of Health is, when is your department going to do something to help people like the Chislings?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member opposite, physician shortages is not something that's new, it's something that all provinces in Canada are having to deal with. We need to make sure that we have the correct programs in place. I can say that working with Dal Med, working with the CAP

[Page 2237]

program through the College of Physicians and Surgeons, that we are making gains in family physician coverage in this province.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chisling was forced to retire because of his health issues. He had open-heart surgery two years ago, he has had a number of strokes, and a brain tumour, he has diabetes, and he is also a cancer survivor. The Chislings contacted both their local MLA and the Minister of Health, without much success. The minister told them that doctors are entitled to set criteria for accepting patients and can turn away any individual who has access to a doctor elsewhere in the province. My question to the Minister of Health is, what's being done to keep people like the Chislings from having to drive to Halifax every time they need to see a doctor?

[10:45 a.m.]

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again, we're trying to deal with this in an equitable manner across this province, making sure that we have the correct seats in place at Dal Med for new physicians, as we roll around. I can say that we are increasing those numbers at medical school, we are now up to 90 undergraduate seats in the province. We are expanding the residency piece by nine positions. As I said to the member from the Liberal Party just previous to this question, 40 family physicians have been recruited in Nova Scotia since April 1, 2005, and we are also making sure that we place those physicians in the proper manner across all of Nova Scotia.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, this is another example of why we have such an out-migration of Nova Scotians from rural communities. The Chislings are luckier than many because they have a doctor elsewhere in the province. However, many Nova Scotians, such as the 3,000 individuals in Shelburne, are completely without a doctor. So it's very simple, I'll ask the minister, why is his government allowing this to continue to happen in our province?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, again, most urgent of vacancies, we want to talk about where the placements need to be in this province - of course Barrington Passage, but we do hear some good news happening down there, Bridgewater, Cape Breton, Cumberland County, the Valley areas. Again, the DHAs, combined, have indicated there are about 30 vacancies in the province with a complement of over 800 in the province for family medicine. I can also say that since January 1, 2006, we have had 188 new doctors come to this province.

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

ENERGY - LNG PROJECTS: N.S. INTERESTS - PROTECT

[Page 2238]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we saw another prominent government figure stand up and speak out against the proposed New Brunswick bullet pipeline. Stephen Lund, President of Nova Scotia Business Inc., at a conference on Monday, spoke to industry leaders about the negative impacts the New Brunswick pipeline would have on two Nova Scotia projects, the Keltic project in Guysborough County, and the Anadarko project in Point Tupper, Richmond County.

Mr. Speaker, a $650 million project such as Anadarko could have a major impact on the area and on this province. However, the speech by Mr. Lund seems to fly in the face of what our own Department of Energy's deputy minister was saying just weeks ago, before the hearing began, when she was reported as saying that she supported the New Brunswick pipeline. My question to the Minister of Energy is, what plan has your department developed to protect Nova Scotia's interests in the face of the proposed New Brunswick bullet pipeline?

HON. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to report that the government has intervened, the government is intervening, and the government's position is to serve Nova Scotians and to serve industry in Nova Scotia to the best of its ability.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the confusing messages from the government continue. Mr. Stephen Lund spoke of these benefits and is quoted as saying that there are significant spinoff opportunities for these plants - it could be from a petrochemical industry, cold fusions, tire recycling, and also a secure supply of gas.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Energy has clearly done nothing but make public propaganda statements to try to save face on this issue. Again, my question to the Minister of Energy is, when will you begin to address real issues in this province and fight to get our two LNG projects on line?

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, it's no secret to Nova Scotians that this government is pro-industry, this government has supported the LNG sites, and through Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Minister of Economic Development we have positioned ourselves clearly - we're telling people that we're open for business in Nova Scotia.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if only the Deputy Minister of Energy was saying the same thing.

Our province has one of the highest dependencies on oil, with 60 per cent of our families using oil as a home heating fuel. The reason we are so vulnerable to a spike in oil prices is because we significantly lack natural gas production. Natural gas will not only provide economic developments through industry jobs, but it can provide this province with the means to get away from being so dependent on a commodity which is so expensive and volatile.

[Page 2239]

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians deserve lower prices for energy, and they expect their government to be fighting on their behalf, not New Brunswick's behalf. Being that the Minister of Energy has failed to defend our interests, my question is, will the Minister of Economic Development stand behind Stephen Lund's comments and take responsibility for protecting Nova Scotia's LNG projects against the New Brunswick bullet pipeline?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I can assure that member and all members that we look seriously at every company that wants to come to our province. As a matter of fact, I had a luncheon yesterday with a new company that wants to locate, or is looking at locating, here in Nova Scotia. We will look at every company that wants to come and do whatever this government can possibly do to show them that the doors are open to Nova Scotia for business.

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

EDUC.: FRENCH IMMERSION PROG. - FEES

MR. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Education. French immersion students in Fall River are being charged $200 a year to eat lunch because they are deemed out of area. Parents feel they are being discriminated against because they are enrolled in a French immersion program. The Halifax Regional School Board says parents must pay because they are choosing to enrol their child in a French Immersion Program; however, school board policy states that where a student registers for a ". . . French Immersion Program and cannot be accommodated at the area school, placement will be determined by the School Administration Department in consultation with school principals."

It appears to me that the choice of school lies with the school board and not with the parent. So my first question to the minister is, should school boards charge out-of-area fees for children attending the board's choice of school?

HON. KAREN CASEY: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, French immersion is a responsibility of the individual boards, and it is through individual board policy and procedure that that is administered. I would add that I have spoken to the member opposite about this particular situation and have requested additional information and will be glad to continue that conversation once that is available.

MR. PARIS: Mr. Speaker, these children are out-of-area students because the school board does not provide French immersion in their local school; therefore, they have no choice in the matter. The minister's Learning for Life policy identifies a goal of doubling the number of students who graduate with good French language skills. I would like to ask the minister, how does penalizing students who wish to enrol in French immersion help the province to achieve that goal?

[Page 2240]

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite and to all members, I am pleased to announce that the funding for the Halifax Regional School Board is an increase of 5.9 per cent over last year, and those funds should be directed as they would see fit.

MR. PARIS: The Office of Acadian Affairs 2006-07 Business Plan says that the growing numbers of students enrolling in francophone schools in immersion programs is a sign of increase and acceptance of Canada's status as a country with two official languages. My final question to the minister is, why does her department and all school boards penalize families for encouraging their children to be bilingual?

MS. CASEY: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, this government is very proud of the number of parents who are taking advantage of French programs, whether it's immersion, whether it's core, or whether it's through their own schools. So we would continue to provide encouragement and support to those, and funding to the boards to make that happen.

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

IMMIGRATION: NOMINEE PROG. - FEDERAL SUPPORT

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker my question is for the Minister of Immigration. In last year's Budget Address, the Minister of Finance stated, and I quote, "Last year, more than 1,900 immigrants received permanent resident status in Nova Scotia - an 8.5 per cent increase over the previous year. We will continue to build on that momentum." He further said, "The Nova Scotia Nominee Program was key to this success and, in fact, it is considered one of the most attractive programs in the country." I'd like to just table that while we're at it.

However, as of July 1, 2006, the Office of Immigration's Web site indicates that the office is no longer accepting any applications under the economic category of the Nominee Program. My question to the minister is, when the minister announced that the province will no longer accept any applications under the economic category for the full six months left in the year, did the minister have the support of the federal government, which is a partner in the province's program?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, under the agreement that we have with the federal government, originally we were allowed 200 nominees. We negotiated to have that number increased to 400, and we had met our 400 for the year.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting that in the first couple of years the program was in place, there was an appetite to increase the number immigrants and that has come to a dead halt. On August 22nd, two months after our province's Minister of Immigration halted immigration applications under the economic category, the federal

[Page 2241]

Minister of Immigration announced, with British Columbia, a project to speed up immigration applications under their economic category. The federal minister said that this pilot project will help B.C. get the entrepreneurs it needs faster and is another important step toward our goal of making immigration work for Canadians.

My question to the minister is, why is the British Columbia Minister of Immigration capable of speeding up the process for immigrant entrepreneurs and Nova Scotia's Minister of Immigration is capable of halting the process for immigrant entrepreneurs?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, since the Nominee Program came into place in 2003, we had 23 nominees. Last year we had 400 nominees. If you do the math, I would say we're definitely open for business in this aspect.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, according to the minister's own departmental report, the Nova Scotia Nominee Program that was put out in September 2005, about 70 per cent of our nominees have business experience and apply through the program's economic category. Since that time the number of economic category immigrants has increased to 85 per cent of the government's total, and yet this government is seeing fit to cut off applications and not negotiate with the federal government for increased numbers, even though there was a complete six months left in the year. My question to the minister is, given the current freeze on applications in the economic category, will the minister table a plan in the House on how she intends to achieve the government's goal of doubling the number of immigrants to Nova Scotia?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, under the immigration strategy, we committed to doing a review. That review is scheduled to happen next year. Under that review, we will look at all the streams that we currently have in our Nominee Program, as well as looking to expand those streams in the upcoming year.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

TPW: PARKING FEES/FINES - CHANGES

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In 2002, your government set up the legislative framework to make a number of changes to parking-related offences. For three years these changes were not proclaimed and enforced because of a series of computer glitches. There's a story in itself. In June, when they were made, parking overtime at a signed space became $50, while exceeding time at a meter stayed at $25. There's no logic to these differential fees and fines. The Downtown Halifax Business Commission, the Spring Garden Area Business Association, city councillors and numerous other people in Halifax have told us about their concerns, about this. So I ask the minister, what rationale can he give for this unfair change?

[Page 2242]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that's a very good question. I thank the honourable member for bringing it forward. (Laughter)

[11:00 a.m.]

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, we have been working on this case with his bureaucrats all summer and it has taken him this long for the message to at least now reach him and I'm glad that he has finally got drawn attention to this. It tells you something about the communication in his department.

No one likes parking tickets. That's a given, but people like getting them even less when there's no justification for them. Your government has essentially admitted that the current fine is unjustified and must be changed, yet we see no move to change it. I will table an e-mail message I received from the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to this effect. Something that clearly hasn't reached the minister. So I ask the minister, since you have failed to correct your mistake, can you tell this House how many drivers you have forced into paying this unnecessary and unjustified extra fine?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is, no, I'm not able to. (Laughter)

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, well, the minister doesn't know too much and we regret it, and he's in good company on that side. (Interruptions) Another review is in order. When government makes a mistake . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order please. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel has the floor.

MR. PREYRA: When government makes a mistake, Mr. Speaker, people expect it to be corrected as soon as the problem is made known to them. In this case we are four months on and no change has been made. So I ask the minister, what will it take for your government to fix this mistake and stop levying this unjustified, extra fine on drivers?

MR. MACISAAC: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would remind the honourable member, and all members of the House, that if people would fill the parking meters the way they are supposed to, we wouldn't need to have this conversation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC.: PORK IND. PROPOSAL - RESPONSE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question through you will be for the Minister of Agriculture. This minister is sitting on proposals from the Federation of Agriculture, Nova Scotia cattle producers and Pork Nova Scotia, to name

[Page 2243]

a few. Yesterday a joint press release was issued by the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and a variety of commodity groups highlighting their concerns. They have presented the minister with their long-term plans and asking the minister, who should have by now examined their proposals, to return an answer immediately to deal with the immediate issues facing the industry.

My question to the minister, what can the minister tell these groups today?

HON. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. This government, this Premier and this Party recognize the importance of the agriculture community in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause) Over the last four short years, this government has put over $30 million into the agriculture community, over and above the programs and services that the Department of Agriculture offers.

Mr. Speaker, this government, this Premier, this Party, recognize the importance of agriculture in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, it was the answer I expected. If the government has had to put $30 million into this industry in the last four years, that should send them a message about the lack of programs they have or how incomplete those programs are.

Mr. Speaker, I will table this. This is from the Tory platform in the July election, sustaining smart growth, and I quote: "A new Rodney MacDonald government will ensure these industries remain part of Nova Scotia's future, sustain the livelihoods of thousands of Nova Scotia families for many years to come, by taking the following steps: Provide immediate short-term relief for struggling farm sectors, such as red meat producers, by implementing a one-year interest forgiveness of Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board payments."

Mr. Speaker, we are almost to the six month timeline since the election and yet that has not been implemented.

MR. SPEAKER: Question please

MR. MACDONELL: I want to ask the minister, Mr. Minister, when are you going to act on your commitments in the platform?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, this government, this Premier and this Party are working with the agriculture community. We are assisting sector groups to develop long-term strategies. The process that is engaged is very important not only to the agriculture community but it is important to the Province of Nova Scotia. Whatever this government does is going to be accountable to the taxpayers as well. Thank you.

[Page 2244]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how the minister defines accountability. If it means saying one thing and doing something else, that is not the definition that most Nova Scotians have.

The minister and I both know Kurt Sherman, a cattle producer who has been having a pretty difficult time. He is not new to adversity and he has faced a lot of it in his 42 years. He and many farmers like him are awaiting a response of this minister and this whole government on what is going to be done. So my question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, can Kurt Sherman and other farmers like him expect some short-term help while moving their industry to a long-term plan and were these government's commitments to agriculture just more election propaganda?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out that I know that it's not above the NDP to bring individual names to the floor of the Legislature. In fact, they're very good at it, but what this government is doing is trying to be responsible to dairy, to beef, to seed, to hogs, to fruit, and to the whole sector that's out there. We realize that there's an income price. This government realizes that, but we're going to do something responsible, something accountable, because we all know in this House that farmers feed us all, and if you're given an opportunity, please, buy local.

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

FISH. & AQUACULTURE: STATUS - EXPLAIN

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. During the summer session in this House, we learned that the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture was being reorganized into an office. Many people in this industry cannot understand why the industry that built this province is getting downgraded from a department to an office. By reducing this department to an office, we are lowering the profile of an industry that generates over $1 billion annually to this province, with the potential of being much greater. My question to the minister is, can you tell us today why this is happening and what this means for the future of the fisheries of Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD CHISHOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to the member opposite for the question. He's quite right, we did split the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and Aquaculture. They are now two identities. It's a commitment that the Premier made during the leadership campaign, as well as the election campaign, and we followed up on that commitment. We do have a minister who's responsible for agriculture and a minister responsible for fisheries, and I think it's a much better system that we have in the province today.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, the fishing industry employs 7,500 people just in the fish harvesting sector, which does not include the fish processing, the boat

[Page 2245]

building, fishing supplies and all other businesses that are involved in this important industry. Nova Scotia has the most valuable fishery of any other Atlantic Province and of all of Canada. However, we invest less than all other Atlantic Provinces in the fishery. I'm scared that the fishing industry is about to become even more handcuffed by this reorganization. Will you state today that by becoming an office, the fishing industry will not lose any of its funding?

MR. CHISHOLM: I certainly commit to that today, Mr. Speaker, and I would hope that in working with my Cabinet colleagues we'll be able to enhance the budget for the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, we must place a greater priority on our fisheries of this province. Thousands of people rely on the industry and it cannot be taken lightly. We must make investments to educate our fishermen on conservation, develop more sustainable fishing practices and increase the capacity in fleets and fishing communities to manage these businesses and control the future of this industry for the growth of this province. My question is, what plans for development is your new office preparing to ensure the future for the fisheries of Nova Scotia?

MR. CHISHOLM: Thank you again to the member for the question, Mr. Speaker. We are doing a number of things as far as the fishery goes. The government has invested over $50,000 this year just in the lobster science alone. We do have a corporate plan, a business plan that's available, and if the member wants, I can make that available to him at my earliest convenience.

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

HUM. RES.: CIVIL SERVICE SHORTAGE - CONCERN

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Human Resources. Much has been made of the looming and current skill shortages our province faces. The situation is made particularly challenging by the outward migration of youth who are attracted by better prospects in Alberta. But there is another dimension to this problem, particularly within the provincial Public Service, which is aging quite rapidly. As of 2004, more than 34 per cent of the Civil Service were 50 years or older. This means that more than 2,000 civil servants could retire within the next few years. Despite this, there is no obvious effort made by your government to deal with this situation. My question to the minister is, why are you failing to take seriously the need to renew our Civil Service?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite points out a great opportunity for many young people in Nova Scotia. This government certainly does take secession planning seriously, and that's why there is a human resources plan in place,

[Page 2246]

that's why there is secession planning in place, and that's why the Nova Scotia Civil Service is the preferred employer for our youth in this province.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that Nova Scotia has many talented people of all ages willing and ready to move into the Civil Service. Unfortunately, they do not see an effort made to recruit them into the Public Service. Instead, they see an effort being made by employers in the United States, Alberta and elsewhere to recruit them. One of the best ways to recruit and train young people for a career in the Public Service is through the Public Service Internship Opportunities, yet in the face of these looming retirements, they have not increased the number of internships. Will the minister explain how he expects to replace 2,000 civil servants by training only 16 interns each year?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the intern program, which we've doubled, is one of the avenues to allow young people an opportunity to be employed and see how the Civil Service, which is one of the most dedicated workforces in this province, operates and works and serves the people of this province. As I said earlier, there are a host of programs that are allowing young people, through job fairs, internships, human resources strategies, to become employees of the Province of Nova Scotia. Certainly, when you look at the job surveys, we are one of the preferred employers, and there are many students applying, graduates of universities applying for the Civil Service as positions become available.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, doubling from eight to 16 doesn't solve this problem. We recognize that there is more to solving the problem than just offering more youth internships, but doing nothing is not the solution. Looking to young people to fill these positions is extremely shortsighted. My final question for the minister is, when will this government boost the number of youth internships and get serious about addressing the aging of our Civil Service?

[11:15 a.m.]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to all members of the House, as we all know, the Civil Service in Nova Scotia is the preferred employer. Through the strategy of human resource planning, secession planning strategy, the young graduates of Nova Scotia are the preferred choice. They will accept the majority of those jobs as we move forward into the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

NAT. RES.: VOLUNTARY PLANNING - STRATEGY

MR. CLARRIE MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. During the June election, all Parties were asked if they would support

[Page 2247]

public consultation on the new Natural Resources strategy to be carried out by an independent third party, such as Voluntary Planning. I know that we in the NDP supported this process, and according to the survey, which I will table, so did the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals. A great deal of good work has come out of Voluntary Planning in the past, and a task such as this is right up its alley.

Mr. Speaker, my question is, will the Minister of Natural Resources ask Cabinet to task Voluntary Planning with public consultations and the development of the new Natural Resources strategy?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the member opposite for bringing up the question because I think it is very important to involve all Nova Scotians in the strategies we are going to be reviewing over the next year and a half in the Department of Natural Resources. We are going to start with biodiversity, we are also going to include forests and mining and parks. I think it is very important for the department and this government to be in tune with Nova Scotians and of course we'll be consulting Nova Scotians during that process.

MR. MACKINNON: Consultation with all stakeholders is paramount and their views must be expressed in the final recommendations. Since it's the recommendations that will be used by the department and ultimately the Cabinet to develop the new strategy, the recommendations must be as legitimate as the consultations and come from a third party, such as Voluntary Planning. Will the minister allow Voluntary Planning to carry out the consultations and present their final recommendations to Cabinet?

MR. MORSE: Well thank you, Mr. Speaker. We want many people to make presentations during this process. Public consultation is going to be the cornerstone of bringing this forward. We want all Nova Scotians to have that opportunity, we want organizations that care about the environment, we want organizations that care about biodiversity, we want organizations that care about our forests, our mining sector. We want people to care about our parks.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

[Page 2248]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 117.

Bill No. 117 - Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, you have 45 minutes left.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The bill on the floor has to do with campaign finance reform and the motion on the floor is the motion of the Leader of the Opposition for the six months' hoist that the bill be not debated now but debated six months hence, a motion which I support. In the time remaining to me today, I will explain why that is a motion that I support.

When I left off last night, Mr. Speaker, I was in the midst of pointing out to the members of the Progressive Conservative Party that there is part of their record of which they can be quite proud and that is the number of individual donors, that is the number of individual voting Nova Scotians who donate to their Party. As a matter of fact, over the past many years it has typically been a contest between the Progressive Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party as to which would have the most individual donors. Sometimes, more typically, it is our Party, these days it is the Progressive Conservative Party. I mention that simply to say that the Progressive Conservative Party has nothing to fear from this bill. The Progressive Conservative Party receives many donations from voting Nova Scotians, as do we, so I don't understand why the government would stake its political capital, if you will, or would stake their reputation opposing the very reasonable and thoughtful amendments that have been put forward or mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition is what we are seeking in this bill.

We seek an end, forever and for all time and for good, of the use of the Liberal trust funds for any political purpose and we also seek the elimination of all corporate and labour donations. I think both the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party need six months to consider why this is good for them, it is good for the political process, it is good for the people of Nova Scotia.

Let me tell a very short anecdote coming from the last election, which will lead me to a quotation from the Bible which kind of summarizes what it is that I think is at stake in this debate. I was knocking on doors one day in the Armdale neighbourhood of Halifax Fairview and I knocked on the door of a widow, whose door I have knocked on the door of a widow, whose door I had knocked on before and that I've had conversations with before, so I know a little bit about her circumstances. She's not well off, in fact she lives in what you might call somewhat straitened circumstances - this is not a person with a very high income. An elderly widow living alone in the family home and we had a conversation, and she said to me that she had made a donation to my

[Page 2249]

campaign, she had sent in a donation to my campaign, and she said to me that it's not very much, but I hope it helps.

It wasn't until months and months - in fact, it was only a month ago that I finally saw the list of donors to my campaign, and I saw that woman had donated $10 to my campaign, which I think was quite possibly the smallest contribution of anybody who had contributed to my campaign, yet that was probably, to me, the most heartfelt, the most welcome, the most meaningful donation of them all because it was all she could afford.

There were many other things she could have done with that $10, but instead she chose to donate it to the candidate and Party of her choice. That $10 was the most meaningful donation that I think I received in the entire campaign. Of course, for those who know the Bible, they'll know which story this reminds me of - it's the story of the widow's mite, which I'm going to read. It's very brief and I'm going to pick the King James Version of the Bible.

For those who know, this is from the Gospel According to St. Mark, Chapter XII, Verses 41- 44. I just want to set this up a little bit before I read it: This is Jesus in the temple teaching his disciples and his followers. The chapter is a number of different teachings. I should also mention - I know the member for Kings North will find this interesting because he and I have discussed this before - St. Mark is kind of like the foundational Gospel of the Bible. This is the first, this was the first Gospel that was written and the other Gospel writers leaned on the Gospel According to St. Mark when they were writing their own versions.

So, to scholars of the Bible, the Gospel According to St. Mark is, in some ways the most authoritative Gospel because it is the closest to what Jesus himself actually did and said. So I'm going to read the story of the widow's mite. This is Jesus in the temple with a series of teachings to his followers. This is the wonderful rich language of the King James Version and there's nothing quite like it in the English language. It says:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

[Page 2250]

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

That is a very important story. My family was a church-going family when I was growing up and I went to Sunday School almost every Sunday when I was a boy, and there are some stories that stay with you and for some reason this story of the widow's mite has always stayed with me - I was reminded of it when I received that $10 donation from the widow in Armdale, because for her it was everything she had to spare.

So, to me, when we're talking about, not financing the temple in Jerusalem but financing election campaigns in Nova Scotia, what is this going to be about? Is this going to be about the widow's mite or is it going to be about the almighty dollar? Which one is going to win out in this debate? I place myself firmly on the side of the widow's mite.

There are many aspects of this bill on which we could comment - one that I want to start by commenting on is the process by which it came to this Legislature. There is a consensus, has been a long-standing, long-respected consensus in Nova Scotia that there will be no changes to election law without the proposals first being passed to the Election Commission for study and debate and all-Party consensus, and that no bill will be presented to the Legislature dealing with election law unless all the Parties have previously agreed to it. And that's appropriate. That's right, that's the right thing to do.

When you're talking about the government, the process by which the government is elected is fundamental to the functioning of the rest of this system. That's why I said yesterday, last night, that the campaign finance reform is probably the most important piece of election legislation that this Legislature has had before it in a generation, because it is so fundamental. It will determine the course of Nova Scotia elections for a generation to come.

That's how important this is, yet this bill was handed to the NDP for the first time last Thursday, five days ago, the day before it was introduced into the House of Assembly. It had not been given to the Election Commission. There was no prior notice, or debate. There was no discussion among the Parties. No consensus. The long-standing and well-respected tradition has been broken with this bill, and that's not a good thing, and that, all by itself, is a reason why I support the motion for a six-month hoist - all by itself.

This bill, which is deeply, fundamentally flawed, needs to go back to the Election Commission, or possibly to a select committee of the Legislature, or possibly to a panel of experts, or possibly all of those things, because this is of such fundamental importance. This is way too important to rush through the House with a snap of the fingers and with just a few days debate, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2251]

We see in the paper this morning the columnist Marilla Stephenson, of Halifax's The ChronicleHerald, pointing out other flaws in the bill that haven't even been touched on so far in the debate. Basic fundamental flaws that she says you could drive a Brinks truck through. Well, that's a sign of legislation that has been rushed. Legislation that has gone too far, too fast. This is far too important for that kind of thing, Mr. Speaker. This needs careful study. This needs expert commentary, and believe it or not, there are experts out there on election finances, campaign finances, Party financing, and they could tell us what's going on in the rest of the country, how election finance laws in Quebec are working. How they're working in Manitoba. How they're working federally, because it's not as if Nova Scotia is plowing new ground here, we are following other jurisdictions and we should know more about how things are working in those other jurisdictions.

Why is it, for example, Mr. Speaker, that the choice made by the government in presenting this bill is to set the donation limit from corporations and the labour movement at $5,000? I'll get into that later, because I'm going to suggest a reason. We know it's not necessary, because Manitoba doesn't have that limit. We read in the papers today, a Minister of the Crown in Quebec who is being investigated by the Chief Electoral Officer because of allegations that have been made about improper fundraising. We need to know more about that. What's going on? What are the problems? What are the loopholes? What are the things that we should be looking at to tighten up? This is far too important a topic not to get exactly right, because it is going to affect the conduct of politics in Nova Scotia for a generation.

[11:30 a.m.]

We didn't see it until the day before it was introduced, but if media reports are to be believed, the Liberal Party saw it before we did. Why is that? Who saw it? When? Who gave it to them? Were there discussions between those two Parties about what ought to be in the bill from which the New Democratic Party was excluded? I think we need six months to look into that, Mr. Speaker, because there is a very important, long-standing consensus in Nova Scotia that there should be no changes to election law on which there is not all-Party agreement.

There have been debates and discussions in the Election Commission about the most minute of details in the election law because of that consensus. Things that are far less significant, far less important to the political life of the province than campaign finance have gone through that process, the Election Commission process, and yet this, the most significant election legislation in a generation has not gone through that process. Why, Mr. Speaker? I'll leave that as an open question. I think the people of Nova Scotia, once this debate is finished, will be able to make judgments for themselves about why it is that process has not been followed on the most important electoral reform in a generation in Nova Scotia.

[Page 2252]

Why was it given to one Party a day before it was introduced when there had been apparently, according to media reports, discussions and negotiations with the other Party in advance? I don't think it's a coincidence that this should happen within months of the NDP having the best election results it has ever had in its history in Nova Scotia. We see the two old-style Parties coming together to try to stop the NDP, that is the effect that this bill will have.

I'm not imputing motive, I don't know what their motives are, I wouldn't hazard a guess; what I am saying is that will be the effect of the bill. I think the people of Nova Scotia will make the judgment for themselves that within months of the NDP's best-ever election results in history, the other two Parties are co-operating with a bill that will hobble the NDP and advantage the other Parties to the detriment of the NDP, and that has broken what I believe to be a decades-long consensus that there will be no reform of an election law presented to the House without prior discussion and agreement at the Election Commission.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about why the Liberal Party in particular needs more time to think about this and then I'll get over to the Progressive Conservative Party. I want to talk about why the Liberal Party in particular needs six months. It is a matter of record that six months will take us several weeks past the next Liberal leadership convention and I personally don't believe that the next Leader of the Liberal Party, no matter who he or she turns out to be, wants to have the stain of these trust funds hanging over their head. It is necessary and appropriate to give all of the candidates for the leadership of the Liberal Party the opportunity to say whether they believe that the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia should use these funds for political purposes or not. Frankly, I don't think all of the contenders will agree and yet if we pass this legislation now we've lost the opportunity for Nova Scotians to hear from them.

Many people say that the member for Annapolis is a potential contender for the Liberal leadership and I think he should be, he's a very good member. I want to know, is the member for Annapolis in support of this use of these trust funds or is he not? I think we need six months to find out, the members of the Liberal Party need six months to find out, the people of Nova Scotia need six months to find out. Mr. Speaker, we haven't heard from him yet, although there's going to be plenty of opportunity over the days and weeks to come for him to stand in his place and tell us where he stands on this issue. I don't believe, if I know that member, that he supports this use of these trust funds, but I think we need an opportunity to ask him.

In the neighbouring riding to Halifax Fairview of Halifax Clayton Park we find another Liberal member whose name is often mentioned as a potential leadership contender. I have gotten to know that member quite well and I believe she is a very sincere, very intelligent, hard-working member of the Legislature, and I believe she too ought to be a candidate for the Liberal leadership. She has earned the right to put her hat in the ring and to be judged as a serious contender.

[Page 2253]

Mr. Speaker, if I know that member, I don't believe that she supports this use of those Liberal trust funds, but we're never going to know if we pass the legislation now. We need six months to get us past the Liberal leadership. How can we impose this kind of election campaign reform on a leaderless Party? They deserve the opportunity to pick their permanent Leader at the end of April and to have that Leader be on the record with the members of the Liberal Party and the people of Nova Scotia about whether they are going to support the use of those trust funds.

Mr. Speaker, I understand there's a member who wishes to make an introduction, and I'm glad to cede the floor for that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour on an introduction.

HON. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and thank you very much to the honourable member. In the gallery opposite, I want to introduce a well-known Nova Scotian. Dr. Ivar Mendez, Professor and Head of the Division of Neurosurgery, and Chairman of the Brain Repair Centre at Dalhousie University, a well-known sculptor, has just published a book on Bolivia, and is very involved in humanitarian work in the Country of Bolivia.

Es un placer y honor de introducer Dr. Ivar Mendez a este legislativa esta mañana. So if you could please welcome Dr. Ivar Mendez to the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the other member of the Liberal caucus whose name is often mentioned as a potential candidate for the leadership is, of course, the member for Richmond, the interim Leader. Now, he's not the permanent Leader, and I don't think it would be fair for us to allow a Party with merely an interim Leader to make these kind of momentous generational decisions about campaign finance.

I rather worry, Mr. Speaker, that the view of the member for Richmond, on the use of the trust funds, will be different from the view of the member for Halifax Clayton Park, and the member for Annapolis. That is yet another reason, which all by itself ought to be sufficient for us to hoist this bill for six months. Because what I anticipate over the next number of months, it's a real contest of ideas within the provincial Liberal Party, there is going to be, I believe, at least one leadership contender who is four-square in favour of the use of these trust funds that were raised through criminal activity in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, as I said last night, people were charged and convicted over the money that was put in these trust funds, so I don't mind using the word criminal, because there were criminal convictions entered. I believe one of the contenders for the Liberal

[Page 2254]

leadership supports the use of those ill-gotten gains, and I believe there are two other contenders who do not support that use. I'm looking forward to that debate, but we can't have that debate if we pass this bill now, because then the law will be done. It will be a fait accompli, M. le Président, a fait accompli, an accomplished fact, an established fact. I don't think that's fair to the Liberal Party or the people of Nova Scotia to undercut that debate at all by passing the bill now.

There may be other contenders in the Liberal caucus for the leadership. I, myself, don't understand why the member for Kings West is not mentioned as a potential leadership contender. I think he would be an excellent contender. Perhaps he doesn't want to compete with his fellow Annapolis Valley MLA, the member for Annapolis, who I really think is a very serious contender for the job, and should be. I don't believe that the member for Kings West, either, supports this use of the trust funds. How do I know that, Mr. Speaker? I'm going to tell you.

Recently in the news there was an issue about patronage. I won't mention the name, because I think we all know who I'm talking about. After a Public Accounts Committee meeting, when the member for Kings West was asked about past, fairly recent instances of Liberal patronage, he said there are some new members of the Liberal Party who do not believe in the old ways. I'm paraphrasing, but that was roughly what he said. New members of the Liberal Party - new Liberals, I think he called them.

I think if that member believes that there is a core or cadre of people within the Liberal Party that we might call "new Liberals" that he may want to lead them. He may want to show that not only are those new Liberals opposed to Liberal patronage, which is in the so very recent past for the Liberal Party, but he would show that he and the new Liberals are opposed to the use of these trust funds, the money for which came from a corrupt kickback scheme, Mr. Speaker.

That's what the courts say, those are not my words, those are the words of the court. I'm simply quoting the court. We think sometimes, Mr. Speaker, that this is all in the distant past. You know, the Leader of the Opposition referred to the fact that the evidence in the court had to do with the period from 1970 to 1979 and in case anybody was unsure why that period is, it's because there was a provincial Liberal Government from 1970 to 1978. Of course, it's only when you're the government that you have an opportunity to engage in these schemes.

This is the stuff of Gomery, which was the same thing, a different time. The Gomery Commission talked about a scheme of advertising in the Province of Quebec which involved, and it has proven it's established again by criminal convictions, that contracts were awarded on the understanding that a certain amount of the money would be paid into the coffers of the Liberal Party. How many years ago was that? It's only a handful of years ago.

[Page 2255]

This is not something in the distant past. Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative Party likes to paint itself as the Party of law and order. Well, I have an idea for the Progressive Conservative Party; if they want to, instead of just talking about law and order - as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has pointed out on many occasions very eloquently, there is a long distance between what this government says on justice issues and what it actually does. I think he might very well be one of the best Justice Critics this House has seen for a very long time. He has taken the government to task over and over again about the distance between what they say and what they do.

Well, Mr. Speaker, let me help the government close the gap on this issue. If they want to be the law and order Party, if they want to show that they believe in the rule of law, if they want to show that they're serious about cleaning up Nova Scotia politics, then let them do so by denying to the Liberal Party the use of the proceeds of crime. Let them show that they do not believe in political corruption. Let them show that they will not allow illegal activity to become part of the Nova Scotia body politic. Let them show that no amount of time will cleanse money raised in a corrupt way, because that's what this bill does. It essentially says well, 30 years have passed, we aren't going to allow the Liberal Party to use it for this purpose but we're going to allow them to use it for that purpose.

[11:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in any other aspect of public policy or public business, that would be laughed out of the Legislature. It would be laughed out of court. The public would find it ridiculous that if somebody has gained millions of dollars through corruption, what we're going to do is tell them that they can use it only for certain purposes. Instead of focusing on the criminal activity and forcing the party that benefits from the criminal activity to give up these proceeds of crime - which is what they are, I can't say it enough. It is the proceeds of crime, and they must not be allowed to use it for any purpose.

Some will say that money should be given up to the Treasury of the Province of Nova Scotia. Let's be very clear, that money was taken from the people. It wasn't taken directly, but it was taken because of higher liquor prices. It was taken because of higher government contracts, these kickbacks to the Liberal Party were simply built into the bid price of contracts awarded by the Province of Nova Scotia - we know that happened.

In case anybody over on that side of the House is feeling too self-satisfied, I have read the history of the post-war period of Nova Scotia politics and the historians are in accord that the Liberals did not invent tollgating. They didn't invent the practice of tollgating in 1970, that wasn't an idea they had, what they did was they continued to practice what had been going on before then. It appears that the practice of tollgating started under the Conservative Government in the 1950s. I wonder if the Conservative Party could stand an inquiry into their fundraising practices because let's be very clear

[Page 2256]

about this, tollgating did not start in 1970 with the Liberal Party. They got caught, they were punished and I think the Conservatives really need six months to reflect on that fact, I really think they do.

Now I've talked about the first reason why the six months' hoist is appropriate, is because the longstanding and important consensus among the three Parties that all election legislation should go through the Election Commission and should not come to the floor of the House without all-Party consensus, has been broken with this bill. All by itself, that is a reason why this bill should not be voted on now. That's why we need six months so we can be returned to the Election Commission so that we can go back to that longstanding, important and necessary practice.

I talked about another reason which all by itself is a reason for the six months' hoist and that is the fact that the Liberal leadership contenders, at the moment leaderless Liberal Party, need an opportunity to have a full airing of this very important issue. We need to hear from the candidates for the Liberal leadership about where they stand on the use of these funds. I have a feeling that there will be differing views among the leadership contenders on this. We are trying here to free the Liberal Party from its darker nature. There is a tussle within the soul of the Liberal Party, there is a struggle within the soul of Liberal Party about whether they want to use this money or they don't want to use the money. You can see it in the members, you can see most of them struggling with this issue and I want to help them deal with that struggle. Six months - so that they can have a full airing, a full debate within their own Party so that they can find their better nature.

I know it's there, Mr. Speaker, I know lots of Liberals. Heck, I used to be one myself but I left the Liberal Party, there was a reason why I left the Liberal Party - well, it's too long a story. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it would probably take about six months to tell. However let me simply say this, I still have my John Turner youth t-shirt, I was at the federal Liberal Leadership Convention in 1984 as a youth for John Turner and then I moved to Nova Scotia and you know what, the Nova Scotia Liberal Party had nothing to say to me, they weren't talking about the issues that were important to me. I listened to them and I listened to the Conservatives and they were saying just about the same thing. You might as well call them the blue party and the red party or the in party and the out party for all the difference between them. Then I met a nice young man who had just recently been elected as the MLA for my constituency at the time, and that was Robert Chisholm back in 1991. Finally, I found an MLA who was talking to me about issues that mattered to me and that's when I joined the NDP. I joined the NDP in 1991, very shortly after Robert Chisholm was elected as the MLA for Halifax Atlantic for the first time. And here I am.

But I left the Liberal Party for a reason, because of the struggle within the Party over finding its better nature. I just did not see - I saw too much of the people who wanted to keep things the way they were, the people who didn't want to change, the

[Page 2257]

person who would do whatever it took to win. I'm here, like all the members, to accomplish things. There are things I think need to be done to improve the government, especially the lives of the people of Nova Scotia. I did not see the possibility of my doing that within the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia. So, I never did join the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia when I moved here although I had been - when I lived in Manitoba I was a member of the Liberal Party of Manitoba.

As I say, there's a reason, I think they need six months to think this through, to allow their better nature to win out. Here's a contrast - and I haven't even gotten on to the Conservative Party. My time is running short, but I foresee the opportunities to speak for several more hours on this bill over the next couple of weeks so I'm going to get to the Conservative Party another time, I think. I just want to focus again on the Liberal Party and why they need six months to think about this bill and the use of these trust funds.

I want to set up a contrast here between the Liberal Party and the NDP, the Party of which I'm proud to be a member of the caucus here in the Nova Scotia Legislature. The contrast is this: currently, for reasons that are difficult to explain at least concisely, the Liberal Party has the awesome responsibility of holding the balance of power in a minority government. The Progressive Conservative Government has decided that their partners, for the purpose of survival, will be the Liberal Party. But, it's not clear what it is that the Liberal Party is seeking out.

I will say one thing, one of the Liberal bills that is going to be passed this sitting, of all the issues that the Liberal Party could choose to put on their wish list, of all the issues, one of them is to declare the brook trout the provincial fish in Nova Scotia. I'm still waiting for the first phone call or e-mail in my constituency office from the brook trout lobby saying, please, you must pass this bill.

It reminds me a little bit of jokes about if you find the genie's lamp and you rub it and you get three wishes, what do you wish for? Well, they have three bills that are going to pass this time and one of them, of all the things they could have done to make lives better for the people of Nova Scotia, one of them is to declare the brook trout the provincial fish.

I don't think anybody asked the brook trout. (Interruptions) I'm on Bill No. 117, this is the contrast. What I'm trying to set up here is the contrast between - of course, where this all leads is that right now, for the first time in quite awhile, we see the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives allied to pass a piece of legislation, namely Bill No. 117. But, while we're on the subject of the brook trout, I don't know what this is going to do for the brook trout. I mean, if the brook trout is wriggling in the net of the member for Preston, taking its last gasp on Earth, says, no, let me go, let me go, I'm the brook trout, I'm the provincial fish. I don't think that's going to save that brook trout. The member for Preston is going to fry up that fish faster than you can say "missed

[Page 2258]

opportunity". Which brings me back to Bill No. 117 about, of all the things they could have done for the people of Nova Scotia, the thing they are staking this sitting on is campaign finance reform that allows them to keep their trust funds. Of all the things they could have done.

In contrast, what did we do when we held the responsibility of the balance of power under a previous Premier? We ended the odious practice of charging seniors for their health care in nursing homes. (Applause) It wasn't easy. Let me tell you, it was not easy, they fought, and I think it took us the better part of two years for us to get the government to do that, but we did it because it was the right thing to do. When we were done with that, we told them that they needed to do something about tuition fees for students, which is an issue not just for students but their families. They haven't gone far enough but they have gone some ways toward it and I am proud of that. When were done, Mr. Speaker, we set out on a campaign to get them to finally remove the 8 per cent provincial tax from sources of home energy. They said for two years or more, impossible, it can't be done. Lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that on December 1st we are going to finally see the 8 per cent provincial tax . . .

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, you know technically, still we cannot remove that provincial portion of the HST. What we could to is to provide a rebate equal to that portion and I think it is very important for that member to understand that, and he knows that and he is trying to spin something a little bit differently.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for the point of information.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[12:00 noon]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the tradition continues of members on the other side not standing up and debating and saying their piece but standing up on baseless points of order. Okay, so on a technicality the minister is - but that is not what they were saying to the people of Nova Scotia, they were saying it couldn't be done. Now it is done and I'll let the minister explain to the people in my constituency the difference between removing the 8 per cent tax and getting an 8 per cent rebate deducted from their bill and we'll see if he can explain the difference.

I am the Finance Critic, I understand there is a difference, Mr. Speaker, but I don't think the people of Nova Scotia, who are finally going to get that rebate, much care about the technical difference between the two things. That is what we did with our three wishes, we made sure that seniors in nursing homes were treated fairly, we made sure

[Page 2259]

that post-secondary students and their families got a break on their tuition, and we made sure that all Nova Scotians paying for energy costs finally get a break. That is what we did with our three wishes.

The Liberal Party wants to declare the brook trout the provincial fish and they want to pass campaign finance reform that puts the Legislature's seal of approval on trust funds that were earned through criminal activity. Let me say it again in case anybody missed it the first time; Mr. Speaker, people, the leading fundraisers of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia were charged and convicted of criminal offences and the monies they raised are still, 30 years later, sitting in those trust funds. I think this is going to be a test for all of us about how we view that money.

How far is the government willing to go to defend those Liberal trust funds? I think we're about to find out, Mr. Speaker, because it is going to take at least a couple of weeks for them to get this through the House. We know that with the co-operation of the Liberal Party they have more votes than we do, they can pass it if they choose to but they're going to have to sit in their chairs for whatever hours they declare for the House, and we're going to test their resolve about whether this is really where they want to spend their political capital.

In any other field of life, if the government were to put a bill on the table proposing that the proceeds of crime could be used for certain purposes and not others, Mr. Speaker, I can't imagine what the reaction of the public would be. Yet they seriously put a bill on the table saying - I don't think the Premier has been listening, Mr. Speaker, let me say it again. The money in those trust funds was put there by people who were criminally charged and criminally convicted and criminally sentenced, for obtaining that money and putting it in the trust funds - is that clear enough for the Premier, Mr. Speaker - and he says, facetiously, is that parliamentary?

This was criminal activity, and I'm not characterizing it as such, the courts of Nova Scotia characterized it as such and convicted and sentenced those people. And one of them got off on a technicality having to do with the judge's charge to the jury, and he - who was a senator at the time, because in the middle of this period he was appointed a senator, and why not? - he raised, you might call it, a "Barrow-full" of money for the Liberal Party.

Why should you not appoint him as senator? And did he have to give up the job? Did he have to give up his salary and all the perks of office? Did he have to give up his pension? Did he have to resign? No. No, he didn't, actually he retired at age 75 with full pension - and I wonder how much resolve the government feels to go to the wall for that? I wonder if the government is willing to spend its political capital to allow the Liberal Party to use those funds for those purposes? If they are, then over the days and weeks to come, it will be abundantly evident to the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

[Page 2260]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise here today, at 12:03 p.m., to talk about Bill No. 117, and the hoisting of that. I've been able to, yesterday and today, listen to my honourable colleagues talk about the reasons why Bill No. 117 should indeed be put off for at least six months, and the two main reasons that we're looking at today and yesterday are the limitations on donations to election campaigns and whether or not those amounts are the right amounts, and also we're looking at the issue of the Liberal trust funds and whether or not those funds should be used, taken away or given back, what have you.

When listening to my colleagues yesterday, I can't help but wonder what the heck I am doing here. Seriously, Mr. Speaker, I mean, caucus meeting yesterday - it feels like I've been here for eight days already this week, and this is only Tuesday - when you go to a caucus meeting and find out here's a bill that I hadn't even laid eyes on and now I need to be able to stand up here and speak for an hour on the reasons why this bill should be held up for six months - hoisted.

Now, before becoming elected in 2003, I didn't know what that meant, or what that entailed, Mr. Speaker, and I guess I'm going to find out today and I've seen what it meant yesterday - and what it means is that the House hours are going to be extended far into the night and into the early morning hours, but I guess that's one of the things that when I signed up for the job, I didn't know was part of the job. It's a good time for me to stand here and reminisce a little bit. When I say what the heck am I doing here, really, some days I wonder. I have to wonder, when I see a bill like this come through that is basically going to allow another Party to use ill-gotten funds for running their campaigns or, in between campaigns, using it for whatever purposes they deem necessary.

I know when I ran my campaign I had to put up with a billboard in front of my campaign office, from one of the people running against me, and I know in the last election, the one we just went through in June, if anybody crossed the "old bridge", we like to call it - you would have seen the nice Liberal billboard with the Liberal team, or whatever they were calling themselves at the moment.

Now, that billboard was up there for a very long time, and a very long time after the election. I always wondered about that. Where do you ever find the money to put up these big billboards, because I don't think I'm probably ever going to come up with any kind of money like that in my campaigns.

My background in community activism, and my background on being president of a home and school association, my background being involved with the Halifax Regional School Board, is really a background of grassroots, Mr. Speaker. I don't think this bill, as it stands today, is going to allow for anybody in a lot of sectors in my

[Page 2261]

community, specifically, my constituency association, the constituents who phone me for help, the grassroots activists in the community, it is not allowing for any kind of an input for any of these people. Where the heck did this bill come from? If we're talking about the future of the province, because that's what elections really boil down to, is who is going to stand here and talk about the issues that are important to our families and our children, and the only people who are going to do that are the people who are elected. How we're elected, I think is very important to the people at home.

Now, we've stood here and heard five of us already, or six, I'm number six (Interruption) seven, go on about this for an hour, and I will apologize now if I'm going to repeat some of the things that have been said prior to me talking. I don't want to bore people to death. If I start repeating things that have been said in the last day, although it does seem like eight, I feel a need to do that, because I feel the people of Nova Scotia need to have their voices heard. I am the mechanism right now, in this time slot, to do that.

So it's a little bit distracting sometimes when you're in here, because there's action going on around you. People are trying to get their gear together, get their notes together because they're going to speak after you, or maybe tomorrow. I go back to yesterday morning, not having a clue that I would be standing here this afternoon. This job as an MLA, which I had really not an inkling of what that would mean - in fact, the first time, Mr. Speaker, I ever set foot in this building was when I was on the Halifax Regional School Board, and I came over here and helped the teachers picket. I held the picket sign. I came over on the ferry. It was a cold, windy, miserable day, rainy, and I remember coming over with my little document from the Halifax Regional School Board on budget items. I got up into the face of John Hamm, our past Premier, and asked him what he was going to do for the kids in Nova Scotia.

So hoisting this bill and delaying this bill for six months gives us an opportunity - let's talk to the voters.We're making decisions here that affect, I think there's somewhere over 600,000 official possible voters, although in the last election I believe only around 400,000 went out to vote, and you have to wonder why, when this is the kind of stuff that happens. Why would people bother going to vote? I mean, people are fed up with elections in this province. If everybody in this room went to the doorsteps - in June, nobody said, oh, thank goodness, another election, just what I've been waiting for, because we just had a federal election.

So that's one of the reasons why we have to stand here and talk about why this bill needs to go through another process. We all know that the processes are there and they're set up and, from what I understand, Mr. Speaker, there's a select committee that's made up of all Parties that could have looked at the issues that are contained in this bill. I believe, actually, when I heard the minister stand up and make his comments, at the very end he said he would allow a select committee of the House to look at it after the bill passes. I don't want to quote him exactly, but I think that's close to what it was.

[Page 2262]

I think the process is backwards and that's one of the reasons why we need to now flip it over and really look at the way the process should be.

The process should be one in which we have to look at the history of what has happened here in this province. Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons we're here and we want to hoist this bill for six months is because of the trust fund issue that we've heard a lot about. I don't know if I'm really naive or if I don't run in the right circles, but I've always heard vague implications of what had happened with that and in fact, different times when I've been campaigning, people would actually make jokes about that. I have to say, I've got quite a few history lessons here in the last day and I don't think we want to repeat history, we want to see if we can make some corrections to what has happened previously. That's why we need to put this off for six months, because we need to give the people of Nova Scotia a chance to look at some of the issues.

I think maybe in tomorrow's newspapers we might be seeing more information go to people, because - I was more of a community activist than a politically involved person before getting elected. If somebody needed help and they asked me to help them, I would try and do my best to do that. I think the people of Nova Scotia need to be given a little history lesson on what they're calling tollgating, kickbacks. I've heard many of people talk about the criminal activities that actually did happen. I don't know, we don't learn about this in history, in school, it's not taught, it's maybe left out of the history books, maybe it'll be in the history books in the future, I don't know, but we need to give people a six month chance to really decide.

The money that was taken from them back in the 1950s to the 1970s, I guess - what should we do with that money? I know I've probably got people in my constituency who would line up and tell you what could be done with that money. I think it might take six months to hear from all of those people. They might want to be e-mailing me; maybe when I go home tonight and plug in my laptop I'm going to have some e-mails, and you know what, I'm going to put it out there now, if somebody wants to e-mail me and tell me how they think $3 million, or whatever's left in there - because I don't think anybody really knows how much money is left in there - maybe they need to tell me how they think the government could spend that. Maybe after I finish speaking, a Liberal MLA can stand up and tell us how they would like to see that money spent, because I've heard them in here complaining about things, in fact, if you look at Question Period today, they were talking about various issues - the gas pipe line, things like that. They come in here and ask questions the same as we do, they're trying to do their job.

[12:15 p.m.]

I think there are Liberal MLAs in the House - maybe there's a division there, maybe some of them would like to see this money spent on - let's get some senior housing, let's get some more food in the food banks, maybe we could do something with long-term care. I mean how much food would $3 million buy? Well, there's another

[Page 2263]

example where we need six months - so that feeding others of Dartmouth or any other organizations that provide food for homeless or people that can't provide their own nutritional meals - maybe they'd like to e-mail me and tell me how much food $3 million would purchase in this province.

But, really, for me to stand here - I think I need to stand here and say to people, even though this may have happened a long time ago, although it's not that long, I guess, the 1950s to the 1970s, what needs to be done with that money now? A bad thing happened. You tell your kids, okay, there's no such thing as a bad child, really, is there? There's no such thing as a bad child. Children sometimes do bad things, but you forgive them. Maybe the people of Nova Scotia would like to forgive the Liberal Party for what happened in the 1950s and 1970s. I don't even know if the people who did this are even still around.

The Liberal Party is still benefiting from ill-gotten gains, or toll-gating, or kickbacks, or kickbacks on contracts. I didn't know that, well, I wouldn't have been going in the liquor stores in the 1970s, but anyway, obviously people were. People were going in and purchasing what they wanted, not realizing that they were actually subsidizing the Liberal Party. I don't really know if I'm using the right words, but a lot of money was built up in some kind of - I think the Liberal Party calls it a trust fund.

I think we need to hear from the voters of Nova Scotia, and my constituents, as to what they think needs to be done with this trust fund. I have people in my constituency who, last winter, couldn't heat their homes. Some of them have had to move out of my constituency, so they could get an apartment that included heat because they simply could not afford it. They knew that the Keep the Heat program was not going to be re-offered this winter. I'd like to hear from some of these people, on this $3 million - whatever, however much is in there, is left.

Mr. Speaker, sometimes this job - what I'm trying to say is when I listen to the other speakers talk and I think, well, what the heck am I going to say that's any different than what has already been said? It just got me to thinking, what is this job all about? Sometimes, I know in my constituency office, and I think other members would agree, you feel like you're a social worker. Well, I've not been trained in social work, I'll tell you right now. I do the best I can in my constituency. My assistants - I have a full-time and part-time constituency assistant. I think that's one of the best places to put your money - in your constituency office with your assistants - because those are the people who are answering the phone, they're on the front line, they're doing your casework. These are the people who are in touch, along with me, with my community. I believe my community has the right, as do all other Nova Scotians, to take six months to look at this to maybe flip the process back over to the way that it should be.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we don't want history to repeat itself, and we don't want to go backwards. I really think this is an opportunity, and I think the Liberals should take

[Page 2264]

this as an opportunity. I would like to get up in the morning and read the headline that says, Liberal Party gives back trust fund, and it's going to buy x tons of food for the food banks. Wouldn't that be nice and happy, just before Christmas? That's another thing, here we are, we're moving into the Christmas season, and we're all going to be stuck here together like a happy little bunch, talking about Bill No. 117 and why we need to keep this going for six months. Now I'm wishing I had gotten more of my Christmas shopping done on the weekend. I can put anything off, I guess, because this is very important. I have a family that will pick up the slack for me and help me out.

I feel I've been elected, and this is too important a bill to let it flip through here, and it's a backwards bill, and it's allowing illegal, ill-gotten money to be used by a Party, and I just don't understand it, Mr. Speaker. I never followed through the legal system when it was going on, and I apologize for that, maybe I should have.

Mr. Speaker, the thing is what we're talking about here, too, are donations.

What is the right amount to set for the top limit of a donation to a Party? I think the people of Nova Scotia might have something to say on that. I think many of us in this House would say that a lot of your donations - I know from mine - are small, and they come from everybody, all walks of life. It's always a struggle within a constituency association, your election team, to do all this fundraising and it puts a strain on your membership. It puts a strain on your executive. It puts a strain on your community. It puts a strain on people who want to help you out, and they do.

I know, myself, I have a great team who helps me out and they do everything they can. We all have to pay our bills, our mortgage, our light bill, and all these things, and buy groceries, and I don't think many of them really have $5,000. If they did, I don't really even think - should they give it to me? Really, that's a lot of money. You can put a roof on for $4,000. I have constituents who are calling me, seniors, who need new windows. Their windows are leaking. The heat's flowing out through, they need a new roof. They need these things, and I don't think they want to be putting $5,000 into my election campaign, and I don't think they should have to.

Maybe this bill will give us a chance to have this select committee go out to the people of Nova Scotia and find out what kind of a limit they think is reasonable. We've heard a lot of people talk about, well, let's not take any money from corporations. Maybe that should be zero. Corporations, sometimes in here, sort of tend to get a bad rap, I guess. They're not. They're in business. They have a product, whatever it is they're doing. I think sometimes corporations and businesses, even, that you go to, feel that these elections are a pain in the somewhere. They are trying to do what they can, if they do support a Party, and not all businesses or corporations support a Party, I don't imagine.

[Page 2265]

It's funny, because it reminds me of something. A couple of weeks ago, my husband was talking to a friend of ours who we used to see a lot more of when our children were younger, and he inquired as to what I was up to and was I still in here, and what was going on. He said, oh yeah, she's still at that. He said, you know, Joan is the only one who never came to me and asked me for money. He owns a business, he owns a couple of businesses. He said, she was the only one who never came to me and asked for money.

I heard the honourable member for Halifax Needham talk about the first election she was in. Her first campaign, her campaign manager said, get the heck out there and bring in some money. That's another thing. When you're in a campaign, what other job in this province requires you to go out to, really, your bosses, who live in every house in your constituency, and knock on the door and say, please, I'm trying to do a good job, will you consider letting me try and do it for another little bit of time? Then, to have say, with your hands out, can you please give me money.

Mr. Speaker, it's ironic, because when I first started, the path I took to end up here is working through my home and school association, and you couldn't find a better person than me to go out and ask for money, but that's because I was asking for money for some other cause, and I can do that. I'm a good fundraiser, but I'm not good at asking for money for myself. So I think the people of Nova Scotia need six months to decide should corporations be allowed to donate at all? How much power, when they do donate? Do you feel beholden to them or not because of that during my election campaign I don't see who is bringing money in, who is dropping money off, I don't see any of that. I just try to knock on doors. I don't want to get wrapped up in anything so that somebody can phone me after the campaign and say, you know I did this for you and you need to do this for me.

In fact, I did have a constituent probably a couple of months ago who had a sign on his lawn for me and was looking for some help and said, well you said during the campaign that you would help me. This person - his Nova Scotia Power bill was way in arrears. I said, well, I am not set up to pay power bills out of my office as an MLA, but I will try and help you. What I did was find some money through one of the churches and I say thank you to them for doing that, Mr. Speaker.

Raising money during an election campaign is one of the things we are talking about here, isn't it, really. We're talking about let's do that the right way, let's find a way to do that so that people don't feel, during an election, that, well, my vote doesn't count, why should I bother? I'm fed up. You get elected, you're going to do the same thing as everybody else, nothing is going to change. People are so cynical and since being elected, I have to say that I have become more cynical myself. I won't mention which honourable member keeps reminding me of that, there is one of them here. I keep saying, I know, I know. I don't know how to get over it but it's part of the job, I guess.

[Page 2266]

Mr. Speaker, we only saw - well, I didn't see the bill, I took it out of my binder only yesterday morning but apparently some of us saw the bill on Thursday but the public saw it only yesterday. If we're talking about something as important as who is going to be in this building, running the province in the next year or two years or three years or whatever, I think we need to go to the people of Nova Scotia themselves and ask them in the next six months, how they think we can do our job better and the job starts during the election campaign. It starts before that because myself, for example, I had to run against somebody else in my constituency, right? So I actually had to run a mini-campaign for that, so I think we need to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: On an introduction, the honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the member opposite for allowing me to do this. Here in the Speaker's Gallery there is somebody who is no stranger to this Chamber, the longtime member for Hants West and our friend Ron Russell. We would ask him to stand up and accept the warm greetings of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: A warm welcome to our former colleague.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. MASSEY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is nice to see Mr. Russell back here. It sort of feels like "speak of the Devil" because somebody was talking about him yesterday, saying all good things about him. Somebody was saying really wonderful things about Ron yesterday, I forget who it was. He is one of the good guys. (Interruption) Oh, it was Graham Steele, there you go, the member for Halifax Fairview, thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I don't think this - let's not rush this bill through. I think we need to take six months and, in fact, we need to take six months because we need to arrange for a lot of people who are involved in elections to have some kind of - we need to get feedback from them. We all know that one of the biggest components of any election is our volunteers. I am pretty sure we would all be sitting at home right now or doing something else if we didn't have volunteers in our election campaigns. Even though we try and raise funds to run an election campaign, you have to put your flyers out and you rent an office and you have to buy paper and this sort of thing.

The majority of your campaign is run by volunteers. It's really about getting out and knocking on doors and doing a lot of phoning. I would have to say thank you to all my volunteers for all the long hours during the week and the weekends they put in doing

[Page 2267]

that. You know, I don't even know some of my volunteers, who donated to me and who didn't. I know for a fact that - it's interesting - some people will put resources into a campaign that have nothing to do with money. This bill doesn't address any of those kinds of items.

You get people in campaigns who will come in and phone for you and you pick people up along the way. In the last campaign, when I was out on a doorstep talking to a mom and her daughter and the daughter goes to Prince Andrew High School in Grade 12 - I won't mention any names - when I was standing there talking, she was very interested in the political process; isn't that what we're talking about here, the political process, how we're going to run elections and how much of an impact the limit of donations has on how the campaign is going to be run?

I think, if I'm right, a lot of us are facing a struggle of fewer and fewer volunteers. I think across Canada, the numbers are down for volunteering. That's sad, but I think maybe part of the reason our voter turnout is down is because people just feel disenfranchised. Maybe they feel, if I don't have $5,000 like that corporation to give to Joan Massey or whoever, what am I really going to get out of it?

I would tell people that MLAs are elected and we try to do a good job. It is a hard job, that's for sure. As we'll find out in the following week or weeks, it's going to be long, long hours. But part of the job, I guess. It's just not a 9-to-5 job.

We need to engage Nova Scotians. This is the perfect opportunity to bring people back in, hear what they have to say about how the elections are run in this province. We need to ask them, what can we do to bring you back into the process? We're not talking about how you get out to vote if you have a disability. There are always problems in elections around those types of things. I think we could expand on this bill and really talk about some things that are important to people.

I think some of us, during our campaigns, probably take in as many donations as we can. Sometimes we're left with a debt to pay off at the end. That's not easy on your constituency association, because your constituency association has to take over that burden. I would say in the election before last, mine did a great job paying off what money we had spent on those things I mentioned before, like flyers and what have you. You try to stay within a budget, you have a budget, but then you're trying to win at the same time.

We did things, we sold tickets after I was elected for all sorts of things, baskets and turkeys. We had a bike that was given to us at cost or wholesale by a business in my community, we sold tickets on that. We did a lot of little things, tiny little things that raised enough money to pay off that debt. My constituency association is fantastic, my executive is fantastic. When I need them, they come and they work so hard. I haven't had time to ask them what they think about Bill No. 117. That's another reason why I

[Page 2268]

need to put this off, you know, flip the process over, and we need six months to have feedback.

This really should have happened before first reading, Mr. Speaker, but it's not too late. I think our Liberal colleagues and our Progressive Conservative colleagues in here, they're listening to us and I think they may change their minds. We may see that headline, you know, what can $3 million buy in the Province of Nova Scotia and our Minister of Education, I know she knows that will buy a lot of books for the libraries in our schools. I'll give her credit, she has learned the job fast and I think she knows what we need in the system and she was a school board member before.

We all have our volunteers who really worked hard during our campaigns and afterwards. They are doing things for us like putting our signs up, taking the calls for sign locations, and making sure people are fed during the campaign. There are lots of things going on during a campaign that we need to all be thankful for and still, like I say, Mr. Speaker, I'm concerned that people try to do what they can, your constituents, and I'm hoping that if my constituents have thought that I've done a fairly reasonably good job, they'll support me again the next time in whatever they can.

That might be in the next election campaign, they might bring in a pan of squares to my campaign headquarters. They might come in, they might have an hour out of the whole election campaign to do some phone calling. That's all right. I mean I remember one of my volunteers in the last election campaign, it was funny because I was out helping someone during the federal campaign, knocking on doors, and I came across a constituent in my riding who said, listen, in your next election, if you need my help, give me a call.

So I had his business card, Mr. Speaker, the strangest story, and then I was on a completely different street and I went into someone's house. I was invited in, two seniors who wanted to talk to me, and I went in. The senior was saying, you know, we had a big long talk for about half an hour and when I was leaving, she said, well, you know, something about she had a hair appointment. I said, oh, where do you go? She said, well, I don't go out. My hairdresser comes in. She mentioned the person's name and here it was the same person who had given me this business card. So I said I must give him a call. I said if you see him before me, let him know I need his help. Well, I think she had been talking to him and didn't he show up at my campaign headquarters. So, you know, these are the people that we need to be talking to.

I don't know who cooked up this bill seriously - sorry, Mr. Speaker, that's on the list of bad words that I shouldn't use, concocted. (Interruptions) Anyway, I don't know where this bill came from. (Interruption) Crafted, yes, it's well crafted. I just don't know, you know, I think there were some comments actually in one of the newspapers this morning about how the Minister of Finance doesn't seem to know how much money, how this would affect, like if you set it at $5,000, or $3,000, or $2,000, or $1,000,

[Page 2269]

whatever, how it would affect the various parties. I just find that kind of strange because I know yesterday morning, when I first thought of this bill, or knew that we would be talking about it, we had numbers. I'm presuming - well, I know the government has a lot more people working for them than we've got working for us. So I give credit to our researchers, this caucus' researchers, because they had some number crunching and they did it for us. I think they did it over the weekend.

We know how it's going to affect us and so I find it hard to fathom that the Progressive Conservative Government, and specifically the Minister of Finance who introduced the bill, doesn't know how that is going to affect - I don't think that, you know, that's not making the people who work for him look very good, I don't think, Mr. Speaker. If he said it, I guess it has to be true.

Some of the things he spoke about and some of the reasons why we need to put this off for six months, I wrote down some of the things he said. He talked about we need to increase transparency and increase the grassroots involvement. Well, I've talked about the grassroots involvement but by pushing this bill through, I don't know how we're going to hear from these people and it certainly doesn't increase the transparency I don't think. Yes, it puts limits on contributions. One of the things that I did write down that he said that I thought was interesting, he said Nova Scotians should be the drivers of elections so rich organizations can't influence us. I have to say that one of the things I thought was odd was - I think he said we need to move the large donations to small donations and by small he means $5,000.

I don't know what his idea of big and small is but it's not the same idea that I have. To me, $5,000 as I will say, is a whole lot of money. That's a lot of money; that's nothing to sneeze at in an election campaign. I'd bet you $5,000 you can get two billboards for that. I mean what would $5,000 get me in an election campaign? Well, you could rent your campaign headquarters no problem at all and have money left over, I'd say. I just don't understand where he would think that $5,000 is a small amount. It's kind of insulting to the people of Nova Scotia actually, especially people in my constituency who are going to the food bank.

Last week, and I apologize I didn't have the time to do up a resolution on this, but when I was driving here last Thursday - and I know it was Thursday, because that's the day that one of the churches in my constituency has a food bank open. I dropped my son off at high school, I'm driving down the road and I pass somebody pushing a Sobeys cart and I'm thinking that's odd because there's no Sobeys or Superstore anywhere near where the high school is, it's like a mile away. Then I drive a little further and there are two people going in the opposite direction with these grocery carts, with these Sobeys bags in it, and then I pass another person. This is early in the morning - my son has to be at school at 8:30 a.m.- you know where they're coming from - the food bank. They're coming from the food bank.

[Page 2270]

If Sobeys or Superstore is looking for their carts I know where they can find them and I'll tell you where they are, up around Churchill Drive and Kennedy and around Prince Andrew High School. By us putting this bill off for six months maybe some of those people pushing those food carts might drop into my constituency office at 63 Tacoma Drive, Suite 303, and tell me how they think this bill is going to help them. If they indeed think $5,000 is a little bit of money because I bet you they wouldn't - $5,000 is probably one-third of the income that a lot of those people are making.

[12:45 p.m.]

Any of us can fall on hard times and it's people that have fallen on hard times that are the disenfranchised that aren't getting out to vote. This bill is all about how we're going to get more people out to vote. How are we going to give all the people in Nova Scotia the same power? That's what I think this bill is talking about and I think the process is backwards, we've got it backwards. It all comes down to equality and a vote is a vote and we all joke, vote off and all this kind of foolishness.

Mr. Speaker, we need to think about the people of Nova Scotia, why are we rushing? Why do we want to rush this through? Is there something to hide? Do they think if we snap it up quickly we'll find out, will they be able to dig to the bottom, because the longer we stretch it out, the more we might find out, or the more people can look back on history at the toll-gate. It reminds me of potato-gate, and this gate and that gate.

I think it is a stain on the Liberal Party. I think they'd be better off to give that money back to the people of Nova Scotia, even though, like I say, those aren't even the same people, probably, maybe, who were even involved in the Party. I don't really know. Mr. Speaker, I didn't follow politics to any great extent, like some of my colleagues do.

They're going to have a convention soon; they're going to pick a Leader. I think a headline in tomorrow's paper that $3 million is going to buy this much food for Nova Scotians, that might get them a few votes, and they'd be doing the right thing. Maybe it's going to buy some more long-term care beds. Maybe it will build a seniors' residence somewhere, I don't know. There are lots of ways to spend that amount of money, even if it was only $2 million. I don't know how much it is.

Will they take a stand in here? We'll find out when I sit down. Will they take a stand and talk about what they're going to do with that money? Maybe they have some good plans. I think they might. If the people of this province are going to pay into a political process, then they have to know that they're on equal footing, that it doesn't matter if they are living in affordable housing, if they're living in a $300,000 house, they have two cars, one car, no car, they take the bus, they walk - they have the same rights

[Page 2271]

as the rest of us in this province. I don't think that's the way it works right now, Mr. Speaker.

That's why we need to put this off for six months, so that we can re-engage the voters of this province. Wouldn't it be nice in the next election if we could say, yes, there are 600,000-something registered voters, and 550,000 of them went out and voted. What if we could get our young people out to vote? How many times - and women; women are really becoming disenfranchised in this province. In both the last campaigns and in the federal campaign, I've come across women who have said they're not going to vote. They're not going to go out and vote. They just feel like, what's the point? Sometimes in this job you do feel like that, and I don't blame these people. Some days I feel like, when I come in here, what's the point? If there's anybody in here who hasn't felt that, then I think they're lying.

This is one way that we can make a change in this province. Why are we not the leaders? Why are we not leading the other provinces in election reform legislation? We need to put this off for six months. Again, we can't allow this to fly through. We know that this bill could go through a select committee of the House. There's no sense doing that after the bill passes, Mr. Speaker. Number one, the minister mentioned it in his opening remarks, but he didn't give us a plan. Nobody has seen the plan for that. We don't know what that plan looks like. Who's going to be on it, and that sort of thing.

I did mention women in politics, and somebody in here mentioned, maybe it was even the minister who said, it's a contest of ideas not dollars. Now, who mentioned that? I don't know. But I wrote it down, because I thought, that's right, it should be. It's a good quote. I like it. Still leaving that cap - it's not really a cap, limit at $5,000. I really think it is still going to leave some people out. I want to see our youth come back in. How many of us know young people who are more interested in getting their driver's licence than they are in who they are going to vote for? It's sad.

I know we have a problem right now in this province, trying to get women on our agencies, boards and commissions. Women are becoming less and less involved in the political process. We have some women in here, sure, and the numbers have gone up. I don't know prior to 2003 how many women were in here - maybe somebody can tell me - but it's not enough.

One of the reasons women probably don't get involved in politics is because they don't think they're going to make a difference. They don't try to get on these ABCs because maybe they figure somebody else that knows the government or is a friend of the government or is giving a big donation, they're the ones who are going to get on the ABCs. Sometimes I have to wonder if that's not really the way that people perceive it because we've tried on that committee to make changes and we've succeeded in some of them, but one of the things we need to do with this bill is slow down, what's the rush?

[Page 2272]

It's not like there's going to be an election tomorrow. Let's get it right, let's do the right thing, let's give the Liberal party a chance to do the right thing.

Women are still the number one - I call them, bearers of the burden. They're the people that are really taking up most of the child's care responsibility still. Even if you've got two people in a household and they both work, the woman still tends to do most of the at-home activities. I think dads are trying but for some reason women are just not catching up at the same rate that they should be. Women still aren't making as much money in the same kinds of jobs and these are the kinds of issues that maybe stop women from getting involved in the political process because they are very busy, they're trying to be involved in their communities and this sort of thing.

It's our job in Opposition to give people in Nova Scotia a chance to take part. It's our job in our constituency offices to have our phones open so people can phone, to have an e-mail address so people can e-mail and let us know what their views are on things. If we just pass this bill, when are we going to hear from these people? I'd like to know who the government consulted in the process of coming up with this bill. Did they have a chance to consult with their Party membership? Did that happen I wonder? Did they try to bring in other Parties? They didn't talk to us about it. Who did they talk about to try to find out what kind of information, what should we be trying to do with this bill? What is the bill really trying to do? I think by putting it off for six months, maybe it'll give them some time to figure out again what they were originally trying to do with this bill.

Mr. Speaker, we need to put this off for six months because we need time to debate it. We need a chance for everybody in here to be able to stand up in their place and talk about why this needs to be put off for six months. I think it's our duty to our constituents to do that and stay here and debate this for however long it takes. For some reason, the government has said to us, no, this must go through and we're not willing to make amendments on it, it's this or nothing. That's not really the way to work, and I'll go back to something that people say to me at the office, why can't you people just work together? They don't understand what it's like in here. Then some people will see you on TV or they're sitting up in the gallery and there's all this heckling and yelling. I mean, some of it seriously is to keep you awake half the time in here because you're going to hear us repeat some of the same stuff that our other colleagues have said.

You know what? That's the way it's designed. Maybe it's flawed, maybe it's wrong, I don't know who has come up with a better way of doing it. This is what we're stuck with but it's not to be confrontational, we should be trying to work together and oftentimes, my honourable members opposite, I've had a good rapport with all the ministers I've worked with, I'm not saying that, but thanks for reminding me, we need to put this off for six months. Even the Premier is telling me we need to put this off for six months - well, he's almost, he's reminding me that I need to keep saying it, that we need to put it off six months.

[Page 2273]

I'm glad they're listening over there, Mr. Speaker, this is good, this is what it's all about and this is what a friend of mine, she'll say this to other people too, I don't like politicians. This is a friend, my own friend who says, I don't like politicians, they don't do things right. I know she likes me, that's okay, we're still friends but she doesn't understand the process. It's sometimes hard in here to try to get your point across.

What we're trying to say today is that we need to look at the limits on these donations and how the Liberal trust fund is going to be used and we need to take six months to do that. So we need to turn the bill around and look at what is our duty to our constituents.

I don't think this should be a deal-or-no-deal situation. I feel like I'm on that TV show, there are boxes there and you've got - yes, the Price is Right, spin the wheel. Why are we trying to - why does it have to be deal or no deal with this bill? Why can't it simply be working together? It's a minority government, we worked together on some other things. We don't mind sharing our good ideas and that's why we're saying we're willing to share the idea on this to put this off for six months so we can talk to you and you can talk to your constituents, you can find out from people across the province what really needs to be done, if people in this province think that $5,000 is the right amount or it isn't. Maybe it should be $3,000, $2,000, $1,000, we don't know.

Where are you coming from? Really, if we know where you're coming from then what are you in it for? What's in it for you? It should really be, Mr. Speaker, what's in it for the voters of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Really, as I've said before, your donations, your volunteers, all these things are very important to all the MLAs, but we need to all be on a level playing field, don't we? That's what voters are looking for from us in putting this off six months, so that we can find a way to all be on the level playing field. After all, what's the rush in all this? Maybe you know something we don't; maybe you're going to call an election two weeks from now or something, I don't know, and you've got all these $5,000 donations coming in. I really don't know.

I mean, what's the rush? Why would you do this in the last week of the sitting, why wasn't it called in the first week? Why drop the bomb now, especially so near the Christmas season? I have said that before but if we take six months because, really, are people going to be engaged in this right now, Mr. Speaker? We saw headlines this morning, didn't we? "NDP: End big-time political donations." We have "NDP paralyzes House"; we've got "Tory political fundraising bill riddled with holes". I can table those, Mr. Speaker.

Tomorrow if something happens that takes the public's mind off these things, if the headlines say something and we just go on to something else, I don't think that something this important deserves that little bit of attention. I think you're going to see

[Page 2274]

in the papers tomorrow more talk about the Liberal trust fund and we're going to see the history of that. I think the Liberals have a perfect opportunity here to turn things around. We need to go out and talk to our stakeholders. We need to talk to women's groups, seniors, our youth groups, labour, businesses, all the people who are going to be entertaining voting in the next election, whenever that happens to be. We need to put this off because the public saw this only yesterday. We need to put this off for at least six months, to find out what we can from the public.

[1:00 p.m.]

Doesn't the government want input from its voters? Why is there this cut-off date of December 31st to decide on this? We need a select committee that will go out and take six months, whatever is needed, to find out how we're going to improve voter engagement in Nova Scotia. I think that's really what it's all about. The government should, in fact, be trying to connect with these disenfranchised people.

Who are these voters, Mr. Speaker? I know you're telling me that I have two minutes left. We need to go out and find out who these people are and that's why I find myself here today on a bill that has been hoisted. That's why I started out today wondering what the heck I am doing here, and that's why I'll be standing up probably and talking for another two hours at some later date - not all at the same time.

I have so much more I could say. Again, why the $5,000 - and the minister saying he doesn't really know the numbers, it sounds like they haven't crunched the numbers - in the end, why $5,000? Why the deadline? Why no consultation? In this job you ask more questions than you ever get answers to.

The government can fix this, but it's a challenge for them and it's going to be a challenge for the Liberal Party, but I think they can take up that challenge. I think there are some people over there who will do the right thing and they'll hand that money back over to the people of Nova Scotia.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview had his Bible here today - so we can all take faith in people doing the right thing here, and that's what being elected is all about. So having said that, I will take my place until another day. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have a few minutes to rise and speak on this motion that was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition, to hoist this particular bill, Bill No. 117, for a six-month period - I guess to give us all time to reflect and think about what the bill contains.

[Page 2275]

It is an important bill and really is an earthquake in some ways as far as change to the electoral system in Nova Scotia, and I think it is important that we take some time to reflect on it and to think about it and how can we make sure it is the right thing to do, that we're heading in the right direction - and to engage Nova Scotians as well.

It has come along here in a real hurry. We just saw the bill last Thursday, it was introduced here in the Legislature on Friday and here it is Tuesday. The government wants to have it passed ASAP to become effective by the end of this calendar year. That seems like a rush, certainly a real hurry. I think it is a serious issue and I support the idea of waiting six months to take the time to reflect on it and to try to engage all stakeholders, all people who have a stake in this and all Nova Scotians from Yarmouth to Cape North in Cape Breton.

We're a province of close to a million people and many of us are engaged in one aspect or another of the democratic process. I think it is important that we listen to what our electorate, what our voters, what our people are saying, from one end of this province to the other.

We've all been involved, as MLAs in this House we are involved in the democratic process, like it or not - some of us have chosen to put up our names for political office and have been successful; others have been coerced or talked into it, perhaps, to let their name stand on a ballot and sometimes they too have been elected. But there are certainly more Nova Scotians who are never elected, as compared to the numbers who actually have the privilege of being here in this House of Assembly and to represent the people of their particular riding.

It's those folks that we represent, I think, who need some time to look at Bill No. 117, and six months is a good length of time that would allow Nova Scotians to reflect on this and to make an informed decision because right now I'm sure there are very few Nova Scotians out there who have seen this bill or are aware of it, or know what it contains, or how really it's going to change our democratic system, change our democracy here in Nova Scotia.

For years, Mr. Speaker, campaign financing was done by asking, I guess, whether you ask an individual, your family, or your neighbour, or your local service station, or hardware store owner, perhaps you might ask a corporation or a union, but it has always been by ask, ask and you shall receive. It's a method that has worked fairly well but not always successful. I think it's getting harder all the time to get people to come forward with donations and even with a concerted effort of asking and followup with letters and phone calls, it's still a struggle for political Parties to come up with the dollars they need to make ends meet, to be in a competitive position to run a campaign that's first rate, or I guess that is competitive with their opponents in election campaigns. Money makes the world go around and without it, it's difficult to run a credible campaign if one Party has $20,000 and someone else only has $1,000, then is it a fair fight? I guess that's why

[Page 2276]

we're looking at the idea of public money in combination with private money and that would allow more balance perhaps in the system, but it would allow political Parties and constituencies perhaps to be on a more even footing than perhaps has always been in the past.

Certainly it has been tough for Third Parties or Fourth Parties to compete because the traditional old-line Parties, and I would think of the Conservatives and the Liberals in that regard, primarily have had the sources of financing that allow them to have enough dollars to put on a credible campaign, but it has not always been easy for members of the New Democratic Party and especially today I guess for members of the Green Party who are not on a level playing field with other political entities.

So we're all here, Mr. Speaker, participating in the democratic process. Some of us have allowed our name to stand for a number of elections and some of us perhaps have only been in one election fight on the provincial level. Personally, I've had the privilege of being on the ballot five times in the provincial elections and four times in municipal elections. So that's a total of nine and I guess if I let my name stand another time, that will be an even 10.

I know just a few minutes ago a former member was introduced here in the House, Ron Russell from Hants West, who had served in this House for something like 28 years and served the Province of Nova Scotia with integrity and with good service, so longevity certainly would be his middle name. The democratic process as we know it is supported by individuals who give of their time and their money. We've been fortunate to have people who give of their time in election campaigns in various ways, whether that's through helping to put up signs, or helping to put up posters, perhaps work on the telephones to garner support for a particular candidate, or maybe what they call the bagman. They are responsible for going out to try to raise dollars, to raise donations for a particular political candidate or political Party, but everybody has a role and some are better at it than others. Perhaps everybody has a strength that they bring to a particular campaign.

I certainly know that in my home riding of Pictou West, I've been very fortunate to have a good number of volunteers who have come forward and canvassed on the doorsteps on my behalf, or worked very hard to put up signs on lawns or in apartment windows, worked in the campaign headquarters, or perhaps went seeking donations from individuals or from various businesses. Those are all important parts of the democratic process and I think that's why, again, we need some time here, six months being a reasonable length of time for those people who are involved in political campaigns for them to work on looking at Bill No. 117 and reflecting and seeing how best it could be improved.

I want to move on and talk about the last general election which was held on June 13th of this year. I've talked a little bit about the democratic process and how candidates

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work hard, have good volunteers, and work their best to raise dollars for their campaigns. For some reason, the number of people who are actually coming out to vote is going down. Are people becoming disengaged? Are they becoming less interested in the democratic process, or are they, for some reason, becoming turned off or disinterested in democracy? Certainly democracy is a special thing and one that we need to work on to protect. In the last election, held in June - I'm going to quote from the booklet put out about Elections Nova Scotia - "There were 678,036 electors registered to vote . . ." yet, for whatever reason, only 406,052 of those electors actually voted. As a percentage of those who were eligible, less than 60 per cent voted on June 13th who could have or should have for whatever reason.

Now we know that some of those are disinterested, some on religious grounds choose not to vote, but many of them are just because they're fed up or apathetic or just tired of the political process and have perhaps no interest in politicians or the political process. Those are the types of voters we need to reach to talk to and ask why they're not voting. Again, six months would give us some time here to go talk to those people and see what their reasons are, or why they're not engaged in the political process. Now, whether they would donate to a political Party or not is unlikely, but it's the 60 per cent who vote who probably are the people who actively work in a campaign and perhaps give of their money, as well.

[1:15 p.m.]

The previous election in 2003, which, Mr. Speaker, you were involved in as a candidate, as was I, about 65 per cent of the electorate actually voted, and in the previous election to that, in 1999, we had more than 68 per cent. If we go back a little further in history to 1998, I well remember that winter campaign, we had almost 70 per cent of the electorate in Nova Scotia who came out to vote. Going back just a couple of elections further, in 1993, more than 75 per cent of Nova Scotians cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice. As you can see, I think there has become a disengagement of the electorate over time, and these are the types of people we should be talking to - those who don't vote, why aren't they? I think we should be trying to go to the nooks and crannies, the cities, the towns and the villages of this province over the next six months and ask them why is it that they haven't been able to participate in the voting or in supporting of the democratic process.

Certainly, it's disheartening in some ways to see our number of voters declining from close to 80 per cent to less than 60 per cent here in the most recent June election. All the more reason Bill No. 117 should be brought to those folks over the next six months, and to get their input or get their opinion on what's happening here.

I talk about democracy in general terms, and we all know that we are part of the democratic process, we are the epitome of participation in the process because we're the members who have had the courage to put our names on the line and put our name on

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the ballot and let people decide. Really, it's a job, I suppose, like no other in that every four years, under a normal electoral period of a majority government, you let people decide whether they think you are doing a good job or not and are you really working for the people and it is they who decide whether they want to keep you in the job. If they are satisfied, then they'll return you to elected office and you continue to work for the people of your district and the people of Nova Scotia.

If they are unhappy, of course they can reject you and decide that someone else has a better cut to their jib and they'll return them or put them in your position as MLA and let them go to work for them. So it is an unusual job in that respect, in that everybody in this House has their job on the line every four years, three years, two years, one year. It just depends on how long a minority parliament would last in this province.

I just want to take a minute to talk about democracy around the world. I think it is important that we relate it to this Bill No. 117 and the importance of further dialogue with others or what has happened in our global context. I don't know when democracy as we know the democratic form of government really started, but remembering from some of my history books, I can remember the city states in Greece that we had in Sparta and Athens and some of those cities, they had a democratic principle of government, they elected people to represent them in those city states, so that maybe there is some genesis at that time, but I am suspecting it probably goes back even beyond that, at least to the days of the city states in pre-Christian times.

I remember in our history books in England, which our parliamentary system is dependent on here - we all remember the Magna Carta, that great document in the year 1215 that allowed some democratic principles to be formed and not all the power was in the king but rather was spread to the people. That is some of the genesis of the democratic system here in the British Parliamentary system that we are under here in Canada and in Nova Scotia. We are still loyal to the Crown, in this case the Queen of England.

Over the years there were revolts to the power of the king and I can remember reading about Oliver Cromwell in the 1600s who took over from King Charles I and for a time there was no Crown, no king. But after a 10 or 12 year period that was restored under the Crown and we've had that ever since in the British parliamentary system.

A couple of weeks ago, in this House, we had a military appreciation rally. We left the Legislature early and we went out behind our Legislature and listened to various speakers, but all in the name of democracy, as we wished our troops the best as they went off primarily to Afghanistan. Why are our troops overseas? They are there fighting for democracy, they are there to stand up for the democratic system that we have.

Democracy is a fragile thing, Mr. Speaker. I think it is important that we have some context here on where we are and why it is important to take a little bit longer, six

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months, to look at this particular bill in relation to keeping our democratic institutions or democratic system, our method of campaign financing in line with our past history.

This particular hoist that the Leader of the Opposition has asked for, six months, would allow residents of Nova Scotia to take some time to look at how our campaign financing has occurred in the past, and it is primarily at the present time from private donations and whether it's $5, $10, $100, or thousands of dollars that an individual or a company, or an organized labour group is able to give, it's really coming all from private sources at this particular time. We have a system whereby if you donate money, you can get a tax credit that makes it easier on your income tax and it just makes it easier to give to a particular political Party, or particular candidate.

But the bill that's before us here and that we're asking for more time - another six months - is all about public funding and that's different than the private funding that we have at the present time. It means public money then would go to help political Parties maintain their day-to-day activities and to fight election campaigns which is the crux of the political system and out those election campaigns come one particular Party that has the most seats and, therefore, forms the government of the day, whether that's a majority or a minority as we have at the present time. I think we need some debate on whether the method of campaign financing should continue to be private, or it should be rolled into the public form and funded through the taxpayers' dollars, or whether it should be a combination of those two.

I guess the bill that's proposed is suggesting that we need a blend, I guess, or a mix of those two things with a maximum donation of $5,000 for anybody to give privately and public funding based on the number of votes that you receive up to $1.50 a vote eventually and 90 cents a vote to start off with. So it's a mix of public and private funding that's being proposed here, but I think it's important that we consult Nova Scotians to see what they think of that system. Which is better, the public system or the private system, or is it better to have a combination of the two?

I know in the riding that I come from, Pictou West, I'm sure it's important that I would talk to the people in River John, a village on the North Shore. On the western end of the riding of Pictou West, there's a thriving neighbourhood there and I know there are some progressive people there who would have some ideas on this and I think they should be consulted over the next number of months to see which system would work better for them - public financing or private financing, or a combination of the two.

Perhaps I should, Mr. Speaker, talk to some of the folks in Toney River. I recently had the opportunity to be out there in that community to celebrate the award given to Colonel Ian Fraser on winning the Order of Nova Scotia. It was great to see a number of community people out that evening at the dinner, but maybe I should be asking those people, you know - they are intelligent people. Many have lived in that community for many, many years and some of them donate to political Parties of their

[Page 2280]

choice. These are Nova Scotians, ordinary people, whom I think should have some input or ideas on whether it's public funding or private funding, or a combination thereof, that would best work for them.

Perhaps I should go to Union Centre in my particular riding, an area just back of the Town of Westville. It has a number of farmers and they, too, would have, I think, some ideas, or at least they should be listened to, to see what might be best for Nova Scotians as far as campaign financing and what system, public or private, would work best. It's not just in Pictou West though, I'm sure there are many other ridings out there that have intelligent people who are engaged in the political process and we should be listening to them as well. I see the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour here. I'm sure he has some people in his riding who may have some ideas on what type of political financing would best suit Nova Scotians. I know in the Town of Canso, I'm sure there's individuals who would be quite willing to come forward and tell us whether public or private financing would be better. In Dover or in Sherbrooke or in any of the communities along the Guysborough Shore, I'm sure they have some input and I think it's important that we hear from them. Same with perhaps the member for Richmond, in Richmond County. I'm sure there are people in Isle Madame and L'Ardoise and some of those communities that would have some input and I think we should hear from them. Maybe the idea of a select committee going out and talking to those folks would be one way to engage them and make sure that we get their ideas and record it. Let them decide how important a democracy is and how important campaign financing is and what method should be employed. So there's lots of communities that I think we can go and hear their ideas and get some improvements on how to do things better.

Mr. Speaker, I heard the minister, when he introduced Bill No. 117, talk about increasing transparency and increasing the grassroots involvement, and really that's the key to this bill. That's why we need more time to talk about it, perhaps to get some grassroots involvement. I know the minister would agree with me that it's important to engage those grassroots and see what they have to say on a community-by-community basis in the towns and villages throughout this province. I know the minister comes from a beautiful area of our province along the South Shore from the Town of Lunenburg, and I'm sure Lunenburgers would have some ideas or some input into how they could look at Bill No. 117 and make improvements or make suggestions on the campaign limits or on the type of public financing or private financing.

I was actually down through Lunenburg County just recently and I had an opportunity to stop in Lunenburg. I also went to the Town of Bridgewater and I'm sure the people of Bridgewater would like to have an opportunity to have a say on whether it's public financing or private financing, on whether the campaign limit should be $100 or $5,000 or unlimited. I think everybody in this province is equal so what's the best way we can engage them? How can we get Lunenburgers and Pictonians and everybody in this province engaged in this political dialogue and in the process of getting their input and their ideas. Ideas are not limited to 52 people in this Legislature, but there are

[Page 2281]

thousands of Nova Scotians out there who would have some good ideas and I think we have to get serious about that.

Maybe each of us as MLAs could hold a community meeting and ask for input and bring a copy of Bill No. 117 with us and ask for people to dialogue. Who knows, there might be some really enlightening ideas come out of that. Or, it's been suggested the idea of a select committee also might be a way to engage the public on this bill and get their ideas in that respect. It's important as the minister had mentioned in his opening remarks that we do have grassroots involvement and get everybody dialoging on this issue.

[1:30 p.m.]

In a neighbouring riding of mine, I see the Minister of Human Resources meticulously studying this bill, in that area of the province I'm quite familiar with as well, that's up along the Cumberland Shore. I had the opportunity a number of years ago to help my dad who had a mail contract to New Glasgow from Amherst and I used to drive for him on weekends and at other times when he needed a break. I'm sure the people in Malagash or Wallace or Port Howe, Town of Amherst, all of these areas, I am sure there are some intelligent, politically-connected people n those communities who would like to have some input on this bill and talk about how this can be improved.

One thing I want to mention, Mr. Speaker, in the bill that we're asking more time for is around the financial limit. It is suggested that $5,000 be the limit for individuals or for organizations to donate. I am not sure where the $5,000 figure came from but in some ways that still seems high; $5,000 is a lot of spare change for many people and while it is not a problem for some, I think that for many Nova Scotians giving up $5,000 to donate to a political Party would not be possible. I suppose it is primarily designed for corporations or companies or unions that are in a position to give that kind of money but it still seems a limit that's rather high for many. I think to make it fair, we need to make it only individuals, perhaps, who can donate to political Parties and take it out of the hands of corporations or unions. In that way, it levels the playing field. It makes it fair for everyone.

What is the right figure? In the federal Parliament, they have a bill there right now - I think it is Bill C-2 - that would limit political donations to $1,000, so why are we five times as high? Why are we saying that we should be able to give five times what across the country from Newfoundland to British Columbia is donating to a political Party or to a political candidate? So I think we need some debate in our communities across the province.

The Premier has agreed that maybe $5,000 is right, but I am not sure if all Nova Scotians are attuned to that. I think it is important that perhaps we should go to some of the communities in Inverness and ask them what they think, whether it is Inverness or

[Page 2282]

Cheticamp or Port Hawkesbury or any of those communities along the - perhaps in Mabou we should do a street interview and ask people, do you think $5,000 is the right amount to give as a maximum to political Parties on an individual basis? All along the shore there are people there who should be engaged, as there is throughout Nova Scotia, and ask them what their opinion is. Again, Mr. Speaker, that is why we need more time. Is $5,000 too high or is it just right?

I think we haven't had a chance to ask Nova Scotians yet what their opinion is on this, and this bill came along - as I mentioned, introduced in the House last Thursday last Friday and wow, it is not very much time. I realize that while there is an opportunity at the Law Amendments Committee for a few individuals to come forward, that is not convenient for many people. So shouldn't we take it to the people and go and ask them what they think, in their home communities, and whether that is through a select committee or through an MLA community meeting or other mechanism. I think it is important that we try to do that.

One question I will ask, Mr. Speaker, is how will our individual riding associations be affected by this? As I mentioned previously, we're here with the privilege of being elected in 52 ridings throughout Nova Scotia and it is primarily because of the hard work and efforts of many individuals who have made it possible for us to have this privilege, whether it is an election planning committee that works for months behind the scenes; a finance committee that is raising dollars to try to get enough to pay for advertising or for signs, or whatever is needed; perhaps a committee that looks at advertising in the media, whether it is on radio or television or a weekly newspaper. There are a lot of people who put a lot of hard work into their individual riding associations. That is not true just for the NDP, it is true for the Progressive Conservative Party, the Liberal Party, it's probably true on a lesser basis for the Green Party. There are dedicated individuals in all these riding associations who believe in the political process.

I will allow for an introduction, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture on an introduction, thanks to the member for Pictou West.

HON. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you to the member for Pictou West. I'm pleased to bring a number of guests' names to the attention of the House, names of people who have taken their time out of their busy schedule to come to the Nova Scotia Legislature. These folks are doing very, very important work on behalf of the agriculture community, more especially on behalf of the beef sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. As I name the individuals, I would ask that they rise and receive the warm welcome of the House.

[Page 2283]

I would begin with Greg Scheffer, Greg is the chairman of the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers; Dave Oulton, Dave is the vice-chairman of the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers and Mr. Patton MacDonald, Patton is the executive director with the Nova Scotia Cattle Producers. I want to welcome our guests to the Nova Scotia Legislature and we'll take a few minutes to meet with you later on. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to our guests in the gallery today. The honourable member for Pictou West on the debate.

MR. PARKER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and again, I'm speaking in support of the hoist on Bill No. 117 to ask for six months' extension to really study this bill and to see what impact it will have on the campaign financing in Nova Scotia.

As I was mentioning, before the introduction, we have good hardworking constituency associations in this province and I'm very thankful to the executive I have in Pictou West. I should mention our annual general meeting is Thursday night coming up, so I'd better get on with this before then. The good member for Halifax Citadel will be our guest speaker.

Anyway, in the riding of Pictou West, there are a lot of people who work hard and I'd like to be able to dialogue with them on this particular bill. They've worked hard on my behalf to get me elected to the Nova Scotia Legislature and all of them have not only given of their time, but many of them have given of their money. In fact, I can remember one gentleman who came into our campaign headquarters in May and June of this year and every week or couple of weeks he'd give us $20 as he could afford it. Other members gave $100 or $200 and it all adds up. It takes a lot of individual donors to make that total come to the amount that's needed to run a credible election campaign, certainly, every bit counts.

But I'd like to dialogue with the president of my riding association and the treasury, secretary, vice-president - these are my supporters and as each of the members of this House has an executive and people who support them, shouldn't' they have the right to have some dialogue on this, the most revolutionary change in the campaign financing in this province in a generation? It's going to affect campaigns and the political process for another generation to come. It's a huge bill that has a tremendous impact and I think it's important that we dialogue with our constituency associations and those who are engaged in the political process on our behalf, and, again, with all Nova Scotians.

The bill mentions that if an individual were to give a $1,000 donation, they would get a tax credit back of $750. That's certainly quite generous. It's certainly different from what we have right now. I think the first $100 is all that's tax creditable at the 75 per cent level. Beyond that, it reduces down, I think 50 per cent over $250 and then if it's over $500, I think it's only one third that you get as a tax credit off your income tax

[Page 2284]

so allowing 75 per cent on the first $1,000 that's given is quite a change. I suppose it'll make it easier to attract political donations to your campaign or to a political Party but is that too much? Is that too generous or is that about right? I'm not sure but again I think it's important to go out and dialogue with the people from around the province.

I've talked about Cape Breton and the South Shore and my own riding in Pictou, I think I mentioned perhaps in the Annapolis Valley, the member for Kings West is trying his best to represent the communities in his area such as Aylesford and Kingston and Black Rock. We'll remember that area because of the controversy over the road that was there, the Black Rock Road, and the number of vehicles or tires that were being damaged in that area of Nova Scotia. Those are all communities in western Nova Scotia that I think are important. I can remember a number of years ago I ran a small business and I used to travel down to Waterville, Kingston and Aylesford and some of that country to buy apples and other fruit. Good hardworking people in the farming community of theAnnapolis Valley and I think they too have a right to have some say on this major change in campaign financing in Nova Scotia so why not get their opinion and see what's going on over the next six months or so and get their input.

I mentioned Bill C-2 a minute ago, Mr. Speaker, it's presently before the federal Parliament and I think it's actually before the Senate right at this time. The Senate has always been considered sort of a dialogue for sober second thought and while it's been passed by the House of Commons it's not been passed by the Senate. Of course here in Nova Scotia we used to have a Senate or equivalent to a Senate a number of years ago up until 1929 at which time it was done away with by the government of the day. It was a Chamber for a sober second thought and we don't have that any more in Nova Scotia but in Canada it's an opportunity to at least look at the bill again and perhaps amend it and make it better. They, as I mentioned, set their limit at $1,000 and here we are at $5,000 across the country. From Newfoundland to British Columbia that bill will allow only a donation of $1,000 and here we're given much more than that so is that equitable, is that fair? I don't know it just seems we need to ask Nova Scotians what they think.

I'll mention my colleague, the member for Hants East, was up last evening on this very bill, on this hoist, and he's been elected there since 1998 and represents very well the people of that rural community whether it's in Endfield or Mount Uniacke, the Noel Shore or Kennetcook. Shouldn't we talk to some of those people and see what they're thinking about Bill No. 117 and whether the limit should be $1,000 or should be $5,000? I think again it's important that we take some time and dialogue with them.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the most difficult or revolting parts of this bill is that it still allows the Liberal Party to keep their past ill-gotten gains, their held assets is I think the way it mentions it in the bill. We all know that's the trust funds that have been gathered up over decades by illegal means and it's well-known, it's well proven, that there were

[Page 2285]

some things done that weren't right. I think previous speakers have talked on this. There were three convictions, I believe, or three people - Senator Barrow being the most famous amongst those, but there were a couple others who were there as well, Mr. Simpson and Mr. MacFadden. They were the bagmen of the Liberal Party, and they got caught. What happened is they would go to liquor companies or distillers that were making a product, and in order to put it into the government liquor stores, they had to pay a fee, they had to pay a toll, commonly known as "tollgating" . That's not to say that the Progressive Conservatives were not also doing that, but they perhaps were smart enough to get it covered up before it was found out.

The Liberals, obviously, were caught at this - it was a criminal act. It's like extortion - if you don't pay us a fee of 3 per cent to 5 per cent, we're not going to let you put it in our store, you're not going to sell it. There's something wrong with that picture - there's something rotten in Denmark, as they say. Now this bill, Mr. Speaker, it's sort of complicity, it's allowing it to be okay, it's sort of sanitizing that money and saying, we'll look the other way if you'll allow us to get it passed.

It's somewhere over $3 million that has been collected in that fund - I think $0.5 million of that was spent on the last election campaign by the Liberal Party here in Nova Scotia, and another $0.5 million was used to pay down some of their debts from previous campaigns. While it's implied that the money would not be used for future election campaigns, the Liberal Party could still use it for in between election expenses. Is that what Nova Scotians want? Is that according to Hoyle? Is that okay? Obviously it seems to be okay with the government and with the Liberal Party, but again I think it's important that we dialogue with Nova Scotians and ask them - this old, dirty money, is it still okay to use it?

This bill would certainly allow that to happen, and I don't think that's right, and I think most Nova Scotians would agree with me that that's not right. I think it's important we get out and talk to them and ask them what they think of that. While it's sanitizing the money, it's still wrong. Criminal convictions have occurred, they were held up in the court system that said it was wrong, and I think most Nova Scotians would agree that it's wrong. I think the upcoming Liberal leadership campaign - hopefully we'll get some clarity from Liberal members on where they feel this held assets or trust funds that obviously were collected by illegal means, what they think of it.

The MLAs for Annapolis, Clayton Park and Richmond are rumoured to be potential leadership candidates - then I think they should come clean and tell us where they stand on this, so Nova Scotians can decide. The right thing to do would be to say, no, it was wrong, it was collected by illegal means and we're going to give it back to the Province of Nova Scotia and put it on the debt, to help pay down the huge debt that this province has - a debt that was accumulated during that time when the Liberals were in power and when the Progressive Conservatives were in power.

[Page 2286]

So I think it's important that we hear from Liberals on this, and hopefully they'll have a pure conscience and a clear heart and be able to say, mistakes were made, and I want to move on and get rid of that dirty money, and go away with a clear conscience from there. I think there's an onus on the government to do the same thing. They brought this legislation forward that allows this ill-gotten money from the past to remain, and I would hope that by allowing a six-month period of reflection and sober second thought, it will allow members of the government to think on that and maybe realize that, to use old money, that's not correct, it's not the way to go. So, anyway, we'll leave it at that for reflection for government members.

I know my time has gone down, Mr. Speaker, and I want to mention a couple of other things here as well. One thing I think is important that we dialogue with Nova Scotians on and ask for their opinion is contributions from people of any age. Right now it's not in the bill and I think it's important that you have to be a voter in order to be a contributor. Minors should not be able to contribute to election campaigns and, as we all know, in the federal campaign that's going on right now for the federal Liberal leadership, one of the candidates, MP Volpe got himself into some trouble by accepting donations from minors, from children who were not of age. In many ways it just doesn't add up, or doesn't make sense that a 5-year-old or even a 10-year-old, or any minor, could donate money to a political Party. Really what's going on is that someone else is doing it for them and that somebody who wants to give money to a candidate, or a political Party, is funnelling it through a minor and that's just not Hoyle. A 5-year-old is not in a position to make an intelligent decision on whether Party A or Party B is worthy of support or if a candidate man, or a candidate woman, is the right person to support. So I think it's wrong that children would be allowed to make contributions.

Again, I think it's important that we dialogue with Nova Scotians to get their opinions, to see what they think. I've mentioned a number of ridings around the province in my dialogue here today and I'll go to a different area of the province. In the neighbouring riding to mine is Colchester North and that includes the Village of Tatamagouche and why not dialogue with those people in that area? The Minister of Education represents that riding and I'm sure she would be willing to get an opinion from the people of Tatamagouche, or the fishermen in Barachois, people who live in Debert, or Denmark, or Five Islands, or all those little communities all over in Colchester County, farmers in Middleton and Onslow, and all those areas of Colchester County. So why couldn't we dialogue with them? Anyway, I think it's important that all areas of Nova Scotia have some input into this legislation over the next six months or so.

Another aspect of the bill that's somewhat troubling is that corporations, while they're limited to $5,000 now, it doesn't mean that there's - where there's a will, there's a way, and there could be a way around that limit. I think we have to ensure that employees of large corporations are not funnelling money into political Parties from the same source. So it's possible that the CEO could give $5,000, the vice-president of finance could give $5,000, the secretary and so on. Whatever the limit is, if it's on an

[Page 2287]

individual basis, then that's fine, but we just have to be sure that it's not done by backroom methods that would give a company funnelling money into individuals to pass on to political Parties or political candidates. So I think we have to ensure that there is some accountability there, that there's some transparency, and that everything is above the law and that the maximum is what it's intended to be. If it's $5,000, then that's the most that any corporation or labour union could give and it couldn't be funnelled through any other methods.

I guess another aspect of the bill, Mr. Speaker, is around timing. It has been rushed. It came to the light of day here on Thursday of last week. We started debating it yesterday. The government wants it passed, to become law by December 31st of this year. That's only 40 days away, and that's not Hoyle, that's just not time - what's the rush? Why couldn't we have an additional six months to talk about it further, whether it is here in the Legislature or whether it is in our home communities, whether it is with our riding associations or just Nova Scotians in the towns and villages of this province. So I think it is a good thing that we're asking for additional time here and to fully discuss the bill and the implications because as I said, it is the most major change in campaign financing in a generation and it is going to affect the politics of this province for many years to come.

Again, why couldn't we go out to the countryside and ask some of the people in Yarmouth or Middleton or Annapolis Royal or Digby. We have many great towns and villages and we have intelligent, active, politically-engaged people in all those communities around this province and I am sure they could give us some important input or some ideas on how to improve this bill.

Another suggestion that was in the bill is the idea of a select committee but it is really putting the horse after the cart because it suggested that the select committee go out afterwards, after the bill is passed, after it becomes law and really it should be done, if it needs to be done at all, ahead of time to get the input of Nova Scotians. After the bill is law then you have little chance to influence it and select committees are a mechanism we use in the Legislature to engage Nova Scotians and get their ideas and to find out what is on people's minds or what concerns or issues they have had.

I have had the opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to serve on a couple of select committees that have travelled around the province. I think it was in 1998 that I served on the Select Committee on Workers' Compensation that looked at the problems that injured workers were having in this province. We travelled from Yarmouth to Bridgewater to Kentville, to Halifax, to Truro, went up to Amherst, New Glasgow, Port Hawkesbury and Sydney, stopped at a number of communities and listened to what Nova Scotians had to say. It made a difference, I think. While the bill that came out of it - I think it was Bill No. 90 - in the end it wasn't all or everything we wanted, it was important to hear from Nova Scotians and to hear from injured workers in that case, and

[Page 2288]

hopefully some of that input has been reflected in government policy to make things better for injured workers.

[2:00 p.m.]

The same could happen here with this Bill No. 117 if we went and listened to Nova Scotians and got their input. I am sure we would have a better piece of legislation at the end of the day than by not doing it.

I also had the opportunity to serve on the Select Committee on Petroleum Product Pricing in August 2004. Again we travelled the province from various communities, from Yarmouth to Sydney, and had a chance to listen to Nova Scotians and what they thought about the price of petroleum fuels in this province. I guess the result was regulation that came in on petroleum pricing from that select committee. So I think they work, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is important that we listen to Nova Scotians and see what they have to say. I know there are many communities out there that I haven't mentioned but there are lots of other towns and villages we could go to and get their input, whether it is in New Glasgow or Truro or Stewiacke or wherever, there are engaged Nova Scotians who could give us some good ideas on this.

So I think it is important, Mr. Speaker, that we work to clean up the political financing system in this province. It should no longer be in the back rooms of the political Parties. It needs to be clear and concise and out in the open and where Nova Scotians can see it. They need to know if it's public financing or if it's private financing or a combination thereof. It needs to be open and transparent and accountable. I think the best way to get the best bill that we possibly could and that really is going to affect Nova Scotians for decades to come is to go out and listen to Nova Scotians and dialogue with them and hear what they have to say from one end of this province to the other.

Right now, the bill is far from perfect. It has a number of questions, a number of things that I believe are unanswered. We need to find out what the best way is to finance our political system, to protect our democratic system, to stand up for democracy, and make sure that it's fair and equitable for all. We need to take the big money influences out of the political system, big union or big corporation. It's not fair to individuals if we're influenced too much by large corporate or labour entities. Finally, as I mentioned, the political trust funds, we must make sure that they're no longer there, and they should never have anything to do with Nova Scotia politics. Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to other speakers. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

[Page 2289]

MS. VICKI CONRAD: Mr. Speaker, today I stand in my place to speak to the motion that's currently on the floor to amend Bill No. 117. The motion on the floor would see the examination and consultation period that would take us to six months, where then we could have full discussion around the merits of this bill and the recommendations set out by a consultation period.

The examination and consultation period would certainly determine for us the best way to improve electoral reform in this province. The Federal Accountability Act that the Conservatives have put forward in the House of Commons clearly sets out electoral reform in a way that really makes a change and makes a stand. Unfortunately, the bill that was put before this House fails to reach that goal. There was no public consultation, and there was no consultation of all of the political Parties here. That lack of consultation clearly undermines the intent of this bill. This rush to legislation could and certainly does give suspect in the public view.

Clearly, there has been no thought given to the potential impacts that this rush to legislation will have, a continuing degradation of public trust in the political process. The fact that there has been no process here, no consultation is indicative as to how this government works, or at least gives the perception that something in this bill is awry. This bill should have and needs to have at least six months of consultation, consultation for all Nova Scotians. There was no previous public consultation, there was no review or sign-off by an all-Party election commission, and there was certainly no consultation with all of the political Parties.

This bill, as it currently sits, legitimizes the use of suspect Liberal trust funds totalling more than $3 million. This bill, as previously tabled, would allow corporations and unions to continue donating up to $5,000, retaining their influence, the perception of influence of multiple large corporations, and that is just simply wrong. Nova Scotia is steeped in partisan politics and lopsided electoral practices and these partisan politics have a long history here in Nova Scotia - a history of bought votes, intimidation and fear and behind-the-door deals for contributions. These practices, these perceptions have gone on far too long in this province and this bill does nothing to change that perception. This rush to legislation gives such a negative impact, it continues the perception of dirty politics in Nova Scotia.

I just want to give a few examples of my perception of politics in Nova Scotia, stories that I was told when I was a young girl, stories that I was told just as recently as the last election. My first story was told to me by my father who was, and still is, a long-term, card-carrying Tory member. He told me that in the days when he was probably 19 years old and he was driving one of the vehicles for the Tories many years ago, several years ago, when he was 19, not when I was 19.

He and another chap were asked to go and pick up a lady in a neighbouring community to take her to the polls to vote. When they got to Mrs. So-and-so's house,

[Page 2290]

they discovered she was not able to go to the polls because she had probably a day's worth of dishes before her, and some other housekeeping tasks. They returned to the polling station to let the person there know that Mrs. So-and-so couldn't go to the polls that day because she was too busy with her tasks at hand.

So, my father, at the age of 19 and his friend who accompanied him, were told to get back there at Mrs. So-and-so's place and if they had to, they were to do her dishes and whatever other tasks that she needed done in order to make sure she got to the polls. So my father and his friend, at age 19, rolled up their sleeves and they did dishes for well over two hours that day. But they did get Mrs. So-and-so out to the polls.

Then my father continued to tell me other stories during many elections - the nylon stockings, the bottles of rum and worse yet, the intimidations. This bill really gives similar perceptions that things have not changed in the province of Nova Scotia. I can tell you, this year, campaigning on the doorsteps, I heard stories not unlike the stories I heard when I campaigned on the doorsteps in 2003.

Many people in my community would tell me, behind their hands, how nervous they were for many years to support certain Parties because there was direct intimidation that jobs would be lost, reputations tarnished, families disowned - grandparents disowning children and grandchildren - if they chose not to vote a certain way; intimidation, fear, fear of jobs lost.

In this previous election, I was told at the doorsteps that practice was still continuing in my riding of Queens. Intimidation. People were actually afraid that if they cast their vote a certain way, that someone would not only know, but someone would have the power to give them a mark against their job, against their security . . .

AN HON MEMBER: Repercussions.

MS. CONRAD: Repercussions of voting for a different Party.

This bill actually gives similar perceptions, and that's a shame. After 50, 60 years of intimidation, and probably longer, of really foul-smelling politics in this province, I think it's time that we rise to the challenge, we raise the bar, and we really make some substantial changes with this bill, all Parties. We need to work diligently to raise that bar to change the way politics is perceived and will be continued to be perceived if we don't make those changes here today and now. We have the ability, we have the voice, we know better, we need to work together for this province, we need to strive to take a moral high ground here.

I want to talk a bit about that moral high ground. Today and yesterday in this House, I heard several members opposite raise resolutions on behalf of the riding of Queens, and while I think that's wonderful, and I certainly will support any kudos given

[Page 2291]

to members of my community, I suspect that the moral high ground has not been taken, much similar to whether a moral high ground has been taken with this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The comments of all members of this House are deemed to be truthful and that of an honourable member, and we're not to impugn the intent of another member unless we are making an allegation against them in the House. So I would ask that you bring back your discussion to the debate around the hoist here today.

The honourable member for Queens.

MS. CONRAD: Thank you. I think I used the word suspected. I apologize if I made any accusations, which I did not mean to do. I guess I was talking about perception, and the perception that this bill leaves with Nova Scotians. It leaves the perception that we're really not serious about electoral reform, that we're really not serious that we can work together, that we're really not serious that we have members all over this House who strive very hard to work for their ridings and their constituencies, and recognize all of them.

If the government is going to be serious about electoral reform, they really need to practise that. Nova Scotians for far too long have been under that dark cloud of partisan politics. As I said before, the bought votes, the scandals, the misinformation, secrecy, and intimidation have all resulted in an overwhelming number of Nova Scotians who simply don't trust politicians. The fact that there was little or no notice for the introduction of this bill leaves one with the assumption that something really is behind the want to rush this bill through. What does this signal to the general public? Frustration - the thoughts that government will and still continue to look after their own. Politicians and the political process, in general, need a boosted image, not another screened and filtered piece of legislation that really doesn't address true electoral reform.

[2:15 p.m.]

Under no circumstances should the Liberals be able to access the segregated long-term investment funds, and there should be an outright ban on corporate and union donations. To be expected to decide and discuss this important issue of much-needed electoral reform in a little more than a week is just irresponsible. This government should seriously take under consideration the motion on the floor to move this bill for consultation for a period of six months. This bill, as it stands, is not transparent, there is no integrity here and it certainly is not democratic. Nova Scotians expect and deserve more from this government. Far too often this government fails in its responsibility to provide full, democratic, public consultation. Some of those examples of failing to engage in consultation have been seen over the past several months, the past several years. This government's refusal to take legitimate recommendations, take them seriously, take them and really move them forward, this government has failed at that.

[Page 2292]

This government chooses to ignore requests for consultation from communities, such as my community of Port Mouton, looking at putting in a company looking to put an expansion in Port Mouton Bay for a fish farm.

This government has refused to consult with that community. This government has refused to consult with Nova Scotians who are faced with a quarry, the strip mining in Cape Breton is another example of this government's lack of understanding of its ability to recognize that Nova Scotians have elected us here.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We're speaking to the reason for a hoist over election Party funding.

The honourable member for Queens.

MS. CONRAD: So the examples that I've brought forward is the government's unwillingness to look at consultation as a democratic process in this province. They have the ability to do that in the next six months, to really consult with Nova Scotians and really consult with other political Parties, to consult with the experts out there, to form a commission to look at the best way to move forward on true electoral reform.

There should be no contributions from corporate citizens and there should be no contributions from the labour and trade unions, there should be none at all. That would completely make a transparent system and it would make a very even playing field for ordinary Nova Scotians who expect and deserve to be treated equally across this province. The average Nova Scotian, as we've heard from other members of my caucus here, what we've heard is that the ordinary Nova Scotian doesn't have $5,000 to contribute to political campaigns, to build the coffers of our Parties. The average Nova Scotian wants to put their faith in the political process by believing in the politicians who represent them through true voice and true representation, not simply because they have given a political monetary donation or a donation in kind. It has been perceived for far too long that corporate donations and union donations send a signal to the general public that deals are being made. Votes are being bought, deals are being made and corporations and unions must be buying something from government.

To pass this bill now and then to establish an all-Party selection committee is just totally backwards. That should be done now. That consultation should be happening now for a period of six months. Six months is not six years, it is not six and a half years, it is six months. Is the sky going to fall between now and six months? I think not. So what is the fear? What is the rationale? What is the reasoning for this rush to legislation? It makes no sense.

Establish the committee now, allow this committee to do the proper assessment, go through a democratic consultation and it shouldn't take much longer than six months. It will also restore faith in the democratic process. It will restore faith in politicians. We

[Page 2293]

need to set an example, to forgo the ways of the past, and move forward in a direction that will include transparency, integrity and a democratic process. The Liberal scandals from the 1970s have haunted them and will continue to darken their hallways until they do the right thing, until they do the noble thing, and until this government supports them in doing the right thing, and in doing the noble thing.

I want to read from some newspaper clippings from many years ago. From September 1992, I have a newspaper clipping here by Brian Underhill, provincial reporter, and Rick Conrad. The headline states, "Liberal trust fund solution called 'conscience money'. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough wants the province's chief electoral officer to investigate the use of political trust funds in Nova Scotia . . . the Liberal party's attempt to extract itself from a trust fund scandal by giving up $1.28 million found to be raised illegally- while keeping $3.4 million that it can't prove was raised legally or illegally- is unacceptable. 'I think what people were looking for was full public accounting and what they got instead is conscience money,' she said. . . She said the episode shows the inadequacy of political financing laws in this province and proves the Liberals can't even comply with the spirit of legislation'" And the "Liberal party president (of the day) John Young said Monday evening he agrees with Mrs. McDonough there should be tighter rules in the way political Parties are financed." That was in 1992.

Again, in 1992, the headline read," Tainted money should have all been given away. A former president of the province's Progressive Conservative Party says the Liberal Party should have given all of their trust fund money away." That was John Abbass. "That's all tainted money ," he said . "It was all gathered in the same manner. If they were going to do anything, they should have given it all up." That was in 1992. The Tory Party Leader was saying, in 1992, they should have given it all up then.

And here we are today, the government of the day, the Tory Government of today is saying, oh well, what we said 10 years ago really doesn't matter. (Interruptions) That's right, the people of Nova Scotia do want to know, and they haven't forgotten, and that's the thing. The perception is the people of Nova Scotia forget, but the real truth is people in Nova Scotia do not forget, and they don't forget because they have good strong voices that will remind them of issues past and injustices done and promises broken.

In September 1992, "Tories want all monies in Liberal trust funds."

". . . Premier Don Cameron, whose Conservative government at the time trails in the polls, says he's not about to let the issue die. The Liberals, he said Tuesday, should surrender all the money in their party's trust funds, because none can be proven to be 'clean'.

"Mr. Cameron said in an interview, however, there is no justification for keeping any trust fund money and he'll hound the Liberals until they surrender it all."

[Page 2294]

"Liberal Leader John Savage was taken aback by the premier's belated commentary, but had no trouble suggesting a motive. 'It's probably part of an election strategy,' he said. Mr. Savage also fired a shot back, saying the only thing that saved Tory fund-raisers from prosecution was the fact they destroyed their records before the RCMP got to them."

Perception. The Cape Breton Post, December 14, 2002, "Liberal party dismisses call to ditch controversial trust- fund accounts" by Peter McLaughlin of The Daily News:

"For a third day running, the Tories stepped up their attack on the Liberals and leader Danny Graham, urging them to either disclose the identities of the people who donated the former Hawco and Howmur funds or give up the $3.4 million now in a segregated investment account."

"But long-time Liberal George Hawkins said the money -- some of it allegedly raised through kickbacks and a levy on alcohol sold in government-operated liquor stores -- should not be kept."

So, you know, this is really bizarre when we have back in 2002 the Tories calling for the end of the use of the Liberal funds. What we are asking is for consultation over a six-month period so that in six months there will be enough consultation, enough discussion, enough input to determine what proper reforms should take place. I just want to go on here with Liberal George Hawkins' comments, saying "It's a millstone around the party's neck...." In that same year, our own Justice Minister announced that government would consider legislation to force political trust funds and to force the Liberals to get rid of those funds. The quote from the minister was, "The issue is clear, is Mr. Graham prepared to lead by example or just talk the talk of democratic reform...."

How ironic. How ironic that just four years ago our Justice Minister was calling on the Liberal Party to get rid of the trust funds. He was ready to put forth legislation if they didn't agree to do that and here we have, today, a complete flip-flop. I am really confused here and I think that if most Nova Scotians were aware and were watching these proceedings today and listened to each of these members on this side of the House, they would be quite confused.

[2:30 p.m.]

At the same time, they would be quite relieved that there are members in this House who will challenge and will question the government as to why they continue to say one thing a year, or two, or three years ago, and then today it's a different story. This is unacceptable. This is unacceptable in a democratic process.

This is why people in Nova Scotia are getting totally disenfranchised with politics. We are sending negative messages to the people of Nova Scotia and what we

[Page 2295]

have done, members on this side of the House, what we have done is we are demonstrating our commitment to Nova Scotians. We're demonstrating our commitment for a want for a better electoral reform process in this province. We are asking this government to take six months to examine this bill, to reach out and consult with Nova Scotians, to reach out and consult with political Parties, to reach out and consult with political Parties, to reach out and consult on the grassroots level of what the ordinary, average Nova Scotian sees as the best way to proceed.

I am going to take us back to another news clipping of December, 29, 2002. "Tory tarnish, Gritty grime: Leaders Hamm and Graham should both shed corrupt cash" - David Rodenhiser.. "John Hamm's Conservatives and Danny Graham's Liberals have a common stain on their hands: the mark of dirty money. Both Hamm and Graham inherited corrupt cash, and both - as the honourable men that they are - should clean up their respective houses. In the premier's defence, . . .", says David, ". . . the Tory tarnish hasn't been around as long as the Gritty grime." Another example of perception.

In that same article, "The Tories said earlier this month they are considering retroactive legislation to force political parties to identify trust-fund contributors. Unidentified cash that would be forfeited to the government." That is what we are asking - six months of consultation. Six months will prove, probably beyond a shadow of a doubt, what recommendations should be made for the best type of reform.

I am going to draw you to yet another bit of information. It came to my attention, it came to our attention and at no surprise to the Liberals because on April 8, 2005, the Liberal Party at their own annual meeting, voted to allow the Party to draw $500,000 from the trust funds to pay off 2003 election bills, out of the trust fund. They also took a motion and voted to draw up to another $500,000 to fight the next election campaign. That just flies in the face of what the previous government was saying in 2002. That could have, had the government of the day acted in 2002, prevented this misuse of illegal funds. But the government of the day, in 2002, talked the talk but failed to walk the walk. They failed to fix the problem. They failed to bring in strong legislation. They failed to bring in reform.

Now today, the government is attempting to bring in reform but it has no teeth, it is not real reform. There is no consultation. Consultation should take at least six months, to get a good view, a good perception, a good idea and sound recommendations before a bill like this is even brought into the House. It doesn't make sense. As a new voice here in the House, I am quite shocked at the delay and the inaction of government, I am totally shocked. I really expected more from this government, I expected things to have been a little bit different but they're not.

Today, in Marilla Stephenson's column, she emphasized that this bill is riddled with holes big enough to drive a Brinks truck through. To quote Marilla, "all the talk was about lifting the veil of secrecy around political donations and reducing public

[Page 2296]

skepticism about the potential for politicians to be beholden, or perceived to be beholden, to large donors." So, who is, who are the governments of the day beholden to? Why are they beholden?

Six months, that's what we're asking. Six months, we'd clear up an awful lot of perception. Six months could even clarify for the general public as to who government may be beholden to. Beholden to corporations for large donations? Who knows. I think that corporations and unions - I support our Leader's recommendations, and I support this caucus' motion to move forward with no corporate donations and no union donations. Zippo.

While this bill attempts to address electoral reform and how political Parties raise funds - which it really doesn't do in any substantial way - it is lacking in other areas. We should be discussing other electoral reform issues, like how political Parties spend election funds, and six months would seriously give us time to discuss that issue as well. We need to be very careful here in this province. We need to be careful, indeed, that we maintain integrity, transparency and accountability to how we spend election funds when they are raised, and we should be very cautious that we don't fall into the bottomless pit that the U.S. elections and candidates have fallen into. The mega-money that is raised in the U.S., and the election-style campaigns that they put on, is shameless, shameless for the money that is raised and spent.

We need to be responsible. We need to be careful. We need six months. We need six months for proper and thorough consultation. What is the rush? What is six months? It's not six years. It's six months, Mr. Speaker. A lot can happen in six months - good dialogue, good discussion, consultation, good government, and lots of well-thought-out recommendations. We do have to be careful how we spend money raised in election campaigns. The money that we're spending in our election campaigns comes from the voters. A lot of that money comes from the grassroots, ordinary Nova Scotians who expect us to be accountable, who expect us to be responsible, who expect us to do the right thing, to not squander the money in a way that they see leaflets flying out the door every two or three weeks with little or no content, to not have the big, splashy, glossy campaigns and driving around in gas-guzzling vehicles.

Nova Scotians deserve more, and they want more. They know what the issues are. They don't need to see on the sides of billboards, and the sides of vans, and pamphlets coming to their door every two weeks. They want us to be more responsible with the money they donate to our political Parties. They want us to engage in good dialogue. They want us to come up with practical solutions to their issues. That's what they want to be seeing. That's what they want to be hearing. That's what they want to donate for; for good policy, for good responsible governing. They want to know that the money they donate to the Party of their choice is supporting a strong voice, a strong voice that will stand up and bring their issues forward, that will stand up and be part of the political process, that will stand up and work towards good policy and good

[Page 2297]

governance. That's why people choose to donate to political Parties. They don't choose because they're a corporate citizen and they're hoping for a kick at the can somewhere. They don't choose because they're another entity who chooses to donate because they want a kick at the can or they want to be first in the queue somewhere.

They donate in all sincerity, that they are going to have a strong voice elected for them to speak out on issues like this. To speak out on good governance, for good governance. This government has an incredible opportunity before them. There is a motion on the floor that this side of the room fully supports, our caucus stands here together. The motion on the floor is asking this government to do the right thing, in giving the province good governance, good consultation, good dialogue. This bill needs to be seriously considered, and strong and good recommendations put forward.

A six-month period would ensure that would happen. A six-month period is all that is needed. There is no rush today that this needs to go through, that it cannot wait for six months. Again, government has a clear opportunity to have the proper consultation, proper examination that would enable effective and responsible recommendations to come forward.

The Liberals also have an opportunity. They also have a very real responsibility, once and for all, to put the sorry past of the Liberal trust funds to rest. The upcoming Liberal leadership race and the leadership hopefuls have a responsibility to their Party members and they have a responsibility to the rest of Nova Scotians to do the right thing here, to get rid of those trust funds, once and for all.

One of the members here, one of my colleagues here today, spoke very clearly and gave some very real and good ideas for that Liberal trust fund money. I heard one of my colleagues state very clearly that Liberal trust fund money would go a long way in supporting a lot of food banks across this province and we have a lot of them. We have people that will be going to those food banks - they're probably going to the food banks as we speak, but as we get closer to Christmas, the lineups at the food banks will probably be twice as long.

The Liberals have a clear responsibility here and this government has a responsibility to move the Liberals in that direction of taking the moral high ground, of doing the right thing. This government, in 1992 and in 2002, expressed concern over those Liberal trust funds. The government of the day expressed its want and its desire to move forward legislation that would prevent those trust funds from being used. The government of the day, as I said earlier, talked the talk but did not walk the walk.

[2:45 p.m.]

It's up to this government today, four years later, just a short four years later, to take those ideas forward from the government in 1992 and in 2002 to really do the right

[Page 2298]

thing and stop this flip-flopping back and forth. It just doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense. Four years plus six months. I always believed that when politicians - I don't believe in making promises, but certainly I commit to work hard, very hard. I always believed that when politicians say we will attempt to do something, or we will bring something forward, then that's what I have always expected to happen. I expect that most Nova Scotians expect the same thing and deserve to see that happen and perhaps that's why I'm here today.

The people in my constituency that I've been humbled by, that have put me here, know that I am very committed to working hard for the views of my constituents whatever political Party they belong to; that's not an issue. My voice comes unconditionally to the residents of my riding and that's exactly why I'm here. (Applause) I'm committed to bringing their voices forward, I'm committed to bring those voices forward. I can tell you when I share my thoughts around this bill, around the motion that we tabled here yesterday, when I share my Leader's thoughts, when I'm asked over the next couple of days what is going on at House, why are you in House for the next couple of days hour after hour with your caucus, I will tell them quite honestly why we are here today. That this government refuses to act on a piece of legislation that they attempted to bring forward four years ago and even 12 years ago or more and here we are today addressing an important issue like electoral reform.

We are asking this government for six months of consultation so that I can go back in my home communities and I can go back and I can explain to members of the riding of Queens in every community from Italy Cross to Petite Rivière to Cherry Hill to Broad Cove to East Port to Port Medway to Mill Village, Charleston, Danesville, Caledonia, Greenfield, Port Mouton, Port Joli, Liverpool, Brooklyn, Milton - and if I've forgotten any of them I apologize - Hunts Point, Summerville, White Point so that I can go to members of my community when they ask me, Vicki, can you explain what this motion means? Can you explain what perception in politics, what that means for us? They will give me recommendations, they will tell me what they expect and what they deserve of this government. They deserve no less and I will speak loudly for the members of my communities. I will speak to all of the issues they bring in my direction and I am sure that over the next few days, people will be asking a lot of questions of me and I am prepared to stand and answer them to the best of my ability. The constituents in Queens know me, they know that I'm a hard worker, that I'm committed and I'm committed to this voice and I'm committed to their issues.

This government really needs to take this motion seriously. This want to rush to legislation makes no sense. To continue to allow corporate and unions to contribute upwards to $5,000 to election Parties is just no longer a viable option. To continue to allow and legitimize the use of the Liberal trust funds that were taken illegally, that have not been cleansed is simply wrong. This is 2006; we are beyond that type of politics. We are beyond the type of politics where we undermine Nova Scotians' integrity. This is not democracy at all. Six months would give time to renew the faith for all stakeholders and

[Page 2299]

for Nova Scotia politics. It just may shed a better light on today's politicians that is so sorely needed. We need to attempt to set the best example we can and sometimes that is very difficult, I know. We're all human and sometimes it's very difficult to stand in good light and stand in good stead. We all have faults, but we all have to work very hard, we have to work very hard when we're here in this House, that we give the best perception possible, that we represent Nova Scotians in a way that is truly democratic.

Six months is not a long time, as I've said time and time again, and I'm sure you will hear time and time again over the next coming hours, perhaps the next coming days, and it's unfortunate that this government refuses to acknowledge a substantial, a well thought out motion on the floor, and why? What is the rush? If one member, if one minister can stand up and give a legitimate reason, a legitimate, clear, concise reason as to why this needs to be passed here today, before January 1st, I would like to know what it is. I would like to be able to go back to my constituency of Queens and tell my members of my communities why this needs to be rushed through, why it doesn't make sense.

So until I hear that type of answer, until I hear that, I'm asking you to accept the motion before this House, the motion that our leader put forward yesterday to tell the Province of Nova Scotia that we do have a democratic process, that the government does care about electoral reform, and in a way that it's not perceived that anybody is padding their pockets or their coffers, that it's not perceived that there is still a right to use money that has been illegally obtained from elsewhere. I mean, you know, wow, there are some people in our society who are still sitting behind prison bars for fraud. We wouldn't allow that to happen. We wouldn't allow that to happen in some sections of our society, we just wouldn't. We wouldn't.

If I had six months, I could probably bring several examples of people who have been incarcerated for less. I could probably, given six months, come up with enough examples and cases of individuals who today are being incarcerated or still suffering the consequences of this type of criminal activity. If the courts did deal with it, they made it very clear that wasn't a cleansing process that actually happened with the money, you know, and I quoted from news items from 2002, from 1992, that established the fact that money is still dirty money.

The Liberals going into their leadership race in the next couple of months really need to raise the bar for themselves. They really need to demonstrate, without a shadow of a doubt, to Nova Scotians that they have pulled their socks up, that they have come together, and that they are a different Party, that they have a different idea of moving forward. I firmly believe that there are members of the Liberal Party who sit here with us today - that those good members - I clearly know that those good members who sit with us today have good intentions and they wish that the consensus of the Party was to make sound judgment about not using those Liberal trust funds.

[Page 2300]

That's why some of them, I think, are not speaking in their place today. I hope, I really hope that the members here today from the Liberal caucus, those good members who really choose and really want to see good reform happen. I hope that those Liberals today will stand up in their place and will speak to this very serious motion on the floor.

I hope that the government here today - and it may take the next couple of days, it may take the next couple of weeks to convince this government to do the right and honourable thing, but we all want good governance here, we all are here for the same reasons - we want to represent our communities and our constituents well. We want to do the best thing, but sometimes we just simply don't get it. Perhaps over the next few days, the next few weeks, maybe this government will get it and they will move forward with this motion, and they won't be in such a big rush to move this forward and they will go through a reasonable consultation process, a period of six months, that will enable good discussion and much-needed dialogue.

It's not about losing face, it's about doing the right thing. It's about being honourable members. We should take that word very seriously when we're called "honourable" members - it's not to be taken lightly, it's not to be taken with a grain of salt. We have to work our hardest to make sure we are honourable in the face of Nova Scotians, for Nova Scotians, for ourselves, for our own self-growth, if nothing else - if nothing else at all resonates in this House today after hearing all of the honourable members who will stand up after me, if nothing else resonates, if we can't do a group effort, at least for ourselves, individually, to be able to do the right thing, to make the right decision, to go through a proper consultation process.

We might have to work harder because of all of the perceptions, the perceptions of the past, those scandals, the fearmongering, the intimidation that has happened in the past. Nova Scotians, they're very fragile right now when you ask them about politics. They don't trust us - they don't trust us within a breath of their life, some of them, because they have seen the corruption of politics in years past. They have been on the other end of corruption from politics past, and some of them have been intimidated to the point where they won't even go to the polls any more.

[3:00 p.m.]

We need to change that; we need to hear their voices. I know when I go back into my communities, I will be prepared to stand and answer the constituents' questions about why I stood here today and why I will stand here tomorrow, if necessary, next week, if necessary, and speak to this same issue, because it is my moral responsibility (Applause) just as it is this government's moral and honourable responsibility.

I'm really looking forward to hearing from our Liberal colleagues; I'm really looking forward to hearing those good members speak to this, because I think that in all honesty they really want to do the right thing. I suspect that we will hear from those

[Page 2301]

Liberal members. They have a responsibility to Nova Scotians as they move through this next couple of months, when they move forward to their leadership race. They don't want this stain in their hallways as they move forward. They want a clean slate, they want to be able to hold their heads high when they talk to their members across this province, when they talk to the rest of Nova Scotians, and give them a foundation to work from.

I know those good members want to do that. We need to all stand together, and this government needs to show those members support in helping them move forward with that, in helping them build that foundation, by taking this motion, acting on it, taking it forward in six months' time after proper consultation. That is what Nova Scotians are expecting from our members.

In conclusion, I want to say that it has been my pleasure to stand here and speak to this motion. I fully support all members of my caucus, just as I know they support me when I stand here today and speak to this. We are united, and we will continue to be united as we work through the next several months, perhaps several years, of this House, who knows how long that will be, but we will be united now and after. This is a minority government, and we have the responsibility to try to work together for all Nova Scotians. For all Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. We have heard many members say how important it is to work for all Nova Scotians, and I work very hard for my constituents in Queens. Thank you.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I stand on a point of personal privilege. I take exception to some of the remarks made here today. I want to take people back in time a bit. In 1999, I ran for office, and I ran under the Progressive Conservative mandate. I won by 59 votes. The opponent who I beat wanted to have a recount. Well, after the recount, I ended up with 69 votes.

Mr. Speaker, in 2003, we went back to the polls, and I listened to the people from 1999 to 2003. I was to every community function, I supported the people in my community. In 2003, the people elected me with a majority of 2,011 over the opposition. I might add that one of my opponents did not even get the rebate from the province. I just went through an election in 2006, and I won by 3,568 votes. That's what you do. You have to show leadership. That's what people elect us to come to this House for, to show leadership and listen to the people in your community. They will tell you at the next election if you have done the job properly for them.

Mr. Speaker, I take exception to those members saying that people do not trust us. I can tell you that the people of Yarmouth trust this member.

MR. SPEAKER: On the point of the so-called personal privilege on which the honourable minister stood up, it is certainly not a point of personal privilege. (Interruption) It was a good point, thank you from the honourable minister.

[Page 2302]

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. LEONARD PREYRA: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure to stand here today and speak to this bill and to this motion, because I believe it's a far-reaching measure and it has tremendous implications for the future of Nova Scotia politics and Party politics and campaign finance.

Bill No. 117, the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act amendments do several things, and I would like to speak to them before going on to talk about why we need six months to discuss this bill and to give Nova Scotians a chance to speak to this bill. It allows corporations and unions to contribute $5,000 to political Parties; it allows trust funds to be used in non-election periods; it provides a subsidy of $1.50 per vote to recognize Parties; it gives a 75 per cent tax credit for donations up to $1,000; and it establishes modest fines for those violating the Act. Each of these measures in and of themselves are important, Mr. Speaker, but taken together they represent an important step, backward, we think, in the dialogue about electoral reform and campaign finance.

Mr. Speaker, when the government told us during the election campaign that they were going to look into electoral reform and when a few days ago at the end of last week they told us they were going to reform the electoral process and campaign finance, we believed them. We thought they wanted to clean up Party politics. We thought they wanted to clean up electoral politics, but what we get instead is a sweeping under the carpet of all of these past wrongdoings. It's essentially a denial of the opportunity that we were hoping for to talk about legitimate electoral reform. Yes, it is sweeping under the carpet and we're going to talk about that a little later.

We want this bill delayed six months because we want to give the government a chance to reflect. We want to give Nova Scotians a chance to speak to this bill to discuss it and debate it, so that when we do get a measure passed on electoral reform and campaign finance, we'll have a piece of legislation that will have a broad consensus and will do the right thing not just for Parties in the House today but for Nova Scotians tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development got up earlier today and said that Nova Scotians are not disgusted with Party politics, he's wrong. Nova Scotians are alarmed at the role of money in politics. They are disgusted at the corrupt tactics of Parties that have used their government positions, that have used their ministerial portfolios to extort money from their corporate clients.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member opposite makes reference to the cynicism which he purports to speak for all of us here in Nova Scotia. He may be speaking for himself, but I just want to let you know and let all members of the House know the reason why the NDP are debating this on a point of order.

[Page 2303]

Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a document here - political donations to the Nova Scotia NDP in the year 1999, which totals $406,000 from donations of over $5,000. Those are political donations from about 15 different labour unions and associations. The effect - I'm getting to the point - of this would be that if this legislation passed now then that would reduce the NDP to $70,000 with new legislation. In other words they stand to lose, if this hoist doesn't go through, over $400,000. They want the six-months' hoist because they're trying to get to an election before this election reform comes in.

Mr. Speaker, you may rule it's not a point of order, but it's a good point.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South is correct, it's not a point of order.

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are disgusted with the state of Party politics and we need to address that perception. Nova Scotians have a widespread perception - and I'm going to talk about the evidence in a minute - that political Parties are using their positions to get money from their supporters, to get money from the people they give contracts to. Nova Scotians are disgusted at the extent to which large donors seem to receive government contracts as kickbacks in return for their contributions.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are disgusted and they have a right to be disgusted and this government has given them no reason to think any differently. Whether corporate donations actually influence the outcome of particular policy decisions or contractual arrangements is beside the point. The appearance of undue influence or influence peddling is just as important as the act itself.

Let me quote from the Lortie Commission on electoral reform and Party financing. The Lortie Commission, as you know, looked into this issue for two years and I had the pleasure of working with that commission. There are a number of volumes and 38 research studies that look into this issue. There is a great deal of thought that went into it, it's not just anecdotal evidence, it's not just the perceptions of one MLA.

Here's what the Lortie Commission said in part, it says that, ". . . contributions were made with an expectation that they would lead to direct material benefit . . .", this is a perception, ". . . for the donor or they actually led to such a benefit . . . To the degree contributors . . . are able to exert such undue influence, the integrity of the political and electoral process is jeopardized. Moreover, if such a perception exists, public confidence will be undermined." In other words the perception is important. Public confidence is undermined and we were looking for a government that would restore integrity in the system. When I say the public, I'm not talking about just people on the street in general, I'm talking about corporations as well.

[Page 2304]

Let me quote again from Allan Taylor, former CEO of the Royal Bank. He urged the federal government to ban corporate and union donations. Many corporations are asking for this. He said, "[t]he purpose [of an outright ban] is to strip away any possible suggestions of unfairness, or impropriety, or undue influence [on politicians] . . . Financially effective as it may be, the current system of corporate fundraising doesn't help witH[the] broader purpose [of] continuing the democratization of our politics."

Certainly, if you follow the testimony at the Gomery Inquiry, one of the alarming things we heard from the Gomery Inquiry was that governments were essentially using their position to extort money from the corporations. This is what Justice Gomery heard, that many people in the advertising and communication and promotions business were pressured into making corporate donations or pressured into hiring employees because they felt they were being blackmailed by the government.

The question of corporate donations cuts right across the board. All Nova Scotians, right across the board, are disgusted and afraid at the extent to which Party politics has the potential to be corrupted by these campaign donations. It wasn't just the Lortie Commission, most recently the Gomery Inquiry talked about much the same issues. Justice Gomery in a very rigorous and very thorough and wide-ranging study of this very issue of campaign contributions and government procurement had this to say, "The Commission found that Canadians have strong, often passionate views . . .", of campaign funds and Party politics. "The Inquiry has ignited a reflective and important debate on the operation of our country's political and administrative institutions."

[3:15 p.m.]

I dare say, Mr. Speaker, this legislation has its roots in the post-Gomery era. It was Justice Gomery and the allegations coming out of the Gomery Inquiry that drove this process and I would like to believe the government has drawn its inspiration from Gomery.

But what Justice Gomery has said is, ". . . Canadians are proud of their political system. But we also learned that this pride has taken a beating since the revelation of what has been called the Sponsorship scandal. Many Canadians did not waste words, expressing nothing less than disgust with the system." - there's that word "disgust" again. "'I have never been so sickened in my life by the political corruption that seems to be ingrained in the Canadian political system. A Canadian politician is a four-letter word,' wrote one website respondent. Many felt the Government had let Canada down. 'I no longer know what values this country has. I can only wonder what the effect is on the younger generation.'"

In short, Mr. Speaker, there is widespread concern and alarm about campaign finance in Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotians have made it very clear that they want to participate in this process of electoral reform and campaign finance reform. We have to

[Page 2305]

give them a chance to do it. Nova Scotians want to know that the government is not going to use their hard-earned money to reward their financial backers or to punish those who do not contribute to them. Nova Scotians want to be reassured that corporate and union donations cannot and are not used to influence contracts and procurements, and that the political contributions can't influence their decisions.

In short, any reform of the electoral system, the campaign finance system must deal with this widespread perception and help to restore confidence in the integrity of our electoral system and our campaign system. If that's the goal of this piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, then we applaud it, but we don't see it that way. This bill does not do anything to restore integrity or restore confidence in the political system, and judging from the reaction outside on the streets, we know that Nova Scotians are not buying this as a step forward. It really is a step backwards.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is a perception, maybe the government doesn't intend to have it come across that way, but that is how it is being read and that is how it's being read on this side of the House. Bill No. 117 makes it acceptable for corporations and unions to donate large sums of money to political Parties. Bill No. 117, it is large for ordinary Nova Scotians who are not earning that much money. It might not be large to members on the government side. Bill No. 117 makes it legitimate for Parties to use trust funds, slush funds, kickbacks and the like.

Even the language is so reassuring, these are not ill-gotten gains or back alley transactions, no, they are held assets, perhaps hold-up assets is closer to the truth, Mr. Speaker. Bill No. 117 legalizes this process, it legitimates this process, a process that was practised by the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia. Bill No. 117 allows the Liberal Party to live off the benefits from the avails of crime. The Liberal Party, they're the O.J. Simpsons of Nova Scotia politics. (Interruptions)

Perhaps they can write a book about the $3.4 million; perhaps they can write a book about the $3.4 million and how they could have raised it if they had raised it illegally. My point, Mr. Speaker, is the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are colluding here, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are colluding here to defend a discredited, dying electoral and campaign finance regime.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say something about the principles . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I recognize and acknowledge that the member is a new member to the House, but clearly he is impugning some motive over there. I would ask you, respectfully, to give consideration to some of the statements that honourable member is making, because I would like to think that all members in this House are honourable. Some of the statements he is making are most disrespectful. It's no wonder that politics and politicians, when you

[Page 2306]

hear comments like that, are cast in the light they are, because he's absolutely not helping the cause one little bit. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, minister. I would ask the speaker to turn back to the amendment that is before the House, please.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I've offended the member on the other side. I'd like to say something about the principles which should guide campaign finance reform, and why we need six months to discuss this issue and to address it properly.

The first principle, Mr. Speaker, is a principle of legitimacy. Every Nova Scotian and every political system needs to reassure its members that the outcomes are fair, that the outcomes are fairly arrived at, that when people are appointed to particular positions, they're based on merit and not things like contributions; when government contracts are handed out, they're handed out on merit, that patronage and partisanship doesn't guide decision making. Legitimacy is an important concept and it's more the perception thing, I agree with the honourable members on the other side that perhaps they individually are not behaving that way, I agree with that. I'm talking here about the perception of illegitimacy in the political system.

Another principle is the principle of transparency. It's important that we shine a light on election expenses, campaign contributions and campaign spending. We need to make sure that this transparency, particularly as it relates to campaign finance, produces full and timely disclosure of information. That's what transparency is about, it's part of the accountability which I'm going to be talking about later.

Another principle is the principle of fairness, that members and voters need to feel that there is equal access to the political system, that whether you're rich or whether you're poor shouldn't matter in getting access to your MLA, to your Cabinet Minister, to your senior bureaucrat. It's important to get access, not only access to the system but access in terms of electoral participation as well, that whether you're rich or poor, whether you're a big donor or a small donor, you will still have a voice and still an opportunity to participate in the electoral process.

Any reform has to also be comprehensive, Mr. Speaker. It has to have breadth. It has to cover all forms of electoral and Party financing. It has to have accountability and a principle of accountability and enforceability built into it. The rules have to be clear to prevent and discourage improper participation, improper contribution to the system and to punish wrongdoing. Voters need to know who is responsible when things go wrong.

It means stakeholder participation, Mr. Speaker, that regardless of the policy that's chosen, regardless of the Act itself, we need to allow Nova Scotians an

[Page 2307]

opportunity to participate in this fundamentally important issue and to have as broad-based a discussion as we possibly can.

Let me repeat these six principles, Mr. Speaker: legitimacy, transparency, fairness, comprehensiveness, accountability and stakeholder participation. We know from the discussions that we have had on this side of the House and from our response that this bill fails on all of these principles. We know that these are important principles. We know that Nova Scotians believe they are important principles and we want to give them an opportunity to participate in this important process.

Let me start with this question of legitimacy then. There's a widespread perception that the government Party, in particular - and again I'm not accusing this government, I'm talking about the Party in government - benefits disproportionately from contributions received. Why do people contribute, Mr. Speaker, to the government Party? I think Nova Scotians know the answer to it. There's an expectation of reward, there's an expectation that their small contributions will provide a high return on their investment. We have to make sure that we guard not just against the possibility of using government and taxpayer resources illegally, but we also have to guard against the perception that this money will be used differently.

Again, if I can go back to Justice Gomery, one of Justice Gomery's main findings in his preliminary report was that there is an appearance that favoured insiders can get what they want, where they want it, in spite of the rules. That's a perception that's widespread here in Nova Scotia, and I said earlier that's the perception that is driving this particular issue. It's because of that perception we are here in this House standing up here for probably 20, 40, 60, 80 hours, as long as it takes to get the message out to the government Party that Nova Scotians care about it and we are standing up here in this House to bring to the floor of this Legislature these perceptions and this concern of the people of Nova Scotia.

We've already talked about the Lortie Commission and I'm not going to go back to it, but this question of legitimacy has a long history. Let me go back to one of the earliest examples of this - 1871, the Pacific Scandal, it's a fascinating part of Canadian history and the shame of this issue is that the theme, the melody, is very much the same.

For those of you who don't know the story, "TO FULFILL A PROMISE MADE TO BRITISH COLUMBIA IN 1871 TO ENTICE THE PROVINCE TO JOIN CONFEDERATION, A RAILWAY WAS TO BE BUILT WITHIN TEN YEARS ACROSS CANADA STRETCHING TO VANCOUVER." Macdonald wanted this route for the Pacific Railway and, "AWARDED THE CHARTER FOR ITS CONSTRUCTION TO MONTREAL BUSINESS TYCOON SIR HUGH ALLAN . . . ALLAN SPENT OVER $365,000 ON THE CAMPAIGN . . . HAD ALSO HELPED THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY IN THE ELECTION OF SEPTEMBER 1, 1872 . . . PROVIDING MACDONALD WITH $35,000, GEORGE-ÉTIENNE CARTIER WITH

[Page 2308]

$50,000, HECTOR LANGEVIN WITH $115,000. MACDONALD, CARTIER AND LANGEVIN WERE EACH CONSERVATIVE ORGANIZERS IN A NUMBER OF CONSTITUENCIES AND USED THE MONIES FOR ELECTORAL PURPOSES."

The real danger and the real allegation that was eventually confirmed, that brought Macdonald down, was a telegram that he sent to Sir Hugh Allan six days before the election. Macdonald had overspent his money on the campaign and he sent a desperate telegram to Allan saying, "I MUST HAVE ANOTHER $10,000. WILL BE THE LAST TIME OF CALLING. DO NOT FAIL ME. ANSWER TODAY." That's what brought Sir John A. down, when this telegram was leaked. As it turns out, Sir John A. had promised Hugh Allan that if he gave him that money, that last ditch desperate search for money, that he in fact would be awarded the lucrative contract to construct the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway.

Sir John A. employed a number of tactics to delay, to avoid political consequences, but there was no avoiding the political backlash and unrelenting attacks of the Opposition. We have the same type of situation here, we're going to have the same kind of backlash against this legislation in Nova Scotia today.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member permit a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit a question?

MR. PREYRA: No.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel has the floor.

MR. PREYRA: Sorry. Mr. Speaker, the members on the other side have all the time in the world to speak but they're choosing not to and I'm wondering why they're choosing my time to speak. This question of legitimacy is an important one, we want to prevent wealthy groups from gaining an unfair advantage over those who make fewer contributions. We want to ban corporate and union donations to protect the principle of legitimacy.

[3:30 p.m.]

Let me talk about comprehensiveness, about the breadth of this legislation. A number of speakers today have referred to the leadership selection process. I have here the headline from The ChronicleHerald dated February 16th, 2006, an article entitled "Show us the money, Tories keep tight lid on who funded leadership campaigns".

[Page 2309]

"A national group that lobbies for ethics in government took a swipe at Nova Scotia Conservatives on Wednesday over the party's refusal to release campaign finance records prior to Saturday's leadership vote. The secrecy surrounding donations and spending in each of the three leadership camps is a recipe for corruption, warned Democracy Watch.' Money talks and he who has paid the piper calls the tune,' said the group's co-ordinator"

AN HON. MEMBER: Table that.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I would happy to table it if the members are interested in reading that again.

Today in the paper we have a similar accusation from Marilla Stephenson. It says "Tory political fundraising bill riddled with holes" - and the hole she talks about, Mr. Speaker, is the hole on leadership convention candidate selection. She says "You could drive a Brinks truck through the holes in the MacDonald Tories' new political fundraising legislation. And somebody probably will." It says that this is a Party that wants to make reform but it is also "the party that refused to divulge backers of its three leadership candidates until after the race was long over . . . The draft legislation that includes limits and reporting for political parties . . . does not touch leadership races within the parties"

Well, we have that data, Mr. Speaker. I agree with Marilla Stephenson, I agree with Democracy Watch, and I agree with the federal election spending legislation that says we have to clean up Party politics internally. Again, I am not just talking about the Progressive Conservative Party, I'm talking about Party politics in general, that we do need to clean up that process that we call leadership selection and candidate selection.

Let me just give you an example, Mr. Speaker. I have in front of me the Premier's own disclosure form from his leadership race. It was not released until several months after the leadership race itself. I wanted to say that when we were talking earlier about timely disclosure - and I'm going to talk about that again under accountability - that timely disclosure is important, it is important for voters, it is important for members to know before they vote how their money is being spent or how money is being raised.

If you go through the list of contributors, Mr. Speaker, you'll see that there are a great many of them who subsequently went on to receive lucrative government contracts and lucrative positions. I am not going to name them here, but I wanted to say that it is all in here. If you go through the list of important contracts and controversial contracts that were handed out, there is some correlation. I am not saying that there is corruption here, I'm saying that there is a correlation, there is a perception of a correlation between the awarding of certain contracts and the appointments to certain positions that we need to deal with, because there is a perception that political contributions to leadership races to candidate selections lead to certain types of

[Page 2310]

behaviour by the Party in government, especially in cases where the Party members are selecting a candidate who is going to go on to become the Premier of this province. In other words, if the Party is selecting the Leader of their Party and that Party has the majority in the House, they are effectively selecting a Premier.

That sets a much higher bar that we do need to know in a timely manner where money is being raised and how it is being spent. I am not going to name any names, but I do want to draw attention in particular to the existence of a number of numbered corporations for example, in the report. Should numbered companies be allowed to contribute to leadership campaigns, or do we want to have complete disclosure? Do we want full disclosure? Do we want the names of the principals? Do we want their addresses?

There are a number of companies from offshore, and this legislation allows companies that are doing business in Nova Scotia to contribute. It doesn't say exactly what they mean by that, but my point generally, Mr. Speaker, is that leadership selection is important and leadership selection, especially in the government Party, is important and we need to deal with the perception that Parties in government have a connection to their clients that we have to keep above- board.

I could go through some of the others. Bill Black, for example, the Premier's opponent at the time, put a $100,000 - he wrote a cheque for $100,000, Mr. Speaker, on his own campaign. He raised $235,000. Should there be limits on the size of individuals' donations to leadership races, to constituency races? Does the existence and the ability to spend $100,000 level the playing field?

THE PREMIER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. With all due respect to the member, Mr. Bill Black is an honourable man in Halifax, and he's an honourable man in this province. There is no connection to what he's talking about - the six months' hoist - and Mr. Bill Black, who is an honourable man who is serving this province well. I think the member should get back on track.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier is absolutely correct. I will ask the honourable member to return back to the amendment that is before the House, please.

MR. PREYRA: Mr. Speaker, I accept completely without any reservation the Premier's intervention. Mr. Black is an honourable man. I have no reason to doubt him. In fact, many times on the campaign and in this House, I have said that he is a great Nova Scotian and has brought a great deal to Nova Scotia politics, and will continue to do so, I'm sure.

My point is that we need to clean up the process of leadership selection and we need to limit the size of donations that people can make to leadership selection processes, and Nova Scotians need six months to look at the full implications of this bill,

[Page 2311]

including the candidate selection process, including the nomination process, and including the candidates for the Conservative leadership race, Mr. Speaker, in particular, because that race gave us a Premier, and we need to know more about the people who paid for that campaign.

Mr. Speaker, we have a leadership race coming up for the Liberal race, as well. The Liberals are about to engage in a leadership race, and they're going to report only to their political Party. The Liberals have the expectation that they will form the next government, that their Leader will become the next Premier. Surely, they have an obligation to tell us more about their funding. Surely they have an obligation to tell us about their financing. They need to disclose who is going to contribute to their campaigns. They need legislation to cover their financing, and they need to assure us that they will disclose that financing before their members vote.

They need to know it because this is not just Party politics, Mr. Speaker, these Parties rely a great deal on government funding. If we accept this legislation as it stands, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia will be paying for 75 per cent of those contributions. The taxpayers of Nova Scotia will be faced with a Premier who was elected through that process. They have to disclose their financing, they have to disclose it in a timely manner.

That's why, Mr. Speaker, we are so concerned about the trust funds. I want to quote again on this. This is what the Gomery inquiry said, "There should be real consequences to public officials being caught in mismanaging public funds, such as job loss, pension loss, . . . severance packages, and even prison time. At present, they are given a slap on the wrist and allowed to continue on as before." Mr. Gomery went on to say that there was a culture of entitlement in certain political Parties. This ideal on the trust funds is a bow to that culture of entitlement, there is a feeling that they're entitled to these ill-gotten gains.

Mr. Speaker, if we believe that people shouldn't benefit from the proceeds of crime, that should apply to political Parties, as well. If this legislation says that we should know the names and the addresses of people who have contributed to a particular political Party, and if we can't in this process identify who the sources of those funds are then it doesn't fit the principle of this legislation.

For all these reasons, the Liberal Party has to come to terms with this legislation. It's too short-sighted and it's too self-interested to say that, we have this windfall of money that we're going to spend anyway, for this House then to give that Party the blessings of this House and say, that's okay, we don't care how you got that money, just go ahead and spend it but don't spend it on elections, you can spend it through the backdoor. It is benefitting and there's certainly a perception of benefit from these ill-gotten gains. It's important in this leadership race that's coming up that the candidates

[Page 2312]

speak to this issue, it is important for them to speak because campaign finance has become the most important problem.

Nova Scotians are concerned about campaign finance. If there's one issue that's contributing to the cynicism, the sense of disgust with Party politics, it revolves around campaign finance and it's incumbent upon the Liberal Party to come clean and tell us whether or not they're going to disclose their finances before the final vote and whether or not they're going to use the trust funds for the campaigns. It's important, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians need to know this and they need to know it within the next six months.

I want to say something about accountability, Mr. Speaker. Justice Gomery again says, There is a woeful lack - a "need to pinpoint who is responsible when things go wrong, and who is to blame." This legislation says nothing about accountability. We need real transparency; we need timely disclosure; we need an enforceable piece of legislation; we cannot have a number of companies contributing to political campaigns, we need the full address; we need to ban corporate and union contributions; we need to ban money being channeled to political parties through any means; and we need to find an enforceable system accounting for it.

Justice Gomery also talked about lobbyists, he talked about the inability of governments and lobbyists to deal with the question of goods and services, the links between goods and services and government procurement. We believe that this legislation should apply to the transfer of any money and any service. We know that there's a practice in the political Parties to exchange services, for people to be seconded to political campaigns and the accountability around that is questionable.

[3:45 p.m.]

I also want to say something about the principle of fairness. The principle of fairness talks about equal access. Nova Scotians feel they should have equal access to the political process, that there's a feeling that both in contributions and expenses access is limited. Access is limited by contributions because there's a feeling that you can buy your way into a political Party's inner circles, that you can buy your way into the policy-making process, that you can buy your way into a government contract or a government job. The principle of fairness talks about fair competition, the principle of fairness talks about merit. It's important in campaigns and elections that we have a level playing field and that we have a perception that we have a level playing field, that every Nova Scotian has a chance to be heard in an electoral campaign, an opportunity to run for a Party's nomination and to run for election itself, that we need to make sure that this is a merit-driven process.

Mr. Speaker, we need to broaden the base of participation and Party politics, and we know and we believe that the best way to broaden the base of participation in Nova Scotia politics is to eliminate the involvement of large corporations and unions and to

[Page 2313]

reduce the size of campaign contributions themselves. That is what fairness demands, it demands that people be allowed a choice, in terms of Parties, in terms of candidates, in terms of modes of participation.

I want to say something about stakeholder participation, Mr. Speaker. I find it ironic that the government has described this bill as an exercise in transparency, as an exercise in disclosure because everything about this bill points in the opposite direction. This bill was presented without warning late last week and the government expects us to push this through because they are in a hurry to get back home. This bill is too important. There had to be more consultation, there had to be more public discussion and debate. The government at the very least should have introduced this initiative in the last campaign. If they are that confident in their ability, they should have done it then and we wouldn't have been asking for six months at that point. Now we are asking for six months because it wasn't discussed in the last election and, in fact, the government gave us the impression that it was interested in widespread change and we don't see that.

This bill was arrived at without any consultation with the Electoral Commission. There is a body that is supposed to be there to help us make electoral reform, Mr. Speaker. If we're not going to consult with that body now, then when are we going to do it? This bill was passed without any involvement from Elections Nova Scotia. I tried to talk with a number of people about the consultative process. In my other life, as you know, I was a political scientist and none of the political scientists I know were consulted on this bill and we have some political scientists who have been intimately involved in the electoral process in the reform of campaign finance legislation in Ottawa and in other provinces. We have a wealth of resources here, Mr. Speaker, that we can use. So really it is a question of, well who did you talk to? Who did you consult? If this bill is about disclosure, then tell us who you consulted and tell us what the broader base for this legislation is.

We need six months, Mr. Speaker, because this bill was presented without any consultation, without any discussion with any of the stakeholders involved. Nova Scotians want a say and we have to give them six months.

The government argues that this bill is similar to legislation that was introduced in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Well, those provinces do not allow corporate or union donations. If the government really wants to emulate those provinces, then they should accept this amendment to ban corporate and union donations or, at the very least, they should go to Nova Scotians and say, what do you think about this Opposition suggestion that we ban corporate and union donations? Let's go to Nova Scotians and say, do you want a $5,000 limit or do you want no corporate or union donations?

If they are that confident in their position, then the six months won't hurt them. If they're that sure that Nova Scotians will accept the idea that the Liberal Party should

[Page 2314]

be allowed to use their trust funds for campaigns, then let's take the six months and go to Nova Scotians and say, what do you think about this particular amendment?

So there is a lot more to be done here, Mr. Speaker, with this bill. It is a great opportunity for us, probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when we have a minority government to say we can have a real debate in this House. Perhaps the Liberal Party could have the guts to stand up and speak to this legislation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows full well that certainly is not parliamentary language to use in this Chamber. I will ask the honourable member to withdraw those comments, please.

MR. PREYRA: . . . to this issue and speak to it in this House so we can have this debate here.

Now's the time to do it instead of the resounding silence that we hear on the other side of the House. Deafening silence. Nova Scotians want more than deafening silence on this issue. They want discussion, they want debate and we're not getting it here, Mr. Speaker.

I want to say something more about the overall reaction of Justice Gomery to it. Justice Gomery here is not talking about specific allegations, he's at the end of his term in his examination of the sponsorship scandal and he was talking here about his inquiry and what the thousands and thousands of Canadians who contacted him said about his inquiry.

Here's what he said, he says Canadians feel the sponsorship scandal is "a manifestation of a broader systemic cultural or moral problem in government. These problems include politicization, cynicism, moral cowardice, personal opportunism, indifference to the waste of public funds, a routine disregard for Parliament and the public interest, and a lack of respect for the rules."

That's a pretty damning indictment of the political system, when someone of Justice Gomery's stature comes up and says something and you know at the end of the commission he was much more careful than he was in the earlier stages. So he says it's a manifestation of a broader systemic cultural or moral problem in government. These problems include politicization, cynicism, moral cowardice, personal opportunism, indifference to the waste of public funds, a routine disregard for Parliament and the public interest and a lack of respect of the rules.

I daresay this legislation doesn't address that overall perception and that's where I began. There is this perception that political Parties are self-interested and essentially digging into public funds for their own selfish needs.

[Page 2315]

So we need six months because, at least as far as Nova Scotians perceive it, the rot runs pretty deep and I'm not talking about the political Parties in the House, I'm talking about a widespread cultural shift that we've seen in Nova Scotia politics. Where we believe so strongly in the political system, in the legitimacy of our institutions, we believe in the legitimacy of political Parties and the media and our corporations, our unions, et cetera.

But a lot has changed. I daresay politicians - I include myself, since I'm now in that group - are largely responsible for that, that political Parties have an obligation to dig ourselves out of the pit over this issue. We need to dig ourselves out of this pit and take the high road and say, we're going to clean up Party politics and we're going to clean it up by starting by banning corporate contributions and union contributions. We're going to deal with it by coming up with a stronger lobbyist registration act. We're going to deal with it by providing for better disclosure.

We're going to deal with a piece of legislation which restores confidence and trust and integrity in the system itself. This piece of legislation doesn't do this and that's why we're so opposed to it.

To summarize, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to come back to those first principles that we talked about. This piece of legislation takes place in the context of those first principles. These are the principles that underpin that feeling in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians are telling us that they want political Parties and governments to respect these principles. Let me start, then, by summarizing it again.

Let me start by talking about legitimacy. What do we need to do here with this legislation to restore that spirit of legitimacy? How do we reassure Nova Scotians that this election, the coming election and elections to come, and Party politics and Party activities, are going to meet that test of legitimacy? How do we reassure Nova Scotians that the outcomes of electoral campaigns, that the outcomes of leadership campaigns, the outcomes of candidate selection processes, that the way in which government contracts are awarded, that the way in which Parties fill their positions will be legitimate, that they will be based on merit, that they would be based on principles that we can all be proud of?

Mr. Speaker, we don't have the answer to that here. We have to go back to Nova Scotians and test them, saying, do you believe that this piece of legislation, that this way of limiting contributions, that the giving of Parties $1.50 for each vote, of penalizing them $50,000 or $5,000 - whatever - is legitimate? Is this a legitimate response to that widespread concern that you have? Why don't we go to Nova Scotians over the next six months and say to them, what do you think about this? We have heard you, we know of this widespread cynicism, we know that you question the integrity of your institutions, and we want to do something that will make you proud again of your system. We want

[Page 2316]

to do something that will make you proud again of this Legislature, that we'll create a system where more than 60 per cent of the people will come out and vote.

So we need to go back to address this question of legitimacy by asking Nova Scotians, if this proposal that we're looking at is legitimate? We need to go back to Nova Scotians and say, what do you think about transparency, what do you think about disclosure? How much would you like to know about who is contributing? How much would you like to know about who is spending, when they're spending, what they're spending on, why they're spending? What level of transparency do you want? What institution, if any, do you want to create to ensure that there will be transparency? To what extent should we tighten up our Freedom of Information laws to make sure that the media in particular and the public in general have access to campaign contributions and expense information in a timely manner?

[4:00 p.m.]

We have to look at the question of fairness. We have to ask Nova Scotians whether they want advocacy groups, whether they want Third Parties, whether they want independent candidates to have more or less access to the political system. There's a perception that the process is just not fair; that it's not what you know in Party politics, it's who you know. There's a feeling that the playing field itself is not level. There's a feeling that there's not equal access. We need to go back to Nova Scotians over the next six months and say, in particular, why is it that 40 per cent of you choose not to participate actively? Keep in mind that when we talk about participation, we're talking about the lowest level of participation to go out and to put your x on a ballot. We're saying, why is it that 40 per cent of you will not take the trouble to do that?

As I said earlier, there's a feeling that there isn't a level playing field, that it doesn't make a difference, all the political Parties are the same, they're all in for themselves, and we need to address that sense that the system can be made more fair. We need to go back to Nova Scotians to talk to them about the breadth of this legislation. We need to talk to them about whether or not we want the internal activities of political Parties regulated, given that the taxpayers are providing huge subsidies and that this legislation proposes a grant of a further subsidy to political Parties. We know that in the last leadership race, people donated to candidates but they donated through the political Parties and they got the tax refund. In fact because the campaign went over two separate years, they donated twice so the taxpayers were on the hook twice for this campaign.

We need to go back to Nova Scotians and say do you want to make candidate election and leadership selection a part of this legislation as they have done in other parts of the country, especially in the federal Parliament. The federal Parliament, as I said, came to that conclusion after the Lortie Commission, it came to that conclusion after the Gomery Commission, it came to that conclusion after a series of reports of scandals across the country. We need to make sure that this piece of legislation is comprehensive.

[Page 2317]

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, it's two minutes? Okay. We need to make sure that there's some accountability in the system; this legislation has no provision for accountability. This provision has a toothless tiger to enforce contribution violations. This legislation doesn't tell us who's responsible or who taxpayers should go to when things go wrong or how they're going to enforce these things after an election. Are they going to do it well after the fact, as the Progressive Conservative Party did in selecting their Leader? Justice delayed is justice denied and the accountability system has to deal with the timeliness of it.

Most important, Mr. Speaker, and I'll conclude with this, is the principle of stakeholder participation and that's why we're asking for this six-month delay. The process leading up to this bill, the creation of this legislation, was flawed. Nova Scotians did not have a say, in fact, most normal stakeholders didn't have a say and this issue is too fundamental, it's too important, it has too many long-term consequences for further delay in consulting Nova Scotians. We need to do it now and if, after that period of consultation, Nova Scotians tell us that this piece of legislation is acceptable we would be happy to support it but right now we'd like to see a total ban on corporate and union contributions and we would like to see the trust funds removed from the campaign process. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. TREVOR ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I take great pride in standing in my place today to discuss Bill No. 117. I have to say that I want to extend my appreciation to the government for taking the time and making a presence felt in this House in listening to the debate. I also want to state that I am a new MLA but I entered into the political arena on the basis that I did believe that we could truly be honourable politicians, and I think we all are in our intent to serve our communities and constituencies.

Mr. Speaker, when we're looking at the hoist and the amendment proposed by the Official Leader of the Opposition, I have to take in question as to why the amendment was made and how this bill actually even came to the House, the whole process or let's say lack of process that this caucus feels didn't take place. There was a draft of legislation made, brought to our attention on a Friday, and at the beginning of the following week, we have an announcement that this crucial, this important piece of legislation has to be pushed through in a rushed manner. Personally, I would have thought that if this was such a crucial, important, precedent-setting piece of legislation that the government would have actually proposed this at the beginning of the session, Mr. Speaker, not at the end, not to be rushed through.

The bold steps that the Leader of the Opposition took in reference to the bill, in making a motion for the amendment, I have to say that for all Party members who question and are throwing out union terms and union funds, the NDP acknowledged that. The NDP doesn't back away from the fact that union members and unions have

[Page 2318]

supported us in the past, but the step that the honourable Leader of the Opposition took, Mr. Speaker, the amendment we are discussing, the hoist we are discussing today states that the NDP, the Leader of the NDP feels that there should be a ban on all funds coming from corporations or unions. I think that addresses a major concern by several other Party members when it comes to funding and how we fund our campaigns. The NDP taking a stance, saying that we say no to union money. That is a bold step, Mr. Speaker.

The minister in his announcement of this bill stood in this House suggesting that we rush this bill through. Even though it holds great importance, Mr. Speaker, that would tell me that it is important to closely examine the bill that is before us. When the minister realized that there was a Party in this House that was going to press this, that was going to debate this topic, debate this bill and the importance of this bill to the people of Nova Scotia, that minister saw fit to rally the troops and come up with another suggestion which, to me and to the people watching, to the people of Nova Scotia, that says they are backpedalling, or is this the right thing, have we made a mistake, let's put a band-aid on this, let's come up with this committee.

It is bad politics, Mr. Speaker, bad politics. If this bill was, indeed, going to hold governments of the day and future governments accountable, those amendments and implementations would have been in the legislation currently proposed but they are not. So I say no to that band-aid and that's why we're debating this now. We're standing here today speaking on the hoist, to allow Nova Scotians to have renewed faith in their politicians and in their governments of the day to enable us to go back to Nova Scotians and say, you are indeed a part of this process.

As I stood outside the House today, amongst several people who were hearing protests of other situations, one constituent said to me , let's go in, this is our House. Indeed, this is their House, this is legislation that will affect them now, affect them in the future. So I say, why rush it, Mr. Speaker? I think it is important to take our time to go through page by page, not after January 1st because that is too late to address the real issues and the real concerns that this Party has.

I want to go back and touch on the first time I ever voted, Mr. Speaker. When I became eligible to vote - as many of us, we have long traditions here in Nova Scotia and the other Party members know and we're speaking here, we know we're all honourable members, but we also can't deny some of the paths we've had, some of the issues we've had with campaigns and Parties and incidents that kind of made us look like "salesmen" - car salesmen, Mr. Speaker. They tarnished the image of politicians; good, honest, hard-working politicians who did want to do right. We can't deny that fact, that has taken place.

When I was first approaching the polls, Mr. Speaker, I lived in rural Nova Scotia, in West Dover in the Peggy's Cove area. We had just moved to the area from Lower Sackville where we traditionally voted NDP under John Holm, but when we moved to

[Page 2319]

West Dover, there was a strong Liberal candidate that we knew, for whatever reason, was going to win that seat. At the time we needed a streetlight on our street. When my father approached me to ask me how I was going to vote, I told him, well, I'm going to vote NDP as I always voted in Sackville. My father said to me, he said, you have one choice here, you have to vote Liberal, we need a streetlight and that's old-style politics.

We're in 2006, we're approaching 2007, and I would like to think we've come a long way. You've heard many stories and, you know, I'm going to touch on some of them. No Party can replace itself or remove itself from scandals. I'm sure if the NDP ever have an opportunity to become the government of this province, Mr. Speaker, there are going to be possible skeletons that are going to come out of our closet and we have to be prepared to address that. But today, as was mentioned by several other colleagues, we have an opportunity to tell the people of Nova Scotia that their opinions count. We have an opportunity to go back on the doorsteps of Nova Scotians who are going to be surprised because, let's be honest, chances are - except for my honourable colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect - most of us don't enter the doorsteps until election time, but what a wonderful idea. Take this to the people, because I'll tell you if this bill gets rushed through and we leave here come Friday and this bill gets rushed through and it's proclaimed, the people of Nova Scotia are going to be talking about it for some time.

What they're going to say, Mr. Speaker, is who asked us? No one asked us. I know Mr. Bruce DeVenne in Lower Sackville will probably have lots to say about this. Donna Benoit in Lower Sackville will have lots to say about this in the editorial comments. They comment constantly on how governments use or misuse funds, funds that belong to the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I'm the MLA for Dartmouth North, longstanding NDP territory, and I can tell you that in my riding, in my constituency, we actually nudged up a point in the recent election, a point, we're up to 54.9 per cent. Mr. Jerry Pye, the former MLA, used to be well-known for dragging people out to vote in their housecoats. What we're faced with today, and in the coming days in debating this amendment, in talking about the hoist and allowing people of Nova Scotia to have a voice into a piece of legislation that has been decades overdue, is crucial. Crucial to increasing the participation and future participation of people across this province when it comes to election time.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that one of my battles, and I'll give you an example, if you look at the Clayton Park area, 15 years ago in Clayton Park you had 75 per cent voter turnout. In the past election, and I know the honourable member for Clayton Park will attest to this, there's a frustration, there's a lack of participation. There was a 50 per cent turnout - whether that's due to poor planning and development, the number of apartment buildings. We also have a large immigration population there who have moved in over the years and who have become disenfranchised with government programs or our communities. They don't feel part of it.

[Page 2320]

[4:15 p.m.]

Well, there's an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to step out, to take that bold step and say to the people of this province this is important, we need you to speak out on this. We can do media blitzes. We can go into our communities and we can make announcements through the community halls, to our constituency executives, and we can say here is an opportunity, what a breath of fresh air, let's listen to Nova Scotians. I'll tell you right now the media would run rampant with this - the Government of Nova Scotia listening to its people - a great concept.

Mr. Speaker, throughout the campaign I had a wonderful opportunity to deal with several youths in my community. We all know the pressing issue right now with our youth. They have become disenfranchised with society. There is an increase in crime. However, I had a wonderful opportunity to campaign with several interested youth, youth who want to be a part of the process, wanted to know what politics was all about, interested in seeing how decisions were made. If I leave this House this week and participate in rushing this bill through, I have to question what kind of message I'm sending through to those individuals, to those future leaders of the province and of our community. If I went back to those individuals and said your opinion counts, your opinion counts, what I'm telling that individual is that they have participation, they are part of the process, they have ownership into what takes place and what is created in this province. If you instill that, enable them to have that pride, I think our youth have an opportunity to go a long way, but we have to first approve this amendment.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about campaign donations and who donates and how much we donate, I can tell you that in Dartmouth North, I had one campaign donation that was over $1,000. That's not to say I wasn't proud of the individuals who walked into my office . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Gave you a hundred bucks; gave you $50.

MR. ZINCK: A hundred dollars, I'm talking $10, Mr. Speaker. In my community, $10 means a lot to individuals who can't afford to give it, but they gave it - $1,000 is out of the realm of possibility for 50 per cent of my community.

Dartmouth North, Halifax Needham, some areas of Shelburne, Yarmouth, Cape Breton - who can afford to give these amounts of donations? What kind of donations do we get? The majority of donations that come to the NDP are through individual donations. We hear the other members harp on unions, and again I'll state that our Leader, in making and bringing this amendment to the House, took a bold step. A bold step, Mr. Speaker. Can you imagine the NDP saying they no longer want to rely on the unions? That's not to say that the NDP are going to turn our backs on the union members, because they, as other Nova Scotians, have the opportunity to vote. When we

[Page 2321]

talk about banning donations from corporations and unions, I have to say to myself, does a corporation have a vote? Does a union, a particular union, have a vote? No, it doesn't. The members do have a vote. The members do.

There has been a lot said over the last day and a half, and I'm sure it will continue, Mr. Speaker, until we come to a resolve on this hoist. There have been some major holes, some major questions, and there's nothing wrong with questioning a piece of legislation. That is, indeed, what we are here to do. We represent our constituencies, we represent the people of this province, and the people want to know that we are going to question anything that is questionable.

I can tell you right now that if a bylaw was drafted at the municipal level, a municipality wouldn't rush through a bylaw the way this proposed legislation is attempting to be rushed. I think when we force something - it's like the old adage, don't push on the door, son, pull on the door. There are ways to work things. If it's in the best interests of Nova Scotians, I think we have an opportunity, I think we have a role to play here, I think we should step up and legitimately say, we have something here, and we believe that it is important to our future, our future politicians, our future communities, the future success of this province.

Mr. Speaker, if we give Nova Scotians an opportunity to speak on this piece of legislation over the next six months I think we would have a renewed faith. Not that we've all lost hope, there are people out there who believe we are doing things right, some things right, but we can do more. That's exactly the situation with this piece of legislation. Is this legislation doing as much as it can? The NDP Leader has stepped out and said, no, it's not. We want to tighten it even more.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have a problem with supporting an amendment, supporting a hoist such as this. We want to make it tighter, and when the people of Nova Scotia who we meet in our communities and throughout communities ask us what is going on - I can tell you right now, when I went home last night my wife said to me, what is going on in there? Was the minister saying you're going to be there until 11:59 p.m.? Was that a joke? Well no, honey, it is not a joke. I have a role to play, I have been elected to be the voice for the people of Dartmouth North and today, I'm speaking in favour of the recommendations and the amendments that the Leader of the Opposition has brought to the floor.

To tighten is not a bad thing, it is not a bad thing to draft up legislation and perhaps not have it completely beneficial to the province. That's why we're here, to debate situations. The government brings forth legislation, they give us an opportunity to look at it, which in this case, to be honest with you, we didn't have enough to look at this but I'll tell you, over the coming days we will and we will examine it and we will bring forth our debate to the Premier, to the Third Party as well, Mr. Speaker. We will let them know our concerns and that is our role here; that's all we're doing.

[Page 2322]

Mr. Speaker, there's been lots of talk, and I'll tell you, this legislation couldn't come at a better time, although I believe that it should have come at the beginning of this session because then we would have had the proper amount of time, perhaps, to discuss it fully. It comes at a great time because we're on the cusp of the Third Party's upcoming leadership and yes, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to dwell on this a bit. What I attempt to do is allow Nova Scotians - what we have here now is an opportunity to allow Nova Scotians - to be part of the process, to listen, to understand what has taken place in the past and where we are now. We want to be accountable, we want to be transparent. Well let's bring it to the table, let's put it at the forefront, let's be honest with Nova Scotians, let's give them that chance to give us their feedback, to let us hear from them that we're doing the right thing, the right thing for them.

Mr. Speaker, that's what we are elected for and sometimes we forget that. Sometimes we forget that we've been given that right as an elected official to govern this province, to represent our people. That's a wonderful power if not abused, Mr. Speaker, but I can tell you right now, to miss an opportunity to go back to our constituencies, to go back to our communities and the people of this province and ask them what they think - from time to time, we have to do that and we have an opportunity right now. We have a wonderful opportunity because the Leader of the Opposition stood up and made a bold move and has come out and stated that it is not tight enough. That's not bad, to the government of the day, that is not bad. That is not saying or stating that it is a bad piece of legislation, because the NDP believe that campaign reform needs to be done, electoral reform needs to be done.

It is happening all across this province, we've seen it with the Gomery Report. We know how important it is to people. Nova Scotians want to know that we are, indeed, working for our money and working on their behalf and we have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker.

I want to take an opportunity right now to bring to light and to touch on an issue that has been talked about and discussed over the last day and a half. It is a history lesson, a painful one to some. There are a lot of people in denial of this, but I think the people of Nova Scotians need to hear this and, over the coming days as they have over the last day and a half, they are hearing it. They are hearing the truth. Mr. Speaker, if this legislation stated that we would ban corporate donations, we would ban union donations and we would also secure and bring into the hands of the government again, that money that the Liberals had stolen from the people of this province in the 1970's - if that legislation could eliminate that possibility, I think all Nova Scotians would support it. But they can't support it if we rush this through and don't give them the opportunity to talk.

I'll tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, after these debates go through. The people of Nova Scotia are going to want to have their voice heard. They're going to want to

[Page 2323]

respond to some of the comments that have been made in this House or lack of comments, that haven't been made in this House by other members regarding situations.

When we look at the distrust and it's unfortunate, as I said, that the Liberals find themselves in the crux of a leadership race, but I honestly think the people of this province today, tomorrow and in the coming months and years would be really interested in having an opportunity to speak out on an issue that has plagued politics, has plagued the Province of Nova Scotia for decades.

This legislation proposes, or could have the opportunity to eliminate existing trust funds, eliminate future trust funds, but does it go all the way? That's the problem we have, that's why we stand in this House today debating it. Again, it is not a bad thing to debate this. It's not bad legislation, it's just not tight enough and that's what we propose, six months to give the people of this province an opportunity to speak out, to address the issues of the past, to bring forth ideas for our future.

As elected officials, that's our role, to listen to our people, to listen to the people of this province. We cannot sit here and step on our pedestals and ignore those voices. We all read in the papers, we all read the editorials every day, we all listen to the radio talk shows - we know, sometimes we might turn a deaf ear, but ultimately, each and every MLA - 52 members in this House - has a report card come election time.

It comes down to more than what the Progressive Conservative Party will lose or what the Liberal Party will lose, how much money the NDP loses, it's more than that, it's bigger than that. This is important legislation that needs proper consultation. It needs the eyes, the ears and the voices of people in this province. We cannot rush this through. We have to take the time to examine it and I hope every member in this House takes the opportunity to stand in their place and speak on it, speak on the importance. It's crucial to our future as political Parties, as future politicians, it's crucial.

I want to go back and touch on the Liberal leadership and the opportunity, I believe, that the Third Party has right now, the opportunity for those members, those honourable members - and I say that in all earnestness - those honourable members that sit in that Party right now have a wonderful opportunity. This issue has been around us for decades and this is what this legislation attempts to do - eradicate that, listen to the people of Nova Scotia. If we push this through, they're going to hear, they're going to read Hansard, they're going to watch Leg. TV and they're going to say, what about that? What about the trust funds? Is that legislation that just got pushed through in three days answer or address that? Where's that money?

There are going to be a whole lot of questions. And, for those honourable members that sit in this House today, I think it's a wonderful opportunity to stand up and honestly come clean. If they stand up and say they have no idea about it, it's better than saying nothing at all. The people of Nova Scotia are going to judge each individual

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member who will step forth in April and say, I want to lead not just the Liberal Party, I want to lead the people of this province.

If we simply wash this through, dry it with a proclamation, without asking the people of this province - I'll ask you, Mr. Speaker. How can any member that would step forth for leadership of any Party stand in front of the people of Nova Scotia and say, I deserve to lead, I want to lead, I'm honest, I'm forthright, I want to work for the people of Nova Scotia and that's great. But, this is an opportunity that I think each and every member of the Third Party should take.

[4:30 p.m.]

Address it now, in the light of this debate, in this House today and in coming days, in light of that debate, they have an opportunity now to answer to that past. If they don't take that opportunity, I can guarantee you that for those who read the papers, for those who listen to us today asking for a six months' hoist, asking us to allow Nova Scotians to vote, those people are going to come back and when the Liberal leadership is held and when a Leader is proclaimed those Nova Scotians are going to want to know what stance that Leader took on this particular issue, the issue of Bill No. 117, the issue of the amendment and the issue of trust funds.

Past governments - the Progressive Conservative Party, the government of the day- some members who have a long tenure in government you can't deny the fact that not answering to this trust fund is reprehensible. You have to answer to it, you have to answer to it now, it's not going to go away and as one of the honourable members suggested from the Third Party, that's 30, 40 years ago - yes it is, Mr. Speaker but it's still an issue today. If we give the people of this province an opportunity to ask questions, if we give the honourable members from the Third Party an opportunity to stand and speak to it we should be able to address it. We should be able to alleviate that from the minds of Nova Scotians and let them know we are indeed doing the honourable thing.

Former Tory president John Abbass once stated with regard to the tainted money,"It was all gathered in the same manner. If they were going to do anything, they should have given it all up." Former Tory president. Former Minister of Justice once stated as was read earlier in the House by my honourable colleague, the member forQueens, he stated, " The issue is clear, is Mr. Graham be prepared to lead by example or just talk the talk of democratic reform," It goes further, Mr. Speaker, former Premier Donald Cameron, he once stated that although the Leader of the Liberal Party Vince MacLean at the time would give up the $1.3 million collected illegally, that Premier at the time would not let that issue rest, that he would see fit to seek out legislation that would eliminate future trusts and eliminate that trust fund.

[Page 2325]

I think we have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, I think we have a wonderful opportunity to lead by example, not just for the people of Nova Scotia but across this country because as we look to federal politics we have to set forth as a government and show our staunch position. Let's dig in here, let's show the people of Nova Scotia that we truly represent them, let's be an example. As we become that example, as we allow individuals over the next six months to speak on this, we will send a message to the federal government that we are doing the right thing in this province. In the Province of Nova Scotia we stand for democracy and we want to fulfill and allow the people of this province to be a part of that process.

When we talk about democracy my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour - Eastern Passage, has spoken at great lengths about Joe Howe, the battles he fought for representative government, for responsible government, freedom of speech. I also know, Mr. Speaker, as many of us in this House know, that the honourable member spent time in Kosovo enabling and assisting that country to become more democratic. Former Tory candidate Troy Myers, a candidate who ran against myself, Troy went to Africa and he set up libraries and he participated in electoral functions and made sure that the voters had a voice, something that today we're debating. He went to Africa to ensure that the people of Africa had a voice and that's what we're asking today - that Nova Scotians are allowed to have a voice on such an important piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that's long overdue, that the people of this province and people across Canada want to know that their governments are being transparent, are being held accountable. We've all heard the rhetoric around the 21 per cent interest raises - we know we have to answer to these people.

So if we turn a blind eye on such an important issue, Mr. Speaker, I have to ask, where does that leave us? What are we indeed telling the people of Nova Scotia - this crucial piece of legislation, let's stand up here, let's stomp our feet, let's rush it through, pass it, it's in place, but who does it affect? Who does it affect? Other members here talked about union monies - admittedly so, the NDP have been sponsored and have taken contributions from unions, but I want to go through some of the numbers - the potential losses let's say - those that will be affected by the $1,000 to $5,000 donations.

In 2005, Mr. Speaker, $10,000 or more, the NDP received the most donations, and undoubtedly so coming from unions, to the tune of $30,000 - by comparison the Liberals received $20,000 and the Progressive Conservatives, $15,000. Of donations between $1,000 and $5,000 - the Progressive Conservatives collected $336,600.47; the Liberals, $85,660; and the NDP received $39,839. Yes, with this proposed legislation before us, the NDP stands to lose, as do the Progressive Conservatives, as do the Liberals, but we're talking about a bold initiative - the Leader of the Opposition stepping out and saying a great piece of legislation, it's about time.

The people of this province deserve it, Mr. Speaker, but we should tighten it, we should eliminate corporate donations; we should eliminate union donations - the NDP

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Leader stating we should eliminate the union donations and, again, an opportunity for the Third Party to come clean, to address an issue, once and for all, that has been with us, that has plagued the field of politics, the arena of politics, for 30 or 40 years, it's a wonderful opportunity to allow Nova Scotians to have a say, because again I can honestly tell you that when this debate ends there will be those individuals who will go through Hansard, who will watch Legislative TV, and they'll have questions; they'll have a lot of questions. And I know for many of us, for those who have the opportunity, the Premier knows, the Leader of the Opposition, the interim Leader of the Third Party, the Liberals, they're going to be asked by the media, what's all the hubbub, what are we doing, why are you talking - much like my wife - what's the issue?

Well, if I was given six months, Mr. Speaker, for the people on Jackson Road, for the people on Moira Street, for the people on Lancaster, for the people in Crichton Park, for the people of Tufts Cove, if I could remove myself from this House and for the next six months step on each and every doorstep in my constituency . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And take the Premier with you.

MR. ZINCK: Absolutely. Actually the Premier has been to Dartmouth North. He has been up on Ernest Avenue, a wonderful part of our community. If I was given the opportunity to step on each and every one of those doorsteps and ask them what they felt, I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, like I said earlier, they would be shocked; they would be surprised. What are you asking me for? Hold it now, this is a crucial important piece of legislation that is long overdue, I want to know what you think. You count, your opinion, your voice, your concerns - I need to know because you elected me to be your voice, and I want to know what I'm talking about. I want to know what the issues are or how we can improve it.

Again, Mr. Speaker, this is not bad legislation . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You could be on that select committee, that all-Party . . . 

MR. ZINCK: . . . this is important and perhaps that's what we could do - we could set up a committee now, we could approve the amendment, we could set up an all-Party committee, and we could go out to each and every community across this province, address the stakeholders, talk to the corporations, talk to the unions, let's ask them how they feel, visit those individuals who frequent our Legions, who frequent our community centres, the people who are involved. Let's talk to the volunteers in our community. They are huge stakeholders in this. Oftentimes the volunteer sector of our communities of this province make up a large part of the donations we get, Mr. Speaker.

AN. HON. MEMBER: Marginalized groups.

[Page 2327]

MR. ZINCK: Marginalized groups, let's talk and speak with the African Nova Scotians. Let's speak with the Aboriginal people who have been second-class citizens or have been treated like second-class citizens and have felt like they were second-class citizens, Mr. Speaker.

I recently had an opportunity to touch base with several organizations. I have been a home care workers as you might know, as I have stated in the House. I have spoken with individuals who have been dealing with disabilities and intellectual disabilities and have been struggling with funds and why money can't be made available to them. I met as recently as today with organizations. They, too, have felt that their voice has fallen on deaf ears, it wasn't heard.

We have a wonderful opportunity with this proposed legislation before election time, Mr. Speaker, because I know that you know, as many of us know, in two or three years time, when we walk on the doorstep, oh, it's a politician, what have you got to sell? (Interruption) Take my brochures - hopefully, three years. I am with the Premier on that one, Mr. Speaker.

If we show up, if we go through our communities, we have a wonderful opportunity, based on the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Official Opposition, to go through a consultation process with the people of this province, with the people in our communities, our constituencies, our constituency executives because, Mr. Speaker, they are truly the decision makers. If we simply look at it, they are the decision makers. They are who elects us here and we cannot forget, and as the former MLA Gerry Pye said to me, if you stop, the second you stop listening to the voices and the people who elevated you to the position you hold now, you will go, you will be gone. You have to feel the pulse, you have to seek out the beat. In six months, Mr. Speaker, if we hold this hoist, we are able to pass this amendment, we are able to address the funding of unions and ban it, ban corporations from funding and finally address the Liberal trust issue, I believe the people of this province will feel that they have been heard.

That is important consultation, Mr. Speaker. It is important consultation not only to future governments, but as was mentioned several times, 61 per cent of the people in this province turned out to vote in June. Have we looked at reasons why? Have we gone into our communities and said why didn't you vote? Well, if you talk to people they will tell you, well, what is the difference?

[4:45 p.m.]

We have an opportunity, a wonderful opportunity now, Mr. Speaker, to show them, that you have an option, you have a difference. We are listening. We are not just merely sitting in this House going about our daily business, we are actually listening. We are putting the decision making in your hands. We want you to be part of this crucial, all-

[Page 2328]

important legislation. If we do that, I honestly think that the people of this province will turn out in droves. This is just one step we can take. This is one piece of legislation that will enable people to vote.

There are others. The Minister of Health Promotion and Protection recently passed the tobacco regulations, let's ban the tobacco walls - a wonderful piece of legislation. The only problem is that the day before the press release came out, he sought the support and experience of the convenience store owners - one day before the press release. So how much consultation, how many opinions can you have? How much advice can you take?

Mr. Speaker, we have the same process going on right here. This is what this side of the House is being asked to address, but my leader, the Leader of the Official Opposition, stood up and said, let's tighten this, we can do more. As the legislation got passed on the tobacco walls and convenient stores - it should be passed everywhere, tobacco should be eliminated everywhere. We have an opportunity over the next six months, if this amendment passes, to have real, honest Nova Scotians, stakeholders in our government, addressing a situation and situations like the Liberal trust fund that has plagued this province for years.

We go back, Mr. Speaker - you know the Tory governments - we know that in the past the Hamm government's ties to the Enron fiasco, the Shell companies that were set up here, the monies that this province lost in tax revenues, the monies that this country lost in tax revenues with the Hamm government allowing this to take place - these are questions that can be answered now by bringing this legislation forth and allowing people to speak.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke earlier on my honourable colleague from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage visiting Kosovo talking about democracy; former MLA Jerry Pye's son, Brad, is in Iraq now. I spoke about Troy Myers going to Africa to make sure those voters in Africa had a vote, that there were no restrictions put on them. Democracy and the right to vote, the right to participate in the political process is important all around the world, it's important to Canadians, it's important to Nova Scotians and these individuals I made mention of have sought out the need to ensure - as do our troops in Afghanistan, the troops in Afghanistan right now - there are a lot of questions around the mission. We know what they're there for. They're there to ensure that those individuals who have been disadvantaged because of dictatorships and regulations and laws - those troops are there fighting for democracy. To simply take the role of pushing this legislation through, to simply stand there and have the minister stand in his space and state that we should pass this legislation as quickly as we can because it's important - absolutely, as I stand here today - each and every member in this House has the opportunity to speak, this is a debate.

[Page 2329]

Mr. Speaker, as I'm sure every member will, I hope, take the opportunity to speak to this important piece of legislation that again is decades overdue. When we look at individuals such as our troops who go across to other countries to fight for the democratic rights of those individuals and we merely stand here and we try to attempt to push through such an important legislation in three days, I have to stand here in my place and say, Mr Speaker, there's got to be something wrong. Like the old adage goes, don't rush a good thing. Again, the government's attempt at bringing through this important piece of legislation is crucial - it's a step forward, it's a positive step. I believe it should have been earlier in this session but that's neither here nor there now, we're dealing with it, and we're going to deal with it, and we're going to speak out on it, we're going to debate it, we're going to voice our concern and hopefully with the amendment the Leader of the Official Opposition made, have the opportunity to listen and hear the voices of Nova Scotians in the next six months.

Circle of friends, Mr. Speaker, circle of friends, and we all have honourable intentions when we put our name forth to run for politics. It's a wonderful opportunity and it's a big step for each and every one of us to choose to do. What we are doing, is taking the burdens of those individuals who don't have a voice, or feel they don't have a voice, on our shoulders. We're put in this place to carry that forth. That's what we do here today. As I stated earlier in my speech, there's no denying the feel that the arena of politics in Nova Scotia has been stained. Circle of friends. I'm just going to throw it out there one more time - circle of friends.

I am going to go back to the trust fund. When Mr. Barrow was charged, the media went to him and asked, are you going to go back to work? Mr. Barrow's response was, I can't see why not. What did I do? Mr. Barrow stayed on as a Senator. (Interruption) I don't know if I should bring up the potato thing. There are other issues, issues such as this, when an individual who has - let's call a spade a spade - stolen money from the people of this province and merely feels he should not be held accountable, that he should remain in his position, that is what this legislation is trying to rid itself of. We are trying to clean up politics. We have an opportunity, but if we don't take that opportunity, I know I will have many e-mails and many phone calls from throughout my community, from around the province, why didn't you ask us? What was so bad, what is so bad about banning funding from corporations and unions? Is that the bad part, or is the bad part the trust fund?

I'll tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, if we stand here and rush this bill through, proclaim it by December 31st, and maybe, like the minister stated, we'll set up a committee. But with no foundings, or words, no parameter that he'll listen to the recommendations that come from that committee, what are we saying to the trust fund? What are we saying to the trust fund? Bold initiative, bold initiative, Mr. Speaker, someone, be it a politician, stepping up.

[Page 2330]

Again, I'll say, as many members from the Third Party stated, what about the union funds? Our Leader, the Leader of the Opposition, stood in his place and said, suggested, that it's a good piece of legislation, let's tighten it. He didn't demean the government of the day. He merely stated, as we all have, those of us who have spoken and those who will speak after me, and in the coming days, that individual, that leader with character, stood up and said okay, you know what, let's have it a level playing field. We talk about the $1.50 per vote if you get 2 per cent of the vote, let's level it. Any Party that runs, any Party that gets a vote should get that. That is democracy. Throughout the legislation, there are issues around - as my honourable colleague, the member for Halifax Citadel, stated, be it much more passionately than I - the questions around leadership campaigns, the question around nomination campaigns.

There are so many issues that surround this piece of legislation that it is crucial, it is important, as is the legislation itself, to adopt the amendment, support the hoist, and listen over the next six months. Allow each and every MLA, as we all know, as we sit in this House, we can all go back to our communities and really sit down with the stakeholders and listen, sharing a cup of tea, maybe a lobster in Shelburne - as my honourable colleague for Shelburne says maybe two.

Mr. Speaker, that is an opportunity I don't think we can bypass, we can't pass that up. We have to uphold the traditions and the values that we represent. I can tell you that not just Dartmouth North, but if I go down through St. Margaret's Bay, Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, Tantallon, West Dover, when I go down and talk to my parents and they ask me - I've got questions around this. Hold it now, I'm the politician, I'm supposed to have answers and absolutely, if I was given the opportunity over the next six months to do that, as my honourable colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect said, I would extend that invitation to my parent's MLA. I would ask that MLA to come with me to explain to my parents, to listen to my parents so that MLA can bring their opinions and concerns back to the government, back to address this proposed legislation.

We can't deny our past, and yes, Mr. Speaker, we are all honourable, absolutely no question, but there has been scandal, there are still issues in and around the Liberal trust fund and if it was 30 or 40 years ago, and if it was dealt with as early as 2002, the then Minister of Justice stating that this should be cleaned up, this should be addressed - where is that now? I don't hear it in this legislation proposed by the government and that is crucial. The people of this province want to hear the now Minister of Finance, who was Minister of Justice in 2002, say the same thing; but he has a wonderful opportunity now, legislation is being brought forth, he could have put that in the legislation, but it's not there, therefore the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Cole Harbour, stands up and says fair is fair, let's get rid of the corporation funding, let's get rid of the unions and let's finally address those monies.

[5:00 p.m.]

[Page 2331]

Mr. Speaker, to my honourable colleagues in the Liberal caucus, maybe some of them don't know where the money is, but we know that it's been invested, we know it's been used in recent campaigns. We can ask ourselves, each and every one of us, what would we do? The former Tory Governments have said give it back to the government, let the government decide and we can throw it towards the debt, we can throw it to the food banks, we can help with small options homes. Those questions, those concerns for Nova Scotians - if we don't allow them to speak on this proposed legislation, Bill No. 117, in the next six months - those questions are going to go unanswered only in the sense that we won't hear it but we'll read about it and we'll hear it on the radio and we'll hear it in the media. That's not long enough, five minutes is not long enough.

We cannot miss the opportunity to hear the concerns and again I'm going to go back to the Liberal potential and I'm not going to name names or constituencies, but the Liberal caucus and those members that are seeking possible leadership (Interruption) Absolutely, Mr. Speaker, there's a renowned astounding observation. In six months time the Liberals will indeed have a Leader that will have to answer and I say have to answer.

AN HON. MEMBER: I'm going to cry in a minute.

MR. ZINCK: I don't want my honourable colleague to start crying, but I think it's a wonderful idea. We have an Interim Leader who has consistently spoken out on the unions. We've addressed it. Our Leader has come out and said, no more. We'll get the funding, we'll go door to door, we'll go to the grassroots, we'll talk to Nova Scotians, we'll take the $5 and $10 donations.

But the Liberal caucus has an opportunity now, after, and I'm not going to well up, Mr. Speaker, I refuse to well up - the Liberal caucus, and for those members going forth in the possible leadership, they have a wonderful opportunity now to stand up and tell Nova Scotians who they will, potentially, ask (Interruptions) Yes, I see some of the proposed Leaders, and I believe that they are going to take their place, Mr. Speaker, in the coming days to speak on this.

As my parents always said, don't judge someone until you walk a mile in their shoes. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take a second to walk a mile in those individual's shoes, those who may choose to run for the Liberal leadership. I'm going to stand here today and say, I've got a clean conscience. I want to be honest, and address this issue, because if I don't address it now, it's going to bite me in the butt later on.

Take the time in the next six months to talk to Nova Scotians. Take the time in the next six months to sit and tell Nova Scotians that their opinions are valued by each and every MLA who sits in this House. One end of the province to the other. If we give them the opportunity, what are we telling them? We are telling them that this is important, not only for now but for our future, the future of politics, the future governments that are going to sit on that side of the House. We all want no questions

[Page 2332]

asked, and the only way to do that is to tighten this legislation, tighten this legislation, address the issues of the past, and we can do so by supporting this amendment.

Mr. Speaker, we can do that by adding into this legislation to eliminate, and I'll say it again, a bold initiative taken by the Leader of the Opposition, a bold step in stating, equal playing field, level playing field, start at zero, and we can go forward. Everyone gets to start at that starting point, eliminate funding and campaign donations from corporations, eliminate - I'll say it again, eliminate - union campaign donations. That is a bold initiative taken by this Party, in the coming days and in the past days.

Mr. Speaker, if this government honestly believes . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Six months to do away with lawn signs.

MR. ZINCK: Absolutely. Let's be environmentally friendly. Let's follow Ontario.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Minister of Energy wants to do away with lawn signs.

MR. ZINCK: It's not a popularity contest. We're here to serve the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and that means by serving them, we also listen to them. We have to, have to on such a crucial piece of legislation. Unfortunately, I honestly believe, again - and I'll stand here in my place and state, I believe if this was such an important piece of legislation, it should not be rushed through. It should have been brought forth earlier to hold a debate. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

MR. PERCY PARIS: Mr. Speaker, I want to start off this evening by relating a couple of stories, which I think are relevant to Bill No. 117 and where we're going or where we're not going with this bill. In 2003, after the election, I continued with my campaigning. What that involved was continuing to knock on doors, continuing to meet with organizations and groups, residents groups, parents groups, ratepayers associations. The consultation process for me continued.

In the June 2006 election, I found myself - I remember late one evening in the campaign headquarters in Fall River and getting a telephone call. It was after 9:00 p.m., I had been out doing some door-to-door but due to the time of the evening, I called it a night and was in just looking at the messages of the day. I received a telephone call from a resident who was living in the far end of the riding in toward Dartmouth. He wanted to talk to me about what I felt about - he hadn't made up his mind on which way he was

[Page 2333]

going to vote. He had some questions that he wanted to run by me so that he could get a feel for me, as one of the candidates in the election.

During the course of the conversation he said well, I know the hour is getting late, Mr. Paris, but when we finish this telephone call, I live at - he gave me his street address, he said if you could drive out here, I think I have made up my mind how I am going to vote and if you drive out here, I'll have a donation for you.

Again, I want to reiterate that it was at the far end of the riding so it was a considerable distance from the Fall River campaign headquarters. I hopped in my car and drove out there, some number of kilometres to the end of the riding, knocked on his door. He greeted me with a smile on his face and he beckoned me, he kind of motioned me, he said well let's go outside and talk. Not much was said but he gave me a $5 bill.

Mr. Speaker, I tell that story because that $5 that I got from that gentleman was just as important as the $1,000 donation I got from some other individuals without the consultation. So I wanted to say that story just to talk about, as we talk about electoral reform and I think it has already been said by the previous speaker that this isn't what we considered a bad bill. We considered that this bill has great potential and it can fuel and promote with the amendment as put forward by the honourable member for Cole Harbour, the Leader of the NDP. As the bill currently reads, it allows or gives permission or maybe even condones a past activity which may be best described - and I'll be very polite here - may be best described as somewhat suspect. With a bill as important as this, I would think and I would like to think as an elected MLA representing Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, I would think that all MLAs are in the same boat, that we want to produce the best legislation that we possibly can.

How do we do that? We do that by consultation. Any time we have the opportunity to present bills in front of this House, I think it is incumbent upon us, as MLAs, to consult not only with one another and have the lively and legitimate two-way debate, but I think it is also incumbent on us to have that same lively interaction and engagement with those people who put us in power.

It would seem to me that with a bill that we all recognize as important to this House, and indeed to Nova Scotians, I would like to think that we and the Party that has tabled the bill, would welcome the opportunity for things to be tweaked and massaged a little bit and to be made better. Important legislation, Mr. Speaker, we owe important legislation to the constituents of all of Nova Scotia. I think, and I am going to say that I think that we all want electoral reform. I don't think there's any question. I don't think anyone is going to argue that we don't want it. Certainly no one on this side of the House is going to argue against it.

We've got a bill here entitled Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act. Mr. Speaker, we've got the word disclosure. Well, my view is let's have Bill No. 117

[Page 2334]

represent real disclosure. As it currently stands, the bill doesn't go far enough, hence the amendment. It does not level the playing field in terms of reform. It makes an attempt to do that, an honest attempt, it doesn't go far enough. I agree, and I'm sure all members in this House agree, that electoral reform is necessary, but this bill as it stands in its current form is not acceptable. If we are going to do electoral reform, I mean surely do it, then we owe it not only to ourselves but to the voters to do it right.

Doesn't it stand to reason that we, all of us, want to do the right things for Nova Scotians regardless of whether I'm PC, or Liberal, or NDP. We're all elected to this House for the same reason - for the good of the public. We want to do the public good. I don't think there's a member in this House who doesn't want to do the public good. Is there anyone who's going to debate that? I don't think so. I think we are all here, we ran because we wanted to do something for the Province of Nova Scotia and for those whom we represent. So I'm having a problem here today. I'm having a problem trying to understand, I'm trying to fathom, I'm trying to get through in my own mind why we're not being open and receptive, one, to the amendment and, two, to a six-month period of consultation. If we can make something better, why wouldn't we try to make it better? I guess that's why I'm confused.

Mr. Speaker, governments are elected by the people. We have an obligation to the public which includes, but certainly it's not limited to: one, accountability; two, responsibility; three, transparency; and last but certainly not least, integrity. People expect that from us. I know between 2003 and 2006, even though there wasn't an election called and I was still doing that campaigning, the first immediate response that I would get when I would knock on somebody's door, or I would go to that community club meeting, somebody, the first thing they would say, well, you're here, is there an election, has there been an election called and I don't know about it? People would say it's very, very strange to see a politician if there's not an election pending in the very, very immediate future.

[5:15 p.m.]

So what we did by me doing that, that certainly changed that perception so it would only stand to reason that consultation does pay some dividends, it worked out for me.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not a gifted speaker, there have certainly been much more gifted speakers than me over the last 24 hours and I certainly acknowledge that. Also, I'm the type of person that when I hear something, what I like to do is I like to take it away, massage it, think about it, I internalize it and I might even think about it some more. It takes me a little while sometimes to get things. I think there are a lot of people like me, I think there are a lot of people who, during a period of consultation, like to hear

[Page 2335]

things, take it away overnight, maybe sometimes two or three nights I don't know, depends on the individual because we're all different, what works for one may not work for someone else. I think people need the consultation, people want to be engaged, people want to know that they're part of the process. People don't want to look at a politician and say, you're here at my door now, well there must be an election pending.

Mr. Speaker, I have some concerns concerning electoral reform. My learned friend and colleague, the member for Eastern Passage yesterday rose in his place and provided some insight and a thumbnail sketch respecting some well-known political icons from Nova Scotia's past. I remember it so well, he spoke so well and with great passion, he spoke about the Joe Howe's of yesterday and he spoke about the political roots in Nova Scotia and the significance of Nova Scotian politicians, of years gone by, of years past. I say that over the course of the years, the political torch has been passed from generation to generation. It is now our turn, it's our turn to hold that political torch, we now are the holders. As such, because we now hold that political torch - and it's only on loan to us, we don't own it, we're just borrowing it - but as such we have a moral and spiritual obligation that comes with the holding of that political torch that we have in our hands now.

Let us not allow our legacy to be one of complacency, let our legacy be one that we can be proud of - all of us - as elected officials. Let us someday be in the position, so that when someone rises in this hollow place and talks about us, they will say something similar to electoral reform got its rebirth or its restart with us - this is what we can do. We talk about we as politicians - it's called political will. We have to have the political will. We can look at legislation and we can comment about how good it is, how great it is, how much potential it has, but really, if we don't have the political will to enact it, it's not going to go anywhere. We can talk the game, but can we play the game? A lot of people talk the game.

Our legacy in part can be not only about passing good legislation and talking about political reform, but also we can demonstrate to those people who have put us here that we had the political will to work together for the good of the whole. That's a new one, now, isn't it? PCs, Liberals and NDP, because people elected us to this House to do a job.

Sometimes, to do that job, to accomplish what we have to accomplish - what does it mean? It means working together. That's what it's all about. As it stands now, under the Electoral Reform, what we need is we need a committee, a commission. We need something that's made up of PCs, of Liberals and NDPs that are going to sit together and consult with the public. It will take us six months to do that. We can do that. We don't want to be one pulling in one direction and another pulling in another direction. What good does it do? What sort of message does that send to the electorate?

[Page 2336]

Part of the reason I think that I stand here in my place today I think it's because of my reputation. I think it's because, despite what some honourable members may think, I can be one of the easiest persons in the world to get along with. I may get some argument about that, but generally speaking, people know where they stand with me. There's no - I don't know what the appropriate word is because my colleague used the word one time and he got in trouble over it, so I better not use that one. It's hard to find the words sometime. What you see is what you get without the frills. (Interruption) Well, no thrills.

Grassroots. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I stand here in my place not through entitlement, but I stand here because I've been privileged by the electorate and I'm thankful for that.

Mr. Speaker, we've heard over the last 24 hours or so, we've heard comments about trust funds. If we're going to be honest, then let's be honest - trust funds have been a blemish on the political environment in this province. I'm saying to you, Mr. Speaker, with the utmost respect, I need time to visit with the voters. I have a riding that is vast, I need time to explain, to the people in Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, Bill No. 117 and the implications. I have to not only explain to the people in the riding the strengths but I also have to expose the weaknesses of the bill and the reason for the proposed amendment.

Mr. Speaker since I've been an MLA I've experienced numerous caseloads, part of the process - I'm a firm believer in consultations. When I'm not in the House, and I'm sure many MLAs experience the same thing, when we're not in this House, when we're in our riding and more specifically when we're in our constituency office, I know I have individuals and families who just drop in and talk. Talk is consultation, they want to come in and they want to consult. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has that experience, I'm sure there are many of us that share those same experiences.

I have to say that with all the caseloads that I have that there are no two cases that are identical, they all share some commonalities and some similarities. For the most part my caseloads involve individuals and or families wanting or needing something from government, something that they feel only government can give them. Mr. Speaker, how can I explain to those same people, those same families, when they question me about the lack of responsibility and transparency if, we allow ourselves without the amendment to Bill No. 117. I'd be hard pressed to have a legitimate excuse or be able to explain.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned about Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank and I'm sure by now I think everybody within earshot realizes how large a riding it is, it's a riding with numerous communities within the boundaries of the riding. It is important to me as an MLA to seek the six months on behalf of the voters in that riding because that time will allow much needed time to meet, to consult with the constituencies around this very important bill. This is an important bill, there's no denying in that.

[Page 2337]

[5:30 p.m.]

This morning, as I suspect many Nova Scotians, I woke to the news and I also had an opportunity to glance at the newspapers, I saw the front page of the local papers of the Herald, the inside story on The Daily News and it was about Bill No. 117. I found it interesting to read and hear about an issue - now this is an issue that yesterday the comments that I heard were such, beating a dead horse, that it's not important, it's not on the radar, it's just a blip on the radar it's not going to last.

Mr. Speaker, I disagree. Six months would be sufficient time for me to validate that premise, one way or the other. Six months provides the timeframe for public consultation, consultation and input. When I think back to - I want to go back, I'm going to replay my mental tape, my memory tape, and think about the 2003 campaign and the 2006 campaign. I can say in all sincerity that when I discuss with people on their doorsteps, sometimes - well, what are some of the things that are bothering you? What are some of the things that are a concern to you? They would talk about a number of things, a great diversity of issues. If we talked long enough, a number of people would mention trust funds, and along with trust funds they would mention Party contributions.

Mr. Speaker, I think that the message was clear, maybe this wasn't at the top of the list, but it certainly was on the radar screen. Sometimes we don't want to think that the electorate is ill informed or not knowledgeable, because that's not the case, certainly not the case in Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, because they're very knowledgeable of what's going on in the House of Assembly and what's going on in the political arenas around Nova Scotia.

I think that leads to that confusion that I talked about earlier, as to why, when we have this golden opportunity to improve on something that's going to affect all Nova Scotians, why we aren't chomping at the bit to do it. Hopefully, before it's all said and done, someone can answer that. I don't think the answer lies on this side of the House. I'm going to add that I think people do care. I think they demonstrated that care in a number of ways. One way could be just by the act of voting itself. A second way, as ironic as this may sound, may be by not voting at all. So people have different ways of expressing themselves.

I know that, and I can't put a number to it - but I think we all have met that individual or individuals who have said, I'm not voting, for whatever reason or reasons, and it's unfortunate, even if we have one voter in the Province of Nova Scotia thinking that they're not going to exercise their right to vote. Shame on us. Shame on all of us. I'm not picking on any one Party here.

Mr. Speaker, the public does read and listens to the radio, they read the papers, they read the news. News only carries for so many days. I don't know what the lifeline of a story would be, I don't know if it would be two days, three days, a week or

[Page 2338]

whatever, but it's short, but because it's not front and centre, we can't take for granted that people forget or that it's not important. People remember. I've heard, and again, I'm sure we all have, that sometimes we have people who read the paper or hear something on the news related to us as politicians and what do they say? Not all the time, but sometimes, if it's bad, oh, here we go again.

We have an opportunity here to take politics in another direction in Nova Scotia. I think it would be a shame for us as MLAs to miss out on that opportunity. When it comes to a bill that's as important as this bill is, because of the vastness of my riding, I need time to organize, to set up meetings, to book space, to schedule the meetings. That would be my attempt and part to do that consultation process.

Mr. Speaker, something I've heard in the House, I have the word equality mentioned We talk about equality. We talked about this bill and we even use the word equality with respect to this bill. Well, this is a time when PCs, Liberals, NDP to not only just talk about equality, but to actually put it into effect. How can we achieve that? Well, one thing we could do with Bill No. 117 is, there is a figure there, that $5,000 figure - one stroke of the pen, that's all it would take. One stroke of the pen, and what can we do? We can cross out that 5, and we're left with zeros - a mere stroke of the pen.

You know, Mr. Speaker, this is not about the media, this is not about the press, this is not about the polls, what this is about is doing the right thing for Nova Scotia. It is about regaining some lost credibility. It is about taking back some of that political real estate that we might have lost over the years.

Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, I stand here and I talk about Parties working together. That may fall on some deaf ears, it may be a joke in some circles, but I suspect there would be many voters out there who do not find this funny in any way, shape or form. I think their expectations are higher than what we give them credit for. A six month timeline will give us time to test my philosophy. I guess in my confusion, I'll say that I'm also somewhat surprised and I would probably say to a large degree I am disappointed that we, as MLAs, collectively could not or would not be more proactive in our efforts to restore public faith and trust in the Nova Scotia political process.

In a time when we, as politicians, wonder why, well, voter turnout is low and we say how can we fix that? We raise these questions. We say well, it is not true that the only time a politician is around is at election time. We are trying to change some of the ways that people think about us. This would have been an ideal opportunity to commence with that change. Change starts here, it comes back to something I said earlier about the political will.

I am surprised and disappointed that we don't seize this opportunity and see it for what it is. I entered politics for a number of reasons. In my response to the Throne Speech, I can remember when I got up on such short notice, not knowing what to say or

[Page 2339]

where it was going to go and how it was going to end up but I do remember one statement that I made; I can remember this very well. I talked about the election of 2006 and I talked about values. I talked about how, in Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, important that election was for the residents of Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank and I referred to it being an election where 2006 values versus values and beliefs of 1956. Mr. Speaker, this bill and the NDP proposed amendments as put forward by the Leader of the Opposition - it is about a vision as to how politics can be in Nova Scotia and not about the past.

[5:45 p.m.]

Passing of Bill No. 117 as it stands is an endorsement of a particular event in Nova Scotia politics that we need to fix. It has been years now, years later, an activity that occurred years ago is still making front page news. Well, if it's broken, you fix it. The wheel is broken. We, as members of the House of Assembly, owe it to generations of Nova Scotians; we even owe it to past generations of Nova Scotians who stood and were seated in the very places that we occupy. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, we owe it to another set to another group of generations that maybe haven't even been born yet. There are people who we are going to pass the torch to, that political torch, what sort of shape do we want that torch to be in? We've got a chance to do something right, but for whatever reason or reasons, we're stalling on it.

Mr. Speaker, I would say shame on us, shame on us as elected officials. We have an opportunity to provide valuable assistance to move electoral reform forward. Bill No. 117 is not that opportunity as it stands - with amendments it can be. Shame on us for not adhering to the faith and to the trust the electorate has placed in each and every one of us, for not taking an important piece of legislation and not being allowed to tinker with it, to massage it, to make it the best that it can be.

Mr. Speaker, I talked a little bit about regaining some political real estate here in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member would permit an introduction?

MR. PARIS: Of course.

MR. SPEAKER: He will.

[Page 2340]

MR. TAYLOR: I would like to thank the honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank for allowing me to make this introduction.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased this afternoon to rise in my place and through you to all members of the House introduce a gentleman in the east gallery who is a proud Nova Scotian. He hails from liberated Holland and he's very appreciative of the Canadian military and the work they did back in World War II, but also he gave a very colorful, descriptive illustration-type speech to the Stewiacke Royal Canadian Legion on November 11th. I can tell you that you could have heard a pin drop in that jammed-packed Legion hall when Mr. Herman Berfelo made a speech to the community. So I would ask Herman to rise and receive a warm welcome here. (Applause)

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

MR. PARIS: I, too, would like to extend a warm welcome on behalf of this side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I was talking about regaining some of the lost real estate, the lost political real estate here in Nova Scotia. I want to talk about the political trust just very, very briefly. Now, during the course of the day, I know things got somewhat heated in here today off and on, all day, so even though it's a cool November day on the outside, it got pretty warm here on the inside, but I want to talk about political trust. I want to talk about political trust and how it relates to the good citizens of Nova Scotia.

I think, Mr. Speaker, and I don't know, I've got no statistics to say that it's this percentage or that percentage, but there is a certain segment of Nova Scotia population that is somewhat cynical when it comes to politicians. I don't want to get involved in a debate on whether that's right or wrong, but that's just a fact of life. That's just the way it is. When I look at Bill No. 117 and again I see this opportunity with good legislation, that we have an opportunity to make it so much better, but yet we're not. It comes back to the question that I asked earlier, and it's the "why"question.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why is that?

MR. PARIS: I don't have the answer to that, but I would like to have an answer because maybe somewhere as somebody is explaining to me the why - who knows - maybe I'll agree with it. I won't know that until somebody explains to me the why.

This is, as a rookie MLA, quite an experience for me, it's a debate that's one- sided. All the other times, whether being a rookie or whether it be on the ice or in any type of sporting arena, there was always some sort of competitiveness between me and somebody else. I can remember when I was playing hockey with the Huskies many years ago, you knew who your competition was because if he had better skills than you there was no debate if he made the team, but if you had better skills than he did and you got

[Page 2341]

cut then you would obviously see reason for debate. You would always know why - here I don't know why, because I haven't heard the reasons why.

What we're looking for is a process that's going to engage and involve the citizens of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, where I stand, no matter when you do that, and every time you do that, that you're inviting participation from the population, I see it as a good thing. I see that as a good thing for everyone, I see that as a win-win. It's a win-win for PCs, for Liberals, for NDP, and for the people of Nova Scotia - we all win.

I'm having great difficulty here trying to fathom this, maybe sometime over the next little while someone will explain to me, either in this Chamber or maybe it'll be outside - unfortunately if it's outside it's not only me who has to hear the message.

I was talking about public trust, and one of the things we have to do is we have to restore the public trust in us as politicians. Again, it's not about how large a segment that population is, when it comes to the public trust, the important thing is that there is a segment of the population that doesn't have that public trust - and I don't care if it's 1 per cent or 50 per cent, we should be concerned about that if it is 1 per cent. How do you change or how do you achieve public trust? Well, I don't have all of the answers, but I know one of the ways to achieve that public trust is through dialogue. And how do you dialogue with the public? It's called a consultation process. It's not rocket science here, I don't think, and again I'm not the speaker that my learned friend from Eastern Passage is, but this isn't rocket science - I'd like to say this is more about common sense. It's just giving the electorate their opportunity, they put us here, and we give them their opportunity to say something to us. I think that comes down to something I mentioned earlier about the confusion. Again, I can't drive this home enough, we have an opportunity here to make something better. Why we're not doing it is beyond me.

I think that's part of the reason that we're here, to make things better. Certainly, I know I took a pledge, like everybody else did, and I know that when I'm on the street and I meet voters, they're going to say to me - and I think part of the reason that we're all here, and let's talk about public trust again is because somebody trusts us. There's somebody out there who trusts us.

If we get an opportunity to tweak a bill, if we have an opportunity to tweak a bill, let's tweak it. Let's make it stronger, let's make it better. This is what the proposed amendment does. It makes the bill stronger and better. I can only hope that other members in this House, other than my colleagues on this side of the House, will try to convince me why Bill No. 117 should remain as it is. Simply put, Mr. Speaker, it's my opinion, I'm not saying that this bill is wrong, I'm saying that this bill has potential. It has potential in its present form, it is not the bill that I, or can I say we, want to see.

I don't know why it's hard, I don't know why it's so difficult for the other Parties to accept this. I just want to go back to the trust funds, if I may, just for a minute, Mr.

[Page 2342]

Speaker, because it seems to me that we have a system here in Nova Scotia called the justice system. Now, whether we like it individually or whether we don't like it, when the courts reach a decision, we, as law-abiding citizens, respect that decision. We may not always agree with the verdict, but we accept that verdict. Again, I'm a little, somewhat puzzled to think that in 2006 trust funds are still here, still being discussed.

Well, we have a choice about the legacy that we're going to leave. We've got a choice. We can just let things continue as they are, and do nothing, or we can make it better. So when we pass that torch, when we pass that political baton, that torch on to the next group of MLAs who are going to sit in this House, they're going to say thank you. One of the things that my father and my mother taught me, they told me, Percy, if anything in life, try to be a better person tomorrow than what you are today. (Applause)

[6:00 p.m.]

Let's take this legislation and let's make it better tomorrow than what it is today. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, we, as MLAs, have rules and regulations that we have to abide by, outlined by the Speaker's Office. I know when I saw that orientation book, how thick it was - I think I've probably made more visits to the Speaker's Office than anyone else. It's starting to be a bit of a humourous, all in fun, joke over there. I always try to smile when I come in because I always go in there asking for clarification on something or I'm going to get my knuckles rapped because I did something wrong.

But, the Speaker's Office has been very, very generous and very tolerant of my ignorance in a very professional and good way. I thank them for that. The reason I mention that is because this reminds me a little bit - those rules and regulations that were put in at the Speaker's Office for us to follow, I'm sure those didn't happen overnight. I'm sure those rules and regulations that we adhere to were a process in work for many years. I would think and I would hope they're still working on those, when they see something that's wrong, they're going to fix it, fix it for the better, make it better so we can be accountable and responsible and also transparent.

That's what we're looking for with Bill No. 117. We're looking for the same things with that bill that we expect from ourselves. Why is that so hard to understand?

We can also agree about a level playing field. I just want to talk about that level playing field for a minute because I tell you, the level playing field in this equality has great concerns for me. I'm not sure that everybody in this House, when they talk about equality and a level playing field, with all due respect, I'm not sure they know what they're talking about. I don't say that as to insult anyone. That's not the intent of it.

[Page 2343]

When we talk of equality, there's a lot of danger there. Sometimes when we treat people equally, we're ignoring the differences. So if we start ignoring differences of people, then we're not treating them fairly. We have to be very aware of the things we do and we have to be very aware of the things we don't do. We have a chance, we have an opportunity to do the right thing, but for whatever reason or reasons, we are stalling.

Disagreements happen, but in a case like this, when it comes to legislation of this nature, legislation that's so important, I wonder why. I'll end there on that note and the question for me is, why?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I don't think I'm going to be able to answer my honourable colleague's question of why, but I think we all have a lot of questions in our minds. I want to be clear at first, just as I always do. I welcome the opportunity to stand up to speak to this bill, but I'm not as pleased with this bill as I am with a great many others that have come forward.

The trouble with this bill is it's based on a fundamentally good concept, an essential concept, in fact, but it's way too little, it's way too late and it's way too hasty. It's that last fact which makes this such a dangerous precedent and such an extraordinary action and, really, an autocratic action to be coming forward in this House at all in the first place.

I had the opportunity and I have to say, it was a real privilege, I was asked to speak to a tenants' association a couple of weeks ago. It was a tenants' association in one of the poorest areas of, probably, this entire province. I think you would recognize it if I named it, it is in my constituency, it is subsidized housing. There had been a tenants' association in force in the past, but something happened to it. Although it was under the auspices of the Department of Community Services that it was established, for years there was no audit, for years there was no annual general meeting and there was no change of officers, and there was a tremendous amount of grumbling, just grumbling, that used to take place.

As I say, I was really honoured that I was asked recently to come and help the tenants of this area rebuild their association. I found myself giving this very, very, very basic - and, really, a lot of fun - kind of discussion on what it means to be an association, what it means to be a community. People had come to sit on the board of the tenants' association who were not, in fact, tenants. They lived in the area, but they were not on the lease. You know, that wasn't a known part of it, the definition of community was not entirely clear, except to the members of the community, themselves. As I say, there hadn't been meetings, there was nothing set up about just when the meetings ought to be taking place.

[Page 2344]

I was amazed by just how thoughtful and incisive the questions were that people asked, not all of whom were literate, had certainly not finished high school. The questions were, well, I want to be the treasurer, too, so we're going to have an election, and it's everybody, put their hands up. Well, no, we need to have some record of that, that there was, in fact, an election. Yes, we can't have this just plain happen. Once the election took place and it was recorded and there was a motion - and we had to explain the concept of putting a motion on the floor and seconding it and taking a vote, because that leaves a record, that leaves traces in the democratic process of how decisions have been made. What is amazing about this bill, this proposal here, is that there are very few traces that are going to be left in the public record as to exactly how this fundamental set of decisions was made about who is, in fact, a member of the electoral community.

As far as I know, the members of the electorate are individuals. What we have had up to this point is a whole lot of bodies corporate who have been inserting themselves into the electoral process, sometimes by making very large donations. That continues, and as long as that continues we're going to have a mismatched kind of a system, a system in which the community that exercises the power is not the same as the community which gave the power, and that's not democratic. For us to decide at this point, this very, very hasty and brief way that we are going to revise the entire electoral system of this province without consulting the people, the electorate who use that system, who count on that system by which to exercise the voice, I can't describe that in any other way than fundamentally undemocratic.

I was naive when I came into this process. I hadn't been involved in politics before. I never ran for student council. I didn't run for municipal council. I wasn't even particularly part of associations. So it was a bit of a shock to the system in the middle of the first election that I was involved with when I was told that one of the suppliers for materials in the community had put up a sign for a member of the other Party and the proposal was, well, we're not going to buy our supplies from this person in our community any more because they're supporting the other Party. I'm thinking to myself, well, my God, they're a member of our community, why aren't we going to support them?

I objected to the idea of pulling the business from the member of our electoral community, the person who was at work in the riding in which the election was taking place, simply because they had publicly stated their support for a member of another Party. As it happened, they hadn't even been asked whether or not they would be willing to display their support for another Party, but I was really horrified, and, in fact, we did end up getting our supplies from the local supplier. I thought fine, we have at least kept it in the community.

Another thing that surprised me after I was first elected was the number of people who came to me, well- positioned, well-educated, well-empowered, who prefaced their request for legislative intervention of one sort or another with the automatic - I voted for

[Page 2345]

you of course. I was thinking, gee, I thought I was elected to be a representative of a community and that, in fact, this had all been distilled and that I was the representative of the largest amount of the community. That did not mean as far as I understood it that I would not represent the people of the community who had not voted for me.

After a while of dismissing people and saying I don't care, what I do care about is, in fact, whether what you are asking for makes sense. After a while I stopped getting those embarrassing confessions, whether true or not, of - I voted for you of course. I didn't like seeing people abasing themselves in order to present what should have been perfectly good policy requests, or not, as the case may be. I'd like to think that the people of my riding have grown out of it, it's a kind of maturity that comes with this belief and self-confidence that comes and says, what I am asking for, what I want is justified, not because of what I've done to get it but because it is right.

That's what I think we in this Chamber should be hoping is going to take place throughout this province. I was horrified and I think the way some of us say we are proud, perhaps I will be known for, I was horrified, because the stories that I have heard over the years of a man - I mean this is going back a way - who was one of a huge family which voted the wrong way and the father, the breadwinner's job, was removed the day after the opposing government came to power, leaving a man with a huge family to support and no job, not because his work wasn't good, but simply because his vote was not good. What this means is money is power, particularly in a fear-driven society, I won't say a community but it's a fear-driven society. That's why it matters so much, that we would be in a position to follow the money.

How does it work? Money itself isn't power, money buys votes. Well, how does it do that? It does it directly, it can be as in the old days just a very direct exchange of goods. As I've been told there used to be a bottle of rum on the front seat of the car that drove the person to the polling station, or it can be indirect. It can be the result of fear, it can be the result of hearing that if you don't vote on the winning side, X is not going to happen in your constituency. This happened in my constituency, it happened in the constituency of a number of my colleagues. People have come to know what this means, it means you're not going to get anything if your constituency doesn't vote the right way. Well, how do they tell? They tell by the prevailing winds, they tell by the number of signs that are out there, it's really simple.

It takes money to buy signs, it takes money to buy advertising time, and it's a conspicuous display of power. You could even say it's ostentatious, it's certainly not this hallmark of a mature political process. So it's interesting that we're talking about this; ideally we wouldn't be talking about just how much money comes from where and whom but, if money wasn't translating into the sign that tells you, like the ribbons that you have on a sailboat - a telltale sign - that says this is the way the wind is blowing, you better get yourself aligned just right. Then perhaps we wouldn't need to be worrying about this bill at this point but we do. We live in a province which I'm afraid is known,

[Page 2346]

in the outside world, as a province in which people sell their birthright, they sell their individual vote. They will sell it to bodies corporate, they will sell it to individuals and as long as it's on offer that will continue to be the case. It's very sad, it's embarrassing, it really is.

[6:15 p.m.]

You can laugh at me for being naive here but I really did grow up believing that the people who sit in the Legislature are elected as representatives not politicians. Representative does mean in fact that you are elected to present the views, to bring them back of the electorate. The electorate is not Colgate. The electorate is not the CAW. I've always wondered, and I'm afraid I haven't had enough time to check in the last day and a half since this bill came forward, I haven't had a chance to look at many annual reports, any annual reports as a matter of fact, to see just how the shareholders of various corporations which donate to political Parties in Nova Scotia - just how those donations are accounted for to the shareholders. I don't remember ever seeing in an annual report, donation to x Party or donation to y Party. It seems that that's not something the shareholders are actually informed of. I guess it's a cost of doing business but, you know, I'll bet there's a lot of individual electors who would be very, very interested to know just how much of the support, how much of the profit of the company in which they are investing is going to literally counteract their individual born right to vote, their democratic right.

So I would like to see some transparency. I wouldn't mind seeing donations just plain not coming from bodies corporate and in that, I would like to make it very clear that any body corporate can include a union just as well. These donations are things, they are - in many ways, they should be tokens of faith. That's the sort of thing we've been hearing and I think a lot of people in this Legislature have received tokens of faith from their electors; people who've called them outside and said I want to give you something, and it's $5, or it's, you know, in a couple of cases, $2, $10, and you sure don't scorn those things because they mean an enormous amount. They come from the essence of the person who really believes that their individual voice does, in fact, count and has not been negated by larger amounts of money coming from larger, and not necessarily representative, entities.

Corporate bodies might not be voters and they're not entitled to a vote, but they certainly get a voice. When I was in the Greystone, it was very interesting, because the kinds of things - when I was working with one of the communities that I talk to, the kinds of questions that were being asked were things like, are we going to start an art gallery, are we going to keep the food bank going. So and so has been hoarding the food. The food is not getting distributed. It all gets given to - and this is the truth, sometimes the food spoils because it's being hoarded by the people who run the food bank for their own families and that's pretty sad, but that's another story.

[Page 2347]

The fact that food can be hoarded by the owners or the operators of the entity for the benefit of themselves and their families - that's a function of just who got elected and gets elected to the board. That, in turn, is a function of the decision-making process. The people who are entitled to receive anything at all from that organization and the people who are entitled to have representatives decide for them or - no, not even entitled to have representatives - are entitled to ask representatives, or entitled to delegate representatives to make some decisions for them so they don't have to occupy themselves with the absolute minutia of, shall we pay so and so so much to run the lunch program; how much are we willing to pay for a new cartridge of printer ink; should we in fact pay for a taxi to go pick up the cheque which so and so has written; did so and so actually sign the letter.

The people of the community have the right to delegate those kinds of decisions, minute decisions and bigger decisions, to a body of people that they trust and when they don't trust that body and when that body doesn't do anything to earn their trust, doesn't follow the rules, or maybe acts to change the rules when they're not on deck to see the discussion take place, then things start going awry. I feel at times as if that's what we're seeing in this Legislature.

This is a government that consults obsessively. It consults and it consults, not always fruitfully. We've certainly had to fight long and hard to get the results of certain consultations actually brought into being, quite apart from having them proclaimed as legislation. There's a lot of long steps between the consultation of the people, and the execution of the will of the people. But what I find is really interesting about this pattern of obsessive consultation is, it suggests to me that this is the delegation right back to the people, who delegated these representatives of their decision-making responsibilities. Now, why would you do that?

If this was a government that trusted that it was truly representative of the Nova Scotian community, this would not be a government which felt we better ask, we better ask, we better ask. It's another sign of immaturity and insecurity. You wonder where that insecurity comes from, I can only think it comes from an underlying understanding that as a matter of fact, the group of people which caused the result of this election may not be exactly representative of the will of the largest number of the individual members.

So we have legislation that talks on and on and on about consulting the members of the community. We never know who the community are. The community is a nebulous and very difficult thing to define, except when you come to the electorate. It's really clear. We have riding boundaries, we have citizenship, we have electoral lists. There is a lot of process there. It's been built up over a lot of time, and it makes it very clear who are the people who are able and entitled to delegate representatives to the House of Assembly to speak for them.

[Page 2348]

It's almost rude to go back to those people. It's kind of irresponsible to go back to those people all the time and say, we're going to consult with you now. If, in fact, the election had been a real consultation, and there was real faith placed in that elected body, then maybe it wouldn't be necessary to keep on going back, going back to the consultation well.

I think that's something we ought to be thinking about, long and hard, when we look at revising the electoral process without consulting the people who use the process. What a shortcut. There are an awful lot of ways that we can consult, and we have consulted, and we have consulted, ad infinitum, but not this time. Not when it comes time to decide on the process by which the people will elect us to make those decisions for them. That, I find absolutely untenable and profoundly undemocratic.

It's okay to declare the brook trout to be the provincial fish, that's great, but without the habitat protection that that trout needs in order to stay alive, it doesn't really matter very much. If we're not having those discussions in the place, whose fault is it? It's our fault. It's the fault of the people who have been delegated by the electorate of this province to make decisions. If we're only making decisions about light questions, to put it politely, then we're avoiding the real work. If we're going to make executive decisions about how we're brought here to make the decisions, to decide which ones need to be made, which ones can be made - if we're going to short-circuit the right of the electorate by, for once, suddenly not consulting them, then that is a failure of democracy.

That's part of this whole vengeance politics thing - money equals electoral power - and the electorate needs to be made to believe that they won't even get represented unless they manage to find themselves on the winning side. That's why you get the interesting phenomenon of, I think it's called, drinking from two wells; companies that make two sets of donations - or more recently, sometimes three - probably, so that somehow they can say they have, in fact, ended up on the winning side. Kind of wonder what makes those companies actually feel that they need to contribute and what's the value of it.

I don't know? It's hard to imagine that I'm the only Nova Scotian who could be offended that a would-be Premier can still cheerfully tell their voters they won't get, "anything in their area, if they don't vote for a certain member of the would-be government." Last summer, I understand, some voters were told that this would be exactly the case that a certain NDP member would never, "get anything for her constituents under a Progressive Conservative Government because she's not a Progressive Conservative." The interesting part about this is, the kind of things that were up for grabs aren't even in the direct realm of responsibility of the provincial government. So how does it work, that you can be made to believe that you won't get anything from a provincial government, or a municipal government, if you don't end up on the winning side?

[Page 2349]

That brings me to the second point of my discussion here. There's something else that's missing from this legislation. It's certainly missing from this province and it's a long, hard look at municipal politics and the relationship of municipal politics to provincial politics. It's well known that a reasonable haul of the municipal politicians, of the provincial candidates in any given election are, in fact, sitting municipal politicians. That's a bit of a boost. It's a bit of a springboard. It's a good starting place, to have the public profile and one could argue at times, perhaps the public purse, to launch a provincial campaign from. If anyone of us in this Chamber chose to run for federal office, we would be required to stand down during that time and to run on an even playing field with any other member of the public. That's not the case though when you're getting yourself into provincial politics, and I would argue that is probably a very real advantage, given to a certain body of people who enter provincial politics.

So, why don't we look at municipal finances? Why don't we look at the fact that when you analyze the contributions of municipal candidates in, for example, the Halifax Regional Municipality, which includes some 40 per cent of the electorate of the Province of Nova Scotia, which likes to discuss the fact that it's the size of Prince Edward Island, which is undoubtedly a very large electoral body but which is not subject to the kinds of disclosure rules that the Provincial Legislature is - why is it that when you find those contribution lists, so many of the contributions are corporate? And they're frequently the same corporate contributors who are contributing to provincial campaigns at the same time. So maybe we should be looking at corporate contributions. There are big numbers going into the municipal campaigns and municipal campaigns are frequently the basis for provincial campaigns. I would say that we should be ensuring that electoral forum engages electoral reform at all levels in this province, if we're really serious about this.

[6:30 p.m.]

Disclosure, at the very least, and maybe a very skeptical eye indeed at the contributions of corporate bodies, to the election campaigns of municipal politicians. And I think this is particularly important to me because my family didn't come from Nova Scotia, but they came from places with a very deep pride in their democratic traditions and with a very local pride in their democratic traditions, places in which individuals elect people to perform just about every function. You could say it's obsessive consultation, but there are elections in there too. It's disturbing to me that the lowest level of elected representation available to many members of the provincial electorate is, in fact, municipal representation and that's the representation of thousands of people. It can involve the donation of thousands of dollars. Sometimes from three, four, five corporations, which are not members of the community, and there's nothing to speak against it. There is absolutely no way for people to find a voice which is not in competition to clamour louder than the voice of the corporate bodies making donations to the candidates. I find that really disturbing.

[Page 2350]

Maybe that's why I was so honoured and I was so privileged to be asked to go to speak to and help with the rebuilding of the tenants' association in this area that I was talking about. Because, a tenants' association or a residents' association has the function of giving a voice. There isn't any money at play, or at least not directly, so far the only competition in the elections has been popularity contests only on a very direct and immediate level. It makes it desirable and possible for this community to speak outside, to represent itself. If the process is skewed by people voting from outside the community, or by agencies voting as though they are residents, then, even then, at that lowest level, people don't have a voice.

What we need to do, this Bill No. 117, just doesn't go far enough. It's a nice idea, but there's just not enough of it and it's way too late, there's a long, deep history by various Parties, and it's certainly much too hasty. It's impossible to figure out why this legislation has to take effect by year end, I'm fascinated by that one, I just don't know what makes that one tick. Yeah. I don't remember democracy working on a year-end calendar basis, however, I guess it's going to in this case if things go through this way - 50 days.

There are an awful lot of ways, as I think we all know, there are an awful lot of ways that money does, in fact, translate into the signs of electoral success. It is, as I say, an immature process in which people believe that they must be on the winning side, be riding the winning wave or else they will simply be snowed under. I am sad for the people of Nova Scotia for as long as this belief continues.

In some ways, though, the declining electoral turnout actually tells us the electorate is growing up, just a little bit, that there is a belief that you don't have to play that game. People don't always know which other game to play and it's a dangerous thing for society at large when people do not know how to speak with representatives, how to choose representatives, how to delegate their own power.

We have numerous examples recently of people taking the law into their own hands, again, because there is no understanding of how to delegate power. But, we have nearly one million people in this province and if they can't delegate anywhere to a body that they trust has been elected by people like them, by their peers, then we're going to find them working outside the system.

A lot of what we're talking about inside this Chamber is the fact that so many people feel disengaged from the process. They do not trust that their so-called community, at least the community of the million people of Nova Scotia, has elected a representative group of people to represent them and make those decisions. We need to worry about that in a big way. If we have an electoral turnout of 58 per cent, something like that most recently - I forget what it was in the most recent election, that means 42 per cent of the people who were eligible, who have a birthright, which I think we are all

[Page 2351]

educated to believe we have, some 42 per cent of those people have said it's not worth it, I can't be bothered and we need to think why can't they be bothered.

Maybe it's because they think their voices are going to be drowned out, maybe it's because they think that the decisions aren't being heard, maybe it's because they know they'll still be consulted obsessively because those people who end up elected, even if there is only a 2 per cent turnout, will keep on going back and consulting, consulting, not necessarily executing the results of the consultation, but at least going through the exercise.

It's interesting when you look at campaign contributions, whether they come from corporations or individuals, and when you see that sometimes the people who receive government contracts or whatever are the same people who have made contributions, and it's even more interesting when you find that those contracts actually precede their campaign contributions. We've seen a little bit of that recently and that's a very disturbing question indeed that has been happening. Maybe I can digress here a little bit - well, I'll tell you, if in fact this election reform legislation, this Bill No. 117, doesn't go through at this point, there's going to be some consultation. There's going to be some consultation that is going to be happening absolutely everywhere and people will be saying who, for once, they'll want to make their decisions for them. Who do they trust? Who are they going to go to? Why would this House not want that kind of consultation to take place? Six months, that's not very long.

Voluntary task force reports have languished on the shelves for years, and in fact they have been preceded by years of consultation, task forces and various sorts. Petroleum pricing for instance, touring road shows, MLAs have gone on the road, committees - they have asked questions about all sorts of things and yet, when they come back, the reports are either received or they are systematically ignored. Then we go through the ritual of raising the question in the House over and over again, whatever happened to the such and such report? Why haven't you acted on the such and such report? Yes, they're all there, there are a lot of reports, there's a lot of consultation and you know, we could probably even leave the results of electoral reform consultations on the shelf, but I don't think the people of Nova Scotia would stand for that.

The people of Nova Scotia are growing up, they are starting to think that if they make the decision to put their voice, to put their vote into a ballot box, to at least speak to the selection of a representative, their choice may not win but they are entitled, they are absolutely and fully entitled to representation by whoever it is who does win. They are growing up, they're not believing anymore that without casting the right ballot they are going to be punished.

The people of Nova Scotia aren't children, they just aren't children and for us to be bringing this through saying these are the rules. Well, you put us here to make the rules, we're going to change the rules now because we think that perhaps some beliefs

[Page 2352]

are changing too, so we're going to change the rules a little bit but we're not going to ask you about this, even though you are the ones who are going to be using the rules, not us. There are 52 of us in this Chamber and that represents 52 ballots, each of us has our own voice, we can use it, we can do what we can to convince those around us but that's the extent of it - the people of Nova Scotia are growing up, they are realizing this.

I really want to digress here, I want to digress to what it means to be a member of the Legislative Assembly and how people function when they are members of the Legislative Assembly, what happens to people and, more to the point, what happens to people when they aren't representatives anymore.

Here we don't talk about elected representatives nearly as much as we should. We keep talking about MLAs and we talk about politicians and that's it. I think probably the only way for anybody in this Chamber to actually contemplate their return to the status in life where they have one ballot to cast is to realize that they have, in fact, been chosen to sit here as representative of the majority of the people in the area, the defined community which they serve. I do think it's too bad that we have so many discussions about remuneration after the fact and so on, when part of what we're dealing with is the fact that people who put themselves forward to be members of the Legislature are courting disaster in this province, in terms of their employment prospects later. Often courting disaster in terms of their personal prospects.

I would like to see a little more attention paid to exactly that fact because if it's a fear-driven political system and if it's fear which drives people to stay in this Chamber, then we're not working with a mature system. We should, in fact, be addressing the problem which is that all of us are here for only a time. All of us, every last one of us will, unless we die in the harness - which some of us threaten to do at times - but every one of us will eventually be facing the issue of returning to be a member of the community which we represented and the community which we represented is the community of individuals. Each of whom was born as a citizen, lives in Nova Scotia and has the right to cast one ballot, exactly one ballot.

We don't go and become bodies corporate, we go back and become individuals and it's not easy. It's really not easy. I would like to see us recognize that and maybe there would be a little bit less of the fear which drives people to do what they need to do to stay here. (Interruptions) Keeping them engaged, is absolutely right. I think we'd get a better electoral turnout as well, if the electorate realize that people are coming from them, coming from among their numbers, are being elected by people like them. Are continuing to serve people like them, to do their best to digest what's happening and to bring it to policy-makers in the trust that policy-makers will look at the conflicting interests which do exist, necessarily exist, and measure the best result.

[6:45 p.m.]

[Page 2353]

All of us are responsible, at the end of the day, to the individual community which has chosen us . If we can only say that a corporation or a union, some non-individual, has put its voice into the mix, has put its money forward in such a way as to make a conspicuous display that shows the individuals who are members of the community, that they had better be afraid, very afraid, and they had better shape up and toe the line. Unless we can stop that process, then we are going to continue to have some of the kinds of discussions and again, the obsessive consultations we're going to continue to delegate back to the people of Nova Scotia the responsibility that they have delegated to us. I think that's a tremendous waste of time, energy and goodwill.

It happens throughout the province, it happens throughout the municipal governments as well as the provincial governments, it happens in the school community. I think we could afford to have some real discussion in this province about who is a member of a community, who's a voter, should people who can't vote contribute, should they affect the vote, should they affect the vote to a very large degree, or should we allow them to have a voice to the degree that they are an interest group at least and functioning in the province? Maybe they need a smaller voice, but if you think that those discussions can be had in this Chamber without the engagement of the people who depend on this, decide on this, use this system every few years, or every few months as it seems, then we're a pretty arrogant bunch and I don't want to be part of that, I really don't, absolutely taking them for granted.

So the consultation is out there. The consultation is out there. The mechanisms are there. It has been used before. There is every single possibility of asking the people of Nova Scotia whether they want non-individuals to contribute, whether they want the results of money obtained by, how shall we say (Interruption) illegal means, okay, all right. I wasn't sure which words were, anyway, whether the results of illegal activity - has extortion been said? No, okay, but ill-gotten gains, whether those, in fact, are acceptable ways to replace income so that the other income can be used for electoral purposes. So are ill-gotten gains eligible? Are contributions made unwittingly - because I would argue that shareholders are unwittingly contributing when a corporation doesn't disclose its political activities, or during leadership campaigns, or from outside of the province but, you know, we can't have those discussions in this room. We're biased and I would hope that every single one of the 52 of us in here would realize exactly that, we got here as the result of one process and whatever happens next to change the process is going to be what decides who are the next group of 52 people to be here.

We're not the right people to make this decision. We might be the right people to decide whether the brook trout is, in fact, the provincial fish. We might be the right people to decide whether or not the amount of money provided on social assistance is, in fact, adequate to feed a growing child. We might even be the right people to decide how many nursing home beds are going to be needed in this province five years from now and we even might be the right people to decide how many nursing homes are needed in this province today. We might be the right people to do all those things, but

[Page 2354]

we sure as heck aren't the right people to decide who's in here to make those decisions. I am so pleased, absolutely delighted, to be able to say that I don't support this jury-rigged, rushed through, arrogant effort to revise the electoral rights of every individual in this province, every qualified elector. We're deciding who's qualified. So I don't want to be part of that and that's why I'm here, okay. (Interruption) Jury-rigged, not good, jury-rigged is not good, okay. Let me see, oh, I can spend the next five minutes figuring out a nice synonym for jury-rigged. (Interruption) Go and do it, okay. Band-aid solution, are band-aids okay, all right.

We need to look not just at the immediate provincial process as well, but we need to remember the fact that as provincial government, we constitute the rules. We constitute the municipalities. We set up the framework by which municipal governments, the most local and intimate, the last chance, the last-ditch resort of the electorate, we set up the system by which those people are in fact elected.

So it shouldn't be happening that during a provincial election municipal officials, elected municipal officials, can go around saying that if the right provincial candidate isn't elected the right things aren't going to happen. Don't be fooled, because it's municipal governments that drive the infrastructure bus, and it's provincial and federal governments that put in the fuel. We're going nowhere, absolutely nowhere unless we know exactly who is in the driver's seat, and that's what this legislation is all about - it's telling us who in this electoral process is in the driver's seat.

Another thing that we need to have happen in terms of electoral reform in this province is a little bit of clarity, a little bit more in terms of political science in the education curriculum. I am horrified by the number of people who, really, one would expect to know better, but who are very confused as to whether X is done by the provincial, the municipal, or the federal government.(Interruption) Yes, there's a lot of overlap. There's a lot of overlap - some are in this room, yes, and some have been campaigning outside of this room as well.

But we shouldn't be counting on exploiting confusion for electoral success. I'd like to see this bill include, or at least this bill be tied to, some kind of curriculum unit that is very, very clear, indeed, as to who does what, who it is, because, as I say, people's goodwill, their energy and their goodwill and their imagination is being exhausted, absolutely worn out by being bounced back and forth, back and forth, from one level of government to the next. In each case, it seems that there is nothing more happening than an attempt to exhaust the electorate, to disengage the electorate.

How can we be surprised at the end of the day that the electorate just doesn't even want to participate? First of all, they don't know who it is who is exerting the power that they see in the big, splashy displays of signs at election campaigns; they don't know where that money came from; they don't know who bought it; they don't know what they expect in exchange or if they expect something in exchange. Secondly, they

[Page 2355]

don't even know whether the things they're concerned with are going to be discussed in the Legislature once the election is accomplished. They certainly don't know what the result of that discussion should be, and of course they shouldn't expect a foregone conclusion, because the Legislature is the place for debate and discussion.

They don't understand anymore, and I don't understand anymore, just how it is that people end up being the decision makers, and they don't understand exactly which group of people, which level of government is engaged, is involved, is responsible for the things that mean the most to them in their area. You travel around this province, and you will find that different areas have different priorities. We hear an awful lot about roads, we hear about potholes, but we also hear about health care, and it would be nice if people understood that the pothole is in fact the responsibility of the municipal government, and the health care is the responsibility of the provincial government. They don't have to choose - they don't have to ask, do I want a bed for my grandmother or do I want a pothole filled? They don't have to make that decision. We have three levels of government, and they all have different purviews. They all have different responsibilities, and it would be really nice if the people in this province could count on having had a decent civic education before they're asked to go to the polls.

We have to have that faith restored. So, I guess the thing to ask is, how are we going to restore that faith in six months? Well, give people the chance to be a part of the process by which they set the rules. I was amazed, and I have been amazed every time I am involved with a residents association, by the savvy, the common sense and the savvy that people bring to decisions when they know it matters. They know, they ask, well this happened, how did it happen, why did it happen, this is going to happen, well then what do we have to do next? People are not children in this province, they have a tremendous amount of ability when they are allowed to exercise it. They are capable of figuring out just what kind of a process they think would be the best way to get the best result in terms of government and putting the right decision makers in place to make the meaningful decisions. They're capable of doing it but we're not asking them.

I would be embarrassed to be a part of a group which imposes on the electorate a set of rules by year end that tells them exactly how, when, and what will be contributed to tailor the process by which the representatives are selected. I hope that everybody in this Chamber really thinks about the process by which they got here. If they feel that process needs change, have they asked their electorate whether that process needs change and how it should be changed? It would be a good chance to do it, it really would, because every single one of us at some point has been a member of the electorate, will be a member of the electorate. You know, who really likes to have somebody take away from them their birth right?

Sometimes I feel the watchword here has been penny-wise and pound foolish. I've looked at decisions being made which are fine in the short term or may be fine in the short term, they solve a problem, but they often open up huge and gaping holes

[Page 2356]

underneath. A number of the environmental decisions made in this province have had that characteristic as well as have the decisions surrounding social assistance and just how we will deal with people who are for one reason or another, often temporarily, out of the mainstream of the working population. How we deal with disabilities, whether in fact we do triage, whether in fact we ensure that triage is happening with disabilities, handle the problem before it gets really bad. These decisions are the ones that need to be made in this Chamber. The people who make these decisions are the people who should be trusted by the people of the province and even more the people who are in this Chamber should be able to trust themselves to make those decisions.

[7:00 p.m.]

Throwing out each of these questions for infinite amounts of consultation and examination and not necessarily execution has become the watch word, and that in itself is also penny wise and pound foolish because it's a short-term solution to say let's consult but not execute the decision, the result of the consultation. I don't know whether that decision is ever consciously made but maybe it's characteristic, maybe it's a characteristic of a province in which people believe that their vote, their birth right, that inalienable thing is something they better handle pragmatically, they better just do whatever and hope for the best. Maybe that's what you get, a government that isn't able to look at the long-term picture, a government that doesn't trust itself to be able to make the decisions that represent the will of the people because it's not necessarily sure that its election itself is the will of the people.

Until we have ensured that the people of this province are more than participants, they are the people who set up the rules, have had a really good chance to talk about the rules by which those decision makers will be put in place, until we've done that there is no way that we can trust ourselves to represent the will of the people, therefore make the decisions, assume that we are making the decisions which represent the will of the people, therefore, to make the decisions, assume that we are making the decisions which represent the will of the people, and we'll have to keep on throwing back, over and over and over again for consultation, the questions which do not represent the fundamental underlying question, how did the decision makers get there?

We have to allow the people of Nova Scotia to be engaged in this fundamental process. I keep saying it over and over again, but people are afraid, they have voted fear for years, and they're growing up. So what is happening? At this point, until there has been a real reform, they are withdrawing from the process, and that is why we have this really low turnout, and that is dangerous because there are a lot of people who aren't participating in or aren't relying on the various sub-bodies which have been set up by the

[Page 2357]

provincial government. When people don't rely on them, when they don't engage, when they strike out on their own, then as a society we begin to run into problems.

I am afraid that if we in this Chamber decide to arrogate to ourselves the right to decide how the electorate will decide, then we are really going to be inviting more and more people to continue stepping out of the process, to stop voting and to keep maybe inscribing their will in all sorts of other ways which a large number of us deem not socially acceptable, and we are going to be left playing catch-up, not just the 52 people in this assembly, but everybody who is employed as a result of the decisions made by the people in this Assembly. Admittedly, that is a large number of people, but we don't want to be all scrambling to play catch-up because an increasingly large proportion of the electorate of Nova Scotia does not believe that it has been consulted in how the decision-makers will be chosen.

It happens in the smallest way, it will happen in a group of 10 people, it will happen in a province of a million, it will happen in a municipal ward, it will happen in a provincial riding, that if people believe that their voice has been unreasonably and unfairly drowned out by the contributions, either illegal or imported, of somebody who actually has no say whatsoever in the community, if that continues to be the case, then the electorate will not respect the will, they will not respect the decisions that are made in this Chamber, and we will all pay the price.

So the people of Nova Scotia aren't children; they deserve our respect, they deserve to be consulted and asked just how they want to make that fundamental decision, which every single one of us has the right to make. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll have a few brief words on Bill No. 117, especially around the amendments put forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition, the member for Cole Harbour. It is always an honour to stand, and I think it is important to recognize the role each MLA in this Legislature plays in the legislative process, especially when bills come through this historic House.

I think it is important that we recognize the job and the purpose of why MLAs are here, Mr. Speaker. It is important that we stand up and debate these pieces of legislation and inform the positive parts of a bill, and the negative parts of a bill. Especially, as a member of the Official Opposition caucus, it is important for me to recognize that I have a job to do in this Legislature, to stand up and debate bills that come before us here on the floor of this Chamber. I will do that this evening.

I support this piece of legislation because it's needed, but I support it in a way that we need to make changes to improve it. All pieces of legislation that enter and go through this process aren't perfect. We've seen it in history, we've seen it in this session,

[Page 2358]

in sessions prior to this. We need to work on legislation to improve them, to make sure they're the best possible changes in public policy that the residents of our province want. They expect that and that's why I do support the amendment from the Leader of the Official Opposition on delaying this for six months.

It's not delaying it because we don't want to see changes coming, that's not why we're bringing forward this amendment and that's not why all my colleagues here have been speaking for the past day, day and a half, on this amendment. It's because we know there's a flaw in this piece of legislation. This bill is not perfect and there need to be changes in it. Government needs to recognize that changes need to come.

I think Nova Scotians want us to stand up and indicate what those changes should be. I'll take a few minutes in the next little while to say that. One of the big reasons why we want this amendment is because of the lack of consulting, the lack of going to the public and trying to find out what they actually want, what they expect, what they see needs to happen in electoral reform here in the province.

By introducing this legislation on Friday - we got notice on Thursday - now we debated it here Monday evening and also today, Tuesday, if we were not to stand here and debate and try to project what we think are some of the flaws in this legislation, then we wouldn't do it justice. The people of this province would think we weren't doing our job and I think it's a rushed piece of legislation.

This isn't something that can pass through the House in a number of days. I know the process in this House of introducing a bill, calling it for second reading, have it go to the Law Amendments Committee to have that input from the public and then calling it for third reading and follow through the legislative process. This isn't something that can happen very quickly.

One thing I've learned over the years as a member of this House is that pieces of legislation fly through these doors - in and out - very quickly. It doesn't give a lot of opportunity for the public to have their say. I know government always says in the process of passing a bill, that the public and interest groups have the opportunity for input during the Law Amendments Committee. But, you know and I know, there's usually a day's notice when the Law Amendments Committee is going to be held for the public to make presentations to that committee, to make changes or bring amendments.

The process is very quick. We strongly believe the people in this province would want time to digest this. For one, they would like to have input - they're not going to get the input, I don't believe, the justified input, that they could have if we could delay this for six months. That's all we're asking for is to delay this for six months so that people in this province can look at this piece of legislation, digest it just like the members of my caucus can, and come to an assumption about it, come to a conclusion that it's not perfect or we like it or we don't like it - there should be some changes there, but they're

[Page 2359]

not going to be given that opportunity. Especially with how quickly the process of approving pieces of legislation is in this Chamber.

One of the other reasons why we're standing up and pointing out some of the flaws in this piece of legislation is the lack of consultation - not only with the public, but with the other political Parties. I can't speak on behalf of the Third Party as to how much consultation they had with the government on this. I know there is some agreement between the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative Government on exchanging support for pieces of legislation. Maybe this is one of them, I don't know.

We haven't seen that consultation that I think Nova Scotians want to see when there's a minority government here in this province. There's been a minority government for nearly four years now and we have to respect their wishes. The government, the Progressive Conservative Party, won in the last general election. We respect that. We respect the roles and responsibility that government has in providing and bringing forward pieces of legislation, Mr. Speaker, but they have to understand and respect that they don't have a majority. Nova Scotians spoke very loudly in the last election, very loudly. Not only did the government lose seats, but the Third Party lost seats, and our Party gained seats in the last election. That's a strong message that was sent, not only to the governing Party but to the Third Party, that voters recognized the work we have done over the last several years, before I was even elected, before 2003, the hard work that my caucus members have done over the years to try to garnish that support with voters, and try to show that we're here to speak on their behalf and bring their concerns forward.

Mr. Speaker, that lack of consulting with us is one of the reasons, as I stated, why we're here today and why we're debating this evening on changes that we believe are needed to this piece of legislation. We have, in the province, the Election Commission. I've read - I believe they tabled their report earlier in this session, around changes that the Election Commission would like to see in electoral reform in this province, and that commission is made up of members of the Progressive Conservative Party, members of the Liberal Party, members of our caucus, the NDP caucus. That, I believe, is the right approach.

They also have, I believe, the Chief Electoral Officer of the province on that. There are ways for the public to have input on making changes to the process of elections. I think they can make changes to the process of how we fund elections and how Party fundraising happens in this province. But that step wasn't taken. That wasn't offered to our Party, that wasn't offered to the residents of the province, it wasn't brought forward to that commission, and I don't understand why. That's one reason why we're standing here, we don't understand why.

Over the last three and a half years, I can say that there has been an understanding between government and the Opposition and the Liberal Party on pieces of legislation to try to move them forward, move them through this House, to try to bring

[Page 2360]

good public policy to Nova Scotia, because of the situation, the environment we have here in the province, the minority government. I can honestly say that our environment here in the province is nothing like, or it hasn't been up to this time, and I'll get to that later, Mr. Speaker - what we see with the minority government in federal politics. That is very volatile, and there doesn't seem to be any kind of relationship or working together in the House of Commons when we're dealing with federal pieces of legislation. The voters see that, I see that. They tell me about that.

I would expect, and I would hope that we would have seen the same working relationship that we've seen over the last three and a half years from the Progressive Conservative Government on this issue. This is an important issue, one that I think all members here want to see changes in. They want to see positive changes, Mr. Speaker. They want to see that the political Parties in this province take electoral reform seriously. We need to show voters, we need to show Nova Scotians that we all want changes. We all want it. I believe, honestly, that every member here believes that things need to change, that the history of political fundraising and election fundraising has had many blemishes and really is embarrassing. We all, I think, should agree on that, and there need to be changes, but they need to make those changes in the most appropriate way.

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. ZINCK: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my honourable colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. I want to bring the House's attention to the west gallery. It's interesting that we're discussing this debate and allowing the participation and asking for the participation of fellow Nova Scotians. I want to bring the attention of the House to Brian LeBlanc, a young New Democrat, a constituent of mine, and I just want to have the House acknowledge him and wish him a warm welcome. Brian. (Applause)

[7:15 p.m.]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Now, where was I, Mr. Speaker? Oh, yes, a few brief words on this Bill No. 117. One of the reasons why I'm standing here tonight is to talk about why we need this amendment to happen. We don't have to look too far. I characterize it in three different areas, I'll talk a little bit about each, and that's the history of elections and election funding and Party funding in this province. The other one is the current practice that we have now in the province and what we see today in election funding and Party fundraising and what the future could hold and what the possibilities are about election funding and Party funding in the future.

[Page 2361]

Mr. Speaker, I think electoral reform is needed and watched by Nova Scotians and all Canadians for that matter. This isn't just a provincial issue. We're seeing and hearing the same issues across the county, in different provinces, in different jurisdictions. We're seeing the same demand from the voters, from the citizens on the federal level, that we need changes and we're seeing those changes and we're hoping that they'll be positive changes but, you know, once we start to make those changes, I think that we need to make sure that this legislation is strong, that it's the right legislation for the people of the province, for the Parties that are involved in elections here in Nova Scotia, and that we have that involvement, that consultation with the voters, because ultimately this piece of legislation, if passed, will implicate on what voters in this province, what taxpayers in this province are paying for funding political Parties in this province.

So ultimately, voters see every day the amount of taxes taken off their income, every day, every month, Mr. Speaker, and they question where it's going. I think we need to give them the opportunity to have a say on where their hard-earned money is going, especially with a bill like that that implicates the amount of money that each Party is going to get and the funding which ultimately comes from the taxpayers. In this process that we will be seeing so far, they have no ability to put that forward to tell the government that we don't want to see it this way. We would rather see it this way. There might be a better way of doing this. We don't have all the answers. Government doesn't have all the answers and the Liberal Party doesn't have the answers.

Mr. Speaker, we need to make sure that the people in this province who might have a better answer, who do have a better answer, are consulted, are acknowledged, are able to give that input in this process. So we're not saying get rid of this bill, we're not saying let's vote against it and kill it, never see it again, put it on a shelf and make the dust grow on it, we just want a little bit of time so that those experts in our province, those individuals who want to see the changes, who would love to have the opportunity to have input on this, have that ability. Currently, the way this is going through this House, they're not going to have that opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, the public has a disconnect with politicians. They have a disconnect with the political process and you don't have to take my word for it, if you look at the voter turnout in the last election this summer, the voter turnout is down. It might be even a record low and I think that disconnect will just continue to grow if we don't, as MLAs and if government doesn't, as the governing Party, start to engage them, to include them in the political process, include them in the bills, the changing of public policy, then we're going to continue to have that decline and there's going to continue to be a disconnect between the voters, the residents of this province, myself and my colleagues, and all members of this House.

Mr. Speaker, there's a disconnect and I don't believe, I must say this, that we would see this bill come forward in this manner under the former John Hamm

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Government. I don't believe we would, and we all know that this is not the John Hamm Government, we all know that. Over the last six months they've acted more like the John Buchanan Government, not the John Hamm Government, and I think they need to take a step back and recognize the road they're going down is not a road of success. Maybe I shouldn't tell them this because maybe I should allow them to keep going down the road they're going because after the last election we realized the benefit of them travelling down that road. As I said, our caucus was the only caucus that increased our members. We have five new members, actually six new members but five extra seats. I think it's a strong message to this government on what the citizens of this province want to see. They want to see that co-operation that I talked about earlier. They want to see that consultation because, as I said, we have a minority government and it only makes sense if this government wants to stay in power a little longer, I think they have to realize that consultation, negotiation, that a working relationship with our Party and the Liberal Party has to improve. It can't be just one sided in this House.

Another reason around my support of this amendment and the changes I believe that we need to see is definitely around the history of political funding in this province and of course I'm talking about the Liberal trust fund. We've heard about it over the last two days, I know you're aware of it, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker. I don't blame you or any members of the Liberal caucus about the situation around the trust fund - they weren't members when all this transpired so I don't blame you for what happened many, many years ago. I know that you inherited this problem but it doesn't mean you can't act on it.

The Liberal trust fund has really been a sore point in our political history around fundraising. We all know there was an investigation that led to conviction of two Party officials in the early 1980s for influence peddling. The Crown proved at the time when they went to court that the men had operated, the two men that were convicted - there were three men charged, one was found not guilty - but there were two charged and convicted around operating a tollgating, as they called it in the information that I read and the history that I read on a tollgating scheme that got liquor stores and breweries to pay a percentage of the sales of the Nova Scotia liquor stores back to the Liberal Party. I mean that should have never happened and I think everybody here would agree that it never should have happened. There was actually a conviction and it should have been over then but it wasn't.

This has dragged on for what, over 30 years, and today we're still discussing this trust fund, where the money came from, how it was obtained. There was a trial, conviction, fines paid - 30-some years later we're still discussing it and it's very pertinent to this piece of legislation. I know in this legislation it states that the Liberal Party cannot use it during an election campaign but, what stops them from in between that election campaign, spending it in ways that will improve them, give them a head start, give them a few steps out of the blocks in the next election. We all know just before the last campaign that the members of the Liberal Party, the member for Cape

[Page 2363]

Breton South had stated that they couldn't go to war with an empty gun - I remember the member for Cape Breton South said that. He also said the Liberal Party was having difficulty raising money because individuals knew that there was this trust fund and they can't understand if you're coming to me and asking me for money why don't you spend your own money? Why don't you spend the trust fund?

I know it's difficult for you, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, and for the members of your caucus to raise funds because of the blemish that happened many years ago, I know it wasn't on your watch, but it happened many years ago and many of your members have been involved in the Party for many years. I think to take the next step forward in reforming fundraising procedures for Parties in this province that you need to get rid of that money.

I know members before me have stated a number of options. There are all kinds of things you could do with that money. You could give it back to the taxpayers of this province. During the investigation, after the conviction, there was an audit done by the Liberal Party to try to figure out where the money came from, and figure out who actually contributed to that. A portion of that, that they could figure out, came from the rollbacks and the kickbacks from the liquor sales, but there was a large portion of that, I believe it was about $1 million or more, $1.3 million, I believe, but there was still $3.4 million left that they actually couldn't figure out where it came from. There was no trail. There was no way of explaining to Nova Scotians where it came from. Ultimately, it could have come from the kickbacks - I can't say it did, but it could have, because we can't say it didn't. We can't say it didn't.

I think they need to do the right thing. Especially now, Mr.[Deputy] Speaker, where I know you have an interim Leader, you have a convention coming up in April, you have a leadership race in this province, and I think that the Liberal supporters in this province want you to do the right thing. They want you to clean this out. Get rid of it. This wasn't your doing, it wasn't your Party's doing, it was done in the past. Get rid of it and let's start over, then that would be true reform of political fundraising here in this province. I think you need to do that.

I think it's important that those members in the Liberal Party who are contemplating running, this is something they're going to have to try to address over the next several months before their convention, before you choose your Leader, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, and before the next election. I think by offering a six-month break to delay this piece of legislation would allow your Party to consult with your members, with Nova Scotians, on what the most appropriate way is to proceed when we're dealing with the Liberal trust fund and what you should do down the road.

We need to clean that up, Mr.[Deputy] Speaker, and I believe your members don't want this hanging over their shoulders. I believe the next Liberal Leader doesn't want this hanging over their shoulders. It comes up every time, especially around an

[Page 2364]

election. It comes up every time. I've read it over the years, and I think it would be better for you just to get rid of that.

During the trial of the two men who were convicted, defence lawyers during that trial openly referred to the political nature and questioned the RCMP investigation of Tory fundraising practices. Not just Liberal, but Tory fundraising practices which, according to the RCMP corporal on the stand at the time, that investigation had to end because they had learned that the Progressive Conservative documents had been burned around the fundraising and how their practices were.

[7:30 p.m.]

So this is not just a one-Party thing. This happened with the Progressive Conservative Party many years ago. We have a deep blemish in the history of fundraising for political Parties in this province. So I think we all need to do the right thing. We all need to take the right steps forward in ensuring that this legislation is the best that it possibly can be - for the future, for MLAs who will come after us, who will have to deal with this again and again if we don't do it right the first time. By rushing it through this House, we're not doing it right.

That's why we need to delay this, we need to have that time to reflect, to engage the voters here in this province to find out what road and what changes they want to see. It shouldn't be what changes I want to see or what changes my Party wants to see, or the Liberals or the Progressive Conservatives, it's what the voters, it's what the taxpayers, the residents of this province want to see. Those are the changes we need to be looking at and the amendments that need to be made to this bill. I said if this process continues, and how quickly the process of bills going through this House continues, then we won't get those changes, we won't get the amendments that Nova Scotians want and deserve and actually expect. They expect positive changes.

I also said I support this amendment by the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Cole Harbour, and I'll talk around the current conditions of what we have today in political fundraising and Party fundraising, Mr. Speaker. I know that today this piece of legislation deals with setting limits, I believe a $5,000 limit for corporate donations, $1,000 individual donation. We have stated already that we feel that's too high. We don't want that.

We all throw snowballs around here around election time, Mr. Speaker, on how we get our funding during an election, prior to an election, after an election. The Progressive Conservatives seem to - it says they get it from corporation donations. They seem to throw the snowball at us, where we get it from union donations and the Liberals, of course, with the Liberal trust fund, slush fund.

[Page 2365]

So we all throw these snowballs but we don't take time to step back and say well, let's make positive changes, let's stop throwing the snowballs and do it right so that it's fair, it's transparent, it's open, so that residents of this province are able to understand how it works. Right now they don't, they are very skeptical of the political fundraising that goes on in this province. I believe that the corporations and the unions that donate during campaign - and I will admit that we go there because we have to - I believe they don't want to donate to our Parties, they don't want to give money to us but they feel obligated to do this.

Mr. Speaker, I'll look at the corporate donations for a little while and I'll talk about that. I think that businesses in this province feel they have an obligation to fund or to give funds to political Parties and I feel that they don't need to do that. I feel that they feel they need to - if government scratches your back, you need to scratch their back. I think that corporations in this province feel it's necessary and that it's just part of doing business here in Nova Scotia.

Well, Mr. Speaker, if we wiped that out, if we got rid of corporate donations in this province, then corporations would look at this province, I believe, in a positive light and say, here, we can go to Nova Scotia, we don't need to act as we have in the past, we don't need to act like we do in other provinces, in our capital, around whoever is in government, we need to make sure they get donations, that we scratch their back and if we don't, what are the consequences?

Well, we don't know but I'll highlight a few of them. I know that currently in this province - I sit on the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. Speaker - and we have many organizations, many departments of the government come forward to talk around the issues of government policy and the procedures.

One of the things we just found out a little while ago was around the SAP program that the Department of Finance has initiated in this province around the computer system and the operations of accountability here in this province. The SAP program actually is the name of the company, it is a worldwide company, I believe one of the largest companies in the world that provide the services to many companies throughout the world, Mr. Speaker. Our SAP program, SAP Canada was actually the one that was given the contract; it was an untendered contract at that to provide the services for this province. Actually going through the political donations books, we see that SAP Canada actually gave money to the Progressive Conservative Party, and I think that just shouldn't happen - it sends the wrong message to business out there.

This is a worldwide company, and what do they say to people in other countries? Well, we have the contract in Nova Scotia, but we gave the political Party a donation during the election so I guess it's part of doing business, Mr. Speaker. It's part of doing business and I feel that corporations shouldn't have that over their heads when they come to this province. We're trying to create business opportunities here in this province

[Page 2366]

and I think this is just one area that, if we got rid of it, it would benefit the attraction of businesses to our province, and it would grow the economy here in our province.

Mr. Speaker, another one is the S&J Potato Farms. That was another one that we talked about at the Public Accounts Committee. Here's a company that received funding from this province, received a guaranteed loan, a forgivable guaranteed loan, yet they were leasing land from one of the members of the Cabinet. So what does that show, what image does that project to the business world out there? It sends the wrong message because I don't think corporations want it perceived that they are scratching the back of government. I think if we got rid of the corporate donations, we could solve that problem, and that's why I think we need to support amending this piece of legislation and get that delay.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I'll talk about another business in this province that came to the government for assistance, we'll talk about Snair's Bakery. They were here for many years, I think over 60 years if I'm not mistaken, and they came to government, they were a family-run business, and asked for assistance from this government. Did they get it? No. I have to say from all the evidence I looked at, they never gave any money to a political Party, and now they're not here - they're over in P.E.I., they're gone.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think that's drifting afar from the issue of the hoist motion before the House - if you would get back on that, please.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, what it does show is that if we change and make amendments and receive six months to try to even look at the corporate businesses in this province and ask them what reform they would like to see, what changes in political donations in this province, and what they think, I think we would get an earful - and in the next six months we should be doing that.

That's why I support the amendment to Bill No. 117, Mr. Speaker, that corporate companies in this province could have input, just like the taxpayers, just the regular residents pay taxes, I stated that earlier, and they should be involved in this process, but businesses in this province pay a lot of taxes also, and I think they want government to bring forward positive changes to the way Parties fundraise, especially during an election. I believe that those changes could happen if only we were given the time of six months to review this and consult with Nova Scotians, not only just individuals but corporations and companies, those who are running our economy or providing the money for this government to implement their policies - to implement their policies - and I've stated before that we owe it to them.

Many of these corporations and these companies, they're voters, Mr. Speaker. They have employees who vote and we know the results of the last election was a minority government, just like in 2003, and I believe that that sends a message that policy and bills that come through this House need to be the best that they can be to

[Page 2367]

ensure that the wishes of those taxpayers, those voters, those residents in this province, the wishes that they have are listened to and are acted upon by government - and by all members, by members of the Opposition, and by members of the Third Party. I think it's important that we do that.

The one thing also, why we're making amendments - I believe someone would like to make an introduction, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad to have an opportunity and I appreciate the member for Sackville-Cobequid giving me a few minutes. In the west gallery this evening we have visitors from other parts of the world who are here and I wanted to recognize them. Not from another part of the world but my CA, Dorothy Boudreau, she lives in Cole Harbour, her daughter Emma Pratt who is also here, and also J.D. Fisher. Also, my CA Dorothy is the host family for two exchange students, one, Carolna Mesa from Colombia and the other Min Hay Han from Korea.

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed welcome our guests to the Legislature this evening.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON(Sackville-Cobequid): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I too welcome the guests to the session this evening. What we're talking about just in case they just came in is we're talking about a piece of legislation that was introduced by government to change the way we fundraise in this province, change ways to how political Parties in this province receive their funds during an election and in between elections. The Leader of the Opposition presented an amendment to this bill stating that we needed more time to consult, that we needed six months so that we could take this process, this important process that we're going through, and go to the public, go to the businesses in Nova Scotia, get input, get consultation and find out the right way of doing this.

As I said I don't believe the 52 members in this Chamber have all the answers when it comes to these changes that are proposed in Bill No.117 - we don't have all the answers. We need to seek those answers out and by not hoisting this and allowing some time to digest this then I think we'll have a flawed piece of legislation move through this House and it's something that we can't have happen.

This bill talks about political Party fundraising during an election and around an election. What this bill doesn't talk about is how political Parties spend that money. I think that should be part of this legislation. I think that's why we need six months to consult, to digest this - it talks nothing about how political Parties can spend their money

[Page 2368]

and I think we need to go down that road. Nova Scotians expect and want us to have changes to the way we raise money in this province not only on a provincial level but on a federal level. That's one of the other reasons why we're supporting this amendment is that right now currently there are changes in the federal system that specifically state some of the things that we are requesting - the limits, we want to see, a $1,000 limit for individuals and take away corporate and union donations, get rid of them.

I know that will hurt our Party, it'll hurt the Progressive Conservative Party and it'll hurt the Liberal Party but we need to get rid of that. I don't understand why this piece of legislation is so different than the parent Party of the Progressive Conservative Government in this province. They're the ones that introduced the legislation in the House of Commons. This bill that the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party introduced is not similar and I don't think it goes as far as our federal counterparts are going and I believe it is being accepted.

[7:45 p.m.]

I know, as I mentioned before, there's a Liberal leadership race here in the province but there's one also going on on the federal side and they're actually following the changes that have happened with funding where it's required for any Liberal leadership candidate to divulge where they get their funding. But in this piece of legislation it doesn't state that. If you're running for leadership of a Party you don't have to divulge where you got your funding and it's wrong. That's why we need to step back, look at this, take the six months to see how the Liberal leadership race in federal politics transpires and make sure that the process and the changes that we've seen on the federal side are working, that they're implemented right.

Mr. Speaker, they're trying to shotgun this through the Legislature so that, I think, we don't have the opportunity to consult. We don't have the opportunity to seek input from experts in the field, from taxpayers in this province, from corporations, and that's an injustice. I think it's wrong, and that's why member after member in our caucus are standing up and promoting the fact that this is not right, and that we need time. We need six months to look at this, and I believe it's something that the government members and the Liberal members should support. They should support this amendment. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I noticed, reading through political funding, not only in our country, not only in our province, but you just have to look to the south of us, and during their elections - not Yarmouth, but down in the States. Down in the States, I know that they're going through mid-term elections now, or have just finished mid-term elections for the House and Senate and Congress. Individuals spend and raise, during the political process in the States, well over $200 million each in the U.S.

[Page 2369]

I can say, Mr. Speaker, that if that were me, I would not be able to run for political office, and I think that would be a shame, because I believe that everyone in this province should be given the opportunity to seek office if they choose, to take that step into the political life so they could come to the floor of this Legislature and bring the concerns of their residents who elect them, not only them but the residents of the whole province. Whatever your role is here in this Legislature, if it's with government, if it's with the Official Opposition, or with the Third Party, you have the opportunity to get here and promote what people in the province want to see.

I don't think they'd like to see this piece of legislation pass through in that shotgun fashion I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker. I think we need an amendment to this bill, the amendment that the Leader of the Opposition proposed on Monday. I believe he was genuine in that amendment and we support him. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, as I said, all members elected, all 52 of us need to ensure that we bring forward good policy. As I said, the process of bringing bills through this House is very quick, and it doesn't give a lot of opportunity for the public, for interest groups, for businesses, for individuals to make comments through the process. Yes, we do offer them maybe a day, maybe two days' notice on the process of the Law Amendments Committee - when a bill gets through second reading and into the Law Amendments Committee. We do give them an opportunity, but two days' notice is not a lot, especially when we're dealing with changes like this, changes that will cost taxpayers.

These changes will cost taxpayers of our province, and I think that without consulting them, it does the process an injustice. I think we need to step back and reflect and consult with individuals, allow them that time to put their input in on what changes they'd like to see. That's why I believe we need the six months. We need to support the amendment to Bill No. 117 to allow for that time to give those who have an interest in change in this province the opportunity to make an impression on us, on government, on the Liberal Party.

I also talked about the future, the future of election funding in this province and one reason why I'm supporting this amendment is to ensure the members that follow after us - we're not all going to be here forever; members are going to be here after us. Members after me need to know that we've made positive changes that I hope help the political process, help an individual in this province get elected if they choose, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background, no matter their financial . . .

[Page 2370]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber and the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): As I said, no matter what their background is, I think we need to make positive changes for the future so that the MLAs that come after us can concentrate on other things. I heard one comment from members from the Liberal Party, they would rather be speaking on something more important. But unless we make these changes, and make the most appropriate changes, then I don't think we can go through other processes here in the Legislature. I think we need to make sure that this piece of legislation is the best it can be.

By having it rushed through this House, it's not going to be. It lacks the consultation, as I said before, it lacks the input from those experts in the field who might be able to give more to this than what government and those who created this bill have so that the future MLAs, the governing Parties in the future, can concentrate on other bills, good public policies, on changes other than reform to the way Parties are funded here in this province.

We have to take those steps and we have to take them slowly. I'm not saying let's take 10 years to consult and hire consultants to look at this and bring back a report and have a committee, we need six months. (Applause)

We just need six months so that we can get that input, so we can make sure that this piece of legislation is clear, transparent, appropriate not only for ourselves, not only for our political Parties, but appropriate for the taxpayers. This bill doesn't go far enough. That's why we have made the amendment, that's why we support the amendment and that's why we're encouraging all members here to take a serious look at this piece of legislation and make sure we take that time to make sure it's right.

We need to restore the confidence of the voters in this province so maybe the next election will see an increase in the voter turnout. More people will be engaged, they won't be so disconnected with political Parties. They won't be so cynical when it comes to Party fundraising in this province. They won't be so cynical.

We all read the papers, we all know what people are saying. It's interesting, today in the paper, there were several titles, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you read them, I'm sure most people in this Party read them. One of the papers read, "Tory political fundraising bill riddled with holes." That was by Marilla Stephenson and she actually stated you could drive a truck right through this piece of legislation. A Brinks truck - Ironic she uses that - right through the holes in this piece of legislation.

That's not just the Opposition . . .

[Page 2371]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Maybe the members of the caucus for the member for Sackville-Cobequid would join the rest of the members in this House in allowing him to be heard by the Speaker.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, Marilla Stephenson stated you could drive a Brinks truck through the holes in this legislation. So the government doesn't have to take our word for it, they don't have to just listen to our caucus, read the papers. Maybe the reporters have a bit more knowledge than we do here in the House. Maybe they're some of the ones who should be consulted.

By rushing this piece of legislation through the House, they aren't going to have the opportunity, they'll just continue to write stories like this and, as I said before, if this government wants to continue down the road they're going, then I'm not going to stop them, Mr. Speaker. I have stated in the past, the results after the last election where we had an increase in members in our caucus, I believe it's from the lack of leadership from government on important pieces of legislation, just like Bill No. 117. I think they need to show the leadership now.

Mr. Premier, you can change the path you've taken for this piece of legislation, agree to the amendment, put it off for six months and do the consulting that we think needs to happen. We won't hold anything against you if you change your mind, Mr. Premier. We know you've done it in the past, you're more than happy to do it again, Mr. Speaker. So we won't hold it against you or your government to change the course of this legislation and allow the time and the input needed to make sure that this legislation is really strong enough and better.

I had a rude awakening when I ran in 2003, to join in the political process, to figure out what a campaign has and what it entailed, the work involved not only on my behalf but by many of the people who worked to get me here and get me elected. One of the areas which was very difficult to grasp was definitely campaign fundraising, going to the people whose vote you're trying to get, the people who say they're going to support you, and ask them for money. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that was one of the hardest things I had to learn and how to deal with. I can say that in 2003, thanks to the Progressive Conservative Government, that fundraising was a little easier and I'm sure that for most members here in my caucus it was a little easier.

It seemed ironic that the number of $155 donations that I received was quite high, $150 donations that I received in that election that I didn't receive in 2006, which I definitely missed but it showed. I think it was an indication at the time of what the public wanted and what the public desired and what the public would accept and they never accepted those $155 cheques. They sent them to us, they sent them to me, Mr. Speaker, to get me elected, to ensure, I believe, that I stand here in my place and make sure that

[Page 2372]

I bring their concerns to the floor of this Legislature and ensure that the pieces of legislation that go through this House are the ones that the public want.

I believe that was the message I got back in 2003 and I haven't forgotten that. I work every day to ensure that. That's why I believe this piece of legislation needs to be amended, needs to have that time to give us and to give Nova Scotians the ability to make sure that we're taking the proper steps in the changes they want to see.

I think we need to do the right thing and I have said it before, all Parties will lose when this piece of legislation goes through, or if it goes through. I hope it's changed, it is amended until it's even stronger, Mr. Speaker - that we all lose, that all the Parties start off in that next election, whenever it is - this Spring, next Spring, whenever it is - that we are on a level and even playing field and that all the skepticism that revolves around political fundraising is limited or gone. It won't be gone for many years, I don't think, but we need to make sure that the public has confidence in the election process and the funding of political Parties in this province. I think we need to see legislation that does that.

[8:00 p.m.]

I mentioned earlier trust funds and corporate donations and union donations, and I think it's important that we recognize it's not a one-sided issue, all three political Parties have had a past when it comes to political fundraising that some Nova Scotians don't like, they would like to see changes. If it's with unions with ourselves, if it's corporations with the Progressive Conservatives, or if it's with the infamous trust fund that the Liberal Party has, I think we need to make sure the changes come forward, that Nova Scotians are consulted and that this legislation is a strong piece of legislation that will ensure that future MLAs, future Parties, future individuals in this province who run, don't run under a cloud of skepticism, a cloud of disconnect from the voters, from those individuals who might have some cynicism around fundraising here in this province.

I think that's why this piece of legislation needs to be amended, we need to support the amendment brought forward by the Leader of the Official Opposition. He's doing the right thing, we're doing the right thing, Mr. Speaker, in supporting that amendment to this bill. I think all members of this House need to do the right thing, and that's support this amendment, and just step back. As I said, we are not saying that we don't want reform, we're not saying that we're not going to make changes.

I think, Mr. Speaker, with the comments that the government has heard on this issue that they can make those changes, they can take that opportunity to step back and make sure that this piece of legislation passes. I believe if we have the time to consult with Nova Scotians and engage and get their input, that this piece of legislation would pass unanimously in this Legislature with support from all members if we only have and take that time to make sure it's the best possible piece of legislation.

[Page 2373]

With that, Mr. Speaker, I adjourn debate on Bill No. 117.

MR. SPEAKER: The debate is adjourned.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 119.

Bill No. 119 - Elections Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief in my remarks on the Elections Act. We've heard a very great amount today about elections, generally, in the House. I won't try to repeat that, other than to say that this is a bill that has been put forward by the Chief Electoral Officer of Nova Scotia that I understand has brought support with all three political Parties and that is in the interest of Nova Scotia. They are not what we call technical changes, they're important changes, but they are changes that would change the rules in a way that makes sense to most Nova Scotians. With that I move second reading of the bill.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on Bill No. 119, our Party is glad to see it move over to the Law Amendments Committee. It's a good bill, it's one that addresses concerns that have been raised through the legitimate process that we have in this province with regard to the Electoral Commission and the Chief Electoral Officer. We're glad to see it move, we want to hear from the people of Nova Scotia. I think these are good changes for Nova Scotia. I think they will do well to improve the Elections Act and ensure we have a much fairer process with regard to elections in this province. Our Party is glad to support Bill No. 119.

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on second reading of Bill No. 119, the Elections Act. As has been pointed out, these are as a result of changes recommended by the Chief Electoral Officer. I want to take this opportunity on behalf of our caucus, I believe it's our Chief Electoral Officer's first general election since assuming her new role, and certainly want to commend her and her staff for the wonderful job that was carried out in the last election and for the continued changes that are being looked at.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you personally that any efforts to improve Nova Scotians' ability to vote, especially in rural areas with the mail-in ballot, I certainly welcome. I can

[Page 2374]

tell you while it has been an improvement over the old proxy vote system and trying to chase down doctors to sign papers for people who could not make it out to the polls, I can tell you in rural communities such as Richmond where you have one returning office, which is usually located in D'Escousse, that's about an hour and a half away from the other end of my riding which is the Fourchu Frambois area. So there are a number of logistical concerns and the fact that under our current rules, you still had to travel to the electoral office to get the paperwork and do the registration.

Any attempts to improve that system and make it easier for residents, especially in rural communities where you may only have one returning office that's not always convenient, or close to electors, I think is just one example of some of the positive changes being proposed here. I think this certainly fits in well with Bill No. 117 and attempts to improve our election system here in Nova Scotia, both through election financing reform and now through changes to our actual voting process. I believe both bills go together very well and I'm certainly pleased to see that this bill, at least, seems to have all-Party support for sending the signal to Nova Scotians. We want to increase the just over 60 per cent of Nova Scotians who voted in the last election and we want to try to see how almost 40 per cent of Nova Scotians can be attracted into exercising their democratic right as easily as possible in participating in the next election whenever that may take place.

So, Mr. Speaker, we do look forward to the bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee and any possible recommendations that may result from that process and one can only hope that Bill No. 117 will receive the same speedy passage.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Thank you, I appreciate the comments of both honourable members and my fondest dreams are coming true if that were the case with respect to Bill No. 117, but we'll take it one bill at a time and I would move that debate close on Bill No.119.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 119. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 2375]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would move that the House now adjourn to sit tomorrow from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Four of those hours would be NDP Opposition, and I will let the Opposition House Leader speak to that.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, from the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. it will be Opposition Day. After the order of business, daily routines, we will be calling Resolution Nos. 1024 and 1033. The Opposition business will be closing at 6:00 p.m. and I'm assuming the House Leader will be calling hours after that.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for the House to adjourn and to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 8:09 p.m.]

[Page 2376]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1141

By: Hon. William Dooks (Energy)

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

Whereas Fraser Peter Hutchinson was a true Nova Scotia hero who personified courage, daring and modesty during his activities as a Canadian soldier during the Second World War; and

Whereas Mr. Hutchinson was the first Canadian soldier in the Second World War to receive the Military Medal for his many exploits including wounds received in battle during the German invasion of France, his escape as a German Prisoner of War and subsequent trek to Gibraltar, and , after returning to the Royal Canadian Engineers, being the first Canadian soldier to capture an Italian prisoner during the invasion of Sicily; and

Whereas Mr. Hutchinson's family have taken the time to help record his exploits for the Dominion Institutes' Memory Project Road show and its Digital Archive;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the exploits of Mr. Hutchinson and the work of his family and others who keep alive the memory of our veterans and all others who gave so much in the defence of freedom.

RESOLUTION NO. 1142

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth Rotary Club has for many years provided leadership and support to community based organizations; and

Whereas this year the Yarmouth Rotary Club recognized a need to generate funds to support several not for profit community entities providing services to members of the community; and

Whereas Aldric Robicheau and the Yarmouth Rotary Club organized a benefit hockey match between the Tri-County Selects' and a team of NHL legends and other provincial superstars which raised $7,988 to assist local not for profit organizations;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the work that the Yarmouth Rotary Club does and the important contribution the club makes to the community.

RESOLUTION NO. 1143

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas Mr. John Stanley Garfield McKenzie, born July 1, 1918 in Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland, is a 55 year resident of Yarmouth County, a retired fisherman, merchant seaman, special RCMP Marine Constable, original crew member of the first MV Bluenose, which sailed from Yarmouth, LW Sweeney employee and crew member on many other ships; and

Whereas Mr. McKenzie, as a Merchant Seaman veteran of World War II, survived the 1942 U-Boat sinking of the SS Kittys Brook by rowing with other members of his crew for two and one-half days under extreme conditions; and

Whereas Mr. McKenzie is the last remaining crew member of the RCMP ship, St. Roch, which in 1944, while he was a crew member, became the firs ship to use the true North West (deep water) Passage and later the first ship to circumnavigate North American when it sailed Halifax to Vancouver via the Panama Canal;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Mr. McKenzie's service to his country and his significant contribution to our marine history.

RESOLUTION NO. 1144

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15, 2006; and

Whereas Cassa Business Equipment, Baie Ste. Marie Cottages and Pam Mood Consulting were nominated for the Marketing Award; and

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Whereas Cassa Business Equipment was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area 2006 Marketing Award recipient;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all the nominees and especially Cassa Business Equipment for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.

RESOLUTION NO. 1145

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas each year 20 students are selected to participate in a 10-week program at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Washington, D.C.; and

Whereas Kyle Hill, the son of Hallett and Mary Hill of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and a recently named Rhodes Scholar, was the only Canadian to be chosen to participate in this program in 2006; and

Whereas Mr. Hill's project is an important one dealing with trajectory and emergency spacecraft contingency plans;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Kyle Hill for his achievement and wish him well as he continues his studies at Oxford University.

RESOLUTION NO. 1146

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15, 2006; and

Whereas Mark Davis and B.J. Wagner were nominated for the Youth Entrepreneur Award; and

Whereas B.J. Wagner, Mommy and Me Daycare, was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area 2006 Youth Entrepreneur of the year;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the nominees, and especially B.J. Wagner, for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.

RESOLUTION NO. 1147

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15, 2006; and

Whereas Runners Attic, Skytec Audiotronic and Emin's Meat Market were nominated for the Customer Service Award; and

Whereas Emin's Meat Market was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area Customer Service Award recipient for 2006;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all the nominees, and especially Fred Emin, for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.

RESOLUTION NO. 1148

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15, 2006; and

Whereas Arthur Theriault, Jim MacLeod, and Ray Nelson were nominated as Business Person of the Year; and

Whereas Arthur Theriault of A.F. Theriault and Son Ltd. was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area Business Person of the Year;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all the nominees, and especially Arthur Theriault, for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.

RESOLUTION NO. 1149

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15,2006; and

Whereas Tri Star Industries and Acadian Glass Art were nominated for the Export Achievement Award; and

Whereas Tri Star Industries was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area 2006 Export Achievement Award recipient;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the nominees, and especially Tri Star Industries, for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.

RESOLUTION NO. 1150

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Commerce Magazine this year created new business awards which were awarded at a dinner on Wednesday, November 15, 2006; and

Whereas Sandra Dennis, Pierrette d'Entremont and Brenda Doucette were nominated as Female Entrepreneur of the Year; and

Whereas Brenda Doucette of Acadian Glass Art was chosen as the Yarmouth and Area Female Entrepreneur of the Year;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all the nominees, and especially Brenda Doucette, for their achievement and wish them continued success in their businesses.