The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03-14

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 384, St. Joseph's Parish (N. Sydney): Anniv. (150th) - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 1102
Vote - Affirmative 1102
Res. 385, Bishop, Asst. Comm. Dwight: Retirement - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 1103
Vote - Affirmative 1103
Res. 386, Health - Flu Shots: Campaign - Recognize, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1103
Vote - Affirmative 1104
Res. 387, Tourism & Culture - Destination Richmond Co.: Formation -
Commend, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1104
Vote - Affirmative 1105
Res. 388, Econ. Dev.: Hershey Can./Moirs Plant - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1105
Vote - Affirmative 1106
Res. 389, Commun. Serv.: Bus. Leadership Network - Commend,
Hon. D. Morse 1106
Vote - Affirmative 1107
Res. 390, Educ. - Greater Hfx.-Dart. YMCA Newcomer Services Prog.:
Citizenship Citation - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1107
Vote - Affirmative 1108
Res. 391, Justice: Atl. Women in Law Enforcement Assoc. - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 1108
Vote - Affirmative 1108
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 19, Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1109
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 392, Sports - Dart. Moosehead Dry: Season - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 1109
Vote - Affirmative 1110
Res. 393, Johnson, Kirk: Encouragement - Extend, Mr. K. Colwell 1110
Vote - Affirmative 1110
Res. 394, Fin. - Equalization: Third Party - Position Clarify,
Mr. J. Chataway 1110
Res. 395, Hurricane Juan - Aftermath: Fund-Raising Assistance -
Need, Ms. J. Massey 1111
Res. 396, Corsano, Gary - ECBC Bd. of Directors: Appt. - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1112
Vote - Affirmative 1112
Res. 397, MacLean, Brian - Kentville Police Chief: Retirement -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1113
Res. 398, Gilkie, Kassy: Lady Baden-Powell Award - Congrats.,
Ms. M. Raymond 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1114
Res. 399, Metro C.B. Jr. Chamber Members: Nat'l. Convention -
Congrats., Mr. R. MacKinnon 1114
Vote - Affirmative 1115
Res. 400, Family Literacy Prog. (N.S.) - "Read to Me!" Prog.:
Contribution - Recognize, Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 1115
Vote - Affirmative 1116
Res. 401, CAF Shannon Pk. - Residential Units: DND/Fed. Agencies -
Acquire, Mr. J. Pye 1116
Vote - Affirmative 1116
Res. 402, Educ. - Student Assistance Needs: Fin. Support - Address,
Mr. L. Glavine 1117
Vote - Affirmative 1117
Res. 403, Chapman, Stan - Fiddle Teacher: Influence - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1117
Vote - Affirmative 1118
Res. 404, Isnor, Frances: Birthday (80th) - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1118
Vote - Affirmative 1119
Res. 405, Balcomb, Brandea: Duke of Edinburgh Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 1119
Vote - Affirmative 1120
Res. 406, Mem. HS Vocational Progs.: Instructors - Recognize,
Hon. C. Clarke 1120
Vote - Affirmative 1120
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 120, Health - Valley Hospitals: Long-Term Care Patients -
Number, Mr. D. Dexter 1121
No. 121, Fin.: Budget Shortfall - Min. Admit, Mr. D. Graham 1122
No. 122, Health - Personal Use Allowance: Nursing Home Usage -
Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1123
No. 123, Fin. - Tax Cut: Cancellation - Possibility Discuss,
Mr. D. Graham 1124
No. 124, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Can.-N.S. Infrastructure Prog.:
UNSM Inclusion - Plans, Mr. C. Parker 1125
No. 125, Health - Tax Scheme/Wait Lists: Priorities - Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1126
No. 126, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Mun. Tax Revenues:
Private Corporations - Receipt Ensure, Ms. M. Raymond 1128
No. 127, Treasury & Policy Bd. - Critical Issues Meeting: Attendees -
Name, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1129
No. 128, Health - Autism: Treatment Services - Action,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1130
No. 129, Health - Speech Pathologists: Shortage - Address,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1131
No. 130, Health - Southwest Nova DHA: Obstetricians -
Recruitment Details, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1132
No. 131, EMO - DFAA Form: Fishermen - Assist,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1133
No. 132, Commun. Serv. - Transition House Assoc. et al Report:
Min. Response - Confirm, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1135
No. 133, EMO - Disaster Relief: Immediate Funding - Commit,
Mr. H. Epstein 1136
No. 134, Educ.: Dept./Strait Reg. Sch. Bd. (09/03) Meeting - Reason,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1137
No. 135, Commun. Serv. - Intake Process: Computerization - Status,
Ms. M. More 1138
No. 136, Health - Long-Term Care Costs: Tax Cut Rescission -
Impact, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1139
No. 137, Health - Hurricane Juan: Surgery Backlog -
Resolution Timeline, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1140
No. 138, Health - DHA: Convicted Sex Offender - Hiring Explain,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1142
No. 139, Commun. Serv.: Family-Home Child-Care Sector - Funding,
Mr. W. Gaudet 1143
No. 140, Educ. - French Immersion Prog.: Division - Address,
Ms. M. Raymond 1144
No. 141, Health - Tax Scheme/Long-Term Beds: Priorities - Explain,
Mr. S. McNeil 1145
No. 142, Educ. - Col.-E. Hants Bookmobile Prog.: Closure - Explain,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1146
No. 143, Sysco - Cleanup Details: Publication - Lack Explain,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1148
No. 144, Health - Unlicensed Seniors' Homes: Status - Details,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1149
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 282, Autism Month (05/03): Gov't. (N.S.) - Mark,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1149
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1149
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1152
Hon. J. Muir 1154
Mr. D. Graham 1156
Mr. D. Dexter 1159
Mr. M. Parent 1162
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 9, Assessment Act 1163
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1163
Hon. P. Christie 1166
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1170
Ms. M. Raymond 1172
Mr. W. Dooks 1174
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Guys.-Sheet Hbr.: Commitment -
Recognize:
Mr. R. Chisholm 1179
Mr. K. Deveaux 1181
Mr. R.MacKinnon 1185
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Oct. 16th at 12:00 noon 1188
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 407, Energy - CORE Conf. (2003): Attendees - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 1189
Res. 408, Springhill Community Ctr. - Springhill HS PAL Class:
Fundraising Efforts - Commend, The Speaker 1189
Res. 409, Mattinson, Kendra: Cumb. Co. Ex. Talent Contest -
Congrats., The Speaker 1190
Res. 410, Lockhart, Ryan: Motocross Accomplishments - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1190
Res. 411, Legere, Chris: Springhill Centennial Club Championship -
Congrats., The Speaker 1191
Res. 412, Church of the Nazarene Kidz Korner: Oxford Cleanup -
Congrats., The Speaker 1191
Res. 413, Ferguson, Alan - Nat'l. Rifle Team: Competition - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1192
Res. 414, Fairbanks-Smith, Heidi - Nurse Practitioner Appt.:
Parrsboro/River Hebert - Congrats., The Speaker 1192
Res. 415, Cumb. Co. CIBC Run for the Cure: Fundraising - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1193
Res. 416, Advocate Dist. Sch.: Terry Fox Walkathon - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1193
Res. 417, Great Can. Shoreline Cleanup - Parrsboro Reg. Elem. Sch.:
Participation - Congrats., The Speaker 1194
Res. 418, Stewart, Lindsay: Duke of Edinburgh Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 1194
Res. 419, Murray, Carrie: Duke of Edinburgh Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 1195
Res. 420, Hewey, Kyle: Duke of Edinburgh Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 1195
Res. 421, Henshaw, Abbigayle: Duke of Edinburgh Award - Congrats.,
Mr. S. McNeil 1196

[Page 1101]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2003

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Russell MacKinnon

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this government's commitment to improving highway and road infrastructure in Guysborough-Sheet Harbour and all along the Marine Drive.

This will be debated this evening at 6:00 p.m.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

1101

[Page 1102]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 384

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

Whereas the parishioners and leadership of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in North Sydney are celebrating their sesquicentennial year highlighted by a liturgy today led by the Bishop of the Antigonish Diocese, the Most Reverend Raymond J. Lahey; and

Whereas after 150 years the congregation continues to be very active and integral to the life and work of the community and has concluded a major capital upgrade of St. Joseph's, further enhancing their physical presence in North Sydney for well into the future; and

Whereas Parish Priest, Father Tom MacNeil, the Sesquicentennial Committee and all parishioners have marked this momentous occasion with a year of events and celebrations that reflect on their past yet has affirmed for them a strong future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate St. Joseph's Parish on their 150th Anniversary and wish them every success as they continue to serve God and 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 Minister of Justice.

[Page 1103]

RESOLUTION NO. 385

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

Whereas the head of the RCMP in Nova Scotia, Assistant Commissioner Dwight Bishop, has announced that he will retire as Commanding Officer, H Division after an exemplary career; and

Whereas Assistant Commissioner Bishop has served the force and communities throughout Nova Scotia with distinction; and

Whereas his leadership and management style were instrumental in providing effective policing service across our province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express its deep gratitude to Assistant Commissioner Dwight Bishop for his excellent leadership and wish him well in his 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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 386

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

Whereas a normal flu season in Nova Scotia runs from November to April and sends more than 20,000 people to their doctors; and

[Page 1104]

Whereas a flu shot protects the health of seniors and people with chronic illnesses, and helps to decrease the tremendous impact influenza has on Nova Scotians every winter; and

Whereas flu shots are available free for numerous groups of people, including those over the age of 65, people with chronic illnesses, health care workers, and those who provide care in community-based offices;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize the efforts of our district health authorities in launching their flu campaigns, and urge Nova Scotians to get out and get their flu shot.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 387

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

Whereas Richmond County has taken a big and important step in expanding its tourism market by establishing a new county-wide tourism marketing co-operative; and

Whereas Destination Richmond Tourism Co-operative is a newly formed marketing co-operative that will work in partnership with the Municipality of Richmond for marketing and product development; and

Whereas this newly organized co-operative is the result of much hard work and is currently signing up members, the first of whom was St. Peter's businessman, Mac MacIsaac, who was also instrumental in the development of the co-op;

[Page 1105]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend those whose hard work and forward-thinking has led to the formation of Destination Richmond County, establishing one strong tourism association which will encourage and grow tourism across Richmond County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, before I read my resolution, I apologize for not inquiring on how you enjoyed the Thanksgiving weekend. I missed that yesterday. So, I hope you and your family did enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend, and that you chose the other white meat, turkey, to celebrate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 388

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

Whereas this year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Pot of Gold brand of chocolates, which is made and manufactured in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Hershey Canada has undergone a $20 million expansion to their Moirs plant here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Moirs name, recognized as an icon here in Nova Scotia, across Canada and North America, employs more than 900 Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Hershey Canada and the Moirs plant on their success, and thank them for their delicious chocolates, as well as their dedication to Nova Scotia.

[Page 1106]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 389

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

Whereas the Business Leadership Network is an employer-led initiative that brings that business community together with people with disabilities to uncover this hidden labour force; and

Whereas the Business Leadership Network works to provide low-cost, high-impact services that meet the needs of employers by promoting the best practices and giving employers ideas about things they can do differently to improve hiring results for people with disabilities; and

Whereas the Business Leadership Network provides training and on-site technical support to enhance recruitment, hiring, training and supports for new employees and retention strategies to help companies retain existing workers who become disabled;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the dedicated individuals at the Business Leadership Network for the wonderful work they do for and with members of the disabled community and wish them well as they continue in their endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1107]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[2:15 p.m.]

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley on an introduction.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce two friends who are sitting in the west gallery - Cathy Rothwell from Ottawa and Kathie Swenson from Halifax Citadel. I would ask the Legislative Assembly to greet them warmly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 390

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

Whereas the Greater Halifax-Dartmouth YMCA Newcomers Services Program is one of 10 organizations across Canada receiving the Citation for Citizenship this week - which is Canada's Citizenship Week - for its work in schools and its Host Program; and

Whereas the Citation for Citizenship is presented to exemplary Canadians and organizations in recognition of their outstanding contributions in assisting new residents to successfully integrate into Canada; and

Whereas through the provincial skills agenda, Nova Scotia is committed to increasing the number of immigrants attracted to live and work in our province, and ease their transition into a new country;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Greater Halifax-Dartmouth YMCA's Newcomer Services Program on receiving a Citation for Citizenship Award and take pride in this Nova Scotian success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1108]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 391

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

Whereas this week, the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement Association is holding its annual conference in Truro; and

Whereas this organization worked diligently to promote the interests of women who help maintain law and order in our communities; and

Whereas this week's conference will help promote continued excellence in the profession;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement Association for their contribution to safe communities in our region.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1109]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 19 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Mr. Russell MacKinnon)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 392

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 Dartmouth Moosehead Dry captured the 2003 Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League Championship with a decisive 12-4 victory in game seven over the Truro Bearcats; and

Whereas with the victory, Dartmouth captured its record 10th Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League title and will now represent Nova Scotia at the 2004 Canadian Senior Men's National Championship to be held next summer in Moncton, New Brunswick; and

Whereas Dartmouth received outstanding contributions from all its players, coaches and volunteers, including playoff MVP Jason Bailey who pitched two complete game wins over Truro;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the Dartmouth Moosehead Dry players, Coach, Darren Doucette, volunteers and fans for another outstanding season and for continuing to consistently field one of the finest senior baseball teams in 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.

[Page 1110]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 393

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

Whereas North Preston's Kirk Johnson and the Ukraine's Vitali Klitschko agreed yesterday to a 12-round heavyweight boxing match to take place in New York's Madison Square Garden on December 6, 2003; and

Whereas the 31-year-old Kirk Johnson with a 34-1-1 with a 25 knockout record is among the top boxing heavyweights in the world; and

Whereas boxing promoters hope to get the Johnson-Klitschko bout sanctioned as a heavyweight eliminator match with the winner guaranteed a title shot against the current WBC title holder, Lennox Lewis;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend encouragement to North Preston's Kirk Johnson, who without a doubt, has distinguished himself as an established athlete as he trains for this important boxing 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 member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 394

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

[Page 1111]

Whereas equalization is a program guaranteed to Nova Scotians and all Canadians; and

Whereas this government has maintained a consistent commitment to the people of Nova Scotia to fight for adequate funding for this country's equalization program from the federal government; and

Whereas members of the Third Party failed to endorse a government motion in support of our Finance Minister going to Ottawa on behalf of all Nova Scotians, yet they say they believe there should be increases in equalization funding;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Third Party clarify their position on equalization so that all Nova Scotians will fully understand where the loyalties of the members of the Third Party lie.

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 395

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

Whereas we have just witnessed how, in a matter of hours, people with the same goal in mind can raise over $1 million for a good cause; and

Whereas there are many men, women and children who are still suffering due to the effects of Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas it is so easy in today's fast-paced world to move on to the next issue;

Therefore be it resolved that this House slow down and remember that many people are still in urgent need of assistance and that they could also use a fund-raising event that raises over $1 million.

[Page 1112]

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 member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 396

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

Whereas Gary Corsano was recently appointed to the Board of Directors for the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation; and

Whereas Mr. Corsano has been a partner in the law firm of Sampson McDougall since 1991 and practices in the area of civil litigation, business, employment and labour, health, oil and gas, administrative and aboriginal law; and

Whereas Mr. Corsano is a graduate of Gonzaga University, Dalhousie University and the University of New Brunswick;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Gary Corsano on his recent appointment to the ECBC Board of Directors.

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 North.

[Page 1113]

RESOLUTION NO. 397

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

Whereas Kentville Police Chief Brian MacLean will retire at the end of this month after 36 years of policing; and

Whereas Chief MacLean began his police career as a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and for a time was the head of the Windsor detachment of the RCMP; and

Whereas since accepting the position of Kentville Chief of Police in 1997, Chief MacLean has made significant inroads in ending the drug trade in the town, most notably a drug bust in 2001 that resulted in the arrest of 80 people and more than 300 charges being laid;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Kentville Police Chief Brian MacLean for his many years of service to the people of Nova Scotia and extend to him our best wishes in his retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 398

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 Lady Baden-Powell Award is the highest award a Girl Guide can receive; and

[Page 1114]

Whereas it is awarded to the Guide who best demonstrates outstanding dedication to the Guiding movement and makes a contribution to community service; and

Whereas Kassy Gilkie, a Girl Guide with the 1st Sambro Guides, has received the Lady Baden-Powell Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and congratulate Kassy Gilkie on being awarded this award and for her commitment to her unit and the community she serves.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 399

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

Whereas the Metro Cape Breton Junior Chamber of Commerce made quite an impression on its counterparts across Canada, garnering eight awards at a national convention; and

Whereas three members of the local junior chamber - Chapter President, Carla Boudreau; Executive Director, Wanda Jerrett; and Chairman, Chris Holland, participated in the Junior Chamber National Convention the last weekend of September in Chatham, Ontario; and

Whereas the Metro Cape Breton Junior Chamber was formed in 2001, and is a non-profit organization of young leaders and entrepreneurs between the ages of 19 and 39;

[Page 1115]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Carla Boudreau, Wanda Jerrett and Chris Holland for their success at this year's Junior Chamber National Convention.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 400

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 the Nova Scotia Family Literacy Program will be unveiling their Read to Me! Program to the South Shore of Nova Scotia on November 5th at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater; and

Whereas the Read to Me! Program is a creative tool designed to provide new parents with books and information on the importance of reading to children, with the eventual goal being the provision of books to all 10,000 babies born in Nova Scotia each year; and

Whereas being able to read is not something everyone should take for granted, and Education Minister Jamie Muir and our government recognize this as we introduced the first elementary literacy assessment for all Grade 6 students, which measures reading and writing skills for these students while also identifying the struggling students who can be given more support;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs recognize the tremendous contribution being made to society by the Nova Scotia Family Literacy Program, and wish them continued success with their Read to Me! Program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1116]

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. 401

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

Whereas the Canadian Armed Forces base of Shannon Park, which overlooks the beautiful Halifax Harbour and the Bedford Basin, has formally closed; and

Whereas this base now has a large number of vacant residential units, all of which had major renovations less than 10 years ago; and

Whereas the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is very much aware of the housing crisis in the metro area, particularly for seniors and low-income families;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister responsible for housing liaise with the Department of National Defence, the Canada Lands Company, or other appropriate federal agencies, with the intent to acquire these residential units for seniors and low-income families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1117]

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 402

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

Whereas Dalhousie University students will join other university students across Canada in signing their names and stating their expected graduation debt on individual bricks as part of a visual message in Ottawa describing the student debt situation in Canada; and

Whereas as long as Nova Scotia students continue to pay the highest tuition in the country, they will undoubtedly continue to struggle with their finances; and

Whereas while the bricks may temporarily serve as an example of the barriers facing post-secondary education students in Canada, it is important that the Hamm Government remember its permanent commitment to help Nova Scotia students;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government help Nova Scotia students in tackling their wall of debt by continuing to address student assistance needs with the proper financial support.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 403

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

Whereas Williams Point resident Stan Chapman has fostered the musical talents of many of this province's finest young fiddlers; and

[Page 1118]

Whereas Natalie MacMaster, Ashley MacIsaac, Kendra MacGillivray, Mairi Rankin, Wendy MacIsaac, Jackie Dunn-MacIsaac, and this province's Minister of Tourism and Culture, Rodney MacDonald (Applause) are just some of the hundreds of students who have benefited from Mr. Chapman's teaching; and

Whereas this week the Celtic Colours Music Festival and the Cape Breton Fiddlers Association recognized Mr. Chapman with a concert in his honour, with many of his famous former students performing;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Stan Chapman for his many years of instilling the love of music into hundreds of this province's students, and thank him for his efforts which have helped create a generation of successful fiddlers and kept the tradition of Cape Breton fiddle music alive and well.

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.

[2:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 404

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

Whereas today, Wednesday, October 15th, is the 80th birthday of Frances Isnor of Lakeside; and

Whereas Mrs. Isnor is a faithful viewer of the Nova Scotia Legislative Television; and . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

[Page 1119]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Big Bad Bill is Sweet William now.

Whereas Frances' advice and opinions are always welcomed by her MLA;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature wish Frances Isnor a happy 80th birthday with best wishes for many more birthday celebrations in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 405

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

Whereas Brandea Balcomb was awarded with the Duke of Edinburgh Award, known internationally as the International Award for Young People; and

Whereas this award is designed to help young people develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons; and

Whereas Brandea is active in her community, has spent time teaching elementary children skipping routines, plays volleyball and the saxophone;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Brandea Balcomb for being a recipient of this year's Duke of Edinburgh Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1120]

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 Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 406

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

Whereas a growing demand for skilled, certified tradespeople has given the vocational programs at Memorial High School added respect in recent years; and

Whereas there are 11 vocational programs at Memorial, with more than 300 students registered in these programs and many more students are on waiting lists; and

Whereas these practical programs give students as much as 1,000 hours towards their first block of their apprenticeship program;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the instructors of Memorial High School's vocational program for their dedication to prepare students to take advantage of the many growing employment opportunities in the trades across 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.

[Page 1121]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:33 p.m. and end at 4:03 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - VALLEY HOSPITALS:

LONG-TERM CARE PATIENTS - NUMBER

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, the minister indicated that he would solve the overcrowding at the Valley Regional Hospital by looking for long-term care beds. Now, it is odd that this government would look to long-term care beds as a solution when, after all, it is their financial assessment process that has clogged hospital beds with long-term care patients in the first place. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, will he table in this House information on how many patients are in Valley hospitals waiting for long-term care beds?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the premise of the honourable member's question but I will endeavour to provide the information he has requested.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if the minister is worried about where he is going to find long-term care beds, I can tell him where he can find 10 beds just like that. In 2002, Mountain Lea Lodge in Bridgetown cut six beds because it couldn't fill them. At the same time, North Hill Nursing Home in Granville Ferry closed four beds due to its high vacancy rate. Meanwhile, beds at the Valley Regional and Soldiers Memorial Hospital are filled up with people who are going through the financial assessment process. My question for the minister is this, why are patients in the Valley staying in hospitals while nursing home beds are closing because of vacancies?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, every effort is being made to find appropriate nursing home beds for patients who are in acute care situations in the Valley. That process is ongoing and there is progress being made with respect to it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is ignoring the problem and he's trying to ignore the answer. The Department of Health has sat idly by while nursing home beds close in the Valley and desperately needed hospital beds are full, all because they refuse to end the financial assessment under single-entry access.

[Page 1122]

Mr. Speaker, I will ask the minister, through you, when will he admit that his government has created the bed shortage in the Valley and now they're struggling to clean up the mess?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the House, through you, that this province with a single-entry access system is the envy of the country. It is a leader in the country and it is second to none. Officials from my department are making presentations to national organizations and they are looked up to with respect to the single-entry process.

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

FIN.: BUDGET SHORTFALL - MIN. ADMIT

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. On September 19, 2003, the Minister of Finance provided Nova Scotians with information that suggested that we have a $32 million shortfall, but he went on to pretend that the books were indeed balanced nonetheless. Yesterday, it was made clear that we have a $22 million additional problem on top of that shortfall. My question to the minister is, will the minister admit what is obvious - that the books of this province are not balanced to the tune of $54 million?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite right, in the fiscal update we indicated we were lowering our forecast for our revenue estimate and we indicated we were going to move on a management plan that would achieve a $32 million reduction, to work our way through to the end of the year to balance the budget. There are a lot of unforeseen events that happen in the course of a budget year and we are working with all of them.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, on September 19th the Minister of Finance had a plan. My question to the Minister of Finance is, do you have a plan for the new $22 million?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to this House before, there are unforeseen events that come along. We had anticipated reduced revenues. We have taken an action to adjust our expenses to meet that revenue picture that we had. There are a lot of unforeseen events that come along and we have to deal with them as a government. We have to be prudent managers as to what Nova Scotians expect us to do.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, what's most important is that it is done in a timely fashion. Now we have $54 million worth of cuts to be done over six months. That's the equivalent of $108 million if it were spread over the entire year. Isn't it about time, Mr. Minister, to revise your original plan of $32 million to make sure that we are providing the cuts for the full $54 million?

[Page 1123]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is presenting a number to the House as if it's an actual number, as if there's $54 million. We are dealing with $32 million. We are dealing with other factors around here and we will be bringing a plan forward to deal with those as we have started.

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

HEALTH - PERSONAL USE ALLOWANCE:

NURSING HOME USAGE - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the single-entry access program in this province has been used as an excuse to systematically strip seniors of almost everything they own to pay for health care. As if that isn't bad enough, a resident of a Sydney area nursing home with Alzheimer's was recently moved to a private room. Her family was shocked to learn that her personal use allowance was being charged $1.50 a day for the private room. My question to the Minister of Health is, through you, why are the facilities allowed to take the cost of care out of a resident's tiny personal use allowance?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation with respect to the single-entry access is one which is improving the situation relative to the delivery of health care in this province and it will continue to do so. That is not to say, as has been evidenced in the last Question Period and today, that members opposite will not find additional places for us to spend money. In yesterday's Question Period alone, they managed to find $58.5 million of expenditures that we should make.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is trying to defend the unconscionable, which is the taking of people's assets to pay for health care. This poor resident gets $105 a month to pay for her clothing, hygiene items and other extras such as haircuts. Her family was told if they wanted to keep her account at $105 a month, they would be billed alternatively for the private room. Most of the rooms in the newer facility are private, so I ask the minister, why is a nursing home being allowed to fleece residents out of $1.50 a day from their already meager, monthly personal care allowance?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, through you to the House I want to say that the single-entry access is not in any way related to what the honourable member is referring to. We have, in fact, improved the situation of seniors in this province very considerably, since we assumed office, both in the area of Pharmacare, in the area of assistance and taxes. We have one of the best systems in this country and it's second to none.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that they have, in fact, raised Pharmacare fees, they have systematically stripped seniors of their dignity, trying to get into long-term care facilities. This government should be ashamed of the way they have treated seniors, not bragging about it. Nursing home residents aren't allowed to buy Christmas

[Page 1124]

presents with their $105 a month but this government allows the nursing home to use that money for something that's already paid for - heavily I might add - with per diem rates. I ask the Minister of Health, when will your department stop favouring nursing homes and start looking after the vulnerable residents who must live in them?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House would recognize that we have, in fact, embarked upon a program of relieving all seniors of health care costs. We will do that and we are implementing it gradually over a period of the next few years. That is real action on the part of this government, in order to provide relief and assistance to seniors of this province.

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

FIN. - TAX CUT: CANCELLATION - POSSIBILITY DISCUSS

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Mr. Minister, have you discussed with your officials, or have your officials discussed with Ottawa officials, the possibility of cancelling the tax cut set for January 1, 2003?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, no.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition last week suggested that the tax cut was a done deal for January 1st. I would like to provide the House with a letter dated April 22, 2003, once again. The letter is from John Manley and it outlines the specifics of when this tax cut could be cancelled. He said, that to implement a change in the provincial tax rate effective January 1st, the federal government requires notice as of October 15th of the year previous. Mr. Speaker, as you know, this is October 15th. My question is to the Minister of Finance. Mr. Minister, will you at least defer for one year the tax cut that is proposed for January 1st?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, perhaps as the honourable member talks about that question, maybe he should take the opportunity to go look at the latest statistics of the Canadian Federation of Small Business that 75 per cent of small business in Nova Scotia indicates a 10 per cent reduction will be a benefit to business. That's what we brought this forward for and the small business people recognize it.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance can avoid the questions all he wants but later today, as you know, we will be speaking about autism and the challenges with people trying to receive a proper level of treatment for autism. We know about the challenges with respect to operating rooms. Last week it was Rick Laird who had challenges with respect to his home care being cut off and we also heard about Anne Irons and her problems with mammograms. Today we're hearing from the NDP about seniors in nursing homes, but

[Page 1125]

providing these services requires money. In the interest of Nova Scotians, my question to the Minister of Finance on this last day available is, will he cancel that tax cut?

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, our plan is to implement the budget we brought forward in the Spring, all of the implication of that. Our plan is to provide additional monies for hospitals for health care and the tax cut, which is all part of our plan, and we're moving forward with that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - CAN.-N.S. INFRASTRUCTURE PROG.:

UNSM INCLUSION - PLANS

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As we speak, municipal leaders from across the province are meeting in Yarmouth. They will be discussing a number of issues of importance to our diverse communities, including the mounting infrastructure deficit in the province. The most substantial pot of money to fund infrastructure needs is through the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program, but the problem is that the UNSM doesn't even have a voting seat on the committee that makes the funding decisions. So my question, through you to the minister, since all parties are aware this is one of the UNSM's top issues of concern, will the minister tell this House what action his government plans to take to address this situation?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the opportunity to address this House on this question. As the honourable member probably knows, it will require both the agreement of the municipalities, the province and the federal government to allow for UNSM to have a seat on the committee. As I understand, the only province in Canada that allows that to happen is Alberta. We will consider that in the future and we've been discussing with UNSM ways in which we can accommodate their concerns.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, for the minister's information, there are actually two provinces in Canada that have UNSM representatives on the provincial committee and I would like to table with the House information from the Province of Manitoba where they have three members of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities on the infrastructure committee, and also the Province of Alberta where representatives of both the provincial and Urban Municipalities Association have seats on the committee. So my question is, why don't we consider the voice of UNSM to be important enough to contribute to the decision making on infrastructure funds such as other provinces do?

[Page 1126]

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't want to get into a dispute about the facts. I spoke to the minister and members of the Manitoba department as well. It's my understanding that they have ex officio status as well as do other provinces and so does the UNSM, but I will say that it's a worthwhile endeavour that UNSM has brought to my attention. We will consider it carefully. We will try to work with them and with the federal partners to determine whether or not there is a way or an approach that we can accommodate them.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, the UNSM, through their management committee, needs a voice now on the provincial infrastructure committee. So my question is when, Mr. Minister, will that promise be met?

MR. BARNET: Again, Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing the question forward. It does provide me with an opportunity to say that over four weeks ago I met with the executive of the UNSM to discuss this and other matters. As I indicated earlier in response to the member, it's not just the province's decision, but it requires the federal government to decide as well and, as I said earlier in both responses, we will work with the UNSM, as well as our federal partner, to see if there's a way that we can accommodate the UNSM to be a meaningful partner in that business relationship. So, when, I can't tell you. It's up to the federal government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - TAX SCHEME/WAIT LISTS: PRIORITIES - EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We're all reading with great interest of the delays in surgery at the QE II as a result of Hurricane Juan. Wait times are a problem that we've been pointing out to the government over the last couple of years and it would appear that the government could solve the problem if it so chooses. For instance, government could take a serious look at surgeries being significantly impacted to see if there are other districts that could somehow assist with the backlogs.

Well, Mr. Speaker, there's one catch. It would require government to provide dollars to cover the additional surgeries, dollars they say they currently don't have. My question for the minister is, why does he feel it is more important for government to move ahead with a tax scheme instead of helping Nova Scotians who are currently languishing on wait lists?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that the situation which he proposes is one which has, in fact, been addressed by the Capital District Health Authority. The difficulty in implementing that solution has nothing to do with funding, but rather it is very much related to the fact that the Capital District Health Authority and the surgeries that it performs are very much tertiary-related surgeries. The

[Page 1127]

other health authorities in the province lack the capacity to be able to perform those surgeries. Many of them, in fact, require specialized operating theatres which don't exist in other health authorities. The option which the honourable member references is, in fact, one which has been explored. It is found not to be one which would provide the kind of relief that is required.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister's words will be cool comfort to those who are waiting and are impacted again by wait lists because of Hurricane Juan. Also, they will be cool comfort to people like Mr. Tom Weller of Halifax, who, we told you last week, was waiting 18 months for back surgery. The minister has commented publicly that there is a wait-time committee that's working on a plan to address the issue, yet we can be almost certain there's going to be a price tag associated with that, and their recommendations too. My question to the minister is, wouldn't the minister agree that the government is being short-sighted in moving ahead with next year's $147 million tax scheme, when it's clear that financial resources will be needed in order to provide care for those who are currently on wait lists?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the House and to all Nova Scotians that we are indeed very concerned about those Nova Scotians who have been inconvenienced and whose health is a large question mark in their minds as a result of the devastation of the hurricane. That is something that is of great concern to all of us, and it is something that we are addressing on a continuing basis. What I can also say to the honourable member is that this government has, year over year, put additional funding into health care delivery in this province. We will continue to do that and, as the need presents itself, we will address those needs and reducing wait times will be one of the priorities of this government.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the point I'm trying to make to the minister is, better access to health care in a more timely fashion or a tax cut. That's the burden that this government has to carry. A couple of weeks ago, Theresa Metherall of Halifax commented publicly about being told she would have to wait in the ER for 10.5 hours, and then left without being seen. It's been the Liberal Party that suggested such things as opening the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre 24 hours a day to eliminate the pressure. My question to the minister is, again, why is the minister so intent on moving ahead with a tax scheme, when it's clear that opening the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre on a 24-hour basis would assist in eliminating a long ER wait list that Theresa Metherall and others are currently enduring?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member, through you, that, indeed, one of the challenges we face as a government is to catch up and to bring back the level of service that existed when they cut the 1,500 beds. That has been one of the most significant challenges that we've had. We are meeting that challenge. We're moving forward. Indeed, we will address the wait time situation in this province, because we continue to put additional money into health care.

[Page 1128]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The questions and the answers are getting too long. I'm going to start cutting members off.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - MUN. TAX REVENUES:

PRIVATE CORPORATIONS - RECEIPT ENSURE

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As you know, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is meeting right now in Yarmouth. Its lobbying efforts have concentrated on several key issues, one of these is the fact that Nova Scotia Power is exempt from paying municipal property taxes directly to the municipal unit wherein it has property. Municipalities believe that those taxes should be based on an assessment of real property belonging to Nova Scotia Power within each unit's boundaries. What will your government do to ensure that municipalities do receive the tax revenues they're entitled to from profitable, private corporations like Nova Scotia Power?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for bringing the issue forward. Since being named Minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, I've taken the time to visit some 60 per cent of Nova Scotia's municipal councils. As well, I also met with the executive of the UNSM and the president of the UNSM. This issue is something that they brought to my attention and we will continue to work with UNSM to ensure that their issues are addressed in a fair and appropriate way.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, the issue is actually growing worse rather than better. Nova Scotia municipalities are particularly cash-strapped in the wake of Hurricane Juan. We realize that the grant paid by Nova Scotia Power has increased somewhat, but when will it be brought to parity?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would disagree with the member opposite. The municipalities' situation has actually improved over the last number of years. Growth and assessment has shown that each and every municipality's revenue has increased year over year over year, with a few small exceptions. So I will say that we will work closely with the municipalities to ensure that their issues are addressed, such as I have over the last four weeks.

MS. RAYMOND: I'm afraid the main word I could hear was small, but in any case, any change in the current arrangement would have to be phased in. We certainly agree with that much, but that's not an excuse to continue inaction or planning. Could you give a timeline of when the government will be able to ensure that Nova Scotia Power pays the municipalities of this province the property taxes to which they are entitled?

[Page 1129]

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that this government was the government that increased the amount of property taxes that Nova Scotia Power would pay all municipalities and it provided millions of dollars of tax revenue for municipalities that they otherwise didn't have. I would also remind the member opposite that I've made several commitments during my time as minister to deal with the assessment issue with Nova Scotia Power and our department is working on that file now.

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

TREASURY & POLICY BD. - CRITICAL ISSUES MEETING:

ATTENDEES - NAME

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the minister responsible for the Treasury and Policy Board. Yesterday I asked the minister to table a list of critical issues, including a specific paper prepared by a senior corporate policy analyst with the Treasury and Policy Board. I referenced at the time that we submitted a freedom of information request, but I wanted to give the minister a chance to table the information. When the minister replied, he referenced a meeting that took place, but at no time did I mention a meeting in my question yesterday. My question to the minister is, could the minister tell the House who was in attendance at the meeting held on October 6, 2003, including deputy ministers and any members from the Premier's office staff, if indeed that is the meeting he was referring to?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should understand that meetings happen routinely in government. It is a routine function of government that public servants get together to discuss policy options for government. The composition of those meetings is not the issue. The issue for the public is the decision that government takes. That's what I'm here to defend and that's what I do defend.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is an issue of government. It's an issue of the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia and as such it should be made public as to exactly what went on at that meeting and what we're talking about with finances here in this province. It is an issue. I wish to table our FOIPOP so that the minister can refresh himself as to the contents. He must have known, because the FOIPOP references a meeting held on October 26, 2003, a meeting which Jamie Baillie attended. While the rest of the province (Interruptions) Probably because Jamie Baillie is probably running the show over there and not you Mr. Minister. That's why.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1130]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, while the rest of the province was dealing with Hurricane Juan, the Treasury and Policy Board was dealing with a pending financial disaster that's about to happen in this province. So my question again is to the minister, will you table the documents I requested today instead of trying to delay via the freedom of information Act?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Again I thank the honourable member for the question. Obviously the honourable member has forgotten since his days in government that it is ministers who are responsible to make decisions, not public servants. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, if he had remained acquainted with that principle, he might still be here and not over there.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, at the rate that government is going, it won't be long before we are over there, I will tell you that. The document I am referring to was not a Cabinet document. It was a document tabled by senior civil servants outlining a pending financial disaster in this province. Now I can't think of anything more important in this place today. Tabling information regarding the province's finances is a duty of that particular minister and his deputy minister. My question to the minister is, why won't you table those documents, Mr. Minister?

MR. BAKER: Again, the honourable member is making assumptions about the content of that meeting, Mr. Speaker. Unless the honourable member was there, I am not sure how he would know what the content of the meeting would be. Frankly, the real issue here is the fact that it is the government that is responsible for making policy decisions and we stand by that process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - AUTISM: TREATMENT SERVICES - ACTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. Parents of children with special needs are struggling to get by in this province. For children with autism, early treatment is critical and it can make all the difference. Tracey and Gerard Avery have just learned that they will have to take a time out from treatment for their three-year-old twin boys who have autism. My question to the minister is this, how is your government addressing the shortage of treatment services for children diagnosed with autism?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we, in the department, are in fact bringing together the best approach in dealing with this entire problem and the best methods of treatment relative to it. I can tell the honourable member that we are making progress with

[Page 1131]

that. In fact, a new chairman of autism has been appointed and is working very closely with us in this development.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter is that treatment for children with autism is not a priority for this government. Resources are slim, so slim that parents are now being asked to agree to a time out for their children's treatment. That's in spite of the very small number of staff who were hired. Now parents have heard that they are to receive two to three months of treatment and then to have two to three months without treatment. So parents like Tracey and Gerald Avery are being asked to sign a form - and I'm tabling it here - for a time out with their speech pathologist. I would like to ask the minister, treatment for children with autism is crucial in the early years, will your government at least end this practice of time-out treatment?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we will continue to develop programs and the best practices that are available, looking at the international scene as well as the national scene to develop these programs and have them implemented, so that the program that we do put in place will in fact be second to none anywhere.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's hard to imagine that three months of treatment and then three months without treatment and three months back with treatment could ever be considered best practice. There is no one in the world who can possibly think that this is a good thing to do. Now we've learned that there is a hiring freeze at the IWK Hospital that will make it even more difficult to address this shortage in children's services. So I would like to ask the minister, when do you plan to address this shortage in resources for children with autism?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are, as I indicated in the previous answers, continuing to develop programs that will address the problems spoken about by the honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - SPEECH PATHOLOGISTS: SHORTAGE - ADDRESS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question again, through you, is to the Minister of Health. Services for children with special needs in this province are in dire shape. For children under six there is a 40 per cent shortfall of speech-language pathologists in Nova Scotia. This means that many children are not even given an opportunity to improve their speech and communications skills. The most critical period of development is in childhood. Speech-language development is linked to literacy and academic achievement. So my question to the minister is this, when do you plan to address the shortage of speech pathologists in this province?

[Page 1132]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are working on addressing this problem on a continuous basis and we will be making progress.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, these answers are very vague indeed. A three-year-old boy in this province who can't talk can wait 18 months to two years for therapy. That's the struggle the Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech Clinic is being forced to deal with. Speech pathologists are desperately needed in this province, yet this government has refused to adequately address this need. So my question to the minister is this, why won't your government do the right thing and make a commitment to significantly reduce wait times in the next six months?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the House, through you, that we, indeed, want to reduce wait times and we're working in that direction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: But no commitment. The minister will not make a time commitment. Mr. Speaker, children with special needs are not getting the services they require. Children can wait up to two years to see a speech pathologist. A lack of services means that many children are disadvantaged, probably for the remainder of their lives. So I want to ask the minister, what is it going to take for his government to start investing in the children of this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we, indeed, invest in the children of this province and we will continue to find ways to invest even more in the children of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - SOUTHWEST NOVA DHA:

OBSTETRICIANS - RECRUITMENT DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last month residents in the southwestern part of this province learned that obstetric services at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital will no longer be available on weekends. For women in the area who happen to go into labour late Thursday or Friday, that means a two-hour trip to either Kentville or Bridgewater. While temporary arrangements have been announced to provide service, those arrangements are far from permanent. So my question to the minister is, what is your department doing to assist the Southwest Nova District Health Authority in recruiting obstetricians for the two vacancies in that region?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we work very closely with the DHA in addressing that problem and other problems when shortages arise as a result of physicians moving and taking other responsibilities. That is an ongoing process and we work very closely with the DHAs to fulfill those shortages when they occur.

[Page 1133]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you and I, and a lot of others, would consider the situation in Yarmouth to be quite serious. But it would appear that the government is not all that anxious really to recruit obstetricians to Yarmouth, and that is given the fact that they haven't even bothered to list those positions on the government physician recruitment site. So my question to the minister is, could the minister please indicate whether that omission on the recruitment Web site has been done as a cost-saving measure on behalf of government?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the addition of a few paragraphs on a Web site is hardly a cost-related issue. We, in fact, worked very closely with the DHA and there are some real challenges in terms of being able to address the issue of qualifications, relative to people who want to come here and the qualifications that are recognized by the College of Physicians. That is one of the challenges that faces us. We need to work very closely with all involved in order to address that.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, irrespective of what the minister says, it is a cost factor. If you don't advertise, then you can't recruit, and if you don't recruit, you don't have to worry about the costs. Regardless of that, the people of the southwestern region will find little comfort in the words of that minister. My question to the minister is, could the minister please explain why a tax cut is more important than securing full-time obstetric services at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital as soon as possible?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it's quite a reach for the honourable member to suggest that somehow by reducing the number of obstetricians we would in fact alter the birth rate. That is so preposterous it's not worth commenting on.

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

EMO - DFAA FORM: FISHERMEN - ASSIST

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Last evening in the Whites Lake Legion, I attended an emotionally-charged community meeting with fishermen. These men and women expect help from this government in their time of need, and now they are confronted with the small-business application form for disaster financial assistance. I would like to table this for the attention of members. This is not a user-friendly form. It is certainly not a fisherman-friendly form. They are told that they need a letter from their insurance company - not their broker - confirming damages are not insurable and outlining reasons. They are told they need a business registration document issued by the Registry of Joint Stocks. Then they are told they need a certified accountant, verifying the full-time manager is a 50 per cent owner and derives 51 per cent of his/her income from the business. Mr. Minister, this is no way to treat hard-working Nova Scotians. What are you prepared to do to assist these fishermen with these convoluted forms?

[Page 1134]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member should be aware, the federal auditors and the federal government require certain documentation. That being said, if the honourable member consults the pamphlet, he will see that 10 sites have been chosen in Nova Scotia to assist, and personnel will assist those fishermen, those farmers, those homeowners who qualify in filling out that entire application form, to facilitate their being able to receive relief.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question will go to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Fishermen who have appeared at Access Nova Scotia are asked about deeds to property where their fish wharves used to be. They are now asked about building permits, that they will be necessary to rebuild these fish stores. They're advised to have pictures available before and after the hurricane. They are told to submit written estimates or paid invoices, and then, of course, they're told, your application will be returned if it is not completed in full. Mr. Minister, these are hard-working people. They feel insulted with the bureaucratic red tape.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: They freely admit they are not comfortable with paperwork. Mr. Minister, what are you prepared to do to assist these men and women?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the process might be a bit difficult, and as we go along with this, we will try to streamline it as best we can.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, what is needed are government officials on the ground, in the local halls, at the fire halls, at the Legions, making themselves available in the very communities most affected. Mr. Minister, you've seen the damage, these families are scrambling to get their lives together. They do not have time to appear at Access Nova Scotia

during business hours. It is time, Mr. Minister, to take the government to the people.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Are you prepared, Mr. Minister, and will you instruct your officials to set up meetings, with individuals affected, in the community halls, in the very communities that have been affected so severely by Hurricane Juan?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member shares the same concern as government members and all Nova Scotians do for victims of this disaster. The honourable member obviously does want proper documentation and is concerned about many related issues. The reason we've ensured that qualified people are there to fill the application

[Page 1135]

out and provide full assistance is because of the concerns of those fishermen, those people involved in the resource industry who want quick action and to facilitate it. That's why people are there.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - TRANSITION HOUSE ASSOC. ET AL REPORT:

MIN. RESPONSE - CONFIRM

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. In May of this year the government received a report from the coalition of Transition House Association, Women's Centres Connect and the Association for Men's Intervention Programs. So my question to the minister, could the minister please indicate whether or not he has provided a formal response addressing each of the recommendations in this report and providing a timeline for implementation?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. When the coalition submitted the report to the department, they asked that a response come in the Fall and we are on track to provide them with a response this Fall.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, what the minister has said is that no one in his department has responded to date. I would also recall in reading the report, the Women's Centres Connect outlined a list of recommendations and one such recommendation was for the department to support and fully fund women's centres' core services which were defined in the report. So my question to the minister, why is this minister comfortable in supporting a tax scheme when it's clear that his department could be doing much more to support women's centres in this province?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and I would suggest that it might be appropriate to wait until we give an official response before we start speculating on what that response might be.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, what the minister is saying is wait and wait and continue to wait. Crisis intervention, support, counselling, advocacy, outreach and community education are all services that this minister chose not to support in order to follow through with a tax scheme and to do that, Mr. Minister, I say shame on you. Another recommendation in the report was to support and fully fund the Tri-County Women's Centre in Yarmouth, something I'm sure the honourable Minister of Natural Resources would like to see.

So my question to the minister is, through you, Mr. Speaker, how will the minister explain to the women of Yarmouth that a tax scheme is more important than a fully-funded Tri-County Women's Centre in Yarmouth?

[Page 1136]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, with reference to the member's question, I would suggest that this women's centre was brought about as a result of an HRDC grant. We did not commit coming in to continue to support the program. However, they did manage to get an extension on the federal grant and we are funding them for the balance of the fiscal year once the grant runs out.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EMO - DISASTER RELIEF: IMMEDIATE FUNDING - COMMIT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Today we hear of new storm warnings in Nova Scotia. Within hours it is expected we will experience winds gusting up to 90 kilometres an hour on the mainland; in Cape Breton, the Highlands may see winds gusting up to 130 kilometres, which is almost the sustained strength of Hurricane Juan. I will table the Environment Canada's severe weather bulletin for today.

To their credit, EMO has already issued a warning to Nova Scotians to be prepared, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, many Nova Scotians have been left vulnerable in the wake of Hurricane Juan. They are frustrated. They have received no provincial assistance and the prospects of such help is not imminent. We know this is not likely to be the last severe weather storm of the season and I wonder, will the minister now commit his government to immediate disaster relief funding with or without Ottawa?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Through you, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the honourable member for noting and reading the weather forecast this week. It is an improvement over last week's concerns but I also want to assure the member that if he will check the paper on Friday past, the province announced $10 million of its own for relief to Nova Scotia's citizens already.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that money that the minister refers to seems to be related purely to their share under the disaster financial assistance arrangements with Ottawa. One of the things I read in addition to the weather forecasts are news bulletins from the Government of Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island has announced and recognized immediate needs and has delivered provincial aid on their own, separate from the federal program. So my question is, what will it take for the people in Nova Scotia to get the same treatment from their government as those in P.E.I. are receiving from their government?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member does check last Friday's paper closely, that $10 million is provincial dollars.

[Page 1137]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I didn't say they weren't provincial dollars, I just said that they weren't extra dollars. I should have tabled the news release I referred to about P.E.I. and I will. There are many sayings about the virtues of being prepared but I guarantee you that every Nova Scotian who needs some disaster assistance from the government right now is wishing they could be better prepared, instead they're pretty well left alone to batten down the hatches of their home or business to brace for another storm.

Mr. Speaker, what will it take for this government to mitigate further losses and property damage by committing up-front aid out of their own money to storm-affected Nova Scotians?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, each and every one of those dollars in that $10 million announced last Friday are provincial dollars. I fail to see why the honourable member does not understand that.

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

EDUC.: DEPT./STRAIT REG. SCH. BD. (09/03) MEETING - REASON

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. This past September representatives from the Department of Education had a meeting with people from the Strait Regional School Board. I believe the Deputy Minister of Education was present along with the Superintendent of the Strait Regional School Board. My question to the Minister of Education is, what was the reason for this meeting and if possible would the minister kindly let us know who else was in attendance?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, officials from the department meet regularly with school boards: the Strait region, the Halifax region, the Chignecto-Central; there are meetings that take place that are - routine is probably not an appropriate term but - regular meetings that take place and that meeting would fall into that category.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, one person who was present there was Lorraine Smith-Collins, who is not an employee of any Mi'kmaq or any First Nation Band in the province, as she is an employee of the Department of Education.

Mr. Speaker, my question again to the Minister of Education, here is a letter that I have that I intend to table outlining to the people this meeting and what they were meeting about. Under the Mi'kmaq Education Act - in 1998 - it states that, "A community shall . . . provide or make provision for primary, elementary and secondary education programs and services to all residents of its reserve." I have the Act here that I intend to table. Mr. Speaker, the people of Whycocomagh First Nation believe that it was a violation of the Mi'kmaq Education Act not to have had representation at this meeting. My question to the minister is,

[Page 1138]

why was this meeting carried out without representation from the Whycocomagh First Nation, when you know you do not have that right?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this was a regular meeting with representatives of the Strait Regional School Board. Like all school boards in the province, there is a First Nations representative on that school board, who I understand was present.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, the people of Whycocomagh First Nation are upset that decisions are being made without their input, as required by law. The Minister of Education owes them an apology. My question to the minister is, will the minister guarantee the people from We'kogma'q First Nation and the First Nations people from across Nova Scotia that they will not be ignored in the future when decisions are made concerning them and their children's education?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education, like other departments of government, consults people in decision making or in discussions when their input is needed, warranted or mandatory.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - INTAKE PROCESS:

COMPUTERIZATION - STATUS

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last year the Department of Community Services spent tens of thousands of dollars on a failed attempt to computerize the intake process for its programs. Similar automation in other provinces has left people in need without access to a caseworker. In Ontario, for example, clients hit a wrong button and they are deemed ineligible without any immediate way of appealing the decision. The Department of Community Services has been very quiet about its plan, so through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, where does computerizing the intake process stand today?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. Yes, there was a look at contracting out some of the work in the department. That has not been done. We are using more internal resources to take better advantage of the IT services that are available today, but we are not looking at going the route that was considered a couple of years ago; that's not currently on.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, a tender was put out on September 4th for a vendor consultation process to identify companies that might be interested in delivering computer services for Community Services. This computerized intake cuts money for the department, but at what human cost? People who need help don't get it, and that price is too high. The Department of Community Services is asking families on social assistance to use HST

[Page 1139]

cheques to replace food spoiled after the hurricane. I ask the minister, how can you justify spending money on consultants?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, every decision that's made in the department is scrutinized to make sure that there's good value for money there on behalf of the taxpayer. In this case, it's to make sure that as much front-line service can be provided to our clients as possible. With regard to this particular instance, it's interesting that the member brings it up because I inquired as to whether we could bring someone in on a term position to cut costs. In fact, the deputy was also looking at this possibility. I thank you for the question and allowing me to bring that out.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance released his quarterly report last month, the picture was far from rosy. He indicated there would be a freeze on hiring consultants, so I ask the Minister of Community Services, are you suggesting that this tender will be cancelled as part of the freeze?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member opposite that there are certain IT functions that have to happen within the department. What I've indicated in discussions with the deputy, we are looking at whether it perhaps makes more sense to hire term staff to provide those necessary services that are not able to be delivered from our existing complement of IT staff.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE COSTS:

TAX CUT RESCISSION - IMPACT

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. All Parties have agreed that the health care costs of long-term care should be paid for by government. The Liberals committed to make this happen in year one of their mandate, and the Tories agreed that it should happen but would only commit to implement the change in the year 2007. Now the NDP, well, they claim to be strong advocates for seniors, but yet they supported and they continue to support a tax cut that will make it impossible for the government to implement that program. My question (Interruptions)

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, isn't it true that if this government rescinded the tax cut, health care costs of long-term care could be covered now, without further delay?

[Page 1140]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that as a result of the policies of this government, in this fiscal year we will be investing $8.5 million toward the coverage of seniors' long-term care in this province. That will be a savings of $4,650 a year for those seniors.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, this is just a case of another postponed promise. You've postponed school construction, you've postponed physician hiring, you've postponed bridge and road repair, and you've postponed funds and services for seniors - and soon Nova Scotians are going to postpone your government. A reduction in the tax cut, a cut of 8 per cent instead of 10 per cent, would go a long way towards allowing this government to begin paying the costs today. My question to the minister is, will the minister encourage the Premier then to reduce the tax cut to 8 per cent, and allow the government to begin to assume the health care costs of long-term care now?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member, through you, that in addition to the $8.5 million that we will be expending this year, in the next fiscal year we will be spending $12.7 million toward the cost of seniors' health care in this province. That would be about $14,000 less toward their health care costs than they did before April 1, 2003.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, hopefully the minister will get it - a reduction in the tax cut could mean the difference between seniors receiving the assistance that we all agree they should have today or seniors waiting for years to get it. My question for the minister is, why won't the minister simply encourage the Premier to reduce the tax cut today, to do the right thing for seniors in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that brings us to the last stage of the program we're implementing to cover the cost of seniors' health care in this province, and we will be finished that in 2007, all planned for, all budgeted for, and it will be delivered.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - HURRICANE JUAN:

SURGERY BACKLOG - RESOLUTION TIMELINE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. Hurricane Juan, which had a devastating impact on our province, shut down almost half of Halifax's operating rooms. It's reported that in the Capital Health District 600 surgeries and 9,000 clinic visits were cancelled after the storm put two floors of operating rooms and a number of patient care floors out of commission. My question to the minister is this, when will the surgery backlog, due to Hurricane Juan's destructive force, be resolved, and what is your government doing in the meantime to get the message out to the 600 or more patients who have had their surgeries cancelled?

[Page 1141]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings up a very good question, because I know that people who are waiting for surgeries are indeed concerned and at every opportunity we have to point out that the Capital District Health Authority is working very hard in order to reduce the numbers. We are awaiting the results of an assessment being done to operating theatres and by the end of this week we hope to know whether additional operating theatres will be brought onstream. To date, they are back to 75 per cent of capacity. We hope that very soon they can be brought back to full capacity. We are in constant communication with the Capital District Health Authority and we're working very closely with them to resolve this issue and reduce the wait time.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Capital District said in its update, and I will table a copy for the minister in case he didn't see it, that they are "considering every option to ensure patients' health is not compromised by this delay." My question to the minister is, given the extensive wait times that existed for surgery in the Capital District Health Authority prior to Hurricane Juan, can the minister tell us what options exactly his government will be exploring to deal with the backlog of surgeries?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I want to point out to all honourable members of the House that the nature of the surgeries that are involved are primarily related to tertiary care which is the primary responsibility of the Capital Health Authority. They are the authority in this province who are best prepared to deal with the issue that is presented to them. We work very closely with them and we have offered any resources that we can to assist them in addressing this and I can say that they are working very hard. There is a plan in place and all patients are being triaged in order to ensure that those with the greatest need are in fact being addressed first.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I take from the minister's response that that means that there are many people waiting for surgery who cannot be diverted some place else in the system which indicates we've got a problem in our system if we have so little capacity to deal with this kind of situation. Last week in the House, one of my colleagues raised an example of a surgery patient who was sent home too early. In dealing with the backlogs, I fear other incidents of this nature might occur because of the pressure for beds. So my final question to the minister is this, what is your commitment to this House that the surgery backlog will be dealt with in a timely fashion without jeopardizing patient care?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we in this government, the department and the Capital Health Authority are committed to working to ensure that the greatest care possible is given to all patients who come forward. That is the priority and given the very severe conditions which came about as a result of the hurricane, we are working even harder and the people at the Capital Health Authority are working even harder to ensure that those needs are met.

[Page 1142]

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

HEALTH - DHA:

CONVICTED SEX OFFENDER - HIRING EXPLAIN

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Health. Ralph Scully was a teacher at Eastern Passage Junior High School from 1977 until 2001. In 2001 he was convicted of indecently assaulting a student between 1977 and 1982 at the Eastern Passage Junior High School and there are more charges pending against him. Earlier this year he was hired by the Southwest Nova District Health Authority as a health care coordinator. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, how can a convicted sex offender be hired by a district health authority in Nova Scotia?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the situation to which the honourable member refers is one which is of concern to everyone. We, in fact, have inquired as to how this would happen and the fact of the matter is that letters of reference were given to that person. Once the situation was discovered, following the hiring, the person in question was given the option of either resigning or being released and the result of that is that the person is no longer in the employ of that board.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the health care coordinator position, my understanding is, has to deal with the public. It's about wellness in the communities throughout Southwest Nova District Health Authority's geographic area. It's clear that no criminal check was done - whether or not references were provided, no criminal check was provided in this case. Now we can't even have someone monitor at lunch at a school without having to have a criminal check signed and checked out by people in this province who are bureaucrats making sure they don't have a criminal record. So my question to the minister is, why did your government not require district health authorities in Nova Scotia to do a criminal background check on any employee who would be working with the public?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the extent to which we can embark upon an exhaustive check of every person who applies for a job, who works with (Interruptions) There are thousands of people in this province who work with the public. In this situation, the person received an excellent letter of recommendation from a previous institution that had hired him. The question raised by the honourable member is one which is very interesting and I will consider it.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, you cannot work in a daycare, you cannot be a teacher's assistant, you cannot monitor students at lunch. Our education system has thousands of employees who work with children, work with the public and they require criminal background checks. So my final question to the Minister of Health is, what is your department prepared to do in the future to make sure we have proper criminal background checks on employees at district health authorities who work with the public?

[Page 1143]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that we, in fact, will have discussions with the health authority involved. It is a matter of concern, very great concern to us and we want to ensure that we put in place practices that will result in only the best people being hired to deal with people in situations such as the delivery of public health in this province. I thank the member for raising the question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

COMMUN. SERV.: FAMILY-HOME

CHILD-CARE SECTOR - FUNDING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services and it pertains to child care. The federal government has provided money to enhance daycare in this province, yet this government has all but walked away from its responsibilities in terms of enhancing all components of the child care sector. Proof in point - the family-home child-care sector receives no additional money for salary enhancements from the new federal funding. To make matters worse, workers employed in the family-home child-care sector are using their salaries to pay for food and supplies for the children. My question to the minister is, can the minister please explain why he has yet to provide any additional financial resources to assist with the cost of supplies for children and to reduce the wage gap between the family-home child-care sector and daycare centre?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would appreciate those early childhood development monies do come with some expectations and conditions with the federal government. There's been a lot of discussion as to how we would invest them to deliver the maximum benefit for Nova Scotian children. We are using a lot of consultation to make those decisions and this is where we are at this point in time. As more monies become available, then perhaps we can address other areas.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, governing is all about making choices. This government has chosen a tax scheme over enhancing the family-home child-care sector in this province. That's the choice that they've made. I'm almost certain that the care and support that family-home child-care workers provide to children and their families is worth far more than what an individual will make under this government's $147 million tax scheme. My question to the minister is, will the minister please explain to the family-home child-care workers why moving forward with a $147 million tax scheme is more important than providing much-needed additional support to this important daycare sector?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite, because what he does is he gives me a chance, on behalf of the government, to point out what my colleagues have been pointing out for the last three weeks here, running a province involves many decisions.

[Page 1144]

Indeed, as I am sure the member would concur, that involved more money for Health, more money for Education, more money for Community Services, which, of course, includes child care, and it also involved more money for working Nova Scotian families in the form of a tax cut. We went to the people, the people made their decision. John Hamm is still Premier. That is the answer.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will try again. What a sad state of affairs when government chooses a tax scheme over enhanced quality care for children enrolled in the family-home child-care sector in this province. I would say that it's high time that the family-home child-care sector be included in decisions that impact daycare here in Nova Scotia. My final question to the minister is, will the minister (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order, please.

The honourable member for Clare on his final supplementary.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is, will the minister please consider adding a representative from the family-home child-care sector to the Round Table on Day Care so that they can play a more prominent role in the provision of daycare services in this province?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of any correspondence from this sector, requesting consideration for their inclusion on the round table, however, if they wanted to send in a request, we would look at it at that point in time and make a decision based on its merits.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

EDUC. - FRENCH IMMERSION PROG.: DIVISION - ADDRESS

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Last night a group called Save Our High School Immersion Program made a presentation to the Halifax Regional School Board. The group points out that since the Halifax board divided the French Immersion Program into three parts, among three schools, last year, it has started to deteriorate. They say students have already left the program, and course offerings have been pared down to the bare minimum. Parents are very worried about next year. My question to the minister is, how will the department address this pressing issue?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the issue of the distribution of the French Immersion Program at the high school level in HRM was a decision of the board. Actually, for the honourable member to say that the course offerings are at a minimum is not correct. There is certainly, at each of the three sites, more than the minimum number of courses that

[Page 1145]

are being offered. However, I do believe that at that meeting last night, the board said they were going to establish a committee to review that decision. We will see what happens from that.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, there are parents and students who value the French Immersion Program because of the opportunities it provides. Those who came before the school board last night have been proposing a very simple solution. The intent in dividing the program was to strengthen it, but in fact it appears to be weakening. They hope, as an interim measure, to see the French Immersion Program at St. Pat's and J.L. Ilsley recombined. My question is, has the government refused to play any role in this situation because of a lack of real commitment to the French Immersion Program throughout the province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the move to spread the high school French Immersion Program among the three schools, St. Pat's, Halifax West and J.L. Ilsley, in the former City of Halifax was part of a long-term plan developed by the board to make French Immersion Programs available in schools closer to where students live. They did that this year. As a matter of fact, in 2002, it was parents who told the French Immersion Review Committee that they wanted French immersion closer to their homes.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I do understand that the motivation was to strengthen the French Immersion Program throughout the school board, however, I feel it is a very important component of education in the Nova Scotia system and it is perhaps something to which the province should be turning its attention to ensure the situation does not repeat itself. Will you commit today to take action to ensure the protection of provincial French immersion and language services?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the French immersion and French language services in the schools of Nova Scotia is protected right now and is clearly one of the important facets of education in this province, and it is recognized so by the Department of Education.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

HEALTH - TAX SCHEME/LONG-TERM BEDS:

PRIORITIES - EXPLAIN

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Health care is the number one issue in the riding of Annapolis. Today at Soldiers Memorial Hospital, we have 11 residents in acute care beds waiting for long-term care placement. Could the minister tell the people of Annapolis, why is a tax scheme more important than opening up long-term beds, so that the acute care beds would be available for the residents of my riding?

[Page 1146]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member, through you, that we are working very hard and working with the DHA to ensure that those long-term care beds were made available to alleviate the situation with respect to acute care beds. That process is actively being pursued by both the department and the DHA.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, physician recruitment, as well as emergency room closures, at Soldiers Memorial Hospital is also a concern to our residents. Could the minister please explain to the residents of Annapolis why a tax scheme is better than not having access to a family doctor?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should know that the recruitment process with respect to physicians is an ongoing process. Through the efforts of the DHA and the Department of Health, they are actively being recruited throughout North America and internationally, and we will continue to do that. When candidates are found who are available to come, there are no financial impediments to keeping them from coming to this province and practising.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I just want to tell the minister that the recruitment process is not working for the riding of Annapolis. Yesterday I outlined a case of Rick Laird, who is 46 years old, he is in a hospital bed, and he has been told by government that the only option for him is a nursing home. In my opinion, that's short-sighted, because a fully funded self-managed care program would reduce the use of hospital beds, long-term care beds, and lead to savings in the system. Could the minister please tell Mr. Laird and this House why a $147 tax scheme is more important than a self-managed care program?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that despite the fact that the previous government had cut 1,500 hospital beds in this province, we have continued to put additional money into health care, year after year. We are increasing the level of funding for health care in this province and, as the funds increase, additional services, such as those referenced by the honourable member, will become available.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

EDUC. - COL.-E. HANTS BOOKMOBILE PROG.:

CLOSURE - EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be, through you, to the Minister of Education. On December 23rd the Colchester-East Hants bookmobile will make its last run. This service has delivered books to residents of rural communities for 53 years. The program is being shut down because it doesn't have the $200,000 necessary to replace its aging bus. So I ask the Minister of Education, why is this valuable program being allowed to disappear?

[Page 1147]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't think there's anybody in this Legislature who appreciates libraries more than me, having lived for some years with a person who worked in that library - and I get regular reminders about that. The issue is that there was a decision made by the board of the Colchester-East Hants Regional Library. It was a decision

that they made, we were not consulted on that.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister can show some leadership after Question Period and pick up the phone and tell them that any funding they need for that, he would be willing to put into place.

Mr. Speaker, not everyone has the means to get to a library. Even if satellite branches are opened up in Hants East and Colchester, the bookmobile had 477 members and a circulation of over 25,000 books last year. It was well used and much appreciated in my constituency, but now it is yet another service to rural communities being cut. So I want to ask the minister, what good does he see in cutting this service?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the bookmobile provided a long and distinguished service to the residents of Colchester-East Hants as it did in other parts of the province. One of the things in modern society - and that board is not alone - is that the bookmobile is a service that I guess is being diminished across this province. Like everything else, it's a matter of priorities and clearly the Colchester-East Hants Regional Library Board, who made that decision, felt that the money that was being spent on the bookmobile services could be better spent in other ways, including perhaps enhancing the satellite library that's in your constituency.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I can't understand why the minister, himself an educator, would take the view of his colleagues and blame this on a board. This board comes to the province for funding and they need funding for this service. So I want to ask the minister, does he recognize the value of the service and will he fund it appropriately to ensure its survival?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government does recognize the value of public libraries, and if the honourable member will go back and remember my comments upon being appointed to this portfolio, they included the recognition and the support of our government for the public library service in this province. There is currently a review committee ongoing to talk about the funding for public libraries and, clearly, when that report comes in, every consideration will be given to it. If you're going to ask me the question, do I think there was enough money available for public libraries in this province, the answer is no because there's not enough money, really, for most any other thing that relates . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 1148]

SYSCO - CLEANUP DETAILS: PUBLICATION - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for Sysco. In March 2000, the province added $250 million to the provincial debt for the cleanup of the Sydney Steel site. Since then, Ernst & Young have been managing the cleanup with about 15 managers, when they were originally brought in to liquidate the assets only. Philips Environmental, which has since gone bankrupt, was charged with the actual demolition. The contract that Philips had was flipped over without a tender to a new company run by former Philips employees called Murray Demolition, which registered with Joint Stocks in 2002, probably for that expressed purpose.

Mr. Speaker, another Crown Corporation called Sydney Environmental is charged with security and in the running of an operation that's to sell slag. My question to the minister is, why is this government failing to tell the people what exactly is going on, as a large group of private and public companies spend $250 million of taxpayers' money?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the honourable member opposite acknowledges that the cleanup is progressing and is being done very well and competently, and is within budget.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we know the cleanup is progressing and we're just wondering where the benefit is going. John Traves is the current President of Sysco and he used to work for Ernst & Young, why they still need a president is unsure. This alone should raise some eyebrows. Sydney Environmental, a Crown Corporation, which employs many local people and are doing a great job, pays employees to work on the Sysco site, but the payroll is also administered by Ernst & Young for an even higher fee than Sydney Environmental could do it. My question to the minister is, could the minister table in this House a complete set of accounting books for Sydney Environmental and Ernst & Young since Ernst & Young began the cleanup process, and could he do that before the end of business tomorrow?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to provide him with last year's annual report of SERL, and I can do so when the annual report comes due again.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that's not what I'm looking for. I'm looking for the amount of money that Ernst & Young got out of there, and what kind of services they're providing for that large amount of public-funded money. My final supplementary is again to the minister. Mr. Minister, this is public money we're dealing with here, and I would ask the minister, in light of the fact that there are a number of companies involved with the cleanup of Sydney Steel, some of whom have moved into the area from Ontario and are operating at Sydney Steel, will the minister table a complete

[Page 1149]

list in this House of what the responsibilities of those companies are, and what the role of Ernst & Young is in the overall cleanup of Sydney Steel? Would he do that, Mr. Speaker?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would be delighted to do even more than that. When the House gets out, I will make arrangements for the honourable member to tour with me and we will get a complete briefing of what's going on at the former site of Sydney Steel. At the same time, we can probably get a briefing from Ernst & Young.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - UNLICENSED SENIORS' HOMES:

STATUS - DETAILS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. During budget estimates earlier this year, I asked the former minister whether small, unlicensed seniors' homes would have a place in the continuing care system in this province. I will table her response, where she clearly states that there is a place for these unlicensed seniors' homes, and that a committee was working on ways to address this issue. I would like to ask the minister, what progress can he report to this House on this important issue for seniors and home operators?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member, through you, that the committee is continuing its deliberations and, to restate what my predecessor said, they do have an important place. We are looking at the place that they have in the long-term care delivery system of the province.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 282.

Res. No. 282 - Autism Month (05/03): Gov't. (N.S.) - Mark - notice given Oct. 8/03 - (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take this opportunity to rise in my place in recognition of a very important issue in this province to a

[Page 1150]

substantial number of families. October is Autism Month. I would imagine that most members of this Chamber will have had people approach them, families from their communities and in their constituencies, who are families who have children with autism, who have been diagnosed with autism, who have approached them because of the lack of treatment services that are available to them.

Mr. Speaker, this is the issue that I think is important to have some public attention paid to and some debate here on the floor of this Chamber. Autism is a neurological disorder. There was a time when autism was seen as being just a fairly severe kind of neurological disorder, but now there has been extensive research and study. The scientific knowledge in this area has evolved to the point where we know that, in fact, autism reflects a spectrum of behaviours and characteristics, so that in some cases you could fall on the mild end of the spectrum and in other cases you could be on the extremely high range of the spectrum in terms of what the presenting behaviours are.

For a considerable period of time now in the Province of Nova Scotia it has been difficult for families even to get access to the assessment process that would allow for diagnosis. The only way I can describe the situation that families have told me they have dealt with, because I haven't dealt with this first-hand myself, is to imagine if you had a young child in their early stages of life and they were crying all the time and unable to eat, unable to hold food in their stomachs after they were fed and you took that child to an emergency department to find out what in the world was wrong with your child. You get to the emergency department and you had to sit there and wait to be seen for maybe 12 months before anybody would be able to assess that situation. We would not find that to be an acceptable situation, but that is the situation that families and parents of autistic children actually face in this province.

They have young children, they notice that these children are not developing in the normal way in terms of child development, their speech is not developing, perhaps they're not interacting with their siblings, they're not responding to their parents, there's no eye contact. There can be a variety of behaviours and characteristics that parents will perhaps take some time to recognize. When they recognize that there could be a problem and they take their child to their family doctor and are referred along for an assessment, that assessment can take 12 months or more just to get a diagnosis.

Meanwhile, you have a parent and a family and a child in this period of great uncertainty, fear and confusion because they are unable to deal with the behaviours and the characteristics that they are seeing in their child. They have no explanation for it. They don't know what's happening. We would not tolerate this kind of a wait for an assessment with other kinds of illnesses, syndromes, conditions. Yet, that is precisely what occurs here in this province.

[Page 1151]

Having gotten through that hurdle of getting an assessment, which can take this 12 month period, then what do we do for this family? The family goes, the diagnosis comes back, the assessment is that it is autism on what they call the Autism Spectrum Disorder. Then what do we provide to that family in terms of therapy, interventions, treatments? From what I'm hearing from families with autistic children, we are providing very little.

[4:15 p.m.]

We are providing a very small number of hours of treatment on a weekly basis, when the North American standard for best practices in working with autistic children, especially in the early years, which are the important years to intervene and provide the kinds of services to help families and to help these children develop in a way where they will be able to attend school and learn, and develop friendships, and get along with their families at home, and not end up in situations where, at some point, perhaps in their later years, they will have to be institutionalized.

We fail to provide the optimal amount of services and hours that are required for the intensive treatments and therapies that are needed. Not only that, Mr. Speaker, but we have also failed to develop a plan for dealing with autism in this province. The families that write me and call me and speak with me about this issue are very confused about what the province's plan is, what their approach is to service delivery and provision. They very often have to work across departments.

They may be dealing with the Department of Community Services, in terms of respite services, and they may or they may not get those services based on their income. The test for whether or not a family can get any respite services is a means test, it's an income test. In terms of getting access to services in the health care system, well, this is a whole other difficulty for people. Quite often they see a speech pathologist, maybe at the Nova Scotia Speech and Hearing Clinic, but the resources that that particular service has is quite limited in terms of the demand for these services.

Recently in the media there have been reports that the incidents of autism are on the rise, and there is lots of speculation about why that might be, that perhaps it's because now you have this disorder that has been identified as a spectrum disorder, meaning that behaviours that in the past would not have been characterized as autism are now being captured as part of the assessment, part of the diagnosis. It may be because in the field there are more people who understand and are watching for the patterns of behaviour and the characteristics.

We're not training people adequately. Families tell me - and I know the minister will stand up and say that we are doing all of these things - what they want is better training for the personnel, they want more resources allocated for treatment, they want diagnostic services that are available on a much more timely basis, so they don't have to wait for these

[Page 1152]

periods of time, they want respite services and they want respite services that are appropriate for their kids. These families, when they need a break, can't just walk out and leave their children with anyone. These kids often have the kinds of behaviours and characteristics that require fairly specialized kinds of supervision and attention. So there are many things that this government needs to take into account in terms of looking at the needs of families and children with autism.

Mr. Speaker, not so long ago I had an opportunity to meet a young woman who has two daughters and a young son. This woman is a single mom, and she lives just outside of Halifax. She was in a situation where she, herself, has MS and has some limited mobility because of the extent of her MS, and her little boy, very active, and sometimes some kids with autism are very unaware of the danger that automobiles present. He will play out in the yard and he'll run out into the street. If she takes him to a shop or a store or a shopping centre, he will run away from her and she can't run after him because of her MS. It had gotten to the stage where Child Protection had gotten involved in this case. She was looking at having to either place her child in care in order to get the services he needed or having him in the situation where she just couldn't provide adequate care for him.

Through a process of advocating with child welfare, the Department of Community Services, the services that she requires to provide him not only with supervision but the treatment that he requires, has now been put somewhat in place. But I have other families that are saying, we are not prepared to see our children go into care in order to get services. Mr. Speaker, there have been court cases in other provinces on this very issue where families have said, we are entitled to treatment of our children after we get a diagnosis. I would say to the government that this is a reality that you face. There will be a court challenge, in fact there may very well be a court challenge right now in Nova Scotia with respect to the failure of this government to go the next step and to provide the treatment services that these families so rightfully deserve.

In the long run, this will be a good investment in our children . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, this is indeed a very important topic and I welcome the opportunity to address it this afternoon. This development disorder is certainly increasing in Canada. Recent media reports have indicated that indeed is the case.

I want to begin this afternoon by saying that I can't imagine how extremely difficult it must be for parents and families of children with autism. This government wants to provide the best possible services for these children and their families. To do so we must first gather

[Page 1153]

all the facts to make sure that any additional service put in place will in fact work - and work to the very best of our abilities.

In Nova Scotia, we offer a coordinated team approach to offering services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. The Departments of Health, Education and Community Services work closely together to make sure that we offer the right mix of programs and services for these children and their families. This government certainly recognizes the need for early identification and treatment for children with autism. Since 2000 the government has provided an additional $2 million each year to support early identification and intervention services.

Over the last three years, we have made significant progress in the services available for children with autism and their families through our early identification and intervention program. This program was a direct result of the Departments of Health, Education and Community Services working together on the Children and Youth Action Committee. Since 2000 we have been able to provide training for select health professionals such as physicians, psychologists and speech pathologists in the diagnosis of autism. This led to additional diagnostic centres across the province. We have been able to provide inter-departmental training so that all involved will have a clear and coordinated approach to services.

We have been able to implement an early identification and intervention service that is accessible across the province, as close to home as possible. Unfortunately, there is no one method of treatment that will benefit all autistic children. All children are unique, and that's a point made by the honourable member earlier, so treatment programs need to be designed on an individual basis.

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that intensive behavioural intervention is an effective treatment, however, what we don't know is how many hours it should be provided each week, according to the age of the child, and who should deliver the program. For instance, should only Ph.Ds. deliver the program, or can a Ph.D. develop the program and have others deliver it? International research is not clear on this. This is more than a money issue.

We are actively pursuing the answers to these and other questions. The Department of Health has established a committee that is currently reviewing research in this area and will advise the province on the best standards for treatment for Nova Scotian children. The government has a responsibility to make sure that we invest properly for Nova Scotian children. Providing money without knowing the benefits is not the best way to spend tax dollars, and it's not good for children. We are looking at developing evidence-based standards and are awaiting the committee's recommendations.

[Page 1154]

In Nova Scotia, we are very fortunate to have the IWK Health Centre. This facility has a number of experts in the field of autism. This means that children can get services at home, in Nova Scotia. There is no doubt that the child and the family are at the heart of all care provided at the IWK. I am also happy to report that the province now has an international clinic and research expert in the field of autism, Dr. Susan Bryson. Dr. Bryson, the Chair of Autism at Dalhousie University, is very much up to date on all diagnostic and treatment issues. Dr. Bryson also serves in psychology and pediatric services at the IWK Health Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say again that it must be very stressful for parents and families of children with autism. It is very difficult for me to have to tell you that I can't offer more help for children right now, today. But, as difficult as this is, I would not like to be standing here before you in five years' time telling you that our efforts, hastily put together, did not work. We want to be able to help, but help in the right way, the way that works - and that takes time.

The Department of Health, through the district health authorities, the IWK Health Centre, Nova Scotia Hearing and Speech, provide diagnostic and clinical services to children with autism spectrum disorder. As I mentioned earlier, the Departments of Community Services and Education also provide services for children with autism. For example, the Department of Community Services provides early intervention centres, and the Department of Education provides special services to children when they become school age.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to call upon my colleague, the honourable Minister of Education, to speak on the services provided by his department to children with autism. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as my honourable colleague, Minister MacIsaac, has indicated, families with autistic children face significant challenges. Certainly, I want to tell Nova Scotians that this government does recognize that autism is a challenge for many families and for many individuals and, as my honourable colleague has mentioned, government has taken several initiatives to try to help people who have autism, and their family members.

I was interested in the comments from the member for Halifax Needham, in which she recognized that autism is a spectrum disorder. She identified some of the reasons quite well, I believe, why autism is more prevalent in our society and in our schools than it ever has been before - earlier identification, more skilled identification and more people able to recognize it, plus the fact that it is a spectrum and that a number of individuals, young people who are now being diagnosed as being with autism were not diagnosed that way before.

[Page 1155]

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of challenges and we've heard about a number of these challenges from several parents this week. I want to say that I admire these parents and the many more who are just like them, for their commitment to helping their children reach their full potential. I want to say that we share that commitment in the public school system. As a Department of Education, we're working with teachers, parents and other partners to help all children reach their full potential.

As the Minister of Health said, government departments are working together to support young Nova Scotians with autism spectrum disorder. Staff at the Departments of Education, Health and Community Services have developed a method for delivering Early Identification and Intervention Services, we call it EIIS for short. This method is based on extensive research. It provides parents with a single point of entry to access professionals who can diagnose autism spectrum disorder and work with them on a plan for treatment. As my colleague has said, the plan that works best for an autistic child is one that is developed specifically for him or her. We don't have one size fits all. There is no one treatment that will work for everyone, but there are many treatments which can be used on their own or in combination to help a particular child. By working with children and their families, our EIIS professionals can determine the best approaches early. Together they develop an individual family services' plan.

Mr. Speaker, an academic component is added to this plan when it's time for the child to make the transition to school. About six to 10 months in advance of school entry, our team works with a team of professionals from the child's school and the school board to develop an individual school plan. The plan may include structured teaching and principles of applied behavioural analysis or other strategies depending, of course, on what's best for a particular child. The key is that the plan of action is developed by the two teams working together. Planning ahead in advance of school entry gives the school and the school board sufficient time to put the necessary supports in place. In this way, and I guess only in this way, the school can be prepared to welcome the child and to give the child every opportunity to grow and learn.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that school is a place where all children can learn. We believe in classrooms where all children can learn together and from each other. Our professionals ensure that children with autism spectrum disorder make the smoothest possible transition into the classroom. Once there, these students have access to all the professionals in our school system to help guide them on their journey of learning. Thanks to increased investments in our Learning for Life plan, special needs students are getting access to more of these individuals. For example, the Department of Education, over and above the regular per student allocation for students in public schools, is putting nearly $48 million into the public system for specific help for children who have special needs or need special assistance.

[Page 1156]

[4:30 p.m.]

In the Learning for Life Program we have also allocated an additional $2.5 million for such children. In addition, Mr. Speaker, we are investing another $17.4 million over three years in Learning for Life commitments to enhance special education. This year, $2.5 million will provide more professionals like speech language pathologists, more assistive technology, resource teachers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired for the PC Party.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by congratulating the NDP and Ms. MacDonald, and whoever else may have been responsible for putting this important issue before the House. It is at times like this, on Opposition Day, we have the chance to speak to pressing issues that are of concern to Nova Scotians, on the ground, day to day.

Mr. Speaker, the issue before us is one that is of great importance to Nova Scotians and it is definitely of great importance to the people who are affected by this on a day-to-day basis. All members of this House undoubtedly are familiar with ASD or autism in one fashion or another, and all members of this House are selective about when they make personal references to their own circumstances. I am guided by a practice, particularly in the circumstances of my children, of avoiding unnecessary references to my children; however, on this subject, I was left with little choice.

I thought it was necessary for me to share with the House my own personal experiences with ASD. My wife and I have been blessed with our eldest son, Patrick, who has had several diagnoses with disabilities. He was born with Down's syndrome and he has been a blessing, for his entire life, on us. He has, more recently, been diagnosed with what appears to be severe autism, although the final diagnosis is not yet accepted by all of the medical professionals and we continue to work on that. We go through the challenges every day that parents go through in trying to cope and try to deal with a child who has autistic tendencies or ASD. We are comforted in knowing that we are not alone.

We are not alone when we think of the tenacity of people like Joyce Dassonville who tried to take her daughter Dominique - and has, successfully - to British Columbia to ensure that they would be able to receive the treatments of applied behaviour analysis. We are not alone when we think of people like Jo-Lynn and Bruce Fenton in Bedford, who were highlighted in The Globe and Mail with respect to their children, Rhys and Liam. We are not alone when we recognize that we also have people like Jim Young, who wrote a letter to the Minister of Health and to the Minister of Community Services on September 23rd of this week.

[Page 1157]

I can relate to the frustration that Mr. Young and his family must feel when they write a letter that is eight pages long. What is interesting to note is that on Page 2, of the letter that he sent to the two ministers, under the heading of Funding, he references the need for his family to step up to provide the level of support that is necessary, and he says in that paragraph, " I estimate that my family spends in the vicinity of $30,000 annually." This is totally out-of-pocket for that particular family.

Reference was made to the Avery family today by Ms. MacDonald. Gerard and Tracey Avery, who are going through their own challenges and who show the courage to step up at a time when most people might cower in these circumstances.

ASD is a challenge that affects all Nova Scotians. We are all familiar with the recent indications that more and more children are being diagnosed with some form of ASD. Now it is not clear whether or not more people are being born with it, or whether in fact more people are falling under the new definition of ASD. One thing is clear and that is that this continues to be a pressing problem.

The problems with respect to people with disabilities is of broad concern to all Nova Scotians and I think it would be a mistake for us just to focus on autism today and not recognize that the people who suffer with autism or live a life, I guess is more accurate, with autism, sometimes, perhaps often, with difficulties are doing so with a group of other people who have, perhaps, physical disabilities and often mental or emotional challenges or disabilities.

The people who fall into this broad category in Nova Scotia are a people who are significantly challenged. Applied behavioural analysis has been widely recognized for more than a decade now as being effective in treating many people with some form of ASD, but it's not all the people who have ASD who respond to the ABA treatment. I would recognize that access to diagnosis in Nova Scotia, on the whole, has improved over the last period of time. There have been regional approaches to addressing the challenges that exist in autism. But we still have a gross shortage of treatments. We still have a gross shortage of interventions.

Children with developmental delays need a great deal of intensive support, and those with autism or who fall in the ASD spectrum have significant challenges that need to be addressed and, in many respects, especially for those who require ABA treatment, can only have effective treatment if they, in fact, are receiving it one-on-one, and that costs money. That presents enormous challenges for a province that is as strapped for money as ours is, but it's the right thing to do. They've obviously determined that it's the right thing to do in Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and New Brunswick. They recognize that the strength of a society is measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable citizens, and nobody deserves the treatment better, nobody deserves the support more than those people who suffer with developmental delays.

[Page 1158]

This is a question of priorities. Right now, children with developmental delays in our province don't have proper access to rehabilitative services. They don't have proper access to speech-language pathologists. There are one-year waiting times for speech-language pathologists in this province, and there is a shortage of speech-language pathologists. This ultimately comes down to a question of choices and a question of money. We have waiting lists for early intervention that go on for long periods of time. It's a terrible irony that we, on the one hand are saying that people require early intervention, but they're the people who have to wait. It's almost an oxymoron.

With respect to occupational therapy, occupational therapy for a number of people with developmental delays in this province is almost non-existent. If you live in rural parts of Nova Scotia, it's almost non-existent that you will get occupational therapists. What about developmental child care? In this province we have enormous challenges in finding spaces for people who have special developmental challenges who are going into a child care situation. What about respite that is available in so many other provinces in this country, where people have, seek and deserve an opportunity for respite, particularly for those families who are suffering, who have a child who is suffering with more disability challenges than others?

I use the word suffering only with respect to this being a challenge for people, not with respect to this in any way being something that anyone should feel sorry for anybody else about, because in many respects these children are blessings. Certainly for Sheelagh and me and for our children, Patrick has been a complete blessing for all of us. We cherish every day that we have with him, but we recognize that things could be better in this wonderful Province of Nova Scotia. Things would be better if we made different choices in supporting people who are particularly vulnerable.

When we look at what happens with special education in this province, Mr. Speaker, it's hard to consider that we haven't made wrong choices on the path to where we are. We haven't properly supported the people who need this level of support. We have a history that is not in keeping with what it means to be a Nova Scotian. We need to recognize that this is about the choices that we make as a people, as a province.

We received a letter just today from a gentleman named Peter Dawson who was congratulating our Party on its various elections, but described how he has to spend $700 per month out of his family's pocket in order to provide support for their child with autism.

He goes on to say in this letter dated October 8, 2003, "As you will read, the levels of treatment available through the Nova Scotia Health Insurance Plan are nowhere near those prescribed by the province's own competent medical authorities." Then in the paragraph that follows, he says, "The previous Conservative Government spent an estimated seven million dollars buying votes through tax rebates, and the new Government continues to ignore the state of our health services. I hope that the citizens of Nova Scotia can count on your Caucus

[Page 1159]

to apply the pressure necessary to reverse public spending cuts and restore and improve public services. In particular, I hope that the Liberal Party will commit to providing the necessary levels of health care to autistic children, should it form the next government."

Mr. Speaker, this is ultimately a question of choices. I know that the members opposite, particularly in government, feel that I've been harping on this issue of a tax cut for a long period of time and that it's not important to people's individual lives. Mr. Dawson is telling us rather squarely that this is important to people's lives. This is about making choices that matter to people every day and the choice that Mr. Dawson and hundreds of others like him in Nova Scotia are saying that we need to do better to take care of the most vulnerable people in our province. More focus needs to be given for individualized intervention. We need to recognize that on so many fronts, we are providing a lower level of service than many other provinces. This is a matter of choices.

For this reason, Mr. Speaker, government should begin the process of providing support for families who dearly want their children to live up to their full potential. I support the resolution that has been put forward in these circumstances. I remind this government about the choices it has made with respect to special education and the funding with respect to special education, and I encourage all members of this House to take this matter very seriously when we consider all of the choices - financial, educational or health - as we move forward. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate on this resolution. I must say I have enjoyed the debate as much as one can enjoy a debate around an issue that is this serious. I think that the eloquent submissions on behalf of my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, and on behalf of the Liberal Leader, are evidence of the way that people who have had some contact with this issue respond, because it is an issue, as has been pointed out, that deals with the lives of individuals in a way that is, at this point, not recognized fairly.

There should be absolutely no question about this. This is a question of social justice. It is a question that is wrapped up in feelings of inequality. It is a reality that there are, and I hate to put it this way, but there appears to be a valuation that takes place about what is important to particular groups and what the government can decide is not important.

I want to take a couple of different tacks on this. I guess I want to start by saying that all of the things that have been said by both the Liberal Leader and by my colleague, I think are important for the government to understand, that the waiting lists are too long, that people have incredible frustration understanding that there is help that is available that could help their children, but is not given for reasons that are beyond their comprehension.

[Page 1160]

I noticed in Mr. Young's letter which was previously referenced, he talked about the long-term care campaign and about what was happening with seniors and the fact that there is a political understanding of how unfair this is to seniors but doesn't seem to be attracting the same kind of political attention because these children don't have the same kind of power.

[4:45 p.m.]

The reality is, whether you're a senior or a children or wherever you are situated in society, if something is just fundamentally wrong, if something is fundamentally unjust, then it is the government's role to step in to try to correct that. Clearly this is the case.

Parents of children with autism are not alone. Parents of children who have cerebral palsy have asked this House to consider conductive therapy, which is an alternative treatment, which is not covered in this province and no movement has been made on that. Parents of children who suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, who suffer from hyperactivity disorder know all too well that there is the identification of these difficulties that is taking place in the school system or through medical professionals in the province and yet, they're being identified but not appropriately treated.

These services are not available to provide the kind of treatment that is necessary in order to ensure that those children are able to lead the kind of productive lives they ought to be able to lead in our society. So this is a matter of great concern to this Party. We were the only Party during the last provincial election that said, and made very clear to everyone, that we were prepared to support the recommendations of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee. We said that point-blank over and over again and we asked the other Parties to join with us in endorsing the recommendations in that report and they refused. This is not something that we have just discovered.

I want to take just a minute to look at the broader view which is something that the Leader of the Liberal Party talked about a little bit when he talked about the choices that are being made in society. This is true, there are choices that are made. They're not all made in this room. There are choices made in this country that are very unfortunate. What we all know is the truth about every provincial budget - I don't care if you're in Saskatchewan, British Columbia, Ontario or Nova Scotia - every provincial budget is a product of the federal government's suspending decisions. Every one of them. We have a balkanized health care system in this country because the federal government made decisions that involved withdrawing money out of the system in this province. They made that decision consciously.

When Romanow came down with his report, he recognized the dramatic underfunding in health care, but health care's only one part of the puzzle. They have, through the CHST, through those transfers, taken literally billions of dollars out of the coffers of this province. Money that could have been used to support many of the programs that we now

[Page 1161]

recognize are absent. Billions of dollars were taken out of our economy through decisions made by Paul Martin in his budget around employment insurance.

That has a net negative effect on the ability of this province to be able to respond. We have a federal election coming, we have an opportunity to make sure those issues are put back on the table and that the federal Liberal Government does what it ought to do and appropriately funds health care transfers to this province. That's what ought to happen, Mr. Speaker. We ought to have a commitment from the federal Liberal Government that says that they're going to live up to the promises that were made - I shouldn't say they were promises because it's not made by a politician, but the recommendations that were made by the Romanow Commission, that's what the federal government could do. Then we could make those important decisions here in Nova Scotia to ensure that our citizens are given the kind of health care system that they need in order to see to it that their children, children with autism, children with other developmental delays, receive the care that they need in order to be able to take advantage of what is known as the window of opportunity, to see to it that they can go on to live a productive life in our society.

Mr. Speaker, I was particularly disturbed when we raised, this afternoon in Question Period, the whole question of what happens with those children who are receiving ABA and who are now being asked by their providers to take what is being called a time-out. I know you were here during this debate, so you will understand that those who are receiving the applied behaviour analysis are scheduled, they are told that they're going to get a certain treatment regime, and they are then told that they will have this arranged for a period of 10 weeks, and then at the end of 10 weeks, there will be an analysis done and they will either be recommended or not recommended for further treatment, but in all likelihood they will be recommended for further treatment. But they're not going to get that right away, because there aren't sufficient resources to continue to supply them with the treatment they need.

So what's going to happen is there's going to be a break in that therapy, so that other - and I am sure every bit as deserving - individuals receive the therapy that they need for 10 weeks, and then I guess the cycle goes on and goes on, leaving, certainly, no one satisfied. The result is predictable. Those children who are fortunate enough to be born into families who have resources will receive assistance through private-for-pay clinics or through the offices of professionals who are charging for this service. They have no alternative, they have no other way to go about getting their children the help that they so clearly need.

In our province, this doesn't just happen, as I've said, with autism, it happens with children whose parents understand that conductive therapy for cerebral palsy is an alternative therapy that could be used, it certainly happens with the parents of children who suffer from attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, they very much seek alternatives. We know in this caucus, as in the other caucuses, and understand that St. Thomas Aquinas over in Dartmouth provides a setting for children suffering from those types

[Page 1162]

of difficulties. It provides a setting for them so that they can have a successful learning environment, so that they're not lost to our society.

The parents of children who suffer from autism point out, I think quite rightly, that it's expensive to supply the treatment that is required, but they also point out that the lifetime costs associated with autism, if it's not treated, is so much greater than the cost of supplying children on an early intervention basis with applied behavioural analysis, which will, if successful, mean that the child will be able to go on and to have a successful life in this province.

We note, with some dismay, that although the Minister of Health has said that the government is committing some $2 million more to treatment and to the early identification and assessment of children with autism, we note that at the same time that this is happening, the IWK is being called upon to cut its budget, it is being called upon to, and has frozen the hiring of specialists, specific specialists who deal in this particular area. So, how is the situation improving when (Interruption) I understood I had until 4:59 p.m., is that not the case?

MR. SPEAKER: No, the time has been adjusted, 4:57 p.m.

MR. DEXTER: Okay, thank you, Mr. Speaker. I understand and I am winding down but I wanted to make the point that this is an opportunity that we have to make a decision on a particular therapy that we know is a successful treatment that can very much help these children and it is a decision that should be made in favour of ensuring that these children get the assistance that they need. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I just want to offer a few comments and thank the member for Halifax Needham for bringing this to the floor of the House. A bit of a correction, the staff at DOH are unfamiliar with the term time out that the Leader of the Opposition used, but it is a common therapeutic strategy to work intensively with the family for a while and then to give some time for the parents to work at that and give what's offered as a sort of time for the family and child to use those techniques and tools that they have been using in order to grow. So it is a common strategy, it is not as the Leader of the Opposition has characterized it, it is not a cost-saving measure in any way whatsoever, it is a therapeutic strategy. One would hope that he would look at that.

This is an important subject. I appreciated what the Leader of the Liberal Party had to say about it, because he spoke personally about it. My own personal experience of it has been exposure through the work of Jean Vanier and the L'ARCHE community up in Wolfville and his own work and writings. Also when I was younger, I was doing my divinity training, at Palmeter's Nursing Home and there was a ward there that included some very

[Page 1163]

severe autistic children. My work didn't have much to do with those children except for one day the head of the home asked if I wanted to go into this ward and see the children there. I didn't even realize that the ward existed. Mr. Speaker, I was taken in - and they were warehoused, basically, back in those days - it was an appalling sight. So, I am really pleased to hear of some of the initiatives that the Minister of Health talked about. When you compare where we've been, we've sure come a long way.

Certainly more needs to be done, but I think that we need to remind ourselves that we have progressed in many different ways, early identification, training for specialists . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired on Resolution No. 282.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 9.

Bill No. 9 - Assessment Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I suppose I could begin with a history lesson and I know how much the Minister of Justice loves to hear history lessons from this member. But let's get right to the core matter. It's back, because it never went away, the assessment issue continues to be "a doorstop, a government wharf, a coffee shop discussion" all over this province. Members opposite, when they stand in their place during this debate, must acknowledge this prevailing problem.

[5:00 p.m.]

Now, I will table a few documents for the members' interest. I think it is of some consequence that I begin with the Progress Enterprise from September 3, 2003. The headline says, make assessment changes a priority. The writer, Marg Hennigar, goes on to make a number of points. I would like to quote her opening paragraph, because I know members opposite are probably thinking the same thing, it just seemed like the other day that I stood in the place where the member for Dartmouth East is sitting and addressed my first question in this House to the Minister of Natural Resources at the time in the Liberal Government, and

[Page 1164]

nervously I began to realize that minister doesn't have one ounce of interest in the prevailing issue that has been an important one in the constituency that I represent. In fact, he was urged at that time - that minister who is no longer in this House due to his retirement of his own choice, and I'm sure he's enjoying his retirement, Ken MacAskill I'm speaking of - he was advised by another member there that it's not a big deal, don't worry about it. Well, it's still here and Miss Hennigar writes, "At the risk of sounding repetitious, we remind our politicians that rising property assessments demand their immediate attention." So there is one piece of evidence that comes again from the South Shore.

I would also like to table this particular article from The Digby Courier that's written by Arthur Bull, "Province needs coastal strategy". Members opposite who, of course, are from and members of the Third Party who are from these areas, hopefully they will stand in their place and say the issue continues to be a contentious one. It continues to be an issue that has to be addressed. Arthur Bull in this article points out that New Brunswick, the neighbouring province, has a coastal areas protection policy and this government has none, as the problems continue.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know, as you're well aware, I continue to receive correspondence from across this province. I continue to receive correspondence from people in the Cape Breton area, particularly of their concerns about assessments and yes, many of them have coastal properties, but I want to turn to a letter that has been made public in this House that was sent to the Law Amendments Committee - and I will be tabling this letter. This comes from the Mayor of Lunenburg, Laurence Mawhinney. Laurence Mawhinney in his letter includes this suggestion, that "The position of the Town of Lunenburg has long been that: . . . 2) further adjustments should only be made when properties are sold or construction improvement costs are incurred. Annual costs of living increases could otherwise be reflected in the annual assessment adjustments." Here's the mayor of an important town in our community who has the responsibility to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member be kind enough to table that letter, as well, since he has quoted from it extensively?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have done so. Thank you for the reminder. Mr. Mawhinney has the responsibility, of course, of representing an area of this province that continually has concerns about assessments and the means that assessments are determined in this province. I'm sure that at the UNSM meeting that will be forthcoming within the next few days, again the topic will be discussed - the problem with assessments. The problem has to be addressed.

Before I get into some of my other comments, Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter from Kell Antoft. As you probably are aware from your experience, Kell Antoft, a resident of the South Shore, is a member of the Order of Canada. He's a member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame. He is a recognized World War II veteran, because of his experience in

[Page 1165]

his homeland of Denmark, and in this letter which I have provided to the Page, Mr. Antoft writes, "In my former academic career, one of my areas of study and teaching included public finance. In classroom discussions, I tended to emphasize the concept of 'equity' as the primary criteria for a fair taxation system. Today I would have a hard time identifying how this criteria applies to Nova Scotia's approach to assessment and taxation of shoreline properties. Kell Antoft, R.R.# 4, Bridgewater."

Now I will be very interested in the comments of members who take part in this debate. I will be very interested particularly in whether government backbenchers are allowed to stand in their place and speak openly on this problem. I know the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, who I attended a meeting with last evening, and who has assumed the responsibility for East and West Dover, McGraths Cove and Bayside, I know that he has heard from residents about this ongoing concern about assessments and how they are unfairly arrived at, and, more importantly, how our province, Canada's Ocean Playground, has absolutely no coastal strategy when it comes to developments, when it comes to any kind of real, long-range solution as to how we are going to continue to protect over 7,000 kilometres of our greatest natural resource, Mr. Speaker. As you are well aware, of course, that is our coastline and that does include - and I want the members from Cape Breton to be made aware of the fact, that we constantly have made reference in this Party to the need for the same coastal strategy on the beautiful Bras d'Or Lake, because, after all, they are some of the major concerns that continue to raise their head, as we have a real problem in this province with assessments.

I have had the opportunity to meet with government ministers, I've met with members of the staff of various departments on this issue, I've listened to the excuse that assessments in this province are determined by one issue, the real estate market. Mr. Speaker, that isn't working. Nova Scotians are concerned about assessments and how they are arrived at. They are unfair and they deserve to be looked at in a fairer way for all Nova Scotians.

Now for members opposite and for new members of the House, I had the opportunity during the last session of this Legislature to bring to the attention of the members who were present at that time, the concerns of various people throughout the province. I know that when those issues were brought up, the government at times felt uncomfortable about dealing with them. We brought up the fact, in my cases, of older Nova Scotians who did not want to sell their land but they had been put in a position, because of assessments and the assessment increases, that they had to consider breaking up part of their heritage, part of the tradition that they want to pass on to their children and grandchildren so they would be able to pay the taxes.

Now the examples were brought to the floor of this House and I encourage members of both Parties present to remember the names of some of those South Shore residents, to remember Mr. Eric Creaser, in particular, to remember that Mr. Creaser shared his concerns openly because Mr. Creaser doesn't want to sell his land. The argument always is from the

[Page 1166]

real estate market, well your assessment has gone way up, you can make - excuse the expression, Mr. Speaker, - a killing if you sell your land. Well, Mr. Creaser didn't want to sell his land. He doesn't want to sell his land but because of the fact that his assessment jumped because of the "hot" real estate market in which his coastal properties are located, his assessments have jumped so unfairly. That's why Mr. Mawhinney has that suggestion which is incorporated in this piece of legislation, that there is a homestead clause included and that when the time comes, when, in this case Mr. Creaser would pass his land on to his grandchildren, as he is intending to do, then and only then, after a sale of that land to someone outside of the family, would the particular assessment rate be allowed to be increased.

Mr. Speaker, this is not rocket science. This is, after all, part of what this government and those members who knocked on doors in that summer campaign promised. I know the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, in the Masthead News, which is one of the local papers that is serviced by the area that we represent, I know that that member included election information on what he and his government were going to do about assessments. It was highlighted in the election material that was circulated in the communities. Because I have many friends who live in Chester-St. Margaret's and, during and after the election, it was brought up again, make sure that issue doesn't get forgotten when the Legislature reconvenes.

Mr. Speaker, it will not be forgotten. This piece of legislation has been brought forward in this House by this Party because we believe that we have an important need to fulfill, because of the promises that we made, that each of us as individual MLAs made during that election. Those members opposite should also take their opportunity to stand in their place today, to review the information that I have presented to them, to consider this important issue because that's why they're here. They are here to take the opportunity to participate in such a debate, to support a piece of legislation such as this, which is worthy of consideration, as a step toward solving the problem of assessment in Canada's ocean playground, Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to enter this debate. The member for Timberlea-Prospect has given us a bit of a history lesson. He talked about being passionate about this issue, and indeed he is. He has brought this issue to the House on many occasions and provided us with examples across the province of people who have experienced increasing assessment rates.

Mr. Speaker, let's start off by talking about how this is going to go forward. I think the honourable member indicated his Party is in favour of capping, and we've indicated, in the summer election, that we had to move towards a system which capped assessments. I think none of us can be unclear on this. When you start doing capping, you're talking about

[Page 1167]

how you're going to redistribute the people paying taxes. If you cap in one area, and those people aren't paying, then the taxes are going to go up in another area.

I've looked through this bill and had the opportunity, up to a few months ago, to be Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. I look at this bill and I wonder who the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect consulted with. This is not the position that I've heard the UNSM say; this is not the position that the Mayor of Halifax has said; this is not the position that the Mayor of CBRM has said to me or people down in Kings County. They understand that there's a problem with assessment and that we have to deal with it.

Mr. Speaker, let's just look at a few things in this bill. This bill says that we will take all assessments and freeze them in the preceding year, and we will only put the CPI on the increases. Now, let's just take, for example, last year I happened to buy or this year I happen to buy a piece of land, it was $5,000 or $10,000, whatever the figure is. I had that piece of land and my assessment is fixed this year. Next year, if I put a $200,000 home on it, what's going to happen? Well, my $5,000, $10,000 assessment is going to go up by the CPI. I suggest that's clearly a problem within this. We have to recognize that there are new construction issues, and anybody who has looked at the new assessment figures for any municipality, particularly in HRM, will know that the assessments have gone up, but not only have the assessments gone up, the new construction and the new alterations and renovations have gone up. Those are a significant part of the whole process.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that's an issue this particular bill in front of us doesn't address. You just can't pick a point in time and say, we're only going to say your assessment from last year goes up, because there's going to be alterations and changes and we have to be able to recognize those.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect is quite right, this is being debated. I hope the honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes joins in this debate because he was the person who was involved in the discussion before this. He was one who was with the UNSM committee and was involved with those mayors and wardens from the counties that were most severely impacted, and had the debate as to how we were going to try to capture this. Then, perhaps the honourable member can share with this House, if he has the opportunity - the issue that I recall at the time was an issue of capping and lost income. So, the question that those municipalities would ask is, how are we going to recover that income? How are we going to be able to do that?

Having said all of that, the answer, clearly, is that we have to be able to find a way to make this more reasonable. We understand and everybody knows that there's two parts to the equation - an assessment is one part and the tax rate is the other. So if the theory is right and the assessment goes up and the tax rate goes down the same rate, there's no change.

[Page 1168]

So the issue is, how do we balance that so that people - and the honourable member mentioned a few examples and I can mention a few examples of people who live in Eaglewood. There is a lady, in particular, who is elderly. Her husband has passed away and her house assessment is skyrocketing. She's on pension, she's on other things, so her income isn't increasing. She faces the same problem as somebody does down in Kingsport or down the South Shore or Baddeck or wherever the case might be. They want to constantly keep bringing that to our attention too. So, as we look at this and we look at the issues that are surrounding this, we know it is a problem that has to be addressed.

I guess that brings us to the question, what is the appropriate method? When we start talking about capping, we start talking about putting assessment freezes, we talk about all those other words that might be there. What is the best method of doing that? Obviously it has to be recognizing the fact that it's a method of redistributing the way taxes are paid. We have to find something that is reasonable, we have to recognize new construction, we have to recognize renovations, and we have to be able to recognize the fact that people are going to have changes.

The other thing that occurred to me as I looked at the bill, I wondered what was going to happen. What does this bill say to people who are first-time homebuyers? Mr. Speaker, maybe your son or daughter is going to buy a home. Does that mean they go on a street and let's say, we're two years into this and all the rest of the houses on the street are capped in assessment, your son or daughter comes in and buys a house and they go to the market value. Now let's presume that nobody sells a house on that street for 10 years. Is it reasonable that that particular person would pay a higher assessment for 8 or 10 years or whatever the situation is? I don't think that is what this is suggesting to do, but from the words that I read, the possibility is there. So, again, we have to find a way that is going to be fair for all.

As we go back and we talk about the history and we talk about - and the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect mentioned that this has been raised and he knows that a number of issues that have come along with this from the homestead proposal that was here a couple of years ago, which would tentatively say if somebody's owned a piece of property for a period of time and they meet a certain income test, that their assessment would be frozen. There was some debate around that, and that didn't seem to get a whole lot of support. I think probably the concept of trying to get somebody who owned land and wanted to pass it on to their family, was probably a fundamentally good one.

The moment that you introduce a means test, now, all of a sudden, you've changed that whole component. A means test for somebody who lives, as the honourable member said, down the South Shore, or somebody who lives in Eaglewood, or Truro, wherever it might be, the income range has to be fairly broad because I guess the fundamental thing we have to keep asking ourselves is, what are we trying to do here? Are we trying to find a particular group of people to assist? Are we talking about that it has to be universal, that it

[Page 1169]

has to be available to all people whether it's seniors, whether it's people with children, new families, or is it all of us in this House here? Are we the ones that we're targeting?

So we have to determine who it is that we're trying to target and if what we're saying is that we want to make sure that everybody across Nova Scotia has their assessment only go up by a certain amount, or we cap it, then we have to be clear that's what we know and that's what we mean because, Mr. Speaker, you know, I'm sure down at Yarmouth these days, at the UNSM, they are having this discussion. I recall the UNSM met with the government caucus some four or five months ago and they had five or six issues and this was clearly one of them. This was one of the issues that they wanted to speak to and address.

However, I don't think the UNSM had any intention that we were going to say, all right, across this province we're going to freeze all assessments and they're only going to go up with the CPI. Now, the change in your situation is that now you, to meet your expenses, have to increase your tax rate, or to do your balance. The other side of the equation, if your assessment is this and you divide it by what your need is, this is going to be your rate and that's what could be your tax rate. In any discussions I've had with any of the municipal leaders, that's not the sense I've gotten from them, that they want to do it. Yes, they know this is a problem and that we have to find ways to do it.

So having said that, Mr. Speaker, and knowing, I think, we're all starting to look at the fact that we have to do some capping process, we have to do something. Now the question is, how do we approach it? Well, our commitment clearly is, as we've said in our blue book, to discuss this through with the UNSM. They presently have a committee. They have a committee that has been kind of working on that and our commitment has been to sit down and work with that committee so that we can find out where the areas are and how they want to approach it. I mean, obviously, one of the things that they're talking about right now and one of the things that we will be talking about at the UNSM is the elimination of the business occupancy tax. Now, if you're a municipality and you want to eliminate the business occupancy tax, your problem is fundamental. You just can't take that portion of revenue and disregard it and not add it somewhere else. So the question in front of them is, if they eliminate the business occupancy tax, do they now put it on the commercial base, do they put it on the residential base, or do they spread it across the two of them and that's the issue that they're debating.

Mr. Speaker, this issue is going to be the same thing for them because as we look at doing capping, they're going to have to say, well, all right, our assessment is stabilized, if you will. Our assessment is only going up by new renovations if we approach it by saying, all right, capping is only on existing houses. If you renovate, you go to the market value. If you sell, you move to the market value. If we do that, then their increases are going to be much smaller and they have to deal with those realities and then I think those are the things that the UNSM will be discussing. I'm sure the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and

[Page 1170]

Municipal Relations, who is down there as we speak, will be having those discussions with them as they attempt to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to enter into this debate, this is an important one. As the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect said, it's one that affects a lot of people across the province but, as I say, I think from our perspective we need to move towards that capping structure, but we need to do it in step with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to make sure that the effect of this is we achieve all of those goals that we want. They achieve their goals and the people across this province achieve the goals that they want to get a stabilized rate.

Mr. Speaker, that is no easy job. It's not a simple matter to do and, as I say, I looked at the bill in here that suggested that we set a date, we set a time, and we say let's do it only with the CPI, or we talk about a property that's going to be sold. Now, when you're talking about a property that's going to be sold to the family, and I know the honourable member's intent, the honourable member's intent is if the house has been in the family for 50 years and they want to pass it on to their son or daughter, then it should go as not recorded as a sale to attract deed transfer tax or it should not attract the high selling price.

Mr. Speaker, we have to be careful because it could be some developer who is doing that, some developer in wherever it is who's doing that, moving it on to a new company which his son, daughter - whoever it is - happens to run, and that's moving out at a rate that I don't think most people see.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I will say I know this is an important challenge. We've taken the position that we, as a government, need to move towards capping. We know we have to move in lockstep with the UNSM and that we have to meet this challenge.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, as Warden of Victoria County I worked very hard on this very issue, as the honourable minister just referenced. I was quite discouraged by the fact that we weren't successful. Victoria, Lunenburg and Chester, we came to Halifax three times, and between the three municipalities we had four options that we presented, and none took hold. I'm hoping now that maybe because the government is in a minority position, they're willing to listen. I hope that's not the reason. I hope it's such a serious issue that it's being taken seriously, because it affects all of the province, from one end to the other.

Mr. Speaker, we're well aware that the victims of increased assessments have a sharp spike in their assessment and it's already followed by an increase in taxes. It may not be a bad thing for some people who have the means, but the bill, the way it's presented here, does not solve the problem for people on fixed incomes, like senior citizens who are property

[Page 1171]

owners, people who are not equipped to take a 5 per cent or 10 per cent increase, but some of the increases have been an awful lot higher. They just don't have the money in their budget.

The way it's kind of worded there, it seems that people in a high-income bracket with high-value properties won't suffer nearly as much as somebody in a low-income bracket with a much lower value to their property. They're going to suffer the increase, which is going to give them an awful hardship. The poor will be guaranteed that their assessments will rise and their taxes will also.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect - I take exception to the way the bill is presented by his Party. He claims to be in favour of the working families, but I think they've kind of abandoned their principles of helping the poor because it indicates to me that the poor are going to be subsidizing the rich, the way this bill is presented here. It's not one-size-fits-all. We worked very hard towards this means. I contacted the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and was very pleased with his response that there have been several meetings that have already taken place with the UNSM.

This is an issue for the UNSM and the province, because all municipalities need and have to have a say in the way this is worked out. It's not the same for all municipalities. If we reference HRM, assessments are going up extremely high; if we reference other municipalities, some of them, their assessments are shrinking. Therefore it's to find the balance. Each individual case has to be looked at, and each municipality must indeed have a say in it.

I, too, can reference a letter, it's from Wendy Richardson from Bridgewater. She highlights some of the articles that were in the newspaper, but she references the fact about freezing assessments before they go too high because foreign purchases are causing this escalation. Well, I hear that all over, that people come in, spend very little time on the property that they've purchased, build multi-thousand dollars of a home on there, and it kind of artificially draws up everybody's assessment. Therefore, somebody with a suitcase full of money is affecting somebody who doesn't even have a dollar in their wallet.

[5:30 p.m.]

As I said, I referenced the fact of the willingness of the province right now to work with this and forcing seniors to sell their property was touched on. I go back to the fact that if we can't get you through the front door, we'll get you through the back door. What it is, Nanny and Pops can't hold onto their 200-acre farm in a rural area anymore. They don't want to sell it, they want to give it to their grandchildren or their family so it seems that somebody is creating such an increase in assessment from behind that they're going to force Nanny and Pops that they can't keep it until the grandchildren or the family are ready to take it over. Therefore, there's a move afoot out there to get their land whether they want to sell it or not.

[Page 1172]

Of course, the old adage is true: invest in land, they're not making any more of it. I believe that to be true.

Mr. Speaker, when I referenced the bill, the brevity of that bill there, a couple of paragraphs, I don't see that to be sufficient to deal with the situation that this province is facing. The assessment issue was front and centre when I was warden of Victoria and as the honourable minister has referenced, he was well aware of that and we dealt with it. We weren't successful, but hopefully now it will be. It's taken a few years to be taken seriously by all members of the Legislature and hopefully now it will be resolved.

One thing that my learned colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, failed to address also was the fact that you have seniors and people who can't afford having their assessments going up - on the other side of the coin, what about businesses? There's nothing in that bill that references the increase in assessment for business owners, for their property and buildings. That's a blank spot there and we can't go along with that.

What we need is a plan that the legislation will be fair for all of Nova Scotia and all Nova Scotians. Municipalities exist on the taxes that they collect and you can't freeze all these taxes and expect to increase services. So there's a certain portion of the population - whether it be through a means test or something that's worked out voluntarily with each municipality that would allow certain portions of people who can't afford to pay, all right, fine. But at that same time, business for the municipality must go on and it has to go on and it can only go on by collecting the taxes that people owe.

We need legislation for homeowners and we need legislation for business owners. We need legislation for Nova Scotians who need it most and we have to abandon this the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. I was very surprised by my learned friend, the member for Timberlea-Prospect at not including that. It seems to be some kind of a philosophy that has crept through the back door of this Party that always seems to be looking out for the needy or the poor.

I look at the bill and it's only two paragraphs. There's too much involved here for me to consider supporting something like that. It's too in-depth of a problem, it needs more input from all 55 municipalities. I will be discussing this when I go down to the conference immediately after the House rises this evening and I'm sure that they will have some more information for me there and I will be only too proud to bring back what information that I can. As I said, look at the bill - two paragraphs. This legislation is just not it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I hope that there's nobody in this House today who would disagree when I say that Nova Scotia is a wonderful place. But its natural beauty and the basically peaceable way of life here have a value on the market. What that

[Page 1173]

means is that market value fluctuates, and for people who have been part of creating this place it can become unaffordable.

Nova Scotians, many of them, are becoming land poor. More and more, like my friend Alan Marriott, are finding that they cannot afford to live where their families have lived for years, and sometimes, as in his case, for centuries. Alan, when I first met him, was living in an apartment, a rented apartment in Spryfield. Ten years later, he and his family are very comfortably set up in a modest house built on land which has been in his family for almost 200 years. He's able to raise his two young sons with a really good quality of life in West Pennant. The trouble is, the house next door has driven up his property assessment so severely that over the last three years, he has had to resort . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps, other than the member for Halifax Atlantic, members would consider vocal hibernation. (Laughter)

MS. RAYMOND: Or better. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MS. RAYMOND: In order to remain where he lives, in order to raise his children with a good quality of life, outside a rented apartment building, Alan is having to sliver up the property that was left to him by his family - that's a real shame - to pay property taxes.

When we say that Nova Scotians on coastal properties, which was the first place that this approached, are the ones who are suffering this primarily, I think we're missing an awful lot of the point. You will notice that this bill does not talk about coastal property assessments. I have scrapbooks that belonged to my grandfather that show Massachusetts as a place that would put Nova Scotia to shame. It was a very beautiful place 80 years ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: What happened?

MS. RAYMOND: What happened? People were forced to make the money to continue to live where they did. It has been commercialized, and many of the people who lived in that place would actually like very much to recapture some of what was there 80 years ago - not just Massachusetts, many parts of the world, they would like to recapture that. That doesn't just bring them only to the seacoast, it brings them to agricultural land. As some of you will know, who know me, I have a little bit of a fetish for historical buildings of Nova Scotia. I think our built heritage is a very important part of this. I always describe our buildings as big artifacts. They can be moved, and they can be sold.

Whether or not you know it, we have an export industry in the history of this province. One good thing is you can't sell the land, but you can drive the people off the land. This is a process which has been beginning recently, as taxes rise on the backs of people who

[Page 1174]

have lived there for a long time. Coastal property, of course, can include riparian shores as well, riverbanks, streams, lakes, everything else - you watch the infilling of some of that that's going on.

Property values climb, assessments climb, tax bills climb, and residents flee - Nova Scotians flee. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities actually already made it plain a couple of years ago with the first version of this bill, that by leaving the decision to them to decide the properties whose assessments should be frozen, the province was "passing the buck, downloading the decision". So perhaps the municipalities would actually like to hear something from the province this time. The land of Nova Scotia is a provincial resource as well as a municipal one. I would like to point out that it's not a method of redistributing a tax burden. A property on which one family lives is not drawing any more on municipal services than before, unless it has been subdivided or has become the site of many families.

What is wrong with the improvement of one house? Unsubdivided lots, I would suggest, are the ones which should be protected. I think that we have as much of a danger of property taxes rising around as a result of subdivision and building as anything else. The person who has family land, subdivides and subdivides, is in fact making fair market value revenue; and the people who buy that land are buying it at a certain price. It is those who have been on any given piece of land no matter how apparently barren, sterile, or un-beautiful, if it has been in their family for any length of time, that is what they are attached to, let them stay there. Don't force them off.

Unless the municipality is facing extra demands for service, it can only be described as a tax grab. As far as business owners go, I am wondering whether a freeze on business assessments should really be included in this protection. Businesses exist to make money, households do not. Please, let us at least protect those families who choose to live in peace. Let us not force Nova Scotians away from Nova Scotia. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and make a few comments on Bill No. 9. As you know, I am a representative of a rural area, and as the member for Timberlea-Prospect said, assessments are definitely a problem. There is no doubt about that, I will agree with that member. How do we address it, that's the main issue.

I went on the campaign trail, the same as everyone else in this House who was elected, and of course two things would come up at the door. Number one was amalgamation. People in the rural areas are not settled with amalgamation and the reason why, Mr. Speaker, and I will be truthful, is none other than the tax rate that is charged on properties.

[Page 1175]

Mr. Speaker, now we have three tax rates in the HRM. We have the urban, the suburban and the very rural tax rate, and they are taxed differently, simply because of different levels of services. Now I can remember a long time ago, back in 1994, I believe, when I was elected in the county, the tax rate was 89 cents per $100 of assessment. At that time that was very reasonable, although we still had people complaining about the amount of tax because it wasn't only the 89 cents per $100 of assessment, but it would be the area rate. There may be some folks in the urban or suburban area who may not understand the value of an area rate. An area rate gives the councillor in that particular district or the area in question the ability to tax a certain amount of money for improvements in the riding that they wish to have. So, of course, we would talk about our fire departments. So if the local fire chief would want a new fire truck, at that time the councillor would call a meeting and would present the cost and, at that time, an area rate would be set along with the assessment.

So you would have your 89 cents per $100 of assessment, you would have whatever area rate that would pay for that piece of apparatus. It would be sometimes 9, 10, 11. Now each fire department would govern a certain part of the area, so within a municipal district there could possibly be four or five different area rates, according to the demand. It was always my belief that that was a very appropriate way to tax.

You had your assessment and then whatever the community wanted through a certain process, the community was indeed in charge of that. Then what took place? Amalgamation came along, and the county, Bedford, Halifax and Dartmouth, the four municipal units, joined one government under the then leadership of Walter Fitzgerald. I can remember councillors with different municipal issues sitting in downtown Halifax, providing collectively good municipal government. I say that, Mr. Speaker, because not like anything else, first joining the municipal council, I certainly had many difficulties.

I can remember my municipal background was to stand strong and tall for the people in my riding. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, I didn't really approve of the amalgamated unit at first - full of vinegar, full of great pride in my area, and listening to the people, and the people coming to me and saying, Bill, we are not happy with this union. I know at that time that Bedford was not happy with the union, and I believe some residents in Dartmouth weren't happy, and I believe that they still are not happy with that union. Halifax, where we stand here today, they joined, pooled resources with the other three municipal units and became the HRM.

Now the HRM in Nova Scotia is well known. It is well known for the grandeur, for the strength, for the power which it holds in the province, Mr. Speaker, and we have to agree that Halifax is a major, major generator of the economy, of the growth for Nova Scotia, and with the other communities like Cape Breton, Yarmouth, Digby, Sheet Harbour, all up through Cumberland County, all together we make the province. So I'm not specifically talking about the HRM as being "the" place in Nova Scotia, but I'm specifically trying to talk

[Page 1176]

about a tax structure that is somewhat different than the other municipal units in Nova Scotia.

[5:45 p.m.]

Now, getting back, 89 cents plus an area rate, today, Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that I'm not quite sure what the tax rate would be in the rural area, but I know it has surpassed when it was put together, it's somewhere around about $1.20 or $1.22, $1.23, and the question is, what services have the people in the rural parts of the HRM received since amalgamation? Well, they have increased fire improvements. I know the fire departments east of Dartmouth well and these past two weeks, because of the hurricane, I had an opportunity to actually visit and get into the garages of the fire departments, and in doing that, I had an opportunity to look at the equipment in the fire departments. The equipment in the fire departments, I would say, is certainly upgraded to fine fire engines. The men and women who man our stations, the volunteer fire departments are trained.

Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud to say that these people, these volunteer people, are recognized as firefighters. We can take away the word "volunteer" because they are every bit as good, they are trained and they understand the importance of saving lives in the rural areas and I would say to the member here to the left of me, that it takes a special ability. It takes a special ability to be a volunteer fire department member in the rural parts of Nova Scotia because of the challenges that they face daily and, not only daily, any hour of the night.

Mr. Speaker, to do that it takes money. It takes money to provide for the volunteer fire departments and that money comes from the residential taxation and, not only residential, commercial, which there's a different scheme for commercial as well but, not only that, the occupancy tax for small businesses that are provided for in Nova Scotia. I want to tell you a lot of small-business people do not agree with the occupancy tax charged on businesses and I must say that I don't agree with that, but it is a source of revenue which the HRM brings in. So you have your residential tax, you have your area rate, you have your business occupancy tax, it doesn't matter, it all comes in to provide revenue to provide special services to Nova Scotians.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that not all Nova Scotians have to pay tax. There is a relief program. The HRM has a program and the province has a program that if you're not able financially to pay your tax and if you're an owner of your principal residence, that that tax can be relieved through a process, through a special application. So this government understands that line, the inability of people to pay tax.

I want to tell you it's a government like this that's sensitive to the people of Nova Scotia, that understands that they like to maintain their principal residence and what they do is they have an opportunity to live within their own home throughout their life. Now, you

[Page 1177]

would think that would only be seniors, but it's not only available to seniors. It's available to people of low income. So that's a very good thing that the government has provided for people in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that no one likes to pay tax, or I haven't met anybody who likes to pay tax because if you pay tax, it's money out of your own pocket. I will tell you I don't like to pay tax, but I know it's necessary to receive the benefit of the services it provides. I will tell you about taxation, I will tell the member for Timberlea-Prospect, do you know what's wrong with municipal taxes? It comes out of pockets in big lumps twice a year or one time a year, you can pay it.

Mr. Speaker, some people don't pay it at all, and that creates a problem. That creates a problem for the MLA for Eastern Shore, and from time to time we have to try to help people come up with payment schemes. When you pay your provincial sales tax or when you pay your income tax, it's a little bit off here, a little bit off there, but I will tell you what, with your municipal taxes, when you pay your municipal taxes, you actually have to pay it twice a year, and it's a big lump sum, it's $500, $600 or $1,000. If you look out at your community, you can see where your tax dollar goes. It goes to the services that are provided to maintain and to build a community that we live in.

I don't think any member in this House will stand and say that they do not appreciate the services of their community that are offered. They may say, yes, we would like to have more; well, of course we would. We would like to have more municipal services in our area. I am sure we would like to have better roads and better this and better that. In the direction that this government is going, we certainly will, in a short time, have a better province and better municipal, and better services. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I don't know if I would have enough time to stand here tonight and talk about the benefits to the Eastern Shore over the last number of years. (Interruptions) Oh, they would like to know. Well, what happened to the Eastern Shore? I know the Eastern Shore, the paving that's going on in the Eastern Shore, I am pleased to tell you right here - no, I won't pick it up because I will have to table it - but anyway, right here today, I just got word that the East Jeddore Road is being paved. (Applause)

I'm very pleased. Mr. Speaker, after this government, with my hard work and the co-operation of the Department of Transportation and Public Works, has just paved the Lake Charlotte Road. (Interruptions) Yes, the smell of asphalt on the Eastern Shore is strong. We know we paved that road, and we've chip-sealed everything that possibly can be chip-sealed and micro-sealed. (Laughter) There was a dog on the side of the road the other day, and the dog itself was chip-sealed because it couldn't get out of the way. I say that in fun. We've also done improvements on the East Chezzetcook Road, we know that. Highway No. 207 and Highway No. 107, and on and on. I will tell you that I have a plan in the next couple of years to do more paving.

[Page 1178]

The point I'm making, Mr. Speaker, is it all happens through taxation. If you want better things, you must pay for better things, unless the federal government would send down the just and fair money that they owe us, then we could probably take back just a little bit. There is no doubt about it, no one likes to pay municipal tax. No one understands or much cares if it's a provincial or if it's a municipal issue, they just know that they're not pleased with paying municipal taxes.

Mr. Speaker, in all fairness, we live in a fair province, we live in a good municipality, and I know the other municipalities in Nova Scotia are led by good wardens, they're led by good mayors and they have good elected officials. They go through a process, no different than the people who are sitting in this House this afternoon. They go through a process, they go through an election, and they are voted in on election day by the promises that they've made. Remember, when they make the promises throughout their mandate, they have to prove themselves, their credibility has to be challenged from time to time.

Mr. Speaker, I've been in politics a long time, I haven't met an elected official, regardless if they sit on that side of the House or if they sit on this side of the House, if they sit in Yarmouth or if they sit in Cape Breton or where they sit, I haven't met an elected official who didn't care about the people they represent. I know when they enter politics, it's out of the goodness of their heart, and they understand that they're going there for a reason. I want to tell you, I haven't met an official who doesn't understand the importance of representing their people. I know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The time allotted for Opposition Members' Business has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader for tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine and Question Period will be Public Bills for Third Reading, Committee of the Whole House and perhaps some Throne Speech as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House adjourn until 12:00 p.m. tomorrow noon.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1179]

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until noon tomorrow.

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

[Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this government's commitment to improving highway and road infrastructure in Guysborough-Sheet Harbour and all along the Marine Drive.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - GUYS.-SHEET HBR.:

COMMITMENT - RECOGNIZE

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak as the first MLA for the new constituency of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour. (Applause)

Guysborough-Sheet Harbour is now the largest provincial riding in Nova Scotia, covering 4,300 square kilometres and with a population of 9,700 people. It stretches from East Ship Harbour to the Town of Canso and then along the Strait of Canso to the port community of Mulgrave. As you can imagine, with people so spread out, the roads are essential.

The conditions of Trunk 7 have been of particular concern to the people who live, work and have business in Guysborough-Sheet Harbour - indeed, all along the Marine Drive. Trunk 7 is an arterial highway that extends from metro to Antigonish. Although it is parallelled by Highway No. 107 from Dartmouth to just west of Musquodoboit Harbour, it is the only arterial road from Musquodoboit Harbour to where it meets the Trans-Canada Highway in Antigonish. A large portion of eastern mainland Nova Scotia relies on this road.

Mr. Speaker, you and other members may have had the opportunity to drive along the Marine Drive, one of the province's many beautiful scenic drives, popular with many tourists. There are some beautiful picturesque views and communities along the road - Ship Harbour, Spanish Ship Bay and Sheet Harbour, just to name a few. If you want to visit the famous Stone Soup Festival in Mosers River, you have to travel along the Eastern Shore. Or, how about the popular historic village of Sherbrooke? Or, Liscombe Lodge, one of this

[Page 1180]

province's three signature resorts in Liscomb Mills, or the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Interpretive Centre in Port Bickerton.

The only way to get to these sites is by travelling along Trunk 7. Many visitors to this province will travel Trunk 7 on their way to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, held each July in Canso, or to visit the Canso Island National Historic Site. Just off Trunk 7 you can get a taste of early life in Nova Scotia at the Fisherman's Life Museum in Oyster Pond and Memory Lane Heritage Village in Lake Charlotte - as it was pointed out by the member for Eastern Shore, in his riding - or the MacPhee House Community Museum in Sheet Harbour.

There's no denying it - Trunk 7 is an integral part of the Marine Drive. Every day people must travel along Trunk 7 to get to work. Some travel from places like Sherbrooke to Antigonish or Sheet Harbour to Dartmouth. They all must travel along Trunk 7 to get to work and then home again. This government recognizes that the condition of Trunk 7 plays a vital role in the health and well-being of the provincial tourism industry and in all aspects of Guysborough-Sheet Harbour's economy.

At this time I would like to take a few minutes to talk about a study conducted by this province's Department of Transportation and Public Works in a report that was submitted to Cabinet in July 2002. The Trunk 7 Corridor Study is a comprehensive examination of the conditions of Trunk 7 and the needs of the communities that use that road. The study looked for any deficiencies that the road may have and established a strategy to address these issues in a cost-effective way.

The study has ranked areas along Trunk 7 based on traffic volumes and upgrade needs of the road. I am proud to say that this government has been following through with the recommendations that were made in this study. The government is committed to reconstructing 60.8 kilometres of highway along Trunk 7 over the next four years. (Applause) For example, 13 kilometres from the Halifax County line to the Bear Brook Bridge has already received full depth reclamation with expanded asphalt stabilization, repaving and bridge repairs. The estimated cost of reconstructing 60.8 kilometres of Trunk No. 7 is $14.75 million. An additional $2.46 million has been committed to strengthen and complete maintenance on bridges along Trunk 7.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is money that will be well spent. There are 597 kilometres of paved roads in Guysborough County alone. Over the past three years this government has paved three sections of Route 16 which starts in Monastery and will take you to the Town of Guysborough and then on to Canso. Routes 211, 316, 374 and 344 have also seen significant upgrades thanks to this government.

[Page 1181]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that earlier this year when the West Intervale culvert was damaged due to severe flooding, this government acted quickly to see that this vital piece of local infrastructure was replaced. The Department of Transportation and Public Works highway engineering services has indicated that with lack of maintenance, deterioration of highway infrastructure can occur over a very short period of time. When this government came to office back in 1999, we were facing years of neglect of our highway system by the previous government, particularly those highways and roads along the Eastern Shore of this province. Trunk 7 has been a victim of this neglect, as have many other rural roads. I am proud that this government has and will continue to reverse this trend of neglect with meaningful investment in the roads and bridges that need it the most.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to also make special mention of the province's RIM Program. The road improvement money for the maintenance and repair of rural roads is an initiative started by this government when it recognized that many of our rural roads were in need of immediate attention. I hope all members of this House will recognize the importance of programs such as this. I am sure that many of my colleagues in this House can testify to the facts that roads are a major concern for many of our constituents. After all, if you live in a rural community, you have to drive to get to the store, to school, to work, to the bank, to the doctor, to any number of places. The condition of our highways and our roads affect us every day.

Mr. Speaker, I am confident that all members of this House can agree that without appropriate roadways, our economy and our quality of life in this province is diminished. That's why I am pleased by this government's commitment to the improvement of roads in my area of Nova Scotia and, in fact, all of Nova Scotia. I look forward to the completion of Trunk 7 highway improvements, as I know many of my constituents do, as we look forward to the added opportunities that this will bring to our communities. I have been pleased by the commitment made by this government and the hard work of our Minister of Transportation and Public Works in bringing forth a plan that is reasonable, appropriate, and necessary for all those who live and work in Guysborough-Sheet Harbour. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity on our adjournment debate to speak on this resolution and I thank the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour for bringing it forward. I think it's important that we actually take some time to talk about the Marine Drive and talk about some of the components of the Marine Drive. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to give their attention to the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 1182]

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The thing about the Marine Drive is interesting because I believe the member who just spoke, one end starts in his riding, or at least close to his riding, the other end starts actually in mine. It starts at the former county line where the City of Dartmouth ends and the former County of Halifax begins, right at Shearwater, and there are a lot of infrastructure issues there as well, I will admit not roads because roads are something in that area that are covered by the HRM, but there are infrastructure issues that the government has neglected. If the member who just spoke believes that the Marine Drive, by paving it, makes it, I presume, better for tourism - which I presume is why he's noting the Marine Drive - means that he must believe that it's good for tourism to have a better paved road.

I would argue, as well, just as equally as that, we need other things as part of the infrastructure to ensure that the Marine Drive still and continues to grow as a tourist destination because we all know in Nova Scotia that the South Shore or the Valley are areas that attract a lot of tourists, obviously for a lot of what it has. The Lighthouse Route, the Evangeline Trail, Mr. Speaker, are beautiful routes through Nova Scotia where people have an opportunity to see a lot of history, a lot of beautiful geography, but they can do the same along the Marine Drive as well. It's something that, quite frankly, has not been properly promoted or properly provided with the infrastructure it requires.

I'm just going to take a few moments to talk about some of the ones in my riding and some of the things in my riding that I think could use some assistance with infrastructure as well. I will start with what is the first community you come to on the Marine Drive, which is Shearwater. Shearwater has some tourism, because it has the Shearwater Aviation Museum. It has a long history, it is over 85 years old. It was started by who later became Admiral Byrd, who went to South Pole. It was started by the American navy. It would be a really good opportunity for a lot more people to come out there and have a chance to visit what was the only navy-marine base on the East Coast, is still, as they would say, wings for the fleet. There is a lot of history there, and a little infrastructure investment by this government could go a long way to ensuring that more tourists are attracted to what's there.

Beyond that we have Fisherman's Cove, which is looking for a lot of help on a regular basis. It got some from ACOA. It's hoping to build, and it is building some additions to create a touch-tank aquarium, to build other attractions to attract more visitors, but it needs other help as well. We have McNab's Island, which is off the coast, which is a new park, but now it's been closed because of the devastation of Hurricane Juan. Mr. Speaker, there's a park that we're now talking about building a draft management plan and then a management plan for that park, where that will then allow for Nova Scotians and others who want to go, they can scuba dive, they can sea kayak, they can hike, they can camp, they can boat around the island and the islands, they can birdwatch. There are many things they can do there, but it really is off limits without basic infrastructure.

[Page 1183]

That kind of infrastructure, like paving roads, would go a long way to ensuring that Nova Scotians would be more attracted to going the Marine Drive. We don't have that. We don't even have a management plan at this point for that park. We don't know when one is going to be finalized. After that, it's going to need help. I know my community would love to have a long, strong relationship. McNab's Island is a part of our community in Eastern Passage. I think they would love to be able to be partners in building and managing that park, but they're going to need help from the government, and we don't necessarily see that happening. Again, roads are one thing, there is a lot more to the Marine Drive that can access and attract visitors and therefore improve business in those areas. A road only gets you to the attractions, you have to have the attractions as well.

Right next to the McNab's and Lawlor Islands Park is McCormack's Beach. McCormack's Beach was a boardwalk. I say was because after Hurricane Juan, it has been half destroyed. It doesn't even exist. In fact the land that it was on is now nothing but pebble beach that covers what was half the boardwalk. It's been washed away, Mr. Speaker. As a result, we have a real problem. That was a huge recreational area. It brought a lot of people into the community, not only in the Dartmouth area or in Eastern Passage or in Cole Harbour, but other people as well. There is beautiful birdwatching there. People actually go off to the edge of the boardwalk and fish, because there's a little v, I guess it's the narrowest point of Eastern Passage, and they fish there.

There's a way of life in Eastern Passage, like there is in Guysborough, like there is in Sheet Harbour or Ecum Secum or Tangier or Ship Harbour, that I think would be interesting to a lot of visitors to Nova Scotia. But again, without that infrastructure investment, that's not going to occur either. And that's a sin.

Continuing along the Marine Drive in my riding, Mr. Speaker, we have a situation right now where we have the Cow Bay moose, which is this more than life-sized concrete statue of a moose. There's a lot of dispute over it, because it was on private land, it's now been moved, the city wants to move it, and I've actually asked the government for a little assistance. I didn't even ask for money, I've just said, can you get an engineer out there to tell them whether, when they're hoisting it, they're meeting proper engineering standards? And the government has refused to even do that. That's a shame, because a little bit of help there can go a long way to making sure we don't damage something which is an attraction on the Marine Drive.

Again, paving roads is one thing, I agree, but also other things are needed on the Marine Drive to ensure that we continue to build and attract more visitors. The destruction of the moose would be devastating to the community of Eastern Passage and Cow Bay, it would be devastating to the Marine Drive. It's one of those little attractions that I think a lot of people hear about through word of mouth or maybe from reading a brochure or two, and want to go and visit something like that. The interesting thing is Silver Sands, where the moose is located, used to be - before my time, maybe the member for Eastern Shore

[Page 1184]

remembers - one of the most popular summer locations. A lot of people used to travel out there in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s before the beach was mined. We mined the sand from that beach and now it's a rocky beach. It was the most fabulous beach, I'm told, it was before my time. It was a beautiful beach people could access, there was a palladium there where people used to go, there would be dances in the evening and there would be a real festive atmosphere. That's all gone. What's left is a moose. But it's still a beautiful area that requires some assistance and it would be nice to see government infrastructure investment there as well.

We have Rainbow Haven Beach which is in my area again. It was badly damaged by Hurricane Juan, as any beach is. Obviously you have a shifting; when you have that kind of large tidal surge, you're going to have problems. That's a beach that always can use help and could use a lot of assistance as well. There's a lot of things on the Marine Drive. You can keep going all the way down to Antigonish County and Guysborough County. Again, paving is one component of it, but there's lots more; there's much more that can be done to ensure that we provide infrastructure. I talk about infrastructure, those are attractions.

There's also infrastructure along the lines of support for small business. If someone in my community wanted to open a sea charter service or a shark fishing or whale watching service or wanted to open a bed and breakfast, there's not a lot of assistance out there for them to understand how they can take advantage of the benefits of being in an area that is a good location. In the case of my community, a 20-minute bus ride from downtown Halifax, even a shorter, or around the same length of time, a boat ride on a good-sized boat could get you to Eastern Passage and get you away from the downtown, give you an opportunity to see a lot of things in the community. If you're in Downtown Halifax for a convention and you say, you know, I want to go somewhere, I've got a day, I would like to go there, maybe I've got two days. Well, you can go hiking, you can go scuba diving, you can go kayaking, you can do all of this in an area very close to the city. I would suggest to you that our community is eager to take advantage of our geographic location and the infrastructure and the attractions that are there. It is going to take more time. (Interruption) The member for Eastern Shore is correct when he says, the best lobsters in Nova Scotia are in Eastern Passage. I think that's important to reflect and I appreciate him putting that on the record through me.

But, as I say, there is a lot more that can be done and a lot more that can be done to ensure that local people can take advantage of, begin to build their own businesses, build industry, build a tourist industry in the Marine Drive area. It happens all the way along, Musquodoboit Harbour, Three Fathom Harbour, Tangier, Jeddore, there are lots of attractions in those areas as well. It'd be great to be able to see that. Paving the roads is one component of it, Mr. Speaker, there's more to it and I'd like to see a plan from the government to ensure the Marine Drive continues to grow as an attractive area for visitors. Thank you.

[Page 1185]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution. It's a rather interesting resolution to say the least, because it's an opportunity for the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour to trumpet some of the accomplishments of his government, and I think that's good.

Equally so, a little earlier in the debate process this afternoon, we heard the member for the Eastern Shore trumpet all the great things that were done down the proposed paving of the Eastern Shore highway. It's ironic that this honourable member didn't mention anything about the East Chezzetcook Road, whereby the government tore up the asphalt and didn't put any back. They didn't put any back. So, it's interesting to ask the question, why? We're only talking four or five kilometres there. Heaven forbid, it wouldn't be patronage. It wouldn't be patronage. We know that paving the East Jeddore Road is very good because there's a fish plant down there and a lot of people are employed there and that's good. The honourable member knows the value of supporting that particular fish plant. That's some of the good things.

We always have to be careful of not losing sight of the big picture. Back in 1999, the government produced a document called, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, Progressive Conservative Nova Scotia, better known as the blue book.

[6:15 p.m.]

We now refer to it as blue book one, because since then the government has come out with a second blue book, but in that particular document, Mr. Speaker, the government indicated quite clearly that within year two of its first mandate - so that would have been the year 2001 - 100 per cent of all fuel taxes and licensing fees would go towards the maintenance and enhancement of our highway, taxes dedicated to the construction and the maintenance of our highways. Well, that simply hasn't happened. I don't believe even half of those dollars are going towards highway construction and maintenance, as the government has suggested.

Little wonder, Mr. Speaker, that in blue book two, in the last provincial election, there's absolutely no mention whatsoever about this four-year plan for highway construction, and in fact dedicating 100 per cent of all these taxes and licensing fees for the roads of Nova Scotia. The government in blue book one indicated that they would be putting forth a 10-year plan - well we're heading into year five of the survival of this agency. Now, before life support is completely removed from this government, we would like to have some indication as to where this 10-year plan is, because they've had almost five years now, they're going on five years since they promised this 10-year of non-partisan road policy - where is it?

[Page 1186]

Mr. Speaker, you wonder why the people of Nova Scotia have become so cynical about government? I think it's great what the honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour has indicated and the member for the Eastern Shore has indicated, that because they're on the government side, patronage is alive and well, and they have basically said that, but where is the fair roads policy that they promised?

I will table this letter, Mr. Speaker. This is a letter that was circulated on July 20, 2003, by the Conservative candidate in Cape Breton West who was a local municipal councillor and I will quote before I table the letter. He says, "Taking . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West, the letter is signed, is it, by the individual addressed?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, it is, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: And also there's another letter attached to the same document signed by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to acknowledge the existence of this so-called four-year plan that this particular individual indicated that he had put together. I will indicate exactly how it came to be. "Taking this concern" - that's the concern of the people in the constituency about the deteriorating state of the roads in Cape Breton West - "and working with some friends and an engineer, we developed a four-year plan to begin to address the road conditions in Cape Breton West."

Well, Mr. Speaker, to date, to this very minute, this very second, neither that councillor, or that former Tory candidate, or the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, or the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works, have ever, ever been able to produce this four-year plan - it's non-existent. Even earlier in the week, I had a visit by some constituents and this councillor who indicated to me that he had a copy of the plan somewhere around at home, he would take a look for it to see if he could find it. Well, that's a rather compelling argument for building confidence in the people. You have a public official using taxpayers' dollars saying that I will look around home to see if I can find a copy. Now, the minister can't find it, the councillor can't find it - nobody on God's green earth can find it or has any knowledge of what's in this document, but yet there's supposed to be one there. That's the type of stuff that the people of Nova Scotia are sick and tired of. They are tired of it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Will you take a question?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, I will entertain a question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore on a point of order?

[Page 1187]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Well, I would like to ask a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Will the honourable member for Cape Breton West entertain a question? Good, we will revert to Question Period.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore on a question.

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I'm listening to the member with interest and I think it's fair to say that this government has shared pavement throughout all of Nova Scotia. As a matter of fact, I don't know of a riding, a rural riding that did not receive major roadwork within the last mandate, and the question is, did the member receive any pavement in his riding, and where, if he wouldn't mind?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: With the exception of one piece of highway on Route No. 4 that was committed by the previous government, the answer is no. N-O. There were a number of J-class streets under the $1 million that was allotted by the province, province wide, that each municipality was allowed on a per capita basis. I think maybe three J-class streets, which would amount to less than $100,000, all told, for the entire municipality in this area.

So if that's what the honourable member is suggesting is fair roads policy, then I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that we reflect on 1999, when a former Tory candidate - not the one I just experienced in 2003, but the one in 1999 - had a big billboard up on the Marion Bridge Highway saying that under a John Hamm Government the Marion Bridge Highway would be paved. Well, the billboard's gone, that candidate is gone, and there's still no pavement.

The sequel to that is the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the present minister, who was minister at the time, for three years consecutively, sent around a request of all the MLAs in the House to itemize their priorities. Three times they got that as their number one priority. Still, Mr. Speaker, they haven't been able to find it anywhere on the priority list. We don't even know where the priority listing is. Now, if you ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, he's too grumpy to even answer the question. So, it's good . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I assume the honourable member meant that in jest, because all honourable members in the House (Interruptions)

The honourable member has about 45 seconds left.

[Page 1188]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I think when we start talking about roads, it seems to bring out the best and the not so best in some people, depending on where you're at on the pecking order. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, would certainly reflect, when you were on this side of the House, all the frustrations that you shared. We don't hear about those frustrations any more, so obviously you've had some good luck in recent years, and I commend you for that. Really what we're looking for is a fair roads policy, and I would ask the government and the honourable members opposite to please table that document. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I thank the honourable members for their comments today. I feel I should respond, the honourable member mentioned good luck, but actually the residents of Cumberland South have had some good luck. (Interruptions) I would like to thank all the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The House is adjourned until the noon hour tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:23 p.m.]

[Page 1189]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 407

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Energy)

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

Whereas the 2003 CORE Conference was held in Halifax last week at the World Trade and Convention Centre. The conference highlighted how multinational and local companies are doing business together both internationally and locally and why the next few years are critical to exploration and development activity in this region; and

Whereas hundreds of delegates from around the world attended the event to learn how the Canadian offshore industry is expanding both at home and abroad. Almost 200 exhibits were on display to promote the products and services offered by Nova Scotia organizations. Business presentations and technical seminars were held for those who attended; and

Whereas keynote speakers such as His Excellency Paul Cellucci (U.S. Ambassador to Canada) and Linda Cook (CEO Shell Canada) discussed global energy trends and competition as well as global and Canadian updates;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank those who attended for their interest in our region, commend those Nova Scotia organizations that took part in this year's conference, and congratulate OTANS for yet another successful and tremendous event.

RESOLUTION NO. 408

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas students at Springhill High School kicked off their plans to help with the construction of the new Springhill Arena and Community Centre; and

Whereas for the remainder of the school year, students in the Physically Active Lifestyles (PAL) class will be carrying out a variety of fundraising endeavours to help raise funds for the centre that is currently under construction; and

[Page 1190]

Whereas each student was charged with the task of coming up with ideas that could be turned into fundraisers and subsequently instituted as school functions aimed at full student participation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the PAL class and the students who participate in these fundraising events that will help raise funds for Springhill's new community centre and wish them much success.

RESOLUTION NO. 409

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Kendra Mattinson of Oxford, Nova Scotia, won the honour of first place in the 2003 Youth Talent Contest held at the Cumberland County Exhibition; and

Whereas the judges chose Kendra in this division from 21 entrants who entered the contest; and

Whereas Kendra has won many other talent contests and has also been asked by the Amherst Ramblers to open their season by singing for them;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kendra Mattinson and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 410

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Ryan Lockhart, a 19-year-old native of Springhill, Nova Scotia, has been racing Motocross for 13 years and has been a professional since 1998; and

Whereas this past season Ryan finished fourth in the 125 cc racing class in the Canadian Motocross Club Pro Nationals, his best finish ever; and

Whereas the next national series for Ryan will start next June and between now and then Ryan will be taking part in races in Truro and Moncton and will race in Florida over the winter months;

[Page 1191]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ryan on his fourth-place finish and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 411

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Chris Legere won the title of Club Champion and the annual Springhill Centennial Club Championship in Springhill, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the tournament sponsored by D & J Home Hardware is a major event in the Springhill area which was held on August 23-24, 2003; and

Whereas Chris Legere showed determination and perseverance to bring in the lowest number to win the club championship;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Chris Legere on this prestigious win and wish him the best of luck in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 412

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas young members of the Oxford Church of the Nazarene's Kidz Korner group were out for an evening walk last week to pick up garbage along Main Street in Oxford; and

Whereas many of these young people and their leaders were diligent in their effort to help make Oxford a nicer place to live; and

Whereas the children were out in full force to pick up litter and garbage along the streets whereby all of us could learn a lesson from these eager children;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these members of the Church of the Nazarene's Kidz Korner group and we thank them for their effort to rid their part of the province of unwanted litter and wish them all the best in the future.

[Page 1192]

RESOLUTION NO. 413

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas army cadet Alan Ferguson, who was 1 of 18 Canadians selected for the National Rifle Team, competed in the Imperial Matches, a world marksman competition held in England featuring 1,200 shooters from around the world; and

Whereas Alan came home with a pocketful of awards and a medal; and

Whereas at the end of the month-long competition, Ferguson was notably Canada's best in his class;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alan Ferguson on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 414

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Heidi Fairbanks-Smith, a nurse practitioner, has accepted the position in a collaborative practice for the Parrsboro/River Hebert area; and

Whereas Heidi, who will begin her practice in late October with two doctors in Parrsboro, is a native of Cumberland County and received her diploma in nursing from the Moncton School of Nursing as well as a Bachelor of Science (Nursing) and a diploma in Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Studies from Dalhousie University; and

Whereas Heidi has worked as a registered nurse in various settings and as an instructor in the Licensed Practical Nursing Program at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Heidi Fairbanks-Smith on her new position and look forward to having her serve in these communities.

[Page 1193]

RESOLUTION NO. 415

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the 4th annual Cumberland County CIBC Run for the Cure kicked off Sunday afternoon and raised almost $40,000 for research and despite the damp weather, everything started on time and the funds raised exceeded last year's total by $5,000; and

Whereas the four-year total now sits at $123,000 with over 340 participants taking part in the walk; and

Whereas many volunteers, participants and sponsors helped to make this run such a success and plans are already in place for the 2004 event;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the CIBC on this successful run for such a worthy cause and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 416

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas children from the Advocate District School raised more than $800 recently when they held a Terry Fox Walkathon; and

Whereas the young children involved in the event held a large Terry Fox sign as they took part in the walkathon; and

Whereas participants in the walkathon include Courtney Benjamin, Amy Spicer, Katie Cleveland, Maddie Currie, Ashley Grant, Christopher Spicer, Ryan Collins, Kerstyn MacLellan, Brandon Nuttall, Autum Collins, Robbie Fraser, Katie Stanley, Owen Shepherd, Jarren Nickerson, Catlyn McLellan, MacKenzie Field, Rachel Gamblin, Meg Spicer, Heidi Currie, Alexander Spicer, Cody Young, Kristie Nickerson and Haayley Nuttall;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the children of the Advocate District School and thank them for their dedication to such a worthy cause.

[Page 1194]

RESOLUTION NO. 417

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Parrsboro Regional Elementary School students were out in full force on September 23rd taking part in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup; and

Whereas participating in the cleanup at Second Beach were many of the elementary students including Chelsea Warren, Crystal Yorke, Taylor Hoeg, Jessica Johnson and Taryn Erb; and

Whereas other beaches visited by the students were First Beach and Partridge Island;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the students of Parrsboro Regional Elementary School on their efforts to clean up their shoreline and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 418

By: Mr. Stephen McNeil (Annapolis)

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

Whereas Lindsay Stewart was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Award, known internationally as the International Award for Young People; and

Whereas this award is designed to help young people develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons; and

Whereas Lindsay was a therapeutic riding volunteer, was the school representative for the Bridgetown Monitor, played badminton and the piano;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lindsay Stewart for being a recipient of this year's Duke of Edinburgh Award.

[Page 1195]

RESOLUTION NO. 419

By: Mr. Stephen McNeil (Annapolis)

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

Whereas Carrie Murray was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Award, known internationally as the International Award for Young People; and

Whereas this award is designed to help young people develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons; and

Whereas Carrie was an assistant Girl Guide leader, helped with Sunday school, worked with seniors, played badminton, curling and the piano;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Carrie Murray for being a recipient of this year's Duke of Edinburgh Award.

RESOLUTION NO. 420

By: Mr. Stephen McNeil (Annapolis)

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

Whereas Kyle Hewey was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Award, known internationally as the International Award for Young People; and

Whereas this award is designed to help young people develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons; and

Whereas Kyle has worked with his student council, band committee, plays volleyball, snowboards and has learned Chinese brush painting;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Kyle Hewey for being a recipient of this year's Duke of Edinburgh Award.

[Page 1196]

RESOLUTION NO. 421

By: Mr. Stephen McNeil (Annapolis)

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

Whereas Abbigayle Henshaw was awarded the Duke of Edinburgh Award, known internationally as the International Award for Young People; and

Whereas this award is designed to help young people develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons; and

Whereas Abbigayle looks afer physically and mentally challenged children, is involved in a walking for fitness program and plays the saxophone;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Abbigayle Henshaw for being a recipient of this year's Duke of Edinburgh Award.