The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03-17

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

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 498, Morden, William Reid/MacKay, Andrew - Dal. Univ.:
Hon. Degs. - Congrats., (by Hon. P. Christie), Hon. J. Muir 1359
Vote - Affirmative 1360
Res. 499, Agric. & Fish. - Cdn. Farm Bus. Advisory Services: Support -
Recognize, Hon. C. d'Entremont 1360
Vote - Affirmative 1361
Res. 500, Environ. & Lbr.: Alternate Transport - Usage, Hon. K. Morash 1361
Vote - Affirmative 1362
Res. 501, Econ. Dev. - Membertou First Nation: Model - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1362
Vote - Affirmative 1362
Res. 502, Educ. - Dal. Univ.: Research Success - Congrats.,
(by Hon. P. Christie), Hon. J. Muir 1363
Vote - Affirmative 1363
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 24, Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. G. Steele 1364
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 503, Smith, Mike: Gemini Award - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1364
Vote - Affirmative 1364
Res. 504, Misner, Judy - Psoriasis Soc. (Can.): Founder - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 1365
Vote - Affirmative 1365
Res. 505, Shelburne Commun. Health Bd. - Lockeport Clinic:
Vision - Commend, Mr. C. O'Donnell 1365
Vote - Affirmative 1366
Res. 506, Commun. Serv. - Working Poor: Food Purchases - Fund,
Ms. J. Massey 1366
Res. 507, Gov't. (N.S.): Health Prom./Prevention - Prioritize,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1367
Res. 508, Harrington, Sue/Mason, Lisa - Romania Orphans: Support -
Commend, (by Mr. W. Langille), Mr. J. DeWolfe 1368
Vote - Affirmative 1368
Res. 509, Shelagh, MacKenzie - Hon. Deg.: MSVU - Congrats.,
(by Mr. H. Epstein), Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1368
Vote - Affirmative 1369
Res. 510, Colville, David Alexander/Elliott, Shirley Burnham:
Order of N.S. - Congrats., Mr. L. Glavine 1369
Vote - Affirmative 1370
Res. 511, Shoppers (Yar./Barrington): IWK Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 1370
Vote - Affirmative 1370
Res. 512, Sport: Timberlea Titans Football Team - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1371
Vote - Affirmative 1371
Res. 513, C.B. - Depopulation: Gov't. (N.S.) - Address,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1371
Res. 514, Hfx. Reg. Police Serv.: Dist. 9 Police Office - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 1372
Vote - Affirmative 1373
Res. 515, Walker, Allen/Brian: Loss - Acknowledge, Mr. H. Theriault 1373
Vote - Affirmative 1373
Res. 516, Bras d'Or Lakes Stewardship Soc.: Preservation Efforts -
Recognize, Hon. C. Clarke 1373
Vote - Affirmative 1374
Res. 517, School Bus Safety Wk.: Pub. Awareness - Raise,
Ms. J. Massey 1374
Vote - Affirmative 1375
Res. 518, Sydney Acad. - Debating Championships: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 1375
Vote - Affirmative 1376
Res. 519, Liverpool's Old Burial Grounds - Comm.: Efforts -
Recognize, Hon. K. Morash 1376
Vote - Affirmative 1376
Res. 520, Prospect Rd. Anl. Craft Sale: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1377
Vote - Affirmative 1377
HOUSE RECESSED AT 11:29 A.M. 1377
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 12:30 P.M.^ 1377
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 160, Health - ABA Comm.: Terms of Ref. - Table, Mr. D. Dexter 1378
No. 161, Fin. - Health/Pub. Educ.: Cuts - Prevent, Mr. D. Graham 1379
No. 162, Environ. & Lbr. - Regs. Develop: Injured Workers -
Inclusion, Mr. F. Corbett 1380
No. 163, Fin. - Cap. Dist. Health Auth.: Cuts - Request Confirm,
Mr. D. Graham 1381
No. 164, Insurance - Gov't. (N.S.): Companies - Support Explain,
Mr. G. Steele 1382
No. 165, Health - Orthopaedic Surgery: Wait Times - Increase Explain,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1383
No. 166, Econ. Dev. - Britex Employee Group: Communications -
Details, Mr. H. Epstein 1384
No. 167, Treasury & Policy Bd. - Red Tape Reduction Task Force:
Existence - Confirm, Ms. D. Whalen 1386
No. 168, Environ. & Lbr. - Dart. Marine Slips Workers: Severance -
Investigate, Mr. D. Dexter 1387
No. 169, Commun. Serv. - Women's Ctrs. Funding Cuts: Reversal -
Lack Explain, Ms. M. More 1388
No. 170, Women, Status of - Transition Houses: Cuts - Details,
Ms. D. Whalen 1389
No. 171, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Prop. Assessments: Solution - Seek,
Ms. M. Raymond 1390
No. 172, Health - Seniors' Pharmacare: Premiums - Freeze,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1391
No. 173, Commun. Serv. - Nova Scotians: Food Banks - Depend,
Ms. M. More 1392
No. 174, PSC - Pub. Serv. Commissioner/Dep. Min. Treasury Bd.:
Conflict - Confirm, Mr. K. Colwell 1393
No. 175, Nat. Res. - Long Lake Pk.: Leash Law - Enforcement Details,
Mr. G. Steele 1394
No. 176, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Rural Depopulation: Min./UNSM -
Discuss, Mr. Gerald Sampson 1396
No. 177, Educ. - Sir John A. MacDonald HS: Addition - Plans,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1397
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 20, Workers' Compensation Act/Occupational Health
and Safety Act 1399
Mr. G. Gosse 1399
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1402
Mr. J. MacDonell 1416
Debate adjourned 1424
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 1425
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 20, Workers' Compensation Act/Occupation Health and Safety Act 1425
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1425
Mr. H. Epstein 1429
Ms. M. Raymond 1441
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1443
Adjourned debate 1448
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Oct. 22nd at 2:00 p.m. 1449

[Page 1359]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2003

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

11:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 498

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Education, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

1359

[Page 1360]

Whereas two prominent Canadians joined 836 students this past Saturday, receiving degrees from the Maritimes' largest university; and

Whereas Andrew MacKay, a former chairman of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission currently serving as a Justice of the Federal Court of Canada, and William Reid Morden, President of Reid Morden Associates, were both granted honorary degrees from Dalhousie University; and

Whereas students received degrees from the departments of architecture and planning, computer science, engineering, health professions, physical and life sciences, arts and social sciences, management, dentistry, law and medicine;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating William Reid Morden, Andrew MacKay and all the new Dalhousie University graduates and wish them much success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 499

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

Whereas the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services is a national program that will address the needs of Nova Scotia producers considering new opportunities for their farm business and provide them with access to business planning services; and

Whereas as of October 9, 2003, Nova Scotia farmers have access to the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services program; and

[Page 1361]

Whereas through these advisory services, the sector will become stronger, more competitive and more profitable in markets in Nova Scotia as well as abroad;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Nova Scotia's support through the Canadian Farm Business Advisory Services to ensure a successful and competitive agriculture industry in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 500

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

Whereas October 20th to October 26th is Waste Reduction Week in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the passenger automobile is one of the leading causes of poor air quality and resource depletion; and

Whereas using an alternative form of transportation like bus, bicycle or just walking one day a week can reduce commuter traffic and vehicle emissions by 20 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commit to using an alternate to the passenger automobile whenever possible as a sign that a cleaner environment is possible through personal effort.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1362]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 501

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

Whereas the Membertou First Nation of Sydney, Nova Scotia, was recently named the winner of the 2003 Economic Developer of the Year Business/Community Award by the Council for the Advancement of Native Development Officers at their 10th annual national conference in Whitehorse; and

Whereas Membertou is the first indigenous government in the world to achieve ISO 9001:2000 certification, which places them firmly in the international marketplace; and

Whereas Membertou Technologies Inc. recently entered into a memorandum of understanding with Fujitsu Consulting (Canada);

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Chief Terrance Paul, Chief Executive Officer of the Membertou Corporate Division, Mr. Bernd Christmas, and recognize the Membertou First Nation as a model of how innovative thinking leads to success in economic development.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

[Page 1363]

RESOLUTION NO. 502

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Education, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas The Scientist magazine has ranked Dalhousie University as providing the best environment for research outside the United States; and

Whereas this government has contributed to that positive environment by investing nearly $4 million from the Nova Scotia Research and Innovation Trust Fund to buy equipment for Dalhousie's researchers; and

Whereas students benefit as much from this investment as our research community does, since they gain access to the equipment and to bright scientific minds this university has attracted;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dalhousie and its researchers on their success in creating the right climate for research and for learning.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I would like the House to give a warm welcome to a friend of mine from Digby, Mrs. Blanche Keats. She has been a great friend of mine for years and a very strong and great person in our community. I would like for the House to give her a warm welcome, please. (Applause)

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

[Page 1364]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 24 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act to Enable the Further Restriction of the Use of Diesel Engine Enhanced Braking Systems. (Mr. Graham Steele)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 503

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

Whereas the Gemini Awards, recognizing the best in Canadian television arts, were handed out last night in Toronto; and

Whereas the Trailer Park Boys is a television cult hit produced most recently in Eastern Passage, after its various stints in Sackville, north end Dartmouth and Timberlea; and

Whereas Mike Smith, aka Bubbles, received the Gemini Viewers' Choice Award for best comedian in a television series at last night's awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mike Smith for his award and wish the producers, crew and actors on Trailer Park Boys future success as they wrap up their fourth year of production.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

[Page 1365]

RESOLUTION NO. 504

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

Whereas psoriasis is a common skin condition that affects more than 1 million people in Canada and 80 million throughout the world; and

Whereas October is Psoriasis Month, which also held the National Psoriasis Walk on Sunday, October 19th; and

Whereas Judy Misner, a resident of Halifax Clayton Park, formed the Psoriasis Society of Canada in 1983;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge Judy Misner as the founder of the Psoriasis Society of Canada on its 20th Anniversary.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 505

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

Whereas a Shelburne doctor is now seeing patients in Lockeport one day a week; and

Whereas the Shelburne County Community Health Board has already submitted a proposal to the district health authority for a health clinic within the Town of Lockeport boundaries; and

[Page 1366]

Whereas the Town of Lockeport already owns a building that could become such a clinic;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly commend the vision of members of the Shelburne Community Health Board, and wish them every success in staffing and planning a clinic in Lockeport.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 506

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

Whereas there are numerous constituents in Dartmouth East and around this province who suffered losses due to Hurricane Juan, including loss of food; and

Whereas many of these people have been able to access the local food banks, but unfortunately they cannot afford to purchase meat with their limited funds; and

Whereas many of these same people fall into the category of the working poor and therefore do not receive social assistance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Community Services make funds available immediately to the working poor, so that they can go out and purchase the food necessary to provide themselves and their families with a healthy diet.

[11:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1367]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 507

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

Whereas two studies published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology show that death rates are directly linked to smoking, obesity, inactivity, and income levels; and

Whereas these studies reinforce the need for the Nova Scotia Government to demonstrate its conviction in understanding why Nova Scotians, according to these studies, continue to be among the least healthy Canadians; and

Whereas it is vital that this government remember its role in alleviating these health burdens by bringing about changes in healthy living that will positively impact our productivity and our economy;

Therefore be it resolved Nova Scotia's Conservative Government must ensure that health promotion and health prevention remain priorities and don't get lost in the economic concerns of the budget.

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 Colchester-North.

[Page 1368]

RESOLUTION NO. 508

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Pictou East, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas two Pictou County women will spend their three-week vacation helping orphans in an impoverished European country; and

Whereas Sue Harrington and Lisa Mason will travel to Romania in February to care for orphaned babies in a severely understaffed and underfunded hospital; and

Whereas Ms. Harrington and Ms. Mason will be responsible for feeding, changing, bathing and entertaining 35 children under the age of two at a clinic in the Tutova Hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Sue Harrington and Lisa Mason for their commitment to help orphans in Romania, and extend to them our best wishes as they participate in this worthwhile endeavour.

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 Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 509

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

Whereas Ms. Shelagh Mackenzie, at the Fall convocation of Mount Saint Vincent University on October 19, 2003, received the degree of Doctor of Human Letters, Honoris Causa; and

[Page 1369]

Whereas Ms. Mackenzie has been active as a filmmaker for over 30 years and has been responsible for films honouring and recognizing the history and accomplishments of women, and of Acadian, African-Nova Scotian and Aboriginal communities; and

Whereas Ms. Mackenzie has contributed to the cultural life of Nova Scotia and Canada in ways too numerous to list;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Shelagh Mackenzie on the occasion of receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Human Letters.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 510

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

Whereas David Colville and Shirley Elliott, both from Wolfville, received the Order of Nova Scotia today; and

Whereas Mr. Colville, who as an artist and teacher, challenged the public consciousness through his paintings, and as a teacher inspired young artists and encouraged them to pursue their goals; and

Whereas due to Ms. Elliott's efforts as Legislative Librarian, much of Nova Scotia's history has been preserved and documented for future generations;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate David Alexander Colville and Shirley Burnham Elliott on receiving this year's Order of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1370]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 511

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

Whereas staff and management at Shoppers Drug Mart in Barrington and Yarmouth are tireless fundraisers for the IWK Health Centre; and

Whereas Yarmouth store manager Lyle Conway volunteered to have his head shaved if the two stores were able to raise $6,000 between them; and

Whereas with the help of the generous residents of Yarmouth and Barrington, staff of the two stores were able to raise more than $7,000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the staff and management of the Shoppers Drug Mart stores in Yarmouth and Barrington on their successful fundraising efforts and thank Mr. Conway for putting his head on the line for a good cause.

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 1371]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 512

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

Whereas football is a popular sport throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Timberlea Titans football club continues to attract athletes to the sport of football; and

Whereas the Titans are establishing a great tradition on and off the field;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Timberlea Titans football coaches, players and supporters.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 513

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

Whereas Cape Bretoners had a reduction in staff at the Sydney Cabinet office; and

Whereas one position was removed from the office, leaving one person left to hear the concerns of Cape Bretoners in the province's second largest municipality; and

Whereas Cape Breton has 20 per cent of the province's population but less than 10 per cent of the provincial Civil Service;

[Page 1372]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage the government to address Cape Breton concerns such as depopulation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 514

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 Halifax Regional Police Services embarked on a new venture by opening a community police office in District 9; and

Whereas Constable Christopher (Chris) Friis, a well-known Dartmouth officer has been named the Community Constable; and

Whereas Constable Friis has already made an impact in the community by introducing himself to all the agencies, organizations and residents in District 9 and assuring them that every issue will receive the utmost attention;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly congratulate the Halifax Regional Policing Services and Constable Christopher (Chris) Friis on a proactive measure of policing that will lead to safer communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1373]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 515

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

Whereas a Digby Neck fish plant burned to the ground last Sunday; and

Whereas Scotia Fisheries Ltd., owned and operated by Allen Walker, his son Brian in Little River, began to burn in the early morning, causing damage to surrounding fish plants and boats; and

Whereas fire departments from Barton, Digby, Tiverton and Freeport help fight the early morning fire;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the loss of Allen and Brian Walker and the hard work and dedication provided by the volunteer firefighters of Digby 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 Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 516

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

[Page 1374]

Whereas the Bras d'Or Lakes Stewardship Society is working with a committee of mayors, wardens and chiefs to establish a long-term plan for total sewage and contaminate removal from the lake; and

Whereas one of the major short-term goals of the society is to designate the Bras d'Or Lakes as a no discharge zone for marine sewage; and

Whereas the membership in the society has been very strong and for the third year in a row the society received more than $10,000 in membership subscriptions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the dedication of Pat Bates and all the members of the Bras d'Or Lakes Stewardship Society for their efforts to preserve one of the province's treasures and the world's largest in-land sea.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 517

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

Whereas this week, HRM police and Mounties will be concentrating on areas where school buses stop; and

Whereas this is part of a special campaign during School Bus Safety Week; and

Whereas School Bus Safety Week is designed to raise awareness of the danger of illegally passing school buses;

[Page 1375]

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind people that it is illegal to pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing and commend the HRM police and Mounties for their efforts to raise public awareness about the importance of stopping for school buses.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 518

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

Whereas students from Sydney Academy cleaned up at the Nova Scotia Impromptu Debating Championships held Saturday in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Sheldon McCormack and Mark Brister won the tem title in the senior high division; and

Whereas Mark also won the individual senior high category and was one of two students selected to represent the province at the National Public Speaking Tournament, to be held in Winnipeg in February;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Sheldon McCormack, Mark Brister and all the students from Sydney Academy on their success at this year's Nova Scotia Impromptu Debating Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1376]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 519

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

Whereas members of a committee trying to restore a fountain at the Old Burial Grounds in Liverpool have begun its fundraising efforts; and

Whereas the Old Burial Grounds was Liverpool's first cemetery and the fountain is considered an essential part of this historic cemetery; and

Whereas Owen Hamlin and his fellow committee members have been given until next June to raise more than $35,000 by the Region of Queens, who is restoring the Old Burial Grounds site;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the efforts of Mr. Owen Hamlin and his fellow committee members who are raising money to save the fountain in Liverpool's Old Burial Grounds and wish them much success in this endeavour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 1377]

RESOLUTION NO. 520

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

Whereas the craft shops along the Prospect Road from Goodwood to West Dover held their annual Craft Crawl on Saturday and Sunday, October 18th and October 19th; and

Whereas the operators and owners of these craft shops provide valuable service in our community; and

Whereas this Craft Crawl is well received by all involved;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the craft shops along the Prospect Road on their annual Craft Crawl.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do recess for a period of 10 minutes. I think we have a problem down at Government House with the Order of Nova Scotia presentations. So if we can adjourn until 11:45 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House is recessed.

[11:29 a.m. The House recessed.]

[12:30 p.m. The House reconvened.]

[Page 1378]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will call the House back into session.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:31 p.m. and end at 1:31 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - ABA COMM.: TERMS OF REF. - TABLE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week, parents of autistic children visited this House and brought with them a petition containing over 4,000 signatures, asking that this province provide their children with applied behavioural analysis, or ABA. Over the decades of scientific study and practical application, ABA has proven to help thousands of children reach their potential.

Despite the facts about ABA, the minister told this House and the parents who are sinking deeply into debt to supply the badly-needed medical services for their children that he feels the issue needs more study. He said that he had a committee looking at best practices before deciding whether to cover ABA. The existence of this committee was certainly a surprise to me and, I believe, a surprise to parents. My question to the minister is this, will he commit today to table the terms of reference for the committee he's talking about, so we can all see just exactly what they're actually doing?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the work of the group that is involved in this will be making a report to me, I believe, before the end of this calendar year. At that time, of course, we, in the department, will be moving with respect to analyzing the results and, among other things, ABA is one of the methods that is being assessed, but it is more far-ranging than that, in terms of looking at all practices and the best practices both nationally and internationally.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the question was, would he table the terms of reference. That goes unanswered. Last week, when the minister was busy trying to confuse the autism issue by casting doubt on the effectiveness of ABA, did he know that his government took delivery of a report in the year 2000 that specifically recommends ABA as the preferred treatment for autism? It's called the CAYAC report, and it says that children who received ABA "had significantly greater improvements." I'm going to table the appropriate page of that report. It's a report drawn up by some of the top people in health, education and community services in this province. My question to the Minister of Health is, why are you choosing to ignore the report done for your government that specifically recommends ABA as the preferred therapy?

[Page 1379]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the work that is being undertaken within the department and also through consultation with the Chair on Autism at Dalhousie University is evaluating all work, everything that's available including the report to which the honourable member referred.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is nothing more than delay and obfuscation. The minister just doesn't want to deal with the facts when they're staring him right in the face. The facts are that ABA has over 50 years of scientific proof behind it; ABA is the accepted treatment in virtually every other province in the country; ABA is the treatment recommended by a report done for this government by some of the best people in the field, a report that says that there are no other methods of intervention that have strong enough evidence to support them as a primary method of intervention for children with autism. The facts are in, the minister is stalling. My question is this, when are you going to face the facts and offer children with autism the proven treatment they need to reach their potential?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in answer to an earlier question, we will be receiving the report which will do a complete analysis of all information available and when that is available and assessed, then we will, of course, be moving forward with programs.

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

FIN. - HEALTH/PUB. EDUC.: CUTS - PREVENT

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, everyone in the House will recall that on September 19th, when this government came forward and announced that there would be $32 million worth of cuts to this budget, the Minister of Finance went to great pains to suggest to Nova Scotians that these cuts would not be happening to public education and to front-line health care. My question for the Minister of Finance is whether or not, today in the House, he will commit to no cuts happening to front-line health care and to public education in this province?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite correct when we announced that we were going to be looking for opportunities within our budget. What we are still asking departments to do is look at opportunities. We have received some suggestions from them, we're expecting more, but what we said is moving forward, it still stands.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, that doesn't sound like the unequivocal "we will not provide cuts to front-line health care and public education" that the minister provided back on September 19th. I'm going to suggest that just this past week a document was tabled before Cabinet, a performance management plan, and in that document is contemplated cuts to public education and to front-line health care in this province. I ask the Minister of

[Page 1380]

Finance, will he confirm that the performance management plan exists and put it before the House as soon as possible?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, what I can confirm is that we've asked departments to look at opportunities. We are getting some of those in. We expect more. Some have come in. We've sent some back. We're looking at those. At this point in time, we are looking at those opportunities and when those are finalized, then we will be able to make it available.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, for my first supplementary I would ask for the Minister of Finance to confirm that he is now, indeed, contemplating cuts to public education and to front-line health care, contrary to what he suggested on September 19th?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat, as I said before, we've asked departments to look at those areas where we have some opportunities, and we're bringing those in. Until we make decisions, until those are finalized, there is nothing for me to table as yet. We will do that when they're final.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - REGS. DEVELOP:

INJURED WORKERS - INCLUSION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, through you, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Yesterday in this House the minister spoke of how the government would work with all Parties to develop regulations during the Law Amendments Committee and so on. These regulations will enable the creation for a process that will support workers with chronic pain. The minister praised injured workers for their patience since the Dorsey report has been released; indeed, they should be praised since Bill No. 90, which really put them there. So I want to ask the minister, how will you guarantee that injured workers will be treated as full partners in the development of regulations around chronic pain, how will you do that?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly will be listening to injured workers and individuals who have comments to make and will be working with the other two Parties to draft up the regulations. I'm sure through that process that voices will be heard.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, you know, these are words that injured workers have heard before and we all know regulations are easily changed by the government of the day with the stroke of a pen behind closed doors and should be clearly and openly vetted. So I'm going to ask the minister, when will the minister provide this House with this government's draft of regulations regarding chronic pain?

[Page 1381]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly will provide that copy when it's developed, when the parties get together and develop the draft regulations.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, injured workers have suffered long enough in this province through government bungling and, indeed, bungling by the board itself. This is a great week to start it. October 20th to October 26th is Canada's Healthy Workplace Week. One of the goals is to promote a comprehensive and integrated approach to workplace health and safety. Is it the minister's plan, since he's said he will remove the responsibility for encouragement of educational programs to promote occupational health and safety from the Occupational Health & Safety Division, is it your plan to privatize that important function or simply do away with it altogether?

MR. MORASH: We certainly don't intend to privatize that operation and it's my opinion that it will work well. It will be augmented by its new home. We will see a reduction in accidents throughout the province, which is the goal of this Legislature.

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

FIN. - CAP. DIST. HEALTH AUTH.: CUTS - REQUEST CONFIRM

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, the challenges facing the district health authorities are great. The challenges facing the Capital District Health Authority, for example, are great. My question for the Minister of Finance is, given that Nova Scotia provides less money per capita for health care services than any province in this country and that wait list backlogs are great, would he confirm that Capital District Health Authority has been asked to cut $10 million from its global budget?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, what the honourable member didn't mention is the fact that this year in the budget, we've given health care and the district health authorities future funding at 7 per cent. In September, we provided additional money to the health authorities because we knew there was some pressure. That's what's called supporting the district health authorities.

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, that sounds like a yes, we're going to provide cuts of $10 million to the Capital District Health Authority and I'd remind the Minister of Finance that in this last budget $140 million was added to the Health budget, but about $120 million of it came from the federal government - only $20 million came from this government. My question is for the Minister of Health, given the answer that we got from the Minister of Finance, will the Minister of Health confirm that the Capital District Health Authority has been asked to trim $10 million from its global budget?

[Page 1382]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a very significant point and it's about time the federal government started paying more money to health care. (Applause)

MR. GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I suspect that the federal government would have more comfort if it found that when it sent the money to top up what was already supplied by the provincial government, then they would be confident that money was going into health services and not off to some other tax scheme that was premature and irresponsible. The question for the Minister of Health which was not answered is, will he confirm that $10 million is being cut from the Capital District Health Authority's global budget?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as has been indicated by the honourable Minister of Finance, we have in fact increased the budgets of the health authorities in this province by 7 per cent, we have given them a long-term commitment with respect to that funding. We have, in fact, increased over and above the 7 per cent, an additional amount of money to account for increased costs relative to overtime and costs relative to an aging population. That translates into increased funding, not cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. In New Brunswick, insurance companies failed to reduce rates even after a $2,500 cap on pain and suffering awards was imposed. That has prompted the New Brunswick Liberals to come out strongly behind a public auto insurance plan. In spite of New Brunswick's failure, the Liberals and Conservatives in Nova Scotia continue to bicker in the backrooms over how many injured Nova Scotians will have their rights limited in order to pad the profitability of insurers. My question to the minister is, for how long has it been government policy to proceed with an auto insurance plan that we know won't work?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. My interpretation is that question is directly related to the bill that is before the House. Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE - GOV'T. (N.S.):

COMPANIES - SUPPORT EXPLAIN

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: It was about government policy. Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick Liberal Leader Shawn Graham says it's time for public auto. He says that our position in the Liberal Party is very clear. The insurance companies have had their opportunity, the time has come and passed. It's an issue of making a decision on who you want to represent, the insurance companies or the people. My question to the minister, in a debate where one can be on the side of the insurance companies or the people, why has this

[Page 1383]

government and the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia come out so clearly on the side of the insurance companies?

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the honourable member opposite that the plan that we have put forward comes down firmly on the side of consumers of this province. Furthermore, the consumers of this province will realize a saving of $100 million in the next 12 months starting November 1st of this year.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, one thing we know for sure and that is that the lowest and fairest auto insurance rates in the country are in the provinces with public auto insurance. Across the country, political Leaders of all stripes are agreeing that public auto is the answer and that includes Liberal Leaders in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec and now, New Brunswick. My question to the minister is, when is this government and the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia going to join us in the fight for the lowest and fairest auto rates and deliver public auto to the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not responsible for what the Liberals think about public insurance, but I do know what happened in New Brunswick to the Party that was out there calling for public insurance, they got one seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - ORTHOPAEDIC SURGERY:

WAIT TIMES - INCREASE EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, the Fraser Institute released its 13th annual Waiting Your Turn document, which is one of the most extensive wait-time documents produced in this country, and it is certainly the only guide that we have here in this province as to what's happening in health care as it pertains to wait times. One of the areas that stands out in wait times is orthopaedics. From referral from a general practitioner until treatment, wait times for orthopaedic surgery have increased by nine weeks, almost two months over last year's. For the record, according to the Fraser Institute, Nova Scotians are waiting 11 months for orthopaedic surgery.

My question to the minister is, could the minister please explain why he has allowed orthopaedic surgery wait times to get so long in this province?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I want to thank the member, Mr. Speaker, and I want to say to the House, through you, that we, in fact, recognize the need to address the wait-time issue, that's why we, in this province, have a working group which is actively addressing this. They will be coming forward with recommendations to myself and to Cabinet and that

[Page 1384]

will take place this year. We will have far more detailed and up-to-date information than is provided by the Fraser Institute.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let's not blame it on a working committee whose report isn't done yet. The minister is the person who is ultimately responsible for what's happening with wait times. This government has failed to manage health care, and the health of Nova Scotians is suffering as a result. Now, with global cuts coming to health care and pressures being placed on this government to balance the budget next year, that's despite that $147 million tax scheme, those statistics are going to continue to worsen. Elective cardiovascular surgery has increased by 10 weeks, more than two months in this province, Mr. Minister. My question is, how does the minister expect district health authorities, for instance the Capital District Health Authority, to improve on wait times when you are going to cut $10 million from their budget?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I again welcome the opportunity to remind the House, and I do so through you, that we have, in fact, increased funding to the district health authorities in this province by 7 per cent, and we again recognized that there were pressures that required an additional $19.2 million this year that we have made available to the district health authorities. That, again, does not translate into a cut, it translates into increased funding.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let's deal with the truth here. Most, if not all, of that is federal money, and the minister knows that. The minister knows that. What is happening in health care in this province is truly frightening. The government, for four years, in its last mandate, refused to release any information on wait times, and for good reason - because things are not good in this province. My final question to the minister is, in light of the wait time statistics, will the minister please confirm that there's not going to be any budget reductions, for instance in cancer care in this province, as a result of this government's mismanagement?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member referenced the truth of the information I provided to the House, and the truth is we have increased funding by 7 per cent, we have added an additional $19 million to health care funding in this province, and if some of that is federal dollars, it is high time we had additional federal dollars.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ECON. DEV. - BRITEX EMPLOYEE GROUP:

COMMUNICATIONS - DETAILS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. The people of Centrelea in the Annapolis Valley are apprehensive about the future of their community. The town's largest employer, Britex, has been placed

[Page 1385]

in receivership with KPMG. Residents fear that the 90 existing jobs may be in jeopardy if a buyer is not found. After extensive negotiations with the potential buyer, NEWCO, failed, employees stepped forward to propose the establishment of an employee-owned co-op. Instead, KPMG has moved ahead with a public tender process that is likely to take two to three months. Will the minister tell this House what communication, if any, he has had with the employee group, and what the results of those discussions have been?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member. As everyone in Nova Scotia well knows, Britex is an extremely important employer to the community of Bridgetown. That being said, they encountered financial difficulties with their main funder, NSBI. Subsequently, they were placed in receivership and currently KPMG, the receiver, is considering all offers for the operation to continue. Certainly, the employees' group is one of the offers, I understand, that is being considered.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the employees aren't just promising status quo operations. They've said that they believe they can not only save the plant's existing 90 jobs, but return it to employing over 200 people under their co-op plan. The government, through NSBI, ran out its own time clock negotiating with NEWCO towards a deal they knew would really not come together. NEWCO was apparently given some funding to develop their business plan, while employees have been given nothing. Will the minister tell this House why the employee group, with a proven commitment to their business and their community, were not given a preferred opportunity to purchase Britex assets and establish a co-op?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you. As the honourable member is well aware, Nova Scotia Business Inc. is the main supplier of capital to Britex. They were not meeting their commitments, a receiver was appointed, and that receiver is considering all offers. Certainly, we have encouraged the employee group to put forward their offer in this process, and it will receive the same consideration as any other group or individual that wishes to purchase the assets and continue the company.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, here's the problem. The longer the public tender process takes, the more there is uncertainty. Employee representatives have been told by the receivers that no matter how soon they get their proposal in, it won't even be looked at until more proposals arrive from other potential purchasers, but almost any international business that might be interested would probably just take the assets away and shut the business down. So knowing this then, why will the minister not do the right thing and ensure that the employee group is given first opportunity to purchase the company's assets and establish a co-op?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I hope the honourable member across the floor is not suggesting that a fair and open honest process is not followed through this receivership.

[Page 1386]

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

TREASURY & POLICY BD. - RED TAPE REDUCTION TASK FORCE: EXISTENCE - CONFIRM

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Chairman of Treasury and Policy Board. In May 2000, Nova Scotians were advised by the Premier himself of the formation of the Red Tape Reduction Task Force. That task force was lauded by the Premier as a means to make government operate more efficiently. My question for the minister is this, does the final report of the Red Tape Reduction Task Force exist and, if so, why has it not been tabled and would the minister be willing to table it in the House before the end of business today?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate the honourable member's question. The answer to that, I will have to take under advisement. I can tell you that I am certainly aware of the Red Tape Reduction Task Force and the valuable work it did on behalf of Nova Scotians.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, since 2001 the Red Tape Reduction Task Force appears to have been all but forgotten and the answer is quite clear from our minister today. It has not completed its mandate and it has not been held accountable in any way. My question again for the minister is this, did the government pull the plug on the Red Tape Reduction Task Force before it completed its mandate and, if so, why?

MR. BAKER: To the honourable member, the task force was composed of members of this House, and ultimately members of this House are accountable to the people in Nova Scotia, first of all, and, secondly, our government has implemented a number of those items from the Red Tape Reduction Task Force. We, as a government, are very committed to reduce the amount of red tape Nova Scotians are burdened with.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have every right to an explanation of the expenditure of their money on what appears to have been little more than a boondoggle. My question is this, would the minister table in this House by the end of business today a complete accounting for the Red Tape Reduction Task Force and, specifically, salaries, advertising costs, travel expenses, office expenses, as well as costs associated with the writing, designing and printing of two interim reports and the missing final report?

MR. BAKER: You know it's somewhat difficult at times to take the honourable member's questions seriously. When you ask a question - by the end of business today to provide an accounting - Mr. Speaker, that does not really look like a very realistic request. The second thing is, we have to be aware of the fact that that is a work in progress and that the government is continuing to looking at implementing the recommendations of the task force.

[Page 1387]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DART. MARINE SLIPS WORKERS:

SEVERANCE - INVESTIGATE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Former employees of the Dartmouth Marine Slips have been treated unfairly by their employer and by this government. In June 2000, about 100 workers were laid off. Many of these men had worked at the shipyards for more than 20 years and they have never received severance. My question for the minister is this, what will it take for you and your government to investigate this matter and ensure that these men receive the severance that they're entitled to?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. It's not something I'm fully aware of. So it is something that I will take under advisement and get some information.

MR. DEXTER: That's the problem, Mr. Speaker, this government has been ignoring these workers now for too long. In New Brunswick, a group of Saint John shipyard workers have also waited more than three years for severance from Irving Shipbuilding. Last week, the New Brunswick Labour Board ruled that Irving was guilty of unfair labour practices in the way it dealt with employee closure pay. Shipyard workers in both provinces have been treated unfairly. The difference is that in New Brunswick, there's been some action. My question is, when is your government going to do the right thing and protect the rights of these working men?

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'll certainly have discussions with the department and ensure we look into the situation and determine where it is at this point in time.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's been three years and the former employees of the Dartmouth Marine Slips are still waiting for the severance they are due. These men have been treated unfairly and they have been ignored by government. Mr. Minister, in light of the recent New Brunswick ruling, don't you think it's at least your responsibility, the very least, to fully investigate the situation under the Industry Closing Act, as you were supposed to in the first place?

MR. MORASH: It's certainly the responsibility of the department to investigate complaints that come in. I'm sure that we will, or have.

[Page 1388]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - WOMEN'S CTRS. FUNDING CUTS:

REVERSAL - LACK EXPLAIN

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Women's centres offer many essential services to women, especially in rural communities. Women's centres offer individual and career counselling, help in accessing services and ongoing support, yet funding cuts from 2002 have never been reversed and centres are operating on a quarter-by-quarter basis with no long-term, stable funding. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why has this situation been allowed to continue for over a year?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for raising the question. There's a promise with the premise to the question because there have been no funding cuts to women's centres.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, provincial departments and agencies refer clients to women's centres. These clients have multi-issues so, obviously, the government front-line workers and the voluntary sector recognize the need for these organizations. Transition-to-employment programs have enabled women with training and life skills needs to re-enter the workforce. These programs help the Department of Community Services in its mandate to encourage employment support recipients to find work. My question to the minister is, why doesn't his department give women's centres the funding they need to continue to help women and children break out of the cycle of poverty?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up an excellent point. The point is that a lot of these women's centres were born of HRDC grants and it was seen to be important to the federal government, at that time, that they have that service. The problem was that they then walked away from them when the grants ran out. Yes, the province did step in and provide $100,000 for each of these seven women's centres and we're proud to have done so.

MS. MORE: The women's centres of Nova Scotia are providing essential services that would otherwise have to be provided by the Department of Community Services. So, I don't recognize trying to lay the blame on another level of government. I just want to mention that another concern of the women's centres is the lack of funding to support their crisis intervention work. Without core funding, there are centres that may not survive another fiscal year. Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the minister is, where will women be able to turn for these essential services if the Department of Community Services allows women's centres to close?

[Page 1389]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, once again, that is exactly why we protected the women's centres' funding in the last budget.

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

WOMEN, STATUS OF - TRANSITION HOUSES: CUTS - DETAILS

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women Act. Last week I had the chance to ask the minister a question about the status of transition houses and women's centres in this province. The minister responsible responded by stating that the council had not advised her that there were concerns expressed. It is the responsibility of this minister to voice the concerns of women at the Cabinet table. Given that, the minister has had a chance now to think about the question I asked last week and the government's track record of attacking the most vulnerable in society. My question to the minister is, has the minister spoken to the Minister of Community Services about not cutting transition houses and women's centres in next year's budget?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, as I stated last week when this question was asked, we definitely do value women in our government, we value women every day. We look at the amount of funding that is going into transition houses, and we are not proposing at this point in time to cut any money.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the question really was whether or not the minister had spoken to the Minister of Community Services about cutting money to transition houses in this year or next year's budget. Could the minister perhaps go back to that first question?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I believe, as was mentioned by the Minister of Community Services, we are not proposing to cut funding to transition houses, so I do not feel that's an issue to relate at this point in time. He has obviously put it on the table, that that cut is not in place.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, this government will be cutting programs everywhere, in every department, to pay for their tax scheme. I think it's very pertinent today to find out whether vulnerable women and children are going to be part of that mix. This government attempted to cut services to women and children in 2002, and they will no doubt try again. My question to the minister is, when will the minister begin to advocate loudly on behalf of women and their families in this province?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, this minister and government are committed to the safety of abused women and children in this province. We are continuing the $4 million that we have put into women's services across this province, as a fair example of that commitment.

[Page 1390]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - PROP. ASSESSMENTS:

SOLUTION - SEEK

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, as you know, last week the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities held its annual conference. Property assessment rates were the focus of a lot of discussion. Councillor after councillor was arguing that the present system does not work. The municipalities pay the province quite handsomely to provide assessment services, but they can barely afford it. These are market-based and simplistic and, most importantly, they drive Nova Scotians off their land. We've been waiting for more than three years for this government to act on this issue. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is, why is your government refusing to work with the parties involved to find a solution to this problem?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, this gives me an opportunity to inform the member opposite and all Nova Scotians that the opposite is the case. We have worked with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and we have worked with all municipalities to ensure that we have the most effective assessment service in this country.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately that's not the message that I was hearing. I gather that the government is, in fact, considering regulations rather than legislation to deal with the skyrocketing assessment rates. It's a question a little bit like that, that we heard earlier today, concerning worker's compensation. Yet again, it means that government plans will not come before the public, debate will not be transparent, and hasty decisions may well be made which will negatively affect thousands of Nova Scotians. My question is, how can this government possibly consider evading public debate on such a central issue?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, again, this gives me a great opportunity to inform the member opposite and all members and all Nova Scotians that, in fact, our Party is committed to working with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and all Nova Scotians to ensure that we have an adequate repair to the system, so that it is effective for every Nova Scotian.

MS. RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, it appears that we have been studying this issue for some time, studying studies, and I'm afraid we're about to go into studying the studies of the studies. In the meantime, thousands of Nova Scotians are finding themselves saddled with property assessment rates that produce taxes they simply cannot afford. Mr. Minister, will the government bring those proposals before the House before the end of this session?

[Page 1391]

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, this question gives me another opportunity to share with the member opposite that we use the same system that's used nationwide. In fact, this

is a system that is used in every province in this country. It is a system that is widely respected, and it is my belief that it is a system that works very well. I also want to share with the member opposite that it is my understanding that no person in this province has ever gone broke because of an assessment, it's the tax bills . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - SENIORS' PHARMACARE: PREMIUMS - FREEZE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. From 1995 to 2000, Nova Scotia's seniors did not see an increase in Pharmacare premiums . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. First of all, there is too much noise in the Chamber, and I would ask whoever has their cell phone on, please turn it off, as we agreed before the session began.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, from 1995 to 2000, Nova Scotia's seniors did not see an increase in Pharmacare premiums or the co-pay. Since then, Pharmacare premiums have gone from $215 to $337, the co-pay has gone from $200 to $350. In a pre-election gesture, the government froze Pharmacare premiums and the co-pay for a full 12 months, at a cost of $10 million. My question then to the Minister of Health is, is the minister prepared to commit here today that seniors in this province will not have any increase in participating in the Seniors' Pharmacare Program either in the premium or the co-pay for as long or as short a period of time that this government is in power?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we will continue to ensure that seniors in this province have one of the best Pharmacare Programs in Canada.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, June 10, 1998, the current Premier, the former Leader of the then Third Party, asked the exact same question of Health Minister Jim Smith. In fact, while in Opposition, the current government was relentless in its attacks on the Pharmacare Program. But the past is the past . . .

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay on his first supplementary.

[Page 1392]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, next year the government is going to give up another $147 million in revenue even though there is currently a deficit. So my question to the minister is, is the minister preparing to increase Pharmacare premiums and co-pays for seniors in order to pay for the tax cut or to balance the budget?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we're going to continue to have one of the best Pharmacare Programs in this country. We, as a government, in fact, acted to restore the property rebate program for senior citizens in this province. That's how we're taking action. They cut and froze that program. We restored it.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the problem with that answer and with that government is, is that the whole reason of this government is being based on nothing more than a false premise. What they once demanded of government, they're not prepared to ask of themselves right now. This government claims they balanced the budget. It came at the expense of seniors on Pharmacare, it came at the expense of charities, the poor, the downtrodden, and it came at the expense of those who are languishing on waiting lists in this province. To add insult to injury, we now find out that that budget isn't even balanced. So my question to the minister is, will the minister promise seniors in this province that they are not going to be called upon to sacrifice more to pay for the incompetence of his government?

MR. MACISAAC: It is very difficult to answer a question based on a premise with which you disagree but, nevertheless I will try, Mr. Speaker. As a result of this government's efforts in ensuring that we have one of the best Pharmacare Programs in the country, thousands of seniors no longer pay yearly premiums. That's a direct result of the actions of this government.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - NOVA SCOTIANS: FOOD BANKS - DEPEND

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. On October 17th, the Metro Food Bank Society released figures from its Hunger Count 2003 report showing food bank usage in Nova Scotia increased by nearly 10 per cent last year, and since 1997, food bank usage in Nova Scotia has dramatically increased by over 25 per cent. This government has refused, time and time again, to admit its policies are leading to an increase in poverty in Nova Scotia. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why has his government allowed more Nova Scotians to depend on food banks during its mandate?

[Page 1393]

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, as Minister of Community Services, I can speak, perhaps, on behalf of the clients who are on the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program. We know that there are 9,000 fewer clients on that program today, but we also know that basically the same amount of funding is going into the program. So with almost a 25 per cent cut in the number of cases but the same amount of funding, clearly, a lot more is going to the average Community Services' client's family.

MS. MORE: Income assistance payments have gone down by 20 per cent since 1971. Until 2001, this government clawed back the National Child Benefit Supplement from families on social assistance. The government ended the clawback with much fanfare, but nobody mentioned that at the same time children's personal use allowances were cut from the assistance calculations, leaving families with even less money than when the clawback was in place. Mr. Speaker, my question through you to the minister is, how can this government justify taking money away from families who need it the most?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately you will not allow me enough time to properly answer that question. Suffice to say, though, when the number of clients of Community Services is cut by 25 per cent and you maintain the same level of funding, that is like about a one-third increase in the amount that goes to each family on community services.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, a report by Dr. Lynn McIntyre shows that single mothers and their children are experiencing food insecurity in Nova Scotia. Instead of taking action, this government attempted to discredit the report. My question to the minister is, the Hunger Count 2003 report supports the findings of Dr. Lynn McIntyre, so when will the department admit women and children are going hungry and take action?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again, I really appreciate the opportunity to respond to this and, again, I doubt if you would allow me to fully address the subjects that have been brought up. However, I would point out that in a past government, when I was Minister of Community Services, it was pointed out that we are doing a review of the whole Employment Support and Income Assistance Program. One of the things would be the basic food rates involved in that. We look forward to an outcome of that review.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

PSC - PUB. SERV. COMMISSIONER/DEP. MIN. TREASURY BD.:

CONFLICT - CONFIRM

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Over the next year, the Public Service Commission will be

[Page 1394]

acting as the provincial agent for the government in labour negotiations. Currently, the Treasury and Policy Board is calling government departments to rein in their budgets. Unfortunately for the government workers, the Deputy Minister of Treasury and Policy Board and the Public Service Commissioner are the same person, Vicki Harnish. Could the minister explain to this House how she feels the Public Service Commission can bargain in good faith when the Public Service Commissioner and the Treasury Board Deputy Minister are the same person?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe there is a conflict there whatsoever.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did we say conflict? (Interruptions)

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

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, Treasury and Policy Board is directing cuts across government. How can employees believe they will receive better wages when the Public Service Commissioner is also the chief bean-counter for the government?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Well, again, I'm going to answer with the same response, I don't believe that this individual has a conflict whatsoever, and they are able to do that job.

MR. COLWELL: The bottom line is employees are in for a rough ride because there is a conflict here. What is the minister going to do to ensure the deck is not stacked against employees when negotiations begin?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: I can assure you that negotiating will happen in an open environment and that there will not be a problem when this happens.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

NAT. RES. - LONG LAKE PK.:

LEASH LAW - ENFORCEMENT DETAILS

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. HRM residents have long used Long Lake Provincial Park as a place to walk their dogs off-leash. Because there are so few off-leash areas in the HRM, Long Lake Provincial Park, and especially the portion of it lying in my constituency, has become immensely popular with dog walkers, but a few weeks ago the Department of Natural Resources decided to start enforcing the leash law after many years of not enforcing it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1395]

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, one e-mail I received spoke of armed DNR officers hiding in the bushes and jumping out to ticket dog walkers. (Interruptions)

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

Order, please.

MR. STEELE: I'm really glad to see the members on that side of the House find it hilarious when somebody is out walking their dogs and they're confronted by an armed enforcement officer, Mr. Speaker. My question to the minister, why has the department done an about-face on enforcement and turned Long Lake dog walkers into criminals?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member, the regulations are for all provincial parks in our province and that includes Long Lake.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the people who have contacted me do understand that the leash law is on the books. What they don't understand is why the department didn't enforce that law for 19 years and then, without any public consultation whatsoever, just woke up one morning and decided to start enforcing it. The park was designated in 1984, but there is still no park management plan. My question to the minister is, why did the department not wait until after public consultation on the park management plan before it decided to exclude one particular kind of park user?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that that member is well aware that our department did give warnings to residents using the park with their dogs off-leash and it is for public safety why that regulation is in place.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, if that's the case, maybe the minister could answer why his department didn't enforce the law for 19 years. The Department of Natural Resources is the steward of a vast amount of parkland and Crown land in the HRM. Long Lake could potentially be designated as an off-leash area but, if not, another area in HRM could be so designated. So my question to the minister is, what steps will the department take to work with dog owners to designate an off-leash area in the HRM?

MR. HURLBURT: Again, Mr. Speaker, the regulations are for all parks in our province. All provincial parks have regulations on them and dogs must be on leashes. It's for public safety and we will be enforcing that regulation.

[Page 1396]

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - RURAL DEPOPULATION:

MIN./UNSM - DISCUSS

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. According to the latest 2001 census releases, it indicates that since 1981, 11 counties have experienced a population loss of 37,000 people, including 26,000 from the counties in Cape Breton. The new president of the UNSM, Mayor Morgan, has brought that forward. Will the minister sit down with the UNSM and all the municipalities affected to begin finding a solution to rural depopulation?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member brings forward a very important issue for Nova Scotia and for those municipalities that are seeing these types of decreases and, yes, I remain committed to working with the UNSM on issues that affect them, as I have in the past.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, this issue cuts across Party lines and government departments. Rural economic development has stopped because of it and a prime example is the co-op down in Neils Harbour where they have had to bring in workers from Newfoundland in order to process the fish because of a lack of population in the area. This is an issue that we can all sink our teeth into. I would like to ask the minister, is his department investigating the issue and is the minister prepared to bring it to Cabinet so that all departments can participate in a solution?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, our department is certainly aware of the issue and we will be working with the affected municipalities to try to develop strategies to deal with it. When we are able to bring those strategies forward, we will hopefully implement them and work towards a resolution so the municipalities won't be sacrificed as a result of that problem.

MR. SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, poorer municipalities will continue to need help from the province if the trend is not reversed. It appears, the way things are going, rural versus urban is alive and well. Depopulation is probably the single greatest impediment to economic growth in rural regions. My final question to the minister is, can I get a commitment from the minister today to take the lead role in addressing this issue by starting a province-wide consultation process regarding rural depopulation?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, what I will tell the member is that since being named minister responsible for municipal affairs, I have begun a process of visiting all municipalities to identify through them what their issues and concerns are. We will work with those municipalities to try to address those concerns the best we can.

[Page 1397]

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

EDUC. - SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD HS: ADDITION - PLANS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Education. The growing community which I am privileged to represent has been more than patient with this government's commitment to not only make Sir John A. Macdonald High School safe environmentally but to deliver the promised addition of extra classrooms, a proper gymnasium and other needed renovations. The deputy minister, on a recent tour, showed a woeful lack of awareness on the details of the proposed construction site which is fenced off, ready for work, but ominously silent. My question to the minister is, what are the current plans for the addition and when can we expect some sod being turned?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that project is going ahead. I will try to get a date for the sod-turning for the member before the end of the day.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you. That's a commitment we've been waiting for because as the principal has said to me on numerous occasions, we feel we've been nickel-and-dimed through this process. These students have had to put up with split shifts during two different school years at two different neighbouring high schools. In a letter of September 4th you stated - and I'll table this letter - " . . . the final phase of renovations completed by September 2005." Mr. Minister, is that a reasonable time to have these students in this growing community to wait two more complete school years before they can be in a facility that delivers curriculum for the 21st Century?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, there are a number of capital projects scheduled in the province. The Sir John A. Macdonald project is in that schedule. I think - and he would have to recognize that certainly there are some inconveniences that the students have experienced out there, but the most important thing is, they have had access to quality education in other sites. The honourable member would also remember that when the department dealt with the problems at Sir John A. Macdonald, there was full community consultation and I think by any measure, the department and TPW officials, in what was agreed to, in not only the school, the site, went beyond that which was initially planned.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, as a growing community, we will accept nothing less than the high school with the resources, with the promises that were made by the previous Minister of Education, many times, in a truthful, up-front manner to me as the MLA and to the community.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was that?

[Page 1398]

MR. ESTABROOKS: That was the previous MLA for Halifax Citadel. She was a straight shooter when it . . .

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

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, are you prepared to attend a tour of that high school with me and the principal at your earliest opportunity?

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to visit schools in any part of Nova Scotia. If the honourable member would like to check with my office, we could arrange that and I would be quite pleased to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East. You have about 30 seconds.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, as much as people may not believe it, we may have dodged a bullet in Hurricane Juan. This was a hurricane that was an eye-opener and a wake-up call for Nova Scotians. We were lucky that hurricane didn't do more damage. I want the Minister responsible for EMO . . .

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

We have several requests for introductions.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce to you and to the members of the House, in the Speaker's Gallery, three Halifax Regional Municipality councillors, Councillor Linda Mosher, Councillor Ron Cooper and Councillor Len Goucher. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I rose and explained that this week is Foster Family Appreciation Week in Nova Scotia, and I also mentioned the dedication that foster families show on a daily basis to helping all children enjoy the benefits of a loving family environment, and that Nova Scotia is fortunate to have more than 700 foster families

[Page 1399]

across the province. Today, I would like to introduce a very special guest in your gallery. One foster mother - this is one amongst the 700 who care for Nova Scotia's children - will be celebrating, it says 45 years today, but I understand it's actually 47 years as a foster parent in this province. Barbara Stephens has fostered over 550 foster children. Would you please rise. (Standing Ovation)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members of the House for finishing the speech for me, because they really said it all by the way they jumped to their feet.

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guest to the gallery today, and congratulate her on quite an accomplishment. On behalf of the members of the Legislature, thank you.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 20.

Bill No. 20 - Workers' Compensation Act/Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise on this bill, Bill No. 20, an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95, the Workers' Compensation Act, and Chapter 7 of the Acts of 1996, the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the Nova Scotia legislation that barred compensation payments to workers suffering from chronic pain syndrome. That was very good legislation that has been struck down, and I am glad it is done. Many workers received temporary benefits for their injuries, but they're denied long-term payments when they continue to suffer chronic pain months and years later and they can't go back to work. I personally worked in the steel plant for many years and I know of many men who were actually hurt on the job and suffered many injuries over the years and stress at home and what it's done to families.

[Page 1400]

Maybe I will explain, Mr. Speaker, the legislation. Chronic pain syndrome is medically described as pain that persists for an unusually long time or can't be supported by more specific medical information concerning the injury. Their suffering is real. There are a lot of men in my area, in my riding, and their claims cannot be automatically just banned for all their pain and suffering. These men are not malingerers, so they are often portrayed as somebody who's pretending to be hurt, or somebody who's making it up. These are real injuries that are very severe. They are men who worked hard in a lot of industries and construction and other industries who have been hurt and suffered. They suffer a lot.

Many have fallen to poverty and depression over their injuries, Mr. Speaker, for not having any income, losing their homes, and losing things that they've worked so hard for after many years of working. Even some of the injured workers have gone on to commit suicide over this, for not being properly compensated for being severely hurt at work. There are many workers who are unable to return to work due to the chronic pain following a workplace injury - for long-term compensation and the lack of compensation. They are granted assistance for up to a year, but once chronic pain is diagnosed, workers are given four weeks of therapy to help them deal with their pain and suffering and then the benefits are stopped. I mean, four weeks of therapy for somebody who is seriously hurt in the job place, I don't find that to be very fair to anybody in the industry today.

Mr. Speaker, I personally know a few fellows at home, and I won't mention their names - I guess I will say their first names, Jackie and Joe. One fellow has had over 13 years with the Workers' Compensation Board off and regarding his injury and his pain and suffering. I think it was last Thursday he was up before the board and again, just waiting to hear back if he's going to be able to survive and keep his home.

Mr. Speaker, one of the key reasons for the introduction of this bill at this time was the need to deal with the Supreme Court decision and I think that we have to look at the Dorsey report. The Dorsey report was a consensus report produced by an eight-member committee following a review in 2001 of Nova Scotia's Workers' Compensation system. The committee was chaired by a B.C. lawyer, James Dorsey. We're just trying to figure out if the government is ever going to implement any of the regulations, or any of the things that are in this report through the compensation. The report has been there now for over two years and I don't know how many of the recommendations have ever been implemented on behalf of the workers. I just think that it's been discrimination for many injured workers in this province for many, many years. These men have worked hard to build such a strong industry base and worked hard on many, many construction jobs and other jobs around the province - whether it be in farming, or other things, and get seriously hurt. I think it has been neglected for too long a time.

[Page 1401]

Workplace compensation also has the worst benefits and the highest premiums in the country here in this province, Mr. Speaker. Those are things that have to be changed. There has to be some way that we can change those things to make it a better place for injured workers to live in.

Also, I was looking at some of my notes here, Mr. Speaker, and there are many men who feel that their self-esteem and the way they feel about themselves after going before the Workers' Compensation Board and having monthly meetings and injured workers' associations all across the province to try to get help for their injuries and to help them cope - it's very difficult when you're seriously injured and not bringing an income into your family to cope with the issues out there today with the way it is, the high expenses to live in this province today. I find that we have to do something, as elected officials, to help these people. I'm very glad that the Supreme Court of Canada struck down this legislation, I'm very, very happy about that.

Four weeks of therapy for a serious injury, I think that's very unfair; when they're diagnosed with chronic pain, very unfair to these workers, Mr. Speaker. I do see a parallel here between the bill in the Legislature right now, the insurance bill, with the cap on $2,500. I do find that is the soft tissue injury. There is some parallel between this being struck down and that bill that's before our Legislature right now. I hope, fortunately, we will have to see what's going to happen with that bill and what's going to happen with these injured workers.

The Supreme Court has given us a mandate to come back to the workers of this province. I hope that the regulations are going to be addressed by all the stakeholders, the workers, the government, the Opposition, the government side of the House, do you know what I mean, the parallels. Many workers are still feeling and suffering pain today from injuries that they received on the jobs in the coal mines and the steel plants at home in Cape Breton, and suffering in many instances.

Also, I have another good friend by the name of Jackie who has been suffering. He was a pipefitter and working with asbestos for many, many years and has been up in front of the Workers' Compensation Board for over 13 years and, in speaking to him recently, the disease from the asbestos and the pipes and everything that he was working with is now spreading to his other lung. For many years he was fighting for compensation for one and now it's spreading into his other lung. So as time goes by, who can say if pain and soft tissue injuries and that are the same.

I just hope that we can all get together in this House and work together as a team, all Parties in this House, to come together and put these regulations together for the injured workers so we can help them make better lives for themselves and their families. It's very difficult today when you don't have an income coming in and you're constantly battling to pay the bills. As I have said in the past, there have even been some suicides, and the hardship and poverty that's been going on with these people. I think it's important that we as

[Page 1402]

legislators work with all the stakeholders. It's our job as legislators, Mr. Speaker, to work with the stakeholders in this - the injured workers, the compensation board - to come up with some kind of resolve for this problem.

I personally know some people who are seriously hurt and for many, many years have suffered. Thank you Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your time for this bill.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on Bill No. 20. At the outset I must say I'm particularly pleased with the opportunity to review a number of the issues from the Dorsey report that are somehow connected to Bill No. 20, albeit there are a considerable number of recommendations that haven't even been addressed in this particular piece of legislation and the fact that the government is, by its own admission, allowing a considerable amount of the detail of this legislation to be carried out through regulation.

That having been said, the most interesting aspect of this particular piece of legislation is the issue dealing with chronic pain. This, Mr. Speaker, as you could probably well remember, back in 1998-99 when the Select Committee of the Legislature involving a large number of stakeholders from across this province, undertook to review the workers' compensation system and the Act that we had before us at that time until we came to a series of recommendations which were brought before this House, albeit, it was not unanimous, I do feel that considerable progress was made at that time in improving the rights for injured workers of this province. I do believe there was some clarity brought into the process that wasn't there before - I know the issue of chronic pain hadn't even been considered before Bill No. 90 was brought before the House.

In particular, I think part of the premise upon which that particular piece of legislation was brought before this House of Assembly was based in part on the 1996 Supreme Court decision, albeit it was a split decision of the Supreme Court we had at least some type of a guide to carry us through on that particular piece of legislation. What we witnessed less than two months ago was the Supreme Court coming down and essentially reversing its own decision.

I know there are a number of other factors and issues that are related to that, but that's effectively what happened, so, thereby, an opportunity for all members of the Legislature to fine-tune and perhaps strengthen the issue of chronic pain for all those injured workers who have been lost through the cracks, or somehow have been treated unfairly through the workers' compensation system, that including the Workers' Advisers Program, the internal review process within the board, and indeed at WCAT, or what we refer to as the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal.

[Page 1403]

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think it's ill-advised to suggest that there was some form of collusion to inhibit the rights and privileges of injured workers in this province, which was suggested in large measure by the Leader of the Official Opposition in last evening's presentation when he spoke. I think nothing could be further from the truth. I think it's ill-advised and I don't think it does any justice for the injured workers, I don't think it does any justice for the working men and women across this province, and it doesn't do anything for the industries of this province.

What I find a little bit concerning, Mr. Speaker, is the lack of detail on some of the issues. I certainly want to acknowledge the fact that the minister was very forthcoming and very accommodating in suggesting that all three Parties have an opportunity to articulate the regulations on the issue of chronic pain and a number of other supplemental issues. But equally so is the concern that perhaps some of these issues that he prefers in regulation should, in fact, be put in legislation. That's one of the good things about this process; we will have an opportunity, not only here in second reading, but more importantly at the Law Amendments Committee where various groups, the injured workers' groups from across the province, the employers and various stakeholders from all different perspectives, will have an opportunity to come in and they can make certain recommendations.

There are two perspectives that I would like to focus on, Mr. Speaker, at this point. Number one is the employees, the working men and women in this province, who work every day and are of the opinion that they go to their place of work in the thoughts and in the hopes that they will be working in a rather secure, safe working environment. Now that should be the same, whether it be in public service, the private sector, whether it be in the resource industry, whether it be in the high-tech industry, or what have you.

For each one of these sectors of the economy, the rights of the workers somehow seem to vary. Not that that's contemplated by design, but there are still, in my view, a number of weaknesses within the Occupational Health and Safety Act that could certainly be firmed up so that the average Nova Scotian worker can be afforded the rights and privileges and the protections that this particular piece of legislation was designed for.

We all know, Mr. Speaker, that a lot of this came as a result of what happened in that tragedy, the Westray Mine in Pictou County . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

[Page 1404]

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I noticed some substantial improvements in the workplace because of the adoption of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. We have in this process over the last four years the fact that the government has brought in this sunset clause on regulations. In large measure, many of the regulations that were in place at that point in time are not there today, that afforded the rights and the protections for injured workers and for all workers in this province. I believe in certain measure the government caved in to big business. Nothing was more clear of that than when they changed the regulations requiring that just one lineman going out on a job description with Nova Scotia Power was now possible, whereas previous to this administration and previous to, I believe it was 2001, it was a requirement there had to be two linemen going out on job calls in an emergency situation.

So clearly there was considerable evidence that was brought forth that would suggest that senior officials or at least one senior official from Nova Scotia Power had come into the minister's office, lobbied through the back door as it was and bypassed the Occupational Health and Safety panel and even against the recommendations of that particular body, the government sided with Nova Scotia Power.

Now, what was the benefit of that? Obviously, when you cut through all the arguments on both sides of the issue, it was all about money. Nova Scotia Power wanted to reduce its overhead cost. I believe in some measure that perhaps the issue of safety was sacrificed. Now, only time will tell how critical an issue that will become. But that's just one small example of what can happen, Mr. Speaker, when we adopt a piece of legislation, the spirit and the intent is there and then all of a sudden government starts to tinker and starts to tamper with what was put in perspective.

So, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to put that on the table, because we have approximately 30,000 small businesses throughout Nova Scotia. Out of the 30,000 businesses in Nova Scotia, they represent approximately 70 per cent of the labour force. For the most part, many of those industries may be unionized, they may have fairly good occupational health and safety working committees, advisory bodies, which are required, a prescription of law, in the workplace. If you have 25 employees or more, then obviously that's a routine measure. The reports have to be kept on file and everybody has to be in agreement or at least there has to be some consensus and recording of the differences of opinion as well.

So, at least when an occupational health and safety officer goes in and does an on-site inspection or an unannounced audit, of the working conditions and the environment that the workers are compelled to work in, they'll get a truer picture of what's happening there. Unlike what used to happen in years past where company A would somehow, for whatever reason, be given the heads-up that a government inspector would be arriving on the job scene on a certain day. There were suggestions of that at the Westray coal mine, that they knew in advance when a certain inspector would be showing up from the Department of Labour. So, it defeats the whole purpose and the spirit of the legislation. These issues do impact on the

[Page 1405]

workers' compensation system and the ability of workers to work in a safe and good working environment.

With that, obviously, what's the flip side? If someone goes to their workplace and they are injured, well, you would expect that the workers' compensation system would be there as a safety net to provide them fair and just compensation. Mr. Speaker, when I was Minister of Labour, I knew very well that I had inherited a number of issues and a system and a piece of legislation that was far from perfect. What we adopted, was it perfect? No, it wasn't perfect. Was it an improvement over what it was? I think even the injured workers would have to say that it was a step forward, because every step that you take towards clarifying all the rules of engagement - the issue of chronic pain wasn't even on the table prior to 1999. It was there, it was discussed, it was debated. The injured workers argued, their workers' advisers and their lawyers argued in favour of trying to get some justice and somehow have this rolled into the legal process and the legislative process. But for those who had never heard of that word before or the implications, whether it be near- or broad-based, it's quite an adjustment. I think all stakeholders would have to agree.

As the minister said by his own admission during the press conference that he held when he indicated he was tabling his bill, the cost implications of chronic pain alone, this one issue alone - and I believe he may have overstated the issue, he may have understated, I don't know - but the suggestion that it would cost an additional $118 million or $119 million is an issue that we all have to deal with. If the money is not there, how do we pay the injured workers? We can change the legislation and we do have to do that, whether we like it or not, that's an order of the Supreme Court of Canada, but where is the money going to come from?

I would submit that perhaps the actuaries from the Workers' Compensation Board should be required to come before the Law Amendments Committee and give a detailed breakdown, not this hide-and-seek and the constantly changing variables that we all experienced back in 1998-99, but as well through the Dorsey report, he expressed considerable concern. I believe it may have been on Page 47 of that report that he expressed concern about the validity of the figures that were being provided by the actuaries at the Workers' Compensation office.

Mr. Speaker, is that $118 million a genuine figure, is that as close and as accurate an estimate that could be put forth? Is it $200 million or is it $50 million? These are the things that even I as a legislator and as a former minister have problems with. Every time we turned around to cost estimate something, it seemed like we were dealing with different figures. It doesn't reflect well on anybody in this Legislature when you're dealing with those types of variables.

One thing I must say that I was particularly pleased with, and it was of particular benefit to the injured workers and to industry in this province, back in the latter part of August, I believe it was, 1999 or 1998, I made a suggestion that all non-Nova Scotian firms

[Page 1406]

start paying their fair share of workers' compensation premiums, the same as Nova Scotian firms. For those who are new to the Legislature or not familiar with what I'm referring to, up until 1999, any firm from outside of Nova Scotia did not have to pay workers' compensation premiums for up to six months, when they would come into Nova Scotia to do business. In many cases, some of these companies that would have large construction contracts, whether it be building a super-highway or a large office complex or condominiums or whatever, what they would do is they would stay for five months and 29 days, then send all their workers home and send in another batch of workers, or at least the same workers under a different holding company. Then the meter would start all over for them.

AN HON. MEMBER: Subcontracting.

MR. MACKINNON: Exactly, subcontracting. Who are the workers? It was the Nova Scotia workers, it was the construction workers of this province who were the big losers. I was quite pleased that the Conservative caucus supported that initiative. The NDP caucus did not, and I was disappointed at that, quite frankly. That was on the front page of the Chronicle-Herald at that time. I was absolutely perplexed as to why the Leader of the NDP

at the time, Robert Chisholm, the member for Halifax Citadel, rejected that outright. He was very suspicious. (Interruption) Yes, Atlantic, Halifax Atlantic, I'm sorry, I do apologize, the symmetry between the two constituencies in what we were receiving at the time was not much different, but we're very hopeful with the new member for Halifax Atlantic. That was a very important issue because, at the end of the day, the Nova Scotia workers' compensation system, and indeed the injured workers, were able to generate upward, after expenses, in excess of, I would say, $12 million in the first year - just in the first year. Now, that went a long way towards dealing with some of the costs of chronic pain and the other issues that were before us.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West allow for an introduction?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to draw the attention of the members of the House to the Speaker's Gallery and to indicate that we have in the gallery with us here, today, a group of students from NSCAD, Senior Seminar "Ornamenting Space", I guess I have that correct, and Dr. Marie Elwood is doing the instructing on the seminar portion, I believe, and the instructor is Dr. Sandra Alfoldy. I should mention that Dr. Marie Elwood was an ONS - correct - Order of Nova Scotia

[Page 1407]

recipient last year, as well. Madam Speaker, welcome to the Chair and I would ask everyone to give them a warm welcome to the House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, on that issue we felt that that was a tremendous boost for the injured workers in Nova Scotia, indeed for the average working Nova Scotian. That generated additional revenues. It put Nova Scotia companies on an even playing field with the non-Nova Scotia companies and, not only that, but it levelled the playing field for all the different construction workers in this province, whether it be electricians, pipefitters, plumbers, carpenters, you have it. They wouldn't have to be out on the street picketing and looking for an opportunity to gain access to a particular job or contract because of an uneven playing field because of that cost of workers' compensation.

There was an interesting thing that happened, Madam Speaker, during the formulation of Bill No. 90. It all surrounds the issue of occupational health and safety training and who was going to absorb the costs of that. Again for those who aren't familiar with the process, within the Department of Labour, now Environment and Labour, there is an Occupational Health and Safety Division. The total cost of that division with the department would be approximately anywhere from $3.6 million to $4 million a year and that money would be paid for by the employers of the province. By an order of Cabinet, that money would be issued from the Workers' Compensation Board to the Department of Environment and Labour and that would be part of the budgetary process, to operate Occupational Health and Safety. That would be for education, training, inspection, enforcement and what have you.

Now, when Bill No. 90 was before the House of Assembly, the Conservative caucus at that time said this was totally and patently unfair that 40 per cent of all the employers in the province was paying 100 per cent of the costs of Occupational Health and Safety because out of the 30,000 industries in Nova Scotia, 40 per cent paid into the system and they covered about 70 per cent of all the employees. The Conservative caucus at that time made a rather passionate plea that that should be split between the employers who pay into the workers' compensation system and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. They came up with a formula of 85 per cent/15 per cent; 85 per cent paid by the employers of the province would cover the cost of occupational health and safety, and 15 per cent would be from the general revenues of the province, that is the taxpayers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why would that be?

MR. MACKINNON: Well, because they felt that 40 per cent shouldn't be paying 100 per cent of the cost. So let's go with that argument. As soon as they got from this side of the House, Madam Speaker, to that side of the House, what did they do? They changed that, and they shoved it back up to 91 per cent on the backs of the employers of this province. I'm not so sure how many of the employers really have been fully apprised of what was happening there.

[Page 1408]

Madam Speaker, there is another facet to this entire issue of occupational health and safety. There are certain sectors of the economy that pay their own occupational health and safety training programs over and above the cost of the occupational health and safety costs that they pay through this Occupational Health and Safety Division within the Department of Environment and Labour.

For those who aren't familiar, let me explain. There are certain sectors of the economy, such as the construction industry, the trucking industry, and perhaps a number of others, they, by Cabinet order, that body, would go as a body to the government and say that we want x number of dollars that we pay into the workers' compensation system to be paid to the Nova Scotia Construction Safety Association to ensure that all our workers meet a minimum standard of training. Now, that's over and above what these same employers pay to the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Environment and Labour. So they're paying twice. Now on the other hand, we have others that don't pay anything; we have 60 per cent of the industry paying nothing.

So somewhere in there, there has to be a balance. Now the government has suggested, through its legislation, let's move towards universal coverage. Will that solve the problem? I say no. I say no, because there are so many of the small mom-and-pop businesses with just the husband and the wife and maybe one child in the family, maybe just themselves, running a small corner store or a craft shop, and they're borderline as to whether they're even able to make it. I don't know all the details but I would submit, Madam Speaker, that the minister should put this detail before all members of the House so that we can make a comprehensive and fair-minded rational decision as to whether it should be universal or not.

If the government wants to do anything, they should follow our lead. Just shortly before, and it was only probably a month or two months before the provincial election we had the Cabinet order prepared and it was generally agreed, what was the next sector that should be covered after we got the non-Nova Scotia firms? The banking industry. How many millions and millions of dollars, hundreds of millions of dollars are taken out of this province every day? How many hundreds of millions of dollars are profited by these companies? Yes, they will use the argument about their own insurance plans and so on and so forth, but rather than getting into the details of those arguments, I would submit that they were all dealt with at that particular point in time, and there's little or no reason to suggest why we shouldn't be focusing on that sector of the economy. That would yield at least another $5 million, after expenses. That's giving consideration to all the potential injuries that would happen, taking the actuarials and looking at the revenues coming in and the potential size of the employment, the labour pool versus the number of people who would generally be injured within that sector of the economy. It would still be a win-win situation for everybody, Madam Speaker.

[Page 1409]

That's why I'm concerned about going overboard. There has to be a balance. There has to be a balance for these small mom-and-pop businesses that are just borderline. Many of them are forced to compete with Sobeys and Loblaws and Superstores, all these, and the cost of operation is just insurmountable - the cost of property taxes, business occupancy tax, and at the rate we're going I don't know, where's the cut off? There has to be a balance. It would be nice to have everything in there like the violence in the workplace regulations - I think we should have them, but there has to be some balance as to what extent.

We have different points of view. If you look at it from organized labour's point of view, they have some very compelling arguments, but if you look at it from the small-business community's point of view, the cost of that could probably drive up the cost of their business another 5 per cent - just on that one issue alone. The cost of implementing that one factor alone is estimated to be $14 million or $15 million. Just that one issue.

It doesn't take long for us to have to make some value judgements on some very serious issues. On the issue of Sunday shopping there are a lot of proposals put forth about the suggestion of going to three vacation weeks after eight years of employment as opposed to presently two weeks to the additional three days of sick time or for parents who may have a sick child and so on. These are all legitimate arguments, but just stand back and watch as they all add up. I'm not saying that we shouldn't approve any of them, what I'm saying is somehow we, as politicians, as legislators, have to make sure that we have everything out there, and as much as possible. so that all the stakeholders can see what's coming before them.

Now we have the chronic pain issue - they say it's $118 million. I don't know how valid that figure is. There was the other issue about bringing the pension up from 50 per cent to 55 per cent for the indexing, so that's another $11 million. I don't know. We don't tax the system to the point or what we do is start punishing the injured workers more than they've already been punished. That's what I'm saying - they've been punished enough.

At some point in time I think it would be nice if the Minister of Environment and Labour put all these issues on the table and stopped doing them on a piecemeal basis. Then we're always scrambling, looking over our shoulder saying, what just happened?

What are the cost implications to industry, to the private sector, to the public sector? All these things. I'm going to hypothesize - if we wanted to go strictly and make sure that the issue of chronic pain is dealt with. Now, if it's going to be dealt with as is proposed or as suggested by the Supreme Court of Canada - and it has to be in some large measure - what are the options? Number one, we raise rates; number two, we broaden the assessment base; number three, it could be a combination of any two; or, number four, cut back on the benefits. Well you can't do that, that option is off the table. So you have any one of those other three options.

[Page 1410]

So what is the government going to do and what are we, as Opposition politicians going to do? Let's be realistic, this is a minority government. How much are we prepared to give and how much are we prepared to ask certain sectors of the economy to pay? Quite frankly, I'm not so sure we have enough detail at this point.

I believe the Workers' Compensation Board, the officials, the CEO, some of the experts at the board, should come down with the actuarial and submit themselves to a detailed analysis, so that we know that we're not giving away something that we can't afford. At the end of the day, if the system collapses, then nobody wins. That's what happened back in 1993-94. Some pretty tough decisions were made and many would argue that the biggest losers there were the injured workers. On the other hand, if the system had collapsed, which was the suggestion of the day, I believe the unfunded liability at that time was $675 million. It may have been a little higher, $678 million or $680 million. Now, it is down to about $287 million - I may have used the word thousand, but it's million.

[2:15 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, what do we do? We now have some of the highest rates in the country. We're going through a transformation here in Nova Scotia, the economies of scale are changing quite dramatically. Rural Nova Scotia is being depopulated at a considerable rate and that is having an impact on small businesses. (Interruption) Well, that's true. There is not a rural economic development strategy that would help to compensate for this urbanization of Nova Scotia, to build a strong capital core. If we don't do something, it will not be just the schools and the fire departments and all the community halls that will be closing down, the communities themselves, in essence, will be closing down. Perhaps, maybe we should be looking at some of these economic development strategies like they used to do back in the 1970's, where the Department of Economic Development would provide an incentive for small businesses (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, this is not comedy hour. The member for Dartmouth North wants me to go and talk to him about economic development. I ran my own business since I was 16 years of age, and I paid my own bills and I made sure that the workers that I employed were well protected and there were no complaints. So, I am very satisfied on taking as much of my advice on my experience than I am from the member for Dartmouth North.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member agree to a short introduction?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Madam Speaker.

[Page 1411]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and honourable member. I appreciate the fact that I am not sitting in my right seat but the students that I wanted to introduce are in the gallery behind me in the west gallery and I like to be able to have eye contact with them when I introduce them. They are from the Horton High School, which is actually, although the catchment area includes the Port Williams area, which is part of my riding. The school is actually located, as you know, in Kings South. But I would like them to rise. Nancy MacLeod is the teacher and Nancy is here. They speak fluent French, all of them. (Interruption) Je ne parle pas le français, je parle l'espanol. They're here with the parents; Mr. MacLeod is here and Ms. Hennigar. I'm missing two parents but my notes are at the back there. Anyway, I would ask them to rise. They were hoping to come here for Question Period but the timing of the House is a bit different today. So, please give them a very warm welcome. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Back to the honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, as I was saying, the issue of insuring that the system is fairly solid for the workers of this province is of paramount concern. I am not sure if we have received sufficient detail from the government on the other 60 per cent of the industries and the businesses in this province, having completely examined, so that we know that we can indeed provide sufficient coverage that would ensure additional revenues in a fair and equitable fashion, without squeezing the small private businesses, the mom-and-pop type businesses out of business altogether. That's more prevalent through rural Nova Scotia than it is in urban Nova Scotia, those types of operations. They're an integral part to the economies of scale.

Madam Speaker, one of the issues that we also have to be very mindful is, on the issue of occupational health and safety - I know the proposal by the government is to move the education and training process over to the Workers' Compensation Board. I believe some of that, from a practical point, from an administrative point of view has already happened, because the government had it in its budget earlier in the year, and that was part of its promise in blue book one, if we could refer to that, that was their blueprint back in the 1999 election platform. It will be interesting to see how the dollars will follow, what percentage of the budget will follow. Should that be done through an OIC, or is that something that should be identified clearly through legislation, through a section of the legislation?

Madam Speaker, the enforcement side of the Department of Environment and Labour is one that I believe has to be maintained at a high level of independence. There has been growing concern in the labour community that perhaps the government is going soft on industry, when it comes to the enforcement of certain infractions. I don't have all the details. It would certainly be an opportunity for the minister to bring those types of issues before this House. I would hope that he would be very quick to do that.

[Page 1412]

I'm a little bit concerned about the proposal by the government to eliminate the Medical Review Commission, which is already enshrined in Bill No. 90 and the previous legislation to that. Well, the proposal by the government is to do away with the Medical Review Commission and to have an appointed commissioner. Well, Madam Speaker, I think that is patently unfair. Any suggestion by the government that perhaps either the Medical Society is not particularly keen on becoming involved or the fact that it really hasn't been functional to the point where it's been effective, I don't buy that argument either.

Madam Speaker, the reality is it wasn't until 1998-99, when I discovered that that issue was there in legislation, and it was an opportunity for an injured worker to get some justice at the Workers' Compensation Board. What I speak in reference to there is the fact that on many occasions, physicians of the board were overruling the specialists, the opinions of the specialists. That created so much unnecessary cost and agony and misery and frustration and anything that you could think of that would not be a positive, that's what this issue did.

I spoke with my deputy at the time and senior officials within the department, as well as consulting with the various stakeholders, and we came to the conclusion that we should activate the Medical Review Commission. We allowed the Nova Scotia Medical Society to determine which three specialists they would have. It could be three different specialists, depending on the issue, but effectively activate this commission, so that if there was an issue of impasse between the physicians of the board, and the specialists, then there could be an option whereby the injured worker could have his or her medical evidence taken and examined to see the measure of the evidence and, perhaps, to lend some weighted evidence as to whether, in fact, there was a cause and effect relationship. Of course, the election came and went. We just got it up and running and what happened? The Conservative Government killed it. They put it in the wastepaper basket before it even got into full gear. They didn't want the injured workers of this province to be treated fairly before the board.

What else did they do, Madam Speaker? You recall the ADR Program - the alternate dispute resolution - very, very effective. It had over a 60 per cent success rate in the first year and close to a 75 per cent success rate in the second year and what did this government do within months of being elected? It shut it down and the Minister of Justice, who was responsible for the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, said, oh, we don't need it, everything is working fine. The Minister of Justice that we now have was the Minister of Justice of the day. So there are two issues right there where this government turned its back on the injured workers of this province and not a whimper. Now, when they were on this side, every day, every day that minister, when he was the critic for the workers' compensation system in the Conservative caucus, he was on his feet every day championing the cause of injured workers.

[Page 1413]

I will give you a real classic example because the speaker previous to me, who represents Cape Breton Nova, made reference to injured workers and those who worked at Sydney Steel and so on. I believe there were approximately, and I do stand to be corrected on the number, but I believe it was somewhere in the vicinity of either 24 or 34 cases for injured workers who had applied to go into the ADR Program, the alternate dispute resolution program, whereby the employer and the employee, the injured worker, would go before this informal panel at the Workers' Compensation Board and then they would essentially thrash out their differences and present their arguments and the pros and cons of the arguments of the issue, whether the injured worker was really injured as severely as he or she said they were, whether they were on the job, whether they weren't on the job, and everybody put everything on the table. No bars held.

At the end of the day, whatever was decided by the appeals tribunal, it was not binding. It was not binding if either party decided to pull out. There was a window of opportunity. So it wasn't like the employers walked into a trap. No, it was there and it was an excellent opportunity and the success rate that was agreeable to both parties was just astounding. What did the government do as soon as it got elected? It shut that down. Everyone of those cases that were pending before the ADR Program, they shut them all down and told all those injured steelworkers, you go back in the mix, go fend for yourself. That drove up the cost to the employers of this province. Do you know why - because the cost of the worker's adviser, the cost in some cases of going out and getting additional medical evidence, specialists, medical reports, the delayed time.

All these factors, Madam Speaker, I would submit at the end of the day cost the employers of this province more in premiums just because there was a neo-conservative philosophy about business versus labour. There are three specific examples where this government said one thing on this side of the House, got over there and turned its back on the injured workers of this province and indeed industry because they may have thought that they were doing industry a favour, but they didn't. At the end of the day, they just drove the cost up. That's what happened, from the early 1970s, right through until the last day that the John Buchanan/Donnie Cameron Administration left office. The administration after that tried to bail the system out of bankruptcy.

[2:30 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member was having trouble hearing my helpful intervention, which was that the previous Liberal Government added $3.6 billion to the province's debt which represents, in six short years, almost one-third of what the province owes in its entirety. Thank you.

MADAM SPEAKER: It's not a point of order, but it's a piece of information. Thank you. Back to the honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 1414]

MR. MACKINNON: If the new-found economist would only take out his calculator he would find that the majority of that was interest charges because of the debt that was driven up by that previous Tory Administration under John Buchanan. That's the reality of it and he can bury his head in the sand as much like an ostrich as he wants, but there are the facts, Madam Speaker. The unfunded liability with the workers' compensation system has nothing to do with the debt there, although the taxpayers had to - in part - bail them out because of the antics of that previous administration.

By the Auditor General's account, the workers' compensation system was on the verge of bankruptcy, so how he can stand up and be so smug . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: There's two balanced budgets.

MR. MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I'm not going to be sidetracked too much with rabbit tracks, because any government that would go and borrow $118 million to give out $155 cheques and then a 10 per cent tax cut and say that's a balanced budget - if you spend $118 million more than you take in, that is not balanced.

AN HON. MEMBER: He knows about imbalance.

MR. MACKINNON: That's right. They're further to the right of us than we thought.

The workers' compensation system - this is an excellent opportunity for all members to examine some of the issues surrounding the Dorsey report, some that are housekeeping in nature, some of critical financial measure. To what extent we'll be able to address them, I don't know. Maybe there are some issues of administration at the Workers' Compensation Board. There's been considerable consternation of late about the polarization among the chairman and the board of directors and the CEO, which, in effect, I understand he went on a sabbatical of some sort or an educational sabbatical, but this was after the board had given him notice that his job was being terminated. So now they can't terminate him, they can't hire a new CEO - the polarization down there is just absolutely mind-boggling. Because of that type of inconsistency and polarization at a senior administrative level, how would you expect the functioning of the board to be 100 per cent in harmony or unison or develop the symmetry of progress that you would expect?

I do want to acknowledge and support the idea of the Workers' Compensation Board of Directors having at least one public meeting annually for all stakeholders to attend. Hopefully, there would be an opportunity for some interaction there rather than just to come as a quiet bystander. It should be an opportunity to raise some concerns, just like a shareholder at a meeting for a local co-operative or something like that where you can hold your board of directors accountable. I believe that these issues are of critical importance, obviously, to the injured workers of this province.

[Page 1415]

I would respectfully submit that perhaps there should be a greater collaboration on the process of appointments in some of these ABCs within the Department of Labour. The single-interest groups that sometimes can be a driving force dominating public policy is not good for this province.

I don't want to delve too deeply into the issue per se, but I recall when I was minister, at one point going into my office and a representative of the Labour Relations Board was having a meeting and one chap arrives going into a quasi-judicial board hearing as an arbitrator with a political button on, in a government department. Well, is that any way to run a government office? I don't think so. It is not acceptable in this House and it shouldn't be acceptable in any department. But that's how askew some of the issues were going within that particular department at that point in time.

Another issue, as well, if the government really wants to do something substantive, look at the Labour Standards division. There is a backlog of almost 22 months. We don't have to change the legislation, we don't have to rewrite the laws of this province, maybe there are some administrative tinkering that can be done to ensure proper process or give certain authorities to certain experts within a reasonable period of time within the limitations. I don't pretend to know all the legal terminologies and reference points, but I think it is clearly understood, Madam Speaker, that 22 months for someone to have his or her case heard before that tribunal is absolutely unacceptable. Simply, the first step would be to go and hire some more employees and get the job done. That would be a saving to the employers and to the employees of this province. (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, a suggestion has been made that it is much less than 22 months, but it would depend on the particular case. I can only speak from my experience, I'm representing certain individuals before that tribunal.

MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow for another short interruption for another introduction?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West on an introduction.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to my honourable colleague, the member for Cape Breton West for allowing an interruption in his speaking. It gives me great pleasure to introduce a group from Kings West, a group from Berwick Elementary and District School. The 16 students who are here are in a French class, so I would like to have been able to introduce bilingually here but a couple of my colleagues are not in the House here today. But I do give them a warm welcome, also the parents with them: Pat Bonner, Ida MacCulloch and teacher, Joanne Richardson-Landry, who also happens to be the wife of Liberal candidate, Mike Landry in the last provincial election. So I would like

[Page 1416]

to give them all a warm welcome to the House and hope you will enjoy your visit. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I know that there will be a considerable amount of time available, certainly at the Law Amendments Committee for presenters to come and make suggestions to either amend, improve, reject any or all provisions of this bill as he, she or they, see fit, but we will also have a considerable amount of time, we'll have 20 hours of debate during Committee of the Whole House, of which I'm sure there will be some opportunity to bring forth amendments. I would encourage all members of the House, irrespective of their political stripes to take advantage of the minister's invitation to participate in all-Party deliberations in the articulation of the regulations. Now, if there are certain issues that we prefer not to be in regulation, that's fine, just bring them before the committee and the majority will, I'm sure, sort that issue out as it unfolds.

There is more to be gained by co-operating on this particular piece of legislation, much as what happened back in 1999. Was it perfect? No, it was not, Madam Speaker. Was it an improvement from what was there before? Yes, it was. I believe at that time there were even members of the NDP caucus who made that suggestion, although their voices were somewhat muzzled under the force of political pressure. That's fine. That's part of the democratic process. But the majority saw fit to move ahead with that.

I'm a little surprised with the complete turn of events with the Supreme Court of Canada, because it's completely reversed its position from 1996. How are we, as legislators, to interpret what we're supposed to do when we have a driving force, the Supreme Court of Canada, in effect, determining what the laws are before we even bring them before the Legislatures or indeed the Parliament of Canada? Something is amiss, Madam Speaker. I don't know all the answers, but it's certainly one issue that I will be looking into with further deliberation and concern on a future day. I do thank you for the opportunity to speak on this particular bill.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Madam Speaker, before I get going, I would like to welcome a guest in the gallery. I was a teacher for 15 years, and it's really nice to see students come to the House of Assembly, not a place that I frequented much before I got elected in 1998. Today we've had three groups from the Valley, so I will have to start encouraging teachers in my own area to bring students around.

I will take this opportunity to remove my muzzle, as the honourable member for Cape Breton West has referred to. I remember the debate on Bill No. 90. I was a new member to this House in 1998, and that's when that bill went through the House. I want to tell you,

[Page 1417]

Madam Speaker, being green as grass, I found trying to get my head around the workers' compensation legislation to be a particularly difficult performance. I am not entirely sure that I ever quite mastered it. Luckily, two of my colleagues here, actually I should say more than that because with four lawyers in the caucus, we certainly had people to rely on (Interruptions) Somebody says too many.

One of them had worked with the Workers' Advisors Program and was a big help. One of the reasons I found that process so frustrating was because I couldn't believe that in a democratic society we actually treated people this way, that there were injured workers in this province that we would put out on a limb and then cut the limb off, that we were willing to say you don't exist. The fact that you can't provide for your family, because you got up and went to work one day, is irrelevant. All your hopes, all your dreams, all your aspirations for the future and for your family's future, we were willing to write those off, or at least the government of the day was.

Now, getting that bill through the House was an education in itself. I remember the honourable member for Cape Breton West was the Minister of Labour. He brought that bill to this Legislature. I remember him voting against his own amendments. For rookies like myself, to try to get my head around what was going on, it was particularly difficult when the minister of the department couldn't get his head around his own piece of legislation.

When we get up in the morning and head off to work, as thousands of people do every day in this province, they don't have a sticker on their back that says worker. They are people who have their own hopes and dreams for what that work will do for them and their families. My parents were not particularly well-to-do, both worked. My father was a parking lot attendant at the airport, and my mother worked as a cashier at Cara Restaurant at the airport. So both of them got work because of the airport, not high-paying jobs, raised six kids, and I think they had their priorities pretty much in order, but the thought that they could get up one morning and go to work - or one evening because in my father's case there was quite a bit of shift work - and be hurt or injured at work and not be fairly compensated for that, seems to me to be amazingly unjust.

[2:45 p.m.]

So what I often thought during this process of Bill No. 90 was where do the members of the Liberal Party, who brought this legislation to the House, live? Do they fly off to the moon at night? They don't even live on this planet, that they don't have the same concerns about themselves, their families, their relatives and anybody they know, the neighbour down the road who goes to work in the morning, about what the impact of this legislation might be for them. I could never understand that. It seemed to be that they totally were living outside of the world that the rest of us lived in.

[Page 1418]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West is right about the unfunded liability. This was an exercise in futility carried out by the John Buchanan Government, trying to keep the rates artificially low for businesses. I guess his philosophy was if you keep them low you will attract business. I don't know if there's any place on the earth that that actually has been proven to be true, but what it meant was you had to take money from education and other areas where you would develop skilled workers, which actually would attract businesses - I mean these are the things that attract businesses to your area. It's not tax breaks, grants and whatever. It's a skilled workforce, good health care, those are the things that attract businesses into the area. So actually the taxpayers were on the hook for the unfunded liability and had to cough that up.

The Supreme Court has made a decision and the previous speaker, just in his closing remarks, had made the comment that the Supreme Court had changed its mind from previous decisions and how is anybody supposed to be able to figure out what the Supreme Court is going to do, and therefore, you know, they probably weren't wrong in the legislation that they drafted previously. Well, I will tell you how you do that, Madam Speaker. First of all you could look at the Charter of Rights - that would be one way that you could look at what's coming over the horizon and ask, do we actually have the right to do this?

I remember that legislation and they were going to take the right to sue away from people, so not only were they going to give you nothing, they weren't even going to let you have the right to go to court to sue for compensation. And I've got to say, if my memory is correct, I think at that time the Tories supported us in stopping that - or maybe not, I'm just going by my memory.

Now, chronic pain, the way I understand it and whatever the book definition might be, but my way to describe chronic pain is to say this is an injury that you can't find evidence of after a period. If you X-ray the person, there's nothing, it's basically a soft tissue injury. So it makes it really difficult for people with chronic pain to make a case, because when they're examined by the best technology, you can't find anything. So it's really their word against somebody else's word.

The previous Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton West, raised a good point about the board overruling specialists. Well, I had heard of that happening. I always thought it was a bit bizarre since the members on the board weren't doctors. I often wondered why the government allowed that to happen. They were the government. Why is it that the things he complains about under the system that he was the minister of, he didn't just change them, make them better?

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. Obviously, if the honourable member had at least listened to part of the dissertation that I presented with regard to the Medical Review Commission, he would have easily understood that that was the proactive measures to take to deal with the very issue. I did not, at no point - and I am

[Page 1419]

sure the honourable member did not mean to suggest - that members of the board of directors were overruling specialists. It was the physicians of the board.

MADAM SPEAKER: It is not a point of order but it is an interesting point. (Laughter)

Back to the honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I thank the member for the clarification. All that is telling me is that while he was minister he still didn't change it. He allowed that to happen.

I have had people come to my office with complaints of. . .

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture would like to make an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I thank the member for a moment of his time. I want to bring the House's attention to the Speaker's Gallery. As you all know, we have been putting forward the Order of Nova Scotia recipients today. A key player in playing a role in that, obviously, was the chairman of the council who overtook that large responsibility. I would like to introduce and welcome Dr. Sharon Oliver here to the House and receive the warm welcome of everyone here. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Back to the honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I have had constituents come to my office and complain about the workers' compensation system. As a matter of fact, some of the doctors that had been either members of the board, hired by the board, workers' compensation doctors is how I am going to refer to them, I am sure that they could not find anything wrong with any human being who had ever been before them.

The same complaint came time and time again. They mentioned the doctors by name, that these individuals could never find anything wrong with any of these people. It wouldn't matter if the person crawled in there on their elbows, there was nothing wrong with them. I have to say that that is something that even bothers me yet to this day.

Now, there seems to be an awful concern about funding these people. Actually, there seems to be a concern about taking care of these people. Now, we have no problem giving $155 cheques this past summer. Some were to the tune of $71 million; $9 million to Orenda Recip, to produce airplane engines, which I think they produced two. They never had to pay the money back. A litany under the Savage Liberals, Dynatek, Techlink, you name it,

[Page 1420]

taxpayers' dollars, millions of dollars that went to these companies that within a month were gone; no money ever came back.

Money was just given to Hershey just the other day or within the last week or so. A company that is in such good financial condition, I think, probably, they were surprised. Well, they probably weren't surprised, if they reviewed the history of governments in Nova Scotia.

Why is it that we can put money to all of those places and, yet, when it came to taking care of injured workers in this province, Madam Speaker, man, that was tough. We had no money for them. Couldn't find any, couldn't scrape it up, couldn't beg, borrow - well, maybe steal, I guess, but sure couldn't get it from any Finance Minister to take care of these injured workers.

Now to me, that only indicates the tone of the government. I have said it before in this House, you can't escape from who you are with your legislation. In other words, your legislation clearly defines your intent. I have been to meetings, let's say, the Federation of Agriculture meetings or whatever, and actually I heard of one meeting - there were a number of the Tory caucus who had been there, I think the former Minister of Finance had been there. The farmers who showed up at that meeting, actually cornered some of these MLAs and the minister about the lack of support for agriculture and what was going on. They were saying, oh, it wasn't us, it was the other guys, it was the other guys in the caucus, not the ones who were at the meeting. The Minister of Finance was there. So I suppose if the other guys were at a meeting, then they would blame the other fellas in the caucus.

Well, these things don't happen by accident, Madam Speaker. Legislation that takes away rights from Nova Scotians has to be drafted and given some thought to of what it means. As a matter of fact, the Opposition spent a fair bit of time trying to tell the government of the day what was wrong with that legislation. So it wasn't like somebody wasn't trying to inform them. People come out, oh, I didn't know it was like that. Well, if anybody believes that.

Now people came to previous Law Amendments Committee meetings on that bill back in 1998 and they told some pretty horrific stories about their lives and their families. People were losing their homes, their marriages and it would seem to me that nobody puts themselves through that if they could work. If they could go out and work every day and have something, a home in particular, they would be doing it. So this notion that somehow these people were out to rip off the government or the taxpayers is a ridiculous one. The question would be, if you compensated them fairly, what would they do with the money? Well, they would spend it. It would be money that is circulated in the economy. The government would get tax revenue from that and this is not a loss to the province. As a matter of fact, keeping their children out of poverty is not a loss to the province. One of the highest drivers of health care costs is poverty. So what do we do? We instigate to create it. We put people in poverty

[Page 1421]

and then spend money on health care where actually, all we had to do was take care of them. If governments can't actually feel some compassion for injured workers, they can at least feel some compassion for their children, the ones who didn't get up that morning and go to work.

It's been an interesting ride this time in the Legislature. I think one of the most interesting moments for me was when the Tories brought in their 911 fee. Actually the member for Cape Breton West was here. The Liberals, I think, were in this position, in Opposition where we are seated, and I think the member for Cape Breton West was the one who railed on the Minister of Health at the time at what an injustice it was to bring in this 911 fee and the Minister of Health stood up and said, you guys signed it before you left. So how is it that people are to believe anything that the members from the Liberal caucus say in relation to this piece of legislation (Interruptions)

I have to say, Madam Speaker, that when I hear members of the Liberal caucus rail about the injustice of workers' compensation on a piece of previous legislation that they put through this House, then I have to wonder why they didn't fix it in the first place. They designed it, they wrote it, and they put it through this Legislature, and it had a negative impact on the lives of people, which they had been told about and weren't willing to fix.

[3:00 p.m.]

Actually, one of the sad points of this legislation, even though the Supreme Court says you have to take care of those with chronic pain, the same as you would any else, there is nothing really clear as to what level of care or compensation they have to go to. That's one thing I worry about. Also, the fact that they're not bound to go beyond the date of that section of the Charter, Section 15(1). When it came into effect in 1985, that's as far back as this legislation has to go. Now, it's not bad enough that we have to take the government kicking and screaming to do the right thing, but they will still hold to this legal claw that means that they don't have to go any further than the Charter says.

I think that anybody who was injured in this province, who is alive, should be compensated. That's how far I think we should go. Governments don't seem to recognize what compassion is. As a matter of fact, they have to be told what to do and still don't recognize any compassion for that. Until the Supreme Court says they have to do it, they're not going to do it. They should have done the right thing in the first place even if they thought that they were covered under the Charter.

So even with this Supreme Court decision, they still look for a loophole. There were people out there who were injured workers who don't have to be taken care of under this legislation; only back to 1985. (Interruption) To the honourable member for Cape Breton West, Madam Speaker, no, I don't accept a question. I've gone down that road, and I've found he doesn't accept an answer. (Interruptions)

[Page 1422]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. I'm completely perplexed as to what the honourable member is suggesting, and I would ask, perhaps, if he would be kind enough, through this point of order, to clarify. At the outset of his dissertation, he suggested we should be following the order of the Supreme Court of Canada, and now he's suggesting that we should go far beyond the limits of the order of the Supreme Court of Canada. Could he please be kind enough to give us some clear indication as to where he's going?

MADAM SPEAKER: That's not a point of order.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Madam Speaker. To the honourable member, if compassion could go beyond the order of the court, then go beyond the order of the court. (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, I don't know if the problem we have in this province or maybe in this country, but certainly in this province - if the problem is with the design of the workers' compensation program at all, which I suspect is part of it, because I don't think it was really designed to help injured workers at all. I think it was designed to give businesses a way out, so they couldn't be sued by injured workers. I think that's what it was designed to do. It wasn't designed to actually take care of and fairly compensate injured workers. There's just no evidence that that has really ever happened, as far as I can see.

What I would like to see is if it's resources or if it's stinginess on the part of government that's the problem, I would like to see the province get back what it contributes to EI, disability and combine that with workers' compensation. Come up with a compensation program that actually takes care of injured workers. We certainly know there's billions in EI funds that working Nova Scotians have contributed to and it has never come back to them to make any use of that. I think that has been an injustice on the part of the federal Liberals. When it comes to Atlantic Canada, they haven't shown a lot of fairness.

There has to be a mechanism that really looks out for injured workers. It has to be one that taxpayers will be satisfied with and I think treating people fairly is something that taxpayers can swallow. I think what they're tired of seeing is money going into places that they reap no benefit from - fly-by-night businesses that come and go and take taxpayers' money and not offer anything in return.

I'd say, take care of Nova Scotians first, Madam Speaker. These are the people that I think, if there's any lesson to be learned, these are the ones who are committed to the province, these are the ones that get up every day to support the province and these are the ones that the province should finally stand up and support them.

[Page 1423]

This piece of legislation that the government is bringing in, I would really like to see the regulations in the legislation. As they say, the devil is in the details. The member for Cape Breton West has made the point that all Parties will be involved in seeing those regulations - I'm not sure how much input anybody's going to get. I can just hear it afterwards if the regulations are what I would expect them to be - not much. The government will be saying the NDP and the Liberals were involved in drafting that. That's a road I would just as soon not go down. I would say keep it open and transparent, let's see the regulations in the legislation so we actually can know what there is about this bill that we're debating.

Good is only as good as what you're willing to do with it. The board shall hold an annual general meeting each year that's open to the public. Great. So the question is, what do they do with the information they get from the public? If there ever was an example, on the 1998 legislation on workers' compensation, I watched people in a line-up come to Law Amendments and tell their story about being injured and the workers' compensation system and I saw almost none of that go into the legislation. I saw nothing that really, truly affected or improved the lives of injured workers. If they're going to have a public meeting with the idea they're going to try to tell me that we're going to listen and we're going to change things because we're having a public meeting, I'll believe it when I see it.

This is a way to say that we listen, but for the Tories or for the Liberals, your legislation clearly defines what it is that you want to do and that's the message that we should be sending to Nova Scotians. You can't escape what you put in legislation.

We've heard a lot of talk about the Dorsey report. It's not something that I'm as familiar with as the critic for our caucus. At least one of the recommendations that the Dorsey report had stated, that protection coverage to all excluded persons, is at least something that we're seeing but only because the Supreme Court of Canada had made that ruling. If governments actually want to avoid going to the courts, then write legislation that actually works for people. Take a look at what is written in the Charter, make sure that your legislation incorporates that, that would limit the court cases and I have to say, it's probably a master plan on the part of the Liberals or the Tories in the sense that - who's going to court?

You have people with no income, Madam Speaker, who have to make a decision about what compensation level they are going to accept, if they get one, and in the case of chronic pain, people weren't going to get it, at least some of those people, and here they are, poverty-stricken, having to hire lawyers to fight the government. Now, I would say that's pretty masterful on the part of the government to say, well, people can sue us. Yes, the fact that they're flat broke, destitute, would make it pretty darn difficult for anyone to take on the government. When you have been beaten long enough, just to feel good enough to try it is an effort.

[Page 1424]

MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow an introduction from the honourable Minister of Energy?

The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Madam Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for allowing me the opportunity to make an introduction at this time. Madam Speaker, in your gallery this afternoon we're joined by a Sydney area businessman but more importantly, he was my campaign manager the last two elections that I've run. I would like to ask all members of the House to join with me in welcoming Kirk MacRae from Sydney to the House. (Applause)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Madam Speaker, on a point of order.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel - no, sorry, Cape Breton South, on a point of order.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Heaven forbid! (Laughter) As a Cape Bretoner, I would say, well - been called worse I guess. On a point or order. I just want to echo the comments of my friend for Cape Breton North, of the visitor in the gallery today, and remind members of the House that when you see those Subway commercials that are on television, that man is responsible for them. I can tell you that some days in this House, we've had Subway. (Laughter)

MADAM SPEAKER: That definitely wasn't a point of order.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. MACDONELL: Madam Speaker, I, too - that will make it all three Parties - want to welcome the gentleman in the gallery. I can confirm for the member for Cape Breton South, he has been called worse.

Mr. Speaker, there is more that we can do for injured workers. I look forward to seeing this process continue as this bill moves forward. I definitely hope that the government members will ensure that if there is, at all, the possibility of not just incorporating the letter of the law but incorporating the intent of the decision, that those with chronic pain are taking care of in a way, in the same way that others are, I certainly want to be sure that they're taken care of well by this government.

Others have been compensated by workers' compensation but I don't think they necessarily have been compensated fairly as well. So, I would like the government to keep that in mind as we move through this process and I look forward to listening to other speakers.

[Page 1425]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I thank the two members for allowing me to move in, Mr. Speaker. With the unanimous consent of the House, I would like to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 1 - Automobile Insurance Reform Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, now you can revert back to Public Bills for Second Reading and Bill No. 20.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 20 - Workers' Compensation Act/Occupational Health and Safety Act.

[Debate resumed.]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in my place and say a few words about Bill No. 20, which is the bill now before the House. I, too, like the speakers before me, want to congratulate those people out there who have been in the forefront of trying to achieve improvements for fellow citizens in this province that many would feel a bit unjustly dealt with in the past. I make reference to some of the people that

[Page 1426]

I know personally that have kept this fight up, both from my own area and from throughout Nova Scotia, some of whom are with us here today in the gallery.

[3:15 p.m.]

What I heard from the NDP in this particular debate so far is talking about the past, what was in the past and what was not in the past, and what wrongs were out there in the past. I would rather spend my time dealing with what we can do, as a result of this bill, to make some improvements that will affect positively the lives of people in our province.

I believe Bill No. 20 is an important step towards achieving fairness for workers with chronic pain but the question remains, does it go far enough? Mr. Speaker, no, it doesn't go far enough but it is a start, I believe, in the right direction.

The automatic response, Mr. Speaker, of the NDP is one of disappointment. It is easy for the NDP to get up and be profoundly disappointed with everything that comes before this House because they have never been in government in Nova Scotia. They have no track record to be judged on in the past number of years. What they do is play the people of this province for their own political ends at every single opportunity they can get. That is what they do.

Fortunately, up to this point, they have not been able to get enough people in Nova Scotia on their side to form a government and we certainly hope that that trend continues in the future. I would shudder to think what would happen to workers and everybody else in this province if we ever entrusted the financial dealings of this great Nova Scotia to the NDP in the future. I could tell you, Mr. Speaker, that if that happens, not only will workers in this province suffer but everybody else in the province will suffer under this government.

All you have to do, Mr. Speaker, is look at what happened in previous NDP Governments - they were friends of the labour, friends of the oppressed before they got into government, and then turned on them after they got in government. That is the legacy of the NDP. However, that is enough about my friends to the right here. (Interruption) Well, to the right in the Chamber and far, far to my left. (Laughter)

Our caucus, Mr. Speaker, is more concerned with trying to ensure the government is held accountable in this particular bill. We have more concerns that injured workers achieve fairness, regardless of whether we score political points or not and I think that is an important point to raise, that we are here to discuss ways of making life better for our fellow citizens in this province, not for trying to score political points.

[Page 1427]

When it comes to chronic pain, Mr. Speaker, there is no excuse or need to play politics. It is self-evident. We have to deal with the issue of chronic pain in this province. Bill No. 20 recognizes the need to deal with this particular part of the legislation that is problematic for people in our province.

Unfortunately, the bill has come before this House though, not because the government wanted it here, but it was forced upon them. That, we have to keep in mind, as this bill makes its way through the House and on to the Law Amendments Committee and then back to the House for Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The Supreme Court, Mr. Speaker, is telling them to do it. That is what is happening here and that is why the bill is on the order paper. It is on the order paper because there is a six month time line on this bill. If they had left the timeline open we wouldn't be talking about this bill this Fall. We would probably be talking about it next Spring. Probably, if the government saw a way out of the House next Spring, they would probably leave the bill on the order paper again.

That is not what is going to happen here because the Supreme Court has said differently. Let's make no mistake about why we are dealing with this bill here today. If chronic pain, Mr. Speaker, is to be treated like any other disease, then that process should begin and finish within a quicker time frame.

Mr. Speaker, the government says it will allow the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal to handle the chronic pain cases. While WCAT may be the appropriate body, does it have enough resources to deal with the issue? I think not, at this particular point in time. If justice delayed is justice denied, then the government should ensure that WCAT has the resources they need to achieve important fairness for injured workers.

One of the great concerns, Mr. Speaker, is how will the board interpret chronic pain? Will the new definition be hoisted upon injured workers, so that they are again denied the benefits they should receive? We have to be vigilant to ensure that doesn't happen. The bill we have before us, on the surface, seems like a good bill. Where we run into a problem is that this bill could allow a broad interpretation by government or the WCB. The disappointing part of the bill is that it does not significantly move towards the full implementation of the Dorsey report, something that my former colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova, pounded in this House all last year, about when is the government coming with recommendations of Dorsey.

All we had was one recommendation over that period of time. That, to me, was indicative of the fact that the government did not want to proceed with any haste on implementing some of the recommendations of Dorsey that could have a better impact on the people that Dorsey would be involved with. There are good provisions, like the indexation of benefits, but this bill falls far short of implementing the 55 recommendations

[Page 1428]

in the Dorsey report. Mr. Speaker, I believe that at the rate the government is moving on Dorsey, a lot of the people who will be concerned with the final resolve of that committee won't be around by the time the recommendations are all implemented, at the pace the government is moving.

We do have before us here today a bill that this government and the three Parties in this House are going to deal with, and we're going to deal with it, and hopefully we're going to come out of here with a bill that is going to ensure justice for those people in our province who have been waiting a long time to get it. I think, at this point, in debate it's important to get back to the essence or the purpose of the workers' compensation board system. I get very alarmed, Mr. Speaker, when some believe that it is the employer who pays for workers' compensation and it is the employer who should call the shots. I believe there has to be a partnership there. I believe that all the stakeholders should be engaged in participating in this particular program. This attitude fails to recognize that workers have given up their right to seek redress in the courts. This saves business money, and it should save the workers from waiting for their benefits.

Equally unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, is that the WCB system was neglected throughout the 1980s, when the unfunded liability continued to grow to staggering heights. At the rate it was growing, soon all workers would obviously come up short on benefits. Measures were taken and the government did put more money into the system in order to do that. Unfortunately, we have a situation where workers wind up paying for the incompetence of other governments and previous WCB boards.

Mr. Speaker, the Supreme Court decision is clear. Financial difficulties with the board should not be used as an excuse to deny workers benefits. In other words, their financial problems should not impact on justice for workers who deserve justice and who have not been getting it, in my opinion and in the opinion of our Party. We're committed to that, we're committed to justice for the workers who are going to be impacted by any improvements that we put through the House in this session. The concern we have here is that perhaps small businesses have not been adequately canvassed on this particular issue, they've sort of been left out there somewhere, wondering where this bill is going and how it's going to impact on them.

Has there been an impact assessment of this change, and can it be tabled, if there is any impact on the changes, so Nova Scotians and workers will know what impact is there and whether or not that impact is going to figure in the final resolution of this bill? Hopefully, as a result of that, workers will not be denied again because of circumstances that are beyond their control and perhaps they had nothing whatsoever to do with. In other words, they didn't create the problem, so why should they be denied benefits to deal with the problem. Another concern we have - and that's shared by the NDP - is that we haven't seen regulations with this bill as yet, and we would like to see some regulations. I'm sure that the

[Page 1429]

injured workers and other stakeholders in this province would like to see the draft regulations and, ultimately, the final version of that.

Mr. Speaker, there was a time when politicians in this province could instruct the board when or when not to award compensation. Basing decisions on political expediency, I guess in this province has not been a good deal for workers, but correcting this by positive legislation will be a good deal for the workers if the Parties in this House are determined to make this bill as good as they possibly can for the benefit of the workers. I believe that we can achieve that. I believe that as we move this bill over to the Law Amendments Committee at some point - and hopefully we can do that fairly soon - we can have some indication of the kind of representation that's going to come before the Law Amendments Committee with some ideas perhaps to make this bill before us a little bit better. And I think that all three Parties have a responsibility here to do whatever we can to make the bill as good as we can, in light of the Supreme Court decision and also given the fact that we do have some implications of the Dorsey report that we still have to deal with.

I'm not going to belabour this issue today, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to say a few words in support of the bill. Our Party is going to look for some improvements in this bill, but we're going to do that based on the information we receive from the stakeholders who are concerned about it and also what we see and hear in the Law Amendments Committee process. Our Party is committed - number one, we're committed to the decision of the Supreme Court and we're committed to seeing that decision carried forth, but we're also committed wherever possible to ensure that we keep reminding the government that we have to get on with implementation of the Dorsey report and some of the recommendations that aren't necessarily connected with this bill.

I believe that there is some room for some improvement here and maybe some of the Dorsey recommendations that are closely associated, or closely connected with this particular bill could perhaps find their way into this bill by amendment - that's a possibility. But I think we have to talk to the government about that, we have to talk to the Opposition about that, and we have to listen to some of the suggestions that come before the Law Amendments Committee.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I will take my place, and I just want to say that there does need to be a change here, there does need to be a recognition that there is justice that has to prevail here - justice for the injured workers of this province who, I think, have been denied justice far too long.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, if it were not for the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision the other day in the Martin and Laseur case, this bill, Bill No. 20, would clearly not be in front of this House. What the bill does is it attempts to

[Page 1430]

respond to the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Martin case, and it also adds in some response to the recommendations of the Dorsey report. But, you know, the Dorsey report came out in March 2002. That's a year and a half ago, and that's a long time to go without a coherent legislative response to what it was that James Dorsey and his committee had to say in their very thorough report.

Not that I wish to be understood as suggesting that Bill No. 20 is a thoroughgoing response to the Dorsey report - it is certainly not that. It is very much a slapdash response to the Dorsey report.

[3:30 p.m.]

It's easy to conclude that if it were not for the occasion to bring forward some legislation having to do with workers' compensation that was driven, forced, upon this government by the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Martin case, there would be no legislation before us at all dealing with the recommendations of the Dorsey report or with any other aspect of workers' compensation.

That's interesting because if you look at the three main pieces of legislation that are in front of this House this autumn as introduced by the government, they weren't interested in bringing forward any of them. Bill No. 20, the one we're dealing with now, was forced upon the government by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bill No. 1, dealing with automobile insurance, was driven by us. Indeed, it's to be remembered that the government's preferred position is a non-legislated position. That was their official response to the rising crisis in automobile insurance - let's talk with the insurance companies, no legislation is necessary. And Bill No. 2 on Sunday shopping was really something I think that we can say was prompted by the Third Party.

So, contemplate that situation for a moment. The three main bills that are taking the time and attention of this House are all bills that weren't of interest to the government. If it weren't for external circumstances driving the agenda, there would be no agenda. There certainly wouldn't be Bill Nos. 1, 2 or 20. They wouldn't be tackling any of those topics. Bill No. 2 is just like Bill No. 1 in terms of the government. The topic, according to the Minister of Justice not so long ago, is completely off the table until 2005. It turned out not to quite be the case. Auto insurance, the government prefers a non-legislated solution. Worker's compensation, the government wouldn't do a thing if it weren't for the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada.

I think there is a bit of a lesson here in terms of style of government and in terms of what it is that governments hope to accomplish. The present minority government does not have a style and an approach to government that is the style and approach to government that we would take. In fact, I have reached the conclusion that for this Party now in government,

[Page 1431]

a minority government, it probably doesn't matter to them, except in terms of minor inconvenience, that they are a minority government. They probably don't care.

Do you know why they don't care? It's because for them being in government is not about bringing forward a legislative agenda full of positive changes for the people of Nova Scotia. For them, being the government means a clutch of them can be Cabinet Ministers, they can appoint people to agencies, boards and commissions, and it means they can let contracts. You don't have to be a majority government to do any of those things. So they probably don't care.

If it were not for externally driven factors like the Supreme Court of Canada decision, or for the issues that the two Opposition Parties have taken hold of, made their own and brought forward in a comprehensive way, the three centrepieces, the three most important of the items that are on the legislative agenda this Fall from that government, wouldn't be there at all. We would be faced with housekeeping items, we would be faced with minor items, we would be faced with another attempt, I'm sure, at beating the record for the shortest autumn session that there's ever been. That's a set of circumstances worth contemplating. I think the public doesn't fail to note it.

Bill No. 20 attempts to deal with two aspects of workers' compensation. The first,

as I said, is to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Martin case, the other is to include some measure of response to what it is that was said in the Dorsey report. I want to deal first with the Supreme Court of Canada decision and how Bill No. 20 relates to it. Then, if time allows, I want to deal with the Dorsey report and how Bill No. 20 attempts to deal with it.

Let's deal first with the question of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Martin case. It is fascinating reading. Mr. Speaker, I think it might have been perhaps three or four years ago that in this very Chamber, I offered to the then Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the province a deal. I offered to cease giving lectures on constitutional law if he would cease bringing in bills that were unconstitutional. But you know what? It has never been taken up; government has not really taken me up on this offer.

I look forward to exploring with the members of this House, yet again, some of the interesting features of Canadian constitutional law, in this case, particularly, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and its Section 15.

Now, I enjoyed reading the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Martin and Laseur decisions. Just to cut to the nub of what it is that the Supreme Court of Canada said, let's remind ourselves. The first thing the court said is that this particular administrative tribunal, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal, has the power to interpret and apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; indeed, it has the duty to interpret and apply the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when it is dealing with any matter that comes before it.

[Page 1432]

That was a reversal of the position that was taken by the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal when the case had come before it earlier on. I will have something to say about those decisions of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in a moment.

The second thing that the Supreme Court of Canada said in the Martin and Laseur decisions is that the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal got it wrong when it came to interpreting how the Charter of Rights and its Section 15 applies to the Workers' Compensation Act and its relevant regulations having to do with chronic pain. They said the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal got it wrong because they failed to find that there had been a violation of the rights of the individuals that were guaranteed by that section of the Charter.

In other words, the Court of Appeal misread the implications of Section 15 of the Charter. They misread the implications of Section 15, in addition to misunderstanding the scope of authority that had been granted by the Legislature to the Workers' Compensation Appeals Tribunal to interpret and apply the law that came in front of it. So there were two errors of the Court of Appeal of Nova Scotia that were reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard some reference in the debate by earlier speakers to the Supreme Court of Canada reversing itself on an earlier decision. It has been suggested to us that we could not have predicted the decision in the Martin and Laseur cases because of the earlier decision. I don't think that is quite right, to the extent that the Supreme Court of Canada, in these cases, overruled or altered an earlier decision, it only had to do with a particular instance of how it decided whether a particular administrative tribunal had the authority to apply the Charter of Rights. That case was the 1996 Cooper case, and it had to do with the federal Human Rights Commission. It had nothing to do with workers' compensation.

Furthermore, although prior to Martin and Laseur, I believe it is correct that the Supreme Court of Canada had dealt last with the question of what administrative tribunals do have the authority to deal with the Charter; that is, had dealt last in the Cooper case. The Cooper case was preceded by several other cases, starting in 1991 with Cuddy Chicks Ltd. There were several other cases: Weber v. Ontario Hydro, Tétreault-Gadoury v. Canada Employment and Immigration Commission, and of course the Douglas/Kwantlen Faculty Association v. Douglas College.

All of those cases set out the principles according to which courts and administrative tribunals should analyze whether they have the authority to deal with the Charter at all. I say that although the Supreme Court of Canada overruled the Cooper case and essentially found that it had been decided incorrectly with respect to the federal Human Rights Commission, it was, I think, abundantly clear what the principles were that were relevant and applicable when attempting to decide whether a body has been conferred the authority to deal with legal

[Page 1433]

questions and, therefore, that is an administrative tribunal has been conferred the authority to deal with legal questions and, therefore, has the power to apply the Charter.

The central matter on this has always been the intention of the Legislature. The intention of the Legislature, the courts have said, the Supreme Court said, as early as 1991, it may be express or it may be implied, but where the language of the Statute says that the body in question may determine questions of law that come before it, it seems pretty clear that means they are not only empowered but required to interpret and apply the Charter. I say that the decision on that part of the case in Martin and Laseur was no surprise. I say that probably our Court of Appeal should have known that.

The issue will have real implications, as others have noted, for all kinds of other bodies. One of them, for example, is the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board. The Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board has, on its own, reached the conclusion that it has the power to interpret and apply the Charter of Rights. That has not been challenged in court. That was a decision of the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board in the Peninsula South case from a year or two ago. Although that case was appealed, it was not appealed on that point.

It now seems clear, given the decision in Martin and Laseur, that various administrative tribunals in the Province of Nova Scotia, like the Utility and Review Board, will have that power. It seems beyond question that that tribunal, the Utility and Review Board, which is really the premier administrative tribunal in Nova Scotia, along with the Labour Relations Board, will be seen to have that power.

Well, it's an interesting point, and I mention it not because it's directly related to the question of workers' compensation, but because if the government is looking for useful bills that it might bring forward, this is one that it might want to clarify. It might want to clarify the Constitutional Questions Act to make it abundantly clear that it supports and recognizes the powers of a range of tribunals to interpret and apply the Charter. So if they're looking for a useful piece of legislation, they might think of it as housekeeping, that would be one.

[3:45 p.m.]

Let's turn to another question. Let's turn to one aspect of what it is that the Supreme Court of Canada did in the case of Martin and Laseur and whether Bill No. 20 actually responds to this in any useful way. It will be recalled that at the end of the case, the Supreme Court of Canada suspended the application of its decision for six months. There's a six-month delay. Now, why is that? The court looked at the situation and they said that, of course, the delay in implementation of its decision - which, in essence, struck down as invalid a section of the Workers' Compensation Act and the Functional Restoration Program Regulations made under that - a delay in that was appropriate because they were looking for ways to protect the workers.

[Page 1434]

They weren't looking to do the government any favour. The Supreme Court of Canada was looking for a way to best protect the workers and what they said was that this six-month delay does not apply, of course, to Martin and Laseur. Their cases would be decided according to the law as stated by the Supreme Court of Canada in its decisions. But they said if we are going to strike down this section of the Act and the FRP Regulations, then in effect there's no coverage for people with chronic pain, there won't be anything. They said, "Therefore, giving immediate effect to the declaration of invalidity of these provisions could result in prejudice to injured workers affected by chronic pain, as the Board would then have no specific policies or provisions to rely on in such cases. While some default or residuary provisions of the Act and of the regulations as well as policies of the Board might apply, the results would likely be inconsistent, given the considerable discretion which would be left to the board in chronic pain cases. The default rules might even prevent certain chronic pain sufferers from receiving any benefits, as was the case for Ms. Laseur."

Note that this is not the kind of delay that the Supreme Court of Canada put into place in previous cases, as for example in the Marshall decision, which was designed in order to allow the government some time to decide what it was going to do and perhaps to promote some kind of orderly transition to a new system. The thrust of what the Supreme Court of Canada is saying in Martin and Laseur at this point in its judgement, at the very end of its judgement, is that it was worried about the position of people who are suffering from chronic pain because, of course, as you will see when you read the decision, the Supreme Court unhesitatingly accepts that this is a real condition with real consequences and furthermore,what they say is that people with that medical condition cannot be discriminated against. That's the point about Section 15 of the Charter, that's how Martin and Laseur won. The court, in asking for the six month delay or putting in place the six month delay in implementation of its ruling, was first and foremost concerned about the injured workers. They're telling us something. We should be first and foremost concerned about the injured workers. We should be first and foremost concerned about the position of those with chronic pain.

Do you know what this legislation says? Do you know what Bill No. 20 says? It says that the new section comes into effect next April. Well, that's not much help. What they're saying is, oh, look, the Supreme Court of Canada has given us six months in which we can continue to process, perhaps, some of the old cases or there might be old cases for which there is perhaps some wiggle room, let's not put the new system in place until the last minute that we have to.

I hope that that is not the intention of the government. I hope the government is not saying, to any person who might be in a similar position to Martin and Laseur, that they have to argue any more than they already should through the normal process of filing a claim, that they deserve the individual scrutiny that the Supreme Court of Canada says is required in order for them to be dealt with like every other claimant who comes before the board. I would appreciate hearing assurances from the minister at some point that this not what is

[Page 1435]

contemplated, that that will in no way be tolerated, and that it will be made abundantly clear inside the organization that that is not the right way to go.

This question of delays in the taking effect of constitutional orders or decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada is a vexed one. Although the Supreme Court of Canada has, in a few cases, chosen to exercise that power, which I think, for many of us, was a new power since the time the court has started to interpret the Charter, it hasn't been used a lot, but it's been used a few times. It's now been subject to at least some early academic analysis. I recently heard a talk by Professor Margaret McCallum of the University of New Brunswick Law School that focussed on this, particularly in the context of the Marshall decision. There are reasons to wonder when this is an appropriate remedy, she reminded us.

Leaving that, though, I want to deal with what the court is telling us with respect to chronic pain and whether Bill No. 20 adequately responds to it. I pointed out a moment ago what I hoped was not going to be an attempt to generate a small loophole or wiggle-room. I want to deal now with some other aspects that are of concern to me. Consider what it is that the court has said about Section 15 of the Charter and the workers' compensation system. They have said, in case anyone had any doubts about it, that Section 15 of the Charter, the equality section, is in full force and vigour when it comes to the workers' compensation system. They've said to us, in effect, the whole of the workers' compensation system should probably be examined in order to see whether it is in full compliance with Section 15.

Although the Martin and Laseur decision deals only with chronic pain, why would the government not immediately say to itself, is there any other way in which the Workers' Compensation Act and its regulations might be in violation of Section 15 of the Charter? Surely this would have been the ideal opportunity to examine the Act and the regulations as a whole, and attempt to decide whether there were any provisions that might be problematic.

Let's remember what Section 15 of the Charter says. It says that there are a number of prohibitive grounds of discrimination, but it says that in terms of particular examples - age, sex, place of national origin, race, mental or physical disability. But those are examples, those are specifics. There is a general prohibition of discrimination. The general prohibition of discrimination, the court has told us, has to be on what are called analogous grounds, that is to say prohibited discrimination under Section 15 only amounts to prohibited discrimination when it is something like the enumerated grounds - it has to be linked to the enumerated grounds in some way or similar to them. That is to say they have to be related to things that are perhaps personal characteristics, things that are hard to eradicate. It doesn't mean that every distinction that's made in law is automatically discrimination that violates the Charter.

What the government should have done is it should have examined the whole of the Act and brought forward a package of changes that responded to the kind of scrutiny that was gone through in Martin and Laseur, but it hasn't done that. What Bill No. 20 has done is it

[Page 1436]

has focused only on that one aspect - chronic pain - and has taken the most narrow of interpretations of what the case is all about. Why hasn't the government started, for example, with Section 10 of the Act? I'm not talking about Section 10(a), 10(b), I'm talking about Section 10(6) and 10(7). Subsection (6) says "The Board may by regulation exclude any type or class of personal injury or occupational disease from the operation of this part." Subsection (7) says "The Board may by regulation include any type or class of personal injury or occupational disease on terms or conditions, including rates, types and durations of compensation other than those specified in this part, that the board may prescribe."

Those subsections clearly have the potential to get the board in trouble under Section 15 of the Charter exactly the way the Functional Restoration Program Regulations and Section 10(b) of the Act got in trouble in the Martin and Laseur case. Why wouldn't the government do something about that? Why wouldn't the government take this decision seriously and implement it in a thoroughgoing fashion. It should have done that. And what about the definition of spouse in that Act? Will that definition pass constitutional scrutiny? What about the automatic assumption sections? Are they going to get the board in trouble at some point? What about provisions that deal with age? There are some in the Act and I believe also in the regulations. Are they going to get the board into trouble at some point? What about dependents? Is the definition broad enough? Is it too broad?

[4:00 p.m.]

Those kinds of questions should have been asked by the Minister of Labour. Those kinds of questions should have been asked by the Workers' Compensation Board itself. Those kinds of questions should have structured this legislation. I don't say that the result in each of these cases is necessarily obvious. What I do say is that there is potential for future litigation along the lines of Martin and Laseur, on virtually any one of those other aspects of the law as it still stands even if we were to pass Bill No. 20.

Although I put it in terms of the board getting into trouble, the issue in the end, to my mind, is not really whether the board gets in trouble. The issue is whether injured workers are being treated fairly. At its core, that's really the issue.

What the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada invites us to do is to scrutinize this legislation, scrutinize each of its regulations in sufficient detail through the constitutional lens, through the lens of Section 15 of the Charter. Bill No. 20, however, has not done that. Bill No. 20 takes only the very narrow point decided by the court and attempts to implement it.

I'm sorry to see this is the way in which the government has chosen to engage with the Supreme Court of Canada. Legislation is a process of dialogue between this Chamber and the courts. When the courts speak, we have to respond. We have to respond appropriately. It's not good enough for the injured workers and it's not good enough for the taxpayers to

[Page 1437]

continue to stand by and allow situations that will call out for future expensive litigation to exist if we can avoid them.

The Charter is always relevant to any laws that we pass. When any law comes before us in this Chamber we have to ask ourselves, do we have constitutional authority to deal with this subject matter and we have to ask ourselves, does this bill pass muster when we think of it in terms of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? Clearly, it's time for that kind of scrutiny of the whole of the Workers' Compensation Act to take place. Bill No. 20 fails to do that.

Let's turn now to the second part of what it is that this bill deals with. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I said that this bill deals first with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in terms of chronic pain, and then it deals, to a certain extent, with what it is that the Dorsey report had to say. Well, to what extent has Bill No. 20 advanced the Dorsey report agenda? I think, unfortunately, the answer is not very far. We've had the Dorsey report for a year and a half.

Now, I think it's worth recalling what it is that the government was trying to do when it first commissioned this report, and it's worth recalling that this was not a one-person commission. However eminent Mr. Dorsey is, he didn't do his work on his own. He chaired the commission. This was a commission that was made up of Jim Dorsey as Chairman, but he was accompanied in his work by representatives of labour and management. He was accompanied in his work by informed representatives of labour and management. Of course, this is typically how adjudication of disputes takes place in the labour context, and typically how discussions take place in the labour context. That is to say, groupings are put together in which representatives of labour and management, broadly speaking, come together with a recognized neutral chairman to try to work out their differences. They try to engage with the problem.

That's how the Dorsey Commission was structured, and there were very good people on it. Mr. Dorsey, himself, let's be clear, is one of Canada's most eminent experts on workers' compensation. He has a long history of work as an arbitrator. He was vice-chairman of the Canada Labour Relations Board. He was chairman of the British Columbia workers' compensation system. Now, I think there is no person in this House who doesn't have respect for the work of Mr. Dorsey. Perhaps some members aren't familiar with him, but anyone who has had the chance to deal with him, either on other occasions or during the course of the work of his study of our workers' compensation system, would have come to have great respect for him. I'm happy to say that I know him personally. We were classmates at law school, and I've followed his career with great interest.

He was selected by the government to be the person to chair this commission because of his undoubted expertise in workers' compensation matters. Let's be clear, when the report is read, when the Dorsey report is read, it is not uniformly on the side of the workers. It does

[Page 1438]

nothing out of line. It makes very sensible suggestions about our system, and it makes page after page of suggestions and recommendations about changes in our system. That's important to remember, that there are page after page of recommendations settled on by Mr. Dorsey and the other members of his commission.

It was no mean task to arrive at unanimous consent and agreement on the workers' compensation system. This is notoriously a difficult system to work with. The questions are complicated, big money problems are involved, it's a big bureaucracy, a lot of people are affected and a lot of people are irritated by it because, as with any problem in labour relations, there are sides. There's the side of labour - broadly speaking - there's the side of employers - broadly speaking - and there's a public interest in terms of the funding of the system and the administration of the system. All of this has to be worked out. All of this was successfully worked out through the Dorsey Commission - at least worked out in terms of setting forth for us a blueprint of how we could go forward and make the appropriate changes to the legislation, regulations and practices of the Workers' Compensation system in Nova Scotia.

It's to be recalled that in a number of areas the Dorsey Commission engaged with, it saw no necessity for change. It's to be recalled that when they dealt with some aspects of the system, they thought they were working fine. No changes necessary, they said. Well, that's fine. Now we know. But at the same time, there was unanimous agreement that some things should change. But, do you know what? Bill No. 20 does not implement the Dorsey report. Bill No. 20 only deals with a couple of aspects of what it is that the report makes suggestions about. I'm sorry to say that on some of the points, it doesn't deal with them in quite the correct way.

Let's start with the question of who's covered by the workers' compensation system. You will know that under the existing system, this is primarily a matter for the regulations. I've heard other speakers call upon the government to give us their draft regulations that they propose under Bill No. 20. I want to agree with that call and ask for it myself. Where are those draft regulations?

It's true that the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Martin and Laseur is only a few weeks old, but the draft regulations to implement that portion of Bill No. 20 that deals with the Dorsey report should have been within the contemplation of the government for the last year and a half. The Dorsey report has been available, in the hands of the government, for more than a year and a half. So where are those regulations? Where are those draft regulations?

I raise the issue of draft regulations particularly as linked to coverage, but of course, it could be broader than that. On this question of coverage, however, what Dorsey tells us is that there should be nigh-on universal coverage. That's what the report says. If you look at

[Page 1439]

what has been put in front of us in Bill No. 20 in terms of coverage, what it says is, yes, let's have nigh on universal coverage, but the regulations will decide who isn't included.

[4:15 p.m.]

Well, a clause like that gets you no further ahead. A clause like that represents such a potential undercutting of the main thrust of the clause of the bill that it renders the main statement of the bill virtually worthless. On the one hand the legislation says, let's cover everybody. Then it says, by the way, the Cabinet can decide that nobody's covered or just about nobody's covered. That's not a very useful way to go. So it's no wonder we want to see the draft regulations.

I have to say that even if we saw the draft regulations, the hard fact, of course, is that the Cabinet could create further regulations at any time and expand the categories. Being a minority government doesn't mean that they don't have the power still to put in place regulations. It won't restrain them. If they have that power, if we grant them this power in this House, then they'll happily regulate away the main thrust of the Dorsey report's recommendations.

They may promise that they're not going to do it. They may even show us draft regulations that show very limited exceptions, but they could go beyond it any time with no legal impediment. That's not a very satisfactory state of affairs.

We heard from a former Minister of Labour that under his government, under a different Party than the one now in power, they were thinking of extending this to bank employees. Well, that's an interesting thought. I don't know that there's much credit for the former minister or for his former government in that thought, but the point is that it was all being done behind closed doors in the regulatory process. I think it was news when the former minister said that today - that they were thinking of doing it. I don't suppose he will get in trouble for breaching Cabinet confidentiality, if that's what it was, at this late date, but it was news. I don't think anyone knew - the classic phrase, who knew - that they were thinking of this, but why should that go on purely in a regulatory forum without consultation?

It's particularly the case that where we have a minority government - which just to remind the members opposite means they don't have enough members to pass legislation unless they get the consent of some members on this side of the House - they ought to be thinking about sharing their regulations. I think it ought to be more than a passing thought; we should be seeing details and there should be minimal reliance on regulation when it comes to this kind of question.

Well, that's one part of Dorsey that has been engaged with in this bill and not very satisfactorily, not very satisfactorily at all. He had other recommendations and here's one. What he said was the benefits that people are paid do go up according to the consumer price

[Page 1440]

index, but they're limited right now to going up by 50 per cent of the CPI. Just think for a moment what that means. What that means is that every year in which there's inflation, and just about every year there is some inflation, anyone who's in receipt of benefits under the workers' compensation scheme has their benefits eroded. They have their benefits eroded because as the cost of living goes up, as the cost of the market basket of goods, as the cost of going out and paying rent, paying a mortgage, putting food on the table, doing whatever else that we all have to do goes up, their income from a system that is supposed to replace the income they lost due to a workplace accident, or injury, is less able to keep up. It's eroded every year. If there's not full indexation, then there's erosion of your ability to live. There's erosion of the ability of all of those injured workers to put food on the table, to take care of their families, to provide shelter.

What Dorsey said, unanimously - not on his own, but what he said along with his tripartite commission, made up of labour and management representatives, and himself as chairman, as the expert - is that over time this should move to 100 per cent of CPI. Well, who can disagree with that? Nobody did. But you know what, what does this bill do? What this bill does is it says let's move from 50 per cent indexation to 55 per cent. Well, I guess they took very seriously those words over time, let's not rush - they must have interpreted Mr. Dorsey and his commission to say - let's not do this quickly, maybe we will do it in 5 per cent increments. Do it over 10 years? Are they going to do it once a year? How many times a year will this bill come forward, or some bill similar to it? Will there be a bill like this every year for the next 10 years that adds another 5 per cent? What timetable is contemplated? Is it really going to be 10 years?

Will it depend on something? Will it depend, perhaps, on how well the investments of the fund do? If it is tied to progress in reducing the unfunded liability of the workers' compensation system, how is it tied to that? If the investments go up 5 per cent in terms of their return, will the workers get 5 per cent, or will the workers only get 2 per cent or only 1 per cent or only 0.5 per cent? Is there a formula; is there a glimmering of a formula? Well, we're not told, it's not there. There's no promise, there's no firm schedule. It isn't in the bill that it should be 100 per cent of CPI phased in over 10 years, or 5 years; it doesn't say that.

Remember what this is. This is a guaranteed statutory erosion of the ability of injured workers to live. It's what in another part of the country is known as legislated poverty; in other words, it's the legislation that guarantees that people stay poor. That's what that section does and I don't think that's what Jim Dorsey had in mind and I don't think that's what his commission had in mind. What they had in mind was moving to 100 per cent. I think that can only be characterized as an inadequate response to what it is that the Dorsey commission said; inadequate and I would say offensive.

Well, I said earlier there were pages of Dorsey commission recommendations. Reconstituting the board of directors is one, I don't think that's in Bill No. 20. Service quality measures is another, I don't think that's in Bill No. 20. Now, there are others - that

[Page 1441]

is, other recommendations - in the Dorsey commission report, but I think I have given enough of the flavour of Bill No. 20, compared with what the Dorsey commission really said, for members and the public to realize that this bill does not do its job.

Mr. Speaker, I've tried to deal with what I think are the two main aspects, the two purposes, the two subjects that are melded together in Bill No. 20: one is to respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the Martin and Laseur case, having to do with chronic pain, and the other is to deal in some measure with the Dorsey report. My conclusion is that in neither case does Bill No. 20 adequately engage with the issues.

It's not as if workers' compensation is a strange subject to the members of this House. Most of us have dealt with workers' compensation issues before. We deal with them in our individual constituencies when injured workers come to talk with us about their cases and about their problems and about the inadequacies of the system that has been put in place and that has existed for a century and that continues to cause problems for them. We deal with them, one on one, in our own constituencies. We've dealt with them in this House, that is we've dealt with the system in this House on previous occasions within the last few years, when legislative initiatives have come forward. We've dealt with workers' compensation when, a year and a half ago, the Dorsey report came out.

This is a big system that involves a lot of money and that involves a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of controversy and a lot of complicated questions. But in the end, the fundamental structure of that system is known to us and is familiar, and we can grapple with it in a way that does advance the interests of the workers of this province, of the injured workers of this province, without causing serious problems for the employers or for the balance sheet of the government.

I'm sorry that Bill No. 20 simply misses the opportunity to do what would have been the right things when it was forced upon the attention of the government. This is very problematic legislation. It's problematic mostly because of what it fails to do. It's problematic because of what it purports to do as well. I don't think there's much in Bill No. 20 that calls for a positive interpretation. If there are solid positives, I would like to hear them identified. But, so far as I can see, Bill No. 20 succeeds only in setting the stage for further sorrow for individual injured workers and in setting the stage for further frustrations, for further legislation and for further litigation. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the chance to speak to this bill. I won't speak to it at length, but I'm delighted that it has come forward. I wish it had come forward with a little bit more strength, but I really don't want to think that the Nova Scotia flag is regarded as a flag of convenience. By looking at the treatment of workers and

[Page 1442]

injured workers, some of the most vulnerable members of our society, it would, up to this point, have been entirely possible to regard it as such.

I should say that many of the constituents I represent have run afoul either of something in their workplace or, to add insult to injury, the Workers' Compensation Board itself. I could list numerous people who have not even come into the constituency office, but who are simply living with the scars of injury and ill-compensated damage to their lifestyles, unable to continue to work.

[4:30 p.m.]

This is a complex issue, and I realize that it has been brought forward on a very strict timeline put forward by the Supreme Court of Canada, but I wish this bill were not so sketchy. Regulation is certainly procrastination and I worry about what will be happening in the form of closet legislation. Which industries will not be covered? Mandatory coverage should be expanded, as we note, to almost all segments of industry in Nova Scotia. But that is not necessarily going to take place. It is important to consider, first of all, who it is that benefits from the workers' compensation system. Not only the employee, but also the employer. The employer is protected from wild card lawsuits, the employer has security, and the employee has a certain degree of security as long as uninjured, but up to this point, that security has ended with injury.

The Dorsey report recommended that coverage be extended to casual employees and also to owner/worker. That, however, has not been adequately addressed and the owner/worker is, in fact, the person most likely to get hurt. I think I may have mentioned to you before, in the context of the hurricane in the past, the extreme anxiety of the fishermen for their vessels. Several of them have been injured in attempting to protect these. These are owner/workers and there is no protection for them. Casual employees, as well. The painter who falls from a scaffold or the young woman who works in a coffee shop and is scalded by hot coffee are potentially inadequately protected by this legislation. By the time we couple the apparent loss of the occupational health and safety association's educational mandate or, at least the fact that it has been cut adrift from the Department of Environment and Labour, then we will have a very dangerous situation looking at us.

I am grateful that the chronic pain difficulty has been addressed at this point. It seemed that in 1999, just as employer premiums were lowered, so were the available benefits by the specific denial of chronic pain as . . .

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

[Page 1443]

MS. RAYMOND: Thank you, I appreciate that. I am sorry, but I find it very difficult to concentrate with too many conversations. Nova Scotians have paid the second-highest premiums but have gotten the second-lowest benefits, as injured workers. This, too, is indicative of the flag of convenience and, at the same time, as I say before 1999, non-Nova Scotian companies had a six-month exemption for paying premiums for their employees. At the same time that exemption was removed, legislation denied that chronic pain could be a benefit. It is a strange coupling of those two events.

It is a long timeline to phase in family employees, but it is important that we get that, and the small workplace, as I have mentioned, is the one in which people are often in the most danger. Occupational health and safety regulations are far more likely to be ignored in this context, if they're even known. We must protect all the people who, in fact, are working for the benefit of our society. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I am going to make a few comments on this piece of legislation at this time. In the number of years I have been in this House and the opportunities I have had to serve my constituents on various topics, none is really more gut-wrenching than dealing with injured workers. I can tell you, and I can tell you some personal experiences and, of course, this is an example where I will not be using names because there are many people who are injured workers who are concerned about the fact that somebody at the WCB is going to pay attention to the fact that I am mentioning a particular worker who lives even in a certain community. There is such a paranoia about the fact that Big Brother from the WCB is watching. So the cases that I'm going to refer to are going to be of a rather personal nature.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk to you, first of all, about the opportunity that I had when I received a call late one evening from a constituent who was in his garage with a gun. He was an injured worker. In fact, he is still an injured worker and that injured worker was informing me that he was going to take his life. When he placed that call to me that evening, I began to realize, I guess first-hand, up front and personally, the absolute frustration of some of these men and women who are caught up in this WCB quagmire.

Mr. Speaker, it is through no fault of their own that these men and women have been injured. They are not criminals, but the system has in many cases treated them like criminals. So when you get a call from a constituent, whom I know personally and had worked with through some of these issues that he had been dealing with at WCB, and he's in his garage with a gun, threatening to do harm to himself, you begin to realize this is an important issue to Nova Scotians. What happened that evening is between my constituent and myself. There was a long drive that night to his home and a longer night as we sat and talked about the worries, troubles and stress that he was facing, that his family was facing, that his neighbours were facing, because we were all worried about this particular injured worker.

[Page 1444]

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know, because of your previous background, you've dealt with situations like that, the one that I have just mentioned. Now, as an MLA and as a school principal, I didn't have any training to deal with such an issue and I know that when I returned that next morning, my wife says to me, how did it happen, what eventually happened? I said to my wife at that time, becoming an MLA in this province is more than just standing in the Legislature, and answering phone calls in your constituency office.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, when someone reaches the stage that they are thinking of doing harm to themselves, they're sending out messages; they're sending out messages to their neighbours, to their friends, to their children, and that is an extreme example with no names used and no communities mentioned because of the particular circumstances involving that man. That man is still injured. He is still waiting. He is still concerned about how he is being treated by the Workers' Compensation Board.

Mr. Speaker, I've had the opportunity to appear at appeals. I've had the opportunity to go with constituents and, let me tell you, the first thing that always strikes me about WCB is all the doors are locked. I don't know whether you noticed that. When you go into the foyer, based upon my previous experience in an earlier career, in some ways it's like coming into the main cellblock at Dorchester Penitentiary where I worked as a teacher and they let me out on the weekends, okay, but let me tell you, all joking aside, when you go into that office building, the security reflects the fact that many of the people working there are very ill at ease when they are confronted with injured workers.

Mr. Speaker, I share the frustrations of my constituents as you have heard in this place before. I have met them on the street. I have met them at the nomination meeting for the member for Pictou West who, of course, was elected. I recall when we went to that meeting that night, the member for Cape Breton Centre and myself, when we got out of the vehicle at that community hall there were the injured workers of Pictou County. They were waiting to lobby the New Democrats who were coming to the meeting for the nomination at that time of Charlie Parker, of course, who's now the MLA for Pictou West.

When that happens you begin to see the pain in those people's eyes, and you begin to hear the frustration in their voices because they have had enough. Now I know there are members present who have had those nasty confrontations and I know there are members on all sides of this House who are aware of the emotions that are involved in such confrontations. I want you to know that when a piece of legislation is brought into this House and it involves injured workers, I automatically and immediately begin to want to know what this legislation is all about and will it finally allow some peace for these men and women?

This particular piece of legislation is a reactive piece of legislation. I know we shouldn't play the game of "what if", but what if the Supreme Court had never come down with that ruling? What if that hadn't happened? Would we be here with this legislation today? My learned friend from Halifax Chebucto took us through the Dorsey report, took us

[Page 1445]

through what has happened because of the decision that was forthcoming from the Supreme Court. That's the question that we have to ask ourselves, would we be dealing with Bill No. 20? Would we be dealing with this piece of legislation if the Supreme Court hadn't come forward with that ruling?

I can tell you, injured workers are paying close attention. Injured workers will follow this issue and they will follow it to the end, to the successful end when they are treated with dignity and they receive the just awards and rewards which they deserve.

I have a couple of other examples that I want to bring to your attention. I know the first one is a rather dramatic one, but I had to get that out of the way first because that's the sort of issue that rings home - when people understand the possible suicide of an injured worker because he feels so worthless and he cannot help his family, he cannot be the father to his children and provide for them as he wishes and instead he must continually go through the hoops and jumps and must respond to every kind of demand that comes from Workers' Compensation.

But there are a couple of success stories, and I want to share one with you. I'm fortunate enough to represent, as you all know, the fishing communities along our coast. There was an accident that took place with a masonry company - a very credible masonry company - in one of the communities that I represent. The worker who was injured that day, when he was rushed to the hospital and the family was informed, the community rallied around that family. The community rallied around that family because they knew that family and that particular man, who had been injured at work, needed their help - needed our help, Mr. Speaker.

When I had the opportunity to visit that injured worker in his hospital bed, to visit him in his home and to see that he has faith someone will take care of him - he has been hurt at work through no fault of his own, but he is not going to be left alone. He is going to be treated fairly. Over the next number of years - not months - over the next number of years that particular resident of that coastal community and through the diligence of his wife and family - and yes, I will say through the diligence of his MLA - pursued relentlessly the fact that the system must work for a man who has been hurt at work through no fault of his own.

I can tell you, when that settlement finally arrived and when I received that phone call that afternoon it made it all worthwhile. It made it all worthwhile because that man had finally had his issues addressed. But in the meantime, he had to go through a series of struggles, a series of meetings, a series of very negative appointments, in his opinion, that he and his wife, that he and his MLA, that we pursued day after day, week after week, appointment after appointment, because those people knew we weren't going to go away. We weren't going to go away on this very well-publicized, unfortunately, accident that had happened here in the HRM.

[Page 1446]

[4:45 p.m.]

It was a fight and it was a battle, and it was something we did together. Mr. Speaker, you will notice I don't mention the name, because the battle goes on, the struggle continues, because what will be the implications now with Bill No. 20? You're well aware of the fact that deep in my dark past I had an athletic career. I want you to know that one of the better athletes that I ever played sports against is an injured worker. He's an injured worker today. When you're physically active and when you're doing things athletically and then, as the body wears down, you realize you no longer can do them, well, you accept that, that's just Father Time catching up with you, or is it Mother Time catching up with you.

But let me tell you, there's an injured worker who I used to play sports against, whose shoulders have been operated on so many times, because of his injuries as an automotive mechanic, that he cannot take a ball and throw it for his dog. In his backyard, he has a lacrosse stick that he puts the ball in - and if you know how lacrosse sticks work, Mr. Speaker - and he can whip the ball down that huge, expansive piece of property that he's fortunate enough to own, and the dog and he can have a few great moments together.

When you see that lacrosse stick, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that injured worker is angry. He's angry because of the injuries that he has had and because of the training that he had as a specialized mechanic, he's unable to even take his arms and put them over his shoulders. So he takes the lacrosse stick and plays ball with his dog. That's the sort of injured workers' case that causes many problems for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, when you reach that level, when you want to make sure that your family and your community want to know that I'm not sitting home and I'm not on whatever the term is these days, on pogey, because I'm an injured worker. These injured workers want to be treated with dignity, they want to be treated with respect, and they want to feel that there is some faith in the system. That particular injured worker that I just mentioned to you, he called me that day, when he picked up the morning paper, and he gleefully announced to me, look at this, the Supreme Court of Canada has finally said something that is correct about injured workers. The message is clear, the system is broken, and now is the time to do something about it. But throughout the time and throughout the time that has elapsed, the frustration of these men and women is absolutely incredible.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting of injured workers. It was held in the Legion in Halifax Atlantic. As we well know, as elected officials, we go to a lot of public meetings, we hear a lot of issues that are brought up. I want you to know that on that particular evening, when that meeting was over, it was an emotional time for me as an elected official. It was an emotional time because you could sense, at that meeting, at that Legion, out in Spryfield, the absolute frustration, the absolute hatred - if I can use that word, Mr. Speaker - of the process that these men and women have been put through. Here we are at Bill No. 20 and here we are again on this emotional topic of injured workers. The Law

[Page 1447]

Amendments Committee is a process that we treasure in this province. At the Law Amendments Committee and Bill No. 20, again, the committee members will have the opportunity to listen to injured workers and the organizations as they come forward on this piece of legislation.

I was talking earlier to the new member for Halifax Clayton Park and the member for Halifax Clayton Park is a member of the Law Amendments Committee and I must compliment her on the fact that she's dutiful, she's hard-working, she's attentive to the details of the Law Amendments Committee. As she says to me, it is one steep learning curve, but I don't think that I can stand in the House today and speak on this particular piece of legislation, understood.

If she in her previous career in municipal politics - and I guess it is a career, if she in her municipal politics past - has never had to deal with injured workers, I've said to that new MLA, well, wait until the Law Amendments Committee. Wait until you have the opportunity to meet some of these injured workers and feel, not hear, feel some of the passion that will be delivered. I look forward to that process and I'm sure that the member for Halifax Clayton Park, when the time comes, as she asks questions of these injured workers, she will begin to sense some of the frustrations of the men and women who will appear in front of her.

That process, Mr. Speaker, and you've heard members of our caucus bring these items up before - you know I always have measuring sticks in this particular business. I remember when you and I were rookie members and I looked at the fact of how attentive I was, and maybe you never were, but I recall that piece of legislation involving that controversial legislation, including that open pit in Springhill, but today I heard a working man speak in this Legislature who I can take the time to pay attention to and that's the new member for Cape Breton Nova. The member for Cape Breton Nova stands in his place and speaks again on an issue that he knows of what he speaks. He stands in his place and speaks on behalf of the people in his constituency, but he also speaks because of his own personal experience and, let me tell you, that's the measuring stick that new members should be looking at.

When I first came to this House, I used to compare myself to, heaven forbid, I have to admit it, John Leefe; John Leefe, the history teacher; John Leefe, the legendary Mayor of Queens. (Interruption) But let me tell you, it wasn't that I was comparing myself to John Leefe, or to George Moody or, of course, to John Holm, what you must do as a new member is to see how you've grown in the short time you've been here. The member for Halifax Clayton Park is going to grow, let me tell you, when she attends the Law Amendments Committee and hears these injured workers and I encourage Mary Lloyd - I know Mary Lloyd will be there to make that presentation that she always does, undoubtedly she will be there. That will be a learning experience for the member for Halifax Clayton Park, but it's also a learning experience for the member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 1448]

So we will stand in our place, each of us. Each of us will continue to speak for injured workers, no matter for what length of time, no matter whether we're speaking of some of the legal points that my friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, brings up, or when I hear the past steelworker, who ran the Boys and Girls Club in Whitney Pier for years, when I have the time in this place for a new member to speak on such topics, that is time well spent because that member is speaking on issues that are important to him, important to his constituents, and important to injured workers.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that we all deal with a lot of different issues, but I can tell you that in a previous career as a school principal, I dealt with a young boy and girl whose father was an injured worker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I will and I will assure you I will be back on my feet at the next opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 20.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

I would call upon the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto in regards to some documents that the honourable member referred to in his earlier debate and I've asked him to table copies of.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, when I spoke at second reading on Bill No. 20, I quoted from the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Martin and Laseur case. I quoted from Paragraph 119. I failed at the time to table that, and I wish to do that now.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, I thought there was more than one document, wasn't there?

MR. EPSTEIN: No, I didn't quote from any other document. I refreshed my memory as to the name of a couple of cases, and I've supplied Hansard with the names of those cases.

[Page 1449]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable Liberal House Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will sit from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Because it's our Opposition Day, we will be calling Resolution No. 289 and Resolution No. 489. I would ask now that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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 House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 4:56 p.m.]