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/
|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||10|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE:|
|Mr. B. Taylor - Moved||20|
|Mr. J. DeWolfe - Seconded||25|
|DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. D. Dexter||28|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Sept. 26th at 10:00 a.m.||30|
[The First Session of the 59th General Assembly was ceremonially opened on a bright, sunny day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Myra A. Freeman, preceded by her escorts and by Mr. Noel Knockwood, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Murray Scott; the Assistant Clerk, Mr. Arthur Fordham, Q.C.; and Assistant Clerk, Mr. Neil Ferguson.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, ladies and gentlemen:
Welcome to the first session of the 59th General Assembly of this historic House.
It has been almost six months to the day since my government put forward its last Speech from the Throne. A time marked by the sad anniversaries of the Swissair tragedy and the horrific events of September 11th, as well as the passing of Nova Scotians of great humanity, strength and kindness.
In a very short span of time, Nova Scotians said goodbye to both Margaret Savage and our former Premier, Dr. John Savage. Their contribution to their province, their community, and numerous charities brought literally thousands of Nova Scotians to this House. Nova Scotians who were moved not just by their generosity in life, but by the strength they showed, knowing they faced death.
Both will long be remembered for their courage, their character, and their commitment to their family and their province, for doing so much to support those in need both at home and abroad.
On the same day this year, Nova Scotia lost two former members of this House. William (Bill) Campbell and Thomas Robert MacQueen will be remembered for their service to their province and their valuable contribution to public life.
Johnny Miles served his province in another way, bringing great pride to Nova Scotians as the two-time champion of the Boston Marathon. Well over a half a century after his remarkable victories, Johnny Miles remains an inspiration to young athletes across our province.
Since this House last met, Nova Scotia also celebrated the accomplishments of Dr. Arnold Burden, Alex Colville, Shirley Elliott, Buddy MacMaster and Sister Dorothy Moore. My government thanks these distinguished Nova Scotians for their contribution to our province and congratulates them on being chosen as the latest recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia.
And recently, Nova Scotia welcomed home the men and women who proudly served a tour of duty as part of Operation Apollo.
My government joins all Nova Scotians in thanking the crews of HMCS Iroquois and HMCS Fredericton, and all our military service men and women, for the personal sacrifices they make in serving their country abroad.
And, of course, we are all extremely proud of Gary Beals. Gary's giant talent and down-to-earth nature won the hearts of Nova Scotians and millions of Canadians from coast to coast.
My government joins his family, the very proud community of Cherry Brook, and his many friends and fans in wishing him all the best as he embarks on what is sure to be an amazing career.
We also salute the incredible talent of New Waterford's Richie Wilcox who was among the top 11 finalists. These two young men, along with Nova Scotia's other top 100 Canadian Idol finalists, Kevin Murdock, David Anderson, Mark Marsman and Ryan Somers, show that while we may be a small province, we're home to some very big talent.
As we begin the first session of our second mandate, my government also congratulates the men and women who have once again been honoured with the confidence of their fellow Nova Scotians.
As well, we extend our sincere best wishes to the men and women who proudly served their province in this Legislature and who will now go on to serve Nova Scotia in new ways.
To all of the members who are taking their place in this House for the first time, you have been given a special honour to serve your province and to help your communities grow and thrive. It is an honour that relatively few have the privilege of knowing. With it comes the tremendous responsibility to put the interests of the people of Nova Scotia before all else.
My government is confident that you will accept and live up to that responsibility and that our province will be all the better for it.
My government is also pleased to welcome to this House Nova Scotia's first Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Another proud first, not just for our province, but for our country.
OUR COMMON COMMITMENT
Governing is always challenging. It is even more of a challenge when no one Party has a clear majority.
While many of us have come here with different views, we all share the common commitment to make Nova Scotia an even better place to live, work and raise a family - a goal that requires a more vigorous spirit of co-operation.
My government knows that in order for minority government to work, compromise must come before confrontation, principled action before political reaction. We further understand that while every member of this House shares the responsibility for making this Assembly work, government must lead by example. And we will.
We are committed to ensuring that where there is agreement, there will be progress. Where there are differences, there will be consultation, co-operation and reasoned compromise.
And while our political differences may be many, there are a number of important areas where we are in full agreement. We all want minority government to work. We all want to see Nova Scotia continue to grow and prosper. We all want to do more to improve the quality of health and education, and to support those in need.
Moreover, we all know that in order for that to happen, we need to ensure that the hard-won gains Nova Scotia achieved by overcoming 40 years of deficit spending are not put in peril.
We cannot risk either the tangible benefits we now see as a result of Nova Scotia's improved credit ratings or the less tangible, but equally real, benefits we know come from a new sense of optimism and confidence.
Minority government must be about compromise. It cannot be about conceding ground on an issue of such vital importance to the future of Nova Scotia as balancing the budget - an issue we all agree on.
Because, if we fail in this, if we fail where there is agreement, we will surely fail where there is not.
More importantly, we will fail the people of Nova Scotia in our common promise to them to put the greater long-term good before our own short-term partisan interests.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
Recently my government provided Nova Scotians with an update on the state of the province's finances. With revenues down and the cost of ensuring Nova Scotians have access to better health care up, the numbers reflect the need for all members of this House to show reason and patience when it comes to placing new spending demands on the taxpayer.
In short, the numbers present government with a bigger than expected challenge in meeting our fiscal target - a challenge my government will meet.
Just as we have over the past four years, we will continue to make the necessary investments to protect the health and well-being of Nova Scotians. And just as we have over the past four years, we will continue to make the necessary adjustments to protect the fiscal health of our province. Moreover, we will welcome and act on every reasonable suggestion that helps us achieve these, as well as other important goals that advance the interests of Nova Scotians.
One of the most important being the need to ensure Nova Scotia has a competitive tax environment - an environment that attracts investment, spurs consumer confidence, creates new jobs, and generates the revenues needed to pay for vital public services over the long term.
In June my government made the first down payment on our commitment to improve Nova Scotia's competitive position, providing well over 400,000 Nova Scotians with a refund on their provincial income tax.
On January 1st of next year, Nova Scotians will begin taking home a bigger paycheque as the 10 per cent tax cut comes into full effect. While my government fully recognizes there are many demands upon the taxpayer, we also know that Nova Scotia's 40-year history of taxing then spending was a failure. It failed working Nova Scotians. It failed their children. And it failed our province. Lower taxes will not.
Moreover, my government believes that, at a time when the economy both at home and abroad struggles through the after-effects of SARS, Mad Cow disease, and a sluggish North American economy, there is no better time to provide our economy with a much-needed boost. And there is no better way to do that, than by giving working families a break. There is no better way to do that, than by sending a positive signal to the outside world that Nova Scotia has its fiscal house in order and its economic priorities straight.
To that end, my government will also do more to support the men and women who drive our economic progress: the men and women who operate a small business, employ Nova Scotians, buy local goods and services, and help generate the revenues government uses to provide the services we all rely on.
The second instalment of our promised tax relief for small business will therefore come into effect, on time and as promised, as we once again increase the annual limit under which the small business tax rate applies.
We will also do more to ensure that all Nova Scotia businesses, be they small or large, have greater opportunity to bid on government goods and services.
Again, as promised, a new Supplier Development Program will be up and running in short order to ensure that there is greater outreach with Nova Scotia companies competing for government business. An initiative that demonstrates not just my government's commitment to grow our economy, but our firm belief in the talent of our workforce and the quality of our products - a message that we will aggressively share with others.
My government knows that there is a need to continue to pursue new jobs based on sound business principles and solid business case analyses. We will therefore continue to support the successful efforts of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated and the Office of Economic Development, which have helped diversify and strengthen our economy.
We also know that job gains in one area mean little if there are job losses in another. To that end, my government will take steps to ensure Nova Scotia's beef and cattle farmers receive more immediate assistance as they deal with the after-effects of Canada's Mad Cow scare.
In the final analysis, my government knows that unless we actively promote and support our own success, and unless we take the necessary steps to grow Nova Scotia's economy, our losses will be measured not just in layoffs, but in longer waits for health care, less money for our classrooms, and fewer dollars for urgently needed road repairs.
In the end, my government knows that a balanced budget, lower taxes, more support for small business, and greater confidence in our province are all key to our economic growth and social progress.
MORE SUPPORT FOR BETTER HEALTH CARE
My government also knows that the ever-increasing cost of providing Nova Scotians with access to high-quality health care is eroding our capacity to make important investments in other areas. Our aging population, combined with some of the highest chronic disease rates in the country, continue to add huge pressures to our bottom line.
Knowing that health care is the number one concern of Nova Scotians, my government is making adjustments in other spending areas so we can provide our hospitals with funding over and above the significant increases we are providing through multi-year funding.
The challenge we now face is finding additional dollars to invest in a healthier population at a time when demands for hospital and long-term care continue to grow. It is a huge, but not insurmountable, challenge. A challenge that requires a renewed commitment on the part of everyone working within our health system to maximize the value of every health-care dollar. A challenge that requires a new understanding and commitment on the
part of all Nova Scotians to make lifestyle choices that contribute to their own well-being. A challenge that requires greater support from Ottawa.
My government welcomed the increased contribution Ottawa made to health care following last year's First Ministers' meeting. We remain concerned, however, that it was a one-time-only contribution. There is no guarantee that future funding will either be forthcoming or of an amount that will even begin to ease the pressures on our already overburdened health care system.
In fact, as we all know, Commissioner Romanow has made clear that even if Ottawa does come through with the full amount of its $2 billion contingency fund, it will fall far short of what is needed. My government therefore urges all members of this House to speak with a united voice in our efforts to have the federal government accept a greater share of its responsibility for providing Nova Scotians, and all Canadians, with access to quality health care.
In return, my government offers this commitment: just as we have in the past, every new dollar meant for health care will be spent on health care. And every new dollar spent on health care will be used to improve access to care and to reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment.
The investments we have made, and will continue to make, through the federally-funded Medical Equipment Fund are one example of our commitment to ensure the dollars we receive are spent for the purposes for which they were intended. A new linear accelerator, new state-of-the-art ultrasounds, and digital X-rays will soon mean cancer patients, expectant moms, and potential heart attack or stroke victims, along with hundreds of other Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, receive faster diagnosis and better treatment.
My government also knows that beyond the immediate fiscal challenge of providing better health care to Nova Scotians is the challenge brought about by new, potentially-deadly, and highly contagious diseases. We recognize that in the face of new diseases such as SARS, the legislation now in place to protect the health of Nova Scotians is no longer adequate. A new Health Protection Act will be introduced to strengthen Nova Scotia's capacity to respond to the widespread threat new and unforseen diseases pose to Nova Scotia's public health and safety.
As well, my government will introduce legislation to provide greater support and comfort to Nova Scotians caring for a family member in the last stages of life. Our legislation will ensure that immediately upon Ottawa proclaiming amendments to the Employment Insurance Act, Nova Scotians will be able to take time off work with benefits, but without the added stress or worry of whether their job is secure.
PROTECTING YOUR INTERESTS
The legislative agenda my government will pursue will also address other issues of concern to Nova Scotians, one of the most pressing being the need to ensure Nova Scotians have access to fair and affordable automobile insurance.
My government has already taken a number of important steps in this regard, including implementing an eight-month freeze on new auto insurance rates and putting a stop to discriminatory insurance practices based on age, gender and non-driving-related claims. We also broadly consulted both insurance consumers and providers on the best way to achieve our promise of a 20 per cent reduction in insurance rates.
My government believes that Nova Scotians cannot wait a year or more for a break on the high cost of car insurance. With the support of this House, we will therefore provide relief to drivers, sooner rather than later, by introducing legislation that provides for a 20 per cent reduction in premiums effective November 1st of this year.
My government will also continue to work with our Atlantic partners to harmonize insurance laws across the region and to carefully investigate the best way to ensure fair and affordable insurance is available to Nova Scotians in future.
As well, in response to the rising cost of liability insurance, amendments will be introduced to further protect many of Nova Scotia's dedicated and well-meaning volunteers from frivolous and unwarranted legal claims.
My government also recognizes that large increases in property assessments driven by huge jumps in the market value of Nova Scotia land, particularly coastal land, are causing hardship for many Nova Scotia families, including many seniors on fixed incomes.
As promised, following consultation with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, my government will introduce legislation to establish a cap on annual assessment increases in cases where there has been little or no physical change to the property. Amendments to the Assessment Act will help many families struggling to keep up with the cost of maintaining their home. It will also help ensure that many Nova Scotian families continue to enjoy land that has been in their family for generations.
We will also take steps to ensure that the integrity of Nova Scotia's electoral system is protected. Nova Scotia's Electoral Reform Commission will be asked to make recommendations that will provide for a more accurate and complete list of eligible voters.
The legislation my government will bring forward will protect the interests of voters, drivers, home and property owners, consumers, community-based organizations, volunteers, as well as the health and safety of our province.
We will also introduce Sunday shopping legislation that protects the interests of workers and small business owners. My government knows that many Nova Scotians hold strong and opposing views on this issue. We also believe that regardless of whether they are for or against Sunday shopping, most Nova Scotians agree that collectively they should have the ultimate and final say on whether or not it is permitted. And they will.
As promised, legislation that provides for Sunday shopping the six weeks prior to Christmas, followed by a binding plebiscite next fall on whether it is allowed year-round, limited to the pre-Christmas period, or not supported at all, will be introduced within days.
The legislation will include strong and clear provisions to protect worker rights. It will also ensure the interests of small business owners bound by retail lease agreements are protected.
My government will also introduce legislation that acknowledges that a person's contribution to public service does not automatically disappear at the age of 65. Mandatory retirement will therefore be eliminated within the provincial civil service.
THE NEXT STEPS
My government sought a second mandate from the people of Nova Scotia based on an ambitious but realistic four-year plan. A plan that acknowledged the need for action on many fronts. The current session of the Legislature will demonstrate my government's commitment to put our plan into action.
In addition to pursuing a busy legislative agenda, we will continue our efforts to provide Nova Scotians with better health care by moving forward with the next steps in our multi-year plan, Your Health Matters, including collecting and broadly sharing information that can be used to reduce wait times for diagnosis and treatment, and training and recruiting more nurses, doctors, and other vital health professionals.
We will also move forward with our plans to increase our investment in healthy living, to introduce a Low Income Assistance Program for Diabetics, and to implement a comprehensive stroke strategy. Initiatives that first and foremost address real needs and, last but not least, hold the potential to reduce demands on our health care system.
In addition, and as promised, my government will continue to support the independence of Nova Scotians with disabilities by eliminating Registry of Motor Vehicle fees on Community-based Accessible Transportation and by establishing a Wheelchair Recycling Demonstration project for young Nova Scotians.
My government will also continue our efforts to help our children get off to the best possible start. To that end, we will begin the consultations needed to kick-start Ready to Learn. This voluntary, free pre-school program for children will be introduced in areas where access to structured daycare is limited and access to school space is available - an initiative
that will better prepare our youngest children for a learning environment that my government is determined to see does more to support the success of all our students.
We will therefore move forward with our plan to reduce class sizes in the early years, provide more supports for special needs students, and put more books in the classroom. We will also ensure greater accountability for results by providing parents with more and better information, and by continuing our efforts to implement a province-wide school accreditation program.
My government is also committed to seeing that every region of Nova Scotia benefits from a growing economy. That is why we will make our promised investments in better roads and safer bridges, take additional steps to eliminate needless regulations and reduce red tape, implement the next steps in our economic growth and energy plans, and provide more young Nova Scotians with the opportunity to go to community college, to get a marketable trade, and to find a good job right here at home.
As well, in recognition of the increased pressures on many smaller communities resulting from urbanization, we will develop and implement a long-term strategy to help sustain and support struggling communities - a strategy that will be guided by input from Nova Scotians who, like my government, know that Nova Scotia's smaller communities not only contribute much to our quality of life, but help define the rich character of our province.
The urban trend has also brought new pressures to our cities, particularly our capital city. My government remains committed to working with the Halifax Regional Municipality to identify and jointly support a strategy to resolve the traffic problems arising from its fast-growing population.
My government also knows that urbanization, along with the need to create new jobs and generate new wealth, has put added pressure on our environment. We further know that Nova Scotia's economic progress cannot come at any price and that we have a responsibility to future generations to protect more of Nova Scotia's most valuable lands, such as Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake. My government will proceed with the process of designating these two sites as new candidate Wilderness Areas. As well, we will continue to work in partnership with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada to protect more of Nova Scotia's coastal lands and wilderness areas from development.
What my government has outlined today are some of the highlights, not the sum total, of the actions we will take to stay in balance, stay competitive, and stay on course in our efforts to bring greater prosperity to our province. And while we recognize that this Legislature has changed a lot over the past few months, the priorities of Nova Scotians have
not. And neither has my government's commitment to see that they are addressed in a fiscally responsible, fair and reasonable manner.
We will continue to live within our means, yet find the means to improve the quality of health care we provide Nova Scotians, the quality of education we provide our children, and the level of prosperity we know is within reach.
Where we have the confidence and support of the members of this House, and for as long as we have the confidence and support of the members of this House, we will continue to move forward with our four-year plan, knowing it is the right plan for Nova Scotia.
[The Speaker and Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escorts and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in the General Assembly of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained which the Clerk will now read.
THE CLERK: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly . . .
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN HAMM (Premier): Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speech be taken as read. (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable members have heard the motion. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, Premier, fellow MLAs and honoured guests in the gallery, it is truly a privilege and an honour to be asked to move the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne - one which I had no hesitation in accepting. On behalf of the people of the constituency of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I thank you so much for this opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I thank Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman for the Speech from the Throne which begins the First Session of the 59th General Assembly. As well, I congratulate Their Honours for their excellent service to Nova Scotia as representatives of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
As we gather here today for the opening of the First Session of the 59th General Assembly, we take the opportunity to note the changes which have taken place since dissolution of the 58th General Assembly and the direction our government will be taking in the days, months and years ahead.
Mr. Speaker, we faced many challenges. When our government came to power just four years ago, under the leadership of our Premier, we rose to the challenge. Today, we face new challenges, but I believe we are up to the task.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to welcome all new members to the House of Assembly. This is the home of the first responsible government in the whole British Empire. I would like to extend personal congratulations and greetings to the new members of our caucus, the honourable members for Lunenburg West, Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank, and, of course, Argyle. I would like to express my gratitude to those who have not returned to the House, those from constituencies across Nova Scotia who gave a lot to their respective Parties.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of Jon Carey, Muriel Baillie - known as Fluff - Frank Chipman, Gordon Balser, Tim Olive and Jane Purves from the Progressive Conservative caucus and, of course, no stranger to members in the Legislature and at Halifax Regional Council, in the gallery today the former member for Preston and a former Halifax County Council colleague of mine, David Hendsbee. Welcome, David. In politics one thing you can expect is the unexpected.
Once again, I must thank the constituents of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, my campaign team organization and, of course, the people across Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. There are 63-some communities in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and it is an extremely profound honour to be elected for a fourth consecutive time. I want to thank the constituents of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.
During the summer election campaign I was proud to be able to say to the people of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that 27,000 new jobs were created in Nova Scotia during the first four years of this government's mandate. Mr. Speaker, 90 per cent of those jobs are full-time jobs. I know we are often told by members of the Third Party that government doesn't create jobs and I agree. What governments do, and our government did very well, is work to create an economic environment that supports business growth and attracts new businesses to this province.
Continuing to reduce taxes for small businesses - businesses that are the lifeblood of our rural communities and small towns - will keep Nova Scotia competitive with our neighbouring provinces and with provinces across Canada. That's why I am confident when we say that more jobs will be created in this province, it will happen. Perhaps, when we're speaking about our neighbouring provinces, it might be appropriate to introduce a member from the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly and Speaker of the House, Mr. Bev Harrison and his lovely wife, if they would stand and be acknowledged. (Applause)
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, as you know, Mr. Harrison's brother, Larry, is a constituent in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and resides in Brookfield (Interruption) the Most Reverend Larry Harrison, I should add, and he has an extremely large congregation of followers.
Today, Nova Scotia's economic growth exceeds the national average. We must work together to ensure that growth continues. While working to diversify our industries in this province, we have not forgotten our traditional industries. We were there when our hog farmers needed help and we will continue to be there to support our farmers and their families. Many of our farming commodity groups across Nova Scotia are facing challenges. A lot of those challenges, Mr. Speaker, as you know from attending the rally up in Murrays Siding - which by the way also resides in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Murrays Siding.
As a result of the BSE or mad cow disease, a lot of the farmers across this province are facing many challenges, and in that context, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, MLA for Argyle, has created an agriculture task force. That task force will include representatives from across Nova Scotia who are closely related to the agricultural industry. The goal and objective of the task force is to determine the impacts of the mad cow disease on Nova Scotia's agricultural industry and to determine the capacity of our provincial, federal and industry programs to address these impacts. The task force will report to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the minister has requested that the task force report be completed by October 31st and that the report be tabled here in the Nova Scotia Legislature. After all, Mr. Speaker, the farmer and his family feed us all.
Incidentally, it might be a good opportunity to pass out a new toll-free number to the farmers and their families who may require some assistance. This government, moving in the direction in support of the farming community through Agriculture and Fisheries - and the minister, MLA for Argyle, has a new toll-free number, 1-866-844-4276. In an effort to better assist the farming community there is a new toll-free number that will provide some information for the farmers, their families, and others who may be inclined to inquire about the agriculture sector.
In 2002 this government was able to achieve something that has not been accomplished in this province for some 40 years - we eliminated Nova Scotia's $500 million deficit and balanced the budget, Mr. Speaker, (Applause) and we brought forth and passed another balanced budget this year. This is a commitment we made to the people of Nova Scotia in 1999; this is a commitment we kept. That commitment was reaffirmed today in the Speech from the Throne. All Parties in this Chamber have made the commitment to the people of Nova Scotia that they would balance the budget. We have come too far to go back to the days of spending beyond our means. We owe the people of Nova Scotia more than that.
One of the challenges we face in Nova Scotia is the challenge of keeping our talented young people from going down the road to find other opportunities. This year we expanded our support for community colleges. With additional funding for Nova Scotia community colleges, 1,000 more seats opened up - yes, that's correct, 1,000 more seats opened up.
Indeed, our government understands that children truly are our future. That's why our government increased spending by $1,000 for each child in our public schools. We recognize that we need more teachers, smaller classroom size - especially in the early years - and putting the basics first. As part of putting the basics first, this government has put 720,000 new books in our children's classrooms. Reading, writing and math are the fundamental skills our children need to go on to develop the enhanced skills they require to have successful careers and successful futures.
Our children also need healthy environments in which to learn. That's why 19 schools have been built or are currently under construction. We continue to strengthen our school infrastructure. In my home constituency of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, this government has committed to the construction of the Musquodoboit Rural High School. This new school will serve 425 students and have 13 classrooms. The new school is needed in the community.
In Stewiacke an $8 million elementary school will accommodate 400-plus students from the communities of Stewiacke, Stewiacke East and area. And of course I cannot forget to mention the new South Colchester Academy in Brookfield, which welcomed its first students this September, Mr. Speaker. Principal Jim Burns and staff, students and community are to be commended in the Brookfield area. As well, during the first year of our last mandate the first school built and funded conventionally by traditional means, subsequent to the P3
system, was the new Musquodoboit elementary school education centre. We are extremely proud of this school, and Principal Lewis Ingram, staff, students and community are proud as well.
More doctors and nurses. Health care continues to be an important priority for the people of Nova Scotia and it's an important priority for this government. All Parties in this House have raised the importance of our health care system and we have heard here today that this government will maintain and improve the front-line health care that the people of Nova Scotia expect and deserve.
Already this government has recruited 200 new doctors and in the last year alone, we have recruited 110 new nurses. This is a great start. Is there more to do? Yes, there is definitely more to do, absolutely. I hope all members in this House will join me in urging the federal government to accept a greater share of its responsibility. Nova Scotians and all Canadians must have access to good health care and it's our job to hold the federal government's feet to the fire when it's necessary.
Roads and highways are another priority for Nova Scotians. Our province's roads and highways are vital to maintaining our links between our communities and to continuing economic growth. Under our Premier's leadership, this government has tripled the funding for roads and highways in this province. Is there more to do? Absolutely there is more to do.
Some of the roadwork completed or being completed in my constituency, the people's constituency, the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, includes almost 4 kilometres of work on Route 289. For those in the House who do not know, Route 289 runs from Pictou County all the way through to the Goffs Bridge in Maitland, Hants County.
The Murrays Siding Bridge and bridges in Middle Musquodoboit and Milford are being replaced as part of this government's $50 million bridge replacement program. I'm particularly proud this government has created the RIM program that addresses the transportation needs of our province's rural residents.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak a little bit about infrastructure improvements. This government has shown that we know that there's more to infrastructure than just roads. We know that access to healthy water and modern waste systems help to build healthy communities. Almost $3 million has been made available to the community of Stewiacke to ensure that the residents have safe drinking water and a secure and safe sewage treatment plant.
At this time I would like to acknowledge the different and quite diverse Department of Transportation and Public Works bases across Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that serves the needs of the residents of the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I speak of the Department of Transportation branch in Burnside, Dartmouth. Mr. Hughie Burns, the OS or operational supervisor for the area and his staff of employees have provided excellent service, not only to the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley but to other areas of the Halifax Regional Municipality. The Middle Musquodoboit Department of Transportation base, under the direction of the OS, Mr. Gerard Chisholm and staff provides excellent service to the people in that catchment area.
The Musquodoboit Valley is a very scenic valley and the people, while not particularly demanding, really notice and appreciate the hard work of the Department of Transportation supervisors and employees - especially the employees.
Over in Brookfield, the Department of Transportation base also provides great service under the guidance and direction of the OS, Mr. George O'Leary, who resides on the Cloverdale Road. As well, in Upper Stewiacke, we have another Department of Transportation base to serve the big constituency of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. The OS and employees in that area do a great job. As well, in Truro, we have an operational supervisor; Mr. Paul MacDonald and his staff provide great service to the Province of Nova Scotia and especially Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. So there are five bases, five operational supervisors, with a lot of employees who do a lot of good work. (Interruption) Yes, and that base is in Truro-Bible Hill, the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, the Minister of Education, reminds me that the base is located in his constituency, Truro-Bible Hill.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to acknowledge all the teachers, students and support staff and parents in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley because we are very proud of the teaching fraternity and the students and staff who work so hard to educate our young people. I would also like to acknowledge the seniors in my constituency. The seniors are very important. Not only do they make up a major portion of the demographics in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley but we can always learn from the seniors and should be good listeners when dealing with seniors.
Farmers and forestry workers. There are a large number of farmers and forestry workers in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. As well, I must acknowledge the Halifax Regional Municipality. I had the pleasure in the past of working with former councillor and now MLA for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank. We also have a councillor for District 1, Mr. Steve Streatch, and I had an excellent relationship with those councillors. As well, in Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, we work closely with Colchester County Council, Mayor Mike Smith and the councillors for the area - Councillor Richard Elliott, Councillor Hughie Matheson and Councillor Bill Masters. I enjoy working with those councillors and look forward to working with them again in the near future.
As well, we have Stewiacke Town Council, Mr. Speaker, right in the heart of the constituency and Mayor Chris Wright and the town council work very hard on behalf of the residents of the Town of Stewiacke.
We have shown that this government desires to work with local government, Mr. Speaker, and I think it reflects in the individual commitment and dedication that MLAs make to go out of their way to engage in dialogue and things of that nature with our municipal colleagues.
Mr. Speaker, it is now my pleasure to thank Her Honour for the Throne Speech and with great pride and confidence move a motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, as read by Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, do pass. (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.
MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, Premier, fellow MLAs and honoured guests, I thank Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman for the Speech from the Throne. On behalf of the citizens of Pictou East, I am honoured to be given the pleasure of seconding the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, a speech which lays out our government's vision for the days ahead.
I would like to take this time to congratulate all the new members elected to the House. I look forward to working with each of you in the coming days and weeks. I would like to recognize all the men and women who were not successful in their bids for election, regardless of political affiliation. By putting their names forward, those men and women demonstrated a dedication to their community that is to be commended and for which we should all thank them. I am confident they will continue to serve their communities and their province in many different ways.
Mr. Speaker, the result of the August 5th election forged a new political landscape in Nova Scotia. A minority government requires a renewed spirit of co-operation. British statesmen and parliamentarian Edmund Burke said in 1775, "All government - indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act - is founded on compromise and barter." Mr. Burke's philosophy is still true today. This Legislature will be founded on compromise, and, as I see it, that sense of compromise will be a good and healthy atmosphere in which to nurture the hopes and interests of Nova Scotians.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, the constituency of Pictou East is comprised of many good-sized villages - villages like Springville, Churchville, Eureka, Lismore, Hopewell, Thorburn and Blue Mountain. Each has its own identity and community spirit. Within each of these strong, vibrant communities there are many differences - differences of faith, nationality and, yes, even differences of politics.
When travelling through my constituency, I have observed that these communities do not dwell on their differences. They do not use these issues to drive wedges between their members. Instead, these communities, the communities that are the very strong cornerstone of Nova Scotia, draw on the things that unite them, on their strong work ethic, their desire to create a prosperous future for their children and their hope for a healthy community. Members of these communities understand that working together is the only way to ensure the relevance of their village.
As MLAs, I think we can learn from these strong communities; as MLAs, we enjoy a unique perspective on Nova Scotia and her people - a perspective that clearly illustrates the connections between people, organizations, communities and lives.
I have had the honour of representing the constituency of Pictou East since the Spring of 1998. During that time I have had the privilege of meeting many outstanding people from every walk of life who make our communities so special. People like Everett Baudoux of Merigomish, who is a former wing commander and base commander at CFB Greenwood. As a young test pilot, Mr. Baudoux was the first Canadian to fly a jet plane. He has been a great source of guidance and knowledge for me. People like Joanne Cumminger of Plymouth, an oncologist nurse and patient navigator. Joanne was instrumental in bringing the first dragon boat to Pictou County, and she is an all-around, outstanding community volunteer.
Mr. Speaker, I can't forget to mention Dave Lees of Westville, the owner and operator of Landsdowne Park, an outdoor recreation area for seniors and the disabled. Mr. Lees provides an important service for valuable members of our communities. People like Glen MacLeod, who 14 years ago started the We Care Society of Pictou County. I have had the privilege of working with many of Pictou County's municipal leaders who devote so much of their time and energy to their communities, leaders like Warden Allister MacDonald and Mayor Sandy Cyr and their dedicated councillors.
Mr. Speaker, these are only a few of the people of Pictou East who I would like to recognize for their dedication and commitment. If I were to name every deserving member of the constituency I would be on my feet for most of the day. Now is the time for members of this Legislature to take a page from all these hard-working Nova Scotians who make their communities work despite their differences.
Over the 30-day campaign, Nova Scotians had ample opportunity to discern the issues that divide us. Now is the time that we must demonstrate to them a willingness to find and act on the things that we have in common, the same willingness, Mr. Speaker, that Nova Scotians demonstrate on a daily basis. It's a new era, with new challenges, and it is time for co-operation, a time for representatives of all political backgrounds to step forward and work to make our province healthier, more prosperous and more self-sufficient than ever before.
That may mean that we do things a bit differently but one thing has not changed, our Premier and his team are still committed to delivering good, accountable government for Nova Scotians.
There are many goals that we can share - in health care, recruiting more doctors and nurses, and reducing wait times. As you know, Mr. Speaker, the recruitment and retention of medical professionals is a challenge for us here in Nova Scotia and for many other jurisdictions.
I am proud to say that thanks to the tireless efforts of this government and the local health authority, seven new physicians and specialists will soon arrive in Pictou County. This government understands that health care is the number one concern of Nova Scotians. I know all members of this Legislature will work together to ensure we have the money we need to invest in a healthier population, even in the face of formidable challenges.
In education - reducing class size and putting more resources in the classroom. Mr. Speaker, I was extremely pleased by local media reports that quoted students of North Nova Education Centre describing their new school as amazing and the kind of school you would see on a television show. The new and improved facilities in the school are sure to enhance the learning environment of local students for many years to come. I know that the school will soon become the centre of community activity.
In providing Nova Scotians with affordable auto insurance - this government, with the support of the House, will work to provide relief to drivers, relief that will be felt almost immediately.
In building on our economic growth - staying competitive and creating jobs. Over the past four years difficult decisions had to be made. There is no doubt of that, but Mr. Speaker, those difficult decisions resulted in an end to 40 years of deficit spending. They resulted in an elevated credit rating, and they resulted in more Nova Scotians working than ever before in the history of this province. We have come too far, made too many sacrifices to squander those hard-won achievements because of our own partisan interests.
In Pictou East the fruit of those difficult decisions include improved infrastructure projects that improve the lives of Nova Scotians every day.
The achievements of the past four years - achievements like a balanced budget and improved infrastructure - are the foundation for growth, Mr. Speaker, and the Throne Speech is a map. It's a map to a prosperous future. This Speech from the Throne sets the tone for a new era in Nova Scotia politics. It marks a new beginning - one full of cooperation and
optimism, and I am honoured to second the motion that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne do pass.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.
MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne in a House that, to succeed, must be about cooperation. The NDP caucus is committed to making this House work. As Leader of the Opposition it is not my job just to oppose, but to advise, to advocate, and to hold to account the government. I recognize that another Party won the election and that in these circumstances we have to work with the government to achieve as much as we can for the people of Nova Scotia.
It is equally true that the NDP is committed to continuing our fight for a better deal for today's families. I note in the Speech from the Throne that this government says that it is committed to giving working families a break, but it will take more than a few borrowed phrases from Opposition platforms to make that a reality. There is a question hovering over this government: Did they get the message that Nova Scotians delivered on election day? For example, it would appear that this government doesn't understand that Nova Scotians believe the auto insurance system is broken. This government appears to believe that consumers must endure uncompensated physical injury to support the bottom lines of insurance companies. Nova Scotians don't want short-term tinkering. They want a long-term solution that fundamentally reforms the system and delivers the lowest and fairest auto insurance rates - a public auto insurance system.
The government also doesn't understand that Nova Scotians want seniors to be treated fairly. In this Speech there is barely a mention of seniors and no real commitment to delivering immediate fairness to our province's seniors in long-term care. Nova Scotians said that they would accept nothing less and it remains one of our top priorities. The government did not listen to university students and their families, and there is simply no mention of them at all in this document. As the legislative agenda is made more clear, we will know better whether this government has heard the aforementioned message - I reserve my judgment at this time.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, I will give my main response to this Speech tomorrow, but before I ask for adjournment I would like to take a moment to congratulate you on your re-election. In the previous House you demonstrated fairness and good judgment. I am pleased to welcome you back to your post and I look forward to working with you again. I want to express our thanks to the Lieutenant Governor for delivering today's Speech from the Throne and for her continued service to the Province of Nova Scotia.
Congratulations to the Premier and to the government on their re-election and my congratulations to the Leader of the Liberal Party on his election to this Assembly. Welcome and thank you to all the staff who help this Assembly to function so efficiently each day: the
Pages, the messengers, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the staff of the Legislative Library, the Clerk's office, the Hansard office and the Legislative Television crew.
I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to those MLAs from the last House who will not be returning, either by their own choice or by the choice of their constituents. Everyone who undertakes public service is fulfilling a great and important role. So I want to thank all of those MLAs who gave of themselves for their constituents and for our province.
I would like to especially pay tribute to two members from the NDP who chose not to seek re-election. Robert Chisholm's contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia is one that will be remembered. His passion and hard work to improve the lives of Nova Scotia families has made this province a better place to live. After many years of public service, John Holm has left a large space to be filled on the Opposition benches. His willingness to raise important issues and to stand up for his constituents every day made him among the most respected MLAs in this House. Both Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Holm can take great pride in knowing that they have made Nova Scotia a better place.
I'm sure they take particular pride in the knowledge that both of their seats returned to this Legislature with New Democrats and I want to welcome the two new MLAs who have taken over in the constituencies of Halifax Atlantic and Sackville-Cobequid as well as the other new NDP MLAs who have joined us in this House: the member for Cape Breton Nova, the member for Dartmouth East, the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley. I particularly want to welcome the member for Pictou West who has rejoined us in this House of Assembly.
Thank you to all of those Nova Scotians who supported the NDP and allowed us to return with a larger Opposition caucus. A thank you is especially due, Mr. Speaker, to my own constituents in Cole Harbour. Their continued support is humbling and deeply appreciated. I will continue to work hard to represent them in this Legislature.
Welcome, as well, to all new members on both sides of the House. You have joined a Legislature that has significantly changed, but there are those who assume that without a majority the business of government can't get done. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't agree. While there will be new challenges in this House, there will also be a new opportunity to work together to deliver good government for the people of Nova Scotia. I know that we will make full use of this opportunity in the upcoming session and throughout the term of this government.
I will have much more to say tomorrow about the upcoming session and about the contents of the government's Speech from the Throne. For now though I will adjourn the debate so that we can meet with the guests who have joined us here today.
Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment of this debate.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of this afternoon's session, on your behalf, sir, I invite all members of the House, family members and guests in the gallery to join us in the Hollis Street foyer to participate in a reception.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. The House will sit until 1:00 p.m. The order of business will be to resume the debate in response to the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
We are adjourned until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
[The House rose at 3:26 p.m.]