The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-25

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

THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW - Pictou Co.: West Branch Rd. - Pave, Mr. C. Parker 1969
TPW - Porters Lake: Street Lights - Install, Mr. K. Colwell 1969
Environ. & Lbr.: VLTs - Ban, Mr. M. Parent 1969
Environ. & Lbr.: VLTs - Ban, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1969
TPW - Noel Shore: Roads - Repair, Mr. J. MacDonell 1970
Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Public Inquiry - Request,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1970
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Office of the Ombudsman Annual Report, 2001-03, The Speaker 1970
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Stanfield, Robert - Death of, The Premier 1971
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 785, Savage Clinic (Niger): Supporters - Thank, The Premier 1973
Vote - Affirmative 1973
Res. 786, Hfx. Citadel MLA (D. Graham): Leadership - Commend,
The Premier 1974
Vote - Affirmative 1974
Res. 787, Health - Conf. Bd. of Can.: Study - Heed, Hon. P. Christie 1974
Res. 788, Sports - Curling: Colleen Jones Rink - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1975
Vote - Affirmative 1976
Res. 789, Sports - Curling: Dacey Rink - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1976
Vote - Affirmative 1977
Res. 790, Justice: Nat'l. Sex Offender Registry - Retroactivity,
Hon. M. Baker 1977
Vote - Affirmative 1978
Res. 791, Acadian Affs. - Acadians: Contributions - Recognize,
Hon. C. D'Entremont 1978
Vote - Affirmative 1979
Res. 792, Snakes and Ladders: TV Series - Prod. Applaud, Hon. E. Fage 1979
Vote - Affirmative 1980
Res. 793, Duck, Michael: Jerome Award - Congrats., Hon. B. Barnet 1980
Vote - Affirmative 1981
Res. 794, Jr. Achievement Hall of Fame: Inductees - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 1981
Vote - Affirmative 1982
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 45, Public Service Act, Hon. M. Baker 1982
No. 46, Public Service Act, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1982
No. 47, Council of Atlantic Premiers Act, The Premier 1982
No. 48, Education Act, Hon. J. Muir 1982
No. 49, Mi'kmaq Education Act, Hon. J. Muir 1982
No. 50, Credit Union Act, Hon. K. Morash 1982
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 795, Frame, Clifford: Mine Application - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 1982
Vote - Affirmative 1983
Res. 796, Yom haShoah (04/18/04) - Observe, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1983
Vote - Affirmative 1984
Res. 797, Canyon, George: Talent - Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1984
Vote - Affirmative 1985
Res. 798, Stora Enso: Safety Record - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1985
Vote - Affirmative 1985
Res. 799, Snow, Rhoda: Death of - Tribute, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1986
Vote - Affirmative 1986
Res. 800, MacKinnon, Dr. F.R.: Book Launch - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1986
Vote - Affirmative 1987
Res. 801, Hfx. Pub. Libraries: Dana Award - Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 1987
Vote - Affirmative 1988
Res. 802, Sports - Curling: Mouzar Rink - Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 1988
Vote - Affirmative 1989
Res. 803, Haynes, Ross H.: Q.C. Appt. - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1989
Vote - Affirmative 1989
Res. 804, Lake Echo Lioness Club: Anniv. (25th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 1990
Vote - Affirmative 1990
Res. 805, Tatamagouche Elem. Students: Grave Marker Fundraising -
Acknowledge, Mr. W. Langille 1990
Vote - Affirmative 1991
Res. 806, Sports - Curling: Colleen Jones Rink - Congrats., Mr. H. Epstein 1991
Vote - Affirmative 1992
Res. 807, Health - Consultation: Importance - Acknowledge,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 1992
Vote - Affirmative 1993
Res. 808, Kings Co. Museum/Hist. Soc.: Anniv. - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1993
Vote - Affirmative 1993
Res. 809, Heatherbell Girls P&D Band: Anniv. (40th) - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 1993
Vote - Affirmative 1994
Res. 810, Canning, Daniel J.E.: Powerlifting Medal - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 1994
Vote - Affirmative 1995
Res. 811, Butts, Sr. Peggy: Death of - Tribute, Hon. C. Clarke 1995
Vote - Affirmative 1996
Res. 812, Knowledge is Power: Steering Comm. - Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 1996
Vote - Affirmative 1996
Res. 813, Sports: St. F.X. X-Men - Hockey Championship,
Mr. D. Graham 1997
Vote - Affirmative 1997
Res. 814, Southwest Nova Corr. Ctr.: Completion - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 1997
Vote - Affirmative 1998
Res. 815, Parris, John Hubba: Stompin' Tom Award - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 1998
Vote - Affirmative 1999
Res. 816, Harding, Craig - Chief Crown Atty.: Appt. - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Morash 1999
Vote - Affirmative 2000
Res. 817, Harrie, Ron: Retirement - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 2000
Vote - Affirmative 2001
Res. 818, Sports - St. F.X. X-Men: Hockey Championship - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2001
Vote - Affirmative 2002
Res. 819, Sports - Sackville Blazers Jr. B Team: Johnson Cup -
Congrats., Hon. B. Barnet 2002
Vote - Affirmative 2002
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 256, Health: Nursing Homes - Assessment Appeals, Mr. D. Dexter 2003
No. 257, Fin. - Tax Cut: Mistake - Admit, Mr. W. Gaudet 2004
No. 258, Insurance: Pub. Auto System - Study, Mr. D. Dexter 2005
No. 259, Health - QE II: Wait Times - Solutions,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2007
No. 260, Cape Breton: Econ. Growth Strategy - Develop, Mr. D. Dexter 2008
No. 261, Health: Comfort Allowance - Policy, Mr. Manning MacDonald 2010
No. 262, Educ.: Commun. Coll. - Tuition Increases, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2011
No. 263, Educ.: Tuition Increases/Tax Cuts - Correlation, Mr. L. Glavine 2012
No. 264, Insurance - Auto Plan: N.B. Election - Impact, Mr. G. Steele 2013
No. 265, Environ. & Lbr. - Bio-Solids Guidelines: Input -
Deadline Extend, Ms. J. Massey 2014
No. 266, Educ. - Universities: Bd. of Gov. - Student Participation,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2016
No. 267, Agric. & Fish.: Polar Foods - Bankruptcy Sale, Mr. C. Parker 2017
No. 268, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Employees - Illnesses,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2018
No. 269, Afric. N.S. Affs. - Affirm. Action: Failure - Justify,
Mr. H. Epstein 2019
No. 270, Environ. & Lbr.: Albert Bridge - Water Problems,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2021
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
^PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 37, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources
Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act 2022
Hon. K. Morash 2022
Mr. F. Corbett 2023
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2027
Hon. C. Clarke 2030
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2032
Mr. Michel Samson 2036
Mr. K. Deveaux 2040
Mr. H. Epstein 2043
Ms. J. Massey 2049
Adjourned debate 2050
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - Budget Balancing: Coll./Univ. Students - Impact:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2051
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2053
Mr. L. Glavine 2056
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 16th at 9:00 a.m. 2058
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 820, Curly Portables: Parker Award - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 2059
Res. 821, Cdn. Ski Patrol: Dedication - Congrats., The Speaker 2059
Res. 822, Health - New Waterford Hosp.: Ventilation - Upgrade,
Mr. F. Corbett 2060

[Page 1967]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government is trying, once again, to balance the budget on the backs of college and university students and their families.

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

The honourable Minister of Human Resources on an introduction.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge a group of Grade 12 students who are here from Bridgewater High School, 32 in number, I believe. I would also like to acknowledge Mr. Chuck LeCain who, for 25 years, has been bringing students to Province House for a visit. I would also like to acknowledge the parents who are with them as chaperones: Sandy Bergeron and Charles Williamson. So welcome and I would like the House to extend a warm welcome to these students. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today.

1967

[Page 1968]

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel on an introduction.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the gallery a group of university students who have come here from Dalhousie. The Dalhousie Student Union executive, both past and future, are here to show their concern about the tuition rates in Nova Scotia and the circumstances that face most Nova Scotian students as they attempt to get a higher education. I would ask that they please stand. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guests to the gallery today.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce three of my constituents here today. I see in the gallery across that we have Mary Jessie MacDonald from the Nova Scotia School Board Association. As well, we have Mr. Burton MacIntyre and also Steve MacDonald who is with the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I would ask the House to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction?

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Yes, please, Mr. Speaker. In your gallery I see the President of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union is here, Joan Jessome, along with emergency room workers, are they not? Welcome to the House today. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, if I could also introduce Mr. Sid Coutts who is here today to observe our proceedings. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests as well.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House, a number of young Nova Scotians who are here in the gallery and will be watching the proceedings this afternoon, in particular with regard to a bill on the order paper, the Youth Secretariat Act.

I would ask if all young Nova Scotians who are here in the interest of this legislation, with the leadership of Mr. Adam Lomas, representative from the Student Union at Dalhousie University, and other universities, if they would rise and receive the warm approbation of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1969]

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of the River John and West Branch area of Pictou County, concerning the very poor condition of the West Branch Road. The operative clause reads, "We, the following petitioners ask for immediate planning to pave West Branch Road." This petition has been signed by 277 local residents and I, too, have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition from 162 residents of the Porter's Lake and surrounding area. "We the undersigned residents, of Porter's Lake and Area hereby Petition the Department of Transportation, Province of Nova Scotia to have Street Lights installed at the intersection of the # 7 Highway and #107 access road exit off of exit 20 in Porters Lake, NS. This intersection has a very high traffic volume and poses a safety hazard for local residents." I affix my signature to this petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause which reads, "WHEREAS a recent survey has shown that approximately 43 % of Nova Scotians favour banning Video Lottery Terminals and a further 32 % want the availability of such Terminals restricted . . . THEREFORE we respectfully request the Government of the Province (1) to ban Video Lottery Terminals or at least curtail their use; and (2) to ensure that staff members in every school in the Province be given training that will enable them to make use of the relevant curriculum materials, to the end that the harm done by gambling may be reduced."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 75 residents of Pictou and Antigonish Counties. The operative clause reads, "THEREFORE we respectfully request the Government of the Province (1) to ban Video Lottery Terminals or at least curtail their use; and (2) to ensure that staff members in every school in the Province

[Page 1970]

be given training that will enable them to make use of the relevant curriculum materials so that harm done by gambling may be reduced." I have signed this document as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Northfield area and also of the Noel Shore area of Hants County. The condensed operative clause: "In springtime the condition of the road gets so bad that vehicles drag a lot in places and occasionally get stuck. There are stretches of road where there is hardly any gravel left on it, which makes the road slippery when it's wet, and there are also places where there's not much of a ditch anymore. In places there are boulders sticking out of the road and once was such a contributing factor of a vehicle accident. There is a stretch of road that is paved that is in very bad condition now."

Mr. Speaker, there are 141 signatures, and I've affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition concerning the New Waterford Hospital. The operative clause reads: "The Cape Breton District Health Authority has repeatedly said there 'is no pattern' and all exhaustive tests are 'negative'. Up until last week they have continually stated that there are only 2-3 people that are sick. . . . We want a public inquiry to find out what is going on at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital."

Mr. Speaker, the petition bears the names of some 3,063 people, and I have affixed my name to that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: At this time I would like to table the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman Annual Report for January 1 to March 31, 2001-03. Those are being distributed at this time.

[Page 1971]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, there are a handful of people in one's life who are true role models - men and women who have lived their lives in a truly noble, compassionate, selfless way, offering steadfast leadership the likes of which one can only dream of emulating. The late Robert Lorne Stanfield is one such man.

On December 16th of this past year, I was joined by countless Canadians in mourning the end of the life of this man and celebrating his contributions to his beloved province and country. This former Premier of Nova Scotia from 1956 to 1967, changed our province for the better. His accomplishments on behalf of Nova Scotians include establishing free hospitalization, Medicare for families, pursuing aggressive policies to modernize and expand our economy, creating vocational schools and investing heavily in education at all levels, directing, for the first time, consistent funding to universities, as well as modernizing our road system.

Robert Stanfield was a leader who was never afraid to make the difficult choices for a stronger Nova Scotia. His service at the federal level, as Leader of the Official Opposition from 1967 to 1976 and as a Member of Parliament for Colchester County and Halifax, showed his remarkable understanding of our country, based on respect, strength and civility. As I said at the time of his passing, we will always wonder how Canada would have moved forward with Robert Stanfield as Prime Minister.

[2:15 p.m.]

While we officially acknowledged his death at Province House in December, I thought it was fitting that we remember this great Canadian in this Chamber - a place where his actions and words made such a lasting impression. His quiet and noble service to the people of this province is something we will never forget.

While there have been numerous suggestions of a fitting tribute to Mr. Stanfield, talks with his family of just what would be the most suitable gesture are ongoing. I will share the results of these discussions with each Leader when appropriate.

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Leaders of the Opposition Parties wish to make remarks, following which, I would ask that we would stand for a moment of silence.

[Page 1972]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to join with the Premier in associating ourselves with his remarks. In preparing to speak of this today, I had an opportunity to review some of things that were said, and some of the material that was published at the time of his death, and also, to examine my own recollections of Mr. Stanfield, and some of the things that have been written about him over the years. For many people, the famous photograph of Mr. Stanfield dropping a football, became a kind of image of him, and I remember reading in Walter Stewart's book, called Divide and Con where he talked about Mr. Stanfield and he said, that people often didn't know that was one photograph on a roll of 35 others that would show him catching the ball, and it was a deliberate portrayal of him, that was, unfair, and really influenced people's kind of image of him at a critical point in an election campaign.

I know many of us who are here understand that politics is a pretty rough business at times, and you often get characterized as something other than what you are, and I think that was something that happened in that particular instance, to Mr. Stanfield , which was unfortunate, but you know something, he never, ever complained about it, he accepted it as a fact of life and he moved on with the job that he had, which was being the Leader of the Official Opposition, in Ottawa.

A remarkable man. I wanted to read one little thing that appeared in the Globe and Mail, because I thought it was very telling, and it said, the privileges of an upper class education contrasted with the poverty of the depression, and the writings of John Maynard Keynes brought Mr. Stanfield to conclude that he was a socialist, a sentiment that horrified his family, but he never entirely abandoned it, even when he was Conservative Leader, he was considered by His Party to be a red Tory. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I think that there are many people in this province, in particular, who have defined themselves as Stanfield Conservatives, and understand that meant a particular kind of view of the world, and I think it's one that many people appreciated because it blended compassion into every decision that he made. (Applause)

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to add my voice to the Premier's thoughtful comments about a great Nova Scotian and a great Canadian. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Robert Stanfield but I did admire him. He was a man of integrity well respected by all who knew him and all who knew of him. Both on the provincial and federal stages, Robert Stanfield devoted himself to the betterment of Nova Scotia and of Canada. It has been said that he was the best Prime Minister Canada never had. While Nova Scotians never had the opportunity to see that happen, we can all agree that he was one of the greatest Nova Scotians of our time. He will be missed. (Applause)

[Page 1973]

MR. SPEAKER: We will all rise for a moment of silence.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 785

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

Whereas in 1997 former Nova Scotia Premier John Savage turned his attention to helping build a medical clinic in the West African country of Niger to improve the lives of those working near the Etruscan Resources Mine; and

Whereas to honour his memory and that of his wife, Margaret, who both passed away last year, the Nigerian Government renamed the clinic this February in their names; and

Whereas thanks to other supporters of Dr. Savage's efforts, the connection between Nova Scotia and this sub-Saharan country reaches much further, including the establishment of a new relationship with Dalhousie Medical School;

Therefore be it resolved that all members join me in saluting the memory of this former Premier and his wonderful wife and their lasting gift, thank the Dartmouth Rotarians for their financial support to this project, and praise former MLA Doctor Ron Stewart for creating the new bond between our Medical School and the John and Margaret Savage Clinic.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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 1974]

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 786

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

Whereas on December 16th, the member for Halifax Citadel made a courageous statement in the foyer of this House, announcing his intention to step down from his post as head of his Party so that he could devote more time to his wife and family; and

Whereas not only was this decision admirable, so too was his decision to speak so forthrightly to the people of Nova Scotia about his wife's battle with cancer and the challenges that lie ahead; and

Whereas I am certain that all in this Legislature have Danny, his wife and their children in their prayers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join as one to commend the member of Halifax Citadel for his dedicated work as Leader, and offer to him and to Sheelagh and their sons our total support.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Standing Ovation)

The honourable Minister of Finance

RESOLUTION NO. 787

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

[Page 1975]

Whereas the Conference Board of Canada's new study, Understanding Health Care Cost Drivers and Escalators, underlines the fact that the federal government's ability to pay for health care is growing, while the provinces' is declining; and

Whereas the study shows that over the next 16 years all provinces and territorial governments are headed for deficits, while federal budget surpluses will increase dramatically; and

Whereas it indicates that by 2020 the 10 provinces and three territories are expected to post a collective deficit of $11 billion, while the federal government surplus should reach $78 billion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join together to urge our federal government leaders to heed the warnings contained in the Conference Board's report and return to a fairer and more meaningful partnership on health care funding for Nova Scotians and all Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 788

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

Whereas for a phenomenal 4th year in a row, Colleen Jones and her Team Canada won the Scott Tournament of Hearts in Red Deer, Alberta; and

Whereas Colleen, along with her Mayflower teammates - third Kim Kelly, second Mary-Anne Arsenault, and lead Nancy Delahunt, with the support of their fifth, Mary Sue Radford, and coach Ken Bagnell - are now the first to win four straight championships, and five in six years; and

[Page 1976]

Whereas with the victory Ms. Jones now has six Canadian titles as a skip, making her the most decorated skip in Canada among both men and women, experience which will serve them well in the Canadian Olympic curling trials in 2005;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this house send a hearty congratulations to this incredible, hard-working team, and wish them all the best as they prepare to represent Canada at the Worlds in Sweden between April 17th and 25th, after which time we hope to see them return with their second world title.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO.789

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

Whereas the curling rink of Mark Dacey has done something that no other team has been able to do for Nova Scotia for over half a decade - that is to bring home the Brier to our province; and

Whereas Mr. Dacey, along with his Mayflower teammates - third Bruce Lohnes, second Rob Harris, and lead Andrew Gibson, with the support of their fifth Matt Harris, and coach Peter Corkum - quenched our province's thirst for the title through pure skill and determination, coming from behind in the last three ends of the Nokia Brier in March to defeat the title holder of three years running, Alberta; and

Whereas their victory makes Halifax's Mayflower Curling Club the home to two national champs - with Colleen Jones' rink having just won its fourth straight national women's curling title - an incredible feat and a real show of Nova Scotia's curling talent;

[Page 1977]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send a warm congratulations to this hard-working team for finally bringing the men's curling title back to our province, and wish them every success as they prepare to represent Canada at the Worlds in Sweden.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 790

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

Whereas Nova Scotia continues to be one of the safest provinces in Canada to live, work, and raise a family, and this government believes further changes in areas of federal responsibility can help us in this enviable position; and

Whereas the national registry of sex offenders is an important tool in ensuring our communities remain safe for all; and

Whereas the people of Nova Scotia deserve, however, the added level of protection including previously convicted sex offenders in a national registry - a change that would ensure the police have the most accurate information possible in order to enhance that security;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House support the efforts of the Government of Nova Scotia which is requesting retroactivity of the National Sex Offender Registry so that vital information on previously convicted offenders is available to police and law enforcement agencies.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:30 p.m.]

[Page 1978]

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 responsible for Acadian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 791

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I will be doing this resolution in French and translating it in English afterwards.

M. le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que l'année 2004 marque le 400e anniversaire du premier établissement européen permanent en Amérique du Nord et la fondation de l'Acadie soulignés par un grand nombre de célébrations prenant place tout au long de l'année; et

Attendu que en reconnaissance de cet événement important et des célébrations qui se dérouleront tout au long de l'année, y compris le Congrès mondial acadien 2004, le Premier ministre a proclamé l'année 2004, "L'Année de l'Acadie"; et

Attendu que le drapeau acadien créé en 1883 par le Père Marcel François Richard et adopté par les Acadiens à la Convention nationale de Miscouche en 1884, a été hissé à la législature (Province House), le vendredi 2 avril 2004, et sera arboré tout au long de l'année 2004;

Qu'il soit résolu que les membres de cette législature se joignent afin de reconnaître les contributions significatives apportées par les Acadiens à la province de la Nouvelle-Écosse, et célébrer ces contributions en prenant part aux nombreuses activités qui auront lieu tout au long de cette année historique.

M. le président, je demande l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débat.

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

[Page 1979]

Whereas 2004 marks the 400th Anniversary of the first permanent European settlement in North America, the founding of Acadie marked by many celebrations taking place throughout the year; and

Whereas in celebration of this significant event and the year-long celebrations, including the Congrès mondial acadien 2004, the Premier has proclaimed 2004 as "L'Année de l'Acadie"; and

Whereas the Acadian flag, designed in 1883 by Père Marcel François Richard and adopted by Acadians at the Convention nationale in Miscouche in 1884, was raised at Province House on Friday, April 2, 2004 and will be displayed throughout the year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join together to recognize the many significant contributions made by Acadians to the Province of Nova Scotia and celebrate those contributions by participating in many celebrations taking place throughout this historic year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 792

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 recent CBC series Snakes & Ladders, while based in Ottawa, was shot in Halifax last September when its cast and crew withstood the trials of the post-Hurricane Juan; and

Whereas according to the director and the series' creator's comments, as posted on CBC's Web site, working in Halifax was a joy, our people are "top of their game" and our capital city is an "excellent" site to make a good picture; and

[Page 1980]

[Page 1981]

Whereas the production is yet another success for the province's growing film industry and also highlights the region's musical talent as the production collected over 200 CDs from independent artists across Canada with about two-thirds of the music chosen coming from the East Coast;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the work of those involved with the production of Snakes & Ladders, a very clever series highlighting the political activity on Parliament Hill and thank the producers for choosing to film here in Halifax, 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 responsible for African-Nova Scotian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 793

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

Whereas Michael Duck, owner of A.C. Dispensing Equipment of Lower Sackville was told in March that he was one of 12 African-Canadians to receive the Black Business and Professional Association Harry Jerome Award this year; and

Whereas like the man whose memory the award honours, Michael Duck is an outstanding citizen - his innovation has sparked a business which now employs 90 people in his own community; and

Whereas he has not only made a personal success of himself with his cream dispensers and other products capitalized on by Tim Hortons, Krispy Kreme and McDonald's, Mr. Duck takes what he has learned and passes his knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit on to students when he makes speaking appearances at school;

[Page 1982]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House send congratulations to Michael Duck on his most recent honour for showcasing Nova Scotian ingenuity to the world and for making sure young people know that with hard work, determination and believing in themselves, they too can reach for the stars.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 794

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 Junior Achievement Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame was established in 1993 and has, since that time, inducted 40 members, and in the last eight years has raised $800,000 for Junior Achievement Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Charles Keating, founder of Access Communications and President of Altimax Group; John W. Lindsay, founder of J.W. Lindsay Enterprises Ltd.; and Tom Stanfield, President and CEO of Stanfield's Ltd. will be honoured for their contributions to the business community and to society as a whole; and

Whereas these three have not only contributed enormously to their communities, but are excellent role models for young entrepreneurs as they exemplify the spirit of Junior Achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Stanfield, Mr. Lindsay and Mr. Keating on the announcement of their induction into the Hall of Fame, an event which will take place at the World Trade and Convention Centre on June 1st, and thank them for their outstanding past, present, and future contributions to our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1983]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 45 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 376 of the Revised Statues of 1989. The Public Service Act, to Protect the Taxpayers of Nova Scotia. (Hon. Michael Baker)

Bill No. 46 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 376 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Public Service Act, to Establish the Office of Health Promotion. (Hon. Rodney MacDonald)

Bill No. 47 - Entitled an Act to Establish the Council of Atlantic Premiers. (The Premier)

Bill No. 48 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Hon. James Muir)

Bill No. 49 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 17 of the Acts of 1998. The Mi'kmaq Education Act. (Hon. James Muir)

Bill No. 50 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 4 of the Acts of 1994. The Credit Union Act. (Hon. Kerry Morash)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 795

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

[Page 1984]

Whereas former Westray Mine owner Clifford Frame has applied to the Province of Nova Scotia to open a new mine, bringing back painful memories for the families of the 26 workers killed in that preventable accident; and

Whereas the Premier has said, "It must be examined if it is in the public interest that he again be in a position to affect the resources, wealth or interests of our province or its people and - most importantly - that he be entrusted with responsibility for the safety of even a single working person."; and

Whereas this House is entrusted with protecting the public interest and the health and welfare of all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House express their unreserved opposition to Mr. Frame's application, and to any such future applications he makes, so that he is never again entrusted with the responsibility for the safety of any working Nova Scotians.

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. 796

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

Whereas since the late 19th Century, the Jewish community of Cape Breton has contributed greatly to the cultural and economic development of Cape Breton after many fled religious persecution in their home countries; and

Whereas on April 18, 2004, at 2:30 p.m., an observance of Yom haShoah, Holocaust Memorial Day, will be held at the Temple Sons of Israel, Whitney Avenue in Sydney; and

[Page 1985]

Whereas guest speaker, George Scott, a Dachau concentration camp survivor, will be in attendance to help remember those 6 million who died and celebrate those who survived;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia remember those who died during the Holocaust and recognize all those who will observe Yom haShoah on Sunday, April 18th, especially those who will gather in Sydney.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 797

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

Whereas 24-year-old Pictou County resident, George Canyon, has seemingly overtaken Country Music City - Nashville, Tennessee with his outstanding performances in recent weeks; and

Whereas George has made it to the final five of Nashville Star, with hearts pumping that he will appear again this week as one of the final four contestants; and

Whereas Municipal Councillor Chester Dewar has ensured the full support of the municipality, as George brings a U.S.A. network film crew to Eureka, Westville, and the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry this Monday;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the outstanding talent of George Canyon, and offer our unqualified support as he works toward securing a record contract with Sony Music in Nashville.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1986]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 798

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

Whereas on March 17, 2004, Stora Enso's Port Hawkesbury mill had gone 365 days without a lost-time accident on its $90 million expansion project; and

Whereas this impressive record is a credit to the company, to its workers, members of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, and to the Cape Breton Building Trades Council, as is the expansion of this world-class Port Hawkesbury mill; and

Whereas Stora Enso's safety record shows other employers that they, too, can significantly reduce the personal and economic losses caused by lost-time workplace accidents and illness;

Therefore be it resolved that this House adds its congratulations to those already received by Stora Enso, its contractors, workers and all others associated with setting the record of 365 days without a lost-time accident on the expansion of its Port Hawkesbury mill.

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 1987]

The motion is carried.

[2:45 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 799

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

Whereas on Monday, April 12, 2004, Mrs. Rhoda Snow of Sydney River died after being lost in a wooded area because she suffered from Alzheimer's disease; and

Whereas over 8,000 people over the age of 65 suffer from Alzheimer's disease in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ted Snow, husband of Rhoda Snow, is speaking publically about this debilitating disease and its impact:

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly, express their deep sympathy to Rhoda Snow's family and congratulate Ted Snow, for heightening the awareness of Alzheimer's disease.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 800

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

[Page 1988]

Whereas Dr. F.R. (Fred) MacKinnon has long been recognized for the pivotal role he's played in the development of social welfare policy, education and practice in his home Province of Nova Scotia and indeed in Canada; and

Whereas among his many significant accomplishments are the founding of the Maritime School of Social Work, the abolition of the Poor Law and the introduction of modern social assistance legislation, the establishment of the Department of Public Welfare, the Human Rights Commission and the Senior Citizens' Secretariat; and

Whereas today, April 15, 2004, Dr. MacKinnon's book, "Reflections: Fifty Five Years in Public Service in Nova Scotia" will be launched at Pier 21, as well as the announcement of the F.R. MacKinnon Scholarship for studies in social work;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature extend our congratulations and best wishes to Dr. MacKinnon, his wife Mary, and their family, on this special occasion which marks the outstanding contributions made by Dr. MacKinnon through his tireless dedication to public service to the citizens of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 801

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

Whereas the American Library Association has once again recognized the Halifax public libraries for their commitment to promoting an early start to reading, by awarding them the John Cotton Dana Library Public Relations Award; and

Whereas this award is in recognition of the Halifax public library summer reading program, Summer Ready Quest; and

[Page 1989]

Whereas the contribution of the staff throughout the Halifax public libraries is to be commended, without the continued dedication and hard work of these individuals, the summer program would not be the tremendous success it has been;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the Halifax public libraries on receipt of the prestigious John Cotten Dana Library Public Relations Award.

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 Guysborough -Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 802

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

Whereas in what was the only defeat in the week-long championship, the Chedabucto Rink of Jill Mouzar made Canada proud by capturing the silver medal in the Women's World Junior Curling Championship in Trois-Rivieres last month; and

Whereas the spectacular result was thanks to the hard work of Ms. Mouzar and her teammates: third, Page Mattie and sisters Blisse, and Chloe Comstock at the second and lead, along with the team's alternate, Robyn Mattie and coach Donald A Mattie; and

Whereas Canada still leads all nations with eight victories since the women's world juniors began in 1988;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send our congratulations to this determined and talented young group of women and wish them all the best in their next curling venture.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1990]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honorable member for Cole Harbor-Eastern Passage

RESOLUTION NO. 803

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

Whereas Ross H. Haynes, the man more commonly referred to as "that guy on the CBC TV political panel with Marila Stephenson", has been named to this year's Queen's Counsel appointment list; and

Whereas Mr. Haynes has laboured in the shadows for years on behalf of Canada's political right; and

Whereas Mr. Haynes deserves some attention for his stalwart attempts to defend the indefensible;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Haynes for getting the recognition he deserves from this government for all his hard work.

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 Preston.

[Page 1991]

RESOLUTION NO. 804

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

Whereas the Lake Echo Lioness Club was founded 25 years ago on April 23, 1979, and without recognition by members of our community and selfless work for the overall good of the community; and

Whereas throughout the years they have been performing valuable community service work in the Lake Echo community; and

Whereas they are celebrating their 25th Charter Night on April 17, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the Lake Echo Lioness Club on the occasion of their 25th Charter Night and encourage their members to continue their excellent community service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 805

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

Whereas students at Tatamagouche Elementary School, led by eight-year-old Josh Dunn, are donating their time to ensure the memory of a First World War veteran buried at a local cemetery is never obscured; and

Whereas since the time of his death in July 1944, the grave of Oswald (Oscar) Crowe has never had a permanent marker; and

[Page 1992]

Whereas Josh began his work toward raising the $700 needed for a grave marker by donating $20 his mother gave him for four hours of work carrying grocery store boxes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly acknowledge the tremendous work being undertaken by students at Tatamagouche Elementary School and wish them every success with their exceptionally noble gesture.

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. 806

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

Whereas on March 14th, skip Colleen Jones, a resident of Halifax Chebucto, and her teammates, second Mary-Anne Waye, third Kim Kelly, and lead Nancy Delahunt, curling out of the Mayflower Curling Club of Halifax, won their sixth Scott Tournament of Hearts national title; and

Whereas this win was their record-setting sixth national title, the fourth in a row between 2001 and 2004; and

Whereas the Jones rink won the world title in 2001 and captured a silver medal at the 2003 World Championship and this weekend begin their pursuit of the 2004 World Championship in Gayle, Sweden;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Colleen Jones, Mary-Anne Waye, Kim Kelly and Nancy Delahunt on their victory at the Scott Tournament of Hearts and extend our best wishes to them at the World Championships in Sweden;

[Page 1993]

Therefore be it further resolved that this House extend our thanks to the team for their exemplary representation of the Province of Nova Scotia at both of these curling events.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 807

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 members of the Liberal caucus have spent the last three months consulting with Nova Scotians on the issue of health care wait times; and

Whereas meeting face to face with nurses, doctors, administrators, non-profit organizations and the public has been an invaluable learning experience; and

Whereas push polls and uttering priorities without a concrete plan can never replace listening to people in communities throughout this province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House acknowledge and recognize the importance of meaningful consultation with health care providers and indeed all Nova Scotians when it comes to the important issue of health care wait times.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1994]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 808

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

Whereas January 12, 2004, marked the 100th Anniversary of the first meeting of the Municipal Council of Kings County in what was, at the time, the new county courthouse in Kentville; and

Whereas today the courthouse is home to the Kings County Museum which is operated by the dedicated volunteers of the Kings Historical Society; and

Whereas 2004 also marks the 25th Anniversary of the Kings County Historical Society;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in extending our best wishes to the Kings County Museum and Kings County Historical Society on their respective anniversaries, and wish them much success in their important efforts to preserve the history of Kings 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 member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 809

[Page 1995]

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

Whereas the wonderful Heatherbell Girls Pipe & Drum Band of Pictou are celebrating their 40th Anniversary; and

Whereas the Heatherbell Girls Pipe & Drum Band have been great ambassadors for Nova Scotia over the years as they travelled to various provinces in Canada and states in the U.S.A.; and

Whereas over those 40 years, the literally hundreds of young women who have been proud to call themselves Heatherbells have won numerous competitions and awards for their soul-stirring music;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Heatherbell Girls Pipe & Drum Band for 40 years of great music, and wish them all the best for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 810

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

Whereas 16-year-old Daniel James Everett Canning from Middle River, Cape Breton has won a silver medal in the Canadian National Powerlifting Competition in Ontario in March of this year; and

Whereas he trained at home, with no formal gym, in the front porch of his parents' house; and

[Page 1996]

Whereas he will be competing in South Africa, representing Canada and Nova Scotia in particular, in September and is a model example for today's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Daniel James Everett Canning.

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. 811

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

Whereas Sister Peggy Butts, the first Roman Catholic nun to be appointed to the Senate of Canada, passed away in March at the age of 79; and

Whereas this Bridgeport, Cape Breton, native was remembered by friends as a brilliant educator, dedicated to social justice issues such as obtaining federal funds for a breakfast program at schools in Cape Breton, an initiative she undertook while a senator; and

Whereas with a PhD in political philosophy as her foundation, she served as a high school principal in Cape Breton and later taught at St. Francis Xavier University and the University of Cape Breton, and also worked on health care and social projects, and assisted many other groups across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge and express our thanks for the rich life of Sister Peggy Butts, a Nova Scotian who was so aptly described by one colleague and friend as having made an unconditional pledge to the well-being of our community to do what she could to make life better.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1997]

[Page 1998]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 812

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 steering committee for Knowledge is Power has received funding from the Community Mobilization Program, the National Crime Prevention Strategy, and Human Resources and Skills Development for another year of crime prevention work; and

Whereas the steering committee members held a community celebration day to start the second phase of the crime prevention activities; and

Whereas this crime prevention activity will focus on our youth and help them get involved in the community through an approach called Building Assets in Youth;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the steering committee for Knowledge is Power on the great work being done with crime prevention in their community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1999]

The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

RESOLUTION NO. 813

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

Whereas the Saint Francis Xavier X-Men won the 2004 men's hockey championship with a dominating performance at the CIS Hockey Championship Tournament in Fredericton; and

Whereas the X-Men represented their school and the Province of Nova Scotia with distinction and pride; and

Whereas this is the first hockey title for St. F.X., it continues a tradition of sporting excellence from the X-Men and -Women in many sports over the proud history of this truly Nova Scotian institution;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the head coach, Danny Flynn, assistants, Greg MacDonald, John Kibyuk and son of the Minister of Health, Kyle MacIsaac and all of the outstanding student athletes from the St. F.X. men's hockey team on their first - but certainly not their last - national hockey championship.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 814

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

[Page 2000]

Whereas after maintaining a correctional centre built prior to Confederation, Yarmouth now hosts the province's newest correctional facility in the continuing shift toward modern design and safety features that ensures the best protection for the public, correctional employees and inmates; and

Whereas the Southwest Nova Scotia Correctional Facility will hold up to 38 offenders who serve sentences of less than two years; and

Whereas the investment in a safe, secure facility shows that this government takes its commitment to public safety seriously;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank those involved in seeing this project to a successful conclusion, a centre which not only enhances the safety of our citizens but which also provides the area with positive economic spinoffs and 30 permanent correctional jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 815

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

Whereas John Hubba Parris has for many years been an unsung musical hero on Cape Breton Island, providing us with great musical entertainment with his band Spyder; and

Whereas John Hubba Parris has helped to pave the way for many of today's successful artists on the East Coast and has so been recognized by the East Coast music industry; and

[Page 2001]

Whereas John Hubba Parris has been honoured with one of the five 2004 Stompin' Tom Connors Awards for his longtime musical contributions to the East Coast music industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate John Hubba Parris for receiving a Stompin' Tom Connors Award and recognize his outstanding and long-lasting musical contribution to the East Coast music industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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. 816

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

Whereas this January, local Queens resident, Craig M. Harding, was appointed the Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service's Chief Crown Attorney for the western region of the province; and

Whereas Public Prosecutions Director, Martin Herschorn, described Mr. Harding as entering the service with outstanding credentials and said Mr. Harding's many years of experience with the western region and its legal community made him an excellent choice as Chief Crown Attorney; and

Whereas this veteran Crown Attorney has appeared regularly in all levels of court in various locations in Nova Scotia, just recently completing a secondment to the special prosecutions section and has served briefly as acting Chief Crown Attorney of the western region;

[Page 2002]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the appointment of an individual who, through service in both private and public practice, has a proven commitment to his community in upholding the laws of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 817

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

Whereas during his career with the Halifax Regional School Board, Ron Harrie served as an exemplary employee; and

Whereas on Friday, February 27th, friends and colleagues gathered at the White's Lake Legion to celebrate Ron's retirement; and

Whereas as head custodian at Brookside Junior High School, Ron Harrie took personal pride every day in his work and in his school;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Ron Harrie on his retirement with best wishes for a great many years in the future with his wife, Carolyn.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2003]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Before I begin, usually we are in a race to get these things done but today I did not at all feel badly that the honourable member for Halifax Citadel got ahead of me because indeed he is a former member of the St. F.X. varsity hockey team and it is appropriate that he would deliver that message and he was able to say something about the coaching staff that I didn't feel comfortable in pointing out. So I thank you for that, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 818

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

Whereas St. Francis Xavier University has a remarkable hockey tradition and - for the first time in their history the St. F.X. X-Men have won the CIS Championship title by coming from two goals behind to beat the hometown UNB team in double overtime; and

Whereas the St. F.X. hockey players exhibited true teamwork under the exceptional direction of head coach Danny Flynn and his dedicated staff; and

Whereas this year the strength of the Atlantic University Conference was evident as an Atlantic tide swept the tournament with St. F.X. winning the gold medal, the University of New Brunswick winning the silver medal and Dalhousie University winning the bronze medal;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the St. F.X. X-Men's hockey team and their coaching staff on their tremendous win at the CIS national hockey tournament and recognize the incredible talent and dedication of all those involved in university hockey in this province and the Maritimes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2004]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 819

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

Whereas Andy Conrad, head coach of the Sackville Blazers Junior B hockey team and the Sackville Blazers, recently won the Don Johnson Cup, the Atlantic Canadian Championship for the Junior B Hockey Division; and

Whereas like the man whose memory the award honours, Andy Conrad is an outstanding citizen - his commitment to his community and to the Sackville Blazers Junior B hockey team has motivated both players and parents alike; and

Whereas for the first time in the team's history they have won the Don Johnson Cup for two consecutive years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their congratulations to Andy Conrad and the Sackville Blazers Junior B team on their most recent win and for showcasing Nova Scotia's determination and drive to the rest of Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2005]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 3:07 p.m. and will end at 4:07 p.m.

The honourable Acting Leader the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm just curious, is the Minister of Education here for the Question Period? (Interruption) Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 3:08 p.m. and end at 4:08 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH: NURSING HOMES - ASSESSMENT APPEALS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, seniors in this province are still waiting for this government to stop the practice of impoverishing people who require care in nursing homes. Seniors like Syd and Constance Coutts. Mrs. Coutts has dementia yet the Department of Health has denied her entrance to a nursing home because the couple is appealing their assessment which is their right to do. Mr. Coutts has cancer and will not be able to care for his wife much longer so my question for the Premier is this, how can his government deny seniors the care they need simply because they exercise their right to appeal these unfair financial assessments?

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the honourable members and to the House that we continue to work to improve the situation for seniors in this province. Every year the budget for seniors' care is increasing and will continue to increase.

MR. DEXTER: Well, robbing them of their life savings is not improving the situation for seniors.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the honourable member to retract that. Robbing is unparliamentary.

MR. DEXTER: Okay, well taking their life savings. I want to table information we received through the freedom of information process that shows that the Department of Health has now identified an additional $82.6 million in the life savings of seniors that they intend to take from them in order to pay for health care that everyone else gets as part of the Medicare system. That's a 51 per cent increase over 2002 and this was after the changes that

[Page 2006]

this government made that they said improved the situation for seniors. I want to ask the Premier, how can your government justify telling seniors to hand over their life savings or go without the care you need?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government continues to work to provide the kinds of benefits that will make the lives of seniors even better in the Province of Nova Scotia and we will continue to do so.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier fails to understand that the people of this province have come to a consensus on this issue, that this practice is immoral, it is unethical and it must end sooner rather than later. My question to the Premier is, what will it take for the government to hear the message from Nova Scotians and end the financial assessments and cover health care costs for seniors immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government takes particular pride in the lengths that it goes to hear about and subsequently react to the views of Nova Scotians. Over the last number of months and years the government has been aggressively travelling about Nova Scotians and listening to their concerns. We know what the concerns of Nova Scotians are and we are working to identify the funding that will allow us to react positively to those concerns.

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

FIN. - TAX CUT: MISTAKE - ADMIT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. It is no secret that the number one issue facing Nova Scotians is health care. Our health care required careful management, but as the Premier suddenly found out after five years, health care requires money. The Premier decided last Spring that instead of properly funding health care, he would give away $220 million in revenue. Given the fiscal situation of the province, will the Premier finally admit he made a mistake by handing out $155 cheques and the 10 per cent tax cut?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't think providing tax relief to working Nova Scotians is a mistake.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce has said that the tax cut was premature. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the tax cut is creating a social deficit. Even the bond-rating agency, Standard & Poors, have said the tax cut reduces the flexibility to properly fund services. People are waiting too long for essential health care; tuition fees mean only the wealthy will go to university; and Nova Scotia's road system faces a $3 billion infrastructure deficit. Given the overwhelming weight of evidence

[Page 2007]

that Nova Scotia cannot afford the Premier's pre-election giveaway, why won't the Premier finally admit he made a mistake?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in the preamble to the question, the Leader of the Liberal Party mentioned the word flexibility. One thing that we could not accuse that caucus of is being inflexible. If the Leader of the Liberal Party would look immediately behind him, he would see sitting there the member for Cape Breton East who said in this (Interruption) For Glace Bay, thank you, and I do like the new name better, but the member for Glace Bay said in this place and it is recorded in Hansard on May 11, 2000 that if the Tories ever do get around to giving Nova Scotians a tax break, which I hope I am here to see - well, Mr. Speaker, he saw it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier forgot to indicate that the honourable member for Glace Bay indicated a tax cut that we could afford. That's what he said, I was here. (Interruptions)

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party, your final supplementary.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, over the next five years, the choices made by this Premier means $700 million will not be available for health care, education and infrastructure. Nova Scotia already spends less on programs than any other province in Canada. The only two people left in this province who believe that the tax cut was a good idea are the Leader of the NDP and the Premier. So my final question to the Premier is, where will the Premier find $700 million over the next five years that could have been spent on health, education and roads?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, a further glance at Hansard and looking at May 2, 2000, a time when we had indicated to Nova Scotians we wouldn't reduce income tax until such time as the books were balanced, the same member for Glace Bay said, "I mentioned the bracket creep. The Premier says there will be no reduction of taxes until the books are balanced. Why will the government not agree to this six months' hoist . . ." The Liberal Party is extremely flexible in its position on taxes.

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

INSURANCE: PUB. AUTO SYSTEM - STUDY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, just this month an all-Party committee in New Brunswick determined that a public auto insurance system in that province can provide lower and fairer rates. I want to table that report. In New Brunswick the Progressive

[Page 2008]

Conservative Government, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party all undertook a serious study of public auto insurance because of the benefits it offers to drivers. They put drivers first. So my question to the Premier is, why won't you follow the lead of New Brunswick and undertake a serious study of public auto insurance in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I looked with a great deal of interest at the report that came out. I understand that Elizabeth Weir led the committee that generated that report and following an examination of that report, it solidly endorses the steps that we have taken, because what they are proposing in New Brunswick to provide significant relief is not something that that Leader of the New Democratic Party is talking about. He has never talked about no fault insurance, he never talked about no payment for pain and suffering, he never talked about limited economic recompense for accidents. That's what this report talks about and Nova Scotians would never buy that.

MR. DEXTER: That's ironic, Mr. Speaker, because that's exactly what their bill has already done, limited people's rights to recover. That's what they've done. The Consumer Association of Canada has demonstrated that car insurance rates are cheaper in the western provinces with public auto insurance and in fact, they are 100 per cent cheaper, a fact that was also identified in that report, if the Premier cares to read it. Now, Mr. Premier, how much longer do you plan to stand in the way of a New Brunswick-style, thorough, independent study?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand an independent study done by the Fraser Alert and the major conclusions of that study, the main conclusion of that study - and I can table a copy of this when I'm through with it - the four public auto insurance provinces, collectively, have the highest average premiums in Canada. The second point, next year they will be 18 per cent more expensive than private sector provinces if legislated rollbacks occur and will take four of the top five highest premiums slots.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I will read the subsequent two points after I've heard the next question. (Laughter)

MR. DEXTER: The well-known independent Fraser Institute, that's a new one. Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a Cabinet briefing document dated May 28th, that I have obtained that shows that the Progressive Conservative Government based their entire auto insurance plan on the outcome of the New Brunswick election. My question to the Premier is, since you were so interested in following the lead of New Brunswick before, why don't you follow the lead now and undertake a serious study of public auto insurance for Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that is very simple, because I'm seeing a report before me that would indicate that it would be a waste of money. What this report goes on to conclude: British Columbia, in 2004, will be the most expensive, 27 per cent

[Page 2009]

higher than the national average; and P.E.I. and Nova Scotia have the cheapest, at 36 per cent and 33 per cent below the average. It goes on to say - point four - it is a myth that the public insurance provinces have cheap insurance. Appropriate measurement and assessment of hidden subsidies and inadequate financial reserves reveal the true picture.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - QE II: WAIT TIMES - SOLUTIONS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as much as I would like to ask the Premier a question, my question is for the Minister of Health. Earlier this year emergency room staff at the QE II, frustrated and concerned, went public with the state of conditions in the emergency department there. A report produced by the Capital District just this week showed that the average time a Level II patient waited to be seen by a doctor at the QE II was one hour and 16 minutes. National standards indicate that same Level II patient should be seen in 15 minutes. To make matters worse, the same Level II patient spent a total of six hours and 30 minutes in the ER department. Obviously, things are no better. My question to the minister is, if he would please put aside any public relations responses, tell the QE II ER employees and, indeed, all residents in the Capital District what specific actions you're going to take to solve the problems of wait times at the QE II emergency department?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question because it gives me an opportunity not only to speak in the future tense with respect to the actions that we will take, but to speak in the present tense with respect to the actions that we are taking. We have opened 21 long-term care beds. The purpose of that is to increase the rate of flow of patients through the ER unit. We have approved the go-forward plan with respect to the expansion of the ER services at the QE II. There are a number of other programs underway, administered by the Capital District Health Authority, and those plans are proceeding.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, obviously it's not working. The minister was warned publicly in January that things were bad, and then this government produced an $80,000 brochure on the state of health care in the province and, guess what, not one mention of the crisis at the ER department at the QE II and, indeed, other emergency departments in the Capital District, such as the Dartmouth General Hospital. The minister can no longer hide from reality, things are at a crisis stage, staff have been telling us for months now. They've offered the minister solutions, yet we've heard nothing from this minister. My question to the minister, as the minister responsible for health and well-being of patients in this province, will the minister please advise us as to when a successful action plan is going to be announced?

[Page 2010]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the honourable member and the House is that an action plan is underway, and that action plan embodies the suggestions that were brought forward from the employees and the Capital District Health Authority. They had a plan in the works, and that plan is being implemented. I can tell you that the results of the implementation of that plan are results that will take time to be felt, because they are incremental steps and they will, and are attacking this problem, and we are beginning to see the results of that initiative.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that this government forgot to tell Nova Scotians that they had a plan to destroy services in health care in this province instead of enhancing services, and that's exactly what has happened.

My final question to the minister is, given that this minister has failed to produce a workable plan, at least will the minister commit here today that he will listen to, and implement, some of the suggestions from the QE II ER staff to help solve the current crisis at the QE II?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I already indicated, we are in the process of implementing suggestions that were brought forward, but if the honourable member really wants to understand the nature of the problem we're facing and the time frame that it will require in order to implement the plan and correct the problem, the honourable member should understand that, when they were the government of this province, they were supposed to create two emergency facilities to handle the patient flow in the district. That was not done and we are implementing that and we are increasing the capacity of emergency services in this province. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

CAPE BRETON: ECON. GROWTH STRATEGY - DEVELOP

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, over the last number of months all Nova Scotians have watched as the Premier of Nova Scotia has opted to do battle with leaders in Cape Breton instead of working with them. Members of the Progressive Conservative Party in fact have gone so far as to even deny that there is a problem in Cape Breton - they say things are not as bleak as they appear. Yet, according to the most recent demographic statistics, Cape Breton has lost more than 10,000 people, roughly 10 per cent of the island's population. The island's unemployment level is double that of the rest of the province. So my question for the Premier is quite straightforward, when do you plan to acknowledge that there is a problem in Cape Breton and present an economic growth strategy to deal with it?

[Page 2011]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do acknowledge that the member opposite brings a significant issue to the floor of the House of Assembly for discussion. It is for that reason that we have paid particular attention to many, many issues that are important to the people who live on the Island of Cape Breton. We have made significant investments in their health care delivery system, including increased facilities, for example, for dialysis. We have announced a significant investment in the community college in that community. We have done significant investments in infrastructure, including road infrastructure on the Island of Cape Breton. We have been instrumental in creating many, many new jobs in Cape Breton through the activities of the Office of Economic Development and through Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. This government has worked very, very hard to turn around the economy of Cape Breton and to provide a level of optimism that now exists in Cape Breton that was not there in 1999.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure where the Premier has been. I do know this though - he has never attended a meeting of the Cape Breton Regional Municipal Council, that's for certain. Instead of discussing the issue, the Hamm Government has spent the last year denying revenue and expenditure information to CBRM officials, and last month the Premier finally released some numbers - although they are still refusing the specifics. They sent the minister down to scold members of the council. The municipality has been told to file a freedom of information request to access the information that the Premier has at his fingertips. So my question to the Premier is this, why are you fighting with municipal leaders instead of providing positive leadership to address the crisis in Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have provided a plethora of information both publicly and to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality outlining in graphic detail the investments that we are making to the citizens on behalf of the citizens of their area and while it would appear that they want an exhaustive accounting, what we can say is that we have provided them with ample evidence to show them that this government has not neglected either the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, the government of or the people of.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Premier may refer to it as an exhaustive accounting, I think the people of Cape Breton refer to it as a fair accounting. The island is blessed with thousands of hard-working people, valuable resources and a vibrant tourism industry. Now, if the people of Cape Breton could only have a Premier who would work with them instead of against them, they could turn the fortunes of the island around.

My question is, Mr. Speaker, how many more years does the Premier plan to make municipal leaders in Cape Breton wait before he sits down at the table with them?

[Page 2012]

THE PREMIER: We are very anxious, Mr. Speaker, to dialogue and work with all leaders in Cape Breton to provide a good working relationship with all levels of leadership on the Island of Cape Breton that will have, as its primary objective, the promotion of a better lifestyle for all of those in Cape Breton, promoting a positive image all across Canada of what is going on on Cape Breton Island.

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

HEALTH: COMFORT ALLOWANCE - POLICY

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My question today, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Health. A comfort allowance of $105 per month is paid to subsidized seniors living in nursing homes. It has not been increased in more than a decade and the minister's department controls what seniors can spend this money on. Would the minister agree that this is an outdated policy which shows disrespect for seniors living in nursing homes?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for that question because I can, in fact, let the honourable member know that in the very near future we will remove the restrictions on seniors with respect to how they spend the comfort allowance.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: So you are going to remove the restrictions but it is still going to remain at $105. Is that what you are telling me, Mr. Minister?

Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the last election, August 4th to be exact, seniors living in nursing homes across this province were led to believe by the Premier that he cared about them when he promised he would increase their comfort allowance. Unfortunately, that is the last the seniors have heard from the Premier, which points out just another broken promise in the last election for this Premier. I would ask the minister again, would the minister advise this House if he has taken any steps toward implementing the Premier's promise?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that yes, indeed, we are continuing to address that commitment and the honourable member should stay tuned.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again it is eight months since the Premier made that promise and seniors in homes are still waiting for the Premier's promise to be kept. It's the 21st Century and time for the government to stop taking a government-knows-best approach to how seniors can spend money in nursing homes. The Liberal caucus has made its views known on this subject and we propose to increase the comfort allowance in homes for special care for seniors to $200 a month from the $105 that is now being paid. I would ask the minister, does he agree that $200 a month is a reasonable amount to pay seniors in this day and age for their comforts in nursing homes?

[Page 2013]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, this is a matter that we are continuing to address and he should stay tuned. It is a matter that the Premier has made a commitment on and that commitment is being worked on with respect to achieving that objective.

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

EDUC.: COMMUN. COLL. - TUITION INCREASES

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Acting Minister of Education. Slightly more than a year ago this Premier and the Acting Minister of Education today, who was the Minister of Education then, stood on the Halifax waterfront proclaiming their commitment to the Nova Scotia Community College system, but that was then - before an election, incidentally - and this is now. Despite the government's rosy pronouncements and the roadshow, where they went to each and every one of the campuses, turning sods and cutting ribbons, the Nova Scotia Community College still has the lowest funding per capita in this country. Then last night, the Board of the Nova Scotia Community College was forced to recommend a $350 tuition increase over the next few years. My question to the acting minister is, when his Party campaigned last summer, shouldn't the promise have been, to community college students, multi-year tuition increases, that's what has really happened?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for reminding the House and all Nova Scotians of the tremendous commitment this government has made to post-secondary education in this province, and in particular with the community colleges, we have committed a $123 million program. I thank the honourable member for reminding everybody of that.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, well let me remind the acting minister of a few other things. While the college's per capita funding is the lowest in the country, its tuition fees are among the highest. But let me quote, and I will table, for the interest of members, from the college's marketing plan, its master plan, where they say, "This will increase by $100 to $2,250 for the 2003-04 academic year, the final year of a three year program of gradual increase." I will continue the quote, if I may, "There are no planned increases in tuition in subsequent years as the College's tuition fees are among the top third of community colleges in Canada." Mr. Acting Minister, why does your government fund community colleges at the lowest level in Canada but force tuition fees to be among the highest in this country?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question and I would remind the honourable member and members of the House that the report from which he reads is a 2002 document, and we are now in the 2004-05 budget year. But, again, I want to remind the honourable member and all members of the House that we have made

[Page 2014]

a real commitment to community colleges in this province, we are refurbishing them, we are building new ones, we're increasing programs, expanding their capacity, and providing greater opportunities for students in this province.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn my attention to universities, who had a $1 million clawback, from them, by this government last Fall, and now they're grappling with tuition increases. NASCAD, of which I am proud to say I have a daughter who attends, hiked tuition by $200 per student; Saint Mary's by $210, along with a $60 per credit fee; and Dalhousie is apparently planning an increase of nearly $400 per student. Mr. Acting Minister, students are upset. For five years now this government has reached into the pockets of students and their families, and it has to stop. Mr. Acting Minister, why does your government insist on balancing the budget on the backs of post-secondary students in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, earlier in today's session we were reminded that it was a Progressive Conservative Government that in fact initiated the support to universities in this province. We have been restoring the support to universities in this province, and we have brought it back to levels that existed previously when the last government cut funding to universities. For any member to suggest that we are cutting back in support to universities is totally inaccurate and does not reflect the situation that exists in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC.: TUITION INCREASES/TAX CUTS - CORRELATION

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, last Spring this government made a choice, and they chose to play politics at the expense of our students. The government has not listened to student leaders. Perhaps that's where the minister is today, on his first tour, to have a listen to the students of this province who know that government needs to invest more in post-secondary education. Instead, students are paying the highest tuition in the country, to pay for $220 million in pre-election cheques and the tax cut. My question to the Premier is, at what point did you and your Cabinet colleagues decide that students would have to pay for the tax cut through higher tuition?

THE PREMIER: I refer that question to the Acting Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it's convenient that I am able to use the same answer to the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect's third supplementary in response to this first question today. We have not cut funding to universities; in fact, we have restored funding that that Party cut when they were government. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Kings West on your first supplementary.

[Page 2015]

MR. GLAVINE: . . . increase in tuition for the year 2004-05, Saint Mary's University is set for a 4.5 per cent increase in tuition and we know other universities are about to follow. With increased operational costs, recruiting expenditures and deferred maintenance costs, our young people are being expected to fork over thousands of dollars more to ensure the continuance of their education. In fact, we know of cases where students have had to drop out of their programs after three years. Mr. Acting Minister, when will you acknowledge that post-secondary education funding is inadequate and students should not be asked to pay for the mistakes of this government?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when we formed the government in 1999, we acknowledged that funding to universities was inadequate because of cuts by the previous government. We have restored that money and we are continuing to support students and universities in this province. They can object all they want over there, but I can only imagine how much better it would be for students in this province had they not cut the way they did in the first instance.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, a university education is now out of reach for many Nova Scotians. The problem will only get worse as long as government continues to underfund universities. It will get worse unless students can get some debt relief. And may I remind the government how they hid behind the Millennium Scholarship. Over the next five years $700 million will go to tax cuts. What will you do to assure student leaders in the gallery today that $700 million won't be taken away from post-secondary education, and multi-year funding, not multi-year tuition increases, will be implemented?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the honourable member, and all Nova Scotians, is that we will continue to support the universities of this province, and we continue to support the students of this province with a very effective compensation program for student loan repayment where students are able to write off, as my memory serves me correctly, as much as 50 per cent of the provincial loans that they take out. That's a program that I had the pleasure of introducing when I was minister. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE - AUTO PLAN: N.B. ELECTION - IMPACT

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Official Opposition tabled a Cabinet briefing document that was confidential until today; the subject, auto insurance. This briefing document, delivered to Cabinet on May 28th, doesn't say that the key indicator for the government's choice is how to obtain the lowest rates for Nova Scotians. The document doesn't say that the key indicator is how to obtain the fairest rates for Nova Scotians. So my question to the Premier is, why does this confidential Cabinet briefing document say that the key indicator in the government's choice of an auto insurance plan is the outcome of the New Brunswick election?

[Page 2016]

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is concerned about the amount of money that people are paying for automobile insurance. Therein lies the motivation of the government to come forward with a plan that was reasonable, affordable, and workable, and that plan is working. Nova Scotians, on average, are now paying less for automobile insurance than they were before we implemented the plan, and the plan will continue to benefit auto insurance purchasers in Nova Scotia. It's a good plan and it is a working plan.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, this same document says that this government must avoid the New Brunswick image of shifting policy based on the latest door knocked on in the campaign. Elsewhere, it talks about engineering a photo op, so that the minister can stand beside the consumer advocate. So my question to the Premier, why is this confidential Cabinet briefing document on auto insurance focused on image and photo ops rather than on how to obtain the lowest and fairest rates for Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that advice that comes to Cabinet is privileged advice. What's really important is not the advice that comes to Cabinet, it is the ultimate decision that Cabinet makes. Is it the right decision or the wrong decision? That's the way you don't want the debate to go, because Cabinet made the right decision.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, sprinkled throughout the document is reference to the government's so-called final solution to auto insurance. Yet, after this Cabinet briefing was delivered, the government changed its policy, changed its policy again, changed the policy enough to bring the Liberals on board, and once the Liberals were safely on board and legislation passed in this House, they changed their policy again. When will the Premier admit that the government's auto insurance solution has failed the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what the government cannot do, is say to the people of Nova Scotia that we can reduce automobile insurance to a level where they were many years ago. What the Government of Nova Scotia can achieve on behalf of the people of the province, is to make sure that they get full value for very premium dollar that they invest in an automobile insurance policy. The initiative that we have taken has resulted in a process that does exactly that - good solid value for the money.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - BIO-SOLIDS GUIDELINES:

INPUT - DEADLINE EXTEND

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the deadline for the public to comment on the Department of Environment and Labour's bio-solids guidelines. These

[Page 2017]

guidelines will affect our food, our air, and our water quality, yet the public was given just 16 days to reply. There is a great deal of controversy surrounding this issue, and Nova Scotians need more time. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, will you extend the deadline for public response?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Thank you for the question. Mr. Speaker, we've certainly had some correspondence with regard to an extension, and as I am sure the honourable member opposite would appreciate, we're under a relatively short timeline right now trying to look at the moratorium, but that doesn't mean that additional discussion wouldn't be ongoing after we look at that.

MS. MASSEY: Well, recently the government did extend the response time for ATV off-highway vehicle response, so I will just remind you of that. Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, bio-solids contain everything that we flush down the sewage pipes, and we're talking about spreading that on our fields in Nova Scotia. Bio-solids have been found to contain pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and even paint thinner. Just a few months ago the minister thought the issue was serious enough to put a moratorium in place. My question to the minister is, what will it take for you to extend the moratorium to ensure the public does have more time?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we certainly believe that this is a serious issue and we want to take our time, we want to make sure that we have input and comment, and we want to make sure that we do everything safely. So we're working in that direction. We do have some timelines that we're working under, but the educational process and the discussions will be ongoing, certainly for the next number of months.

MS. MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, we have a responsibility to protect our air, our land and our water quality; in fact, the government said they agreed with these principles in their green plan. I have been told already by HRM officials that they plan to recommend that the bio-solids not be used on root crops. Clearly this issue needs more time. So I'm asking again, can you extend the moratorium and allow people to have more time to respond to this very important issue? Two weeks is ridiculous.

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we're certainly looking at all avenues and we aren't trying to cut off any kind of public input. Because of the timelines, we do have a shortened space in which we have to look at this and we really want to make sure that we have the public involved.

[Page 2018]

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

EDUC. - UNIVERSITIES:

BD. OF GOV. - STUDENT PARTICIPATION

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, at a time of steadily increasing tuitions that account for more than 40 per cent of university revenues, along with the fact that there have been faculty and staff strikes at two of the province's universities, surely the minister would agree that it is time to increase the number of students governing these important issues.

Given the fact that the minister is not available, I would ask if perhaps the Premier could speak, on behalf of the government, to this particular issue. Will the Premier give some confirmation as to whether his government is prepared to introduce legislation in this session to increase the participation of students on the boards of governors of the universities and colleges in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the short answer is, at this time, that's not on the government's legislative agenda for this sitting.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, three out of four young Nova Scotians are so apathetic about the political process that they refuse to even bother to vote. Given the fact that the Premier himself has raised this issue as an issue of concern - and you, Mr. Speaker, have made note publicly about the federal efforts to involve young Nova Scotians in the political process - this is very concerning.

My question to the Premier is, given the significance of this particular issue, what immediate steps is his government prepared to take to ensure that students have a greater governance say in what happens in universities, particularly with regard to the cost of education?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, when the member asked me is it on the government's agenda for this particular session, the answer was clearly no. Is it on the minds of the government that this is an issue? Yes.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, a previous Minister of Education several years ago, former Minister of Education, the honourable Jane Purves, wrote and asked universities and colleges to consider changing that governance percentage for students so that they would have a greater say in their destiny. This is almost three and a half years later and the Premier is still waffling on this issue. I don't think it's an unreasonable request on behalf of the young people of Nova Scotia that they have a greater say in what happens.

[Page 2019]

My question is, given the fact that their average representation is only about 9 per cent - they're paying more than 40 per cent of the total cost of university education - will the Premier not agree to take a proactive stance and engage in discussions so that perhaps a bill can be introduced through this Spring session of the Legislature? It doesn't look like it's that terribly big an issue to put on the order paper.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is more than likely that the member opposite and the views of the government are not that far out of line. What we have to avoid, however, is going forward rapidly on the basis of a question in the House with an issue that has already been articulated as being one that is supported by the government. The Minister of Education at that time had spoken about the issue and spoke on behalf of the government and indicated that it would be in the interest to have that question looked at in a very positive way.

I would hesitate to suggest here on the floor of the House that we will cobble something together quickly and have it introduced in the House. What I could commit to do, because I think it is a good issue, is to bring it to the attention of the Minister of Education and to ask him to start reflecting on the issue through his department and also through consultation with the post-secondary educational institutions in the province. It's a good issue, but it's not on our agenda this Spring.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

AGRIC. & FISH.: POLAR FOODS - BANKRUPTCY SALE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. When Polar Foods declared bankruptcy, the P.E.I. Government took over its debts and then sold the company's assets to Ocean's Choice of Newfoundland, including the plants at Lismore and Arisaig in northern Nova Scotia. The P.E.I. Government made it a condition of sale that all, I repeat, all lobster must be processed in that province for the future of those plants in jeopardy. So my question to the minister is, has your department, Mr. Minister, investigated the conditions of that sale to see if they contravene the interprovincial agreement on trade?

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I had a conversation with the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for P.E.I. on Thursday. I asked these very same questions. I reiterated in a letter today to look for that information and I'm waiting for a response.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, if he could table that letter, it would be good to have. I have spoken with the processors who are interested in operating or purchasing those plants here in Nova Scotia and, as we know, there is a very capable workforce at Lismore and

[Page 2020]

Arisaig and I believe this government needs to show some leadership in exploring all possible options to save as many jobs there as possible. In fact, I've talked with one potential operator who wants to set up a viable lobster processing plant in Pictou County that could save many of these jobs. So my question, Mr. Minister, would you agree to meet with this potential processor that I have talked to and hear their proposal?

MR. D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, I mean we're looking at all opportunities for Arisaig Fisheries. I know that there are a couple of local members who have brought this to my attention over the last few weeks and we are looking at all options for that plant. If the member does want to bring forward someone for a meeting, I would be happy to meet with them.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question this time is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, there are 140 jobs at risk here in Pictou County and I would like to table an article here on how the P.E.I. Government has helped their workers who have been thrown out of work and displaced on severance and EI extensions and so on. So my question, Mr. Premier, as a representative from Pictou County, what are you doing to help protect these 140 jobs in Pictou County?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to have this issue aired on the floor of the House. The government has aggressively been pursuing solutions to the situation. There was no time until this very time that there has not been a processing industry along that shore. It is a very productive fishery and the processing industry has always been a part of the fishery along that particular coast of Nova Scotia. The government will exhaust all opportunities to provide a reasonable, sustainable resolution to the issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - NEW WATERFORD HOSP.:

EMPLOYEES - ILLNESSES

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Several residents of Cape Breton are now living with the effects of heavy metal poisoning and, as the minister knows, their illness is directly related to poor ventilation at their place of employment - the New Waterford Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, is the minister at all concerned about the health of these individuals?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, of course we're concerned with the health of those individuals and that is why we're working very closely with the district health authority and all involved in that situation because we're very concerned about it. We're working very closely with the district health authority and there are steps being implemented and we're following those steps very closely.

[Page 2021]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as I think everyone knows, Nova Scotians are entitled, as are all Canadians, to universal health care. There's no question of that, at least there shouldn't be. Unfortunately, that rule does not apply in the case of these individuals. Is the minister aware that these sick employees at the New Waterford Hospital are being denied coverage of their medical costs?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we, of course, are taking steps to ensure that those individuals receive as much assistance as they can in dealing with their illness. That is why there is a Dr. Ted Haines, who will be in the area on April 28th of this month, a great deal of work has gone into and is being conducted by Dr. Haines, leading up to that particular meeting, so that they can get the benefit of his opinion. We are supporting that initiative, and look forward to the results of his work in the Cape Breton area.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, what has been done so far is nothing less than stall tactics. What I'm asking, and the last time I checked we still had universal health care in this country, but I'm trying to tell the minister that we have terribly ill people right now in this province who are being forced to pay out of their own pockets for their medical treatment. Let me ask the minister, is it the policy of this government to pick and choose which sick Nova Scotians are entitled to universal health care and which ones are not? Will the minister do the right thing and cover their costs?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have indicated in the past that we are prepared to, and we encourage individuals to seek a second opinion. That is why Dr. Haines is being brought forward to the area. If there are services covered by MSI that are not available in the province, then of course we would make those services available beyond the borders of the province. We would encourage all individuals affected by this situation to seek the counsel of Dr. Haines when he is in the area on April 28th.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

AFRIC. N.S. AFFS. - AFFIRM. ACTION: FAILURE - JUSTIFY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs. On November 13, 2002, when the Premier and the former MLA for Preston, together with the current MLA for Preston stood together at the St. Thomas Baptist Church in North Preston, the Premier proclaimed, "Today is a great day for the community of North Preston." Like so many promises by this government, that was then and this is now. The $2.9 million construction of the North Preston Community Centre is one of the largest infrastructure projects ever in the Prestons, but instead of benefiting the community's small business people and construction industry, most of the work has gone to outside contractors.

[Page 2022]

Mr. Minister, how can you justify your government's failure to adopt an affirmative action plan to allow small, local businesses a fair shot at this infrastructure work?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the member opposite that the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works Program allows for municipalities to tender projects like this. In this case, the Halifax Regional Municipality was the tendering body that put out those tenders, and it was their responsibility to ensure that the community had local contact.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the minister, there are at least 15 asphalt companies that are based in North Preston, yet it is a large outside company, Ocean Contracting, that's being brought in. The concrete contract also went to an outside company, that is outside the community, and apparently more than 99 per cent of the work did. This minister was appointed with great fanfare last summer, but so far the Black community has seen no results from him or his department. What I would like to know is, just what does this minister think his job is, if it's not to advocate on behalf of the Black community in Nova Scotia?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite that in fact that is not necessarily the opinion of the community. I have been advocating on behalf of that community. I would say, as well, to the member opposite, that it's all of our responsibility to ensure that African-Nova Scotians have their fair share of government contracts and, as a member, I will ensure that happens.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, not all of us are designated Minister responsible for African Nova Scotian Affairs. When the Premier announced the funding for this community centre, he said a few other things of note. He said the centre would be "a great source of pride" for local residents, and he said that the plan had "the strong backing of a supportive community". I think it's apparent this government has just thrown that good will out the window. What I would like to know from the minister is, when will this government stop talking about and start acting on the priorities of Nova Scotia's Black community?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite and to all Nova Scotians that our government is very concerned about issues for African-Nova Scotians, and we have been acting on issues that have been brought to my attention. I would also say to the member opposite that there are African-Nova Scotians who have contributed towards that project. The project is not complete yet, and throughout its construction we will see that the community will have involvement in the construction of that facility. The statements of the member opposite are inaccurate.

[Page 2023]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR.: ALBERT BRIDGE - WATER PROBLEMS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Last evening in the Albert Bridge area, there was a public meeting held with regard to a permit that was issued by his department, a controversial permit to allow for a considerable draw-down of water from the Sydney water field. Given the fact that in the past over 100 homes lost their water the last time the permit was issued, independent studies showed that any considerable draw-down over what's already taken out will result in a further loss of water to the homes that are in the community. Why did the minister's department approve a permit issuing further draw-down on a well that will not replenish?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. It's certainly a very important question and something the department is monitoring closely. We certainly know there are some concerns and we have information that has been submitted to us, and this is one of the processes . . .

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

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could welcome to the House of Assembly the Mayor of Canso, Mr. Frank Fraser, who is in your gallery. Mr. Fraser, I take, is in town for meetings. He is here to observe the proceedings. Welcome, Mayor Fraser. (Applause)

Also, Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery, I would like to introduce to the House of Assembly, Mr. Bill Carr. Mr. Carr, of course, is a well-known actor and entertainer, a person of renown, a man about town, as they say, and he's here to observe the proceedings. Welcome to the House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the gallery today.

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.

[Page 2024]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

MR. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.

Bill No. 37 - Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act.

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

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself and my colleague at Energy, I'm pleased to rise to begin second reading on Bill No. 37, a bill to amend the occupational health and safety legislation for workplaces in the offshore. The bill was drafted in response to the federal and provincial governments' promise to strengthen areas of the legislation that deal with occupational health and safety in the offshore. Motivated by a desire to ensure that workers in the offshore receive the same rights and protections as our workers who are onshore.

This bill has been worked on in partnership with the federal government and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, for more than four years. Bill No. 37 is the result of almost a year of consultation with workers in both provinces. In discussions with our partners, we together established and adhered to a number of key criteria for the development of a new policy framework, and those criteria included that the offshore occupational health and safety regime is at least as good as the regime for onshore workers.

The policy must support an occupational and health and safety culture that recognizes a shared responsibility in the workplace. Production issues must be separated from occupational health and safety issues. Employee rights must be an integral part of the new regime. These rights include the right to know, the right to participate, the right to refuse and the right to protection from reprisal should unsafe work be refused. Joint jurisdiction must be recognized and consistently applied. The new regime must be comprehensive, applying to all offshore petroleum activities, and legal authority for occupational health and safety will be vested in the accord Acts and will require joint federal-provincial co-operation.

The policy must comply with the recommendations of the Westray Inquiry Report and the final criteria for the development of this new policy framework is the establishment of consistency in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador offshore areas for all workers, employers and operators.

Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia, offshore regulation is the responsibility of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. The framework of regulatory control has evolved in part from lessons learned by experience, which have often come at far too high a cost.

[Page 2025]

Tragedies such as the Ocean Ranger and Piper Alpha have provided valuable lessons concerning the approach, content and delivery of occupational health and safety services from government.

This bill puts into law what is largely already in practice. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board already requires operators to do many of the things that will be covered under the final Act. By establishing these practices in legislation, the board will be able to deal with violations more effectively.

I will take a moment just to touch on a few of the main improvements offered through the bill. To begin with, it clearly defines responsibilities for various parties, including operators, employers, suppliers, service providers, employees and supervisors, to name a few. The bill establishes a series of workplace requirements for marine installation or structure. These requirements include such important elements as training, communication and the provision of equipment.

The bill clearly establishes employee rights. Just like their onshore counterparts, offshore employees will have the right to refuse unsafe work; they will have the right to be assigned to alternate work with no loss in wages or benefits. The bill will protect other employees who may be affected by work refusal by ensuring they, too, may be reassigned and will suffer no loss in wages or benefits. The bill offers further protection for pregnant or nursing mothers to refuse work if they believe there is a risk to the health of their child.

Bill No. 37 provides specific protection for employees who, in good faith, render first aid or provide other emergency services, and finally, Bill No. 37 ensures that employees and supervisors are made aware of hazards that may be encountered in the work place, such as the use of hazardous products or controlled products. This bill will effect the changes necessary to make a comprehensive health and safety regime a reality for our offshore. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, before I say too much about the bill, I want to say to the minister that I certainly appreciated the time he personally allotted for a briefing between myself, other members of my caucus and our staff, and the very knowledgeable staff that he took with him. To the minister, I would like to thank you personally on the floor for taking the time to do that. It was really greatly appreciated and it shows a commitment that you personally must have to this file, and I appreciate that.

[Page 2026]

[4:15 p.m.]

This is not going to be a speech talking about what's bad in this bill. The minister and I have talked, we have some disagreements over it, but it's not a matter of using the vernacular, we're going to trash this bill. I want to put a few things on the record today, I'm sure some of my other colleagues from my caucus and the Third Party may also do that. What I want to remind the House of today is what really brought us here. It's always been a position of mine that when the new things are developed in the economy of Nova Scotia, too often one of the last things that is seriously looked at is workers' safety.

Workers' safety, in a lot of ways, seems to be a throw-in at the end of the day. It's like the minister has said, these are improvements. I agree with the minister, they are improvements. These are things, as much as we sat down and banged out deals with international companies about what the royalty regime is going to be, shouldn't we have been, as legislators and people who would be regulating the industry, shouldn't we have been there first and foremost making sure that what Nova Scotian workers - or any workers - when they were working were protected to the best of our abilities. Now we're here some years later and we're trying to do that. Again, I appreciate it but it's too late for people like Shawn Hatcher.

Five years ago yesterday, Mr. Hatcher, father of two, went to work and was killed in the offshore. Five years ago. Because, at that time, there was no agreement between the three levels of government - the levels I refer to are Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and the federal government - that prosecutors really looked at the case and said, there's nothing in place, we can't proceed. There was clearly, I would say, not being a lawyer myself, but there certainly was a prima facie case had that accident happened on land. As my colleague says, charges probably would have been laid. Yet, this bill is not going to resurrect Shawn Hatcher but I hope it goes a way in preventing that nobody else will have the horrendous loss of life or the tremendous loss that Mr. Hatcher's wife and family have experienced.

This is something that we've been promised from governments since 1999. As long ago as when former Minister Balser was in charge of the Petroleum Directorate, had said in December of 1999, that it looked at that point that his government would be introducing legislation coming the following Fall which would be four years ago from this point. We wonder, what happened? Why did it take four long years to come here? These are questions I believe have to be answered by all three Parties involved and again, the Parties I'm referring to are the Government of Newfoundland, the Government of Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada.

Also, the then Minister of Labour, had also said they would make this the highest priority and that minister is sitting in the House today. Four years later, I've got to wonder why it took four years to get here. Four years it took us. This is about trying to make sure that

[Page 2027]

the offshore reflects all of the industries, all of the targets and as the minister has put it, it reflects the ideals of the Westray Inquiry.

Again we've been forthright with the minister on this, it still has the appearance of the regulator and the promoter being one and the same. That causes me concern because I guess I go back to the Westray situation and we find that a major factor in that disaster was that there was a culture that did not look at workers' safety in its proper perspective. We thought there were plug-ins there. We thought there were people doing their jobs and we thought things were carried out, whether it was DNR, whether it was Labour, or whoever, but it was not happening. The workers' rights were not being looked after.

Mr. Speaker, we've also talked about who takes charge. We've talked to the minister and certain things can be moved forward or investigated by the agreements of two ministers. They don't need the agreement of all three ministers which is somewhat good but I think we understand that there may be some problems here and is there really someone available to kind of hit the road running as opposed to, we have to find two ministers somewhere to agree on this and then move forward. We've got to make sure that somebody is there and clearly in charge when the emergency happens so that we're not looking around and saying can we get two ministers to sign off on this.

Mr. Speaker, those are factors that I believe have to be addressed clearly in this bill. The other side is this, and I appreciate the bill being with us today, that we are the first ones to actually debate the bill and I think we can help shape it a bit better. Again, we're not looking for a monumental change to this bill, a change that would give it a clearly different direction than what was intended and how it was negotiated because, you know, I certainly can appreciate the toughness of negotiations when you're not only dealing with one counterpart but when you're dealing with two other counterparts, you know, I think they try to go in the same direction but each one obviously has their own overriding concern, that they have a direction they want to go. Some may say, well, our culture as it fits around occupational health and safety is different than yours and, you know, our workers see it differently and we proceed where we can to push our ideas.

I have seen in the Power Point presentation, I believe it reflects considerably with our thought around our response to occupational health and safety and individual responsibilities, Mr. Speaker, but this will be a process that is going to take place not only in this House but it's going to take place in the federal House and it's going to take place in Newfoundland. We've got to make sure that as we work through this, they see the same priorities as we do and they see that they have to give it the same urgency, if you will, because it's two things. While I think we really talk about separating safety and production, what we're trying to do for the very first time, and not to belabour the time it took us to get here to occupational health and safety regulations, is the fact that we've got to know when people come and if our offshore is to grow and is to produce the quantities of oil and gas that may be out there, when people come to our shores, they have got to know these are the rules. The rules are the same

[Page 2028]

if you're in the Deep Panuke or if you're off Newfoundland, that these are the rules. These are how we work.

As I said to the minister yesterday, I would have liked to have seen more of the stuff that came off the table because, you know, we don't know some of the international rules that may very well apply to us and I realize some of them are not really very germane to our area, but I realize that I would have liked to have seen them to do a comparison, to be able to say these are things where maybe we should have hung in there longer. Appreciating that may be a bit of Monday morning quarterbacking but I think it would be interesting for us inasmuch as that we don't try to reinvent the wheel here in our discussions. If we knew that, well, look, we agree with you and we agree with your Party and we agree with the Third Party but, look, these were just not going to go and then finally move on. We save ourselves the trouble.

This is a day that I would hope is seen as the day that we move forward in the lost life of Shawn Hatcher. I really want to use what time I'm going to have now to talk about just that aspect of this bill. This man was violently killed in the workplace. It was extremely traumatic. He was caught between power doors and I really don't want to get any more graphic than that with it, but it was clearly someone who was trying to do their work. Clearly the agencies that were there, it was sad to say upon reaching some form of investigation, it looked like a scene from the Keystone Kops when various people from various regulatory bodies were actually infighting as to who was going on the helicopter to go out and investigate this site because there were no clear rules.

All the while, a husband and father did not return home ever again to care for his family. It's a shame because that has been the history of industry in this province as we start the industry, then we go after the health and safety aspect after it's up and running, if you will.

We want to see this bill to go forward. We want to see it when it goes to Law Amendments, that it's given the airing by workers, by industry and we want to have buy-in from both of those parties, and I think we will, by and large, but we want to make sure that we send a message to our colleagues in the house in St. John's and our colleagues in the federal House. That message should be that Shawn Hatcher, a young man who only wanted to provide a living for his wife and his two children, because there weren't adequate safety provisions in his workplace, he is now dead.

We want to make sure that the two levels of government get that message, whether at some point this becomes known as the Hatcher Act or the Hatcher Bill. This man went out and worked like any one of us, previous to this job, went out and toiled for our communities. We want to know that Nova Scotians, whether they're working here in Nova Scotia, offshore Newfoundland, wherever it takes them and whatever province or country they come from, there's a clear set of rules that workers will be protected.

[Page 2029]

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I take my place and look forward to seeing this bill coming back from Law Amendments. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this particular piece of legislation. Its primary focus is with regard to the offshore health and safety regulations in our offshore gas and oil industry here in Nova Scotia, and indeed equally matched by mirror legislation from Newfoundland and the federal government.

I recall being Minister of Labour at the time when this issue that was spoken to a little earlier came on the radar screen, the unfortunate death of this Newfoundland gentleman who was, in effect, crushed when a door that wasn't properly hooked and latched came back and this gentleman met a very unfortunate and untimely death through no fault of his own. We proceeded, as we felt that we should proceed - that is the officials within the Occupational Health & Safety Division of the Department of Environment and Labour and our director, Jim LeBlanc, who was the lead agent in that division - to ensure that all the proper investigations and possible prosecutions would be forthcoming if someone was at fault; in short, did full due diligence, did everything that was required of the Province of Nova Scotia, only to find out that we had no jurisdiction because of the framework that was set up with the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Accord.

[4:30 p.m.]

Unfortunately, and I'm sure the minister would agree, the regulations from the Province of Newfoundland were very weak. Unless they've changed them in recent years, I would say the ones that were in place in 1999, we used to comment in our department that you could almost drive a Mac truck through them, they were that weak. The federal jurisdiction, although they were broader in scope, didn't allow the individual jurisdictions overseeing to have a hands-on approach, ergo the vacuum in what was happening, workers were being put in a very vulnerable position.

Immediately, what we did, because it was locked in - I believe in 1984, I think, the legislation was put into effect, and I do stand to be corrected on the exact date - that federal-Nova Scotia legislation that was put in place by a previous administration locked us in to a very difficult position. So we started negotiations immediately with Newfoundland. I recall meeting with my provincial counterpart, as well as travelling to Ottawa with the deputy minister to, in fact, raise this issue at the federal level and get it on the order table. Obviously, it took a lot longer than perhaps it should have. Maybe that's the way government works, because of all of the various machinations that occur within each division, each department, each level of government and so on.

[Page 2030]

The reality is the bill is before the House today, and that's a positive. There is some concern about the regulator and the enforcer, so to speak, going to be one and the same. There's a concern about the arm's-length relationship. I feel confident that the minister will be able to address that, because we're going through the public consultation process once it leaves the House here. I'm sure the various stakeholders, labour, industry, government, and, indeed, perhaps our counterpart in Newfoundland and, indeed, the federal government will be able to offer their opinions. Through this process, I think we will end up with a good piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of occupational health and safety is extremely important, and we've certainly learned our lesson from the Westray experience. There are so many positives in the Occupational Health and Safety Act to protect workers in Nova Scotia, compared to what was there before, that I find it absolutely refreshing. But there are still some issues, and I draw this to the minister's attention, with the ability of individual workers to be able to come forth in the absence of fear. As perfect as the legislation might be - and this could very well be another situation with the offshore gas and oil industry, where workers could be in fear of coming forth to register a complaint.

I know when you have more than 25 employees in a particular industry, you have the occupational health and safety, labour management, working committees and the reports that have to be filed every month and so on and so forth, that's fine, but you can't legislate opinion, and you can't protect a person from the genuine fear of a reprisal. In many cases, workers, still, even to this very day, are afraid to come forth.

Look what happened, Mr. Speaker, with the young lady, a mother of several children, working at the store in Truro, just after the new labour standards changes were brought in she was unceremoniously dismissed because she wouldn't work on a Sunday. It was against her religion. Now, that lady was a good worker, from what I understand from speaking to her colleagues, from the people in the community that knew her. She has several small children; she had a medical plan, that's in jeopardy; her secure employment, that's gone. That issue has not been resolved within the Department of Labour and environment til this very minute, well as late as a week ago, because that is when I received the latest e-mail from this individual, and all because she stood her ground.

So equally so, Mr. Speaker, with the issues of occupational health and safety, the legislation can be good, but if all the people in the world, all the people in the province, all the people in the county, or the country don't accept it, it's not good legislation. And it's of no value. The people have to accept it. So I would put that there for the minister, I would certainly take a moment to acknowledge that this is a good initiative. And I think it should go forth to the next level.

[Page 2031]

There will be some housekeeping issues I feel that we will be able to bring forth whether it is through an amendment or something, and I feel confident with the minister's background as an occupational health and safety officer in his previous employment has a pretty good understanding of what it is like to be a front-line worker involved in occupational health and safety. I don't want to beleaguer the issue, Mr. Speaker, because I think it is an issue that will go forth to the Law Amendments Committee and I fully hope that there will be good presentations come forth.

One final point in closing, I think the minister may recall, no, he wouldn't recall, but I'm sure some of his predecessors who were sitting in the Third Party position in 1998-99 will recall, when we amended the Workers' Compensation Act, the most important things that were included in that was to change the vacation period for non-Nova Scotia firms, from six months, down to five working days. Now for those who are not familiar with what that means, it means that prior to that legislation coming in, in 1998-99, any firm from outside Nova Scotia could come in to Nova Scotia, do business, they could tender on contracts, compete, win contracts, compete with Nova Scotia firms, and have the advantage of being able to use the workers' compensation rates from their own province.

They would pay premiums in their own province. Some provinces have rates that are only half of Nova Scotia's. We changed that. We not only level the playing field for industry, but we in effect created greater employment opportunities for a lot of construction workers, whether it be labourers, whether it be electricians, plumbers, you name it, Mr. Speaker. You don't see the protests and the strikes in front of job sites like you did prior to that legislation being approved. It's not there, because they now know that they are being on an evenly competitive basis.

But not only that, but we generated sufficient revenue to address many of the issues that were brought in in that particular piece of legislation, such as supplemental benefits. There were considerable dollars set aside although the issue of chronic pain has not been completely resolved, but there have been considerable dollars set aside to address that in that particular piece of legislation. The rates didn't go up one cent, not one cent, because of the initiative that was taken collectively, and with the support of the current Conservative caucus, our government was able to achieve that.

We were disappointed the NDP caucus didn't see fit to support that, and they had their reasons, and that's fine, but that was a major benefit to the workers in the Province of Nova Scotia, and the additional revenues that were generated to be able to ensure that the Occupational Health and Safety Division in the Department of Labour had the resources to do the job that was required. At that particular point in time the Conservative caucus also wanted a certain charge put back on the shoulders of the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. They didn't feel that industry should be paying 100 per cent of the costs of occupational health and safety. So, there was some give and take and finally we agreed, it would be an 85/15 per cent split, but yet when the Conservatives went on that side of the floor, what did they do? They

[Page 2032]

sold out the very private sector that they said they were going to protect. They went up, I think they're up to around 95 or 96 per cent, they're up in 90s anyway. So it's a complete contradiction in terms, in philosophy and behaviour. I would ask the minister to give some consideration to that because we like to balance things out, and I don't think certain stakeholders should be carrying all the burden.

The minister knows very well how we feel about some of the largest and the richest corporations in this province not paying workers' compensation premiums and that will be a key issue, to be able to see the success of this legislation. Otherwise, it's just another, paper tiger and the minister knows that because no bucks, no luck, because you're not going to get the job done. So I would leave the minister with those comments. We've had some preliminary discussions on a previous moment and he knows, I think, in general terms, how we as a caucus feel and I'm sure some of my colleagues may want to add some points on this as well. So with that, I think it's safe to say, we'll certainly be supporting this going on to the Law Amendments Committee and further deliberation, because I think the general principle, and that's we debate in second reading, is the principle of the bill and it's a good principle, and we support that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here in the House to speak to Bill No. 37, An Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1987, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. I want to thank my honourable colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour for bringing this Act forward and also to all colleagues of the House and all caucuses for their efforts to move forward on this very important issue, something I think, that we all agree is utmost, the safety and the well-being of Nova Scotia workers.

I want to reiterate and provide assurances to some of the comments made in this House, that we are doing everything we can to follow up and make this the best legislation possible in the interests of worker safety, here in Nova Scotia. As we know, it involves more than Nova Scotia, it involves our interaction and discussion and integration with the Government of Canada and also the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador , and to that end, we've been working very hard to the points that have been raised by the member from Cape Breton Centre, as well as Cape Breton West to ensure that the dialogue with our federal and provincial colleagues is current and ongoing to that point that even as of today my respective colleagues for Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador are meeting on this topic. We'll be following up with Minister Efford, the Minister of Natural Resources Canada, and working with our colleagues. We've had discussions on this, our Premiers have had discussions on this, they've been current discussions because of the priority and the importance we place on this as Nova Scotians, and to the end of achieving the best outcome, I believe we'll be able to move this forward to the Law Amendments Committee, where, as was indicated, we can have a full review, the public can have their input and indeed we'll

[Page 2033]

have the best legislation possible, but legislation as well that we have to ensure is twinned with the efforts by the Government of Canada.

We collaborate as best we can with our colleagues in Newfoundland and Labrador. The emergence and the evolution of our industry and our offshore here is different from that of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our objectives as governments though, do not differ, they are to support the best possible worker, safety environment we can have through occupational health and safety legislation.

So to that end, I want to assure all my colleagues that we have a current ongoing working relationship. I've been very pleased to be working with my colleagues both in the New Democratic Party and Liberal Party as Energy Critics, to work towards an upcoming meeting that we'll be dealing with Ottawa directly and we'll be traveling to Ottawa, all three Parties. This will be a working issue we're bringing forward, so that we show the collaboration and the interests of moving forward our Energy portfolio and priorities in a constructive and managed way, and to do that as well meant a number of discussions with Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as Minister Efford and I do want to congratulate and commend the federal minister in his interest to move this forward. The federal minister initiated the most recent round of dialogue between members from Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland and Labrador and to ensure that we as governments are doing everything we can to advance this. We do have working issues, we do have items we want to bring forward, but we do have a common desire to see a unified approach and the best legislation possible. Bringing this before the House is the next step along that process.

[4:45 p.m.]

Again, I want to thank all colleagues who are taking the time and interest to make this the most effective and best bill we possibly can move into legislation for the betterment and the long-term interests and needs of our industry that is growing. The offshore is one that we have great optimism and hope in as we reposition and build momentum, that there's going to be even more activity in that offshore, from hundreds to thousands of people engaged, and therefore we have to have the appropriate framework and legislation that supports the working citizens who earn a living and help us position Nova Scotia to be the best quality of place to live and to work.

To do that means we work in a best effort basis on this, and as governments we continue to liaise respectively. Our efforts here in this House will be very helpful as we go forward on an all-Party basis to deal with Ottawa, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. The efforts of this House and the comments by members are being noted, and I can assure members, will be reflected in the best legislation possible. I look forward to the other comments coming before this House today, and the dialogue we will have when we bring this to the Law Amendments Committee. Again, I want to thank my colleague, the Minister of

[Page 2034]

Environment and Labour for bringing this forward and working in such a co-operative manner with all Parties on this.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, you know how time flies. I want you to know that during the first term in which I was elected, I began a file, and on the front of the file it says the words, Shawn Hatcher. I've kept that file with me these years, and I've added things to it. I've brought it to the caucus table at which I'm fortunate enough to sit when we discussed, from time to time, as brought forward by my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, concerns about occupational health and safety. I've heard that buzzword and those buzzterms in this House on so many occasions. I've been in committees, I've heard members speak about the importance of safety in the workplace.

I remember so well April 14, 1999. Mr. Speaker, that was the day, that short time ago, five short years ago, that Shawn Hatcher lost his life in the offshore. It was a sad day, but considering the worthless tub of bolts that was involved, the Nordic Apollo in particular, the question always had to be asked, by the Hatcher family, by Shawn's wife, and perhaps by his getting-older children, what was the Nordic Apollo doing anywhere near the offshore? It had a disastrously embarrassing record. Occupational health and safety and window-dressing aside, let me tell you that, as was described at the time in the Seafarers International Union report of 1994, the Nordic Apollo was unseaworthy and an accident waiting to happen.

I always put that quote in this file. I think for members opposite it would be appropriate, aside from the fact that we are hearing comments today that we heard from the previous Minister of Environment and Labour in his successful term, he was a minister who paid attention to these issues. When he was the minister at that time, in the Liberal Government, this was an issue of which he made himself personally very much aware. I give him that credit, because I know that that particular minister at the time was as concerned as we were about the conditions in the offshore.

Finally, would be the comment, perhaps, as the Hatcher family looks back on that. However, we have to move on, and I think it would be appropriate to put aside that particular file for a moment, but for members opposite and for members of the Third Party, not too forget that occupational health and safety has been through a lot of window dressings over the past number of years because of that government and the stalling and the unwillingness to deal with the issue, whether it's on the offshore or whether it's some of the other regulations that I am sure my learned friend from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage will bring to the minister's attention.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, however, that in the midst of the hearings and the committee reports and the press coverage, I was made aware of probably one of the most embarrassing things as the so-called "experts" rushed out to the offshore to see what had

[Page 2035]

happened to this young Newfoundlander. I mean, the press was very obvious, he had died because of a door. The door, incidentally, was installed upside down. Now, my engineering expertise is a long ways away from the classroom in which I taught, and I want you to know to have any kind of relevancy at all on safety in the offshore, a door installed upside down, because that's after all how it could be released, if I remember the details on how they were explained to us at that committee that listened to this terrible incident.

Do you know, it was absolutely farcical to hear about co-operation, the various levels of government co-operated. Do you want co-operation, Mr. Speaker, they couldn't even co-operate on the number of people who were going to get in the helicopter to get out there to investigate it. There were only so many seats in the helicopter, you see, and of course everybody had to get out there because who, after all, was responsible? Who was in charge? Was it the provincial government? Was it the federal government? Was it the board? Who was going to decide? The RCMP, of course, had to be there. It was a comedy of errors as they investigated this situation in the offshore. They had to, a number of times, readjust who was going to get on that first trip as the helicopter was making that emergency rush out there to investigate what had happened on that disastrous day. That does not say there was co-operation at all.

Then when we look at what was happening when the regulator - and these terms come back to me now that I hear them again - when I hear that the regulator and the promoter are one in the same, I remember the analogy that we used that day with Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Dickey, as they appeared in front of the committee on which we were sitting, and the analogy we used, Mr. Speaker, was that's like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse when it comes to offshore safety.

Now, because of the coverage in the press, because of comments that were made, I know this MLA heard from people around the province and more particularly in his constituency who worked in the offshore. I know the member for Cape Breton West will get upset with this, Mr. Speaker, at the time, these workers who spoke to me, their very first response was, you can't use our name. You can't bring it up publicly because, after all, if they find out that I'm making complaints about what's happening in the offshore, I'll get fired. They'll send me down that blankety-blank gangplank. I certainly will not put the adjective in that was told to me on a number of occasions.

In fact, one of the offshore workers, who I encouraged and yes, Mr. Speaker, he was a past student of mine, I encouraged him to get the proper courses, to look at the offshore as a place where he could, with his Grade 12 education from Sir John A. Macdonald High School, go to work. He got the proper courses, he got the proper training, of course, at his own expense, and his dad was so proud when he got that job in the offshore. But you know he got himself into a situation when he would return ashore and he would say to me on certain occasions, I'll tell you there are some days out there when I'm told to do things I know are unsafe, but I can't say anything, I'm the youngest guy on the crew, I'm the junior

[Page 2036]

man, I'm the one who has to make sure that I have a job when I go back out again - this young man was beginning a family, he had just recently gotten married, all of these concerns and I began to understand when these men and women came ashore because my friend from Sackville-Cobequid will speak of his experience with some of the people he knows who have worked in the offshore, the nurses who have worked in the offshore and young men his age who have worked in the offshore.

When they approached us at that time about the press conferences and the details that were coming out in the media, I remember having a meeting with one of these young men, I said, let's sit down in the coffee shop and we'll discuss this, and his first response was, no way, Bill, I can't meet publicly with you and tell you of some of the dangerous positions that I'm put into in the offshore. He came to my home. He was so paranoid to be truthful - that's probably the wrong term - he was so concerned about what he was going to tell me he had his young wife drive him to my home so that his car would not be seen in my driveway as an offshore worker who had concerns that he was talking to the MLA from the community that he lives in about what's going on in the offshore.

Those comments should be put in the perspective of some of the people, maybe young men and women from the community that you represent, that have made the deliberate decision that this is a place where they want to work. So we hear these comments brought up by members opposite, that it's a very important issue, that it's of real consequence that workers from across this province get the proper protection. Well, I add in brackets, "finally". Finally some of these issues are being investigated and looked at. When it goes before the Law Amendments Committee - which I would recommend we proceed in that fashion - and we hear from some of the people who perhaps worked in the offshore and no longer work there, perhaps some other people with expertise much more than mine, when they come forward with their concerns, I want you to know that some of those stories will be horror stories. There will be concerns about fear, keeping their job, intimidation and all kinds of other things that are happening in very dangerous situations.

Mr. Speaker, there are names that we will be bringing forward as we look at this particular piece of legislation. I particularly would like to thank one offshore worker who is no longer in the business - his name is Gary Peddle. Gary Peddle lives in Whites Lake in my constituency and he held one of those important positions on the rigs where he was working, he was the health and safety officer. When you have a man of Mr. Peddle's integrity, he would conscientiously bring forward after each shift concerns that he had seen, concerns that had been brought to him by other workers. Gary Peddle no longer works in the offshore. Gary Peddle was basically given his walking papers because he, day after day and shift after shift, conscientiously brought forward concerns about what was happening in his dangerous place of work, and because of that Mr. Peddle is no longer employed in the offshore.

[Page 2037]

It's people such as Gary Peddle that we have to take the time to thank as we look at this legislation. I'm looking forward to hearing from offshore workers as they will have the courage and they will have the fortitude to be able to come forward and say this is a piece of legislation that finally - finally - is beginning to look at this dangerous situation in our offshore.

Mr. Speaker, the longer that we are in this Legislature, the more perspective we gain. I can tell you in the middle of the files that I have in my constituency office, I often ask my assistant, why don't you dig that Shawn Hatcher file out one more time? Because, it's people such as Shawn, young men and young women, Nova Scotians, Newfoundlanders, residents of Atlantic Canada, who have put their lives in dangerous situations for far too long without the necessary regulations in place as is required through Occupational Health & Safety.

[5:00 p.m.]

I hope that the ministers opposite understand that we have waited a long time for this issue to be brought forward. We've waited and patiently looked at this issue and I know my young friend from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, based upon his previous experience, will talk about some of the other concerns that we have with occupational health and safety, but I want to ask members opposite and I want to ask the members of the Third Party, what takes it so long to be dealt with? How many Shawn Hatchers do we have to deal with? How many situations where people have to be shown down the gangplank and don't you come back here because of dangers in the offshore and we're sick of your whining and complaining. As a number of men and women in the offshore have been told, it's dangerous work, you should expect it to be dangerous. Yet workers deserve the rights of protection. They deserve under Occupational Health & Safety legislation in this province and in this country that they should be protected, the rights of the worker, whether it is in the offshore, whether it's on land.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, and I don't want to get into a history lesson because I know the Minister of Justice will get upset with me, but what are the things that this province and the notoriety that we're known for? What is the notoriety we're known for in labour regulations in this province? Such incidents as Westray, a day that will live in infinity; the Ocean Ranger; or the Nordic Apollo; and there are other examples, other examples because governments of the day did not have the courage, did not have the fortitude, did not have the foresight. Instead they could say, well, that's a federal government issue, that's the Petroleum Board's issue. Instead the province has a responsibility to move this issue along.

After all that investigation, Mr. Speaker, in Shawn's accident, his tragic accident, it was decided that they would not lay charges but I say to you and to members present, if that accident had happened onshore and Shawn Hatcher had died onshore because of that problem that day on that particular vessel, charges would have been laid. The memory of Shawn Hatcher, the memory of what has happened to that young man and his wife and his sons, the memory of Shawn Hatcher would not be attached to the doom and gloom which we

[Page 2038]

face here today. So I encourage members to stand in their place. Many of you are in situations representing people in your constituency, men and women of all ages, of various vocations who work in our offshore.

Heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker, that in the meantime, as time continues to lapse, that we have other unfortunate accidents where people are badly injured or in Shawn's case, unfortunately, die. I encourage this piece of legislation to move forward to the Law Amendments Committee and I look forward to presentations at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a point of order.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: No, a point of personal privilege, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of personal privilege.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect missed a very important point that I made during my dissertation and that was my concern and fear for workers who would not come forward in fear of reprisal and losing their employment and yet he implied during his speech that I would be upset by the fact that workers would actually make the comment about being fearful of coming forth, in other words implying that I was part of a culture that would suppress workers' rights. I find that personally - I don't believe that he meant it as a personal attack - but I think it's very concerning when those type of allegations are made before the House because I can also attest as Minister of Labour of the day that at no point in time did that honourable member ever ask for a meeting with me in my office, point specific on workers' rights, in the context to which he has referred.

MR. SPEAKER: I will certainly take the matter under consideration.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today to make a few comments on Bill No. 37, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. I did listen to the comments from the socialist member referring to some of the tragedies that have taken place here, and it is a reality, unfortunately, in the workplace, we still have Nova Scotians and workers who are concerned about coming forward with safety complaints. The last thing I would want to see, as parliamentarians, that we are fostering that fear by workers of coming forward. I think it is our duty, as parliamentarians and as lawmakers, to try to encourage workers to exercise their rights, and when they do see situations where there are safety concerns, that they do come forward, that they do not have to go through brown paper bags or hide under the cloak of darkness, or go to people's houses with unmarked cars. We should be standing here encouraging them, because there is no use for us to stand in this Legislature and put forward protection, if, on

[Page 2039]

the flip-side, we are telling them they should fear for their employment and that they should fear for the well-being of their families. It is a reality, but it is time that we encourage the workers in order to avoid these types of tragedies as much as possible, that they do now use the protection that has been put in place for them, to be able to identify those.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you I had first-hand experience with some of those protections that were put in. I was told by the Department of Environment and Labour that it was actually the first case of legislation that was passed by this House which actually protected any worker who reported a safety concern from being fired by their employer. A situation was one where an employee was working for a subcontractor at a major industrial site and when he reported a safety issue to the employer, to the subcontractor, he was fired. When we went to the Department of Environment and Labour, they made it quite clear that with the changes that had been brought forward by this House, that that was wrong. It wasn't an easy time but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, we were able to get a settlement for that worker for the length of that project, had he been kept on and not fired raising that safety complaint. That is something that we should be sharing with all workers around this province, that there is some protection there, they should be exercising it, and they should be identifying when there are safety issues. It is certainly my hope, with this legislation, they will continue to do that.

We continue to see where there are tragedies occurring in the offshore. I can speak personally, as the member for Richmond. I saw one of my constituents suffer significant injuries, I believe he had a broken back, when he was one of the unfortunate crew members who were testing, ironically, on a safety issue. They were actually testing the escape pod from an oil rig which was, I believe, in New York Harbour or somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, when the escape life raft actually fell from the oil rig and landed directly in the water. One of my constituents was actually in that life raft and, I as I said, if I'm not mistaken, he suffered a broken back. I think he is in his early 20s, at the earliest, and I wish him a speedy recovery and I'm sure all members wish him a speedy recovery. Hopefully, they will certainly be able to highlight what went wrong there and put in the changes to make sure that never happens again.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see that these changes are coming forward and worker protection is going to be there. The bill does talk about the offshore and it's another opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to highlight to this government that there are significant concerns about the rules of engagement when it comes to offshore work in the Province of Nova Scotia. We are continually hearing from Nova Scotians who are working on supply vessels and the offshore rigs, that there are different standards that apply if you are from Nova Scotia, or if you're from Newfoundland. There is still extreme protectionism that is taking place in the Province of Newfoundland when it comes to offshore work. When our own Nova Scotians are arriving on supply vessels in Saint John's Harbour only to be told that you now have to get off the boat so a Saint John's crew member can be put aboard because of the rules that exist in your province.

[Page 2040]

Mr. Speaker, as the Province of Nova Scotia, we must be vigilant to make sure our workers are receiving the same treatment that we are giving to Newfoundland workers when they arrive at our ports, and are not being forced off ships because they happened to land here in Nova Scotia.

There are two separate rules that are taking place. I have brought this matter to the Premier's attention. I'm sure it's not the first time the government has heard this from their own constituents. Action must be taken. I'm certainly hoping that the Minister of Energy will take those concerns directly to his Newfoundland counterpart, so that we can stop these unfair practices where Nova Scotia workers are being sent home the minute they land at a Newfoundland port. That is not being done to Newfoundlanders here in Nova Scotia, nor should it be done to Newfoundlanders here in Nova Scotia, yet that practice is taking place. This government, for some reason, has chosen to ignore that particular fact, and that is a matter that, certainly, hopefully the government will address when we are looking, overall, at the offshore and the intent of this bill to deal with some of the matters relating to our offshore industry.

Mr. Speaker, we have worked hard, as a Party, with this government to try to continue to focus on the positive events that are taking place in our offshore. I can tell you that is becoming more and more of a difficult task on our part. It would be a lot easier for us to stand in our place and point out all of the difficulties and the failures that we have seen in our offshore industry in the last number of years under this administration, but in an effort, again, to try to encourage the growth of this province and to encourage the growth of this industry, we do remain cautiously optimistic. But again, this bill is another method for us to signal to the government that there have been numerous shortfalls in the development of our offshore, whether they be in safety, regulations, whether they be in ensuring Nova Scotia content in different contracts that have been awarded, and ensuring the maximum Nova Scotia participation in this industry for the benefit of our entire province.

Mr. Speaker, with those comments, I do look forward to the Law Amendments Committee process to hear what changes might be proposed and to hear the presentations. If there's one request I can make, before going into the Law Amendments Committee, one of the frustrations that we have encountered in the Law Amendments Committee is that we sit there, listen to presenters come and make presentations on a bill that they have before them, and once all those presentations are done, we meet again and bring in all sorts of changes to the intent of the legislation.

Now, if those changes are solely based on the presentations that we've heard, then, Mr. Speaker, that's the way the process should work, but if they are changes that Parties intend to bring forward prior to the presentations even beginning, we have a duty as elected members in this House to allow those presenters to know exactly what the proposed changes are prior to their being able to make a presentation.

[Page 2041]

Mr. Speaker, I could give you numerous examples of where this has taken place in the last number of bills we have dealt with, but I am sure you are well aware yourself, where changes going into the Law Amendments Committee process are already contemplated, yet it's only after presenters are finished that the intent of the bill is changed, and in many cases it had nothing to do with the presenters who came before us. That is not the way the process was set up. It is not fair to the presenters who come before us, who take time out of their busy schedules to come speak to us, and it's bypassing the intent of the entire process.

If the government, if the socialist party or even if our caucus has changes today, based on the intent of the bill, let them be tabled immediately, at the start of the Law Amendments Committee process, so that the presenters can be aware of these proposed changes. Let them not happen at the end. It is not fair to the presenters. It is not the way the process should work. It's not only something that I can say has been done by the government, but we've certainly seen it done by other Parties here in this House.

So it's an advisement to all members of this House that we work hard to try to make the Law Amendments Committee process stronger by making sure that presenters, once they arrive, have a clear sense of the bill presented and any changes that we are planning on bringing to it. That will not always be possible, Mr. Speaker, because I have seen instances where we've had a bill which we thought was a fine bill, and all of a sudden a presenter came in and highlighted a certain section which they had a problem with and brought forward a suggestion to us, which I can say all Parties have supported once we've heard those presentations. That is fine.

But, again, I am highlighting the situations where it is clear at the start of the process that with the bill itself there are changes that are being proposed right off the bat, before any presenter even speaks. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that regardless of the presentations, those changes are still going to be brought forward. So that is something for all Parties, all members, to keep in mind, which I hope they will see done because at the end of the day when we have tried to bring in the changes at the last minute that significantly change legislation, after presenters have not been given an opportunity to comment on it, we have learned the hard way of the impact of those changes of government having to come back and make changes at the last minute because of the fact that it was clear that legislation and changes at the last minute without proper consultation was not in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

[5:15 p.m.]

So, with that, as I said, I look forward to this bill moving forward and I do hope that Parties that have changes intended to this bill will table them at the start of the Law Amendments Committee process, not wait until everyone is done to significantly change the intent of the legislation. Thank you.

[Page 2042]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 37. It's an issue of which I have some awareness - not so much with regard to offshore but with regard to health and safety. I guess I want to start by recognizing, based on what I've heard about this bill both from briefings received from government staff and having read it, that there are some good components of this legislation.

I'm glad to see that what has been developed back in the mid-1990s through a consensus of union and management as the basis of health and safety law in this province is now going to be transferred to the offshore. I think anything less is something that would not be acceptable to our Party. If we have Nova Scotians working onshore in industries from a hospital to a factory to a construction site to a mine, they have certain rights, whether that's the right to a health and safety committee or a right to an occupational health and safety program if they have a certain number of workers, whether it is detailed regulations that provide for specifics as to how ladders should be built or how wide a plank should be - very detailed regulations. I think the people on the offshore deserve those same rights and responsibilities and I'm glad to see that is in this legislation.

There are a couple of things I do want to note briefly about this legislation that do concern me. First of all, the intent of this legislation is that the safety officers who will be doing the inspecting and investigating of accidents and of workplaces will be most notably safety officers employed directly by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. We have a concern with that, not unlike in Westray where we had the Department of Natural Resources having to approve plans for mines that eventually blew up and killed workers, by having the regulator, by having the promoter - which is really what the CNSOPB is - also as the safety inspector, is a serious problem. The problem that will result, I suspect long-term, in less effective inspection of the workplaces on the offshore, whether it be a drilling rig, a platform or anything else.

I would encourage this government to take a look at ways in which we can ensure that if not all, at least a good number of the safety officers involved will be officers that are not directly employed by the CNSOPB, the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. It is important that they be provided arm's-length, whether it be the Department of Environment and Labour for Nova Scotia, whether it be the federal Department of Labour, whether it be Transport Canada, whether it be the Coast Guard - be it someone who is not directly involved in trying to promote and sell drilling rights. Not one who will be directly involved in promoting and encouraging the development of our offshore because when you mix safety, health concerns potentially of workers with the same organization that's doing the promoting, selling and development of our offshore, it is a recipe for disaster. In the end, businesses' bottom line is what counts.

[Page 2043]

They can be socially responsible and I don't disagree. Having had the old Imperial Oil refinery in my riding, up until the last election, I know that the large petroleum companies do a very good job of promoting safety in the workplace. In fact, it may not be known, but most large companies are actually much better at safety because they have built into their bottom line a certain amount of money provided for safety. But there are contractors that will be involved, there will be subcontractors, there will be sub-subcontractors involved, that maybe aren't going to be as diligent, who aren't going to hear those messages from the very top of ExxonMobil, or PanCanadian or EnCana or whatever it is called now, Mr. Speaker. They are not going to hear from them when they say safety is important. When it trickles down, a lot of that message is lost.

When you have a board, the CNSOPB, which is also involved in promoting and regulating that industry, they are going to obviously be interested in the bottom line of those companies before they are interested in safety. And I have a major concern with safety officers predominently if not totally coming from that board and employed by that board. Mr. Speaker, also with regard to that which I think is important, and this is something that may not always be commonly known, but it is generally accepted, legally that in the life of a board that regulates, at some point, whether it is five years, 10 years, 15 years down the road, a board becomes co-opted by the industry it regulates. It's almost 100 per cent of the time that that occurs.

By building a close relationship between those that it regulates and the board that does the regulating, eventually that board becomes co-opted, and ends up listening very closely to what the industry wants, and actually reacting to that industry. What's that mean? That means that eventually in almost every situation a board that is set up by government to regulate an industry or a group of people, eventually, because they are co-opted, ends up doing less and less regulating and more and more promotion of that industry; doing what the industry wants. It's an actual fact. It happens. Well, Mr. Speaker, we think that that is another reason why we need the safety officer separate from the CNSOPB. If it isn't already co-opted, it's only a matter of time that it will be by the petroleum industry and that will mean that safety will always be put on the back burner, and that is a concern.

Just as big a concern - and this is my second and final point on this - is the fact that this is a very unique circumstance we have in Canada. This law has to be passed by Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal government. The regulation of the industry offshore Nova Scotia is a joint responsibility of the federal government and the Province of Nova Scotia. In Newfoundland and Labrador it is a joint responsibility of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government. What does that mean concretely in this bill? My understanding if not in the bill at least in the regulations - for example if we wanted to appoint safety officers from beyond the CNSOPB, beyond that board, you would have to get the agreement of both the Minister of Labour here, and the Minister of Labour federally.

[Page 2044]

Let's be frank, the Minister of Labour federally does not have a lot of political clout; in the hierarchy of 30 or 40 ministers, the Minister of Labour is probably down near the bottom. It's not an important ministry, because labour issues are ones handled by provinces. What we are going to have is a situation - I will use this as an example - you can have a situation where workers are refusing to work, as my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, talked about, the right to refuse; safety issues in a workplace.

If all the safety officers are employed by the CNSOPB and there is a refusal to work, or there is an issue they can't handle, and that is very possible, then in order to appoint someone else, outside that board in order to do the investigating, you would have to get the approval of two ministers. That's a very specific example, there are others. In the nature of offshore drilling, offshore production, in the nature of health and safety in the nature of workplaces as we know them, flexibility is vital in the 21st Century. Instead of telling them how thick or how wide a plank should be these days, we should be telling them the standards they should have to meet, so they have the flexibility within their organization, within their corporation, within their workplace to build in the flexibility they need. Here is the standard, meet it.

What if that standard has to be altered? What if equivalencies are requested? What if we need direct action because of disaster that results in the need on Nova Scotia for us to have something done quickly? We have created in this legislation a built-in quagmire. We have a situation, Mr. Speaker, where the two ministers are going to have to approve a lot of things - both ministers; it's not one or the other, both. As a result, I dread to think what would happen in a serious situation where you have to get the approval of not one minister in one government, but two ministers in two separate governments. It's going to create a lot of problems.

What if we find there is a problem in this legislation and we have to amend it? We are not only going to need not only our province to amend it, we are going to need the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the federal government to amend it, Mr. Speaker. These are serious problems. I would like to see within this legislation the ability in the case of emergencies, in the case of disasters, an opportunity for our Minister of Environment and Labour who is obviously involved in safety issues on a regular basis, has staffers involved in safety issues or, in turn the federal minister, one or the other or both, being able to act unilaterally in limited circumstances for a limited period of time because of emergency situations. Otherwise, we're going to put ourselves in a position where, as I said, it will be a quagmire - you will have need for both federal and provincial approval and it's going to cause bureaucratic problems, bureaucratic delays, and in the time of an emergency or disaster it's not the time for that kind of delay.

[Page 2045]

I would encourage the government to take a look at a way in which we can build into this legislation opportunities, limited, whether in time or an opportunity for our minister to be able to act unilaterally, or the federal minister to ensure that there is protection for the workers in cases of emergencies.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, as in all health and safety legislation, the devil is in the details. This legislation creates, this bill creates a skeleton of rights and responsibilities for workers and employers and contractors in the offshore and, as I said, I think the skeleton we built is very good, but the details come in the regulations that are approved - and our province has accepted, my understanding, that they will be developed by the federal government, by the National Energy Board, again, a group that regulates an industry and, if not already, will eventually be co-opted by that industry, and as a result we're developing regulations and accepting the regulations of the federal government as ones that we think are okay.

I understand our government doesn't have a lot of expertise in the offshore, but there are some things that are going to be - whether they are on an oil rig, a ship, or a refinery, or any other workplace - similar, and I hope that our government takes time to turn its eye, very closely with a fine-tooth comb, they review the federal regulations to make sure that they feel comfortable as a government. They should not pass the buck to the federal government, should not ask the federal government to write those regulations on their own, but should ensure as part of their responsibility in this legislation that they feel comfortable with them as well, Mr. Speaker.

Having said that, I look forward to hearing from people at the Law Amendments Committee with regard to this. I look forward to hearing what the industry, what organized labour, what individuals have to say, and I hope that we can fine-tune this legislation to make sure that we have the opportunities as a province to protect our workers when they're working in the offshore. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 37 has prompted a number of impassioned and very well informed and very interesting speeches by a number of my colleagues. It's extremely sad that we have to find ourselves a full five years after the death of Shawn Hatcher, making up for a large gap in the legislation that was originally put in place to deal with the offshore.

I want to start by asking how it is that we find ourselves in this situation of having to bring forward this kind of legislation to deal with a specific, focused and very important problem at all. Surely it should have been part of the original legislation that came forward to deal with the offshore because, let's remember that this is not a brand new subject and furthermore, the lag is not just five years, the lag is not just five years since the death of Shawn Hatcher. I think that first Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Accord, not the

[Page 2046]

legislation, but the accord, I think dates back to 1982, and that was, let's remind ourselves, an agreement between the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia as to legal jurisdiction on the offshore. Clearly it was prompted by the prospect of oil and gas extraction. Clearly the focus of those who were engaged in talking about the accord and drafting legislation to implement it, was on allocation of the revenues.

It was a money bill. It was a bill that was set up to try to regulate the flow of money and split it between the federal and provincial governments and it's obvious when you go back and read the debates in this House, in 1984, when the first legislation came in and in 1987 when the second piece of legislation came in, that that was the focus. It's just all too apparent in Hansard at the time, that the members of the House on either side were focused on issues around the commercial development of the offshore.

[5:30 p.m.]

That's their language. Their language was on setting up the joint board, the CNSOPB. Their language was focused on dollar grants to Nova Scotia's offshore company at the time, our Crown Corporation. The language and the debate was focused on royalties and how they would be split between the federal and provincial governments. There was nothing in the debates at the time on offshore occupational health and safety. It was clearly shoved off the table. It never even made it onto the table, because the focus was entirely different. So let's not think that it's just a five-year history that we're looking at here. We're trying to fix something that got off on the wrong foot 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, this is all too typical of how occupational health and safety matters are treated in Canada at large, and in our province in particular. Our province has a very sad history on occupational health and safety matters. I heard a number of my colleagues refer to the experience in Westray and the lessons that ought to be learned, that should have been learned as a result of Westray. It's correct that we should remember that experience. Not only was there a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Westray that gave us some very good advice, but there are two extremely detailed and illuminating works that have been written by scholars who looked at the Westray disaster.

One is the very fine book by Dean Jobb. Dean Jobb is a journalist still at work here in Nova Scotia. He has written a number of books, but he wrote a particularly fine book about Westray. Mr. Speaker, I want you to note, along with all members of this House, what he titled his book. He called it Calculated Risks: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy. Now, those should be very sobering words for all of us in this House. I hope all of us have read it. We should remember this book, Calculated Risks: Greed, Politics and the Westray Tragedy. What he's telling us and what he details in that book is how close the interactions were among the company of the person who today we unanimously condemned in a resolution, the government at the federal and provincial levels at the time, and the signals that

[Page 2047]

were read as a result of that by the inspectors who should have been vigilant to look out for the safety of the workers.

The other study is by Harry Glasbeek. Professor Glasbeek, now retired, taught for many years at Osgoode Hall Law School, and his book is called Death by Consensus. Sorry, it's a study, it's not a full book. It's a monograph. Just as with Mr. Jobb's book, Glasbeek's study is a harrowing read. It should frighten all of us, because it also details the way in which the position of workers is relegated to last on the list.

Both of these studies and the Royal Commission focused on Westray, but we had other commissioned studies with respect to the offshore, not in this province, but Newfoundland. Let's not forget the Ocean Ranger. The loss of Mr. Hatcher was not the only loss of workers employed in the offshore. There were, I believe, 84 people who lost their lives on the Ocean Ranger.

The lessons from the Ocean Ranger and from Westray and from the debate of Mr. Hatcher are lessons that have been repeated to us through unfortunate experience in a relatively short period of time in our experience of the offshore. We cannot continue to relegate workers' safety to last place in our hierarchy of values.

It is the case that not a huge number of people are employed in the offshore but that is no reason to have overlooked applying the general laws of the province that would otherwise have protected them if they had been employed onshore. Why did this happen? I've suggested it's a problem with the culture of the legislators in this country that tend to forget about the importance of workers and their safety. I also want to point out that it wouldn't have been so hard to deal with this matter when the first implementation Act came before this House in 1984 if a different approach had been taken.

What we're being asked to do now is to take special legislation, special sections and add them to an existing bill and say through Bill No. 37 that the normal occupational health and safety regime that would apply onshore also applies offshore. Of course, that's sensible, but what could have happened originally back in 1984 is all the province's Acts of general application could have been made applicable to the offshore. There's a precedent for it. The precedent is in the federal Indian Act. If you look at Section 88 of the federal government's Indian Act, what it says is, "Subject to the terms of any treaty and any other Act of Parliament, all laws of general application from time to time in force in any province are applicable to, and in respect of, Indians in the province."

There are more words, that's all I have to quote. There's a parallel there. Essentially, the federal government says, look, there's an enclave onshore inside provinces - namely, the reservations. We, the federal government, would normally have jurisdiction but we are going to agree that all laws of provincial, general application will apply there unless they're inconsistent with our special laws. Fine.

[Page 2048]

Why could it not have been the case that in 1984 or again in 1987, when the second round of a new accord implementation Act came in, that this couldn't have been the full extent of the Act. There might have been some modifications, some variations, but really, this question would not have arisen. We would not be finding ourselves dealing with special legislation now and there wouldn't have been the doubts around the time of Mr. Hatcher's death if a different approach had been taken. It would have been the logical approach. You could easily imagine that there are some laws that it would be unnecessary to think of in terms of their application to the offshore. Perhaps the provincial Highways Act might not have a lot of application, but so what?

Such an approach would have imported all of the province's general Acts, including occupational health and safety, which was already in place. This province has had occupational health and safety legislation, I believe, since 1971. (Interruptions)

I beg your pardon, I've been corrected, I'm told it's 1977. The point is, it was already in place. So that could have occurred - there was a model that could have been used very easily but it wasn't. So not only was the wrong approach, I would suggest, taken in terms of the legal thinking at the time, of course we've been reminded and have been reminding ourselves time and again today that the wrong priorities in terms of policy came to the fore, once we chose to try to deal with this matter on a piece by piece basis, asking ourselves which laws should apply to the offshore, the governments of the day answered the question incorrectly. They simply overlooked occupational health and safety.

Now, that puts it generously. I'm suggesting overlooked that has a neutral term to it almost. We don't know whether it occurred deliberately. What we worry about is that it was so much a part of the culture at the time that it was easy to arrive at that conclusion, at that omission. It's wrong and it should never have happened. All of this leads us, of course, to the conclusion that it is the right thing to do to put in place a regulatory regime but we have to look in detail at the regulatory regime that's being proposed and ask ourselves whether errors are again coming into the approach.

Mr. Speaker, I share with my colleagues the worry about the combined function assigned the CNSOPB. Just to be clear, that combined function is one of promotion of the offshore, economic promotion of the benefits of the offshore, along with the obligation to regulate the offshore for health and safety and for environmental purposes. Surely one of the lessons that was made explicit in Mr. Justice Richard's Royal Commission of Inquiry Report into Westray was that this was a fundamental flaw in how mining was regulated in the Province of Nova Scotia at the time. He pointed out that this combination of functions is inappropriate and, as it proved in Westray, fatal. The danger is that the regulator finds themselves in a position of conflict of interest. They want on the one hand to promote the industry. They want the industry to locate in Nova Scotia. They want the industry to develop. They want it to be up and going and they want it to be up and going yesterday so monies can

[Page 2049]

flow to the provincial coffers and so that jobs can be created. That is a function that is inherently in conflict with the regulatory oversight of any industry.

Although I think the term was not used by one of the previous speakers, I think what he had in mind was what's known as regulatory capture. There is a phenomenon in any administrative tribunal that has the job of regulating an industry of becoming so enamoured of the industry that they're called upon to regulate that they lose sight of the public interest. That's called regulatory capture. It doesn't have to happen. It doesn't require that there be a mix-up of the two objectives of regulation and promotion for regulatory capture to come into play. Regulatory capture can come into play even when there's a very focused mandate to regulate alone and not to promote. So it's a well recognized danger which we are compounding by combining the two functions and, as I said, Mr. Justice Richard pointed this out to us with respect to onshore mining.

Onshore mining is as parallel in its circumstances to offshore drilling as could possibly be and as a result of Mr. Justice Richard's recommendations, the provincial government split the functions with respect to onshore mining. One department was left with the duty to promote as part of their mandate and another department, quite separate, was given the responsibility to inspect, that's for a reason, that's because we learned the lessons of Westray in that particular regard, and yet, here we're repeating the error that was so clearly identified by assigning the CNSOPB, this combined function. Surely something has to happen in order to keep these two functions separate. This problem came up a year or two ago when the issue of protection of the environmental aspects of the offshore arose in connection with proposals for offshore seismic exploration adjacent to Cape Breton Island.

[5:45 p.m.]

One of the objections that was made by critics at the time was that the CNSOPB, ought not to have both, environmental protection mandate and promotion mandate, that was seen as something of a conflict. Yet here again, with respect to the other main regulatory function, in addition to environmental concerns, that is to say occupational health and safety, were seeing the two functions combined in the one entity. I'm very worried about this. We don't want to find ourselves, as a province, at some point in the future, examining yet another tragedy and saying to ourselves, we could have done something different. This is the opportunity now to do something different.

I heard a suggestion that there is going to be three-way legislation along the lines of Bill No. 37, a suggestion I believe that came from the government side of the House. As I understood it, the suggestion was that we would deal with this legislation, Newfoundland would deal with similar legislation and the federal government would deal with essentially similar legislation. I wonder if that's the case? I haven't heard that the federal government is dealing with mirror image legislation. The intention of the accords, of the offshore accords, always was, indeed, that there should be at least two-way parallel legislation. When the

[Page 2050]

agreement was between Nova Scotia and the federal government, the federal government brought in legislation that was worded exactly the same as the Nova Scotia legislation.

This was done so that the two parties would feel comfortable in implementing what they had negotiated, as the regulatory regime for the offshore. Is there, I ask, a corresponding obligation on the part of the federal government to bring in legislation parallel to our Bill No. 37, and is that happening? If it's not happening, if I am correct in my understanding that it's not happening yet, when will it happen? Is it the understanding, I would like to hear at some point in debate, from the minister, that he expects parallel legislation from the federal government. If he doesn't, could he explain why. If he does expect such parallel legislation, perhaps he could explain when he expects it to come forward and what timetable it will follow.

The absence of such legislation is not a reason for us to hesitate, I don't want to be misunderstood on that. I think that we indeed should put in place such legislation, and yet, it's just barely conceivable that if there is no parallel federal legislation, that should there ever be an accident on the offshore and should there be prosecutions for anyone seeming to be responsible, that a constitutional question could arise if there wasn't parallel legislation. I'm not proposing to push this very far, I simply want to make the observation and suggest that this matter has probably been explored by the federal and provincial officials responsible, but it would be good to hear some details of this.

I have a final point I want to turn to, Mr. Speaker, and it moves away from this question of occupational health and safety and raises a different issue.

As I was looking at the predecessor legislation - the 1984 legislation based on the 1982 accord and the 1987 legislation based on the 1986 accord - I was struck by something which is of concern to me in one of my critic areas which is my responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs. In the accord, although not in either piece of legislation, there is a provision that says that none of the arrangements are to be seen as being to the prejudice of any Aboriginal interest that might arise.

All of this legislation is legislation that came forward after the implementation of the Charter of Rights in 1982. That means that there had already been put in place, in the Charter, constitutional recognition in Section 35 of the rights of the Aboriginal community in Canada. It was negotiated in the accord that nothing the federal and provincial governments did through the accord and through their Acts would be to the prejudice of the Aboriginal community or their constitutional and treaty rights, whatever those might turn out to be. That's an appropriate kind of term to have in the accord. Yet, of course, it never made it into the legislation and it hasn't made it into this legislation either. Of course, this legislation has a different focus and yet we're still without such a clause in any of the legislation. It's in the accord but not in the legislation.

[Page 2051]

I have heard representatives of Nova Scotia's Mi'kmaq community - lawyers - suggest that in their negotiations which are now about to take place with the provincial government and the federal government over Nova Scotia territory, they've suggested that one of their negotiating positions is going to be that their traditional jurisdiction extends fully to the 200-mile zone offshore of Nova Scotia. This is a negotiating position, it's an opening position. I commend the representatives of the Mi'kmaq community for taking an aggressive position in the beginnings of negotiations. That's the way negotiations should go. It tells us nothing about where the negotiations will end up.

Yet, if this question is a live question, if this is going to form part of the negotiations that are about to start between the Province of Nova Scotia, representatives of the Mi'kmaq, and the federal government under the framework that they have worked out, it seems to me that our government, provincially, should turn their minds to this issue of what they think this legislation and the legislation that it amends implies - if anything - for Aboriginal title and treaty rights as recognized by the Constitution of Canada.

I raise this point because I have heard no one speak to it. I've heard nothing from the minister, nothing from other ministers who would have responsibilities for parallel matters and because there is that specific clause in the original accord that was signed between Nova Scotia and the Government of Canada.

To sum up, we have heard the details of the tragic death of Mr. Hatcher. We've had a number of enquiries that have looked at problems in the offshore. We've had enquires that have looked at occupational health and safety problems in parallel situations onshore. The lessons are there to be learned. Unfortunately, we seem always to learn them and to implement them much too late in the game. This bill seems to hold great promise in terms of finally taking a step that should have been taken 20 years ago.

However appreciative we are of the government's initiative in bringing it forward, we certainly look forward to examining in detail whether it can be improved and if so, how. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, my concern revolves around a conversation I had a couple of months ago with somebody as I was coming out of a meeting, and they had a concern about the safety of workers during their helicopter flights to and from these offshore oil rigs, and I don't know if this is the appropriate time to talk about this but I'll go for it. They had a concern that the staff who were on these rigs and who were there to report on the weather conditions on and around the rig that perhaps these people might be not the most qualified people, in that they either had minimal experience in that job of weather reporting or that they were totally unqualified and they had perhaps gotten these positions because they knew somebody. Reporting on the weather conditions on a rig seems to me to be something

[Page 2052]

of a very serious issue. You can be hundreds of miles out and the weather out there is completely different than onshore, so these people coming to and fro are relying on good weather reporting both onshore and offshore so that they can have a safe trip to and from. We all know that the weather can change very fast in those areas. So I guess my point is then, I don't know if I can get a reply to this concern maybe through the proper minister later on but I would like to maybe get some kind of confirmation on those concerns.

I do also have a concern that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board seems to be in a fast-tracking position - or I should say our government is - in moving the energy sector forward at a fast pace. I am just concerned that the regulations around the energy sector have to remain in a safe way. I have gotten some information in the United States, they have had injuries and deaths occur every year in the offshore due to helicopter crashes and I wouldn't like to see our government, when we are moving forward in the offshore industry and seeing more and more platforms that we would go down that same road and have to witness those kinds of injuries and/or deaths.

MR. SPEAKER: Due to the hour, would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate, please?

MS. MASSEY: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. The order of business, we will continue with Bill No. 37 and then we will go to Bill No. 40, the Assessment Act, and if we complete that, then we will do a few of the other fairly simple bills for second reading and we will rise at 12:00 noon.

Just for the information of all members, next week on Monday, we will start at 4:00 p.m. and sit until 10:00 p.m. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House adjourn until 9:00 a.m.

Is it agreed?

[Page 2053]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House will adjourn until 9:00 a.m.

We have reached the moment of interruption.

[Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government is trying, once again, to balance the budget on the backs of college and university students and their families.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

FIN. - BUDGET BALANCING: COLL./UNIV. STUDENTS - IMPACT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as you well know, I'm the proud father of a daughter who attends NSCAD so I would like to table for the attention of the House a photo of this young woman, my daughter Jana, as she is leading a protest about the 4 per cent tuition increase that has unfortunately taken place at the university where she's attending, and that demonstration in which my daughter, Jana, was involved, was reflecting the fact that the students across this province in post-secondary institutions are not happy with tuitions. The minister, or the acting minister, or the members opposite can stand in their place and they can attempt to put a good spin on this, but I want you to know the bottom line is that young men and women who attend post-secondary institutions across this province are not happy with this government. They are not pleased with this government, and the good reason that they are not pleased with this government are the tuitions that they and their parents have to face.

I want members opposite to answer this question, I want them to think about it, what does a food bank have to do with a university? Should food banks be operating at universities? Let me tell you that is a shameful disgrace, that the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, just down the street here, has a food bank on its campus to assist with students, to help young men and women out as they are studying, as they are holding down part-time jobs, and eventually, with graduation, hopefully, they face the debt which they and their parents have assumed on this topic. So let me tell you, when it comes to tuition fees, you're talking to the father of a daughter who is well aware of the difficulties that we have been facing across this province.

[Page 2054]

Members opposite should be aware of the fact that it's just not NSCAD that has faced recent increases. There were Dalhousie University student leaders here today who expressed to us their concern about tuition and how they continue to just escalate. We have heard of the increases at St. Mary's. We have heard of the increases at other universities in this province, and the most shameful thing is that recently, the other day, I was given some information by a member of the education community who said to me you should tell community college students, Bill, to hang onto their wallets because they're next. Their tuitions are going to increase.

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of working in schools where I, as a school teacher, could advise young men and women about career plans, what they should be looking at, various institutions that they should be considering. I was proud to hear the Premier, the Acting Minister of Education today, and the Minister of Education at the time, make announcements about the importance of the community college system across this province. I have had the opportunity to meet and have conversations at length with Ray Ivany, a real mover and shaker in the education community, about the importance of community colleges across this province. That's a key thing. Many young men and women are making decisions by going to community colleges that are close to the communities that they live in, close to the communities they went to high school in, because they do not have the added cost of residence. They do not have the added cost of rentals or apartments by coming to some of the university towns.

Mr. Speaker, as you probably are aware, there are young men and women with degrees from universities who have gone back to community college because of the career-oriented process that the instructors in those post-secondary institutions bring to these young men and women's attention. I want to make very clear that the acting minister, if he's participating in this debate, is aware of the master plan from community colleges.

I heard his comments during Question Period. I want to put them in perspective. When you look at the fact that this master plan for community colleges, and I will be tabling this for your interest Mr. Speaker, it says, "Tuition fees at the college for core full time programs are currently $2,150. This will increase by $100 . . ." to 2003-04 ". . . the final year of a three year program of gradual increase." Here is the key thing, "There are no planned increases in tuition in subsequent years as the College's tuition fees are among the top third of community colleges in Canada."

That was in writing in the master plan approved by the board of directors of the community colleges of this province. That says it in writing that there were to be no more tuition increases. We have heard the talk about new campuses, we have heard of the improvements that are taking place, and important changes that are taking place, Mr. Speaker, at our community colleges. But while those changes were taking place, whether it was a formal memorandum of agreement, whether it was a gentleman's agreement, whether it was an understanding written on paper or not, these changes were going to take place in

[Page 2055]

the community college systems across this province, and during that time, there were to be no tuition increases. What did we learn yesterday? We learned that a decision is being made that will be brought forward to the Cabinet, that it is necessary to have tuition increases.

I have heard from members of the journalism profession, I have heard from other people who have university degrees, $2,250 to $2,600 it's still cheaper than universities. That's not the point, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about a 15 per cent increase over that time period. When you have young men and women, who, let's face it, for career reasons can't go to university, a lot of them because of financial reasons, and when they look at the fact that they are holding down a part-time job, and they are trying to help out their parents with tuition, and you realize that tuition has gone up, at the community college level this time. That is hurting young men and women, and it is hurting them desperately. Community college students are not pleased. In fact, they will be in this Legislature at some time to make sure that the Minister of Education and the Premier are aware of the fact that tuition just cannot be allowed to continue to be increased, year after year after year.

Now I had the opportunity to meet with the presidents of the various universities, and the passing on of costs, to tuition and passing it on to students through tuition is just the way it has been happening these days. They are taking care of maintenance, and they are taking care of programs, and they are taking care of their difficulties because perhaps the corporations aren't lining up to assist them like they used to, so we will pass it on to the students. Well, let me tell you, the students have had enough. I am proud to say that this young woman who is in this picture, says to me with regularity . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows there are no props. The honourable member has about 15 seconds.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, thank you for that correction. I will tell you I am proud to say that my daughter is not going to take this. Other university students are not going to take this, and this government is going to wear this.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I am pleased to be able to speak on behalf of my colleague the honourable Minister of Education. I've been around the Cabinet table now for almost five years, and there have been many discussions with respect to education, and I have been very pleased to be part of those discussions, and they are passionate Mr. Speaker. Everyone around the table cares deeply about the education of young Nova Scotians. The decisions we make are often difficult and they are never made lightly.

Contrary to the suggestions of the honourable member opposite, this government has been making and will continue to make every effort it can afford to support students as they pursue post-secondary education. First, we invest more and more every year, in our public

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schools so that young Nova Scotians are well prepared to enter university or college programs. We also continue to restore funding to universities. Mr. Speaker, and I say restore funding to universities because this funding was severely cut by the previous government. University operating funding was at an all-time high in 1993 at $212 million. It was cut all the way down to $175 million, in 1997. With our continuous investment we've been able to bring university funding close to its peak of 1993, and we will continue to invest more.

Mr. Speaker, we don't control what universities do with this funding. They are autonomous institutions. They control their finances and they set their own tuition. We understand that universities face rising costs, but we expect them to seek every alternative and not meet them simply by increasing students' tuition. We do recognize that there's one way we can help universities to do this. Knowing what funding will be available in the future will help them to do a better job of planning to keep tuition increases to a minimum. We're currently discussing a multi-year funding agreement with universities.

We aim to give universities a three-year guarantee for their operating funding, in return, we're discussing such things as, reducing duplication, making it easier to transfer credits between universities and the community colleges, identifying and supporting programs in areas that address Nova Scotia's skill needs and of course keeping tuition increases to a minimum.

Mr. Speaker, our government does not regulate tuition, nor should we. Regulating tuition doesn't work. Other provinces have tried it through tuition freezes and there have been disastrous results. While the government imposed a tuition freeze, the quality of education in British Columbia, for instance, and those universities began to deteriorate. It's a fact of life that costs rise and the universities simply can't afford to maintain quality programs.

When the freeze was lifted, tuition went through the roof as universities desperately tried to repair the damage done to their programs and services during the freeze. Some say the approach should be a fully-funded tuition freeze. Mr. Speaker, that doesn't work either. They're trying to do that in Ontario right now. The government just announced $48 million in funding because it's not allowing universities to increase tuition. The universities are saying, it's not enough. That's the risk of a fully-funded tuition freeze. No matter how much funding we provide, the universities would never say that, that is enough. They would always want more.

At a minimum, a fully-funded tuition freeze in Nova Scotia would cost $14 million, and that's just for one year. The universities would essentially ask the government to write a blank cheque. We simply can't afford to do that. As I said, our approach is to continue investing in universities as we can afford to, we'll continue working with them, on keeping tuition increases to a minimum and providing stable funding. We're also working on a proposal to the federal government to help universities address the costs of maintaining their

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buildings. We've already taken a huge step in terms of the facilities for the community college. We're investing $123 million in the college's facilities.

Mr. Speaker, this investment in post-secondary education is the biggest in Nova Scotia's history. The college currently gets twice as many applications as it has seats available. This expansion will increase the college's capacity by 2,500 seats, so more students can access the education and training they need to get the jobs they want. Our provincial operating funding to the college has been steadily rising. It's currently at nearly $68 million.

Earlier today, the honourable member for Timberlea -Prospect tried to paint a picture of college students, who are paying the highest fees in the country and getting the lowest per capita funding from their school, and I have two short words for him, Mr. Speaker, he's wrong. Nova Scotia's community college tuition is the fourth lowest in the country. P.E.I. has the highest fees of $3,250, $1,000, higher than Nova Scotia. Our community college gets the fourth highest per capita funding in the country - Saskatchewan is the lowest at $27 per capita; we're at $61 per capita.

[6:15 p.m.]

I'm pleased to table charts that show these facts, as opposed to the fiction you heard from across the floor earlier. Like the universities, the community colleges face cost pressures and we recognize those costs. The community college provides excellent education and training opportunities for Nova Scotians - it's a key player in helping our people develop the skills they need to contribute to our economy; in fact, the college stakes its reputation on the ability of its graduates to find fulfilling jobs in their fields of study.

A recent study by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission showed similar results for university graduates. It noted that they largely saw their education, regardless of the cost, as an investment in their future. If students need loans to complete their college or university education, they have access to Canada and Nova Scotia student loans. Recent federal announcements are encouraging, that even more students will have access to this financing, and I'm very pleased to say that we played a role in bringing that request forward through the council of education ministers in this country.

Let's not forget that provincial governments pay the interest on these loans while students are in schools so they graduate with owing only the principal. We also pay the interest for graduates who were having trouble with repayment. Students with Nova Scotia student loans now have access to our new student rebate reduction program when they graduate. It's a $5.1 million program designed to help the students with the highest debt with repayment. Depending on the length of their programs, students can have about 40 per cent of the loan eliminated as they start repayment.

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As Education Minister, I announced the new Student Debt Reduction Program last March. At that time I promised that we'd develop an information campaign to be sure students knew about it. I also promised to ask student leaders for their thoughts on the best ways to get this information to students. Minister Muir has honoured these commitments. He met with the student leaders in the Fall and got their input on the best way to reach graduating students. Government has limited resources for this campaign; however, the Department of Education has placed ads in student and provincial papers, mailed notices to every student who, records show, may be graduating each month, and it followed up with e-mails to every student for whom it had an address. The department is also working with an automated system to make the application process easier.

We hope that every student who is eligible for the program will apply. The money is available to reduce student debt and we want them to take full advantage of it. I'm sure I could speak much longer on the efforts the government is making to support students and maintain a high-quality secondary education system; however, I believe that we've given members opposite sufficient evidence to dispose the claim of this resolution. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, this topic is certainly one which is very personal and also related to my profession for many years. First of all, I must say however that the attendance by students and student leaders here today in the midst of their exams certainly points towards many difficulties with the tuition structure that we now have in the province.

I don't think we need a complicated formula or the poorly constructed Grade 12 math exam to see an obvious equation here. High tuition, students not entering university, students leaving before their programs are complete and students leaving the province - that is an equation that is simply now working itself here in Nova Scotia. The starting point for this Spring, courses that we do have at the university level, the highest tuition rates in the country. Obviously, from what we have heard so far, those rates continue to accelerate - 7.2 per cent at Dalhousie, 4.25 per cent at St. Mary's, and we hear the other universities will be following suit. If we take a look at just the last five years in terms of tuition increases, we are now floating somewhere between 20 per cent and 25 per cent of the total cost of a university education - has increased in just the past five years.

That certainly is a very, very substantial increase, and the impact on students and student life, Mr. Speaker, is certainly now being exhibited on campuses. We know that students, and again a growing percentage, are having to use food banks, are having to get a line of credit to pay the rent. These are stresses in the midst of university life that I don't think should be acceptable.

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One of the realities that I experienced as a high school vice-principal in rural Nova Scotia was students coming into my office, discussing their future. Again, the whole mentality of large loans, investing in future is foreign to some families. Tuition rates and easier access to loans and a strong debt reduction program, I absolutely believe that we would have more Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians of ability entering our post-secondary institutions.

This whole area, of course, also brings up the fact that we haven't had the support on the capital side to our universities. When we met with the presidents, they said at the current rate of monies they have available to renew and restore the campuses, they are talking about a 200-year cycle. We obviously know that many of their buildings won't be around for that kind of period of time if they aren't able to renew those. So what we see happening is that those kinds of stresses on the university are in fact leading to significant increases in tuition.

I'm sure all of us here I'm sure in the Legislature would speak very proudly of the fact that we do have the best undergraduate universities in the country. I think that's borne out in many ways. Certainly, to keep that stature and status is one we want but there is a price to pay. Hiring university professors who, again, are accomplished in their field is an expense that is starting to be borne more by students and in my view, again, our students should not have to pay for this right.

When we take a look at the great benefits that our universities bring to this province, certainly government should be there to lend a hand through this tough period that our university students are experiencing to a greater degree than what we currently see.

One of those realities of high tuition was borne out for me today when I was attending a function this morning at the College of Geographic Sciences in Lawrencetown. A young girl stepped to the podium and she said I've had five years at a university in Nova Scotia and now a one year GIS program at Lawrencetown and, in six months' time, I will have to start to pay back $70,000 - $55,000 from a student loan and $15,000 in a line of credit. Now, that's probably on the high side but more and more of our students are having to move into paying off these exorbitant debts. What that's leading to, of course, is very, very talented Nova Scotians, who should be the future and backbone of the economy and driving forces in the communities for the future, having to make a quick exit out of Nova Scotia, because they have to get a job that can pay considerable dollars immediately upon leaving university. That particular student that I just referenced, she told me this morning that she will be paying back somewhere between $600 and $800 a month, so she has to look outside of Nova Scotia. So there's a real connect here with rising tuition fees and students not entering, whether it's the community colleges or universities, simply finding it too burdensome to take on the kind of debt that their families are certainly not accustomed to.

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As we know, we need our students to remain in the province and that's why our Party had committed to an exit plan that would work to keep more young Nova Scotians in the province, by giving them debt relief and larger, significant amounts if they remained in Nova Scotia.

So, we are once again in that rite of Spring where we're seeing tuitions go up and certainly it is our hope that the budget will not be too devastating for universities which, in turn, we know the pattern now is to pass it on to students, about 50 per cent, roughly, of university funding comes from tuition, so we know that this tremendous connect does exist and it is one that, certainly, students are going to make us even much more aware of in the coming days. We will see students, I'm sure, back here in the House to tell us their personal stories of what they have been living through for the past four or five years.

We know that education is obviously essential to the future of Nova Scotia and we must commit to making sure that it is accessible to all families in this province. It can no longer be the birthright of well-to-do, elite families. I think we will pay an enormous price in the future if we become known for having only had the doors of universities open to those who were able to sustain significant debt or able to fund and provide the means of going to college. It is something that certainly our generation felt that we had great access to.

So, with that Mr. Speaker, I will wrap up this period of time by saying that, certainly, it is of great concern to those in the system and to future students of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the late debate has expired. I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this debate.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]

[Page 2061]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 820

By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

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

Whereas the Tom Parker Award is presented annually to businesses in Eastern Hants County not only for their business success but also for their activity within the community; and

Whereas Charlotte Van Mil and Jim Isenor, owners of Curly Portables, are the 2004 recipients; and

Whereas Curly Portables of Enfield is an exceptionally successful restaurant in Enfield and has been owned by Jim and Charlotte for the past 20 years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the significant contributions made by both Charlotte and Jim through a variety of measures including helping staff attend management programs to further their careers while also incorporating the history of the community into their fabulous restaurant.

RESOLUTION NO. 821

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Canadian Ski Patrol System (CSPS) is a non-profit, professionally managed and highly trained organization with over 5,800 members and honorary members across Canada with 128 members volunteering their time in the Scotia Zone, being mainly Nova Scotia; and

Whereas CSPS volunteers provide a high standard of safety, search and rescue, and first-aid services on Canada's ski mountains with ski patrollers coming from all walks of life and ranging in age from 18 to over 65; and

Whereas for over 60 years, Canadian ski patrollers have given freely of their time to make skiing and snowboarding a safer and a more enjoyable sport by raising their own funds to purchase rescue sleds and equipment, first-aid supplies, and promote safe snow-sliding

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programs in Canadian communities and ski areas where CSPS volunteers also provide first-aid and rescue services during off-season events such as the MS Bike Tour, the Canadian Cancer Relay for Life and many more very worthwhile projects;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Canadian Ski Patrol System on their dedication and hard work, which ensures the safety of these enjoyable sports, and wish them continued success in the future as they provide these very valuable services.

RESOLUTION NO. 822

By: Mr. Frank Corbett (Cape Breton Centre)

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

Whereas many employees of New Waterford Consolidated Hospital have become extremely ill over the past several years, citing working conditions and heavy metals present in the hospital; and

Whereas last week a report was issued saying the ventilation system at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital is inadequate; and

Whereas the first steps in solving this problem are cleaning up the air in the hospital and ensuring that the affected workers return to good health and not another inquiry that will sit on someone's desk as suggested by the Third Party;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Health invest immediately in upgrading the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital's ventilation system and provide those workers who have become ill with all forms of treatment they need to improve their health and allow them to become active employees once more.