The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-27

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

MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Environ. & Lbr.: VLTs - Ban, Mr. C. Parker 2141
Environ. & Lbr. - Inglewood Farms: Sludge Spread - Object,
Mr. B. Taylor 2142
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 878, Educ. - Science Educ.: Teachers - Recognize,
(by Hon. P. Christie), Hon. J. Muir 2142
Vote - Affirmative 2143
Res. 879, TCH: Sydney Acad. - CARAS Grant, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2143
Vote - Affirmative 2143
Res. 880, Mar. Forces Atl. - Members: Efforts - Salute, Hon. R. Russell 2144
Vote - Affirmative 2144
Res. 881, TCH - C.B. Tourism Ind.: Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2144
Vote - Affirmative 2145
Res. 882, Ocean Nutrition: Expansion - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 2145
Vote - Affirmative 2146
Res. 883, Rowe, Kenneth/Smithers, Fred - Mgt. Awards, Hon. E. Fage 2146
Vote - Affirmative 2147
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 52, Road Improvements Act, Mr. C. Parker 2147
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 884, Cole Hbr. Rural Her. Soc.: Honorary Memberships (2004) -
Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 2147
Vote - Affirmative 2148
Res. 885, Webb., Rev. John G.: UCCB Scholarship - Establishment,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2148
Vote - Affirmative 2149
Res. 886, Fireman's Prayer: MLAs - Recognize, Mr. C. O'Donnell 2149
Vote - Affirmative 2149
Res. 887, Hewitt, Michael: OH&S - Contributions, Mr. K. Deveaux 2149
Vote - Affirmative 2150
Res. 888, Day, Daisy/SADD - Northeast Kings Educ. Ctr.: Efforts -
Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 2150
Vote - Affirmative 2151
Res. 889, TPW - Rte. 4 Concerns: Min. Response - Recognize,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2151
Vote - Affirmative 2152
Res. 890, E. Hants Sportsplex - WWH Championship: Event - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2152
Vote - Affirmative 2153
Res. 891, Heart & Stroke Campaign: Vols. - Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 2153
Vote - Affirmative 2153
Res. 892, St. Mary's Mun. - Anniv. (125th), Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2153
Vote - Affirmative 2154
Res. 893, Sports: St. Pat's Basketball Teams (Boys/Girls) - Congrats.,
Mr. H. Epstein 2154
Vote - Affirmative 2155
Res. 894, East. Shore Ground Search & Rescue: Headquarters -
Opening, Mr. K. Colwell 2155
Vote - Affirmative 2156
Res. 895, Young, Elaine - Blandford FD: Capt. - Appt.,
Mr. J. Chataway 2156
Vote - Affirmative 2156
Res. 896, Peppard, Edna: Death of - Tribute, Mr. C. Parker 2157
Vote - Affirmative 2157
Res. 897, Cumberland Co. United Way - Vols.: Contribution -
Acknowledge, Mr. Gerald Sampson 2157
Vote - Affirmative 2158
Res. 898, Van Allen, Howard - Col. Hist. Soc. Award, Mr. W. Langille 2158
Vote - Affirmative 2159
Res. 899, John Martin Sch.: Arts For Peace Prog. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 2159
Vote - Affirmative 2160
Res. 900, N.S. Forestry Hall of Fame - Inductees (1st), Mr. S. McNeil 2160
Vote - Affirmative 2160
Res. 901, Hale, Donnie: Westville FD - Retirement, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2161
Vote - Affirmative 2161
Res. 902, Whitney Pier Youth Club: Earth Day Celebrations -
Applaud, Mr. G. Gosse 2161
Vote - Affirmative 2162
Res. 903, Women's Place Resource Ctr.: Move - Congrats.,
Mr. H. Theriault 2162
Vote - Affirmative 2163
Res. 904, Power, Adrienne - CIS Medals, Mr. W. Dooks 2163
Vote - Affirmative 2163
Res. 905, Russell, Sgt. Ray: Retirement - Congrats.,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2164
Vote - Affirmative 2164
Res. 906, Affordable Housing Agreement: Gov't. (N.S.) - Heed,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2164
Res. 907, Russell, Burton: Sport Hist. - Contributions, Mr. M. Parent 2165
Vote - Affirmative 2166
Res. 908, St. Nicholas Anglican Church: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2166
Vote - Affirmative 2166
Res. 909, Nat'l. Secretary Wk. (04/18/04): Secretaries -
Services Recognize, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2167
Vote - Affirmative 2167
Res. 910, Barrington FD/Chief - Fire (02/28/04): Efforts - Applaud,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 2167
Vote - Affirmative 2168
Res. 911, Coastal Communities Network - Work: Importance -
Recognize, Mr. S. McNeil 2168
Vote - Affirmative 2169
Res. 912, GOALS - IBEW (Guys.): Efforts - Recognize,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2169
Vote - Affirmative 2170
Res. 913, Educ. Wk. (04/18-24/04): Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Glavine 2170
Vote - Affirmative 2170
Res. 914, Anderson, Pastor Lennett J.: Macleans Mag. - Recognition,
Hon. B. Barnet 2170
Vote - Affirmative 2171
Res. 915, Diman Assoc. of Can.: Contribution - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 2171
Vote - Affirmative 2172
Res. 916, Cdn. Tire Fdn. For Families: Yar. Store/Supporters -
Congrats., Hon. R. Hurlburt 2172
Vote - Affirmative 2173
Res. 917, Whynot, Roy: Vol. Efforts - Congrats., Mr. H. Theriault 2173
Vote - Affirmative 2174
Res. 918, Pictou Co. Train Derailment: Emergency Responders -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 2174
Vote - Affirmative 2174
Res. 919, Hughes, Stephanie: Olympic Trials - Support, Mr. D. Graham 2175
Vote - Affirmative 2175
Res. 920, Atwell, Cst. Robyn: Community Service - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 2175
Vote - Affirmative 2176
Res. 921, Demone, Paul - Lunenburg Vol. of Yr., Hon. M. Baker 2176
Vote - Affirmative 2177
Res. 922, Daigneault, Ashley - Duke of Edinburgh Award (Gold),
Mr. L. Glavine 2177
Vote - Affirmative 2177
Res. 923, NDP Leader: Ins. Flip-Flop - Reasons, Mr. Michel Samson 2178
Res. 924, Miller, Barbara - Mahone Bay Vol. of Yr., Hon. M. Baker 2178
Vote - Affirmative 2179
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 40, Assessment Act 2179
Mr. K. Colwell 2179
Mr. C. Parker 2180
Ms. D. Whalen 2185
Mr. J. Pye 2188
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2198
Mr. H. Epstein 2209
Mr. J. MacDonell 2218
Hon. B. Barnet 2220
Vote - Affirmative 2221
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Apr. 20th at 12:00 noon 2222
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 3(3):
Res. 925, Bass River FD: Responses - Commend, Mr. W. Langille 2223
Res. 926, Debert Fire Brigade: Responses - Commend, Mr. W. Langille 2223
Res. 927, Five Islands FD: Responses - Commend, Mr. W. Langille 2224
Res. 928, North River & Dist. FD: Responses - Commend,
Mr. W. Langille 2224
Res. 929, Tatamagouche FD: Responses - Commend, Mr. W. Langille 2225
Res. 930, Economy Fire Brigade: Responses - Commend,
Mr. W. Langille 2225
Res. 931, Great Village & Dist. Fire Brigade: Responses - Commend,
Mr. W. Langille 2226
Res. 932, Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade: Responses - Commend,
Mr. W. Langille 2226
Res. 933, Valley-Kemptown & Dist. Fire Brigade: Responses -
Commend, Mr. W. Langille 2227
Res. 934, Muise, Anne - St. John Ambulance Dog Therapy Prog.,
Hon. R. Hurlburt 2227
Res. 935, Nat'l. Gun Registry: PM - Scrap, Mr. B. Taylor 2228
Res. 936, Family Fries Restaurant - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 2228
Res. 937, East. Shore Law Ctr. - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 2229
Res. 938, DeMone Monument & Granite Prod. - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 2229
Res. 939, Belle's Barber Shoppe - Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 2230
Res. 940, Pettipas Septic & Plumbing Service - Recognize,
Mr. W. Dooks 2230

[Page 2141]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 19, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

4:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition to the Nova Scotia Government re video lottery terminals. 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 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." This has been signed by 37 residents of my riding and I, too, have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

2141

[Page 2142]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from over 400 constituents. The prayer is, "We the undersigned object to the decision by the Department of Environment and Labour to grant an approval to Inglewood Farms (Jeff Cutten) to spread sludge on Farmland in Lower Truro, Colchester County and petition Colchester County Council to take the necessary steps to ensure that this does not happen." I have signed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 878

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

Whereas every year during Education Week we recognize the work of teachers and others who are dedicated to educating young Nova Scotians; and

Whereas this year we are highlighting how our teachers are using fun, hands-on activities to help all of our students develop their scientific literary skills; and

Whereas we are supporting our educators in these activities by working with them to implement our world-class science curriculum and providing new science teaching resources;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize our teachers' efforts to ensure our students always question, investigate and discover through scientific education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2143]

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. 879

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

Whereas one lucky Nova Scotia school's music students were the recipients of a Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS) Band Aid program grant of $10,000 to buy new instruments; and

Whereas Sydney Academy was one of only eleven schools in Canada to receive the financial boost to its music program; and

Whereas not only were the students thrilled to receive the grant, but they had the added bonus of having Canada's Nickelback band members in town to help them celebrate and offer the students advice and encouragement prior to the band's Sydney concert date in March;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students and teachers of Sydney Academy on the receipt of this needed injection of funds to its music program, and wish them well as they continue their program courtesy of CARAS and Nickelback.

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 Deputy Premier.

[Page 2144]

[Page 2145]

RESOLUTION NO. 880

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

Whereas in January, HMCS Toronto and its 240-person crew departed from Halifax Harbour to join a U.S.-led group of ships to monitor the Persian Gulf in the continuing battle against the ever-present threat of terrorism; and

Whereas there are also another 32 personnel deployed from Maritime Forces Atlantic currently serving in various locations, including those who just recently left our coast for international intervention action in Haiti, and those on UN duty in Afghanistan, Alert, Bosnia, Florida, Golan Heights, Persian Gulf, Sierre Leone; and

Whereas the valiant commitment that our troops dedicate to their job each day, sadly highlighted with the losses our Canadian military has suffered in the last few years, is evident wherever they find themselves on duty;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House salute the continuing efforts of these brave men and women of Maritime Forces Atlantic, with special thoughts to those currently serving our country in conflict areas in the name of democratic freedom - we thank them and we thank their families for their sacrifice of the time spend apart.

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. 881

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

[Page 2146]

Whereas a survey of tourism industry experts by National Geographic's Traveler magazine has given Cape Breton an exceptionally high mark; and

Whereas the magazine, in doing this kind of poll for the first time with 200 tourism experts, scored Cape Breton at 78 points, tied for second with two other world-class locations, and finishing behind only the Norwegian fiords, which placed first with 82 points; and

Whereas Cape Breton placed ahead of such historic tourism destinations such as Hawaii, the Grand Canyon, Australia's Great Barrier Reef, the Great Wall of China, and the Scottish Highlands, as well as other Canadian destinations such as the Rocky Mountains;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House applaud the efforts of people such as Sandra MacDonald, Executive Director of Destination Cape Breton, along with others involved in the tourism industry in Cape Breton, for making such an amazing score possible while working to bring the world to Cape Breton.

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. 882

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

Whereas Ocean Nutrition Canada has undergone a $10-million expansion to their Mulgrave processing plant; and

Whereas Ocean Nutrition Canada is the owner of unique technology that makes it the world's leading producer of healthful, high-quality fish oil supplements and powder for the food industry; and

[Page 2147]

Whereas Ocean Nutrition Canada is an innovator in taking natural resources, such as fish from the sea, and turning them into completely new products to earn export dollars and provide hundreds of jobs, particularly in rural Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that in appreciation of our shared concern for health promotion, rural growth and economic development, all members of this House congratulate Ocean Nutrition Canada and their Mulgrave operation and thank them for their dedication to the good health and well-being of all 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 Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 883

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

Whereas for 10 years, Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies awards have celebrated homegrown, world-class, success stories; and

Whereas two Nova Scotia companies have been named to this prestigious list for 2003-04, IMP Group International Inc. and Secunda Marine International Ltd.; and

Whereas the management of these two companies have demonstrated exceptional ability and aptitude in all areas of management and best business practices;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating IMP owner, Mr. Kenneth C. Rowe, and Secunda owner, Mr. Fred Smithers on having their companies named among Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies, and wish them much success in their future business endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2148]

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. 52 - Entitled an Act to Set Criteria for Prioritizing Road Improvement Projects. (Mr. Charles Parker)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 884

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

Whereas the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society was formed in 1973 to preserve the natural and cultural history of Cole Harbour and surrounding areas; and

Whereas on March 29th, the society held its annual general meeting where honorary memberships were awarded to individuals who have been longtime friends and contributors of the society; and

Whereas the 2004 recipients of honorary memberships are Donald Harris, Melvin Harris and Lloyd Eisner, who, as lifelong residents of Cole Harbour, have used their talents and resources to enhance the growth and well-being of the society;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Donald Harris, Melvin Harris and Lloyd Eisner on receiving honorary memberships in the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society, and commend them for their hard work and commitment to the community of Cole Harbour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2149]

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.

[4:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 885

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

Whereas Rev. Father John G. Webb, a recipient of the Order of Canada, is being honoured with the establishment of a $1,500 scholarship for a student graduating from the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas Father Webb is a pioneer in the area of social work and is known for the establishment of Talbot House, a residential addiction treatment facility for men, in 1955; and

Whereas this scholarship will enable graduate students to pursue a degree in social work;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature of the Province of Nova Scotia honour the establishment of the Reverend John G. Webb Scholarship at the University College of Cape Breton and recognize the contribution of Father Webb to the field of social work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2150]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 886

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

Whereas the Woods Harbour Volunteer Fire Department recently held their annual banquet; and

Whereas firefighters in Woods Harbour asked if I would come and bring greetings from the province; and

Whereas during this banquet, while I have been told it is used frequently at many fire department banquets, I heard the Fireman's Prayer for the first time which in five verses covers everything from being paged out, to being alert at all times, to asking God to look after one's family if the worst should transpire at a call;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly recognize the Fireman's Prayer this afternoon as thought-provoking and encouragement for volunteer firefighters in Shelburne County and across Nova Scotia who are asked to put their lives at risk at any given time of day or night.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 887

[Page 2151]

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

Whereas Michael Hewitt emigrated from the United Kingdom to pursue a career in Canada as a nurse in the Northwest Territories and became the Deputy Minister of Justice in the territory before retiring and moving to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Michael Hewitt, after the Westray accident, used his excellent skills as a facilitator in the mid-1990s to bring labour and management together in the development of new mine safety regulations and a new Occupational Health and Safety Act; and

Whereas after the Occupational Health and Safety Act was passed by this Assembly, Michael Hewitt became the first Chairperson of the newly created Occupational Health and Safety Appeal Panel, a job he held until his recent retirement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contributions of Michael Hewitt to workplace health and safety in Nova Scotia and labour-management relations in our province and wish him and his family all the best in the years to come.

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-Musquodoboit Valley on an introduction.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce a former colleague of mine who used to be on Halifax County Council and, as well, a provincial legislator and, once again, a Halifax Regional Municipal Councillor, Mr. David Hendsbee. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome Mr. Hendsbee to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 888

[Page 2152]

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

Whereas Students Against Drunk Driving is a youth led, non-profit organization created to stop alcohol and drug-related automobile deaths; and

Whereas Northeast Kings Education Centre student, Daisy Day, has helped lead the way in strengthening the efforts of SADD at her school; and

Whereas the popular Grade 12 student is working with the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to develop a fundraising and awareness campaign, as well as a special project for May;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the efforts of Daisy Day and all the members of Students Against Drunk Driving at the Northeast Kings Education Centre and wish them much success in their important 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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 889

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

Whereas Route 4 extending from Sydney to Port Hawkesbury is a vital link to the eastern Cape Breton Island; and

Whereas the economic and social viability of Richmond County and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality is directly related to the quality of Route 4; and

[Page 2153]

Whereas today the Department of Transportation and Public Works has authorized the call to tender for the upgrade of a further three kilometres of Route 4 extending from Big Pond Centre to Middle Cape in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the efforts of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works for responding positively to the concerns raised by the residents of Cape Breton Regional Municipality over the deplorable state of Route 4.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 890

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

Whereas World Women's Hockey Championship games were recently held in Nova Scotia in locations around the province; and

Whereas the East Hants Sportsplex acted as host rink for the Swedish and Chinese teams; and

Whereas there was a great cultural exchange between the community and the teams, most notably the Swedish team, which took the time to visit local schools;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the organizers, staff and fans of the East Hants Sportsplex as well as the Chinese and Swedish World Women's Hockey Teams on their successful event.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

[Page 2154]

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. 891

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

Whereas February is dedicated as Heart and Stroke Month with many volunteers working to raise funds and awareness across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Cheryl Walker of Halifax has served as Program Coordinator, organizing the door-to-door canvassers for all of Bedford, Halifax and the western half of Halifax County; and

Whereas this is an extremely large area which requires a great deal of commitment and organization;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Cheryl Walker and the many volunteers who gave countless hours to make this year's Heart and Stroke Campaign a success.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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.

[Page 2155]

RESOLUTION NO. 892

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

Whereas with the enactment of the County Incorporation Act in 1879 by this Nova Scotia Legislature, the District of St. Mary's was reorganized as the Municipality of St. Mary's; and

Whereas John A. Kirk was unanimously chosen as the first Warden at the council meeting held at the Sherbrooke Court House on Tuesday, January 13, 1880; and

Whereas today the people of the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's are ably represented by Warden Milton Jordan, Deputy Warden David Clark and Councillors Donald Dunbar, Elizabeth Fleet, Fred Jack, Jacqueline Dort and Jim Harpell;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing the 125th Anniversary of this Municipality of the District of St. Mary's and extend our best wishes to all those who work and reside in this beautiful Nova Scotia community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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. 893

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

Whereas a significant event occurred this year in high school basketball in the province when both the St. Pat's High School Division 1 boys' and Division 1 girls' teams won the provincial titles on March 6th; and

[Page 2156]

Whereas the Irish boys, coached by Irvine Carvery, won their second consecutive championship, a feat which has not happened since 1988; and

Whereas the Irish girls, coached by Rachel Ross and assistant coach Gail Rice, won the school's first Division 1 girls' title since 1977;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to the St. Pat's Irish boys basketball team coach Irvine Carvery and the St. Pat's Irish girls basketball team coach Rachel Ross and assistant coach Gail Rice and to their families and friends for a successful season and well deserved championship wins.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 894

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

Whereas since February 1980, the Eastern Shore Ground Search and Rescue has been highly committed to the safety and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia's Eastern Shore; and

Whereas in order to fulfill this commitment to dedication, volunteers on February 29, 2004, held their grand opening of their new headquarters at the Big Blue Barn; and

Whereas having a permanent home in the Head of Chezzetcook will provide a stable base for this much-needed organization;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Eastern Shore Ground Search and Rescue on the opening of their new headquarters and the outstanding work they do in all our communities.

[Page 2157]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 895

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

Whereas Elaine Cherie Young was recently the first female ever elected to the position of captain in the Blandford Fire Department; and

Whereas when it comes to helping people, it seems as if Elaine Young doesn't have any limitations because she is also a highly qualified first responder, a registered nurse, and a member of the Hubbards Fire Department; and

Whereas Ms. Young is a resident of Birchy Head, Lunenburg County where she spends some of her time when not assisting others in need of help;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs applaud the significant achievements of Elaine Cherie Young and wish her every success in all of her endeavors, including the most recent one as an executive member of the Blandford Fire Department.

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 2158]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West

[Page 2159]

RESOLUTION NO. 896

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

Whereas Pictou County recently lost one of its best-known musicians and composers with the death of Edna May Peppard at the age of 93; and

Whereas Edna Peppard was involved in music her whole life as choir member, organist, and accompanist for fiddlers; and

Whereas Edna composed a number of waltzes, songs, and hymns that were recently compiled into a book called My Tunes and her Christmas hymn, Follow the Star, is sung in many area churches;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature recognize the important contribution played by Edna May Peppard in the musical and family life of Pictou 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 Victoria The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 897

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

Whereas the heroes of community service in this province are volunteers who give of their time, energy, and resources to do what they can to make life better for others; and

Whereas it is volunteers who made it possible for the United Way of Cumberland County to just recently complete its most successful year to date - surpassing a goal of $140,000; and

[Page 2160]

Whereas President Gerry Cormier attributed to the success of the Cumberland County United Way, to the tireless efforts of a group of volunteers whom he termed "the secret of our success";

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the contribution made by volunteers from one end of this province to another, and especially to those who did so much in the past year for the Cumberland County United Way.

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. 898

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

Whereas the Colchester Historical Society recently recognized four individuals who have demonstrated a significant desire to explore and expand the history of Colchester County; and

Whereas Howard van Allen received the Historical Heritage Award for his exceptional contributions to the area by spearheading the efforts to establish the Brule Fossil Museum; and

Whereas in 1994, Mr. van Allen discovered 290-million-year-old, world-class fossils in Brule and proceeded to spend almost 10 years working towards his goal of having a place to display them in the area;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Howard van Allen on receiving the Colchester Historical Society Heritage Award and express our appreciation for his efforts to preserve the history of Colchester County.

[Page 2161]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 899

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

Whereas John Martin School in conjunction with Carsand Mosher, Andrea Pushkar (4Cs Foundation), and Graham MacPherson and the Entrepreneurial Project Members engaged the students in an evening of Arts for Peace on Thursday March 25, 2004; and

Whereas the theme of the evening, Hands Together for Peace, depicted artistic venues in mural art, folk art, caricatures, photography, music, dance, and acting; and

Whereas the performers and artists were students of John Martin School and they unleashed their hidden talents for all to see at this special event;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the students and the sponsors involved in the Arts for Peace Program and recognize that John Martin School's involvement with peace is in keeping with Canada's international reputation as a peacekeeping nation.

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 2162]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 900

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

Whereas the Registered Professional Foresters Association of Nova Scotia and the Forest Technicians Association of Nova Scotia inducted their first three members into the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame; and

Whereas the three inductees are Dr. Wilfrid Creighton, Dr. Douglas Embree and Les Corkum; and

[4:30 p.m.]

Whereas Dr. Creighton was Nova Scotia's first provincial forester and later Deputy Minister of Lands and Forests; Dr. Embree was a researcher with the Canadian Forestry Service; and Les Corkum, a forest technician who was instrumental in designing a system used to fight forest fires;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dr. Creighton, Dr. Embree and Les Corkum for their years of service and hard work, along with their induction as the first recipients of the Nova Scotia Forestry Hall of Fame.

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.

[Page 2163]

RESOLUTION NO. 901

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

Whereas after more than a decade of strong leadership, Donnie Hale recently retired as the Fire Chief for the Town of Westville; and

Whereas following a lengthy interview process and interest shown by 10 applicants, Sandy MacIntosh has been selected by the Westville Town Council as the town's new Fire Chief; and

Whereas Doug Oliver was chosen as the department's new deputy chief by the Westville Town Council;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly commend the achievements of retired Chief Hale, while wishing new Fire Chief MacIntosh and new Deputy Chief Oliver the very best in their new challenges.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 902

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

Whereas April 22nd is Earth Day all over the world; and

Whereas the Whitney Pier Youth Club held its 9th Annual Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 17th; and

[Page 2164]

Whereas many youth and their parents took part in the celebrations by cleaning up the garden, recycling tee-shirts with tie-dye, participating in games, and a barbeque;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature recognize and applaud the youth, parents and staff who participated in the 9th Annual Earth Day celebrations at the Whitney Pier Youth Club and for making the annual event the success that it is.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 903

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

Whereas the Women's Place Resource Centre has moved from Lawrencetown to a larger and more accommodating space in Cornwallis Park, the centre serves the areas of Annapolis, Kings and Digby Counties; and

Whereas due to ongoing expanding projects resulted in this move to better serve the clients of these areas; and

Whereas the centre has been in operation since 1991;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Women's Place Resource Centre for their recent move, along with their hard work and dedication to helping women in Annapolis, Kings and Digby Counties.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2165]

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 904

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

Whereas the Dalhousie Tigers recently came away with a women's school record at the Canadian Inter-university Sport Indoor Track and Field Championships held in Windsor, Ontario; and

Whereas leading the charge at the tournament was East Jeddore's Adrienne Power; and

Whereas Ms. Power captured gold in the 60 and 300 metre events, shattering provincial records in the process;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Adrienne Power on her outstanding showing at this year's Canadian Inter-university Sport Indoor Track and Field Championships and wish her much success in her future athletic and academic endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2166]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 905

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

Whereas any number of speed demons in Lower Sackville breathed a sigh of relief after last Wednesday, April 15th, when "Radar Ray" worked his last shift as an RCMP officer in the Lower Sackville detachment; and

Whereas over his career Sergeant Ray Russell has issued over an estimated 30,000 speeding tickets; and

Whereas Sergeant Russell has served his detachment, his community and his country well as a dedicated police officer and as a choir member in his church, as an Olympic-level boxing referee, and as a member of the United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn Bosnia and Kosovo in 1999 and 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Sergeant Ray Russell on his 36-year career as a dedicated police officer and wish him and his wife, Rita, a successful retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 906

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

[Page 2167]

Whereas shelters filled to capacity and 300 homeless on the streets of Halifax alone provide irrefutable proof that there is an affordable housing crisis in this province; and

Whereas in the first 18 months of an Affordable Housing Agreement with the federal government, this government has constructed a grand total of 15 units in the Valley and authorized another six in Halifax, which will be sold to families earning $50,000 per year; and

Whereas this government's answer to homelessness in Halifax during one of the worst winters in decades was to turn people out of abandoned buildings where they were trying to shelter from snow and high winds, rather than to address their need for affordable housing;

Therefore be it resolved that this government realize that they have an obligation to all Nova Scotians, not just those who earn $50,000 or more, and live up to their end of the Affordable Housing Agreement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 907

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

Whereas Kentville native and teacher Burton Russell has spent the last 55 years researching sport in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Russell has published eight provincial best-sellers on sport in Nova Scotia and is considered by many a pioneer in sports research in this province; and

Whereas Mr. Russell's most recent book, Baseball Memories, explores the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League's history from 1977 to 2002;

[Page 2168]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House express their appreciation to Burton Russell for his significant contributions to preserving the history of sport in 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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 908

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

Whereas on Sunday February 15th, a service of dedication was held at the new St. Nicholas Anglican Church in Westwood Hills; and

Whereas this new church will serve the needs of this growing community; and

Whereas the celebration was led by the Right Reverend Fred Hiltz and Reverend Arthur Nash;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the congregation of St. Nicholas Anglican Church on its accomplishments with best wishes for a great future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2169]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 909

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

Whereas secretarial services are vital to the success of any public or private service organization, institution or business; and

Whereas April 18 to April 24, 2004, is recognized as National Secretaries Week;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and congratulate all secretaries in Nova Scotia for their invaluable 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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 910

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

Whereas the early evening hours of February 28th startled Barrington 7-E Fire Chief John Nickerson when he looked out to see his neighbour's home on fire; and

Whereas Chief Nickerson attempted to extinguish the fire himself, while dialling 911 to get the fire department on the road; and

[Page 2170]

Whereas despite Chief Nickerson's valiant attempts and those of firefighters from Barrington 7-E, Barrington Passage and Port Clyde, the home of Blair and Bridget Atkinson was destroyed by fire;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the efforts of Barrington 7-E Fire Chief John Nickerson and all firefighters who responded to the Atkinson blaze for their bravery and dedication to the community in a time of need, while also congratulating the Barrington Food Mart for assisting the Atkinson family following their loss.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 911

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

Whereas over this last weekend, Coastal Communities Network held their annual general meeting; and

Whereas Coastal Communities Network provides a forum to encourage dialogue and share information that promotes the survival and enhancement of our rural coastal communities; and

Whereas since being established in 1992, the Coastal Communities Network has been actively involved in assisting rural communities throughout the province to deal more effectively with the social and economic problems, and is a large voice for small communities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the important work being done by the Coastal Communities Network.

[Page 2171]

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. 912

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

Whereas Guysborough County members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 625, have donated more than $1,200 to the Guysborough Options for Adaptive Living Society; and

Whereas GOALS is a community-based organization that assists older adults in the Guysborough area with disabilities, and helps them gain skills that they can use to enter the workforce and to contribute to society; and

Whereas the union members, who hail from communities such as Canso, Whitehead, Charles Cove, Guysborough and New Harbour, raised the money through the sale of scrap metal and donations from its membership;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing the efforts of the Guysborough County members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 625, in their fundraising efforts for GOALS, and thank them for their support of this worthwhile organization.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2172]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 913

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

Whereas April 18th to 24th is Education Week in Nova Scotia, with the theme being Science: Question, Investigate and Discover!; and

Whereas science teachers from across Nova Scotia will be honoured for their outstanding work in education in a ceremony at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography today;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize school boards, administrators, teachers and education assistants for their dedication and pursuit of excellence in public education.

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 African Nova Scotian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 914

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

Whereas Pastor Lennett J. Anderson, 19th pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Upper Hammonds Plains, was recently one of five pastors from across Canada to be featured

[Page 2173]

in a Maclean's Magazine article entitled Heroes of the Cross, whose author praised the 28-year-old pastor for breathing new life into the 159-year-old church; and

Whereas the small Emmanuel Baptist Church, which was founded by freed Black slaves in 1845, will break ground this Fall on its long-awaited $1.2 million expansion, which will triple the size of the church, a necessity now that the church is almost filled to capacity; and

Whereas Pastor Anderson has been recruited to represent Canada at a conference on Afro-Christian Worship and Social Transformation that will be held at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina this summer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send their congratulations to Pastor Anderson and the congregation of the Emmanuel Baptist Church for being recognized by Maclean's Magazine for all their efforts to bring enthusiasm and diversity to their local church.

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. 915

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

Whereas in 1974, the Diman Association was created by a group of 15- and 16-year olds who visited Diman, Lebanon, and returned to Halifax with a renewed conviction to celebrate their Lebanese heritage and share it with others; and

Whereas for 30 years this organization has continued to ensure their culture remained strong, and through the support of the Lebanese school and the annual involvement in the

[Page 2174]

Multicultural Festival, this hard work culminated in the opening of the Diman Lebanese Centre in 1995; and

Whereas the Honorary Consul of Lebanon in Halifax, Mr. Wadih M. Fares, has awarded the Emigrant of the Year 2004 to the Diman Association of Canada for ensuring the Lebanese culture has continued to thrive in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the Diman Association of Canada for this honour, and acknowledge the contribution they have made to the cultural diversity of our province.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 916

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

Whereas families who lost their homes and most of their possessions in a Yarmouth apartment building fire last December are benefiting from the generosity of a local store and two local authors; and

Whereas Judge John Comeau and lawyer Marci Lin Melvin teamed up to write the children's book, Ben's Christmas Skates, to support Canadian Tire's Foundation for Families; and

Whereas the Canadian Tire store in Yarmouth is donating all the proceeds from the book to help those affected by the fire;

[Page 2175]

[Page 2176]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the authors, John Comeau and Marci Lin Melvin and the Yarmouth Canadian Tire store owner, Burt Goodwin, for their generosity in their efforts to help the families who lost so much when their apartment building burned last December.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis

RESOLUTION NO. 917

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

Whereas Mr. Roy Whynot of Bridgewater began his volunteer work at Hillside Pines Nursing Home in 1992 when his wife became a resident, and continued to volunteer his time after his wife's passing is 1996; and

Whereas Mr. Whynot would stop by the store frequently to pick up needed items for residents, as well as delivering specimens to the South Shore Regional Hospital every morning from Monday to Friday; and

Whereas Mr. Whynot, who became fondly known as the candy man for always remembering to pick up treats for residents and staff, was recently honoured for his volunteer efforts in a special surprise reception at the Hillside Manor;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Whynot for his kindness and his dedication to others in his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2177]

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. 918

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

Whereas emergency workers, both volunteer and paid, quickly came together this morning following a train derailment in the Sutherlands River area; and

Whereas the 64-car freight train lost nine cars which rolled down an embankment; and

Whereas some of the derailed cars were carrying full loads of propane and butane, which resulted in the evacuation of two local schools and two homes;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs compliment the work of all emergency responders and be grateful for the fact there were no injuries, in what could have been a potentially disastrous situation, in eastern Pictou 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 Halifax Citadel.

[Page 2178]

RESOLUTION NO. 919

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

Whereas Halifax Citadel native Stephanie Hughes, a recent graduate of Brown University, has contributed greatly to the sport of swimming in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas as a past member of the Trojan Aquatic Club and Nova Scotia-Canada Games member, she has proved herself to be a role model for young athletes in our province; and

Whereas Stephanie Hughes is now training in California at Stanford University to represent both her Province of Nova Scotia and the Country of Canada, at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Hughes for her dedication to her sport and wish her great success during her Olympic trials this summer.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 920

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

Whereas on March 20, 2004, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia honoured Halifax Regional Police officers of African heritage; and

Whereas a Halifax Regional Police Wall of Recognition was created to acknowledge their contribution to our community; and

[Page 2179]

Whereas Constable Robyn Atwell was recognized for being the first female Halifax Regional Police Officer of African heritage in Nova Scotia's history;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Constable Robyn Atwell and honour her for her outstanding service to our communities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 921

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

Whereas volunteers play a very important role in our communities; and

Whereas Paul Demonne, a veteran of Canada's Armed Forces, is one of those volunteers who has given so generously of his time over the years to serve the members of his community; and

Whereas Paul Demonne has been recognized for his contribution to society and has been chosen as the Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Lunenburg;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Paul Demonne for being chosen as the Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Lunenburg, and thank him for all he has given to the people of Lunenburg and Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2180]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 922

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

Whereas the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards were established on a voluntary and non-competitive basis in the mid-1950s and divided into three categories - Bronze, Silver and Gold - to challenge young people between the ages of 14 and 25; and

Whereas to receive the Duke of Edinburgh's Award, each participant must complete four components, physical activity, skill development, service to the community, and finally, outdoor expedition, to receive the Gold Award; and

Whereas Ashley Daigneault of Kingston has achieved the five components necessary to receive the Gold Award by participating in minor basketball as a coach, yearbook committee, peer tutoring, 70 hours, as well as basketball, track and field, and mountain climbing in New Hampshire;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ms. Daigneault for this tremendous accomplishment and wish her every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 2181]

RESOLUTION NO. 923

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

Whereas the Leader of the Nova Scotia NDP is proving once again that he will change his position on any issue in order to enhance his electability rather than provide a rational alternative to government; and

Whereas this is best demonstrated by the NDP Leader's flip-flop on an insurance all-Party committee and his advocacy of a public no-fault insurance plan; and

Whereas after opposing the call of the Liberal caucus for an all-Party committee in 2002, the Leader of the NDP now thinks an all-Party committee on insurance is a good idea;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the NDP Leader once opposed an all-Party committee on insurance in 2002, but has now made a complete flip-flop, proving once again to Nova Scotians that the Leader of the NDP will say anything and do anything to get elected, regardless of whether he believes it or not.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 924

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

Whereas volunteers are special people who give freely of their time to help others in our communities; and

Whereas Barbara Miller has generously given of her time for many years to serve the members of her community; and

Whereas Barbara Miller has been recognized for her contribution to society and has been chosen as Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Mahone Bay;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Barbara Miller for being chosen the Volunteer of the Year for the Town of Mahone Bay, and thank her for all that she has given to the people of Mahone Bay and Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2182]

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 40, the Assessment Act, adjourned debate.

Bill No. 40 - Assessment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately 30 minutes.

MR. COLWELL: Okay, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to rise and speak on this bill again today. I'm going to be brief today because there are some problems with the bill that we discussed the other day when I was speaking, and some things, I believe, that have to be changed. I realize and hope that the government's mind is in the right place and their hearts are in the right place with this bill. It's a very difficult thing to put in place and be fair to everybody. It's a problem that has been around, I think, ever since property tax was . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside, please.

The honourable member for Preston has the floor.

[Page 2183]

MR. COLWELL: As I was saying, it's a very difficult balance to put in place between what is fair and what is needed and what really needs to be done. So I commend the government for trying to correct this inequity for a lot of people in the area. However, I do believe that there are many problems with this bill. As I said the other day, it is very difficult to understand. When I went through this with Legislative Counsel, I found out that the meaning of the bill sure isn't the same as the wording in the bill is although I guess it does the same thing.

So I'm going to wrap up here quite quickly just with the following points. Number one, we have to protect the people who need help, in other words the seniors out there who are losing their homes or have to sell their homes because their property taxes have gone too high. We need to protect the people such as someone who is on a disability pension through no fault of their own and their income has been basically frozen. If their assessments go up, they have to sell their home, or the person who is on Canada Pension, the same thing, anyone who is on a fixed income who doesn't have the opportunity to really make more money to help pay any increases they may have in their property. So that's the main thing that I can see that this bill has to address.

The second thing that it has to address is stability in funding for the municipalities. The municipalities have to have stable funding so they can provide the important services the residents of their community so when those taxes are paid, they are sufficient to pay for the services that are needed by the community, things people may want; street lights, curbs, sewer and water, road maintenance, whatever the case may be, police and fire service, all those important services that people demand today. So I think that's the second most important element in this bill.

The third thing that the bill must do, and with this I'm going to wrap up, the bill must be clear and the conditions and terms of the bill must be very clearly written in the bill. In other words, if you're going to talk about a freeze on assessment and a formula for doing that, that should be spelled out in the bill. It shouldn't be left to regulation afterwards that can be changed and moved around at will and people never know exactly where they're going to be or how they're going to be addressed.

I think those are the three key elements as far as I can see them in the bill and, hopefully, we will be bringing some amendments forward on the bill as it goes through the process and, hopefully, we will get concurrence with the other Parties and make this a bill that's good for the people it's really meant to protect.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to have a few minutes to speak on Bill No. 40, the Assessment Act, and its implications on all Nova Scotians. I guess, as an MLA, I've had quite a number of people come to me and my office

[Page 2184]

with concerns or issues around assessment. I'm sure we all have from time to time and it's usually related to the fact that their assessment is going up, or it's too high, or perhaps how to appeal it, or if they've missed the deadline, what remedies they might have. I know I've dealt with a few different individuals in my riding who have come to me. One family in particular I can think of, their assessment jumped from $58,000 to $88,000 and, you know, that's a major jump all at once and a real concern to them. So they have appealed, but I guess the biggest issue is around the appeal process and how long it takes. Some of them even yet - even though the January date is three weeks after that for appeal - have not heard back when their appeal date is going to be.

I've had an opportunity to discuss that with the northern regional director of assessment and we're working to try to get that straightened out, but certainly in assessment appeals, the process is slow and people have concerns about their assessments going up. I know that's not directly related to the bill, but it is still an assessment concern that I'm hearing about. In fact, I was talking to one lady this morning who contacted me on that very issue. She appealed in January. As of yet she has not heard whether she's getting a hearing date when her assessment appeal will be heard. So she's hopeful that that will come very soon.

[5:00 p.m.]

I was going to speak for a minute or two on my perspective in my previous life, I guess, as a realtor and involved in real estate sales. Certainly assessment is an important part or big part of determining market value of a property. People look at the assessment and then figure out should it be a bit higher, is it 10 per cent higher than the assessed value, is that the price I should ask for my property? Or, is it 20 per cent higher? It's usually a little bit higher than what the actual assessment is.

Over the past two and one-half years or so I had the opportunity to work in real estate sales and met a lot of interesting people, a lot of local people who wanted to put their property up for sale, others who were interested in buying. I certainly ran across a lot of people from other areas of the country and other areas of North America and even Europe and elsewhere from time to time who were interested in buying properties here in Nova Scotia.

Coming from the North Shore of this province, property in many ways is considered a real buy. It's lesser priced maybe than on the South Shore or around the Bras d'Or Lakes but, nonetheless, property is still going up, up and away. I just want to give one example of that. I had a potential buyer who I was dealing with from the State of Arizona and they were looking for farm property. I showed them half a dozen different properties and finally they made an offer on one of them, however, they had to get back to the U.S., so we were doing this by telephone and by fax. The time came to decide what kind of an offer they were going to make and I think the property was listed around $79,900 at the time. They said, we'll offer

[Page 2185]

the price, $79,900 that's only $50,000-some in our money, so it was good value in their opinion, there was no problem paying that kind of money. When you come from a market where properties are four, five, ten times as high in some cases, our real estate is really cheap here in Nova Scotia and it's considered good value. So there was no difficulty, in their case, in buying that farm property at the listed price.

I just want to give another example of how maybe the assessed value maybe doesn't have any indication on what the market value is going to be. This is where we really run into problems. I had listed a property of around four and one-half acres on the water near River John - beautiful beach and a nice piece of property, and it had a house on it that was half finished. The owners, living in Ontario, felt they probably weren't going to be able to get back here so they decided to sell. They had in their minds - maybe based on the property values they saw north of Toronto - that it was probably worth a whole lot of money. I think we listed it somewhere at $220,000 or $225,000, in that range, which seemed like a lot of money for that acreage and a half finished home. Lo and behold, we did list it in that price range and there was somebody from the State of New York who was interested in the property mainly because of the beautiful sandy beach. They came in and bought it. Wow. It surprised me, it surprised everybody. The market value was probably considerably higher than what we thought it was only because there was a buyer out there willing to pay a seller the kind of money he was asking.

This particular bill, Bill No. 40, is going to change the market value a little bit, because market value is an indication of what a willing buyer is willing to pay a willing seller, neither being under any undue pressure. If someone from away wants to buy a property for considerably more than what we might think as the market value, it sometimes happens, but, in the future, by putting a cap on assessments, the assessment will be kept down and it may prevent the real market value from going up.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read what a definition of market value is and this is taken directly from the Nova Scotia Real Estate Licensing book and the definition that is given here: market value is the highest price estimated in terms of money which the property would bring if exposed for sale on the open market by a willing seller, allowing a reasonable time to find a willing buyer, neither the buyer nor the seller acting under compulsion, both having full knowledge of the uses and purposes to which the property is adapted and for which it is capable of being used and both exercising intelligent judgment. I will table that.

Basically, in a nutshell, market value is what a willing buyer will pay a willing seller, neither being under any undue pressure. But when this bill, should it pass, in some ways is going to influence market value because it will keep down the assessed value and that, in turn, might determine in people's minds that it's not worth as much as it perhaps could be.

[Page 2186]

I want to move on a little bit. As I mentioned, sometimes the price on a property can sell really, really high and that is determined by one buyer that might come along at the right time and pay a higher price than ordinarily residents in the area might consider a good buy or might consider market value. When that happens, and in this case this property was bought by an individual from New York State, it certainly brought up the value of that property but it probably also brought up the value of neighbouring properties and adjacent properties around it and I suppose if they're in the market to sell their property that's probably good, because it's bringing up the market value. But many of those people probably are not wanting to sell, they're not even thinking about it. So their assessment may also be detrimentally affected by going up just because one or two sales in their area has increased the value of those properties and that, in turn, might put the assessment up on their own cottage or home or property. It doesn't necessarily have to be on the shore, it could be inland or it could be in town or in the city. I think when you see one or two properties going up, it puts a demand on increasing the assessment on similar or neighbouring properties.

I think, as was mentioned by the previous speaker, sometimes that can really cause some difficulties for those neighbours in that their assessment is going up. It may go up 50 per cent, it may go up 100 per cent, maybe it will double, and it makes some difficulties for those on fixed incomes, people who, maybe, are trying to survive on a very low income of $5,000 or $10,000 or $15,000. All of a sudden they're seeing their assessment going up and maybe coupled with other homeowner costs like rising property insurance or other maintenance costs on their home, it's really putting them into a position where they perhaps can no longer afford to keep their home or their cottage or their resource property or whatever the case may be but other pressures continuing on their ownership of property that doesn't allow them maybe to continue to own that particular property.

I think that is what this bill is partly trying to address, certainly the problems when a neighbour's property goes up in value suddenly, that puts increased pressure on their property, their assessment goes up and it's getting to the point where some people are almost forced to sell, even though they may not wish to, because they can't afford the increased taxes that are as a result of increased assessments.

I want to move on. In the bill it mentions the term ordinarily resident and the exemption here is if a cap were to come into place would apply to those who are ordinarily resident of a property in a community, and if the assessment has gone up considerably, they may be eligible for the cap.

How do you determine what ordinarily resident means? Is it somebody who has to live there 12 months of the year? Or is it somebody who is maybe there for the majority of the year, in other words, over six months? Is it three months? I'm not sure, it's not clear to me what it means by ordinarily resident. If they live in Halifax and own a cottage in Cape John, on a seasonal basis, if they're up there every weekend, are they ordinarily resident because it's a cottage, even though they live in another spot in the province? Or if they lived

[Page 2187]

in Moncton, New Brunswick and they come down to a cottage on the Amherst shore, would they be eligible for this cap on assessed properties? I think that needs a little more clarification on what's meant by that term, ordinarily resident.

My concerns, if there are any, are primarily around the cap that's being suggested on assessment. How do you determine what the cap should be? It certainly doesn't mention in the bill that the cap is going to be 1 per cent or 5 per cent or 10 per cent. I've heard as high as 25 per cent. I've heard it may be tied to the Consumer Price Index. Who is going to determine that cap? Is it going to be the minister of the day, or is it going to be the municipality? Will it be uniform across the whole province, or will it be set by each municipality, of which there are 55 in the whole province? Is that something you're going to be negotiating with the UNSM? I'm just wondering what the process is? How will you sit down and determine what the cap should be?

If there is a cap that comes about, that will reduce the amount of assessment which in turn will reduce the amount of taxes that a municipality will collect. How are those taxes going to be made up for by the municipality to look after the services that they are required to provide? Is the province going to make up that difference for them, or does the municipality have to make it up through an increase in the mill rate or the tax rate on the residential assessments or will it be on the business assessments, will it be on the business occupancy taxes? There's a lot of unanswered questions here. How does the municipality make up for what is clearly going to be less assessment and therefore less tax revenue?

I guess I would suggest, Mr. Minister, that you consult and work in conjunction with the UNSM and make sure that an agreement is coming that will work for the municipalities as well as the province. If there's less money - I'm just thinking, I know in my own municipality, the assessed rate is a little less than $1 dollar per $100 of assessment or, in other words, let's say it is $1 or $10 on a $1,000; on $1 million of assessment, they could lose $10,000. Every municipality will be different. Let's just say an example of a municipality had $1 tax rate on $100 of assessment, and they were to lose $5 million worth of assessed property because of a cap. That means they would lose $50,000 in property taxes. How is that $50,000 going to be made up, the money they need for fire and police services, water and sewer projects, and all the other municipal services that are provided?

Mr. Speaker, in closing, my concerns with this bill - I think there are some problems with it, as I mentioned. There's the cap, how much it will be, how will the loss of revenue be made up to the municipality, and the other concern is certainly around neighbours in an area where assessments are rising dramatically, how will they be affected and just how will loss of revenue be made up to the municipality?

[Page 2188]

[5:15 p.m.]

I guess with those few words, Mr. Speaker, I've had my two cents worth on this bill and I'll pass it along to somebody else. I look forward to hearing at the Law Amendments Committee what the public has to say. Thank you very much.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today to talk about Bill No. 40, and give a little bit of a reaction to it, an Act to amend the Assessment Act. We've heard a great deal in the opening statements about how this bill affects coastal communities and rural communities. I think it's really important to look at what the bill will do in an urban setting. The riding that I represent, Clayton Park, has a large proportion of rental units and a lot of condominiums. I'm concerned that it doesn't adequately address the needs of those residents of our Province.

It seems to me, on looking at the bill in total, that it's far to broad, it's just taking a very broad approach that says, we'll protect everybody's assessment, everybody who currently owns a house, that is. If you own a home, or a cottage, or another property that's just for recreation, those properties are going to be capped, or protected, let's say, in some way over time. I think that we haven't perhaps properly thought out the implications of that, and before this goes into its final form, that there should be amendments made that will certainly address that.

Number one, if we decide to remain with the idea that it covers all property owners, then I think we have to include the condominium owners in that, because they would adversely affected, and they would be part of the group that would be cross subsidizing homeowners in this province.

What will happen, as has been mentioned by previous speakers, as soon as you put an artificial cap on assessments for any property owners or class of property owners, you're going to shift the burden to someone else. The shift case, in this - and it's certainly in the area I represent - will go largely to commercial because we have a lot of commercial properties, but in HRM at present, the commercial rate is two and a half times the residential rate, which means that they're already cross-subsidizing homeowners, and if there is no capacity for the city to increase with the market value growing on residential, then they will put more of that onto the commercial or to the rental properties. There is no way to shelter renters from that because that will be passed onto them; if their taxes have gone up greatly for an area, it will be passed on to the renters.

I think there has to be a capacity to protect people who choose to rent, rather than own a property if, indeed, we are looking at capping all of the ownership properties. Again, the condominium owners have to be included in that because they have chosen to sell their

[Page 2189]

homes, perhaps, and buy a different kind of property. That doesn't seem to covered in here at the moment.

Again, I feel that it's far to broad and, in fact, it's a bit like using a sledgehammer, when we know there are some finely identified areas of concern, mainly in a few communities. I think the UNSM named three communities that were most concerned about rising coastal properties going up in value and, in fact, it isn't something that needs to be addressed the same way across the province.

So this is a one size fits all, it's going to work across the province over time. When I speak about time passing, what we're going to have is an extreme inequity as time passes because certain properties will continue to be under this shelter as they stay in one family, and continue to be passed along in one family, whereas others will rise as those properties are sold. So, over time, we're going to have some tremendous inequities that arise and it's inevitable that we'll have to face the question of fairness. It won't pass the test of fairness when newcomers to our province - who we desperately want, we want to attract newcomers - are being charged a considerably higher rate of taxation, municipally, than their neighbours who've been here for longer. That isn't a very welcoming situation for people who are moving into our province.

To go along with that, what happens to our children? Unless they take our own family home, they'll be buying their own homes. As soon as they buy into another home, as they grow up, they're going to be paying much higher than their neighbours who happen to have lived there for a period of time that's covered under this shelter.

So I think we're not considering the impact on young people as well. Again, where I represent a city and a part of the city that's growing, as many others do here from HRM, we have to consider the impact as the city grows and we attract young people, and hopefully, newcomers from other provinces and other places. Really, over time, we've taken the approach that this bill would protect everybody equally who's here now and has the luxury of owning a property as of 2001, I think, when this will be backdated to. So really I think that we have to be far more sensitive to the nuances of the bill and that there is room for a lot of change that might more adequately address the problem.

From my experience of a number of years as a city councillor, the real complaints and problems come from people on low income who are striving to stay in their own homes and if they've owned them for a large number of years and they happen to be retired now on fixed incomes - or perhaps they're disabled - they have unique concerns and needs. That's not the same as the needs that we have with other people who are still in the workforce who actually as our properties go up in value, we have to say would have a much increased capacity to pay, we certainly have a much greater net worth. Those properties are valuable. The market rate is what's being set. It's of no interest to somebody who is on a fixed income, however, because they may be forced from their home, and that is generally the seniors. I'm sure that

[Page 2190]

others here have heard the same thing, that the older people who have a limited capacity to generate a cash flow, they just have a fixed income, it's difficult for them to continue to keep pace with the rising assessment.

I think when we know that's where the problem lies - we shouldn't have a blanket approach that's going to protect and cover everybody because the bottom line is, again looking at the natural implication of this, that we're going to leave the municipalities with a problem where they're going to have to still raise a certain amount of income to adequately provide services, as has been said. So they're going to have less flexibility in doing that and they will either have to increase their rates, which means everybody is going to pay more anyway. Even though your taxable assessment has been left lower, you will still be paying a higher rate of taxation because the cities and the municipalities need that money in order to provide even basic services or, as I said, the impact or the weight of it will be shifted to commercial properties, to perhaps business occupancy - if that's still around - and certainly to people who own large rental complexes and apartments. So, again, certain people will be protected, others will not, and those costs come back to us in terms of lost productivity or a lack of friendliness to the business community, which is not something that we strive to do.

I think that it has gone too far in a number of ways, as I say. Another area I would like to look at is the fact that it goes beyond owner-occupied homes and it is good. I mean I know that people want to have some control over the annual increases that they're struck with, and I think that for owner-occupied homes the idea of a prescribed cap might be worthwhile to look at so that in a single year you didn't have such a huge increase; that if your property went up 30 per cent or 40 per cent in a single year that might be spread out over several years so that the impact is a little bit more softened and so that you're not taking such a huge hit in a single year. I know there are other municipalities that have done that in other provinces, where they will say perhaps the maximum increase in a given year might be 10 per cent and you would then phase that in over a number of years if your market assessment had risen quickly.

So that's one thing that could be done but, again, speaking as somebody who has a recreational property - we have a cottage ourselves in Queens County - I think that the people who need to be protected in the area where my cottage is are the people who live there year-around in this small coastal community. My family, as a city family who goes there for recreation, doesn't need the same kind of protection, but if people are building large homes and large summer homes in these communities, it's making it difficult for the year-around residents to stay there. I think that they're the people we need to protect if they're living in an area where a lot of the coastal properties are going up quickly in assessment.

People not living there year-around, I think that needs to be examined more carefully to see whether or not - as a blanket across the board - those properties should be protected from rising assessments based on market value, but I think owner-occupied homes definitely, you know we can look at that because that is quite different and it does support those coastal

[Page 2191]

communities, and they're the ones that are threatened with being pushed out of areas where they have traditionally lived for many generations. So I think that that's just one of those nuances in the bill that needs to be looked at more carefully.

As I said, over time I think we're going to see huge inequities that will particularly hurt young people who are starting out in their lives, and that isn't a very good way to begin, you know, to make a city or a municipality that's going to attract young people. I think that the important thing is that we hear from as many people as possible when the Law Amendments Committee does sit on this bill so that we can get more information and a greater chance to look at the implications of what's proposed currently.

I think it is - I hope I did say it is a good start because it opens the debate and I think one of the things that has definitely become too obvious to all of us is that there are people who are in need of some addressing of this problem, people whom we need to help, and so it's important that we begin to talk about it and it is a good first step in that regard, but I think it is really falling short in many ways and does need to be improved with some amendments.

My understanding was that it's somewhat based on a proposition, it might be Proposition 13 from California, which addressed the same thing, on coastal properties particularly. I'd like to know more about how that has actually worked in that jurisdiction - maybe, is it the right one? Anyway, we'll see. I'd certainly like to see how that has worked and if there is a model where this particular type of bill has worked if we changed assessments to this type. I think there is nothing new under the sun and Nova Scotia should learn from the best in the world and use what applies here from that way rather than perhaps trying to piece something together that doesn't work here and hasn't worked well in other places.

That is principally what I wanted to say on the issue. I think that we need to look more at amendments that might fine-tune this so that it helps those who need it most and that would be people on fixed incomes, seniors and that group and not try to capture everybody in Nova Scotia under a one blanket approach. I would hope to hear more about this at Law Amendments Committee where we can hopefully come up with some good amendments for it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 40. I want the members of this Legislative Assembly to know that skyrocketing assessments is an issue that's been around for a number of years. It has been around for approximately 10 years. As a matter of fact, it started out as non-resident ownership and because non-resident ownership was acquiring property throughout Nova Scotia, mostly in rural communities where seniors and people on fixed incomes, it was affecting those particular communities.

[Page 2192]

I know it became such an issue that our member for Timberlea-Prospect brought this issue before the Legislative Assembly when the Liberal Government was in power. The Liberal Government was in power and they had an opportunity in 1998 to address this very issue. The member for Timberlea-Prospect brought it before the then Minister of Municipal Affairs. The government chose the order of the day, as was typical, to do absolutely nothing. Then we brought it forward again in 1999 after the next provincial election which saw the Liberal Party on the bench as a Third Party and the new Tory Government in power.

It is now approximately five years since the Progressive Conservative Government came to power and this bill is now before the House to address the property assessments. I want to tell you that it is because of the persistence of the member for Timberlea-Prospect who continuously brought this issue before the Legislature, the member for Timberlea-Prospect not only brought this issue to the Legislature by way of resolution, he had questioned the Minister of Municipal Affairs and then the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations on a number of occasions. The then minister is now the Minister of Health so this government is very much aware of the seriousness of this issue of skyrocketing assessments, particularly as it pertains to the rural areas.

Mr. Speaker, there was a striking moment in this Legislature that really caught my eye because although I grew up in a small rural community and recognized that people were buying property as non-residents, they were not from the province, for the most part people in small rural communities call them foreigners and they came in and they bought up the property. I didn't realize until I came to this Legislative Assembly what kind of an effect that had not only on the individuals who were living adjacent to the property, but the effect that it had on an entire community. In most parts, because communities are affected by the assessment because, as you know and I know, that assessments are based on a property that is sold in a given year in a particular community and if the community is relatively small, can have a significant impact.

To get back to the issue that was really striking to me, it was when the member for Timberlea-Prospect brought an issue with respect to Mr. Creaser, I believe, of Hirtles Beach. Mr. Creaser saw his assessment move from $80,000 a year to $380,000. A guy who did absolutely nothing to his home, a guy who was on a fixed income, who lived in a community that knew full well that he could never pay the taxes if, in fact, the tax would have been assessed to that property - and I don't know if it had been, it might very well have been - based on the assessed value of the property.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of former municipal politicians in this Legislative Assembly, and there are a number of former municipal politicians on the government side. I find it rather distasteful (Interruptions) that we have to wait - not with respect to, wait until I complete my sentence - distasteful by the fact that we have to be in this House debating an

[Page 2193]

assessment piece of legislation that could have really received the co-operation of both levels of government, if they really wanted to get down and do it, rather than moving the assessment to the point whereby it not only taxes people to the point whereby they can no longer own their home but moves them out of their communities altogether.

Now the issue is not only coastal properties, it's become an even greater issue with respect to communities all along, even right now in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The community of Waverley-Fall River, $1 million homes are being built in the community of Waverley-Fall River, where people lived in modest homes and earned modest incomes, for a number of years, and now are faced with having to move out of those communities where they lived all their lives because other people are moving in.

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the non-resident property ownership, I do know that the Voluntary Planning report - as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I will title it appropriately, it was in fact a Voluntary Planning Task Force, and it had a number of meetings across the province, dealing primarily with the issue of non-resident ownership on property. It had some 455 presenters, people who attended community meetings across this province. They had another 128 written responses with respect to this non-resident ownership, an issue that has obviously been solved in Prince Edward Island to the satisfaction of the existing residents of P.E.I., as well as to those people who invest and buy the property and who no longer live there.

However, I attended a meeting in the Eastern Shore, in a community called Sheet Harbour, at a public meeting in a fire station, and I know an honourable member across the floor was there. The honourable member knows that the number of people who were there was somewhat small, but those individuals were quite concerned with respect to how property was being meted out and being sold, either by realtors or real estate people, investors or whatever, where it was being sold in the Province of Nova Scotia. I heard that evening that this has become such a very important issue that in certain parts of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians can no longer enjoy or buy property, in particularly beautiful, scenic areas in which they would like to buy, for example, Baddeck.

Do you know that Baddeck is owned - the properties, I shouldn't say Baddeck, the Town of Baddeck because that would be wrong, but most of the properties on the Baddeck lakes and the Bras d'Or Lakes are owned by individuals outside the province, for the most part, and that's a fact. That's unfortunate, because it affected the individuals who lived right in the Town of Baddeck proper, and it also affected individuals who lived out in the rural areas of Baddeck.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, a brief question to the honourable member.

[Page 2194]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North, would you accept a question?

MR. PYE: Sure, Mr. Speaker. I would just remind the honourable member not to make it too difficult. (Laughter)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will try not to confuse him with the facts. The question being, could he table the information that would suggest that the majority of the landowners with tenureship in the Baddeck area is from outside the province?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, no, it's not possible for me to table the information, and I acknowledge the honourable member's comment with respect to that. If the honourable member will remember, I did say that I heard this at a meeting. (Interruption) Did I not say that? I'm sure that Hansard will, in fact, bring that forward that I did say that I stated that, that I was reading from no text or no report with respect to the information. Obviously, one can say that this is hearsay information, it's purely speculative, but if the honourable member - and I know that the honourable member will rise to his feet, because that honourable member will surely enlighten me with respect to any errors that I have made with respect to my speech here today. I can assure him, because that honourable member is the kind of honourable member who will make sure that if there is a way to bring about correctness in this Legislative Assembly, he will attempt to do so.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to you that the issue is an extremely serious one. The Voluntary Planning Task Force that presented this report to the government presented a number of recommendations. I can tell you that I don't believe that any of those recommendations were enacted upon. Again, I stand to be corrected, but I don't believe that any of those recommendations were enacted upon. But I also remember when I first came here in 1998 that the Voluntary Planning Task Force provided another report and that report was on the incomes of Nova Scotians. It said, for the most part, that 50 per cent of Nova Scotians, earn an income of less than $25,000 a year. That's within the report, so I don't have to table it, the report is available to everyone.

Also, another 23 per cent of Nova Scotians earn an income of less than $16,000 a year. Many of those individuals, Mr. Speaker, are individuals who are seniors, who live in rural communities, whose incomes are fixed, either through Canada Pension, an old age income, an income supplement or a combination thereof of each of those. Many of those incomes do not exceed the $16,000 to $18,000 bracket.

Many of those seniors have worked very hard for their homesteads, to keep their homesteads, as a matter of fact, were extremely excited when their properties were paid off. They own this piece of property after working very hard and making sure that piece of

[Page 2195]

property was going to be theirs for ever and a day, made personal sacrifices. Some of them made personal sacrifices with respect to whether they would want to have heat at a particular time, because the heat bill may have consumed a good portion of their income. So many of those seniors, in fact, turned around and made a deliberate attempt to make sure that they had the money to continue to pay their property tax.

I know that there are people whom, in fact, Mr. Speaker, know that. There are individuals whom, in fact, from rural communities who know the lifestyles of individuals, how they must, in turn, mete their dollars out, the meagre dollars that they have in order to keep their property. No, that's not magical, for anyone who served on municipal government, we know it. We also know that in the last three years, at least four years, since this has become an issue, skyrocketing property assessments that, in fact, the government of the day has had conversations with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and this government should have addressed that particular issue by now, instead of leaving it and causing hardship to those Nova Scotians who are living on fixed incomes and who are living in modest homes.

Can you just imagine what the tax rate must have been to that property owner, Mr. Creaser of Hirtles Beach, when in fact he had a modest home and property of $80,000 and property and he sees it at a future year, which was the next year, jump from $80,000 to $380,000. The municipality, lo and behold, turns around and says, well, you know, that's the responsibility of the provincial government.

The provincial government does the assessments, and thank God for that, Mr. Speaker, because I can tell you if assessments were left to individual municipalities, prior to 1972 in this province you would have seen a total mess. As a matter of fact, where assessments were left to individual municipalities in Ontario, you did see a mess in certain parts of it until they had finally resolved and straightened out the matter. The fact is the province does make the assessment. The assessment is a real market value of that property in that given year. The municipality doesn't have to set a tax rate that will dramatically affect the individual's property if they don't want to.

They can turn around, as all of us who have been involved in municipal government know, we sit at the municipal government table or the council chamber and we say how much is it going to cost the municipality to operate in a given year? When we find out how much it's going to cost the municipality to operate in a given year and how many tax dollars that requires, then we set the tax rate, or the mill rate, based upon the amount of assessment we have and the amount of dollars that we need in order to operate the municipality. There is no magic to that.

Municipal government turns around and I've seen comments from municipal councillors in the paper with respect to the government downloading or creating a responsibility for them. I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, if in fact the Union of Nova Scotia

[Page 2196]

Municipalities had met with this government to genuinely discuss the issue, that the issue would be resolved. The province does help individuals who have difficulty with respect to their property taxes.

As a matter of fact, the Liberal Government cut out the property tax rebate out to seniors completely when they were in power. The Tory Government, to their credit, when they came into power, Mr. Speaker, gradually phased in the property tax rebate to those individuals who are on a fixed income. Now it is up to the maximum of $400. It started out at $100, $200, and then jumped to $400. I believe today, if we look at the pamphlets that are provided, that it's a maximum of $400 to people on an income of less than $26,000 a year or whatever, it's based on their income and they do make application to it.

Mr. Speaker, the same thing applies to the municipalities. The municipalities have two ways of addressing the issue with respect to the effect of increased property taxes on individuals with fixed income. One is they provide a property tax exemption. That property tax exemption is complementary to the provincial government, and it is prorated based on the income and how much money to a maximum, I believe, of $400 as well, although I stand to be corrected on that.

The other issue, Mr. Speaker, on the way municipal governments address the issue is by way of property tax deferral. Property tax deferral allows the property owner to defer the property taxes accrued to the property until such time as a property is sold or the individual is capable of paying the property. I can tell you that very few people in my day, during my term in municipal government, ever wanted to go down that road. The municipality gets a lien on the property.

Before the property can be sold or anything, the individual property tax comes off that property for the x number of years that it may have been behind. Now I don't know if there is interest on that or not, and I should know, I should have brushed up on that before, I believe that there is a small portion of interest accumulated on that to us at any cost that might occur. I can tell you, I've seen seniors, and heard of seniors who have gone without rather than put their property into a property tax deferral. Simply because they have worked too hard, they don't believe anyone should be having a lien on their property, particularly after they have paid their mortgage off and their property is free for them to have and enjoy. They don't want that onus of responsibility passed on to their offspring, their children, their sons, their daughters, their grandchildren. They don't want that passed on.

[5:45 p.m.]

So contrary to any municipality that tells you that property tax deferral is the way to go, I can tell you that during the period of time that I served on municipal council - as a matter of fact there was one time when no one took advantage of a property tax deferral, and

[Page 2197]

we had asked why would no one take advantage of a property tax deferral. That, Mr. Speaker, is how I've learned why there is no one interested in accepting a property tax deferral.

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that truly lies on the doorstep of both levels of government. It's an issue that should have been addressed by both levels of government. The unfortunate part of it is, it hasn't. I must say, and I have to say to my colleague, in his persistence, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect is in this Legislature because of his persistence and because of us being here as the Official Opposition, we assisted in carrying that banner of skyrocketing assessments and the fact that those skyrocketing assessments went into increased property taxes to people who could least afford it. That issue came here in the Legislature time and time again.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, that I am pleased to see that this government has at least said that because there is no unanimity with the UNSM or there can be no agreement or they have been unable, to this date, get an agreement with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities on this property tax assessment, that they're going to go it alone. Sometimes it takes that kind of a stick . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I thought the speech was going on so well that people were listening intently and they were grasping every minute of it, that they were absorbing it and they were certainly going to challenge me after the speech was over with respect to some of the comments I had made. However, I must say that it's a pleasure to see that there is some conversation with respect - I can only believe that the conversation that's going on in the back is because they want to make sure the statistical information I have provided them is correct and they want to make sure that the information that I'm passing on to this Legislative Assembly is one that they can agree with.

I must say that sometimes, Mr. Speaker, you have to bring the stick. It's unfortunate that levels of government - and this is what really irks, I believe, the Nova Scotia voters - take so long to address an issue that is so dear to their hearts, and skyrocketing assessments and increased tax rates are issues that are extremely dear to their hearts, yet nobody seemed to address it until this day when Bill No. 40 is before this House, or make an attempt to address it.

Mr. Speaker, my hope is when this bill leaves this Chamber after second reading and goes to the Law Amendments Committee, and the witnesses and the presenters come before this bill, my hope is that those witnesses and presenters bring some valid information with respect to how they can best resolve this together so that Nova Scotians are the benefactors of being able to continue to live in their homes, not only not be pushed out of their homes but pushed out of and their communities altogether.

[Page 2198]

The unfortunate part of it is, as we know, this issue became an issue as a result of non-resident ownership, once again, and skyrocketing assessments, but it even shifted further now. As I said earlier, it shifted into communities because of in-migration from people out-migrating from their communities into the Halifax Regional Municipality and putting added pressures onto the HRM. Those added pressures put added pressures upon the developers and people in the business community and people who invest in property to gentrify neighbourhoods. What I mean by gentrifying a neighbourhood is, if they did tear down the dilapidated buildings, put in new buildings, bring in upscale development and move the people who once could afford to live in those neighbourhoods out into some other area where they're lost and they don't know where they're going and they just have to simply move from the neighbourhood that they might have lived in for 45 or 50 years. A neighbourhood that's been part of their community. Mr. Speaker, I've witnessed it.

Whether you want to believe it or not, the constituency of Dartmouth North has seen a significant bit of development going in that direction, where people are moved out of the community and no longer can afford to live in those neighbourhoods. This may not appear to be a serious issue with some members of the Legislative Assembly, but I can't imagine anyone who it wouldn't be a serious issue with and I can't imagine anyone who certainly wouldn't want this issue addressed.

While it is true that property assessments are done by the province and they go into the municipality whereby the municipality derives its tax base so that it can provide services to citizens of the municipality like police, fire, engineering, recreational, educational, infrastructure, streets, roads, sidewalks, lighting, the whole thing on which a budget is developed around - that's primarily the capital budget - but then the operating budget that has the employees who operate those kinds of services and so on, is going to be affected by the minister's Bill No. 40.

That is not to say that there isn't flexibility or there isn't room for movement with respect to setting a property tax rate. I do know that the minister of the day who is bringing this Bill No. 40 forward is also a former member of the Halifax Regional Municipality. The minister is very much aware of how a municipality derives its taxes. How it will affect business occupancy is another question. I also want to say that there's a move by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and the business community to get rid of the Business Occupancy Tax. That in itself is a significant issue with respect to this bill. If the assessments are going to have a significant effect upon the municipalities, then surely the removal of a business occupancy tax is going to have an equally significant effect upon those properties.

So I can tell you again and again Nova Scotia property owners are extremely frustrated by the fact that they live on fixed incomes and don't see the wage increases to meet the demands of the increases in their property taxes based on the increases of their assessments. They cannot, cannot, live that out forever and many of them are having a hard time now. They cannot understand why levels of government, particularly the two levels of

[Page 2199]

government that they rely upon to bring about progressive legislation, legislation that will make it beneficial for them to be able to continue to stay in their own homes and continue to be able to pass that home over to their family if they want to, cannot understand why these levels of government, of all the levels of government, can't get their heads together and address this issue. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, it's a matter of the meeting of the minds because if the meeting of the minds is there, the capabilities are there and there is a solution to that particular problem.

I was somewhat set back by the minister's, I believe, an analogy with respect to the properties. I think he had indicated as an example, the minister's example I should say, that if a property was assessed at a value of $100,000 and the following year the property went to $150,000, I believe he said the property owner would only see a 50 per cent increase. I believe there's the argument of should that be a 50 per cent or a 25 per cent increase. I believe it's more likely to be a 25 per cent increase but, by the same token, herein lies the problem - we don't know what kind of an effect this kind of formula is going to have and if it's the right formula.

There needs to be a formula set out with respect to how the capping is going to work, how we're going to look at assessments because, Mr. Speaker, we've tinkered with what is called the fair market value; we've actually tinkered with it. You know one time I sat in municipal government and I thought that the assessed value was only 90 per cent of the market value of the property. It's not true. The assessed value has to reflect the market value of the property and then what's going to happen is that, in fact, the assessed value will no longer reflect the market value of the property with respect to that - there will be a cap on the assessed value of the property and, therefore, will not reflect the true market value of that.

I also have some difficulty on the length of time that this is going to have with respect to how long a person can own the property, and when the property is sold and how far it reverts back, if ever at all, to the new property owner, of bringing the tax up so that the municipality will have that revenue that it had missed for those number of years, that revenue coming into the municipal purse to hopefully offset any of the deficits that they might have had as a result of not being able to tax properties or not wanting to tax properties.

Mr. Speaker, you know and I know that a municipality cannot place a budget that has a deficit, nor can the municipality place a budget that has a surplus. The municipality must place a budget that reflects the real costs in that given year of the operation of the municipality. That in itself poses a particular problem. There are members who deal with the municipalities here in this Legislative Assembly and they know it's a matter of letting the viewers out there of Nova Scotia know, those who are watching this legislative process, the viewers of Nova Scotia need to know that finally the day has come when Bill No. 40 is before this Legislature. The people of Nova Scotia need to know, too, that they can make presentation to the Law Amendments Committee, not only municipalities, but they as

[Page 2200]

individual property owners can make presentation to the Law Amendments Committee, or be witnesses to the Law Amendments Committee with respect to how they view this bill.

This bill, I would suspect, Mr. Speaker, will in fact take quite the ride at the Law Amendments Committee. From my understanding of reading the articles in the newspapers - not that I lend a whole lot of credence to a whole lot of it maybe and I weigh it for its particular value, as we all do (Interruptions) And most newsprint media, as well as electronic media, we weigh it for its particular value. We need to know that those people, those Nova Scotians who today are sitting at home watching this legislative process, need to know that they too can come down to the Law Amendments Committee and make presentation and tell the people at the Law Amendments Committee the kind of effect that skyrocketing assessments have had on their properties - and not only on their properties, their communities because, as I have said earlier, I was in Sheet Harbour and I listened to the residents in that community down the Eastern Shore speak about what effect non-resident ownership had on their properties.

I have listened to people from Baddeck. I have listened to people on the South Shore and I have listened to residents on the North Shore as well, through Pictou, Cumberland and that area, Mr. Speaker. You know in the community that you represent, the constituency that you represent, that a number of people in certain areas of that constituency that you represent, which are beautiful, scenic outposts - I don't want to call them outposts, I better be careful - beautiful scenic communities as a matter of fact. I'm not in Australia so I had better be careful. (Interruption) I'm digging deeper, am I not?

[6:00 p.m.]

Anyway, beautiful hamlets along Nova Scotia where, in fact, Mr. Speaker, people come in, they gobble up the property and they squeeze the residents out, many seniors and many citizens who have lived there all their lives. Although I know that I still have some more time, I think what I will do is I will exhaust my time now, and at a later date come back after it comes back from the Committee on Law Amendments. After I've heard from the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, from the residents of Nova Scotia with respect to this bill, and the member for Cape Breton West, with respect to his comments, then I'm sure that I will be enlightened and be able to possibly give this bill the passing that it needs or reject this bill, whatever the case may be, but at least we will be able to have a look at it.

One thing I can tell the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, that at least I'm delighted and pleased to see that this bill is on the floor of the Legislative Assembly, because that's where it should be and that's where the debate should take place. I also want to say, before I finish, that it's because of, once again, the persistence of the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, and this Party, who has made that an issue. Thank you.

[Page 2201]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and make a number of short interventions on Bill No. 40, an Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Assessment Act.

I, too, am pleased that this particular piece of legislation is before the House. Albeit, not for all the same reasons as the previous speaker, the member for Dartmouth North. I believe that the focus of the legislation, as I understand through the minister's opening comments, is to provide a vehicle by which Nova Scotians will not be adversely affected by the forces in the marketplace of rather extensive and high-priced market activities. Particularly in counties such as Queens County, Lunenburg County and Victoria County, these coastal communities where there has been a considerable amount of pressure.

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

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, I take great pleasure at this time, introducing a gentleman who is sitting in the west gallery. We have with us today Mr. Kevin O'Brien. Kevin was an MLA in Nunavut and was also the Speaker of the Nunavut House of Assembly. He is in Nova Scotia, he has roots here, family here. He's here for a few days visit from Glace Bay, Cape Breton. He's here visiting us today in the Legislature and I hope he enjoys the proceedings. I'll ask Mr. O'Brien if he would stand and receive the usual warm welcome of the House. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I too welcome Mr. O'Brien. I'm familiar with his roots and I suppose too, he would be very much known to a former colleague, Mr. Hunter Tootoo. Mr. Tootoo was a very active member in the Nunavut Legislature and I've had the great pleasure of attending several conferences which Mr. Tootoo attended, and he did a great job.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to Bill No. 40, obviously the intent, as I understand, the minister and the government are trying to protect Nova Scotians from the rather aggressive market forces that have been generated by the demand for coastal pieces of real estate in those counties that I just mentioned. According to the present Assessment Act, forcing the fair market value of their real estate, local residents, up to a situation where it's almost impossible for them to sustain owning their own property and staying in their own homes.

Now, one of the cautionary notes that I would put out there, Mr. Speaker, is what the government is intending to do is a very noble gesture, but it is also changing, fundamentally, the process by which the province is doing real estate appraisals in this province, through the

[Page 2202]

fair market value process, particularly in the real estate market, whether it be residential, commercial or industrial, and in particular, for example, in municipalities such as HRM or CBRM, but mostly HRM, where a lot of developers have apartment complexes and so on and that has an adverse effect. I'm not so sure that has been factored into this equation.

Most interestingly, Mr. Speaker, is this protection that so long as, for example, a Nova Scotian family does not engage in buying, selling or trading real estate for the purposes of generating profit or revenues well beyond what the value of the property was initially assessed at, and, as has been mentioned by the member for Dartmouth North, while we're doing this, we're creating parallel assessment models, the fair market value and the taxable assessment.

Now what happens to the 55 municipalities across the province? What is the impact? Well, obviously, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has come out four-square in opposition to this government's initiative for a number of reasons, some of which I will outline, Madam Speaker. It speaks to the comments that were made by the minister's predecessor, when he addressed concerns that were raised by the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and, in particular, local government representatives from Queens County, from Lunenburg County and from Victoria County. This was when the present Minister of Health was Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. This was, according to this document - and I will table it - January 27, 2004, in reference to a meeting that the former minister made with regard to these issues.

The minister stated, "no Nova Scotian should be forced from their home due to high assessment increases and the related tax burden;" Here's what's most interesting, "any proposed tax relief provision should not provide a tax subsidy to the wealthy at the expense of other taxpayers;" Well, that speaks to the issue that was raised by my colleague, the member for Halifax Clayton Park. Some very well-to-do individuals in this province, who take it upon themselves to provide considerable improvements to their home, to their real estate, whether it be residential, whether it be a summer cottage - and I'm sure, Madam Speaker, you know yourself that there are many Nova Scotians who have summer cottages that would be considered rather lavish pieces of real estate to others.

This very issue that the minister of the day, who is now the Minister of Health, wanted to ensure that Nova Scotians would be protected on is now having an adverse effect through this legislation. Here's another provision that seems to be overlooked by this particular piece of legislation, and this was another premise upon which the minister would ensure fairness, that "any proposed changes would be acceptable to the majority of municipalities in the province and should not hamper natural growth in municipal revenues . . ."

Madam Speaker, clearly, two issues. One, where is the issue of consultation? This government got elected back in 1999 on the premise that it would consult. It was in its blue

[Page 2203]

book one, it was in its blue book two, but yet when they got elected, they became tone deaf to the needs and the aspirations and the rights and the privileges of the municipalities in this province. So where's the co-operation? Where's the consultation? It seems to have just evaporated. The Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities recently came out - as recently as January of this year - four-square against what the government is doing because there was no full consultation and co-operation on how they were going to achieve this legislation.

The second part of this one statement with regard to the fact that it would not hamper revenue growth for the municipalities. Maybe the Minister of Justice, maybe the Minister of Environment and Labour and yes, maybe the member for Victoria-The Lakes have problems that are unique in their respective jurisdictions, but this is no right, this should not be a license to hamper the other 52 municipalities. This is what this government is doing. It's trying to be all things to all people, but yet doing nothing. Doing nothing substantive in addressing many key problems in the assessment process of this province and the taxing process, vis-à-vis the provincial taxation process and its transfer dollars down to the municipalities, particularly the weaker ones. That's essentially the same parallel as the federal government, vis-à-vis the provinces and the territories. The weaker ones will get cropped up a bit and the richer provinces will see that transfer of dollars.

Much the same parallel in the Province of Nova Scotia. It wasn't more than two years ago, Madam Speaker, that the government said, we're going to co-operate with the provinces and we're going to proceed with a further exchange of service. We'll continue to do the assessment for the provinces, but we're going to charge them. We're going to charge them and they have no say on the staffing, they have no say on the administrative rules of engagement or the terms of reference on the issues of how they determine assessment values. For example, the most unique characteristics in dealing with assessments in this province now is that if you can see a body of water, that you very well may be paying a higher assessment than your next-door neighbour who has two trees on his lawn. Go down along the Bras d'Or Lakes, and it's happened on numerous occasions where someone would live a half a mile or three-quarters of a mile away from the Bras d'Or Lakes, no water frontage and maybe only a 20-foot access to Highway No. 4 and they're on the off-side of the waterfront and they're being charged higher real estate values, assessment values than those who have a lot right on the water, because they have a larger lot and they can see the water. Those who are on the water probably can't see the water.

I've tried to help some constituents on some of these issues and it defies logic as to what the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is using in some cases. Not all cases. I have a little limited knowledge on how this process works. I studied real estate, I sold real estate as a real estate agent and I've continued well after I've given up my licence. So I have a sense of the forces of supply and demand, but I can tell you what the government is attempting to achieve is very noble, but it will create so many problems for just about every municipality in this province. It will be a nightmare they won't want to face

[Page 2204]

going into the next election. I have no doubt that we'll hear lots about it when it comes before the Law Amendments Committee. I have no doubt, no doubt whatsoever.

[6:15 p.m.]

If the government wants to do something, Madam Speaker, the government should be looking at some of the anomalies that are transpiring with some of these municipalities. Yes, even in the one that I reside in. Recently, pieces of real estate being sold without going to public tender, without being called for public proposals. Some of them, if they find out that the municipality has a piece of real estate, they go and hire an appraiser, go in, and say I want to buy that, here's my appraised value, and they can purchase it. That is unprecedented in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia. The minister may shake his head on that, but I can attest to it. Maybe he's a little surprised at that, and I am too. That's no reflection on the bureaucratic process within CBRM. This is political, this is a policy decision of the municipal government.

Then, I come here to Halifax and I listen to this debate going back and forth between the Mayor of CBRM and the Minister of Energy, as to who's getting the upper hand. The province is saying that we provide you with more benefits on a cash value than you pay in in taxes, and CBRM is saying quite the opposite. Well, at least to the minister's credit, he has provided some figures. I'm not saying they're right, I'm not saying they're wrong. I've asked for the figures from CBRM, and to date I have not received them. I've made that request.

I didn't engage in the public debate and I had no intentions of it. I went quietly and I went about my due diligence, and said, okay, let's find out who's right and who's wrong, are we getting a fair deal or are we not. This has an impact on the budgetary process and what the tax rates are going to be in this fiscal year. I hear suggestions that the tax rates are going to go up, upwards of 4 per cent. We can't afford that in CBRM.

Madam Speaker, it's incumbent on this government to start looking at some of the structural problems with the municipalities and get back to the table. Maybe this piece of legislation will address all the concerns. I don't know. I'm a little suspect, perhaps a fair bit suspect. I would have a greater comfort level if, in fact, the minister had moved towards the Prince Edward Island model. I really believe that the conditions for non-resident ownership are far more defined in Prince Edward Island. The amount of tenure or the amount of land that you're allowed to own is very restricted, and then you have to build on it if you want to expand and so on and so forth. All the caveats are there, and you pay a higher tax rate.

So, if you're dealing with Queens County, if you're dealing with Lunenburg County or Victoria County, then, yes, this is an issue, but then I've heard arguments, saying, well, what about my children, they live in Ontario or they live in British Columbia or so on, should they be punished because they're now outside the province, and if they're outside the province and they want to come home, then my family farm is going to be taxed at that high

[Page 2205]

rate. Well, there are ways to examine that, Madam Speaker, and I don't believe that the government has fully explored that. We're not talking about that.

We're talking about hard-core, hard-market-driven forces, where people from outside Nova Scotia, non-Canadian residents, who have deep pockets are forcing up the market value of real estate in certain parts of the province, because it's a coastal community. I think the point has been well made by some of the previous speakers, and in particular, to give credit where credit is due, by the member for Timberlea-Prospect. He did raise this on several occasions, but I don't think he for one moment expected that this was as complex and as deep and far-reaching as he initially anticipated, because he had a number of constituents who were saying they were tired of all the waterfront property in their community being gobbled up, and that may be a fair concern and he has a right to come in and stand up for those constituents, but the total foreign ownership, or non-Nova Scotia, or non-residency ownership of real estate in this province is somewhere - and the minister can correct me on this - I would say 7 per cent, maybe 8 per cent; it's certainly less than 10 per cent province-wide.

So that means over 90 per cent of all real estate in this province is owned by Nova Scotians. So we're dealing with a few anomalies that have created some difficulties and some of the problems and, yes, Madam Speaker, some political problems for a few ministers in that government. So should we turn the whole system upside down, should we usurp the responsibility away from the municipalities because of this? I don't think so. The municipalities are not only paying for the assessment process, which is a provincial responsibility - always has been - now they're being taxed that. That has been downloaded and they have no say in it and yet they are on the front line when the tax rates come down. If the taxable assessment is locked in, there's no room for them to manoeuvre.

I will give you another example of where this has quite an impact, Madam Speaker. What about all the volunteer organizations in this province? What about the community halls? What about the different lodges, whether it be the KOCs or the Masonic Lodges, or the small community band organizations that are out there doing so much good work and they don't have enough money to pay these large tax bills because of the ever-increasing assessment?

Madam Speaker, there is a provision in the Municipal Government Act that was brought in in 1998 - Section 160, I believe it is - that allows the municipalities to provide this exemption, and that's great, but here's the sleeper that's now been kicked on them - the total value, the total assessed value of all these pieces of real estate, all these buildings, all these community halls, these lodges, all these charitable organizations is still going to be added up at the end of the day and charged against the total assessed value or transfer dollars to the municipalities. So in other words the province is saying you can give the exemption, but don't come back and ask us for a break. So now they have to pay for the assessment, they have to pay for any reprieve for all these charitable, these volunteer organizations in the

[Page 2206]

province - from volunteer fire departments to community bands, you name it - and the provincial government is now sticking it to them. Absolutely unconscionable.

[Page 2207]

The municipalities - and the province knows this - do not have the resources to deal with this. There are a few municipalities that have some resources to be able to cope, but it's like what happened in CBRM, Madam Speaker, back in 1995, when the exchange of services went through, or if we want to go back to 1994 when regional government kicked in, the old Municipality of the County of Cape Breton, when it went into this new marriage, was contributing 45 per cent of the total budget for the new CBRM and now it only gets in return on its dollar somewhere in the vicinity of 27 per cent - before it was getting 100 per cent. So transfer that over to what the province is doing to municipalities like HRM, you can only take so much from your cash cow and if you don't put it out to pasture or give it some growth, you're going to bleed it dry and this is what this province is attempting to do through the back door.

So it may sound great on the surface, and I'm sure that the Mayor of HRM will have his say on this and I'm not so sure he'll agree in totality of what's here before us.(Interruptions) No, Madam Speaker, I'm not casting aspersions, I'm putting the facts on the table. We don't want to be like ostriches and bury our heads in the sand, we want to face reality. The province has found another way to kind of coat over a very serious issue, avoid the difficult issues that have to be addressed, try to score some cheap political points, try to be all things to all people, and then what happens? Yes it'll be Hants County, it'll be Kings County, it'll be Lunenburg County, it'll be Queens, it'll be Yarmouth, it'll be Cumberland County, the outreaches, Argyle, you name them; all 55 of them are going to pay the piper for this piece of legislation. I think that's not right.

This bill does have some potential, it has merit, but restricted to what the problem was initially set out for, in these target areas. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, or whatever acronym you'd like to use (Interruption) Or analogy. I'm sorry, the legal mind to my right is far more . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Eloquent.

MR. MACKINNON: I don't know if eloquent - he's far more learned in the language than I am.

Madam Speaker, this legislation restricts. It doesn't provide the flexibility that's required. It drives a stake right through the entire process of fair market value and operations in this province. It's kind of a bit of a contradiction in terms. It's more than an oxymoron, because you have a right-wing government interfering with market forces to try to solve a very localized issue. (Interruptions) One in ten, he hits on the nail, but it's too early in the session to engage in any emotional rabbit tracks. This is a very serious issue. How will the municipalities be able to set their budgets if the province is going to be holding this card over their heads? Can we go with fair market value or can we not?

[Page 2208]

Let's look at those municipalities where you don't have those spikes in the market activity because of non-residency, non-Canadian acquisitions, buys and sells. Well, I'll give you an example, just in CBRM, in Richmond County, there's a tremendous amount of activity in the real estate market from individuals moving from the Country of Germany, and that's great. The activity that's been generated in both these counties, both these municipalities, has been good. They've been able to generate tax dollars to be able to help the weaker and the less fortunate in these municipalities who don't have the resources, those on low and fixed income, who, particularly if they're receiving the supplement, will be able to get some tax relief from the province.

Now what impact is this legislation going to have on that, because the province has now moved into not just the assessment process, but it has now moved into the tax rate issue. Not overtly, but through the back door, this province is now dictating in a more restrictive fashion what the tax rates of their municipalities should be. At the rate they're going, they are going to take over total management of the financial activities of the municipalities in this province. In some provinces, they will be moving to reduce the total number of municipalities so dramatically it would really scare you. Yet, if you look in Pictou County, I've heard concerns raised by several of the municipal units that one municipal unit has done so well on the revenues from the offshore, from the pipeline, that they have a rather significant little nest egg.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Good for them.

MR. MACKINNON: The member for Pictou West says good for them. I'm sure he would be the same member to stand up and say we should have fairness and equity. What about regional co-operation? Shouldn't there be just one tax rate in Pictou County? He has a real estate background, he knows. He knows all about how the market goes. He knows that the population, overall, in Pictou County is shrinking. That the number of young people in that municipality is shrinking. He knows that the number of people who are unemployed in that county has increased. He knows a lot of things, but he does not speak to these, and they have a direct impact Madam Speaker. They have a direct impact on the tax rates, they have a direct impact on the assessed value of the real estate in that county.

Now these are serious structural problems that contribute to many of the frustrations because of a lack of the co-operation he's always coming before this House and saying that we should have. Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Start in your own backyard, I always say. That's why I didn't have any problem standing on the issue in 1994 on regional co-operation. I didn't have any problem taking a stand on the exchange of services in 1995, albeit not a lot of people agreed with me, and that's fine. I was proven right in the end, Madam Speaker. There was a significant tax hit to that municipality, but for the

[Page 2209]

wrong reasons. I would suggest in Pictou County, that problem will surface. That dragon will rear its head, not too far off.

MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to the member for Cape Breton West for allowing me to do this. In the west gallery, through you, Madam Speaker, and to all members of the House, we have with us the Warden for the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, Mr. Herbert DeLorey, and we also have the Municipal Clerk/Treasurer for the County of Antigonish, Alan Bond. I'd like the House to give them their usual warm welcome. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Certainly, we welcome them to the gallery and hope that they have an interesting time while they are here.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Madam Speaker, I too would like to welcome our municipal colleagues. It's a very timely visit, as they well know, this piece of legislation before the House. I'm sure that in due course they, and/or their representatives will have an opportunity to speak to this legislation. It's rather fitting, because the member who made the introduction, has quite a quandary in his own constituency with what is happening to the Town of Canso. This municipal unit is in a crisis situation. What's being done? What's being done by the province when the assessment continues to shrink? It's a reverse situation, a reverse problem. What's the province doing there? What intervention has been there or contemplated through Bill No. 40 to address those types of problems?

This legislation has not been thoroughly thought out. The intent is noble, I will give the minister credit. It's noble, but it's very localized. The more I think about it, the more the dots and the dashes and the lines just keep connecting and we keep coming back to Lunenburg, Queens and Victoria.

So, there are some of the concerns that I have. The former Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the now Minister of Health, was quite adamant about this co-operation between the various stakeholders. In fact, here's one of the primary concerns that was raised by UNSM - altering assessments from a market value system creates inequities by allowing subsidization of certain properties by all other property owners. That's the bottom line - there's only so much money in the kitty. There's only so much money to be had.

[Page 2210]

I recall back in 1973 appealing a tax assessment and going before the appeals board because I felt that I was over-assessed. I wasn't going to go because I was under-assessed, not too many people do that. At the time, it seemed like a lot of money to me, it was a small piece of real estate I think assessed at maybe about $5,000. I said, that's way too much because out in Grand Mira, you can't afford that kind of money, nobody would pay $5,000 for a lot. If you got $2,500 back then, you were doing well. (Interruptions) Well, yes, I've sold some real estate worth a little more than that in that area, but the issue being, at the hearing the most interesting comment was made by the adjudicator. He said, do you not know one of the primary purposes of assessment? I said, yes, I think it's to determine what your land is worth. He said, that's true, but it's much more. He said, the province has a total assessed value and they use that total assessed value in helping to balance their books, to determine what the value of the province is so as to be able to go before the bonding agencies to know what its credit rating is going to be and then all this trickle-down effect. Ergo, that poor little lot in Grand Mira was part of some international equation from the bonding agencies in New York.

I don't really know if that was 100 per cent correct or not, but that's what I was told. It does seem to make sense when you see what the province is doing to the municipalities through this piece of legislation. If the province was intending to charge the municipalities with the responsibility of assessments, why not the collaborative effort? All it is is just a charge back. We're big brother, we're going to tell you you're now paying for this service because we want to balance our books or we want to get money from some other source.

That's exactly as I see what's happening. We see what's happening here in HRM with this freeze on development and its impact. Now you're going to hear lots of arguments - and I don't know all the dynamics because I don't engage on a daily basis the details of development in HRM, although I am a little bit familiar with them. You have the non-serviced versus the serviced areas, and the long-term plans and the short-term plans, and so on and the total number of lots, I think, that are being built on in the run of a year, is somewhere around 600 or 800. I'm not sure of the exact number, I saw the report, and I'm just going by memory. It was quite considerable. So that's a rather significant rate of development. Can you imagine if that were taking place in Cumberland County or Yarmouth or Queens or down in Colchester County even? That would be a tremendous amount of growth.

Things are growing so fast in HRM, they're trying to put some coolers - slow things down so that they can get control. But while they're doing that, HRM has made, in its wisdom, a decision, a policy decision to develop a long-term plan. Whether we agree with it or whether we don't, you have to give them full credit for providing the insight to develop that plan that they feel is in the best interests of all the citizens and the businesses of HRM in the long term. So with that in mind, you have to recognize that. They've made that conscious decision, which in the short term is going to cost them money, because they're restricting development. It's slowing things down.

[Page 2211]

Madam Speaker, I know there's a resource pool there of x number of lots that are developed and so on, but it won't take long for that to be gobbled up. They're making the right decisions, and what's happening is as soon as they turn their head away from the provincial government, the provincial government sticks it to them. And what happens at the end? Who are the three main winners? Queens County, Lunenburg County, Victoria County, localized issues - not discounting the need to address the serious concern that was raised by the member for Timberlea-Prospect on a number of occasions, about foreign ownership, if you want to use it in that context. It's not as severe as he has it made out to be. In localized situations, yes, that may be, there may very well be some anomalies.

There's legislation on the books, Madam Speaker, that has never really been acted on, and that is to require people from outside the province, when they purchase or if you sell land to non-resident owners, then there's a requirement to register that with the province. That has never really been acted on. That piece of legislation has been on the books since the days of Premier Gerald Regan. (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, one of my colleagues would also like to do an introduction.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for interrupting his speech. We have two young men in the west gallery from the 5th Dartmouth Scout Troop, Ian Morrison and Victor Bagnell. They've just come this evening to see what the Legislature is all about. I would ask that we give them a warm welcome to the Legislature. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the issue of Pictou County, and show why I think this patchwork approach to this rather large, and it is a complex problem, is just not working for the provincial government. The way that the assessment issue has been dealt with, with regard to the transmission line for the natural gas has benefited certain stakeholders, and other stakeholders have been completely shut out altogether, much akin to what happened in 1991, when the Crown Corporation referred to as the Nova Scotia Power Corporation was privatized.

There were a number of significant policy changes that took place at that time. Number one was the elimination of the Rural Electrification Act. That has had an adverse effect across this province, like I have never seen before. For those who aren't familiar, one of the key benefits of that was the fact that, for example, ribbon development out along, let's say, road X in Hants County - you'll be driving down road X and you'll come to the last home and that's where the power would end, but if someone wanted to build three-quarters of a mile down the road beyond the service, you couldn't get power. But, if two of his

[Page 2212]

neighbours, his friends or family, were to build two other homes with him, the power would be extended that additional mile. That was incorporated. There would be no direct charge; it was all part of the overall coverage.

[6:45 p.m.]

When Nova Scotia Power Corporation was privatized, that was done away with. If you built a mile away from the service, or even a half a mile, you had to pay for every pole, every foot of line and so on and so forth. It was designed to force development out of rural Nova Scotia by the Premier of the day, from Pictou County. That had a major negative impact. Not only that, but they changed the distribution of wealth on this grant in lieu of taxes. One time, it went to all, I think it was 66 municipalities at that time - I believe so - province-wide. Now, where does it go? No, I'm sorry, it was reversed. Wherever the assessed real estate was, that's what it was. I'm sorry. I had the things reversed. Now, it's distributed province-wide.

So, if you take on Cape Breton Island, where 50 per cent of all the total tangible assets are for Nova Scotia Power, what do they get? They get a pittance. What does the province do in lieu of that? Another provincial Big Brother intervention, and I would submit we're going to see more of this. It will resolve some of those problems in those coastal communities in those municipalities. It will alleviate some of the political problems for the Minister of Justice and for the Minister of Environment and Labour and yes, for concerns in Victoria County, but it will create, I will submit, many more problems than it will solve. I'll be very surprised if the various stakeholders, particularly representatives from municipal units across this province, don't come and have something to say about it, particularly after what happened with the distribution of the resources in Pictou County and so on, with regard to the pipeline.

It's a double standard. It's an absolute double standard. Maybe there is some lobbying going on that we don't know about; maybe there are some stakeholders that we haven't identified in this equation. This is an intervention without complete thought as to what the implications are. With those comments, I'll draw my comments to a close and I'll be looking forward to hearing the presentations at Law Amendments and, hopefully, when this bill comes back before the House, if it's not completely revamped or incinerated or whatever the words would be at that process, I'd be looking forward to perhaps some . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Eviscerated.

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, obliterated, eviscerated. We'll be looking for perhaps some amendments as it comes back to Committee of the Whole. Thank you.

[Page 2213]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: This bill plants no trees. At the very best that can be said for it is that perhaps it clears away a little bit of the underbrush. It's the sort of legislation that we would like to support and yet I think we take a broader view of what it is that is the problem. Indeed, I think the basic difficulty with Bill No. 40 is that it takes up one small piece of a much larger problem, and indeed it's not so obvious that it deals with that small piece in any effective way for we have to ask ourselves what indeed is the objective of this bill, what exactly is it that it is trying to accomplish? It is not so obvious.

I will suggest that there are probably seven or eight different problems that are bound up together that have to be considered that are perhaps only partially addressed or not addressed at all in this bill. I want to list them and then I want to move through each on the list and say a few words about them in relation to what it is that the bill either attempts to do or omits to do.

So the first problem is this question of fairness to individuals. It seems that this is the basis on which the bill is put forward and I will get back to this. I suppose an allied way of thinking about this question of fairness to individuals is to think about the open operation of the marketplace and whether it ought to be changed or interfered with in some way. Those two points might be seen together, but along with that is the problem of access to land, especially access to coastal land because that's very much a problem that we have dealt with in this Legislature. Indeed, our Party has led the way in terms of bringing up issues around that and that's part of what it is that this bill has to do with. It can be seen, as well, as trying to deal with a general problem of inflation and I suppose that's another way of thinking about it.

Another way of thinking about the problem is the difficulty of ability to pay on the part of individuals who are faced with property tax bills that they think are beyond their means and that's a real issue. All of these are real issues. There's the issue of overall fairness in the tax system, that is fairness in the property tax system and that's a real issue. There's the question of the appropriate economic use of land. That's a real issue. There's the problem of appropriate levels of revenues for local government and that too, of course, is a real issue. So all of these are issues that the minister in his area of responsibility as a member of the Cabinet should be contemplating, should be dealing with, should be thinking about, and it's not as if these various problems are new or have not been identified before. They're regularly identified, they're regularly put in front of the minister. Indeed, his own government generated a report a few years ago through Voluntary Planning that examined a number of these associated issues.

What we have to remember about that is that the Voluntary Planning report didn't just deal with one narrow part of the range of issues that are implied in this question of property taxation and yet this bill does. Even though we have many criticisms to make of the

[Page 2214]

report that Voluntary Planning did, we nonetheless recognize that they did quite a good job of identifying a whole host of problems that have to be looked at and yet the minister has brought in front of the House a bill that is so narrowly focused that we have problems in understanding exactly what it's about.

Now, our instinct, as I said, is to want to support this kind of legislation because it deals or touches upon the array of problems that we have spoken about often in this House. My colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, has undoubtedly taken the lead in identifying a problem in the coastal communities of Nova Scotia and that problem has been variously described. In some terms it has been described as the problem of non-resident ownership. In some areas the language has been the problem of access to our coasts. In some areas the problem has been described as one of unfairness to individuals in their ability to pay tax bills. All of these things are bound up together and all of these are problems that we should be grappling with, all of these are problems that have not gone away. If anything, these problems have increased over time.

If we look back at recent history, we know that there was at least some awareness in the Province of Nova Scotia as early as 1970 about the problem that was then regarded of non-resident ownership of land. We know this, because in 1970 this House passed something called, The Land Holdings Disclosure Act. That was a piece of legislation that was prompted by identification of the phenomenon of non-resident ownership and the beginnings of some worry that this might be having adverse economic impacts or adverse social impacts on Nova Scotians. The piece of legislation that was brought in took a very modest step. All it did was put an obligation on a non-resident purchaser to report that fact. Indeed, it extended the obligation to lawyers involved in the transaction.

I can recall, in those years practising law, I filled out forms that were specified under this legislation in which, if I acted for a non-resident client, I would have to report the fact that land had been purchased in Nova Scotia by a non-resident owner, the type of land and the amount, the size of the land. All that was required in the legislation was generation of this information. There were no penalties, there were no extra taxes, there were no restrictions. All the bill was doing was seeking, on behalf of the government to gather information. This was 1970, and it's clear that because that step was taken that there was at least some level of awareness that there was a problem. Well here it is, almost 35 years later and we're still tinkering with this problem in a very small way. The problem has not gone away, the problem has only increased decade after decade.

One of things that the report that was done by Voluntary Planning, the committee that Mr. Jim Moir chaired, in its report called Non-Resident Land Ownership in Nova Scotia, what they did was they tried to put together some solid data about what the non-resident ownership situation is. It was very difficult for the committee to do that. Indeed, I have heard the solicitor for the Department of Natural Resources, I believe it was, speak about the information that has been gathered under that legislation, The Land Holdings Disclosure Act.

[Page 2215]

She said that for a long time information wasn't really compiled into any statistical tables, that she was obliged to go back and try and search through old reports that had been filed by lawyers on behalf of their clients over the years to see what she could generate. Then she was also obliged to try to look at the addresses in the assessment roles that were in the knowledge of the province. She readily agreed that these were imperfect instruments in terms of gathering statistical information. Even on the basis of that, she was suggesting, and I think Mr. Moir's committee accepted, there seemed to be some indicators that in some counties there are serious problems about non-resident ownership, particularly along the coast.

The counties that were identified are Digby, Annapolis, and Shelburne. In those counties, according to the Voluntary Planning report, non-resident ownership approaches 30 per cent of the coastline. Now that's a lot. If this is a problem, then that problem has to be dealt with.

Now why might it be a problem? Clearly we cannot be xenophobic here. This isn't a question about prejudice against people who live in other nations. This should not be a question of prejudice against people who live in other parts of Canada. If there's a problem, the difficulty is that land is probably not being used in a way that might be to its best economic advantage for those of us here in Nova Scotia. Let me give you an example. If land that might be used productively for agricultural purposes is acquired as a recreation property that is in use 2, 3 or 4 months a year, then that land has changed its character of use. When a person lives in a summer home for two, three or four months a year, they might be injecting some money into the local economy, but it's for a limited purpose and for a limited period of time. If that land were better used year round for agricultural or other purposes, then the local community, those of us who live here in Nova Scotia, might well be better off. This is general economic activity that might be generated.

[7:00 p.m.]

I'm not saying that people who live outside the province or live outside the local county or local municipality who come for the summer aren't an economic benefit, clearly there's some economic stimulus. They might have built their home and used local builders to do it. They might have used local materials and probably they did. They probably purchased things locally - food and so on - when they're there. But it's for a limited period of time.

This is just meant to illustrate part of the problem of non-resident ownership. Other provinces have tried to deal with this. Other provinces - P.E.I. as a leading example - have put limits on the amount of land that non-resident owners can acquire. They particularly put limits on types of land that they regard as being very important for their economy. In P.E.I., that means coastal property because of the tourism implications and in P.E.I., it also means agricultural land because of the importance of agriculture to their economy. These restrictions have been challenged in court but unsuccessfully.

[Page 2216]

So, it's possible to frame legislation in a way as P.E.I. did that would withstand the scrutiny of the courts. Other provinces and P.E.I. have done different things. One of the things they've done is they've put a differential tax system in place so non-residents have to pay a greater amount of taxes or, as they phrase it in the legislation, residents pay less or get a rebate on their taxes compared with non-residents. P.E.I. is not the only province that has done this. Quebec has done it, I think British Columbia has done, at least one other province - I believe Ontario did it for a number of years, although I think it's since abandoned the system. The point is that this mechanism does exist if we consider this is a problem and we want to do something about it.

The Voluntary Planning Task Force recommended against a special tax for non-residents on land. Well, you can argue the toss but they didn't say that there wasn't a problem. They recommended against this particular mechanism but they didn't say that there wasn't some kind of problem that we should think about. Unfortunately, the government doesn't seem to have worked their way through this problem and brought us a solution. This is not going to end the problem.

What does this bill say about non-resident ownership and the appropriate economic use of land? It does nothing really to nudge land use towards its highest and best purpose. It's focussed very narrowly on this question of fairness, apparently, to individual owners of property. So, although this is the kind of bill on the kind of topic that we might want to support, we look at it and the first failing that strikes us is this question of best economic use of land. It just doesn't engage with that issue.

Nor does it engage with the next point I want to turn to which is revenues for local government. This bill clearly has potential for causing some problems in terms of the revenue flows to local governments. We know that the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has said that it is not in support of this bill. I believe that one of the reasons the UNSM is having difficulty supporting this legislation is in part because they can anticipate that their members - the municipalities of the Province of Nova Scotia - are going to encounter some difficulties in terms of their revenue flows. We have to remember that local governments have a vast array of powers that they are asked to exercise and yet, at the same time, they are the level of government in Canada that have the least flexible tools to generate revenues. They are the level of government that is most dependent on transfers from other levels of government. Just think how dependent we as a province are on transfers from Ottawa, but municipalities are even more dependent generally on transfers from the provincial level, or some form of break from the provincial level.

They have a wide array of powers and yet they have very limited taxing ability. The taxing ability that they do have is focused, virtually exclusively, on the land tax, on the property tax. This is difficult. They can bring in certain user fees, but they don't like to do that and indeed user fees are, of course, generally regressive. Property taxes are regressive, that's problematic enough, but municipalities really are in a bit of a corner when it comes to

[Page 2217]

dealing with their revenue situation, and this bill isn't going to make things necessarily better for them.

Now, I want to point out that this question of increasing assessments, and therefore difficulties for owners, is not one that's limited to rural areas. Urban areas experience this in the same way. Let's be clear about that. There has been an enormous increase over the last couple of decades in the market price of property in the central urban core of HRM, and this is obviously one of the most desirable places to live for those of us who want to live in Nova Scotia full time and, because of the physical arrangement of the peninsula and where it is that the attractive destinations are, land values have gone up for any property that's located within easy transportation distance of the central core.

The government buildings are here; the universities are here; the hospitals are here; the professionals have most of their offices here; the entertainment facilities are here - and those are big draws. The jobs are here; that's an important draw. So people want to be able to travel into the central core, or live on the central core - even better. So property prices have gone up enormously. I can remember when I was a municipal councillor and, more latterally, a member of this Legislature, receiving outraged calls from many people who live in my constituency, and who lived in my municipal district, about the increases in their assessments because they saw enormous increases in their tax bills year over year.

MADAM SPEAKER: Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. EPSTEIN: I would, yes.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Thank you, Madam Speaker, and thank you to my colleague. I would like to introduce to all members of the House members of the NSGEU's Civil Service President's Council, representing 5,600 provincial government employees. In the east gallery: Wanda Pulsifer, Carol Ann MacKenzie, Guysborough County; Barbara Larade, Cape Breton; Wayne Butler, Pictou; Brad Crewe, Colchester County; David Brewster, Annapolis, Kings and Hants Counties; Wayne Sitland, HRM; and Susan Kidston, HRM; Carol Gaudet, Yarmouth and Digby. They are here to talk with the MLAs this evening about pressing civil service issues such as amendments to the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act, legislative whistle-blowing protection, and the 1 per cent premium increase for the Public Service Pension Plan. They are in the east gallery here this evening and I would like to have a warm welcome. (Applause)

MADAM SPEAKER: Welcome and I hope you have an interesting stay here this evening.

[Page 2218]

MR. EPSTEIN: Madam Speaker, I was pointing out that this problem of increases in assessments is one that is not confined to rural areas. This is every bit as much a problem in urban areas as it is a problem in rural areas. I don't want members of the House not to think that's the case. I don't want members of the House to forget that for a moment.

This is, in many respects, then, a province-wide problem, and it's not tied exclusively to non-resident ownership. It's a problem that can be seen as being tied to general inflation. Now, if this problem is tied to general inflation and to the competitive factors in the marketplace, then what exactly is it that the minister is saying to us he's going to do about this? Is he saying that he's prepared to bring in anti-inflationary legislation? That seems to be what's going on. Is he saying that what he thinks is that the operation of the marketplace has somehow gotten out of control? I'm not saying that any of that would be objectionable, if the minister were inclined to try to do that. Indeed, I'm happy to have some kind of precedent that we could point to on future occasions that would remind us of the inclination of the government to interfere in an appropriate case when the marketplace is not operating properly.

Yet, what is the trigger? What is it exactly, that the minister is saying is an unacceptable level of increases? We don't know. No number has been attached to this. At one point, when the federal government brought in anti-inflation legislation, they talked about 6 per cent and 5 per cent, they thought that was the appropriate cap, and what provoked it was inflation at 13 per cent. Those are historic numbers in Canada, but maybe those aren't the triggers that the minister has in mind. If the minister is thinking of setting a cap, a trigger that's somewhere much higher than those numbers, then what's the number, and will it do anyone any good?

Suppose, for example, that the minister had in mind a cap that would only apply when changes, year over year, exceeded, say, 25 per cent or 50 per cent. Now those would be big numbers. The kinds of increases that we've mostly seen in the urban areas have been, year over year, inflationary increases, 5 per cent, 10 per cent, maybe 15 per cent or 20 per cent, but if the minister has in mind larger numbers, then it seems to me that he's not going to be helping the people in the urban areas who have the same problem.

If you think about it for a moment, it's easy to recognize that there has been an enormous increase in the urban areas as a general fact of life. People have seen their home values on the open market double over the last decade, easily, in the central core and in some areas beyond that. If there's a 7 per cent to 10 per cent increase per year, it takes less than a decade to double land values, which means, often, that the tax bills go up, perhaps not by that full amount but they certainly increase.

HRM has done a good job, its council, in a few years, of holding the line on the tax rate but, at the same time, their overall expenditures have gone up and people have found that their tax bills have gone up quite a bit, to the point where it's very hard for them to manage

[Page 2219]

to keep their homes, to pay those bills. It's not just in rural areas that there are people who have difficulty with the ability to pay their real property taxes. Yet, if the minister has in mind a very high cap, then surely he's focussing very narrowly on one small group of owners in the province.

So, why would the minister not tell us the numbers? Why isn't the minister telling us what regulation he has in mind to bring in? We could debate this more intelligently if we heard details of the number the minister has in mind. I suspect, unfortunately, that what the minister has in mind is a very high number, and the higher the number, the fewer the people, the fewer the property owners who are going to be beneficially affected by this legislation. In other words, it's all for show, or it's directed at a very few number of beneficiaries around the province.

This is not tackling a real problem that is out there. This is in fact pretending that you are tackling a problem. That is not fairness to individuals, its not fairness to the community at large, it doesn't deal with revenues to local government in a way, it doesn't deal with the land-use issues, it just doesn't deal with the full array of questions that are raised as soon as you begin to think about property taxation. Property taxation is a complex issue. This bill fails to engage with the full range of issues. So that's problematic. However much this is the kind of topic and therefore the kind of bill we would like to support, its difficult. Our inclination is to want to support it and yet so much is left out.

[7:15 a.m.]

I want to talk just a little bit about ability to pay. If that's what the minister has in mind, there are, of course, other ways of dealing with that question and one of them has to do with tying municipal revenues, which I spoke to before, to revenue. That is going back to looking at some kind of income tax system. It is not a well-known fact, because many of us haven't experienced it in our adult lifetimes, but prior to 1941, when the federal and provincial governments entered into a new taxation agreement across this country for wartime purposes - that survived the war of course - it was the case that many municipalities in Canada had an income tax. Income tax is not perfect, but it is a much more progressive tax than property tax. Property taxes are aggressive tax. It means, that you have to pay it regardless of your ability to pay.

Consider a two-income family living in a family home. They clearly have the greatest ability during their revenue-producing years to pay their property taxes than they will ever have. At some point they retire. When they retire, their income goes down but they could still be living in the same family home.

They are still being asked to pay property taxes on that home, and year after year, of course, there's an inflation in the value of that land on the marketplace, and they still have to pay that property tax although their revenues have gone down. Imagine what happens if

[Page 2220]

one of those spouses were to die. Revenues go down again. Yet, the surviving spouse could still be living in that family home and indeed, we want that person to continue living in that family home so long as they're physically able to. Why not? So they should. Yet, family revenues have gone down again, the property value has increased yet again, as it does year after year, and they still have to pay the property tax, not they, this one person has to pay the property tax.

If the minister wants to deal with ability to pay, if that's his core concern is ability to pay, then he should take a more creative way of thinking about the question of ability to pay and property tax. There are lots of models out there, there are lots of articles out there. I'm sure the minister's staff would be happy to point him in the direction of articles in tax journals that would tell him alternatives that he may want to consider.

Now what about the issue of fairness in the overall property tax system. I can imagine the minister sitting in his office saying to himself, oh my goodness, there are problems in the property tax system, let me consider a variety of ways in which the property tax system in our province is inequitable. Well, if that is what the minister did and somehow in his reading of the Assessment Act he chose to fasten onto this problem, he hasn't got his priorities straight. Anyone who reads the Assessment Act will immediately realize that there are any number of inequities, unfairnesses, peculiarities, historic accretions that have found their way into our Assessment Act and could usefully be dealt with. This bill picks out only one small item, it's an interesting item, its one that we'd like to support if we felt that somehow there were a convincing rationale and that somehow that maybe it's the first of five or six bills that might rationalize our Assessment Act and the property tax system, but I don't think so. I haven't heard the minister say that. No hint from the minister that he has six more bills in his back pocket that he's going to bring in to straighten out some of the anomalies of the Assessment Act. Nope, not there. So again, here's another peculiarity about this bill. I find it very odd to see what it is that the minister really has in mind.

Now let me turn to one other aspect which one would have thought was so closely bound up with the question of rural properties and their increase in value, that the minister would have dealt with it. Now the reason I arrive at this is, I take it that the minister really is focused , not on urban areas here, he's really focused on a few select rural areas in Nova Scotia. I'm not saying there isn't a problem there, there is a problem there. Part of that problem is access to our coastal areas. Again, if he wants to go back and read the Voluntary Planning Task Force Report, he'll find that a lot of the recommendations that are in that task force report, deal with questions of public access to the waterfront, to the coast. This is a real problem, and it's not purely tied to non-resident ownership. It is in part, but not purely. It's tied to development along the coasts. It can be tied to gated communities.

Let's take an example about gated communities. They don't have to be non-resident ownership at all. We have several examples of gated communities in Nova Scotia. In fact, country-wide, we've managed to identify about 240 of them in a recent study. This is a

[Page 2221]

growing problem in Canada, as a method of land ownership. It's designed to keep people out, that's what the gate and fence are all about. It's designed to keep people out of prime property. Fox Point is an example in Nova Scotia. There are others in HRM. These communities have been allowed to develop, and they've been allowed to develop without any policy direction from the provincial government that tells municipalities that they shouldn't allow them.

If they haven't arrived at that policy view yet, then at least they might initiate a discussion. They might invite municipalities to say what they think about it. They might invite planners to say what they think about it. They might invite the public to say what they think about exclusive gated communities that keep people out. This is a problem that's growing in Nova Scotia. We ought to nip it in the bud before it turns out to be even more extensive a problem then it is already. Does this bill engage with that issue? It does not. Does this bill deal with the things that Jim Moir and his Voluntary Planning Task Force pointed out could be dealt with by the provincial government? Does it set aside more money for the province to buy recreational land? Does it give greater guarantees for citizens of Nova Scotia, for residents to be able to have access to coastal properties? It does not. Does it clarify the legal situation around access to coastal areas? It does not. All we have to do is recognize that our legal framework, right now, has quite a number of weaknesses, that could have been engaged with. (Interruptions)

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

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now I regard this as much more pressing an issue than the narrow focus of the bill. As I say, as soon as the minister comes with something that deals with land in Nova Scotia, I'm interested. When the minister comes with something that deals with taxation around land in Nova Scotia, our caucus is very interested. As soon as the minister comes with legislation that he suggests somehow solves the problem of rising taxation, non-resident ownership, inequities to people, it's the kind of thing that we would like to support. Yet, when we look at this bill and compare it with the range of problems that is truly at work here, we have to have our doubts.

I think virtually everyone in the Opposition who has spoken to Bill No. 40 has indicated that we are highly desirous of hearing what it is that presenters will say to us at Law Amendments. I want to agree with that. I put myself among that number. I indeed want to hear what people say at Law Amendments because I bet that they will point out that there are difficulties here. They will point out that a real problem exists but that this bill doesn't quite engage - it only begins to engage - with the full range of problems that we have to deal with.

So, in due course, I guess we'll get the chance to look at this again in more detail. I'm happy that's the case. But, I think the minister has to be put on notice as a result of my comments, of the comments of the member for Timberlea-Prospect, of the member for

[Page 2222]

Dartmouth North and, indeed, as a result of the comments from the members of the Third Party that there are problems here that have not been dealt with adequately.

I ask the minister and his caucus to think again and think more seriously about the problem that they're inviting us to grapple with here. They've opened the door, they've given us a little peek at the problem, but this isn't something that they're going to be able to close the door on so easily. It's not such a simple problem, it's a complex problem. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I won't speak as long as my previous colleague and perhaps not quite as eloquently either.

I do have some concerns that I'd like to raise. Actually, I would say I've never been a municipal councillor. My entry into politics was purely to run for this Party and the constituents in my area were certainly willing enough to put their faith in me once, twice and three times. I want to say that as someone who lives in a fairly rapidly growing area of the province and in particular lives on a farm that has been in my family for over 100 years and along with that borders a lake, this is an area as you can well expect that has become more and more attractive over the years. People are interested in settling around the lake and for sure we've had the experience of non-resident ownership in that area, in particular on a very large parcel of property on that lake which I know to some extent has affected the assessments of property in that area.

As much as I appreciate the points that my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, who previously spoke has raised, I'm not sure that with this government we can expect to get anything that would even come close to addressing all the issues that he has raised. It would be really nice if that actually were the case. What I'm hoping is that this piece of legislation will at least address the concerns that have been raised by residents in areas to all members of the House in whatever part of the province and in particular, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect who has kind of led the fight on this issue.

It's probably quite true that this is not wide-ranging enough and I actually think that it can address the number one issue that really has come to us and that is the fact that people have been forced into situations where their traditional properties have had such enormous assessments due to a non-resident moving in beside them that it has made it difficult for them to maintain ownership of their property.

[7:30 p.m.]

I'm not entirely convinced at this point that this piece of legislation will actually address that problem, because there's still information that we don't have and that is in the percentage of the cap. Without knowing at what level the cap will be capped, it's pretty

[Page 2223]

difficult to know whether there will be much benefit for landowners, generally. Certainly, if the cap is allowed to be, I would say even if it was - 20 per cent which seems high to me. We're talking of an assessment that in five years or less than five years actually would double the assessment of the property. That would seem quite steep to me.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not entirely sure that I agree with the argument put forth by others that this would somehow tie the hands of the municipalities in terms of raising revenue. My reason for saying that is, if we were to take a certain stretch of a number of properties, let's say 11 properties, and these are traditional, longstanding properties within a municipality, and let's say, we don't have to go back 100 years, but let's say 50 years they have had whatever incremental increases but not due to any particular spike due to non-resident landownership or even a resident coming in and purchasing one at a particularly significantly higher level we know that the municipality would certainly count on a predicted revenue from those 11 properties. If one of them is sold at what we will call a spike, then certainly it's going to get its predicted revenue from 10 of them and the next year it's going to get its significant revenue from that other one.

So in that regard, the municipality really could plan on a higher revenue from those 11 properties than it previously would have expected, and the only difference is that if it assessed the other 10 at the same level as the one that caused the spike, they would not be able to receive that additional revenue on the 10.

I think that most reasonable people would assume that if that one property hadn't been sold, then they would still, on the 11, get the smaller, predictable revenue, and in this case they're getting a somewhat higher revenue. So I can't, in my own mind, make a case or support the case that it actually affects their ability to generate revenue. It affects their ability to generate that much more revenue, but they would have a predictable revenue source, as they always had, and could base their expenditures on that, as they always have done so.

The issues around land use are important ones. Actually, I would really like to see the province move in some direction around this issue, in particular not purely on the basis of non-resident or residential land use where there's a spike in the value of a particular property, but on the whole issue of land use, whether it's agricultural land, forestry, mining, whatever, that the province actually develops a road map around the land use and making not only the best use of the land but the best value for the province and the municipalities in this regard.

So with those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to this bill moving on to the Law Amendments Committee. I am interested to see what the presenters will say in this regard, and hope that something appropriate can come out of this that would benefit all Nova Scotians because if not, my colleagues who are municipal councillors may take a different view, but it would seem to me that municipal councillors are elected and those bodies are there to work on behalf of their constituents, as we are, and with those comments, I look

[Page 2224]

forward to this moving on to the Law Amendments Committee and to see what presentations are made there.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, it will be to close debate.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I do want to thank the members for their comments here today and on Friday. As well, I want to thank those who from the time this bill was tabled in the fall of last year provided me with advice and comments with respect to the issue of skyrocketing assessment, I also want to thank the UNSM for the advice and feedback they provided as well. As well, the Association of Municipal Administrators offered some input into this bill between the time it went from first reading to second reading as well. So I want to thank those individuals.

I want to though at this time take a few minutes to address some of the concerns that were raised during debate. I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that one of the issues raised early on was the fact that this bill will change the approach the province uses to assess properties and that is not the case. This bill will continue to use the tried and proven approach of market value to develop the basis for assessment. The approach, as I described when I introduced this bill, as I described when I opened debate on second reading, is the same approach that we have used and that has proven effective here in Nova Scotia and across North America and that is using the market value approach to determining the assessment and that is exactly what we intend to do with this bill. I, too, like other speakers, have had some tremendous experiences in my life evaluating real estate and I do know that it's a system that works.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, our office assesses over 660,000 properties in Nova Scotia. Over the past four years we've seen assessment appeals decline fourfold and we've seen our staff, the customer satisfaction rate increase by 75 per cent. So that, to me, would say that we're doing something right here in Nova Scotia. I also want to point out that the intent of this bill is to ensure that first and foremost Nova Scotians are protected, that they receive the level of protection that their government can afford and that is protection that keeps them in their house when they see their assessment increase dramatically. It's incumbent upon their government and all members of this Legislature to do whatever we can to ensure that those people receive the greatest amount of protection and that's what this bill does.

Mr. Speaker, issues that have been brought up with respect to Bill No. 40, I recall during debate the member for Halifax Chebucto said that Bill No. 40 is a bill narrow on focus. I would submit that another bill entitled the same exact title, An Act to Amend Chapter 23 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Assessment Act, Bill No. 9 would aptly be described as narrow in focus. It simply prescribes an amount which assessment will increase

[Page 2225]

and no longer from that day on will there be any re-evaluation of assessed properties. That's a narrow focus bill. Bill No. 40 is a bill that addresses the issues and the concerns of the people in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that since tabling the bill in the fall, I've had the opportunity to visit all 55 municipal units. I met with the mayors and the councillors and I talked to each and every council in this province in each and every county and, without exception, those who commented on both Bill No. 40 and Bill No. 9 were clear Bill No. 9 is not at all what the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities is looking for. In fact, when I spoke to the UNSM, they were very concerned about this. Now Bill No. 40, I would say, is an approach that reaches some kind of compromise and enables municipalities to continue to offer a high level of service and protect their tax base - at the same time protecting the interest of Nova Scotians from skyrocketing assessments.

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that members opposite have spoken in favour and in opposition to this bill. It's my expectation and hope that they will work with this Legislature and with all Parties to ensure that all Nova Scotians get a bill that works for them. That's our goal and that's our objective. I would also point out that there have been several attempts to try to resolve this very complex issue. The one thing that I've heard in this Legislature is that this is a complex issue. That is absolutely factual - it is.

Our attempt to resolve this, I believe, is the most prudent attempt of those who have failed, and I think it's one that will see the approval of those people who have been affected by skyrocketing and dramatically increasing assessments.

Mr. Speaker, with that, I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 40.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 40. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, today, in the gallery opposite, we have with us, visiting from Middle and Upper Sackville, scouts and leaders from the 6th Sackville Scout Group. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the members of the Legislature. (Applause)

[Page 2226]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. The order of business, after Question Period, will be Public Bills for Second Reading. We will be commencing with Bill No. 46 and then going through as numbered in the order paper.

I move that the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 7:42 p.m.]

[Page 2227]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 925

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Bass River Fire Department answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Bass River Fire Department for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 926

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are the lifeblood of the rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the Debert Fire Brigade answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing whom they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Debert Fire Brigade for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

[Page 2228]

RESOLUTION NO. 927

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are the lifeblood of the rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the Five Islands District Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing whom they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Five Islands District Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

RESOLUTION NO. 928

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are the lifeblood of the rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the North River and District Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing whom they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the North River and District Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

[Page 2229]

[Page 2230]

RESOLUTION NO. 929

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are the lifeblood of the rural Nova Scotia communities who are called out at any given time of the day or night; and

Whereas the Tatamagouche Fire Department answers a number of local alarms annually while always being ready to assist fellow fire departments with mutual aid assistance; and

Whereas a community without the devotion of volunteer firefighters would be a community living on the edge, not knowing whom they could call at a time of peril or distress;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Tatamagouche Fire Department for their passion and zeal in responding to alarms when required.

RESOLUTION NO. 930

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Economy Fire Brigade answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Economy Fire Brigade for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

[Page 2231]

RESOLUTION NO. 931

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Great Village and District Fire Brigade answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Great Village and District Fire Brigade for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 932

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Onslow-Belmont Fire Brigade for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

[Page 2232]

RESOLUTION NO. 933

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas firefighters are summoned in times of need, regardless of the time of day or night; and

Whereas the Valley-Kemptown and District Fire Brigade answers a number of alarms annually; and

Whereas a community without the dedication of volunteer firefighters would be a community at great risk because of the uncertainty of when an emergency can arise;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs of this House commend the executive and firefighters from the Valley-Kemptown and District Fire Brigade for their excellent responses in times of need while wishing them continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 934

By: Hon. Richard Hurlburt (Natural Resources)

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

Whereas pets have long been known to enrich our lives by providing companionship and unconditional love and by lifting our spirits; and

Whereas thanks to Anne Muise and her dog Zoe, residents of Yarmouth's Veterans' Place now have the opportunity to enjoy the canine companionship they may have left behind when they moved into the facility; and

Whereas the St. John Ambulance dog therapy program has been in place in three of the Yarmouth area's long-term care facilities since last summer and there are plans to expand it into others in the area;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing the efforts of Anne Muise and all participants of the St. John Ambulance dog therapy program who enrich the lives of our seniors with this very worthwhile endeavour.

[Page 2233]

RESOLUTION NO. 935

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 all Nova Scotians are now fully cognizant of just what an abysmal failure the National Gun Registry has turned out to be; and

Whereas despite more than $1 billion being shoved down a deep hole that had no return, a recent National Post investigative story reported that of the 100,000 or more stolen guns over the past five years, the registry has been able to match only 4,438, meaning 96,000 stolen guns are still unaccounted for; and

Whereas the report also showed that serial numbers for more than 250,000 firearms logged into the system matched the serial numbers of nearly 102,000 guns police have reported stolen since 1998;

Therefore be it resolved that all legislators, through this notice of motion, indicate to the Prime Minister that he scrap this registry once and for all, take the money his government has removed from the pockets of law-abiding Canadians and admit the system is a colossal failure.

RESOLUTION NO. 936

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Family Fries Restaurant and Take Out in Ship Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Family Fries Restaurant and Take Out in Ship Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 2234]

RESOLUTION NO. 937

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Eastern Shore Law Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Eastern Shore Law Centre in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 938

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas DeMone Monument & Granite Products Ltd. in Chezzetcook is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing DeMone Monument & Granite Products Ltd. in Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 2235]

RESOLUTION NO. 939

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Belle's Barber Shoppe in Musquodoboit Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Belle's Barber Shoppe in Musquodoboit Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 940

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas small businesses account for more than 70 per cent of jobs in this province; and

Whereas small businesses are the lifeblood of our rural communities and play a significant role in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Pettipas Septic and Plumbing Service in Chezzetcook is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Pettipas Septic and Plumbing Service in Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.