The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
June 16, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-29

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Environ. & Lbr.: West River Estuary - Concerns, Mr. C. Parker 2359
Environ. & Lbr.: VLTs - Ban, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2360
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Hum. Res.: Public Servants - Protection, Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 2360
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 984, Health: Nurses - Leadership Conference, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2364
Vote - Affirmative 2365
Res. 985, Cullen, Mark - Composting: Efforts - Thank, Hon. K. Morash 2365
Vote - Affirmative 2365
Res. 986, Justice - Criminal Code: Fed. Min. - Amend, Hon. M. Baker 2365
Vote - Affirmative 2366
Res. 987, Macdonald, Angus L.: Contribution - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2366
Vote - Affirmative 2367
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 58, Mechanics' Lien Act, Hon. M. Baker 2367
No. 59, Environment Act, Mr. J. Pye 2367
No. 60, Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company Act,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2368
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 988, Health - Long-Term Care: Assessments - End, Mr. D. Dexter 2368
Res. 989, Regan, Geoff: Sponsorship Scandal - Response,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2369
Res. 990, MacKenzie, Don: Pictou Co. EMO Co-Ordinator - Appt.,
Mr. C. Parker 2370
Vote - Affirmative 2370
Res. 991, Fin.: Tax Cut Rescission - Apologize, Ms. D. Whalen 2371
Res. 992, Smith, Duncan - Barnes Award (2003), Mr. M. Parent 2371
Vote - Affirmative 2372
Res. 993, Health: Enzyme Replacement Therapy - Funding, Mr. J. Pye 2372
Vote - Affirmative 2373
Res. 994, Sports: Middleton Reg. HS Hockey/Basketball Teams -
Congrats., Mr. S. McNeil 2373
Vote - Affirmative 2373
Res. 995, Shelburne Co. Nature & Birding Fest. (2004):
Organizers/Participants - Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 2374
Vote - Affirmative 2374
Res. 996, C.B. Reg. Hosp.: MRI - Acquisition, Mr. G. Gosse 2374
Vote - Affirmative 2375
Res. 997, Health: Fed. Funding - Health Care Usage,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2375
Res. 998, Julien's Bakery: Cdn. Military (Afghanistan) - Gifts,
Mr. J. Chataway 2376
Vote - Affirmative 2376
Res. 999, Josey, Paul: Firefighters Award - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 2377
Vote - Affirmative 2377
Res. 1000, Tory Tax Scheme - NDP: Participation - Admit,
Mr. M. Samson 2377
Res. 1001, Turks & Caicos - N.S.: Annexation - Initiate,
Mr. W. Langille 2378
Vote - Affirmative 2379
Res. 1002, Scotts Bay CAP Site - Creative Arts Exhibit, Mr. M. Parent 2379
Vote - Affirmative 2379
Res. 1003, Moore, Kelly - Interior Designers Assoc. (N.S.): Pres. -
Appt., Mr. J. Chataway 2380
Vote - Affirmative 2380
Res. 1004, Northern Yacht Club: Infrastructure - Rebuilding,
Hon. C. Clarke 2380
Vote - Affirmative 2381
Res. 1005, Climie, Matt: MJAHL - Award, Hon. J. Muir 2381
Vote - Affirmative 2382
Res. 1006, Sports - Curling: Mouzar Rink - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 2382
Vote - Affirmative 2383
Res. 1007, Whitman, Ellen: Science Teachers - Acknowledgment,
Hon. D. Morse 2383
Vote - Affirmative 2383
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 285, Educ. - P3 Rental Fees: Control - Plans, Mr. D. Dexter 2384
No. 286, Health - Fed. Funding: Increases - Usage,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2385
No. 287, Justice - Domestic Violence Intervention Act: MB Decision -
Implications, Mr. D. Dexter 2387
No. 288, Fin.: Budget Taxation Measures - Absence Confirm,
Ms. D. Whalen 2388
No. 289, Ins.: IRB - Home Ins. Review, Mr. D. Dexter 2389
No. 290, Econ. Dev.: Rural Economies - Abandonment, Mr. K. Colwell 2390
No. 291, Educ.: Post-Secondary - Tuition Increases, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2392
No. 292, Econ. Dev.: Prov. Nominee Prog. - Status, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2393
No. 293, EMO: Disaster Fin. Assist. Prog. - Qualifying, Mr. H. Epstein 2394
No. 294, EMO: Hurricane Juan - Settlements, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2396
No. 295, Econ. Dev. - Rural Communities: Decline - Plan,
Mr. H. Theriault 2397
No. 296, Health - N.S.: Cancer Ranking - Action,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2399
No. 297, Econ. Dev. - C.B.: Min. - Visit, Mr. Gerald Sampson 2400
No. 298, Health: ABA Therapy - Provide, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2402
No. 299, Health - Strait Richmond Hosp.: Detox Ctr. - Closure,
Mr. Michel Samson 2403
No. 300, Commun. Serv.: Affordable Housing - Build,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2405
No. 301, Econ. Dev. - Britex: Sale - Status, Mr. S. McNeil 2406
No. 302, TCH - RV Times: Quality - Acceptability,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2407
No. 303, TPW: Roads - Multi-Year Plan,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2408
No. 304, TPW: Secondary Roads - Step-Wise Plan, Mr. C. Parker 2409
No. 305, Econ. Dev. - Avon Foods: Closure - Details, Mr. L. Glavine 2410
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 493, Econ. Dev.: Rural Depopulation - Action,
Mr. H. Theriault 2411
Mr. H. Theriault 2411
Hon. E. Fage 2415
Mr. H. Epstein 2419
Mr. L. Glavine 2424
Res. 485, Econ. Dev. - Rural Depopulation: Challenge -
Recognize, Mr. Gerald Sampson 2426
Mr. Gerald Sampson 2426
Hon. C. Clarke 2429
Mr. J. MacDonell 2432
Mr. C. Parker 2433
Mr. K. Colwell 2435
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 2437
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Seniors - Hamm Gov't.: Enhancements - Recognize:
Mr. B. Taylor 2438
Mr. J. Pye 2440
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2443
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thurs., Apr. 22nd at 2:00 p.m. 2446
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1008, MacKay, John: Hillcrest Acad. - French Expo,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 2447
Res. 1009, Jungle Jim's (Amherst): Owner - Commend, Hon. E. Fage 2447
Res. 1010, Burke: Truro Her. Soc. - Sr. Male Athlete of Yr.,
Hon. J. Muir 2448
Res. 1011, Parrsboro Reg. HS: Gr.7 - Winter Carnival Art Contest,
The Speaker 2448
Res. 1012, Parrsboro Reg. HS: Gr. 11 - Winter Carnival Art Contest,
The Speaker 2449
Res. 1013, Black, Carla: Carla's Flowers - Opening, The Speaker 2449
Res. 1014, Best, Josh: RRFB Contest - Congrats., The Speaker 2450
Res. 1015, Gough, Monica - NSCC Bursary, The Speaker 2450
Res. 1016, Downing, Luke - NSCC Bursary, The Speaker 2451
Res. 1017, Fox, David: Merritt Award - Congrats., The Speaker 2451
Res. 1018, NSCC - Springhill Campus: Heart & Stroke Fdn. -
Contribution, The Speaker 2452
Res. 1019, Anderson, Bud & Cathy - Springhill Chamber of
Comm. Award, The Speaker 2452
Res. 1020, Adams, Betty - Cumb. Co. Vol. of Yr., The Speaker 2453
Res. 1021, Likely, Frank: Cdn. Police Chaplain Assoc. - Membership,
The Speaker 2453

[Page 2359]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 21, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize the positive enhancements being made every day for Nova Scotia seniors by the Hamm Government but also realize how much more could be done if the federal government recognized the importance of seniors.

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

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 on behalf of a number of Pictou County residents who are concerned about environmental sediment and odour problems in the West River estuary. The operative clause reads:

2359

[Page 2360]

"We the undersigned to solemnly declare:

The destruction of our environment, the desecration of our pristine rivers in Loch Broom and Lyons Brook, are the direct result of the manmade causeway, damming their flow. A bridged section in the causeway would alleviate this tragic situation.

Our environment is the direct responsibility of provincial and federal government. For either to avoid this matter represents dereliction of duty. This problem must be rectified. Cost is of no consequence where our environment and fresh water are concerned."

Mr. Speaker, this has been signed by 550 Pictou County residents and I, too, have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause is, "THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: We the undersigned, request the government to hold a binding plebiscite, asking the people of Nova Scotia to discontinue VLT use in our province." Three hundred and ninety-two Nova Scotians have signed this petition and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House of Assembly today to address the issue of protection for Public Service employees who report wrongdoing in their workplace.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Nova Scotia is committed to ensuring that Nova Scotians will continue to be served by a law-abiding, ethical, accountable government worthy of the public's trust.

[Page 2361]

Unfortunately, the recent sponsorship scandal within the federal government seems to have eroded the public's confidence in the government, in general. It is of the utmost importance for the people of this province to have confidence that the ministers of this government are accountable for wrongdoing in any of their organizations, should it occur.

Ministers must be made aware of serious wrongdoing within their departments, offices and agencies, and we must ensure that public servants know that they can disclose wrongdoing within their work environment, without fear of reprisal. Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that this has always been the policy of this government. I am here to report to the House today that this government is working to ensure that this policy is clearly stated in the legal framework of this province.

This government intends to exercise its authority under the Civil Service Act and the Public Service Act to make regulations and policies. We will clarify the process by which a public servant may report illegal activity or wrongdoing. This will include protection for those who do so. It should be noted that these regulations and policies will expand upon the provisions that already exist under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Ombudsman Act, the Human Rights Act, the Civil Service Act, and also under collective agreements and at common law.

In developing processes and protections for the disclosure of wrongdoing, we must be mindful that it is in the best interest of the public we serve to have an impartial and loyal Public Service. Protection for employees who disclose wrongdoing does not mean that public servants are free to publicly criticize the legitimate policy or administrative decisions of elected officials. We must protect the government and its employees from senseless or malicious disclosure. These would not be in keeping with the long-standing values of the Public Service in this province.

We expect regulations will go a long way toward clarifying both the rights and obligations of employees and the employer, in disclosing wrongdoing should it occur. However, we also know that there is more that can be done and this process is just the first step.

Mr. Speaker, wrongdoing in any workplace is a symptom of an underlying problem in the organization. A considerable amount of work can be done to prevent problems in the first place by creating a good work environment. This can include employee training on how to deal with illegal, unethical, unfair or immoral actions that an employee may encounter. In our workplace, employees should feel they are able to bring such matters forward openly. Strengthening internal processes allows for the appropriate authority to be informed early on and to take action quickly. Internal processes can limit the harm that may be caused from malicious disclosure.

[Page 2362]

Mr. Speaker, some people may wonder why we don't introduce new legislation to provide these protections. The answer is that the legislative authority is in place now to address this concern. It is also important to note that in Canada, no jurisdiction currently has proclaimed legislation on this issue, and in places where legislation has been used to provide this protection, there has been no evidence of increased reporting of wrongdoing.

Mr. Speaker, preparation of new regulations is underway now. We expect to have these regulations in place within the next few weeks. We believe these measures are the appropriate way to address concerns about the ability of employees to report wrongdoing. They represent another step in our ongoing efforts to build a strong Public Service in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, when I heard what the minister had to say there, I was wondering about the word wrongdoing. Does the word wrongdoing mean criminal activity or just wasteful spending of taxpayers' dollars? Maybe we could have that cleared up. Regulations to protect workers will be under numerous laws, occupational health and safety, the Human Rights Act, a patchwork of regulations that is bound to leave numerous loopholes. Legislation allows public consultation and amendments, not backroom Cabinet deals.

Mr. Speaker, getting structure, internal reporting before disclosure - I heard the minister say - results in burying complaints instead of disclosure. Because other provinces do not have any legislation doesn't make it right. With the history of political patronage in this province, we need protection for whistle-blowers, immediately.

The NDP called for the whistle-blower legislation introduced by Mr. Frank Corbett, my colleague, on October 27, 2003. This is what we need in this legislation. The NSGEU has not been consulted about this piece of legislation. The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour has not been consulted, despite repeated attempts to get in contact with the government and meet with the government.

Mr. Speaker, we need legislation, not regulations in this Legislature to protect the people who are working in the civil service of this government and in other departments. Thank you.

[Page 2363]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just to remind honourable members to recognize other members in the House not by their name, but by their constituency, please. Over the last couple of days it has happened a few times. I would appreciate it.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and speak on this ministerial statement. I want to thank the minister for providing us with a copy of this before and congratulate her for the announcement here today. Certainly we're pleased to hear this minister actually talking about her department, so that's a refreshing change here in this House. (Interruptions)

Our Party agrees that public servants . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, it's true. The first time we ever heard her . . .

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, a sensitive crew. Our Party agrees that public servants need protection when reporting wrongdoing. We also agree that the people need confidence in their government. What is unfortunate about this announcement is once again a member of the Executive Council is attacking another level of government when problems exist right here in Nova Scotia. If indeed there is a crisis in confidence, then the blame can be laid squarely at the feet of this government. The indecisiveness of this government was demonstrated yesterday and continues to be demonstrated on a daily basis.

I don't believe that this action by the minister can end today without further debate. It certainly is not enough for the minister to simply stand in her place and announce regulations when we have duly elected members of this House who are here to have an open, public debate about such an important issue. This measure requires further debate and not an edict from the top in this government. Can Nova Scotians trust this government to safely protect employees who would report any wrongdoing? That remains clearly to be seen without having the regulations before us. Mr. Speaker, one only needs to look at the report of the Privacy Commissioner yesterday in which it indicated that freedom of informations are too high and that applications now are nearing an all-time low. Secrecy is clearly the order of the day for this government, and this government has shown an unwillingness to provide Nova Scotians with full disclosure and this announcement clearly has not changed that.

Mr. Speaker, may I also say that I find it amusing that the minister would refer to incidents at the federal level prompting the action here today. Nova Scotians should quickly be reminded that it is the Progressive Conservative Party that brought us electronic toilet seats here in this province, it is the Progressive Conservative Party that took offshore money in the 1980s and 1990s and used it on the infamous roads to nowhere. It is the Progressive Conservative Party that has provided us with continued accounting magic in the last number of years, and it is the Progressive Conservative Party that provided us with a tax cut that

[Page 2364]

made so much sense until yesterday when it clearly - even the Premier admitted it made no sense at all.

If there is a lack of confidence in Nova Scotians here in this province, Mr. Speaker, it is in the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia and the current Hamm Government.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health

RESOLUTION NO. 984

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

Whereas registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are a vital part of the health care system and they continue to adapt to new roles and responsibilities to support their patients and provide leadership within health care; and

Whereas the Department of Health, through the provincial nursing strategy, is sponsoring the second annual leadership conference for nurses, called Into a New Era for Nursing: New Rules, New Roles for Practice, which begins today in Dartmouth; and

Whereas the conference planning committee, representing a variety of health sector organizations, has arranged for nationally recognized nurse leaders to provide professional development for Nova Scotia's practising nurses, nurse educators and clinical nurse specialists throughout the health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend best wishes to the 250 RNs and LPNs from across Nova Scotia who are committed to continuing education and seeking out their own leadership potential.

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 2365]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 985

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

Whereas Earth Day is being marked across Canada on April 22nd; and

Whereas Nova Scotia leads the nation in encouraging recycling and composting because of its progressive waste resource management strategy; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia and the Composting Council of Canada have joined forces with other community organizations to present a talk on gardening and composting by nationally-known broadcaster Mark Cullen tonight here in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that this House welcome Mr. Cullen to Nova Scotia and thank him for helping us spread the word that composting is good for the environment.

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. 986

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

Whereas Nova Scotia prides itself on being one of the safest provinces in Canada in which to live, work and raise a family, a climate that would be further enhanced if the current conditional sentencing protocols are amended; and

[Page 2366]

Whereas a priority of this government is to ensure that amendment to the Criminal Code by the federal government is made immediately so that no one convicted of a crime involving death or serious injury is eligible for a conditional sentence; and

Whereas while conditional sentences have found their place in the justice system, they are unacceptable punishment for crimes such as sexual or aggravated assault and vehicular homicide;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House speak with one voice and call on the federal Justice Minister to amend the Criminal Code, as recommended to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, to place appropriate limits on the use of conditional sentencing so that the punishment fits the crime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 987

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

Whereas 50 years ago, on April 13, 1954, Inverness County lost one of its favourite sons, former Liberal Leader Honourable Angus L. Macdonald; and

Whereas Angus L. Macdonald was born August 10, 1890, in Dunvegan, Inverness County and was a World War I veteran and professor with a doctorate from Harvard Law School; and

Whereas he served a distinguished career as Nova Scotia's Premier from 1933 to 1953 except for a brief time period from 1940 to 1945 when he served as our country's Minister of National Defence for Naval Services;

[Page 2367]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House acknowledge the valuable contribution made by one of our most revered Premiers.

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.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I'd ask if you could permit me an introduction before introduction of the bill. I'd like to take a moment to introduce to the House someone I think is known to most members and that is Ms. Carol MacCulloch, and I'd ask her to rise. Ms. MacCulloch and her association, the Construction Association of Nova Scotia, have been instrumental in being proponents for the bill that I'm about to introduce to the House today. A bill which they have been integrally involved in promoting through the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia. I know there are many honourable members in the House who believe this is a good idea and I'm sure Ms. MacCulloch looks forward to support from all segments of the House with respect to the bill. So I thank Ms. MacCulloch on behalf of all members for her contribution. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 58 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 277 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Mechanics' Lien Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

Bill No. 59 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Environment Act. (Mr. Jerry Pye)

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

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to bring your attention to the west wing (Interruptions) The west gallery, what's wrong with the wing? (Laughter) I would like to bring the House's attention to two people I know very well from Digby-Annapolis.

[Page 2368]

First, my wife of 32 years, Dianne, and Mr. Joe Casey, former member for Digby-Annapolis. (Standing Ovation)

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for that and we certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

[2:30 p.m.]

Bill No. 60 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 87 of the Acts of 1915. An Act respecting the Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company; and Chapter 105 of the Acts of 1981. An Act to Confer Additional Powers Upon Antigonish Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac as a private member.)

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. 988

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 Premier stated that he was heeding the wishes of Nova Scotians when he announced that the income tax cut would be suspended to pay for needed health services; and

Whereas Nova Scotians have been even more outspoken in demanding an end to the financial assessments that are impoverishing seniors in long-term care; and

Whereas Nova Scotians have made it clear that effective action to shorten health care wait times is a top priority for them despite the outrageous cut in federal transfers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the government to do the right thing in tomorrow's budget by ending the compulsory use of seniors' life savings to pay for long-term care and having a real plan to shorten wait times.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 2369]

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

Whereas on June 19, 1999, John Hamm told The Chronicle-Herald that he can't promise tax cuts in addition to balancing the budget and properly financing health care; and

Whereas the Premier said, "I don't think Nova Scotians would believe that, because they know it's not doable"; and

Whereas for some reason the Premier failed to take his own advice, but instead went on to promise tax cuts anyway;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House urge the Premier to admit that he never truly believed that tax cuts were possible without sacrificing health and a balanced budget, and that somewhere along the way the Premier compromised principle in order to get elected.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think that's imputing motive and it's actually bringing into question the credibility of a member of the House and I order that is out of order.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 989

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

Whereas Halifax West MP Geoff Regan sat silent as his colleagues lost 100 million taxpayers' dollars in the sponsorship scandal; and

Whereas Nova Scotians heard nothing from Mr. Regan as his Liberal colleagues shovelled taxpayers' money into a bottomless pit they call the federal gun registry; and

Whereas Mr. Regan said nothing as the Liberal Government cut more funding from Nova Scotia health care than any federal government in Canadian history;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House agree that Nova Scotians are not fooled by Mr. Regan's attempt to divert attention from the federal scandal with his silly game of "shift the blame".

[Page 2370]

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 990

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

Whereas the six municipal units in Pictou County have come together to hire a new emergency measures coordinator; and

Whereas Don MacKenzie of Alma, Pictou County, has been selected for this position because of his qualifications in many areas associated with emergencies, including firefighting; and

Whereas Mr. MacKenzie's duties will include coordinating each of the municipalities' EMO plans into one, and finding first responders who can make a regional EMO system work;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the six municipal governments of Pictou County for their co-operative regional approach, and wish them and Don MacKenzie every success with their new regional EMO system.

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 2371]

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 991

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

Whereas the Progressive Conservatives told all Nova Scotians they would not waiver from their stated financial principles; and

Whereas the Progressive Conservatives made living up to their fiscal promises the hallmark of their government; and

Whereas the Progressive Conservatives announced yesterday the partial rescinding of their tax cut, even though the best time to do the right thing had passed last Spring before the provincial election;

Therefore be it resolved that the government should apologize to Nova Scotians for having to reach back into their pockets for a tax cut they knew we couldn't afford 12 months ago.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 992

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 Duncan Smith was the recipient of the 2003 Barnes Service Award for the Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut; and

Whereas Duncan Smith received the award for outstanding and exemplary volunteer service to the community; and

[Page 2372]

Whereas Mr. Smith has served as president of the student organization for the needy and was a leader in organizing the Westminster School annual Multiple Sclerosis Walk, as well as a program that mentors inner-city youth;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Duncan Smith on being honoured with the 2003 Barnes Service Award and recognize his many efforts to help those in need.

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. 993

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

Whereas there are 65 Nova Scotians afflicted with a serious metabolic storage disorder known as Fabry's disease; and

Whereas this disease causes severe pain and deterioration of the kidney, heart, brain and nervous system thereby causing persons with the disease to endure emotional and physical suffering that ultimately ends in premature death; and

Whereas the enzyme replacement therapy needed to allow persons with Fabry's disease to experience dramatic improvement in their health and quality of life costs approximately $250,000 per person per year, which they cannot afford;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Government recognize the importance of providing health care to all Nova Scotians and make a decision regarding the funding of enzyme replacement therapy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2373]

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. 994

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 Middleton Regional High School Blues hockey team and the Senior Girls Wolverines basketball team recently won the Nova Scotia Provincial Championships; and

Whereas both teams represented their school with pride and skill; and

Whereas these provincial titles for Middleton Regional High School continue the tradition of sporting excellence;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the Middleton Regional High School Blues hockey team and the Senior Girls Wolverines basketball team.

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.

[Page 2374]

RESOLUTION NO. 995

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 with participants coming from as far away as Arizona, the Shelburne County Nature and Birding Festival has been described as a success this year; and

Whereas the South Shore Tourism Association and Discover Shelburne County played an important role in arranging and promoting this nature event; and

Whereas well-known Shelburne County birders, Murray Newell, Clyde Stoddart and Grant Milroy all participated in this year's festival;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate all of those associated with the 2004 Shelburne County Nature and Birding Festival, and wish them even more success in 2005.

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. 996

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

Whereas March 13, 2004, the new MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, was officially opened at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and

Whereas thus far approximately 225 patients have used the services of this new and sophisticated equipment; and

[Page 2375]

Whereas treatment of this magnitude can now be administered at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, versus having to travel to Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly congratulate the Cape Breton District Health Authority in acquiring this state-of-the-art equipment, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation team for its efforts and to the community for its generous support.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 997

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

Whereas in the Leaders' debate during the last election the Premier told the member for Halifax Citadel, "You, sir, are going to shrink the economy with your backwards thinking"; and

Whereas yesterday, truly backwards thinking was demonstrated when the Premier said the tax cut would be interrupted until Ottawa provides more money for health; and

Whereas the Premier has finally admitted that any money provided for health from Ottawa will be used for a tax cut;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House demand that the government use any health money from Ottawa for health care as it was intended and not for the purpose of reintroducing an ill-conceived tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2376]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 998

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

Whereas the war on terrorism continues and will need continued strength from hundreds of thousands of Canadians and millions of Americans and others worldwide; and

Whereas the owners of Julien's Bakery in Chester showed the kind of resolve we all need in this troubling time when they learned that the son-in-law of one of their best customers would not be able to come home for Christmas because of his posting in Afghanistan; and

Whereas Didier Julien and Laura Mulrooney, after learning about their customer's son-in-law, had staff put together 100 treat bags for each member of the son-in-law's Field Engineer Squadron;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly applaud the kindness and significant thought which was put into this gift-giving initiative by Julien's Bakery at such an important time for members of the Canadian military overseas.

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 2377]

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 999

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 Westphal Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is hosting its annual banquet and awards night on Saturday, April 24th; and

Whereas the Westphal Cole Harbour Firefighters Association is renowned for its many brave members who risk limb and life to serve and protect the residents and the communities in the area and beyond; and

Whereas the evening will honour veteran Paul Josey who has served tirelessly and with distinction during his 30-year career;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House join me in extending congratulations to Westphal Cole Harbour firefighter Paul Josey for his perseverance and commitment to duty and to the community he serves.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1000

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

Whereas on October 9, 2004, the Leader of the NDP told The Chronicle Herald that it was too late to cancel the tax cut and that Liberals were engaged in what he called "hysterical hyperbole"; and

[Page 2378]

Whereas yesterday the member for Halifax Fairview accused the Liberal Party of continuing to fight the last election although they continue to promote the failed idea of public no-fault auto insurance; and

Whereas the NDP could have supported the Liberal position in the Fall that tax cuts should be delayed;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP recognize that they were full participants in the Tory tax scheme that has jeopardized our health care system and that yesterday's announced tax hike could have been avoided if the NDP cared more about Nova Scotians than their own political image.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1001

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I introduced a resolution and due to the overwhelming response and noise in the Chamber, we couldn't hear the request for waiver so I'll reintroduce it.

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

Whereas the Turks and Caicos is a Caribbean treasure consisting of 40 islands and a population of almost 19,000 people that is currently governed as a British territory; and

Whereas the Government of Turks and Caicos has expressed an interest in joining Canada; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has a long and proud history of conducting trade with the Caribbean;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia initiate discussions with the Turks and Caicos to become part of the Province of Nova Scotia and encourage the Government of Canada to welcome the Turks and Caicos as part of our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2379]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1002

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

Whereas the Scott's Bay C@P Site - Community Hall recently held a successful Open House and Creative Arts Exhibit that showcased talent from the area; and

Whereas first place winner of the People's Choice award at the Creation Arts Exhibit was Walter Huntley for his beautiful turned wood bowls, vases and a ship's wheel clock; and

Whereas second place winner at the event was Bill Tupper for his detailed musical instruments, which included a fiddle made of birds-eye maple;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Walter Huntley and Bill Tupper on their awards and recognize Scott's Bay C@P Site - Community Hall staff Natalie Steel and Belinda Tupper, whose efforts contributed to make this year's Open House and Creative Arts Exhibit such a success.

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 2380]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1003

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

Whereas designer Kelly Moore is now six months into her new position as President of the Association of Interior Designers of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ms. Moore has a busy agenda establishing her new position over the next two years, especially in light of the passage of the interior designers legislation in the House of Assembly last Spring, which made Nova Scotia the first province in Canada to regulate exactly who can call themselves interior designers; and

Whereas Ms. Moore has already played host to the Association of Interior Designers of Canada meeting in Halifax while addressing the need for lack of training of interior designers;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Kelly Moore of Chester and wish her continued success with her career in her position of President of the Association of Interior Designers of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

RESOLUTION NO. 1004

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

[Page 2381]

Whereas on April 14, 2004, an early morning fire destroyed the Northern Yacht Club in North Sydney; and

Whereas the North Sydney Fire Department with mutual aid from Sydney Mines, Frenchvale and George's River Volunteer Fire Departments were able to save the junior sailing building and a rental building; and

Whereas the Northern Yacht Club employs five full-time and a number of part-time staff, and is home to many community events such as the junior sailing program, and wedding and anniversary celebrations;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the commitment of the Northern Yacht Club to rebuild their infrastructure and build on the strong history it already has in the community of North Sydney.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1005

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

Whereas Matt Climie was named the 2003-04 most valuable player (MVP) in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League, MJAHL, and was named first team all-star; and

Whereas Matt Climie led the MJAHL goaltenders in wins, goals against average, save percentage, games played and minutes played, and the Maritime Junior A Hockey League MVP and all-star awards are voted on by team general managers who cannot vote for their own players; and

[Page 2382]

Whereas Matt Climie has signed a letter of intent to play NCAA Division 1 hockey at Bemidji State University in Minnesota;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Matt Climie on being named the 2003-04 Maritime Junior A Hockey League MVP and first team all-star, and wish him every success in his academic and hockey pursuits at the Bemidji State University.

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. 1006

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

Whereas Lunenburg residents Blisse and Chloe Comstock are part of the Nova Scotia Curling Team skipped by Jill Mouzar, along with Paige Mattie, who won Silver at the World Junior Women's Curling Championships in Quebec in March; and

Whereas the South Shore team has had an outstanding year having been crowned the Canadian National Junior Champions in February in British Columbia; and

Whereas the team can boast to a whopping 10 consecutive games with no losses and having Nova Scotia's best-ever finish at the Worlds;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Jill Mouzar, Blisse and Chloe Comstock and Paige Mattie on their excellent performance at the World Junior Women's Curling Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2383]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services

RESOLUTION NO. 1007

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

Whereas educators who inspire students to question, investigate and discover their world was the focus this year as Education Week celebrated scientific literacy; and

Whereas the keynote speaker at the awards this year was Wolfville Junior High Grade 9 student Ellen Whitman, who has benefited from the enthusiasm and dedication of her science teachers; and

Whereas last year Ms. Whitman won the Regional Science Fair for her project done in French, and went on to translate her project to English to compete at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Calgary;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Ellen Whitman for her efforts to acknowledge the dedicated science teachers of this province and wish her much success in her future 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 2384]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:53 p.m. and will end at 4:13 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

EDUC. - P3 RENTAL FEES: CONTROL - PLANS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Janet Frank is the President of the Eastern Passage Minor Baseball Association. About 70 kids take part in this program and their ages range from 7 to 17. Last Fall, Hurricane Juan, put one of the gyms of that that association relies on, out of commission. Now this shouldn't have been a major problem, the Eastern Passage Education Centre is nearby, it has a beautiful gym. The trouble of course is that it is a P3 school and that it costs $50 an hour to rent the gym, a fee that that association, the kids and the parents can't afford. My question is for the Minister of Education is, what are you going to do to control P3 rental fees?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Either the Minister of Education or the Acting Minister. (Interruption) We're going to re-adjust the time. Question Period will begin at 2:55 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition, please.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That question was so good I wanted an opportunity to ask it again.

AN HON. MEMBER: Basketball.

MR. DEXTER: Anyway, Janet Frank is the President of the Eastern Passage Minor Basketball Association. About 70 kids take part in this program, the ages range from 7 to 17. Last Fall, Hurricane Juan put one of the gyms of this association out of commission. Now, there should not have been problem because the Eastern Passage Education Centre is nearby, it has a beautiful gym. The trouble, as I mentioned, is that it's a P3 school and it costs $50 an hour to rent the gym, a fee that the association, the kids and their parents say they can't afford. So my question for the Minister of Education is, what is he going to do to control P3 rental fees?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would refer to the legislation which was debated in the House yesterday just to indicate that the government recognizes the desirability of schools for community use. In regard to the P3, and I did comment on that, we continue in negotiation with the P3 partners to try and resolve these issues. Unfortunately, as the

[Page 2385]

member well knows and others know, the negotiations are a bit protracted and a little difficult.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Eastern Passage Basketball Association has made the best of what is a very bad situation for them, they cut practice hours, they cut games and they cut tournaments and Janet Frank says it's hard to watch because the local gym sits empty while 70 kids would love a chance to play more.

Mr. Speaker, students and non-profit community groups are being punished for bad P3 deals made by the last Liberal Government. Mr. Minister, there are plenty of examples of limitations placed on service contracts in the public interest. What will it take for you to intervene in this case?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate what I said before, with P3 partners and, indeed, one could sit back and reflect whether they were or were not good decisions made by the previous government but the fact is that we are trying to work with the P3 partners to resolve some of these issues.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, as members of this House know, inactivity has been linked to diabetes, depression and other illnesses. Improving access to P3 schools would immediately help thousands of people. It seems somewhat hypocritical that the Premier and the Minister of Health Promotion both attended a photo op this morning while this government continues to ignore the P3 problem.

So my final question to the Minister of Education is when will your department limit P3 fees and bring some fairness and consistency to this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows full well that there was an arbitration delivered back in January of this year concerning the relationship between government and school boards and those who own P3 schools. We will continue to work through a legitimate process to try and resolve this matter. Unfortunately, it is certainly taking longer and I understand what the honourable member is talking about, it's something that we wish we didn't have to go through but we're working through it as best we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - FED. FUNDING: INCREASES - USAGE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today Nova Scotians find themselves rather confused by this government. Last Spring they were told that health care was getting more money and that we could afford a tax cut. They were assured that the tax cut was affordable and that it was not being siphoned

[Page 2386]

from the health care system. Yesterday, the Premier said that he would have to interrupt his tax cut until the federal government comes up with more money for health care.

So my question for the Minister of Health is, if the federal government gives the province more money, will it be used for a tax cut or will it be used for health care?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow when the Minister of Finance delivers his budget to the Assembly, the honourable member opposite will learn clearly that this government has committed significant additional dollars for the purposes of health care,

and those dollars will be paid for by the citizens of the Province of Nova Scotia.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let's hope that the budget is more clear than the Premier's message on the tax cut. This summer, the minister will be meeting with his federal and provincial counterparts to discuss more money for health care. It's going to be very difficult for the minister to ask for more money for health when this government is on record as saying the tax cut is going to be reintroduced. In fact, they've proven that more federal money from last year was being used for a tax cut and not for health care. My question to the Minister of Health is, will he categorically and emphatically state that a tax cut will not be reintroduced if he gets more money for health care?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, our record speaks for itself. With or without the federal government, we have added more money to health care, year over year, and we'll continue to do that.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the minister is right, the record does speak for itself, and any trust that this government had is now absolutely gone, when it made the admission that health care money was being used for their tax cut. Thankfully, some of that money is going to be restored. The Premier and others have stated that they want a minority government to work. It can only happen when a government is honest and truthful. I am urging honesty and perhaps even a little humility on the part of the government today. My final question for the Minister of Health is, what concrete steps will the minister take to ensure that dollars that are meant for health care go to health care and not a tax cut?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I find it quite strange to hear the honourable member opposite use the word humility, from that Party over there. They are unabashed in their intention to defend Paul Martin and the federal Liberals. They're backing away from the commitment of John Chretien, when he was Prime Minister. That he would stand and use the word humility in the context of that is despicable.

[Page 2387]

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

JUSTICE - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INTERVENTION ACT:

MAN. DECISION - IMPLICATIONS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a very important question. In 2001, members of this House took a much-needed basic step forward in the protection of women from domestic violence. By passing the Domestic Violence Intervention Act, this House intended to prevent situations like that which befell Lori Maxwell of Truro or countless other women across this province. One of the most important provisions of this Act was to provide for emergency protection orders. These orders give women in crisis short-term protection they need to get out of abusive situations and to seek long-term help. However, 10 days ago, a Manitoba judge overturned a law almost identical to the one in Nova Scotia. My question is, what action has the minister taken to evaluate the implications of this decision for the women of Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, of course I'm aware of the decision that the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition refers to. We are in the process of studying that decision to see what implications it may have in Nova Scotia. As the honourable member would be aware, it has no legal, binding effect in Nova Scotia, as it was the decision of a court in another province of this country. We are, obviously, looking at the matter. It is our determination to ensure that if there are legislative changes required to that Act to make it more effective in protecting abused spouses, we are prepared to do so.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, well, as the minister knows, the arguments that were used in that case were every bit as applicable in this province as they were in the Province of Manitoba, and this deals with a technical provision with respect to onus. Transition house workers say that if the onus in this particular legislation is reversed, forcing women to prove conditions of abuse, as the Manitoba judge suggests, the provision might as well be taken out because it will provide no protection.

Research indicated the use of protection orders in domestic abuse situations is not always the safest option for women and children, yet this measure continues to be promoted heavily by the Departments of Justice and Community Services. My question for the minister is this, with the validity of this measure now in question, how will you ensure women and children in violent situations will be protected, come what may?

MR. BAKER: I do appreciate the question from the honourable member. I know he shares our concern with respect to domestic violence in this province. I can assure the honourable member that that piece of legislation remains the law of Nova Scotia; there is no court decision striking it down. We are obviously studying the decision to make sure that if there are further legislative changes required, that we do so, but I, like the honourable

[Page 2388]

member, am very concerned that we not put the victim in a situation of proving that they are in fact a victim.

MR. DEXTER: If a women suffering abuse or harassment applied for a peace bond today it could be months before she gets the needed protection, and in the meantime her abuser will be able to engage in economic and emotional blackmail, and possibly continued abuse while retaining access to the family home. My question to the minister is, what assurances will you give women in Nova Scotia today that your government will take every measure necessary, including the adequate funding of support programs and transition houses, to address the safety of women and children in abusive situations?

MR. BAKER: Thank you very much, and again to the honourable member, Mr. Speaker, we share his concern about the matter, we recognize that this legislation is part of an array of options that should be available to the abused spouse to make sure that they can make the best decision for themselves and their children to prevent further abusive activity on the part of the other spouse. We remain committed to that, we remain committed to transition houses, and I intend to make sure that if there is any further legislative action that needs to be taken, that the appropriate legislation is laid in front of the House.

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

FIN.: BUDGET TAXATION MEASURES - ABSENCE CONFIRM

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. In May of last year the Premier told the Rotary Club that the tax cuts were a win-win situation - we could have tax cuts and also pay for health and education. On October 9, 2003, the Premier told a local newspaper that his plan for a 10 per cent tax cut was still on track, despite knowing of a $160 million reduction in transfers from Ottawa. Now, in pre-budget speeches, the Minister of Finance continued to trumpet the justification for tax cuts at this time.

Now the tax cut has been rescinded for some, but rather than rescinding it on a go-forward basis, to recoup funds we desperately need for services, the minister has chosen to make this tax cut retroactive to January 1st. Nova Scotians have had to live with difficult decisions by this government as a result of poor planning and weak management. My question for the minister is, will the minister stand today and reassure Nova Scotians that no further taxation - or revenue - generating measures will be buried in tomorrow's budget?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member raises a question of what happened last year; she raises the transfers and the different things that happened last year. All I can say to the honourable member is it will all become clear tomorrow when we release the budget.

[Page 2389]

MS. WHALEN: I hear no reassurance for Nova Scotians in that statement. Despite all the disasters the minister would like to blame for last year's budget pressures - hurricanes, floods, and snowstorms - the biggest disaster, Mr. Speaker, was poor financial planning. On Monday the minister told the Chamber of Commerce that he had a surplus of $14.5 million for 2003-04, and he claims that this was a result of managing the purse wisely.

Now we learn the truth. This surplus will result from clawing back taxes from Nova Scotians, approximately $25 million worth - money that has already been given to taxpayers. Now the public knows that a last minute accounting change and a tax claw back have conjured up a phantom surplus for this government. So I ask the minister, why did the minister neglect to tell Nova Scotians that the announced surplus is possible only because of a claw back of income tax?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, what I did share with the chamber and what I've been sharing with people is that when you start using GAAP procedures, you start using accounting principles known as GAAP - you have to take those good with the bad. She refers to the fact that we had brought back in some changes, what she didn't say to this House is last year because we were on GAAP, last year because we recorded the post-retirement benefits it cost our budget $43 million. So, the net changes that we had in GAAP were negative to us, not positive.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the minister refers to the introduction of GAAP which is not generally done in a retroactive manner. However, the minister and this government rolled the dice and lost. They were warned last Spring before the election that we couldn't afford it. They were told last Fall not to implement it in the first place and we were promised decisive leadership and we get flip-flops. With the backing of the NDP we went ahead and implemented the tax cut retroactive to January 1st. The question is, when is the minister going to take control of the finances of this province instead of lurching from one self-inflicted crisis to another?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the question that I think I heard her ask is when are we going to take control of the finances? I can point to this government that has brought in three balanced budgets. I can point to the fact that we put more money in education and in health. That's what we believe the people of Nova Scotia want.

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

INS.: IRB. - HOME INS. REVIEW

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the latest Consumer Price Index has been released. It shows that last year home insurance rates jumped by 17 per cent - that's the second highest jump in the country, New Brunswick was first. We've been hearing from Nova Scotians who feel that insurance companies have been trying to recoup auto losses by going

[Page 2390]

after home insurance. My question for the minister responsible for insurance is this, will you now urge the Insurance Review Board to speed up their review of home insurance?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question from the Leader of the Official Opposition, I believe he's well aware of the fact that there's no province that I know of, as yet, that has taken anything substantive into consideration for reducing the insurance rates for property, casualty and liability. We are a leader in that field in that we have charged our Insurance Review Board to tackle that matter and to report back to me and I will in turn report to the Legislature in November of this year.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the government is content to wait until November, meanwhile no one is keeping their eye on insurance companies who earned a record profit last year while crying poor to this government. Last Fall we filed a freedom of information request with the Department of Environment and Labour looking for their records on home insurance and this is what we got back - a letter saying that there isn't anything. We were told, "We are unable to locate any records pertaining to your request.". I'd like to table that letter and my question to the minister responsible for insurance is, why is your government doing nothing to address skyrocketing home insurance?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there's that word again. We acted in response to the skyrocketing auto insurance rates that were being charged by the insurance companies. I'm happy to say that, today, Nova Scotia enjoys the lowest insurance rates for automobiles across this country.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I guess that just proves you can say anything you want here. I don't know what world the minister is living in, but it isn't the same world that the rest of us are here in. In the absence of action from your government, Nova Scotians have been trying to come up with their own solutions. Credit unions have asked this government to give them the ability to meet the property insurance needs of their members, and the government denied the request. I want to ask the minister, why is your government refusing to act on this problem and putting roadblocks in the way of those who are willing to do something?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member asks what kind of a world I live in, well, I live in the real world which is somewhere the NDP hasn't yet visited.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

ECON. DEV.: RURAL ECONOMIES - ABANDONMENT

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. Over the last number of months, the Premier and the Minister of Finance have

[Page 2391]

been bragging about the number of new jobs created in Nova Scotia, but they refuse to tell the whole story when it comes to employment. Rural Nova Scotia has been hurting since the election of this government, because they have been abandoning our local economies. My question to the minister is, why has the government abandoned the rural economies?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the member is right, Nova Scotia, under this administration, has enjoyed the highest employment levels ever in the history of this province with over 442,000 Nova Scotians employed. In March alone, another 3,000 people in Nova Scotia acquired full-time jobs. That's not a government that ignores rural Nova Scotia or any part of Nova Scotia.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear that the minister believes that he hasn't abandoned rural Nova Scotia, but the facts are since June 2003, the month people received $155 cheques, the unemployment rate in the Annapolis Valley has gone from 9 per cent to 9.8 per cent - 800 jobs were lost. In the North Shore region, Truro, Pictou, Amherst and to the Causeway, the unemployment rate has gone from 9.7 per cent to 10.4 per cent - 2,900 jobs lost. In Southwest Nova Scotia, Lunenburg, Yarmouth, through to Clare, unemployment has gone from 10.3 per cent to 11.9 per cent - 3,800 jobs lost. In Cape Breton, unemployment has gone from 15.1 per cent to 15.9 per cent - 3,900 jobs have gone. The minister can say whatever he wants, but this government is responsible for devastating our rural economies. Will the minister not admit that we have a problem and commit to adopting policies that will help to grow our rural economies?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member asks a very good question. First of all, this government is very concerned about employment in every area of Nova Scotia, and that's why we support such programs as the nominee program to assist in locating people to rural Nova Scotia, an investment. The other thing we do is we encourage and support businesses, whether it's the Castings Limited or whether it's Ocean Nutrition, who are employing 150 in Mulgrave. But I would recommend to the member opposite that he take a course in actually reading stats, I believe he neglected to look at the seasonally-adjusted rates.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how you seasonally adjust so many jobs being lost, but anyway, if that's the approach the government is going to take, it's unbelievable. The legacy of this government will be the devastation of rural economies unless something is done and done immediately. Avon Foods, Britex, Arisaig Fisheries are businesses which this government has hung out to dry and the people are paying for it with their jobs and their livelihood. Will the minister stand in his place today and tell the people of rural Nova Scotia that their government hasn't forgotten all about them completely?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians and the member opposite know that there are going to be businesses that have problems from time to time. We work very closely with those businesses to make the adjustments, to do our best to ensure that workforce either remains employed with that company or with other employers. What the member opposite

[Page 2392]

neglected to talk about in various areas is, as I've mentioned, companies like Cape Breton Castings, Convergys who are going to Cornwallis with 500 jobs, Lightbridge to Liverpool, as well as companies like Ocean Nutrition with an extra 150 jobs in a community like Mulgrave. Obviously the member is remembering the years he was in government, not this government.

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

EDUC.: POST-SECONDARY - TUITION INCREASES

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. Earlier this week the government stood and with a straight face told students, their families and universities that they were going to get an $8 million increase. To put that in perspective, this would be one of the single largest increases universities received in the last 10 years; if that was not fact, it is certainly fiction. Instead, this government is trying to get away with slipshod accounting to see if they can convince students they're committed to post-secondary education. Instead, tuition will go up again this year, maintaining the dubious honour and distinction across this country of having the highest tuition in the country. Mr. Minister, when will your government take responsibility for the damage caused to higher education through these senseless policies?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier said yesterday in the first question beginning Question Period, indeed the increase to universities is 1 per cent. One could go back and do the mathematics if you want - I understand where the 4 per cent figure came from. Unfortunately, it would be an estimate to - anyway, I will explain that to him if he wants. The fact is they're going to get $2 million more in this year.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you if you go back and take a look across Canada, this is not a good year for provinces and territories in education. You will find that the commitment this government has made to education at all levels is as great as has been made in any jurisdiction in this country.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Let me tell you, Mr. Minister, it's not a good year for students either. Yesterday, Dalhousie University became the latest institution to increase its tuition. Students at Dal will see a tuition increase of nearly $400, making their tuition one of the highest in Canada. On top of this, medical students - who are in short supply - will face another $500 in fees and students will be forced to pay more and more each and every time they go to register. Mr. Minister, why is it that an election a short eight months ago and now you are already breaking those promises to students and their families? Students are hurting; they need more than assurances, they need dollars.

[Page 2393]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I know that our tuition in Nova Scotia are basically the highest in the country for universities. On the other hand, we have the best university system in the country overall. I guess I would be more concerned if there was not quality associated with the dollars that students are paying here.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, students across this province and their parents will be forking out more next year, but they will not have any real help from this government. So they have to resort to using food banks, such as at my daughter's Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. They have to resort to working excessive hours at near full-time jobs and far too many will be forced to interrupt or to end their post-secondary education altogether.

Mr. Minister, how do you believe that keeping our universities competitive is accomplished by forcing them and these young people to compete for the dubious title of the most expensive tuition in the country?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member that despite the fact that the resources of Nova Scotia are not always that great, we do provide the second highest per capita funding to universities in the country.

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

ECON. DEV.: PROV. NOMINEE PROG. - STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. In August 2002 the province signed an agreement with the federal Department of Immigration to establish a Provincial Nominee Program. This program allows the province to participate in the selection of immigrants who intend to settle in Nova Scotia. Under the program, Nova Scotia can set selection criteria and is permitted to nominate up to 200 immigrants per year. In August 2002, that was great news. However, unfortunately, when employees from the nominee program appeared before the Economic Development Committee back in November 2003, they reported that they had issued only 16 nomination certificates and 10 more were pending, and I understand that as late as February of this year, less than 30 were issued altogether out of a possible 400.

So my question to the minister is, why almost two years after the announcement of this program has the province not used this tremendous opportunity to have 400 new immigrants come to Nova Scotia?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: As the honourable member well knows, the program was set up last year after the announcement in 2002. Certainly, staff has been working closely with the federal immigration department to ensure that we encourage immigrants to Nova Scotia with the skill sets that will benefit any region of this province, but specifically rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 2394]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, according to the department's Web site, there are two ways that potential immigrants can qualify under this program: as economic or investor immigrants or, in fact, as skilled workers. It is my understanding that the department has contracted with a private contractor to solicit and review applications under the economic category. I also understand that the majority of the certificates issued to date have been to the investor's side of the issue and that the skilled worker's portion of the program is simply not a priority within that department. So my question to the minister, given the skills shortages we face in this province, what immediate steps will the minister take to ensure that the skilled worker portion of this program is utilized?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a good point. Skilled workers are an extremely important part of this program and our staff work very closely, as I've said, with federal immigration to attract individuals whose skills we require throughout the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, last year, less than 1 per cent of the total immigrants who came to Canada were settling in Nova Scotia, as opposed to Manitoba, with a population similar to Nova Scotia's - where immigration was a priority - their nominee program has been tremendously successful with over 70 people employed on that division of government alone. Here in Nova Scotia only three people are employed for the entire program. This year's target in Manitoba will be 10,000. So my question to the minister, what assurances will the minister give this House that the necessary resources will be directed to immigration and the Provincial Nominee Program to ensure that Nova Scotia remains competitive?

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, immigration is a very important tool in growing the economy here in Nova Scotia, a wise investment and certainly very much a priority within the department I'm responsible for. The resources for that department are critical, and as we build the capacity, we will see even more successes. I would urge the honourable member to review the budget tomorrow to see the resources assigned to the Department of Economic Development.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EMO: DISASTER FIN. ASSIST. PROG. - QUALIFYING

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question addressed to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Mark Rimmington is a small-business owner in Halifax. His business, the European Pantry, was hit hard by Hurricane Juan and suffered more than $25,000 in damages. His insurance company has told him he doesn't qualify for coverage, and EMO has told him that he doesn't quality for assistance because his insurance

[Page 2395]

should cover it. My question to the minister is, how are you helping people like Mr. Rimmington who appear to be falling through the gaping holes in the system?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the question is a very good one. First of all, as the honourable member has pointed out, insurance, if it's an insurable situation, is the primary source for restoration to pay for the costs. The Province of Nova Scotia has an agreement with the federal government under disaster relief, and if it meets those criteria, then they are eligible for assistance. I would urge the honourable member to supply me with any material he has, and I would certainly have staff evaluate it and see if we can be of assistance to the company.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, here's the problem, the Disaster Financial Assistance office says Mr. Rimmington doesn't qualify for help because the losses due to power outage are insurable, but his insurance company says he doesn't qualify for help from them because the power outage was off-site, it was outside his immediate premises. Mr. Rimmington thought he was fully covered. He bought the maximum retail store owner package. His broker thought he was covered, but the company, the underwriter, doesn't agree. I wonder if the minister can tell us what his department is doing to investigate how the insurance companies have been handling Hurricane Juan claims?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to members of the House and all Nova Scotians, the insurance companies, through this horrific natural disaster, have worked very closely with their clients and we have received very few complaints. Our agreement under the Disaster Relief Program, if it's an uninsurable earning would be the situation where we would provide assistance to those individuals and businesses. If the honourable member wants to bring forward the background on this material, I would certainly have officials have a look at this situation and discuss the situation with his insurance company.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Rimmington has lost $25,000, and as everyone can easily imagine, that's more than a small- business owner can easily afford to absorb. Now, of course, he's being forced to pay a lawyer and a chartered accountant in order to fight his insurance company on the claim. He's already been to the Disaster Financial Assistance office. I wonder if the minister is prepared to step in and provide some assistance to Mr. Rimmington and people who are similarly placed?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I've said to the House, if the private member would provide me with the material, I will have officials look at.

[Page 2396]

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

EMO: HURRICANE JUAN - SETTLEMENTS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this province is coming under fire for its embarrassing handling of Hurricane Juan. The federal government has said the province has presented bogus claims, dubious claims, claims that have been inappropriately filed; meanwhile we're already knowing that many people were denied help, some are still waiting for settlements and some settlements are being clawed back.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act is, how can you explain your department's poor handling of this situation?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite may have many problems explaining many things but I can certainly state to this House and to Nova Scotians that the Department of EMO has handled this serious natural disaster with their resources in an exemplary fashion. Certainly, when you look at the magnitude of the disaster, the timeliness of people who were eligible to receive compensation, this department, this government, this province paid those private individuals so that they had money in their hands to get on with their lives as quickly as possible. It is not us who are holding up things.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Ron Duggan is a 70-year old Prospect fisherman. He is prominently displayed in this story of a storm. I will send you over a copy. His heroism is recognized. In November he received a cheque for $12,823, yet on January 22nd, he received this letter from the province in which it says, we made a mistake and we want the money back. My question to the minister, given your government's poor example of handling paperwork, based upon the fact of the old motto "don't do as I do, do as I say", will you not do the responsible thing and leave Ronnie Duggan alone?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it's important to note the compassion and caring of this government for its citizens involved in the resource sector, whether they be in the fishery, whether they be in agriculture or forestry. This government, without any federal help, because they would not support those claims, created the expanded DFA program for people who were commercial in that sector. Certainly, if you were in the fishing sector, the regulations clearly stated that you had to be commercial and receive at least 50 per cent of your income from the fishery. Clearly stated. On that information, if an individual swore an affidavit because of the impending fishing season, then the money was advanced to him on that basis. There are accounting procedures afterwards. If they did not qualify under those accounting procedures, then they're required to pay it back.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Ronnie Duggan submitted all the necessary documentation. He didn't pad his numbers. He came clean. He told the province everything, in fact, your questioning the honesty of this 70-year old fisherman. You're questioning the

[Page 2397]

honesty of the MLA who helped him with the forms. You are questioning the fact that we, after all, are withholding information. (Laughter)

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor. Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: You laugh all you want, there is a 70-year old retired fisherman . . .

AN HON MEMBER: You're the only person laughing . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on his final supplementary, please. (Interruptions)

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have no further questions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

ECON. DEV.: - RURAL COMMUNITIES: DECLINE - PLAN

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Everyone knows that this government seems to have turned its back on rural Nova Scotia. Our young people are leaving at an alarming rate. Between 1991 and 2001, there was a 9 per cent decrease in young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in rural Nova Scotia. As of 2001, 707,334 people in Nova Scotia were living in rural communities, that is 75 per cent of this province. Unemployment rates in rural Nova Scotia are substantially higher than the national average for rural areas. My question to the minister is, what kind of plan, policy, idea, or scheme do you have to stem this tide of economic famine that is affecting our rural communities?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member has said, there's certainly a large challenge in rural communities, not only in Nova Scotia, but in any province to acquire ways to stimulate the economy and offer job opportunities for our youth. Our document, as a government, Opportunities For Prosperity, speaks strongly to that. We've had many successes in reversing the trend over the Liberal years in government through the 1990s. We see greenfield manufacturing returning to rural Nova Scotia in the form of Cape Breton Castings, in the form of Ocean Nutrition. We also see opportunities in the contact centre with 500 jobs going to Cornwallis, register.com, a number of other issues.

[Page 2398]

As well, Mr. Speaker, I might add, this government has committed significant resources in the upgrade of the community college system, the training, whether it's the fishing industry or our community colleges, to keep our young people in rural Nova Scotia and offer that opportunity.

MR. THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, in most rural areas, unemployment of youth ages 15 to 24 years is at least twice that of older workers from as low as 16.1 per cent in Digby County to as high as 46.9 per cent in Victoria County. Lack of employment at this critical point of upwardly mobile young is a major problem for rural Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, what do I or we tell our young people who want to stay in their home communities and be productive citizens who want to contribute if they are young and able to work but can't find any meaningful employment, what do I tell them?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the honourable member he instruct those young people to acquire the type of education and training that offers them opportunities in this province. Certainly in rural Nova Scotia, there are opportunities. We all want to see more greenfield manufacturing, whether it's in our resource-based industries which deal with wood products and value-add, whether it's in the fishery that deal with value-add, we see those numbers and opportunities increasing. We deal very closely on the technology and entrepreneurial and innovation side through InNOVAcorp, as well as our community college system to ensure that manufacturers and producers have the opportunity to acquire young people with the training they need to fill the positions right here in Nova Scotia. That's why we see over 420,000 people employed here today.

MR. THERIAULT: Young people need support. They need incentives from the government to remain in their communities or to move to rural communities. Basic public services and quality of life are the number one factor for people determining where to live. My question to the minister is, will the minister finally give young people some support and our rural economy some support and end this disturbing trend of youth out-migration?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the member highlighted a number of things, and that's infrastructure and technology. Certainly the honourable member is probably aware that as far as high-speed Internet, which is key to many small businesses and people of entrepreneurial spirit, this province is the most wired of any in Nova Scotia. This government has ensured that the community college system has been upgraded that the previous administration had let go into disrepair. This government is building hospitals and schools. It's building courthouses. It's fixing roads for the first time in 10 years. The budget has been over doubled, approaching three times what the previous administration had cut it to. Those are the basic building blocks that protect rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 2399]

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - N.S.: CANCER RANKING - ACTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Nova Scotia, unfortunately, has the highest cancer mortality rate of any Canadian province, and I'd like to table information on the annual report card from the Canadian Cancer Advocacy Coalition that says, "We now find an unmistakable correlation between provincial financial support for cancer agencies and cancer mortality." In that report, that Canada-wide report, Nova Scotia fared the worst. I'd like to ask the Minister of Health, given the high incidence of cancer in our province, what specific action is your government prepared to take to improve our ranking as the worst province in Canada in which to beat cancer?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, of course, asks about a question that is taken very seriously by all members of this House but in particular by my department. Cancer Care Nova Scotia, of course, within the department, we work very closely with that organization. We're continuing to work with them and we want to indeed make this one of our priorities as a government and we will be making progress in that regard.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, new cancer treatments are always coming on the market, yet the provincial Medicare program has not kept pace in Nova Scotia guaranteeing that Nova Scotians with cancer have access to these treatments. Oral chemotherapy is not always covered, it's not covered, in fact, by MSI outside of hospital and in many cases our Pharmacare Program does not cover these drugs. Nova Scotians without private drug plans are often forced to reduce or go without the life-saving medications due to financial hardship. I want to ask the Minister of Health, why are cancer patients in this province being handed, in some cases, the equivalent of a death sentence because this government is unwilling to help them pay for oral chemotherapy treatments?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the pharmacy program that we have in this province is one that does an extremely vigilant job with respect to monitoring the latest in pharmacies that are pharmaceuticals that are available for the treatment of all illnesses and that includes, of course, cancer care.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think that we need a lot more accountability in terms of the accounting that will bring information like this before the public, so we know where we stand in the country and how to measure the actions of our own provincial government in providing adequate health care. The report card raises other issues in respect to cancer care including, inadequate home care supports for patients and long wait lists to see specialists to even begin treatment and get a diagnosis. So cancer is expected to

[Page 2400]

surpass heart disease as the number one cause of death and we in Nova Scotia simply cannot afford to continue offering patients inadequate treatment and support. My last question for the Minister of Health is, when will you start listening to the public health agencies and cancer patients and work with them to address this serious health problem in the Province of Nova Scotia immediately?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we indeed are working with all agencies and advocacy groups with respect to fighting this dreaded illness. It is a priority, we'll continue to make it a priority and it is one area of endeavor with additional resources that we will commit to making real progress in. Thank you.

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

ECON. DEV. - C.B.: MIN. - VISIT

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister of Economic Development has said very little about the Cape Breton economy. Instead, the Minister of Energy has become the self-appointed Minister of Economic Development for Cape Breton. Just this past March, the Minister of Energy went on to lecture the people of Cape Breton that everything is fine and we should stop whining. Since last June, 3,900 jobs have been lost in Cape Breton according to the statistics provided by the Nova Scotia Department of Finance. My question to the minister is, when is the minister going to finally go to Cape Breton and introduce concrete measures of economic development instead of sending down the minister of fluff and bluster from Cape Breton North?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member - I don't know if I'm answering a request from a municipal politician or a provincial MLA. I can certainly assure the member opposite that the situation with regard to industry in Cape Breton is one that has seen some positive momentum, certainly as of late. When we look at Cape Breton Castings, we look at EDS's announcement of late - those are positive moves and certainly encouraging. There's no question my colleague, the honourable Minister of Energy, certainly has a keen interest in the economy and welfare of Cape Breton and I am pleased to work with him and share that experience and foresight. Thank you.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I've just heard the honourable minister make mention to the offshore development and I have a press release here from March 10th that says the operation support manager for Exxon Mobil says Atlantic Canada will see limited exploration for offshore oil this year. The Minister of Energy is the government's chief Cape Breton apologist. Last month he told Cape Breton that they received more in services than they paid in taxes. People say to me, Gerald, he's very well articulated but with no content in his speech. The statistics provided by the Minister of Energy clearly demonstrate that Cape Breton does not receive its fair share of equalization. If the Premier can blame

[Page 2401]

Ottawa for everything, then Cape Breton can blame the province. The bottom line is that all of Cape Breton requires support. My first supplementary to the minister is, what will the minister do to ensure that Cape Breton receives its rightful share of equalization?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not the minister responsible for equalization payments across Nova Scotia. I think my colleague, the honourable Minister of Energy would be better suited to reply to that question. (Interruptions)

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, if I'm the minster for fluff and blow, he's the MLA that's known as Foghorn Leghorn in Cape Breton because he talks the talk and the walk is quite awkward because one minute it's one side of the mouth it's the Liberal Party, the next minute it's another, depending on the meeting they're in. But, I can assure that member that we are not only going to meet our targets for exploration and development this year as we projected, we hope to exceed those targets. We do it in Cape Breton all the time and Nova Scotia is growing, thanks to this government and our strategy for the offshore and thanks to the commitment for Nova Scotians to make sure he - the Foghorn Leghorn member - stays in third place in this House.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, . . .

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm appalled and I'm excited that I have seen more energy and more thrust from this minister than since he's become the Minster of Economic Development and of Energy. I hope he uses that energy for Cape Breton. Foghorn Leghorn is a nice person as far as I am concerned.

My final supplementary is to the Minister of Economic Development. Cape Breton is hurting, all jokes aside. Areas like my riding of Victoria-The Lakes are suffering from high unemployment and severe depopulation. This minister and this government are doing nothing for Cape Breton, it sounds good on paper, show me the money. My final question to the minister is, when will this government address the needs of rural Nova Scotia, especially Victoria-The Lakes?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to point out to the House that Foghorn Leghorn is an imaginary creation and a cartoon. Another thing that I want to point out to the House is that there are a number of proven situations that I have listed before where we have seen economic growth and new industries located and traditional industries increase their production.

We will see opportunities with the issuance of coal leases in Cape Breton. We will see opportunities with natural gas, possibly LNG, and a whole host of other opportunities such as innovations, bio-science demonstrated by Ocean Nutrition Canada. We will celebrate those

[Page 2402]

occasions when the opportunity arises with the citizens of Cape Breton - this government will - rather than celebrating the opening of new Tim Hortons and cash machines as the previous government did.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: ABA THERAPY - PROVIDE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Numerous families in our province struggle every day to raise children with autism. The minister met with a group of those parents last Fall who are fighting for applied behavioural analysis, the internationally-recognized therapy that greatly improves the lives of children with autism. The minister promised the parents that a working group of experts would decide whether ABA is the best therapy for these children.

The working group has done its job, and they have concluded that ABA is not only the best but in fact the only therapy that is proven to work for children with autism. So now that the minister knows what we and the parents knew last Fall, I would like to ask him what he is going to do to provide this therapy to children with autism in Nova Scotia?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the therapy is described as one of the therapies that is appropriate and the circumstances when it might be the best therapy - that's not necessarily the situation in all cases.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that's the kind of answer the parents of children with autistic children in this province are used to getting from this minister. I want to let the House know that the report is posted on the Health Department's Web site. It contains a plan to provide intervention treatment for autistic children across the province.

The program described would start in metro, and initially provide intensive intervention for six to eight children for a period of six to 18 months. It's great that six to eight children will get some help, but I'm very concerned with the rest of the children with autism in the province. I want to ask the Minister of Health why his government has abandoned families with children with autism across this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, this government has in fact made commitments to the treatment of children with autism, and we have increased funding for that. The most recent report and recommendations that have come forward have a very significant price tag associated with them, and that is a significant challenge in meeting the health care needs of this province when we would add a very significant figure to that already challenged number.

[Page 2403]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I remind the minister for these families and these children there is no price tag you can put on their future. Experts have looked at this problem and they have determined that these children need intense therapies. These therapies are being provided in other provinces in this country, yet in our province, children with autism go without. I want to ask the minister, when the consultants were asked to look at the programs and what could be provided, were they given a limited amount of money to work with? Would he commit to tabling here today the terms of reference given to the authors of the report that are listed on the Department of Health Web site?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would certainly be prepared to look at that situation and see if there is, indeed, any reason why I should not provide that information. I will be quite happy to do that, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH - STRAIT RICHMOND HOSP.: DETOX CTR. - CLOSURE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, five years ago this government was first elected under a promise to fix health care. The Premier made it his greatest priority and today it has become his greatest failure. For Richmond County, their promise to fix health care has meant a continual shortage of doctors, regular closure of the emergency room services at Strait Richmond Hospital and, still today, no new Richmond Villa. This past weekend, added to the list was the sudden closure of the detox unit at the Strait Richmond Hospital. We have been told that this was a one-time occurrence and that it will never happen again.

My question to the Minister of Health is, what assurances will the minister make that when people in the Strait area and outlying areas need addiction services, it will be available to them seven days a week?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable that every effort will be made to ensure that the services to which he refers are provided on a continuous basis. I would also, Mr. Speaker, indicate to you and to the honourable member in the House that I did not make any such undertaking that there would never again be any interruption of service. I cannot make such guarantees. What I can tell the honourable member, through you, sir, is that every effort is being made and will always be made to ensure that there is continuous coverage.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: One can only hope the detox unit fares better than the emergency room at the Strait Richmond Hospital.

[Page 2404]

Mr. Speaker, another area where this government has created more chaos than solutions is when it comes to dealing with seniors in this province. It is the government's role to ensure that the programs are in place for seniors when and where they need them. It was this government, however, that chose to freeze the in-home support program in 2000.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Caucus has been advocating that seniors have the supports and care that they need in their own homes for as long as possible and nursing homes should be a last resort, not a place to go because government has abdicated a responsibility to provide as many services as possible, to allow seniors to remain in their own homes. My question to the minister is, does the minister recognize what hardships he and his government have caused to seniors when his government chose to freeze the in-home support program in 2000?

MR. MACISAAC: It is very interesting, Mr. Speaker, to listen to members opposite, especially from that quarter, plead for additional funds for services that are required, and indeed, services that all members of the House would like to see expanded and provided. They are the same people who are apologists for the fact that the Government of Canada will not live up to the Romanow commitment of 25 per cent of health care costs. (Interruptions) That is what is coming from that side of the House.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is about priorities. It is about the priorities of the government and whether they are going to make seniors their priority. When the Liberal Government was in power in this province we made seniors a priority. We provided the money for the in-home support programs. We did not blame Ottawa. We did not use Ottawa as an excuse to abandon seniors in this province. We allowed seniors to stay in their homes for as long as they possibly could before they would have to go to a nursing home.

This minister and the previous ministers have abandoned seniors who want to stay in their own homes without having to go to a nursing home. The Liberal caucus has continued to advocate for a return of these programs which has fallen on deaf ears for this government and, yet, they cannot understand why health care costs are out of control, and why more and more seniors need to turn to nursing homes.

I ask the minister again, does this government intend to reinstate the in-home support program or any other program like it that will allow Nova Scotia seniors the dignity of remaining in their own homes for as long as they possibly can?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member speaks about support for seniors. We are the people who provided the tax relief for seniors so that they could in fact remain in their own homes. That came from this. We continue to provide grants for seniors to remain in their own homes and to improve their homes. There is, of course, the continuous programs provided through the various departments of this government to assist seniors to remain in their homes. The honourable member makes reference to these programs as if they

[Page 2405]

are all abandoned, they are the ones that abandoned many of these programs and we're restoring them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

COMMUN. SERV.: AFFORDABLE HOUSING - BUILD

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Community Services. The Hamm Government has committed just under $2 million of its $18.6 million under its federal-provincial affordable housing agreement. A few weeks ago, an announcement was made of 200 more units but, on a closer inspection, the minister was only putting out requests for proposals for new projects. He admits those projects might result in 200 units or less, depending on what community groups propose. My question for the Minister of Community Services is simple, when will you finally live up to the commitment you made in 2002 and build much-needed affordable housing for the residents of Nova Scotia?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, indeed, it is a good time to be in Nova Scotia when it comes to affordable housing, because things are beginning to happen. It was good to be able to get up there and make that announcement. I'm very pleased that Minister Regan was able to join me on that day, and we look forward to responses and many more announcements to come soon.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I find it hard to believe this department needed two years to figure out the housing needs of Nova Scotians. Other provinces know their housing needs. The waiting lists speak for themselves. Thousands of people are waiting for affordable housing and thousands more are at risk of losing their homes and paying too much for their housing costs. I ask the minister, when will these families be able to move into new housing created under this program?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, in answer to the member's question, the first 15 units are all rented out in Middleton. That is a start, but we look forward to many more being able to acquire affordable housing under the program. It's good that the federal government has recognized their responsibility for social housing and come back into this. Their withdrawal in 1993 has cost the Province of Nova Scotia alone over $1 billion over the full term of the agreement. We welcome them back. We think this is a good thing to happen, and it's about time. We're pleased to be working with them and our other partners to make more affordable housing for low-income Nova Scotians.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, that's 15 units in almost two years. When the affordable housing agreement was announced almost two years ago, it was estimated that it would address nearly 1,500 units within the five-year program. The minister said at a press conference that the number could range from 850 to 1,500 units.

[Page 2406]

That's quite a spread. I ask the minister - 850 units is just over half the original estimates - when will you admit your department has no plan, no direction and is not using the federal funding to its fullest potential?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for giving me the opportunity to point out the importance of targeting this money to those who are in the greatest need. We're talking about low-income Nova Scotians. In actual fact, the affordable housing program was actually targeted more to middle income. The member opposite has allowed me to point out, again, that in Nova Scotia we are going to target more towards the low-income Nova Scotians, and in order to do that it's going to require a larger subsidy, and that is why the 850 to 1,500 (Interruptions) Yes, we could do 1,500, but we would be missing the people who are in greatest need of affordable housing, and we will not let them down.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

ECON. DEV. - BRITEX: SALE - STATUS

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, since July 2003, the people of Annapolis and the workers of Britex have been told that the government goal was to have an operating and sustainable entity in the form of Britex plant. Yesterday it was reported that NSBI is only accepting liquidation offers. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, has the direction changed from looking for a viable alternative for Britex to one where you are selling off the assets and abandoning the 80 families who are out of work?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as we all know, regrettably, Britex ran into financial difficulties a number of months ago. NSBI, who is the major creditor in this action, put Britex into receivership. A receiver has been appointed, and the receiver or the last number of months has been dealing with a number of parties who had an interest in continuing the operation. As far as I know, from NSBI at this point, none of those have been successfully received . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. FAGE: . . . have the resources, so they are looking at liquidators.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber, it's very difficult for the Clerks and myself to hear the questions and answers.

MR. MCNEIL: The concern in my riding, Mr. Speaker, is that the province is willing to go forward with a short-term gain of selling the assets of Britex when, in the long-term, the economic and financial loss of Britex's closing will be felt by the Nova Scotia Government for years to come. My question, is the minister prepared to sit down with the former

[Page 2407]

employees of Britex, who made a world-class product, to exhaust all possibilities for an ongoing business, and if so, when?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows through a number of discussions and meetings, Britex is the in hands of the receiver and certainly the major creditor is NSBI, a Crown Corporation. As I have relayed to the honourable member over the last number of months, if the employee group has an offer, for them to please quickly approach the receiver - and I'm sure that at this point the receiver is still there.

MR. MCNEIL: The employees are looking for some direction from the Department of Economic Development. The last time the province supported rural economic development was in early 1999 - the previous government loaned Britex in excess of $3 million, with conditions. My question is, will the minister table in this House, by the end of the day, documentation showing that those conditions surrounding the loan were met and what steps his department took to ensure that the jobs at Britex were being protected?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the dollars that were loaned to Britex are still outstanding and NSBI is responsible as the main creditor and those dollars are the reason that the receiver is now in charge.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

TCH - RV TIMES: QUALITY - ACCEPTABILITY

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. According to Department of Tourism figures, more and more potential visitors to Nova Scotia are getting their information through the Internet. They don't just look up our own Web site, they check out online publications like RV Times. I will table an article from this publication and I'll quote. "Following the Nova Scotia Tourist Bureau scenic Marine Drive route, we headed south towards Halifax. The first section is really BAD road and 40 kph was average." - "Bad" was in capital letters.

I ask the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, is this the kind of advertising your government is happy to have potential visitors reading?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in fact, the member is right, the Internet has indeed become a source of information for our visitors; in fact, over a 400 per cent increase on our Web site activity last year alone. That speaks well to the job that the department is doing and the staff are doing and our industry. Indeed, roads are an issue for tourism, and my colleague beside me here, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, I believe is doing a fine job investing millions more each and every year.

[Page 2408]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, they're travelling on the Web and we want them to travel in our province.

I'll continue quoting "Shortly after leaving Lunenburg we discovered that the rough roads had taken toll on our bike . . . A key weld had fractured and allowed the front wheel of the outer bike to drag on the pavement . . . This incident dampened our enthusiasm to continue on the Lighthouse Route towards Yarmouth." My question to the minister is, this isn't the only publication on-line or otherwise to criticize our bad roads, when is your government going to recognize the damage our poor infrastructure is doing to our tourism in Nova Scotia?

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is this government that has increased funding to transportation, year after year, since coming into government. I can assure that member and all members that we will continue to make that type of investment for tourism, for economic development and to grow this province in the direction that it should be growing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

TPW: ROADS - MULTI-YEAR PLAN

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I will table a write-up from Yahoo Travel that also criticizes our roads. "The 100-series highways are reasonably well maintained. Watch out for their frequent potholes on the other roads." I ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, these negative impressions of our province are counterproductive to expanding our tourism industry, when can we expect a nonpartisan, multi-year plan to fix our roads for residents and tourists alike?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the question, I truly appreciate that because it gives me the opportunity to bring the honourable member up to speed. First of all, the stretch of highway that he's speaking of, between Martins River and Mahone Bay, is out to tender at the present time, as a matter of fact. But that isn't the point. For the last about 20 years now, every year the Department of Transportation and Public Works has gone out to the public with a survey to determine public satisfaction with the highways in Nova Scotia, and it's been up and down, primarily down during the Liberal years. Over the past four or five years, it has shown a steady increase. I would be very pleased to inform the House that at the present time the satisfaction rate in Nova Scotia is 60 per cent, which is the highest it's been since, I believe, about 1988.

[Page 2409]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TPW: SECONDARY ROADS - STEP-WISE PLAN

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question, too, is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. If you take the time to travel down any road in this province, you will see that they're full of potholes and ruts, very poor conditions are obvious. There are potholes, sinkholes, washouts on the shoulders. Motorists are really damaging their vehicles. We're hearing about it every day in our constituency offices. I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, when can Nova Scotians expect a non-partisan, step-wise plan to address the very poor condition of our secondary roads?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, when we came back into government in 1999, we inherited a system that had fallen into disrepair from 1993 until 1999. It's astounding that in the 1980s we were spending over $100 million a year on the capital side of transportation. During the Liberal years, during that period from 1993 to 1999, when we came back into power, their expenditures on capital expenditures in this province on highways was $36 million.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, under both Liberal and Tory Governments, our highways have deteriorated in this province. If you travel over the roads, not only is it an expense and an inconvenience to motorists but, certainly, also, they can be dangerous. Pauline McCulloch wrote a letter to the editor in the Truro Daily News recently outlining an incident where she temporarily lost control of her car after hitting a pothole on Highway No. 104. Certainly we all know the lack of guardrails has been in the news - two high-profile tragic cases in recent years. My question to the minister is, what assurances can he give drivers like Mrs. McCulloch that the roads she travels on will be safe?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can give a commitment to the lady in question that we will continue to improve our highways, we will continue to improve them for the next many several years that we will continue in power in this province.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as we know, the Department of Transportation and Public Works has been a vulnerable department when it comes to Tory budget cuts in past years. Operations have been consolidated, services have been contracted out and our roads are showing the results. My final question to the minister is, when is your government going to stand up and have a long-term plan to address the condition of our secondary roads and to keep drivers safe?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is a base canard. We have not decreased the amount of money that we've spent on the highways in this province. Further to that, today we have better equipment than we've ever had for snow removal, for ice control. We have people out there who are trained properly to accommodate the needs of our highway system.

[Page 2410]

I am very, very proud of the Department of Transportation and Public Works and the people who work for it. We're doing a great job, and the government is supporting the department by providing on a continuing basis increases in the budget, as that honourable member will see tomorrow. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

ECON. DEV. - AVON FOODS: CLOSURE - DETAILS

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, on June 18th, a significant employer and contributor to economic vitality in the Annapolis Valley will be closing its doors. More than 80 full-time and 55 seasonal employees will be out of work once Avon Foods shuts down its operation; this on top of the fact that unemployment rates in rural Nova Scotia are substantially higher than the national average for rural areas. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, what assurances can I give these employees and their families that this government is in fact interested in their well-being and has taken steps to ensure that they will be able to remain in their communities and continue to raise their families?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's extremely unfortunate, the announcement of Avon Foods. Since that time, staff from the Department of Economic Development, as well as staff from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have met with the local people involved at the plant. We've had contact and discussions with the parent owners of the plant to see what opportunities still remain at that plant to continue to employ people from the Valley.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, true to the matter, not only will these employees and their families feel the impact of this closure, but so will many farmers and producers who are depending on this company as a market for their produce. Some farmers will experience as much as $100,000 in lost revenue. Now all they have in their backyard is a 100,000-square- foot processing plant sitting empty because the government has done nothing to attract new business. Will the minister tell me what he has done and table any correspondence he may have sent to Avon Foods' parent company expressing his interest in finding alternative uses for this facility?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, our departments have had contact with the parent company and their CEO and we continue to have discussions to see what opportunities there are in the future for that facility that would employ Nova Scotians in the Annapolis Valley.

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, this government talks about the importance of rural economic development in Nova Scotia yet, in the past few months, numerous companies have closed their business. The facts are that rural companies are not enjoying the economic prosperity realized in metro. Will the minister give some reassurance to recently laid-off

[Page 2411]

employees throughout rural Nova Scotia that their government is doing something, anything, to allow them to live, work and raise families in rural Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I certainly will give that assurance. In each individual case, people from department staff work very closely with those affected, but . . .

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 493.

Res. No. 493, Econ. Dev.: Rural Depopulation - Action - notice given Oct. 20/03 - (Mr. H. Theriault)

MR. SPEAKER: Just before I recognize the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis, the honourable member for Yarmouth on an introduction.

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to all members of the House, I would like to introduce two guests in the east gallery, or the east wing maybe it is, I'm not sure, but anyhow they've been long-time friends of my family for a number of years. They're business people in the Yarmouth County area. Their only weakness is they live in the Argyle Municipality, but on behalf of the honourable member for Argyle and myself, I would like to introduce Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Robichaud to the House today. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. HAROLD THERIAULT: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to stand and speak on the rural depopulation of this province. The economies of rural Nova Scotia have been in decline and the number of young people leaving our rural towns and communities is far too great. Nova Scotia at the time of Confederation had a strong and vibrant economy supported by the prosperity of each and every community - from one end of our great province to the other. Industries like farming in the Annapolis Valley, shipbuilding on the South Shore, fishing in Guysborough, Yarmouth and in Digby, forestry on the Eastern Shore, mining in Cape Breton

[Page 2412]

and Amherst created the backbone of our great society. Our province was prosperous because our small communities were prosperous.

My Liberal Party, the Liberal Party, has a vision to begin rebuilding the strength of rural communities. We envision a day not too long from now when the strength of Nova Scotia's economy is measured once again by the strength of all its communities and not just those within an hour from Halifax. Mr. Speaker, this is a message you have heard before and it is usually followed by words like we promise to study, or we intend to put together a committee. Well, my friends, you will not hear those words today. Instead, I want to lay before you an action plan which begins to be implemented the day after the election of a Liberal Government.

Our Party has asked many questions and we have listened to the answers. We have put together a comprehensive package of initiatives that we believe will stimulate our rural economies. Our Party has listened to the concerns of rural business and we understand the frustration that they must feel when you try to take your products to market or try to attract customers to your business. The crumbling infrastructure in rural Nova Scotia places an unfair burden on you and in many cases discourages investment in the first place. That is why we believe the backbone of any growing economy is a transportation system that will serve the needs of the people. For too long our roads have been made to suffer in the name of fiscal restraint while our rural economies suffer as a result. It is the Liberal Party and the Liberal Party alone that will guarantee the taxes you pay at the pumps will once and for all be pumped back into the roads - 100 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, developing the infrastructure is only one step in a long journey back to the robust rural economies experienced during Confederation. It is going to take coordination and strategic investment by a government organized whose sole purpose is to develop our rural economies. To attract investment in Halifax, you need a specific approach. This is also true for attracting investment in rural Nova Scotia and even as the one-size-fits-all does not work. What is successful in Digby may not work in Inverness or Shelburne.

[4:30 p.m.]

Our province has unique challenges and therefore government must develop unique solutions. We believe this responsibility must not be contained to a single unit of a larger department, so that is why we want to see the creation of the Department of Rural Economic Development.

This department's one and only objective will be to assist businesses in rural Nova Scotia and to attract investments and opportunities for new business. The minister will work with local community and economic development groups, rural municipalities and other stakeholders to generate opportunities based on each area's strengths.

[Page 2413]

We are committed to ensuring economic growth and opportunity is shared among all regions of Nova Scotia and we'll task a Cabinet Minister with that specific priority. The minister will work on behalf of the rural economy and will fight for you at the Cabinet Table week in and week out. Mr. Speaker, an economy is only as strong as the people who work in it. How many of you will go home tonight in a room full of pictures, mostly young people who have gone down the road? Our children are moving out of rural communities and into the cities to start their careers.

Mr. Speaker, I have worked all my life in the fishing industry in Nova Scotia's rural communities and I have built two or three different businesses. In this past year I've had to give them over to my children to keep them here in this area and that's the reason I'm standing here today. The banks will not look at young people who want to start up businesses in rural Nova Scotia. They turn them away, saying go somewhere else. So where do they go?

Mr. Speaker, we want to attract investments. We need a workforce, and if we want to keep our children in our communities we have to make it attractive for them. Our Party has developed a plan we call, stay home in Nova Scotia. This plan puts forward for new graduates and those young people learning a skill, incentive packages from the government to stay and to work and raise a family in our wonderful rural communities. We come to rural communities because we love the way of life. We stay because they offer a future for our families. I personally know of a lot of people who have children in western parts of this country and I also know that some of these parents are actually moving out West themselves because they feel they're not going to see their grandchildren grow up.

Mr. Speaker, as I've said before, workers and entrepreneurs will only go where there is work or opportunity. Many small rural businesses look for investment from our private lending institutes only to be turned away. We say this is not right. We think it is time government stepped up to the plate and created alternative sources of venture capital for those entrepreneurs who want to take a chance on our rural economies.

That is why a Liberal Government will mandate Nova Scotia's Public Pension Funds to invest 1 per cent of their capital in new Nova Scotia companies. The approximately $30 million this represents will be put into a venture capital pool that will make strategic investment into Nova Scotia businesses. All investment decisions will be made by the pension fund manager, at arm's length from the government. The investments will be made for sound financial and business reasons and will not discriminate on the basis of geographics. A sound business plan in Digby is no less valuable than a sound business plan in Halifax.

The venture capital pool will make it easier for our entrepreneurs to access the financing they need to launch and grow their businesses. It will help grow Nova Scotia's economy and create new jobs right here in rural Nova Scotia.

[Page 2414]

Mr. Speaker, our primary industries, including agriculture and fishery, are the backbone of our province. They play key roles in building Nova Scotia through the centuries and still remain big business. More than that, they are also a way of life for rural Nova Scotians and are essential to maintaining the strength and vitality of rural areas.

We must continue to build our primary industries so they remain as strong in the future as they have been in the past. The Liberal Party will work closely with agriculture and fishery sectors to address its concerns, and in doing so, will review the decisions to eliminate the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, an out-source crop specialist service. We will ensure farmers receive maximum value, both in terms of the specialist service offered and the cost to farmers and taxpayers.

As well, it is our intention to establish an emergency agriculture management officer to coordinate resources and respond to crises such as the mad cow scare in western Canada, resulting in closed borders, to the United States, for Nova Scotia's beef.

Mr. Speaker, as we grow our rural economies, it will be imperative that business can remain competitive, as well as hold on to the skilled workers they employ. Adapting to new technologies and keeping your workforce current, is a necessity in today's economy. Business must be given the opportunity to retrain its workforce to meet these changes head on. We propose TalentWorks, an initiative that would see government put in place a 20 per cent tax credit for the cost of retraining employees.

Mr. Speaker, as many of us have seen over the past weeks, the government is considering reducing service in our rural hospitals or, in some cases, the elimination of rural hospitals and schools altogether. As Liberals, we believe this is wrong. We have told the government this is short-sighted and could bring an end to many of our rural communities.

How can we expect to attract investment or a skilled workforce to rural Nova Scotia if the government is not willing to invest in basic public service? It is not just health care and schools. Parents want to know their children will have strong access to public school systems and the opportunity to grow and learn.

Putting money into health care and education in rural Nova Scotia should not be seen as a burden by government, but rather, an investment in our future economy. The economy of the past was built on the strength of all parts of Nova Scotia, big and small, and the only thing stopping us from getting there again is the political will to invest in our people. Thank you very much.

[Page 2415]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to talk on the resolution put forward by the honourable member. There are a number of things, I think, that are extremely important to be discussed here today and to point out to the House and all Nova Scotians.

First of all, this government, unlike the previous government, does have an overall comprehensive plan. This government is extremely concerned about opportunities in employment in rural Nova Scotia. That is why, under that comprehensive approach, we have addressed and begun to work on critical infrastructure such as the roads.

The previous government had eroded the money in the capital budget for roads which is the most critical part of infrastructure for rural Nova Scotia, whether it is tourism, health protection, local industry, and to get our goods to product and get our supplies to communities across rural Nova Scotia. They had decreased the budget to $36 million, the former Liberal Government, and I am pleased to say, last year, it was well in excess of $112 million back in capital. So we are seeing improvements in roads which are a critical infrastructure, whether it is tourism operations in rural Nova Scotia, whether it is farming operations, manufacturing or whatever.

I'm also pleased as Minister of Economic Development to give the true facts on what is taking place in this province. Under our Economic Growth Strategy, Opportunity For Prosperity, we have seen employment levels rise in this province in five short years of over 40,000 people. That's a huge achievement in a province of less than a million people. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the latest Statistics Canada statistic shows that 442,000 Nova Scotians are working as of last month's statistics. I think it's important to note, even though the national average in other provinces has been going down, in February 2000 more full-time jobs were created in Nova Scotia, as well as in March, 3000 more jobs were created in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The reason for those, Mr. Speaker, is that this government works very hard with business and people in Nova Scotia creating a climate for business growth and for new people to enter our job market here and for new business to grow, and it is just as important for existing industries to expand. That's not to say that there are not individual industries or businesses that are, from time to time, going to have difficulties, whether it's foreign markets, whether it's financial issues concerning banks, whether it's financial issues concerning the overall economy. But this province has certainly illustrated by the figures, and conversations I have with business people and citizens throughout this province, a change in momentum and a new direction over the last five years where this province has gained its financial footing. We are balancing budgets, and we are doing that and paying for increased health care services, increased education services, increased roads by growth in our own economy. Nova Scotians are proud people, proud to work and proud to contribute to their province.

[Page 2416]

One of the individual programs that this government has initiated is the Nova Scotia Nominee Program. This program, in conjunction with the Federal Immigration Department, targets individuals who would invest and live here in Nova Scotia and create employment opportunities. As well, it also targets individuals who have professions or skills that would benefit communities in Nova Scotia, specifically rural communities, we are targeting for those individuals.

Since that program began earlier this year, almost 50 certificates have been issued through that program, and another four dozen applications are currently being processed. The momentum is building and work will continue on this program, and as is part of the overall government strategy dealing with immigration.

I want to speak a moment about the reality of Nova Scotia, and that's small business. They make up 90 per cent of the business community here in Nova Scotia and about one-third of our entire workforce. Small business contributes about 25 per cent to our Gross Domestic Product, and they pay almost $3 billion in wages. Many of these businesses, Mr. Speaker, as you know, the same as in your communities, are located in rural Nova Scotia. Access to capital is critical if small businesses expect to grow and flourish in all areas of the province. As the previous speaker noted that concern, we also are aware of that concern and have been working on that problem for the last three or four years.

I am proud to stand here in my place today and talk about the credit union Small Business Financing/Loan Guarantee Program that this government initiated a year ago. Under that program there is $8 million specifically targeted to small business around this province. Under those terms, maximum loans to $150,000 are available to Nova Scotia businesses, with the Province of Nova Scotia guaranteeing 75 per cent of that total. Given an indication of how successful this program has been since last Fall, there is more than $3.4 million that has been provided to businesses across Nova Scotia, as we speak. Those businesses contribute in a large way to our rural economies, because they truly are small businesses.

[4:45 p.m.]

Community Economic Development Investment Funds or CEDIFs are also a proven vehicle for venture capital in rural areas. I'm proud to say that under this government's tenure, more than 23 funds are now in existence with over $10 million of capital available for small businesses throughout most rural communities across this province. These are made-in-Nova Scotia funds. They're Nova Scotians supporting Nova Scotians and proud to do it. There will be seven new funds, I might add, Mr. Speaker, in the coming year. It also demonstrates the key interest in communities investing in themselves. When you have communities that believe in themselves, who take pride in themselves, they invest money in themselves, and that causes that key economic growth, job maintenance, job retention and new jobs are formed.

[Page 2417]

Mr. Speaker, also, it is key to note that our local regional economic development groups in Nova Scotia, which this province funds its share of and supports strongly, play a large role in identifying, as you know, business opportunities and companies that would like to expand, that need financing, that need management, that need help with business studies, the entire gamut. The RDAs explore those opportunities in local communities and then help those individuals come forward to use either commercial institutions, NSBI, the lending Crown Corporation agency for the province and business promotion, growth and retention and, as well, have various programs that they can access through the Office of Economic Development, the ministry that I'm responsible for.

Mr. Speaker, I think those individual organizations do a great job in promoting opportunities and in exploiting opportunities that allow more of our citizens in rural Nova Scotia to be employed in their communities and allow growth to occur there.

Another key infrastructure component, the same as roads and utilities, is the information technology and the telecommunication network. I'm proud to comment that there are over 350 CAP sites in this province that provide high-speed Internet access to individuals and businesses in every corner of this province. As well, through the RDAs and regional associations, we continue to support large broadband high-speed Internet connections to more and more communities, as well as high-speed fibre optic networks. Through most of these, we are partnered with Industry Canada, of course.

We've taken advantage of those opportunities as a province. We are the most connected province in the country. Certainly that's a step we're proud of. Whether you're running a business, whether you're an entrepreneur, an author, the access to high-speed Internet allows you to do that same work in your local community, whether it's Port Greville or downtown Halifax. That's absolutely key to the vital growth of rural Nova Scotia, having access to those telecommunications and business links. We've employed that strategy as well, through the hub and spoke connections with our contact centres to provide opportunities to rural communities, from Liverpool to Canso. Those opportunities would not be available if that investment had not been made and those communities were not connected.

I want to talk for a moment about the Cape Breton Growth Fund, which is a regional fund that we participate in. The Cape Breton Growth Fund has invested more than $60 million in 30 projects and provided more than 2,900 jobs in that vital region of the province. This province has contributed $12 million to that growth fund, and it continues to be a key source of provincial and federal funding to allow job opportunities for new people who want to place businesses there, as well as retention and expansion of businesses within the Cape Breton zone for the Cape Breton Growth Fund.

As well, another area that we've begun to support in Nova Scotia is the design of the supplier development program that will be unveiled along with the branding program later on this year which will not only promote Nova Scotia products, goods and services to Nova

[Page 2418]

Scotians, but that kind of quality, expertise and experience to the world. We have a great success story here and it's an opportunity to tell that story and to promote growth and job expansion for Nova Scotians at the same time.

Mr. Speaker, as well, I think it's important to note that on the skills and competitive agenda, Nova Scotians are the most educated workforce in all of Canada. Over half of our population have post-secondary education. Certainly this government has provided an unheard of investment of $125 million in the community college system. As this government knows, and as Nova Scotians know, education and training is the key to allowing Nova Scotians to acquire jobs and remain in their province and in their communities across this province. Whether it's dynamic positioning simulators to aid in offshore, whether it's the upgrading of training and services and facilities through the entire community college as well as universities in this province, it is the absolute key in ensuring our young people have job opportunities. We work closely with employers in this province to come up with the opportunities where the training is needed, where the opportunities exist and, Mr. Speaker, as you well know, at times, that is a process that requires lead time.

When a company or an industry is ready to expand, many times the type of specific training or skills they need are not readily available in the community. If we do not have the process in place, if we're not able to identify those opportunities, then those are missed opportunities for Nova Scotians and missed opportunities for Nova Scotians in rural communities where those individual jobs are vital to the maintenance of that infrastructure. This province and this government specifically recognizes that right down to the primary grade level.

With the introduction of new programs from early learning to returning to the three Rs, we're re-establishing this strong educational base in this province and we're doing it in rural communities with strong, brand new educational facilities. This government is building more schools than any government in the history of this province. I'm proud to be a member of that government because we take education and training seriously. (Applause) It's the real building block to opportunity for our young people across this province.

As well, that education and that diversity is not limited to just the offshore, it's not limited just to IT, it encompasses the entire band of what is needed by employers in Nova Scotia to create those opportunities and to ensure that we have the skilled workforce in this province to take advantage of that.

This province is committed to the health of Nova Scotians. This government is building new hospitals, it's acquiring more doctors, nurses and health care professionals. It's ensuring that the budget and the dollars are there year over year, that the health care needs of Nova Scotians can be maintained and that the funding that's critical is sustainable and doing that in a climate of balanced budgets. That's absolutely key, as you know, Mr. Speaker,

[Page 2419]

to allowing those new dollars that we acquire through economic growth, to be invested back in our economy and stop the cycle of interest payment expenditures.

This government has come a long way in achieving those goals with operating balanced budgets and, at the same time, ensuring that the priorities of Nova Scotians are met and maintained. That type of foresight certainly is one that's critical if we're going to have a government that exploits the opportunities of the future.

This province has a bright future and a great future. We have been able, as a government, to create a climate for economic growth. Businesses have responded and you've seen those significant increases and people employed in this province, and with the fall of the unemployment level across this province, we've seen prosperity and hope from returning Nova Scotians. It's extremely important and I certainly say it to all members of the House and to Nova Scotians, we are on the right track in this province. We're seeing sustained growth in our economy. We're seeing improvements in our health care, our education and, Mr. Speaker, as you and I are both aware as we travel quite some distance to come to Halifax, we've got better roads too and I'm proud of it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the decline in rural population is hardly a new phenomenon. Indeed, if we look at Statistics Canada information for Nova Scotia or for any province in Canada, we will see that this has gone on for a long time. Indeed, this is a phenomenon which has characterized life in our province for at least 10 years and probably more like 15 years or 20 years. That means, of course, that the decline has gone on not just as was suggested by the original resolution that came from the Liberal Party, the decline has gone on not just through years in which there have been Tory Administrations but, indeed, it predated that and included time when the Liberal Party was the government of this province.

That's worth remembering because it indicates that it's a chronic problem. It indicates, because we know it's a national phenomenon, that it's not purely something about Nova Scotia, nonetheless, of course, that does not relieve us from the obligation to try to do something about it. If one looks at those same statistics and asks the question, where are the people who are leaving the rural areas going? Then the answer becomes quite obvious, those people who are leaving the rural areas of Nova Scotia are moving to HRM. We know from the tracking that's done of the population that that indeed is where people who leave the honourable member's home County of Digby and who leave Annapolis and who leave Inverness and who leave Victoria and who leave Shelburne and Queens and Yarmouth Counties, that's where they go. They come to HRM.

[Page 2420]

Now, of course, not 100 per cent, some move to other parts of the country as, indeed, some people who grew up in HRM move to other parts of Canada, to larger cities. But that's the trend. The trend is clearly for people to move out of the rural areas into the urban areas. Indeed, if one looks at the unemployment figures, the unemployment level in HRM is on a par with the Canadian national average and yet in virtually no other part of Nova Scotia is the unemployment level so low. In every other part of the Province of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, or any other part of the rural mainland outside of HRM, the unemployment figures are much higher. They are much higher than the Canadian average. So there is a real problem there. But the economic opportunities are here in metro. That's seems to be where people have moved and where, in fact, they're finding the opportunity in order to build lives for themselves.

This is a reflection of the way in which the national economy has changed. The national economy is no longer purely resource based. People can no longer assume that with a low level of education they can drop out of school in Grade 6, Grade 8, Grade 9, Grade 10 and go to work in the fishery, go to work in forestry, go to work in agriculture and make a living sufficient to support themselves and their families. That's just not the state of play, even in those resource-based sectors of the economy.

Think, for example, about forestry. Forestry has transformed itself so that it, in fact, the reliance upon sophisticated machinery is now something that is a fact of life in forestry. I'm not just talking about working in the woods, I'm also talking about working in lumber mills or in pulp and paper plants. This requires a higher level of education and training and it means that more and more people, if they decide not to pursue their education, will be left out of the modern transformed economy, even those sectors that continue to rely upon natural resources. That's just the way of it.

[5:00 p.m.]

When the present government first came to power in 1999, they had a declared policy of trying to cut back on government expenditures, trying to make economies in all department, and they set up a Voluntary Planning Task Force to go out and examine all areas of government expenditure and to come back and advise them about ways in which they could save money, ways in which they could stop spending money, and indeed the Voluntary Planning Task Force did that for them.

In January 2000 a report came from Voluntary Planning, but do you know what that task force said, and I was glad to hear the Minister of Economic Development reminding himself, reminding his caucus and reminding this Chamber, that education had to be the way forward in Nova Scotia because that's indeed what Voluntary Planning said. They said we are very surprised to find ourselves saying this, but this government, no matter what it may cut back on, has to invest much more money in education. They said that the only way

[Page 2421]

forward for Nova Scotians is through greater education, that that's the way of the future. That is the transformed way of the economy.

Fewer and fewer people are going to be able to make jobs in the resource-dependent sectors of the economy. Look at how agriculture has transformed itself over the last 100 years. A 100 years ago, what was it, 60 per cent, 70 per cent,75 per cent of the Canadian population was engaged in agriculture and now it's no more than 1 per cent or 2 per cent. That's because the nature of agriculture has changed. It's because it has become much more mechanised . It's because the farms are much bigger and people have complex pieces of machinery and they're able to feed the whole of the Canadian population plus huge surpluses are generated, but only 1 per cent or 2 per cent of the population has to be employed to do that.

So these things are changing and this is true in the fishery, it's true in forestry, it's true in agriculture, it's true in mining. So these aren't necessarily going to be huge generators of jobs. We have to recognize that the future is in another direction and yet this isn't really what our government has learned as the lesson. It's not really the way in which they're moving. Now, I heard some sensible suggestions, I have to say, from the honourable member who brought the resolution to the House and spoke to it. Some of his suggestions are quite good, but his Party was in power for many years and didn't move on them. They didn't move on them. A department of rural economic development, where was that? It never was there. Mandatory investment from public pension plans for local businesses - never did it. These are worth investigating, but they're not there.

What about the present government? They haven't really done the job that's necessary to do in order to bring prosperity, as equally as possible, across this province because the honourable member was correct when he said it was desirable, very desirable to maintain economic viability all across the province. That would be wonderful. I'm not meaning to suggest that there should only be economic prosperity here in HRM. It's the hard fact, but if we could bring economic prosperity to all areas of the province, that would be terrific. That would be a desirable public policy objective. It's something that we should pursue, but it won't happen with the policies of the present government. Think about what they've done, think about - despite the minister speaking about education - what they've really done over the last five years.

There are two things that they've done that they seem to think are going to help the communities outside of HRM develop economically. One has been the emphasis on the offshore and the other has been call centres. Now, let's be clear. Over the last five years there has generally been a very good time in the Canadian economy. The Nova Scotia economy has generated new jobs, not as many jobs proportionately or by any standard as many other provinces in Canada, but we've generated new jobs. So our economic performance was good, but it was under par compared with other parts of the country and yet, look at the jobs that

[Page 2422]

have been generated in Nova Scotia. Fifty per cent of those jobs generated since 1999, when that government came to power, had been in call centres. Now what kind of future is that?

Mr. Speaker, in the communities that have received call centres, I know that those jobs have been very welcome. You think about a place like New Waterford that was in desperate need of a shot in the arm in terms of some jobs. Well, it has been very desirable for those communities that have been in receipt of call centres to have those jobs. But the question is, how permanent are they? Has there ever been a strategy to keep those jobs in our province? That has been missing. It has just been missing.

We know that those companies, all of which are foreign-owned, all of which are highly-mobile, all of which could be located any where in the world, are here only because of the subsidies that are offered on a temporary basis for a few years by this government. As soon as those subsidies are up, there is nothing in place to guarantee or even tend towards keeping these jobs here.

We have already seen an instance in which one of those companies is suggesting that some of its jobs are going to be placed in India. Well, this is no big surprise. This is a phenomenon in the United States. Indeed, it is a big issue in the United States presidential elections going on right now this year. India is a logical place for call centres to go. They don't have to be any where, in particular, so long as they are at the end of a telephone line or able to be reached electronically, which they can be.

There is a middle class in India that has some level of education and they speak English. Well, they can deal with the American public which are the customers for these call centres. It doesn't have to be in Nova Scotia.

Indeed, the financial pages reported, just recently, that IBM just bought a big Indian call centre company. Smart. Good for IBM. It makes sense. But it tells you where the future of that industry is, the future of the call centre industry. It is not necessarily in Nova Scotia. It is probably going to be in India. The wage rate is lower. That is the secret of the success of the Indians competing for those jobs.

We cannot assume that Nova Scotia is going to keep those jobs. We should assume, the government should assume, exactly the opposite. They should assume that however useful as a temporary transition measure call centre jobs are, that is all they are. That is only going to give those jobs to those communities for a short period of time.

Do you know something else? Those companies don't buy their land and their buildings. They rent them, they lease them. Occasionally, as we saw down in Liverpool, they leave the local municipality in the county holding the bag when they walk away from it. They didn't own the property. The point is, they are not making investment here in Nova Scotia. That, at least, would give them some kind of hook, some kind of investment in our

[Page 2423]

community, something that would indicate that they were thinking of staying around. They are not. They are here temporarily and only because of the subsidies.

Well, that is not much of a strategy. It is a losing strategy and this government has to face up to the fact that as soon as the five to seven year financial subsidies that they have put in place for more than 50 per cent of those jobs that they have created or that have been created in Nova Scotia disappear, those communities are going to be in just as much trouble as they were before. The question is, what is the transition strategy after that?

Now, what about the offshore? I said there was a second big attempt to try to generate jobs in Nova Scotia associated with the offshore. This, in fact, goes back primarily to the Liberal Party but it has been embraced as much by the PCs as by the Liberals. People had stars in their eyes about what the offshore was going to do for Nova Scotia. They thought we were going to be like Alberta.

In fact, I think the present Minister of Energy still has those stars in his eyes. He thinks that we are not going to ever have sales taxes, there will be unemployment, that we will have a heritage fund, all because of our energy riches in Nova Scotia. You know what? That isn't true, it hasn't happened and it isn't going to happen. There just are not the resources out there.

Look at the cutbacks in exploration that are going on right now. This is highly problematic for Nova Scotia. We have not been able to generate the jobs here at a level that deals with unemployment, the problems that we have, and it's particularly true that people outside of metro have not been the major beneficiaries. The major beneficiaries of the offshore have been right here in my constituency, in Halifax Chebucto, and in the other metro constituencies. This is where the lawyers, the engineers, the service companies and helicopter companies are all located. We're the ones who've benefitted from the offshore.

It's not so much for Guysborough County, Inverness County and for Digby County and for Queens. It's just not the case. This is the case (Interruptions) That's fine. There are tax revenues, sure there are tax revenues, but where are the jobs associated with it? There were never big jobs, except during the construction phase. The construction phase brought jobs, especially for the overland pipeline, but not on an ongoing basis. That's the hard fact, no matter how much the Minister of Energy might wish it to be otherwise - it is simply not the case.

So what we need from the government is some indication of reliable leadership when it comes to the economic development of the areas outside of HRM - because they sure need it. I heard some suggestion in Question Period today that there ought to be increased immigration in Nova Scotia. The focus in the question was on the business sector of immigrants. Now I have to say I would place it on a wider bases. I think that the suggestion

[Page 2424]

of the question was correct, that Nova Scotia does need more immigration and more retention of immigrants. That would be a good thing for our economy. That would be excellent.

I would think that we could take our Nova Scotia Business Inc., or whatever new manifestation there might be from year to year of an agency of government, and pay attention to other markets than purely the United States. You know what? South of the Rio Grande there are 300 million people who speak Spanish and some of them speak Portuguese. Do you know how many people at Nova Scotia Business Inc. speak Spanish? Zero of them speak Spanish. That is a big mistake; we have to be afoot in a wider part of the world.

I think there is a long agenda of things the government could be doing that they are simply not doing. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I'm certainly pleased today with the resolution brought forth by my colleague for Digby-Annapolis dealing with really the crisis in rural economic development. Certainly the history of Nova Scotia, if we go back 400 years to the founding of the province and first settlement in Annapolis Royal, we know that rural Nova Scotia has had enormous prominence and, in fact, it had traditionally set the pace for growth throughout the province.

However, over the last number of years, due to a whole number of factors, we know that rural Nova Scotia is no longer quite as attractive as it used to be. In the past, of course, young Nova Scotians took pride in remaining in their communities, picking up with the family farm, the family fishery, the forestry, yes, our basic resources. And we know now that we've had a tremendous pattern of out-migration. While, again, the member opposite pointed out that this indeed is a national trend, rural depopulation, we know however that in some provinces it has - in fact the rate has been checked and the rate of out-migration, rural depopulation, has been checked when governments intervened. Instead of closing services and letting infrastructure continue to be neglected, when there was concerted and directed energies and investment in those areas it actually has halted the rate of decline, and I must say rural Saskatchewan, which was a great example in my geography classes, is one example in fact of where rural depopulation has indeed started to slow down.

[5:15 p.m.]

In my own family, this certainly has been a topic of discussion and debate since two of my three sons, in fact, are in other parts of Canada. They're well educated; one is in Calgary and one in Ontario; one with a business background and the other with a technical skill. When they finished their training, there just were not the opportunities in the area where we live. In speaking about the historic and beautiful Annapolis Valley, one of the reasons that

[Page 2425]

again we have seen some decline, and our unemployment rate has gone up over the last while, is lack of those opportunities.

Agriculture has been the backbone of the Annapolis Valley. It is one of the four best soil areas in Canada and we should never neglect that reality. We know that it is indeed being threatened, of course, by other forms of development. My own belief is that again, if we give attention to the basic resources of this province, like agriculture, and we all know there is a tremendous need to move in the direction of self-sufficiency in food production - certainly highlighted in the past year by crises like the BSE. At the current time we only produce 30 per cent of the beef protein that we use in this province and what a great opportunity to move forward.

I make a really important connect here, I believe, with one of the people who I introduced here in the House yesterday who was looking for a little bit of help to expand the business, one of those who seized a crisis and created a great opportunity because during the BSE crisis a small slaughterhouse that killed 10 beef a week started to promote Nova Scotia-grown beef which we know for the most part, or certainly for small producers, is pretty well almost organically grown. They are using grass, fodder, as their source of feed. So they're not caught up with commercial feed products. Therefore, he started to promote this in the restaurants, in the small meat shops, and all of a sudden he was now needing 15, needing 20, and now has reached 35 head of cattle that he was killing per week. All of a sudden, however, the Department of Labour comes in and says that you don't have a big enough plant, there are safety issues here.

So now he's on the threshold of wanting to expand his slaughter plant based on that premise - a Nova Scotia product and a top quality product - and yet he's finding difficulty in getting a little bit of provincial investment in an industry and a business and an off-shoot for farmers that is sustainable. This is something which can remain, unlike the call centres that the member opposite just alluded to. Agriculture can go on and on and so often we're short-sighted. We should be thinking three or four generations down the road and start to renew this industry. It's one I'm familiar with, but there are certainly others like this.

If we think of the forest products of Nova Scotia, we know how, for example, from very, very small beginnings, look at the way our Christmas tree industry has taken off and the quality of our Christmas trees, again, that are exported along the eastern seaboard and now all the way down into actually Central and South America, and we know that they're in enormous demand. There's an example of growing an industry. But Weymouth is one example where I see whole logs being exported out of the province and, once again, if we were to take those particular products and start to add value to them and get a second

income from that particular product.

[Page 2426]

A great example that I like to talk about is actually a Third World, a developing country like Costa Rica. Costa Rica, where its rain forests were being cut at a dramatic rate, decided on a complete and total intervention. They said no forest product could leave Costa Rica unless it was in the form of a finished product. Immediately, it transformed business opportunity and also we know that Costa Rica, of the six Central American countries, does indeed have the best economy. So here it is now, using its renewable resources, not cutting them at a rate where the biomass is not replaced each year, but rather in a sustainable fashion, and with the hardwood products coming out of Costa Rica, obviously, they can again be a sustainable industry.

I would concur that education will be at the heart of many of the new businesses, the knowledge-based businesses of the future. I think I would challenge the government and all of us to take a look at our universities. Again, having our universities partner stronger with small rural communities of Nova Scotia. I think of the Antigonish movement, for example and the co-op movement in Antigonish and how it renewed rural communities back 40, 50, 60 years ago. I think it's a model . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for Resolution No. 493 has expired.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 485.

Res. No. 485, Econ. Dev. - Rural Depopulation: Challenge - Recognize - notice given Oct. 20/03 - (Mr. Gerald Sampson)

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak on Resolution No. 485. Let me begin by saying that since 1981, 37,000 people have left the municipalities. Of that 37,000, 26,000 left Cape Breton alone.

The backbone of any strong economy is its infrastructure. Basically, in a rural area that begins with roads. Roads have deteriorated over a long period of time and I believe, along with the Liberal Party, that it's time that we put the taxes that you pay at the pumps into the roads - 100 per cent.

But, that's only one step in the right direction. Investment in rural Nova Scotia by private lending institutions is limited. You've heard that from my honourable colleague, the member for Digby-Annapolis. We believe that there's a strong need to invest in our communities to create jobs in the rural areas. Many of you reading this and hearing this are going to wish, when you look at pictures tonight of your loved ones, that they were home

[Page 2427]

with you instead of working and living somewhere else creating a family, investing in the future and using their talents that, more than likely we as parents paid for but that somebody else in another area is benefitting from. We have to be able to offer our young graduates an incentive to stay in Nova Scotia. In order to do that, policy must be flexible. This one-size-fits-all does not work anywhere, whether it's a large regional municipality or a rural area.

What I would like to see, along with my Liberal colleagues, is the creation of a rural Department of Economic Development - one that would have its own minister, one that would concentrate on rural economic development, deal with rural economic development agencies and the people employed in those agencies and work along with the people to develop rural areas.

Nova Scotia was always a strong province, but it was a strong province because rural areas were an integral part of the total area of Nova Scotia. But what we have now is almost like a magnet, drawing everybody to one central area. They prosper, the rest of the areas are suffering.

Investing in public basic services. Mr. Speaker, it is not a burden, it is an investment in the future. People have a business plan, they invest in business. Well, what is wrong with investing in our youth, our greatest natural resource. Keeping them home is the result of the investment. Pay to have them educated - most of them are paying their own way, coming out with - before they even get a chance to graduate, they owe more than a mortgage to pay for their education. That is a tragic burden to have to try and pay for that, plus get a job that is not a couple of weeks or a couple of months, but a long, sustainable job that will pay them enough that they can afford to live, begin their life, maybe create a business and still pay back their student loan.

Mr. Speaker, let me just concentrate on a couple of items from, specifically, Cape Breton, itself. We can talk about central Cape Breton, Route 223, that goes down through the centre of the Island, anything in the centre I refer to as the backbone of the Island, roads and bridges have been suffering for a while.

The ski hill. Let's go to the other end of Cape Breton. Let's go north of Smokey to the ski hill. We have got the highest ski hill in the province. What people have to realize is, when it is raining up around the Sydney area, it is snowing down there. They have all the natural snow, they have the highest ski hill, which is natural, but probably some of the worst roads to get to that ski hill. That has to be corrected, Mr. Speaker, in order for that ski hill to develop.

The "Going Down the Road" movie, I would say, is in absolute chronological order of Cape Breton. We have all seen that movie.

[Page 2428]

A recent proposal to produce steel slabs over at the former steel plant was met with an absolute - there will never be another piece of steel created in Cape Breton. That was the attitude.

On another date I referred to the 90 acres that was left adjacent to those wonderful piers in Sydney. A lease was given for 60 acres to lay down coal to an American company, which was fine. Business people came on board, created a business plan, sent it into the province with a vision to develop the other 30 acres, and lo and behold, the 60 acre lease was withdrawn and a 90 acre lease issued; therefore, forever stifling development of that area. There must have been a possibility that it may be a threat to some other area of the province, Mr. Speaker.

The mussel farm down in St. Ann's Bay, four years of pure struggle by an independent company to get final permission to invest in the area, to grow food which - what more natural of an industry could you have by growing food in a natural bay? Mr. Speaker, four years is a long time for a private business to have to hold on and struggle, and invest, wait and hope, and finally get approval. Now it's great that it was approved but what about other companies who would like to come in and invest? Who would have the tenacity or the basic down-to-earth guts to hang in there that long to get that kind of approval? We are killing our own investment by having things drawn out too far.

We've got departments going overboard. Let me explain that, Mr. Speaker. I'm on the phone to the local work crews of the Department of Transportation. How about fixing such and such an area? What about the pot holes here? Well, they tell me, Gerald, in order to do that they have to shut down a lane of the highway. What is the problem? Small crew? Two hours to close the lane and to reopen it again because of the Department of Labour rules that interfere with the Department of Transportation and Public Works. They have to put up so many barriers, so many barrels, so many pylons. By the time they do that, then it takes five minutes to fix that hole, then it is another hour to remove all the pylons, all the barrels and all the signs, whereas some legislation or the passing of a few proper rules allow a truck with a flashing light board on it and somebody directing traffic. They could go out and prepare - a five-minute pothole should not take 2 hours and five minutes; that's killing rural economy. We are fighting our own all the time with these rules and regulations. You have to have rules, yes, but these are backward rules that have to be changed.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's touch on the assessment of Nova Scotia Power - affects rural areas. The area that I represent has one power plant in it. Nova Scotia Power does not want negative publicity about their assessment. When I receive my bill, I pay it; I pay what I'm billed. Nova Scotia Power pays what they are billed and if they billed the proper amount then that would be it; but no, they're being billed at a rate that is unreal.

[Page 2429]

What about rural hospitals? Let's talk about the Buchanan Memorial Hospital down in Neils Harbour - four and a half hours to travel from there to Sydney for a person to give birth. Who would like to move into an area like that with services that are that remote that they have to travel? (Interruption) That's on the present roads, Mr. Minister, yes, you ought to try it. If you travel any faster than that you'd be airborne. You would need a helmet on to keep your head from hitting the roof of your car because of the potholes and the frost bumps. Since you were down there, we have RCMP and speed limits in place now, Mr. Minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for the honourable member has elapsed.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I think it's very timely that this topic come forward under Resolution No. 485 for discussion today before the House. It is an important issue but it's not an issue that's isolated only to Nova Scotia, it's an issue with regard to depopulation and, indeed, the rural/ urban divide that is occurring throughout the country and, in fact, North America.

We've seen this decline not just since 1981, this has been decades and decades in the making and it's something we all share concern for those who live outside a metropolitan area or a growing area in this province. Something that we do not take lightly or take for granted in terms of its significance for our areas who we, that are from these areas affected, choose to call home, want to make it a better home and a better quality and quantity living for all.

The issue we're trying to deal with is addressing population change by addressing economic opportunities and advancing them, growing opportunities from the adversities we find ourselves in, and there are some realities we've faced. This government has faced some head on, has faced them in an open and transport manner and did it so we have created debate over what we should do, but we've created results because we've taken action.

This government has moved to ensure that the interests of small business, of growing economic and industrial opportunities for regions has been advanced in this province. I do want to say that you don't do it by saying there just is a blanket solution. It's region by region, community by community. That's why this government has provided multi-year funding to our regional development authorities. That's why our government introduced a small business loans' program working with credit unions that are in the communities. The decision making over those small business loans, Mr. Speaker, are made by local and regional committees not by head office here in metro.

We're doing that because we've listened to what small business and communities want and we've responded with actions and with programs. When we talk about immigration and, in fact, in Question Period and the issues around the Provincial Nominee Program, it is very important. We have to recognize immigration as a cornerstone to new activity, to new

[Page 2430]

investment and a presence of new Nova Scotians that will help to stimulate and diversify rural and regional communities. It's essential that we recognize what the drivers are behind this. Again, it is not just simply picking apart every problem, it's building solutions through opportunities, opportunities that are only met by a government that is listening and working and participating in the solutions for a better tomorrow; solutions, I heard my honourable colleague, the member for Victoria-The Lakes.

We'll talk about issues - and I want to look at Victoria County because I think it's a prime example, where he talks about talking about population decline.

Well, Mr. Speaker, for almost the last 15 years they've had a Liberal MLA in that area who was, by the way, a Cabinet Minister in a past government before they were thrown out. The Liberal MLA, working with the Liberal warden of the time, Mr. Sampson, were at a stalemate, they were at a standstill. It took the Tories to go in and make the fix and to make it a right one, to work with them in Victoria County.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes talked about Ski Cape Smokey, something I was very proud of as Economic Development Minister, to go in on the grassroots and work with community to diversify. Mr. Speaker, while the Liberals had an MLA there, they wanted and were silent when the hill was empty. Well, there have been people skiing all year because our government got in there, supported and worked with those individuals from the community because they want a year-round tourism opportunity, year-round community opportunities, wellness for the citizens there to have recreational diversity. That's because the Progressive Conservatives came on the scene and fixed a dilemma the Liberals tried to ignore.

Investing in infrastructure, the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works, $15 million to upgrade the Seal Island Bridge, an economic corridor in and out of Victoria County to the CBRM, to ensure that the prosperity of that region is enhanced for the long-term future. Infrastructure commitments by this minister have seen additional lane exchanges put in and passing lanes in that area so that new economic opportunities for the gypsum mill in that area can be realized; economic opportunities that are employing people in and around this region in rural areas, are dealt with by investments that are strategic, they're realistic and they're reasonable to meet the solution to a demand that we face.

He talked about tourism. The honourable member, as warden, would have been in Baddeck a lot and Baddeck has grown. Baddeck came to a stalemate that they couldn't move past because of their infrastructure. When the honourable member for Antigonish was Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, he knew to break that stalemate, we had to make strategic investments in that community so that community could grow in water and sewer. So now what do we see? More tourism operations expanding, more investments by private business and private enterprise in that community and more jobs being created and sustained thanks to Tories taking in the Liberals and helping bolster them up when they were void of real solutions and ideas.

[Page 2431]

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about our commitment to tourism again, and culture, in this community when we look at Highland Village with over $300,000 a year, thanks to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, investing in and making it part of the Nova Scotia museum network. Let's not forget the Minister of Education who supported and endorsed the community's desire and the school board's desire to see a new Rankin Memorial High School and junior complex. That's being built and it will be there for the future of our community, for the youth we want to educate. Education and educational infrastructure is a priority for this government. It's not words, it is action by the Progressive Conservatives.

Mr. Speaker, major capital investments in Keltic Lodge, major capital investments in a lodge that is a signature resort in this province, is an icon that this government has not neglected or negated in significance and ensures that people continue to have quality employment, that that can anchor other development around it; a commitment we will not be wavering on. That is why when you culminate all these great things that have been happening, positive things, dealing in a proactive manner, that National Geographic has named Cape Breton Island as the number two place in the world to visit and that was because of efforts of community and government coming together to overcome some of the challenges that we face and we have made health investments as was indicated in the area. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This is maybe as much a point of information as anything. When that government got elected, Cape Breton Island was rated by that same internationally-renowned institution as being number one.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy has the floor.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, with the preponderance and weighted balance of Liberals on the island, no wonder we're slipping, but that's going to change. That's changing as Cape Bretoners went from one representative to two Tories and the stats are coming up and as we elect more Progressive Conservatives, indeed, that will change and it will change.

I see the member for Victoria-The Lakes, my colleague from that area, Mr. Speaker, I do have to say I have an apology to offer to this House. During Question Period, I referred to the honourable member as Foghorn Leghorn, and I meant no offence to the original Foghorn Leghorn at all.

I heard that member, Mr. Speaker, talk about Sysco, but he's not talking about the investments, the employment of former steel workers and the remediation and redevelopment of that site. He's not talking about this government's commitment to get on with the cleanup of the tar ponds, which will create jobs in that area and provide the type of momentum that National Geographic says is going to help us grow to the number one position. Guess what? Where are the federal Liberals? We are still waiting, because they won't put their dime on the table.

[Page 2432]

The honourable member talks about 90 acres on the Sysco site. If we gave it to the member for Victoria-The Lakes, his slogan would be, give me 90 acres, and I'll turn the economy around. Mr. Speaker, we could give him 900 acres, 9,000 acres, but void of any ideas and concrete policy, is going nowhere. That is why this government is creating jobs and working with real businesses that employ real Cape Bretoners. You want to talk about the types of things that mean something to our communities.

If we want to deal with depopulation, if we want to deal with the real challenge of turning that around, we have to deal with practical pragmatic solutions that meet with the talent, the aspirations and the ability of the people that are in those regions today and send a positive message, a message that says we are open for business in Nova Scotia and on Cape Breton Island. Cape Breton has much to offer in the Strait area. We are seeing examples of communities coming together, leading their future and providing a better destiny and opportunities for all concerned. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'll be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Pictou West. I want to say what a different world I see than the minister who just spoke. I do want to say that if they are skiing all year-round in Cape Breton, he is doing something miraculous but I think for the rest of the province it is all downhill.

Mr. Speaker it has been five years that this government has been in power, and we still have depopulation of rural Nova Scotia. We still have a decline in the number of farmers in Nova Scotia. The forestry sector has been in a downturn for about three years now, although not entirely the fault of this government. I want to say that if you are going to talk about rural Nova Scotia, you have to talk about rural resources in Nova Scotia. The closure of Avon Foods is going to have a dramatic impact in the Valley. There has been basically, if not abandonment, an abuse of rural Nova Scotia by this government. We saw it first with the cuts to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. The former Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries spoke earlier, and I would have liked to see the present minister actually speak to this regard.

One of the selling points in agriculture in this province is the fact that we do have an educated industry. Farmers in Nova Scotia are educated farmers, a lot of them have gone through the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. We have a diversified agriculture. This is a tribute to those people. This is not a tribute to the government. This is their initiative to try to survive in an ever-changing world and they have put out a magnificent effort to do that. But yet, resources have not been there to help them and the province - and I cannot figure out why - they still put $2.2 million into a company that actually is a Crown Corporation but seems to deem itself a private corporation. There have been no accolades from the industry in this regard and I would like if the minister could someday show us a price list of services

[Page 2433]

and a cost for those services, I'd really like to see it. Unless something has changed he's the shareholder for this company.

[5:45 p.m.]

When I leave here this evening, I'm going to the volunteer awards in Hants East. If there is a group of people who sustain and promote their communities, it's the volunteers in this province. They do it hour after hour, day after day, week after week for nothing, for no monetary reward, they do it for their own personal reward. There's been more downloading onto communities and volunteers to try to sustain rural communities since this government came into power than any previous government. They should really be ashamed of themselves for what they've done.

This morning I met with the Women's Institute of Upper Nine Mile River - they wanted to talk about agriculture. Their funding has been cut by about $10,000 since this government came into power. So what support this government has shown for rural Nova Scotia, I'm not sure where it's at, but the people in those communities don't see it.

Mr. Speaker, if there's any message that I can give, and I have one of the best tourist areas in this province along Route 215, part of the Glooscap Trail, Burntcoat Head - where the highest tides in the world were measured - three river rafting companies; Walton Lighthouse, which is the last remaining original lighthouse in Hants East; Anthony Provincial Park; Maitland, a heritage district in this province; the Lawrence House, and on and on; not to mention Uniacke House in Mount Uniacke, but on Route 215 there is all of that and one of the worst roads in Nova Scotia. But not the worst because I've had the minister over the worst one in Hants East and I'm sure he'll respond by doing the appropriate duty for the people in that area.

With that, I'll relinquish my time, but if this government is going to do something for rural Nova Scotia, I'd like to see it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, it's a privilege to have a few minutes to talk about the problem that we all face - rural depopulation in this province. While the minister spoke earlier about some of the initiatives, some of the good things that they've been doing, the bare truth of the matter is that people are still leaving many of the rural counties in this province - 13 out of 18 counties in this province are suffering under fewer people than they did five years ago. It continues to be a problem. It's a problem we have to continually work at. While some government initiatives may have been working, the bottom line is that people are still leaving rural Nova Scotia and coming to HRM or other parts of Canada.

[Page 2434]

In fact, looking at a report that was done recently called Painting the Landscape of Rural Nova Scotia, it points out that in our province in rural Nova Scotia, the average age is higher than in urban areas, our unemployment rates are substantially higher and there are less people employed in forestry, farming and in the fishery. The counties in particular that are having the largest depopulation are Guysborough, Richmond and Cape Breton. Our young people in particular are the ones leaving our counties and going elsewhere and the reason they're doing that, of course, is that there's just no jobs, no employment for them. I've got a couple of suggestions or ideas I want to mention in the short time I have, how we might turn that problem around.

In the fishery, one of the problems is when a young person wants to get into the fishery and buy boats and gear and licences from his father or his grandfather or anybody that's in the community he wants to buy from, there's something called the inter-generational transfer and that's difficult to happen because of the tax implications. I would suggest this government could work with the federal government under the CCRA rules, as has the Province of Quebec to find a way to make that easier to transfer boats and gear and licences. That's one thing that would keep young people in rural Nova Scotia if they're able to find an easy way into the fishery.

In fact, the way the fishery is set up right now, it's becoming very concentrated and the large corporate interests are taking over and I think it's important that we try to stop that, try to prevent it because in time if all the corporate interests own the resource then our people are leaving and those who are left are almost serfs or employees of the big corporations.

The same thing is true in the forest industry. There's a very large concentration of ownership of the forest resource by the large industrial owners; in fact, between what the government owns as Crown land and what is owned by large industrial interests, it's more than the small private interests. So I think we have to work to ensure that there's a diversity, that ownership is spread around and it's not all concentrated in the hands of the corporate few.

Transportation. I believe we're all aware of the very poor condition of our secondary roads. They've been described as atrocious, deplorable and I think we need to put an investment into our roads and our bridges in this province to overcome the deficit that we have in the usage of our secondary roads. Much more could be done and it would help tourism as well.

Working with groups such as, in my constituency, Alma-Mount Thom, the strategic planning group that want to diversify the economy by building up better roads, by using provincial parks more fully - seeing them perhaps in conjunction with a private owner or in government hands built into a full park. So I guess the bottom line is, my suggestions are to stop the corporatization of our resource industries and work with families in our communities

[Page 2435]

- certainly strong rural families yield strong communities, which makes for a better province. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, it's with pleasure, and sort of regret that we have to talk about this topic in the Legislature this evening. You look at the people who are moving away from the rural areas into the bigger cities or just simply moving out of the province, which is even more serious, and if you look in my area which is not considered to be a rural area, but you look in particular in the Prestons with a really high rate of unemployment in some areas, a lot of families are forced to go to Toronto or Montreal to work, and it separates the family in an area where the families are a very important structure, the most important structure in the whole community. I think that has to stop; it has to stop. We have to have opportunities here in Nova Scotia to keep our best and brightest young people here to make our economy grow, and grow in a solid manner.

I asked the Minister of Economic Development earlier today, with all the outpouring of jobs and job losses and the increase in the unemployment rate in many areas of the province - and I didn't mention the Prestons - but when you look at the numbers in rural out-migration and the problems that people have been having, the numbers are in the thousands, and the total today which we talked about was over 10,000 jobs gone. Over 10,000 jobs gone out of Nova Scotia and the minister gets up and tells me there's 3,000 new jobs - well that's a 7,000 job negative number, especially when it comes to the rural areas, where the population is getting older and young people are moving away. The opportunities just aren't going to be there if the young people all move away - the entrepreneurs who start businesses and do things and make sure there are businesses there and people there to follow.

You know, the basic things, the things that you need most - we need basic Internet service all over Nova Scotia, and I don't see the government with an initiative to make that happen. We need cell phone service all over the province to make sure that there are good communications all over the province. You need roads; you need good roads and I can tell you from driving in my riding, which used to be a PC riding, there hasn't been any money spent there in a long time and some of the roads (Interruptions) Yeah, so when you look at that and you look at the poor condition of the roads that I'm sure the honourable Minister of Transportation has every intention in the world of repairing, but the question is when? That would be the real question.

It's been quite a problem. The infrastructure like that in an area where it's impossible for people to safely go to work - and I might add that I've got four broken springs out of the springs I do have in my car, which all have to be replaced for riding over our great roads. (Interruption) So there's a lot of laughter from the other side and it may be funny to some people, I can afford to fix my car, but there are a lot of people in my riding who can't afford to fix their cars and people who have to fix them themselves. Again, it may be funny, but

[Page 2436]

there's a lot of people who can't afford to fix their cars and they need those cars to go to work. So when you look at the basic infrastructure and the structure that has to be there to encourage rural economic development, it simply isn't there.

Rural Nova Scotia is one of the finest places to live in the whole world. I'm privileged and we all are privileged to live here in Nova Scotia but we've got to put a structure in place so that the people who want to stay here, or the people who want to move here from away - and I have a lot of neighbours who have moved from away, they're here to retire, a lot of expertise that isn't being used. It would be nice if they would come at a lot younger age and start businesses here and develop businesses and make the economy grow, but that's not going to happen under the present government, from what I can see.

It's so important to keep our young people here and make sure that they are generating the businesses that have to be generated in the province to make our economy grow. I will give you an example. When I was first elected in 1993 - and I'll probably get some laughter out of this from the government over here, but it wasn't a funny matter because tourism on the Eastern Shore at that time was less than 1 per cent of the total tourism in the province. So from 1993 to 1999, we had double-digit growth in tourism. I'm looking at the most recent statistics and we've got double-digit decline in tourism in that same area and that's disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful. A place that has unemployment rates probably in some of the areas approaching 60 per cent, and a population very elderly, despite the efforts of the Seaside Tourism Committee that has been absolutely instrumental in doing a tremendous amount of work. At the same time, you see the numbers decline.

That's real jobs, that's jobs in local communities, that's jobs in the summertime particularly for young people who want to go to university and be able to stay at home, enjoy at least a short while at home before they have to move out of the province or move out of the area. These things have to be addressed. It's so important that they are addressed and addressed immediately. I would ask the government to consider these things and also move towards getting a situation in this province set up so that our young people can stay here, work here and live here.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for debate has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader for tomorrow's hours.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, before requesting adjournment, I was wondering if we could have the consent of the House to return to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2437]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 57 - Cemetery and Funeral Services Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The House will convene at 2:00 p.m. for the presentation of the budget and, following that, the Leader of the Official Opposition will commence his remarks in reply to the Budget Speech, then adjourn that and go into the daily routine. Following Question Period, we will go into Public Bills for Second Reading starting with the adjourned debate on Bill No. 48. We will move forward, and I would imagine that in all probability we will adjourn sometime before 8:00 p.m. tomorrow evening. So with those few words, I move that the House do now rise.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Government House Leader if we've agreed on Friday morning that the continuation of the speeches on the Budget Speech from the Opposition Leader and our spokesman would conclude the business Friday morning as well?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is correct. That's the only business for Friday. We will commence at 9:00 a.m. and we will complete the address by the Leader of the Official Opposition and then by the Leader of the Third Party and then we'll adjourn.

[6:00 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: So the debate on estimates will start on Monday?

[Page 2438]

MR. RUSSELL: The debate on estimates will start on Monday and we'll be sitting on Monday from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The House is now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

We've reached the moment of interruption. Tonight's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize the positive enhancements being made every day for Nova Scotia seniors by the Hamm Government but also realize how much more could be done if the federal government recognized the importance of seniors.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

SENIORS - HAMM GOV'T.: ENHANCEMENTS - RECOGNIZE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise tonight and a special privilege to speak on a topic that I feel very, very passionate about. In that context, I would like to advise all honourable members who don't know that today is the Queen of England's birthday, and being a firm believer in the monarchy and not really a staunch monarchist, I just wanted to acknowledge that. My colleague, the member for Colchester North is a very staunch monarchist. The Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II is 78 years young today and I think we have been well served by our Queen.

Mr. Speaker, I know the honourable member for Hants East spoke briefly about volunteers during the last resolution we were speaking on. The Whip with our Party today was kind enough to give me a leave of absence for a couple of hours and I had the privilege of attending an extremely well attended volunteer ceremony in my community. I would say approximately 80 per cent of the dozens and dozens of volunteers at Braeside - which is a home for special care for senior citizens. We did have some young people and middle-aged people there because once in a while I have the privilege and honour of going in and playing a few tunes and speaking with the seniors. As well, I was lucky enough to receive a lapel pin and I'm extremely pleased. As you know, all members have lapel pins and it's quite an honour when people in your community bestow a little bit of significance on you as an individual.

Make no mistake about it, our government cares deeply about seniors in this province and before I go into my remarks, I want to share a little philosophy with you that some of you might already be aware of. I'm going to try to stick to these notes I put together, which is a

[Page 2439]

bit unusual, but I would like to do that. Mr. Speaker, did you ever stop to think that hard times mean nothing to a hen? She just keeps digging worms and laying eggs, regardless of what the media are saying in the local area and across the world. She just keeps digging and working hard and laying eggs. If the ground is hard, you know what? The hen scratches a little harder and if it's dry she digs a little deeper and if she strikes a rock, she works around the rock. But she always digs up worms and turns them into hard-shelled profits as well as tender broilers. Did you ever see a pessimistic hen? Did you ever know of one starving to death, waiting for worms to bring themselves to the surface? Did you ever hear one cackle because times were hard? Not on your life. She saves her breath for digging and her cackle for eggs.

Seniors today constitute one of, if not the fastest growing population in Canada. There are approximately 4 million seniors representing close to 13 per cent of this country's population. Seniors population is also expected to grow in the new millennium and that, by the year 2016, 16 per cent of all Canadians will be 65 years of age and over. By the year 2041, an estimated one in every four people living in Canada will be a senior.

There are a number of superlative programs being offered by my government for seniors such as access-a-home, community accessibility program, community transportation program, home adaptions for seniors' independence, home care, mobility disability licence plates and permits, Seniors' Pharmacare, seniors' property tax rebate - which, I might add, our government reinstituted after the cruel withdrawal of it by the former Liberal Government - Senior Citizens Assistance Program which provides assistance to senior citizen homeowners who wish to remain in their home but cannot afford to carry out the necessary repairs, Senior Citizens' Secretariat.

Our government believes it is imperative for seniors to be able to express their concerns and interests to a government organization that will not only listen to the concerns of seniors, but react to their circumstances. Having the Senior Citizens' Secretariat staff to turn to for support and direction is a positive government initiative; something I might add again that did not seem overly important to the previous Liberal Administration which cut back resources at that particular office.

I find it somewhat ironic to be on my feet this evening urging the federal government to do more. No doubt, the Third Party will try to show that the martinis government is doing, pardon me (Interruption) Well, you can call it the martinites or the martini government is doing all, but one has to listen if they will, and if you have an opportunity the Mississauga South Liberal MP, Paul Szabo, is calling upon his own government to amend the Criminal Code for those who are convicted of either defrauding seniors or abusing seniors.

Our government through our Minister of Justice has pleaded time and time again with the federal government in Ottawa to do something about senior abuse in this country, Canada, Mr. Speaker. One of the government's own backbenchers sees the need for something to

[Page 2440]

happen when a senior is taken advantage of because of their vulnerability. We have seen it happen here in Nova Scotia quite a bit in recent years. Our government strongly believes in more rigid punishment for those who abuse seniors. Mr. Szabo also expressed concern Health Canada has lost its closeness to people and he is calling upon and he will get no argument from this side of the house about a physician general for Canada responsible to guide and advise seniors on appropriate care. The MP offered a number of other interesting perspectives but I realize I only probably have time to share a few of the MP's thoughts with members of this Legislature.

I want to reiterate that our government is working hard on behalf of seniors in this province, we have limited resources but our government says and our Premier stated emphatically, that health care, education and a balanced budget are a priority for this government and they are a priority for members on this side of the House. Yes, the Minister of Finance and all my colleagues have been working very hard to come in with a budget. The budget will be tabled tomorrow and you can bet without sharing any details, that that budget will continue, as past budgets have, to support our seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia. There isn't one member in this House or one Party that has a monopoly or somehow has political possession of the senior population in the Province of Nova Scotia.

We all work very hard on behalf of our seniors and I'm extremely proud of the steps, the positive steps, that we have taken on behalf of our senior population in this province. I know that I have only approximately a minute, a minute and a half left and I want to wind up by saying that just this year we put $12 million additional into Pharmacare. Also this year, 750 additional seniors across Nova Scotia will be exempt from the Pharmacare premium, and that's good news to the senior population out there that is struggling so hard to make ends meet, another positive step that we have taken as a government, and they're steps that we have supported unanimously on behalf of our senior citizens out there.

We would like to do more, and I believe tomorrow, when our budget is tabled, Mr. Speaker, when the details are disclosed to all members in the House, we will once again be able to take our place and proudly say, in the Nova Scotia Legislature, the home of the first responsible government in the old British Empire, that once again we have worked very hard to deliver on behalf of the seniors in this great Province of Nova Scotia.

Just in the last few seconds I want to acknowledge, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, that it is one of the first times that I have had to speak when you are in the Chair, and I appreciate very much your indulgence with my few remarks on seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: I rise to speak on the resolution. I am absolutely flabbergasted with the presentation that was presented by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. When the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley

[Page 2441]

was on this side of the floor and not sitting on the government side of the House, that honourable member could speak from the heart on the issues of seniors. The honourable member, today, spoke from a prepared text, and I want to tell you that I thought that there would be a litany of information to the Nova Scotians out there who are listening to this Legislative Assembly and who will read Hansard on a future day that they would see the kind of programs and services that his Tory Government has brought in to power since they came into office in 1999.

Mr. Speaker, that honourable member over there, the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, has had his lips sealed by the Cabinet Minister, not to say anything that might put this government on the spot with respect to its situation and addressing the issues that are needed by seniors. Also, when that member was on this side of the House, that member stood up here and introduced a piece of legislation asking for free licences for seniors, free fishing licences for seniors, not hunting licences, free fishing licences for seniors. That honourable member, once he got on the other side of the House, no longer requested free fishing licences for seniors, but he requested a reduced fee for fishing licences for seniors. That member completely walked lockstep with the government and the Cabinet Ministers and said no way will I . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I take exception to that latest diatribe by the honourable member for Dartmouth North. The fact of the matter is I'm very proud that the seniors receive a $12 reduction, and the seniors in my riding - I don't know if the honourable member is getting calls in Dartmouth North, but I haven't had one call from a senior complaining about paying $5 for an environmental fee to help restock our watercourses. The seniors were complaining when they had to pay $17.75. If that honourable member can table the names of seniors who are complaining about paying an environmental fee to help stock our watercourses, then let him stand up and table those names.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member just chose to occupy as much of my time as possible, so that I wouldn't tell him about the actions of his government. The actions of his government, as a matter of fact, are the same as the former government, taking out of seniors' pockets to provide for a fee for long-term care in nursing homes. As a matter of fact, it was not enough just to pay the shelter fee for seniors who had to go into nursing homes and long-term care, it was a matter of those paying for the medications and health care services that were provided by those nursing homes and long-term care.

It was because of our Party and our Official Opposition status so that that Party and the former Liberal Party would recognize that we come here with a voice, speaking on behalf of seniors. Seniors have abandoned both the Liberal Party and the Progressive Conservative

[Page 2442]

Party because they have not addressed the seniors' issues. As a matter of fact, those two political Parties have placed more of a burden on seniors in the last 10 years than any other political Party in the history of this province. Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that there were over 24,000 petitions put through this Legislative Assembly on nursing home and long-term care expenses to Nova Scotians, to senior Nova Scotians, that were taken out of the pockets by both of those political Parties.

As a matter of fact, I just want to go into your particular area, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, of Pictou, and I remember a family - and I know that I can mention the name of this family because this family was mentioned, and it was because of the media and our political Party that that family now has access to its property. If not, the Progressive Conservative Government of the day was going to pull everything from that family. That family, in fact, was the MacKinnon family of Pictou.

Mr. Speaker, that family had to challenge this government on the right to continue to keep its woodlot so that it could create firewood to keep the home fires burning. That family had to turn around and challenge this government, and thanks to the media and this Party, again challenged this government on keeping a small portion of the farmland in which it did have for the development, as well for their own personal use to do that small bit of agriculture, to maintain in existence, because that family was living on a modest income.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that's the kind of action that has been caused by that political Party. That political Party of which the honourable member who brought this resolution forward is a member, is the same political Party that upped the seniors' fees this year to $54. I have e-mails. If that honourable member wants to walk to the office of Dartmouth North, I will show you e-mails where there are a number of seniors who have sent e-mails saying that they're going to opt out of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program because they're on that border, they're on that very border of the basic minimum amount in which they cannot qualify. So, in turn, they have to pay that additional $54, which brings it up to $390 compared to the $330 they were paying before.

You tell me that that's a progressive government toward seniors? Mr. Speaker, how can a member of this Legislative Assembly, who has been here longer than I have, who has watched the actions of this Legislature, say that that government stands in compassion to the seniors of this particular province, the cost of seniors with respect to long-term care.

Home care is another issue. This government has done everything to reduce the home care services to those seniors by way of going in and doing evaluations and assessments of those seniors for what they need and then cut back on the home care programs that they normally had for approximately 10 to 15 years.

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Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that there is absolutely no way that that government, or the government before it, can stand here and say that it shakes the hands of seniors and that no one owns the rights of seniors. We have consistently fought the seniors' issues in this Legislative Assembly far more in the last five years since I've been in this Legislature and my Party's been in this Legislature than any move by any other political Party. Why do you think, Mr. Speaker, there's a shift? There's a shift in where the seniors' are parking their vote and they are parking their vote because they know that there's a political Party here that speaks for them. They're parking their vote because they know that we argued on the issues such as the Alzheimer's drugs - 80 per cent of all the other provinces cover that. This province doesn't cover all the Alzheimer's drugs that are needed for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, there has also been cuts in services to rural hospitals. Seniors who live in rural communities, rural communities like the community in which the honourable member who brought the resolution forward is a member. Those rural communities have seen cuts in their rural hospital programs. Those seniors now have to travel outside their communities for routine tests such as blood tests, blood work, and other medical services. Are you telling me, Mr. Speaker, and is this House going to tell me that that's a government that's compassionate and caring about seniors?

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I want to go back because I could spend another 20 minutes on this and I wish the time wouldn't go so fast. I want to go back to the Pharmacare Program which that honourable member mentioned twice. In five years, that Pharmacare Program has been increased by that political Party twice, twice, and that political Party didn't increase the Pharmacare Program last year only because it was an election year.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that this government that professes to be compassionate, caring, understanding and value seniors, better reflect that in tomorrow's budget. If that reflection does not exist in tomorrow's budget, I, as a member of this political Party, will be standing here watching what that government uses and takes from seniors to balance its budget.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has expired.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm left shaking my head in awe and wonderment of the previous speakers because I'm left wondering about the pomposity of the NDP which thinks it's the only Party in Nova Scotia that cares about seniors and I'm left wondering at the audacity of the Tories who would even bring this resolution forward. How great they think they have done on behalf of seniors and as the resolution states, they think they should recognize the positive enhancements by the Hamm Government for seniors.

[Page 2444]

Mr. Speaker, seniors are paying more for Pharmacare in this province despite a commitment from that government when they were in Opposition, to eliminate the premiums. Some seniors are now paying about $652 more since the Hamm Government came into power. Is that what you would call a positive enhancement? Some seniors are not able to stay in their own homes in this province. Would you consider that a positive enhancement for seniors in this province? Some seniors as you know - let me refer back to the incident at Happy Haven, we remember Happy Haven and what happened there. In one instance there was a couple that was married for 50-plus years and despite what this government said they were separated, they were separated seniors.

Despite what this government said they would do they didn't modernize the Homes for Special Care Act, that hasn't been done. Is that a positive enhancement for seniors? They charge individuals, a lot of them seniors, $50 more a day to stay in a hospital bed when they're waiting to get into a long-term care bed. Is that what you would call a positive enhancement for seniors in this province? All the money the government has received, for instance, for the Affordable Housing Program, nothing in terms of an expansion to the Senior Citizens' Assistance Program. Is that a positive enhancement for seniors as this resolution pretends to put forward that the Hamm Government is doing?

I would be totally remiss if I didn't mention those 500 new user fees that are there now. User fees that are going to have to be paid by seniors in this province, well my, oh my, what a wonderful, positive enhancement put forward by the Hamm Government, now that seniors in this province have to pay more. There's an increase in ambulance fees from $105-$120 for seniors, a lot of whom require the usage of an ambulance to get to hospital, transfer them back and forth or whatever the case may be. My what a positive enhancement for seniors.

User fees for home support, from $8-$10 and throw in a means test as well, but a positive enhancement for seniors. A new home support, cancelled visit fee, another $50 if a client is unable for whatever reason to get around to cancelling an appointment. What a very positive enhancement for seniors in this province. Of course, I wouldn't have time to go into detail on the other 497 user fee increases, taxes whatever you want to call them, many of which are going to impact directly or indirectly on seniors throughout this province.

Of course seniors are spending hours on end in emergency rooms across this province. My, what a positive enhancement in health care for seniors. They wait days, months, sometimes years for orthopaedic surgery in the capital district, to get hip replacements or knee replacements. My, Mr Speaker, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley must think that is a very positive enhancement. On his behalf and on his government's behalf seniors are waiting for more hospital beds in this province. Long-term care beds are tied up with seniors, acute care beds are not available, wait lists grow all the time in this province. What a wonderful, positive enhancement on behalf of the Hamm Government and seniors in this province.

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Mr. Speaker, in the meantime while all of those nasty things are happening to seniors, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley takes up the time in this House to talk about the little hen scratching for worms; the little hen who can't find a worm scratches harder to find the worm. Some of our seniors would be happy to have a worm. They'd be happy to have anything from this government because in the almost five years that this government has been in power, nothing has been done for seniors in this province. They are at a disadvantage, but what's actually happening here . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Just 30 seconds, I would like to say that the honourable member hasn't come within a country mile of addressing the fact that his federal cousins in Ottawa have a billion dollars out of health care in Nova Scotia in the last 10 years. A billion dollars in the Province of Nova Scotia, struggling to make ends meet and provide for our seniors.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order. The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, you know the member brings up a point, let me comment on the point. I will tell you one thing, and I've heard from seniors who are sick and tired of hearing that government blame things on Ottawa because they know the difference and they won't take it any longer.

Let me tell you what's really behind this. What's really behind this is the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, this is sort of like an annual rite of Spring. When Spring comes along, we love to hear the birds chirping and the weather is better and everybody starts to feel better, it's that time of the year. But this is an annual rite of Spring, a passage of Spring that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley celebrates every year because this is the time of year when he chooses a subject that's a difficult subject to try to justify what the government is doing and he brings it up in the House to say, my, what a great job we're doing.

It's the annual kissing up to the Premier to try and get in Cabinet. That's what this is a case of from the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Every time at this time of the year, this member decides, I'm going to speak out - for the few times that I do speak out in the Legislature - I'm going to take a subject that I in no way could justify or give any kind of credence to whatsoever, but I will speak on behalf of the government because I want the Premier and everybody to know that I still believe in them and I'd still like to get into Cabinet.

Well, the same thing will happen again. This time the same thing will happen as every Spring that passes by, every Spring that goes, they'll realize, you ain't getting in. There's no way that we're going to let you in because we have memories and we're going to remember what happened in the past. So you can take all of the cases that you want to and pretend that you're speaking on behalf of seniors in this province, the real reason will always come out -

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it's just that, an annual rite of Spring on behalf of the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley to pick a difficult subject and to stand up and kind of take one for the team, I guess. That's another way of putting it because no one else over there would dare try to stand up and say what a great job that we are doing on behalf of seniors in this province.

As the member for Dartmouth North has pointed out, rather eloquently, this government has hurt seniors. This government has hurt seniors in this province in the almost five years that it has been in power. This government has cost seniors money, this government has made seniors take a back seat on a lot of issues. This government has not put forward one positive idea, one positive enhancement as this resolution refers to. A positive enhancement being made on behalf of seniors - this government is remiss in its duty to seniors in this province. This government has been responsible for a sorry and a sad state that seniors now find themselves in. It is this government that ultimately will pay the price and seniors will see to that. There's a growing senior population in this province as there is across this country and seniors will ultimately see to it that this government pays the ultimate price which may not come or may come after tomorrow, after the much ballyhooed budget that we're supposed to hear about and how great it's supposed to treat seniors.

Again, as the member for Dartmouth North said, we'll be watching, we'll be watching and we'll be listening and let's hear the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley stand up tomorrow after the budget and say what a great job that government is doing for seniors. Let's hear him at that point because we'll be over here watching.

But, even more so than members of the Opposition benches watching, seniors in Nova Scotia who have witnessed this debacle here tonight, on behalf of the member, will be watching as well. They'll be saying, well, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and the government are saying they have done positive enhancements for seniors so let's put your money where your mouth is. In this case, this government has not done that on behalf of seniors in this province. As I said, this government has cost seniors in this province a lot. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for late debate has expired.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]

[Page 2447]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1008

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Hillcrest Academy French Teacher John MacKay recently arranged a French expo at the school; and

Whereas the theme of the expo was entitled Collections and consisted of a number of presentations going on in the classroom all at once; and

Whereas among the many collections put forth for the expo was an eraser collection by Grade 5 student Johnny Butler who showed those attending virtually any eraser imaginable, no matter the shape or size;

Therefore be it resolved that Hillcrest academy Teacher John MacKay be recognized by MLAs this afternoon for his leadership in arranging the French expo and congratulate all students for participating and showing their collections.

RESOLUTION NO. 1009

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Economic Development)

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

Whereas Jungle Jim's Restaurant in Amherst is now approaching their 1st Anniversary which will happen in July; and

Whereas Jungle Jim's is a successful casual restaurant concept where guests can feel just as much at home whether with family, friends or business associates; and

Whereas Jungle Jim's Amherst owner Terry Comeau has invited all MLAs driving through or near Amherst to come in for some great food as the broad menu includes Jungle Jim's famous buffalo wings any style you dare, rhino ribs fallin' off the bone, huge sirloin burgers, tender chicken - in fact, everything including the kitchen sink!;

[Page 2448]

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend owner Terry Comeau and his management and staff for bringing a whole new flavour to dining out in Amherst and Cumberland County and wish them nothing but continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 1010

By: Hon. James Muir (Education)

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

Whereas Fred Burke was honoured as the 2003 Outstanding Male Senior Athlete at the Truro Sport Heritage Society 20th Annual Sport Awards dinner;

Whereas Fred Burke has been competing at snooker and billiards for over 60 years, won his first major championship in 1952 and has competed in international snooker competitions in Las Vegas and in one, finished seventh in the world;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Fred Burke for being named Male Senior Athlete of the year by the Truro Sport Heritage Society.

RESOLUTION NO. 1011

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Grade 7 students from Parrsboro Regional High School put much effort into creating the winning sculpture in the junior division; and

Whereas the students were competing in the recyclable art contest during the winter carnival at PRHS in February 2004; and

Whereas the junior division winners team included Opal Card, Hanna Warren, Jonathan Guilderson and Jordan Erb;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these members of the Grade 7 class of Parrsboro Regional High School on this achievement and congratulate them on their understanding of such an important issue as recycling.

[Page 2449]

RESOLUTION NO. 1012

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Grade 11 students from Parrsboro Regional High School put much effort into creating the winning sculpture in the senior division; and

Whereas the students were competing in the recyclable art contest during the winter carnival at PRHS in February 2004; and

Whereas the senior division winners team included Ulnke Becker, Nicole McGrath, Kyle Harvey and Justin Clarke;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these members of the Grade 11 class of Parrsboro Regional High School on this achievement and congratulate them on their understanding of such an important issue as recycling.

RESOLUTION NO. 1013

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Carla Black, owner of Carla's Flowers in Oxford, Nova Scotia, celebrated her grand opening on April 8th at the new location in the Lower Main Market, Oxford;

Whereas Carla has been enjoying the steady growth of her flower business causing it to expand within the Lower Main Market, her husband Graham Black's store; and

Whereas Carla has been in the flower business for over 20 years, owning her own business for the last two and a half years and where Carla's Flowers is now also a Teleflora centre able to ship arrangements worldwide;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Carla Black on the grand opening of Carla's Flowers and wish her continued growth and success in the future.

[Page 2450]

RESOLUTION NO. 1014

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Josh Best, an Oxford Regional High School Grade 6 student, has received provincial recognition for his entry in the Nova Scotia Recycling Contest; and

Whereas Josh's entry earned him a runner-up spot in the annual Resource Recovery Fund Board's annual contest; and

Whereas Josh constructed a metre-long rocket from recycled material - the body of the rocket is a cardboard tube, its nose cone is made from a pizza box, its fins from a milk carton, its booster exhaust from black balloons left over from a school prom - with his entry also winning a first place nod in the school's Environment Club Contest;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Josh on this outstanding achievement and commend him for being so conscientious in regards to such an important issue as recycling.

RESOLUTION NO. 1015

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Monica Gough of the Early Childhood Studies Program at the Springhill Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College was among more than 25 students across Nova Scotia who was awarded a bursary of $500 as part of the Credit Union of Nova Scotia program; and

Whereas applicants from all 14 campuses of the NSCC apply for bursaries and each year two are awarded, one each to a female and a male; and

Whereas this year Monica Gough was chosen to receive the $500 bursary to help with the expenses of her Early Childhood Studies Program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Monica Gough on receiving this bursary and wish her all the best of luck in her studies.

[Page 2451]

RESOLUTION NO. 1016

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Luke Downing of the Carpentry Program at the Springhill Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College was among more than 25 students across Nova Scotia who was awarded a bursary of $500 as part of the Credit Union of Nova Scotia program; and

Whereas applicants from all 14 campuses of the NSCC apply for bursaries and each year two are awarded, one each to a female and a male; and

Whereas this year Luke Downing was chosen to receive the $500 bursary to help with the expenses of his Carpentry Program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Luke on receiving this bursary and wish him all the best of luck in his studies.

RESOLUTION NO. 1017

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas David Fox's talent shone through in the production of Jacob's Wake that was performed by Ship's Company Theatre this year; and

Whereas David Fox was awarded the Merritt Award for best actor in the production; and

Whereas David played the part of Winston, the surviving son of the Skipper, and his dedication toward the play certainly earned him the distinguished award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate David Fox on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in all future endeavours.

[Page 2452]

RESOLUTION NO. 1018

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas students at the Nova Scotia Community College's Springhill Campus were encouraged to wear red for one Wednesday in March in support of the local Heart and Stroke Foundation; and

Whereas the students of the Continuing Care Program also held a bake sale including heart-smart muffins to help raise money for this very important cause; and

Whereas the campus pulled together to make a significant contribution to the Heart and Stroke Foundation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the students at the Nova Scotia Community College, Springhill Campus, on making a contribution to such a worthy cause and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1019

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Bud and Cathy Anderson of Springhill received the Springhill Chamber of Commerce Award on January 30, 2004, during a banquet dinner; and

Whereas Bud and Cathy are the business partners of the year and both agree that the award is a family achievement and they share it with their five children; and

Whereas Bud managed Wright's Pharmacy and later opened Ross Anderson Pharmacy and Cathy played a big part in the family business becoming more involved in the Tim Hortons franchise where the Andersons are a model couple and their support to each other and the Town of Springhill make them richly deserve this award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bud and Cathy Anderson on receiving this award and for their dedication to the Town of Springhill and wish them the best of luck in the future.

[Page 2453]

RESOLUTION NO. 1020

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Betty Adams was honoured with an award for Volunteer of the Year for District 8 by the Municipality of Cumberland County at the Truemanville Fire Department on April 7, 2004; and

Whereas Betty has been a faithful volunteer for District 8 for her work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, along with many other organizations; and

Whereas Cumberland County submitted Betty's name to the province to be considered for Volunteer of the Year for District 8 for the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Betty Adams on this outstanding award and thank her for the years of dedication and volunteer work to her community and this Province of Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 1021

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Springhill Police Chaplain Reverend Frank Likely is now a member of the Canadian Police Chaplain Association; and

Whereas Likely, also a member of the Springhill Police Commission, says CPCA provided unique training and opportunities as well as support and guidance where membership allows for chaplains to draw support and call upon prayer from across the country; and

Whereas police chaplains provide support for both police departments and the officers but can be called upon for such situations as hostage negotiation, assisting at suicide incidents, assisting victims and providing counselling to officers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Reverend Frank Likely on becoming a member of the Canadian Police Chaplain Association and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 2454]