The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-34

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 28, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission,
Hon. P. Christie 2748
Ministers' Report to Nova Scotians, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2748
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
TPW - Cape Breton: Highways - Improve, Mr. R. MacKinnon 2748
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health - Long-Term Care: Beds - Additional, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2748
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1149, Q.C. Comm'n.: Recipients - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 2754
Vote - Affirmative 2754
Res. 1150, Environ. & Lbr.: Workplace Safety - Ensure,
Hon. K. Morash 2755
Vote - Affirmative 2755
Res. 1151, Stewart, Colin: Death of - Tribute, Hon. R. Hurlburt 2755
Vote - Affirmative 2756
Res. 1152, Energy: R&D - Commitment, Hon. C. Clarke 2756
Vote - Affirmative 2757
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1153, Environ. & Lbr.: Workplace Injuries/Deaths - Prevent,
Mr. D. Dexter 2757
Vote - Affirmative 2758
Res. 1154, Fin. - OH&S Fines: Write-Offs - Prevent,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2758
Res. 1155, Surette, Joe - Kentville Rotary Club: Pres. - Election,
Mr. M. Parent 2759
Vote - Affirmative 2759
Res. 1156, OneLight Theatre Co. - Congrats., Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2759
Vote - Affirmative 2760
Res. 1157, MacDonald, Penney - Vol. Youth of Yr.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2760
Vote - Affirmative 2761
Res. 1158, Hopkins, Alf: Grandfatherhood - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2761
Vote - Affirmative 2761
Res. 1159, Airfield Engineering Flight (144th) - Congrats., Mr. C. Parker 2762
Vote - Affirmative 2762
Res. 1160, TCH - Offensive Ads: Removal - Congrats., Ms. D. Whalen 2762
Vote - Affirmative 2763
Res. 1161, Pothier, Hubert: Tusket Sales & Service - Anniv. (45th),
Hon. C. D'Entremont 2763
Vote - Affirmative 2764
Res. 1162, Battle of Atl.: Participants - Thank/Honour, Mr. G. Gosse 2764
Vote - Affirmative 2765
Res. 1163, World Acadian Congress: Participation - Encourage,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2765
Vote - Affirmative 2766
Res. 1164, Beaver, Keith: Special Olympics - Coach of Yr.,
Hon. J. Muir 2766
Vote - Affirmative 2766
Res. 1165, Colley, Cst. Spencer: Commun. Service - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Colwell 2767
Vote - Affirmative 2767
Res. 1166, Corkum, Megan: S. Shore Idol - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 2767
Vote - Affirmative 2768
Res. 1167, Dwight Ross Elem. Sch. - RRFB Mobius Award,
Mr. L. Glavine 2768
Vote - Affirmative 2769
Res. 1168, C.B.: Potential - Recognize, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2769
Vote - Affirmative 2770
Res. 1169, Hefler, Linda: Lake Dist. Rec. Assoc. - Vol. of Yr.,
Hon. B. Barnet 2770
Vote - Affirmative 2771
Res. 1170, MacKenzie, Keith: Truro Sport Her. Soc. - Honour Roll,
Hon. J. Muir 2771
Vote - Affirmative 2771
Res. 1171, Toad's Cycle Works - Anniv. (25th), Hon. B. Barnet 2772
Vote - Affirmative 2772
Res. 1172, Parks Can.: Bell Museum - Maintain, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2772
Res. 1173, Landgraf, Rita/Risser, Jonathan - Cdn. Skills Comp.,
Hon. M. Baker 2773
Vote - Affirmative 2774
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 66, Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2774
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 336, Environ. & Lbr.: OH&S Educ. - Policy Details, Mr. D. Dexter 2774
No. 337, Educ. - C.B. North: Sch. Closures - Effect, Mr. L. Glavine 2776
No. 338, Health - OxyContin: Misinformation - Prevention,
Mr. D. Dexter 2777
No. 339, Prem.: Equalization Payments - Foreknowledge,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2779
No. 340, Prem.: Econ. Dev. - Skills Training, Mr. D. Dexter 2780
No. 341, Hum. Res. - Pub. Serv.: Students - Progs., Mr. R. MacKinnon 2781
No. 342, TPW - Finewood Flooring: Tendering - Effects,
Mr. D. Dexter 2783
No. 343, Health: QE II Trans. Care Unit - Funding,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 2784
No. 344, Fin.: VLTs - Vendor Commission, Mr. J. Pye 2785
No. 345, NSLC: Communications Staff - Cost, Mr. G. Gosse 2786
No. 346, TCH - Hfx. Cruise Ship Terminal: Improvements - Plans,
Mr. S. McNeil 2787
No. 347, Health: Diabetes Care Prog. - Triage Criteria,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2788
No. 348, Status of Women - Women's Ctrs.: Funding - Review,
Ms. D. Whalen 2790
No. 349, Educ. - Special Needs: Funding - Promises, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2791
No. 350, Energy - Mar. Drilling Sch.: Recognition - Assistance,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 2792
No. 351, Treasury & Policy Bd.: Salary Increases - Justify, Mr. G. Steele 2794
No. 352, PSC - Policy Changes: Employees - Consultation,
Mr. Michel Samson 2795
No. 353, Health: Home Care Assessment - Process, Ms. J. Massey 2797
No. 354, Health - Appt. Changes: Fine - Scrap, Mr. J. Pye 2798
No. 355, NSLC: Chairman of Bd. - Appt., Mr. K. Colwell 2799
No. 356, TCH - Atlantic Theatre Fest.: Fed. Funding - Support,
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 2800
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1098, Educ.: Student Debt/Tuition - Reduce,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2801
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2802
Mr. L. Glavine 2805
Mr. D. Graham 2806
Hon. J. Muir 2807
Mr. G. Gosse 2811
Ms. M. Raymond 2813
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 52, Road Improvements Act 2814
Mr. J. MacDonell 2814
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2817
Hon. R. Russell 2821
Mr. C. Parker 2824
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
TCH: Chester-St. Margaret's - Tourism:
Mr. J. Chataway 2828
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2830
Mr. S. McNeil 2833
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 29th at 12:00 noon 2835
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1174, Nunn, Matthew & James - Can.-Wide Science Fair,
Mr. M. Parent 2836
Res. 1175, S. Shore Reg. Hosp. Aux.: Dedication - Thank,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 2836
Res. 1176, West. Counties Reg. Lib.: Staff - Salute, Mr. C. O'Donnell 2837
Res. 1177, Spring House: Supporters - Thank, The Speaker 2837
Res. 1178, Carter, Stacey: Basketball Award - Congrats., The Speaker 2838
Res. 1179, Ellis, Andrew: Basketball Award - Congrats., The Speaker 2838
Res. 1180, Davis, Daniel: Basketball Achievement - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2839
Res. 1181, Collins, Tyler: Basketball Award - Congrats., The Speaker 2839
Res. 1182, Springhill/Oxford Kidney Fdn. - Vol. Appreciation Night,
The Speaker 2840
Res. 1183, Katie's Farm Organic Dog Bakery: Contributions -
Recognize, Mr. W. Dooks 2840
Res. 1184, Lyle's Locksmithing: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2841
Res. 1185, Pitchers Barber Shop: Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 2841
Res. 1186, N.S. Land Surveyor (Lake Charlotte): Contributions -
Congrats., 2842
Mr. W. Dooks
Res. 1187, Herbin, Peter - Prov. Rep. Vol. (2004), Hon. D. Morse 2842

[Page 2747]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 28, 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 Chester-St. Margaret's:

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs and all Nova Scotians recognize the significant beauty, tourism features and historic treasured aspects belonging to the constituency of Chester-St. Margaret's and how important it is to us all.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

2747

[Page 2748]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the 2003 Annual Report for the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, including the audited financial reports for the year ended December 31, 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Ministers' Report to Nova Scotians, Confident Change for Quality Care for the year 2003-04.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

Order, please. There is a request to revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank all members for their indulgence. I beg leave to table a petition with regard to the roads in Cape Breton. The operative clause is, "We, the undersigned, petition the Government of Nova Scotia to make significant improvements to highway #4, from Sydney to St. Peters, and highway #327 from Sydney to Gabarus. The present condition of these roads is hazardous and aggravating, and costly in terms of operating motor vehicles." It is signed by approximately 650 residents and constituents and I have affixed my signature as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes to advise the House of the progress being made in expanding our long-term care bed capacity in the metro Halifax region.

[Page 2749]

Today I am happy to say that we have reached an agreement with Northwood to house 28 additional long-term care beds. These beds were part of the 33 announced in January 2004, to help alleviate he pressures in Capital Health emergency departments.

Earlier this afternoon I had the pleasure of visiting Northwood Centre in making this announcement. Northwood is an experienced provider of long-term care services and is able to accommodate this need within their existing facility, which can be easily renovated. The beds should be ready for occupancy in August 2004.

As a government we are committed to providing the right services for seniors. In Nova Scotia, one in seven is over the age of 65, and we have one of the fastest-growing seniors' population as a percentage of the overall population. As Minister of Health and minister responsible for seniors, I know that our health system must be responsive to seniors' health-care needs, and providing the right services for seniors does not mean only adding more nursing home beds.

The beds announced today are not nursing home beds, they are classified as residential care facility or RCF beds. These beds are for seniors who need some supervision and possibly some help with personal care, but do not require professional nursing care such as a nursing home provides. The average cost of an RCF bed is about $82 per day.

Evidence has shown that, in the Halifax metro area, there are not enough RCF beds to meet current demands. This has meant that those unable to remain at home have had no choice but to accept placements in nursing homes, even though they do not require that level of care. Adding these 28 RCF beds to the system will change that.

Caring for Nova Scotia's seniors is a priority, and this announcement is about much more than renovations and new beds - it's about providing our seniors with a proper blend of long-term care services and it's about making sure that our seniors are placed in appropriate settings, settings that are needed now and will be needed in the future.

The announcement today illustrates clearly that government is providing services for seniors in a planned way, and we are acting upon best evidence to put the right services in place. We are spending wisely and investing money where it counts.

The opening of these beds at Northwood will not only help the continuing care sector but the acute care sector as well. We have seen that the opening of the 21-bed transitional long-term care unit at the QE II facility has helped improve conditions in emergency rooms in the Halifax metro area. We expect the same type of results from adding these RCF beds to replace the transitional care unit at the QE II. Once the 28 RCF beds are in operation, the 21-bed temporary long-term care unit at the QE II will close, shortly thereafter. Those seniors will be moved into existing nursing home beds that will be vacated by those transferring to the RCF beds.

[Page 2750]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud those working in the long-term care sector for their vision, a vision that includes a planned approach to making available the right mix of programs for seniors, a vision that is flexible enough to adapt as the needs of seniors change. Government has listened and is taking action to further enhance services for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, as members of the House know, progress and improvements in services for seniors are key in this year's budget. In 2004-05, we are investing $24 million, additional, in the continuing care sector to make sure that the approach taken will not only put in place the right mix of services but also be flexible enough to respond to the unique needs of seniors. This investment will make it possible to fully cover seniors' health care costs in nursing homes, residential care facilities and community-based options, as of January 2005. This change is coming into effect two years ahead of schedule.

We are also making sure seniors will no longer have to sell off any of their assets when applying for long-term care beds. This, too, will take place in January 2005. This funding will also address a number of operational pressures, including the need for upgrades and renovations and for more hours of care and training. We need to make confident change in the way we offer health care, and the vision laid out for seniors' care is doing just that.

I am proud of the steps our government is taking to ensure that all Nova Scotians, both young and aging, have the care they need when and where they need it. We are working to make sure that those services will be there now and in the future. Mr. Speaker, the health of all Nova Scotians matters. We will continue to work together to support better health and health care for Nova Scotians. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, this government likes to tell only half of the story when there's a story to be told. They like to tell the good news, but they're not too anxious to tell the bad news. I'll start with the good news in today's announcement, because, yes, indeed, there is some good news in this announcement. The good news is that Northwood Inc., which is an excellent care facility for seniors in my constituency - I'm very privileged and honoured to represent the community in which Northwood sits and many of the residents of Northwood in this place - provides excellent care. Today's announcement is one that will see two floors in Northwood Manor, the beds on those floors that were previously Level 1, long-term care beds, will be converted into residential care facility beds. (Interruptions)

[Page 2751]

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. What we're seeing is the development of beds in Northwood that are not, as the minister says, nursing home care beds, they are in fact residential care beds. What this means is these are beds for people who do not require 24-hour-a-day nursing care, but are people who require more support than perhaps the home care system can currently provide them to keep them in their own homes. This is an area that certainly is an area of growing concern - the number of seniors in our communities who are not able to stay at home. The home care services are inadequate to provide for their needs. So this is a scenario where people who don't yet need a nursing home care bed, but need some supports and some services can get them, and there is no better organization than Northwood Incorporated to provide those services, in my view. It is an excellent facility.

However, Mr. Speaker, that's the good news. The bad news is that this isn't the problem in the situation with having to have a transitional unit over at the QE II in the first place. Everybody in this House knows that the pressure on our health care system has come from the growing number of seniors who require Level 2 care. Those are, generally speaking, the seniors who are showing up in the acute care facilities who end up in a transition unit because there are no Level 2 beds available to move them into, and the reason there aren't Level 2 beds available is there has been a moratorium on the provision of Level 2 beds in our health care system. It was a moratorium that was introduced by the previous Liberal Government, and for all practical purposes it's a moratorium that this government, although they lifted it, they really didn't put any Level 2 capacity into the system, and today's announcement does not address that. It doesn't address more Level 2 care in the system whatsoever.

In fact, what is happening here is that the Level 1 beds that previously existed on those wings at Northwood are being taken out of the system. Now, some people would say that's not a problem because those Level 1beds weren't being fully utilized anyway, and that's precisely the point. They're not being fully utilized because people who are coming into nursing homes are now people who require Level 2 care - acuity has increased, those are the folks who are ending up in our acute care and tertiary facilities. These are the folks who require a place to go and this announcement does not address that.

The other problem I think - and this goes to a question of the standards of care, Mr. Speaker - is how many times are we going to set up compartmental services within our health care system that we're going to be bumping seniors from. Every bit of health care and medical and empirical evidence demonstrates that the more times you move a senior from one facility

[Page 2752]

to another the increased likelihood of worsening health outcomes for those seniors - and, in fact, there is some direct connection with the mortality of seniors and the number of times they are moved.

Mr. Speaker, I have very, very grave concerns about the department's plan to go into the existing homes and look for seniors who have already been assessed and already been judged to be in need medically of at least Level 1care and to remove people from facilities to put them into residential care facilities, and I certainly hope that any movement of seniors is only done with the absolute certainty that their health will not be compromised in any way. That's a very serious concern that minister and that government did not address whatsoever in today's announcement.

There is good news in this announcement, but the bad news the government has not told - so what else is new? It's always up to us here in the Opposition to ferret it out, make it clear and hold them accountable for it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and comment on today's ministerial statement by the honourable Minister of Health. I believe it was during the estimates that I indicated that the Health Department's budget announcement of 85 beds would be repeated and repeated and repeated again. Well, here we are again - the minister is announcing his re-announcement made earlier this month. The only difference with today's announcement is that now we actually know the location. The only difference.

AN HON. MEMBER: Even the Premier's agreeing with you.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Even the Premier's agreeing with me now, Mr. Speaker, which makes me very worried. Today the minister announced 28 new residential care beds for Northwood Manor. Now, it is assumed by government that these additional beds are going to reduce the backlog in hospitals. I for one, and I'm sure all members of this House certainly hope that is the case. I hope, however, that the government, in making this decision regarding residential care beds at Northwood did so with appropriate information. If the health care needs of those patients in the transitional care unit at the QE II only require residential care beds, only then, will this announcement reduce the backlog at the hospital in the near future.

If there are indeed patients in long-term care facilities that are in a nursing home bed, then, and only then, will the burden at our acute care settings finally be reduced. I sincerely hope that today's announcement will reduce the strain on our acute care system. I also hope that today's announcement was made with appropriate information. I hope that today's announcement does something to ensure that hospitals don't continue to fulfill the role of a long-term care facility.

[Page 2753]

I'm sure today's announcement may make everybody feel good for the moment and its success will be measured as to whether or not in our hospitals the backlogs that exist will be solved with today's announcement. I hope there's a plan to ensure that this is the case. As always is the case with this government, today's announcement does absolutely nothing to address the problems in other areas of this province, for instance, Cape Breton. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct the attention of the House to the west gallery where we have the privilege today of hosting 40 intermediate school students from the Norwood District Intermediate School in Norwood, Ontario. I would ask them to stand so we can take a look and see if Ontario students are the same as Nova Scotia students. (Applause) Mr. Speaker, they are accompanied by Mike Davidson and Donna Burkholder and we are delighted to welcome you to our gallery today. I hope it will be an entertaining and informational time for you.

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly want to welcome the guests to the gallery today and I hope they enjoy the proceedings not only here in the House but as well, in the Province of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, also in the west gallery today, I'd like to introduce to members of the House a gentleman who is not a student but at one time was a student at Dalhousie Law School and now is a prominent solicitor and partner in the law firm of Khattar & Khattar in Sydney, Nova Scotia and, I might add, my former very successful campaign manager in Cape Breton South (Laughter) I would like to introduce Chris Conohan in the gallery here today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guest in the gallery today and hope he enjoys the proceedings.

The honourable member for Kings West, on an introduction.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to the west gallery, a student here from West Kings, Jeremy Nichols, he is job shadowing today, so he is getting some great insights, but he comes with a political science background, he took political science his first semester from Mr. Bob Ripley, well known in our school community. Jeremy will be going on to Saint Mary's next year and is aspiring to hopefully do Page work in the House at some point in time. So Jeremy, please rise for a welcome. (Applause)

[Page 2754]

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

The honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, another friend of this House and this province, I see, is in the gallery today, originally from New Minas, she now lives in Digby County. Kristie Herron, if she would stand up and receive the warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1149

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

Whereas the Queen's Counsel designation is a recognition of outstanding leadership in the field of law; and

Whereas on Monday, April 26th, 12 members of the Nova Scotia legal profession received their Q.C. commissions in ceremonies at Government House; and

Whereas those individuals are: Gerald MacDonald, Michael King, Ross Haynes, Louise Poirier, Patrick Burke, Michael Donovan, Harvey Morrison, Peter Lederman, Mark David, Jan McKenzie, Geoffrey Machum and Robert Fetterly;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate all recipients of the Queen's Counsel commission.

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 2755]

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1150

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

Whereas today at 11:00 a.m. we joined together in Province House in a ceremony to honour those who have died as a result of workplace accidents or illness in this province; and

Whereas April 28th is designated throughout Canada as a Day of Mourning for workers killed and injured on the job; and

Whereas there were 23 workers killed because of workplace accidents or illness in Nova Scotia in 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that the Department of Environment and Labour continue to work with our many partners and with employees and employers to create safe working environments and to reduce and eliminate occupational injury and illness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1151

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Endangered Species Act and the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, together, have been securing habitat for species at risk and protection for the diversity of Nova Scotia's natural landscape; and

[Page 2756]

Whereas Colin Stewart, a well-known environmental biologist, who passed away last month, had made tremendous personal sacrifice to help forward the government's adoption of these valuable pieces of legislation through his work with politicians, conservation groups, scientists and the public; and

Whereas Mr. Stewart's gentle approach towards building a consensus on sometimes controversial issues has resulted in the protection of our natural resources to the benefit of all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the important conservation achievements Mr. Stewart made in his life in helping to protect endangered species and some of our most beautiful natural areas.

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. 1152

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency will be sponsoring the Energy Research and Development Forum on May 13th and May 14th at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish; and

Whereas over 150 researchers, industry leaders and government officials will meet to discuss research underway today in the broad field of energy R&D in Nova Scotia and the opportunities for research in the future; and

Whereas by addressing the importance of energy research today and tomorrow and by bringing together government, industry stakeholders and the academic community, we will be contributing to the prosperity of the energy sector in Nova Scotia for years to come;

[Page 2757]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the increased commitment to further research and development in the energy sector, and the advancements in technology and innovation that will be made available to Nova Scotia.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1153

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

Whereas in the past year 23 Nova Scotians lost their lives in workplace accidents and more than 9,000 workers were injured on the job; and

Whereas today, as we mark the 20th National Day of Mourning it serves to remind us that we all have a responsibility to help make our province's workplaces safer; and

Whereas workplace safety is not only about wearing protective equipment or properly operating machinery, but also about ensuring work environments have decent air and water quality and are free from violence and harassment;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly pay tribute to those 23 Nova Scotians who lost their lives and the countless others who were injured at work in 2003, and renew our commitment as legislators to ensure our laws provide the necessary protection to prevent workplace injuries and deaths.

[Page 2758]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1154

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

Whereas In Nova Scotia, companies that violate the Occupational Health and Safety Act should not be permitted to write off the fines levied against them as a tax deduction;

Whereas there is no justice served until those companies, in fact, pay these fines without receiving a tax incentive; and

Whereas the federal Government of Canada has recently announced a policy that will prevent companies from using fines levied against them as tax write-offs;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government ensure similar policy be adopted in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 2759]

RESOLUTION NO. 1155

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 new president of the Rotary Club of Kentville has made a commitment to raise the profile of the club over the coming year; and

Whereas Mr. Joe Surette has been an active member of the service organization since his induction in February 1996 and was elected President in July 2003; and

Whereas the club is currently involved in projects that send medical equipment to developing countries, in order to eradicate polio and works to improve the lives of disabled persons within Kings County;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Mr. Joe Surette on his election as President of the Rotary Club of Kentville and extend our appreciation to Rotary Clubs throughout the province for efforts that make real differences in the lives of our fellow citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1156

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

Whereas OneLight Theatre Company, under the artistic direction fo Shahin Sayadi has mounted three very successful productions from its street-level space in The Crib on Gottingen Street; and

[Page 2760]

Whereas OneLight Theatre is again the subject of positive reviews and critical acclaim for their current production of Eugene Ionesco's Josette; and

Whereas Josette, which opened April 19 will conclude a very successful run on Saturday, May 1st;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature extend congratulations to all those associated with OneLight Theatre Company for expanding and enriching the range of theatre options and venues which give our small city, a big-city feel.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1157

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

Whereas Penney MacDonald, a Grade 12 student from Holy Angels High School in Sydney, was presented with the Volunteer Youth of the Year award; and

Whereas Penney MacDonald received the award at a banquet recognizing the hard work, effort and time put in by all volunteers around the province; and

Whereas Penney MacDonald in both her school and community helps such organizations as Loaves and Fishes, Cusack-Cornwallis Elementary School as well as canvasses for various causes throughout the year.

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate Penney MacDonald for the fine work she has done and wish her every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2761]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1158

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

Whereas Musquodoboit Harbour resident Alf Hopkins became a grandfather for the first time on Saturday, April 17, 2004; and

Whereas Grace Mae made a safe arrival into the world under the expert watch of the staff at the IWK Health Centre in Halifax; and

Whereas proud parents Mellissa Hopkins and Randy Sampson are delighted by their healthy 7 pound, 1 ounce baby girl;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Alf Hopkins on the birth of this first grandchild and Mellissa Hopkins and Randy Sampson on the birth of their beautiful daughter Grace Mae.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 2762]

RESOLUTION NO. 1159

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 144th Airfield Engineering Flight Pictou County, has just celebrated the official opening of the new addition to its headquarters, named Chimo Hall, in the Town of Pictou; and

Whereas the 144th Airfield Engineering Flight Pictou County has been a great asset to communities throughout the region by using the skills of its members to work as volunteers on many important projects; and

Whereas the members of the 144th Airfield Engineering Flight Pictou County did most of the work involved in the construction of this new addition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the 144th Airfield Engineering Flight Pictou County and its members and wish them all the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 1160

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

Whereas on Monday I read a resolution in the House regarding the Department of Tourism, Culture and Heritage airing our Destination Nova Scotia advertisements during the reality show, The Swan; and

[Page 2763]

Whereas the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, to his credit, promptly communicated with his staff, received further information on the show and agreed that the content was inappropriate; and

Whereas the day after I read the resolution, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage announced that his department will be immediately pulling advertisements from any episodes of The Swan.

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage, along with his staff, for their quick action on removing advertisements which promote Nova Scotia on a show that is extremely offensive.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 1161

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

Whereas Hubert Pothier of Tusket, owner of Tusket Sales and Service is celebrating his 45th year in business; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier currently operates a full service automotive centre employing nearly 70 people, having started with just a small body shop; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier and Tusket Sales and Service support many worthwhile causes in the Municipality of Argyle, with particular emphasis on Acadian organizations and events;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Pothier for his many successful years in business and recognize the valuable contribution he and his employees make to the betterment of their community.

[Page 2764]

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. 1162

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

Whereas the Battle of the Atlantic was the longest battle of World War II, waged mainly by German U-boats which attacked convoys of Canadian naval and merchant marine ships for six years; and

Whereas one of the most bitter battles of World War II, the Battle of the Atlantic was the only battle which saw Canadians killed in Canadians waters; and

Whereas the Battle of the Atlantic will be commemorated by the Cape Breton Naval Veterans during the Battle of the Atlantic services Sunday, May 2, 2004, beginning with a parade from Florence to Wilson United Church for a memorial service, and a candlelight service at Branch 83 Royal Canadian Legion commemorating the loss of those who served and the ships they served aboard;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislative Assembly give thanks and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving Canada in the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Merchant Marine during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2765]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1163

M. WAYNE GAUDET: M. le président, par la présente, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, l'adoption de la résolution suivante;

Attendu que cet été le troisième congrés mondial acadien prendra place en Nouvelle-Écosse; et

Attendu que plusieurs acadiens de partout seront accueillis en Nouvelle-Écosse; et

Attendu que cette rencontre internationale des Acadiens et de leurs amis va occasionner une rassemblement de plus de 250,000 personnes à travers la province du 31 juillet au 15 août;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée législative encourage tous les néo-écossais à participer aux activités associées à ce grand événement culturelle acadien.

M. le président, je propose l'adoption de cette resolution sans préavis et sans débats.

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

Whereas this summer, Nova Scotia is very honoured to host the third World Acadian Congress; and

Whereas descendants of Acadians who live in every corner of the world will be welcomed to the land of their ancestors; and

Whereas the international gathering of Acadians and their friends will bring together over 250,000 participants during the 16-day event which will be held from July 31 to August 15, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage all Nova Scotians to participate in this very special celebration of Acadian culture.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2766]

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. 1164

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

Whereas Keith Beaver received a Merit Award from the Truro Sport Heritage Society for his outstanding contribution to swimming over a number of years; and

Whereas Keith Beaver, about six years ago, turned his efforts to Special Olympics, and he coaches swimmers from nine to 60 years old, including Leslie Fowler, who participated in the World Games in Ireland; and

Whereas Keith Beaver, head coach for the Nova Scotia Special Olympics Swim Team and a coach for Team Canada, was selected as Nova Scotia Special Olympics Male Coach of the Year for 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Keith Beaver for the awards he received in 2003, and thank him for his exemplary dedication to Special Olympics.

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 2767]

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1165

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

Whereas since 1977, the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia has served as an educational centre and museum for Nova Scotians, recognizing the achievements of African-Nova Scotians; and

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

Whereas the Halifax Regional Police Wall of Recognition has been created to acknowledge their contribution to our community, and retired Constable Spencer Colley's name has been added to this wall;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Constable Spencer Colley and honour his service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1166

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

Whereas in Canadian Idol fashion, the South Shore of Nova Scotia can now claim its own singing idol; and

[Page 2768]

Whereas Megan Corkum, who attends Bayview Community School in Mahone Bay, was chosen as the first-ever South Shore Idol at a competition held on April 24th; and

Whereas Megan was chosen from a group of 40 semi-finalists and will be busy recording a single to be played on the local radio station, CKBW;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Megan Corkum on being chosen as the South Shore Idol, and wish her much success in her future music endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1167

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

Whereas the Resource Recovery Fund Board's aim is to promote responsible solid waste management by industry, as well as residents, through numerous stewardship programs and promotions; and

Whereas on April 27, 2004, the RRFB handed out their annual Mobius Environmental Awards; and

Whereas the Dwight Ross Elementary School of Greenwood received the award for School of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Dwight Ross Elementary School and all recipients of these awards.

[Page 2769]

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. 1168

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

Whereas despite the economic gloom being painted by selected members of the Opposition, it is important to note that a senior Atlantic region bank official has said in recent months that "Cape Breton has a unique strength which is helping turn the Island's fortunes around"; and

Whereas Carol Snider, Senior Vice-President of the Bank of Montreal Atlantic Provinces Division, said many people still believe in Cape Breton and that is what is going to drive success; and

Whereas Snider cited the leadership being shown by strong, experienced people in rural areas of Cape Breton as positive, and she and the Vice-President of the bank's Nova Scotia District, Trevor Green, were exceptionally pleased with the opportunities which exist and what they see in Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that all members in this House, despite what is being heard from the Opposition benches on occasion, realize the vast potential which exists for Cape Breton and commend working individuals and bank officials for seeing the true economic prospects for Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2770]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 1169

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

Whereas the Lake District Recreational Association is holding its annual Volunteer of the Year dinner tonight, Wednesday, April 28, 2004, at the Lower Sackville Legion; and

Whereas this year the recipient of the award will be Ms. Linda Hefler for her many contributions to her community, friends and family; and

Whereas the Lake District Recreation Association has been holding this event for the past 25 years;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House send our congratulations to Ms. Linda Hefler for her outstanding contributions to her community, and to Lake District Recreation Association for holding the 25 annual dinners throughout the years. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable minister to repeat the "Therefore be it resolved", please.

MR. BARNET: Therefore be it resolved that members of this House send congratulations to Ms. Linda Hefler for her outstanding contributions to her community, and to the Lake District Recreation Association for holding the 25 annual Volunteer of the Year Award dinners.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2771]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1170

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

Whereas Keith MacKenzie was named to the honour roll of the Truro Sport Heritage Society for his contribution to the sports of softball, hockey, basketball and football as a player, administrator, official and coach; and

Whereas Keith MacKenzie played intermediate softball and fastball for 14 years, and his Truro intermediate team was league champion for five consecutive years and was named to the Truro Sport Heritage Society Honour Roll; and

Whereas Keith MacKenzie's sport contributions are many and varied, but he is best known as a high school coach at CEC where his women's basketball teams were at the provincial finals 12 consecutive years, winning six times, and his football Cougars won five provincial titles in 14 years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Keith MacKenzie on being named to the honour roll of the Truro Sport Heritage Society for the second time and for his outstanding ability to release talent in athletes of all ages.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 2772]

RESOLUTION NO. 1171

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

Whereas Toad's Cycle Works Ltd. today is celebrating its 25th Anniversary of being in the business of serving customers with new and used parts, accessories, custom bikes, old bikes and bikes in the process of being rebuilt; and

Whereas this is a family-owned business, with Mike and Marlene Roach opening Toad's 25 years ago, the company now employs their two sons, Colin and Derek, and four other employees from the community; and

Whereas Mike and his family are all motorcycle enthusiasts who do what they do for their genuine interest in motorcycles and not for the interest of turning a profit;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me and countless others in congratulating Toad's Cycle Works on their 25th Anniversary and wish them all the best in the next 25 years in business.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1172

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

Whereas federal Auditor General Sheila Fraser has been far from kind in her analysis of the workings of the federal government in recent months; and

[Page 2773]

Whereas besides the sponsorship scandal, there is nearly $200 million in missing funds from the Department of National Defence and she is very critical of Canada's preparation for possible terrorism; and

Whereas the Auditor General is also critical of Parks Canada's neglect of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, its neglect of unique photographs from the 1890s and the early 1900s and its failure to complete the $1 million in roof repairs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly call upon the federal minister for Parks Canada to fulfill her duty to the people of Canada and ensure that the deterioration of the famed telephone inventor's museum does not escalate any more.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1173

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

Whereas community colleges across Nova Scotia produce highly-skilled students in many fields of study; and

Whereas Rita Landgraf and Jonathan Risser, students at the Lunenburg Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, demonstrated excellence in their trades recently at the Nova Scotia Skills Competition; and

Whereas these students were ranked top in their field of study with Rita Landgraf being awarded gold in IT software and Jonathan Risser being ranked first in electronics;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Rita Landgraf and Jonathan Risser on their success at the Nova Scotia Skills Competition and wish them the best of luck at the upcoming Canadian Skills Competition to be held in Winnipeg.

[Page 2774]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Just before we go to Orders of the Day, there is a request to revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 66 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Mr. David Wilson, Sackville-Cobequid)

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

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:54 p.m. and will end at 4:24 p.m., an hour and a half later.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: OH&S EDUC. - POLICY DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I'd like to thank Mr. Speaker for his mathematical dexterity. Mr. Speaker, today, as we all know is a day of mourning. It gives us all a chance to rededicate ourselves to workers' safety in this province. The March 2002 Dorsey report says that the government has failed to have an integrated and coordinated prevention strategy and that the government support is largely reactive and not proactive. As we know, in some provinces, to try and avoid responsibility for workplace safety and to escape political

[Page 2775]

criticism, governments have divested responsibility for workplace safety and health functions to the Workers' Compensation Board. I'd like to ask the Premier if he can tell the House today what his government's policy is on the Dorsey report as it relates to the divestiture of responsibility for workplace health and safety promotion and education in Nova Scotia?

HON. JOHN HAMM (Premier): Mr. Speaker, today is an opportunity for all of us to reflect as Nova Scotians on the dangers in the workplace. Despite, over the last number of decades, improvements in legislation and some improvements in protection for workers, nevertheless, on a regular basis in any working day, many, many workers are injured, significantly, and, unfortunately as well, from time to time, all too often, workers lose their lives.

The position of this government is to work continually to improve all aspects of workers' safety, including bringing forward the solutions to the recommendations in the Dorsey report.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the Premier's thoughtful response to that question, although I don't think his answer was exactly on point. So I want to raise this for his consideration and answer, if I may. Yesterday, the federal Finance Minister said that he will end the practice of allowing fines and penalties as legitimate business expenses under the Income Tax Act. Well, as I mentioned, today is the National Day of Mourning for those who were killed and injured in the workplaces so fines and penalties to which corporations are subject for health and safety violations are top of mind.

Mr. Speaker, can the Premier tell us, will he direct his Finance Minister to encourage early action to legislate this proposal and agree that the proceeds of all fines levied under provincial legislation will go to the Workers' Compensation Fund to further recognize the gravity of these offences?

THE PREMIER: We did have some indication that there may be some political movement to change the status of fines as a result of workplace injury, workplace accidents. We will certainly, as a government and certainly our Department of Finance will look very carefully at any proposed changes to the Income Tax Act that might be relevant to the important issue that the member opposite brings to the attention of the House. It's a little premature to comment, because we have a political statement, we have yet to see exactly what that will result in.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, earlier this year the government released its 2004 Corporate Plan. Now, the government has finally realized the benefits of consultation and has promised to convene a tripartite labour relations round table to discuss ways to improve collective bargaining and ensure Nova Scotia's labour climate supports a growing economy. My question for the Premier is very simple, can he tell the House today when that round table is going to be convened and what will be the order of business on the agenda?

[Page 2776]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the questions, it's certainly something that has been discussed between the Premier and I on several occasions and the department has been working on arranging that meeting. There's a tentative agenda that has been scheduled and at the present time the tentative date has been June for that meeting to take place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

EDUC. - C.B. NORTH: SCH. CLOSURES - EFFECT

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Constituents of Cape Breton North contacted me today, in my role as Education Critic, asking me to bring an issue forward today in the House. In the Minister of Energy's riding, Cape Breton North, there is a plan to close four local schools: Sydney Mines Junior High, 354; Thompson Junior High, 234; St. Mary's Elementary, 217; St. Joseph's Elementary, 115 - 902 students involved. Local residents are not happy with the process of consultation, or should I say, the lack thereof.

My question to the minister is, are you aware of the negative impact the closing of these schools will have in the Minister of Energy's riding?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I suspect negative impact is relative. What I know is that a brand new school that's going to replace a bunch of aging facilities that people want closed is going to be built there.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. GLAVINE: Mr. Minister, the message that I'm getting is quite different. The Sydney Mines school is the focal point of that community, 354 students. These other schools are assets to their communities. We all know that retrofits have done a magnificent job in some areas around the province. More than anything, these parents have felt left out of the consultation process and, if a new school is to go ahead, site selection. My question to the minister is, how far along is the site selection process for this new school, and why weren't all stakeholders included in the decision-making process right from the start?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to look up the timetable for that school - that's what I was looking for. I can say that as capital construction lists are developed and prioritized, the people who are affected are consulted. Indeed, the submission comes from the school board that represents the residents as opposed to being developed by the government.

[Page 2777]

MR. GLAVINE: The new school, from P-9, will house from 850 to 900 students, and grouping this many grades together is certainly controversial at best. With the middle school concept growing in the province, busing of students, denying the ability, now, of many of these students to walk to school at a time when physical fitness is a growing issue, sending young children to larger schools outside their community, raises the stress under which they must study. Considering the negative impact this decision will have on the constituents of Cape Breton North, is the minister willing to meet with the stakeholders of each of these communities to defend this decision and explain the many outstanding issues?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, what I want to tell the honourable member is that there is a process to go through when any of these schools are built, when site selection takes place, indeed, when the decision to build schools or to renovate is made. I also want to emphasize that my colleague, the Minister of Energy, who represents that area, keeps me fully abreast of the concerns in education of the people in that area. I do know that he has met the people up there to hear their concerns. I also want to point out that there is no stronger supporter of education for that constituency than their local MLA.

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

HEALTH - OXYCONTIN: MISINFORMATION - PREVENTION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we asked the Premier about the serious and growing problem of OxyContin abuse in Cape Breton, and the Premier's response was that it was a good pain medication. When the Premier made that statement, I wonder if he was aware that the Food and Drug Administration in the United States released a warning in January 2003 stating that Purdue Pharma, the maker of the drug, placed ads in the Journal of the American Medical Association that grossly overstates the drug's safety. The FDA further states that the ads omit and minimize the serious risks associated with OxyContin and promote its uses beyond that which have been proven safe and effective.

As a result, Mr. Speaker, Purdue Pharma was forced to discontinue the ads. The Canadian Medical Association has issued its own warnings on the drug, and I will table that advisory. So my question to the Premier is this, when he was praising OxyContin as a good pain medication yesterday, was he aware of the FDA's actions against Purdue Pharma, and what plans does he propose to put in place to ensure there is no misinformation about the drug's safety in the hands of Nova Scotian doctors?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the first part of the question is no, I was not aware of that directive. The answer to the second part of the question is that all of these drugs - and we are all familiar with them, we're familiar with morphine and codeine and Dilaudid and all of the pain medications - properly used under appropriate medical supervision, they are a very valuable resource. Inappropriately used, they are very dangerous drugs.

[Page 2778]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the Premier is aware that OxyContin is four times as potent as a similar dose of morphine. OxyContin users and their families in the United States have filed nearly 180 lawsuits nationwide, charging that Purdue was designing misleading ads that contributed to the abuse of the drug. There are growing calls for the ban of the drug in the United States but here, in Nova Scotia, the government doesn't seem to be concerned, issuing news releases that state continued growth in this area of medication is expected in future years as well. It may get worse. In late March, the U.S. approved a generic version of OxyContin which will likely mean that Canada is not far behind with lower prices and possibly wider distribution.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is this. Nova Scotia families are being torn apart as a result of the use and abuse of this drug. Will the government step in to control the OxyContin plague in Cape Breton before it gets any worse?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have not seen the ads to which the questioner made reference but the questioner said something in his question that really, I think, deserve clarification. We must separate the appropriate use of the medication from the abuse of the medication. Clearly, the issue here is the abuse of the medication because I'm not aware of any large number of complaints from people who have been using the drug appropriately. The issue is the abuse of this drug. The issue in other communities may be the abuse of other drugs. This is an issue that the government is very concerned about and it's a huge issue right now in Cape Breton. We are prepared to work with the authorities in Cape Breton. Yesterday, the Minister of Justice made reference to an intervention that he had made which I think would be very helpful if, in fact, it were accepted by the Chief of Police in Cape Breton.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Premier that there needs to be clarification because the fact of the matter is that legitimate users of these drugs also face difficulties with additions. That is a fact, even though they have been used legitimately. When Purdue Pharma began promoting OxyContin use in the United States, it used very aggressive marketing techniques alongside misleading ads that the company was forced to withdraw. Sales reps were given sophisticated intelligence about doctors' prescribing practices and were encouraged to engage doctors on a one-on-one basis to prescribe the drug. In Kentucky, it has become known as hillbilly heroin.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is this. Is he prepared today to commit to working with doctors as recommended by the Canadian Medical Association to ensure that there is an adequate means of advising doctors about the appropriate use and the potential abuse and misuse of OxyContin in Cape Breton?

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

[Page 2779]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would be pleased to know that the local physicians in the Cape Breton area have, in fact, indicated their desire to become involved in the local group that is working through the auspices of the District Health Authority in examining and making recommendations with respect to this problem. As well, the Nova Scotia College of Physicians and Surgeons has issued a reminder to all of its membership about the harmful effects of that drug when it is inappropriately prescribed. The medical profession is indeed very much a part of the frontal attack on this. That, again, is part and parcel of our efforts with the district health authority and, of course, part of the offer made by the Attorney General with respect to assistance to the police department in Cape Breton with respect to a task force committed to tackling the illegal trade in that drug in that area.

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

PREM.: EQUALIZATION PAYMENTS - FOREKNOWLEDGE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier has still not given up blaming Ottawa for this government's fiscal problems. In fact, every speech and every endless communication has a standard line that blames Ottawa. Well, that will not wash with Nova Scotians. The Premier and the Minister of Finance said they did not know there would be less equalization money from Ottawa; they claim that they did not know the impact of a declining population. My first question to the Premier is, does the Premier still stand by this assertion that he had no idea he would be receiving less in equalization?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do welcome that question. Those of you who followed the remarks yesterday of the federal Minister of Finance realized that, in the course of the question and answer period that followed, he contradicted himself. When he was justifying the smoothing of equalization he said the reason for this is he was doing such to allow that, in future, Nova Scotia and other provinces would not suffer a sudden, nasty surprise. So he's smoothing equalization because we received a sudden, nasty surprise.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the equalization formula was in place for five years, okay. Nothing has changed except for the information inserted in the formula. The government knew census figures were lower back in 2002. Again to the Premier: Why does the government continue to tell Nova Scotians it didn't know the equalization figures, when the facts indicate they should have?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Liberal Party is absolutely right - nothing has changed. Nothing has changed since 1992-93. Our transfers of the health care have not changed, they're the same as they were 11 years ago. The transfers for equalization are the same. Nothing is changing, it's a flat line for a decade. That's the problem, nothing has changed.

[Page 2780]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, it's amazing that this Premier told Nova Scotians we could afford a tax cut at the same time he knew the line was flat, so which one was it? (Laughter) This Premier should have known, the former Minister of Finance should have known, and the current Minister of Finance should have known that equalization would be less. Either the Premier is not being up front with Nova Scotians, or he simply wasn't paying attention. Mr. Premier, which one is it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I hope the member opposite will tell us, is his current position the Friday morning position or the Friday afternoon position on tax cuts? (Laughter) I have here a document that I am prepared to table.

Mr. Speaker, I want to read one line from a report and I will table a copy of the report. It's a report from CIBC World Markets. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier has the floor.

THE PREMIER: I have a report from CIBC World Markets, dated April 22nd of this year, Provincial Budget Briefs. They confirm the position that Mr. Goodale indicated that there was a nasty surprise because it says here "Despite a challenging environment and a shortfall from expected federal transfers, . . .", everybody was surprised about the change in federal transfers, Mr. Goodale was surprised originally, all the provinces were surprised. Nobody knew.

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

PREM.: ECON. DEV. - SKILLS TRAINING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seemed to be enjoying answering that question.

Today's report that Nova Scotia trailed the nation in economic growth in 2003 will be an unpleasant surprise to those who believed that this government was building a self-sufficient and prosperous economy. At the start of its term in office, this government sought the advice of Voluntary Planning and was told to invest in education and training. Today, higher education is less accessible and many rural businesses cannot find trained workers for the jobs that exist. My question is, why did the Premier fail to take the advice that he got and failed to make skills training a real priority?

[3:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe the question is, are we taking skills training seriously? The member opposite is no doubt aware, that we do have a skills agenda, we've had a skills round table and we have done extensive consultation with many sectors of the

[Page 2781]

economy, including not only business and industry but as well labour and the educational facilities. We do have a skills agenda which is very much a part of our long-term program to provide a labour force in Nova Scotia over the next couple of decades that is suited to what we are doing in here in Nova Scotia, and a labour force that is properly trained.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, instead of soon, very soon, it seems that the government now says it's a long, very long-term plan, to address the real needs of Nova Scotians. The government's Corporate Plan calls for a community development policy. There's been a lot of talk about the two economies in Nova Scotia, but no clear action. When can rural Nova Scotia expect a policy that addresses the skills shortage, the failure to invest in infrastructure and the lack of attractive opportunities for young people with targets and deadlines that will ensure accountability? When, Mr. Premier?

MR. PREMIER: One of the challenges of the rural economy is the ability in rural Nova Scotia to train people. We have had considerable discussion at various times about the school building program that this government has engaged in. As well, the growth of the community college, the $123 million investment in post-secondary education and technical training in this province that is not distributed in any one particular area, but actually encompasses the entire province, which guarantees rural Nova Scotia the absolute opportunity to provide the very best technical training in their communities.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the government's response to the economic crisis in Cape Breton has been pretty straightforward. They claim it doesn't exist and that things are going along just peachy. Today's report shows the true trend, and the news is not very good. Why won't the government at the very least, revisit its refusal to sit down with CBRM and consider a plan to tackle the ongoing economic crisis in Cape Breton, which affects the entire province's growth?

MR. PREMIER: I refer that to the Acting Minister of Economic Development.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to inform the House and reiterate our commitment and I hope the honourable Leader of the Opposition will reiterate the standing offer from the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia to be at a table dealing with economic progress, and dealing with the negative impacts that have been felt in our economy, so we welcome the CBRM joining the two other levels of government.

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

HUM. RES. - PUB. SERV.: STUDENTS - PROGS.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources. One of the greatest concerns facing Nova Scotians today is the increase

[Page 2782]

in out-migration of Nova Scotia's young people. In order for our university students to pay off their large student debts, because of the high tuition fees, they are forced to leave for other provinces to seek employment. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell members of this House how she is currently supporting our university graduates in terms of employment within the Public Service?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of programs that are currently in the making. The Career Starts Program is one that we actually are putting forward this year, that would become a two-year program, so that it gives students the opportunity to come into the Public Service and hopefully pursue a career when those jobs become available.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, approximately 300 persons a year, leave the Public Service; 150 on average leave because of retirement, another 150 to seek employment elsewhere. Approximately 3.5 per cent of the employment composition in the Public Service are of persons less than the age of 30. My question to the minister - and given that as well, only 16 persons are encompassed in that Career Starts Program that she refers to and it doesn't even address the problem and she knows that - so will the minster readily admit that the existing program is inadequate to address the long-term human resource issue within the Public Service?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: I guess, Mr. Speaker, what we have to take into consideration is that number, being 5 per cent with the under-30 age group is that in 1993 there was a wage freeze, in 1997 there was a wage freeze. It's hard to get a percentage of that age group in here when we weren't hiring at that point in time. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Linda Duxbury of the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University clearly through her analysis confirms that young people seeking employment in the Public Service in this country and all provincial and federal jurisdictions do not do it using the pay scale as their number one reason for entering the service. So I would direct the minister to that particular issue.

As well, given the fact that the unemployment rate for young Nova Scotians is twice the provincial average, my question to the minister is, will the minister commit to ensuring a minimum of 10 per cent of all persons hired by the Civil Service Commission will be of persons less than 30 years of age?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, again, what this government will commit to is maintaining a strong Public Service. We encourage the classification "under the age of 30" individuals to come in and we will continue to do this. I guess what we need to know is that we have doubled the Career Starts since that government was in power.

[Page 2783]

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

TPW - FINEWOOD FLOORING: TENDERING - EFFECTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Finewood Flooring and Lumber is a successful hardware flooring manufacturer in Cape Breton. They've been producing and exporting high quality hardwood maple for over 20 years. The trouble is, this government is making it incredibly difficult for this company to do business in Nova Scotia. Since 1999 government rules for school gymnasiums specify that wood must be MFMA certified. The problem is that only American wood can receive the MFMA certification. Finewood Flooring can sell their wood in New Brunswick for school gyms, but they can't sell it in Nova Scotia. So, my question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is, why has your government chosen to make it so difficult for this small business to operate in Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I take the remarks of the honourable member very seriously and I was not aware of that particular restriction that we're placing on the tendering for hardwood floors for gymnasiums.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that surprises me because almost two years ago, Finewood Flooring sent this letter to Minister Ron Russell asking him to re-evaluate the regulations that exclude them from school gymnasium construction. The department has said they're reviewing the matter. Finewood Flooring hardwood is high quality and widely praised. It was used to build the athletic floor at St. F.X. aerobics facility and I think the minister said, sometimes you just get lucky - I think that was his quote the other day. My question to the minister is, when can you expect your department to complete its review and report back to this House?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know, but I will certainly be asking the department, you can be assured, this afternoon and find out.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minster for that undertaking. We certainly look forward to that information as soon as possible. For the record, for five years good Nova Scotia hardwood has been going overseas and across the country while we have been forced to buy American wood for our school gyms. Excluding a Nova Scotia business from its own provincial market just doesn't make sense, especially a business that employs 17 people year-round in rural Nova Scotia in a region that has been facing an economic crisis. So my question for the minister is, how many more rules like this one are discouraging Nova Scotia entrepreneurs?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I say, I'm very, very disappointed with that policy. The only thing that I may offer as a possible out in this situation is the fact that the architects for the school gymnasiums may indeed be putting forth those specifications, but I can assure the honourable member that I take that matter very seriously because I think Nova Scotia

[Page 2784]

firms should, indeed, at least enjoy the same amount of access to the supply of services and materials as anybody else in this country.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH: QE II TRANS. CARE UNIT - FUNDING

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today in the media, Mr. Tom Scanlon outlined his concerns about the number of staff available to care for his mother and the work environment that health workers find themselves in at the transitional care unit of the QE II. While no one, including myself, is critical or has ever been critical of the professionalism or dedication of our health professionals, it does point to the challenges that I have outlined. There is neither a plan nor dedicated resources to deal with the gaps in our health care system.

My question for the minister, Mr. Speaker, given that the Department of Health, not the QE II, is providing funding for the transitional care unit, could the minister please indicate whether or not, given the story in today's media report, there have been sufficient resources that have been allocated by government?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, one of the primary objectives of the Department of Health and of the long-term care department is to ensure that adequate staff are always available. The situation is always being monitored by supervisors and their objective and determination is to ensure that patients receive as comfortable a care as is possible to give.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, on April 4th of this year, the Department of Health indicated that they would fund the transitional care unit, however scant that funding has been, until it can find space and today they announced the space at Northwood. It's being assumed by government that the 26 residential care beds will free up nursing care beds. So my question to the minister is, now that the space has been confirmed, will the funding be continued by the department or will he turn it over to an already over-stressed district health authority?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health always ensures that there is an adequate level of funding available for the services that are provided and that is something that we work very carefully with our partners on.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, Mr. Scanlon in that story outlined that his mother is sometimes left to lay in a soiled diaper for six or seven hours. There are two nurses and two support workers left responsible to care for 21 beds and it would appear that those staff resources come from another unit in the hospital. It's a financial resource issue that the Department of Health has taken responsibility for. This minister cannot lay the blame at

[Page 2785]

the Capital District. This is his doing. So my question to the minister is, why has the minister decided to scrimp on money and not hire more nurses when it comes to the quality care needs that Mrs. Scanlon and the 21 other patients in that unit deserve?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, there was no intention on my part to ever shift blame to anybody else. We accept the responsibility for the work that we must do in order to care for patients and certainly when we receive complaints or hear of people who are dissatisfied we do a complete analysis of the situation to ensure that the situations and the patients are being cared for in an appropriate manner.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

FIN.: VLTs - VENDOR COMMISSION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be directed to the Minister responsible for the Gaming Control Act. Everyone in the province is aware of what problem gambling can do to families. The statistics we hear get worse and worse and it seems that this government's approach to the problem hasn't really changed much. In fact, members of this House will recall that the government's own staff said that new VLT machines, which were supposed to decrease a gambling problem, would actually make a gambling problem worse. Will the minister confirm that this government plans to further increase the take from the VLTs by cutting the commission received by the vendors from 25 per cent to 20 per cent they share?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the honourable member's question is, yes, the commission rate has changed for those people over $400,000.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, at least the minister has now brought that information forward. Just two years ago the minister decreased the revenue rate for those vendors as well. Now we have learned that the government plans to take a larger share of the VLT revenues, at the expense of the vendors. Any vendor who makes over $400,000 a year will have their commission decreased by 20 per cent from 25 per cent. Why the government did not mention this in the Budget Speech or why the Gaming Corporation's business plan can only (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It was just brought to my attention that that question, that actual transaction was part of the Financial Measures (2004) Act, which is before the House at this time. (Interruption) Is it included in the Financial Measures (2004) Act, is what I'm asking? It's not, continue on.

[Page 2786]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that's the reason why I was trying to get your attention, if you had waited until I had finished off my supplementary, then you would know.

Mr. Speaker, any vendor who makes over $400,000 a year will have their commission decreased by 20 per cent from 25 per cent. Why government did not mention this in the Budget Speech or in the Gaming Corporation's business plan can only be because they didn't want the public to find out. My question to the minister is, why did we have to ferret out this information rather than having the government make this announcement?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member will know two things. First is that you're required to give notice of these changes and those notices have just gone out, so the notices have to go out before you announce it. The second thing is, as the honourable member has done research, he still knows that Nova Scotia pays the highest commissions in Canada, he also knows that.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this is not about the highest commissions. This is about informing Nova Scotians and letting Nova Scotians know upfront what government is doing. That's what this is about.

Mr. Speaker, there have been polls showing that 43 per cent of Nova Scotians want VLTs banned altogether, and 32 per cent want tighter restrictions to them. Until we get to such a day, we have to make a concerted effort to deal with the problem gambling and its effects on our community. So my question to the minister is, will the minister commit to dedicating the revenues gained from the commission changes to the problem gambling programs and services in this province?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member talks about monies being directed to problem gambling. Well, I think he'll know that in this budget this year we have put money to the Office of Health Promotion to look at a variety of changes. We've looked at the programs for gambling and those programs that we've done throughout the province in the last two years. We are committing resources to that.

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

NSLC: COMMUNICATIONS STAFF - COST

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. Monday, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation put out a call for communications companies to help them, basically, sell more booze. This is the same out-of-control Crown Corporation that hired 18 staff without competition last month, five of whom were for their own Communications Department. I guess I'm probably not the only one here today scratching my head. Why is it that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation needs to bend the rules to hire a full Communications Department, then asks for expensive, private

[Page 2787]

sector communications help? My question is, will the minister explain to this House why he continues to allow the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation to waste taxpayers' money on excessive communications help?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is indeed now a corporation. It is at arm's-length from government. They make business decisions to match their business plans.

MR. GOSSE: So I guess nobody has to be accountable. This year the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation is going to need to save all the money it can. At the end of the year, the government expects another $15 million in profit from the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, based entirely on increased volume, despite the fact that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation has had problems meeting its sales targets over the last five years. Will the minister admit that he is forcing the Liquor Corporation to hand more money over to the government with no plan on how to do it?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the honourable member would be the first to complain if the government directed, directly, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, which, as I said before, operates at arm's-length from government.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, it's kind of ironic, one day Health Promotion and the next day volumes of liquor sales. I guess when it comes to the Liquor Corporation, the government has clearly accomplished one thing, they've helped to undermine the corporation's credibility through a pattern of patronage and rule-bending. Just last month there were questions about whether the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation executives were making arrangements to boost sales so they could guarantee their bonuses. Has the minister investigated whatever relationship the end-of-the-year scramble to sell more liquor had to do with the senior executives' bonus clauses?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in the real world you have to reward those who produce profits in excess of what has been demanded, and our bonus system works on superior production, whether it be in a department or whether it be in a Crown Corporation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

TCH - HFX. CRUISE SHIP TERMINAL: IMPROVEMENTS - PLANS

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. Despite the current weather, the tourism season is underway. Cruise ships in particular are arriving sooner this year than ever before. As the minister should be aware, there is no provincial presence at the Halifax Cruise Ship Terminal. I believe the department is missing a golden opportunity to promote future visits to Nova Scotia. My

[Page 2788]

question is, is the minister planning to improve the Nova Scotia tourism presence at the Halifax Cruise Ship Terminal?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I can assure the member of, and certainly we take the issue of cruise ships here in Halifax and in Sydney and in other ports very seriously, because it is a growing area for our province. Indeed, we'll be operating our visitor information centre along the waterfront this year for our visitors. Indeed, I'll be meeting with our traveller counsellors Thursday morning for breakfast.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, when the 2000 tourism strategy was introduced, a key component of that strategy was building capacity. In particular, we have to develop and maintain our tourism infrastructure; whether it be Sherbrooke Village or the historical gardens in my riding, our infrastructure requires an investment. Does the minister have a long-term plan to address the need to build capacity, especially when it comes to our existing infrastructure?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a very good point and that is what do we want to see for the vision of tourism in our province, and indeed we're working hand in hand with the industry on a vision for tourism.

MR. MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, there is no question that Nova Scotia is a world-class tourism product, but without an infrastructure investment, tourists will be spending their dollars elsewhere. Is the minister prepared to table in this House a concrete plan for infrastructure investment in the tourism industry?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, the member brings up a very good point. I tabled earlier, last Fall I believe it was, a plan in November with respect to tourism development in our province which is done hand-in-hand with the industry, as well as marketing. A very important aspect to take a look at is those aspects of capital infrastructure needs and requirements and, indeed, that's a much larger issue than just the province. It includes our federal partners, it includes the local industry, and we're working very closely with them to address those issues.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: DIABETES CARE PROG. - TRIAGE CRITERIA

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The latest diabetes progress report issued by the Canadian Diabetes Society paints a grim picture for approximately 75,000 Nova Scotians who suffer from this disease. According to the report, many people with diabetes face greater difficulty in getting the care and education they need to manage the disease and in some parts of the country the problems are worse than others and guess where they're worse? In the section on Nova

[Page 2789]

Scotia, the report talks about long wait periods for diabetes management and notes that a triage criterion is expected to address wait times for initial referrals and follow-up visits.

Mr. Speaker, we're aware that the guidelines have been submitted to the Department of Health and that, in addition, a background summary has been prepared for the department by the Diabetes Care Program which outlines the current waiting lists. So my question to the Minister of Health is, what is the status of the triage criteria guidelines in the department and is he prepared to table the information on waiting lists that have been prepared and submitted?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would want to provide as complete a level of information as I could to the honourable member and I would be quite prepared to make that information available on a future Question Day.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the report notes that lack of adequate financial support and lack of equitable access to diabetes medications and supplies, across the country, remains a serious and overwhelming concern for people with diabetes. In a cross-country comparison, it is clear that people with diabetes are worse off in Nova Scotia than almost anywhere else in the country. Earlier this year we met with the Nova Scotia Chapter of the Canadian Diabetes Association and discussed with them their proposal for a low-income drug assistance program for people with diabetes.

Mr. Speaker, they hoped to see that assistance in this year's budget based on the extension of the federal government's Canadian diabetes strategy. So my question for the Minister of Health is, will he confirm that his government will not be introducing the promised low-income drug assistance program for people with diabetes this year and will he tell the House which one of the new communications people in the Department of Health will be assigned to tell low-income Nova Scotians with diabetes that their needs won't be addressed for another year?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, in the blueprint that we provided to Nova Scotians we made a commitment to provide assistance to persons with diabetes in this province in low-income drug assistance and that commitment was for year two. We are going to be meeting that commitment with respect to year two. In the interim, we are working with the Canadian Diabetes Association here in the province in terms of developing and formulating the program and the guidelines that will be used to implement that program in the next budget year.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to table a letter from the Minister of Health to the Canadian Diabetes Association in Nova Scotia, dated February 12, 2004. The letter indicates that the Department of Health would contact the association in the near future to invite a representative to participate in a meeting to discuss access to blood glucose monitoring strips for people with diabetes.

[Page 2790]

Mr. Speaker, the Diabetes Association informs us that they've never gotten a call from this government since. So I want to ask the minister today, was the Tory commitment to people with diabetes just good PR during the election campaign? Is that why there's no program and no meeting now that the election is over?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I have in fact met with the Diabetes Association in Nova Scotia and that letter was put forward to them following that meeting. They will, in fact, be hearing from the department in order that we can meet the commitment that we made to the people of this province. That program will be implemented in the next year, and we will work with the Diabetes Association on the formulation of that program.

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

STATUS OF WOMEN - WOMEN'S CTRS.: FUNDING - REVIEW

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Women's centres are being asked to handle an increasing number of issues relating to Community Services. In fact, one of the most frequent issues that arise for their clients is the need to find adequate shelter. Although this is a Community Services issue, clients are often directed to the women's centres for this advice and assistance.

The problems that women encounter cross many departmental lines. Women's centres are uniquely able to provide these wide range of services to women in need. My question to the minister is, since women's centres have clearly become active in the delivery of community services, why doesn't the government acknowledge their vital role and review their core funding to see if it adequately reflects the increasing range of work that they are being asked to provide on behalf of women and their families?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I believe that question will be best answered by the Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to confirm that there'll be stable funding again this year for the women's centres and in fact, we've added another women's centre to the provincial list.

MS. WHALEN: Thank you very much. I guess I'll stick with the Minister of Community Services for my second question if that's possible.

[Page 2791]

Again, I'm glad to hear the minister mention their funding. I was having difficulty determining whether they were getting any additional funding. I understand now it's stable funding for this year, at $100,000 per women's centre. I'd like you to clarify that is the funding per women's centre and could you please tell us where the additional women's centre will be opened?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to confirm that it is stable at $100,000 and there is a new centre which we'll be funding at that rate in Yarmouth.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, for my second supplementary I would like to return to the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. Women's centres are found only outside of metro Halifax, and they respond daily to issues related to economic hardship for women and their families. The issues of violence and poverty facing many women are compounded by the pressures of rural job losses and low family-income levels. My question to the minister is, given the history of stagnant funding for women's centres, in what way is the minister advancing the important needs of rural women and their families, within the Tory Cabinet?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, this is a very good question and one that actually needs a great deal of time spent on, and one that the Status of Women and myself have been looking at. There will be different decisions that will come forward but again, it's a very complex issue and one that will require a lot of review before that is tabled.

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

EDUC. - SPECIAL NEEDS: FUNDING - PROMISES

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. This government has announced more funding for students with special needs, but the numbers fall short. During the election campaign the Premier promised $400,000 to help families with tuition agreements for students whose needs can't be met in the public school system. Last week that number was cut in half. Now there's just $200,000 available and many families will be left out. My question to the Premier is, why did you cut this very important promise, Mr. Premier?

THE PREMIER: Thank you and I refer that to the Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that question and indeed there has been, for the first time in some number of years, money made available by the government to help students who, the feeling is with due consultation and analysis, can be better served outside the public school system. In Nova Scotia there are about 4,500 students who have special needs. Of course, the commitment to special education with this government - indeed, all governments preceding - has been tremendous and has been increasing over the course of

[Page 2792]

the years. We believe that there may be between 45 and 90 students who might benefit from such service. We are intending to make some money available to them. What we have to do is ensure the program is implemented in a responsible way and that those who are part of it get good service and we also have to evaluate to make sure it's worth continuing.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Not to question those numbers, but the new tuition policy is estimated to help about 45 families. We've been told that there will be a means test to determine who receives help and then an ombudsman - ah, that wonderful term ombudsman - will be available for consultation with families. Few details have been provided. Parents want to know if the new process is going to be a lot less confrontational because right now they literally have to fight with their boards and the province for help. My question to the Minister of Education is, when will you serve up the full tuition plan agreement, policy and details?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, I believe, is confusing the tuition agreement program, which is the responsibility of the school boards, and the tuition support program, which is the one that's being implemented this Fall. Negotiations with affected groups and those who will be participating is ongoing now and we hope to have that program running this Fall.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, again, I'll go to the Minister of Education. As you well know from our previous careers, there are too many students with special needs that cannot receive the help they need in our public school system. Special education needs to remain a top priority in this province, yet funding for the learning resource technology was cut by $1.5 million. So my question to the minister is, is that not a contradiction? If education and special education are such a priority, why cuts to the learning resource technology program?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the number to which the honourable member refers is basically what we call the computer and the technology program in the public schools. It includes hardware, software as well as administrative support. It was felt during the course of the budget process that we would be better to commit our limited resources to in-classroom instruction, to support the students in the classroom. That program will still continue - it means that some purchases will probably be delayed and some equipment will not be renewed as quickly as we would like to have it renewed.

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

ENERGY - MAR. DRILLING SCH.: RECOGNITION - ASSISTANCE

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy and it's pertaining to another company in Cape Breton with little or no support. There are many components of our energy industry, from production, to building platforms, right down to training. Our industry is still young and we have to train people even if they have to travel

[Page 2793]

elsewhere to get jobs and gain experience. The Maritime Drilling School in Cape Breton trains people in the oil and gas industry and their graduates have been very successful in obtaining work outside the province. Unfortunately the school has not been recognized by the Department of Education. My question to the Minister of Energy is, what, if anything, has the government done to assist the Maritime Drilling School to get recognized by the Department of Education?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I can inform the honourable member that in the past that company, Maritime Drilling School, has been in consultation with the government through not only my office, but also the Department of Education and as the member would know, it's a private career college, and one that has a strict adherence to procedures and the regulations in place, and procedures that have not been met - and really anything further on that would be deferred to the Minister of Education.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, consultation is great, but it doesn't include anything comprehensive that this company needs to know. They're recognized in the U.S., but they're not recognized in Nova Scotia. We have to go outside of our own province to get recognition. Mr. Minister, I understand that according to the recent estimates that the department has a very low budget, only $7 million, so I'm hoping that there is enough there to cover the honourable minister's transportation bill, in his world travels - he's off to Houston next week, and gosh knows where after that - but I want to know, at the very least, what is this department going to do to help this local company cut through the red tape, to get the recognition that it deserves from the Department of Education?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, it's a great recognition, I remember that particular company's truck going around with the local Liberal candidate signs on the back of it, so I guess he was looking for recognition. But the real recognition is the adherence to standards. The adherence to standards and what that member also recognizes and, no, its not just the Department of Education that there is criteria that has to be met, ask them to talk to Human Resources Development Canada, which is under federal Liberal jurisdiction and there still would be confusion and problems there.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I have to use my favourite saying: Nobody sticks it to a Cape Bretoner like a Cape Bretoner. Partisan politics, never mind the future of Cape Breton, partisan politics.

I'd like to put my final supplementary then to the Minister of Education, with no results from the Minister of Energy. Could the minister outline what steps are required so that the Maritime Drilling School could receive recognition from the Department of Education?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member, there is a protocol which is followed when any private career college comes in and wishes to set up shop in this province. The requirements are public and they are universal although, for a

[Page 2794]

particular specialty, there may be trade requirements and endorsements that have to be reached as well. I'd be happy to ask our department officials to provide you with a copy of the regulations which govern private trade schools.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

TREASURY & POLICY BD.: SALARY INCREASES - JUSTIFY

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Treasury and Policy Board. Treasury and Policy Board is supposed to be the place where the best and most professional public policy analysis is done for the benefit of the government. This government has been stocking Treasury and Policy Board with political staff. The salary bill has jumped no less than 75 per cent from 1998-98 - the Liberals last full year in office. An April 2004, staff listing includes no less than eight clearly political partisan staff. My question is for the minister. Will the minister tell the House how he can justify a 75 per cent increase at Treasury and Policy Board, paying for political staff while other programs face cutbacks?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. As the honourable member would appreciate, government requires good advice, and that requires that you have the public servants with an array of abilities and talents that give government good advice. I'm very proud of the people that we have at Treasury and Policy Board, both civil servants and other public servants for the quality of the advice they give this government.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a list of all staff at Treasury and Policy Board as of April 14, 2004. Just to give some examples, the minister's second executive assistant - one is not enough for this minister, he has two - is paid by Treasury and Policy Board. Mr. Dale Madill, a former staffer from the Premier's Office who went to work for Energy, is now at Service Nova Scotia, all the while being paid by Treasury and Policy Board. Meanwhile, the Premier claims that his own office is leaner than it ever was under the Liberals. My question to the Premier is, when will the Premier admit that the only reason that his office appears to be leaner than it was under the Liberals is that he's taken all the political staff and moved them over to Treasury and Policy Board?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the reason that my office appears leaner is because it's leaner. The answer is very simple. Now if the member opposite is going to suggest that all of the people who work for government are directly working for me, yes, I will have a very large office budget, but the people who work directly for me are small in number, they work very effectively, and they're efforts will stand up under the scrutiny of Opposition Parties and the scrutiny of the public. They do a good job.

[Page 2795]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, at Treasury and Policy Board there are also staff who work with and for Communications Nova Scotia but they're paid for by Treasury and Policy Board. Now, Communications Nova Scotia already has a staff budget of $5.3 million in 2002-03, and we have pointed out a number of times, and again today, how the only real growth industry in the Civil Service is communications advisors to this government. My final question for the Chairman of Treasury and Policy Board is, why has this minister allowed this central agency responsible for public policy analysis to become a warehouse for political and communications staff?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that it is very important that government have good policy advice. Does the honourable member believe that in Nova Scotia any government, any responsible government would want to carry on without high-quality policy advice so that the government of the day can have the very best kinds of information on which to make its decisions?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PSC - POLICY CHANGES: EMPLOYEES - CONSULTATION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the NDP on finally catching on to the Premier's ruse for the last five years. My question is to the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Thousands of government employees from one end of this province to the other are concerned that this minister - and her government - does not take her responsibility to them seriously. Using Bill No. 68 as an example, which caused such turmoil for health care workers, we have seen just how little respect this government has for its employees. Civil servants play an important role in the growth of our province and expect the government to respect their collective agreements. My question to the minister is, does the minister respect the right of government employees to be consulted with regard to policy changes that affect their job security?

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I guess Bill No. 68 had to come up, but I think that it's important to note that Bill No. 68 died a natural death at the end of March, so it is not on the books at this point in time. What is also important is that this government and this minister definitely value this Public Service. We are committing to moving forward to see to it that employees get the results that they want.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Committed, the employees get the results they want, interesting. Mr. Speaker, earlier in the Spring, I, on behalf of our caucus, sent out a press release expressing concern over the future of the Shelburne Youth Centre. The Tory MLA for Shelburne responded by sending a release accusing the Liberal caucus of fearmongering and stating that the future of the facility was in good hands under his watchful eye. On February 10th of this year, following a Cabinet meeting, the government announced the closure of the Shelburne facility. The local Tory MLA told his local press that he had no prior

[Page 2796]

warning and only found out at the same time that the press found out. So my question to the minister is, would the minister please explain to this House, and particularly to the former employees of the Shelburne Youth Centre who are about to lose their jobs, and the entire community, as to why she, as the minister responsible, did not consult with them prior to the announced closure on February 10th?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I would not be the minister responsible for the Shelburne youth facility, but Justice would be, so I would refer that to the Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate the honourable member's question. Mr. Speaker, what the honourable member knows, and what all Nova Scotians and indeed what the workers in that facility knows, is the government simply recognized what had in fact happened, which was that there were only two young people in that facility and that it would be irresponsible to continue to operate that facility, both from the point of view of the young people who were there and from the point of view of the taxpayers. That's why we made the decision. It was a difficult decision but it was the right decision to make.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the responsibility for these workers and the responsibility for the collective agreement is of the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission and shame on her for hiding behind the Minister of Justice rather than responding to the concerns of these workers. It is her responsibility when a contract has been broken, it is her responsibility when workers receive no notice of an impending closure of their facility, it is her responsibility when the consultation takes place eight weeks after the announced closure, when the ministers go parading down to Shelburne looking concerned about the future of that facility, knowing that it has already been closed.

My question to the minister, which hopefully she will answer this time, is will the minister provide a guarantee to government employees in communities across this province that in future she will actually stand up for their rights at the Cabinet Table and consult with them prior to implementing policy changes that affect their livelihoods and the security of their families?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, what I will say is that the Public Service Commission has been working diligently to see to it that these employees have found placement. Of the 29 employees, 14 have gone to other government departments; six have retired; and we're still working with the remainder.

Also, what I would like to say is that yes, we did go to Shelburne and we are committed to working with those municipal politicians to see to it that we can do the best that we can for them. As far as the date and the amount of time, yes, it was announced on February 10th, but all Nova Scotians knew it was only a matter of time that that happened.

[Page 2797]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: HOME CARE ASSESSMENT - PROCESS

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, the process used in Nova Scotia for home care assessment is cruel and it degrades and humiliates people requiring home care. It is nothing more than a psychiatric evaluation. Home care applicants report to us that they are given very little information and they feel completely humiliated by the process. My question to the Minister of Health is, why does your department's home care assessment continue to be an intimidating and embarrassing process for Nova Scotians?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when the department makes decisions relative to the level of care that is appropriate for people in this province, it has two responsibilities: it has a responsibility to the individual who will be the recipient of the care but it also has a responsibility to the taxpayer who is paying for that care that indeed an appropriate level of care is being provided. The balance that needs to be achieved with respect to those two objectives is one that requires a comprehensive analysis of the individual's needs. The system that we use in this province is one that is recognized internationally; it employs an international standard and it is deemed to be appropriate for the circumstances.

MS. MASSEY: Care coordinators are trained in determining the needs of individuals, yet their role is reduced to filling in the dots on a piece of paper. This process treats home care applicants as though they are not capable of discussing their care needs. In fact, these tests allow little input from potential clients as to what supports would be most meaningful. Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Your Party campaigned on self-managed attendant's care which remains a pilot project. When will you live up to this promise to Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we work continuously to improve the level of service that we are able to provide in this province. It is a continuous effort by all in the department and it is an objective of the government and we will continue to do that.

MS. MASSEY: In fact, Mr. Speaker, there are only nine self-managers in that pilot project right now. Home Care Nova Scotia is stretched to its limits in meeting acute and chronic home-care needs. Many clients who are entitled to one level of service get far less because the system cannot meet their needs. My final question to the minister is, when will you admit that self-managed attendant care not only gives clients more independence, but is cost-effective and would relieve pressure on the home-care system?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we are continuously evaluating policies and priorities. There are many priorities that present themselves to government and we're not able to address all of them as rapidly as we would like. The honourable member is correct in her

[Page 2798]

analysis that to move in that direction is where we would like to be going and we will continue to prepare ourselves to move in that direction as the resources permit.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - APPT. CHANGES: FINE - SCRAP

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Health as well. I would like to follow up on my colleague's question on home care and self-managed attendant care. The province recently introduced a $50 penalty fee for home-care clients who cancel with less than 24 hours notice. Most clients we spoke to said it is routine for home care to cancel or rearrange appointments for them without the same courtesy. This fee is unfair and is punitive to the unpaid family caregivers to the care recipients alike. There are other ways to address abuse of the system and in the very rare cases that it occurs. My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, will you scrap the $50 fine?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member should appreciate that it is a fee of up to $50. It's not a fee that is set at $50 in all instances. The honourable member should also appreciate that when appointments are cancelled and don't take place, then others, who need home care, suffer as a result of that because the resources that were committed to the individuals who cancelled the appointment, those resources are not available to others. Anybody whose appointment is cancelled as a result of appropriate conditions beyond their control would not be charged such a fee.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that honourable minister knows full well that regardless of the price of fee, it's a cost that comes out of the meagre incomes of those individuals who live on social assistance. Also, a disabled Nova Scotian explained to me his need for home care traps him in his home and dictates how his life should be led. I will share that concern with the minister today. He does not have a set time for care to be provided. So he must set aside hours of his day to wait for home care. Now, the $50 penalty means that if he has the opportunity to go to a special event, or to take a drive, which is on rare occasions, or to have access to transportation that is so hard to get, he gets fined. My question to the minister is, why is this system operated in such a way that the client becomes bound to their home because they need the care?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the program that is under consideration through the

honourable member's questions is a Home Care Program. The care that is provided is provided within the home. The individual who is providing that care must travel to the home. If upon arrival at that home the individual who is to receive the care is not there, then that resource, the person who is being paid by the taxpayers, is not able to provide that service to others. That is a problem that needs to be addressed and we're hopeful that this will assist us in ensuring that such appointments are not cancelled and that the home care that's being provided will, in fact, be provided at the appointed times.

[Page 2799]

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again, I would remind that honourable minister that there is not a Nova Scotian taxpayer alive who would recognize this penalty on disabled persons, this particular fine. The minister is very much aware of that. All the taxpayers that I spoke to think that this is hideous on behalf of this government to impose a fine. So if this person were able use self-managed attendant care or to have access to self-managed attendant care, he could hire the appropriate caregiver to be there when he needs them. It would then give him the much-needed freedom, that's not available.

So my question to the minister, will this government stop treating disabled persons like they are sick and give them a program that respects their individuality and fosters their independence instead of trapping them in their homes?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the intent of the Home Care Program is to do just that, to allow people to be able to continue living in their homes, receive the appropriate level of care that is required. It is also the responsibility of the department to ensure that the resources that are employed to provide that care are in fact fully employed all of the time. Any person who through no fault of their own is unable to meet a commitment would not be charged that particular fee. The objective is to ensure that as many Nova Scotians receive as good home care as they possibly can when it is appropriate for them to receive it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

NSLC: CHAIRMAN OF BD. - APPT.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act. The minister is well aware that the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation has received a fair amount of criticism over the past year, in fact, it is currently subject to a fraud investigation by the Halifax Police Department. The Chairman of the Board, Mr. Peter McCreath appeared before the Public Accounts Committee last Fall and was considerably less than forthright in his answers. My question to the minister is, considering the importance of this operation to provincial revenues, does he believe at such a critical time that it was wise to place a political appointee as the chairman of the board?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Mr. McCreath has the support of the government and he is doing a very effective job.

MR. COLWELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, it appears that political patronage was very much at play when the chairman was appointed because at the same time five other PC Party supporters were appointed to the board. To top that off, late in 2003, the former treasurer of the PC Party of Canada was hired as director of communications for the corporation. Can the

[Page 2800]

minister please explain the justification behind stacking senior management of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation with prominent members of his Party?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we only employ the very best and I would suggest that the fact that they are Conservatives probably says something.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a copy of a tender that was recently issued by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. As the House will note, it was for communications services. I suspect that Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation products are not difficult to sell and at a time when financial resources of the province would be better spent on roads, schools, health care and other important issues for the residents of Nova Scotia, I would ask the minister to explain, why does the director of communications need additional help to sell products that would sell themselves, especially since the person is a political appointment?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation operates at arm's-length from the government. They are a business. I'm sure that they have hired people to do the advertising and the PR for the commission with a concern for putting forward the best balance sheet at the end of the year.

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

TCH - ATLANTIC THEATRE FEST.: FED. FUNDING - SUPPORT

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage. The newspaper today ran a story indicating that the Atlantic Theatre Festival in Wolfville may have to close its doors by the end of the week because ACOA reneged on a funding commitment. The Atlantic Theatre Festival is a crucial part of the economy of the Town of Wolfville and the Annapolis Valley as a whole. It receives acclaim, recognition from across the country, and is a vital part of Nova Scotia's arts community. My question to the minister is, what are you doing to ensure that the Atlantic Theatre Festival will not have to close its doors, so that the show will go on for the 2004 season?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member is correct, the Atlantic Theatre Festival has done a tremendous job over the last number of years, doing what they do best. I have spoken with the local member, my colleague, the member for Kings South, on this very issue, and I can assure you that the money we invested in the festival last year, being $147,000, is an investment we feel very strongly about. In addition, I can assure the member that I am actually writing to the federal minister. I will have a letter going out by morning.

[Page 2801]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, ACOA's about-face certainly came as a shock to the Atlantic Theatre Festival. They had planned not to mount production this year and instead focus on fundraising, but ACOA told them that they would help out. So they went ahead and hired staff. The government has shown a willingness to provide support for many organizations, even those that don't really need it, like Sobeys. What more is your government prepared to do, Mr. Minister, to ensure that the Atlantic Theatre Festival's 2004 season proceeds instead of allowing the festival to close for good this year?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I believe it's safe to say that we have gone beyond the call of duty with respect to the Atlantic Theatre Festival. Last year, in addition to the $147,000 we invested in the theatre festival, we also provided a loan through the Office of Economic Development, of which my colleague was very much involved. Of that, I believe $49,000 was forgiven. We have staff working with those in the festival. The fact that ACOA - and I do not know all the details yet with respect to the deal that was made with the Atlantic Theatre Festival, but I am writing the minister to find out the exact details of that deal.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I think it's important that our minister stays involved with the conditions that are going on down in Wolfville. We have many residents in the area who benefit from the Atlantic Theatre Festival. The whole area benefits at times. They have 36 artists, who have given up work elsewhere to go to Wolfville and prepare for this year's season. To say that 36 people may lose employment this summer is important. I think the minister must act quickly on this, because the indications on the Web page today say that the season has been cancelled.

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 member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1098.

Res. No. 1098, Educ.: Student Debt/Tuition - Reduce - notice given Apr. 26/04 - (Mr. W. Estabrooks)

[Page 2802]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want you to know this a topic, of course, of importance to many members of this House. In particular I want to tell you how important a topic it was when, yesterday, my 20-year-old daughter was delivered out to the airport as she headed off for her summer job, planting trees in northern Ontario, in fact in Moosonee. My daughter - and you've heard me speak of her before - is a student at NSCAD. Let me tell you, the students at NSCAD, post-secondary students across this province, students who are planning to or are currently attending community colleges across this province are not happy. They are not pleased. In fact when I told my daughter that we were planning on debating this resolution on Opposition Day, well I don't know if I can particularly tell you what she said, but she told me to give it to the government members as best as I could without the "parliamentary" language included.

I want you to know that I am not prepared to hear the Education Minister stand in his place today and tell us what great universities we have in this province. I'm not prepared to hear him stand in his place today and tell us what great community colleges we have. We know that. Those members and the member for Halifax Citadel here who sits to my left, when he stands and takes that X ring out, I know he is as proud because of their ranking across this province and across this country. So we don't want to hear how great the post-secondary institutions are in this province. We know that. We accept that. We recognize the standards that are established across this province, whether it's the community colleges, St. F.X. and its number one ranking. Which I know the member for Halifax Citadel is aware they'll only have for another year before they leave it to that institution in New Brunswick called Mount Allison, but that's another topic. I want you to know that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what my daughter said - don't forget to remind members opposite that there's a food bank at NSCAD.

What is a food bank doing in a university? Have we reached the stage with these young people, and to the credit of people, parents, volunteers in the community we continue to make sure that food is available for these young people who attend the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design just down the street here, but that is a true contradiction in terms. That's a contradiction in terms that is inexplicable to young people. As my daughter said, it's always sad leaving university this time of year because you don't know whether many of my friends will be back, whether many of my friends can afford to be back at that world-recognized art college down the street.

I want to table for members opposite - and I incidentally want to thank the library staff for photo enhancing these documents for me - "University grads sink deeper into debt", April 27th, the article was in The Chronicle-Herald and the article was also in The Daily News. It's written by Sue Bailey from the Canadian Press. I'm going to quote from it for just a moment if I may. "A StatsCan study released last September confirmed that richer kids are far more

[Page 2803]

likely to fill university and college classes. It found that 83 per cent of high school graduates whose families earned at least $80,000 a year went on to higher learning in 2001."

What we're facing here is a crisis. A crisis where we have students very capable of moving on to post-secondary institutions but, through no fault of their own and because of their parents' financial circumstances, they cannot move on to community colleges or universities in this province or in other provinces across this great country.

Referring back to Sue Bailey's article, "Bachelor grads left university owing an average of $19,500 . . ." I want you to know that we can use comparative figures all we want, but that is a heck of a hard way to start that first year out, if you're lucky enough to get a job in your career. Ian Boyko, the national chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students says, in this same article comments - and I'd like to quote this and we've already tabled this document - "We're talking about indebting an entire generation - or at least the poor half of it."

I can tell you from personal experience, Mr. Speaker, based upon my previous career and based upon the fact of what my father's income was, and where I grew up in Dorchester, New Brunswick, my father under no circumstances could afford to send his son to university. I received that hand-up - it was not a handout - because, at the time, in the particular university that I was fortunate enough to go to, I was allowed to attend through an arrangement that I found out many years later, so let me tell you, this is a personal topic. A very personal topic.

[4:30 p.m.]

When I was fortunate enough to become a school teacher, I constantly said to young men and women, and one of them incidently is sitting to my right here, the member for Sackville-Cobequid. When this young member was a student at Sackville High School, I recall as one of his coaches saying, get yourself some post-secondary education. Believe it or not, he took my advice, as there were at the time, other young people who have attended high schools where I've been fortunate enough to teach.

Now, what are we telling young people? Are we telling them, continue to pursue your dreams? Continue to make sure that you're going to have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to go on for further education and oh yes, you better make sure your parents have very deep pockets, because tuitions continue to go through the roof. Student loans become more and more difficult. We can point fingers at the federal government. We can point fingers at various levels of government. We can say to universities, why do they pass on the cost of high maintenance and the various other things at the university, to the students?

[Page 2804]

I've had the opportunity to meet with and I know members of my caucus have taken the opportunity to meet with university professors and university presidents. We have heard their tales of woe, and it all comes down to a lack of funding. There has to be some hope, and the hope has to be revolved around the fact that young people will continue to receive the opportunity of an education, because an education is that magic moment in a young person's life, when the door of opportunity swings open, swings wide open. If you're in that first-year class and you are in that seat, you have a wonderful opportunity in whatever the course is, and whatever the institution is, to begin to look at a career, a job at the end of the tunnel that will provide for you and your family and your province and your country. You will have the opportunity to make a valid contribution.

I understand, I truly do, that there are limited dollars and that they are not always available for everything. I want you to know, that students who are currently enrolled in post-secondary institutions in this province, and I'm sure across this country, have had it, and they've had it right up to here, if I may use that description. They have had it. We are going to see many more demonstrations. We're going to see these young people who are going to demonstrate, just as the guy in New York said when he threw up the window and screamed out into the street, we're not going to take it anymore.

I can share, as I've shared with members of previous experience, the picture in The Daily News, where there were students panhandling, and I will table one of these, because I'm not allowed to use props as I know. There were students panhandling, university students panhandling in the street to protest the 4 per cent tuition increase. I want you to know the pride that I felt that day when I opened The Daily News, when I realized that one of the young women in that picture panhandling, as a demonstration, was that very same daughter that I've spoken about, who has just left for Moose River in Moosonee, to plant trees. That shows to me, the involvement, the commitment, and how relieved I am to say that this young woman is taking to the streets to demonstrate that she isn't going to take it anymore.

I want you to know, there are student government leaders. There are people who have been elected as young men and women, who hopefully will have the opportunity to return to their post-secondary institutions next year and we will continue to hear from them. That Minister of Education and that government are going to continue to hear from them. The Minister of Finance in Ottawa, is going to continue to hear from them, because they are the ones who will be speaking on behalf of young men and women in their various institutions.

In the short time that I have to wrap up, I want to draw your attention again to this, "University grads sink deeper into debt", and I want to quote from the federal Human Resources Minister, Joe Volpe, who downplayed the issue, saying a degree or a diploma pays off for most of it. He said in this article, "I think the criticism is unfounded." Well, Mr. Volpe, I'm telling you it's time to wake up and smell the coffee because these kids aren't happy and they aren't going to take it anymore. It's going to become a federal election issue and these young people are going to vote in bigger numbers than they ever have as they express their

[Page 2805]

distain for that federal government and their lack of funding for education in this province. I thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance is still having some math problems because on three occasions now he has stated that, in fact, universities this year will be receiving an $8 million increase in funding. However, I am pleased to note that the Minister of Education, who is very concerned about math in this province, has the correct figures and that is - universities and post-secondary will be receiving $2 million in increased funding this year - less than a 1 per cent increase for this year. Simply stated, this is an inadequate level of funding and, in fact, according to statements from the university presidents, they have categorically determined that, in fact, $22 million is required to move along at an even pace this year. So the government is providing $2 million versus $22 million.

The universities themselves have, indeed, been doing their part, doing their job to assist students. This year in Nova Scotia our 11 post-secondary institutions will be giving out $50 million directly through scholarships, grants, student assistance, jobs on campus, ways which they can mitigate against the very low increase that this government will be giving. In fact, it is the alumni of our universities and supporters who were able to make this $50 million available so that students can continue their education.

The tuition reality is so real and impacting. We've heard it stated here, in fact, in the Legislature on many occasions that Nova Scotia has the highest tuitions in Canada - currently $1,500 above the Canadian average; $5,557 versus $4,025 - Stats Canada, August 12, 2003. When other fees are added in, the base dollar that students put out on the average here is $6,000 versus the Canadian average of $4,648. We know that, in fact, it is having an enormous impact on students. Last year, as vice-principal of a high school, I was beginning to wonder why so many students were going to Memorial University. A significant number have been going to Moncton, UNB, as we do have, of course, bilingual students in our school, especially from CFB Greenwood. So Moncton, UNB, have been big gainers of our students. Last year we had 12 students from our graduating class go to Memorial. We, of course, know that they have a tuition fee of $2,608. Most New Brunswick universities' fees are about $4,500. So students, in fact, are leaving the province, good students who could be taking places on our campuses.

In the Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance stated, "Based on our population, we are at the top of the list when it comes to funding Nova Scotia post-secondary students." Now, the best information that I can access is from 2002. Operating grants per full-time equivalent, Nova Scotia rated ninth. On a per capita basis, we rated fifth. I would like to see the minister table information to this House that would clearly indicate that that statement is substantiated. What I was able to gather was based on 2002 and I'd be surprised to see that the operating grants had moved that significantly in a short period of time.

[Page 2806]

We all know that our Nova Scotia Community College system is absolutely critical to the future of Nova Scotia training a workforce that we currently need and we'll continue to need. It is again disappointing to see that they will have three years of increases going on here in the province. Three years when their tuition fees will go up. At the same time, we are simply talking about multi-year funding so students are getting three years of increases but we are still in negotiating stages of multi-year funding. Again, from meeting with the presidents of the universities, they simply want this to move forward at a much quicker pace than what is currently taking place here in the province.

Earlier I said that Nova Scotia students are leaving the province to attend post-secondary and I would have to say that probably the most difficult situation that I've faced over the last number of years were students entering my office and debating the question of going on to university. Simply taking on the burden of many thousands of dollars was not in the culture of their family and certainly my position was to take a strong stand of encouragement knowing the value of a university education. But for many students who come from families who do not want to borrow those kinds of dollars, they are making a decision not to go on to university or post-secondary to any extent.

I see this as an opportunity for government to move in here and provide greater assistance, greater tuition support, greater debt reduction support and as we know we have as well the great opportunity to connect to these students as they graduate. If we provide strong debt reduction to our students, incentives that will keep them here in the province, it can only be a win-win situation. It can only be a winning dimension for these young people to engage in growing Nova Scotia and it will be a win situation for our economy.

Tying in that debt reduction, I think, into a stronger measure over the coming number of years is a challenge for the present government and governments to follow. Simply to have students faced with that dilemma of not proceeding on to their education is one that I find regrettable and certainly one that I feel, as a government representative, that I want to work for better opportunities for our students.

I know that my colleague has met with students on many occasions, and I will give him an opportunity to also have a few words. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on this occasion about this very important subject. My friend, the member for Kings West referenced my having met with students in the past number of years and I can recall about a year and a half ago when I had the opportunity to meet with the university presidents, the president of the community college, the president of the student unions of the various universities and the President of the Nova Scotia Community College student groups along with community leaders and business leaders, and what I was struck by was that this was the

[Page 2807]

first time that this group of people actually gathered under one roof to talk about the future of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia.

[4:45 p.m.]

The world has changed a great deal in the last five years, but it's going to change even more over the next five years. If we are to live up to our potential, if we are to be the modern dynamic province that we have the potential to be, then surely we are going to grow our way out of this through the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy is clearly the area where we have the greatest potential to lead as a province. It has happened in many jurisdictions across North America and, indeed, across the world. Where economic growth happens, it happens as a result of a creative, vibrant, dynamic, knowledge-based industry growing up and moving forward.

It's interesting to note that despite our successes recently, and I reference The Chronicle-Herald, an expert came, Ann Dowsett Johnson, an expert in education and indicated to Nova Scotians in a speech that she gave to the Greater Halifax Economic Development Partnership that Nova Scotia's education funding is almost preposterously low.

We have been successful in some respects in Nova Scotia, but I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that post-secondary education in Nova Scotia is, indeed, on life supports and if we are to move forward, we need to recognize that education, particularly at the post-secondary level, is an investment, it's not an expense. Specifically with respect to that, I refer to a paper prepared by Robert Allen and it's entitled PAID IN FULL: University grads pay full cost of education - in taxes.

The important lesson that Mr. Allen points out in all of this is that if somebody is finally given the opportunity to actually get a degree or a community college diploma, they will pay back the government cost of that education in taxes over time and it brings us back to the whole notion of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure - a lesson that we need to learn when it comes to issues like health promotion, when it comes to the health of our citizens, when it comes to the debt of our province. It all ties together. Post-secondary education needs to be a priority. It needs to become a priority and I would urge this government in the strongest terms to put it on the agenda and to make sure that students have the leg up that they deserve.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise, I will start again, to speak on this important resolution. I guess, in beginning, I see my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, has a daughter who is going out to plant trees in Ontario. Well, I want to tell him that my son planted trees in British Columbia for three years and it's a marvellous experience. I also want to tell him that, you know, going out of province or taking jobs in the

[Page 2808]

summer to try to help yourself in education is a good thing. For example, my colleague, the Premier, he was in the military or in the service during his university years. For me, I was a hardrock miner which is kind of hard to believe, but I did that for awhile in the Yukon and in the Northwest Territories.

So what I'm saying, Mr. Speaker, is that the cost of college or universities is relative. It has always been expensive and probably will continue to be expensive. Having said that, I want to say that I sympathize and this government is trying to support in the best way it can young people who are going off to higher education and the value of higher education in this province. The honourable member for Halifax Citadel talked about the commitment to education. No government in history has made a stronger commitment to education than I think our government.

Mr. Speaker, despite the fact, indeed we do at least at the university level have the highest tuition fees in the country, something that none of us are happy about, I want to tell you that our participation in Nova Scotia, the higher education participation, exceeds the national average by 62 per cent. You're looking at the age of 18 to 24. Fully, about 80 per cent, not 80 per cent, but we're above the national average by 62 per cent which is a very good thing and it means that the people of this province hold education in great regard. We always have. We have the greatest university system in the country and our community college system is making great strides.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that we do have a problem in Nova Scotia that we have to try to rectify. We are so university-oriented that our figures have flopped. About 80 per cent of the people who come out of high schools, or wherever they come from, they opt to go the university route, and about 20 per cent go into either the community college or the private trade schools.

Mr. Speaker, in other jurisdictions that ratio is about 65 to 35. We have to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West, on a point of order?

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: No, Mr. Speaker, would the honourable minister allow a short question?

MR. MUIR: Sure.

[Page 2809]

MR. MACKINNON: I listened intently to the minister's comments. I'm just wondering, in view of the growing unfunded liability within the Teachers' Pension Fund within the community college system that was put before one of the committees recently, what is the plan and how will that impact on what his long-term strategy is here?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that is really relevant to the topic under consideration, so I would pass on that question.

Mr. Speaker, the current government has been making and will continue to make every effort it can afford to support students as they pursue post-secondary education. We invest more and more each year in our public schools, so that young Nova Scotians are well-prepared to enter university or college programs. We will continue to restore funding to universities, which had been cut by previous governments. For example, university operating funding was at an all-time high in 1983 at $212 million, it was cut all the way down to $175 million by 1997. With the continuous investments of our government we've been able to bring university funding back close to its peak level of 1993. I should say there is at least $10 million more in research money out there now than there was in 1993, and that's not included in that figure.

Nova Scotia, despite what the honourable member for Kings said, has the second-highest university funding per capita in the country, but our dollars are spread thin. We have universities and we are subsidizing thousands of out-of-province students. The net gain of out-of-province students to Nova Scotia is about 5,000; in other words, we bring in about 10,000 and we have about 5,000 Nova Scotians who are going elsewhere, so the net gain - we're paying for about 5,000.

Mr. Speaker, just for contrast, if we had a different funding system for universities - I want to tell you that I was down in one of my alma maters a little while ago, it happened to be down in the United States, and this is a state university not a private university. They see out-of-province university students as a great revenue-generator. For an undergraduate student, at the University of Virginia, the increase next year will be - the undergraduate, in-province student will pay $6,600 - that's for a liberal arts and science degree - for an out-of-province undergraduate student, it's going up to $22,000.

I'm saying that it is a slightly different funding system, they use the out-of-province students as a revenue source. Indeed, if we could get the federal government to allow the funding to follow the students, we would have about an additional $30 million to put into our university system. What it means now, Mr. Speaker, is we are sending $30 million of our money to other provinces.

Mr. Speaker, other provinces they say don't have that problem. That is a reflection, a real credit to our universities. I'm not suggesting we don't take out-of-province students, because they are a marvellous resource. They bring things to our province, and a lot of them

[Page 2810]

stay here. Indeed, I will tell you that three of my children went to an out-of-province university, so I am not really in a position to criticize too much. We have about twice as many students coming in as leaving, and say it's a testament to the quality of our universities, but it does create a financial problem. Of course, Mr. Speaker, we understand that universities are facing rising costs, but we do expect them to seek every alternative to meet them without simply increasing student's tuition. We do recognize that there is one way that we can help universities to do this, and knowing what funding will be available in the future, will help them do a better job of planning to keep tuition increases to a minimum.

We are currently discussing a multi-year funding agreement with universities, and we aim to give the universities a three year guarantee of operating funding. In return, we are discussing things like reducing duplication, making it easier to transfer credits between colleges and universities, identifying and supporting programs and areas that address our skills need, and of course keeping tuition increases to a minimum.

We don't regulate tuition at our universities. I think there are number of examples, we can look across Canada where it has been done, and it doesn't work. For example, they tried it in British Columbia and the tuition increased, something like 100 per cent the year they took the cap off. In Ontario, they capped tuition this year, and what did they do? They had to take money from public schools to pay for it. They had to give lump-sum grants to the universities, $14 million I think I saw it, to the universities to make up for the money that they took from them, and that $14 million meant that they had to put a hold on funding for public schools. That's the risk of a fully-funded tuition fee. No matter how much funding we provide, the universities will never say that's enough, they would always want more, and that's understandable. The fully-funded tuition freeze here would cost us about $14 million, which means that a lot of other needs would not be met. Our approach is to keep investing in universities as we can afford, and we will continue to work with universities on keeping tuition increases to a minimum and trying to provide stable funding.

In the Throne Speech, or the federal budget that came down, didn't do anything really to help this issue of rising costs of university. They did on the on the other hand, put money into access. But the issue is not access, as much as it is to reduce the costs for the students who are going and we do need - that's a partnership among the provincial government, the higher education institutions and the federal government, we all have a role to play. It's great to say we will help you get in, but they have to keep them there.

Our government has committed $123 million to an expansion of the community college facility, and that's right across the province, and that's the largest investment in post-secondary education in our history. In addition, the Nova Scotia Community College tuition is the fourth lowest in the country. I don't think our community college, to be quite frank, are over-priced. We have quality institutions, and the fact that it costs $2,250 or maybe $2,400 next year, I think, is a bargain. We have a quality system, and the information that I get from the people who go to community colleges and those who are associated with them, the

[Page 2811]

students are getting a good deal. That doesn't mean that I would not like to see them paying $1,000 less, or $1,500 less. I'm just saying, comparatively speaking for what they get, and what they can leave with, its not a bad deal.

The Community College Board of Governors has recommended some small increases to the government over the next three years, Cabinet will be considering those and we will be informing the college of our decision very soon. The community college stakes its reputation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Time allotted has expired.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, its an honour that I rise here today to speak about the cost of tuition and education in the Province of Nova Scotia. I have two beautiful facilities in my riding, the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi Campus and the University College of Cape Breton, which has been very involved in our community.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the $8 million that this government announced for university funding, out of that $8 million, the province is only injecting $2 million in new money, restoring the money that they took from the 2003-04 fiscal year. The University College of Cape Breton out of this money would receive $559,000. It's not enough to change the plan they have right now to increase the tuition at the University College of Cape Breton next year, by 4.7 per cent, this upcoming Fall.

Students are facing unrealistic hikes in residence fees, Mr. Speaker. Most students today are carrying such a debt load and having to work two or three jobs aside from the university studies. These jobs that they're doing are minimum wage and the debts they are incurring, I'll give you an example, the average debt for a graduating student in Nova Scotia right now stands at $21,794. By the year 2005, it'll be $42,000, by the time somebody graduates from an Arts program in a university in this province.

Massive loans. That's why they're talking about the outward migration of Cape Bretoners, Mr. Speaker. When you finish at the University College of Cape Breton and you owe $42,000 by the year 2005, you have no other choice but to leave. Leave Cape Breton, leave Nova Scotia. Today what we export in Cape Breton is our youth and our brains. Not coal and steel anymore. The sweat has now turned to tears in Cape Breton Island.

Mr. Speaker, we also talk about a two-tier system where creating a class based society where only the rich and children of wealthy families will be able to attend universities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2812]

This government has cancelled the province's Loan Remission Program, leaving this the only province without a debt reduction program for students. That's a shame, Mr. Speaker. Today the kids work so hard to get their education and be there. I would like to see funding increased to the point where UCCB is able to function properly, and where they would be able to freeze their tuition and have these opportunities for the children to stay at home and for the youth to stay there. The present funding formula which in my opinion, provides an inadequate and inequitable level for our university in Cape Breton Island.

Demands and work loads for the students and their academics, it's very stressful, Mr. Speaker. The University College of Cape Breton contributes is the socio-economic well-being of our Island. The students work so hard in the Bachelor of Arts and Community Studies program, to make our community a better place to live, and they're under a lot of stress. I take my hat off to any student today who takes a full course load and gets involved in their community to make it a better place to live. I think it's very fortunate that we have such a university there.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to also table a poster that was done up by the student union at the University College of Cape Breton, "Do the Skyrocketing Costs of university have you down?" That's the headlines I'm going to table here today. You can understand that a lot of the students are down.

Do you know that for the students of Nova Scotia, that tuition fees have risen 126 per cent over the past 10 years at the University College of Cape Breton? That's unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. That's hard to believe that in today's society that can happen to young people. Yet, university grads make 9 per cent to 15 per cent more with a university degree in the workforce. It would only make any sense when they graduate, there would be more taxes paid by these upper students that would be getting good salaries from their university education. It's a win-win situation.

Our kids are moving away in groves. Groves. They're just moving away, (interruption) yes, just like oranges, I guess. This province also cut the $10 million Loan Remission Program and that was very beneficial to the university students today.

In my office alone, people come in and a lot of the caseloads that I first received were about the problems kids were having with student loans (Interruptions) And not being able to pay them back, and loans being put into collection agencies. Collection agencies were hounding these students and also problems (Interruption) And de-designation. Some of these students who have gone back to school to finish their education, are still in school, but somehow here they are, back in university and they have people from a collection agency calling them looking for money and taking payments out of their bank accounts without any permission while they're back in school. I don't know how many times it's happened this year in my riding.

[Page 2813]

Mr. Speaker, I think I've said enough about the beautiful University College of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and I would like to share my time with the member for Halifax Atlantic at this present time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Thank you for sharing your time. It was mentioned earlier by my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, that Ian Boyko says we are indebting an entire generation, or at least, the poorer half of it. I would argue that at this point we are indebting not a single generation, but many subsequent generations. We know that education is obviously a determinant of income. We also know that it is a powerful determinant of health status and we should be viewing it, I would argue, as an issue of health promotion.

I don't know how many of you remember an advertisement that used to be featured on the subway walls in the United States by the NAACP. It was a picture of a young man or a young woman as the case may be and the caption beneath it was simply, A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste. I think that here in Nova Scotia we need to keep that in mind. Nova Scotians are not a raw resource - they are not simply here to be used up and exported, to be mined. If we have a net inflow of students to Nova Scotia universities and yet we have a stable population, something is going wrong.

I think it's very important that we view the post-secondary system as one of what they call an economic engine. It is essential to the health - economic, mental and physical - of Nova Scotians of this generation and of future generations that we support them in fulfilling each person's maximum potential.

I am grateful that the minister sympathizes with the burden of these many young people, but unfortunately we need a great deal more than sympathy. It would appear that the amounts budgeted for the post-secondary system are not always being fully absorbed. Why is this? Why is tuition going up? Municipalities are to some degree subsidizing universities in that their property assessments are based on a grant in lieu system. I hope that is about to change, but it has to be recognized that there's funding coming, not only from this province but from all other levels of government.

Not only does the existence of our very fine post-secondary institutions contribute to the health directly of the students who attend them and the economic health of the communities that are there as well, but they also contribute to the physical health as well of the community around them. We are very, very fortunate to have within this province five communities which are based around post-secondary institutions. I think it's important we do not forget the Collège de l'Acadie. We are fortunate as well in that we are able to provide education to that portion of our population who are Francophone. It is essential that we do not lose their continuing contribution to our culture.

[Page 2814]

If accessibility to higher education is denied for low-income students, I think we all know what the impact of that is ultimately. I would like to suggest that no matter what we do that we ensure that there is adequate support, whether it be in the form of grants, loan remissions or otherwise. It is essential that we do this, because as a society we will pay the price, and the children of those students who have been unable to attend the universities and to fulfill their entire potential will also pay the price. We need to view this as a global societal responsibility. As I say, Nova Scotians are not a raw resource, they are not to be wasted, they are not to be exported.

One of the things that has really struck me over the last few years is that as lifespans increase, many people go through several careers during a lifetime. I think we should also be looking at this from a labour point of view as well, because it's unrealistic for any person in this day and age to expect that their entire working career will be spent in the manual trades. We need to look, as well, at the importance of people having other pursuits. We know that backs give out, legs give out and people who have not been trained, necessarily, to use anything else but those are left devastated, high and dry, and a burden to themselves more than anybody else.

Mr. Speaker, we need to remember not only the young students, not only the anglophone students, but all of our Nova Scotians. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition Deputy House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition Deputy House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 52.

Bill No. 52 - Road Improvements Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to speak to this bill. Certainly members of the Opposition would see some value in this, and it's actually our hope that at some point the government may see something positive in this. I want to say that when you're a rural member, roads are definitely an issue. I think back to when I first came to this House in 1998, and my conversations with the then minister, the honourable Clifford Huskilson, I would come at him on a number of occasions around what I saw as priorities for addressing concerns around roads and what he or his department saw as priorities.

[Page 2815]

I remember him telling me that there were three criteria, volume, road condition and ride. Those were the three, volume, road condition and ride. Of course that meant that the largest volume would be on Highway No. 102 or the 100-Series Highways. So the point I would try to convince him of would be the notion, well, how do you expect people or goods to get to the 100-Series Highways when they're coming from the secondary road system? Being in a rural riding, heavy truck traffic has paid a heavy price on our roads, certainly when it comes to logging trucks and pulp trucks, not to mention the trucks for hauling milk, for example.

As much as we think about the loads that they carry, we have to think about the necessity of those trucks being able to get over those roads. In particular, I think about the dairy farmers in my area, Hants East, can claim to produce 30 per cent of the milk that's produced in this province, so that means that 30 per cent of the milk is hauled from farms to dairies in this province from my constituency. Those trucks are big trucks. They are enormous. Milk weighs about the same as water, which is about 10 pounds to the gallon, and I'm telling you that's a lot of gallons.

[5:15 p.m.]

The former minister, the honourable Clifford Huskilson, did make the point to me as I tried to make the case for the damage to roads by tractor-trailers, logging trucks in whatever form, he said that an 18-wheeler generally is regarded as having the same impact on a road as 1,200 cars. So when we try to make the case of volume, and the minister will try to make the case that the volume is higher on the 100-Series roads, then I have to at least try to rebut him by saying, well, if tractor-trailers are equivalent to 1,200 cars, then he can do the quick math to determine how many of those trucks there are on rural roads in Nova Scotia.

I would say that up until last year, up until 2003, I thought I wasn't particularly abused by the Tory Government. I think since 1998, we have been able to get a road paved in Hants East. One, I think, was purely because the process has gone so far along to getting it done it was probably the reason that it was completed by the Liberal Government in 1998, because another road in my constituency that was booked to be done in 1998 came off the list - a big surprise after a New Democratic was elected, I guess. (Interruption) Well, obviously, the people must think so by the response from the election last year.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that from 1999 until last year, we did get a road paved, but that seemed to end in 2003. I was able to get the honourable Clifford Huskilson and the honourable Gordon Balser both out over roads in Hants East. To get any successive ministers after that has been particularly difficult. I want to say I did get the Honourable Ron Russell in my office for an hour one day a couple years ago. (Interruptions)

[Page 2816]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I wonder if the honourable member for Hants East is aware that the current Minister of Transportation and Public Works drives over his roads at least one or two times a week?

MR. MACDONELL: I'm aware that the honourable minister does travel over Hants East roads and I guess that's why I find it so perplexing as to why it's so difficult to make the case for the work that needs to be done on Hants East roads. I want to tell the House that the minister did come with me for a trip over the East Uniacke Road in Mount Uniacke, and I want to say that I appreciated that. I know the people there appreciate that. I was a bit disappointed because the time frame we had booked was somewhat curtailed and that's the reason we only got over that one road, but at least the minister is aware. I know that wouldn't be on his regular route between home and Province House, so I was glad that we were able to get over that. I think that he could take as an example of other roads which I have mentioned through West Gore and so on in my constituency.

When I speak to my constituents, Mr. Speaker, I try to make the case, because I know that when it comes to talking to my area manager or to the minister, that even I have to be able to tell them what I would think would be the priorities. If they said, well, look, you're asking for all of this, what's you're A, B, C and D of the top ones, if you had to have something done, what would it be? I have to be able to go back to my constituents and explain to them why I said road A and not their road. I've got to be able to look them in the eye and have a reason that I think is well founded for doing that. My reason has always been, the worst roads first.

As much as I say that, there are those roads (Interruptions) I would like to see the government set up its priority list to look at the worst roads first, but also whatever other uses are going on. Route 215, I mentioned to the minister the day we were out, and he said, look, I've been over Route 215, but this is a heavily-trafficked tourist area in my constituency, part of the Glooscap Trail, and it would seem to me to be in the government's best interest and the people's best interest, and tourism's best interest if we were actually able to take the tourist routes and have funding go to them, outside of the other envelope of funding to ensure that we can encourage tourists to come back.

Mr. Speaker, roads will continue to be a serious issue. From what I see in correspondence that he's sent to people on the East Uniacke Road, I think I can expect the minister to respond about the dollars necessary to bring all the roads up to a certain standard. I want to say that I was a little disappointed to see correspondence that would indicate that the East Uniacke Road is not going to make the capital program and more RIM money. I think it's beyond the stage of spending more Rural Impact Mitigation money on it. I think he's spending good money after bad. I would encourage the minister to rethink this.

[Page 2817]

Interestingly enough, I see that a road in Hants West has made the list for paving, and I don't knock the people living on those roads. I would certainly believe that that road would need paving. I've been to some on the government side, and I've seen roads that were paved last year, even though I wondered why we didn't get any in Hants East. The roads that I saw that were paved needed to be paved, and I don't take anything away from those members for trying to bring their concerns to the minister and to the House, because their constituents have every right to expect their members to speak for them. The roads I saw, they definitely needed work done.

With that said, I don't come to the House or come to the minister expecting to get treated better than any other member, but I would certainly like to be treated as well as any other member. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: You've been treated so well in the last five years - there was a rumour that you were coming across to this side. (Laughter) Is that true?

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I hear what the members are saying, there was a rumour, but I don't know if they heard a rumour that I fell and struck my head, too. (Laughter) I think while I have some clarity of thought, I will remain with this Party and fight the good fight for my constituents. (Interruption) I want the government to think about how it prioritizes roads, because I have roads that are in terrible shape in my constituency, and partly because of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words on this particular resolution. There is so much that can be said in the context of this particular resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bill.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, the resolution for the bill. (Interruptions) They're still confused. (Interruptions) Yes, the bill, but it's a resolution for the bill. What we do need is some clarity from the government on a number of issues. Number one, the government in its 1999 blue book said that it would provide a 10-year road plan for the people of Nova Scotia. Has anyone seen that 10-year road plan? I haven't, despite the fact that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said it exists, so we have to take him at his word. We'll never find it, despite the fact that we've asked him at least three times in the last year for a copy of that. He has not produced it, but I know he's a man of great honour and he will on some future day, provide that 10-year road plan that he says he has.

[Page 2818]

Like his almost-to-be colleague in the last provincial election in Cape Breton West who indicated in written form that he, with some friends and an engineer, had developed a four-year road plan for the roads in Cape Breton West and did that by open letter to all the constituents, all the voters of Cape Breton West. Attached to that, Mr. Speaker, was a nice little letter of support from the then Minister of Transportation and Public Works, one Honourable Michael Baker. That letter was written on July 4th; that was the day, I believe, before the election was called. Now that may have been just a coincidence, but that was put in there. That's fine, you have to give credit where credit is due, so let's find out if it's a good four-year road plan. We haven't been able to find out if the 10-year road plan is good, but let's see if we can find out on this one.

First of all, I asked the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in Question Period in the last session. He didn't answer the question. I didn't get anywhere with it so I sent a freedom of information request over to the department. Well, before the Minister of Justice got his hands on it, we were lucky it was free of charge. This request was put in last year. Actually just shortly after the election, and it was point specific, I was looking for a copy of the four-year business plan submitted by Cape Breton Regional Municipality Councillor Ivan Doncaster to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, on or about July 4, 2003 as indicated in a letter from Councillor Ivan Doncaster to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. You know what I received back, Mr. Speaker? Confirmation that no such plan existed in the department, no such plan. What can I tell you?

So I said, well let's do the honourable thing, maybe there's a breakdown in communication. I wrote to the good councillor on August 7, 2003 and I'll table it; December 10, 2003; January 19, 2004. You know, Mr. Speaker, I haven't even got an acknowledgment for my correspondence. So I said, well maybe he's a busy man and there could be a bit of a breakdown in communication, so, in a meeting in my office I asked the good councillor for a copy of the plan. He says he may have a copy floating around home but it would be best to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Well.

Also in the freedom of information request, they even indicated that they had contacted the local municipality for a copy of the four-year road plan, and they don't have one. I guess what I'm suggesting is, the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works used this department, very effectively, to play patronage politics, because that's not the only constituency to carry out such antics. In the good riding of Halifax Clayton Park, the same type of antics were carried on. In Cape Breton Centre. That was the sole purpose, I believe, for that minister just sitting there in that department, so he could try to do like his predecessor on a previous day, the honourable Guy LeBlanc. When he was Minister of Transportation, he did the same thing. It was the same old John Buchanan-style antics of politics.

At that time, Mr. Speaker, 85 per cent of every dollar from the Department of Transportation capital construction budget went into Tory held ridings. There's little to suggest anything different.

[Page 2819]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable would entertain a question for clarification. Was there a tender in your area for road paving, approximately two weeks ago? Also, in today's paper, would you clarify where this is because I'm not quite sure where it is.

Route 4 for approximately 6.7 kilometres west of Breac Brook Ridge, westerly to top of hill in Middle Cape approximately 3 kilometres. Is that your area, by any chance?

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Well it's a lot better than what they've been doing for the last five years. They've been using the Department of Environment and Labour to buy used Volkswagens, flip them upside down and fill in the potholes. That's just about what you've been doing down there. I tell you, you have to have a back brace to drive Route 4 and then when you get home, you have to put a collar around your neck because you're shaken so bad. So you wonder why they would call tenders on that Route 4. How many tourists have disappeared off the face of the Earth falling into some of those potholes? That's the question I would ask.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. We have an intervention. The member for - order, order.

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Before the member gets too excited, I'm wondering if he might entertain another question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member entertain a question?

MR. MACKINNON: No, Mr. Speaker. All we get is fluff from that honourable member. That's all we ever get is platitudes and fluff. We haven't got time for that.

I wanted to make the point that, yes, the minister did visit my constituency. He did review some issues of concern that I raised on behalf of my constituents. I acknowledge that. I thanked the minister publicly, as I did when he sent a copy of the tender documents to my office and I did that because when somebody does something good, something right, you acknowledge that. I think that's the proper thing to do. But, look at the reality of it, the roads in Cape Breton West are in a deplorable, deplorable state. That 3 kilometres being called for tender, the tenders were out how many times before? Twice? And they were cancelled.

[Page 2820]

AN HON. MEMBER: The Liberals were in then.

MR. MACKINNON: No, the present Minister of Transportation and Public Works was the minister at the time and he knows - he's driven the roads, he knows how bad they are. Every little bit is a help.

Mr. Speaker, I'll give you another example. Well, even since this government came to power, the number of claims for the Department of Transportation for damages to vehicles by Nova Scotians has doubled and yet the number of payouts has gone from about 35 per cent down to 6 per cent. They are ignoring the pleas from the public. I'll even table one such case in Sydney River and I'll provide the photographs of potholes - if you'd provide that to the minister first so he can see how bad it is - right in front of Lady of Fatima Church where you get close to 30,000 vehicles a day going there. That pothole went unchecked for nearly a month and the department wrote back to my constituent and it says that because they act with the best of due diligence and because they felt that it had been fixed in a reasonable period of time that they shouldn't pay this gentleman.

If you look at those photographs, there are maybe about 15 or 20 potholes all jagged together, but they only filled one. What was he going to do? Hopscotch over the others and drive on that and then keep going? That's not the way it works. Not enough money is being provided locally to address these local concerns. The RIM program has been a measured success in Cape Breton West, I will have to admit that, but the problem is, I don't take any pleasure when I see contractors from New Brunswick coming down to Cape Breton West displacing local workers and local contractors. I don't think that should be done. The whole idea of the RIM program was to supplement and to assist the local contractors, the smaller ones, who couldn't compete against the larger contractors in the province who are gobbling up the lion's share of all the contracts. Two, maybe three companies received about 85 per cent, 90 per cent, of all the major contracts.

AN. HON. MEMBER: That's not true, is it? Please don't let it be true.

MR. MACKINNON: I would like to think it's not true, but it is and the minister knows. Look at the annual report from the Nova Scotia Road Builders Association; ergo, the evidence is there.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is coming to a close. There's much more to be said on this issue and I would invite the minister to call more tenders for roads in Cape Breton West - the Trout Brook Road, the Marion Bridge highway, the Louisbourg highway, the Main-â-Dieu highway, the Northside/East Bay highway and, yes, more on Route 4 - so many more issues to be addressed.

[Page 2821]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that we have Bill No. 52 with us this afternoon, which talks about prioritizing the Transportation Department's capital expenditures. I think the honourable member who brought that forth, the member for Pictou West, was very sincere in bringing that bill forward, but I would also say that he's very misguided, because that bill is not applicable at the present time.

Mr. Speaker, I was going to stand on my feet today and say nice things about the Department of Transportation and Public Works and what we're doing, how we're spending our money, and how we are prioritizing our money, but I just listened to the last member who got to his feet and I have had to change direction.

In the 1980s and early 1990s - and when I say the early 1990s, I mean up until 1993 - our highway system in Nova Scotia was a good system. It was a very good system as a matter of fact and I always said if you drove across the border from Amherst into New Brunswick, you could drive across with your eyes shut and you would know when you were in New Brunswick because of the way the roads were in New Brunswick.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable minister allow for an introduction?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: I would like the House to give a very, very warm welcome to a special lady. I sometimes wonder how intelligent she is with some of her decisions she makes, but nonetheless she is a person I've got a great deal of respect for, the future Mrs. Richard Hurlburt, Nancy - and I don't know if she's changing her name or keeping her maiden name - if you would rise and be greeted. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for that.

MR. RUSSELL: We had roads in Nova Scotia which were as good as any other province in Canada. In 1993, unfortunately, the government changed. When I say unfortunately, it certainly was unfortunate for the Department of Transportation because, Mr. Speaker, up until that time we were spending somewhere in the neighbourhood of about $110 million to $120 million in capital expenditures on the highway system of Nova Scotia - and that was in 1990 dollars. When we came back into government, back in 1999, the capital budget for the Department of Transportation and Public Works was something like $38 million, and it had been going down steadily from 1993 to 1998-99.

[Page 2822]

Mr. Speaker, when some shingles fly off the roof of your house, you get up there and you repair them. When your house has to be painted, you repaint it because you know unless you do ongoing maintenance, it's going to cost you a lot of money in the end. These persons from across the way, when they were in power, they cut not only capital, they also cut maintenance and that's why the highway system when we came into power was in such a rank state of disrepair. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is making much about the fact that perhaps things are not happening in his particular riding the way they did when that government was in power. When you talk about such things as making those kinds of political decisions, it always makes me angry, because I don't think we should run our highway system that way. I can tell you in 1993 I had a bridge that had been out to tender and the tender had been let.

When that crowd came in they cancelled both tenders. When they came into power we had done that section of the Highway No. 101 from Sackville out to Mount Uniacke, we had laid the road bed, but we hadn't paved it. It was part of our three-year program. When they came in, it took them until 1996 to pave that section of the Highway No. 101. I can't tell you how badly I feel for the members of this House today who are suffering from the ravages of our highway system that came about because of treatment of the Department of Transportation by the Liberal Government of the day.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works was part of a government that bankrupted this province. We're lucky to be able to pay the creditors anything after that lot left.

MR. SPEAKER: Not a point of order.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL: Words fail me. The honourable members opposite, particularly to my right over there, make much of the fact that during the years of the Buchanan Government this province racked up quite a big debt; and they did. We racked up a debt something in the order of $6 billion. When they came to power, don't forget that our debt went to $11 billion in the short space of five years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Annapolis on a point of order?

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: I was wondering if the minister would take a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works take a question? We're reverting to Question Period.

[Page 2823]

The honourable member for Annapolis on a question.

MR. MCNEIL: I don't want to debate the numbers of the past. I'm just wondering if the Route 1 that goes from Granville Centre to Annapolis Road will be paved this coming summer?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I suppose I should get back on track of the principle of the bill that's before us, and I will do that. The difficulty that we face at the present time within the Department of Transportation and Public Works is the lack of dollars, and it's also the accumulated disrepair of our highway system. You can't go to any riding within this province without finding roads that are in a deplorable state. In fact, one of the members on this side of the House spoke to me the other day and she said, you know, I thought as Minister of Transportation and Public Works you would have decent highways in your constituency. She said, I thought they were the worst that I've ever driven on. That goes to show you that nobody is able to say that their roads are in great shape.

In the capital budget this year, we have $112 million, and we have to prioritize how we are going to spend that money. I noticed that the member for Hants East, when he was speaking, I think was saying something to the effect that we shouldn't be spending money on the100-Series Highways. Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and I can tell the members of this House, the day that we do not keep up the 100-Series Highways, this province is out of business for export and import. We don't have railroads anymore, we have the 100-Series Highway and they are our lifeline, and we've got to give them priority.

You take $112 million and take out what you've got to spend on the 100-Series Highways and you're left with something like about $45 million, $47 million. That's the cost of running and repairing and expanding the 100-Series Highways. This year, Highway No. 103 for instance, a very important highway connecting Halifax to Yarmouth, we are spending $19 million on that highway alone this year. That road is used by approximately 15,000 vehicles per day. It's a high volume road. It has to be twinned, and we're doing that. We're doing a section down in Shelburne, Barrington, the Barrington By-Pass. We're doing that this year. Those things are very, very expensive, but the problem is that by the time you've got that, you haven't got a great deal of money to expend on the other things that you must expend your money on. We have to, as we keep being told by the media, replace our old steel truss bridges. Although they are safe, they are not adequate for today's traffic, we have to replace them. We're spending $34 million this year of our capital on bridges and overpasses; $34 million on top of $19 million is $51 million; just on those two elements of our capital program.

[Page 2824]

[5:45 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, we have to increase our capital budget. There are no two ways about it and, unfortunately, health is the number one priority of the public it seems. Education is the second and then community services and by the time they get their share of increases, et cetera, there's very, very little left for transportation. I can assure members in this House that, quite truthfully, I understand their problem because I have the same problems. Every member of this House has a problem with one or more roads in their constituency. We're doing our best. We're getting there slowly, but it's going to take a long time. Do I have any time left?

MR. SPEAKER: About 15 seconds.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, perhaps some day the federal government will step up to the plate and refund to us some of the $140 million it takes out of this province every year in motor fuel taxes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, for the last few minutes we've listened to, I guess a monologue, from the Tories and the Liberals sort of blaming each other on the past road problems and, you know, when governments change, then priorities in certain ridings change. You can blame each other all you want, but I guess really therein lies the problem, that there's been too much politics in paving and too much politics involved in setting priorities on our secondary roads.

So I've brought this bill forward, Mr. Speaker, because I think it can do a better job and in the words of the Minister of Tourism, maybe it's the right bill at the right time. This bill is called An Act to Set Criteria for Prioritizing Road Improvement Projects. The Road Improvements Act I think, right here, right now, is the right bill for Nova Scotians and to bring priorities to some fairness, some openness, some transparency, in how the priorities on our roads are set.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that our roads in this province are in a crumbling state of repair. Every one of the 52 members in this House has a road story to tell and many of our secondary roads are falling apart and certainly, as Nova Scotians, we continue to pay the high cost of road repair when we have to go to the garage to get rim or wheel repairs, new mufflers, alignments, front end parts, shocks, on it goes. So it's a huge expense to Nova Scotians to travel on our roads.

In fact, we have a huge crumbling infrastructure in this province. The Department of Transportation and Public Works themselves have indicated that we have something like a $3.5 billion infrastructure deficit in this province. To put that a little closer to reality, that's

[Page 2825]

$345 million a year over the next 10 years that's going to be required and the department, to its credit, has identified that, but we're a long way under in the amount of money that's needed on an annual basis to bring our roads back up to standard. Just this week we heard about the infrastructure deficit in our bridges, 200 of our province's 245 bridges are considered to be substandard and it's something like $560 million that would be required to bring them all back up to a safe level.

So, Mr. Speaker, there's no question we have a problem with our rural infrastructure, with our highways and bridges, and I think we've got to start somewhere. I believe this bill, Bill No. 52, is the right place to start and it's because it's about fairness. It's about seeing equality in all areas of the province in prioritizing road repair. That's what Nova Scotians want to see, they want to see fairness. They want to see equality in the repair of our secondary roads. They want to see the worst roads fixed first. They want to see the important roads repaired that are well-travelled and certainly in need of repair.

I want to take a minute, Mr. Speaker, to look at Bill No. 52 and outline some of the criteria on what we feel are important factors or criteria in secondary roads. In Clause 3 of the bill it outlines a number of the criteria that are important to establishing the priority based on need. Number one mention is the use of roads for access to public facilities. So if a road has a school or business, maybe a bank or a library or maybe lucky enough to have a Department of Transportation and Public Works plow shed on that road, those are public facilities that should be taken into consideration. Clause 3(b) it mentions the impacts of the road and economic development. A very important factor in determining the economic health and growth of a community and if a road is in good shape then it's going to lead to more investment in a community.

I just want to give you one example. In my home community in Pictou West, there's been a strategic planning group called the Alma-Mount Thom Strategic Planning Group, who've been working through the Winter and into the Spring trying to identify some of the most important needs in that area along Highway No. 4, from Alma right through to Mount Thom. They've identified four important criteria that are needed to stimulate economic development. Well guess what number one is on their list? It's the highway itself, Route 4, runs through Salt Springs and Mount Thom, runs into Colchester North in the Kemptown area. That road is very bad, very poor. It was paved in 1959, that's 45 years ago. It has not really been touched since, so it needs repair.

This group of business people and community leaders have been working hard all Winter and Spring trying to stimulate economic activity. They've identified other things such as the park development, like the Greenhill Look-off and the Salt Springs Provincial Park that would need an investment, and other items, but number one on their list is repair Route 4.

[Page 2826]

Other criteria, Mr. Speaker, that we brought forward here for fairness in prioritizing roads would include the tonnage of vehicles using the road. Is it used just by passenger vehicles or are there heavy trucks or logging vehicles on the road? The amount of heavy truck traffic is a factor. The time period since it was last paved - was it paved five years ago, 10 years ago, or as I mentioned previously, maybe as long ago as 1959. So what's the length of time since it was last paved? Safety factors, such as the number of accidents that have occurred on the road. Fatal or non-fatal accidents over the last number of years. Those are also important criteria that should be taken into consideration.

Finally, any other criteria prescribed by the regulations. I would think that would include the actual condition of the road. The number of potholes, bumps, cracks, broken shoulders and so on that are on the actual road. Maybe such things as the thickness of the pavement, is it a couple of inches thick or was it four inches thick when it was laid down. There are a number of criteria that we think are involved, fairness and setting the priorities on the road.

It mentions in the bill, Mr. Speaker, that each road would be evaluated at least once every four years, and that each road should be evaluated within one year of this bill coming into effect. So who, Mr. Speaker, would do this evaluating? Who would set the criteria and determine that road A is higher on the priority list than road B? Well we feel it should be done by qualified road engineers and take the politics out of paving. It shouldn't be the political people, it shouldn't be the MLA, it shouldn't be the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, but it should be qualified road engineers who objectively look at all the roads within the province, based on this criteria, and then draw up a priority list. Once the priority list is put together, then that would become public information.

The Minister of Transportation and Public Works would have it in his or her office and people could go there to look at it. They could go to their local DOT headquarters in their county and see the priority list or they could look at it on-line on the Internet. They could then know where their road is on the priority list and perhaps when it's going to be repaired or fixed up. All Nova Scotians would know when their particular road was going to be repaired, whether it's 2004, 2005, 2006, but somewhere down the road they would be able to look at the priority list and know with confidence that their road was going to be repaired.

The only other part of the bill is that if there's some urgent need that a road has to move up the priority list, then the minister of the day would have to justify that urgency to this Legislative body if it was sitting; if not, to the Clerk of the Assembly, with good reasons to back up why a particular road had an urgency that it would have to be repaired or moved up the priority list.

[Page 2827]

I know my time is limited here, but I just want to say that I think overall this Road Improvements Bill is fair to all Nova Scotians in that it does take the politics out of paving. I believe it's open, it's transparent and it has been endorsed by my caucus. I certainly received a number of calls and encouragement from others last week that they thought the bill was good, that it would be effective here in Nova Scotia and I think it is time that we changed the system of prioritizing secondary roads, take it out of the political level and put it on fair and open and honest criteria.

Finally, I want to mention that our local evening news, a daily newspaper in Pictou County, picked up on this bill that I introduced last week and they favourably commented on it as follows: The suggestion of a priority list for the maintenance of roads in this province is one of the more rational and practical political initiatives in recent memory. The bill introduced in the Legislature is such a common sense idea, it's a wonder the ruling government wouldn't jump on it and claim it as their own.

Well, Mr. Speaker, they have that opportunity to adopt this legislation. I think it's what Nova Scotians want at this time - fairness, openness, transparency - telling us that repairing roads in order of greatest need just makes common sense. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition Deputy House Leader.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the Opposition Members' Business for today.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 p.m until 8:00 p.m. and the order of business following the daily routine and Question Period will be Supply for four hours and then subsequent to that, we'll proceed with the Financial Measures (2004) Act in second reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2828]

We've reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

TCH: CHESTER-ST. MARGARET'S - TOURISM

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

"Therefore be it resolved that MLAs and all Nova Scotians recognize the significant beauty, tourism features and historic treasured aspects belonging to the constituency of Chester-St. Margaret's and how important it is to us all."

Mr. Speaker, I understand I have 10 minutes - is that correct? I'm sure that many people like yourself and other members in the House also respect that a person with my last name could talk for days and days. But I'd like to assure you, Mr. Speaker, and others in the House that I will not speak for more than 10 minutes.

I very much appreciate the opportunity to make some comments about the very great honour of representing Chester-St. Margaret's in various aspects that we have in this regard. Of course, a bit of history. Chester-St. Margaret's, like all Nova Scotia, was originally occupied by Aboriginal peoples and that has a long history by itself. But then, of course, communities started to form in Nova Scotia. These are communities made up mostly of Europeans from numerous countries. Basically, many communities in Chester-St. Margaret's were coastal communities. Inevitably, Chester itself started in 1759, Hubbards in 1760, and I don't have the list, but I could certainly go through numerous communities in Chester-St. Margaret's and give their beginning dates, but 10 minutes is 10 minutes. It's certainly an interesting history when you get involved.

[6:00 p.m.]

Certainly, there was a sameness to all these beginning communities. Inevitably, they were all on the coast, but they were all unique because, first, they were made up of different people and had different challenges. Of course, the bottom line for all communities was to maintain and earn a living in that area from that area. Certainly, for many of these communities this challenge added endurance and strength over the years. Of course, inevitably, some people would say, oh, what did the people living in these coastal areas do for a living? We could certainly talk for hours and days, et cetera, about that - the historians - about the various activities going on.

[Page 2829]

Originally, of course, many of the people settling in the communities in Chester-St. Margaret's became expert in dealing with what the land was like where they lived. In some areas, fishermen went to sea and made a living catching things from the sea. People living in forested areas became expert in handling and using wood, and then using the great land after they cut the wood to encourage various species of wood to grow. Thus, it became a business for them.

Of course, in Nova Scotia as well, not just in Chester-St. Margaret's but in all of Nova Scotia, our third-biggest activity in Chester-St. Margaret's is the idea of tourism. People come from not only other parts of Nova Scotia or other parts of Atlantic Canada or other parts of Canada, they literally come from all over the world. When they travel in Chester-St. Margaret's, they are very complimentary and thankful - I am sure they would do that when they visit many of your areas too - that they had a chance to go through such a unique and wonderful riding.

Of course I don't have to give everybody in the House right now a lecture about Chester-St. Margaret's, I'm sure many people know that Peggys Cove area is at one end of the riding. That area is recognized worldwide as being unique, as very beautiful, and in many respects it's very inspiring to people. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the other end of the riding, that is Oak Island. Out of all the tourist attractions in Nova Scotia, whether you live in Nova Scotia or are a tourist in Nova Scotia, from outside the province or wherever, many people know something about Oak Island.

We all know, or should know if you've properly learned the history, in 1795 three young boys found an oak tree on Oak Island, and under a block and tackle they dug a hole, because the ground underneath that block and tackle was sort of loose. It seemed that something must have been buried there. I'm sure that everybody knows at this time that no great realms of treasure have ever come from Oak Island. However, that dream and thoughts about what's there and who put it there are literally worldwide.

I would like to take this opportunity, because, basically I don't know if you have heard or not, there are some people, Nova Scotians that is, but also people worldwide who have joined the Oak Island Tourism Society. Basically, the Oak Island Tourism Society, is a non-profit group of people who are interested in Oak Island. I could go on for a long time, maybe I should just read a few more thoughts about that. The mission statement says:

"The Oak Island Tourism Society is a non-profit organization made up of interested individuals, consisting of a formal board of directors, who subscribe to the aims and objectives of the Society. The Society wishes to revive and invigorate interest in Oak Island, seeking the continued cooperation of the land owners.

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This goal should be accomplished by securing rights to operate guided tours on Oak Island, centralized through an interpretive centre, located on or off the Island, to be created for the sole purpose of promoting Oak Island to visitors from home and around the world. The activities of the Society will be done at reasonable costs to future visitors, but also be an economically viable venture for the society, such that it operates on a cost recovery basis with any profits to be used by the Society to further it's aims and objectives."

This is sort of interesting, because this Sunday, from 12:00 noon until 5:00 p.m. at the community hall in Western Shore - and I can certainly give directions to it, if you can't find that - is Oak Island Day. Anybody going to that exhibition, various exhibits - and I will mention them in a minute - can go there and learn various aspects of Oak Island. One is Dan Blankenship. He's been looking for treasure since the 1960s. He will have some rare artifacts, and some of the films he has taken on the ground there - about hole 10 X. Certainly there will be some verbal history given by Danny Hennigar, there are numerous pictures of Oak Island. It is very good.

I think everybody does respect that since 1795, that's 209 years ago, people have been interested in Oak Island. Among them, I think you are all aware, mostly you are aware, that FDR was there. Ten minutes certainly flies when you are having fun. I certainly think, that if you could ever enquire and back up what the Oak Island Tourism Society is, we want to have a feasibility study - and I think it is coming along - about the economic viability of an interpretive centre on Oak Island. It would fit in for all of Nova Scotia and it would be a great tourist attraction for everybody.

Mr. Speaker I know I am getting short on my time. Certainly, if you could ever encourage that, or just get involved in that, because when we all pull together on that, we certainly have a very noted attraction for all Nova Scotians and all people worldwide as well. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this resolution, particularly when part of the resolution pertains to an historic part of coastal communities that I had the great privilege of representing in this House for a number of years. There are people in those communities who remain in regular contact with me, some of them I see almost on a weekly basis on other issues asides from politics and various other things that they bring to my attention. I would like to focus particularly on the Lighthouse Route. This is no time to dwell on negativity, because I understand the purpose of the resolution. It is really quite shameful what is happening to the Lighthouse Route.

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First of all, there are very few actual operating lighthouses. If you want a misnomer, when you look at people who say, I would like to get in that lighthouse, I would like to be able to actually go up into it. Along the Lighthouse Route, which stretches from the Yarmouth line all the way along those wonderful coastal communities, there are absolutely very few that you can actually get in and see. There are people in the riding I represent currently in Terence Bay and in Lower Prospect who are making efforts to maintain, to preserve, the lighthouses in their community. As you come around the bay, and if you come out of Shad Bay and come over the bridge you go through three historic communities - East and West Dover - although I suppose I should call them one community - McGraths Cove, Blind Bay and Black Duck Run.

I'm not going to take you on a geography lesson, but I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that I'm on the way to historic Peggys Cove. Last year, I recall having a friend of mine visiting from Calgary who had to go to Peggys Cove. That was after, of course, he went to Terence Bay and went over Porcupine Hill and realized this is a real fishing village, but he had to go to Peggys Cove because of the promotion of it.

I gave him my Dodge Sport truck to drive. He and his wife and daughter took Route 333 to Peggys Cove. The question I've got to ask this member opposite, the question I will eventually put to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works during estimates, does the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage ever talk to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works? I have heard my good friend, the member for Pictou West, speak about road priorities and let me tell you, when you go into the Campbell's restaurant, the Sou'Wester in Peggys Cove, and you look at the comments there, look at the comments that are in that book, I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, they will say, wonderful people, beautiful view, but could you do something for the roads. If you look at priorities, and we all have road stories to tell, Peggys Cove is not any longer in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect.

The question I have is if there's a priority for roadwork, it certainly should be to one of the biggest tourist destinations not just in Nova Scotia, but on the Eastern Seaboard. If you go just up the road from Peggys Cove you come to probably what I consider - and I encourage members opposite and the members of the Liberal Party, to stop in and see the Swissair Memorial.

Mr. Speaker, it is to the credit of this government that they have addressed the issues with the Swissair Memorial. There's no more tasteful place for a quiet contemplative view of the coast of this wonderful province than the Swissair Memorial. I was there the other day. In fact, I was talking to the previous member for Dartmouth South, Mr. Tim Olive, who was visiting here the other day. When he was the minister at the time, I know that the issue was raised and he addressed the issue of the condition at the Swissair Memorial. That, after all, is probably one of the destinations, it's not a tourist destination.

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Mr. Speaker, I could take you there this evening, although I'm going to be a ways from it this evening, down in Brookside. I can tell you that I will almost guarantee that there will be flowers there, or the Remembrance Day wreaths from veterans and families from the Legion. They take them from the cenotaph and they take them to the Swissair Memorial. I know, as the member for Chester-St. Margaret's recognizes, there is another memorial that I know is going to be quickly repaired and taken care of by the people on the opposite side of the loop, on the Aspotogan side. After all, the communities around St. Margarets Bay, long before we had road complaints, these people communicated with each other by boat, by ship. They really knew how to get around, particularly in the good weather, as you come out of St. Margarets Bay.

There are some people whom I want to recognize. I want to recognize Carl and Shelly Webb, two teachers who I worked with who have retired and have been heavily involved in the St. Margarets tourist association, two very conscientious bed and breakfast operators who make sure that when people visit their bed and breakfast, they really get a great opportunity to see what Nova Scotia is all about. That's the way to see this province. No reflection on the downtown hotels, no reflection on the casino attraction, but I know more and more people come to this province because they want to do the B & B circuit. They want to go to the lighthouses. They want to go to those places - if we can say it without offending anyone - off the beaten track. They want to go and see what coastal Nova Scotia is all about.

I also want to recognize the efforts of Rhys Harnish. Rhys owns and has inherited the wonderful, I guess we could call it the last great dance hall in North America, Shore Club. Rhys Harnish is a gentleman who understands the virtue of having people come back year after year, and now generation after generation, to that legendary dance hall in Hubbards - campground and attraction besides. But Rhys Harnish, Carl Webb, and Shelley Webb are also involved citizens. They're people who get involved in other issues in the community - issues regarding the landfill, the twinning of Highway No. 103, and you can count on these people whether they live in another constituency or part of the constituency that you used to represent. You can count on them to speak up and get involved.

[6:15 p.m.]

In particular I'd like to recognize, in the few moments that I have left, the operators of the King Neptune Campground in Indian Harbour. Indian Harbour is one of those classic fishing communities where people literally stop to take a picture. I can tell you that when you look at the Richardsons and the long-standing community connections that they have in Indian Harbour, you begin to realize that's why people come to this province - to meet the Richardsons, to meet this legendary couple because of their hospitality, the fine service that they give in their campground, but also the friendship that they bring back year after year after year to people coming along the bay.

[Page 2833]

So we can all say how important tourism is to this province. We can all look across the province from one area to the other. I know that my friend from New Waterford can speak about the wonderful attraction of going to the Coal Bowl, in fact. Maybe it might not be the tourist attraction that it might have been if it had been in the summertime, but let me tell you, we all can turn to our fellow constituents and say that's a great place to visit in Nova Scotia.

So I compliment the member for Chester-St. Margaret's for bringing this resolution forward. I compliment him in particular for giving us a history lesson on Oak Island and the relevance that it has, but I would like to caution the fact that we cannot continue to take tourists for granted in this province. They're not just going to continue to come back, particularly if they happen to be driving your own visitor's truck - and it did come back with a rim that was damaged from my friend from Calgary. Recreational vehicles, RVs, are not going to continue to travel roads to highly promoted tourist destinations and put up with some of the conditions they're putting up with.

I know that the MLA for Eastern Shore is aware of difficulties with roads there and the Minister of Transportation earlier said we can't do it all and we can't do it all at once. I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that if we are going to have these visitors come back time and time again - they're coming back because of the hospitality, the friendliness that they see with Nova Scotians when they are here, but they also want to be able to travel their vehicles safely on the highways of this province. I thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to speak to the resolution today from the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. The resolution reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that MLAs and all Nova Scotians recognize the significant beauty, tourism features and historic treasured aspects belonging to the constituency of Chester-St. Margaret's, and how important it is to us all."

Agreed.

Now, let's talk about the riding of Annapolis and perhaps there is no other place that's better to begin with than the Town of Annapolis Royal. Considering that it will be celebrating its 400th Anniversary next year as the first settlement in Canada, the first European settlement in Canada, Annapolis Royal should now become a modern symbol of the coming together of the many cultures despite the significant differences in the past - the Acadian, European settlers and Mi'kmaq communities come together, just to name a few in and around Annapolis Royal. What's interesting about Annapolis Royal is that it was the first capital of this province. I think a wonderful recognition of that would be perhaps, maybe in the Spring of

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2005 for the government to move the opening, the Throne Speech to my riding of Annapolis Royal - it would be a great symbol to the people and a recognition of our history.

What we really should be talking about tonight is ensuring that all regions of this province can benefit from an improved tourism infrastructure - whether it be Sherbrooke Village or the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens in my region, all regions require an improved tourism infrastructure.

Yes, we need to invest in roads. As I mentioned earlier, I can give you one that we should invest in right away and that is finishing the route from Bridgetown to Annapolis Royal, Route 1, considering we are going to be welcoming 250 of our Acadian cousins back home this summer, it would be wonderful for them to get an opportunity to begin their trip down through the French Shore on a nice smooth section of road. Bearing in mind that we're talking about Chester-St. Margaret's Bay, perhaps we could also pave Route10, so that when they finish in Annapolis Royal they could take a trip out to Chester and St. Margaret's Bay and visit those beautiful historic areas you have out there.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: On a point of order about roads. Maybe I can give some information to this gentleman if you would allow me to have a comment or ask you a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Anybody's allowed to rise on a point of order, but members are only allowed to speak on a topic before the House at one time.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. MCNEIL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We also have to recognize that we have a deficit which has to be addressed. One of the things that has been brought to my attention as the Tourism Critic for the Liberal Party, has been the capital deficit that we have in many of our tourists attractions, and the fact that many of these volunteer groups are spending too much of their time doing fundraising, to do capital work to ensure protection of our heritage sites so that future tourists might have the luxury that the past ones have had.

Government must begin to work with the industry to develop a strategy to deal with the decline in tourism physical infrastructure for our existing attractions. As my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South has stated, government must appoint a minister of rural economic development who will work with the Minister of Tourism to seek solutions to the challenges faced by our tourism sector in rural areas including the physical infrastructure.

Mostly, Mr. Speaker, tourism needs a vision and it needs to be led by the Minister of Tourism. We must ensure that our icons are adequately funded and preserved for the future. The government must work closely with TIANS in a tourism industry partnership to identify problems and solutions to ensure the icons are there for future generations. We must also

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ensure that Ottawa plays its part in ensuring that our federal tourist attractions are well protected and preserved for future generations. As much as we need new attractions and investment in old attractions, we must ensure that the development does not ruin our natural treasures.

I want to congratulate previous governments who had the foresight to protect 31 protected spaces in Nova Scotia, and I want to encourage the present government to continue to move forward in that. One of the them that I can give for you to be using is the Nictaux River wilderness area which is in my riding, which has been brought before the government and it bears consideration for this.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, our festivals and events are key in the tourism draw. We must promote them and help them obtain the adequate funding. Support is required for events like the Stan Rogers Festival, the Celtic Colours and the Apple Blossom Festival and the hundreds of festivals throughout Nova Scotia, including the Lawrencetown Exhibition in my riding. I think we also need to recognize, as I mentioned earlier, the significance of the 400th celebration of Annapolis Royal, it's the foundation of the beginning of this great country.

Mr. Speaker, it was a pleasure for me to rise today and speak on this topic. In closing, I would like to just suggest that perhaps all members of this House should be very cognizant of the beauty of the entire province, in every riding across this province and feel how blessed we are to be in this House to represent this great province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I'd like to thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:24 p.m.]

[Page 2836]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1174

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's brightest young scientific minds and innovators gathered last week for the team Nova Scotia Showcase; and

Whereas the students who will represent Nova Scotia at the Canada-Wide Science Fair had the opportunity to display their award-winning projects at this signature event of Nova Scotia Youth Experiences in Science; and

Whereas Coldbrook and District High School Grade 7 students Matthew Nunn and James Nunn presented their project, Outplayed Try Sugar-Ade: The Sequel;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Matthew Nunn and James Nunn on being selected to represent the province at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and wish them much success at this event.

RESOLUTION NO. 1175

By: Hon. Carolyn Bolivar-Getson (Human Resources)

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

Whereas community involvement is essential to improve the quality of health care in our communities; and

Whereas the South Shore Regional Hospital Auxiliary has committed more than $500,000 to improve the quality of care and comfort of patients at the hospital; and

Whereas some of these funds have been used to relocate and expand the South Shore Regional Hospital Chemotherapy Unit;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their sincere thanks to all members of the South Shore Regional Hospital Auxiliary for their dedication to improving patient care in the region.

[Page 2837]

RESOLUTION NO. 1176

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 the Western Counties Regional Library began their Adopt-A-Book campaign April 1st; and

Whereas the Western Counties Regional Library serves residents of Shelburne, Digby and Yarmouth Counties; and

Whereas the Adopt-a-Book campaign, now in its fifth year, assists local libraries with the purchase of books and has enabled branches to maintain their book budgets, despite the fact that over a recent four-year period, book prices increased by nearly 15 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs salute the creativity of library staff and their volunteers from Shelburne, Digby and Yarmouth Counties as they continue their diligent work which has enabled the purchase of 5,000 books to take place in recent years and be added to library bookshelves in western Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 1177

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Pierre and Judy Allard, Dr. Charles Taylor and Mrs. Taylor, and the Christian Council for Reconciliation, realized a vision of keeping together families of those incarcerated with the opening of Spring House in Springhill, Nova Scotia in 1985 which resulted in a new, modern facility opening in 1998; and

Whereas each year Spring House Dinner Theatre is offered to the community as a fundraiser as a result of the efforts of P.E.I.'s Acadian Class Theatre including Eileen Pendergast (Writer/Director), Austin Bernard, Fréda Bénard, Dorothy Martin, Monique Pendergast, Bétrice Perry, Katie LeClair, Andy Doucette, Victor Doucette, Michael Richard, Keelin Wedge and also "The Friends of Spring House" from P.E.I. including Walter Callaghan, Audrey Callaghan, Donna Callaghan, Alice Jones, Mary Ann Smith, Shirley Murphy, Jean Murphy and Father Art Pendergast who this year raised a total of $3,775.93; and

[Page 2838]

Whereas the Spring House Board of Management, which includes John Alderson, Jock Spence, Shannon Oickle, Marion Murray, Michael Wilson, Linda Weatherbee, Valerie Alderson and Sister Christina Doyle, worked tirelessly not only on this project but throughout the year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank all the friends of Spring House for their never-ending commitment to the families of those incarcerated by ensuring that at a minimum cost family members have a safe and healthy environment in which to stay while visiting the Springhill institution.

RESOLUTION NO. 1178

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Stacey Carter of Springhill, a member of the NSSAF Division III Girls Basketball Championship Squad was honoured at the Basketball Association's Award Night in April 2004; and

Whereas Stacey was honoured by sharing the award for the Most Valuable Player for her team this year; and

Whereas Stacey was also chosen as the top scholar athlete for the Springhill Lady Golden Eagles;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Stacey Carter on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in all of her future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 1179

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Andrew Ellis of Springhill, a member of the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team, was honoured at the Basketball Association's Award Night in April 2004; and

[Page 2839]

Whereas Andrew was honoured by sharing the award for the Most Valuable Player for his team this year; and

Whereas Andrew has made a strong contribution to the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team and earned the title of Most Valuable Player;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Andrew Ellis on this outstanding award and wish him all the best and continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1180

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Daniel Davis, a member of the Senior Boys Springhill Basketball Team, was honoured with an award in Springhill during the Springhill Basketball Association's annual Award Night; and

Whereas Daniel Davis is a first-year guard/forward for the Springhill basketball team; and

Whereas Daniel was chosen by his teammates as the Most Valuable Player of the year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Daniel Davis on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1181

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Tyler Collins of Springhill, a member of the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team, was honoured at the Basketball Association's Award Night in April 2004; and

Whereas Tyler was honoured with the award for the most improved player for his team this year; and

Whereas Tyler has made a strong contribution to the Springhill Junior Boys Basketball Team and has worked hard to help make his team a strong force;

[Page 2840]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Tyler Collins on this outstanding award and wish him all the best and continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1182

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Springhill and Oxford area Kidney Foundation will be holding a volunteer appreciation night for the people who have given so freely of their time and effort for such a worthy cause; and

Whereas these volunteers spend many hours fundraising for the Kidney Foundation throughout the year including such events as a Boxing Day breakfast, selling tickets on baskets, the March Drive, selling peanuts and suckers in the Fall, and many other fundraising events; and

Whereas these funds, which assist with research, dialysis and patient services, are very important to the Kidney Foundation and monies raised help to make a huge difference in the lives of those who cope with kidney diseases in their everyday life;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Springhill/Oxford area Kidney Foundation and all the members of this foundation on being recognized for this extremely worthwhile and important work, and wish you all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1183

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

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

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

Whereas Katie's Farm Organic Dog Bakery in Clam Harbour is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

[Page 2841]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Katie's Farm Organic Dog Bakery in Clam Harbour for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1184

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

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

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

Whereas Lyle's Locksmithing in Chezzetcook is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Lyle's Locksmithing in Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1185

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

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

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

Whereas Pitchers Barber Shop in East Chezzetcook is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Pitchers Barber Shop in East Chezzetcook for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

[Page 2842]

RESOLUTION NO. 1186

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

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

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Land Surveyor in Lake Charlotte is one such company that is making a positive contribution to the economy on the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing Nova Scotia Land Surveyor in Lake Charlotte for all the contributions it makes to Nova Scotia, particularly the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 1187

By: Hon. David Morse (Community Services)

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

Whereas volunteers are of vital importance to all of our communities; and

Whereas 2004 Provincial Volunteer Awards were presented to individuals from across Nova Scotia at the Provincial Volunteer Award Ceremony and Dinner on April 12th at the Westin Hotel to pay tribute to the thousands of Nova Scotians whose generosity and compassion help to create a better future for us all;

Whereas Peter Herbin has been selected by the Town of Wolfville as its volunteer of the year for his long-standing and unselfish commitment to his community as a volunteer in many capacities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to Peter Herbin for being named a Provincial Representative Volunteer for 2004 and offer thanks to Mr. Herbin and volunteers from across the province for their continued hard work and dedication.