The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-57

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

MONDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Public Trustee, Hon. M. Baker 4837
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
No. 2480, HoC - Members: Election/Re-Election - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 4838
Vote - Affirmative 4839
Res. 2481, Run for the Cure: Vols./Participants - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4839
Vote - Affirmative 4839
Res. 2482, Fire Safety: MLAs - Promote, Hon. K. Morash 4839
Vote - Affirmative 4840
Res. 2483, Status of Women/MSVU: Campaign Sch. For Women -
Congrats., Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 4840
Vote - Affirmative 4841
Res. 2484, Elmsdale Lumber/Minas Basis Pulp & Power:
Conf. Bd. Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 4841
Vote - Affirmative 4842
Res. 2485, West. Valley Dev. Auth.: Efforts - Applaud, Hon. E. Fage 4842
Vote - Affirmative 4842
Res. 2486, Anl. Prov. 4-H Show: Vols. - Recognize,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4842
Vote - Affirmative 4843
Res. 2487, N.S. Chiefs of Police Assoc./N.S. Assoc. of Police Bds.:
Effort - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 4843
Vote - Affirmative 4844
Res. 2488, Dwight Ross Elem. Sch./Tatamagouche Elem. Sch.:
Today's Parent - Ranking, Hon. J. Muir 4844
Vote - Affirmative 4844
Res. 2489, Gillis, Dr. Alex: St. F.X. Alumnus Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4845
Vote - Affirmative 4845
Res. 2490, Spencer, David: Advocacy Award - Congrats.,
(by Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson), Hon. R. Hurlburt 4845
Vote - Affirmative 4846
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 121, Motor Vehicle Act, Ms. D. Whalen 4846
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2491, Eddy, Mike - Cdn. Assoc. of Fire Chiefs: Pres. -
Appt. Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 4846
Vote - Affirmative 4847
Res. 2492, Verschuren, Annette - UCCB: Chancellor -
Installation Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 4847
Vote - Affirmative 4848
Res. 2493, Heart & Stroke Fdn. - Big Bike for Stroke: Porters Lake -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 4848
Vote - Affirmative 4849
Res. 2494, Sports: Montreal Expos - Thank, Mr. D. Dexter 4849
Vote - Affirmative 4849
Res. 2495, McNeil, Christopher: Dunlop Award - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4850
Vote - Affirmative 4850
Res. 2496, Aberdeen Hosp. - Palliative Care Unit: Vols. - Commend,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4850
Vote - Affirmative 4851
Res. 2497, North End Commun. Health Ctr.: Initiatives - Congrats.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4851
Vote - Affirmative 4852
Res. 2498, Gambling - Consultation: All-Party Comm. - Appoint,
Ms. D. Whalen 4852
Res. 2499, Canaan - Commun. Hall: Renovations - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Chataway 4853
Vote - Affirmative 4853
Support, Mr. F. Corbett 4854
Res. 2501, Harris, Laura: Golf Awards - Congrats., Mr. L. Glavine 4854
Vote - Affirmative 4855
Res. 2502, Peacekeepers' Day: Debert Event - Congrats.,
(by Mr. R. Chisholm), Mr. W. Langille 4855
Vote - Affirmative 4856
Res. 2503, Dartmouth East - Commun. Ctr.: Need - Recognize,
Ms. J. Massey 4856
Res. 2504, Sustainable Commun. Dev.: Award - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4857
Vote - Affirmative 4857
Res. 2505, Musquodoboit Valley Bluegrass Fest.: Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 4858
Vote - Affirmative 4858
Res. 2506, TPW: Ketch Hbr. Bridge/Hfx. Atl. Rds. - Maintain,
Ms. M. Raymond 4858
Res. 2507, Run for the Cure: Vols./Participants - Congrats.,
(by Mr. S. MacNeil), Mr. D. Graham 4859
Vote - Affirmative 4860
Res. 2508, Waverley Gold Rush Days: Vols. - Congrats., Mr. G. Hines 4860
Vote - Affirmative 4860
Res. 2509, Miller, Tom & Lori/NSWOOA: Field Day - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 4861
Vote - Affirmative 4861
Res. 2510, Women - History (Can./N.S.): Contributions - Acknowledge,
Ms. D. Whalen 4861
Vote - Affirmative 4862
Res. 2511, Heart & Stroke Fdn. - Big Bike for Stroke: Queens. Co. -
Fundraising, Hon. K. Morash 4862
Vote - Affirmative 4863
Res. 2512, Joseph Howe Ball: Organizers - Congrats., Ms. M. More 4863
Vote - Affirmative 4864
Res. 2513, MacKay, Dr. Rose: Robertson Award - Congrats.,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 4864
Vote - Affirmative 4864
Res. 2514, Montreal Expos - Cdn. Sport: Contribution - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir 4864
Vote - Affirmative 4865
Res. 2515, Sanford, Chester: Death of - Tribute, Mr. J. Pye 4865
Vote - Affirmative 4866
Res. 2516, TPW - Mennonite Sch. (Black Rock Rd.): Speed Zones -
Address, Mr. L. Glavine 4866
Res. 2517, C.B. Reg. Police K-9 Unit: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Gosse 4867
Vote - Affirmative 4867
Res. 2518, Brown, Adnea/Owen, Chelsea: Lions Poster Contest -
Congrats., Mr. K. Colwell 4868
Vote - Affirmative 4868
Res. 2519, Knight, Reg: Commun. Contributions - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4868
Vote - Affirmative 4869
Res. 2520, MacCormick, Dr. Ron - Cancer Research: Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 4869
Vote - Affirmative 4870
Res. 2521, Dartmouth Family Ctr.: Re-Location - Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 4870
Vote - Affirmative 4870
Res. 2522, Hurricane Juan: Deductible Assistance - Unrealistic,
Ms. J. Massey 4871
Res. 2523, Humphrey, Travis: Vol. Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4871
Vote - Affirmative 4872
Res. 2524, Hurricane Juan - NSP Crews: Efforts - Applaud,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4872
Vote - Affirmative 4873
Res. 2525, Energy: Strait Area Gas Utility - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 4873
Vote - Affirmative 4873
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 122, Municipal Government Act, Ms. M. Raymond 4874
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 117, Emergency Health Services Act 4874
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4874
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4875
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)^ 4877
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 4880
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4885
Mr. C. Parker 4887
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4889
Mr. J. Pye 4894
Mr. G. Steele 4897
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4909
Vote - Affirmative 4911
No. 115, Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act 4911
Hon. J. Muir 4911
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4913
Mr. L. Glavine 4915
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4916
Hon. J. Muir 4922
Vote - Affirmative 4922
No. 109, Mental Health Act 4923
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4923
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4925
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 4935
Hon. R. Russell 4939
Adjourned debate 4939
No. 97, University College of Cape Breton Act 4939
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 4939
Mr. G. Gosse 4946
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4949
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4951
Mr. L. Glavine 4955
Hon. C. Clarke 4957
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4960
Mr. F. Corbett 4965
Hon. J. Muir 4966
Vote - Affirmative 4967
No. 111, French Language Services Act 4967
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4967
Mr. K. Deveaux 4969
Mr. W. Gaudet 4972
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4973
Vote - Affirmative 4974
No. 119, Agriculture Administration Amendment (2004) Act 4974
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4974
Mr. J. MacDonell 4975
Mr. S. McNeil 4976
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4978
Vote - Affirmative 4978
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Private and Locals Bills Committee, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 4978
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 4979
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 4979
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Oct. 5th at 11:00 a.m. 4980
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2526, Heart & Stroke Fdn. - Curves (Liverpool): Fundraising -
Applaud, Hon. K. Morash 4981
Res. 2527, Heart & Stroke Fdn. - Big Bike for Stroke: Fundraising -
Applaud, Hon. K. Morash 4981

[Page 4837]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, OCTOBER 4, 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. 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 Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to table the Annual Report of the Public Trustee for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

4837

[Page 4838]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. This is Statements by Ministers (Interruptions)(Laughter)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: You would think after a while you would know where things were, wouldn't you?

AN HON. MEMBER: Agreed. (Laughter)

RESOLUTION NO. 2480

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

Whereas Parliament began proceedings today in Ottawa; and

Whereas this is the first sitting since the Liberal minority government was elected in June, a position Parliament hasn't found itself in for approximately a quarter of a century; and

Whereas the members of Nova Scotia's Legislature are becoming quite experienced with minority government regimes and can relate to the challenges ahead;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs offer best wishes to the those members elected and re-elected to public office in our nation's capital as they get back to business and tackle the challenges of minority government, and work co-operatively so that the people of Canada are provided with good governance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 4839]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2481

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

Whereas the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation held its 10th annual Run for the Cure yesterday in Halifax and Sydney; and

Whereas in Atlantic Canada, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime; and

Whereas the two events together attracted more than 10,000 people from across the province who raised $1.12 million for breast cancer treatment, research and education that will bring us closer to finding a cure;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize the efforts of the organizers, volunteers, teams and individuals involved for their commitment to eradicating breast cancer, while supporting those living with and affected by the disease.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2482

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

Whereas October 3rd to 9th is Fire Prevention Week in North America; and

[Page 4840]

Whereas the men and women who make up Nova Scotia's fire service are dedicated to educating citizens about the importance of practising fire prevention; and

Whereas during this week and throughout the year, they encourage Nova Scotians to practice fire safety by checking their smoke detectors, knowing their fire escape plan and teaching children not to play with fire;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House promote fire safety in their communities, and thank the men and women who put their lives on the line every time a fire threatens Nova Scotians or their property.

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 Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2483

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

Whereas the number of women in elected office in municipal, provincial and federal government in Canada is far too low; and

Whereas women are profoundly affected, and affected differently than men, by government decisions; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Mount Saint Vincent University have joined forces to provide the Atlantic Region's first-ever non-partisan campaign school for women;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join me in congratulating the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and Mount Saint Vincent University on their continuing work towards women's full equality with men in the realm of political life and leadership.

[Page 4841]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2484

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

Whereas two Nova Scotia companies, Elmsdale Lumber and the Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Limited, will receive the Conference Board of Canada Awards of Excellence for Workplace Literacy; and

Whereas the opportunity to learn in the workplace is vital because workers face constant change due to new technology, globalization and the knowledge economy; and

Whereas the Department of Education's Workplace Education initiative works with partners in business and labour organizations to provide quality, on-site upgrading, education and training for employees;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate Elmsdale Lumber and the Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Limited for earning the Conference Board of Canada Awards of Excellence for Workplace Literacy and recognize the achievement of the participating employees.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4842]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 2485

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

Whereas the Western Valley Development Authority received international recognition this year with a nomination to the World Teleport Association's Intelligent Communities Awards - the only rural community nominated in the final field of seven; and

Whereas the award recognizes achievement by communities large and small in deploying broadband, building a knowledge-based workforce, bridging the digital divide, encouraging innovation and effective economic development marketing; and

Whereas, while the final award went to Glasgow, Scotland, the recognition highlighted the hard work and achievement of the authority;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs applaud the efforts of the WVDA and its communities who are showing the world just what they are made of.

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. 2486

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

[Page 4843]

Whereas this past weekend, approximately 10,000 people attended the Annual Provincial 4-H Show which was held at the exhibition grounds in Bible Hill; and

Whereas 4-H members participated and competed in approximately 1,000 competitions; and

Whereas Kings County received the highest score and won the overall flag for the weekend;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the many volunteers from Cumberland, Colchester, Halifax-East Hants Counties who put together this show and congratulate Kings County and all participants of this year's show in their success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2487

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 Fall conference is being held this week for two organizations - the Nova Scotia Chiefs of Police Association and the Nova Scotia Association of Police Boards; and

Whereas both organizations contribute to law and order in our province; and

Whereas both organizations help ensure adequate and effective policing in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate our police chiefs and municipal police board members as they meet to discuss important policing issues.

[Page 4844]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2488

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

Whereas Dwight Ross Elementary and Tatamagouche Elementary schools have been recognized as two of the top 40 great schools in Canada by Today's Parent Magazine; and

Whereas Tatamagouche Elementary was recognized for its success with children with special needs and Dwight Ross Elementary was recognized for its community commitment; and

Whereas the Canadian magazine is celebrating positive initiatives in public education by recognizing schools that are doing exemplary work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students, staff and the school board of these two fine schools.

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 4845]

The honourable Minister of Health.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2489

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

Whereas Dr. Alex Gillis has dedicated his life to the health of others, serving as chief of surgery at the IWK Children's Hospital, as chief medical officer for Saudi Arabia's National Guard, and as President and CEO of the IWK Children's Hospital; and

Whereas Dr. Gillis is now Vice President of Professional and Academic Affairs at the IWK; and

Whereas Dr. Gillis has been recognized by Saint Francis Xavier University as a graduate who has excelled in his career and has made a noteworthy contribution to society;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Dr. Alex Gillis on being honoured with the Distinguished Alumnus Award from Saint Francis Xavier University and for his contribution to providing quality health care to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2490

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Natural Resources, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 4846]

Whereas David Spencer, an employee with the Department of Natural Resources, was recently recognized by the Nova Scotia speech and hearing community for his assistance to those individuals with hearing and speech disorders; and

Whereas David is regularly called upon to support new patients who are either considering having cochlear implant surgery or who have had the surgery, and his assistance makes the decision-making process and the transition into the hearing world much easier; and

Whereas David often shares his own implant experiences with various groups throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House congratulate David for receiving the 2004 Advocacy Award in recognition of the support he provides to new patients who are considering having cochlear implant surgery or who have had the surgery.

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

Bill No. 121 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Ms. Diana Whalen)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2491

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

[Page 4847]

Whereas the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs has a membership of 1,000 of Canada's chief fire officers; and

Whereas at their annual general meeting in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, on Wednesday, September 27th, Mike Eddy, Chief Director of the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services, was elected as the president of their association; and

Whereas in a press release Chief Eddy asserts that "the safety of all Canadian citizens and of the firefighters who protect them should be of paramount importance to our elected and appointed officials";

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chief Director of Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency Services, Mike Eddy, upon being elected as President of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, and commit to working with other levels of government to improve fire and related emergency response and community preparedness.

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. 2492

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

Whereas Annette Verschuren, born and raised in North Sydney, joined Home Depot Canada as president in February, 1996 - she came to Home Depot from Michael's of Canada, where she had been president since 1993 and, before that, president of her own company; and

Whereas besides her outstanding achievements in business, Ms. Verschuren holds a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree from St. Francis Xavier University and has been honoured with the Woman on the Move Award in 1994, a Canada 125 medal, a doctorate

[Page 4848]

from Mount Saint Vincent University and a Doctor of Law Degree from Saint Francis Xavier University; and

Whereas on October 8, 2004, Annette Verschuren will be installed as the second Chancellor of the University College of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Annette Verschuren on her installation as the second Chancellor of the University College of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 2493

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I

shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia's Big Bike for Stroke visited the Porters Lake area on July 31st, for the first time in its 12 year history; and

Whereas four teams from the communities of Porters Lake, Chezzetcook, and Musquodoboit Harbour participated in the event, raising over $8,200; and

Whereas the four teams that participated were Go Figure, Courage Under Fire, Mighty Oaks, and Peddle Pushers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the local businesses, volunteers and police escorts who helped make the ride a success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4849]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2494

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

Whereas last Wednesday night, September 29th, Montreal Expos fans, including many in this province, bid a sad farewell to the team as it played its last game in Olympic Stadium before moving to Washington, D.C., for the next season; and

Whereas for 36 years Expos fans were thrilled by their team with players like John Boccabella, Coco Laboy and Bombo Rivera and All-Stars like Rusty Staub, Tim Raines and Steve Rogers; and

Whereas the memories - even the two out home run of Rick Monday of the Dodgers to end the Expos' drive to the World Series - will be treasured;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly, on behalf of the many Expos fans among our citizens, say thank you for 36 great years, adieu.

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 4850]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2495

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

Whereas Halifax Regional Deputy Police Chief, Christopher McNeil, received an award for his work with young people; and

Whereas Deputy Chief Christopher McNeil will be honoured for promoting healthy lifestyles and for his work with restorative justice and the Youth Criminal Justice Act; and

Whereas the John Dunlop Memorial Award was presented to Deputy Chief McNeil at City Hall today at 12:30 p.m.;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Deputy Chief Christopher McNeil on his dedication and hard work, and wish him continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2496

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

Whereas fundraising is continuing at a rapid pace for the new inpatient palliative care unit at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow; and

[Page 4851]

Whereas the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation/Aberdeen Hospital Trust has raised nearly $200,000 with another $100,000 donation being made from the Frank and Irene Sobey Memorial Trust for the new care unit; and

Whereas this care unit will be of exceptional comfort for Pictou County families;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly commend the dedication and spirit of community volunteers who work so hard to make sure the new inpatient palliative care unit becomes a reality.

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. 2497

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

Whereas the North End Walkers, a project of the North End Community Health Centre, are comprised of three walking groups with a total of 45 inner-city community members; and

Whereas the North End Walkers have taken on the challenge of collectively taking 3,713,000 steps over the next year, which is the equivalent of 2,600 kilometres, the distance from Halifax to Oprah Winfrey's studio in Chicago; and

Whereas, by their efforts. they intend to increase their physical well-being, strengthen their social network and show pride in the unique North End community;

[Page 4852]

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the North End Community Health Centre and all involved for their innovative and positive steps forward to improve the physical health of community members and the social and communal health of the North End 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 member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 2498

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

Whereas today marked the opening of Insight Nova Scotia, a conference on international problem gambling; and

Whereas this conference is supported by many Nova Scotia government stakeholders, such as the Gaming Corporation, the Office of Health Promotion, the district health authorities and the Gaming Foundation; and

Whereas problem gambling in Nova Scotia affects the lives of an estimated 15,000 gambling addicts and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House support the formation of an all-Party committee to conduct a province-wide consultation on gambling in our province and that this committee prepare a report to the Legislature, including findings and recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4853]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2499

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

Whereas September 24, 2004, was the time for the residents of Canaan and area to celebrate major renovations to their community hall known as the Little Red School House; and

Whereas residents recognized organizer Maxine Christo's efforts with the recital of two poems called, The Boss, and The Boss In The New Kitchen; and

Whereas this successful event could not have happened if not for the efforts of many volunteers, especially Kendell Mosher, the chief building volunteer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the community of Canaan for working together to maintain, improve and perpetuate an important community centre.

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 Centre.

[Page 4854]

RESOLUTION NO. 2500

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

Whereas the Public Service Alliance of Canada represents 150,000 government employees from coast to coast to coast; and

Whereas members employed by Parks Canada and Canada Revenue Agency are currently taking part in job actions; and

Whereas on October 7th, a further 80,000 Public Service Alliance members will be in legal strike position;

Therefore be it resolved that this House show its support to the Public Service Alliance of Canada members in their labour dispute with the federal government.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2501

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

Whereas 15-year-old Laura Harris, a member of the Ken-Wo Country Club in New Minas, became the youngest player in the past 70 years to win the 2004 Nova Scotia Ladies Amateur Championship; and

Whereas Laura's skills and dedication to the game of golf earned her the Atlantic Canada BMO Future Links 2004 Championship and the 2004 Canadian 15-year-old championship titles; and

[Page 4855]

Whereas Laura was the only female in the 19 and under category selected by the Canadian Junior Gold Association for the Mizuno All-Canadian Award which recognizes youth for golfing, academic and leadership abilities;

Therefore be it resolved that in view of her excellence in the sport of golf in which both her enthusiasm and dedication serves as a positive role model for other young Nova Scotians that the members of this House acknowledge and congratulate Miss Laura Harris for representing the Province of Nova Scotia in such an exceptional manner.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2502

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

Whereas Canadian veterans gathered at the Debert Military Museum August 9th to raise the Peacekeepers' flag, marking Peacekeepers' Day in Canada; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas this is the second time the event was held in Debert, attended by museum Vice-President Bob Feeley, and former peacekeepers Richard Ross, John Sterling, Robert Smith, and Ron MacBurnie; and

Whereas John Sterling, a Canadian veteran and a former peacekeeper, has compiled a Book of Remembrance, listing the names of more than 150 Canadian soldiers who have died during peacekeeping missions around the world;

[Page 4856]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate veterans and peacekeepers on their dedication to marking Peacekeepers' Day in Canada, and wish John Sterling success in his efforts to preserve the memory of those soldiers who lost their lives in peacekeeping missions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2503

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

Whereas homeowners in East Dartmouth and this municipality's Community Response Team spent this past Monday, September 27, 2004, cleaning up disturbing graffiti which was spray-painted on homes, cars, a school and a church; and

Whereas although residents were initially quite scared about the messages, they were relieved to find that the graffiti was not targeted to anyone specific; and

Whereas in January, 1999, the final report on a needs assessment study for a Dartmouth East Community Centre/Boys and Girls Club was released, identifying that the recreation-related needs of residents in Dartmouth East were not being met by existing programs and services;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the fact that a community centre in Dartmouth East would offer a focal point, a gathering place for the entire community, and that the community would benefit from having safer streets, less vandalism and crime, and individuals - youth in particular - could gain a sense of belonging to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4857]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2504

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Sustainable Community Development has won a sliver award for innovative management; and

Whereas the Institute of Public Administration of Canada awarded the medal for excellence in a national competition; and

Whereas this is a tremendous opportunity for over 40 federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations organizations that try to solve problems relating to the Bras d'Or Lake and Fundy/Annapolis Basin watersheds by integrating social, cultural, economic and environmental policies and programs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nova Scotia's Sustainable Community Development and wish this organization every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 4858]

RESOLUTION NO. 2505

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

Whereas the Second Annual Musquodoboit Valley Bluegrass Festival was held July 16th -18th at the Halifax County Exhibition Grounds featuring such acts as Dark Hollow, the Boutlier Brothers, Tour Thru Time, the Pioneers, Highway 207, Grassfire, New Shade of Blue, plus many other bands; and

Whereas on Saturday, July 17th, the Mountain Road Bluegrass Band from Upper Musquodoboit won the Showcase Performance Award in a tough and close contest with New Glasgow's Rusty Nail; and

Whereas band members, Brian Stewart, Gary Leslie, Curt Risser, and Johnny Miller have made family and friends exceptionally proud;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs here in the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the organizers of the Musquodoboit Valley Bluegrass Festival along with the Mountain Road Bluegrass Band and wish them continued success in their future endeavors.

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2506

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

Whereas the villages of Duncans Cove, Ketch Harbour, Sambro, Sambro Head, Williamswood, and Harrietsfield lie outside the so-called urban core of the Halifax Regional Municipality, so that their roads and bridges are apparently maintained by the provincial Department of Transportation and Public Works; and

[Page 4859]

Whereas the bridge at Ketch Harbour is gap-toothed and leaning, while other roads are neglected, and the old Sambro Road lacks sidewalks and patching, despite the constant traffic of heavy construction vehicles; and

Whereas the people of these areas have been paying taxes as urban residents and getting the services of rural ones as they wait patiently for the province and HRM to finish haggling over who will be responsible for these roads;

Therefore be it resolved that this House require the Department of Transportation and Public Works immediately to deal with the bridge at Ketch Harbour and the provincial roads of Halifax Atlantic, rather than leaving them in limbo for several more years.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2507

MR. STEPHEN MACNEIL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas on October 3rd the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation held its 10th annual CIBC Run for the Cure; and

Whereas this year's run in Halifax attracted more than 6,000 participants for the 1 or 5 km walk or run; and

Whereas this year's run far exceeded the organizers expectations by raising $684,000 for breast cancer research, education programs, as well as diagnosis and treatment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the countless volunteers and participants who made this year's Run for the Cure so memorable.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4860]

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 Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2508

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

Whereas volunteers in Waverley recently organized and celebrated the 30th consecutive Waverley Gold Rush Days; and

Whereas a vibrant spirit, celebrating the unique history and character of the places we live in is a large part of what makes our Nova Scotia communities so special; and

Whereas Gold Rush volunteers are a leading example of this vibrant community spirit, having put in a tremendous amount of time to make this event such a success year after year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House join me in sending our congratulations to the Waverley Gold Rush volunteers for organizing such a remarkable festival year after year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 4861]

RESOLUTION NO. 2509

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 Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association held a successful field day on Saturday, September 25th, at the woodlot of Tom and Lori Miller at Green Hill, Pictou County; and

Whereas woodlot owners, ecologists, biologists and others from across the Maritimes toured the woodlot viewing a wide range of tree species managed under selection cutting; and

Whereas this Acadian forest promotes a balanced ecosystem with a diversity of wildlife and various age classes of trees and has recently received certification under the Forest Stewardship Council standards;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Tom and Lori Miller and the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association for their successful field day and for promoting proper woodlot management.

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. 2510

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

Whereas October has been designated Women's History Month; and

Whereas the Halifax Public Libraries are highlighting literature which celebrates the contributions women have made to our Canadian history and culture, and the role women play in shaping the direction of our future; and

[Page 4862]

Whereas women continue to make a substantial contribution to the fabric of our province and country;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the contributions women have made to the history of Canada and Nova Scotia and commend the Halifax Public Libraries for the work they have done to highlight these accomplishments.

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 Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2511

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

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia is dedicated to the prevention and reduction of death and disability from heart disease and stroke through the support of research, education and the promotion of healthy living; and

Whereas in order to meet their goals, volunteers from the Heart and Stroke Foundation hold several fundraisers throughout the year; and

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation Big Bike for Stroke raised over $3,650 in Queens County on August 12, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House applaud the efforts of the Heart and Stroke Foundation volunteers in Queens County for their very successful Big Bike for Stroke fundraiser.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4863]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2512

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

Whereas Joseph Howe, an extraordinary Nova Scotian who served as a newspaper publisher and editor, reformer, orator, poet, Premier, Member of Parliament and Lieutenant Governor, was born 200 years ago; and

Whereas Joseph Howe at one time lived in Dartmouth and delivered some of his famous speeches in downtown Dartmouth; and

Whereas the pocket park at the corner of Queen Street and Alderney Drive has recently been renamed Joseph Howe Park, and the Joseph Howe Dinner and Ball was held this past weekend at Alderney Landing;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Harbour East Community Council, Alderney Landing's Board of Directors and staff, the Dartmouth Joseph Howe Initiative members and the Joseph Howe Ball Organizing Committee for their dedication, hard work and vision in celebrating the 200th birthday of the father of responsible government, Joseph Howe.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 4864]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 2513

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

Whereas Dr. Rose MacKay is a well-respected and valuable employee of the Emergency Department at the Glace Bay Hospital, having graduated from Dalhousie University's School of Medicine's Family Medicine Residency Program; and

Whereas this November, Dr. MacKay will receive the Dr. Bob Robertson Award from the College of Family Physicians of Canada; and

Whereas the Dr. Bob Robertson Award recognizes the individual who has achieved the highest standing nationwide among Family Medicine residents in the college's certification examination;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Dr. Rose MacKay on this honour of being named recipient of the Dr. Bob Robertson Award, and wish her all the best in the times ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2514

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

[Page 4865]

Whereas sadly, on September 29, 2004, a grand chapter in Canadian sport history ended when the Montreal Expos played their last game in Montreal; and

Whereas for 36 years the Montreal Expos gave Canadian baseball fans a series of highs and lows, heros and goats, and initiated the feeling of pride that we were now part of major league baseball; and

Whereas the Montreal Expos will be relocated to Washington, D.C., for the 2005 season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the contribution of the Montreal Expos to Canadian sport, and wish all members of the organization great success in their new home in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2515

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

Whereas former Dartmouth Alderman and Order of Nova Scotia recipient, Chester C.D. "Sandy" "Buster" Sanford passed on Thursday, September 30th at the age of 77; and

Whereas Chester Sanford worked tirelessly to advance the cause of workers in the labour movement at the former Nova Scotia Power Corporation, serving as President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, political action coordinator on the Canadian Labour Congress and representative on the Nova Scotia Joint Labour Management Relations Board; and

[Page 4866]

Whereas after retiring and moving to the Annapolis Valley, Chester Sanford continued to be active on numerous boards and committees, and served his community with distinction as President of the Nova Scotia Power Disadvantaged Pensioners;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature express its condolences to the family of Chester Sanford for his many contributions to the communities of Dartmouth, Annapolis Valley and beyond.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 2516

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 safety of children should be the guiding principle for determining speed zones in an area where children go to school and for play; and

Whereas the member for Kings North and Murray Salisman, Police Coordinator, Grafton Neighbourhood Watch, have also worked to have the Department of Transportation and Public Works respond to this immediate need; and

Whereas the Mennonite School on the Black Rock Road is being discriminated against and safety compromised;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House request the Minister of Transportation and Public Works address this immediate safety concern for the taxpaying parents of this school.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4867]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

[2:45 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2517

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

Whereas on Saturday, October 2nd, in the Town of Dominion, the German shepherds of the K-9 Unit, Cape Breton Regional Police, were officially sworn in as members of the police force; and

Whereas Gage, Mindu and Pax, along with their handlers, Constables Steve MacKinnon, Paul MacDonald and Kevin Gillis, make up this highly-qualified unit; and

Whereas the top-notch unit has already been instrumental in making several arrests, recovering items vital in identifying suspects in crimes, the apprehension of suspects and the recovery of stolen goods, to name a few;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate the Cape Breton Regional Police K-9 Unit for their accomplishments in such a short time and in helping our community take a bite out of crime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 4868]

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2518

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

Whereas the Lions Clubs of Nova Scotia hold an annual drug awareness poster contest for Grades 4, 5 and 6; and

Whereas each school sends their best three posters to compete at the provincial convention; and

Whereas Adnea Brown of Preston won first place and Chelsea Owen of Chezzetcook won third place in the provincial contest;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Adnea Brown and Chelsea Owen and commend the Lions Club for their drug awareness programs in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2519

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

Whereas Reg Knight of Lower Prospect has made a legendary contribution to his community; and

Whereas Reg is an involved area resident who cares deeply for Lower Prospect and its concerns; and

[Page 4869]

Whereas Reg Knight's experience and knowledge are appreciated by our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature recognize Reg Knight for his contributions and insight into the Lower Prospect community and wish him many more years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2520

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

Whereas Dr. Ron MacCormick, Medical Director of the Cape Breton Cancer Centre, was recently recognized for his outstanding contributions to promoting the values of both the Canadian Cancer Society and its research partner, the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and is this year's recipient of the R.M. Taylor Award presented annually by the Canadian Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute of Canada; and

Whereas throughout his career, Dr. MacCormick has worked tirelessly in the areas of cancer research, cancer patient care, public education and public service. He was instrumental in bringing full cancer services to Cape Breton by first developing a medical oncology unit and later a regional cancer centre equipped with a state-of-the-art radiation therapy department; and

Whereas in 1998, he initiated an annual cancer symposium to help keep physicians, health care providers and the public informed of current cancer treatments and trends. This symposium has continued to grow larger and more popular each year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Dr. Ron MacCormick on his outstanding accomplishments in cancer research and wish him well in his vital role.

[Page 4870]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2521

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

Whereas the Dartmouth Family Centre, a member of the Dartmouth Resource Centres, has served the Dartmouth North neighbourhood families with young children; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Family Centre recognizes that all parents can certainly benefit from resources, support, guidance and education, to meet the challenging parenting roles in our society today; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Family Centre has moved to a larger facility at 107 Albro Lake Road to better serve the neighbourhood;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Dartmouth Family Centre on its new location and thank the executive director and staff for providing the much-needed programs and services to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 4871]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2522

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

Whereas in the aftermath of Hurricane Juan, many calls to my constituency office were from residents just barely keeping afloat financially, living paycheque to paycheque, who had now lost all their refrigerated foods; and

Whereas food banks were not equipped to address this deficit of perishable goods, and people who worked but couldn't afford insurance were clobbered financially; and

Whereas many families encouraged to submit applications for government funds set up to assist people hit by Juan found they didn't fit the criteria outlined in the funding program;

Therefore be it resolved that this government admit that offering assistance, but with a deductible of $1,000, is unrealistic for many families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2523

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

Whereas Travis Humphrey is an active, involved volunteer in our community; and

Whereas Travis daily makes a valuable contribution to Lower Prospect and the surrounding communities; and

[Page 4872]

Whereas Travis Humphrey's dedication and involvement are indicators of a bright future for this outstanding young man;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly recognize the effort and hard work of Travis Humphrey.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 2524

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

Whereas Hurricane Juan struck Nova Scotia in the early morning hours of September 29, 2003; and

Whereas later that morning, upwards of 300,000 Nova Scotians woke up to massive power outages; and

Whereas by 10:00 p.m. on October 4th, the hardworking staff of Nova Scotia Power had restored electrical services to 95 per cent of affected customers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts of Nova Scotia Power crews, who worked tirelessly to restore power in the wake of Hurricane Juan, and recognize all the agencies, workers and corporations, who are now developing plans for more timely recoveries following future events.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4873]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2525

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

Whereas municipalities and community development advocates in the Strait area developed a proposal to distribute natural gas through a locally-owned utility; and

Whereas the resulting Strait Area Gas distribution application was approved on September 29th by the Utility and Review Board; and

Whereas this is another example of the leadership in community-based economic development which has come to characterize the Strait area, home to world-class industries and the famed Antigonish movement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Strait area municipalities, and all those who have pursued, so far, with noteworthy success, the plan to develop Nova Scotia's first locally-owned natural gas utility.

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.

Order, please. Before we to go to Orders of the Day, I believe we want to revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills.

Is it agreed?

[Page 4874]

It is agreed.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 122 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 8 of the Acts of 1998. The Municipal Government Act. (Ms. Michele Raymond)

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

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 117.

Bill No. 117 - Emergency Health Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time. Nova Scotia's ambulance service is the best in Canada, and it's recognized as one of the top 10 ambulance systems in North America, in terms of the care it delivers. The EHS system includes a communications centre, ground and air ambulance systems, medical oversight, a Provincial Trauma Program, medical first responders, and a training and simulation centre. It also includes paramedics and other health professionals who are passionate about their work and compassionate in the care they provide to their patients.

Mr. Speaker, we know the system works and works well. We are proud of the quality of our ambulance service, but we also recognize that we are the only province in Canada that does not have the legislative framework to operate the system. This bill remedies that. The new bill will help the Department of Health ensure the delivery of safe, high quality, accessible and reliable ambulance and emergency health services to Nova Scotians.

[Page 4875]

It provides the department with the authority to establish, monitor and enforce standards for those services. In effect, it will give us the legislative authority to require everyone involved in the province's ambulance service now and in the future to meet the standards that have served Nova Scotians so well over the past several years.

EHS was created in 1995, in response to a report on the status of Nova Scotia's emergency health care system. Prior to the report, there were over 50 private and public ambulance operations in Nova Scotia. The system, 10 years ago, was inconsistent in terms of medical care, staff qualifications and the type of condition of ambulances. The type of care you received depended upon where you lived in the province.

Mr. Speaker, a great deal of work has gone into making our EHS system what it is today and we want to ensure that Nova Scotians, no matter where they are in the province, where in the province they live, continue to have access to the safest, most advanced ambulance system anywhere in the country. We believe it is important to protect the system we have today, which is why we have introduced the Emergency Health Services Act.

Mr. Speaker, under the new legislation, any ambulance service provider in Nova Scotia will be required to sign an agreement with the minister. They will be required to meet standards established by the Act and regulations. The new legislation will also provide the flexibility to have specified emergency health service providers enhance the primary care services offered in any area of the province. This practice is already taking place in Long and Brier Islands, Digby County, where paramedics certified in community paramedicine, work side by side with a nurse practitioner to provide basic medical services to residents.

Mr. Speaker, the key element of the bill is the ability to establish agreements and to develop and enforce standards of patient care, performance and competency, combine to ensure public safety. With the input of many stakeholders, government has been able to develop legislation that preserves the best of our emergency health services system, while removing the limitations that exist in the current system.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the debate on this legislation and the comments and statements by all members of the House relative to the legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in my place and make a few remarks on Bill No. 117, the Emergency Health Services Act.

Mr. Speaker, the background to this bill goes back a bit. The Auditor General, in his 2000 report, criticized the Department of Health for the lack of legislative authority respecting Emergency Health Services. I think that most members of this House are aware that a bill did pass through this House once before, establishing Emergency Health Services in the Province of Nova Scotia and that was in 1994, but that bill was never proclaimed and

[Page 4876]

for a period of time after that bill passed this Legislature, voluntary agreements continued to be in place with a variety of ambulance service operators around the province, in sort of a transition period between the service that we have now with Emergency Health Services across the province and what before was a patchwork of many private sector providers.

[3:00 p.m.]

As the minister said in his opening remarks, the Emergency Health Services that we have in Nova Scotia are among the best in the country, if not, the best in the country. I know on the kind of regular accreditation processes that go on we have scored extremely high in terms of our Emergency Health Services throughout North America. Like probably many members of this Legislature, I've had some first-hand experience with Emergency Health Services when a friend or a member of my family has had to be transported to a medical facility.

I have to take a moment and pay tribute to the paramedics, and not just the paramedics on the particular ambulance, but also the folks back in the communications centre, who get the 911 call and send people out. The professionalism of the men and women who are providing Emergency Health Services in this province is truly remarkable to witness, and I think we all can be very proud and are, in fact, very proud of the level of services they provide.

I would also like to take a moment - because this bill does have implications for first responders, people who work in fire departments and volunteer fire departments around the province - and pay recognition to the amazing dedication of these men and women as well, and the services they provided. Not so long ago, Mr. Speaker, I had a family member in the Winter months who had to have 911 called and be transported to an emergency department. Afterwards, my mother told me about the fire department coming back, one of the people with the fire department, and making sure that she had enough wood in for the evening and the driveway was shovelled.

These people in the communities across our province go way beyond the call of duty in terms of responding to calls. They are, in many respects, the backbone of the small, rural communities and I think we really need to pay tribute to them and recognize the enormous contribution they make in the health, well-being and the health care delivery system in the province. This is a piece of legislation that has implications for them in the way that they do their jobs.

This bill applies to ambulance services, as I mentioned, the Emergency Health Services across the province, it applies to the communications centre, and it also applies to Emergency Health Services pre-hospital first responders in, primarily, fire departments. This legislation essentially gives a legal framework to what we have had in place now for some considerable period of time in the Province of Nova Scotia. This isn't going to introduce some new changes in a system, it merely is going to entrench in our Emergency Health Services system

[Page 4877]

the legislative requirements to have this service carried out. It will allow for the ongoing development and implementation of standards, training, inspection and monitoring, and evaluation of services. This legislation moves us toward a regulatory body for paramedics, but it doesn't move us quickly enough towards such a regulatory body. I know that's something that paramedics are really looking forward to - having their own piece of legislation.

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I know that my colleague, the MLA for Sackville-Cobequid, who is a professional paramedic will no doubt speak to the aspirations of his former colleagues and his colleagues generally from that profession.

This is a piece of legislation that is required in this province. Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that doesn't have an Emergency Health Services Act that establishes the legislative framework for Emergency Health Services. We see this as fulfilling the concerns that were raised or meeting the concerns that have been raised by the Auditor General back in 2000. We see this as getting on with the introduction of legislation that occurred in 1994 but was never proclaimed. Hopefully this bill will be proclaimed as it passes through this Legislature.

I know that the minister and officials in his department consulted with a number of groups around the province. I'm not sure if in the consultation process everyone who has a stake were captured in that process. Hopefully, if they weren't captured in that process, the Law Amendments Committee process will allow anybody to come forward with their comments and their suggestions or concerns and we can finally address the lack of an Emergency Health Services Act in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, those are my remarks on this legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today to debate Bill No. 117, the Emergency Health Services Act. As the government has already indicated, this bill will strengthen and protect under legislation ambulance services in our province.

I stand in my place to say that the emergency health services are already strong in this province and I suggest to the minister and to all members here that's because of a former Liberal Government. It was the Liberal Government who formalized and developed a whole range of pre-hospital emergency care in this province and I'm pleased to say the system is one of the best in the country. I'm sure everyone would agree with that. That was confirmed last

[Page 4878]

week when the Commission for Accreditation of Ambulance Services was given a full three year accreditation - the first time in Canada.

I'm a little leery when this government is giving regulatory power to such standards, though, I have to admit. To me, it could mark a backdoor way whereby government could cut corners on standards to save money on the budget. Let's put the government on notice today - this piece of paper should not be used to justify cost-saving measures of any type when it comes to cutting corners with respect to standards. Standards have to be set by those who know the system best and EHS and those currently involved in performance-based contracts. Mr. Speaker, we've learned in the past that government can enshrine in legislation the high standards that have already been established and enhanced and not have to embark on a process to establishing their own.

Having said all of that, there are a couple of issues that I want to bring to the attention of the House. First and foremost, as far as we can determine, there's no mention made in this legislation with respect to ambulance fees, the fees they charge for their service. For instance, who is responsible for establishing ambulance fees? Is that being left to the provider, is the minister abdicating his responsibility to ensure that the fees represent the true cost of service delivery? The issue is a bit concerning and warrants some attention.

I made this point in the past, but I'll make it again. I'll give you an example, Mr. Speaker, of what can happen with ambulance fees in this province. There was a very unfortunate accident outside of my constituency on the Donkin-Morien highway last year. There were a couple of people injured in that accident, one of them, unfortunately, as a result of that accident, suffered severe injuries and is now a paraplegic. At that accident scene, when EHS arrived - it was fairly promptly that they did arrive and, of course, the care was the best that you could expect - the victim was taken to the Glace Bay Hospital. At the Glace Bay Hospital, it was determined that the victim had to be transferred to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. From the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, that victim had to be transported by helicopter, by Medevac to the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

A short time later, I received a letter from the victim's parents explaining that they had to use their insurance, of course, and it was being used up and that a lump sum of the insurance was to pay for certain medical expenses outside of what was covered by MSI. Among those medical expenses which were being taken out of this lump sum, which was only about $2,500, was a $1,800 bill from Emergency Health Services; $600 was the charge from the crash scene to the Glace Bay Hospital; $600 more was the charge from the Glace Bay Hospital to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital; and an unbelievable $600 that was charged from the back door of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital to the helipad at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital site, which is approximately 500 to 600 metres away.

Mr. Speaker, I thought that was certainly an unfair charge, and I did write a letter to EHS and asked that I thought this family could be charged just once, and one fee, maybe two, I guess, if you stretched it, but certainly not three. I'm glad to say that the third charge, the

[Page 4879]

one from the regional hospital to the helipad was revoked and dismissed, so we got rid of that but not the second one.

I think it illustrates and points that when you are talking about fees that are charged for ambulance services, which are very high to begin with, in that sort of a situation, there was a $1,800 fee which was being taken out of a very limited amount of money which could have been used from this particular insurance policy, money that could have been used and should be used to make it easier for transition for the victim into her home once she was released from the hospital.

There were certain medical supplies and certain ramps and access issues that had to be dealt with because of the injuries sustained to make life better for this young girl when she returned home. That's what the family was hoping to use that money for but, instead, $1,800 out of that $25,000 was being eaten up right away by the cost of ambulance services to a hospital, Mr. Speaker.

I am sure we've all heard from our constituents as to what has happened in certain instances of how much they've been charged for a particular ambulance service, it's an issue that we have to be concerned about, an issue that we have to deal with in this province. Mr. Speaker, when an emergency room needs a physician, in my opinion, a physician should be available, and I do not want to see this Act whereby government relaxes efforts to recruit appropriately-trained medical personnel to certain areas of our province.

[3:15 p.m.]

An example, again, is the Glace Bay Hospital, whose emergency room is closely quite frequently because of a lack of physicians in the area. It's fine, I guess, to have an ambulance waiting to transport you when you come up to the Glace Bay Hospital, and if the emergency room is closed you've probably heard about it - or hopefully you've heard about it beforehand on the radio or in the newspaper, but if you haven't and you arrive at the hospital and you're waiting to get into an emergency department and you find out it's closed, there usually is an ambulance stationed outside. But let's remember, as good as they are and as good as the service is, the paramedic, the ambulance cannot replace the emergency room physician who should be on duty at the time. I think we would agree with that.

In this case the issue that has to be talked about here, in terms of the Glace Bay Hospital, is that there are not enough physicians to staff the emergency room. Medical professionals have scopes of practice, and we want to make sure that no professional, whether it be a paramedic or whether it be a nurse, is placed in a position where they practise outside of that scope of practice.

[Page 4880]

Mr. Speaker, I hope that some of these issues that I have raised will be addressed on a future day. I certainly look forward to deliberations at the Law Amendments Committee, as they pertain to Bill No. 117, the Emergency Health Services Act. With that, I thank you and I will take my seat.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I feel honoured to stand today to make some comments and bring some questions pertaining to Bill No. 117, an Act Respecting the Provision of Ambulance Services and Emergency Health Services. It's a privilege for me to be here on the floor of the Legislature today representing many of my former colleagues, paramedics, and also representing many of the first responders and people who provide emergency health services in the province. I, too, in the past, prior to becoming a paramedic, was involved as a first responder in the fire department in Sackville. I think that it's important to recognize the job that medical first responders do do in this province.

With this bill coming forward, it brings the questions forward of the timing of this bill. It's different today, the service we see provided here in the province. We see a significantly different service today than we did 10 years ago. There have been dramatic changes in the procedures and the care that you get today and what you received in earlier days. Back in the early 1990s, there were several people involved in the change of scene in the service, especially in EHS. As the member for Glace Bay mentioned earlier, there were some interventions in the early 1990s with the Liberal Government, especially the Health Minister at the time, Dr. Ron Stewart, who was instrumental in starting these changes and providing a lot of feedback and knowledge in the area of emergency health services, especially with his being involved in certain changes in California over the years, and in other provinces and other states.

The system we see today has definitely changed, and I think the timing of this bill should have been about 10 years ago. It's very concerning to members of our caucus and to members of the profession to see that such dramatic changes have occurred over the years, but yet the legislation enabling these changes was never proclaimed, a bill was never brought forward to the Legislature and put through the process of being proclaimed. So that does bring some concern to me about the timing of this bill. Why, all of a sudden, are we seeing this bill in front of us to debate, and hopefully get on to the Law Amendments Committee to see some input from the stakeholders?

I think one of the reasons we see it today is because of an earlier report of the Auditor General in 2000. It really criticized the government for the lack of legislation and the authority of changing the service we had in the early 1990s. I was a paramedic when we had the old system, when there was 52 ambulance operators in the province. They each did their own thing, they each had their own company and it was a profit-driven service, back in the early 1990s and earlier. So, in order for them to change the system, I would think that the government, at the time, should have enacted legislation like this. Yes, it was the Liberal

[Page 4881]

Government that started the ball rolling but I would think they would have done it in the proper procedures, the proper steps. That's something that always amazes me, that this procedure of bringing legislation forward always seems to be in a reactive mode and not a proactive mode. So the timing of the bill does bring some questions to the fact that this should have been dealt with a long time ago.

The bill states, "Respecting the Provision of Ambulance Services and Emergency Health Services." We do need to respect what the people who provide this service in the province do. We are not only dealing with the ambulance service, the paramedics that bring care to the houses of the people who need help, this bill is discussing the different groups of people involved in EHS, like the ground ambulance, of course, and the air ambulance that provides an important service to our province, which, over the years has grown and the need for expansion, I think, is very important to see in the future, I hope, with the air ambulance. There are a lot of remote communities in this province that would benefit from an increased level of air ambulance or an increased level of ground ambulance in their communities.

Also, this bill is pertaining to regulations and standards or the standards seen on the delivery of the service, the delivery of the health care to the patients. We also have paramedics involved in triage here at the QE II. They provide an important role in assessing patients, their acuity levels of how they are going to be seen in the emergency department. I think it's important we also recognize these people.

The other ones I want to talk a little bit about is the first responders. In our province we have thousands of individuals, men and women, who provide a service in most parts, free of charge. Myself, representing an area like Sackville, we have the luxury of being close to the QE II Emergency, close to the Dartmouth General and also close to a community-based hospital like the Cobequid Community Health Centre. I have the luxury also and the people in my community have the luxury of having professional firefighters, paid firefighters on duty 24-hours a day, and they play an important role in first responders and delivering health care and first aid as the first responders in my community and much of that in the area of HRM. But a lot of the communities throughout Nova Scotia depend heavily on first responders to be their initial point of entering the health care system.

This bill does state in Clause 8, "The Minister may assist hospitals, other health institutions and agencies, municipalities and other organizations and persons to provide emergency health services and to train personnel to provide services, . . .". So I think we need to make sure that in these rural communities, when this Act is proclaimed, if it gets to that point, that the service that they provide is still there and that the government is willing to fund and help alleviate some of the cost.

Emergency Health Services is an expensive venture, as we are aware, the Department of Health spends about $65 million on delivering EHS to the people of our province. If we pass this bill and make it impossible for some of these rural communities to continue to provide medical first response, then I think that's the wrong way that we should approach

[Page 4882]

that. We have to ensure that they continue to provide this important service in these small rural communities and that they have access to the same quality training and equipment that people, say, in the city here have or that are involved with the ground or air ambulance.

It is, Mr. Speaker, definitely, one of the top services in the country and recent reports have pegged Nova Scotia's ground ambulance service and air ambulance service, the whole system, in the top 10 in North America, which is great to hear, because we're early in the development of our system. Many other provinces and states have spent 20 to 30 years developing their service of providing EHS to the residents. So it does go a long way on showing how dedicated and respected the people who provide this service are throughout not only Nova Scotia, but throughout North America.

One of the other things I see with this is that we have to ensure that respecting the provisions of ambulance service and emergency health services is met, but we also have to respect the providers of that service. I think over the years paramedics especially have worked hard to try to bring the best high-quality care and safe delivery to the people of Nova Scotia. So I think the government needs to respect the importance of what they've given to the province, over the last 10 years especially, and I know for a fact that for years now they've been working on possibly bringing a professional body to oversee registration of paramedics.

I know in this bill it states in Clause 14 that the minister will allow for a registering body to be formed. There already is a registering body and all the paramedics in the province presently have to go through and meet standards in order to maintain their licence to work in the province. It's kind of ironic that maybe we didn't need to do all that. It begs to see if this bill should have been brought forward earlier to allow the Department of Health, or EHS, to regulate and register the paramedics who are currently in the system. So I think we really do need to respect the providers of this service and to, hopefully, encourage government to look at the possibility of creating a new professional body to oversee the registration.

The one thing that concerned me, reading through some of the objectives and some of the points in the presentation that I've seen that the Department of Health had given, was that they consulted with many interest groups. I have to say that the one interest group that I noticed wasn't on the list of people they talked to was a professional association that was created in the province several years ago, that was the Nova Scotia College of Paramedics. To provide insight of what the profession is and where it should go, that professional association should have been one of the ones consulted on this proposed bill.

I think years ago when the professional association started, Mr. Speaker, their hope was to bring the EHS service out in the forefront of the services across the country and across North America. I know that with their interest in what happens, especially within the EHS Bill, it's kind of disturbing that they were not one of the ones involved in this. As we look at the people they consulted with for input on this bill, there were groups or associations like the College of Physicians and Surgeons, the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia, Continuing Care Association of Nova Scotia, so it may have been an oversight. But at the

[Page 4883]

height of our professional organization several years ago, around 500 of the 650 paramedics in the province were with the association at that time.

Government did go to them and stated that they wanted to look at bringing some kind of professional body to oversee the registration of paramedics and their discipline in the province and I would say about four years ago they did start to work on what I would probably say would be like a paramedic bill. So it's interesting here to see that the EHS Bill has possibly come before other legislation that would pertain to the registration of this group of people.

So, Mr. Speaker, I know that many paramedics will definitely be looking through this legislation and will hopefully make some comments through the Law Amendments Committee on this. Many of them have given me a call and have stated that they do want to ensure that legislation pertaining to EHS and paramedics, that they are consulted with and is in the best interests of not only paramedics, but the best interests of the people we serve - the people that paramedics and emergency health services serves - the residents of our province.

[3:30 p.m.]

I think we will see some comments from the college, I hope, from ground ambulance paramedics, from air ambulance paramedics and of course, other providers. Here in the province it's ironic that there was no legislation brought in to make the significant changes that we've seen. As I said earlier, there were 52 operators in the province delivering ambulance services throughout the province. Ironically enough, they all gave up their right to deliver that service - most of them were paid for giving up that right - to create this one identity. That service was actually contracted out to another private company, the parent company of EMC Inc. was Maritime Medical at the time, which I believe now is Maritime Medical-Blue Cross or something like that.

It's ironic enough that with such changes over the years that there wasn't legislation brought in to give authority of the government to go ahead and make these agreements or buy up these services throughout the province. I think we've been lucky here in the province that no one has challenged the government yet on what the service has done and what changes I've seen. I think they were probably just waiting to see if we could get through all of this without any incidents. I know there were a few communities in the province that were reluctant to give up their right to provide ambulance services in that area and I think one of the last remaining service, I believe, in Pubnico had just actually signed with EHS to relinquish their hold on providing the ground ambulance service in that area.

There are changes and provisions for primary care paramedics in the province that provide additional treatments in the province. I believe along Brier Island and the Digby area, paramedics are providing services there that are very important because how remote these areas are.

[Page 4884]

That still brings me back to ensuring the government give these areas - especially in rural Nova Scotia - the opportunity to continue to provide the service they see there and the service they deliver there, to give them the funding and the adequate training and equipment that we see in the whole ground ambulance service right now.

One of the things that firefighters were saying to me not too long ago was that they too feel the need to be regulated, to ensure that the same quality care is given throughout the province. I think that's the most important thing - maintaining the care you receive in some small community in Nova Scotia is the same care that you would receive if you were off Robie Street, close to the hospital. I know this bill does talk and speak about that standard of care and I applaud the government for bringing this legislation forward now. I wish it would have been a few years ago.

The other concern that I wanted to mention was with the timing of the bill, the other one was pertaining to user fees - the fees the province or the company gains from ambulance service and ambulance calls in this province. I don't see anything in here or anything in this bill that pertains to how much they give or, are they entitled to charge user fees? I think that really needs to be addressed. I spoke on it in the past about how people feel about getting billed and the user fee in the ambulance service.

I believe initially when user fees were first brought forward by the private companies - the 52 private companies in the early 1980s, when they started charging user fees - one of the reasons was to deter abuse of the system, abuse of the ambulances. Many times, I've heard it myself as a paramedic, the only reason they've called 911 for an ambulance is that they think they may be seen in the ER quicker if they arrive by ambulance.

So, many years ago the operators of the ground ambulance service at the time thought well, how can we curb this? How can we limit the amount of abuse of calling for an ambulance and leaving an area of the province uncovered and the user fee was put in place. That user fee has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. Initially when I started working as a paramedic in the old system, I believe it was $40 per call and today, I believe, that if we take an ambulance, and this government has just raised user fees, it is well over $100 now, $125, which is outrageous.

It's outrageous to think of raising fees especially when it pertains to health care and it's unbelievable that we'll use the misfortune of others when they need to use that service, to gain revenue. There doesn't seem to be any end to raising these user fees, especially when it comes to ambulances. It's really a big issue, maybe not to you, Mr. Speaker, or to I because we are covered under medical insurance or health plans. If you use an ambulance or I use an ambulance, a health plan will cover that. It's important to those people who aren't covered under health plans, who work in different organizations or different employments who don't have a health care plan. They're expected, if they have the misfortune of having to call the ambulance, to go to the hospital and then they receive a large bill.

[Page 4885]

I've spoken before also on the difference between calling for an ambulance if you were a layperson walking down the street or calling for an ambulance if you were involved in a motor vehicle collision. With these calls, the patient involved in the accident actually receives the full cost of the bill, which is well over $600 now. It's stated that you should go under your insurance and that the insurance companies won't reflect that in an increase in your bill over the years, which that kind of thinking with the way insurance rates have increased over the years, most of them are refusing to even approach their insurance companies after a call, they're just either paying their own bills or paying a little bit at a time.

Mr. Speaker, I do hope that many of the paramedics in the province and the first responders recognize that they have a chance to make presentations and speak on this bill and I definitely will be talking to many of my colleagues about this and getting their input on if there should be any changes here. As I said earlier, it's kind of ironic that we've gone through such a significant change over the last 10 years in the service we see and there wasn't legislation properly put in place at that time. I look forward to further comments on this bill in the Committee on Law Amendments. Thank you.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I listened intently while the honourable Minister of Health spoke about the importance of the ambulance service. How it was second to none in the province and I must agree that it's come a long way from when there were numerous operators a few short years ago, but I'd like to bring some points of interest from my constituency to the honourable minister's attention.

One is the definite need for a second ambulance north of Smokey. I've made reference to this area of my constituency on numerous occasions. At the beginning, there were two ambulances north of Smokey, since that time, the bottom line has come in, business being what it is, the large geographical area of that portion of my constituency is in dire need of a second ambulance. From Bay St. Lawrence to Baddeck is 150 kilometres on bare roads with little traffic, at the best of time, Mr. Speaker, the time is far too great.

Very shortly, when it's raining in Sydney, it'll be snowing north of Smokey. It's not uncommon to have snow there in October, definitely in November. I cite this point simply because the area of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality that is in my constituency, Grand Narrows, Christmas Island, Boisdale, Georges River, Scotch Lake, those areas have three points of access. Ambulances can come from North Sydney, Sydney or from the Port Hawkesbury area. The closest one available will be sent to that area. Once you get down north of Smokey and get over that mountain, the distance is far too great for one single ambulance. It's a risk of life and limb because of the immense geography of the area and the time involved.

[Page 4886]

I tabled a petition, Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Theresa MacDonald from Bay St. Lawrence, and I might have mentioned the wrong number. The actual number of names on the petition is 1,931, and when I affixed my name to it, of course, that made it 1,932. That's a large number of requests for a second ambulance. To say that they have two access points, one from the Baddeck area and one from Cheticamp, I would rule Cheticamp out from now until late Spring, simply because of the mountainous conditions and the possibility of black ice, snow and dangerous road conditions.

I'm looking for flexibility in the health care system, and I will cite another example with regard to the ambulances. Down at Buchanan Memorial Hospital, right now, we have a professional physiotherapist with eight years' experience, who is going to move into the Ingonish area and live there. Presently - on a trial period - she has approached the doctors at the Buchanan Memorial Hospital and mentioned doing physiotherapy in the Buchanan Memorial Hospital, and immediately was overwhelmed with referrals from the doctors there. The people are extremely pleased. Since that time, she has received a letter from the district health authority saying that the service will have to be curtailed because the district health authority does not have the funds to have her do that yet, at the same time, they are refusing to rent her space in the hospital, which is already available. So, there's no flexibility there, Mr. Speaker.

It's the same way with the business case for the second ambulance. I know the bottom line, profit-wise, probably doesn't warrant that ambulance being there. When you look at the risk to people's health, the extreme distance, that negates the bottom line of business profit. The service is being provided, people need to be assured that when an ambulance is called, one is readily available.

Mr. Speaker, I point this out simply because there's a large burden being placed on local fire departments and a large burden being placed on first responders. I must make reference to something that I'll be bringing forward in the near future. A young Grade 11 student at Memorial High School, Lisette Yorke, is working on a project right now to create a junior fire service. This would be for young men and women up to age 18, who would not be allowed to touch anything that's hot when it comes to fires, but would be trained in first aid, CPR and any kind of assistance that they could give. When they become 18 and older, if they choose to join the service, then they would already be pre-trained on at least close to half of what is required for Level 1 firefighters.

This is the community coming forward. These are volunteers, again, with their own time, their own energy, their own expense, yet, at the same time, when we get down to the bottom of the expense sheet, I guess, it's money that determines whether or not we get that second ambulance north of Smokey. I thought that there was no time like the present to bring that forward, when the minister himself just referenced how excellent the ambulance service is. I concur, that it is a lot better than it was, but at the same time, when EHS first came on the scene, there were two ambulances north of Smokey, prior to that, fire departments had ambulance service that they provided.

[Page 4887]

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out to the minister that he give serious consideration, look at that petition that was tabled with 1,932 names on it, look at the extreme distance that's required for the ambulance to travel, on those windy roads; look at the needs of the people and give his okay or his assurance to EHS providing a second ambulance north of Smokey. Then we can truly say that the Emergency Health Service has come a long way, and flexibility has been allowed to overcome policy so that people can rest assured that the service is truly top-notch and in order to be that way, it has to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There is a large gap in that section of my constituency that requires fixing.

Mr. Speaker, with that I will conclude my remarks, and with that I hope that the minister with his intent listening will bring that forward on my behalf, and I want to thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to take a few minutes to speak also on Bill No. 117, concerning our Emergency Health Services here in the Province of Nova Scotia. Basically, I have no qualms with the service that's provided to Nova Scotians with our ambulance service in this province. Certainly since it was amalgamated into one government authorized service from the many independent ambulance companies that were out there, it has worked well. I think in many ways it's the envy of many jurisdictions of North America, and that we do have an authorized system that coordinates well together and other jurisdictions are certainly looking at what we have done right in this regard.

My concern, Mr. Speaker, is certainly in regard to some of the fees that are charged to individuals for ambulance services, and I have a couple of examples that I want to bring to the Legislature's attention. I guess, first of all, there is no concrete evidence or proof that the fees that are being charged are actually lawful in this province, and there is some dispute whether the authority has the right to levy the fees that are being charged. Some of them, I think, are out of line.

I just want to bring, first of all, the example of a lady from my constituency in the Town of Pictou, a lady who is very fortunate to be still living in her home, she's 106 years young; not too many Nova Scotians I can think of who are still in their own homes at that age. As we age, we have various health problems and in her case, she is actually living with her daughter and she has the need to go to the Aberdeen Hospital about once a month for some blood tests. Originally they had tried to set it up that perhaps a technician could come to her home and take a blood sample and that would save her the need to travel to the Aberdeen.

[Page 4888]

In time it was found that that wasn't feasible, or wasn't possible, they had to have her in person as a patient. She has to go by ambulance. While her mental faculties are great - she can converse as well as you and I, Mr. Speaker - physically she has some ambulatory problems, and it is difficult for her to walk. In fact she lives in the upstairs of her daughter's home and she needs assistance getting down those stairs and then into an ambulance. So once a month, an ambulance is called to her home and the ambulance operators, paramedics, have to come upstairs and assist her down the stairs, then into the ambulance.

She is charged $120 one way for that service. When she is finished her blood tests at the Aberdeen, she has to come back, again by ambulance, and that's another $120. In fact, she is paying $240 for the ambulance, plus an additional $25 for the blood tests. So it's $265 a round trip for the ambulance plus the blood tests. I've spoken to the administrator at the Aberdeen Hospital and are hoping that we can work something out in that regard, that maybe there's a better way or a system that can be accommodated in her case and that's still being worked on. In the interim she's still paying $265 round trip in order to get her blood tests, but most of that is ambulance fees. I think it's a bit unreasonable and, again as I mentioned, it calls into question whether all these are legal or not, but that's the fee that is charged to her.

The second case, Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to the attention of the House is very personal and it happened to be an accident involving my parents last December on slushy, snowy roads. They had an accident in the Village of Durham in Pictou County. There was a lot of slush flying up from trucks and vehicles and a tractor-trailer met them, my dad was driving at the time, and he lost control of the vehicle when the slush flew up and hit their windshield and off the road they went. Fortunately, somebody came along shortly thereafter and saw their situation and called 911. Our thanks to the Scotsburn Fire Department for responding, they used the Jaws of Life and were able to get them out of the vehicle. The ambulance responded and certainly all praised both the paramedics and the fire department, for prompt, efficient service. Then the two of them were transported together to the Aberdeen Hospital and they got full and good care. My mum was released within a few hours and my dad the next day. So they weren't seriously hurt, they were scratched and banged up a bit but, thankfully, nothing more serious than that.

However, a few days later they got the bill or the fee for the ambulance service and there was one ambulance. It's approximately 12 miles, I suppose, from Durham to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow and the fee that they were charged was $1,200 for that one ambulance drive. Now, I know the fees are set at $600 per person and because there were two of them, I guess they put it up to $1,200 but, again, there was only one ambulance, one drive from the accident scene to the hospital. To me, that seems quite exorbitant and, again, there's a question around the whole issue of legality. Where in the legislation is it shown that there's proof that these fees have been set? I think they're generally arbitrary, but when people get a bill, they do feel, in most cases, they have to pay it. If you were to get a bill in the mail, you feel, well, I have to pay this, when your power bill comes, or your phone bill. Well, in this case the ambulance bill came and most people feel, well, that's the way it is, I've got to pay it.

[Page 4889]

In actual fact there's a strong question around the legality of those fees, but $1,200 for one ambulance drive, I think, is truly exorbitant and I would certainly hope that we would see some changes in that. So with that, Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to bring those two particular cases to the attention of the House and I will look forward to seeing where this bill goes from here.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to speak on Bill No. 117, an Act Respecting the Provision of Ambulance Services and Emergency Health Services. It gives all members of the House an opportunity to - well, first of all, I compliment the government for bringing this legislation forward because it's certainly legislation that was long overdue. But like many issues, hindsight is always 20/20 and when something new and innovative and very progressive in the province comes before this House, obviously, there are going to be some growing pains and some glitches in the system. Although we, in Opposition, can sometimes easily find fault a little quicker than others, I can assure you, equally so, we're prepared, certainly in our caucus, to acknowledge the fact that the government is doing something to take corrective measures on this particular piece of legislation. It's certainly not that this issue hasn't been raised before, it has been raised at the Public Accounts Committee on a number of occasions, on previous dates, certainly when I was on the Public Accounts Committee, and some other members of the Public Accounts Committee who were there before raised the veracity and certainly the legality of these fees and the operational relationship with the government with this privately contracted service.

I think the point raised by the previous speaker with regard to the fees - and that's one issue that I felt, Mr. Speaker, we should focus on - this piece of legislation highlights the reality of what the government is trying to do and has been doing ever since its election back in 1999. Just in the last fiscal year the user fees for ambulance services have increased quite dramatically since the previous increase of 2002; for example, in the last budget, the ambulance user fees for medically essential transportation fees for residents of Nova Scotia increased by some 41 per cent, going from $85 to $120.

Mr. Speaker, that's not the only issue. As well, with regard to non-Nova Scotians, that increase was 20 per cent in the last fiscal year. With regard to new Canadians, that was another 20 per cent; for non-Canadians, another 20 per cent. Again, we can see that the government has embarked on a whole new program of how to tax the people of Nova Scotia by use of user fees, which they themselves, by their own admission, are not able to clearly define. Now if you speak to the Minister of Finance, he'll give you one definition of a user fee; if you speak to the Minister of Health in the House of Assembly here, he'll clearly give you a different definition; and if you speak to the Premier of the province, he'll give you yet another definition of a user fee.

[Page 4890]

Mr. Speaker, clearly we need, in either regulatory or legislative form, as to what a user fee is in the Province of Nova Scotia, because a tax or a user fee by any other name is essentially a tax on the people who use the service - and, indeed, for those who are not using the service as well. The government, when it was on this side of the House in Third Party position, railed at the government quite severely about the fact that this was a Cadillac service that was really not needed for the people of Nova Scotia, and at that time the cost of the ambulance service in Nova Scotia, when it was taken over by government, was some $45 million. Today it's over $65 million and the government doesn't have one whisper of concern about the escalating cost. So we have to ask ourselves, why not?

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues we raised at the Public Accounts Committee was the issue of value for dollar, and are the people really being properly served by the fees that are being charged. How many times do ambulances arrive on the site, picking up patients, when in fact they're really not patients? This is an issue that I raised on a previous date. For example, with these small fender-benders or if there's some type of an incident at the local level, whether it be something that would involve the local fire department or what have you, in many cases it's almost like a race as to who's going to get there first. Certainly that was the case in the previous format.

I'll give you an example. There was the young lady on Kings Road several years ago - and I did raise this issue - she was involved in a fender-bender. She had her two small children with her. She was taken in the ambulance and, because both these children were pre-school children, they were taken in the ambulance because they couldn't leave them in the van by themselves. They weren't treated by the Emergency Health Services individuals, because the children weren't hurt, yet when the bill arrived, this lady received a bill for three people, $1,500 for one person who needed medical services. Now who's auditing this process and how many occasions have occurred throughout the province in circumstances similar to this? If the government is looking for ways to curb the cost to the people of Nova Scotia and to reduce the cost of the emergency health services to the people of Nova Scotia, then I would respectfully submit, this is one avenue that the government could probably do a little more auditing of what's going on with its contractual relationship with EMC.

[4:00 p.m.]

Another example, Mr. Speaker, is with regard to the air ambulance service. There was great fanfare that the government would save millions of dollars by taking over the operation of the air ambulance service in the Province of Nova Scotia. It wasn't good enough that the private contractor who was providing that service was doing a good job for a reasonable fee. The government, in its wisdom, whether it be at the bureaucratic level or the political level or both, made the decision that they could save money by bringing this in-house. Well, to this very moment, they have not provided one shred of evidence that they would save one penny. In fact, they are spending more money for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, by doing what it has done.

[Page 4891]

They said in the first year that the kick-off costs or the start-up costs will be a little higher, I believe they were estimating somewhere in the vicinity of $2 million, but what they didn't mention, all those pieces of real estate that were donated in good measure and all the benevolence, all the money that was raised through different charities and trusts from companies in Nova Scotia that contributed millions of dollars to help support that system, all those charitable donations have dried up. They've dried up and there's not a whisper from the Minister of Health as to why we're spending more of the people's money to provide a service that was provided cheaper by that private contractor. I'm at a complete loss as to why the government doesn't seem to want to address that.

It's going on three years since that issue was put on the table and the government, at the time, gave an undertaking, at the budgetary process, that those savings would be realized in the future. We haven't seen any evidence of that and I would respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, that the government is critically remiss on that particular issue because you need buy-in from the community in many of these rural communities, whether it be out in the Eastern Shore, out in the Head of Jeddore, whether it's down in the Valley, whether it's down in Digby Neck, whether it's down in the northern tip of Cape Breton or what have you, but there has been considerable loss of buy-in from the community because of this government action.

So, yes, while I applaud the government for bringing this legislation forward, the government is very quietly and very calculatingly gouging the people of Nova Scotia for every penny it can get through user fees. What about other user fees, Mr. Speaker, in the health care system? What about all the other medical testing user fees that have been implemented in the last fiscal year? How much money was realized by the government on that particular issue and yet there's not a whisper. The government is saying, we have a surplus. We have a $40 million plus surplus. The debt is growing at a rate of $125,000 or $145,000 an hour and the government says it has a surplus and we're doing great. How can we be doing great if the debt continues to grow?

We have to ask ourselves, with all that money that's coming from Ottawa, tens of millions of dollars every year, when you add it all up, I'm sure since this government came to power, we must be looking at close to $0.75 billion a year more than they had when they started. Certainly, cumulatively, there had to be a significant amount of money.

Yet the government, when it came into power in 1999, said it was going to correct all the problems in health care for $74 million. Now what happened, Mr. Speaker? What happened that we can introduce pieces of legislation like this that do provide some corrective measure, but yet, when we see Orders in Council, through the regulatory process - for example, in April 2004, these rather significant fee increases to the users of the health care system - and not a whisper, why not? Because it's very popular, it's a populist action on behalf of just about any provincial government to attack the federal government. They got the money, they got what they want, and still they're gouging the people of Nova Scotia, and with the spin doctoring, they're trying to make everybody believe that things are wonderful.

[Page 4892]

We're doing wonderfully, we have a surplus. But how much did the debt grow in the last year?

We can't afford to muse about tax cuts. We can't afford to play games. (Interruptions) Yes, we did, on the premise that they were going to do something good. But I tell you, Mr. Speaker, the sun comes up tomorrow, and the Leader of the NDP should know that as well. (Laughter) He should not be too confident in how he struts his feathers, let me assure you. (Interruptions) That's right, even on cloudy days, the sun comes up tomorrow. (Interruptions) Well, some members of the NDP caucus are living in a fog anyway, so I'm not going to bother going that route, whether the sun comes up or not. I'll leave the honourable member for Dartmouth North to provide his own thoughts on this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, it's seems like not too many have engaged in rather lively debates in the House here the last few days, so we thought we'd certainly liven it up and make the people of Nova Scotia realize this cloak-and-dagger approach that the government has to the management of the people's money and how this particular piece of legislation will impact on the people of Nova Scotia. And what do we get from the government benches? Absolute silence. They won't say anything, they won't do anything. They're just hoping that this House will just kind of open and close with a whisper. Let's not say too much, let's not do too much. We don't want to make too many waves because we have a rather interesting and unique situation coming up in March/April 2005. So we have to brace and prepare ourselves.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the government, particularly the Minister of Health, to provide some detail on what happened with this air ambulance service. Where is this saving that was supposed to be realized? Why is it that we had to increase user fees by 20 per cent in the last budget? Why is it? The government obviously feels that was a necessary item to put forth, and yes, members of the Opposition did provide some qualified support to that, but I think the time has come for the government to explain itself.

I was absolutely amazed last Friday when the Minister of Health was musing about another tax cut. Well, the Premier threw cold water on that within an hour, he realized that this is like a death trap. Let's not go there. So the Minister of Health is now looking for that $40-some million for his budget, the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars that he got from the federal government wasn't quite enough. He's quite cavernous over there.

Mr. Speaker, I think the government owes considerable explanation. Waiting times was a big issue, and with increased usage of ambulance services in the Province of Nova Scotia, obviously that's going to put more pressure on out-patient services. I know of individuals in the last week who would go in with cuts to their face and hands and so on and have to wait as long as four to five hours to receive emergency service because of the back-up in the system.

[Page 4893]

That's no reflection on the health care workers. That's no reflection on the nurses or the doctors or what have you - they're doing their level best. I can attest to the fact that anytime our family has ever required health care services, it's been top-notch professionalism and they do their level best with the resources they have.

It's not always a question of putting more money into the problem. The minister has recognized that, he's taken some corrective action to deal with some of the problems at the QE II. But, what's the follow up? That's only a one year Band-Aid approach, given the fact that he put extra money there. What about the other regions of the province? What's happening there? It's not quite good enough to say that we're going to hobble from one crisis to the next in a Band-Aid approach.

Yes, legitimate arguments have been made on the issue of funding from Ottawa with regard to the fact that Ottawa may or may not be paying its fair share. I'll support the government on that. But, if they're only paying 17, maybe 20, 25 per cent with the latest announcements on the cost of health care, then the federal government through the CHST must be paying somewhere in the vicinity of 90 to 95 per cent on Community Services and Education. It all comes in one envelope.

What the provincial government is doing is they're moving dollars around out of this envelope. They're stacking the money on one side of the equation to make it look much worse on the other side. What's the most important issue to the people of Nova Scotia? Their health and well-being. So, which issue would you like to make the federal government look the worst and deflect attention away from your own inadequacy? Health care.

The Premier, who said he was going to correct all the problems in health care in 1999 for $74 million not only went in and spent that $600 million health care investment fund that was established in the budgetary process, which, the NDP so graciously voted against. Then they supported it on a future day. (Interruption) He's in retirement, I don't want to go back. Mr. Speaker, rabbit tracks. I would invite the honourable members, the Tory backbenchers, to get up and speak on this particular piece of legislation. It's a very important piece of legislation.

It impacts not just the ground service, it impacts on the air service, the emergency health care services, out-patient services right across this province. The minister knows that. The Minister of Finance certainly knows that because I'm sure he's been tapped on the shoulder from the left and from the right looking for money.

I really do believe that we need an airing on these user fees. Perhaps when the Minister of Health is closing in second reading of this bill, he will have an opportunity to offer his definition of a user fee. We have three definitions on the floor of the House of Assembly so far from three different ministers of the government. I would be interested to see if a fourth definition would probably bring us closer to the true definition of a user fee.

[Page 4894]

I don't want to belabour the points that I've made, but I think on the general principle of the bill, we have no problems with it. I certainly don't and I know my colleagues have raised their concerns - local issues - I could go on and raise many of the issues on health care throughout rural Nova Scotia, but I think most members of the House know that at this point. So I will conclude my remarks and allow for another speaker to raise some other points as well.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to have the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 117, the Emergency Health Services Act. I have to say that I don't intend to speak a long time on this bill, but I do want to say that this is a bill that is long overdue and I would echo the comments of other colleagues of this Legislative Assembly. I also want you to know that, in fact, the emergency health services that are provided to Nova Scotians are, as recorded, some of the finest in North America.

As a matter of fact, we have to recognize the contribution of Dr. Ron Stewart, who was a pioneer and the Minister of Health at the time, with respect to bringing forward this kind of emergency health services to Nova Scotians and what was most important today, as I sat in the Legislature, Mr. Speaker, like many days you sit in the Legislature, you listen to people of differing expertise and differing fields of profession and today I heard from my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, who was an Emergency Health Services' employee, who paid the contributions to this community by being that Emergency Health Services' employee and providing the services to make sure that Nova Scotians received the emergency services necessary.

He spoke very eloquently about the role of the first responder; I really didn't have a real picture of who the first responder might be. I anticipated that it might be fire services and so on, Mr. Speaker, but now I do know that one of those first responders are the first ones on the scene of the accident, no question about that, but most often it is not the policing services because the policing services are not equipped with the kind of devices and necessary medical aids in order to assist individuals. However, the fire department in its role does that as a first responder. The fire department, being very well followed by the ambulance service, carries out a tremendous job in the province and we all know what happened prior to the ambulance service in this province when, in fact, it was owned by, most often, funeral directors and individuals who had funeral parlours across this province who picked up the individuals and took them to the hospital, providing they survived once they got there, you know, that was the question. (Interruption) That's right.

So, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is this, today is far advanced - from those days - in providing the level of services that Nova Scotians really need. We know the level of services here today and I want to say that it's because of this bill that I stand up and speak, not

[Page 4895]

primarily with respect to the level of service that we have, but one that many other members of this Legislature got up and spoke about, and that's the issue of user fees. It's a very important issue - user fees. I'm sure that every one of us in this Legislative Assembly at one time or another has written emergency services because citizens, or constituents, could not pay the emergency fee. They came to us and said, what are we going to do and the constant fear that they will not get the emergency services if they don't pay this bill.

There needs to be a message sent out loud and clear that, in fact, if you don't pay this bill and you're unable to pay this bill, you will not be denied emergency services because there are people out there who, in fact, believe that they will not get that and that's a fact, Mr. Speaker. There needs to be some clarity with respect to a note on the bill that individuals won't be denied emergency services as a result of paying this fee. The fee of $125 may seem such a small fee for such a great service to many of us, but there are many Nova Scotians who earn incomes of less than $20,000 a year whose $125 fee is a matter of having food on the table or a drug to purchase. When we have the emergency ambulance service fees, then we need to know how those fees are justified.

Mr. Speaker, through the regulations I do believe, where fees are structured and set, that there will be a formula that will justify the increases or the fees charged to emergency ambulance services in this province. This is significantly important to every Nova Scotian regardless of where they live in this province and many Nova Scotians who live in rural communities do not have access to clinics, health care clinics and so on. They have to take that ambulance service to their nearest hospital and that is a fact that costs them money every time they do it and I have said earlier, it's a fact as well that they do not have those financial resources to mete out their dollars in a way that will allow for ambulance service fees. So there needs to be some clarity with respect to that.

Often you will get a letter back from the Emergency Health Services saying the fee has to be paid, we can make arrangements with the individual to set up payment fees. What is the good of setting up a payment fee for an individual who cannot afford to pay the fee in the first place? It makes absolutely no logical sense to use the administrative time and paper to send it out - and cost Nova Scotians - to an individual whom you know full well, cannot pay the service or the fee and there needs to be a careful consideration around this piece of legislation that adds a clause that would allow for special individuals to be exempt from user fees.

As well, Mr. Speaker, there has been some talk with respect to the clients who use the ambulance service. For example, I had a client who came into my office in June of this year and the client who came into my office said, look, Jerry, all my health services and all my medical records are at the QE II across the bridge in Halifax and when the ambulance service came to pick me up, the distance was equally the same except for the token fee. When they came to pick me up, they drove me to the Dartmouth General Hospital, which eventually sent me off to the QE II Health Science Centre on Summer Street.

[Page 4896]

Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the logic of that is, but I will say that, in fact, I did write the Emergency Health Services and I forget the name of the gentleman and I must say that he sent me back a very nice letter indicating that there is some flexibility with respect to that movement providing that in fact the client informs the Emergency Health Services that in fact there is a real need and the only kind of special services that can be provided are provided at the QE II Centre, something to that effect. I don't have quite the logical phrase or the language with respect to what the letter stated, but I do have a copy of the letter and I must say that the client in this particular case was receptive and supportive of the response back from EMC with respect to this move but it's something that many Nova Scotians don't know.

They don't know what to expect when they have an emergency vehicle pull up to their door, an ambulance pull up to their door. They don't know if that because of this zone - and I can understand, you can't have ambulances running everywhere - you're taken to the nearest hospital in that zone, even though it might be the equal distance to an institution or a hospital where you already have had your medical records and everything there. They have a history of you and everything. There's no need for them to drive you to one medical institution and then to another.

Mr. Speaker, and I do know that it's just a matter of time and information can be transported by other communications of satellite and so on by way of computer and drafted into another hospital or whatever. That takes time as well. It's a matter of having the services that you're accustomed to and the environment that you're in as well when you enter an institution.

I must say that I, in my period of time, have had to use the ambulance services of Nova Scotia approximately twice during the years and I have to tell you that each time that I've been in need of those services that it was a professional service that came to my door. They are top-notched individuals who fully understand and knew my particular ailment at the time and knew how to adjust to my particular need until I arrived at the hospital in order to get the full-fledged services. It's a long way from the time that I first used an ambulance service when I was a young individual, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that. Today when you enter into one of these professional mobile units, with the professional staff, you know that you're have the quality care delivered by the best qualified Nova Scotians. I can fully understand why we are rated across this province as having that kind of a system.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, we can provide accolades to those who first started it up, but we also must give credit to those who continued to make sure that the services were enhanced. You can't have an enhanced service without an additional cost or without additional monies placed into it. That doesn't mean that there is no need to justify the additional dollars, to scrutinize, evaluate and assess whether we're getting the real bang for our buck, as we constantly use that phrase.

[Page 4897]

I will say, in closing, Mr. Speaker, that I will be looking forward to this piece of legislation; because of the number of parties who were involved in this piece of legislation and their input, I'll be looking forward to this piece of legislation crossing the legislative floor into the Red Room over there and listening intently to the kind of input that will be provided by those who come to speak before it. I must say that I am not in anticipation of a large number of individuals coming in to speak against this piece of legislation. Primarily, if anyone comes in, they will probably be speaking in support of this piece of legislation.

Once again, I want to commend my honourable colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, for providing the enlightened information to me as to the role and responsibility of an EMC employee. Also, the honourable member for Halifax Needham, who is the Health Critic, who has often followed the cost of Emergency Health Services and the performance of Emergency Health Services as well.

So, with that, Mr. Speaker, I will give up my time. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, we are really blessed to live in a province that has one of the best ambulance services, not just in Canada, but in North America. The statistics that are shared across North America by ambulance services show that our service is second to none. We have one of the best on the whole continent. We are blessed to have a thoroughly professional corps of paramedics and 911 dispatchers. The system is run excellently, but it comes at a cost. You don't get "Cadillac service" for nothing and we are paying more, on a per capita basis, than most other jurisdictions. That's the trade-off. If you want to have a truly first-class service, then you have to pay for it.

[4:30 p.m.]

That choice has been made. That choice was made by the last Liberal Government as my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, has said, under the Minister of Health at the time, Dr. Ron Stewart. The somewhat chaotic system of ambulance service delivery was consolidated and brought together in the form that it presently is today, where it's delivered through one provider that provides 98 per cent-plus of ambulance services in the province. There are still one or two very small providers, although I understand that even those are being consolidated into Emergency Health Services.

So then, Mr. Speaker, I have to ask myself, why is it, how is it, that in a province with such a first-class ambulance service, that we cannot get our act together on billing and fees? Why is it that in a province which is second to none in North America we can't even get the government to face up to the fact that there are serious problems with ambulance fees? There are serious problems on which the government has done nothing less than stonewall, where they have met the concerns raised by me and my colleagues in the NDP caucus and they have greeted them with silence. They simply won't deal with them. It's not like they're saying there

[Page 4898]

is no substance to them, what they are saying is that they will greet it with silence, that they will ignore it, in the expectation that eventually the problem will just go away.

The problem is still there. It affects every single one of us in this House, because every single one of us has constituents who need an ambulance. What most Nova Scotians don't know is that if they call an ambulance or if an ambulance is called for them, they could get stuck with a bill which is unfair or unreasonable and there's not a thing they can do about it.

Mr. Speaker, this whole story goes back to when ambulance services were consolidated in the 1990s and a piece of legislation was passed early on, but it was shelved in 1994. It was passed all the way through this Legislature, but never proclaimed. So strangely enough we have had this world-class ambulance system being operated without any statutory authority whatsoever. A strange position to be in for a government-provided service costing tens of millions of dollars a year. No statutory authority whatsoever.

The Auditor General, in his 2000 annual report pointed this out to the government, he simply reminded the government that there's no statutory basis for the ambulance service, and just as importantly, there's no statutory basis for the system of fees. Nova Scotians are being charged tens of millions of dollars a year with no legal authority to do so. This first came to my attention, Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Legislature's Public Accounts Committee. I was taken aback at the idea that the government could extract, and had been extracting for a number of years, so much money from Nova Scotians with no legal authority to do so. I raised it with the government but was met with my first experience of stonewalling, where the government just refused to acknowledge there was even an issue.

Mr. Speaker, what I did is launch the ambulance fees challenge. On March 13, 2002, I held a news conference with seven Nova Scotians, and we said that we were refusing to pay the ambulance fees until the government took them to court and proved that the bills were legally valid and fair. Seven Nova Scotians stepped forward with their cases in full public view and said we will not pay these bills unless the government takes us to court and has a judge confirm that there is legal authority to do so.

Mr. Speaker, it came to my attention in the course of the research that I did, of six specific instances where the ambulance fee system is simply unfair. Let me get the first straw man out of the way right away. It is not my position, not our position, not now and never has been, that there should be no ambulance fees. Most ambulance fees in Nova Scotia are reasonable and fair and Nova Scotians should pay them. But there are six specific instances where the fees are unfair and the government, two and a half years later, still will not deal with it.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell this House more about what those six specific instances are because this bill institutionalizes an ambulance system which is founded on this billing system which is unfair. The first one has been referred to by a number of people. My colleague, the member for Pictou West, referred to a case involving his own parents. The

[Page 4899]

member for Cape Breton West may have been the first one to raise an ambulance fee case in this House, certainly the earliest that I remember, of three people, a mother and two children, in an ambulance and each one of them gets billed the full amount - triple billing in that case, double billing in the case raised by the member for Pictou West. If it is justified to charge $600 for an ambulance arising out of a motor vehicle collision, how can you justify charging $1,800 simply because three people are in the ambulance at the same time - whether they need to be cared for or not? How can you justify even double billing?

So, Mr. Speaker, that's the first instance that the government refuses to come to grips with, the unfairness of double and triple billing. If the ride cost $600, it costs $600 and having total bills arising out of the same collision of $1,200 or $1,800 cannot be justified. I think it's significant that the government has never tried to justify it, they have simply tried to deflect attention from the real issue.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, besides the double and triple billing, is the very fact that there is a special rate for cases involving a motor vehicle collision. For an ordinary ambulance ride, the fee is $120, but if a motor vehicle is involved, it's $600. What's the reason for the difference? Well, the rationale is that it's covered by your auto insurance and it's covered by auto insurers out of a special fund that means that the rates or the premiums should not go up if you put in your claim. The government has not acknowledged, will not acknowledge, refuses to acknowledge that that's not the way the world actually works. That's the theory and the government just keeps going back to the theory, but it's not the way the world works in practice because of the following. Auto insurance companies offer to many of their customers what they call a good driver discount. So what they say is your real premium is up here, but we're going to discount you because you've got a record of being a good driver and what happens if you put in an ambulance claim is not that your premium goes up, but you lose your good driver discount which has exactly the same effect.

Nova Scotians don't care why their rate is going up, the dollars out of their pocket are going up, and technically their premium is not going up. All that is happening is they've lost the good driver discount, but the government refuses to acknowledge that that's actually the way the insurance industry works and whenever I raise this issue, they raise a smokescreen, Mr. Speaker. They say, well, it's not supposed to happen, but it does happen and they say I'm talking about subsidizing insurance companies, which I'm not. They say that what I want to do is reward bad drivers and that's exactly the opposite of what I'm talking about because the Nova Scotians who end up paying for this are precisely the ones who are the best drivers because they have a good driver discount. I have never heard the government yet, not the former Minister of Health, not the present Minister of Health, not anybody, actually address this issue. They throw up the smokescreen as if that answers the question, but it doesn't go away when you throw up a smokescreen. It's still there.

Mr. Speaker, the third aspect of the ambulance fee policy that is unfair is that if an ambulance is called because there has been an accident that's compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act, the bill is for the full so-called insurance rate of $600 and that's

[Page 4900]

because the theory is that it's being paid for by the Workers' Compensation Board. I cannot seem to get it into the government's head that that is not what happens. The Workers' Compensation Act says specifically that if there is an accident at the workplace and an ambulance is called, liability for the bill rests with the employer, not with the Workers' Compensation Board. But, whenever I raised this, the government says it's paid for by the Workers' Compensation Board. It's not. It is not, it is not, it is not. I just wish one time I could get somebody on the government side of the House or in the Civil Service to acknowledge that fact.

It's the small-business owner who really gets hurt by this. If the government acknowledged there was no insurance company behind them, the rate would be $120. I think that's something employers can swallow - some more easily than others. But what they can't swallow is a $600 bill based on a false premise, namely that somebody else is paying it. But they're not.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I have the great privilege to introduce two people in the Speaker's Gallery. They are indeed Colin MacDonald, the President of Clearwater and Peter Matthews who is the Vice-President of Clearwater and certainly not just on the South Shore, that company is very, very important to all sorts of people in Nova Scotia. We just ask you people to get up and we hope you enjoy the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: So, that's the third one, the workers' compensation situation which the government refuses to address.

The fourth one is that if a Canadian from outside Nova Scotia needs an ambulance, the bill is for $600, not $120. You may say to yourself, what's wrong with that? If a tourist comes in and gets in an accident, why should we pay for their ambulance fee? There's a certain amount of justice in that, but the world is not that simple. We have many people who may have a health card, say from Ontario, but to all intents and purposes, are residents of Nova Scotia. I could mention students, for example.

Nova Scotians who have been in another province and have moved back and are now living here permanently again, it doesn't matter as long as they have a health card from another province, they get dinged the out-of-province amount. The province will not consider the individual circumstances. The province says to these people, just make a claim to that other province and they'll pay you. The Government of Nova Scotia refuses to recognize that

[Page 4901]

the world is not that simple and very often that other province will say no, we don't pay for that.

The theory behind it is that $600 is an appropriate fee because the taxpayers of the other province are picking it up. The reality is, that is not always the case. There are many Nova Scotians who get dinged with the out-of-province rate, even though they're resident here. It's not fair. If there's an issue to be determined, that's an issue between governments about how to settle claims for each other's citizens. But, what we in Nova Scotia do, we put those people right in the middle of it and we make it their responsibility to fight with that other province. We make it their responsibility to pay even if the other province says no. The government refuses to acknowledge that can and does happen.

Similarly, the fifth case of unfairness I've tried to bring to the government's attention for over two and a half years is that a person lives in Nova Scotia, but is not a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, they get dinged the out-of-country rate, which is $900. You may say that's fine, if a tourist comes in here from Britain or Italy or South Africa or Japan or wherever and they get hurt, there's no reason for the taxpayers of Canada to pick up the bill. That's true Mr. Speaker, but the problem is when somebody has moved to Canada permanently, has moved to Nova Scotia permanently - they may have lived here for several years, they just don't have their status yet. They may be a refugee, but because they don't have their status, they get dinged with the out-of-country rate just as if they were a tourist, and it's not fair. It is not fair. It's not right, it's not reasonable.

Many of these people - especially if they're refugees - have come to this country with nothing. They're the poorest of the poor. If they need an ambulance, they get dinged with a $900 bill. The government refuses to acknowledge that it happens or refuses to acknoweldge that it's a problem.

[4:45 p.m.]

Finally, Mr. Speaker, is the problem raised by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, and that is that there is no allowance in the billing policy at all for need, medical necessity, or inability to pay. It is the policy of EMC and Emergency Health Services that no debt will be forgiven. No matter how extraordinary the circumstances, no matter how poor the patient, no bill will be forgiven, and the only thing they will consider is a payment plan. They say pay us $5 a month - whatever you can pay, pay it, but we're not going to forgive it.

Mr. Speaker, we have people like Ann Hujdic of Dartmouth, who's one of those test cases, who regularly needs an ambulance and is too poor to pay for it. So she just, over the years, has piled up a bunch of bills that she can't pay, has no hope of ever paying because her income can't cover it, and there's no provision whatsoever in the billing policy to deal with that - and the government refuses to acknowledge it's even a problem.

[Page 4902]

Mr. Speaker, I might feel differently about this if I felt that the government had heard what we're saying, understood what we're saying, and could offer good, solid policy reasons for not changing the policy, but that's not what they've done, that's not what they've done at all. The government response, rather than dealing with these things, has been quite different. Their first response was to retroactively change the law to legalize ambulance fees. So they acknowledge at least that they never did have the legal right to charge the fees, because a couple of years ago, in the Financial Measures Act as part of the budget, they passed an amendment that gave them the regulatory authority to set fees, and they said it was retroactive back to the year 2000, neatly covering any of the test cases. That's the first thing they did.

Now, retroactive legislation is never a happy thing, Mr. Speaker, because what the government does is it reaches into the past and deems the law to be different than it actually was at the time. But that was under a majority government, a majority government that clearly felt it could do whatever it wanted, could command the votes to do whatever it wanted and did command the votes to do whatever they wanted. So they dealt with the issue of illegality at least, the illegality issue raised by the Auditor General, with a retroactive change of law.

They still have not dealt with the issue of fairness or reasonableness. I have raised this issue over and over again in this House. I've raised it in Question Period, and I've raised it in the estimates debate - and at every opportunity I've had, as I'm doing again today, I've raised this issue. I'm not going to go away on this issue. I'm not going to give up on this issue, because the unfairness stays the same. The government hasn't even touched the billing policy.

The minister, the former minister especially, and to a lesser extent the current minister, generally had four responses, which were all ways of throwing up dust, ways of not dealing with the real issue. The first one, a favourite of the department, is to say, there's an appeal available. Well there is an appeal available, but it is absolutely beside the point. There's no question that in some cases EHS makes a mistake, somebody is billed who shouldn't be billed or they're billed for something they shouldn't be billed for, and that's what the appeal system is for, and in my experience it works reasonably well if the person knows that the appeal system is there. They'll have their case heard, and if a mistake was made, it will be corrected. That's my experience.

But the existence of an appeal system is absolutely no answer to these problems I'm raising, because what the appeal system does is decide if the policy was properly applied. It does not deal at all with whether the policy itself is fair. So, for example, a refugee who's dinged with the out-of-country rate at $900 can appeal all he or she wants, it won't do them a bit of good, because the policy is that a refugee pays $900. So it's not like the policy has been misapplied, it's the policy itself that is wrong and the appeal system is not empowered to change the policy. So the minister's first answer is irrelevant, but it's a favorite of the department.

[Page 4903]

The second one I dealt with already, that we're subsidizing insurance companies, that's not at all what we're doing, not in the least. In fact, quite the opposite. What we want to do is really stick it to the insurers when there is an insurer there and make sure that they don't pass it on to their policyholders in the form of getting rid of good driver discounts, but that's what they do. That's what they actually do and I've given the department real-life cases where that is clear that's what would happen. If the person submits the bill, the amount of out-of-pocket premium they pay, will go up higher than the amount of the bill. I've given the department names, dates, numbers, names of insurance brokers that will confirm it and they still refuse to acknowledge that it will happen.

Mr. Speaker, the third thing the minister does, past minister especially and the current minister to a lesser extent, is to talk about the excellent service provided by EMC and the Emergency Health Services. It's true, but it's just beside the point. It's just not the point at all. The excellent service provided by our dispatchers and paramedics and everybody else associated with our world-class ambulance service, have nothing to do with the billing. In fact, paramedics will tell you that whenever a question of billing comes up, it's really a pain for them. They don't want to deal with it. It's not their business, but people will raise it with them and paramedics will tell me that they've actually advised people getting into ambulances not to pay their bill because that is the only way to put their mind at rest. It's not the paramedic's job to get involved with the government's billing policy. That's done in the backrooms. That's done in the background, just like in any other service delivery organization. The delivery of the service is one thing, the billing and collection is something completely different.

So, Mr. Speaker, if the minister says we have an excellent service, I'm with them all the way. I'll sing in the same choir as him on that one, but it absolutely evades the real question about the problems we have with ambulance billing. The final thing that the former minister did - not the current minister, thank goodness - was to attack me and say that the problem is me, that I'm a lawyer. It's so cheap and easy to say, oh, he's just an ambulance chaser, which that minister has done. He says in Question Period, I should turn off my scanner and that's okay (Interruptions) The minister can attack me if he wants to and say that I'm the problem. I'm only the voice for the problem. I'm only the person who stands up in this House and relays to the government what the problems are and if the government chooses to deal with this issue by attacking me, that's fine, they can do that, but they still haven't dealt with the real issue. Because this is about the people and the people who are involved in the ambulance fee challenge and the people who have contacted me about it, come from all over the province. Believe me, they come from every riding represented in this House or very nearly so, and if anybody thinks it's not a real issue, let me put you in touch with somebody in your constituency who thinks that it is.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm looking for is the government taking these billing issues seriously and I met with the leadership of EMC, Mr. Moir, a very fine gentleman, an excellent administrator. I really have a high regard for his ability and what he's done over at EMC. I met with him at the EMC offices in Bedford and I raised these issues with him directly. He

[Page 4904]

was a bit taken aback I have to say, because what he thought I was coming to tell him was that there should be no ambulance fees, so he extolls how great the service is but I had to correct him, I have to say. I had to tell him that's not what I was there to say and I patiently went over with him again, the correspondence outlining the six specific instances where the ambulance fee policy is unfair, and he said he would get back to me, and he never did. He said he would raise it with officials from the Department of Health. Well if he did, Mr. Speaker, I wasn't informed of it, I have no idea what the outcome was. The department has referred the entire matter to their departmental lawyers. I said to them, if you want these people to pay their bills, you are going to have to take us to court and prove that you are entitled to do so.

Here, I guess, is essentially the point. Two and a half years ago on March 13, 2002, I stood up with seven Nova Scotians and said we will not pay these bills until you take us to court and over two and a half years later, the government has done nothing to collect those bills. It is in the hands of the departmental lawyers, and every time the issue comes up the lawyers say well, we are still intending to do something with it. They have been saying it for two and a half years now.

It's clear, Mr. Speaker, and the message that I want Nova Scotians to get about ambulance fees is, if you refuse to pay your bill, if you put your foot down and say that's not fair, the government will drop it, they won't collect. That's the message. If you don't want to pay your ambulance fee, then don't, because the government appears to know that it hasn't got a leg to stand on. If it did, the court case would be over and done with.

This is a small claims matter. Each and every one of these cases is under $1,000. All they need to do is take us to small claims court and prove that they have the right to collect the money, and get the small claims court adjudicator to say yea, it's fair, it's reasonable, no problem, here is your judgement. They haven't done it in two and a half years, and I think that's a shocking message for the government to send. They're not dealing with the real issue. They've managed to make these seven cases go away, or so they think, by ignoring them. These were only test cases.

These were only a sample of the people who approached me. When a short newspaper article appeared in early 2002, I was contacted by dozens of people, literally dozens of people from one end of the province to the other, from side to side, from all over the province, and I only picked the seven cases that best exemplified the problems with the billing policy.

If you don't deal with those seven, which is the government's apparent strategy on this, to ignore it, what about the others? What if I say to them, don't pay your fees? What if I say to other Nova Scotian's don't pay your fees? What is the government going to do? Are they going to ignore the next seven cases? Are they going to ignore the next 70? Are they going to ignore the next 700 cases, Mr. Speaker? If that's what it takes to get the government to face up to the unfairness of the ambulance fee billing policy, I'll do it.

[Page 4905]

The matter is in the hand of the departmental lawyers, who tell me that if I have anything to say to the department about this, it's got to go through the lawyer. Then it goes into the abyss, and I never hear from them. I don't hear from anybody from the department, I don't hear from the lawyers, I don't hear anything. All I know is that the seven people who stood up that day and said they're not going to pay their bills, have never paid their bills. The government hasn't even attempted to make them. What does that tell you, Mr. Speaker, about the ambulance fee policy in Nova Scotia? What does that tell you?

I know what it tells me. It tells me that the government knows that it hasn't got a leg to stand on. The government knows that beyond these seven cases, that it doesn't have a legal case to make these bills stick if people fight. Mr. Speaker, it tells me that the government would rather try and stonewall on this issue rather than actually deal with it. All I'm asking is very simple, all I want is very simple, I want either the Minister of Health or a departmental official to sit down with me and look me in the eye and tell me why these issues that I have raised are best dealt with by ignoring them. I want somebody to sit down and tell me why this is this fair. Why is it fair that a refugee is charged $900? Why is it fair that a small business owner is charged $600 on the fiction that the Workers' Compensation Board will pick it up, when we know that the board won't? Why is it fair that when a mother and two children get into one ambulance that the total bill for that family is $1,800? Why is it that when a Nova Scotian can prove that their auto insurance rate will go up if they submit the ambulance bill that the government will not acknowledge that fact and charge them the full insurance rate?

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want somebody to look me in the eye and tell me why that's fair. I don't want them to raise these other smokescreens they've raised, like the excellence of the service or the fact that I'm a lawyer or the fact that an appeal is available or that we're subsidizing insurance companies or that we're trying to give a break to bad drivers, all that nonsense that the last minister repeated over and over again. When you repeat something that's not true, that doesn't make it true.

I do not understand. In my entire time in this Legislature, of three and a half years, of raising a number of difficult issues, either in this House or directly with civil servants, all that work that MLAs do in their offices, which is the part of the iceberg that nobody ever sees - they see what we do in here, but they don't see that most of what we do is out there in our constituency offices - I do not understand, I've never seen the government deal with another issue this way.

I've seen the government disagree with me, which is fine. That's the nature of the business, they don't have to agree with everything I say. I have never seen, on any other issue, the government stonewall the way they have on this issue. I have never seen them try to deflect the real issue by raising straw men and then knocking them down. I have never seen another issue where the government will not come to grips with what I'm actually saying.

[Page 4906]

Why are they doing this, Mr. Speaker? I don't know. But whenever this kind of thing happens, whether in political life or elsewhere, whenever I see somebody refusing to deal with the real issue, I know that somewhere, somehow part of the answer is that they haven't got a leg to stand on, and they know it. The only way they can deal with it is by deflecting attention from it, but it's not going to go away. Mr. Speaker, it's not going to go away. As long as I'm in this House, I'm going to raise this issue. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, whether that means until the next election or the one after that or the one after that, I'm not giving up on this issue. If the voters of Halifax Fairview decide that they want to retire me at the next election, that's their prerogative. (Interruptions) But as long as I am here, I'm not going to let this issue go away. I want to see the Minister of Health actually deal with this issue head on.

Let's now get to this bill. This is a very peculiar bill for one thing, because what it does - it's not about something that's going to happen in the future, the government is trying to legalize something that they've already done. This is something they've been doing for years, and now they're trying to put a legal framework around it. They managed to dodge the issue a couple of years ago in the budget, by putting in an amendment to the Health Services and Insurance Act. Isn't it amazing that you could have an entire bill on emergency health services and leave out any mention of billing? I don't think that's an accident. I think it's another step in the government's attempt to evade dealing with the real issue.

How can you have a bill dealing with emergency health services and not talk about how it's paid for, not even mention in the bill how it's paid for, not even mention the tens of thousands of ambulance bills that go out to Nova Scotians every year to pay the cost, which is over $30 million? How can you have a bill that doesn't even mention that? Well, it's because the government knows this is unfair, and doesn't want to deal with it.

What I would like to do is repeat my call which I issued on March 13, 2004, the second anniversary of the ambulance fee challenge, which is to invite Nova Scotians who have a problem with their ambulance fee to not pay. Contact me. Lots of information about how to do it is available on my MLA Web site - www.GrahamSteele.ca. Click on ambulance fees and you will see everything you need to know about this issue because I want Nova Scotians to know that the seven people who stood up and drew a line and said we will not pay our bills have never been forced to pay. I want Nova Scotians to know that. If you draw the line, the government won't push you.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I'm not saying that everybody should go out tomorrow and not pay their ambulance fee. (Interruptions) No, that's not what I said. You see, Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Health is up to his old tricks again and I think that former minister has done just about enough to spread smokescreens and misinformation about this issue. I don't think we need any more out of him.

[Page 4907]

On my Web site, Mr. Speaker, I explain in detail which cases I think are appropriate and which ones are not. The things that Nova Scotians should take into account when they're deciding whether or not to pay their ambulance fees and for those who missed it the first time, it's www.GrahamSteele.ca and click on ambulance fees, and people will find all the information that they need to make a thoughtful decision on whether their situation is appropriate for not paying their fee. If they believe that it is after reviewing the information on my Web site, I invite them to speak to me as I will be only too happy to take their case to the Department of Health.

Mr. Speaker, we have one of the best emergency health services in North America and why is it that all this talent and ability can't be turned to making the fee policy fair? Why is it that the government has spent so much of its time over the last two and a half years trying to avoid dealing with the real issue? Why have they handed the issue over to the departmental lawyers who for two and a half years have done nothing, who won't communicate about what the government's intentions are? Why is it that whenever this issue is raised, the government raises misinformation, not real information, but misinformation about what's really going on? Why is that happening?

Mr. Speaker, just in case any of the members think that this issue may not be relative to them, I want to review where some of the people live who took part in the ambulance fee challenge. I mentioned already Ann Hujdic from Dartmouth, Selwyn Welsh of Windsor, John Marknette of Halifax Clayton Park, Alana Kesick of Truro, Matthew Johnston of Sydney Mines, Trevor Willis of Middleton, Jason Shreenan of Westville, and I believe that of those seven cases, the only one that has been resolved to date, I believe I'm right in saying this, is Jason ? of Westville because EHS acknowledges that they made a mistake to bill him in the first place.

Mr. Speaker, just so you know what happened in that case, Jason was in a motorcycle accident and a passerby took him to the hospital. When they suggested at the hospital that he would be more appropriately dealt with at the larger hospital in New Glasgow, the passerby offered to take him there, but they said, no, no, no, we'll call an ambulance for you. So they took him from the smaller hospital to the Aberdeen in New Glasgow and the family was shocked to receive a bill for $500 because it was essentially a voluntary taxi ride. I think EMC has acknowledged that that was an error in procedure and Jason should never have received that bill in the first place, but the government has never acknowledged that any of those other cases are wrong.

There is another person who has been added to the test cases and that person is from Antigonish. There are also dozens of other cases and I'd like to read some of the circumstances, so we know what we're dealing with here. Collection letters sent to children; repeated collection calls being made to a person who EMC had been told repeatedly was under mental disability and had a legal guardian; and the one that I find most heart-wrenching that I've spoken about in this House before, the case of the elderly couple in Dartmouth who took an even more elderly mother out of the nursing home, the one along the Purcells Cove

[Page 4908]

Road, because they felt that the care she was receiving was not appropriate. So they took her out.

I want you to picture this if you can, two elderly people with an even more elderly mother of one of them, at home, and they realized that night that her care needs were far beyond their ability to deliver, they couldn't lift her, they couldn't move her. They realized that despite the problems they had with the nursing home, that she needed to be back in the nursing home because the nursing home could provide better care, even under the problematic conditions that they identified, than they could in their own home, and very tearfully, they were told that the only way to get her back to that nursing home was by ambulance and because it was classified as a non-emergency call they were billed $500. That was before the fee went up, now it's $600.

Where's the human understanding here? Where's the acknowledgement that life doesn't always fit into neat categories and that sometimes things happen that don't fit neatly in this box or that box and that there are circumstances where there needs to be some judgment. That family, who were trying to do their best by their elderly mother, were billed $500 because returning her to the nursing home was classified as a non-emergency call. There wasn't even the regular rate of $120 - at the time it was $100 - it was $500, for two pensioners, Mr. Speaker, and the government won't even acknowledge that there's a problem.

Where does that leave us, Mr. Speaker? We have a bill on the table dealing with Emergency Health Services. As my colleague, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid says, maybe it's 10 years too late. They're trying to retroactively legalize something they've been doing for years, but they still won't deal with the issue of fees. I don't know what to do with this bill, because if holding it up is a way to get the government finally to acknowledge that there's a problem, now that they don't have a majority anymore, well, I'm willing to do that. I don't know if the Liberals are willing to do that.

I know that the member for Victoria-The Lakes has raised an issue that he wants dealt with. The member for Cape Breton West was one of the first ones in this House, even before I did, to raise ambulance fee issues in the House and I know other members from other parts of Nova Scotia - the member for Glace Bay, I thought, gave a very eloquent speech on the problems in Glace Bay. But how far are we going to go with this? I don't know, it doesn't depend just on us, it depends partly on the Liberals, but there are more of us over here than there are of you over there. If I can persuade the Liberals that some of their issues need to be addressed and that we can address them together before this bill moves forward, well I'll do my very best to do so.

Now, I have to admit that, in the past, I haven't always been as nice as I could possibly be to the Liberals. Sometimes I have some fairly harsh things to say about the Liberals, but there are times, especially in a minority government, when we all have to consider what's in the best interests of our constituents and this is a case where there are

[Page 4909]

more of us than there are of them and if the Liberals believe that their issues, like the one raised by the member for Victoria-The Lakes, need to be addressed, well this is the time to do it.

I want the minister to understand that ignoring me is not going to make me go away on this issue and the former Minister of Health did his level best to ignore me. Well, I'm still here. I'm still standing. I'm still raising the same issue and I'm going to keep raising it until it's dealt with.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those few words, though I think we all have some questions about how this bill is to proceed in these circumstances, thank you.

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health to close debate on Bill No. 117.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it was an interesting afternoon. First of all, I want to (Interruption) the honourable Minister of Education was reliving some memories. I want to thank members for their participation in the debate. One of the things that I'm often asked - honourable members would know that I was in this House at a previous time - and members are very often interested in what's different about the place now compared to what it was like then. I can feel reasonably confident that this afternoon's debate would have been much shorter than it was in a previous time because the interpretation of the rules were quite different in that time than they are today.

The matter of fees is something that's dealt with under the Health Services and Insurance Act. The principle of this bill is a bill that gives to the Department of Health a legal authority to enter into contracts for the provision of service, for the setting of standards and for the method of meeting those standards and evaluating the standards. That is what is dealt with in the principle of this legislation. The principle of 95 per cent of the debate that took place here this afternoon is the principle of another bill, the subject matter of another bill.

So, I'm saying that in a previous time, I believe that the interpretation that would have been accepted - it's not at all meant as a reflection on your decisions this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, because I believe you're reflecting a collective pool of thought that is quite different today than it was in a previous time. I point that out.

While the real issues are the provision of emergency health services in this province providing the Department of Health with the legal authority to enter into contracts and to set standards and ensure those standards are met. That's the real issue that is before the House this afternoon. I particularly want to express my concurrence with the members who spoke of the excellent service that is provided by the ambulance service in this province - both by the administration through its organization, the manner in which it is constituted and, of course, by the individuals, both those who provide the medical service, the paramedics, and

[Page 4910]

those who are involved in the dispatching throughout this province. We are extremely well served and it's appropriate that honourable members made reference to that this afternoon.

In as much as the matter of fees was part of the debate this afternoon, I want to remind honourable members that the level of fees that are charged in this province are not at all inappropriate. If we look next door to our sister province, New Brunswick, the amount of fee is $120; P.E.I. charges $130. If you were to go to Manitoba, which is governed by the New Democratic Party, they charge a fee of $190 plus a kilometre charge. If you go further west, the charge is $275 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MACISAAC: The honourable member for Cape Breton South further reminded me, of course, that Saskatchewan has a New Democratic Government as well, but the fee in that province is $275, plus a kilometre charge, and in addition there is a $75 charge for inter-hospital transfers in that province.

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the fees that are charged in this province are appropriate; in terms of the amount of the fee that is charged, we are well within range. The cost of (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable minister gave his attention when the members were speaking and I would ask that you give him the same consideration.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are well served by the ambulance service that's in this province. They are well served in terms of the quality of the personnel who provide that service; they are well served in terms of the organization of that service and how it is delivered throughout the province; and they are also well served with respect to the level of fees that are charged for the provision of that service within this province. I've demonstrated that it is clearly within a reasonable range relative to other jurisdictions throughout this country.

Mr. Speaker, reference was made to the charge with respect to multiple persons being carried in a single ambulance, the fact that we all must recognize is that the charge is not unlike the situation in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, it's not for the ride or the distance of the ride, the charge is for the service. The service is provided by the paramedics, it's provided by the doctors, it's provided in part by the vehicles that are used to carry that, and of course all of the equipment that is employed within it, in the same way that the charge for service within the hospital, whether it's one bed in a room or two beds in a room or three beds in a room, that charge is provided for the service that is provided within the hospital, and that service is made up of the medical personnel, the nurses, all of the people who are involved in the diagnostic services within the health care system. We are not talking about a charge for a ride or a distance, we are in fact talking about a charge for a particular service.

[Page 4911]

Mr. Speaker, back to the principle of this bill. I'm pleased that members seem to indicate that it's appropriate for the principle of this bill to be accepted and to move forward, and I look forward to further stages in the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 117. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 115.

Bill No. 115 - Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted to rise at this time to say a few words about An Act Respecting the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. It's interesting, I guess, that this bill is coming to the floor of this Legislature following the bill from my colleague, the Minister of Health, because, like the bill that was just debated on the floor of this House, this one has been around for some years, too. I hope, in this session, that we will be able to deal with it expeditiously and move on. So my remarks are going to be brief, unless I get encouragement to speak longer. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk just a little bit about the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. It has been around for a long time, but in 1997 its mandate changed. There was a memorandum of understanding signed by Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island which was to redefine the role of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and it was agreed that at that time the three provinces would pass legislation simultaneously so that the legal basis of how the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission is operating would be established in each of the jurisdictions. For one reason or another, it did come on the floor of the House here and, anyway, it didn't go through the final process so it's back again today.

In essence, what the bill does, it legalizes, or will give a legal authority, it will recognize in Statute how the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission has been operating for about six years. Once the memorandum of understanding was signed by all three provinces, then the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission began operating under its new mandate. So this particular bill is cleaning up something that could have been cleaned up some time ago, but for a variety of reasons was not.

[Page 4912]

The major change in 1997, and we have colleagues on the other side of the House who were here at that time and they would know about this, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission had really five functions at that time. One was the quality assurance of academic programs. In other words, if a university in the Maritime Provinces wished to make a significant change to a program, or add a new program, then they submitted a proposal to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission who said, yes, it meets quality standards or it doesn't.

Secondly, along with the quality, through the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, particular programs in universities can be reviewed to see that quality is maintained over the course of time and that would be a periodic thing. Secondly, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission has a statistical data collection portion and function and it collects and disseminates data and information which goes back to the institutions and to the three governments to enable decision making.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I hate to use a prop, but there was a report that everybody got today that came from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and I just want to hold that up as an example of the types (Interruption) No prop, okay. I would table that, but I believe everybody has a copy and that talks about the impact of family education and background on success in university. So it does that in addition to gathering enrolment statistics and graduation statistics and it also does some needs assessment about where we need programs and things like this.

Thirdly, it does urge co-operation among Maritime institutions and, for example, we have veterinarian medicine over on Prince Edward Island, we have medical education and dental education here in Nova Scotia, they've got forestry education in New Brunswick, and there are a variety of things like this where it really makes the population and the provinces better served if there is a coordinated and agreed upon location for programs where you get a critical mass so that you can have excellence.

The fourth thing, Mr. Speaker, is that it does today, and it did prior to 1997, administer the funding in the regional programs. For example, we, in Nova Scotia, pay Prince Edward Island for the seats in the vet school and that money, Nova Scotia will pay the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission who will transfer that money to P.E.I. Similarly, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, when they send students to our med schools, they pay for those seats and that money goes to the Higher Education Commission and comes here. So it has that function. There are other examples of that too, Mr. Speaker. What I really want to do now is to really draw the distinction between the new Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission and the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission prior to 1997, when that memorandum of understanding was signed. It's really a pretty minimal change, but a very significant one.

[Page 4913]

[5:30 p.m.]

Prior to then, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission used to make recommendations on the funding of higher education to the individual provinces. In other words, the research basis and recommendations for how much money should be given to the universities, the higher education institutes in the Maritime Provinces, there was a recommendation from the MPHEC. The fact was, Mr. Speaker, at that point, although those recommendations were made by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, each province more or less did as they so thought they could do.

Effectively, that role of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, despite that they were spending a whole lot of resources on it, producing a good report, it really wasn't of any great significance. In recognition of that, the provinces got together and said we are each going to make our own funding decisions, let's remove that role from Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.

Mr. Speaker, with those few comments, I will move the second reading of this bill.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is good to see this piece of legislation - I guess you could say - see the light of day again. As the minister has noted, when I receive something that appears on my desk from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, immediately it attracts my attention. This particular group is in a position of some influence. It's in a position of some power, and it has influence and power that I think provincial legislators have to pay more attention to.

When I look at the developments that have taken place since 1997, and when I look at the fact that we are now, of course, in 2004, I think it is appropriate that we very clearly lay out - as this piece of legislation does - and clarify some of the important things, the modus operandi when it comes to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. I am certainly looking forward to Bill No. 115 moving through to the Law Amendments Committee. It does clarify a number of really important things. It clarifies that nominating process in an open and transparent way. That is something that I think is of real significance when we look at this commission and how it operates, and how it will continue to operate and how the provinces bring forth people who will serve on this commission. That is a tribute to the people who have drafted this piece of legislation.

It's a process that's open and transparent, and it is something that the members of this caucus are certainly going to be willing to support. Also, I think it's of real consequence clarifying the duties and, in particular, of course, the tabling the audit of the finances of this important commission. These are some of the very progressive things that are included in this piece of legislation. This piece of legislation, I'm sure, has been well thought out and will be

[Page 4914]

well received. When it goes to the Law Amendments Committee, of course, it will be of some significance to see what the stakeholders are saying about this particular piece of legislation.

I want to compliment the minister, also, on very clearly designating the difference between prior to 1997 and now, the current operations. I think it's very important that we understand, based upon the memorandum of understanding, when we look at such things as the quality standards, when we look at the review of programs, when we look at the statistics and data collection which is so important when we look at this important institution, or when we look at, particularly, the co-operation that's urged, and the importance of looking at this program regionally.

Those will be some of the comments that I will be making for a few moments now. One of the significant factors is in the Maritime Provinces, we often very closely look at just what is happening in isolation, at Antigonish, at St. F.X., or in Charlottetown, at UPEI, or in Sackville, New Brunswick at Mount Allison, and - of course, I know the member for Glace Bay will probably speak on this matter - when we look at what is happening at UCCB and some of the developments that will be happening in that university as it grows and expands with the legislation that is in front of us. I encourage the member for Glace Bay to speak on this particular matter because it's that sort of co-operation and it is that sort of leadership that this commission could bring forward that is best for all the post-secondary institutions in our region.

Mr. Speaker, that's one of the things that many times we miss in this particular East Coast of Canada. We think of Prince Edward Island, we think of New Brunswick, mainland Nova Scotia and, of course, because of the current situation at UCCB in Sydney, we think of the Cape Breton situation. I think it's really important to look at the co-operation, we look at the co-operation with the forestry program at UNB and how students from Nova Scotia who want to be in a top quality forestry program, the place to go is to the University of New Brunswick. I find that difficult to say sometimes, considering the university I went to, but it is the place to go, that is the institution that is recognized and has the quality of standards in that particular program at UNB.

The other prominent example, of course, is the example of the veterinarian college at UPEI. In fact, previously, one of the reasons UPEI has the veterinary college is that particular institution expanded its horizons, moved beyond the St. Dunstan's and Prince of Wales college experience and have, through their efforts, had the opportunity to have the vet college at the University of Prince Edward Island. Then of course we look at the post-secondary institutions here in Metro Halifax, the dental schools, at engineering, that encourages co-operation and the mobility of the students who in most cases have an undergraduate degree and are going to be moving on to graduate school.

The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission has an important mandate to fulfill. It's a mandate which I'm looking forward to hearing more of at the Law Amendments Committee and it is something, at this stage, as we move on in debate. I thank the minister

[Page 4915]

for bringing it forward and I'm looking forward to supporting this legislation as it moves through the various stages of our House. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on this bill today. Certainly, as a former educator, I know the importance of the work that the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission does on an annual basis and the significant role that it plays.

Since 1977, the commission has been working with the other Maritime Provinces to provide our students and universities with sound advice and research. One of the most meaningful aspects of the commission's mandate is the research and subsequent reports produced by the commission. A good example of such a report was just two weeks ago when it was reported that the results of research had suggested students from lower-income families are beginning to attend university at a lower rate than those from more affluent families.

I was at the release of that document, one that I find very disturbing. It is out of the tradition we have had here in Nova Scotia where students from all socio-economic groups have that opportunity to go to university. We know that when they go to university that they achieve and accomplish at the same level as students who come from more affluent-homes where parents are well educated. So, research like this is vital to government if it is committed to making post-secondary education accessible then to all students.

We are pleased, Mr. Speaker, to see the mandate of the commission renewed and refocused through this legislation. This will better reflect the current activities of the MPHEC. The passage of this bill, which has already been assented to in P.E.I. and New Brunswick, will allow legislation to be coordinated and proclaimed in all three provinces. Certainly, that kind of co-operation is most significant and perhaps more necessary than ever before. As we know, resources are stretched, and it's important we do not duplicate the efforts, whether we're talking about research, approving new programs or dispensing funding among institutions. Even looking at ideas such as a central registry, certainly is one, possibly, who's time has come. It's particularly important to students, who make their academic choices based partly on the information available . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members, if they have to talk, to please go outside.

AN HON. MEMBER: How about singing?

MR. SPEAKER: Singing - no.

The honourable member for Kings West has the floor.

[Page 4916]

MR. GLAVINE: There's no question, Mr. Speaker, that this kind of research provides analysis and helps students plan for their future. Because the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission operates at arm's length from government, it helps to ensure students receive quality programming through the monitoring carried out by the commission. The commission also plays a vital role in terms of accountability, by informing the public of the state of post-secondary education in the Maritime Provinces. Of course, generally speaking, we know that currently is at a very high level as we compare our institutions to those across the country.

Although, Mr. Speaker, we are supporting this legislation, our caucus wants to reiterate the importance of including students in some of the discussions that are directly related to their education and the cost of their education. Government is currently working with university presidents on a memorandum of understanding. Student leaders have told us that they often feel excluded from these decisions that affect their education. So we wanted to bring that to the attention of the House. These outcomes will have an impact on students and, most significantly, the results of these discussions will affect the tuition these students pay in the future. As a result, our caucus feels that more effort has to be taken on the part of government to incorporate students into these kinds of discussions.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased that the mandate and role of the commission is going to be laid out in legislation, because the commission does very important work, and the legislation will ensure it has the authority to continue that work. Students rely on that work to help them develop their future academic and professional plans. Nova Scotians rely on the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission to provide the facts of the state of post-secondary education in the Maritime Provinces. With that, our caucus will certainly be supporting this bill at second reading, and look forward to its arrival at the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, they say brevity is the hallmark of a good speaker, so I'll try to be as good a speaker as I can. (Interruptions) Some of my friends would agree with that and some of my friends would disagree with that, and of course I agree with my friends.

Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation, as my colleague has suggested, is a good piece of legislation. It will accomplish a number of issues that have been on the table for some time. Also, I see this as an opportunity to flag a number of issues with the minister, with regard to education and particularly the cost of a university education for the students in Nova Scotia. I was somewhat disappointed to read an article in the Winnipeg Sun several weeks ago, it was dated a little more than a month ago, August 29, 2004, and I'll table it. The headline says, Cost-cutter campus. It went on to lay out the cost of university education for each province in Canada. Disappointingly, Nova Scotia is reported to have the highest cost of tuition in the country. (Interruptions)

[Page 4917]

I hear the Government House Leader saying that's not true, but I will table this. If the figures are not correct, it's an opportunity for the government to take issue and table before the House information that would suggest otherwise. The 2004-05 estimated university cost by province had Newfoundland at the lowest at $10,949, and Nova Scotia the highest, $16,943. I'll table that, particularly for the interest of the honourable Government House Leader.

Mr. Speaker, the question I ask is, what can the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission do to help alleviate this concern that is becoming a major obstacle for the young people of Nova Scotia to secure a post-secondary education. I'm not so sure this particular piece of legislation speaks directly to that particular matter, but in a number of different ways I'm sure that it does.

[5:45 p.m.]

One of the good things I've seen in recent years, particularly through the 1990s, was the fact that the different universities came together and cooperatively started to refocus and reshape their efforts so that they would achieve not only success in maintaining the high standard of education in different programs, whether it be the B.Ed. program, whether it be in some of the science programs, or what have you, but I notice one of the accomplishments that I thought was moving forward with some considerable trepidation at the time was that selected universities would focus and use certain programs as their major focus of attention in educating students.

For example, if you think of the B.Ed. program today, you think St. F.X. University, you think Mount Saint Vincent University, and perhaps several others, and myself not having been acutely aware of some of the detail that demonstrates what they did as they became more efficient in the delivery of service and the competition between universities providing the same programs, actually put themselves at a disadvantage at the end of the day and I think that's a testament to the leadership at those various levels.

Another issue as well, Mr. Speaker, is not only the high cost of university, but the effects of this high cost of university because many students who leave university today, if they're fortunate enough to be able to stay in university, they're leaving with considerable high debt loads, some of them with student loans of anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, and that puts them in a very, very disadvantaged position, particularly if they're looking for a start-up in some career that will afford them an opportunity to not only pay back their student loan but, obviously, to being able to start a career where they can pay their own personal bills, buy a home, perhaps start a family, advance their professional opportunities, or what have you. So that is a major, major issue and I'm not so sure what the Higher Education Commission can do to address that.

[Page 4918]

Obviously, the bill speaks to certain aspects of that but, Mr. Speaker, one of the disturbing trends that I've seen, particularly as has been noted with reference to the University College of Cape Breton, perhaps soon to be renamed, is the fact that I've seen many students who have to go and secure a student loan, in fact are fortunate enough to have a student loan approved, which for the most part will allow them to be able to pay their tuition for the first half of the year and perhaps some of their costs, their start-up costs, the books, all the other miscellaneous and student costs that are associated, their travelling costs.

For the most part, the University College of Cape Breton is a long-distance university. There are very limited seats for student residence and most students who attend that university have to travel. They have to use different modes of transportation. The high cost of fuel has made it extremely difficult for many of these universities to cope and the set fee, the schedules of fees for transportation costs for those universities is fixed and hasn't been adjusted for a considerable amount of time. Just the increase in fuel alone has more than gobbled up any benefit that would allow them, for example, to be able to travel from September to December. Well, now, they're lucky if they can go September and October on that same four-month schedule of fees.

But as I was saying with regard to the student loans and the fact that they're acquiring student loans, when they go in to register in the second half of the year, many students do not have the money and I'm sure any of my colleagues from Cape Breton would certainly attest to the fact that literally hundreds of students in the last year - I believe, there have been upwards of 500 students, perhaps more -were given notice that because they weren't able to pay their registration fee for the second part of the university year, they would have to vacate the university.

So here they are with a student loan, and obviously they don't have a job. It's not enough for them to be able to complete the year, so they're going to be disadvantaged because unless they're able to come up with another source of revenue, Madam Speaker, then they're out and what do they have to show for it? That happens year in and year out at this particular university. I'm not sure how prevalent it is across the province - perhaps the Minister of Education could speak to that particular issue - but it is a growing concern for the young people of Nova Scotia and, because of that, there's a considerable brain drain out of the province.

The government and perhaps previous governments too - that's open for debate - have considered university education as a cost. It's a budgetary matter, and I can appreciate the fact that the government has to deal with the bottom line at the end of the day but, more importantly, university education is an investment in the future of this province and we have to change our focus. We have to get our heads around the fact that so many young people are leaving this province because they can't cope with that debt, and many students who do get a university degree here in Nova Scotia are leaving because of better opportunities with bigger pay to be able to pay their bills. They can't stay; it's just not there. I'm sure that issue also applies to the community college system, but not to the same extent - and that evidence

[Page 4919]

has certainly been put before members of one of our legislative committees within the last year.

So, Madam Speaker, that is an issue of concern. Last year we were fortunate enough, or earlier this year, with the government's support and certainly with considerable input from the Department of Education, the minister's staff and so on, and approbation from all three caucuses, we adopted the Youth Secretariat Act. What has the government done to advance the causes of the young people in this province, particularly as it relates to university education, their careers, student debt load, the brain drain from the province, all the issues, all the social issues that are confronting the young people of Nova Scotia? What is the government doing and how can the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission play an active role, a leadership role on this particular matter?

These perhaps are questions and I know that the mandate for the Higher Education Commission is clearly laid out and this particular piece of legislation is an amendment, a refocusing so to speak, but there's a much broader responsibility. We not only have a legal responsibility, but we have a moral responsibility to these young people. It's been often stated that youth is our future, and if we treat them badly and then we have more social problems in the years to come, whether it be in education, whether it be in health care, or what have you, we have no one to blame but ourselves. We cannot point the finger at the next generation because we have to provide them the leadership and the opportunity to do what is in the best interest of this province in years to come.

I wanted to raise those points, Madam Speaker, because they're very important. The Minister of Education is the Minister responsible for the Youth Secretariat Act. We were successful in taking that responsibility, having the youth being tossed around as orphans in the system, between six or seven different government departments, with a clearly defined mandate under the authority of one particular department to be able to allow them to take a leadership role on the issues of tomorrow.

I would hope, after the first year has passed, that the Minister of Education will be able to stand proudly in this House and table the first annual report from the youth of this province, through the Youth Secretariat Act, and the Youth Secretariat. Mr. Speaker, we owe it to the young people of this province. How many times have we heard the Minister of Education, Minister of Health, the Minister of Economic Development, former ministers, stand and boast so proudly about the young people in the province and all their accomplishments? Day in and day out, we introduce resolutions congratulating our students on all their accomplishments in education and particular awards and scholarships and extra-curricular activity awards and so on.

Madam Speaker, we owe it to them in a much greater way than just words. Actions speak louder than words. Every year, we're so fortunate to have some very bright, talented and vibrant young individuals come and work in this House of Assembly, every other House of Assembly across this country, indeed in the House of Parliament, to sensitize themselves

[Page 4920]

to the realities of how public life, how public policy and government impacts on themselves. They use this as an opportunity to better themselves, not only academically but holistically as citizens on how to be the leaders of tomorrow.

Madam Speaker, it's not just good enough to recognize them in that fashion and to help them, which is very important. For example, with the Nova Scotia Summer Employment Program for students, particularly for university students, what happened to that? That has been watered down - if it gets watered down any more, it wouldn't even qualify as a puddle. At one time it was a very active and very successful program in helping students. Yes, there are some mentorship-type programs still within each different department, but it's only a fraction of what it used to be.

The government has to, again, change its mind set on the cost of education. It's not a cost, it's an investment. The students of this province, whether it be through the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission, the Department of Education, the Youth Secretariat Act or whatever agency, public or private, it doesn't matter - we have to understand - we can't expect them to consider that only the cost of education, only the cost of being able to work their way through the system is their responsibility. Then when they get out, we can't wait to get them into the marketplace, the workforce and tax them to the bone. They can't do it.

It's getting more and more difficult, and I'm sure every member in this House can speak to that. They know constituents. They're going before the Student Labour Board. I know our office deals with it on a daily basis, particularly between, I would suggest, August and January, particularly September and October. The minister, I'm sure, has the same level of concerns and complaints coming in. Some of them are valid, some of them are somewhat technical in nature, because forms haven't been properly filled out or the parents haven't provided the sufficient detail or whatever. It's becoming so bureaucratic and so cumbersome that it's almost like the faint hope clause to get to the Higher Appeals Division of the Student Aid. When you do get there, the likelihood of having your appeal be successful is very slim.

How can a student concentrate on their university education when they're going around, with a migraine headache, wondering if they're going to have enough money to be able to pay for that course, wondering if they have enough money to buy that book that they're advised by their professor to purchase if they want to enrol in that course, all the lab equipment, or all the extras that are required, all these hidden costs. They can't be worrying about all those matters. If you want them to do a job and do it well, they should be focusing on what they're sent there to do, and that's to get the best possible education and put in 150 per cent, mature, enjoy life and do the best they can in a wholesome environment.

How fair is it to all these students who go around in a complete mental stress situation, wondering if they'll have enough money to be able to get in to the second semester of their university or community college program? At some point, we, as legislators, have to change our thinking on this. My plea to the Minister of Education is that he make this appeal

[Page 4921]

to his colleagues. Change the thinking that university education is a cost to government. It's a cost to the system. Is your glass half empty or is it half full?

[6:00 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, you can think positive or you can think negative. It's easy to criticise, and it's easy for me, as an Opposition MLA, to point out all the errors and omissions and all the weaknesses in the system. I know it's very difficult as a Minister of the Crown. I know it's very difficult as a government to address these policy issues but, good heavens above, if the youth of this province are everything that the government says they are - we know in rural Nova Scotia the youth are leaving in record numbers. The Minister of Energy knows that on Cape Breton Island we are losing in excess of 450 young students a year for the last 15 years, and, yes, under different governments.

Madam Speaker, it gets even more concerning when you hear policy questions raised about the government designating universities in this province. For those who aren't familiar in what university designation means, this is a study that's been undertaken by the federal and provincial governments right across Canada. If it's enacted the way it was proposed, then we would see a dramatic downturn in the student population at the University College of Cape Breton and possibly other universities particularly in rural Nova Scotia, whether it be at the Université Sainte-Anne, Acadia University, or what have you.

Those universities that have students who come from economically hard-hit areas are the universities that will feel the impact the most. I'm afraid if the government, with the co-operation - and perhaps it requires some input and some direction from not only the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, but also from the Higher Education Commission to address this very serious issue, because we know that it's going to be a budgetary matter for the Province of Nova Scotia. If it's a way to cut costs then, obviously, the government is in a very unique situation as to what its options are.

So, I put those points on the table, Madam Speaker, perhaps I wouldn't expect the minister to comment on those because they're broad-based issues. They do relate in some way indirectly to the bill and, in many ways, directly to the issue there. The minister knows full well my feelings about the importance of university education in an uninterrupted state. We've had labour disruptions in this province on a more frequent basis than we've ever seen before. We've had several strikes at Dalhousie University. I've had numerous calls from parents who were so upset that their children, after pouring out $10,000 to $12,000, weren't getting the quality university education that they were promised. Some supplemental offerings were made at a later date whether that fulfilled the issue with the university students or their parents, remains open for question.

We saw the labour issue at Acadia University. University education and, of course, it's my own feeling, Madam Speaker, that university education is essential. It's essential to the long-term prosperity of this province and at some point we have to deal with that in some

[Page 4922]

way that satisfies all the stakeholders but, most importantly, the students. If we keep chipping and cutting at the students' ability to access post-secondary studies, then we are the ones who will pay the price. I've heard students, rightfully or wrongfully, make the comment - why should we be worried about the long-term health costs for seniors? We have all these politicians and all these people who have gone before us and what have they done for us? They put us in a position where we're going to be bankrupt for the next 20 years ourselves and we can't even afford to raise a family.

So these are public policy questions that we have to think about what the young people of this province are saying, whether they're real, or whether they're apparent, or what have you, but they're being asked more and more often than they ever were before, Madam Speaker. I would hope that the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission in some way, perhaps it may require an amendment to this bill, I don't know, it would be interesting to hear all the presentations come forth. I would be interested to hear some of the thoughts from the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission on some of these broad-based issues whether that falls within the confines of their mandate or not because ultimately it's all about education and we all know one thing - education is no burden.

MADAM SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Education, it will be to close debate.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to close debate on this bill and I would like to thank my colleagues for their interventions. I'm pleased that both of the Opposition Parties will be supporting this going through to the Law Amendments Committee.

As I say, it's a piece of legislation that has been probably too long in the making simply because it did come to the House, this I believe is the third time it has reached the floor. Just from hearing my colleagues from the Liberal and the New Democratic Parties speak, we agree on how important higher education is and that it should be a priority of this government and, obviously, we support that. So I'm grateful and I thank them for their intervention and I now would like to see this bill move on to the Law Amendments Committee.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 115. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 4923]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 109.

Bill No. 109 - Mental Health Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Madam Speaker, the government is committed to developing a better, more responsive mental health system. The first step in this process was developing mental health standards which form the strategic direction for mental health reform for the next five to 10 years. Another key building block in attaining mental health reform in Nova Scotia is the mental health legislation that is now before us.

Madam Speaker, this new legislation was created after careful review of the current provincial legislation, Acts in other provinces, and indepth consultation with legal experts, mental health experts and mental health advocates and consumers. I would particularly like to thank the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia for its work in reviewing the mental health provisions in the Hospitals Act of Nova Scotia.

The commission's 2002 report was invaluable in developing the new legislation. Madam Speaker, we know that mental illness is treatable and we recognize that people need to have a say in their treatment. In Nova Scotia, as in other provinces, that is what happens. Most people with mental illness voluntarily seek out medical advice and make their own treatment decisions. However, Madam Speaker, there are times when a small number of people with a mental disorder require treatment, but lack the capacity to determine that need themselves. When this happens, it is important that we intervene on their behalf, so that they get the treatment they need, when they need it.

This new mental health legislation, Madam Speaker, is about making sure, that when we need to intervene in someone's life, it is done in the least restrictive way possible, without unduly infringing on individual rights and liberties. Right now, legislation governing involuntary admission and treatment for mental health disorders are embedded in the Hospitals Act of Nova Scotia, and predates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This Act was established close to 30 years ago. Much has changed in both the type of services and treatments available and the way in which they are delivered. For instance, advances in mental health treatment have led to expanded community-based treatment, more effective medications, over 50 community health clinics throughout the province, and in-patients for mental health patients being integrated into hospitals within district health authorities and the IWK.

Madam Speaker, as you can see, our advances in mental health take us away from having one provincial institution to provide psychiatric treatment as is the case under the Hospitals Act. Instead, we are building a system where those with a mental disorder can access treatment as they would other health care, allowing patients to be treated closer to home. Our current legislation is outdated and not reflective of modern clinical and legal

[Page 4924]

practices. The new stand-alone mental health legislation will update our laws making them consistent with legislation in many provinces across the country. Our partnership with legal experts, mental health experts, mental health advocates and consumers made one thing very clear, any intervention needs to be carried out in a way that respects and values individuals civil rights and liberties.

The new bill does just that. It contains guiding principles to help mental health practitioners and consumers find that balance. The new bill is more specific about guidelines used to determine a persons capacity to make decisions, including consent to treatment. Madam Speaker, when someone is temporarily unable to make their own treatment decisions, a substitute decision maker will be involved in all decisions for that person in order to best represent that persons wishes. Leave certificates and community treatment orders are also being introduced in this bill. Leave certificates support patients move from hospital to the community by helping them reintegrate into the community in a planned way.

Community treatment orders will help those who have a history and pattern of involuntary admission and will be available when assertive community treatment teams are in place. For those Nova Scotians, Madam Speaker, community treatment orders will help them maintain wellness and stability. These orders will also assist in early detection of recurring illness, thereby resulting in shorter hospital stays. Community treatment orders have strict criteria to make sure the intervention is done in the least restrictive way possible. We're confident that the approach is the right approach, however, Madam Speaker, we recognize that the use of community treatment orders will not be wholly supported by all mental health experts, advocates and consumers.

[6:15 p.m.]

To acknowledge this, we have built into the new legislation a mandatory review of these orders after five years. The bill also requires that the findings of that review be tabled in the House of Assembly. This review provides a way in which evidence-based research can be considered to determine if any legislative amendments are necessary. The new bill also introduces independent rights advisors. These advisors will operate at arm's length from government and the district health authorities and the IWK and will be involved with those who are involuntarily admitted, placed on a leave certificate or a community treatment order. The independent rights advisors make sure that these patients are aware of their rights. The bill also changes current involuntary admission criteria to be more in line with other provinces and reduces the time period in which involuntary psychiatric assessments must take place, from seven days to 72 hours.

Madam Speaker, I'm sure that all will agree that the treatment needs of every Nova Scotian are important. Most people have the ability to make their own treatment decisions. The mental health legislation that I have introduced into this House speaks to those who cannot. I'm very pleased to move that this bill be now read for the second time. Thank you.

[Page 4925]

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise in my place this evening to enter into the debate on the Mental Health bill as introduced by the minister.

Madam Speaker, when this bill was first introduced into the Legislature, I was generally of the view that it was an important piece of legislation whose time has come and not having had an opportunity to really examine closely the legislation, I still think this is a very important piece of legislation. However, I am very concerned about the tenor and the approach of much of this legislation, so I guess we'll have an opportunity to talk about some of the fundamental problems in this legislation.

Madam Speaker, there has been little other legislation that I've ever seen in my time here, in the Legislature, with respect to health that is so substantial a piece of legislation with such broad implications for people in our province than this piece of legislation. This legislation is complex and in it contain issues of an ethical and a legal nature and, as the minister indicates, this legislation essentially speaks to the issue of the involuntary treatment of those in our province who have mental illnesses.

This is a piece of legislation that requires a mental health plan before we have a Mental Health Act. The minister spoke about the work that has been done prior to the introduction of this legislation - work that sets out some mental health standards. While that's very important work and very welcome work, with all due respect to the minister, we do not have a comprehensive mental health plan. When I look at this bill I see a broadening of the powers for the mental health practitioners that will bring more people into the mental health system than is currently the case without a plan or the resources to operationalize the plan. I think, how in the world can a mental health system that is already suffering the pressures of inadequate resources to deal with the current population, ever going to be able to manage a broadened definition of mental disorder, a new set of criteria for treatment? Not only inside mental health facilities, but now in the community on two different levels - one, when involuntary patients are returned to the community on leave with a bunch of provisions that will need to be policed, or enforced.

Additionally, mental health consumers in the community who will now be subjected to a new feature of the mental health system called community treatment orders that require community treatment plans and not only the resources to carry out those plans, but the resources to supervise, evaluate and oversee those plans. This is a substantial increase in the amount of work that we are now heaping onto our district health authorities and our mental health providers across the province without - I would submit - a comprehensive plan and any allocation of resources to carry this out.

[Page 4926]

I want to move back a bit before I discuss some of the concerns I have more specifically around this piece of legislation. I want to stand back a bit to just the work we do every day as members of the Legislature, as MLAs. I don't know about other people's caseloads, but I would guess if my caseload as an MLA is anything like other members of this Legislature, the vast majority of people we see sometimes are people who are connected to the mental health system. I see you nodding your head, Madam Speaker. I'm sure you see many people in the mental health system. In the time that I've been a member of this Legislature, I have seen people whose lives have been so intolerable in the community, in substandard housing, without employment, without opportunities to upgrade, without adequate income, without the ability to get transportation to the day hospital programs or the self-help groups. I have had members of my constituency with a history of mental illness come and beg me to help them get into hospital where they would have a warm bed, three square meals and some security for a period of time.

As an MLA, I have had in just the last few weeks calls from people who are in mental health facilities who want to get out into the community and are looking for advice on how to proceed, whether or not they have any rights with respect to determining their own treatment. We have all, I think, had calls from families in our community with family members, with children, with adolescents, with a spouse, with a parent, with adult children with mental illnesses, who are unable to get services, who are on waiting lists for assessments, or in some cases who have been in the mental health system and are back in the community without any of the supports that are required to have them be able to manage their mental illness.

As that spiral of becoming sick starts to occur because of the situations these folks are in, they may stop taking their medication, they may start spiralling out of control, and their family members, you know, quite rightly, are distraught, absolutely distraught, and they're desperate to find someone who will help them get the services and help them make sure that their loved ones, their family members, are in fact safe and get health care services.

I think we've all probably had calls from small options homes in our communities, I have certainly had calls from small options homes, or from residents who live beside small options homes, who are very upset that there are such things in our community. There continues to be, I think, an attitude on the part of some members of our community, sadly, that would prefer to see people with mental illnesses not in our community. It makes some people very, very uncomfortable and they complain and they would prefer to see people institutionalized and moved out of the area and that can be a very hard situation to deal with.

I had a small options home where one of the residents, in addition to the mental illness this person had, was epileptic and often 911 would be called, the fire department would come, the police would come and, you know, the residents in the area found that very disruptive. It's a very quiet residential neighbourhood and they really wanted this small options home moved out of the area. They didn't like the fact that some of the residents in the small options home might go door-to-door, knocking on doors, you know, bumming cigarettes, do you

[Page 4927]

have a smoke, can I use your telephone, or just trying to make friends, but one of the things that has occurred to me around the small options homes we've set up is the absolute inadequate amount of resources we give to the operators of these homes to provide staff supervision to people.

When I taught at the Maritime School of Social Work, I would say a good one-third of the students I had in my classes worked as casual employees in the small options sector. They made slightly more than minimum wage and they had to be in these small options homes at night essentially and early in the morning to make sure that the residents got up, had a bite to eat, and at nighttime went to bed and what have you. The amount of supervision and support that people actually got in those small options homes sometimes left a lot to be desired. This isn't to say that small options homes are a bad thing. I mean I think they're actually a very good thing - supervised apartments, small settings - but we haven't really treated these organizations well in terms of really being able to provide a home-like environment that will adequately support people with mental illnesses in these homes, and the challenges of many of the small options operators has been enormous.

[6:30 p.m.]

As an MLA, I've had occasion to talk with police who are in our communities trying to deal with a growing number of people with mental illnesses who are in the community as a result of the closing of hospital beds. Madam Speaker, in this province we had 900 psychiatric beds at one time. We now have roughly 200, and that includes the psych beds for kids. That's not a lot of "in hospital" capacity. Now, does that mean the number of people with mental illnesses has dropped? No. So where are they? They're in our community. When the deinstitutionalization went on, what were people in this province told, and what were members of the community told? They were told that the resources would follow the mental health patients into the community.

Madam Speaker, this has not happened, this is a very serious problem. Now we have a piece of legislation that acts as if there are resources, and there will be resources in the community in order to operationalize this piece of legislation. It's very difficult to trust that's going to be the case based on the behaviour of the government to date.

Madam Speaker, I think it was this morning on Information Morning, Carol Tooton, Executive Director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, called in in response to an interview that had been done in the last few days. One of the things she said was that roughly 4 per cent of the health budget in this province is allocated for mental health. That situation has to stop, it has to change. What we have here is a bill that really does nothing to address this problem.

You know, one in five Nova Scotians will suffer from a mental illness in our lifetime and, in fact, probably if we look around this Chamber, there are members here who will have suffered depression. We have family members who have had mental illnesses. We have

[Page 4928]

friends. So we all know people in this situation. So the mental health system has a lot of implications, and how well that system is resourced has a lot of implications for many members of our province.

The minister talks about the controversial aspects of this legislation. I would like to get into some of the specifics of the legislation. I think we need to start and look at the definition of the mental disorder in this bill. Madam Speaker, that definition has been broadened in this legislation. It has been broadened to include memory. Let me read the definition. "'mental disorder' means a substantial disorder of behaviour, thought, mood, perception, orientation or memory that severely impairs judgement, behaviour, capacity to recognize reality or the ability to meet the ordinary demands of life, in respect of which psychiatric treatment is advisable."

Madam Speaker, in our province, today, there is a growing number of seniors who suffer from Alzheimer's and dementia, diseases, illnesses that have a profound impact on people's memory. Now, in my discussions with people about this legislation, one of the issues that has been raised with me is the implications of broadening the definition of mental disorder and including memory as a piece of this and what this means. Does this mean that we will institutionalize in our acute-care psychiatric facilities, seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia who pose, in the opinion of a psychiatrist, some danger to themselves or others, they're exhibiting violence which we know can be a feature of having Alzheimer's. Once we start occupying those limited number of acute care beds around the province for people with psychiatric problems by this growing number of senior citizens in our province, then what happens to people with mental illnesses who need to get into psychiatric beds around the province?

Will this create a pressure to open in the districts around the province more long-term care beds, specifically mental health long-term care beds for patients? One of the things that we have no idea about in terms of broadening the definitions and broadening the range of treatment options that are contained in this bill, is what kind of pressure is this going to put on district health authorities around the province and are they going to be able to meet those needs?

Madam Speaker, what I started off by saying is the current system is unable to deal with the mental health demands that it has. We have depleted so much of the capacity in our system, how in the world is this going to accommodate these new expanded definitions that clearly are going to result in increased demand and the need for more capacity in our health care system? So this clearly is a problem. I started off by saying that when I was first briefed on this bill and when I first had a look at it, in the beginning, it seemed to be not so bad and I should make absolutely clear that I think it is long overdue that we have a Mental Health Act in this province, a stand-alone Mental Health Act, but whether this is the Mental Health Act we should have, I am not so sure.

[Page 4929]

When I look at the voluntary admission piece of this legislation, I wonder what's so voluntary about treatment? There are some fundamental violations of the right of patients, the voluntary patient who goes to a psychiatrist and presents himself as needing psychiatric assessment and treatment, I go to a psychiatrist and say, you know, I really feel like I'm not well, I would like you to do an assessment, tell me what my treatment options are, and I'm prepared to go into a facility. At the end of that process the person who does that and is admitted to a facility as an in-patient, on a voluntary basis, according to this legislation, will not be able to leave even as a voluntary patient if a member of the treatment team thinks they should be restrained and detained. I don't know how that can possibly be perceived as a voluntary admission in any stretch of the word.

In short, Madam Speaker, what I'm saying is this bill takes enormous liberties with people who require mental health services and it takes these liberties by taking away their liberty in a way that I think is simply too harsh and too extreme. In many respects, this represents a fundamental shift in mental health law. In talking to people about this bill, and I haven't had a lot of time to do that, I'm not going to stand here and whine about that too much, but I will mention that for such a substantial and fundamental piece of legislation the opportunity to really consult and to hear from members of the public and people on the front lines has been quite limited, but I have had an opportunity to talk to enough people who participated through the consultation process to know that there are significant concerns being expressed to me about the provisions in this bill.

One person said to me that virtually every coercive technique that is available is embedded in this legislation and that, in fact, the current tests in our legislation - our legislation that's 30 years old, that predates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms - that you have to be an actual danger to yourself or others, is not the test in this legislation whatsoever. A person can be presumed to be in need of assessment and intervention if they're likely to suffer impending serious physical impairment, or impending serious mental deterioration and that bar is just too low. So there are people who are expressing some concern about the lowering of the bar in this legislation to the point where the rights of individuals have the real potential to be trampled on.

I think one of the things that people need to know is the process that has occurred to get us to this place. I want to say to the minister that I see this legislation as a missed opportunity, I suppose, in some ways, that the government had a discussion paper that they posted on the Web site and they alerted the public to around March 18th, I believe it was, this year, and they asked for a response to their discussion paper by April 30th and I understand that they had about 50 written submissions and they've probably had some other submissions that weren't in writing.

[6:45 p.m.]

Following that very limited consultation process, nothing else really occurred. People didn't see a draft piece of legislation, there wasn't a synthesis, there wasn't a follow-up in

[Page 4930]

terms of providing various viewpoints. In this situation, in most consultations, you're not going to get a uniform response. You're going to get people who have a lot of different ideas. You're going to get people who want way more restrictive legislation and people who want less restrictive legislation. There's going to be a lot of different ideas come forward. I'm sure that was the case here. The challenge for any working group, in fact, the officials in the minister's department, is to find a coherent path that they can put forward that will make sense.

But sometimes it's important to not be too hasty in what it is you're bringing forward, especially when you have very different ideas and especially when what you're going to bring forward is so significant and what you're bringing forward is going to be so controversial.

I talked about the broadening of the definition of a mental disorder. I've talked about the voluntary admission piece of this legislation having a very significant clause that absolutely nullifies the voluntary nature of a person coming into the mental health system. Those aren't the worst pieces of this legislation, in many respects.

This legislation then provides a test - it lowers the bar in terms of the admission on an involuntary basis into a mental health facility. It also then establishes two fairly controversial mechanisms for the ongoing involvement of the mental health system with the involuntary patient, that is the provisions in this bill that provide for certificates of leave. For example, an involuntary patient can be discharged from a mental health facility into the community on a certificate of leave and the certificate of leave will lay out a whole bunch of requirements for that patient to go to appointments, to comply with the treatment orders of the psychiatrist, et cetera.

This is a new feature of how we are going to deal with people with mental illnesses in Nova Scotia. Some people would say, what's wrong with that? What's wrong with setting out some criteria to a mental health patient that says, you have to go to your doctor's appointments, you have to take your medication, you have to do these things. I think the answer to that is as much as we would like to be able to just dispense with the rights of people and say, this is what you have to do, there are a whole lot of things we have to weigh when we look at proceeding in this way.

We have to ask how long can people be kept on these certificates of leave? What happens when a patient fails to make an appointment? What are we going to do to provide resources to make sure that a patient can get to an appointment? Where are the resources to make sure that that person isn't living in the "cockroach hotel" and was up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning because there was a drunken brawl going on and that's why they didn't get to their appointment?

These provisions have us sending the police or a sheriff or a peace officer - however a peace officer is defined in another piece of legislation - out to pick these folks up if they violate their certificate of leave. It's a very coercive mechanism, and it's a new piece of

[Page 4931]

coercion in a mental health system, where we have to ask to what extent do we want a coercive mental health system. Is that how we want to deal with people with mental illnesses in our province? Do we want to deal with people with mental illnesses in this province in a coercive fashion?

Madam Speaker, all I can say is that I don't. I don't want to deal with people in a coercive fashion unless it's absolutely essential and unless we build in so many protections to ensure that the rights of those people are not violated, and that we in fact have met our obligations as a community to first provide them we adequate supports and services, so that we're absolutely clear that it's not because they've been abandoned out there in the community without the adequate supports.

Now there's another question we have to ask ourselves around establishing a new mechanism like this, a certificate of leave. You put certificates of leave in place, you automatically have to have the resources to enforce those certificates, and you also end up in a situation where the possibility that those folks on certificates of leave are the people who are going to draw the attention of the health care providers, because there's now a new legal entity. As a practitioner you would dare not follow through on your responsibility to make sure that people are following what's in that certificate of leave.

MADAM SPEAKER: Order, order. I believe the Minister of Health might be having a hard time hearing the honourable member.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Madam Speaker, there are some people who are very concerned, and it's a valid concern, that the attention will go to a particular group who are on certificates of leave and it will leave other people who aren't on certificates of leave, who equally require mental health intervention and support and professional treatment, untended to. Certificates of leave aren't the only problem in terms of expanding the powers of the mental health system to follow people around in the community.

The minister made reference to the controversial aspect of this bill called community treatment orders. Here, too, we have another mechanism for enforcing or policing the treatment of people with a mental health illness diagnosis in the community. While this provision makes reference to the services that people require in order to be in the community, and that these services have to exist and they have to be provided, we all know that those services aren't there. They're not there for the people who are already deinstitutionalized in the community, they simply are not there. Here we have government saying, we are going to further extend into the community the ability of the medical profession to order treatment in the community. However, we see no commitment of resources and no idea of what is going to be provided. We already know what's not being provided, and the things that are not being provided are housing, employment opportunities and training. We are not providing a whole variety of supports. We are not providing adequate supervision and support in some of the small options homes that we have.

[Page 4932]

This is a very serious problem with this legislation. I know that the minister has said in his presentation that one of the ways that the government is going to deal with the fact that they are expanding and extending the control over persons with mental illnesses is they're going to offer people with mental illness what is being called in this legislation a patient advisor. I want to tell you that it doesn't make any difference if you have 100 patient advisors. I can walk up to a person with a mental illness and I can advise that person that they have certain rights, but if they have no way to get an advocate that can represent them through a very complex system of reviews and appeals, then their rights are meaningless.

It's like saying to people on social assistance, you have the right of appeal, yes, right, people have the right of appeal. Have you ever called up a legal aid office and say, I have a social assistance appeal next Thursday morning, I need somebody who understands the Act and the regulations to come represent me? What happens? There is nobody who does this work. There is nobody in our legal aid offices who does this kind of work any more. It is practically impossible to get legal representation unless you can pay for it.

An awful lot of people in our mental health system are not able to pay for legal representation to make sure they have their rights protected. You can advise people all you want. Under this legislation, you have rights, but you try to get those rights enforced, that's not going to happen. There is no guarantee in this bill that people will actually be able to enforce their rights. Madam Speaker, I haven't had enough time to look at legislation across the country, but I do know one thing, and I know that the Manitoba Mental Health Act does, in fact, give mental health patients a mental health advocate, who, in fact, has the ability to represent, not advise that they have rights, but to actually represent and ensure that they have adequate representation through an appeal process. One would expect nothing less when you're really eliminating so many rights of mental health patients in this province.

Madam Speaker, I talked a bit about how complicated this legislation is. The discussion paper from the department that was issued back in March is a very interesting discussion paper, I must say. It has extensive footnotes that make reference to research and legislation that was done in many other jurisdictions. I think for anybody who wants to participate in this debate, this is a good place to start to understand the complexity of these issues.

[7:00 p.m.]

One of the things that I was quite puzzled about, as I read the discussion paper and looked at the legislation, was that some features of this legislation, in fact, are not mentioned in the discussion paper and, as well, it seemed that some of the ideas that would formulate a more balanced approach to mental health legislation, in fact, in the discussion paper, didn't find their way into the bill. I'm not really sure why that is, but I would certainly like to hear from the minister more about this process.

[Page 4933]

This bill also has some other features that are worth discussing and raising some concerns about. This bill has a whole section on substitute decision makers. In laying out who will be a substitute decision maker, one of the things that causes some concern to me is the fact that patients themselves are given insufficient control over the choice of people or a person who will end up making treatment determinations. I can tell you that I sure as heck wouldn't want somebody to choose a substitute decision maker on my behalf that I don't agree with. Can you imagine? You have a brother and a sister, your sister who you are very close to and talk with on a regular basis, and maybe a brother who you see on holidays or something like that but you argue all the time - not that that's the case in my case, Madam Speaker.

But let's say that were the case and through this process the government decides that it's the brother who will be the substitute decision maker. In some cases some people's brothers might agree to them having a lobotomy, because they might think that that really is what should happen. Madam Speaker, I really think that it's important, and I shouldn't make light of what is a very serious matter, frankly, that you want to have the patient involved in identifying and determining, if at all possible, their own substitute decision maker. Imagine doing this with people who had heart disease or cancer. Just imagine, deciding, well, we have this list of potential substitute decision makers, and we will make the decision. I think we really need to examine this.

There are many problems with this bill. I look at this legislation and I think, okay, the Hospitals Act in Nova Scotia is 25, 30 years out of date. In fact, Madam Speaker, when the Hospitals Act was last changed, I think I was a social worker at the Nova Scotia Hospital, at the time. I remember when the changes were being made, and I remember this idea that patients would be formal or informal. That's what they were called, not voluntary and involuntary, but formal or informal. If you were to be an informal patient, you would require the opinion of two doctors - one a medical doctor and one a psychiatrist - and that determination would have to be made within three days. If they decided you were suffering from a mental illness and you were a danger to yourself or to someone else, you could be held in the mental health facility.

Since that time, a lot of things have happened in the field of mental health and in the field of law. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become law in this country and we have had a significant deinstitutionalization of mental health facilities and we have had a significant cut in health care funding across the board and mental health services have suffered as a result of that. There isn't anybody who would argue that the old Hospitals Act is adequate to deal with that current reality - the reality of having a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a deinstitutionalized mental heath system.

The other feature that really has changed since I worked in the mental health field is the growth in the use of medications to deal with people with mental illnesses. In fact, the new medications are said to be much more effective and they create fewer problems for people who have to take these medications.

[Page 4934]

I think everybody can accept that there is a need for a new mental health Act that more adequately reflects the current situation, but I want to come back to the question, is this bill the bill that adequately reflects the current situation? Does it adequately protect the Charter rights of mental health patients? I'm seriously doubtful that is the case in quite a number of ways. Does it adequately recognize the current capacity of the mental health services across the province to be able to implement this piece of legislation? I have my doubts about that.

There are many aspects of this legislation that are going to put greater pressure on the mental health system and a different kind of pressure on the mental health system. Whether we have put the cart ahead of the horse is a real question I have because the thought I had at the beginning of this debate was whether or not we had an adequate plan.

The other aspect of this legislation that I think really has gotten lost is that there is no language, no sentiment, no philosophy expressed in this legislation about health promotion, prevention, these kinds of things. Everybody knows that the social determinants of health have a significant impact on our physical and our mental health. Nowhere does this bill talk about this - not even in the preamble. The preamble to this legislation has some guiding principles that I think most of us can look at and say, yeah, those sound great. But do they really go far enough? Do they extend the principle of this particular legislation to the point where they include the ideas of health promotion and prevention? I think in some respects, therefore, we've missed an opportunity here if we don't take time to get this right. It may be 25 years from now before we see another mental health bill in Nova Scotia and the Mental Health Bill, if we were to pass this legislation, will be the legislation that we, and people in this province, may have to live with for some period of time.

So I have to ask the minister and I have to ask other members of this House, are we prepared to live with this piece of legislation for another 25 years? Given the concerns that I've expressed and some of the issues I've raised, I don't think that I can live with this bill for 25 years I really don't think this is a piece of legislation that reflects the kind of mental health system that we need in Nova Scotia: a mental health system that is supportive, is proactive; a mental health system that's not punitive; a mental health system that's not sort of regressive; a mental health system that doesn't remove patients' rights. Having gotten to the point where we've deinstitutionalized so much of our system, why then do we feel the need for such coercive measures in some respects? This concerns me a great deal.

I know that we could go through this bill clause by clause and there are probably many issues that I haven't addressed in this discussion. For example, I have not addressed at all the clauses of the bill that talk about appointments to the review board. The review board, as members of this Legislature will well know, was the focus of a long and protracted human rights case in front of the Human Rights Commission with Professor Archie Kaiser on one side of the debate and the Government of Nova Scotia on the other side. At the end of the day there was a human rights' settlement agreement and the settlement agreement laid out certain items that the government agreed that they would adhere to with respect to appointments,

[Page 4935]

specifically around the review board. I don't think, when I look at this legislation, that, in fact, any of those agreements have been embedded in the mental health bill and I would ask the minister to turn his attention to that. If they're not embedded, perhaps the minister can tell us why they haven't been, why those agreements haven't been embedded in the bill.

As I said when I started, Madam Speaker, this is a very, very complex piece of legislation. It's probably the most complex piece of legislation I've ever had to go through and analyze and certainly in the short time I've had, it has been a challenge, not being a lawyer. I say that there's very rarely a time when I would want to be a lawyer, but it would not have hurt, I think, while I was reading this.

The other thing I would say is that the very end of the bill is so confusing for anybody to try to get themselves through because you really have to be constantly referring to other pieces of legislation, it's frankly unintelligible and it makes me wonder why this was rushed forward so quickly without having more clarity in this part of the legislation. It's not helpful, frankly, as a legislator who really does care about the language and what it is we're doing and whether or not it's accessible and whether or not this is a piece of legislation we can all hold our heads up about at the end of the day when it's so difficult to sort through.

[7:15 p.m.]

I'm sorry that I took so much of your time, Madam Speaker. Perhaps I took more time than was anticipated, but I really feel that this is such an important piece of legislation that I wanted to speak to the issues that concerned me. I know that as other members have their opportunity that I will listen very closely to what it is that they have to say about this legislation and perhaps I'll have an opportunity to speak again for an hour or so on it. So, thank you very much.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Madam Speaker, let me say at the outset that I certainly listened with a great deal of interest to the member for Halifax Needham on her dissertation. Having listened to her for the past hour, I do know, and knew that beforehand, that she has a great deal of experience on this topic and, as you can tell, a great deal of genuine concern on what's happening with this bill before the Legislature. I congratulate her on her presentation.

Madam Speaker, it is, as the previous speaker has indicated, a matter of great concern to each and every one of us in this Legislature. I concur with her as well that this perhaps is one of the most important pieces of legislation that has come before this Assembly, at least in my time here in the last six years or so, and I'm sure in quite some time, and because of the nature of exactly what this is going to be dealing with, that's what makes it so important.

[Page 4936]

I'm pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 109, the Mental Health Act. It's rather timely, Madam Speaker, that this Act would be dealt with this week because today, as a matter of fact, represents the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week. There's no better way for us as legislators to recognize the significance of this week by actually participating in a debate of the Mental Health Act.

Madam Speaker, this is the beginning of what has been a rather long and extensive and exhaustive process, as well. In 1997, under a Liberal Government, the Law Reform Commission was tasked with the responsibility of making recommendations with respect to mental health and also the necessary legislative changes that were required under the Hospital Act. In the year 2002, the final report was submitted to this government. So, I'm pleased, as my caucus is pleased, to see that today we are at least finally debating a stand-alone piece of legislation that will be entitled the Mental Health Act.

It's significant in that it legislates the rights of mental health patients and it's an important aspect that should not be lost in the deliberation of that bill. Again, as the member for Halifax Needham pointed out, there are many controversial elements of this bill. Madam Speaker, to show you how much it affects each and every one of us, it is a fact that 20 per cent of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness at some point during their lifetime. In our country, the economic cost of mental illness was estimated to be in excess of $14 billion, and that was back in 1998.

Madam Speaker, even more costly is the personal cost and suffering to the individual or his or her family and to the community as well. There are some communities in rural and remote parts of this province and in our great country that have rates of suicides that are among the highest in the world. Many of those are Aboriginal communities. A Canadian study found that two-thirds of homeless people using urban shelters suffer from some form of mental illness. It's most surprising that of the 10 leading causes of disability in this world, five of those are mental disorders.

Madam Speaker, the way in which we provide health care to those with mental illness is an issue of vital importance, but it's also something that has changed significantly over the past few years. We have developed a health care system whereby individuals with mental illness hopefully receive care in the community as opposed to receiving care in institutions, at least that's done whenever possible. This has enhanced the quality of care for the patient, it has improved the lives of the patients' families as well. But, I would suggest that there is still much more to do. There are aspects of this bill which are quite positive but, as one would expect, there are aspects of this bill that have the potential to be challenged, and are currently being challenged by some of the stakeholders in the community as well.

Bill No. 109 will specifically lay out the guidelines used to determine a person's capacity to make decisions, and that includes consent to treatment. So when someone is temporarily unable to make their own treatment decisions, a substitute decision-maker will be involved in all decisions for that person in order to best represent the person's wishes.

[Page 4937]

Madam Speaker, I would suggest that at first blush anyway that would be a positive move, if one looked at it. But, again, our previous speaker - and I'm not going to reiterate most of the points that our previous speaker has made - has indicated that there could be problems in that area. This is why this is a piece of legislation, I suggest, that deserves a great deal of thought and a great deal of input, before we move ahead too much further with this legislation.

Madam Speaker, among the controversial elements of this bill, again as previously mentioned, leave certificates and community treatment orders will be introduced. It is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging aspects of this bill. Community treatment orders will help those with a history and a pattern of involuntary admission, and will be available where assertive community treatment teams are in place. But community treatment orders will only be successful if those community treatment teams actually do exist, another problem area. While this will help Nova Scotians maintaining wellness and stability, we as a caucus recognize that the use of community treatment orders may not be wholly supported by all. It's a matter of great interest to us, as well.

Madam Speaker, we look forward to hearing from advocacy groups and interested parties through the Law Amendments Committee process. We recognize in this legislation that the mandatory review of these orders, it's after a five-year period. Five years, as I was told, is because you need a certain amount of time in order to collect the data that is required. This is a time frame that was suggested by those who were consulted. It could be a positive addition to this legislation. But we have to be certain, as legislators, that whatever legislation we pass here is going to achieve the exact objective that it was intended to achieve. That means that we have to ensure that the rights of those with mental illness are being respected and that services and programs in their community are going to be available.

Again, Madam Speaker, I indicated during the debate of Bill No. 107 that a piece of legislation is really only worth the paper that it's written on if there are insufficient resources available to deliver what is outlined in that bill. That has a great deal to do with what is being proposed in this piece of legislation. If those resources aren't there, then this bill, as I suggested with any other Act, is not worth the paper that it is written on.

Madam Speaker, community treatment orders will be successful if and only if there are adequate resources to ensure that treatment is available in the community, and assertive community teams are available. Let's remember, that it was just this past March that the Canadian Mental Health Association gave this province an F for the funding of core mental health standards, an F. Mental Health Services currently receives about 3.8 per cent of a $2.1 billion budget; in our opinion, that is inadequate.

As the minister indicated in his bill briefing, they are proud of this legislation. We suggest the pride, Madam Speaker, has to translate into financial support, so that the Mental Health Act will ensure that the rights of patients with mental illness are respected in this province.

[Page 4938]

Let me give you an example of how the lack of support by government can impact the lives of those with mental illness, and impact them significantly as well. In December of 2003, this government restricted access to one of three medications available for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, it was done in order to contain costs. Government indicated and decided that one drug would not be available for family doctors to prescribe. Only psychiatrists would be able to prescribe, after some extensive paperwork was completed and filled out. This government restricted family physicians from accessing this drug. The only drug that was available to treat bipolar mania was restricted in this province, patients were left to find a psychiatrist. Madam Speaker, that is not an easy task in some of our communities of our province.

As recently as last year, we held a round table discussion across this province on behalf of Liberal caucus. One of the major concerns that we held in every community that we went into across this province, from Yarmouth to Sydney dealt with access on mental health issues. Access the family physicians, access to emergency rooms, access to core health services in this province. Not one community did not experience a problem with accessing help for mental health issues. In this case, as I was telling you, patients were left to find a psychiatrist, and then if they could get an appointment, get a prescription.

Madam Speaker, there's an example whereby resources and support in the community were restricted. Who was it that suffered? It was the patient who suffered. That can never happen again in this province, it should not happen, and if it has not already been corrected, it should be corrected immediately. This bill introduces independent rights advisors. Those advisors will operate at arms-length from government and the DHAs and will be involved with those who have been voluntarily admitted or placed on a leave certificate or community treatment order. These individuals make sure that the patients are aware of their rights. This is positive, but there must be sufficient resources to ensure that we have enough advisors to do the job. If not then again, the rights of mental health patients are compromised.

Madam Speaker, I am not going to go on at great length as a matter of fact on this. As indicated there are controversial elements of this bill, such as certificates of leave, community treatment orders and substitute decision makers. I'm not even going to touch on the whole issue of adequately protecting the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the protection of those who are suffering from mental illness and what protection they are guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in our country.

[7:30 p.m.]

Madam Speaker, I acknowledge the tremendous professional support of key stakeholders and departmental staff as well who were involved in the development and drafting of this piece of legislation, but as an Opposition Party, as an Opposition MLA, our commitment to everyone in this province who is going to benefit from any piece of legislation, it's very simple, it's the same as with this piece of legislation, our commitment and our

[Page 4939]

intention is to make sure that government provides the resources that are needed to ensure that this bill is a success.

Again I suggest we have a great deal of consultation that is left to do with stakeholders who have been heard from by the government, but perhaps some are suggesting now that they may have been heard by the government, but they are not being listened to and those stakeholders are coming to us and suggesting that we should listen to them and then we should try to find perhaps some changes, but to forewarn the government to some extent, there are some stakeholders who are suggesting that this piece of legislation is dramatically flawed and just doesn't need changes or amendments, but should be rewritten. So not to say that's exactly the path that we may want to go down, but just to let the government know that that's what's out there and that's what's being said right now about this legislation.

Again, Madam Speaker, and I will close my remarks right now on this bill, we have to make sure that those resources are there. In any piece of legislation we have to make it absolutely clear that the resources are there to provide the service, in this case to those suffering from mental illness in this province, that they can be assured that the government is going to provide them the services that they are guaranteed and that they should receive in this province.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, I move that we adjourn the debate on Bill No. 109.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 109. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 97.

Bill No. 97 - University College of Cape Breton Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Madam Speaker, may I just, first of all, inquire as to how much time I have left during debate on this particular bill?

MADAM SPEAKER: You have 21 minutes.

[Page 4940]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Madam Speaker, when debate did stop last day, I think I was pretty well successful in changing most members' minds in the Assembly, that they were at least reconsidering that it would be a bad idea to rename the University College of Cape Breton to Breton University but, of course, I jest because most members in this Assembly have at least indicated to me that they are in favour of changing the name to Breton University - unfortunate, very unfortunate, because I continue to receive, some of which I'm going to enter into the record right now, mail and e-mail from everyday Cape Bretoners back home who are indicating that they do not want the name changed to Breton University. They would prefer if Cape Breton was kept in the name of their institution.

Madam Speaker, let me start with one from a person by the name of Patrick Dwyer who has written me an e-mail to say:

". . . as a graduate of UCCB . . . and continuing supporter of the institution, I am strongly opposed to the currently suggested name change and want you to know that as one of your constituents, I hope you will consider sending this proposed name change back to UCCB for more discussion with the local community, the people who really built UCCB. I am not opposed to the suggestion of dropping 'College' from the name but the name must contain a reference to Cape Breton. I feel this is a cheap marketing ploy to make people think we are something other than what we are and UCCB should be above this type of spin doctoring. We need to show our pride in our community and in our educational institutions. I will be watching this debate closely and hope you will support the locally organized protest to the name change."

Well, Mr. Dwyer already knows, and perhaps knew before he wrote me this e-mail, that I am opposed to the name change at the University College of Cape Breton and certainly we're watching it very closely and we'll do what we can, Madam Speaker, I have vowed to fight this name change and indeed I will.

This is from a letter to the Cape Breton Post, which I would suggest was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek by a man by the name of Sean Howard of Main-à-Dieu and the writer goes on to say:

"As a devoted reader of the Cape Breton Post, I write with a modest proposal to boost your image, transform your brand appeal, and increase your circulation. Simply rename yourselves the Breton Post - an abbreviation as simple as it is sexy, as marketable as it is meaningless - and, before you can say Hey Presto! . . . new readers will come flocking."

MR. GORDON GOSSE: That was the Post Record.

[Page 4941]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Oh, as the member for Cape Breton Nova suggests it was the Post Record, yes, back in the 1930s, Madam Speaker.

"Indeed, we can expect a steady influx of new residents from Canada and around the world anxious to enjoy the high-quality education afforded by each edition.

And for a sweeping new motto, I suggest . . . The Past Under the Carpet, or perhaps Under the Cape."

Well, as I said, I have a number of e-mails here that I'd like to keep reading if I could, Madam Speaker, and these are from people who are opposed. As I mentioned the other day, I did get a few e-mails from those who were in favour of it and I'll gladly table those for the record, because it wouldn't take too much time to table them. There's only about three of them, but the rest I'd like to read into the record.

This is one from a person by the name of Jenny MacIsaac, Madam Speaker, who said:

"I heard your interview on CBC Radio concerning the UCCB name change to Breton University and I would like to say that I agree with you. I was shocked to hear the name had been changed to Breton University - case closed, end of story! I feel the board should have looked for input from the entire community before making such a drastic change. With the exception of a small group of people, no one was aware that a new name was being considered for UCCB. Most, like myself, were under the impression the discussion was whether or not to drop the word college."

Madam Speaker, the letter writer goes on to say, "If you search the Canadian Association of Universities and Colleges, you will find universities are most often named for the community where they reside. Those begun by religious organizations . . ." (Interruption) Madam Speaker, the NDP will get their chance to stand up and say that they are opposed to this bill and that they don't support the people of Cape Breton. I'll give them the opportunity when my time is up, but until that time - I already had one member of the NDP, the Education Critic, who stood on his feet and said that he didn't care about supporting the people of Cape Breton. He made it perfectly clear . . .

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Madam Speaker, on a point of order. This is the second time in two days of sitting in this House where this member for Glace Bay has felt the need to stand up and question our Party's support and interest in the people of Cape Breton, when I don't even know where exactly he's even getting these ideas. I would insist that he please stick to the script, focus on this piece of legislation and reflect on the fact, again, that every member of this House is committed to every person in this province, and that includes the people of Cape Breton. We don't need the member for Glace Bay trying to insinuate that some members of this House do not. (Applause)

[Page 4942]

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. That wasn't a point of order.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Madam Speaker, I'm glad to see that the NDP is being supported again by their Tory colleagues. We've seen many, many times in this House how the NDP has propped up this Tory Government, and I guess we'll see it again under this bill that proposes to rename the University College of Cape Breton and strip the identity from the university and, therefore, do a great deal of damage to the pride of Cape Bretoners.

The only person to stand up for the NDP so far to whine and cry is the House Leader for the NDP. The Education Critic stood up and said very clearly that they didn't support this bill and that I was the one who was whining and crying because I wanted to keep it the same and not change it to Breton University. It's a silly argument, Madam Speaker, one that is left for the end of the day when you have no other ground to stand on, I suggest.

Let's move on to the real debate and let me finish this letter so Cape Bretoners' voices can be heard in this Legislature, and they'll come from this member. The writer of the letter goes on to say that if you search the Canadian Association of Universities and Colleges, you'll find universities are most often named for the community where they reside. I've searched that registry and that's the truth. I suggest to the members who are saying otherwise, search it yourselves, because you'll find that happens to be the case. Those begun by religious organizations were usually called after saints, and those named after a famous individual or founder or benefactor, that's a fact.

The letter writer goes on to say without the Cape Breton, it is a meaningless name for our university. She feels that the board of governors was misguided by their desire to market the University College of Cape Breton for the readers of Maclean's Magazine. (Interruptions) Madam Speaker, again, if backbenchers over there on the Tory side, or the NDP, want to have some say on this, please stand on your feet and get on the record. If you're just going to yap at me, Cape Breton won't really know how you feel about this. Until that time . . .

MADAM SPEAKER: Order. The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Madam Speaker, I was just going to correct a factual error on the speaker's part. He said that universities started by religious organizations are normally named after saints. Actually, Acadia, Mount Allison, Queen's University - it's mainly Roman Catholic schools that were named after saints, the other schools were named with different names. I'm just correcting an error on the speaker's part.

MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 4943]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): The member makes a good point. The member also made a good point when, before the private and local bills of this committee, there were some 65 presentations that were made from all of the stakeholders involved in Acadia University when they appeared before this Legislature on a matter of governance. We heard from all the people who were involved, not just from the board of governors, we heard from all of the people involved in that particular issue at Acadia University. Madam Speaker, in this, so far everybody seems to be going along with what the board of governors is proposing. We had no problem during that time in that debate sending the matter back to Acadia University and not doing anything about it at this Legislature, but telling them hey, get your house in order and handle this on your own.

In this case, again - let me finish my letter - the letter writer says in her opinion the board of governors was misguided by the desire to market UCCB for the readers of Maclean's Magazine. She says that the University College of Cape Breton is the most important institution in Cape Breton, ". . . not a box of crackers that needs a catchy name." I've had that suggested to me a few times. Are we naming this institution after a box of crackers, Breton Crackers? Isn't it a little ridiculous?

[7:45 p.m.]

She goes on to say that, "Nova Scotia has the lowest funding in the country for universities." Well, we all know that. "I shudder to think of the money that will be wasted changing the name of the university. We would have to inform people where it is located and convince them that it is not a new university. It has taken the UCCB 30 years to get where it is today - on the brink of greatness. Don't let them set us back with an unfamiliar and meaningless name." Well, I couldn't agree more, as you know yourself.

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to table that letter?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I'm going to table all of the letters, Madam Speaker, that have been sent to me. It will give some of the members of the Opposition Party a chance to actually read what Cape Bretoners are saying, because they're certainly not reflecting the views of what Cape Bretoners are saying. It will give them the opportunity of saying, hey, away you go.

Madam Speaker, again, here's a letter that I would like to table. This is a letter from a person by the name of Alex MacEachern, who has written to the Hon. Jamie Muir, the Minister of Education in this Legislature.

"Dear Sir.

It is not often that I write to a Minister of the crown. Today I feel I must as a matter of honour.

[Page 4944]

Sir I request that you advise the board of governors of university College of Cape Breton to reconsider the name change of that institution. My reasons are as follows.

Cape Breton waited for many years to have a local university. When we finally did establish a university in the 1970's, it was already fifty years overdue.

In the early years Cape Bretoners supported other universities. These universities did a great service for Nova Scotia and we are proud of them.

The problem was that as Cape Bretoners we had to travel great distances and this did impact on the over all education of the population. When we were the industrial heart of the Maritimes our education dollars were going from this community.

The first institute of higher learning in Cape Breton was in our own East Bay when a college was set up in 1824 to prepare young men for the priesthood which lasted for about four years. It would be another thirty years before Bishop MacKinnon started St. Francis Xavier in Arichat which he moved to his native Antigonish the following year.

We would have to wait another hundred years (Five generations) before St. Francis Xavier set up Xavier College in Sydney in 1951. That little college produced many fine students who had to move on to other institutes to obtain their degrees.

It would be another generation (twenty years) before the Minister of Education announced the formation of the University College of Cape Breton. It was a marriage of the Eastern Tech. and Xavier college. This was to be uniquely Cape Breton.

One hundred fifty years after the little college at East Bay, Cape Breton had the beginnings of a university. We were so proud. Now we had someone to carry the flag and tell our story. Never before had we the opportunity to have explained to us the people, coal, steel, labour, church, radio, flight and war as it affected us. Now there was an institution of prestigious substance available to research the national sciences of Cape Breton.

Is it not ironic that in the week the Cape Breton Highlanders Regiment may have held their last reunion the university drops the words Cape Breton?

[Page 4945]

For those who feel embarrassed or humbled by being Cape Bretoners or of living in Cape Breton there are many opportunities off Island.

In closing Sir I wish that you would make these concerns known to the house and board of governors.

Respectively yours

Alex MacEachern

Citizen of Cape Breton"

Madam Speaker, he made sure that there were copies sent of this to the Minister of Energy, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, and there were copies sent to the MLAs for Cape Breton Centre, Cape Breton Nova, Cape Breton South, Cape Breton West, Victoria-The Lakes, Richmond, and to myself as the member for Glace Bay. In other words, Mr. MacEachern wanted to make sure that he got the word out to MLAs who would be debating this. (Interruptions) I'm not sure what year he graduated, although I'm not sure what significance that would have on anything that I'm talking about right now.

Another letter writer, whose name is Paul Moore, was a graduate of the Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies at the University College of Cape Breton in 1996, for the member for Timberlea-Prospect. Mr. Moore goes on to say:

"I would like to inform you of my position on the issue of the name change of the University College of Cape Breton. I provide some background information to try to help you understand my position.

I began at CCB (College of Cape Breton) in 1981. I attended the Electronic Technology program there from 1981 to 1984 at which time I left the College because of declining marks . . . and employment opportunity . . . During the time I was enrolled at CCB, I was active in the development of the Technology Society. I believed this was important as, during this period, CCB was moving more towards degree granting status and as a technology student, I felt that the institution was seeing technology as the 'poor cousin'. As a result, many of the activities that were planned revolved around the 'university' time table and the technology program was left without. This feeling was confirmed by the student union staff advisor who refused to assist with any aspect of the Technology Society.

I returned to UCCB in the early 1990's, this time as a mature student. I enrolled in Community Service Courses and completed my BACS degree in 1996 . . . I also was awarded the C.W. MacDonald Memorial Award for Leadership & Scholarship.

[Page 4946]

Since completing my BACS Degree, I have also completed a BSW Degree through UCCB/Dalhousie Partnership. It was through this degree I confirmed my belief what a wonderful, unique and strong institution we have as compared to other "longer standing" institutions with poorer student relations. I proudly wear my UCCB ring for all to see!

I have accepted a Presidents Appointment to the BACS Degree Committee and am currently serving on the BACS Review Committee. I enjoy the opportunity to serve the University College of Cape Breton!"

Mr. Moore says:

"I have another family member who also attended Little X. My uncle taught at the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology. I have attended both CCB and UCCB. I am proud of both aspects of this institution equally.

I believe that the historical lineage of the institution - the merger of 'Little X' and the Nova Scotia Institute of Technology - is an important aspect to maintain. I believe that the name is the property of the community. Although the Board of Governors is said to represent the community at large, I believe that changing the name of the institution should be a matter of public debate with input from faculty, staff, alumni and the greater community at large. I feel this process has not occurred and respectfully request that the final decision on the name change be postponed until public consultation is secured."

Madam Speaker, Mr. Moore very eloquently put it in those words in that letter in an e-mail to me and the same message I'm trying to convey to members of the Legislative Assembly here. The general public, the public, the people who put us in these seats, has not been consulted adequately enough for us to say it's okay to change the name of a great 30-year-old institution to a name which is totally meaningless to the community. Once the words "Cape Breton", both - Cape, in particular, because Breton will remain - are stricken from the name of the University College of Cape Breton, a great deal of pride and history and heritage and culture has disappeared.

MADAM SPEAKER: The time allotted has . . .

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Madam Speaker, as you can just tell by my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay, it's quite a heated issue in Cape Breton nowadays, making the talk shows and making the e-mail route. I myself, personally, as of today, have received

[Page 4947]

about 11, I'd say six e-mails and actually some of the ones my colleague just read, I have them here and I received some telephone calls and I've called some people back that have called my office to speak about this.

Madam Speaker, as my colleague said no one was aware. I think I'll remind him that a name change for the institution has been ongoing for several years. In 2002, the Student's Representative Council, the SRC, the highest decision-making body for all students, held a plebiscite to engage students about the possibility of the name change. The results were 61.7 per cent of the 845 votes cast were in favour of the change. (Interruptions)

Madam Speaker, during the past year, Mr. Harker has met with the institution departments and centres and, in June, the board of governors agreed to review the university's name as an overall repositioning effort. On September 21, 2004, the University College of Cape Breton's Board of Governors decided to change the name of the institution from UCCB to Breton University. Representatives from the student union, the faculty, the Alumni Association, and the Cape Breton community were involved in the unanimous decision, Breton University was one of the three options shared with the public in June of this year.

I spoke as recently as last week here in the Legislature about Chancellor John Harker, the name change and how important he feels that it is to move along. This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the institute and we're also welcoming our second chancellor. We're celebrating three decades of accomplishments against all odds and celebrating our growth with the installation of a new chancellor. These are two very important and pivotal events, significantly turning a corner for this institution. Introducing a name change before embarking on this challenge is a symbolic approach.

Madam Speaker, as I heard from my colleague, the member for Glace Bay - I'm sorry, I was about to say Cape Breton East, I apologize for that. (Interruptions) I spoke to the student union representatives, Jamie Crane and Scott Gillard, as recently as last weekend and I spoke to them again this week before I left. I actually had the privilege and the honour of going to the soccer game at the university on Saturday afternoon to see if I could get some feedback. (Interruption) Well, actually they lost to Acadia 2-1, but it was a great game.

Nevertheless, with Breton in its name and a sports team that will still be called "the Capers", a strong association with the place has been maintained. There's not going to be any change with the Capers. The name Breton University strongly represents our pride and our place while helping to position the institution with incurred and future markets - 98 per cent of the graduates of Glace Bay High School attend the University College of Cape Breton. I know this matter is dear to my fellow colleague there, but with the outward migration and declining population in the university (Interruption)

Madam Speaker, I don't know if they'll ever change the name of Whitney Pier. I guess when I get asked (Interruptions) Well, I don't know what I would do. The Glace Bay High

[Page 4948]

School, with declining enrolments in schools, we have to go outside our province to bring students in to make this university a viable place.

Madam Speaker, to give an example, I heard my colleague before talking about many universities. He said that many universities were named after geographical locations. Well, a national database of Canadian universities reveals that less than one in five universities actually have their specific locations embedded in their name. The association with a specific place of location is obviously not a concern for the vast majority of Canadian institutions with whom that university must compete. So in order for us to bring those people in, we need to make a change.

Madam Speaker, I actually have an article here - and I will table this article today - from the Halifax ChronicleHerald and it was mentioned by John Abbass of Sydney (Interruptions) It was "Little X" and I had the opportunity to go there when it was "Little X", the plays at Christmas. Then, when "Little X" actually partnered with the Eastern Institute of Technology, that's when it became UCCB, over 30 years ago.

Madam Speaker, for some time recruiters have gone out and reported that a certain name is challenging for recruiting off-island students. Increasing off-island enrolment is crucial. Since our island's university age population is declining, attracting more students is one of the university's primary goals. Since their target is prospective university students across the country, the name Breton University was favoured amongst most students who were asked this question. It's important, I guess a good debate and this will be a good debate in Cape Breton, probably for many years to come. Let me ask you, when I say the words St. Francis Xavier University, when I say Dalhousie University and Saint Mary's University, is there any geographical location with those universities - Mount Allison University? Strengthening the image and the identity works to attract more students, fulfill its growing reputation for providing excellence in post-secondary education.

[8:00 p.m.]

The Board of Governors of UCCB, includes alumni, includes the student union, includes people in the community. Those are the people who spoke on this issue, Madam Speaker, unanimously, that they would support this change. I think of Yale and Harvard, where are they located? Those universities are very prestigious universities known all over this world. Geographically, do you know where Harvard is, Yale? I think we have to encourage people to make changes. Sometimes people find it difficult to deal with change. Breton University can become one of those prestigious universities. It is already making a turn to do that.

Our recruiters go out to get people to come in. Our outward migration of our students and our population - it is not going to sustain this university as it stands right now. It takes a bold move, and the Vice-Chancellor, John Harker, has made a decision, along with the board of governors, the student union, and the alumni, to say that we have to make this move

[Page 4949]

to make this university a better place. I think it takes somebody with courage to make a change and these people have courage and conviction to make that change.

I applaud them, and I look forward to this going to the Law Amendments Committee so we can hear both sides of view. Madam Speaker, we are going to have a debate on both sides of this issue, and I look forward to this happening. I thank you for your time.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I'll be brief on this particular piece of legislation.

I certainly respect the opinions of all members of the House on this particular issue, it's a very important issue, and it may be somewhat of an emotional issue for some, perhaps a little more than others. The more attached you become to Cape Breton the more emotional it can become, and I certainly respect that. I certainly respect many of the presentations that have been put forth to date.

I suppose over the last week I've been asking myself what is in a name, and the first thing that I thought of, obviously when this issue of Breton University versus University College of Cape Breton came before the House, I reminded myself of what happened in Cape Breton West over the course of history. It wasn't until 1933 that the name Cape Breton even showed up in the constituency of Cape Breton West. From 1820 to 1933, Cape Breton West was a part of Richmond County; in fact it was known as being in the constituency of Richmond County, and it wasn't until 1933 that it became known as Richmond-West Cape Breton.

It wasn't until later in history, Madam Speaker, that eventually it became Cape Breton West. Since that time it has gone through five different geographical dimensions, configurations. Even Cape Breton West presently contains part of my colleague's constituency from the neighbouring constituency of Glace Bay.

It's a very interesting, important debate. The history of our family to UCCB - in fact, St. F.X. University Junior College as it was once known, the Sydney campus, and indeed St. F.X. University in Antigonish goes back several generations. In fact, I'm very proud to say that two of our children graduated from the University College of Cape Breton and have gone on to study - one at the University of Calgary and one here in metro extending his personal and professional career in other endeavours. As well, one of my siblings graduated from St. F.X. University, Sydney campus, back in 1963. I keep using the acronym or the reference to junior college. At that time, St. F.X. University Junior College, Sydney campus, didn't have the full degree-granting rights that St. F.X. University in Antigonish did. It was only by concurrence and the authorization of St. F.X. University in Antigonish that those authorities, rights, privileges and powers would be conveyed.

[Page 4950]

It wasn't until 1974 that an Act to Create the College of Cape Breton was in fact enacted. It wasn't until eight years later in June 28, 1982, that an Act Further Amending the Act of the College of Cape Breton was passed to create the University College of Cape Breton. To a certain measure, Mr. Speaker - welcome to the Chair - there has been considerable consternation about what many would perceive to be somewhat of an oxymoron and that is having the name university and college in the same title. It seemed to be sending mixed messages. By moving towards the name of university, holistically, in its name, I would agree.

I think to a certain extent, it's Cape Breton coming of age and the powers that be, the stakeholders, the president and the board of governors represent not just the administration, the faculty or the students, but there are community representatives who are appointed from the community at large. I'm sure many members of the House have had opportunity to have their input at that, I know we certainly do when it comes to the Human Resources Committee. I know on a previous day, I certainly took issue with one of the appointments there, but that's part of the process. While that appointment was eventually ratified, I didn't support that appointment. Some would say it was for political purposes - I thought it was for other reasons, but, that's part of the process and I respect that.

I fully respect the comments of my colleague. I too have received e-mails. Perhaps I'm not quite as popular, I haven't received as many. I only received four in total, plus one phone call from a past president with the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia suggesting that I raise this issue and I've done that. One other constituent asked me to raise it as well, but the overwhelming and general consensus from my constituency and for the stakeholders that I represent and have communicated with, feel that Breton University may not have been their first choice, but they don't have a problem with it. So you ask yourself, as someone who comes from that end of the province who has a very strong historical, cultural and emotional attachment to it.

What is Cape Breton? Simply defined it's New Scotland, by extension, because of many of the characteristics and the people and the heritage. That was quite evident. There's a unique character and there are unique characteristics to this beautiful Island, which is why from 1784 until 1820, it was not part of the Province of Nova Scotia, it was a British colony with its own House of Parliament or its own Legislature, with the capital being Sydney. One thing that I do believe we all have to appreciate is that this unique culture and this unique history is much akin to what's happened with Newfoundland and Labrador, that feeling of isolation and the feeling that perhaps somehow there are unique characteristics that are sometimes overlooked and not appreciated.

It wasn't until, perhaps, just around the time of the Second World War, thereafter, 75 per cent of all the resources that were provided for the Nova Scotia Government to operate came from the resources of Cape Breton Island. That's a documented fact, Mr. Speaker. We have to appreciate that. We have to appreciate this evolutionary process. In the final analysis I don't really have any great difficulty with the name that moves it to the next level of this

[Page 4951]

stage of our history. Those who have compelling arguments for a counter position, I certainly respect that.

Mr. Speaker, I felt it was important to raise those issues, certainly on behalf of those in my constituency who do take issue with this name change. Myself, I'll certainly be supporting this going on to the Law Amendments Committee and for full approbation.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against Bill No. 97, opposite to my (Interruptions) I would like to say that the name Cape Breton gives credence and stature to the Island that we belong to. The initials BU or boo, maybe it's because Halloween is coming soon, but I don't believe that's a very good acronym for something I hold near and dear to Cape Breton. Worrying about Bill No. 97 creating a higher position on the list of a person from Macleans magazine doesn't interest me in the least. A name change is not going to elevate the stature of that institution, it's going to take work. Work is a four-letter word, and some people don't want to use it and some people don't want to practice it.

A letter to the editor in the Halifax Herald and the Cape Breton Post from a student by the name of Richard Parks has put everything into perspective, for him and for a lot of people down there. He's wondering why all the attention is being given to the change of the name, when he would like to see the board of governors focus more on the cost of education. When students have the marks and the mentality to go to college but are severely impacted by the cost, then that student would like to know where does he stand. Take that money, the tremendous cost of changing the name, just the printing costs alone, and maybe put that in the form of bursaries for students who are struggling financially to make ends meet and to try to make a better future for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, the cost of reprinting the stationery, the business cards, the sign change and every other cost associated with the name change would go a great distance to reduce the debt for students. I refer to the Minister of Energy as being the minister closest to the situation in my area down there, but I feel that by promoting what he is doing in favour of this name change, he's showing a lack of depth and caring for my and his beloved Island. I would like to remind the minister that it's not the $500-a-plate people who vote for him in Breton North - or is it still Cape Breton North? I feel that there must be a certain amount of shame felt for the name Cape. I also, as I said, refer to the minister because he's closest to the situation, and I refer to the Minister of Health Promotion as also being one who has great experience with the culture of Cape Breton. He partakes of it on a continual basis and is very well involved in that. I would like to see more support for the name Cape Breton from both of these ministers.

[Page 4952]

[8:15 p.m.]

In a few short years, Mr. Speaker, the gentleman who is the president there today may decide to move on. The name change will be, for him, I would say, another notch in the belt of his curriculum vitae. I have family members who have graduated from UCCB and went off and received Masters degrees, and returned to live, work and raise families in this wonderful Island of Cape Breton. The board of governors, made up of a lot of very well-to-do people, most of whom have made their fortunes in Cape Breton, are all too willing to ignore their roots for an off-Island name in hopes of being elevated on a list in Maclean's magazine.

Mr. Speaker, I referred to the four-letter word, work, and that's what I would like to see, this board knuckle down and promote the Island. The cost of the name change is one thing, but the very name itself - University of Cape Breton, would identify the Island in itself. If this goes through, as it looks like it will, with the amount of support that it's receiving, money is going to have to be spent to identify and advertise where Breton University is located. Right now the name identifies the Island, and there's a cost savings there alone. What's the cost of pride? Who can put a cost on that?

Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton is the home of Celtic Colours, a cultural festival of international proportions, and within its very few short years has gained international recognition. We are the number two visiting spot in the whole world on the list of tourism places to visit. What's wrong with Cape Breton? Nothing. We have the world-renowned Cabot Trail, located in Cape Breton, recognized worldwide. Although it has been allowed to deteriorate, it's a world icon. I've also touched already on the strong cultural diversity, as we hear from various members who have accentuated that, those who have spoken before me.

Mr. Speaker, we've lost the steel mill, we've lost the coal mines, our economy is in serious doubt, and it looks like the train is getting ready to leave the station. The honourable Minister of Energy has just returned from Nunavut. I understand he was up there for a change of trains or something like that, but I don't believe there's any trains up there. I would like to see the minister concentrate more on the needs of Cape Breton. The member for Timberlea-Prospect boasted about how successful the name UPEI became as a result of a name change, and this name change added the name P.E.I. to the university, giving credence to Prince Edward Island and credence to that university. We are now losing the prominence of the name Cape Breton from our university.

Mr. Speaker, what I would like to do at this time is reference a letter that was sent to me by a present student by the name of Kirk MacAskill. I read,

"Hi, my name is Kirk MacAskill,. I am a 20-year-old student at the University College of Cape Breton . . . or is it Breton University? I am writing to voice my concern regarding this name change to our beloved educational institution. I could always have a sense of pride regardless of whom I was speaking to when I told them the name of an institution in which I attend.

[Page 4953]

When I heard of the possible name change, I was not altogether disappointed, my only thought was the dropping of the "college" from the name which I felt I would be able to live with as long as the college level courses were offered. When I found out there was unanimous support among the Board of Governors for the name of the school to become "Breton University" I can honestly say that I felt a sick feeling in my stomach.

Especially when you look at the dictionary definition of the word:

Breton Pronunciation Key (br t n)

adj.

Of or relating to Brittany or its people, language, or culture.

n.

A native or inhabitant of Brittany.

The Celtic language of Brittany. Also called Armoric

To me as a current student and future alumni of the University, and a lifelong resident of Cape Breton, I am outraged. This new name does not represent the university geographically, I can't tell people from abroad where I study, as when I would say UCCB they would know exactly where I was getting my education. Now when I say I go to BU, I can hear them now, 'Where the heck is that?' The initials themselves leave much to be desired (BU).

Though there was a poll conducted and slightly over 60% of the students polled were in support of a name change, though there was no voice given to the students as to what the university would be named. This alone should be enough for me to fill transfer papers to another university.

The actions taken by the university Board of Governors has undoubtedly taken any respect I had for my beloved university. Who do you think the costs of this name change will fall upon? It will be the students who will bear the brunt of this in our oncoming tuition costs (which are plenty high already). Though while we pay for such a thing, we have no say. The Faculty as well had no voice in the name change, even though many members of the faculty spend a great part of their lives and careers here.

In my heart I will always be a student of UCCB, and if you feel the same way, I would urge you to talk to your local MLA as this name change is still in its first reading in the legislature.

Thanks

Kirk MacAskill, BACS Policing"

[Page 4954]

This gentleman is on his way to becoming a member of the RCMP and I will be tabling that letter, Mr. Speaker, along with another one that I intend to read and enter into the record. Another letter that I will be tabling comes from a gentleman by the name of Charles Gillis:

"Mr. Sampson: As a constituent of the island, I would like to voice my dissatisfaction with the UCCB board of directors' removal of any reference to Cape Breton Island in the name of our university. As an alumni and supporter of UCCB, I believe this institution should represent our community in name as well as actions. As an island representative, I hope you will relay mine and others objections to the board's decision in the legislature. Thank you. Charles Gillis." I will be tabling that letter also.

Mr. Speaker, the third letter that I had was from Paul Moore and my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, has already read that into the record, but rather than read it again, I will table that one also and that will be there.

Mr. Speaker, I will also reference the name of John Abbass, a quite prominent member of the Progressive Conservative Party, who contacted me by phone to get my reaction as he was outraged against the change of the name. I will not reference that any further as my learned colleague, the member for Kings West, will be referencing that letter.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the next thing to go from Cape Breton is the train. What and how much more do we have to lose before people will start to fight to defend the name Cape Breton? I must reference the board of governors again and one prominent member of that board fought me for four years against the inception of economic development. I refer to the mussel farm in St. Ann's Bay. I was the brunt of that gentleman's speech at a dinner where he stood and spoke eloquently about the beautiful Bay of St. Ann, how in the morning when the sun rises and the mist rises over the beautiful bay and the pristine nature of that bay, but I would like for the record to remind that honourable gentleman that the only mist I was seeing for four years rising over that bay was the tears of the parents because their young people had to leave and find employment somewhere else. Whereas now that mussel farm is growing slowly and steadily and continuing to hire one and two and one and two and it's slowly and steadily building. Number two, any product and every bit of product that will be produced on that mussel farm, is already sold in Europe. So what a very prospective business to fight against, when you have to have somebody to fight against economic development.

Mr. Speaker, I have a vision for our Island's future. I'd like to fight for that and promote it. I don't know how well the honourable Minister of Energy is on country music. I may have the opportunity to find that out sometime, but there's a very popular country song and one of the lines of that popular country song is, pick me up on your way down, when you're blue and all alone.

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

[Page 4955]

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I'll reference once again, the line from that song, pick me up on your way down, when you're blue and all alone. Now we understand the minister is blue, Tory blue, that's fine, we respect that. But, pick me up on your way down, well, if the minister doesn't start paying attention to Cape Breton and Cape Breton issues, after the next election, he'll be all alone because right now there's nothing being done for Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, the University of New Brunswick, UNB, a name well respected. UBC, University of British Columbia, I understand that name was changed somewhere in the vicinity of five to six times before it finally got to be the University of British Columbia, which is now highly respected. What's wrong with UCB, University of Cape Breton?

Mr. Speaker, at a gathering Saturday night, a public gathering, I asked the people's opinion there as I would be speaking against the loss of the name of Cape Breton on Monday in the Legislature. I asked what was their opinion and I received a resounding round of applause to speak against it as I had planned. I took that as a real benefit to myself to support my stand on this.

Mr. Speaker, I referenced Kirk MacAskill's letter, Paul Moore's letter, the letter from Charles Gillis. I referenced young Mr. Park's, how passionate he feels about the costs and what we should be doing with the money. I referenced John Abbass's phone call. One final note about Cape Bretoners, and let's use Halifax for an example. If you took the Cape Breton people out of the communities in Halifax and we took the Cape Breton business people and brains out of the business community of Halifax, I feel quite sure that the infrastructure of both would crumble. That's been our greatest export for years, our brains and our bodies.

Mr. Speaker, I'm preparing to conclude with one question to the House and to all Cape Bretoners to stand up and support against this loss of name and I quote one more quote from another popular song, "are we just a rock in the stream?". Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I have a few comments on Bill No. 97. Perhaps a little . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. GLAVINE: Perhaps a little less emotional than some of my colleagues, but nevertheless, I feel Bill No. 97 does need a second look. I am opposed to the current name proposed for the university. Certainly, when I look at UCCB, that poses some difficulties and I recognize that a name change indeed is in order. UCCB is cumbersome and the university college concepts don't seem to mesh together too well and I think a lot of people would have liked to have the wider opportunity to speak about a name, like many of our glorious institutions in Nova Scotia, would become a lasting name.

[Page 4956]

In many ways I think perhaps the board, in particular influenced by the new president, have succumbed to some degree by what I'd call the Maclean's magazine syndrome that when you show up in 38th place, you feel that some change in perception and in optics is what is needed. I feel this was part of the drive behind the change here. I know the new president is making a lot of inroads and a lot of connections and so on with the community, but I know this certainly stands as a way of making his mark.

[8:30 p.m.]

I do believe UCCB should have a name change. It is just a 30-year old institution that has kind of struggled with its identity. However, I think now some pressures have come to bear on that change. In walks a marketing company with a strategy - BU, Breton University - a takeoff on existing institutions sounds great. But, I asked the question, what happened to the University of Cape Breton or Cape Breton University, a name in my view that captures geography, history, heritage and culture and an island - a North American and globally known island.

I would contend that UCB - University of Cape Breton - after dropping just one C and a college in its infancy should embrace the Cape Breton dimension for its name because it's a name that includes place, history, culture and indeed, the future. It won't be marketing strategies that moves UCCB to Breton University that will create the best and brightest future. I believe it's going to be about a vision and programs and capturing some of the initiatives that are going on at the college right now - looking at things like applied . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GLAVINE: . . . applied arts and technology programs, coordinating with Memorial University to offer a one-year education program, the introduction of nursing programs and again, perhaps a chair or departments that can grow, not only to be Nova Scotia renowned, but perhaps Canada and the world.

We have the chance here to offer students recognition, ranking and a first-class university to be known internationally. In my view, there is a growing reaction throughout Cape Breton that Cape Breton needs to be part of that newly-named university to become internationally known. I do want to enter one of today's voice of the people letters to the editor and it goes, "Rallying point. I am against the name changed proposed for University College of Cape Breton. Msgr. Malcolm MacLellan founded Xavier Junior College with the support of the Mine and Steel Workers of Cape Breton, and I was there with my camera recording its progress from Day 1. It eventually became UCCB - our largest employer.

The board of governors deliberated for an hour before they voted for the name change, as though they were naming a new candy bar or a new car. I was especially impressed by the university and the media people who refer to the importance of coal and steel to our region, and suggest a name change will make our economy grow. Where were these groups

[Page 4957]

when Premier John Hamm and Gordon Balser destroyed Sysco and Ralph Goodale closed the coal mines? Today, this issue surrounding the name change of UCCB can be a rallying point to make Cape Bretoners proud again, defiant, and resolved that we will not allow our largest industry since coal and steel to fade away. I expect our politicians, municipal officials, churches and other organizations will not accept this name change proposed by come-from-aways. John Abbass, Sydney."

I would contend that perhaps having this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee, move to the Sydney location so that the board itself, current students, past students, future members of the community can take a look at Bill No. 97. In my view, there will only be one university on the Island Cape Breton, and like UPEI, it should embrace all that is great about the location - world-renowned geography, a proud history, a cultural mosaic, unique programs and a vibrant future, all embraced by a lasting name, UCB, University of Cape Breton.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, am very pleased to rise in the House here this evening for second reading of Bill No. 97, the University College of Cape Breton Act. It's been interesting to see the diversity of commentary here this evening. But I've heard some balance, and I've heard some very common sense balance from all three Parties on this matter, and that's exactly what the board of governors sought to do and has achieved, and that is balance, the unanimity of an entire board of governors to achieve a decision point to move forward.

As was indicated, the university has come and has evolved from little X. The member for Cape Breton Nova very well outlined the history from that, as well as the member for Cape Breton West, as they provided some good background. So rather than going over the history, what this is all about is the future for Cape Breton and the area, and something that is near and dear to all of us. I can say that no one member nor one Party has the market cornered on pride of Cape Breton or caring about Cape Breton, and for the member for Victoria-The Lakes to suggest otherwise is irresponsible and speaks only to his desire to have some noise of the moment rather than some resonance about what our future is about and reflection upon what truly Cape Breton and university is trying to achieve through Breton University.

It's something that, as we've seen, whether it's moving on from little X to become the UCCB and combining that, and now that we see the college component moving forward, the college portion moving forward . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Whether it was on the record or not, I heard that, what the honourable member just said. I would ask him to sit there in his place and listen to the honourable member while he speaks. If something else like that is said again in this House, I'll ask the honourable member to leave.

[Page 4958]

The honourable Minister of Energy.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, the member for Glace Bay can call me a traitor, but I'm true to where I stand on this position. I am solid on my feet and in my conviction for Breton University and for Cape Breton Island, upon which it is the host and home Island for it. It's not something where we're going to be deterred by the rabbit tracks and the rhetoric from certain individuals in this House when it's of fundamental importance to what we are and who we are as a people as we move forward.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, the University College of Cape Breton has been working very hard with the Nova Scotia Community College to ensure that the college components of that are encompassed in the proper program areas, and the Nova Scotia Community College, NSCC, is a brand for all of Nova Scotia. I happened to notice there's the Marconi Campus, not the Cape Breton Campus. There was an evolution from what was the Nautical Institute in the Strait area to the Strait Campus itself. Even that institution will evolve and continue to evolve, and I hope if they come forward in the future with a name that's more appropriate for their position in moving forward, and that we'll be open-minded to that and not closed-minded, as some members of this House are proving tonight in their commentary that they are.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I take great exception to a Minister of the Crown standing in his place and referring to another MLA - in particular, in this case, me - as being closed-minded. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. Order, please. Suffice to say it's not a point of order.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

MR. CLARKE: Well, Mr. Speaker, anyone who would call another member a traitor in this House is closed-minded. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. I would ask the honourable member not to use comments like that in the House, please, as I've already asked the member for Glace Bay, which I agree was not on the record, but that certainly was.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I think we both get the point and we'll adhere to your findings in this House. We do have to recognize that we are trying to move forward. Members of this House, as I say, have addressed it quite well. We are trying to respect the decision-making authority that we give to the board of governors to move that institution forward, and it was not a light decision that they had taken.

[Page 4959]

As was indicated there was lots of public notification of the desire to move forward, I remember in the newspapers, on the radio, reports of this. It was very clear. The names that were being proposed and considered were all stated in public. I don't recall at that time, a whole host of e-mails and/or letters to the editor commenting on it, other than these were the names for the university we are going to review, and these were the names they were going to decide upon, and they came to a decision one of those three names. They did what they were supposed to do, as a legitimate board of governors for that institution, and I will respect their decision as an institution, and I'll be voting in favour of this bill, Mr. Speaker.

I want to note, Mr. Speaker, in echoing the comments of the members for Cape Breton Nova, and Cape Breton West, and I as the member for Cape Breton North am very pleased to have Cape Breton as part of my name. None of us came forward and threw out the name, and disembowelled Cape Breton out of their constituency name when it could have been Cape Breton Glace Bay. I remember in this House understanding the rationale of the member for Glace Bay. He wanted to recognize the 100th Anniversary of his home community. This institution understood it.

This institution of the Legislature did not stand up and criticize or chastize that member for suggesting that Cape Breton be taken out of his name. Yet he would stand up and tell us that all of a sudden there is another standard that is required. I suggest he deserves to show that same respect to the University College of Cape Breton, for Breton University to receive what he expects of this House, this House should be shown the same respect back, and that member should be mindful of that. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I've listened to the member for Victoria-The Lakes, that had more of a political commentary than really a commentary to make on the name change for the university. He can question what my loyalty or my intent is as a member, but I'll tell you, I stand up in Cape Breton North. I've done it once, I've done twice, and I will do it anytime. If he wants to come into my constituency and ask can he be accountable for that, whether it's Breton University or anything else that this Progressive Conservative Government has done, we will stand for that, and I will stand up and hold him accountable on my turf, because it's easy to throw a snowball over the side of Kelly's Mountain, things are heating up and warming up because the economy is turning around and this government is doing the necessary things that that member can't even think of doing.

He wants to talk of those great Nova Scotian activities that we all see as icons. He wanted to talk, he wanted to highlight the things that are near and dear to him, such as Celtic Colours. He didn't talk about Cape Breton colours, he talked about Celtic Colours, and everybody knows that is about Cape Breton. He talked about his love for the Cabot Trail. Not the Cape Breton Trail, we all know that that is part of Cape Breton. He suggested to me in terms of my effort, that the train is leaving the station. The only thing off the rails in Cape Breton is the Liberal Party, and they are showing that here tonight.

[Page 4960]

Mr. Speaker, the member for Victoria-The Lakes wants to go on and suggest that if I don't know country music, and he quoted the song of Pick Me Up On Your Way Down, When You're Blue and All Alone. Well I want to offer to that member, that he may want to listen to some Alan Jackson, which is probably more appropriate, because he sings a great song, Here In The Real World, and that is where the rest of us in this Legislature are this evening.

In the real world, Mr. Speaker, respecting the institution of the board of governors for the University College of Cape Breton. He wants to talk about the acronym of Breton University, and suggesting it's BU or "boo". He's bringing it down to a denominator. Harvard University is not HU, Dalhousie University is no DU, Laurentian University is not LU, but it's HU DU and LU, and he think he's going off of Disney now, with Huey, Dewy and Louie, obviously, he doesn't get it, Mr. Speaker. He is dealing in another world that obviously it is a made up and fabricated one, and a lot of the commentary would suggest that someone is alluding to other things.

He suggests about a name change, about BU. Mr. Speaker, maybe the Liberal Party should now be 3P, and that's not for contracts, that's Third Party, and at least that has been

ingrained in this House in the last couple of go-arounds and with the good sense of Nova Scotians and Cape Bretoners, we'll keep it that way. If he wants to get up, and those members that want to show rhetoric, I think what they need to do is show some respect again for that institution. All kidding aside and all light comments aside, this is a serious issue and it's a serious vote in this House and that vote is yes, for Breton University. Thank you.

[8:45 p.m.]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I was listening with great interest to the member for Cape Breton North, the Minister of Energy, until he made what I would call some absurd statements about the state of the Liberal Party in Cape Breton. It's not the Liberal Party in Cape Breton that lose their deposits regularly in industrial Cape Breton it's the Tory Party. Those who win down there don't win by very much and they only keep the seats temporarily, if you look at history. I'd make sure, if I was the minister, that I'd research some of the stats on the recent elections of Cape Breton. I don't think there's any Tory safe anywhere in Cape Breton today, in the past or the future.

Having said that, the minister talks about the Liberal Party being last, in third place. Well I can tell you, we're not in third place in Cape Breton, we're in first place in Cape Breton. Every poll consistently has stated in the past three or four years that Corporate Research have been polling, that the Liberal Party continues to enjoy widespread support in Cape Breton. So I don't think the minister, the member for Cape Breton North, can dismiss the Liberal Party in Cape Breton because I don't (Interruption) Did you want to get up on a point of order?

[Page 4961]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I don't recall interrupting you, Mr. Minister, when you were speaking, so I'd appreciate the fact that I'm getting to the issue at hand in a moment, but you strayed from the issue, Mr. Minister, by talking about Liberals on Cape Breton. All I can tell you is that we enjoy much more widespread support than your Party does in Cape Breton. That is not an issue with anybody, that's a fact. That is fact.

Now, to the issue at hand regarding the name change at UCCB. Mr. Speaker, I would have preferred Cape Breton University or University of Cape Breton. As a matter of fact, I've said it publically that I would have preferred to just drop the word "college". I felt as long as we had the word "college" in the university name, we were suspect as an institute of higher learning. If anybody was debating whether or not they would go to a university across Canada, they would look at Dalhousie or Saint Mary's or St. F.X. or whatever and they would see University College of Cape Breton, and for a second they would wonder what's that all about? Why is it University College of Cape Breton?

Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that university in Cape Breton was born in very difficult circumstances because, as you know, Mr. Speaker, and members of this House will know, that at one time Xavier Junior College in Sydney and its successor, St. F.X. University, Sydney Campus, were extensions of St. F.X. University, and extensions only of St. F.X. University at the time. I can recall, when we had the university in the north end of Sydney - and some people will suggest it should still be in the north end of Sydney, if it was, we wouldn't have to worry about economic development in downtown Sydney - but in those days the people who were in power at the time decided they couldn't decide where to put it in any city or town so they put it out in the middle of nowhere, which caused us some problems and is still causing problems. We can't turn that clock back because there's a multi-million dollar infrastructure out there that has to be cultivated and has to grow to even more greatness then it has to date.

Out of the situation with St. F.X. University, Sydney Campus, or Xavier Junior College, both of which I attended - I attended Xavier Junior College, Mr. Speaker, it was in the old Lyceum Building down in the north end and it was a building that consisted of about five or six rooms and that was it. Then when I got lucky enough to be able to go to the St. F.X. University, Sydney Campus, and the beginning of UCCB, it was in the building down on George Street on the second floor. That's what they were trying to do to develop the university in Sydney. So we went from that to a situation where the people of the community decided they had to have their own university and finally break away from what some would call the shackles of St. F.X. on the Island. Even though St. F.X. has a very dominant position on Cape Breton Island, it has a very great position in my heart because my children are graduates of St. F.X. - both my daughters are graduates of St. F.X.

[Page 4962]

At the time the Cape Breton business and academic community wanted something to call their own - a Cape Breton university. But do you know what? When we were trying to put the university together, lo and behold, the powers that be in the Department of Education or at St. F.X. lobbied not to allow the University of Cape Breton to be called a university. It had to be called the University College of Cape Breton, which didn't give us a leg up at that time, and the reason they gave was that we offer courses other than academic so they had to put the word college in there - some said we were nothing more than a trade school at the time.

So the founding of the university and the evolution of that university was achieved with great difficulty. For years we've had to battle what I call second-class status in the eyes of some people in the academic world even though we've had excellence, I think. When finally we got degree-granting status at the university, people were still saying if you get a degree at UCCB it's not as good as a degree in other universities.

What happened to a lot of the Island children? They went off-Island - they went to St. F.X., to Saint Mary's, to the Mount, to UPEI, to Acadia, they went everywhere because they weren't sure whether the degree at UCCB at that time was going to help them when they were looking for a post-graduate degree or if they were going on to some other school of excellence or other degree - at the Master's level, for example. I can tell you that difficulty was highlighted with my own daughter who first went to UCCB for a BA and then found, when she went into her B.Ed. program at St. F.X., some of the courses that she took at UCCB were not counted. So she had to switch and it took her a little bit longer. She had to get other courses in the Summertime.

Those were the difficulties over the years. Who knows why these things happen in universities? Who knows what would have happened if we had co-operation 25 or 30 years ago between St. F.X. and the people in Cape Breton who wanted a full degree-granting university in Cape Breton at that time? I don't think we'd be here having this debate this evening. I really don't.

Mr. Speaker, this has become an emotional issue. I really don't know how this got to the floor of the House here as a government bill - I'm still trying to figure that one out. Normally these bills come to the House by a Private Members' Bill and I would have thought if the board of governors were insisting that this bill come before this Fall session that they would have asked their MLA to put the bill in, but they didn't and I don't know why they didn't. Whether or not the Department of Education wanted to bring it in as a government bill or whether the minister wanted it as a government bill or whether or not the university wanted it as a government bill - I don't know. That's one question that has still not been answered to my satisfaction.

A Private Members' Bill, I think, would have perhaps served the day in this one. But I can tell you, back home in Cape Breton there's a difference of opinion about this bill, there's no question about it, for different reasons. I want to tell you and go on the record that I have

[Page 4963]

a great deal of faith in the board of governors of the University College of Cape Breton, and I'll tell you why. I think they've come a long way and they're doing a great job down there, they're people who give their time in the community and they don't get paid for this. This board of governors are doing a great job and I believe that the new president of the university has received widespread support for his efforts so far in Cape Breton.

Having said that - let me go back again - I don't like the name Breton University either, but it's their decision; they made it at the board level. I would have rather seen University of Cape Breton. When this name change first came up I said, look, finally they're going to drop the word college and they're going to call it University of Cape Breton. I would have bet anybody any money that that was going to happen. How the name Breton came up, I don't know. They say it was marketing studies, I have yet to see any marketing studies on that but, however, I say again that the board of governors is charged with the responsibility of running that institution and they, to date, I think have done an admirable job given the resources they had.

It's one of the poorest funded universities in Canada which is causing a great deal of problem in itself and the board of governors has to deal with many other issues in the community, not the least of which is trying to create an identity. That's difficult to do when you're not in the middle of a city, or whether you have a population of your university that goes out the front door every day and disburses to restaurants, lounges, and department stores right down the street, such as the case with Saint Mary's and Dalhousie in Halifax and with St. F.X. in Antigonish. Everybody is transient there. So it's difficult for the university, board of governors and facility, to try to keep a community of interest there after school hours and during the course of the day when people are taking one course at one particular point in time and then not taking another one until the afternoon and in the meantime don't have anywhere to go. It's a difficult situation for this university.

I just wish, Mr. Speaker, and I will tell you, and I've said it many, many times, that if the debate was raging about where that university would have gone when I was the Mayor of Sydney, that university wouldn't be out there, I will tell you that right now. I was a firm believer that if you want to strengthen the core area of a city, you have to have academic facilities in that area, you have to have hospital facilities in that area, and you have to have a retail sector that's strong. When you start dividing them all over the place, then you run into problems and that's the problem that university has had since the day of its inception. Even to the point where the little Xavier College, when it was in the north end of Sydney, St. F.X. University at Sydney Campus when it was down in the north end of Sydney, they created a lifeblood in the city. Their student population was out and among the community all day, every day, and in the evenings. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

But do you know what, Mr. Speaker, I raised that because that was a compromise in those days. I know what happened there. The Minister of Education, I believe, it was a minister in the government, and the government of the day were arguing about where the college should go. Every MLA in Cape Breton was lobbying for the university - UCCB. The

[Page 4964]

members from the city at that time were lobbying. They happened to be Tories at the time. The member for Cape Breton West was lobbying, he happened to be a Liberal. He was the Cabinet Minister. The member for Glace Bay was lobbying. The member for New Waterford was lobbying who was also a Tory, but do you know what they did? They didn't put it in any municipality except they put it in rural Cape Breton County - halfway between Glace Bay and Sydney - and they thought, as politicians, that was the right thing to do, it was a compromise. Now, what thought went into the future of the university and the future impact in the community that university would have had when the decision was made to put it equally halfway between Sydney and Glace Bay on the highway?

Now, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you something else. Fast forward to a few years when the Canada Games were coming to Cape Breton. I was mayor then and there was a move afoot to put a 5,000-seat arena out at the college and not in downtown Sydney. Well, guess what, I started digging Centre 200 before they got a chance to put it out there - without any money - because I said this mistake is not going to be made twice and what happened was (Interruption) Well, yes, that's right, they didn't want it in downtown Sydney. So we were reversing the situation now. I couldn't get any money out of the honourable minister, who is now the Mayor of Port Hawkesbury, at the time, because they were all on the Canada Games Committee and they were all out at the university.

Do you know what my argument was then, Mr. Speaker? My argument then was they should forget about a rink that will be a white elephant out there, what they should do is build student residences then, not trying to build them in the past few years. The university would have been light years ahead had they done that. Now, what are they taking about, they're talking about closing the rink, out there. They don't even have a hockey team and they got this NHL sized arena out there that I think some of the people at the university in charge of the finances would wish would disappear.

[9:00 p.m.]

The reason that I point out is that sometimes we make decisions for the wrong reasons. Are we set to make another decision here? Are we causing a great deal of confrontation in the Sydney area, and all of Cape Breton actually, because of the name of a university? Again, the university's history was born under very, very difficult circumstances, with the St. F.X. influence, but more than that, Mr. Speaker, the political manoeveuring in Cape Breton in those days, all the way up through anything that was going to be built in Cape Breton, there was always political interference. I would hope that when the dust settles on this issue that the government, because it is a government bill, will allow this bill to go through without the government putting the heavy hand on this.

I believe that this is a matter that should be discussed adequately. If there are people on both sides of this issue in Cape Breton who feel that strongly, they should have a right to exercise that. This is a huge issue and an issue that's creating a lot of problems in Cape Breton right now because of the dropping of the name Cape. Again, I wish it was still there.

[Page 4965]

However, I believe it deserves a full airing and I believe we have to give the people who want to question this name an opportunity to say so to the Law Amendments Committee. So when this bill gets there, I would hope that as much time will be allowed for people who feel very strongly about it.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, I haven't had that much representation to date against the bill, but what I have had, those who have responded to me, and me asking the question publicly, I'm waiting to hear from people in the community, those who have responded are very interested in bringing their concerns before the Law Amendments Committee.

Now, the government put itself in this fix because the government introduced this bill as a government bill. So it's the government at the Law Amendment Committee who is going to have to decide how much time they are going to give the people of Cape Breton to discuss this bill and it could be where they give the people of Cape Breton the opportunity to discuss this bill. I think, Mr. Speaker, that when this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee, I think my colleague from Glace Bay already alluded to the fact that we may want these hearings to go to Sydney, to give adequate representation from the people down there who are concerned about this bill.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I will wind up by saying that my preference was University of Cape Breton but I have to temper that by saying that I have a great deal of respect for the board of governors and the president of the university who I think are doing a great job down there under very difficult circumstances. Do you know what? I'm going to hear what they have to say and, hopefully, the arguments will be compelling on both sides, because we have got ourselves in this fix now where we have to listen to both sides of this argument. I believe that one side deserves as much hearing as the other. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, much has been said tonight and I found out a long time ago from my dear, departed mother when there were 15 of us fighting across the table for food that I was never the voice of reason in my family, so I'm not going to try to be the voice of reason tonight. (Laughter) But what I want to talk about is the fact that I'll probably be really optimistic about this and say that the great thing about this debate is that the fine institution of the University College of Cape Breton is getting spoken about and talked about on the floor of this Legislature because that is one of the major driving forces around the turnaround in the economy of Cape Breton. That institution and whatever we call it, at the end of the day, we all have to rally around that as a centre of diversity, of a centre that is going to build our economy and that's what it is about. It is not about the name.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say that the member for Glace Bay and I go back a lot longer than we would like to mention some days and I respect him immensely, but we're on different sides of this. (Interruptions) I heard some oohs over there, but I will tell you there were nights I could tell you about where I was in situations when I was glad the member for Glace Bay

[Page 4966]

was at my back. I will say that in public, I'll say it in this House and I'll say it other places, about him. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, tonight is about, really - something is going to happen here and not everybody is going to be satisfied. That's the reality of it. The member for Cape Breton South spoke and said if he was the one running the institution, certainly he would like to see the University of Cape Breton. These are things that we wish we could have. I don't think, at the end of the day, it should be so pro and con. I think what we have to do is look at this and say these are reasonable, hardworking people, the board of governors, who did this change not with malice, not with any utter disregard for Cape Breton, but for their institution.

At the end of this debate, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask all members - if this motion carries, I can live with it. If this motion falls and we become the University of Cape Breton, I can live with it. But do you know what we have to realize, is that we have to take the energy in which we're speaking about that university in this Chamber tonight and keep it going, keep speaking highly about that, keep pursuing it from Vancouver to Newfoundland, that's what we have to do. We have to be single purposed in that, because, again, I can't say enough about what that is going to mean to the economy of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I have a son who is a graduate from UCCB, I have a daughter in her fourth year, and they disagree with me. They don't want the name changed. So you can imagine what supper was like on the weekend at my place. (Interruptions) Nobody called me any of the names that were called out in this Chamber tonight. It was heated and lively, too. That is the depth of where this comes from back home, these people have these strong emotional ties to that, and I understand that. One son is an alumnus and my daughter will soon be one, so I respect that. But please (Interruptions) Some people say they have my brains because my wife still has hers.

Mr. Speaker, let's not get lost in any of the hyperbole. I respect both sides in this debate, and I think what we have to do is, at the end of the day, do the best thing for that institution. When it's all said and done, if we're not on the prevailing side, at least we should be on the side of the university, and we can move the community forward, educationally and economically. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Education it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this has been a rather spirited debate on this bill, and I did listen quite intently to just about all of the remarks that were made in here. I don't like to praise people on the other side of the House, but I did think the member for Cape Breton South had the history of that institution and some of the problems that it faced, and the conclusion that he came to, I thought, was very reasoned and appropriate. My colleague,

[Page 4967]

the member for Timberlea-Prospect had good comments the other day. The member for Glace Bay spoke passionately, and my colleague, the member for Cape Breton North, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, and my colleague, the member for Victoria-The Lakes (Interruptions)

It was a really good and an informed debate. Just in closing this, I think it's been pointed out that any time you change a name of an institution, it's difficult. You go ask five people, and maybe three people like the name and two people don't, but the fact is that you know, you go ask five people and maybe three people like the name and two people don't, but the fact is that that decision was recommended by a board of governors which represents all facets of the Cape Breton community as well as the university community.

Mr. Speaker, I thank everybody for the helpful interventions and I want to move this forward to the Law Amendments Committee process, but I would like people to remember that the board of governors, whether you like the name or you don't like the name, or you would like another choice, as the member for Cape Breton South has well pointed out, it's a move and it's representing the future of the university, as the member for Cape Breton North pointed out. We should never forget that. We don't want to look back, we want to look ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I now move second reading of Bill No. 97.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 97. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 111.

Bill No. 111 - French-Language Services Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Acadian Affairs.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to open debate on second reading of Bill No. 111, the French-language Services Act. I will be presenting in both French and English, but I will be translating all my words for your benefit. As outlined in the bill, the French-language Services Bill will ensure that the needs of Acadian French-speaking citizens of Nova Scotia are considered in the delivery of programs and services and the development of policies throughout the provincial government and other public institutions.

[Page 4968]

Mr. Speaker, it's timely that this law be proclaimed during the historic year 2004. It marks the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first permanent French settlement. In fact, it was in 1604 that 120 Frenchmen left Havre-de-Grace, France, and established on St. Croix Island, what was the beginning of the first permanent French presence in North America.

L'introduction de ce projet de loi vient juste à temps. Cette année représente le 400e anniversaire de la foundation de l'Acadie. En fait, c'est en 1604, que 120 français quittaient le port français de Havre-de-Grace et bâtissaient sur Ile Sainte-Croix le premier établissement qui allait mener à une presence française permanente en Amérique du Nord.

Ainsi, ce projet de Loi sur les services en français va: contribuer à la preservation et à l'épanouissement de la communauté acadienne et francophone; permettre au gouvernement de specifier quels établissements publics ont une obligation de fournir des services dans la langue française; conseiller et appuyer les agencies gouvernementales pour que leurs programmes, leurs politiques et leurs services tiennent compte des besoins de la communauté acadienne et francophone; instituer l'Office des affaires acadiennes en tant qu'agence centrale de soutien pour les services de langue française offerts aux autres ministères du government; mettre en place des partenariats avec des agences acadiennes et francophones au nivea provincial, national et international; reconnaître la contribution de la communauté acadienne et francophone.

[9:15 p.m.]

Therefore the French-language Services Bill will: contribute to the preservation and growth of the Acadian and francophone community; enable government to specify which public institutions have an obligation to provide French services; advise and support government agencies to reflect the needs of the Acadian, and francophone community in their programs, policies and services; to develop the Office of Acadian Affairs as a central support agency for French-language services for other government departments; develop partnerships with Acadian and francophone agencies at the provincial, national and international levels; and recognize the contribution of the Acadian and francophone community.

Avec l'aide de la communauté, representé par la FANE, l'Office des affaires acadiennes fera des recommendations et préparera des plans d'action, des programmes et des politiques. Il assurera la coordination et le suivi de ces plans, de ces programmes et de ces politiques une fois que leur mise en �uvre aura été faite. Il fera également des recommendations concernant le financement des programmes, des services et des politiques et répondra aux preoccupations du public concernant les programmes et les services en langue française.

With the help of the community, as represented by the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia, the Office of Acadian Affairs will prepare and recommend plans, programs and policies, and coordinate and monitor them once implemented. It would also make recommendations regarding the financing of government programs, services and policies, and

[Page 4969]

respond to the public concerns about French-language programs and services. Other provisions under the proposed bill call for the appointment of French-language coordinators in all departments and offices as well as a coordinating committee, whose job will be to advise and assist in the implementation of this bill. I want to personally thank the Fédération Acadienne de a la Nouvelle-Écosse for their very hard work in this collaboration, and also for their engagement to participate in the formulation of all the regulations that will follow this bill.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to submit this French-language services legislation for second reading. Merci beaucoup. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak on this bill. It's a bill that many will know that I raised as an issue in the Spring, both with the minister and publicly. This is the 400th Anniversary of the Acadians arriving in Nova Scotia, a very significant date, not only for the Acadians but for, quite frankly, the history of our country, for the history of North America. They were the first people of European descent to settle in North America, north of, I guess it would be, Florida, St. Augustine in the 1500s. In fact, I know that in my own riding, on McNab's Island, the French were settled there during the Summertime, as a fishing village, in the 1550s.

So the French have a long history of coming to Nova Scotia. They're now a minority in this province. They've been a minority in this province going back to at least 1755 and maybe even earlier, obviously 1749, Mr. Speaker. I guess the real crux of this bill - let me back up and say that we will be voting in favour of this bill, not because we think it fulfills what the minister has described, but because I believe, on behalf of the Acadian and francophone communities of this province, it's important that they get a quarter of a loaf instead of no loaf.

In the case of this bill, I'm even, I think, being generous in saying that this provides them with a quarter of a loaf, with regard to guaranteeing the services they need in French, to be able to go to a hospital and know that they'll be able to speak to someone in their native language if they don't speak English or their English isn't very good, to be able to go and obtain a driver's licence or a vehicle registration permit, to be able to go to court in the middle of a child protection hearing or in the middle of a divorce - you don't have those rights now, to go to court in your own language, you don't have the right to receive a driver's licence in French, you don't have the right - someone was describing to me the other day about how even having an accent over the name, like Rene or Cote, the driver's licences in this province, Service Nova Scotia, won't even allow that. In this province, you do not have a right as a francophone to be able to obtain these services in your own language, and that's a shame.

[Page 4970]

What I pushed for and what the Fédération Acadienne de la Nouvelle-Écosse and what many other Acadian and francophone advocates in this province pushed for was a bill that substantively would provide for those services. Now I want to say that I respect this minister and what he's done. I know he has done the best he can to get a bill into this House that recognizes at least the beginning of the possibility of services for francophones and Acadians in this province, Mr. Speaker. The problem is, I would suggest to you, that he is one minister in a Cabinet that probably was not very keen on seeing legislation that really did provide for the kinds of services that are needed for the people of this province who speak French; that is the problem with this legislation.

As I said, I said it in the media on Friday and I'll say it here in the House on the record, that if the minister thinks he's going to get regulations through that will provide the protection and the enhancement of services in French for the francophones and Acadians in this province, then it should be in this legislation and Cabinet would have passed it already. The same group that had to approve this legislation, which I will say is vague as to the rights of Acadians and francophones in this province, will also have to approve those regulations that will provide more substantive rights for Acadians and francophones in this province, and if they weren't willing to approve this bill before it was introduced in the House, I don't know why the minister thinks that they're going to approve more substantive regulations that would provide for exactly the same thing.

That is the dilemma this government faces, that's the dilemma this minister faces. I said it in the media, as well, and I'll say it again, here on the record, the Progressive Conservative Government of this province is not a friend of the francophone community in Nova Scotia, is not a friend of the Acadian community in Nova Scotia, notwithstanding the work that's being done by this minister, who, I agree, has done a lot for the Acadian community, but he faces another 24 members of his bench who really don't see this as a priority, and that's a shame.

He knew, that government knew, that my Party and the Liberal Party would support more substantive legislation. There was no political reason why that legislation couldn't have been brought through. We weren't going to oppose it; the Liberal Party wasn't going to oppose it. The francophone community would be supportive. I didn't hear anyone in the anglophone community complaining about the possibility of some services being provided.

Mr. Speaker, the problem was that this government felt that it was not something that they probably, ideologically, wanted to see happen. That's unfortunate. And it's unfortunate for the Acadian community. We will see this legislation pass to second reading; we will go to the Law Amendments Committee and hear what people have to say at that point. I think it's important that the people in this province have an opportunity to have their say, I'm sure many Acadians would like to come forward and speak as well.

[Page 4971]

Unfortunately, it will probably have to be in their second language, in most cases, if they're francophone, but at least we'll begin to hear the possibility of tinkering with this bill, of somehow trying to entrench in it, even in the smallest or most remote way, the possibility that we would be able to have some guarantee that some services will be provided, some day in the future. I'm not talking about tomorrow. I understand this government won't allow that, but maybe in four or five years, we may be able to see the beginning of the protection of rights and the ability to provide certain services, whether it's going to a hospital, whether it's getting a driver's licence, whether it's going to family court, begin to see those things taking place and coming to fruition. Mr. Speaker, I think that's why it's important that we have that ability to do that.

M. président, ça me faire plaisir de dire quelques mots sur le projet de loi No. 111 au subjet de créer un bureau des affairs acadians et aussie pourvoir aux services en français.

M. president, je doit dire que je suis très déçu avec cette projet de loi. C'est important de dire j'ai confiance que le ministre d'affaires acadiens aimerait produire législation qui pourvoit aux services en français en Nouvelle Ècosse. J'ai rencontré avec le Ministre ce printemps passé. Je pense qu'il doit être aussie déçu avec cette projet de loi.

C'est tout à fait evident que les autres ministres qui s'asseyent autour de la table ministérielle ne partagent pas le dédicace du membre honourable à des peuples acadiens et les autres pour que le français est leur langue maternelle.

Il me fait triste que pendant cette année qui célebrait des peuples acadiens et la culture acadienne en Nouvelle Écosse, que ce gouvernement ne pourrait pas introduire un meilleur projet de loi que le l'un devant nous aujourd'hui.

Cette législation proposée ne pas garantir des services fondamenteaux en français. Cette législation est faible. Le gouvernement pourrait, quelque jour à l'avenir, probablement, peut-être, fait des règlements qui pourrait, quelque jour a l'avenir, probablement, peut-être, pourvoit aux services en français.

Ceci est inadéquat, et dans l'année des acadiens, nous devons créer la législation amelioré qui mets les droits des francophones.

Nous devons commencer avec des services de santé et alors ajouter d'autres services importants comme obtenir des permis de conduire, les certificats de naissance, et l'enregistrement de véhicules en français.

Finalement, on doit avoir une vision et un plan des provider des autres services fondamentaux en français. L'accès pour les francophones à la services du government en français est tres important. Nous devons protegers la langue et la culture des acadien en Nouvelle-Éosse.

[Page 4972]

Je veux un loi substantif pour les francophone en Nouvelle-Éosse. Cè loi n'est pas substantif. Les francophones en Nouvelle-Écosse voulent plus. Merci beaucoup.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words on Bill No. 111. I want to start off by saying to my honourable colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, that the effort certainly, I'm sure, was greatly appreciated by the whole Acadian community. I know it's extremely difficult at times to, especially, deliver a speech and at the same time to try to translate what you're thinking, especially in another language. I've been there on many occasions. I want to just compliment my colleague on a job well done. (Applause)

M. le président, je suis heureux que le gouvernement provinciale à decidé de franchir une autre étape dans l'élaboration de plan pour répondre aux besoins de services en français en Novelle-Écosse.

C'est tout à fait une démarche approprié étant donné que nous celebrons cette anneé le 400 anniversaire de l'arrivée des français en Amérique du Nord.

En lisant attentivement a projet de loi tel que proposé je vois que le gouvernement a pris une décision concrête . . .

Celle de nommez des coordinateurs des services en français dans les differents ministères de la gouvernement.

Je souchaite que le governement va proceder immediatement a embaucher ces coordinateurs tel qu'on indique dans l'article 8 de ce projet de loi.

Je suis heureux que ce projet de loi est une continuation des efforts déployés par les gouvernement provinciaux précedents de la province pendant plusieurs années.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to say a few words on Bill No. 111. This bill proposes better French services for Nova Scotians. Once this bill becomes the law, and only then will it be time to rejoice, because until pieces of legislation are proclaimed, often government priorities change along the way and bills are sometimes put on back burners.

Mr. Speaker, this bill raises questions as well. Under Clause 2 of this proposed bill, the government is looking at providing the delivery of French-language services in designated public institutions. Of course, in designating certain public institutions, many people - and I say many people - will be looking for that list of these public institutions.

Une autre section de ce projet de loi, M. le président, que soulève d'autres questions et la section (8) - (1).

[Page 4973]

"8 (1) Le sous-ministre de chaque ministère et le directeur général de chaque office nomment un coordonnateur des services en français chargé de l'assister et de le conseiller dans la mise en �uvre de la présente loi."

M. le président, la première question à poser est d'essayer de dècouvrir quand le governement ou le ministre prévoit à embaucher à appointés ces coordinateurs des services en français.

D'autres questions reliés au futur coordinateurs au sein des ministrès sont:

1) comment ces co-ordinateurs vont être choisis; 2) qui va les choisir; 3) ces postes là - vont ils être affiches et quelles servaient les tâches specifiques de ces coordinateurs.

Mr. Speaker, another concern I wish to raise is looking at Clause 10(1) of this bill. The Governor in Council may make regulations to support certain sections of this bill. Again, without a look at these regulations, it's extremely difficult to know exactly what the government is proposing to do and when or what the timelines will be in order to bring this bill forward.

J'espire que le projet de loi tel que proposé sera défini dans des règlements et procédures immediatement aprés une consultation générale de la population.

[9:30 p.m.]

Je souhaite que la consultation soit faite par des répresentants de nos institutions acadiennes et de la population acadienne en générale.

En regardant de prés ce projet de loi je rélise qu'il sera nécessaire de désourser des fonds pour défrayer les coûts de ce qui est propose.

Enterminant, M. le présidente, j'espère que le proclaim budget fera réference aux besoins identifies dans a projet de loi.

Merci, M. le presidente, pour l'attention. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Acadian Affairs.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, I took notice and took notes on the comments here today on Bill No. 111. The Acadians of Nova Scotia have been asking for a long time for French services, and I do agree with that comment. They represent 37,000 people of about an 800,000- or 900,000-person population in Nova Scotia. So every little bit counts in what we pull forward here.

[Page 4974]

Let's put it this way, a Progressive Conservative Government brought forward the Office of Acadian Affairs back in 1984. This Progressive Conservative Government brought forward the Office of Acadian Affairs in its current form with offices and made it a little more beyond the executive assistant format that it had before, bringing real value to Acadian Affairs.

I look forward to more deliberations as it passes through the House. Again, also thank you to the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage for his effort to do that in French. I think Acadians will really appreciate that. Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 111.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 111. Would all those in favour of the motion, please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 119.

Bill No. 119 - Agriculture Administration Amendment (2004) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, in an effort to make this a little shorter, I'm going to go right into it. I'm pleased to bring forward today the Agriculture Administration Amendment (2004) Bill for second reading. To make doing business with the government more efficient, we need to update some of the legislation that creates hindrances for our industry. As you're aware, the agriculture sector is a significant economic driver in Nova Scotia and especially in its rural areas. Agriculture is not just a way of doing business but a way of life. The amendment's proposal will create more efficiencies and get rid of lots of red tape.

One amendment will give the authority to the minister to establish committees to seek advice on such programs, policies and standards. This amendment will also allow the minister to appoint a representative from the Federation of Agriculture as an advisory committee member. There are a number of changes proposed within this section for agricultural education. With the evolution of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, there need to be various revisions. The college has changed a lot since its beginning in 1905, and since 1985, NSAC has offered degrees and in 1993, implemented a graduate program.

[Page 4975]

As it is now written, the section no longer reflects NSAC's mandate, its structures or activities that enable it to carry out its day-to-day administrative or operational activities. The clause regarding changing the college name makes it clear that Governor in Council approval is required to change the name of the college. So it's probably not as big as the question for Breton University, but definitely one that did create a little bit of fuss in the last few months.

Of course, research is a big mandate of NSAC, and we want the new mandate to reflect that as well. I'll do this quickly. In closing, I highlighted some of the proposed amendments and I did have a good briefing with my Opposition critics a few days ago. Therefore, I feel that they're worthy amendments, and they have important influences on our agriculture industry, representing today's needs, and are good for the industry, the department and government in general. Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 119.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'll try to make my comments brief, as well. I want to thank the minister for his briefing the other day. It was helpful. I think actually the copy that we've received, since we actually could read it, has been a little more helpful as well. I want to say there are many things about this bill. It's a housekeeping bill for the most part and I think that most of it actually makes sense. There are a couple of questions I've had and I've been back and forth to the minister and he's helped explain a few things. I think for Clause 3, that the appointment of a Superintendent of Agriculture Associations can be done by the minister instead of going back to the Governor in Council. I think that makes a lot of sense. I can see that being very cumbersome under the present legislation so certainly it would allow a little more flexibility and I don't see any need to go to the Governor in Council on day-to-day operations such as that.

This piece of legislation actually amends about six Acts, Mr. Speaker, so I can see the department and the minister trying to clean up a number of things. The payment of grants to agricultural societies. This is one that is not clear. I know the minister's explanation that it would go to the exhibition association and they will disburse the dollars to the exhibitions. I'm curious as to the previous nature of that, if that seemed to be a little too cumbersome. I was surprised, I guess, to find that the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and Farm, the removal of the word, "farm." I have to say that in my time, even in Grade 12, I applied to the Agricultural College and was accepted, didn't go, but didn't realize that it was the Agricultural College and Farm. I think for the minister to try to bring the college more in line with the present reality is a good thing to do.

To emphasize the research component, I think, is a good thing to do. I'd like to just state to the minister, and I made this comment earlier, but for the record, in terms of research, that partnerships that the college may enter into, to a point I see these as partnerships with government and that any research that the college does partner with, that the product of that research, depending on the sensitivity or the nature of it, that is information that's related to the public, in particular, if it's taxpayers' dollars that are going to be involved with that.

[Page 4976]

One thing I would say that at first blush, that doesn't make a lot of sense to me, Mr. Speaker, and that's in Part I, the Agriculture and Marketing Act. The minister has already indicated about his ability to establish an advisory committee to advise the minister on policy and programs and standards, and I have to say, who's doing that now? I know, I'm trying to, but this was the Party and the government that was going to cut red tape, reduce agencies, boards and commissions and although I don't consider a committee to be necessarily any one of those, but I'm curious, I guess, as to how this committee would be formed and how its objective, which seems to be straightforward enough, but it would seem that since we have a department, we must have people who advise the minister on policy and programs, and think about all the organizations that may come and try to impress upon the minister some need that they have in regard to policy. The federation would be the first one and I think this also includes appointing a member from the federation on this committee.

I guess I just have a question of getting my head around the actual function of this. If we need it, that's assuming that we don't have such a thing happening now and I think there are people trying to advise the minister. At some point the minister and I will talk a little more about that. I guess the last item for me comes around the Farm Registration Act. The question was raised some time ago by the federation around registration fees and the fact that the federation wanted the ability to retain the membership fees that people paid to the federation.

We had some discussion of why that is not in this bill. The minister approached me, as the critic from our caucus; I know he spoke with the Liberal critic. This was something that we made our commitment to the minister that we had no problem with, it seemed straightforward, the federation wanted it. I have to say, as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, said on the previous bill, I'm just wondering if the minister had problems getting by his own Cabinet. Is there some reason that his colleagues didn't want to go down this road? I am a little curious about that. The number of members who asked for a rebate on their fees is not significant if you compare the number of farms that are registered.

With both Opposition Parties in agreement on this, I'm just wondering why it is that the minister didn't bring this forward, because we would have supported him on it. I'm curious if his colleagues didn't support him on this. With those few comments, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we are supportive of these changes, I think it helps with the administration of a variety of Acts, and does do some housekeeping. We look forward to seeing it move forward.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to Bill No. 119, the Agriculture Administration Amendment (2004) Act. I also want to thank the minister for the briefing that he gave to us. During that briefing, the minister expressed that the existing legislation simply didn't reflect today's needs for the producers or government. He

[Page 4977]

claimed that these changes will reduce the red tape and provide more flexibility for agricultural organizations.

Mr. Speaker, the relationship between the industry and government has been strained for over the last five years. Since 2000, the government gutted the department budget, which did not help. This minister unfortunately is being charged to rebuild that trust and he can do that by assuring the House that there has been extensive consultation in the crafting of this bill. It makes many changes, including the changes to the Crop and Livestock Insurance Act, which would revise the definition of insurable crop and insurable livestock. It would also allow the commission to fix unit price, premium rates and benefit levels. Premium rates and unit prices are revised annually for 14 insurance plans by the Crop and Livestock Insurance Commission. The minister assures us that with this amendment the commission will be able to be more responsive to the market conditions and farmer client needs. I hope this is the case and I look forward to seeing the results of this change. I would also hope that the minister is consulted on making these changes as well.

Other changes highlighted in this bill include an attempt to clarify and update legislation affecting the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill. An amendment would allow the minister to approve agreements between the college and other parties, such as research partnerships. It would also give agricultural societies more flexibility for year end financial reporting and allow the minister to establish an advisory committee on programs, policies and standards.

This amendment would also allow the minister to appoint a Federation of Agriculture representative to the advisory committee. It is certainly a welcome move to appoint a member of the federation to an advisory committee. Again, the federation plays a vital role in the future of agriculture, including advocacy for new innovations and better education. This bill also amends the Agriculture and Rural Credit Act, so it clearly defines the Farm Loan Board's ability to lease land, farm buildings and equipment. As well it amends the Farm Registration Act to remove any possible conflicts relating to having an appeal committee make decisions on previous hearings that it already had.

[9:45 p.m.]

But what's missing, Mr. Speaker, is with the farm registration, and I want to congratulate the member for Hants East for bringing it forward. I also look forward to this amendment coming through or another piece of legislation coming through when the minister can convince his Cabinet colleagues to join him and push this forward. This is really the only thing that I heard, from the agricultural community, that they were looking forward to seeing brought before the House in this session. So I would encourage him to revisit that idea before the session is over and perhaps maybe there could be an amendment made to this bill before we bring it back for third reading.

[Page 4978]

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to sending this to the Law Amendments Committee and seeing what the agricultural community has to say.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, this bill updates a number of Acts, some of them well over 100 years old, as with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and farm apparently. So we can see a little confusion in that. The federation, of course, has been consulted on a number of these items and we hope their continued support of these things will come forward. I will take some of those issues forward to my colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 119, the Agriculture Administration Amendment (2004) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 119. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Private and Local Bills Committee, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 82 - Halifax Regional Water Commission Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House without amendment.

[Page 4979]

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 92 - Motor Vehicle Act.

Bill No. 93 - Gas Distribution System Municipal Taxation Act.

Bill No. 98 - Municipal Government Act.

Bill No. 103 - Regulations Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 90 - Highway 104 Western Alignment Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise, to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 11:00 a.m. The House will sit from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Following the order of business, the daily routine, the House will proceed to Government Business and then revert back to Question Period at 1:00 p.m. - this will accommodate those who will be absent from the House attending other functions.

[Page 4980]

Mr. Speaker, the business tomorrow will be Public Bills for Second Reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House adjourn until 11:00 a.m. 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.

The House is adjourned until 11:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 9:49 p.m.]

[Page 4981]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2526

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia is dedicated to the prevention and reduction of death and disability from heart disease and stroke through the support of research, education and the promotion of healthy living; and

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation relies on the generosity of organizations such as Curves to assist with fundraising to meet their goals; and

Whereas Curves in Liverpool raised $2,620.50 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Big Bike for Stroke on August 12, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the efforts of Curves in Liverpool for their dedication and commitment to raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

RESOLUTION NO. 2527

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Nova Scotia is dedicated to the prevention and reduction of death and disability from heart disease and stroke through the support of research, education and the promotion of healthy living; and

Whereas the Heart and Stroke Foundation relies on the generosity of organizations such as the Region of Queens to assist with fundraising to meet their goals; and

Whereas the Region of Queens raised $1,033.00 for the Heart and Stroke Foundation Big Bike for Stroke on August 12, 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the efforts of the Region of Queens for their dedication and commitment to raising money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.