The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04-54

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

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2004

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Lower Prospect/Terence Bay: Roads -
Upgrade, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4561
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia Report, Hon. M. Baker 4562
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Agric. & Fish. - Cattle Farmers: Loan Program - Provide,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4562
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2366, Cdn. Red Cross: Disaster Preparedness Campaign -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 4564
Vote - Affirmative 4565
Res. 2367, Agric. & Fish. - Fishermen: Memories - Honour,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 4565
Vote - Affirmative 4566
Res. 2368, African United Baptist Assoc.: Session (151st) - Congrats.,
Hon. B. Barnet 4566
Vote - Affirmative 4567
Res. 2369, N.S. Society - Elderly Citizens: Treatment - Salute,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4567
Vote - Affirmative 4567
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 106, Health Services and Insurance Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4568
No. 107, Prescription Monitoring Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 4568
NOTICE OF MOTION:
Res. 2370, Fralic, George: Cross-Country Bike Trip - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 4568
Vote - Affirmative 4569
Res. 2371, NDP: Flip-Flop Title - Acknowledge,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4569
Res. 2372, Justice - Youth Crime: Fed. Min. - Address, Mr. G. Hines 4569
Res. 2373, Hurricane Juan - VG Staff: Response - Commend,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4570
Vote - Affirmative 4571
Res. 2374, Educ.: Sch. Breakfast Prog. - Address, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4571
Res. 2375, Up. Stewiacke Vol. FD: Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 4571
Vote - Affirmative 4572
Res. 2376, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Vehicle Idling - Cease,
Ms. J. Massey 4572
Vote - Affirmative 4573
Res. 2377, Brooks, Dr. Mary: Fulbright Award - Congrats.,
Ms. D. Whalen 4573
Vote - Affirmative 4574
Res. 2378, Youth Criminal Justice Act: Fed. Min. - Review,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 4574
Vote - Affirmative 4574
Res. 2379, Greenhill Terry Fox Run: MacKay Fam. - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 4574
Vote - Affirmative 4575
Res. 2380, Dinter-Gottlieb, Dr. Gail - Acadia Pres.: Installation -
Congrats., Mr. L. Glavine 4575
Vote - Affirmative 4576
Res. 2381, Ellison, Jamie: Horticulture Recognition - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 4576
Vote - Affirmative 4577
Res. 2382, Dartmouth North Commun. Carnival: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 4577
Vote - Affirmative 4578
Res. 2383, Best Buddies Prog.: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4578
Vote - Affirmative 4578
Res. 2384, Boudreau, Tiffany - Girl Guides Conf. (England):
Attendance - Congrats., Mr. G. Gosse 4578
Vote - Affirmative 4579
Res. 2385, Canyon, George: CD Release - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 4579
Vote - Affirmative 4580
Res. 2386, TPW: Corporate Strategy - Table, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4580
Res. 2387, Cdn. Student Leadership Conf. (20th): Sackville HS Students -
Participation, Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 4581
Vote - Affirmative 4581
Res. 2388, Ground Search & Rescue: Training Expedition - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Langille 4581
Vote - Affirmative 4582
Res. 2389, Devine, Prof. David - Johnston Chair (Dal.): Appt. - Congrats.,
Mr. L. Glavine 4582
Vote - Affirmative 4583
Res. 2390, Smith, Betty: Death of - Tribute, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4583
Vote - Affirmative 4583
Res. 2391, We've Got You Covered Prog.: Creators - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 4584
Vote - Affirmative 4584
Res. 2392, Health Prom./Gaming Corp. - Gaming: Public Meetings -
Hold, Ms. D. Whalen 4584
Res. 2393, Moire, Jan - Joints in Motion Marathon: Fundraising -
Congrats., Hon. K. Morash 4585
Vote - Affirmative 4586
Res. 2394, Martin, Jenna - RCL Track & Field Championship:
Performance - Congrats., Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 4586
Vote - Affirmative 4586
Res. 2395, Richardson, Ashley - Coaching Skills: Development -
Continue, Mr. J. Chataway 4587
Vote - Affirmative 4587
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 541, Fin. - Gaming: Strategy - Develop, Mr. D. Dexter 4587
No. 542, Nat. Res. - Min.: Conflict of Interest - Perception Admit,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4589
No. 543, Com. Serv. - Transition Houses: Funding - Details,
Mr. D. Dexter 4590
No. 544, Energy - Fuel Costs: Assistance - Plans, Mr. Michel Samson 4591
No. 545, Hum. Res.: Whistle-Blowers - Protect, Mr. F. Corbett 4592
No. 546, Health - Fed. Funding: Plan - Table,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 4593
No. 547, Justice - Hair Analysis: Evidence - Dept. Stance,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4595
No. 548, Fin. - CNSOPB Guesstimate: Budget - Usage, Ms. D. Whalen 4596
No. 549, Health - Home Care Initiative: Funding - Details, Mr. J. Pye 4597
No. 550, Insurance: Private Info. Requirement - Practice End,
Mr. G. Steele 4598
No. 551, Energy - Offshore Development: Stall - Explain,
Mr. Michel Samson 4599
No. 552, Com. Serv. - Child Care: Leadership Role - Assume,
Ms. M. More 4601
No. 553, Com. Serv. - Social Housing: Needs - Consider,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4602
No. 554, Com. Serv. - Affordable Housing Units: C.B. Omission -
Explain, Mr. G. Gosse 4604
No. 555, Energy - C.B. & Cent. N.S. Railway: Maintenance - Action,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4605
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 102, Maintenance Enforcement Act 4606
Hon. M. Baker 4606
Mr. K. Deveaux 4608
Mr. Michel Samson 4613
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4617
Ms. D. Whalen 4618
Mr. G. Gosse 4620
Mr. J. Pye 4621
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4623
Mr. J. MacDonell 4625
Hon. M. Baker 4627
Vote - Affirmative 4628
No. 101, Public Service Act 4629
Hon. B. Barnet 4629
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4631
Mr. K. Colwell 4635
Mr. G. Gosse 4639
Mr. Gerald Sampson 4642
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4643
Hon. B. Barnet 4648
Vote - Affirmative 4650
No. 103, Regulations Act 4650
Hon. M. Baker 4650
Mr. K. Deveaux 4651
Mr. D. Graham 4652
Mr. H. Epstein 4654
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4655
Hon. M. Baker 4657
Vote - Affirmative 4657
No. 64, Capital Region Transportation Authority Act 4658
Mr. D. Dexter 4658
Adjourned debate 4665
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Com. Serv.: Affordable Housing Crisis - Recognize:
Mr. David Wilson (Sackville-Cobequid) 4666
Hon. D. Morse 4669
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4672
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Sept. 29th at 2:00 p.m. 4675
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2396, Germaine, Ted: ECMA - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 4676
Res. 2397, Kai Shin East. Shore Karate Club: Anniv. (10th) - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 4676
Res. 2398, Cdn. Seabed Research - Employees: Educ. Init. - Commend,
Mr. W. Dooks 4677
Res. 2399, William Lake - Trout Stocking: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 4677
Res. 2400, Smith, Chelle/Sampson, Amy: Heroism - Commend,
Hon. C. Clarke 4678
Res. 2401, Carter, Stacey: Ltd.-Gov's. Award - Congrats., The Speaker 4678
Res. 2402, Wood, Cody/Fundy Area Soccer Club: Gold Medal -
Congrats., The Speaker 4679
Res. 2403, Winters, Roy: Merchant Marine Medals - Congrats.,
The Speaker 4679
Res. 2404, Wilson, Erica: Musical Accomplishments - Congrats.,
The Speaker 4680
Res. 2405, Willigar, Ryan: Golf Achievements - Congrats., The Speaker 4680

[Page 4561]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2004

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the affordable housing crisis and the increased level of homelessness.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from over 210 residents of the Lower Prospect/Terence Bay area, the operative phrase being, ". . . the road conditions in our area are disgusting. We are plagued with bumps and holes all over our roads. . . . the government . . . do not seem to care about the smaller communities in the HRM." I have affixed my signature to these 210 names.

4561

[Page 4562]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

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 pleasure to table the Report of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia entitled Privity of Contract - Third Party Rights. The final report is dated August 2004.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT: Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to start off by apologizing for the lateness of getting this statement to the members opposite but I hope they humour me a little bit with this one.

I would like to share with the members of the House today that the province will provide a $10 million loan program to Nova Scotia cattle farmers to help them through the ongoing market problems associated with BSE. (Applause)

This $10 million loan program demonstrates our continuing commitment to help our beef industry through this difficult time. This provincial lending solution will offer immediate help to farmers. As the members of the House are well aware, a single case of BSE in May 2003 in Alberta has disrupted the beef and dairy cattle and sheep marketing systems in Canada, closing borders to beef exports. In order to help our farmers continue to do business, we have to address issues of reduced income and reduced access to short-term working capital. This loan will provide that support.

The loan program will consist of two repayment options, and is available to the cattle industry for breeding cow, heifer and/or feeder cattle, and to the sheep industry for ewes and feeder lambs. We have consulted with both the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association. As well, the provincial government will also participate in the advance payments under the Canadian Agriculture Income Stabilization Program, CAIS. These payments will be reconciled when producers make their 2004 final claim under the CAIS Program for compensation.

[Page 4563]

The department has also made it possible for Nova Scotia to join other Canadian provinces to improve the cattle industry through the establishment of a cattle marketing plan. As a signatory to the Canadian Beef Cattle Research, Market Development and Promotion Agency, Nova Scotia will be able to participate in national and provincial beef promotional and marketing initiatives.

I wanted to share with my colleagues here in the Legislature today some of the actions we are taking as a province to help our cattle industry. Agriculture is important to this government and my department, and we will do whatever we can to help. Mr. Speaker, thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister. I accept his apology on the late notice. I think when the minister actually delivers it by hand, when he's trying to find you, I would take him at his word that he made an effort, but I'm not sure, that may have been his only effort.

Mr. Speaker, I have some real concerns, actually, for the cattle industry and for sheep producers in this province, and they rest around the history of this government in issues of disaster in this province. I'm dealing with issues around woodlot owners as a result of Hurricane Juan, where it appears to me that they have been left in the lurch when the government was proposing $10 million in aid. So here we have an issue of $10 million to go to cattle and sheep producers, and I want to say to the minister that I'm glad you've included sheep producers in your statement. Although you said you consulted with the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and the Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association, I would have like to have seen you negotiate with the Sheep Producers Association.

I don't think farmers can afford any loans. I think farmers, beef farmers in particular in this province, are up against it; as a matter of fact they've gone past the breaking point. I talked with a farmer, who was a woman, from the Annapolis Valley and the veterinarian bill on their farm alone is $7,000. So if these farmers are having trouble paying their bills, how does the minister expect them to be able to make a payment on a loan? It's not going to be possible.

I think if the minister looked at the dynamics of the economy in this province around the consumption of beef, we finish about 8,000 animals a year in Nova Scotia and we bring in 9,000 a month. There's a great disparity in what we produce and what we consume. I think if the minister could make efforts around initiatives to buy local, a price structure for producers, I think this would go a long way to alleviating problems for beef producers. They would grow the industry and, actually, if they could take out a loan, they could afford to pay it back.

[Page 4564]

I want to say that the devil may be in the detail on this. There's not a lot of detail in this statement, and I look forward to seeing what else comes out of this and what the industry's reaction is. I take some comfort in the fact that the minister did consult on this and I'd like to have a chance to talk to those parties to see what their reaction is. I can only hope this will have some benefit but, for people who have no money, I can't see how they can take out a loan. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the apology that the minister's going to give me for the late notice. I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet regarding it.

I, as well, share some of the concerns that the member for Hants East shares in terms of a loan program and the fact that many of the beef producers in Nova Scotia are already overburdened with a debt load, and now we're offering them another solution to lend them more money. It's rather interesting that the figure of $10 million was used. When the recommendation was put forward by the task force a few short months ago, there was no money available, so I guess it begs the question: Where does the money come from?

On September 10th the federal government announced a program to deal with the national issue which could increase slaughter capacity in the province. A Loan Loss Reserve program and expanding an international market share - to my knowledge, as of yet, we haven't even signed on to that program and, while I am somewhat encouraged that the BSE crisis has somewhat registered on the side of the government, I really want to look and see some of the details and talk to the federation and talk to some of the farmers in my community.

I do look forward to the day when the minister signs that federal program. For the last year and a half now they've been crying for the federal government to step up to the plate. Well, the federal government is there, the program can be jigged so it works for this province and I look forward to when the minister signs it. Thank you very much.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act.

RESOLUTION NO. 2366

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

[Page 4565]

Whereas today I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Canadian Red Cross Disaster Preparedness Campaign; and

Whereas the Disaster Preparedness Campaign is a three-year initiative of the Canadian Red Cross - Atlantic zone to prepare people for large scale and local emergencies; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas emergency preparedness is everyone's responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Red Cross on its efforts to increase public awareness on how to become better prepared and thank them for being a valuable partner in emergency management here in Nova Scotia and across the continent.

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. 2367

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

Whereas more than 10,000 Nova Scotians make their living from fishing; and

Whereas the harshness of the weather and the physical intensity of working on a fishing boat can be dangerous and life threatening; and

Whereas my uncle, Lewis Joseph d'Entremont of West Pubnico, a dedicated husband, a father of three, and a fisherman for more than 20 years, died last Thursday night after falling from a herring seiner he was fishing on;

[Page 4566]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House offer a moment of silence to honour the many fishermen who have lost their lives at sea and to express our sincere hope for the safe return of all our fishermen.

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.

I would ask all members to rise for a moment of silence, please.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.

The honourable Minister of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 2368

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

Whereas on August 21, 2004, the African United Baptist Association held its 151st session at the First Baptist Church in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas as one of the oldest African Nova Scotian organizations in the province, the AUBA works within the African Nova Scotian churches and communities, playing a key role in spiritual, social, political and everyday lives of African Nova Scotians; and

Whereas countless hours of preparation went into organizing the 151st annual session of the African United Baptist Association;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the members of the AUBA on their 151st annual session and wish them the very best with their work in the years ahead.

[Page 4567]

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 Health Promotion.

RESOLUTION NO. 2369

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

Whereas Time Magazine recently looked at the causes for communities that have many citizens aged 100 years or more; and

Whereas Time looked at Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, as well as our own province, as examples of regions which are home to people reaching such extraordinary milestones; and

Whereas the magazine cited the strong sense of community support as one of the reasons behind those individuals who live past the age of 100;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House salute the people of Nova Scotia for working hard to create and sustain a society in which our eldest citizens are treated with caring support and given the respect and dignity they deserve.

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 4568]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 106 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 197 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Health Services and Insurance Act. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce the bill, I would like to acknowledge the presence in the east gallery of Emily Summers and Dean Hirtle of the Department of Health, who worked extremely hard in the formulation of this bill both within the department and with stakeholders who were involved. If the House would acknowledge their efforts, it would be appreciated. (Applause)

Bill No. 107 - Entitled an Act to Monitor the Prescribing of Certain Drugs. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2370

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

Whereas Brooklyn native, 66-year-old George Fralic, began a cross-country bike trip on June 2nd; and

Whereas Mr. Fralic undertook this journey to honour the memory of his wife, Patsy, who lost her battle with cancer in August 2003; and

Whereas on August 25th, greeted by family and friends after successfully completing the long trip from British Columbia to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, George Fralic arrived back in his home province of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate George Fralic for the dedication and determination demonstrated during his courageous accomplishment.

[Page 4569]

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. 2371

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party held their annual general meeting over the weekend; and

Whereas on Saturday, September 25th , the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party decided to reverse a long-standing policy by accepting donations from publicly traded corporations; and

Whereas on Sunday, September 26th , the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party in a sudden flip-flop decided that such corporate donations were still evil and should not tolerated;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge that the New Democratic Party has reached heights that they previously could only dream of and will forever be known as the masters of the political flip-flop.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2372

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

[Page 4570]

Whereas youth vandalism is seemingly becoming more rampant no matter where you look in this country, with the most recent case resulting in Dartmouth over the weekend with the word "dead" spray-painted in foot-high letters on garage doors, other white surfaces, and also on cars, a church, and even a school; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia, in 2003, there were nearly 3,000 youths charged with Criminal Code offences, hundreds of those charges being crimes of violence; and

Whereas Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act gives the police and the Crown several options on how to proceed when a young person is suspected of having committed an offence, including the possibility of holding a young person accountable for his or her actions without prosecution actually taking place in court, or the police warning the young person about the consequences of his or her actions, and the potential for laying charges and then taking no further action.

Therefore be it resolved MLAs from all three Parties acknowledge today and request the federal Minister of Justice get serious about youth crime, so that incidents such as this one in Dartmouth will be decreasing.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: The resolution was a bit lengthy.

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2373

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

Whereas when Hurricane Juan hit the Halifax area on September 29th, 2003, it caused significant damage to the roof of the Centennial Building at the Victoria General site of the QEII Health Sciences Centre; and

Whereas hospital staff responded quickly and effectively, evacuating patients, many of whom were very ill; and

Whereas this work by QEII staff was one of the most important, but least visible, contributions to minimizing the effects of the hurricane;

[Page 4571]

Therefore be it resolved that this House remembers and commends the excellent, dedicated and caring response of the hospital staff who evacuated patients from the Centennial Building of the VG when Hurricane Juan hit.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2374

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

Whereas in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board it is estimated that more than 2,000 children attend school each day without having breakfast; and

Whereas it is impossible for children to mature and learn without proper nutrition; and

Whereas the number of children attending school each day without breakfast is increasing;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take immediate action to address this most pressing issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2375

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

[Page 4572]

Whereas this past Saturday, 40 tractors registered as the Upper Stewiacke Fire Department held their second annual antique tractor pull; and

Whereas a number of local sponsors came forward to make this event a tremendous success including Grahamco Construction of Upper Stewiacke and O'Connell's family farm in Middle Stewiacke; and

Whereas a special guest appearance was made at this weekend's pull by the Meadowview Farm oxen;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate members and the executive from the Upper Stewiacke Volunteer Fire Department on their tremendous effort and hard work in raising the necessary funds to protect community residents in their times of need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2376

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

Whereas idling a vehicle for 10 minutes a day uses up more than 100 litres of gas in one year; and

Whereas depending on the price of gas, you can save over $70 per year just by turning off your engine; and

Whereas 10 seconds of idling uses more fuel than restarting your engine and by turning your engine off, you and others don't have to breathe in exhaust fumes from a vehicle that is going nowhere;

[Page 4573]

Therefore be it resolved that this government encourage everyone to do their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions by simply turning idling car engines off.

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. 2377

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

Whereas Dalhousie University's Professor Mary Brooks has received the prestigious Canada-U.S. Fulbright Award, giving her the opportunity to spend a semester as a visiting researcher at George Mason University School of Public Policy Operation and Logistics in Washington, D.C.; and

Whereas Dr. Brooks will advance her research in transportation as she works to identify ways of increasing economic integration through transportation in our current security system; and

Whereas this is a tremendous opportunity for Dr. Brooks and an honour for Nova Scotia that one of our own has joined this academic exchange program recognized throughout the world;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Dr. Mary Brooks for this recognition and wish her every success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4574]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 2378

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

Whereas there were nearly 3,000 youths charged with Criminal Code offences in Nova Scotia in 2003; and

Whereas approximately 600 of these charges were considered crimes of violence; and

Whereas nearly 375 youth cases here in Nova Scotia involved theft of more than $5,000;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly request the federal Minister of Justice take another look at the Youth Criminal Justice Act to see if it is actually working for all Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2379

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

[Page 4575]

Whereas Sunday, September 19th was designated as Terry Fox Run, held across Canada and around the world in aid of cancer research; and

Whereas more than 120 people participated in this year's Terry Fox Run held at the Greenhill Provincial Park in Pictou County, raising more than $5,000; and

Whereas Danny and Shirley MacKay and family of Greenhill helped to organize this worthwhile event as they have during the past eight years;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the MacKay family and all the participants for a successful Greenhill Terry Fox Run.

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.

[12:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley on an introduction.

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce in the west gallery Lyn Barrett, who is Executive Director of Bryony House. I would encourage everyone to give her a warm welcome. Lyn, would you like to stand, please. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome Lyn to the gallery today and hope she enjoys the proceedings.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2380

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

[Page 4576]

Whereas on Saturday, October 2nd, Acadia University will hold an Installation Ceremony for Dr. Gail Dinter-Gottlieb, who took over the role of President and Vice-Chancellor, September 1, 2004; and

Whereas Dr. Dinter-Gottlieb's career has been remarkable, her work in AIDS research has received national attention in her native U.S., her academic achievements are to be commended; and

Whereas Acadia University is certain to benefit from Dr. Dinter-Gottlieb's vast experiences and accomplishments;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Dr. Gail Dinter-Gottlieb on this achievement and wish her every 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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2381

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

Whereas Jamie Ellison, faculty member in the Retail Garden Centre program at NSCC, Kingstec Campus, Kentville, has been named to the elite list of "Canada's fab 55" by Canada's Gardening Life Magazine; and

Whereas Jamie Ellison has been recognized as one of the top trend-setters in the world of horticulture; and

Whereas Jamie Ellison, also co-owner of Bunchberry Nurseries in Annapolis Royal, is a writer and photographer and speaks on the topics of horticulture, gardening and landscaping on the national scene.

[Page 4577]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jamie Ellison for being recognized for his hard work and efforts in horticulture and wish him future success educating and promoting this important industry.

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. 2382

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 annual Dartmouth North Community Carnival was held in September, 2004 and the theme of this year's carnival was "Celebrating our Global Community; and

Whereas our "Celebrating our Global Community" featured international foods and carnival games with a global theme as well as the traditional foods and games; and

Whereas the community carnival provides a positive environment for both children and adults, giving them a chance to know their neighbours;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature commend the collaborative efforts of the Dartmouth North Community Centre, the Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club, the Dartmouth Family Centre, and Knowledge is Power, for a great carnival.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4578]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2383

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

Whereas the International Federation of L'Arche in Cape Breton will team up with the Port Hawkesbury Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College to form "best buddies"; and

Whereas students from the community college are being partnered with residents at L'Arche, where they will be in contact via e-mail on a weekly basis and go for coffee every two weeks; and

Whereas this is a tremendous opportunity to break down barriers and promote inclusion;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate those taking part in "best buddies" and wish the organization every 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 Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2384

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

[Page 4579]

Whereas on Thursday, July 29, 2004, Tiffany Boudreau, a Grade 11 student at Holy Angels High School departed for England as part of the Canadian contingent in the Footsteps of the Founders Girl Guides program; and

Whereas Tiffany was one of the only 14 young women chosen from Canada to embark on this special adventure; and

Whereas Tiffany, now 16 years of age, joined Sparks at the young age of five and has since become a member of the Brownie, Girl Guide and Pathfinders programs.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Tiffany Boudreau on being selected for this momentous journey and for her dedication,

loyalty and commitment to the Guide organization.

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. 2385

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

Whereas Pictou County's rising star, George Canyon has today released his first major label CD; and

Whereas his CD, One Good Friend, is a culmination of hard work over the last 14 years and is one more major achievement for this country singer, topping his recent win of a Canadian Country Music Award; and

Whereas the Hopewell native co-wrote one of the album's tracks with fellow Nova Scotian songwriter, Gordie Sampson, tackling a difficult emotional issue as he brings a traditional country feel to his music along with an inspirational message;

[Page 4580]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature once again send our congratulations to Nova Scotia's new country star, George Canyon, on the release of his CD, and send our best wishes that the sales of One Good Friend skyrocket.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2386

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

Whereas the Department of Transportation and Public Works has engaged in a province-wide privatization program within its department since 1999; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation and Public Works has increased the number of privatized pieces of equipment by 350 per cent in its continued privatization effort; and

Whereas there is growing evidence the Conservative privatization program within the Department of Transportation and Public Works is having long-term negative effects;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works table in this House his department's long-term corporate strategy for highway maintenance and service needs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 4581]

RESOLUTION NO. 2387

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

Whereas the Annual Canadian Student Leadership Conference is a forum for young Canadians to meet and discuss topics of interest and to learn new leadership skills; and

Whereas this year's conference was held in Abbotsford, British Columbia from September 21st to September 26th; and

Whereas 25 students from Sackville High School made the journey to British Columbia with student advisor, Patty Hughes to take part in this year's conference;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate student advisor, Patty Hughes and the 25 students from Sackville High School who participated in the 20th Canadian Student Leadership Conference in Abbotsford, British Columbia, and hope the skills learned at the conference will be useful in their future endeavours as leaders in our country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2388

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

Whereas searchers from across central Nova Scotia practised their skills in a simulated rescue in Debert earlier this month; and

Whereas 75 volunteer ground search and rescue trainees examined maps and trekked through the woods in search of two "lost" ATV riders; and

[Page 4582]

Whereas the exercise gave map and compass training to rookie searchers and challenged experienced searchers to improve their skills;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the nine volunteer research teams on a successful training expedition, and thank the volunteers for their courageous efforts in helping to find missing persons.

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. 2389

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

Whereas on Monday, September 20, 2004, Dalhousie University officially launched a tenure of Professor David Devine as the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies; and

Whereas the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies is going into its seventh year and Professor Devine is the second appointment; the Chair will contribute to the fields of Black Canadian Studies and establish better links with the wider community, especially in the African-Canadian community; and

Whereas Professor David Devine's field of expertise is social work, as well as a background with the London School of Economics; he believes the Chair should serve as a centre of excellence in Black Canadian research;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Professor David Devine on his six-year tenure and Dalhousie University for pursuing excellence in the field of Black Canadian studies.

[Page 4583]

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. 2390

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

Whereas legendary community activist and business woman, Elizabeth "Betty" Smith passed away on August 11, 2004; and

Whereas Betty never stopped working for the good of our community; and

Whereas Betty's example of hard work and dedication will not be forgotten;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature express its condolences to the Smith family while recognizing the valuable contribution of Betty Smith to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

[Page 4584]

RESOLUTION NO. 2391

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

Whereas there are people each year who have difficulty providing warm clothing to their family members during the winter season; and

Whereas Linda Veinotte, Laurie Falkenham and Paula Rhyno are in the fourth year of organizing "We've Got You Covered", a program which collects new and used winter clothing for those in need; and

Whereas this year the trio is involving local schools with "Mitten Mania and Battle of the Boots", which encourages school children to get involved and help others by competing to see which class can collect the most mittens or boots;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Linda Veinotte, Laurie Falkenham and Paula Rhyno for creating the "We've Got You Covered" program and on their continuing efforts to provide warm winter clothing to those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 2392

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

Whereas the Office of Health Promotion and the Gaming Corporation are undertaking a process of consulting Nova Scotians on the future of gaming in Nova Scotia; and

[Page 4585]

Whereas 30 to 35 industry stakeholder groups are being consulted one-on-one in private meetings while members of the public are invited to send their comments on gaming in writing; and

Whereas the process has pointedly omitted public meetings or hearings, thereby denying the public an opportunity to speak directly to government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House support the call for public meetings to ensure that there is a full transparent public debate on gaming in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2393

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

Whereas over 170,000 Nova Scotians are living with arthritis; and

Whereas the Joints in Motion marathon is held every year to raise money to support arthritis research worldwide, including the work being done by the Canadian Arthritis Society; and

Whereas Jan Moire, a 62-year-old grandmother, whose daughter has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, is training to complete the 42 kilometre marathon being held in Lisbon, Portugal, in December;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send our best wishes to Jan Moire as she works to raise her goal of $5,700 to participate in the Joints in Motion marathon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4586]

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. 2394

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 Royal Canadian Legion has shown great leadership in sponsoring track and field championships locally and nationally; and

Whereas thousands of Nova Scotia athletes have received great benefits from their participation in the Royal Canadian Legion track and field championships; and

Whereas Jenna Martin of Bridgewater had an outstanding four-medal performance, including three gold medals, at the 2004 Royal Canadian Legion track and field championships in Sudbury;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House join me in congratulating Jenna Martin for her excellent participation and performance in this Canadian track and field championship and thank the Royal Canadian Legion for providing the opportunity for young people to excel in the sport of track and field.

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 4587]

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

[12:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2395

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

Whereas Ashley Richardson is talented, generous and skilled; and

Whereas she is very much aware of what amuses, entertains and fascinates young children; and

Whereas she often becomes an important team member;

Therefore be it resolved that her skills as an entertaining coach continue to be developed and thus her heartfelt enthusiasm will forever be appreciated.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:46 p.m. and end at 1:46 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

FIN. - GAMING: STRATEGY - DEVELOP

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we obtained a copy of a letter written in response to the government's New Directions for Gaming in Nova Scotia by four

[Page 4588]

provincial directors of Addiction Services. Now I understand that this letter has been widely circulated and I will table it. These directors have done what this government has refused to do. They have taken a stand. In this letter they say, ". . . New Directions is seriously lacking in substance. To be frank, it presents primarily as a public relations piece prepared by the gaming industry and spun vigorously to present gambling in the most positive light." My question to the Minister responsible for Part I of the Gaming Control Act is, will you respond to this scathing letter by developing a real strategy that will take into account the health and social impact of gambling on this province?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, what the whole process is about is so people can send in their responses. It invites comments from people and that's what I view them as doing, is responding in the fashion that they wish.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we will get to the irony of what the minister has just said in a second. These are the directors of Addiction Services and this is what they say about the government's efforts on problem gambling. They say the province's discussion paper lacks substance. They say it provides one-sided information designed to expand gambling. They say, "Without criteria, or the expressed intention to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the health and social costs of gambling, relative to the benefits of gaming, the issue of 'balance' has only face value and is a hollow concept." This is especially troubling when you consider that 7,000 problem gamblers in this province lose more than $14,000 of after-tax income.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, when will the health of these 7,000 people and their families be more important to your government than your public image?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does bring some of the challenges and some of the problems that we have identified. That was the reason that Health Promotion did the study in terms of what direction we were going, where we were going. That's the reason that we brought out the strategy so people can comment, we can look at where we are going in the future. He has just told us all the reasons why this government is moving in that direction.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the irony of the minister's comment to this, because I wanted you to hear what the directors have said about the direction that they have received. We understand that some of the staff from Addiction Services and problem gambling services will be permitted to attend the consultation meetings with stakeholders but will not be permitted to answer questions or even to speak. The very people who are the experts in this area. My question to the minister is, will you tell the House and the people of Nova Scotia that you will not sacrifice 7,000 Nova Scotians for the public image of the government and let the addiction counsellors and the front-line staff speak out?

[Page 4589]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member says let them speak out. Well, I think that is what they are doing. They have a letter to us, they've expressed their opinion, they have told us what their position is and they, along with other Nova Scotians, will continue to do the same.

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

NAT. RES. MIN. - CONFLICT OF INTEREST:

PERCEPTION - ADMIT

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Deputy Premier and Deputy President of the Executive Council. Since last Thursday we have learned that Trico Holdings employs Odessa Services to manage its properties. The Minister of Natural Resources is the President and a director of Trico Holdings, according to the Registry of Joint Stock Companies. Another director of Trico is Carl Doty who is also the President and director of Odessa Services. The Minister of Natural Resources has his constituency office at 368 Main Street, Yarmouth and he pays rent to Odessa Services. So the MLA is paying rent to a company that he receives a personal benefit from through the convoluted arrangement between Trico and Odessa. Will the Deputy Premier admit that some Nova Scotians may perceive this to be a conflict of interest?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, no.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Even the perception of a conflict, Mr. Speaker, is a violation of the Premier's own Code of Conduct. The member for Yarmouth has a virtual maze of business interests including a company called The Hurlburt Group and Trico Holdings. He contracts out to a management company whose directors are also directors of Trico - no wonder the minister himself is confused. Yesterday was the second time this Tory Government refused to allow this House to make a request of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner as outlined in the Premier's own Code of Conduct.

The Premier's Ministerial Code of Conduct is now flapping in the breeze. Mr. Speaker, will the government finally stand behind its Code of Conduct and allow this House to unanimously ask the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for a full and public investigation or will he order the Executive Council to do the same?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I consider the government is very fortunate to have a successful businessman in our caucus and our Cabinet and secondly, in answer to your last question, the answer is no.(Applause)

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, all I am asking for is openness and transparency, but this government refuses. The question then becomes, what does this government have to hide? It's not enough that the minister says he asked the Conflict of

[Page 4590]

Interest Commissioner for an investigation, it requires the co-operation of the House or the co-operation of the Executive Council. So I will ask one more time, why won't the Deputy Premier clear the air and ask for an investigation in the proper manner?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I have the utmost confidence in the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for the government and I'm sure that he doesn't require the services of the government or the Opposition to do his business properly.

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

COM. SERV. - TRANSITION HOUSES: FUNDING - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, with regret, we must go from one duplicitous activity by this government to another. My question is for the Minister of Community Services. In 2002, the government cut nearly $1 million from the budgets of transition houses, women's centres and treatment programs for abusive men. The public was told that no decision had been made as to what beds would close and where. I'd like to table a document obtained through the Freedom of Information that clearly shows that transition houses in Amherst, Bridgewater, Yarmouth, Port Hawkesbury and Truro were to have their beds closed and the only reason that didn't happen was because of public outcry. My question to the minister is this, why did your government hide these facts at the time of the announcements?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to put on the record that there was no cut to the transition houses budget in 2002. There was a concern expressed by the transition houses and this government maintained the existing budget for them.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister can say whatever he wants. The documents tell a different story. Since the foiled attempt at closing beds, the staff of women's centres and transition houses have participated in several projects while their budgets are frozen at already inadequate levels. I want to table a second memo that states, "In the absence of additional funding, we have already put in place every process available to defer their requests." It includes the family violence redesign and funding review committees among these stalling tactics. My question to the minister is, why is this government manipulating a process designed to simply starve these transition houses and women's centres to death while they participate in meaningless meetings and write reports that nobody will read?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think that it is hard to respond to that litany of information because basically the premise is wrong. One of the claims that the Leader of the Opposition is claiming is that there was no new money going into the transition houses. The member would know that's not so. There was a 9 per cent increase into transition houses' employees' wages last year. So the Leader is mistaken.

[Page 4591]

MR. DEXTER: What is clear, Mr. Speaker, is that the government has decided that they are going to staff every way they can and use these tactics because they know that they will have a huge impact on the dedicated staff of women's centres, transition houses and men's treatment programs who are already overworked and underpaid. So my final question to the Minister of Community Service is when will your government stop the stalling tactics, recognize the unique and valuable contributions of these three entities and provide adequate and stable funding?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I take that's an acknowledgement by the Leader of the Opposition that we did increase funding last year. He realizes that's the case. He realizes that we're working with the transition houses, and we are committed to working with them. Our concern is the people who are served by the transition houses and our commitment will continue to be to work with them to best serve those Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

ENERGY - FUEL COSTS: ASSISTANCE - PLANS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if this Winter is anything like the last one, Nova Scotians on fixed incomes will be forced to forgo other essentials just to heat their homes. It is no secret that another significant increase in fuel costs is coming. The Premier said recently that he would be looking at the issue as the weeks follow. I'm afraid that's not good enough. While he and his government are looking at the issue, the temperature is dropping and many seniors and low-income Nova Scotians are growing concerned about the months ahead. My question to the Minister of Energy is what will this government do for Nova Scotians on fixed incomes that will enable them to adequately heat their homes over the winter months?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, consistent with the honourable member's comments, the Premier said the government is reviewing that, and the Department of Energy in consultation with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations are making sure that we look at the options available. We've heard from the Opposition that it's more than just an issue of rebate cheques, it's an issue of making sure that we have a stable environment for people to deal with the pressures of home heating costs.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that fuel costs have risen dramatically in recent years and will continue to do so. It is also true that no Nova Scotian should have to make choices between essentials such as groceries and heat. That is what will happen unless this government takes this problem seriously. Home heating oil costs is on the rise and we all know that Nova Scotia Power is seeking a rate increase for electricity. Higher prices mean higher taxes paid to this government. So, my question to the minister is, can the minister assure us that a solution to this looming crisis will not take several weeks to implement and will be put in place in short order?

[Page 4592]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that the government takes this issue very seriously and the reviews that we are doing is to ensure that the issues he raises will be addressed and the government will address them in concert as a government with my colleagues as we review this at this time.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, there are clearly realistic avenues that this government could explore to address this problem to provide Nova Scotians with immediate relief. Changing the tax structure on home heating oil is a laudable goal but we all know that it will take some time while Nova Scotians are looking for immediate relief. We in the Liberal caucus believe that a viable solution is a fair and equitable rebate program but the decision to do so can be delayed no longer. My final supplementary is, will the government take our advice with the goodwill that is intended and immediately implement a fuel tax rebate program for Nova Scotians on fixed incomes?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, in responding to a comment the honourable member had made with regard to some of the issues and pressures government recognized going beyond home heating fuel is possible electricity impacts that would be there. So, therefore, a straight rebate program has to be taken in context with and a review with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations about how we deal with potential impacts across the board from all home heating sources. We will do that. I recognize to the member that the government takes this matter very seriously and recognizes timing is of the essence.

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

HUM. RES.: WHISTLE-BLOWERS - PROTECT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources. The introduction two weeks ago, of the so-called whistle-blower regulations does the opposite of what it should. Really what it does is puts a gag order on our hard-working civil servants. The federal sponsorship scandal drew the attention of all Canadians and sharply backed the necessity of increasing government accountability.

[1:00 p.m.]

In the U.K. and in other countries, there are independent agencies established to protect whistle-blowers. They also have legislative protection for those who wish to report these wrongdoings. In Nova Scotia, a poll was taken amongst public servants that found over one-quarter had witnessed wrong doing or unsafe conditions. We have just these misguided regulations to protect our workers. So, I want to ask the minister, why is your government decided to punish whistle-blowers, instead of protecting them?

[Page 4593]

HON. CAROLYN BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, the process that this government has put in place is a clear process for employees to follow. It gives them the opportunity to bring issues forward more quickly than an independent body would do.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we all know that these are very convoluted and do not protect the people that they were supposed to protect and that's their valuable civil servant. Every time government goes to look to balance its books, it balances its books on the backs of these hardworking Nova Scotians, but yet, time after time, they're there to be counted on when Nova Scotia needs this work. So I want to ask the minister again, why did your government push ahead with these flawed regulations instead of guaranteed protection through legislation? Why regulations and not legislation?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, we already had the regulatory body in place. We were able to do this through regulation and policy, and that is what we did. What the employees asked for was a clear process, without fear or reprisal. That is what we delivered.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what world that minister lives in, but it isn't in this world of these regulations. Contrary to what the government would have us believe, public servants are not speaking out when they come forward, most are very reluctant to report any wrongdoings. In fact, public servants and their representatives are prepared to work with this government hand in hand to stem abuse and wrongdoing, if only government was willing. As we know, this government has been the awarder of the Canadian Association of Journalists most secretive government in Canada. So, I want to ask the minister once again, why does this minister refuse to work with rather than against public servants and move this province forward with proper legislation?

MS. BOLIVAR-GETSON: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to go back by saying that by asking employees what they felt about their work environment on the survey was one way to reassure that we have a strong Public Service. We want to involve our Public Service in our decision making. It strengthens the internal process, what we've didn't hear now. The independent bodies that are in place, the Ombudsman Office and allowing employees to first go to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to ask for advice, are independent bodies that allows them to this. So we have strengthened the process without fear of reprisal that they definitely had put forward to us. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - FED. FUNDING: PLAN - TABLE

MR. DAVID WILSON(Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Since this government came to power it has signed three negotiated health accords with the federal government, and as a result of the last two accords and an additional infusion

[Page 4594]

of federal dollars in the last federal budget, Nova Scotia has been the beneficiary of some $1.1 billion since 2003 alone.

Mr. Speaker, now that the minister surely can't use the lack of federal funding as an excuse, will he please table before the end of Question Period today, a specific plan he will implement as a result of those additional federal dollars.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is not wanting when it comes to stretching numbers. I wish I could stretch them in the same way and make them go as far as he would like. What we're involved in now, obviously, is looking - while we have predictable long-term funding, we don't have the funding that we sought from the Government of Canada - the exercise we're involved in is deciding what the priorities will be and how we're going to address those priorities with less money than we had anticipated.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, it's rather easy to gather from that response that there is no plan. A couple of weeks ago we saw the Premier's wish list, and in past debates in the House the minister talking about home care and about long-term care and about wait times, all the good things the government would do if only they had the money. Well, it's not good enough to be vague or uncertain about the details. It's time to tell the people of Nova Scotia what you will specifically deliver, when you will deliver it, and how much it's going to cost. I will ask the minister again, will he please table, today, the costed plan that he intends to implement as a result of the new, additional health care funding?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can table today is the costing of a plan which required $175 million for us to address all of the things that the honourable member referenced and more. Obviously, we did not get that amount of money, and the challenge that faces us is to set the priorities to address what we can address within that list, and make the difficult decisions with respect to what will not be addressed.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the other day we saw an article where the Premier actually began to lower the expectations of Nova Scotians by stating that it will cost $175 million to lower wait times in about 15 areas of health care, and that all these additional federal dollars, while helpful, won't solve the problem. It appears that the motto for this government is, if you don't have a plan, blame others for your inaction.

One more time, my question to the minister is, assuming that the lack of commitment to table a plan means there isn't one to table, could the minister please advise why he was so ill-prepared to spend additional federal health care dollars that he knew all along were coming?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is we have a plan to spend the federal health dollars, we have a plan to spend more than they have made available. The challenge for us is to decide what priorities we follow, how much money we can put toward

[Page 4595]

those priorities. The tough decision and the decision the honourable member opposite is not prepared to make is to decide what items are not going to be funded as a result of the difficult decision. We'll come forward with a plan, it will be detailed, and it will tell Nova Scotians precisely what we will do, when we will do it, and what the cost will be associated with it.

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

JUSTICE - HAIR ANALYSIS: EVIDENCE - DEPT. STANCE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Hair analysis evidence compares the similarity of hair evidence found at a crime scene with a sample obtained from a potential assailant. Hair analysis comparison evidence was widely used by police and prosecutors in the 1980s and 1990s to at least in part convict people of serious crimes such as sexual assault, murder and robbery. More recently, DNA analysis evidence has become more commonplace and is considered much more reliable. My question to the Minister of Justice is, does the Minister of Justice acknowledge the fact that the use of hair analysis comparison evidence has fallen into disrepute and raises concerns about possible convictions that relied on that evidence?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Obviously the member is asking a question arising out of a case in another province; in fact, that is part of the evidence that may have been used in certain cases, but of course as he also would know in a particular case there may be many other pieces of evidence which measured without the evidence of hair analysis alone would be insufficient to convict.

MR. DEVEAUX: Clear as mud, Mr. Speaker. The fact is, we don't know until we review the cases where, at least in part, convictions were made based on hair-comparison analyses. The minister is correct, the Manitoba Government has done a review of 35 murder convictions in the past decade or 15 years. As a result, two people potentially may have their convictions overturned because recent DNA analyses of the hair samples in those cases have proven that the hair-comparison analysis that was done and relied on in those convictions was not reliable.

My second question to the minister is, when will the Minister of Justice create a similar review to the one conducted in Manitoba to ensure that Nova Scotians can have confidence in the convictions in Nova Scotia that relied, at least in part, on hair analysis?

MR. BAKER: I appreciate the genuine concern expressed by the honourable member relative to this information. Obviously, there are cases where individuals believe they were wrongly convicted. Those individuals would obviously have the ability to come forward and raise the matter. I can also indicate that I will take the matter under advisement relative to what other actions should be taken.

[Page 4596]

MR. DEVEAUX: You know, Mr. Speaker, there is an unfortunate history in this province of wrongful convictions. We only have to mention Donald Marshall, Jr. as obviously the most serious and well-known example of that. It is vital that Nova Scotians have confidence in their justice system and that must include any convictions that used hair-comparison analysis evidence.

Once again, I will ask the minister. Why won't the minister act quickly and proactively to ensure that all Nova Scotians have confidence in the justice system, and review the cases in which hair analysis was used to ensure that anyone that may have been wrongly convicted has the potential to have their decision overturned?

MR. BAKER: As I indicated to the honourable member, I will take the matter under advisement. I would also point out, that recent history has shown that no jurisdiction is immune from wrongful convictions. In fact, that has been a phenomenon across the country. We continue to strive in all provinces to improve our justice systems as in Nova Scotia.

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

FIN. - CNSOPB GUESSTIMATE: BUDGET - USAGE

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. The quarterly financial update was released with very little fanfare. In fact, this is the first time since the inception of quarterly reports under the previous government that no press conference was held. Just a little release saying everything is fine and no need to worry. The real story is a lot more troubling than that. This government is relying on the failure of our offshore industry to balance the books. The government is counting on possibly $20 million from the abandonment of offshore exploration leases.

Mr. Speaker, a spokesman for the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, the very body that is charged with calculating those fees, said the number it gave the province was more of a guesstimate than a hard figure. My question to the minister is, how can the minister claim that his budget is balanced based on a guesstimate?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises some good questions as to what you are basing your forecast on. What we, the government, have indicated is that we base it on the best information that we have: the information as to what is going to happen in the offshore; the information based on the trends, the trends that are happening with motive fuel tax or tobacco tax. What that honourable member failed to say is that what we also have is we have the federal government clawing back 50 per cent of all of those dollars. She didn't say that either. (Interruptions)

[Page 4597]

MS. WHALEN: The $20 million figure that I mentioned is the net figure after the federal government has its share. Perhaps you weren't listening. Mr. Speaker, the reality in this budget is that this budget has a long way to go before the government can claim that it is balanced. Even if the $20 million net figure holds true, this is a one-time windfall and it should be booked as such. When Nova Scotia Resources was sold, it was booked as an extraordinary item and was not used to balance the books. My question is, how can the minister claim the books are balanced by using a one-time extraordinary item?

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, rather than go into a long discussion on Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, I just will be happy to tell this House that that honourable member went to a PSAAB meeting and she was surprised to find that Nova Scotia was such a leader in the field.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, the previous Finance Minister didn't use the proceeds from the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited in the operating budget. By the same token, this minister shouldn't be allowed to use the proceeds from the failure of our offshore industry to balance the books. Why won't the minister simply admit that the books are not balanced and remove this one-time item from the forecast update?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the question, as I understand it, is why would we show that $20 million, or the $40 million less the $20 million federal government clawback, why wouldn't we show that $20 million net as part of our operating. The honourable member indicated that in Nova Scotia Resources Limited, we showed that as a recurring item. If we showed that as the same, our bottom line would be the same. We have to record expenses and revenues when they happen as the Auditor General has demanded.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - HOME CARE INITIATIVE: FUNDING - DETAILS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be directed to the Minister of Health. The new federal-provincial territorial agreement for health care targeted home care as a key area for future investment. Home care services, especially for the disabled, are inadequate and certainly could use additional funding. Physically challenged Nova Scotians rely on home care to maintain an independent and full life. My question to the minister, how much of the new health care funding will go towards the initiatives in home care?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Obviously, he does identify a very important area for future development with respect to health care in this province and across the country and that is why the item was included in the agreement of the First Ministers. As I indicated in answer to a previous

[Page 4598]

question, we are currently involved in developing our long-term plan with respect to the utilization of those funds and when that process has been completed, then I will be providing full details, not only of this year, but of our projected expenditures into the future.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I will just say to the honourable minister, during last year's budget estimates, the minister mentioned that it was a matter of resources and we do know the number of dollars that came down through this new initiative. So it's not a matter of resources, it's a matter of priorities. The disabled community has been promised self-managed attendant care for several years. A pilot project, which has been very successful, has never advanced to include more Nova Scotians. The current home care system is inflexible and it keeps the disabled trapped in their home waiting for services. They even face a fine if they miss an appointment without giving a 24-hour notice, I might say. My question to the minister, does the minister agree that the 1994 self-managed attendant care pilot program was successful and cost effective?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, there are obviously many options that are open with respect to addressing the issue of home care. It is our responsibility obviously to be continuously evaluating all of those methods and ensuring that we bring the best possible method forward. The honourable member correctly points out that funding is available with respect to that and as we develop our responses to the available funding, we will be looking at all options before us.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister has been on a conference and he knows directly across Canada this is considered in the Home Care Programs one that is the most efficient, most effective programs to manage persons-with-disabilities care. The self-managed attendant care saves the system money and it provides independence and freedom of disabled persons. My final question to the minister, will he commit to putting more health care dollars into the self-managed attendant care for disabled Nova Scotians?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I will commit to the honourable member and to the House is that we will bring forward the very best program that we can to address the needs of all Nova Scotians, but especially those who are in need of home care. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE: PRIVATE INFO. REQUIREMENT - PRACTICE END

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Insurance Act. Norman Earle of Digby is a senior who believes he's being bullied into releasing private information to his insurance company. If the name sounds familiar, it's because we raised Mr. Earle's case last year when he was fighting against having to sign medical release forms. This year he's being asked to sign a consent form allowing his broker and his insurance company to collect medical, credit and employment information whether

[Page 4599]

or not it's relevant to his policy, and they also want the right to pass it on to others of their choosing. The minister has had a full year to address the issue, but appears to have done nothing. My question to the minister is, what is he going to do to prevent insurance companies from bullying Nova Scotia seniors?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I believe it's the prerogative of any policyholder to withhold personal information from the insurance company.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, you see, the problem is that Norman Earle says he is ready to speak out but what he's afraid of is the number of seniors who might feel they have to give away their rights to their personal information in order to get insurance. That is the problem. We raised this same issue in the House last year, and the minister has done nothing. So my question to the minister is, when is this government going to stop treating the industry with kid gloves and remember whose side it's supposed to be on?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there's no doubt that I am certainly on the side of seniors. (Interruption) Really. I do not have the personal information from Mr. Earle to pursue this. If Mr. Earle would like to write me a letter or send me an e-mail, send me a fax or telephone me to give me the information, then I would certainly pursue it.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Earle is angry and I'm sure he'll do exactly that. The problem is, we raised the issue in the House one year ago on October 9, 2003. What more does this minister need to take action? The problem is that these companies are no longer allowed to discriminate against seniors, but these companies are wily and sophisticated and if there's a way around the rules, they'll find it. My question to the minister is, when is this government going to stand up to the whole insurance industry, not just case by case, but stand up to the whole industry and make sure that our seniors get a fair deal on auto insurance?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this government can be very proud of what they've done with regard to insurance rates. We now have the lowest auto insurance rates in Canada. We have stood up to the insurance companies. I would suggest that the honourable member be aware of the fact that insurance rates on automobiles for holders of automobile insurance are decreasing and will continue to decrease this year. In fact, we have, I believe, two insurance companies which have already been through the Insurance Review Board that announced yesterday or today of fairly large insurance rate decreases.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

ENERGY - OFFSHORE DEVELOPMENT: STALL - EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in 1998, Nova Scotia was the darling of the offshore industry. Since 1999, with the arrival of the Tory Government, our offshore industry has been continually in decline. There has not been a new project since the Sable project.

[Page 4600]

Deep Panuke has been shelved indefinitely, and now companies are abandoning their leases, the Finance Minister is picking through the offshore wreckage to try to balance his budget, oil and gas prices are at their highest levels in over a decade and yet major oil companies are abandoning the Nova Scotia offshore. So my question to the Minister of Energy is, why has offshore development stalled under this government?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, contrary to the member's comments, quite frankly, as we look and go forward into this Fall with the potential of the development of Deep Panuke based on successful well drills at Margaree and Marco, based upon other companies such as Canadian Superior that want to do more development on our offshore. The difference, is people abandoning a well because of geology - they are not blaming it on Nova Scotia like the Liberal Party will wish them to do.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: You blame the federal government for not having a health care plan, you blame the Liberal caucus for the offshore industry abandoning this province - what next, Mr. Speaker? One only needs to look at Newfoundland and Labrador to see how this government is failing Nova Scotians. Last Spring, Newfoundland and Labrador fast-tracked exploration on the Laurentian Sub-basin while this government has done nothing. Investments continue in Newfoundland and Labrador as companies compete to buy offshore leases while the same companies are abandoning their leases in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador is looking more like the Jed Clampett of the offshore industry while this government seems content to take on the role of Jethro Bodine. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Energy. When can we expect Nova Scotia to issue exploration permits for what's left of the Nova Scotia side of the Laurentian Sub-basin?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member that as we go forward and we look at the opportunities that we have, we also have to take into account the investments that are to be made on seismic activity in our offshore, the people proceeding with moving for development in the Laurentian Sub-basin. It's all about development that is occurring in companies that are not walking away from Nova Scotia, and this government is working in concert with them, working with the federal government to ensure that we have regulatory efficiency so that we actually have an offshore future - much different than what would be painted by the Liberal Party here today.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, one can only hope that the Minister of Energy will ask the government to provide the rest of Nova Scotia with the same rose-coloured glasses that he seems to be wearing. The minister has the belief that the offshore industry is doing fine. While the Minister of Finance laughs that $20 million ends up in his lap

[Page 4601]

because companies are paying this government to leave this province, the Minister of Energy would have Nova Scotians believe all is well and the future is bright.

Mr. Speaker, in 1998, Nova Scotia was the province to be for offshore industry. Today, in 2004, after six years of this Tory Government, offshore companies are not coming to this province - they are leaving this province. It's time for the minister to be realistic with the people of Nova Scotia. My final question is, when will this government put forward a workable plan to get exploration moving again, instead of the minister continuing to spout platitudes that Nova Scotians are clearly not buying?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, forfeiture of lease arrangements and returning back to the Crown is much different than people leaving, and it is misleading this House to suggest that they are leaving and abandoning Nova Scotians. Those same companies are working with this government and, as I can say confidently in this House today, just watch us because Nova Scotia is on the move. If he is so concerned about Newfoundland and Labrador, maybe he can take a trip over there and join them, but I'm working for Nova Scotia's benefit, not worrying about what Newfoundland and Labrador is doing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley.

COM. SERV. - CHILD CARE: LEADERSHIP ROLE - ASSUME

MS. MARILYN MORE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Canada has fewer seats available for preschool-aged children than Great Britain, Continental Europe, and the United States. The child care sector locally, provincially and nationally, and the federal government are working both individually and collectively to improve child care services for families. Other provincial governments such as Quebec, are taking early education and child care seriously. I ask the minister, why isn't the Nova Scotia Government taking a leadership role?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for allowing me to put into context the Nova Scotia Government's role in this. One should understand that the provincial government was involved in the provision of child care long before the federal government decided to get involved with the Early Childhood Development Program and the Early Learning and Child Care Program, but we welcome their entry in it. They're not quite to the level that we are, in terms of their commitment to it, but we do welcome that interest on the part of the federal government, and we will continue to work with the federal government to deliver better child care programs for Nova Scotians.

[Page 4602]

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, we are not even maintaining what we have in terms of child care spaces in Nova Scotia, let alone increasing our capacity to look after our infants and children. Two large child care centres in low-income areas of metro have closed this year. Other centres are just a major repair or unexpected expense away from financial disaster. Child care centres desperately need more operational support. My question, the minister promised a second increase following a review and no money has been forthcoming, how much longer will his government make child care centres wait for this promised funding?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for allowing me to just refresh all Nova Scotians' memories as to what has taken place with the size of the child care subsidy. Back in December some of the executive directors of the larger local child care centres came and met with me, and they were basically pleading that they needed more money, if we could just give them 10 cents a day it would be something to let them know that we were thinking of them. When they came back in April, in fact, I committed to 50 cents a day and that we would expedite the subsidy review, which is now being done. I am anticipating that the results of that review will be implemented by November 1st.

MS. MORE: Mr. Speaker, the daycare centres actually need over $17 a day in an increase, not 50 cents. (Interruptions) The fact of the matter is quite simple, this government has done everything it can to avoid creating more designated subsidized spaces, and it has failed to stabilize the sector. My final question is simple, will the minister guarantee that he won't allow any more non-profit child care centres to close?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the member refers to designated child care subsidized seats because, once again, just as in the case of, for instance, affordable housing, with child care, our focus is trying to help those families in greatest need of child care. That's why we moved to the portable child care subsidized seats, because we're focussed on the children, not the means by which the services are delivered to the children but those children and the families. That's what's most important to this government. I thank the member for allowing me to point out the difference between the government's position and the NDP's position. Thank you, sir.

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

COM. SERV. - SOCIAL HOUSING: NEEDS - CONSIDER

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister of Community Services, in keeping with things the minister is not doing. It is a well-known fact, since the federal-provincial Affordable Housing Agreement was signed more than two years ago, this minister has not come close to living up to his government's commitment. Recent announcements on the eve of this sitting are more to the credit of the federal government and community partners than to the Nova Scotia Government, whose

[Page 4603]

participation is minimal at best. My question for the minister is, when is he going to take his responsibility to people in need of social housing seriously?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it's always good to be seen as working co-operatively with other levels of government. Since the member opposite brings this up, I would again remind him that it was the federal Liberal Secretary of State who commented that we had gone about this in the right manner, because the demand is so great for affordable housing, we have to do the research to make sure that those dollars are targeted to those Nova Scotians in greatest need. That's what we've done. I refer to the Secretary of State's comments, when he was here for the recent announcement in the North End of Halifax, in response to the member's allegations.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: First of all, Mr. Speaker, they're not allegations, they're facts. The facts speak for themselves here. Secondly, the only thing that's consistent with that minister is his blaming the federal government for everything that's happening in his department. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, the minister does not appear willing or able to understand the needs of low-income Nova Scotians. Take the housing situation in metro, for example, thousands are without adequate, safe housing in this city, and in two years the minister has created only six units - six in metro Halifax. He allowed that process to be put in place that saw one of these taxpayer-subsidized houses go to a well-paid single city councillor with no dependants. My first supplementary to the minister is, when he approved this selection process, did he not spare a thought for the hundreds of single mothers in this city who are struggling to get decent safe housing for their children?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, using the member's own words, we have been blessed in this province with quite a number of wonderful organizations, including Creighton Gerrish, that have come forward with proposals, that have worked with us to provide assistance for people in need of affordable housing. They had a five-phase project. This was the third phase of the project. They have done good work. I'm sure the honourable member is not casting aspersions on the good people in the Creighton Gerrish organization. They were the ones that determined how we would allocate those units. As a result of what happened recently, we are working with other organizations to make sure we tighten up the criteria.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm not casting aspersions on anybody except this minister in this House for what he's not doing for the people in Nova Scotia who need affordable housing. Six units in metro out of 1,500 that should be either planned or under construction at the present time, six units. That's not casting anything, that's the truth. The fact of the matter is the process by which Councillor Dawn Sloane obtained a brand-new taxpayer-subsidized home was flawed. Even if she does not have the strength or did not have the strength of character to see that this was wrong, the minister could have and should have corrected that situation. My final supplementary to the minister, since this issue became known last Spring, what steps has this minister taken to ensure that a single person

[Page 4604]

earning $52,000 a year can never again take safe, affordable housing from those who need it in metro Halifax?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I know we're not supposed to use props, but if the honourable member would use this and if he listened to my previous answer, it would have helped him, and then perhaps it would have avoided the need for him to repeat the question again. Again, when this took place I did make it known that I wanted to review the criteria that was being used by these organizations before they make these decisions. Perhaps more importantly, and again the member opposite does not seem to be making use of the information that's provided to him, last Thursday I passed out information that showed that there were 203 units of affordable housing announced so far under the program, not six as the member suggests.

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

COM. SERV. - AFFORDABLE HOUSING UNITS:

C.B. OMISSION - EXPLAIN

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services, who recently announced 68 more new housing units under the Affordable Housing Agreement in four communities. Let's do a quick tally of the new housing units created under this agreement, lest he should question my math figures. There are 15 units in Middleton, six units in metro, 68 units announced two weeks ago. That's a total of 89 new moderate- and low-income units announced so far. We're not talking about the existing stock being repaired under the program, but new places for families to live. My question to the minister is, why are none of these 89 new units located in Cape Breton?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that we went through an exhaustive process (Interruptions)

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

MR. MORSE: We went through an exhaustive process, consulting right across this province, as to where we should target our affordable housing monies. Then we put out a request for proposals and, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that there have been proposals that have come in from right across the province. We are scrutinizing them. Those that were ready, that also passed the scrutiny of a couple of other bodies outside of government that care very much about affordable housing, were found to be ready to go. Therefore, we announced them.

[Page 4605]

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, just a few minutes ago on my colleague's last question, Nova Scotians with the greatest needs I think is what he had said. The minister likes to talk about numbers, but uses them creatively to disguise this government's inaction on affordable housing. Here's another math lesson for the minister. On September 17th he announced renovations for 88 units. That's just 1.6 homes per constituency in Nova Scotia. I don't know where the 1.6 homes in Cape Breton Nova were renovated, but over 40 families and counting are on a list waiting for their turn. So I ask the minister, will he provide the House with a list of projects, renovations or new units, planned for Cape Breton?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it is good to be able to get up here and assure Nova Scotians that the home ownership renovation monies are spread right across the province basically in about 25 per cent in each of the regions. Specifically, obviously, as minister, I do not get the list as to which people are accepted for the renovation monies, but it is basically using the same criteria that Housing Services uses for RRAP which is the federal-provincial program that goes up to $16,000. These are for homes that need more renovations than $16,000 and it allows them to keep it in the housing stock of the province.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the poverty level in Cape Breton is higher, if not the highest in most areas of this province. Yet not one new unit of affordable housing has been announced or constructed anywhere on Cape Breton Island. So I ask the minister, how much has been or will be spent this year on affordable housing in Cape Breton?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as the member has pointed out again, it's very important for those people who are in danger of losing their housing because of its dilapidated condition that the monies be made available to them to be able to stay in their homes. As I have pointed out in my previous answer, Cape Breton got an equal share on a per capita basis with the rest of the province. The member is quite right, there is a demand in Cape Breton. It got its fair share and will continue to get its fair share.

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

ENERGY - C.B. & CENT. N.S. RAILWAY:

MAINTENANCE - ACTION

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Energy. The Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway applied to the URB for an abandonment of 98 miles of railroad on Cape Breton Island and recently the minister has indicated that a business case could be made very easily for the maintaining of that railroad. So my question to the minister is, what specific action is the minister contemplating for the maintenance of that railroad?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Economic Development as the minister responsible. (Interruptions)

[Page 4606]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as honourable members of the House know, under the fine leadership of the former Minister of Economic Development, a viable option for the last two years was achieved. At this particular juncture, we are in dialogue with people who are involved in transporting product on that railway. We're involved in discussions of possible new people who use that railway and when we conclude those talks, I'm very hopeful we will come up with a viable situation that will see the railway continue to operate.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, there was a two-year plan, but no one in this House, no one in Nova Scotia other than the minister and the former minister, seems to know about that plan. Given the fact that 16 major businesses rely on that railroad for transporting their goods and services, my question is to the minister - either minister for that matter - will the minister ask the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia for an injunction on this issue until a solution can be found to keep the railroad viable?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we're in discussions with . . .

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

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. 102.

Bill No. 102 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise briefly to speak to this bill. We're taking very concrete steps in introducing this bill to make sure that families who are owed money do in fact get the money they are owed. When the courts order a parent to make payment to a former spouse or partner or to their children, it is not something a payor can simply walk away from. It's an obligation, it's a responsibility. We are taking steps

[Page 4607]

to help a former spouse or partner and children to receive what they are legally entitled to receive. We're proposing to expand the definition of income source. If funds can be garnisheed that can extend to any monies payable, not just a payor's wage, salary, remuneration.

The Maintenance Enforcement Program would also be authorized to register a maintenance order against a payor's personal property, not just his land. We're also proposing to make sure a payor can't hide assets within a corporate entity. The example given at the bill briefing yesterday, where the person who owns a truck and transfers that truck to a corporation while that person continues to drive the truck, he's still using it but he's trying to hide it under a different ownership so that it can't be sold to meet his legal obligations under a court order. That's clearly unacceptable to Nova Scotians.

Another change would give the power to bring a regulation around charging interest or other penalties on arrears to make sure that the recipients receive their money on time and that there is no financial advantage in not making payments. That additional revenue would go to the people who deserve it most - the recipients.

I'd like to thank my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and the Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women who brought to my attention the provision in Manitoba, I believe it was, which deals with this issue. It's an important issue to many people in Nova Scotia and obviously, particularly to women's groups. In some cases, they've had to take out loans to meet financial obligations, they should not have to bear the burden of borrowing costs.

Yesterday an issue was raised about enforcement. Certainly, I intend to have further discussions with staff about what opportunities we need to take to look at the levels of staffing. Quite frankly, I have heard the comments of my colleagues in both Opposition Parties around staffing levels and I can assure you that is something I take very seriously and we will be looking at it in an effort to improve enforcement. As all members of the House realize, our enforcement staff work very hard to enforce the orders of our courts. I understand that that sometimes is a challenge for our staff and I can assure members of the House that is something we will review in an effort to make sure the system works as well as it can to enforce court orders.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to working with the members opposite to move this bill through the House. I believe it's a genuine effort at law reform in Nova Scotia, to improve our Maintenance Enforcement Program. I can also indicate that I would like to extend particular congratulations to the staff involved in the Maintenance Enforcement Program, who put a tremendous amount of effort into developing many of these recommendations that have now been embodied in this bill. These are good improvements, I believe, ones which I hope all members of the House will be able to support and I look forward to hearing comments from members opposite. Thank you.

[Page 4608]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to be able to stand and speak on this piece of legislation, and I want to echo the minister's words, that the staff of the Maintenance Enforcement Division of the Department of Justice are doing a very good job, given the resources that they've been provided by this government and previous governments. I have no dispute and I only have respect for the executive director and her staff and the work that they do. Given the resources they've been given by this government over the past six years, 5 and a half years, I would question, how they've been able to do it, and that is what the crux of the matter is with this legislation.

Let me be clear, Mr. Speaker, and I've told the minister this, I told him privately in a meeting with his staff and I'll say it here, I said it in the newspapers, this legislation would not be here if this was a majority Tory Government. This is an opportunity for the Tories to look like a kinder, gentler version of the Tory Party. This is another bill that they're putting forward in order to be able to sell themselves at the next election as a Party that is actually masquerading as a Party that seems to be concerned with the interests of women and the rights of women in this province, and that is a fact, and I don't see anyone on that side standing up to dispute that point.

The fact is, that this Party had four years in government from 1999-2003, in which I have no doubt that these changes could have easily been brought in during that period of time, but lo and behold they get a minority government and in come changes to the Maintenance Enforcement Act. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it's happened. We will be supporting this legislation. These are important changes to the legislation that will give more authority to the staff of the Maintenance Enforcement Division of the Department of Justice to do their job.

In many cases, these are concrete examples of problems with the legislation that have been identified by the staff, probably over the last while, since the legislation was first proclaimed, Mr. Speaker. These are changes and I will get into a bit of detail on them that will make the legislation much, much tougher. It will make it more easy for staff, and I say women, and I will say women throughout this speech because it is predominantly women, I don't know the percentage but I would imagine it's 99 per cent women, that are the spouses that are receiving payments under the Maintenance Enforcement Act. The payee, I guess, as compared to the payor, as the legislation calls it.

Mr. Speaker, this is legislation that will give teeth to the staff, will improve their ability to do their job. So, of course, we support this. There's the old saying about the Russian constitution that you'll hear lawyers talk about from time to time, and what are they saying? They're saying, if you look back to the days of the Soviet era, they had a beautiful constitution that promised all kinds of rights to the citizens of the Soviet Union: the right to vote, the right to free speech. Quite frankly, it was beautifully written, and the wording was such that it gave the people of the Soviet Union more powers and more authority and more

[Page 4609]

rights than probably any other country in the world, but when you got down to the fact, it wasn't enforced. It was never allowed to give the citizens of the Soviet Union the power to be able to actually have rights in a democracy. They didn't have the right to vote, really. They didn't have free speech, without a doubt, and so we talk about a Soviet Union Constitution, and what we talk about when we say that is, you have a government that's willing to pass law and have pretty words on paper, but isn't willing to put their money where their mouth is, to ensure that this legislation can actually be enforced.

I am still waiting for the day that this Minister of Justice will stand up and announce, instead of just consulting, or as he said yesterday, "I don't have a plan for more staff." That was his quote to the media, I don't have a plan for staffing, but it's something we will, "consider." Well, there's a lot of wiggle words in that, a lot of wiggle words. I appreciate that he has come here today to say he'll make a genuine effort to look at this, but I will assure you that my Party will continue to monitor this department, this division, Mr. Speaker, to ensure that this minister actually does take a serious look at the staffing of the Maintenance Enforcement Division. When I see that happen, I'll be very happy to say that not only the legislation but the government's commitment in funding and in staffing will ensure that this can actually be enforced.

Now let me give you some examples of exactly why I have concerns with how this division has been operated by this government, Mr. Speaker. I'm not the only one. I bet there are 52 different stories that every MLA can tell, anecdotes about women calling us. It happened to me all the time in the last six and a half years since I have been an MLA, I will admit, and it's gotten a little better probably in the last six months or so. What has happened, and I'm sure many others have heard similar stories, you will get a woman calling, you can't even get her phone call returned because the system was such when she had a problem with her husband not paying, or a problem where the garnishing of wages wasn't working, they would call Maintenance Enforcement and leave a message, and another and another. At some point I was saying, what is going on here, are the telephones broken?

When I would speak to people higher up in the Maintenance Enforcement Division, they would be quite candid and they would say look, we have huge caseloads. We don't have enough caseworkers to handle it, it's in the hundreds; it's probably 500 or 600, Mr. Speaker. I don't have the exact number. (Interruption) Some have said 700, it could be, that is huge.

There are people out here - particularly, I will talk to people who are in the legal profession, thinking about caseloads, having a caseload of 700 is very high. To be a caseworker dealing with these cases, they probably don't have an opportunity - again the utmost respect I have for this staff, but they are in a situation where they probably don't even have an opportunity to open the file, let alone, as we found out in the past, are unable to answer the phone calls, because there wasn't enough staff, there wasn't enough support to enable them to actually deal with it.

[Page 4610]

You could write anything you want in the paper, you can say in this legislation that were going to increase the power to revoke a driver's licence, if a caseworker is too overloaded to be able to deal with someone's issue for a month, two months, a year, maybe longer, Mr. Speaker, then really, what is the point of putting it in. We need to have the staff to ensure that these provisions can be actually implemented. There might be the odd person who will be lucky enough to use them but overall, the ability of women in this province to be guaranteed that the maintenance enforcement system will be there is questionable, it has been questionable, and until the staffing is increased it will remain questionable.

This legislation does go a long way in addressing a lot of the issues that many women and many in the bureaucracy would like to see addressed. I suggested to you already that they are going to improve the ability to deny driver's licences. My understanding was that in the past you would be able to deny a driver's licence if someone refused to sign an arrangement for garnishing, or sign an arrangement payment, Mr. Speaker. In the past, if they actually, signed the agreement and then refused to pay, or paid for a few months and then refused, or a year or what have you, if at some point after they sign the arrangement they defaulted, they couldn't take away the driver's licence as long as they had actually signed an arrangement. Staff noticed that that was a problem. This legislation will change that. I commend staff for their work in ensuring that this is changed. This will ensure that now they will be able, even if someone signs an arrangement and later defaults, to go and revoke their licence. That's a pretty heavy hammer. Not many pieces of legislation in this province revokes someone driver's licence.

If you are a deadbeat dad - and I use that term, it's a colloquialism, Mr. Speaker, but I think it is a fair term - fathers who aren't willing to pay for the orders that the courts make against them or they have been brought before Maintenance Enforcement through an arrangement if they are not willing to pay, we need to have stringent and strong rules in order to enforce it.

Mr. Speaker, we also talk about corporate responsibility in this legislation. I think that is very important as well. It's important that when a company refuses to assist in the garnishing of wages, that they be held responsible for that. That is a vital piece of new legislation. One that will ensure that women, and through them, the Maintenance Enforcement Division will be able to actually go out and ensure that a company can't ignore a garnish order, can't sign it and then decide not to collect the money.

In some cases, it's not really arms length. Some of these companies are probably companies operated by the father. Again, I use that because 99 per cent of the cases are probably men, Mr. Speaker, but the father or the husband is unwilling to pay. He may set up a corporation as a shell company. The minister suggested that yesterday and again today. There might be a shell company created in order to try and avoid payment. You go through garnishing, the company tries to deny it, the directors can be held responsible, that's the kind of hammer that is needed, but only if the staff is able, that they actually get around to opening

[Page 4611]

the file and get around to actually trying to enforce it. That's a crucial step that this minister has ignored in introducing this legislation - great on paper, but need more staff in order to make it work.

[2:00 p.m.]

There are many other provisions that need to be talked about. Overall, this legislation will increase the ability of staff - when they can get to a file, when they can address a woman's concerns - to actually have the power to fix the things they haven't been able to fix in the past. They will have more power to go in and access certain assets that may be broader definitions than they were before. They will, as I said, have the power to revoke drivers' licences in greater circumstances, and they will have the power to deal with people under corporate shells or corporate responsibility who refuse to deal with garnishing - all these are good.

They will now have the ability to go in and deal with - I guess for the lack of a better term - personal property, or chattel, because we can now put liens on those, Mr. Speaker, but there's no ability for them right now, under the legislation, before this is passed, to allow for Maintenance Enforcement to go in and put a lien on that. Again, good legislation, but when do staff with 700 cases have the opportunity to go in and impose liens? I don't know. I suggest not very often because of the amount of time it takes - and I speak from a little bit of experience because at times, when I was a workers' advisor, I had 300 or 400 cases. I know some of them are dormant, not all of them are active but, when you have 700, you're going to have a heck of a lot of active ones.

Unlike, for example and I'll just use my own personal experience as a workers' advisor - you would have maybe 300 or 400 cases, Mr. Speaker, but you could sort of know, with some certainty, when they were going to be coming up. Maybe it's going to take six months for a decision to be heard. You deal with it, you put it away, and you know in six months the appeal is going to come up or you're going to have to deal it, so there's a little bit of timing that you can coordinate.

The problem with 700 cases is, in theory, tomorrow 700 men could decide they're not going to want to pay anymore and you have 700 cases on your desk to be dealt with. I assume that's an extreme example, Mr. Speaker, but the fact is that as long as you have 700 cases which you have no control over, it's in the hands of, in most cases, a father or an ex-husband who does not want to pay. Let's face it, if there's a Maintenance Enforcement Order, in many cases it is because they've already been in a situation where they weren't interested in paying, and you're putting yourself in a situation, with that kind of caseload, that at any moment you can be overwhelmed. I suggest to you that is what has been happening at least in the last five and a half years, if not since this legislation was implemented.

[Page 4612]

That goes back to a point that I think I would like to put on the record, Mr. Speaker, which is it's easy in government to say we're doing something by passing legislation. When the original Maintenance Enforcement Act was passed, I'm sure many governments - I'm not sure which one was in power at the time - would have said look at what we're doing. But it becomes a bit of a mug's game, because what you end up doing is giving false hope to women in this province that this is actually going to help them.

I'm sure there are great stories, anecdotal stories, of women who have actually been helped by Maintenance Enforcement, I know of them as well but, overall, if the government isn't willing to put the proper funding in place there are a lot of women who become very disappointed, very quickly, with the system. They get trampled by the bureaucracy. The bureaucracy doesn't have the staff to be able to do their job. Again, the staff of that division, I have a lot of respect for and I know they're doing the best they can. For the job they have, they're doing a heck of a job, but the fact is that the government isn't committed.

Frankly, Mr. Speaker, in the terms of government funding, it all comes down to putting your money where your mouth is. If this government isn't willing to put their money where their mouth is with regard to Maintenance Enforcement, providing the staffing, providing the funding necessary to make sure we have a legitimate, an appropriate and strong legislation that is appropriately enforced to ensure that women in this province get their funding, then the women of this province are being done a disservice.

Let's be clear, it's not only the women of this province. Women who don't get regular support, whether it be alimony or child support, have to rely on other forms of government support, whether it be through Social Assistance, whether it be through unemployment, potentially, depending on what type of situation they're in, the rest of the safety net has to pick up when the father or the ex-husband is not willing to pay their part. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, part of this legislation, one of the key goals of this legislation, I would suggest, as part of public policy, is to ensure that we have legislation that ensures that the person who is supposed to pay pays, so the rest of us don't have to carry the burden.

It actually saves the government money in the end, probably. If they actually did a cost-benefit analysis they may find that by investing in Maintenance Enforcement, by putting these rules in place and ensuring they're going to be enforced, it could actually save the government money in the Department of Community Services. It could actually do that, but we don't see that, we don't see that commitment. It would have been nice if the minister, yesterday, and I would have been the first one to shake his hand, if he would have been able to say we're not only introducing the legislation, we're putting the funding in place to make sure the commitment is there, to make sure this is properly enforced. We all win when women, mothers, children, have the funding they get from the ex-husbands and fathers to ensure that they can actually live the life that they were living when the relationship ended.

[Page 4613]

Mr. Speaker, those are the things that are important not only to the women of this province, but to all Nova Scotians. If this is the type of province I want to live in, if this is the type of province women feel that they want to live in, they have to know that this is a province that protects their right to the order that they've gotten from a court saying that they get the support and the funding they deserve from their ex-husbands and the father of their children. That's what we need. I haven't seen this government come that far with it, I'm still waiting for that. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the Justice Critic for our caucus, I'm certainly pleased to rise and make a few remarks on Bill No. 102 and certainly would echo the comments from the Minister of Justice and the Justice Critic and House Leader for the NDP caucus.

I was reminded that in fact the Maintenance Enforcement Act was first brought into legislation in this province back in 1995-96 under the Savage Administration. That's when the Act was first brought in and it's good to see that we are now having some much needed amendments being made to the Act. It's now approximately going on 10 years that we've had this legislation and certainly over the years, with any piece of legislation brought into this House, we find some loopholes. We find some need to make amendments.

One of the most surprising aspects of this session for me as Justice Critic for the Liberal caucus, Mr. Speaker, is that we haven't heard or seen any mention of a Justice Administration Act for this session which I think would be the first session in quite some time where the government on a regular basis introduces legislation in the Spring and by Fall, upon reflection, they note some points in the legislation which need tweaking and which needs some changing. So certainly the time has come to make these important changes to the Maintenance Enforcement Act to address some of the longstanding concerns that have been identified by not only the Maintenance Enforcement staff, but the families who depend on it for their income and for part of their livelihood and the maintenance of their children and the maintenance of their homes every year. So we're certainly pleased to see these changes are taking place.

Mr. Speaker, clearly in our society people are becoming more and more sophisticated as to how to, I don't know if I would use the term hide, but to be able to put away assets that aren't so easily or readily accessible to the average person, or even to government bodies that are trying to fully assess what a person's net worth is, or what a person's full assets are. Clearly these changes are meant to make it easier for the Maintenance Enforcement staff and for the director to enforce orders by being able to lift the corporate veil in certain circumstances in order to be able to see exactly what a person's true assets are and whether someone is actually trying to hide behind the corporate veil and to keep assets hidden so as to not be required to pay their court ordered payments.

[Page 4614]

Mr. Speaker, it has been said by my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, I think he's correct in saying that every MLA has had phone calls from individuals who rely upon support payments who have told the stories of late payments, missed payments, no payments, and in many cases, I can tell you from my own personal experience, the individuals who are calling are on a very limited income to start off with. A missed payment has a significant impact not only on them, even more importantly I would say for us as legislators is the impact that it has when children are involved - $50 a month that doesn't show up, $100, $200 or more that doesn't show up, or is a week late, or is a month late, can have a significant impact on people who are on fixed incomes or on low incomes. Unfortunately, when you owe money, your regular debts whether it be for your electricity, your phone, your cable, your taxes, they don't like it when you miss one month so nor should we allow payers, who are obligated under a court order to pay, to miss a month or to be late in their payments.

One of the things, Mr. Speaker, that you've heard in the media and that both myself and the Justice Critic for the NDP have indicated is our concern over the staff levels at Maintenance Enforcement. I think the minister has alluded that he is aware that there are concerns over that. I know my colleague went on to indicate why he felt this legislation was coming forward, and I know that he drew some conclusions that he felt that unless it was a minority situation that this government would not have brought forward these changes and that may be the case, I'll leave it to him to draw those conclusions. But the fact is, it has been brought forward, it is a minority situation and I would say that all three caucuses have indicated concern over staffing levels.

Allow me, in the spirit of co-operation, to suggest to the minister that it would be very timely right now for the minister to ask an independent person who clearly has a human resources/labour-type background, to come in and review the current staff levels of the Maintenance Enforcement Program, to review the current caseload and to provide some sort of a report to the minister - even better, to this House - as to what recommendations should be brought forward as to the staffing levels at Maintenance Enforcement. Is it one more employee? Is it two? Is it 20? I don't know, and we can sit here and we can guess, and I'm not asking the minister to have an inquiry or a public commission or anything. Go out, find the individual at an appropriate cost and do a review of that department.

I think it's clearly something that the NDP caucus is asking for. It's clearly something that we're asking for and I believe even the government itself has indicated that they're aware that there may be a shortage of staff in that department. So rather than us sit here and point our fingers and try to guess at what the solution is, why don't we do the responsible thing, bring someone in, undertake a review of that department and have someone provide us with a professional opinion as to what should be done, and then allow the government to react accordingly with that.

[Page 4615]

I believe that is a reasonable suggestion to make, Mr. Speaker. We're not asking the government to expend tremendous amounts of money in doing this, but I think this would be a responsible way, if the government is truly serious about the changes to this Act, about making the Act more enforceable, about protecting the interests of those families that rely so heavily on these payments, then the least the government could do, in the spirit of co-operation, is to undertake such a review and to report back to the House on its findings. So I do hope the Minister of Justice will take me up on that offer. I think it certainly would send a signal to our caucus and to the Official Opposition that the government does take this issue seriously and is prepared to act accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to take the time of the House to go through all of the changes that are listed here, there has been discussion on that, but clearly, this does close significant loopholes. I think it brings the Act more in line with what our modern society is now. The fact that we now use the Personal Properties Security Act, the issue of being able to place liens against personal property where someone has not paid, it is a means of modernizing the Act and bringing it into the year 2004. Now, are there other changes that maybe should have been made? More than likely there probably are still some changes that are out there that are not contained in this bill. One can only hope that the government will be willing, as we go forward, to be able to bring further legislation in here to amend the Act, to make it stronger.

I think certainly everyone in this Legislature, regardless of political stripe, accepts that if you owe money to a former spouse for the maintenance of your children, you have a legal and, more importantly, a moral duty to uphold those payments, to make them on time, to make sure they are not missed. I believe as legislators we all want to do our part to make sure that this is enforced and that the court orders and the families who rely on this so heavily are protected and that they can be given assurances that we as legislators are prepared to do as much as we possibly can to make sure that those orders are enforced and that they're done so in a timely fashion.

Mr. Speaker, I know one of my colleagues suggested to me, and he wanted to raise the concern again, about the issue of forcing someone to pay when the payor is outside our jurisdiction. That, I realize, is always going to be a difficult issue. It's always difficult for our province to reach its arm out and go grab payors who are no longer in this province. There is a system in place. I believe the minister himself would recognize it is essential that we continue to work with all other provinces to try to make sure it cannot be possible that a payor says, being I have a court order in Nova Scotia, I'm moving to Toronto or Alberta and I'm going to do my best to avoid them finding me or avoid them forcing me to pay.

[Page 4616]

[2:15 p.m.]

I would hope the minister may wish to address that in his comments, that we continue as a province to make sure that if you have a responsibility here in Nova Scotia regardless of where you live in this country you will be expected to uphold that responsibility to those staying here in the province. That we will work with our colleagues in other jurisdictions - not only to help them when they have payors who have located to our province but they would be there to assist us when former Nova Scotians move to their provinces and have obligations back here.

With that, I do look forward to the minister's closing comments on this. I do look forward to the Law Amendments process. I do hope we'll have the opportunity to hear from individuals, either through their own personal experience or from counsellors or even some of the women's shelters around this province, which I'm sure have heard many stories that would relate to the issue of maintenance enforcement and that they can give us an idea exactly whether these changes do properly address all the loopholes out there. Or, if there are further amendments that should be brought forward to make this Act even stronger. Again, I look forward to seeing whether the Minister of Justice would be willing to entertain my suggestion of undertaking an independent review of the current staffing levels at Maintenance Enforcement.

With that, Mr. Speaker, our caucus will certainly be supporting this bill at second reading and look forward to its arrival at the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park on an introduction.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw the attention of the House to the west gallery for an introduction. A resident of Clayton Park is with us this afternoon. His name is Peter Whalen, he is not related to me although our paths have crossed at city hall. I wonder if Peter would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Halifax Needham for giving me the opportunity to do this introduction. In the west gallery, there is a resident of the City of Dartmouth, not a resident of the constituency of Dartmouth North but of the City of Dartmouth. His name is Mr. Dwight Caldwell and he's here watching the proceedings of the House today and I would certainly hope the House will give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

[Page 4617]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm going to take a few minutes to speak on Bill No. 102, the changes in the Maintenance Enforcement Act. I think this is a really important piece of legislation and I want to thank the honourable minister for bringing this bill forward. This bill, as previous speakers have indicated, will close some loopholes so that a person who has legal obligations to pay maintenance for the support of their children will not be able to transfer assets to a corporate entity in order to avoid that obligation. As well, it allows for a penalty for any person who aids a payor in avoiding their responsibility toward their children. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, this is a situation that occurs all too frequently in the Province of Nova Scotia and probably in other jurisdictions as well.

I've worked for many years with families and have seen first hand the results of situations where a court order exists for maintenance to be paid but is unenforceable for a variety of reasons. There's been a great deal of research done on this issue over the years and it has established that, in particular, when a marriage ends, the income of women and children drops dramatically in this situation where the incomes of men in these situations actually tends to go up and there is a lot of research that indicates that this is the case. So although there are situations where there are men who have custody and care of the children, it's more likely that it will be mothers and their children who will be negatively impacted.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say in particular around the changes that the minister has brought forward, I want to speak to the memory actually of a woman who brought her situation to me a number of years ago, a woman who sadly has passed away. She had written a number of letters in The ChronicleHerald about women who end up living in poverty following the end of their marriage, where there was a maintenance order, but it proved to be unenforceable due to a hiding of assets by the spouse or the payor. This woman whose name is Anne, I won't use her full name even though she has passed away, I don't know whether she would want that to occur, she made the rounds I think to the various political Parties in this Legislature to talk about what occurred in her situation and the absolute importance of amending legislation and finding a way to ensure that other women would not end up in her situation.

This is a woman who worked side by side with her husband in their business for many years. She was the bookkeeper. She was the office receptionist. She kept the schedule of appointments and what have you. Mr. Speaker, this was a relationship where there was actually a lot of physical as well as emotional abuse and eventually the marriage ended. She had an order, but her spouse transferred most of the assets into a corporate entity that was owned by another family member and the result of that was that this woman went from leading a fairly comfortable life materially - certainly not in terms of the violence and the abuse she was subjected to - to living a life of absolute poverty, having to rely on food banks, living in a rooming house, and really being at the mercy of her friends and her support network to have any quality of life at all.

[Page 4618]

If the changes to this legislation will help us in moving toward the kind of province/society/community that will ensure that somebody in Anne's situation will never go through this again, I can only applaud the minister for bringing forward this legislation. At the same time, mention has been made that to enforce legislation like this will require a real concerted effort on the part of the Maintenance Enforcement staff and perhaps additional resources and we will be looking for the accountability from the government in terms of how this will actually be enforced.

The previous speaker spoke to the issue of implementing and enforcing orders outside the jurisdiction of Nova Scotia which is a real serious problem. I think that probably all MLAs in this Legislature on a fairly regular basis encounter families who live in our constituency who are having difficulty financially where one of the partners who lives outside of the province has a maintenance order, has failed to comply with that order, and is hiding in another jurisdiction. We know the difficulties of trying to get maintenance enforced across jurisdictions, although it's not impossible. We do see success in this area.

Some spouses are so determined and so deviant that they often do hide in other areas, and this is something that I would encourage the government and the minister to look at, how we can improve on the agreements that we have with other provinces with respect to enforcing maintenance orders that are issued in the Nova Scotia court system, because this seems to be one of the most significant areas of difficulty for maintenance enforcement.

I think the third area is the whole area of the underground economy. It's an area that requires some study, but in my experience, working with families, I know that this is an area where there is also a fair amount of hiding assets and income in a way to get around the maintenance that is ordered through the courts.

I applaud the minister for bringing forward these amendments. I encourage the government to continue to look for ways to improve on maintenance enforcement. I ask that we find the resources to implement this legislation and to improve on the enforcement of maintenance orders outside our jurisdiction, so that children and parents, quite often women, are not left with situations where they're having a difficult time paying the rent and putting food on the table. That's the reality, still, for too many families.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Thank you to the minister for allowing me to say a few words on this bill. First of all, I do want to commend the government for improving the bill. This bill, of course, improves the Maintenance Enforcement Act. I think that's very important, because, as has been said by other members of this House, this is an area that is so important

[Page 4619]

to hundreds of people who are often left in poverty as a result of one parent's failure to honour their duty and pay maintenance for their children when there's a breakdown in the family.

I think that it's so important that we continually monitor and look for those shortcomings in legislation that we have, when it's recognized that the impact on individuals and on families is so great. It's very important that this has been brought forward, that the deficiencies in the current Act were looked at, and that we've been trying to plug away, I guess, and plug up some of the loopholes that exist that allow people to either be in other jurisdictions and not honour their obligations or simply to abdicate their responsibilities.

I particularly wanted to commend the government for looking at that. I feel that in the vast majority of cases, of course, it is the fathers who have left their responsibilities and left the mothers and children on their own to suffer, often the severest poverty. Again, our system of social services does not rescue those people. I think that it's important that the parents are called first to stand up and take responsibility for their children and for their maintenance, and that that's very important.

As I say, what we see every day in our constituency offices are the people who perhaps do not have that support and do have not the ability to earn a living and, in fact, are relying upon our own social service net to save them, and it doesn't. In fact it does not pay enough money to maintain people in their homes and to keep their children and their families properly fed and clothed and housed. I see that every day in Clayton Park, and I'm sure it's a story that is repeated across the province. Certainly in the area of Clayton Park, the rents are so high that the amount given to a mother with children to maintain that family is inadequate, there are no apartments available that come under the housing allowance that's provided by Community Services and, therefore, mothers are having to draw upon their food allowance and the other allowances in order to just pay the rent, just to put a roof over their heads. (Interruption) Exactly, and so the things that are really designed to, you know, maybe federal money they receive as a child tax credit is also helping to pay the basic bills - the power and the phone bills and the necessary costs for putting their children in school.

[2:30 p.m.]

Those things are so pressing in our province, those issues about the inadequacy of social services and community services to help people who have fallen on hard times and who need our help. I think that it is tied into the need as well to have parents, and again I say particularly the fathers, who have the wherewithal and the money to come forward and be forced to pay the amount owed to their families so that their children do not live in poverty or at least are able to be fed and housed appropriately. So I think that the two issues are related.

[Page 4620]

It's wonderful for us to be looking at supporting single mothers who need that maintenance for their children and it's also important to realize that the other systems in place in our province are inadequate and that means that when these measures fall through and the mother is forced to turn to Community Services, we had better re-examine that as well and look more deeply to see how we can help people maintain their dignity, maintain enough money to at least provide for their children in a basic way, and help them to rebuild their lives because that's what we're not doing.

We give them so little that you never get out from underneath the pressure of having not enough money, of juggling your bills, and you're never able to rebuild your life because of the pressure you're living under every day, Mr. Speaker. So for many of us here in this House, I think it's a reality. We've spoken to people and we know the kind of stresses they're under and when you're under threat of eviction, or you're having the creditors calling every minute for very basic costs that you've incurred, it's really important that you realize those people cannot go out and find a job and rebuild their lives. They can't take extra training or anything else when they're under threat of eviction and they don't know where their children will sleep tomorrow.

So I think it's really important that we look at all avenues to improve the lives of Nova Scotians who need our help and certainly the improvements here to this Maintenance Enforcement Act will certainly help some women and their children in this province. I applaud that effort and I hope that we'll continue to look for ways to strengthen that and any other means we have to improve the lives of women and children in Nova Scotia.

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to applaud the minister today on his amendments to the Maintenance Enforcement Act. This Act has been around for a little over nine years now and in my former job as executive director of the Whitney Pier Youth Club, I have heard many stories of maintenance enforcement, horror stories I guess. I'm hoping that this will put more teeth into the Act, that we'll be able to garnishee wages.

Mr. Speaker, a missed payment to a single mother with a family, we all have to realize that this affects the most vulnerable citizens - our children, our youth in our communities - and what they don't have, it's just later on in life it's terrible to see, you know, not being able to garnishee somebody's wages, I hope now that now when the Maintenance Enforcement Program comes, they'll be able to garnishee somebody's wages, whether he's in the Province of Nova Scotia or in the Yukon. It doesn't matter where that person is located that he's still responsible as a parent for his children. Today in society there are so many single parents who are out there struggling. When their maintenance enforcement cheque doesn't come in and they're looking to do something with their children, they can't and naturally they fall back to Community Services to see an intake worker to replace the money that they were supposed to be given on a monthly basis.

[Page 4621]

Mr. Speaker, I know from first-hand experience that these people see an intake worker again and say I need an emergency cheque right away to cover the child maintenance that I did not receive for this month which overburdens our Community Services Department because they're constantly going in. So, hopefully, with these new amendments, these people will not be able to hide their assets from the government and from the people.

The only thing that I see is that staffing issues and caseloads will probably double. We'll need additional resources to enforce this Act. I think that that's going to be important, but also remember that hopefully this will be better for the most vulnerable citizens - our children. I commend the minister and I look forward to it going to the Law Amendments Committee so everybody will be able to have a say on it and I again thank the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do want to take an opportunity to speak just briefly on this bill. First of all, I want to let the minister know and to let the minister be aware that I don't have the concerns that some of the other members of this Legislative Assembly might have with respect to the minister not fully understanding that along with the additional responsibilities that are afforded through this piece of legislation that there won't be additional staff. It's my opinion that the minister is very much aware of the overburdened responsibility of the staff members and the number of case files that they have and that this will only add to those case files of the staff within Maintenance Enforcement. The minister himself will know that these added responsibilities will require additional staff. For that I don't have the concern of some of the members of this Legislative Assembly, I think the minister is quite prepared to put money into this Maintenance Enforcement Department.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I want you to know as well, is that all 52 constituencies across this province have at least one time or another dealt with a maintenance enforcement issue, and some of us in constituencies have dealt with more than our fair share of maintenance enforcement issues. We've heard individuals come into our offices and tell us that they know that they know that their ex-husbands have x number of dollars and that they have these accumulated assets and that they own property, they own motorboats, they own Ski-Doos and they own cars (Interruption) Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say Ferraris, but they do own automobiles as well. I would say that they come into the office with total frustration on the issue of why their ex-partner is much better off or deemed or seem to be much better off than they are.

I would tell you that this piece of legislation at least allows the government the opportunity to tap in and put a lien on those personal properties that, in fact, these individuals who normally are called deadbeat dads, but individuals who choose not to pay their maintenance enforcement payments.

[Page 4622]

It's very important to recognize that every time a maintenance enforcement payment is not paid, it has absolutely no effect on the former spouse or partner, but it has a tremendous effect on the individual who is waiting for that cheque. Often the dollars then have to be supplemented by the Department of Community Services. I'm very pleased to see that the minister has identified the Department of Community Services as one of those agents of government whereby it will be able to put in the message in through the channel of ME in order to address this very important issue of making sure that it's possible.

The problem that I have with people who come to my office and who have come to my office over time with respect to maintenance enforcement is the long duration of time it takes sometimes to get those monies. The other problem that I have is that they know that their ex-partner is working, maybe under the table, has accumulated tremendous dollars, has accumulated these personal assets and so on, and there's no way that Maintenance Enforcement could touch it, nor could they their hands on it. Hopefully, through this piece of legislation that will happen.

I'm still at a loss, Madam Speaker, to understand how Maintenance Enforcement will be able to extract monies from individuals who work under the table, whose corporations won't identify them as being employed and working there and yet we know, and the Department of Community Service may very much be aware as well as Maintenance Enforcement be aware that is there, but technically there's no mechanism to grab onto it and pull it together so that we know that we're able to extract those dollars. Maybe this comes under the corporate responsibility that the minister is talking about, but I don't see the strength in that of those individuals who work under the table. I can see that those individuals who are working for a known corporation and that, in fact, it's identifiable that there is the opportunity.

I do want to say, Madam Speaker, that the Minister of Justice, in his position here, has identified crucial components to maintenance enforcement that in fact have not been touched before, and gives Maintenance Enforcement an access to those revenues or those dollars that normally should be shared by the spouse and the children.

Madam Speaker, the reason why I say the spouse, and I've been avoiding much of that through, because I do know a number of people who came up here to speak identified mostly male because 99 per cent of them are male. I tried to be consistent and say there are, in fact, women who do, as well, avoid their role of responsibility, because of the dollars that they have had, and we've had those comments come through the constituency office as well, in that there have been maintenance enforcement agreements attached to them.

The bottom line is, Mr. Minister, it is a great piece - it is a good piece of legislation. It is a piece of legislation that I know that you and the staff at Maintenance Enforcement have put a tremendous amount of hours on. I do know that you've worked very hard to make sure that you will access all those available resources that someone who has access to them can

[Page 4623]

be shared by someone who doesn't. Also, I do not, once again, have the fear of some of my colleagues in this Legislature that you won't put in the proper human resources to help administer the additional responsibilities that go with this.

Mr. Minister, I think that you will do that. Also, I don't believe there will be much representation or many witnesses presented before the Law Amendments Committee on this piece of legislation. I think we would be foolhardy to think that there was going to be a lineup in the Red Room to talk about this piece of legislation. My guess is that you have worked with the people of Nova Scotia and many other individuals on this piece of legislation, and that, in fact, it will come back to this Chamber very quickly.

With that, again, I want to thank my colleagues, other members of the Legislature who have spoken on this piece of legislation, and thank the minister, his staff and the staff of ME for the fine job they have done on this.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Madam Speaker, I will be quite brief on this particular topic, because our critic has pretty well highlighted the issues related to this particular piece of legislation. But there are some issues of a practical nature that I thought I would make reference to in a general fashion, that I hope the minister would take notice of and perhaps act on on a future day.

Unlike my colleague, the previous speaker, I have a concern about the human resources component in the Cape Breton region, not about the quality but rather the lack of quantity. There is considerable concern, Madam Speaker, that many of the staff within the Maintenance Enforcement component of the Department of Justice are being overworked, and they have been overworked for a number of years. There are not receiving sufficient financial resources, ergo the sufficient staffing to be able to cope with the increased workload. While it's quite noble for the minister to provide legislation that will ensure corrective measures on certain aspects of maintenance enforcement, all this legislation won't be of much value unless we have the resources to be able to make it a realization.

I want to put that on the public notice issue, Madam Speaker, because I have had occasion over the last five years to deal with a number of cases. It's quite concerning that every time we go back to Maintenance Enforcement, it all comes down to one issue, a lack of staffing within that department. I don't think that issue is getting better, it's getting worse. I would respectfully ask the minister to consider increasing staffing levels in the Cape Breton region. I can't speak for other areas of the province because I haven't researched that aspect of it.

[Page 4624]

[2:45 p.m.]

Just to signify the impact that has in terms of its relationship with its federal partner, particularly those through Revenue Canada and Human Resources Canada in terms of securing the appropriate information and the timely data that's required to ensure that if a mother of small children who needs the money to buy groceries, it is forthcoming. Because of that breakdown between the two levels of government, I've had several cases where people have suffered unnecessarily, have been forced to go and submit themselves to the Department of Community Services just to find the basic needs of groceries - bread and milk, you can't get more basic than that - as well as sufficient money just to get the lights turned on in their homes. So I would ask the minister to perhaps not only take action on that, but to apprise all members of the House as to what success he has had on this particular issue. It's a major issue, the lack of coordination between the federal agency and the Province of Nova Scotia.

To give an example where that type of co-operative effort has been a success is with the Workers' Compensation Board. The collaborative agreement that was signed back in 1999 between the Workers' Compensation Board, Revenue Canada, and a number of other government departments realized a tremendous benefit for the employers and the employees right across the Province of Nova Scotia. That type of ease was only through that collaborative effort. Somewhat of a different issue, but yet the parallel is quite simple. When both levels of government co-operate, then the maximum benefit can be realized. I'm speaking more so for the children who are adversely affected than the parents and guardians who, in many cases, perhaps have a greater ability to fend for themselves.

That brings it to a very basic common denominator, but it is an issue. I believe the minister is aware of this, and having this particular piece of legislation before the House affords all members to be able to flag these issues with the minister. I feel confident that if the minister is sincere in what he says through this particular piece of legislation, he will act on that. It's one thing to deal with the corporate veil, it's another thing to deal with issues where individuals will hide their assets and resources in other jurisdictions beyond the reach of the Province of Nova Scotia, but it's quite another to have two major agencies almost side by side not collaborating.

Another issue of concern I have is the fact that sometimes after some movement back and forth on realizing a settlement for maintenance - whether it be through the actions of the Maintenance Enforcement Division of the court, or what have you - the fact of the matter is what I found a little bit unsettling is sometimes the solicitor, representing a client who has children, would actually take his or her fees off the top, which effectively those dollars were designed to support feeding those children. I find that's a very disturbing issue to have brought before my office, when you see somebody who is in a position of trust, in a position of resources and lots of opportunity to deal with that.

[Page 4625]

This is a very serious matter and I would respectfully ask the minister to take that on notice as well. For example, if a single mother going through a divorce has two, perhaps three, children and hasn't received any resources for two, maybe three, months from her spouse, all of a sudden when the settlement finally comes through then, lo and behold, a good chunk of that money is clawed out for legal fees or for whatever. I don't believe that Maintenance Enforcement should be cutting cheques to a third party to allow them to sever off that money that's designed to help the children and the parent who are in most need. So without getting into specifics, I think the minister understands the dynamics of what I'm saying, it's a very serious issue and it's a disturbing trend, I believe, that may be occurring.

Also another issue, Madam Speaker, is with regard to another case that I've had occasion to deal with and that is the issue of language barriers for certain individuals in the Province of Nova Scotia - those of Acadian or French origin who are having difficulties in manoeuvring through the legal system of Nova Scotia. Perhaps the minister is aware of a case or two, but certainly I'm aware of one very prominent case that has created a considerable consternation, not only in terms of custody, but also in terms of maintenance and maintenance enforcement. The minister is a very learned individual on the issues of law in Nova Scotia, particularly family law, and I think he'll certainly give some serious consideration to the issues I've raised and with that, I'll certainly be, as my colleague, the critic has suggested, giving ratification to this to move on to the Law Amendments Committee.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Madam Speaker, I would like to make a few comments on this piece of legislation. I know the minister would like to see things move along so it's not my intention to punish him any longer than necessary. Like so many things that we do in this job that are untried, or unusual territory I guess for some of us, any issues around maintenance enforcement for me are definitely in that area. They are an area that I am so lacking in knowledge that it's perhaps shameful.

I guess the reason I want to speak today is because I've had the occasion, and actually very recently, last week as a matter of fact, to walk into my office and have a woman sitting there crying around issues of maintenance enforcement. This is someone I have known for a number of years. So I know some of the history of her situation, but I've been I think some distance from it and I guess when it gets relayed to you in a very emotional fashion, it tends to make you ask a lot of questions about what goes on with this system that someone's life can be held in limbo because of a lack of legislation or a lack of direction on the part of government.

So I called Maintenance Enforcement on her behalf and I was about to take the system apart brick by brick, you know, when I got on the phone. I guess the thing that became immediately apparent to me, and I was a little surprised, was the inability for me to talk to her caseworker without actually - I was going to say without her consent, without the permission

[Page 4626]

of the individual, but that didn't work. I had the woman sitting in my office and I handed her the phone and I said, you know, around privacy issues, please give them permission to speak to me, all to no avail. In other words, the caseworker still couldn't relay any information to me and I had to go to another level. So I spoke to somebody else, I forget the name of that person's title, but I was really surprised by this.

I hadn't run into that dealing with the federal government, and I hadn't run into it dealing with any other department. Yet, with maintenance enforcement, these privacy issues had to be dealt with somebody else at a completely different level than the caseworker, and I found that somewhat cumbersome.

With that said, I did have a good conversation with this person at the next level. I think she tried to dispel my concerns to a point, but one of the things that became immediately evident to me was that people working in this system have far more of a load than anyone can humanly manage. I was trying to make the case that no one from Maintenance Enforcement ever gets back to this woman to tell her anything about where they are in pursuit of dollars or money from her ex-partner. It was impossible to do that. I said this woman doesn't get any information unless she calls. Maintenance Enforcement never knows anything about her former partner unless she gives them the information.

I just wondered what Maintenance Enforcement did. I was told that they have a caseload of 700 cases. Even for me in this job, I'm not burdened to that level and I think I'm overworked. Trying to get back to people and stay on top of it is a continuous battle. I can't believe that anybody could maintain a workload of 700 cases. My colleague from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage tried to make the point that not all of those cases would be active at any one time. I want to make sure that I am dealing with reality here, but certainly even if there is a slight bump, even if you conceive of how many of those might be, there's only 365 days in a year, and we don't work all of them. So to have 700 cases would seem to me to be a fair burden for anyone to legitimately handle and pursue.

I want to say there are things in this bill that address some of the concerns that were raised to me and I want to applaud the minister for those and in particular, the ability for Maintenance Enforcement to go after a delinquent dad or partner, even after they've made an arrangement and then defaulted on that arrangement. That is so important. I want to say to the minister, use every tool in your arsenal to try to help, I would say mostly women who are neglected in this regard. Women and children.

This has been the burden for this woman. I don't think she is overly concerned about herself, but she basically has raised their children herself. I have dealt with issues around Community Services for her because she couldn't get enough money to do that. She has gone the extra mile to raise her children in some kind of quality of life, and she deserves to be commended, and she deserves better than she has gotten out of the system. I want to say that anything that the minister and this government can do to help her and women like her, I am

[Page 4627]

all for it. It showed me a world that I am totally unaccustomed to, and its one of those things that when you see it, you want to say something has to be done and it has to be done now and what can we do.

I was very glad when I came back to our caucus office to find out that this bill was going to be introduced and I really hope that it will do. I want to say to the minister, I want to echo the concerns of my colleague, our House Leader, don't cut the feet out from under this bill right off the start, put the resources in place to ensure that the people who are going to pursue this actually have the resources to do it. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to close debate. First I would like to thank all of the members who took the time to speak on the bill. I think the one common denominator of everyone who took the time to speak on the bill, is the fact that each and every one of us in the course of our duties as a member of the Legislature have had occasion to speak with Nova Scotians who have been directly affected by the maintenance enforcement system in our province. I recognize that every one of us has spoken in a sincere attempt to bring those concerns and experiences to the floor of this House and to the debate on this subject.

[3:00 p.m.]

I would also caution, because the suggestion had been made, Madam Speaker, and I think I should speak to it - the suggestion had been made that the only reason this bill was brought in was because of a minority government. Well, I think, with all due respect, that that is unfair. The reason I believe that, and our action has demonstrated that that is unfair, is because I believe our government has been consistently a supporter of law reform.

We have brought in many bills, in fact, one member of the House joked with me about, you know, is this another uniform bill? The reason, Madam Speaker, that we have supported a lot of uniform legislation, including the uniform Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, is because we want to convince other Canadian jurisdictions to do what they should be doing to modernize their laws, as we have been very effective in this House in doing. So when Nova Scotian recipients have the payor moved to another province, that they have the legislative framework in their province that will protect our recipients in the same way that we would do for their recipients.

[Page 4628]

Madam Speaker, I think that is an important point, one of the important things about uniform legislation, about keeping our laws modern, is because it does act, I believe, as a legitimate encouragement to some other jurisdictions which have not been as thorough, perhaps, in bringing their laws up-to-date in making sure that we do that.

I know all members have an occasion, and, I, in the course of my practice of law, have had occasion to have clients who had a payor that moved to another province, one where there are very minimal enforcement systems in place. Those recipients in Nova Scotia suffered as a result of that lack of framework in another province. So our work with uniform law, our work in trying to modernize our legislation, I think, has a beneficial effect in trying to, both by example and by the adoption of uniform law processes, demonstrate to others the value of that.

Now, there have been so many points raised in the course of debate here today that I won't attempt to address them all, other than to say that I certainly have made notes about some of the concerns that have been raised with respect to individual kinds of cases today. But the transcendent message is that all members on both sides of the House share a commitment to making sure that those court orders are enforced.

I also can tell the honourable members that the Department of Justice and I share a commitment to legitimately reviewing, in a very appropriate way, the resource issue to make sure that the legislation we have works. I can also tell you that I know that some of the biggest problems we have had have been communication issues. I think some of these communication issues, where recipients whose money does not show up on time, where commitments were made by a payor that were defaulted upon, perhaps weren't informed in a timely fashion about that default, and therefore, rent cheques bounced, other commitments were failed. Commitments made to children about Summer camps or other kinds of important family activities didn't carry through. Those people and those recipients are generally distressed by those kinds of things. One of the things I think we need to improve as much as we can improve are the mechanisms for communication with recipients so that the length of time before a call is returned is in the minimum amount of time necessary.

I would thank all members for their comments. I can assure the honourable members that I would look forward to further discussion with them on this bill. I would ask that the bill receive second reading and be referred to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

MADAM SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 102.

Would all those in favour of the motion, please say, aye. Contrary minded, nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 4629]

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Madam Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 101, the Public Service Act.

Bill No. 101 - Public Service Act.

MADAM SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Madam Speaker, I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 101, and I would like to provide a few brief remarks. This bill provides straightforward amendments to the Public Service Act, to formerly establish the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. The amendments to the Public Service Act enable government to appoint a chief executive office, to hire staff for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. Currently the office has two staff, both seconded from within government. At this point I'd like to take a moment to publically thank the two staff people who have worked very hard over the past year to help us bring this office together and to fruition: Wayn Hamilton, who is the interim executive director, and his capable assistant, Vangie Williams. They have both worked very hard on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia to see this office come to the stage where it is right now.

With the appropriate staffing numbers, the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs will be able to move forward with its mandate to assist, support and enhance the province's delivery of services to African Nova Scotians. The office structure also helps to ensure the needs and issues of African Nova Scotians are represented in the government and are addressed. With the amendments, Nova Scotia will be the only province in Canada with a legislated agency dedicated solely to the interests of African Canadians.

Although this Act formally authorizes the office, in reality we have been actively working on developing this office over the past year. I want to just bring to the attention of members of the House and to all Nova Scotians some of the efforts that have taken place as a result of this office. Over the past year as minister I've had the opportunity to meet with countless individuals, organizations and groups to talk about the structure of this office and the work that it's about to do.

My work began essentially day one, with meetings with individuals, groups and organizations and carried me across this province on several occasions, where we've gone from one end of the province to the other, to ensure that the interest and the concerns and the issues of individuals in this province were addressed and that their concerns would be reflected in the day-to-day operations of this office.

[Page 4630]

I've had the opportunity to speak with groups and individuals involved in the delivery of social services, provision of policing, education, healthcare, nearly every facet of life and I've had the opportunity as well to meet with individuals and groups from Yarmouth, Weymouth, Digby, Shelburne, Preston, Hammonds Plains, Lucasville and Cherry Brook. We've been to Truro, Amherst, New Glasgow, Antigonish, Guysborough County. We've been to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. We've visited nearly every African Nova Scotian community in the Province of Nova Scotia and, as I said earlier, we spoke with and met with individuals and with groups, some as small as one and two, to as large as several hundred and we've been able to develop this office to the state that it is. As well, at the same time, our staff embarked on a series of consultation to ensure that we were going down the right path and the right direction. I am relatively confident that the office will not only meet the needs and the expectations of African Nova Scotians, but it will exceed those needs and expectations in many cases.

One of the things that I was concerned with at the very beginning was that we would develop an office that was central to Halifax, that served our needs and not necessarily the needs of all of Nova Scotia, so that's why we embarked on such an extensive consultation.

The comments and the feedback that I'm getting as minister have been extremely positive remarks. I'm pleased to say that the acceptance and the embracement of this office by Nova Scotians has made my job and our job in the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs much easier than some would have anticipated.

In closing, I want to say that we are now developing our office structure. It is nearly complete now. We've been in the process through our staff, particularly through the hard work of Wayn Hamilton, of developing an operational plan that we anticipate releasing at some point in time in the very near future. We still have some additional work to do, including hiring those key, important staff people to fill the roles that are necessary for us to do the work we're doing as well as finding appropriate locations and a service delivery model so that people will understand the work that we do and the way that we do it and the benefits of having this Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs.

As well, I want to point out to members of the Legislature the fact that we are the only province in this country to have an office like this has brought to my attention interest from other jurisdictions. I've had the opportunity to share our experience and our views with individuals from Ontario, British Columbia, Saskatchewan. As well, I had the opportunity to share with officials of the United Nations and other officials, including the federal government, who have expressed interest in what it is we're doing.

Having said that, I'm prepared to listen to the remarks of the members opposite on this bill.

[Page 4631]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise in my place and make a few remarks about Bill No. 101, an Act to Establish the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. As the minister knows, this caucus is very much in support of the establishment of this office. We and I have said so in the past.

Last Spring, when the government brought forward its budget, during budget debate I had an opportunity to ask questions of the minister over in the Red Room. One of my questions was whether or not this House could expect to see legislation brought forward that would define and entrench in legislation the office. So, I'm very pleased to see legislation come forward in that regard.

I saw the bill yesterday for the first time during the bill briefing. It's not a lengthy bill. I would like to speak to a few aspects of the bill if I can, but first of all, I'd just like to talk a bit in terms of a little background. I think background is really important for people perhaps outside the African Nova Scotian community who will be watching this development and will have some questions about what it is we're doing here with respect to this legislation.

We know there is a long history of African Nova Scotian involvement in our province. Persons of African descent have played a very important role in the history of the province starting back when Matthew de Costa was an interpreter or a translator of record in the 1600s with the establishment of Port Royal and that area with Samuel de Champlain. There is a very strong and amazing history in this province with respect to the Black Loyalists coming to Nova Scotia after the American Revolution, the Maroons and the building of Halifax Citadel, the Underground Railroad and persons of African descent coming to this province after the American Civil War and on and on it goes. There's quite a substantial and lengthy history that we are still learning about in a more systematic way in our school system and through Black History Month that is, hopefully, of great importance that will enrich the lives of all people in this province.

In the Province of Nova Scotia, there is slightly under 2 per cent of our population of African Nova Scotian descent. Some people may ask the question, why, with so small a group is there the establishment of this office? The answer is apparent, that that's precisely the point, because African Nova Scotians in our province are a small population. It's all too easy for the majority, sometimes, to trample the rights of people in a small group, and it also is all too easy to overlook the needs of people in such a small group that represents a minority of the population.

[Page 4632]

[3:15 p.m.]

So this, indeed, is why it's important to actually take and structurally locate some resources, the resources of government, to provide a place where people have not had a voice to express their experiences, their needs, their aspirations, their ideas, their perspectives that are frequently absent from the political policy arena.

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the history of race relations in Nova Scotia for 250 years, there are many different chapters. We've had our own Rosa Parks in this province, Viola Desmond, who had to fight the fight against segregation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member would allow for an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery I would like to introduce Terry Little, Robert Thibault's assistant in Middleton, and her son, Garret Little, who are here with us this afternoon. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I think one of them might be a little shy. Indeed, welcome to all the visitors in our gallery today.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I was just remarking on some of the strife that we've seen in our province in many chapters of race relations in Nova Scotia where members of the Black Nova Scotian community have had to fight for their rights and their rightful place in our province. I was remarking that we had our own Rosa Parks, Viola Desmond, who had to fight segregation by refusing to take a seat in a segregated area to see a movie in the New Glasgow area.

In my constituency, in the North End of Halifax, there is an unwritten chapter in race relations around the efforts of Senator Calvin Rock and Gus Wedderburn, Buddy Daye, a former Speaker of this House, and others, to get the Metropolitan on Gottingen Street to hire Black sales clerks in a community where there was a substantial Black population but people where unable to get work in the very shops that they did their business in and that they brought their business to.

[Page 4633]

We have history of seeing various injustices, some that have not been rectified, Mr. Speaker. We've seen the forced relocation of the settlement of Africville. There are many situations we can point to throughout the history of our province where the African Nova Scotian community have been at the mercy of the racism in our society, really, in terms of their rights to full citizenship in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I think that there have been efforts, many efforts by the Black community to organize and to further their own aspirations. Some of these have resulted in significant gains and some have, I think, for many African Nova Scotians been a point of frustration sometimes with the realization that there is still a mighty long way to go - as people will say.

In the 1960s we saw the formation of the Black United Front. The Black United Front in Nova Scotia was an organization, an umbrella organization, that covered the Province of Nova Scotia, that had offices and field workers around the province providing a variety of services and information, did individual casework and advocacy, community development, community organizing, and operated at arm's-length from government although funded by government. Sadly, the Black United Front, for many people came to an end when a former Liberal Government removed funding of this organization and set up a task force on issues in the Black community that came back with a series of recommendations, including, I believe, the idea that perhaps a secretariat be established in the province, and then those recommendations sort of disappeared from the political landscape until the government brought forward the idea that they would establish an office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. So, Mr. Speaker, that's sort of a very crude and simplistic summary of some of the background to how we have arrived at the place we're at today.

Mr. Speaker, the legislation in front of us sets out some objectives and purposes for the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs that really give us a bit of a structure. It talks about the office will do a variety of things. It will have a staff. It will work within government to try to have a more integrated approach to matters relating to the African Nova Scotian community - nobody could disagree with those objectives - also to represent the interests of the province in intergovernmental initiatives and negotiations and one of the areas that certainly comes to mind for me, is hopefully the negotiations that are going on around reparation for the former residents of Africville. Another objective or purpose of the office is to do research and do some policy analysis and provide advice to government on African Nova Scotian issues, and as well to develop and communicate on communication strategies, public education, et cetera.

Now all of these objectives and purposes of the office, I think, are fine objectives and purposes, but I want to say to the minister that I do have a concern and I'm very interested in hearing from members of the African Nova Scotian community and others as the Law Amendments Committee process unfolds in terms of whether the objectives and purposes set out here are strong enough, if they're broad enough in some ways. I know when the minister

[Page 4634]

made his remarks, he talked about a plan that will be brought forward soon and what I want to say to the minister, and I'm sure he has heard this in his consultation around the province in the 30-some African Nova Scotian communities, is the fact that there have been so many reports and so many task forces and inquiries over the years. The absence of any real movement on many of those reports in terms of implementing the reports, and action, is what I certainly hear all the time from the members of the African Nova Scotia community whom I have contact with. They talk about the need for a comprehensive action plan that actually starts to implement many of the studies and the recommendations that have been gathering dust for so long.

I think, for example, about the importance of full implementation of the Black Learners Advisory Committee Report. Education is the great equalizer in our society. All too often members of the African Nova Scotian community are still disadvantaged in the education system. Many of the recommendations of the BLAC Report speak to the concrete activities that need to occur with the support of government in order to address those serious educational barriers for Black Nova Scotians.

I look at the research and reports that we have seen on the issue of Black youth and the Restorative Justice Program and the need to ensure that Black youth are getting the full benefits of restorative justice. I look at the Human Rights decision in the case of Kirk Johnson, the boxer, and I challenge this government to do something about the flaw in the Human Rights Act in this province that will see this individual have to pay legal fees against HRM for pursuing his human rights. Here's a young man who has a decision in his favour, in front of the Human Rights Commission, yet he's going to have to carry a huge financial penalty for having pursued that complaint, all because our Human Rights Act is silent on the question of costs.

There are some very concrete and tangible things that we could do right now that would send a huge message, I think, to the African Nova Scotian community with respect to our commitment to really changing aspects of our legal structures in the province that could contribute to better well-being for them - and what better place to start than with our Human Rights Act. I look at the statistics that we get from our own Civil Service in the Province of Nova Scotia, and I must say I'm always quite frustrated at seeing the lack of depth of information that we have in terms of paying attention to where in our Public Service are there members of the African Nova Scotian community in terms of positions of leadership, of influence, of policy development and what have you.

I would like to hear from members of the community with respect to the objectives and the purposes of the office, and whether or not those objectives and purposes really capture their expectations that this is an office of action, this is an office that will actually result in a significant change in what historically has been all too slow a process in terms of realizing the equity that African Nova Scotians seek and which we really need to ensure that they have in our province.

[Page 4635]

Those are my remarks, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward to hearing from people as this proceeds through this House to the Law Amendments Committee and back again.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising today in support of this bill and not in support of the bill. It's overdue that the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs has been set up. I commend the government for doing that and congratulate them on doing it.

[3:30 p.m.]

Unfortunately, what I hear from my community - the Black community which I represent, the biggest Black community in Canada, I believe, at this point - the office to date has just been nothing but a token. It really hasn't serviced the needs of the Black community in Nova Scotia. The budget is too small.

When I look at the bill and go through the bill, it's a very brief bill and it talks about putting in place a CEO - Chief Executive Officer - whereas it really should be a deputy minister level. It should say deputy minister, it shouldn't say CEO, it should say deputy minister.

If you look at the history in the community which my honourable colleague from the Opposition has talked about today, the history of Black Nova Scotians in Canada and in Nova Scotia, what an important contribution they have made to Nova Scotia and to this country. Most people don't realize, but the first Victoria Cross ever given in Canada was given to a Black man from this province. A lot of Nova Scotians don't realize that.

A lot of Nova Scotians don't realize that up until the mid-1970s a lot of young Black people in the Preston area in particular weren't allowed to go to school. This was in the 1970s, not the 1870s. It's unheard of. I was going to school at that time and I had many friends who went to school who were from the Black community, wonderful people to go with, but there weren't many of them. The schools I went to were the schools they were supposed to go to, but I didn't think anything of it at the time. Come to find out since then, because of the efforts of many resourceful and talented people in the Preston area, they took a class action suit against the province so the kids could have equal opportunity to go to school. In the 1970s - it's unbelievable that happened at that time.

Then we come across with a department here that is a good step forward - I will give the government every credit for that I possibly can, but I understand the budget's only about $400,000 a year. At $400,000 a year, to help address the 65 per cent unemployment rate in the Prestons, within the regional municipality. You know why it's like that? It's like that because people couldn't go to school when I went to school, get a trade, go to university, do the other things. They were discouraged from going to school. The children were asked,

[Page 4636]

what's an escalator? The kids weren't asked simple questions. Today we think of an escalator, we use them every day - there they are in the 1960s and 1970s, they were a very rare thing in Canada, never mind in Nova Scotia. They didn't ask them how to do the traditional things that they did around the farm and the home to help the family make a living in the community. Those things weren't asked.

So, we've got a chronic problem in the area, not because people haven't tried and tried to get this thing corrected. It has been a real problem for them to move these things forward. We now have and are getting a large group of very well educated, very determined people in our Black community that are moving these things forward. It's a pleasure working with them to see these things happen.

This year they had a graduation which I assisted them with in North Preston and celebrated all the graduates from the universities and high schools and junior high schools, technical schools that graduated in the 2002-03 school year. That's a community celebration to celebrate these things. The East Preston area did the same thing, the Cherry Brook area did the same thing. It just shows how important they realize that education is now, especially when the parents of these children didn't have an opportunity to get the proper education that they should have had.

I would like to see the scope of this department expanded greatly, as would members of my community who represent the Black community. There are some really good guiding principles in this thing and things that can help, and hopefully will help the community. I want to see a deputy minister in this department, not a CEO. I think it is a slight to the Black communities of Nova Scotia. I think we need a deputy minister. That feeling is supported by the communities I represent.

I think that the department should also be tasked with helping to educate the older people in the community and the younger people who haven't taken the opportunity for education to help them make sure they get employment. I don't mean create jobs for them, I'm not talking about that, but giving them opportunities for special training and things that they should be able to do in order to earn a living and look after themselves.

You look at the traditional way, in the Black community, for a lot of men and women, especially men in the community who work in the Summertime and are excellent stone masons, brick layers, concrete workers, asphalt workers and construction workers, who do excellent work here in Nova Scotia, second to none. What they used to do in the Winter is they would go and they would cut wood and supplement their income. Definitely a very energetic and hard-working group of people. But guess what? The longhorn spruce beetle shows up and they're not allowed to cut trees anymore. So their Winter employment is gone.

[Page 4637]

So what do the people do to support their families? They have a very difficult time. It's not anything they have done themselves or anything that they have done wrong. They try very hard and I give them a lot of credit for the effort they put forward and for the fine job they do looking after their families as well. It's difficult to earn a living if your Winter work is gone. These are things that the Department of African Nova Scotian Affairs should be really working with the community to help resolve.

The community is a special community. The community is a community of family and family helping family. The community helps family. They have a saying in the Black community, it takes a whole community to raise a child. It is so true and they live to that, they work to that.

It's nice to see, when you go to different functions, people there - and things that I remember when I was a child growing up, that how close the family was and if someone was going to fix something on their property, there was a whole group of people who would show up to help them. This is the sort of thing that still goes on in the Black community today and I think that makes a community very special, a very special part of our province's culture that we have to protect and promote.

The other thing, you talk about steps backwards. Here, recently - again, this is something that the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs should have been actively involved in. My learned colleague from the Opposition, noted Africville and the problems that went on in Africville. Well, there were some problems there. Everybody knows that and that is now probably headed to court again. Hopefully there will be a positive result for the people who were removed from Africville.

But recently, something else has happened. The community of Lake Loon-Cherry Brook has been included in the Preston riding for the civic election that is coming. Now, on the surface, that sounds really positive. Unfortunately, the community of Cherry Brook-Lake Loon wanted to stay with their traditional community they worked with for the last 100-plus years. So the community is mobilized to try to get the boundary changed back again so they could stay with the Cole Harbour, Humber Park and other areas like this. But, no, that didn't happen. The elections are going to be held later this month or in October, I should say, on the 16th, and they are going to be excluded from a community that they wanted to be with.

Now if the community had asked to be included with the Preston area, that would have been one issue and that would have been a proper approach to take, but the community didn't ask for that. They didn't even know this was going to be handed their way. All of a sudden, bang, they're with a community - well, not a community of interest that the Act says it has to be a community of interest. It's not the same community of interest any more. They worked to develop Cole Harbour Place and do all these other things. These are the issues that the African Nova Scotian Affairs Office should actively become involved in and they really haven't, and the minister for this department is also the Minister of Municipal Affairs and

[Page 4638]

really hasn't responded to the request for information assistance from the community as the process has gone on.

This whole situation is another area of segregation. It's another type of segregation. The community didn't ask for this and they've been handed this process. If the minister has some information he'd like to supply in that regard, I'd be glad to hear it, but I have an intimate knowledge of this information. I have documentation too. You want to be very careful before you ask any questions.

As the process goes through, I think this department has to be a lot stronger department than is laid down in this Act. It has to better represent the inequalities that have been there in the past. We've made a lot of progress in the last 30, 40, 50 years or 200 years even for the Black community of Nova Scotia, but it should be to the point by now, realistically, that this department wouldn't even be needed, except to hold the cultural integrity of the community and maybe some day that will be the case, that all Canadians and all Nova Scotians are treated the same and have the same opportunity for 100 years. That hasn't been the case with the Black community.

So, I'm going to encourage the minister, I know he has the best intentions with this and he's worked hard to get this in place and I give him and the government credit for that, but I want to see a deputy minister, not a chief executive officer for this and I want to see the government put a proper funding in place so they can help the Black community and the communities realize the potential it has. There's a tremendous amount of potential in entertainment. We look at Gary Beals and the things that he has done and so many other people who have worked and really established their community as an ethnical and a positive place that you see the development of real talent, and those talents should have the opportunity to be explored and actually go on the international markets which a lot of the people in the community have. For the small population they have the potential for a great deal of talent to be exploited.

There are many people presently in the Lake Loon, Cherry Brook, North Preston, East Preston area, to name just a few that have tremendous talent, singing talent, entertainment talent and it's important that these opportunities are made available. I hope through the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs that special consideration is given to that and indeed maybe sometime there will be an availability of sound studios and other things that this talent can be exploited and be able to reach their full potential. That's only one of the few things that needs to be done.

I would like to see this bill expanded and I look forward to members of the community coming in and having their input in this regard and hopefully over time see some positive changes made in the department to make sure that African Nova Scotians have every opportunity to move their heritage and culture forward, and at the same time, get meaningful jobs and opportunities for them and their families. Thank you.

[Page 4639]

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

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I had a look at this bill when it came forward - the delivery of services to African Nova Scotian. I represent the most ethnic diverse community in Atlantic Canada with a very large Black African Nova Scotian community when I was growing up. We have the only African Orthodox Church east of New York City, with the first priest of the church being Father Francis, today his daughter Isabel is with Father Waterman and they're in the church today.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the history of the Black community is not a pretty one, I guess, in Whitney Pier, as many years have gone by, as the speaker before me had said, of all the different trials and tribulations and hardships in the community over the years. I think of my baseball colleague for many years, Mr. Purdy Crawford, who passed away last year. He was the first African Nova Scotian police officer east of Montreal.

There are a lot of firsts in the African Nova Scotian community in Whitney Pier. Mr. Tommy Miller, the first alderman in municipal politics in this province. Isaac Phills who received the Order of Canada in 1967, from Whitney Pier. He came here from Barbados as a horticulturist to practice farming in Cape Breton. Upon arriving and realizing that he was not going to be granted any land in this province, or any way of applying his trade in Cape Breton, he ended up going to work, as many other immigrants in my community, at Sydney Steel, and worked there for many years and raised his family. He received the Order of Canada for all his children being raised as doctors, lawyers and nurses all across this great country of ours.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I think of Winston Ruck, the first African Nova Scotian International President of Local 1064 United Steel Workers of America. A great man and a good family friend of my fathers, as I stand here today. The many battles that they fought over labour unrest in the community and also unrest within their own community.

Mr. Joe Wiril, the 1969 Canada Games, a great ball player. I had the privilege and honour of playing with him for four or five years before Joe retired, an excellent ball player, and probably one of my mentors in my life.

As I speak here today and I think of all the different ball tournaments and events that I've travelled with members of the Black community, I think of all the hardships over the years, and late into the 1960s, as the speaker before me, my colleague, had said, and even in the 1970s. Well, I can even go into the 1980s, Mr. Speaker, and being in parts of this province somewhere and having racial slurs and name calling and rocks being thrown at ball players in the outfield in Nova Scotia in the late 1980s when I played with the Tupper Street Cardinals which was an all-Black ball team from Whitney Pier. It won the Cape Breton

[Page 4640]

championship in 1983 and went on to Yarmouth for the Nova Scotia title. I think of when we arrived in this place at that time and there were so many African Nova Scotians on the team that one of the residents had asked were we in town for a basketball tournament, which I thought, you know, it wasn't funny at that time. I said, no, we're here for a baseball tournament.

I'm very proud of the African Nova Scotian history in my community. I'm just hoping - in this bill we see here before us today, there's actually no budget. I sent the letter off to the minister no less than two months ago and got a reply back from him that it was a new office with a very limited budget, with a CEO and another staff person. I agree with my colleague that there should be a deputy minister in this position, Mr. Speaker. There absolutely should be a deputy minister, not a CEO. Every other department has a deputy minister.

The provincial government said they're going to look after the delivery of services to African Nova Scotians. Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister was given a note from my community by the Black Employment Office just recently, by Karen MacIver-Green, looking for some training for African Nova Scotians in the trade unions or in the cleanup of the tar ponds. Hopefully, that area of what we now call Whitney Pier had a separate area at that time called the coke ovens, and the coke ovens was primarily an African Nova Scotian neighbourhood that had its own way of life, I guess. Today the Black Employment Office is located on Victoria Road in Whitney Pier and their job is to find employment for African Nova Scotians.

A very good friend of mine, Darren Desmond, a colleague of mine and fellow graduate of the youth worker program at Holland College now works in the Black Educators Association in Sydney, a great guy and a good friend. Also, we have two African Nova Scotian support workers in our school system in Whitney Pier who travel the schools and work specifically with African Nova Scotian children to encourage them to stay in school. The dropout rate amongst the community and African Nova Scotians is not right. There are just too many children with African Nova Scotian descent who are not going on to university, because they can't afford to go there. So it's about time that this government stepped up to the plate and tried to provide the delivery of some of these services that everybody else takes for granted. That we, as a society, take for granted. Some of the people have fought for many years in this community, and Mr. Speaker, the fight is still ongoing, it's still ongoing today. In my office I sometimes receive hiring practices by the Province of Nova Scotia, questioning why there's an affirmative action policy in the Province of Nova Scotia, or is the government making some kind of an avenue for these people to get employment, seek employment within the provincial government itself, whether it be Access Nova Scotia, the Department of Lands and Forests, the Department of Motor Vehicles.

I recently had a friend of mine come in looking for a job. He had applied three times to the Department of Natural Resources and all three times was refused employment there, not on his ability, I'm not to say what it would be on, but refused at all times. I think some of the doors are still closed in this community. I think it's about time - we're heading in the

[Page 4641]

right direction. But with a department with such a small budget and only two employees, I don't know how much they can do. I don't know if they'll be overwhelmed with caseloads and overwhelmed with what is their job going to be. Are they going to be able to help service groups within the community? Are they going to be able to help the Melnick Hall in Whitney Pier? Are they going to be able to help the Hankard Street hall in Whitney Pier?

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

MR. GOSSE: I think so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry to interrupt because this is a good piece of legislation that will serve all our communities. Many of us have African Nova Scotian communities in our ridings. I do want to draw the House's attention to a visitor in our gallery, who is new to the PC caucus office, our newest researcher, Gina Sherrington. Gina lives in Enfield, and we welcome her here. She's a big addition to the PC caucus team, and we wish her well. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. The floor is yours.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, as my colleague had just said, the African Nova Scotian Affairs Office established is very important. But there's still lots of work to do within this office. I'm looking forward to seeing the full mandate of the office. It says in their release, assist, support and enhance the provincial government's delivery of services to African Nova Scotians. Well, I hope it does. We can always move forward on these issues, whether it be in Whitney Pier, whether it be in Preston, whether it be in whatever end of this province, we can always move forward.

Mr. Speaker, Whitney Pier has a long history of African Nova Scotian people and people coming there to work at the steel plant. Over the years, I think things have gotten better. It's been a struggle. I think of my friend, Travis Desmond, who is now a fireman. He's been there for over 20 years. I think of my next door neighbour, Barry Burke and Bradley Best and Darren MacDonald, who are police officers at the CBRM. It wasn't easy for those strides, but a guy like Purdy Crawford paved the way for these African Nova Scotian people, in all the things that he did in his lifetime, for these young men to be employed at the Cape Breton Regional Police Service today, and for Travis to be employed at the fire department today. These are all good people.

I think the speaker before me mentioned about education in the community, but we've had lots of education for African Nova Scotians in our community and we've prided ourselves on that, Mr. Speaker. They were always afforded an opportunity in the 1960s and 1970s and

[Page 4642]

1980s for education. Many of them went on. As I'm talking to you today, I think of my friend, Dean Smith, who is now a lawyer here in Halifax for the federal government. I think of Barbara Miller, Tommy Miller's daughter, he was the first alderman, his daughter is a lawyer here in Halifax. I think of Clotilda Yakimchuk, the Order of Canada, again from Whitney Pier, an African Nova Scotian, for nursing in Grenada, as early as last year received the Order of Nova Scotia. I think of her son, Kenny Douglas, a practising lawyer here in Halifax. I think of my friend, who I spoke to earlier today before I spoke and rose on this legislation, Mr. Herbie Desmond, who works at the Human Rights Commission here in Halifax. I think of Father Francis and his daughter Mayann Francis, actually the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission here in Halifax.

These are people who were born and raised in Whitney Pier. I've seen some of the trials and tribulations that they've gone through to reach the pinnacle where they are today in life, Mr. Speaker. I think this is good for the Province of Nova Scotia, and I look forward to discussing the Office of African Nova Scotians with my many friends in my community of Whitney Pier and area, and also with the minister. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to Law Amendments, and I'm hoping that lots of people will come forward with their views on this and I would like to thank you for your time. Thank you very much.

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

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak briefly on Bill No. 101. I want to begin by commending the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations for taking a proactive approach and bringing this legislation forward. I do not have any large number of African Nova Scotians in my constituency. I do have reserves of First Nations. You may say, well what do they have in common? Mr. Speaker, we have people who have been suppressed for a long time and are continuing to be held back in a lot of areas.

People from my local area and some of the government officials are aware of the fact that only a year ago we signed an agreement between the five First Nations and five municipalities, and one of the elders of the First Nations, Elder Albert Marshall said it took 750 years to get to that point to sign that agreement where we work together. I'm wondering how long it took to get to this stage to recognize the African Nova Scotian societies and their contributions.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to point out that I too would like to reiterate what the previous speaker has said, and my colleague also who has spoken on it, that I would like to see the minister take it to a higher level, so that the department is funded so that the office could be effective and deliberate in what it intends to do.

I would also like to point out, see what happens when people are given an opportunity, and I'll just mention one, Gary Beals, a fellow who was given an opportunity and became known Canada-wide and is highly respected and has a supreme amount of talent. If

[Page 4643]

there is that much talent in one, what do we have that can come forward from the rest. Mr. Speaker, I look forward to that, and I conclude my remarks by saying aren't we all supposed to be Nova Scotians and treated equally? Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on this particular piece of legislation. It's a very important piece of legislation, and I certainly don't want to be repetitive by echoing many of the comments that have been made by previous speakers. But I wanted to rise and share with members of this Chamber some of my experience and knowledge that may be of some value, for someone who doesn't come from a Black community.

My first real experience with racial relations was back in the 1972 when I was participating in the first Native-non-Native exchange program at the high school level. I felt at that time, and I still feel to this very day, it was a very successful program that made individuals such as myself very sensitive to the aspirations and the needs of different cultures that certainly weren't common to the community that I was born and raised in.

The community that I was raised in, Mr. Speaker, for the most part, either you were Irish or you were Scottish, and that was about the extent of it. There was a certain attitude that if you weren't Scottish or you weren't Irish, then you weren't a Cape Bretoner. In reality that was so far from the truth, although many of the early forefathers that came to Cape Breton were either of Irish, Scottish, or French origin, as well as the Mi'kmaq community that preceded many of the immigrants that came from what we refer to as the old countries.

My second experience, Mr. Speaker, is with regard to the most unfortunate incident that happened back in the 1970s and that was the death of one young gentleman by the name of Sandy Seale. That was quite an emotional issue at that point in time. I was just graduating from high school and simply put, you could cut the air with a knife, the tension and the fear that permeated through the community, particularly at the high school level where we felt we had a fairly interracially integrated community where you respected people for who they were from their hearts and their minds rather than from the colour of their skin.

[4:00 p.m.]

That experience was rather profound for anyone of my age group because I knew Sandy Seale and I knew then Donald Marshall Jr., I knew his father very well. I felt that we were very good friends because he was one of the supporters in this non-Native conference that took place. He was one of the elders who participated and was a leader in that particular forum. It was very heartwrenching to watch two communities take this issue and exercise their frustration, their concern, their complete loss of innocence in both these communities only to find out, in years past, that in fact it wasn't an issue of the Native community versus

[Page 4644]

the Black community, but in fact, in large measure, as has been demonstrated through the Marshall Inquiry and considerable research some 10 years later, there was considerable interference in the legal system from parties that should not have been allowed to do what they did.

Also, there was, I believe to a certain extent, I think that's where we, as young people at that particular point in time - I was only 17 at the time of that very tragic incident - there was a considerable amount of racial profiling that went on. You didn't say it publicly, you didn't comment on it to the people that you spoke with in a group, but quietly - and I'm sure my colleague from Cape Breton Nova would certainly concur that it was there. You could feel it. You could feel it whether it be in the coffee shops, the grocery stores, in the schools, in the churches - it was there and it was very sad to see that it took more than 10 years for justice to be realized. What a destruction and what a waste all because - from my perspective - I felt there was considerable racial profiling towards two minority groups that lived in this very special community of Cape Breton Island.

Perhaps one of the most prominent public servants that we had in Cape Breton was a member of the Black community. He was a police officer for the former City of Sydney, I believe Phil Best - I know his last name was Best - I remember very well because I think he was the gentleman who gave me my first speeding ticket. We became friends after that - not because of the speeding ticket and not because I didn't try to wiggle out of the speeding ticket. When you're 17 you think you know it all, you certainly take time to listen to your elders.

I had tremendous respect for this particular individual. He was the very first police officer from the Black community in Nova Scotia if not further jurisdictions. I know he was perhaps one of the first in Nova Scotia. He just passed away a little more than a year ago and the number of friends, family and relatives - those who knew him personally, people in the community and those who didn't even know who he was, but they knew who he was by name, by reputation - he was perhaps one of the most well-respected police officers and a citizen who did so much to advance issues from his community that I have ever witnessed. Mr. Speaker, I think that's something that's worth noting as well.

Just recently I had occasion to visit court in Toronto's old city hall. Mr. Speaker, we were on a conference not too long ago, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and I took half a day to visit the court system in metro Toronto. I was absolutely astounded at the number of court cases that were taking place. As we can appreciate, it's a pretty large jurisdiction, we have several million people who live in and around the City of Toronto, I believe it's close to 10 million people or maybe 3.2 million in the inner core. What I found most revealing about this whole experience was the rate at which cases were being processed and the number of individuals who appeared in court without legal defence - and what I found even more disturbing was the number of people from the Black community who seemed to be caught in the legal system.

[Page 4645]

I made that a bit of preoccupation with myself, so I started going around and asking either police officers or members of the legal society - even ended up speaking with a judge on this particular issue - finally I came across this solicitor who was sitting on the steps of the old city hall and she was preparing to defend a case and she was, for the most part, a lawyer for public defence. I asked her about racial profiling, because I was rather struck with the high numbers of individuals who were caught in the legal system on serious criminal offenses, and she indicated to me that racial profiling was an issue that had been realized through a public commission, a study that was carried out. It demonstrated quite clearly that even in the courts, even the police officers, the judges and the prosecuting offices from different jurisdictions, they know that racial profiling is an issue but they don't do anything about it, and I found that very disturbing.

She gave me referenced benchmarks to secure that information. I haven't been able to do that at this point, but I think it speaks to a very serious issue, Mr. Speaker, the issue of racial profiling in the Province of Nova Scotia. I do believe that still goes on to this very day, perhaps not to the extent that it does in larger jurisdictions, larger metropolitan, multicultural areas of the country but I still do believe it's there in a very subtle form.

But, in the Province of Nova Scotia, we've come a long way since the politicalization of the legal system during the 1970s and 1980s. That Royal Commission regarding the Donald Marshall, Jr. case clearly demonstrated that there was considerable political interference into the legal system of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, it clearly did, and novice members may want to read the transcripts of the Royal Commission, because that was a major concern, that we had interference in the legal system via the political process.

Now on this particular piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, as the minister made his comments during his opening remarks, introduction on second reading, and then I listened to my colleague, the member for Preston, who made reference to the fact that in some way the minister is raising the issue of segregation in a way that, perhaps, was not intended or not wanted.

During the oil rush of the 1980s, when the federal government, under the Honourable Pierre Trudeau, signed an agreement with the then Premier of the province, the Honourable John Buchanan, for some $0.25 billion, I would say - maybe more - for infrastructure to prepare Nova Scotia for this great wealth that we were going to find ourselves in - the future is here, was the great campaign slogan of the day. What happened, Mr. Speaker, was that the government took these hundreds of millions of dollars and spent them in areas of the province that had nothing or very little to do with the infrastructure in preparation for the offshore of

[Page 4646]

Nova Scotia. However, there were some subtle and somewhat long-term benefits to the error of their ways.

I will give you one example. It's referred to as Cole Harbour Place in Dartmouth - money that was taken to provide infrastructure for communities in preparation for the offshore was used to put a swimming pool in Dartmouth in the Minister of Health's riding. Now, that having been said and all the errors that took place, Cole Harbour Place is a very vital and very successful piece of infrastructure for that community.

Now, to speak to the particular piece of legislation at hand. The communities of Cherry Brook and Loon Lake, the residents of these communities, who are very keen on dismissing some of the myths and the apprehensions and the phobias about racial issues in the Province of Nova Scotia, were very key and active participants in the development of this particular initiative. For that, I compliment them. I have to wonder, Mr. Speaker, if the minister, in some way, is casting a shadow over that - I would hope not - and I have to again go back to the point that I premised before, that I am somewhat naive in some of these ultra-sensitive issues because of the reasons that I gave at the outset - coming from a small, rural, somewhat isolated community on the provincial and national stage, and I believe the minister can appreciate where I'm coming from.

The question you have to ask is, is the minister doing justice by allowing this parallel approach to racial relations to develop? Maybe it's not. I really have to submit to greater wisdom and knowledge on that, but I haven't heard it come from the minister at this point as to what is the rationale, what is the basis, and who are the proponents. Anytime a piece of legislation comes before this House, Mr. Speaker, as I always say, it's not what you see, it's not what you hear, it's what you don't see and what you don't hear that sometimes has the greatest impact. I would ask the minister, perhaps in his closing remarks, to speak to that particular issue.

As well, Mr. Speaker, I think it's an opportunity to raise the issue about the government's Nominee Program here in the Province of Nova Scotia. To date, quite frankly, it has been a dismal failure because the government has not made immigration a priority for the province or for the people of Nova Scotia, for the economy, for the culture, for the long-term growth of this province. Whatever way you choose to measure, we, as a province, have one of the lowest retention rates of any jurisdiction in Canada.

[4:15 p.m.]

Recently we've had representation from the Minister of Economic Development's office with regard to this particular issue and what's most disturbing, Mr. Speaker, because immigration does tie in on the issue of race relations and how we can become a more diverse and a more healthy multicultural society and understand the issues of not just the Black community, the Native community, the Italian community, the Ukrainian community, or

[Page 4647]

whatever, but we only have one staff member in that entire department to manage a five-year agreement, one full-time staff. Is it little wonder that we have one of the lowest retention rates. Is it little wonder that we are losing out to provinces like Manitoba. Is it little wonder that when immigrants come to Halifax, and perhaps even less so to rural Nova Scotia, they want to move on to Montreal, to Toronto, to Ottawa, to Vancouver, because the government has been a dismal failure on this particular issue.

So I would encourage the minister who's sponsoring this particular piece of legislation, to sit down and collaborate with his colleague from Economic Development and realize the benefits to the economy and to the social structure of this province. Mr. Speaker, I know the minister means well. Otherwise, he wouldn't have introduced this particular piece of legislation. Surely a minister wouldn't introduce legislation to propagate the errors and sins of omission of the past, I don't believe that for a moment, but we have to be careful not to do it unwittingly just to satisfy one particular interest group, regardless of what community it represents, what cultural entity, I think that's extremely, extremely important.

One of the biggest flaws, Mr. Speaker, in this entire Nominee Program, I believe from what I've been able to witness, is that the government hires consultants and the consultants get paid on a piecemeal basis. We haven't been able to ascertain the breakdown of who's getting what for this but, more importantly, the emphasis for government through this program to date has been through the business sector, not from the labour component, not from the specialized skills, you know, socially, culturally, and from an educational point of view, in so many ways that our province could be rich.

Mr. Speaker, one of the final issues I would like to address as well is with regard to the employment equity programs that we have as well as the representation from our minority groups on various agencies, boards and commissions in the Province of Nova Scotia. It's an opportunity for the minister to flag that particular issue, particularly at the Human Resources level within the Public Service, because I do believe there have been some considerable gains and strides made to that not just in terms of gender equity, but also in terms of ensuring that minorities are represented on different agencies, boards and commissions - some 330 or so - within the Province of Nova Scotia.

So I do believe, Mr. Speaker, it's an opportunity for the minister to collaborate not just with the Minister of Economic Development, but also the Minister of Human Resources who, to a certain extent, has not given full detail and analysis on this particular issue, although I will recognize all three ministers for giving focus and a sense of urgency to this particular issue with regard to the employment equity programs.

For the most part these are driven by the federal government and in recent years, particularly the last two to three years, the provincial government has backed off and allowed the federal government to be the lead agent on this particular issue and I think that's very unfortunate. It's very unfortunate for the residents in the Preston area, the Whitney Pier area,

[Page 4648]

and a number of other communities across the Province of Nova Scotia and, yes, even in many of the Native communities which, for the most part, are the purview of the federal government but for various reasons have become somewhat integrated into the provincial level.

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my remarks. I would certainly encourage this bill going on to the Law Amendments Committee for further approbation. I would suspect that some amendments would be forthcoming. I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of African Nova Scotia Affairs.

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to thank those members opposite who participated in the debate and provided some helpful interventions. As well, I want to take an opportunity to further clarify some of the issues raised during debate.

First of all, with respect to the budget, members are inaccurate to describe the budget as being only $400,000. In fact, the budget actually only covers a portion of the calendar year so, therefore it couldn't accurately be described at $400,000.

With respect to the number of employees, currently, as I indicated in my opening remarks, there are two people who have been seconded to this new office to help develop the office and help structure it. The two people have worked very hard over the past number of months, 10, 11 months, but those two people are staff who have been brought in to help develop this office. It is envisioned that the office, when it is fully operational and has reached its full scope, will be significantly more than that. In fact, if you look at the budget documents that were presented in last Spring's budget, this year we expect to have seven people by the end of the year actually working for and with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs. That is just to correct that issue.

With respect to the title of deputy minister, CEO. In Nova Scotia, offices or secretariats of government traditionally have the title of CEO. In this case, although that person who will hold that office will be the CEO, they will be at a deputy minister's level and will be sitting at the same table as other deputy ministers and will be able to provide advice to the government, the same as the other deputy ministers.

It's a structure that we have here in Nova Scotia for all such offices. If you look across the board what you will see is other offices like Acadian Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs, Senior Citizens' Secretariat, Status of Women, those types of offices all have the same or similar structures within them.

[Page 4649]

One of the things that was brought up by the member for Preston was with respect to the office's work as it relates to economic development. I want to point out to the House and to all Nova Scotians that one of the things that I did very early on was make it a point to go out and consult with groups and organizations. One of the things that I heard over and over again that they didn't want this office to do is to repeat work that is already being done by other groups and organizations.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, and all Nova Scotians that on September 5, 2003, I met with VANSDA, the Valley African Nova Scotian economic development group. On the 19th, I met in Claymore with the partnership of Black Employment Partnership Committee. I also met with similar organizations in Upper Hammonds Plains and Lucasville, Antigonish, New Glasgow, Guysborough, Cape Breton Regional Municipality, in the Valley and throughout the Valley, down in Digby, as well as in the Yarmouth area. Over and over again, the common theme they said is that the HRDC is doing good work in certain areas. We don't want you and the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs to duplicate that work. Your role is to ensure that they continue to do that work and advocate on our behalf. That is exactly how we have structured this office.

With respect to issues raised around municipal boundaries, there have been issues brought to my attention around municipal boundaries. Not by the member for Preston, but by others. There is a process in place in the Province of Nova Scotia to deal with that through a judicial process, through a committee established by the Province of Nova Scotia and municipalities to develop these boundaries. People have expressed their concerns to that process and there is a legal entity that deals with that, and that will be dealt with in due course through the implementation of the law it relates to that.

I understand the concerns raised by those folks in Cherry Brook, Lake Loon and I expect that those concerns will be heard and addressed by the appropriate body. In fact, I continue and will continue to provide advice and advocacy on behalf of those folks when and where necessary. I think that, at least from our perspective, the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs is just beginning the work that we have before us. There are many issues that have been brought to my attention. I understand completely and fully that we aren't going to be able to deal with all of them all at once, but what I can say is that we will work as closely as we possibly can with the communities, we'll bring their interests to government, and we'll ensure that many of these issues that have been raised here today and to me personally, as I visited communities and individuals, will receive the kind of attention that they deserve with a government like ours.

That's the reason we brought forward this piece of legislation today. That's the reason we decided to establish this Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, because those reports have been established, prepared for government and action hasn't taken place. We believe it's time, as the member for Halifax Needham pointed out, to dust off those reports and get to work. That's why I'm so pleased that today we'll be able to see this piece of legislation move

[Page 4650]

forward, so we can move on to the next step of our work, other issues that have been brought to this floor, we've been actively involved with, including issues surrounding Africville.

I want to say to members here today and to all Nova Scotians that it's been through interventions of the two staff we have in the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs and myself that we've been able to begin a dialogue process that involves the federal government and the municipal government and ourselves in hopefully finding a resolution to this long-standing dispute between residents of Africville, the former residents of Africville, and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

In these closing remarks, I want to thank the members opposite, particularly the member for Halifax Needham for her helpful interventions. I do look forward to this piece of legislation moving through the committee and then finally through the Legislature. I want to point out to members here that we will continue to do the work that we've done, and I anticipate, in very short order, we'll be able to bring forward to the members' attention the business plan and the scope of the work that we intend to do, as well as begin the process of ramping up our staff, so it enables me as minister to move these important issues forward, so that as a Legislature and as a province and as a government and as a society we're able to act upon these very real and important issues for African Nova Scotians. I move second reading of Bill No. 101.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 101. 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 103.

Bill No. 103 - Regulations Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to rise briefly to speak to this bill. This bill is fundamentally about modernizing the law with respect to regulations in Nova Scotia. I would like to acknowledge that we have, today, in the House, in the east gallery, the Registrar of Regulations, Jonathan Davies. I would ask Jonathan to stand for the benefit of the House. (Applause)

[Page 4651]

Jonathan and his team at the Registry of Regulations have done an outstanding job. They have done an outstanding job of really bringing our regulations and the accessibility of those regulations into the 21st Century, because, as a result of the work they've done over a number of years, the regulations are accessible to Nova Scotians over the Internet. People can check the regulations, which are unofficial at the moment but hopefully with this bill's passage will become official. They can check on those regulations, and they're revised on a continual basis.

[4:30 p.m.]

The purpose of this bill is largely to allow us to make that electronic version of the regulations as an official version of the regulations in the same way that the paper record is an official version. For example, it would allow Nova Scotians, when this project is complete in 2006, to check the regulations and they'll be official and for use in court and for those kinds of purposes, but they will also have the capacity that if somebody wants to check the regulations and find out what the regulations were in 2004 - for example - to see how the law as described in those regulations differed, they'll be able to call up a version of the regulations that, as I understand it, would provide that information. It will be a very useful tool to Nova Scotians who have a question about regulations which really, of course, are a form of delegated legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I hope members are able to support the bill. I think it is an effort to again improve accessibility for the legal process in Nova Scotia. I hope they can support the bill and move it on for second reading and to the Law Amendments Committee. I move second reading. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak for a couple of minutes on this legislation. I and my caucus do support this legislation, it's technical in nature, probably only affects the legal community to any great extent and their access to regulations on-line. I think it will make it a lot more helpful for the legal community - and others - who need to access regulations. I know myself and I know others - whether they sit in this House or as lawyers - sometimes have difficulty accessing it. Going to the library is an option but now having them on-line as the true legal form will make it a lot easier, I think. I don't expect a groundswell of people showing up at the Law Amendments Committee for this legislation - you never know - but I look forward to hearing comments on it.

The one point I did make when I was briefed on this earlier was just around security. Once you put formal regulations on-line, you have to guarantee the security of it. Much like a chain of evidence, judges take judicial notice of regulations - because you make a photocopy of it, the assumption is it's recognized as the right one. I just want to make sure and I'm sure the government can assure us that security will be foremost in their mind to ensure that when

[Page 4652]

regulations are put on-line they can't be altered in some way that would eventually result in questioning what is being presented to the courts.

With that one caveat, I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee on this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for bringing this piece of legislation forward. I think, as the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has already indicated, most of the changes that are being suggested with respect to this piece of legislation are technical. They are welcome.

However, there are some - and one piece in particular - that may require some additional discussion between ourselves and the minister and perhaps members of government or officials in government to ensure that the language is plain and straightforward.

There is a new provision with respect to making regulations retroactive in this legislation. I see the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage nod his head and perhaps some of what I might say would reflect what he's already thought about with respect to this. I'd like to first comment about the specifics with respect to this piece of legislation and then comment more generally about the role that regulations play vis-à-vis our work here in the Legislature.

The language around Clause 6 that has been put in place, and we'll have an opportunity in a more appropriate forum to discuss the specific language, is unclear in some respects. Perhaps if there were some opportunity to make it clearer then we could find that through some mutual agreement. If that happens in discussions, then we welcome it.

My understanding is that the intent of that clause is to ensure that we can make regulations retroactive to the day that they were originally passed in Cabinet. The policy around that is something that our caucus would like to have an opportunity to hear from Nova Scotians on and have discussions about. We want to make sure that we understand fully what the implications of those changes are. But, I think it's important at this time to understand fully what regulations are and where regulations stand in relation to the work that we do here in the Legislature.

Under majority governments it's common for a Cabinet to undertake activities that really don't require the same level of support in the House that they might otherwise. We're in a unique situation with a minority government, and by that I'm saying that in a minority situation there is, I would suggest, a greater obligation on the part of the governing Party to reflect the will of all of the Parties. What that means is that Cabinet, in particular, can't, on it's own decree, decide what the laws of the Province of Nova Scotia should be.

[Page 4653]

I would suggest that there are two examples that have been troubling over the last year or so. The most obvious example, and the one that received the greatest attention, is the one, Mr. Speaker, related to the Insurance Act. I don't want to go down the road of repeating the history of what happened with respect to that piece of legislation. It was certainly, as the Leader of the Official Opposition was saying, a sad history and I would echo those comments, frankly, because it was an unfortunate turn of events with respect to the regulations fundamentally changing after there was a clear understanding of what they were intended to be in the first place. The complaint that I registered on the record was that that circumvents the authority of this body. It is this body that has the final authority over the laws of this province, and it's this body that gets elected by the people of Nova Scotia.

The second example is one that has received less attention, and I think over the course of this sitting we will have an opportunity to have it discussed in greater detail, and that's the recent whistle-blower regulations that came forward. I, again, see the nodding of the Leader of the Official Opposition where I think they would recognize that the whistle-blower regulations coming forward as regulations and not as legislation was a clear mistake and it appears to be an effort to circumvent the authority of this body. We have a number of changes that we feel would be appropriate and not offensive to the government in this matter that would provide a greater balance to the whistle-blower regulations that have been put forward. Perhaps the government would be open and amenable to some of the suggestions that we would make and that the NDP would make with respect to that.

We feel that the regulations have holes in them right now and if they were in legislation, think of the opportunity that we would have. We would have the opportunity for the Nova Scotians who are affected by this to appear before the Law Amendments Committee and provide their additional input, because certainly all the answers to the Province of Nova Scotia can't be answered by the Parties on any of the three sides that we have here before us. Opening the doors of the Law Amendments Committee procedure to allow Nova Scotians to say, this is what I think about these, or one provision or another of the whistle-blower legislation - if it were that - would give that piece of legislation the legitimacy that legislation deserves. By bypassing that process, we end up with a substandard set of rules and less legitimacy.

If the government is serious about opening up the doors of the opportunity for people within government to speak their mind and to provide an open disclosure of problems that exist in government, then surely the way to do that would be to consult with the Opposition Parties, to come forward with legislation that is amenable to all Parties and ultimately has the approval of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the overarching comment that I would make with respect to these changes to the regulations is that we want to determine clearly what is the intention and what are the implications of that intention; and secondly, we want to ensure that government knows that Nova Scotians will be asking them hard questions about whether or not they respected

[Page 4654]

the principles around a minority government by bringing forward legislation that is, on its face, clear to all the people of Nova Scotia and ensures that the people of Nova Scotia know for sure what it is that our lawmakers are doing and that it's not happening behind closed doors. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this discussion has taken an interesting turn. I think we've heard comments from representatives of all three of the Parties and interestingly enough and appropriately enough, in a minority government situation, all three Parties have said things that have merit and are correct. We heard from the minister that his officials had done good work in preparing the new scheme for the electronic form of regulations and that's correct. We heard from my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, that the question of security of the system is important and cannot be overlooked if we adopt this legislation. Because, there's an implied promise to the users of the system that indeed all due scrutiny, all due care has been taken in assembling the electronic form of the regulations and we heard a warning from the member for Halifax Citadel that regulations in a minority government situation have a potential to be problematic.

These are all very good points and I want to talk, if I may, just a little bit about the last point that was made about whether minority government actually does imply some change in the regulation-making obligations of a government. It's a very interesting point. Now, a government does not have any inherent right to make regulations. It's simply not part of what comes automatically along with having been elected to be a government whether it's a majority or a minority. Regulation-making power is something that is granted only by this Legislature after a bill goes through. When a bill goes through, it may add a power to the government, to the Governor in Council, to the Cabinet, to enact regulations pursuant to that particular piece of legislation.

So there's no inherent power. That has to be a power that's granted by this House to the government and yet, of course, many of the bills that have granted the government a regulation-making power will have been passed during a time when there's a majority government in place. The power essentially is one that the majority government in power for the moment has essentially given itself. Now, what I think is important is that indeed, yes, just as a government in a minority situation that comes to this House has to persuade at least one of the Opposition Parties to support a legislative measure to go through, otherwise it won't go through, what is the situation with respect to regulations when a minority government has the power granted at some earlier stage to enact regulations?

Now, I suggest that although there's nothing illegal about it, because that power once on the books is granted, that power is a power that can be exercised by a government regardless of whether it's a majority or minority. I think we've been warned about something and I think we've been warned by the member for Halifax Citadel that we should be

[Page 4655]

particularly careful in a minority government situation with every bill that comes through now in which the government asks to be given a regulation-making power. We should be especially careful when those are extensive powers and I have to say there are a couple of bills that are in front of the House right now, having been introduced by the government, in which they are asking for exactly that. They're asking for very extensive regulation-making powers as if they were a majority government giving them to themselves. I think we have to be very careful when we see those kinds of provisions coming in legislation before us now in a minority government situation.

Well, let's go back to the other situation, one in which a minority government, the Cabinet, sits using a piece of legislation that gives regulation-making power, but passed at some earlier time. How are we to react as Opposition Parties to something like that? We have no power inherently to stop it. It's not as if a regulation has to come to this House, it doesn't but, you know, they're part of the public record. A government cannot enact regulations in secret. The status of a regulation is of the same status of laws as if passed by this House. They're of full force and effect. They are part of the laws of the Province of Nova Scotia.

[4:45 p.m.]

So I think that the minister should think and remind his colleagues that there will be scrutiny by the Opposition Parties in a minority situation of any regulations that are put in place by the government under any legislation and that they will be held to the same kind of standard as if they were bills that had been brought to this House. So indeed, that's one of the consequences of a minority government. It's a very interesting point. We're certainly supportive of this legislation, but it draws our attention to a very interesting part of the dynamics of minority government and I'd like to thank the minister for the opportunity to speak to this.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief on this particular piece of legislation, much to the chagrin of the members of the NDP caucus. I hadn't contemplated speaking on this until I listened to the last speaker because unlike his colleague, the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, who suggested in his remarks that this particular piece of legislation was only a housekeeping matter that, "would only affect lawyers," that was the first thing that tweaked my interest because for that member to suggest that public legislation only affects lawyers, that makes me quite concerned. Then his colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, stands up and raises the conspiracy theory about what the government is trying to pull off here.

AN HON. MEMBER: You usually do that.

[Page 4656]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, they certainly are moving to centre ground, but my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Citadel, has pointed out quite clearly the issue of the retroactivity and it's a very important matter. I think what's not stated here is the powers that are being given to the Registrar of Regulations. In fact, that entire title has been converted into the Regulations Reviser with considerable authority to be able to change the regulations as per his or her interpretation as he or she sees fit and, the minister would certainly concur, because that's outlined on Page 2, Clause 5(2) (a), (b) and (c).

So this is not, as the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has suggested, just a housekeeping matter. This is a fundamental shift in the way we allow the regulations for the Province of Nova Scotia to be articulated and interpreted and revised. In some cases, if I'm interpreting this correctly, they may not even have to go back to Cabinet. The registrar will now have the ability to put his or her interpretation on what Cabinet is stating, and it's right there in that clause of the bill.

I do believe that this is warranted going for public scrutiny at the Law Amendments Committee, but I do believe that there should be a little more detail provided other than the kind of little huffy and puffy and light-hearted disposition of the Minister of Justice saying, this is only a housekeeping measure, supported by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, contradicted by his colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, espousing the conspiracy theory, tempered by the wisdom of the honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

AN HON. MEMBER: You'll never get a straight answer from a lawyer. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, we know what has happened on a previous day when the minister didn't get his matters in order and that certainly became evident in the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia in February 2002, when the law that he proclaimed came in after the regulations had been proclaimed. In other words, the regulations were ultra vires to the Act. They went to the Supreme Court. We had regulations to enact that didn't exist legally, for those who want a layman's interpretation. I would hope that this particular amendment is not an opportunity to correct what this minister has already put in error, but perhaps some other issues that members of this Legislature are not familiar with. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly rely on some of the experience and the information that I have, rather than the waxed eloquence or less than eloquence of the member for Cape Breton Centre, who I haven't seen dare enter into this conversation, and with justification,

[Page 4657]

I dare say. With that particular point having been made, I'll certainly be supporting this going on to the Law Amendments Committee. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate all the interventions (Interruptions) Most of the interventions of the honourable members. (Laughter) I can indicate, on a more serious note, that I've indicated to members that the Registrar of Regulations would be available to discuss issues around language and explanations of what the intent of the legislation is. I do appreciate that the language in this bill is quite arcane and would very much offer to any member who wants an opportunity to discuss the language to make sure that everybody is comfortable with it. This is not really an attempt by the government to garner new powers for itself, this is not the spirit in which this bill is intended, I can assure you. In fact, this is, again, an issue where staff had identified a need and we're trying to bring that forward.

I should also say, by way of a note, that I think something we do need to look at in Nova Scotia, though, at some point in the near future, is revision of our Statutes. Statute revision makes the Statutes much more accessible to the public. Unfortunately, when the Statutes are a long time since revision, people are oftentimes caught, as members would be aware, trying to look at the Statute and 20 amending Statutes over the last 20 years and deciphering them sequentially. That is oftentimes problematic. I think that a bigger chore, which will require some more public resources but which is one that we should continue to think about, is the need for revision of the general Statutes of the province at some very near future date.

With that, I will move second reading of Bill No. 103 and look forward to further discussion with members of the House at the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 103. 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 Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 64.

[Page 4658]

Bill No. 64 - Capital Region Transportation Authority Act.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is a continuation of the debate on this bill, which I left off with a little while ago. I couldn't help but notice the speaker directly before me, the honourable member for Cape Breton West, of course, was talking about something relevant to this bill, I think. Every time he speaks it always reminds me of that famous Yogi Berra saying, it gets later much earlier this time of the season.

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic, though, that this particular bill follows directly on the heels of the Regulations Act, because, indeed, some of what the member for Halifax Citadel was talking about and the member for Halifax Chebucto was talking about resides directly in this bill. This bill, as I pointed out previously, is essentially just a shell. I think the member for Halifax Clayton Park pointed that out as well. This is a shell piece of legislation which essentially encompasses the powers which the government would then use in order to determine the makeup, the authority, the powers of the transportation authority and I don't have to tell you that this is, potentially a very dangerous thing to do.

Once this bill passes this House and passes into law, we lose all control, we lose all ability to hold the government accountable for the decisions that it's going to make that are going to affect the people of a district which, frankly, in my caucus, many of our caucus members represent. So it's a matter of particular and considerable concern to the members of this caucus and I want to draw a number of points out here. I guess I'll start with the whole question of whether or not the composition of the district transportation authority, as it's imagined through this bill, is even appropriate. Because, you know, what is really clear is that this is meant to be an authority which will essentially have members from the municipal level and from the provincial level. I think predominantly those are anticipated to be municipal level appointees, either from staff or elected, or appointed from the community at large. They would have the bulk of the appointees and then the provincial government likely would have a couple of staff appointees who would act as a resource for the transportation authority.

Well, one, it begs the question, Mr. Speaker, where is the participation of the federal government in this? The federal government is a substantial player in the Municipality of Halifax. They have some very large assets, namely the port is one that you can just think of, they certainly have National Defence here in Halifax, and really many, many other assets. Of course, they also have responsibility for things like the railway. They also have responsibility for the airport and these all are significant transportation links that make up part of the infrastructure of the proposed district and yet there is nothing in the bill that provides for the participation of the federal government.

[Page 4659]

Now, this seems to me to be a major oversight of the legislation. They're not called upon to participate. I suppose it's possible that the municipality could use up one of their nominees to nominate somebody from the federal government, but that's really going at it in a very kind of tangential way rather than providing for that participation within the body of the bill. So I want to say, first of all, I think that is a concern which ought to be a concern of all of us here, that one of the major stakeholders and one of the major partners in the transportation picture in this province, and particularly in the district that is anticipated to be part of this transportation authority, isn't even there. So I have to say that is a pretty peculiar and I think pretty significant reservation that we would certainly have with this.

Now, I want to address another piece of this because I have certainly heard from people who have raised the question of why it is that we wouldn't want a district planning authority around transportation and I would like to address that question head-on because it misunderstands the debate on this bill. It is not the case that we don't want a regional planning body that would look at transportation areas for the metropolitan area - of course we do. We would like to see, in fact, that such a planning authority, or such a planning body, would be one of an overall transportation plan for the Province of Nova Scotia and there could be - and perhaps justifiably - many regional planning bodies with respect to transportation that would, in total, look at the province's transportation strategy.

[5:00 p.m.]

I can't help but think that if there is an overall transportation plan for this province, there are many people out there who would love to see it, not the least of which would be Cape Breton. We have significant transportation issues on the table in the Municipality of Cape Breton, not the least of which is with respect to the application to abandon the railway. So, it is not the case that we are in any way opposed to regional planning for the purposes of ensuring that we have an appropriate transportation net, that's not the case at all, what we are concerned about is that whatever we are going to approve as a matter of legislation in this House is appropriate and provides representation that will serve the interests and the needs of all of our constituents.

These are the kinds of concerns that we're trying to deal with. I think that if we were dealing with another area of the province, if it were in Colchester County or Cumberland County and we were looking at setting up a transportation authority that was going to deal with those, the members from those areas would absolutely be concerned to make sure all of the appropriate stakeholders - whether they are community or whether they are governmental - are there at the table to ensure that the best possible result comes forward from that planning process.

I wanted to make those points as kind of an entry point into this discussion; of course there are many other things that we have to be concerned about. I know that I've kind of given short shrift to the point that I started out with, which is the Regulations Act being

[Page 4660]

discussed and here we are with a bill that essentially asks us to give power over regulations to the government - and my intention is to come back to that a little later on.

I want to draw on a particular example of a concern that I would have. My constituency is in Cole Harbour, and in order to get here I travel back and forth daily on one of the two bridges, which gets me here in time to participate in these kinds of debates. That infrastructure is provided for and is maintained and the maintenance is planned for by a stand-alone agency, the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission. What they do is they generate money from a toll and that revenue that they generate is then used to provide for the maintenance of those two assets, and of course bear in mind when they're making sure of that maintenance they're essentially charged with the responsibility of looking after the safety of the people who travel on the bridges - the customers of the Bridge Commission - and the staff who work there and who provide service to their customers.

They are dedicated to that particular job, looking after those two major assets. I believe they are the entry point onto the peninsula for something like 40 per cent of the population of the Halifax Regional Municipality - a not so insignificant number of people who get into the peninsula by using those two assets.

There is a debate that goes on in this province and has gone on for a long time - in fact it's going on across North America, the whole question of tolls. I know that the former Liberal Government brought in the Cobequid Pass and there was a substantial level of debate in the affected counties. If you look politically at those seats at that time, I believe they were all represented by Liberals at the time and I don't think there are any Liberals representing those seats now. So, I think it is fair to say - and I'm not talking about the rightness or wrongness of it, I'm just simply saying that it appears as if these kinds of decisions around tolls can have a significant political reverberation that shows up in subsequent elections, that's just the way it appears to me.

Maybe there were many other factors, perhaps the particular desirability of the candidates in those ridings was part of the factor that turned them to another Party. I don't know and I'm not trying to guess, or second guess the voters in those constituencies. I'm simply saying that that was part of the debate that took place. That is taking place not only in this province but, as I have said, across the country and North America-wide and, indeed, probably worldwide, are tolls the best way to pay for infrastructure?

Even if you believe that tolls are indeed the best way to pay for them, in this province we have a toll that is designed to pay for the maintenance and the safety of those two particular assets. If you fold those assets into an authority that then has a much broader responsibility so that those tolls then go to pay for whatever it is that the authority looks after, then that toll simply stops being a dedicated toll and starts to be a tax. That's what it is. It loses its character as a toll, and it becomes a tax where the money is used for the general application among the assets and the authority of the district.

[Page 4661]

This is another consideration that I think we must consider, because somewhere the new transportation authority is going to have a revenue stream. What is the effect on those tolls? If that district authority needs a revenue stream and if the toll revenue is being used generally to pay for the assets of the district transportation authority, what is to stop a new district transportation authority from raising the tolls on the assets they have in order to pay for other non-related pieces of infrastructure? At that point, Mr. Speaker, as abusive as some people feel that tolls are, it becomes very abusive at that point because it is clearly being used as an alternative to taxation. It is being used in what I would assume most members here would consider to be an inappropriate fashion.

That is the kind of thing that when you are considering whether or not you want to turn over carte blanche the regulatory power to the government, are we comfortable that we should be turning over the authority to be able to do that kind of thing. Essentially, the government has been without comment on this.

We have received a small amount of information about the negotiations that are taking place between the province and the municipality and, certainly, we have been following the debate in the newspaper as we've seen the various municipal officials comment on it, but we certainly have exacted no guarantees from the provincial government about what their intentions are with respect to these regulations.

I hate to dredge this out of the closet, as it were, Mr. Speaker, but we have seen the regulations that came forward, proposed regulations under the Insurance Act, we have seen what happened to those. We have seen the implementation of new regulations, ones that certainly didn't appear before this body. We have seen, as was pointed out, the whole question of the regulations under the Whistleblowers Act. Unfortunately, there are considerable concerns about those. In fact, I might go so far as to say were those things to come before this House that you would find that there would have been significant objections on this side of the House to many of those things that were done.

As I said, I don't like to dredge this out of the closet, but the reality is, why should we believe you now? On numerous occasions you have had regulatory power which you have exercised in a manner which we feel is inappropriate. So why should we, just as a matter of principle, turn over to you a whole new set of powers through regulation? I haven't had that explained to me and I don't think that especially the members who represent the urban area in this Legislature, have had that adequately explained to them why it is that we should believe you now when it comes to the regulations that you would enact under the transportation authority for the capital region?

We are not trying to be petulant about this, we are not trying to be obstinate, we are not trying to be obstructionist. I hope that the government members understand, in the same way that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley or in the same way that the member for Guysborough would do their best to represent their particular constituents, we

[Page 4662]

are attempting to make sure that our constituents, the members of the communities in our constituencies are going to be properly served by this piece of legislation.

I have to say again, Mr. Speaker, at this point, I am just thoroughly unconvinced because I haven't seen anything through the office of the minister on this that would lead me to believe that it is anything more than a power grab on behalf of the government which is simply saying to us, you pass this Act and then we will do what we want.

Well, in these circumstances - I'm not going to say, well, that may be fine because it was never fine. It wasn't fine when you had a majority and it certainly is not fine now. The difference, of course, Mr. Speaker, is if the government wants to find a way to get this kind of legislation through the House of Assembly it is going to have to pay attention to the objections made by the member for Halifax Clayton Park, and the member for Halifax Citadel and the members of our caucus so that we can reach some kind of an accommodation and understanding about what the impact of this is going to be on our respective constituents.

I guess I will move along a little bit on this. We have not seen anything from the Department of Transportation and Public Works that would tell us what the arrangement is going to be for the transfer of any assets from the provincial government and associated bodies, like the Bridge Commission, to the municipality, if that was going to happen.

Now, this makes me a little bit suspicious and, I think, for good reason. I will go back to the bridges because they are the ones that are, certainly, the symbol to many people. The Speaker may know - I certainly know - that there are examples of bad decisions that have been made across North America with respect to assets like bridges, when they become part of a broad transportation authority. One I can think of is the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, which is a toll bridge. I believe that that financing of that bridge is through a transportation authority of sorts. There is not a dedicated, stand-alone bridge authority there. They are part of a wider asset base.

Well, what happened, Mr. Speaker, is, those assets were used, in one fashion or another, either as a revenue stream or were used to finance capital which was then used for purposes beyond the actual bridges, themselves. I am told that at this point the toll on that bridge is somewhere in the vicinity of $5 or $6, that it is carrying significant debt and that they are looking at further increases, simply because of the way in which that was managed.

Now, my question, of course, would be, well, if you intend to turn over assets like the bridge commission's assets, the two bridges, what is it that the provincial government is going to get in return? These are assets, right?

[Page 4663]

[5:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Good question.

MR. DEXTER: Surely they're not just going to say, we're going to turn these over to the Capital District Transportation Authority, no charge, you'll carry whatever debts on there and get the revenue. I don't believe that for a second. My assumption would be that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, and the government, would be looking for fair market value for those assets. They would be looking for a price, Mr. Speaker, and obviously they would want to take that money in; I would assume it would make up, as it has in the past with various assets, part of what they would use in general revenue. Certainly they did that with the leases that expired. The $20 million that came in that the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park was asking about earlier, that money could be used for other purposes.

It might be very attractive to the provincial government to sell those assets to the district authority who would then finance them. Well, financing them, of course, is in a separate category all of itself. I suppose that you could just put them on the open market. You could have a tender for them. You could say, what am I bid for the bridges, because after all, with the bridges comes the right to set the toll. Perhaps international financiers would look at this and say, here's a way to make a buck. We'll take the bridges off your hands, you can pass them on to the bridge authority, they'll finance the cost and the province will make a tidy little sum on them. Then we'll increase the tolls or perhaps the tolls are high enough now or perhaps we'll defer the maintenance or whatever, but we'll look to make a profit on the money that we have invested and we won't necessarily be looking for planning for the long haul.

I know certainly when I raised the possibility of selling these off privately, there was certainly one member of my caucus who said, well if they want to sell the bridges, I'll buy them because you can't lose. You know, here's my cheque, here's my ID, we'll just purchase them. You know, Mr. Speaker, the reality is that it might be well and fine for an individual or for someone with the means to do that. I don't know if my caucus members actually have the means to do that, but if they do, certainly it's in that category of a no-lose proposition because they simply just set the tolls to reflect an allowable level of profit that would come in.

What I'm trying to stress here is that there are considerable difficulties that we foresee in this legislation that haven't been discussed. I feel quite certain that although I've spent some time looking at this bill - and I reiterate what the member for Halifax Clayton Park said - it's just a shell, so there's not a lot to look at.

I look at all of the competing concerns that come from the communities around Halifax/Dartmouth and I think to myself, why in the world would I, in the present position that I am in, turn over to the government that brought in Bill No. 68, the government that

[Page 4664]

brought in the back to work legislation for paramedics, the government that brought in the pathetic insurance legislation - why would I want to turn over to them legislation which will essentially be a blank cheque for them to do whatever they want, right or wrong, with respect to something as important as the potential set up and design of a district transportation authority. It may be, that through debate, it may be that when we hear the plan, maybe it is going to come forward in the Law Amendments Committee, I don't know.

Certainly, it may be that we will hear more about what the intentions of the government are. It may be that they will be prepared to bring forward by way of amendments to the Act the actual plan that will flesh out what the district transportation authority would look like, what the representation would look like, what their powers would be, what their mandate would be, what it is exactly that they are going to be looking after. Maybe all of that will be contained within amendments that will come forward from the government and maybe at that point they will withdraw their request for regulatory power.

It may be that if that is the case, it may be that we will be satisfied. I am not going to pre-judge what is going to happen at the Law Amendments Committee. I can only say that when I look at the current Act and I look at the potential for things to go wrong, in my mind, at least, at this point, the potential for things to go off the rails is far greater than any benefit that might accrue to the constituents of my area or to the constituents of the Halifax district.

I am very respectful of planning, Mr. Speaker. I spent a long time working with community planning groups, was for many years a member of the Community Planning Association of Canada, worked, in fact, while I was at law school, by doing independent research papers for that organization. So I don't think anybody could accuse me of not caring about the proper planning of our city and of our region. It is something that I am very concerned, very cognitive of every time I see some of the problems that I have seen around the municipalities.

I look at some of the industrial parks and they have no sidewalks and no bike paths, and they have no way for people to actually get around. Then I think, how in the world did this happen? You know, where was the planning process when this was thought up?

Certainly, when I was on city council, when the City of Dartmouth existed as a corporate entity, as a chartered city, I spent a lot of time on each proposal as it came forward to see whether or not it fit into some kind of overall plan. I have to say I think it's, although not directly on the point of this bill, it is an example which by comparison we should learn from. That is, the municipal development strategy, the municipal planning strategy, where there were strategies that were put in place by the municipalities and then we would simply see them, in a very haphazard manner, amended, whether or not the amendments made sense or not.

[Page 4665]

As a member of the municipal council, you would often sit there and you would think to yourself, you know, this particular development or this particular amendment to that strategy is going to have a very significant impact on my area and, yet, even though I have pointed out that this amendment is going to do that, it goes ahead anyway, seemingly oblivious to the fact that there was a plan in place to begin with.

It is not the case that I am somehow opposed to regional planning, much the opposite, Mr. Speaker. I am simply and significantly concerned with the way in which the government would be able to exercise unfettered power over the question of the makeup of a transportation authority that stands to affect the lives of more than 300,000 people. I haven't seen any indication of what that plan is going to entail. I mean, one would hope, for example, that one of the things that would happen is that the questions of mass transit would start to get some attention on a regional basis. Now, I hope sincerely that that is going to happen. (Interruptions) But that is not part of the bill.

I will declare my bias in this. My brother is a bus driver for Metro Transit and I guess that gives me a bias, I don't know. He's a member of a profession that provides a significant public service, one that ought to be expanded. It ought to be done for many reasons, more than just the service itself. In terms of cutting down on congestion, in terms of cutting down on greenhouse gases, in terms of our commitment to more friendly cities. All of those things are reasons why mass transit and the integration of the ferry system and perhaps commuter rail and the bus service all ought to be part of that strategy.

But we have no idea, from what's before us, in terms of the regulatory powers that the government requests, whether or not that is in fact going to be part of that plan. I don't think it's unreasonable for me to ask the government to explain itself with respect to this legislation. That's going to be the end of my comments. I think I've had a pretty good go at this one, Mr. Speaker. I think that the government, by this time, should be aware of what my concerns are in relation to it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Spur them to action.

MR. DEXTER: As my friend says, I'm sure this will spur them to action. So, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak to this bill. Before I sit down, I will move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 64. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 4666]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, this concludes the business of the House for the day. With the intent of moving on with the late debate, I would like to recognize the NDP caucus to set the business and hours for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the hours tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. After the Orders of the Day and Question Period, we intend to call Bill No. 104, which is a bill amending the Emergency Measures Act, and Resolution No. 2247, which deals with residential tenancies. I move adjournment of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.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.

We have now reached the moment of interruption.

[Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the affordable housing crisis and increased level of homelessness.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

COM. SERV.: AFFORDABLE HOUSING CRISIS - RECOGNIZE

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, I'm going to stand on behalf of our caucus to speak on this resolution as the Housing Critic for our Party. I've witnessed, over the last year or so, after becoming the newly-elected member for Sackville-Cobequid and the Housing Critic at that time, that there's an increased need to bring awareness around the issue of affordable housing and homelessness here in our province.

Therefore, there are two points in this resolution: (1) that the government recognizes the affordable housing crisis; and (2) that there's an increased level of homelessness here in our province. I'm going to speak on those two issues for a few minutes, Mr. Speaker. The

[Page 4667]

first one I'm going to address is the increased level of homelessness here in Nova Scotia. Yes, it's definitely an issue, not only here in our province but across Canada. You don't have to look far to realize that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Sackville-Cobequid): Mr. Speaker, you don't have to look far to realize the importance of this issue across the country. Recently in the federal election, it was an issue that all Parties addressed, especially Prime Minister Martin, where his counterparts have recognized the need to increase their participation in addressing some of the issues of homelessness across the country and affordable housing.

Getting back to the resolution on the increased level of homelessness, you don't have to look far, Mr. Speaker, from this Legislature to see the ones at risk. There are a lot of youth in our city, HRM, who you see on the corners of many of our streets. People refer to many of them as the panhandlers and the squeegee kids that you see trying to raise funds to afford proper housing or a proper place to put their heads down.

The other thing is you don't have to go far, if you want use the term, a stone's throw from this Legislature, just down the street on Hollis Street, where we had the TexPark building that was there. There was a service station and it housed the parking for this area of the city for many years, but after they found there was a need for more parking, they closed the building and boarded it up, and we started to see reports in the media about squatters or homeless people living in that building down there. It seemed to bring the attention of their fight and their need to have affordable housing to the forefront and in the media because of the pictures you saw as the media walked around and saw the conditions that some of these youth especially were living in. They were deplorable.

[5:30 p.m.]

I want to say also that the government needs to recognize the increased homelessness here in the province on all levels. That building was owned by the municipality and after the story broke with the squatters or the people inside this TexPark building, they said they had to react, or they needed to do something about it. So you would think that they would try to emphasize the need to get the squatters into a facility that could house them a lot better than the conditions they saw there, but how the municipality reacted to it was that we need to get rid of that building as quickly as we can because they saw it as a potential liability against the municipality if someone was to injure themselves or potentially maybe lose their life living in those conditions. So, to me, the government needs to recognize and needs to come forward with better ideas than just to tear it down, or board it up and put guards out front.

[Page 4668]

You don't have to go that much further down the road, Mr. Speaker, to the Old Infirmary site of which our government here is the owner. That also was publicized greatly in the papers and the media, on the news, when the story broke, when we found that people were inside that facility, using that as their home, or a place to lay their heads. Again, the pictures were shown in the newspapers and on the news about the conditions of this place, some questions about asbestos and other environmental dangers for these people who were staying there. So what did our province do to curb that or try to address the people who were found in these homes? They boarded it up and they hired a security firm and a security officer to stand outside. To me, to our caucus members here and to many Nova Scotians, that's not how you address the need to keep the residents of this place, of the hotel, at heart. We really need to strive to address the issues of these people - not just to board them up, kick them out, and let them find other places to live.

So with this resolution, all levels of government need to address and need to recognize that homelessness is on the rise here. You don't have to go far. We have Angela Bishop, who is with the Community Action on Homelessness, who has been a great proponent and a great person to bring the cause of homelessness here to the city, to the province, and she has recognized that the increase, especially in our youth here in HRM who are on the street is growing every day. What we need to do is address this issue and not just hide behind it and tear down buildings. I believe that the building is going to be torn down within the next year. So I think it's important that our government recognize that we need to develop a program so these people who are found in these areas have an area to go. I know there are transition houses and emergency shelters, but I think we need to increase that.

The other point I want to make on the resolution was, of course, that this government recognizes the affordable housing crisis in this province and I believe there is a crisis here in the province. The federal government realized that there was a crisis years ago and decided to get back into the affordable housing problem. What they did is they went around the country and signed Affordable Housing Agreements with the provinces, like our province did, and it showed that the federal government realized that we probably made a mistake by getting out of the Housing Department and downloading it onto the provinces.

So with this Affordable Housing Agreement, it's important that we maximize every dollar that we have in this agreement. It's not often that the government has the opportunity to get $2 worth of product out of only spending $1 and I think that's the most important fact here, that we can get something worth twice as much as what our money is worth with this agreement. What we need to do is disperse this money and address the serious issues of numbers of units in this province.

We have heard from the minister responsible for Housing state the number of houses that we're supposed to address, or the number of units. I think initially, in the early stages, there were 1,500 new units that were going to be addressed. Then they revised that, and it was going to be 1,500 units addressed in the Affordable Housing Agreement. Now recently

[Page 4669]

we heard there's going to be somewhere between 850 to 1,500 units being addressed in this Affordable Housing Agreement.

I think it's important to address as many as we can, but one of the points that I want to make is that we need to really look at creating new housing units. The minister has stated in the past that maybe I had my figures wrong when I announced that during Question Period, but I stand here today, and if the minister were to take me out for a tour of the newly constructed affordable housing units in this province, we'd have 21, Mr. Speaker.

Yes, I know there's an existing restoration program in effect that does affect many homes, but if you were to look at the interest groups like Angela Bishop, Paul Pettipas from the Homebuilders Association, they agreed with the announcement the minister made a couple of weeks ago, we agree with the announcements the minister made a couple of weeks ago, we have no problems with the restoration program and addressing rent subsidies, but we really need to address the number of new units in this province. We have tens of thousands of people in this province on the brink of becoming homeless. That's where we really need to look at developing and accepting proposals under this Affordable Housing Agreement. We just have to look at a province north of us like Quebec, they have addressed 6,000 units in their Affordable Housing Agreement. We are two years into our agreement and about 89 new moderate-to-low income units completed or announced so far. Quebec not only addressed 6,000 units, they also have a second agreement worth about $150 million. I think it's important that the minister realize that there's more Affordable Housing Agreements in the future as long as we continue to address the needs of the people in the province today about affordable housing. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for his comments. I also want to thank the member for Dartmouth North for bringing up the topic for debate this evening. It is an important topic in this province. It's one that I never get tired of working on, it's something that I think about constantly, always trying to find ways that perhaps we can do a little bit more than what we were doing yesterday.

The member opposite has made reference to the size of the demand for affordable housing. Affordable housing, by the way, is defined in economic terms. Basically, if a family is spending more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing on shelter, if you will, then they have an affordable housing program. So if you have one family who is spending 31 per cent of their income on housing, that's not a crisis situation, but it's not a good situation. If you have a family that's spending 51 per cent of its income on housing, that's a horse of a different colour and that is really something that needs attention and indeed, that is what we are trying to do with the Affordable Housing Program, to target those who are in the most dire need of assistance.

[Page 4670]

Actually, the federal program is tailored as a program to reduce the capital cost of getting a home. The problem with that is that it works very well if you already have a decent income. If you're making $50,000 a year, a small mortgage buy-down will allow you to get access to a home which you might not have had otherwise, and perhaps you could do 1,500 units. The approach that we've taken, and I do appreciate the members acknowledging that he agrees that it's the right way to go is with the rent subsidy approach, it allows us to target those homes, those families in greatest need, and we can do more good for them with the rent subsidy approach as the provincial contribution. Now, that does come with a cost. The cost is, at the end of the day, I am probably not going to be able to get up here and say we did 1,500 units. But, if I can get up here and say that we have done 1,000, which is about what we anticipate, and I feel that we've targeted that to 1,000 Nova Scotian families who were in greater need, then I think that we have made judicial use of those monies that were made available.

The member opposite points out that the federal government pulled out of public housing in 1993, they had their reasons, but it has come with a cost. It is good to see that 10 years later that they recognize that perhaps they had made a mistake, and that they should be getting back into it. We welcome them back into it. It's not necessarily the way that I would have structured the program, but they are trying to please the entire country. We are responsible for trying to address affordable housing for Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotia has some unique circumstances. The way that we have broken out the affordable housing program, is that after doing research to take these limited dollars, because it is only $37 million, a big number, but by no stretch of the imagination enough to put a significant dent into the affordable housing challenge that we face in Nova Scotia. It is a step in the right direction, but it is not going to solve the problem. We wanted to make sure that we got it right.

One of the things that I can share with members of the House and all Nova Scotians that are following this debate this evening, is that 70 per cent of Nova Scotians own their own homes. That's a good number. That's better than the national average, and we should be proud of that as Nova Scotians. There is a caveat to that though, and the but is, that we also have an older housing stock that is in greater need of attention. We do not want to lose that housing stock because some of the less affluent home owners are not able to bring about the necessary repairs so that they can stay in their homes.

That's one of the reasons why we have the program which we started last fiscal year and did 26 homes and so far this year I have announced another 88, for 114. The home Ownership Preservation Program, and about 20 per cent of that $37.26 million is going to be going into that. I think that's a good investment and I think it recognizes the uniqueness of the challenge we face in Nova Scotia. We are going to continue that right to the end of the program.

[Page 4671]

Another area that we have addressed, but in a much smaller way, is a new home purchase program. That is what we call the urban area of revitalization. In essence, what we are trying to do there, Mr. Speaker, is we are trying to encourage people to build up some areas that might be losing some of its leaders because they're migrating out to other areas they see as being more attractive. That is what we try to do in the North End. I think that it's a good concept. This is the Creighton Gerrish project with the six homes. There were some things in the learning curve there.

We are going to put about 5 per cent of that $37.26 million into that. The area that we are really concentrating on, is in the rental market. Even though only 30 per cent of Nova Scotian families are renters, these are the people who have the greatest difficulty affording their rents. By far and away the vast majority of those that are over 50 per cent of their gross income fall into this category. For that reason, 50 per cent of the program money is going into the new rental housing initiative which includes the 68 units that were announced earlier this week.

I appreciate the member opposite acknowledging the appropriateness of this announcement and also acknowledging that this was just not a decision that was made by the Department of Community Services. We went outside and we asked for input from Community Action on Housing and also from the Nova Scotia Home Builders Association, to try to get a balance there, and we will continue to consult with them and within the city we also have representation on a committee from HRM. They have some wonderfully caring people there that do understand the problem well here in the city.

Also, the final 25 per cent is going to the rental housing preservation program. This is something that probably caused me the most problems when I was told about it because, in essence, we're talking about working with, in some cases, established landlords whose premises may not be as good as we would like them to be and perhaps they're not as good as the municipalities expect them to be. Mr. Speaker, my responsibility is to help as many Nova Scotians in need, and if that means that we buy units, such as some units perhaps in Dartmouth North which the member has spoken to me about - I'm not saying that they're going to be those units - and we renovate them and we bring them back into the housing stock and put them out at an affordable price so that citizens can afford to move into them, or we work with existing landlords, anything we can do to upgrade the standards in those housing units, the rooming houses, I think Nova Scotians would agree is a step in the right direction.

How are we making out, Mr. Speaker?

[Page 4672]

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: One minute.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I'm afraid I've only started on the first page of my notes. I will briefly say that the province has been involved in the issue of battling homelessness long before SCIPI, the federal program, came to pass. The Metro Turning Point, I believe, is coming up in this incarnation of a former name to almost 25 years of service. The member opposite talked about caring for those people who were staying in the old Infirmary when they were evicted a year ago in the Winter, or I guess it was this past Winter, actually. I want to assure the member that the Salvation Army, the Metro Turning Point, there were beds available for these people. The number reported staying there was grossly exaggerated and, in fact, there were only two or three and there was never anybody who was turned away who came to those doors for the reason that there was not a bed available. I want to thank the member for bringing it up. I hope we have a chance to continue this at another time.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and join in this debate. A debate put forth by the member for Dartmouth North, "Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the affordable housing crisis and increased levels of homelessness." I rise in my place to speak to this matter thinking that this is just another waste of time talking to this minister about anything to do with adequate levels of funding for those in need in this province, because he just doesn't get it that there are people in this province who are hurting and continue to hurt under this Tory Government. That goes for people right across the province, not only in metro Halifax, but in my own area of Cape Breton as well.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government, much maligned by the minister and his colleagues, entered in good faith into an agreement in September 2002 to build affordable housing units in Nova Scotia and contributed $18 million to that process. The minister, however, who signed on for the province, gave assurance that the Nova Scotia Government was eager to do its part and failed to live up to that promise. As a matter of fact, we learned last Spring that the Minister of Finance, with the full support of the Premier, wrote to the federal Minister of Finance to tell him that the province is no longer interested in participating in programs where they'd have to provide matching dollars.

What does that tell us, Mr. Speaker? Well, it tells us this government has no interest in addressing the concerns faced by low-income Nova Scotians and seniors who are desperately in need of safe, affordable housing or, for that matter, any other programs that come under the umbrella of the Minister of Community Services.

[Page 4673]

We are now more than two years into that five-year agreement, Mr. Speaker, and the province is simply not living up to its commitment. How this minister can stand and take any kind of pride in his department's accomplishments in the creation of affordable housing units is simply ludicrous. As the Minister of Community Services, one would hope that he would have some compassion for the difficulty far too many seniors and low-income Nova Scotians are facing every day due to a lack of safe, affordable housing. Unfortunately, it doesn't concern him at all.

Let's take a look at the statistics. In two years this minister has managed to construct 21 units. Yes, he has promised more, but promises are easy to make. For example, in the Spring budget, the government noted that promises made in February and March would not be completed until 2005.

So where do we stand now, Mr. Speaker? Should we assume that in the next budget we will find that the units he promised on the eve of this sitting may not be completed until 2006? What of future promises? We know they are coming and that that's how this government reacts to criticism. He stands in his place in the House and he makes more promises. He simply makes another promise and, quite frankly, he's pretty good at that, but the difficulty with that is that the delivery doesn't accompany the promises.

Mr. Speaker, the minister states that he cares about seniors and he cares about single mothers and their children. Well, I, for one, am waiting for concrete action on that statement. He continuously states that he cares for those in our province who are less fortunate than those in this House and other Nova Scotians, but we've yet to see any concrete action. We are almost halfway into a program that was designed to construct or repair 1,500 units in five years and so far we have a total of 21 constructed units - 15 in Middleton and six in Halifax, one of which, by the way, went to a well-paid city councillor, and he didn't try to stop that process, nor did she have the wisdom to realize it was the wrong thing to do and step back from it. Both of them are at fault in that particular concern, but what's even more telling is that there are all kinds of single mums with children out there who could have used that unit. Yet the very unit that was designed for safe, affordable housing for families was given to a single person making $52,000 a year and the minister did nothing about it.

We talked earlier today during debate about what's happening with the housing program in Cape Breton - absolutely nothing. We are still waiting for many of the units in the Cape Breton Regional Housing Authority to be fixed to a point where people can actually inhabit them and that's not happening. There are dozens and dozens of units down there, depending on where you're at, in Glace Bay or Sydney, or North Sydney, or the county area, that are empty because they're in need of repairs and there's no money being spent on repairs let alone making new housing units available to people in our area, it's just not happening. Less than 2 per cent of the promised units have been delivered, less than 2 per cent. Now, he's going to have to create 1,400-some units in the next three years to live up to the agreement.

[Page 4674]

He can stand here as much as he wants and tell this House and tell Nova Scotians that he's going to do that, but I know he's not going to do it, Mr. Speaker, you know he's not going to do it and the members of this House know he's not going to do it because the provision of affordable housing that will cost any provincial money in this province is simply not a priority of this government. This government does not concern itself with people who are on low incomes. It doesn't concern itself with people who have dependent children, single mothers. This government has stated time and time again it's doing everything they can for this group of people in our society who are less well off than we, but I'm going to tell you, Mr. Speaker, those people need help. They need a compassionate Minister of Community Services who's going to get the job done for our fellow Nova Scotians who are out there hurting - whether it be in housing, or whether it be in any other everyday needs that they have.

It's not happening, Mr. Speaker. I would have hoped that perhaps this minister when told time and time again that there's something missing in the delivery system of Community Services, as a matter of fact, the Community Services Department has got into the hiring mode of hiring bean counters and bill collectors rather than social workers. At one time the Department of Community Services had people working in there who actually cared about people, who actually went out of their way to try to help people in need, not to call them up and ask them to make repayments on overpayments in social assistance because they happen to be starving. That's what's happening in this province today. They're trying to claw back. They'll give millions away on a regular basis to businesses that can't afford to pay their bills and they'll just write it off, but to a Community Services' recipient, they'll call them up and harass them for the money.

That's simply not right, Mr. Speaker, and this government department needs a new direction. It needs to return to the direction of actually being a caring department in terms of the delivery system of housing in this province and the delivery system of Community Services to those of us in this province who are asking the minister to please deliver to this segment of our society who needs it.

With regard to the housing, the previous speaker from the NDP was absolutely right. There are people living on the streets in one of the most affluent areas of this province in the year 2004. One would have thought that would have been a thing of the past. One would have thought that single mothers with dependent children having to return to school to try to get off the public service system in this province, one would have never thought they would have been forced into substandard housing because available public housing was simply not there for them.

That's happening every day in my area. People are calling me, people are trying to go back to school, people are trying to provide decent housing for their children and they have not been given one incentive from Community Services to do that. Rather, they've been discouraged and told to go on their own way and we're not going to help you, because you

[Page 4675]

got yourself into this mess, you get yourself out of it. Well, Mr. Speaker, they'll never get out of it unless they get a helping hand from Community Services in this province.

I can tell you there are a number of young people out there who are hurting. All they need is to have a caring, compassionate department of government that will look out for their needs and that's simply not happening in this province. It's not happening with housing and it's not happening with the delivery of social services to those who need it. Some of the meagre amounts that are given out in this province today, most other jurisdictions would be ashamed of the treatment.

For example, a maximum of $700 a month in some cases for somebody to live in this province, it's simply not enough. But it would help if they were able to access an affordable housing unit at a reasonable rent from the government, a rent that would reflect their income. But in this particular case, that's not available because the rental properties aren't available so they're forced into substandard housing paying $500 and $600 a month and they shouldn't have to be doing that.

This minister and this government has to go back to the drawing board when it comes to delivery of service and housing to those who need it in this province and also has to realize that everybody is not as well off as MLAs or the people that we deal with on a regular basis here in government.

We have to return to the days when we had caring social workers running the Department of Community Services and the Department of Housing has to be in a position to be able to help people and not be restrained by the kind of rhetoric that might seem in some eyes to be politically popular. I can tell you, this kind of attitude towards those in our area that need housing will come back to haunt this minister some day. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the late debate has expired. I'd like to thank the honourable members for taking part in debate this evening.

The House is adjourned until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

[The House rose at 5:58 p.m.]

[Page 4676]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2396

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas East Jeddore's Ted Germaine was presented with the Stompin' Tom Award this past February at the East Coast Music Awards; and

Whereas Ted Germaine has been involved in entertaining his community for years and has signed a record contract with London Records; and

Whereas Ted Germaine is most recognized for his compositions My Own Prayer, Heavens Harbour, God is My Pilot, and Spinning Wheels;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ted Germaine on his recent ECMA and wish him continued success in his music career.

RESOLUTION NO. 2397

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas the Kai Shin Eastern Shore Karate Club of Musquodoboit Harbour celebrated 10 years in business on August 7th; and

Whereas the club was started by Sensei Ross Finlay in 1994 with a small group that has grown steadily over the years and now averages about 20 students; and

Whereas Kai Shin Eastern Shore teaches students from 8 to 80 and promotes a family-oriented atmosphere;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Kai Shin Eastern Shore Karate Club on 10 years in business and wish them many more successful years serving the community.

[Page 4677]

RESOLUTION NO. 2398

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas Canadian Seabed Research Limited is bringing science to Grade 3 students at O'Connell Drive Elementary School in Porter's Lake; and

Whereas President of Canadian Seabed Research, Glen Gilbert, spoke to the students last April about his experiences mapping the ocean floor, searching for a UFO in Shag Harbour and showing them rock and shell samples from the ocean bed; and

Whereas Lucie Orlando, a marine geomatics specialist with Canadian Seabed Research, also spends time volunteering with Techsploration, a program designed to increase the number of women in the industry through mentorships with girls in junior and senior high school;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the employees at Canadian Seabed Research on their education initiative and thank them for their active participation in the community.

RESOLUTION NO. 2399

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas more than 55 Grade Primary and Grade 1 students from Jeddore Lakeville School released 1,500 speckled trout into William Lake on May 26th; and

Whereas staff from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department and the Eastern Shore Outdoor Heritage Society assisted in the restocking process; and

Whereas the Spring restocking program reduces angling pressure on wild trout while providing sportfishing opportunities for residents in urban communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the students, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Eastern Shore Outdoor Heritage Society on their efforts to protect and preserve our natural resources.

[Page 4678]

RESOLUTION NO. 2400

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Energy)

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

Whereas two-thirds of the Cape Breton musical group Ashego could be on the way to a meritorious declaration of bravery; and

Whereas some members of the group rescued an elderly couple from a burning home in north end Sydney late last Fall; and

Whereas members were returning from another event when they spotted smoke from the home and began banging on the door, alerting the elderly couple to the imminent danger they were facing;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend Chelle Smith and Amy Sampson of the group Ashego for their heroic efforts while wishing them every success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 2401

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Stacey Marie Carter of Springhill, Nova Scotia, was the recipient of the Lieutenant Governor Award for the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this award is given to students who show hard work, effort and dedication to their studies, community and family where very few can claim being a recipient of this very prestigious award; and

Whereas Stacey received this honour at the Lieutenant Governor's Awards ceremony on May 20, 2004, in Sydney, Nova Scotia;

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

[Page 4679]

RESOLUTION NO. 2402

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Cody Wood from Oxford, Nova Scotia, was instrumental in helping the Fundy Area Soccer Club win its first provincial gold medal; and

Whereas the gold medal game was the first time on artificial turf and only seemed to enhance the team's skills; and

Whereas the team was praised for not allowing a single goal against and for their discipline and sportsmanship during some very physical play where the team secured their perfect 4-0 record;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cody Wood and the Fundy Area Soccer Club on its victory and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 2403

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Roy Winters of Parrsboro received long overdue accolades this year as the retired member of the Merchant Marines was honoured for the service he provided to the Canadian Military during its successful liberation of western Europe from the Germans during the Second World War; and

Whereas Roy Winters was one of many brave merchant mariners who put their lives on the line daily by transporting supplies to the allied forces; and

Whereas at a special gathering at Roy's home, members of Branch 45 of the Royal Canadian Legion presented to him three medals honouring his service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Roy Winters on receiving these well-deserved medals and thank him for the sacrifices that he made to help liberate western Europe during the Second World War.

[Page 4680]

RESOLUTION NO. 2404

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Erica Wilson, a nine-year-old student, did very well at the Annual Sackville Music Festival at Mount Allison University; and

Whereas Erica placed first in the Canadian Folk Song under nine, first in English Art Song under nine, first in Canadian Art Song under nine and first in Musical Theatre under nine; and

Whereas Erica also received a medal and two other awards in junior voice and junior musical theatre with Erica being invited to perform at the final concert, which is a huge honour;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Erica Wilson on these outstanding achievements and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 2405

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Ryan Willigar, a 17-year-old resident of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, has been athletic in many different sports such as basketball, soccer, hockey and has certainly excelled in golf this past summer; and

Whereas as a member of the Parrsboro Gold Club, Ryan captured his second straight junior club championship in July of this year, earning a spot at the junior golf provincials next year; and

Whereas Ryan shot a 74 and a 75 in the two-round tournament showing that the hard work and dedication to golfing since he was 10 to 11 years old has certainly paid off;

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