The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04/05-69

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Tuition Fees - Reduce, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6042
Environ. & Lbr.: Dart. Interchange - Environmental Assessment,
Mr. K. Colwell 6042
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Ms. D. Whalen 6042
TPW: Johnson Road Constr. - Concern, Mr. Gerald Sampson 6043
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. Gerald Sampson 6043
Hfx. Hbr./Northwest Arm: Pub. Concerns - Gov't. (N.S.) Respond,
Ms. M. Raymond 6043
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
N.S. FOIPOP Review Office 2004 Annual Report, The Speaker 6043
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3192, Tsunami - Victims Remember/Fundraisers Salute,
The Premier 6044
Vote - Affirmative 6044
Res. 3193, AIMS - Anniv. (10th), The Premier 6044
Res. 3194, Health - C-reactive Protein: Antigonish - Clinical Site,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 6045
Vote - Affirmative 6046
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 155, Railways Act, Mr. F. Corbett 6046
No. 156, Workers' Compensation Act, Mr. R. MacKinnon 6046
No. 157, Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act, Mr. H. Epstein 6046
No. 158, Paramedics Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 6046
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ. - Symonds, Mr. Gyasi: Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd. - Reinstate,
Mr. D. Dexter 6047
Educ.: Post-Secondary Funding - Restore, Mr. D. Dexter 6047
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 159, Université Sainte-Anne - Collége de l'Acadie Act,
Hon. J. Muir 6048
No. 160, University College of Cape Breton Act, Hon. J. Muir 6048
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3195, Hfx. Immigrant Learning Ctr.: Work - Recognize,
Mr. K. Deveaux 6048
Vote - Affirmative 6049
Res. 3196, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike: Min. -
Resolve, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6049
Res. 3197, Go Clean-Get Green: Init. - Applaud, The Premier 6050
Vote - Affirmative 6051
Res. 3198, Health: Home Care Assessment - Review, Ms. J. Massey 6051
Res. 3199, Commun. Serv. - NSP Increase: Shelter Allowance -
Increase, Mr. L. Glavine 6052
Res. 3200, Gov't. (Can.) - Opposition Business Elimination: Attempt -
Admonish, Mr. M. Parent 6052
Res. 3201, TPW - Old Sambro Rd. Paving: Recommendations -
Approve, Ms. M. Raymond 6053
Res. 3202, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike: Resolution -
Min. Plans, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6054
Res. 3203, Educ. - Student Loans: Income Tax Credit Prog. -
Consider, Mr. R. MacKinnon 6055
Res. 3204, Pictou Co. Tourist Assoc.: Award Winners - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Parker 6055
Vote - Affirmative 6056
Res. 3205, Gov't. (N.S.) - Agencies, Boards & Commissions:
Applications - Encourage, Mr. R. Chisholm 6056
Vote - Affirmative 6057
Res. 3206, Cole Hbr. Woodside United Church: Dedication - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 6057
Vote - Affirmative 6058
Res. 3207, Crosby, Sidney: Hockey Performance - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 6058
Vote - Affirmative 6059
Res. 3208, Educ.: Breakfast Prog. - Support, Mr. R. MacKinnon 6059
Res. 3209, Hale, Gerry - Truro Sport Heritage Soc. Award,
Hon. J. Muir 6059
Vote - Affirmative 6060
Res. 3210, A.C. Dispensing: Staff - Congrats., Hon. B. Barnet 6060
Vote - Affirmative 6061
Res. 3211, Michelin Tire - 20 Millionth Tire: Production - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 6061
Vote - Affirmative 6062
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 698, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike: Min. - Actions,
Mr. D. Dexter 6062
No. 699, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd.: Blue Book -
Funding Promise, Mr. Michel Samson 6063
No. 700, Fin. - Educ./Health: Budget Cuts (2003-04) - Details,
Mr. D. Dexter 6065
No. 701, Gaming: Techlink - NSBI Involvement,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6066
No. 702, Health - Nursing Homes: Personal Use Allowances -
Increase, Mr. D. Dexter 6067
No. 703, Health: Bear River Commun. Health Clinic - Funding,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6068
No. 704, Gaming - Bill Acceptors: Endorsation - Explain,
Mr. D. Graham 6070
No. 705, NSLC: Store Relocations - Explain, Mr. G. Gosse 6071
No. 706, NSLC - Blue Bags: Changes - Methods Explain,
Mr. G. Gosse 6073
No. 707, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike: Resolution
- Plans, Mr. Gerald Sampson 6074
No. 708, Commun. Serv. - Hfx. Rehab. Patients:
Relocation Time Frame, Mr. F. Corbett 6075
No. 709, Health - Gynecological Surgery: Wait Times - Address,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6077
No. 710, Afric./N.S. Affs. - Beechville: History - Project,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6078
No. 711, Environ. & Lbr.: Dart. Interchange - Environmental Assessment,
Mr. K. Colwell 6080
No. 712, Immig.: Nominee Prog. - Privatization, Mr. K. Deveaux 6081
No. 713, Nat. Res. - Birch Gr.: Strip Mine - Reject,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6082
No. 714, Educ.: Bill No. 48 - Proclaim, Ms. D. Whalen 6083
No. 715, Nat. Res.: Wildlife Mgt. - Review, Mr. J. MacDonell 6084
No. 716, Justice: Operation Shadow - Status, Mr. Michel Samson 6086
No. 717, Environ. & Lbr. - Mira Dist. Wells: Drawdown - Cease,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6087
No. 718, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Fuel Price Regulation - Min. Action,
Mr. C. Parker 6088
No. 719, Educ.: C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike - Cabinet Opinion,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6090
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 3051, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd.: Lbr. Dispute -
End, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6091
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6091
Hon. J. Muir 6095
Hon. C. Clarke 6098
Mr. F. Corbett 6100
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6104
Hon. A. MacIsaac 6107
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 149, Video Lottery Terminals Moratorium Act 6108
Mr. Michel Samson 6109
Hon. P. Christie 6113
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6114
Mr. D. Dexter 6116
Mr. D. Graham 6119
Hon. D. Morse 6123
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Grocery Retailers: Nova Scotia Products - Buy:
Mr. M. Parent 6124
Mr. S. McNeil 6127
Mr. J. MacDonell 6130
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 21st at 2:00 p.m. 6133
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3212, Benjamin, Carla - Centennial Vol. Bus. of the Yr. Award,
The Speaker 6134
Res. 3213, Harrison, Cody - Winter Carnival King, The Speaker 6134
Res. 3214, Meekins, Catherine - Winter Carnival Queen, The Speaker 6135
Res. 3215, Jackson, Fred - Cumb. Co. (Dist. 9) Vol. of the Yr. Award,
The Speaker 6135
Res. 3216, Siddall, Crystal - Cumb. Co. (Dist. 8) Vol. Youth of the Yr.,
The Speaker 6136
Res. 3217, Memory Lane Heritage Village: Staff/Participants - Thank,
Mr. W. Dooks 6136
Res. 3218, Levasseur, John & Louella: Customer Serv. - Commend,
Mr. W. Dooks 6137
Res. 3219, Shelburne Co. Bus. Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Mr. C. O'Donnell 6137
Res. 3220, MacDonald, Hubert (Hub): Vol. Serv. - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 6138
Res. 3221, Saulnier, Daphne - Teaching Honour, Hon. C. d'Entremont 6138
Res. 3222, Antigonish Rec. Field - Improvements, Hon. A. MacIsaac 6139
Res. 3223, Applied Geomatics Research Groups: Lawrencetown/
Middleton NSCC Technology - Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 6140
Res. 3224, Port Royal - Anniversary Canoe Trip, Mr. C. O'Donnell 6140
Res. 3225, Langille, Kyle/MacKenzie, Chris: Can. Games Rugby Team -
Support, Mr. W. Langille 6141
Res. 3226, Can. Games - N.S. Rugby Team: Good Luck - Wish,
Mr. W. Langille 6141
Res. 3227, Inspiring Fitness: Owners - Congrats., Mr. W. Langille 6142
Res. 3228, Hall, William: Military Service - Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 6142
Res. 3229, Dr. Arthur Hines Elem. Sch.: Healthy Living Prog. - Commend,
Hon. R. Russell 6143
Res. 3230, West Hants "AA" Warriors: Hockey Season - Commend,
Hon. R. Russell 6143
Res. 3231, VON (Anna. Valley Br.)/Scotiabank Windsor -
Commun. Support, Hon. R. Russell 6144
Res. 3232, Knowles, Katie - 4-H Citizenship Seminar,
Hon. R. Russell 6144
Res. 3233, Daury, Betty Ann: Special Olympics - Commitment,
Hon. K. Morash 6145
Res. 3234, Nickerson, Stephen - Educ. Wk. Award, Hon. K. Morash 6145
Res. 3235, Sport: Zinck Team - Curling Title, Hon. K. Morash 6146
Res. 3236, Liverpool Kinsmen Club - Anniv. (40th), Hon. K. Morash 6146
Res. 3237, Levy, Ivan: Barbering Business - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 6147
Res. 3238, Hayne, Derek: Educ. Wk. Award, Mr. R. Chisholm 6147
Res. 3239, Kennedy, Stephen: Educ. Wk. Award,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6148
Res. 3240, C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike: Min./Gov't. (N.S.)
- Resolve, Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 6148
Res. 3241. Educ.: C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd. Strike - Min. Resolve,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6149

[Page 6041]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20, 2005

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Ms. Joan Massey, Mr. Daniel Graham

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 Kings North.

"Therefore be it resolved the local grocery retailers be encouraged to buy local Nova Scotia products."

It 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.

6041

[Page 6042]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition of 120 post-secondary students in this province who are concerned and want a reduction in tuition fees. The operative phrase is:

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to:

� Make a considerable re-investment in core funding in Nova Scotia post-secondary institutions

� Tie increased core funding to progressive reductions of tuition fees at Nova Scotia's public post-secondary institutions

� Implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants;"

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 3,055 residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality, all concerned about the impact of the interchange of Highway No. 118, which encroaches on the lands of Shubie Park in Dartmouth. The petition states, "As a group of concerned taxpayers, we are not in favour of any interchange on Hwy 118 as the increased traffic volume, noise, fumes and destruction of habitat will threaten the future enjoyment of our unique and beautiful park." I have affixed my signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 102 Nova Scotians concerned about the high and ever-increasing cost of post-secondary education. Again the operative clause is, essentially, that the students are asking for a considerable reinvestment in core funding in Nova Scotia's post-secondary institutions, to tie increased core funding to progressive reductions in tuition fees, and to implement a system of needs-based non-repayable grants. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

[Page 6043]

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 61 residents of the Johnson Road and the surrounding community regarding construction and resurfacing of the Johnson Road, to which I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria-The Lakes.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 120 Nova Scotians concerned about the high and ever-rising costs of post-secondary education. The operative clause reads: Whereas tuition fees in Nova Scotia have more than doubled over the past decade, making Nova Scotian tuition fees the highest in the country." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MS. MICHELE RAYMOND: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of my constituents, to which I have affixed my signature, requesting that "High-level managers of the various government agencies which have legislative authority for the Northwest Arm and the Halifax Harbour, establish a mechanism to coordinate their mandates and respond collectively to public requests and activities. The Oakland Road wharf be reserved for public use. Legislation introduced to prohibit infilling in the Northwest Arm." Mr. Speaker, I will table this.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Review Office for the period January 1, 2004 to December 31, 2004.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

[Page 6044]

RESOLUTION NO. 3192

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the world was in shock following the devastation and sudden, horrific loss of human life as a result of the South Asian tsunami on December 26th; and

Whereas with the coordination of numerous international organizations who helped collect and raise funds for the disaster relief nationwide - UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, OXFAM, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross to name but a few - Nova Scotians once again dug deeply into their pockets to assist the thousands whose lives were turned upside down because of the tsunami; and

Whereas while the rebuilding and recovery efforts will continue for years to come, we hope the concerts, the pennies or quarters collected by the school children, the fundraisers of all shapes and sizes, individual donations and acts of kindness have and will continue to make a difference in the lives of the survivors of this devastating natural disaster;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature remember the victims of the tsunami but also salute the thousands of Nova Scotians who rose to the challenge by donating from the heart to help their neighbours in countries thousands of miles from our shores.

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 Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3193

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

[Page 6045]

Whereas the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies - AIMS - is celebrating its 10th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas on that special milestone, AIMS has been honoured with the 2005 Templeton Freedom Award for Institute Excellence for its work as a top, non-profit, research think tank which has contributed to the public's understanding of policy issues; and

Whereas this award comes after several additional international awards, including the Sir Antony Fisher Award which was bestowed on the Atlantic Canada's public policy institute four times;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud the continuing work of AIMS and the many people who work through AIMS by putting their talents and ideas forward to perhaps make a difference in their region, their country and their world.

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.

[2:15 p.m.]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3194

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

Whereas Antigonish has been selected as one of 100 communities across Canada to participate in a clinical trial for a dynamic new study on preventing heart disease in people with normal cholesterol levels and no previous history of heart disease; and

Whereas the study, to be known as the JUPITER study, involving Antigonish researcher, Dr. William Booth, is the first worldwide, large-scale heart study of its kind; and

Whereas a Harvard Medical School report recently reported that up to one-half of all heart attacks occur within people with normal cholesterol levels;

[Page 6046]

Therefore be it resolved that since this unique study will examine the role played by C-reactive protein, which has emerged as a crucial component in predicting heart disease, MLAs acknowledge the tremendous effort being put forth by local organizers in securing Antigonish as a clinical site and wish them nothing but success in their continued work toward reducing heart attacks.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 155 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 11 of the Acts of 1993. The Railways Act. (Mr. Frank Corbett)

Bill No. 156 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 10 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Workers' Compensation Act. (Mr. Russell MacKinnon)

Bill No. 157 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 8 of the Acts of 1992. The Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce this bill, I want to first of all draw to the attention of the House the presence of Dr. David Petrie who is the provincial Acting Medical Director for EHS who has done a great deal of work in the preparation of this bill. Dr. Petrie is in the east gallery. (Applause)

Bill No. 158 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Practice of Paramedicine. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day. We certainly welcome Dr. Petrie to the gallery today.

[Page 6047]

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I wonder with the consent of the House if we could revert back to Presenting and Reading Petitions.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause which reads, "This petition is a request to the Minister of Education; we request swift action in investigating the injustices which have occurred. We, the undersigned, request that Mr. [Gyasi] Symonds be reinstated with the Halifax Regional School Board." There are 444 signatures and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause reads:

"Therefore, your petitioners call upon the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia to:

� Legislate a progressive reduction of tuition fees at Nova Scotia's public post-secondary institutions;

� Increase post-secondary education funding;

� Implement a system of needs-based, non-repayable grants;

� Call on the federal government to restore federal funding for post-secondary education and to negotiate a national agreement on standards of quality, accessibility and mobility of post-secondary education."

There are 132 signatures and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Deputy Premier.

[Page 6048]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, are we going back to Introductions of Bills, and if we're not can I move that with the consent of the House we revert to the order of business, Introduction of Bills?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed?

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 159 - Entitled An Act to Amend Chapter 31 of the Acts of 2002. The Université Sainte-Anne - Collége de l'Acadie Act. (Hon. James Muir)

Loi Modifiant le chapitre 31 des lois de 2002, la Loi sur l'Université Sainte Anne - Collége de l'Acadie. (Hon. James Muir)

Bill No. 160 - Entitled An Act to Change the Name of the University College of Cape Breton and to Amend Chapter 484 of the Revised Statutes, 1989. The University College of Cape Breton Act, and Related Statues. (Hon. James Muir)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova on an introduction.

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to draw your attention to the west gallery, in the House today a constituent of mine, Mark Muldoon is taking in the procedures and I'd like him to have the warm welcome of the House, and enjoy the proceedings today. (Applause)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3195

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

Whereas the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre provides much-needed assistance to newly arrived immigrants to the Halifax area and all of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 6049]

Whereas the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre provides specific language training to those immigrants who seek employment in the health care sector and as entrepreneurs; and

Whereas the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre is holding its graduation of students on Thursday, April 21st, at 2:30 p.m., for the most recent group of immigrants to graduate from the program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the work of the Halifax Immigrant Learning Centre in providing much-needed skills to recently arrived immigrants eager to work in our province, and congratulate the new graduates from the language training program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, throughout the galleries - your gallery, the west gallery and the east gallery - there are various members from the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Workers Local 5050. I'm going to name and few because I see them - and my vision is not all that it used to be, but I see Donna White and Chris Haines, and because she had trouble at birth, she's a cousin of mine, Sharon MacNiel. I'd like to have all those workers stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests in the gallery today.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3196

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

Whereas this government has remained on the sidelines as workers strike in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board; and

[Page 6050]

Whereas the Minister of Energy has tried to leave his given post and speak out on the issue, calling upon his own colleague, the Minister of Education, to take an active role in resolving this strike; and

Whereas it would appear that this government caucus cannot reach a consensus on any issue involving the future of children in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take the advice of his own colleague and all members of this House and finally step in to help resolve the strike. Failing that, the Minister of Energy should resign as a Cabinet Minister in a show of support for the striking workers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we appreciate and welcome the attendance of people in the gallery to the Legislature, we would ask you not to show your pleasure or displeasure at what's happening on the floor of the House, please. Thank you.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3197

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

Whereas between April 22nd to April 30th, Jim Shaw, franchisee for 12 Pictou County Tim Hortons shops, along with Clean Nova Scotia, area tourist and business organizations, municipal leaders, and all willing volunteers will join together for some major Spring cleaning; and

Whereas Go Clean - Get Green encompasses existing local initiatives such as Stellarton's Slam Dunk Your Junk, rural Adopt-a-Highway programs and Empire Theatres' annual litter pickup project; and

Whereas as area Tim Hortons' franchise owner Jim Shaw appropriately said, there are "a lot of volunteers out there already doing this . . . together we are more";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature applaud this initiative and the efforts of all of the volunteers involved in this green initiative joining together to make Pictou County the cleanest place in Nova Scotia.

[Page 6051]

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.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to one of my constituents, Bob Venus, who is in your gallery. Bob is a constituent of Dartmouth East and he has been a great advocate for disabled people. He has been very helpful in helping me keep the home care issue in the limelight here. I would like to offer everybody to offer him a warm welcome here today. (Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 3198

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

Whereas disabled people know that home care assessments are needed; and

Whereas government has received many requests to review the assessment program; and

Whereas the current process used in Nova Scotia for home care assessment, in the words of one of my constituents is "cruel and inhumane";

Therefore be it resolved that this government undertake an immediate review of the serious shortcomings of the home care assessment process.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 6052]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3199

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

Whereas the 33,500 Nova Scotians who receive provincial assistance live a life attached to food banks and clawbacks from the Department of Community Services; and

Whereas provincial assistance recipients have been told by the minister to eat more pasta as a cost-saving measure for inadequate nutritional support; and

Whereas Nova Scotia Power has increased its rates by 6.5 per cent, once again hitting Nova Scotia's most economically challenged;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government move quickly to increase shelter allowance to reflect the Nova Scotia Power increase.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3200

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

Whereas Opposition debate, questions and Opposition Days are essential to our democratic system; and

[Page 6053]

Whereas governments in power are usually supportive of Opposition Days as Opposition members attempt to do their job; and

Whereas today is Opposition Day in the Nova Scotia Legislature, allowing for the Liberals to advance issues and the people's businesses as it has come forward to it;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature admonish the cowardly actions put forward by the federal government yesterday in their attempt to eliminate Opposition Business from the Parliament's agenda for at least the next month.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 3201

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

Whereas the roads of Halifax Atlantic have been sadly neglected for more than 20 years, while a growing city places growing demands on them; and

Whereas some of these roads are regularly washed over by flooding lakes and high tides; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation engineers recommended earlier this year that 10.6 kilometres of the Old Sambro Road should be repaved this Summer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Minister of Transportation to approve the recommendations of his own engineers and stop that gamesmanship, which even in this day and age, still appears to drive road maintenance in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6054]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 3202

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

Whereas all schools in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, with the exception of one, are now closed; and

Whereas the Minister of Education's lack of concern and respect is unfair to the students, their parents and the workers; and

Whereas the minister's response to date is a mere continuation of what this government does best, pointing fingers and blaming others for their own mismanagement and neglect;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education outline to all members of this House how he plans to get the 18,500 students and workers back into the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 6055]

RESOLUTION NO. 3203

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

Whereas many Nova Scotian youth leave Nova Scotia seeking employment upon graduating from universities and community colleges; and

Whereas some of these graduates are forced to seek employment outside Nova Scotia in order to pay for large student loan debts incurred while receiving their education in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government consider a graduated income tax credit program, creating an incentive for our educated youth to remain in Nova Scotia and build a future for both themselves and Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3204

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

Whereas the Pictou County Tourist Association recently held their Annual Gala Awards Night to recognize local businesses, groups and individuals for outstanding work in the tourism industry; and

Whereas the winner of the Ambassador Award, which is given to a group or person with community pride and involved in community development, was the Weeks Jr. A Crushers Hockey Team, and the Star of the Festivals Award was shared by the Hector Festival of Pictou and the Stellarton Homecoming Festival; and

[Page 6056]

Whereas the North Star Award, which honours a stalwart on the Pictou County tourism scene that leads the way with excellence, was awarded to Trenton Parks and Campground and the Shining Star Award for a tourism business, attraction or event that brings a higher profile to the county was awarded to Grohmann Knives of Pictou, and, finally, the Rising Star Award for a new business with great potential went to Cameron's Farm Country Market;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate each of the winners at the Pictou County Tourist Association's Annual Gala Awards Night, and also commend the Pictou County Tourist Association for recognizing excellence in the tourism 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 Guysborough-Sheet Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3205

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's agencies, boards and commission help provide leadership in this province for everything from recreational and professional organizations to regional health care; and

Whereas a news release issued today, April 20th, and advertisements appearing this week in a number of newspapers across the province, show many of these agencies, boards and commissions are seeking members for their board of directors; and

Whereas these agencies, boards and commissions require the abilities and the expertise of individuals who reflect the diverse and multifaceted nature of this great province;

[Page 6057]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House encourage Nova Scotians from all walks of life to serve the greater good of their communities and the province by applying for positions on Nova Scotia's agencies, boards and commissions.

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 Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3206

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

Whereas Cole Harbour Woodside United Church faithfully serves the community by offering opportunities for worship, education, spiritual growth and fellowship; and

Whereas programs and services provided by Cole Harbour Woodside United Church include a food bank, a foster child program, school breakfast and a prison ministry; and

Whereas on Sunday, April 17, 2005, the clergy, congregation and community joined in celebrating the dedication of their new expanded and fully-accessible sanctuary;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of this Legislative Assembly congratulate Rev. Dr. Susan MacAlpine-Gillis, the Rev. Stewart Clarke, Minister Emeritus and the congregation of Cole Harbour-Woodside United Church on the dedication of their new church facility, and wish them many years of continued service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 6058]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 3207

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

Whereas Cole Harbour's Sidney Crosby led the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in scoring for the second consecutive year, amassing 168 points, which included 66 goals and 102 assists in 62 games; and

Whereas Sidney's superlative talent also saw him record an incredible +78, 15 power-play goals, 11 game-winning goals, and seven short-handed goals during the regular season; and

Whereas Sidney is presently leading the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's playoff scoring race with two goals and six assists in only four games, giving him 25 playoff points over two seasons in just 13 games as his Rimouski Oceanic put their 32-game undefeated streak on the line in the league semifinals against Chicoutimi;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House congratulate Sidney Crosby for his spectacular hockey performances, and wish his club every success in their attempt to advance to the league final against either the Halifax Mooseheads or the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6059]

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. 3208

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

Whereas Nova Scotia youth are our trustees of tomorrow's prosperity; and

Whereas it is vital that all students attending school be assured proper nutrition in order to reach their maximum potential in education and life skills; and

Whereas more than 12,000 Nova Scotia students attend school daily without having proper nutrition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House support the Minister of Education in his efforts to create a province-wide breakfast program with the school boards for these undernourished children.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3209

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

Whereas Gerry Hale was presented with a Merit Award by the Truro Sports Heritage Society at its 21st Annual Sports Heritage Award Dinner; and

Whereas Gerry Hale has been active in sports as an intermediate softball player and as a coach at various levels of minor hockey and baseball, and for 27 years was a football coach at the PeeWee and Bantam levels, winning the provincial championships in both divisions; and

[Page 6060]

Whereas for the past eight years Gerry Hale has served as media relations coordinator for the Truro Junior A Bearcats Hockey Club, which includes producing a newsletter featuring both Bearcats and opponents for each home game as well as writing a weekly column on the Bearcats in the Truro Daily News;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Gerry Hale for receiving a Merit Award from the Truro Sports Heritage Society and wish him and his wife Vonnie, continued health and happiness.

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 Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 3210

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

Whereas Michael Duck and Chad Wiesner, owner and Marketing Director of AC Dispensing Equipment Inc., respectively, have recently secured a deal to start providing their SureShot Dispensing Systems machines to Starbucks; and

Whereas the current deal has been in the making for the past three and a half years; and

Whereas over the past few months AC Dispensing Equipment has hired an additional 50 staff, bringing their total staff number up to 140 employees, most of whom live in the Sackville area;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in sending along congratulations to Michael Duck and Chad Wiesner and their entire staff at AC Dispensing Equipment for their hard work in showcasing Nova Scotian ingenuity to the rest of North America.

[Page 6061]

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. 3211

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

Whereas Michelin North America (Canada) Inc. situated in Waterville, Kings County, celebrated a unique milestone at their production facility on January 14th this year when the 20 millionth tire rolled off their assembly line; and

Whereas Michelin Tire, as a result of this milestone donated $1,000 each to 20 local charities as selected by the plant's 1,100 employees; and

Whereas Michelin Tire opened its plant in Kings County 23 years ago in 1982 and last year invested $16 million in the production of large industrial and construction tires;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly congratulate Michelin Tire and the 1,100 employees at their Waterville facility for their milestone goal and interest in their community and wish them the very best in the production of their next 20 million tires.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6062]

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 2:40 p.m. and end at 4:10 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

EDUC. - C.B.-VICTORIA REG. SCH. BD. STRIKE: MIN. - ACTIONS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today in the gallery we have members of CUPE Local 5050. These workers don't want to be on the picket line. In fact, they would like to get back to work and they want to get the schools reopened. They want to get the 18,000 students who depend on those schools back in the classrooms so they can complete their school year on schedule. Both sides, the school board and the workers, recognize that provincial funding and wage policies are the real issues in this dispute.

So my question through you, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, what is the minister doing to ensure that barriers in reaching a settlement in this dispute are removed?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, let me say that I agree with the Leader of the Official Opposition that I, too, would like to see the workers and students back in school. The strike has gone on longer than any of us would like, but I do want to remind the member that with the support of this minister, and indeed the government, the board made an offer of binding arbitration to the CUPE workers and I would hope that that would be accepted.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, parents in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board are counting what remains of this school year in weeks. They see the school's year-end approaching and they know that every missed day is significant. They want to know that the government takes this issue seriously and that it is leaving no stone unturned in an effort to solve this dispute. So my question for the minister is, what is the minister prepared to tell the parents and students of Cape Breton who are wondering what this strike means to their children's future?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to go back to my previous answer, I agree that the strike has gone on a lot longer than any of us would like. The students should be in school, the workers should be back on their jobs. Therefore, that is why the government supported the board's inclination to offer binding arbitration to CUPE. I hope that the membership will

[Page 6063]

accept that offer. If they do, the workers can get back into the school and in a couple of days the students will be back.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in this strike it has been made clear I think to the minister that what the workers in Local 5050 want is free collective bargaining, that's what they're asking for. They said loud and clear that they want this government to respect the fact that their work is just as valuable as the work done by those in other school boards across the province.

So my final supplementary, Mr. Speaker, is simply this, is this government prepared to bring an end to policies that result in people doing equal work but getting unequal pay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the issue of the wages paid is a matter between the employer and the employees. Certainly there is collective bargaining and the unhappy - that's why the offer of binding arbitration was on the table. I'm told, and I did say this yesterday, as we were told, that the definition of wage parity was to cherry-pick the highest wage of any contract in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

EDUC. - C.B.-VICTORIA REG. SCH. BD.: BLUE BOOK - FUNDING PROMISE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, let's take the Premier down memory lane to the 1999 election. In that election the Premier presented Nova Scotians with a list of promises he would keep if they elected him. In his infamous blue book the Premier promised to "review funding formulas to protect schools in areas of declining enrollments . . ." The two areas in this province hardest hit by declining enrolment is the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional and the Strait Regional School Boards. These boards are being asked to do more without additional funding from this government. We now know that the Premier has broken that promise and that's why workers at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board have been forced into strike action.

[2:45 p.m.]

My question today is, when is this Premier going to fulfill his promise to provide more money to that school board so that workers are treated fairly and those kids can get back to school?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Richmond for reminding members of the House of the commitment we made to do a funding review of the school boards in the Province of Nova Scotia. That review has been done, the review has been received, the review has been analyzed and the minister has responded.

[Page 6064]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, that review will provide little or no more money to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and, in fact, is going to remove money from the Strait Regional School Board, so that's the answer that we're getting from this government. Nova Scotians are once again looking for leadership.

The Minister of Education blames the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Energy is trying to get someone in government to pay attention. The workers in the gallery today are looking for fairness, they're looking for you to keep your promise. You are not taking responsibility and the people want action. For the sake of the students in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, and the staff you see here today, why won't the Premier and his government provide additional funding that he promised Nova Scotians five years ago?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me an opportunity to correct a misconception that the member for Richmond has. The member for Richmond said that as a result of the review, a school board will receive less funding. The minister has guaranteed that as a result of the funding review, no board would receive less money.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, we know we're not allowed to say that somebody is not telling the truth, but we all know that the minister said no board would have any cut in funding for one year, no guarantees after that. For the Premier to stand here with the workers who are on strike, 18,500 kids who are denied an education and gives an answer like that, rather than give some sort of plan as to how he is going to get those students back into class, that's the real face of the leadership of this government, and Nova Scotians are finally seeing what kind of government they have in this province.

We've seen it with the Halifax Regional School Board when they were on strike, government refused to act, we see with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, refusing to act, next week the Strait Regional School Board is ready to go, again, we'll probably see the same thing. My question is, at what point is this Premier prepared to treat the workers fairly and put the education of the children in Cape Breton as a first priority?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know full well, and I think members of the House appreciate the fact that the member opposite is raising his voice because he was caught out. But what I can say is that we have offered the most satisfactory solution to what is a very unfortunate situation. Binding arbitration will work for the students, it will work for the employees, it will work for the school board, and it will work for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia; it is a good solution.

[Page 6065]

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

FIN. - EDUC./HEALTH: BUDGET CUTS (2003-04) - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in the Fall, 2003, the Progressive Conservative Government announced across-the-board 1 per cent budget cuts in order to balance the books for the 2003-04 fiscal year. I'll table an article in which the Finance Minister promised that education and front-line health care would be spared the budgetary axe. My question for the Premier is this, did his government keep its promise not to cut funding to education and front-line health care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question. One of the commitments that we made to the people of Nova Scotia is that during our tenure in office we would increase health care funding; we have done that each and every year and you will see very shortly that we will be doing it in 2005-06. We made a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia that each year we would increase funding for education and we have done that every year up until this year. You will see that this year we will be tabling a budget that will increase funding substantially in 2005-06 for education.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier would care to look at the article that I just tabled, he would find out that the commitment from the minister was not to cut it in the 2003-04 year. I'll also table a report filed last year by the Minister of Health outlining $11.5 million in savings in frontline care co-ordination and home care service delivery, realized in 2003-04, but $11.5 million was cut by not hiring staff and by "a reduction in contracted service volumes in home care." This government promised it would protect front-line health, and then they cut home care anyway. So my question to the Premier is this, how can you justify deliberately reducing home care services for vulnerable Nova Scotians when this government said that it would do the opposite?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's a budgetary item for the Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows, and all members of the House know, that we have considerably augmented the budget of health care in this province, and we will continue to be doing so. We are continuously looking at the delivery of all programs in this province with respect to improving them.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister should read his own report. You didn't have to tell the dozens and dozens of seniors and disabled Nova Scotians who've contacted our offices that there was a lack of funding for home care. Clients had hours of service reduced or they were told they had to wait weeks or even months for needed home care. Home support and respite care for family caregivers was slashed in case after case. My question to the Premier is this, how can Nova Scotians trust his government to deliver essential programs and services when it chooses to engage in massive budget cuts by stealth?

[Page 6066]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm having a difficult time following the logic of the Leader of the Opposition. If the Leader of the Opposition would take out the budgetary estimates for last year and refresh his memory, he will see that last year we increased health care funding by over $200 million. Now if the member opposite (Interruptions) thinks that that is not enough, ask him to tell us how much is enough, but more importantly than that, tell us where we're going to get it.

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

GAMING: TECHLINK - NSBI INVOLVEMENT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier keeps bringing up the spectre of a new underground VLT market if VLTs are banned. Well, John Xidos of Techlink used to run Delta Games in Sydney, also known as a VLT (Interruptions)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Also known, Mr. Speaker, as a VLT czar, Mr. Xidos was one of the largest illegal VLT operators in the province, making huge profits and avoiding paying income taxes for years. Nova Scotia Business Inc. now has a $2 million equity position in Techlink. My question to the Premier is, why is this Premier's government in business with someone who was once the largest purveyor of illegal, grey VLT machines in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not about to get engaged in a conversation in this House about the business opportunities of an individual Nova Scotian who's not here to defend himself. What I can say is that we as a government are in the business of finding ways in which we can grow our economy. We are prepared to do business with Nova Scotians who come forward with a good business case that makes sense.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government and this Premier have no problem giving $2 million to a gambling operation in Nova Scotia, while they can't find money to send the children back to school in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. That's the priority of this government.

Mr. Speaker, Techlink produces VLTs and harmful VLT games under the guise of a responsible gambling operation. They produce an Internet gambling device called Dataceptor, a video lottery game called Battlefield Poker, another called Video Poker, Cold Hard Cash, Deuces Up Wild, and worst of all they have a game on the net called Keno. The government's own expert has said that video Keno would cause nine more suicides in Nova Scotia if

[Page 6067]

implemented in Nova Scotia. Can the Premier please explain why his government is now a partner in a VLT production company?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting, and I know members of the House can recall on many occasions, the member who just asked the question admonishing the government for not going out of its way to find job opportunities in Cape Breton. I have always been able to remind the member for Cape Breton South of the great success we've had in creating new job opportunities in Cape Breton, and we will continue to find ways to put Cape Bretoners to work, and we will not apologize for that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Premier, why don't you find a way to put these people back to work, in Cape Breton? Why don't you put money on the table for that, instead of discussing about putting money into a gaming operation in Nova Scotia?

I think the Premier has a lot of explaining to do to the people of Nova Scotia. The Premier called the VLTs a curse, and now he's in the VLT business. Techlink now is targeting markets in Russia, other parts of Europe, and Latin America. Why is this Premier's government an equity partner in a company that is in the business of exporting harmful video lottery gambling, as well as the harm Techlink is doing in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not aware of any harm that that company is doing in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Economic Development would be pleased to point out to the member for Cape Breton South the business arrangement that we have with that company.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the House and the honourable member knows, Nova Scotia Business Inc. is an arm's-length corporation run by private businessmen across Nova Scotia. They evaluate each business opportunity on what it can provide in employment to the local community. Techlink's products involve responsible gaming devices that help curtail activities of addictive gambling services. I think the honourable member should review the facts that he's trying to bring before the House.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES: PERSONAL USE ALLOWANCES - INCREASE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on the eve of the 2003 election, the Premier stated that his Party was planning to raise personal use allowances for residents of nursing homes. Now on the surface, it may seem that seniors under the new system get more money, keeping a minimum of $200, however, they must pay now for things like medication, ambulance fees, canes, wheelchairs, from that pool of money. When you factor in these costs, low-income seniors are worse off. I ask the Premier, when will he live up to the campaign promise and increase the personal use allowance for nursing home residents?

[Page 6068]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I very well remember making that commitment. I made it over in Dartmouth (Interruption) That's correct, I remember very clearly making the commitment and it will be kept.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I know the Premier remembers making the promise . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: . . . that would be the key thing. Thousands of seniors who are already in nursing homes as of January 1st are staying on the old system. Their life savings were used up to pay for health care in nursing homes, so they needed continuing coverage for medication and special needs. For these seniors the personal rate use allowance remains at the old rate of $105 a month, the same rate that has been in place for years. The Premier said $105 was inadequate in 2003, well it's inadequate today and I'm going to ask him, when will these residents see the increase that he promised?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, very soon.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, soon, very soon. We've heard it so often that it doesn't mean anything any more, frankly. Phone rates have increased in the last six years, so have the cost of toiletries, transportation, haircuts and other personal needs this monthly allowance is intended to cover. This is particularly hard for families who don't have the ability to assist loved ones in paying for these essential personal needs. So, my last question for the Premier is, why doesn't he live up to his promise and make sure that all nursing home residents have enough to cover their personal needs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Opposition for reminding me of the commitment, I had not forgotten it and it will be kept.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: BEAR RIVER COMMUN. HEALTH CLINIC - FUNDING

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. For more than 10 years there has been a community health clinic in the Bear River area providing primary health care to residents of both Digby and Annapolis Counties. The clinic has a caseload of over 1,000 people but it's operated entirely by volunteers, without one penny of operational funding from this province. The community wants to keep the clinic going but they know a full-time administrative position is essential as the workload is beyond what volunteers can handle. So my question to the Minister of

[Page 6069]

Health is quite simple, why hasn't the Bear River Community Health Clinic received operational funding from your government?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the question of the Bear River clinic was a subject of conversation between myself and the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis. I did commit yesterday to that honourable member that I would visit that clinic when the House rises and enter into discussions with them.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's great to know that the minister has made a commitment to visit the clinic but I'm really disappointed that he will not go beyond that when we are in the process of allocating new health dollars for primary health care in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the emergency rooms at the three nearest hospitals struggle in that area with staffing and they struggle with periodic service disruptions. Having primary health care in Bear River reduces the pressure on these local emergency rooms. This government has a primary health care backdrop that they trot around for all kinds of announcements but they put no money into primary health care at the community level and it's needed now.

So I want to say to the Minister of Health and I want to ask him why 10 years of asking this government has been ignored and when will this department actually allocate money to keep that clinic operational?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, there are days when it seems like 10 years but there are other days when it has gone by much quicker than that. For the honourable member to suggest that we have not put money into primary health care would be for the honourable member to have an incredible set of blinders on that she could not even see what we did in the Digby Neck area and the Islands with respect to the delivery of primary health care. It is with that attitude that I will attend the meeting in Bear River later this Spring.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a community health centre in my riding, it has been there for 25 years, perhaps the minister could come and see what a community health centre will actually do in terms of the delivery of primary health care in a community.

Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to stand in his place here today and make a commitment to the people of Bear River, Digby-Annapolis, that he, in fact, will provide some core funding so volunteers do not have to carry out the work that should properly be done by paid staff?

[Page 6070]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that I have attended many clinics throughout the province. I would be more than happy to visit her clinic and each and every one of those occasions increases the collective knowledge that a person has with respect to the delivery of health care in this province. It also points out the very important role that volunteers play in the delivery of health care in this province, but I do share the honourable member's concern that we not overburden those volunteers with too much by way of responsibility. When I go to Bear River, I will certainly take a good look and make some assessments based on my own visit and my own assessment of that particular area.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

GAMING - BILL ACCEPTORS: ENDORSATION - EXPLAIN

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, VLTs are ruining 15,000 Nova Scotia families. Some of them are represented here in the gallery today. Features of Nova Scotia's VLTs accelerate the loss of money even faster - like bill acceptors. They are disgraceful. The government in its half-hearted way finally said it will remove the stop buttons from VLTs, but is ignoring the advice of scientific research and its own experts to remove bill acceptors from these machines.

My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Premier. Why does he continue to endorse the use of bill acceptors - a device that contributes to ripping apart Nova Scotia families?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the great advantages of the position of this government in comparison to the position of the Third Party is that by being the regulator, we have control of the industry. One of the things that we will be examining is the effect on the industry of bill acceptors. What I do know, and what I have been told, is that the science around bill acceptors is not yet clear.

MR. GRAHAM: It wasn't clear with respect to stop machines, it's the same excuse that they used a couple of years ago. It's clear what the government's interest is with respect to this. Even, Mr. Speaker, if it was taking a precautionary principle, even if it was saying it's not clear one way or another, let's make sure that we protect the people of Nova Scotia and remove these VLTs, people would think that this government's actions were actually sincere. Obviously, the only reason bill acceptors are on these machines is to take advantage of people who simply can't stop, to make them lose more money instead of spending it on food and clothing, lose more money even faster.

My question again is for the Premier. If his strategy is about helping Nova Scotians and not about making more money, why does he endorse the use of harmful bill acceptors?

[Page 6071]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is determined to be a responsible regulator of video lottery terminals. We have indicated part of our strategy is directed towards making the industry itself less addictive. That includes a number of things, including reducing the hours of play. It includes slowing down the machines. It includes removing stop buttons. We have also committed in the months ahead to continue looking at the issues, seeing how effective our implementations are and, as well, examining other avenues that will make the industry more acceptable.

MR. GRAHAM: It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier didn't reference in his remarks the reduction in the number of VLTs that he has been so often touting. I was speaking just a few minutes ago with a problem gambler and he indicated to me that from his perspective the government's plan to reduce the number of VLTs in this province by one-quarter is like the government saying that they're going to reduce the number of viruses on your computer by one-quarter, it doesn't get the job done.

Last week at the Public Accounts Committee, this province's own gambling addictions expert, John LaRocque, made it clear that his expert advice on making these machines safer for people, but less profitable for the government of course, has been systematically ignored. Premier, why won't you accept the advice of your own gambling addictions expert?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, the government has sought a wide variety of experts to provide us with advice. I was very much influenced by a statement the ChronicleHerald - I believe the date was October 5th - and it was a story entitled, Labelling Gambling Hazardous. It revolved around some observations by Mr. Ralph Nader who was the keynote speaker at the International Problem Gambling Conference, a three-day event being held in a local hotel. This is a quotation from Mr. Nader, "Governments that run gambling operations have the chance to regulate a more responsible system. It's better than trying to prohibit it because then it goes underground and creates organized criminals. It's better for the state to monopolize it because otherwise you'll have Trumps and out-of-control gambling machines."

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

NSLC: STORE RELOCATIONS - EXPLAIN

MR. GORDON GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for NSLC. Yesterday I told this Legislature how this government is standing by as Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation takes its Main Street, Yarmouth, store and hundreds of customers who visit each day out of the downtown business district. Yarmouth is not alone. I will table an e-mail from the NSLC that lays out plans to move liquor stores to Sobeys and Superstores all over the province. This includes moving the liquor store in Liverpool from Main Street to the Superstore outside of town. Everyone, including the Mayor, John Leefe, and the Queen's

[Page 6072]

County Municipal Council think this is a bad idea. I understand they have written to this government, letting them know how they feel. My question to the minister responsible for the NSLC is, why are you letting the NSLC launch this attack on business districts in small towns like Liverpool?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member had a half dozen questions there. With regard to the Yarmouth store which he asked about, in Yarmouth, as I stated yesterday, there is one current liquor store, there's an RFP out through the tendering policy for a second. The mayor of Yarmouth has endorsed that proposal on CBC. I don't understand what the member has a problem with.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, that RFP that he speaks of is a "shoulda, woulda, coulda". Despite what this minister says, he must understand why this is such a concern to places like Yarmouth and Liverpool. He must have made some attempt to determine what economic effects this NSLC move would have in these communities. My question to the minister is, will he table the economic impact studies that were done to determine the fallout these liquor store relocations will have?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, unlike the honourable member's view, this minister and this government believe in fair tendering policies rather than assigning tenders where they felt they should be. Each one of these communities, each one of these circumstances, proper RFP tendering policy is issued. Any business individual who desires to bid on that tender for the location of a store is entitled to. It's not being moved from any community.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, clearly I'm not having much luck with this minister responsible for the NSLC. He doesn't understand the economic impact the moves of this liquor store will have on small towns. I'll try my luck with the Minister of Economic Development who should better understand these kinds of issues. My question is to the Minister of Economic Development, will he please talk to the minister responsible for the NSLC to convince him to take concerns of towns like Yarmouth and Liverpool seriously? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Obviously the degree of understanding of the member opposite on who is responsible for what post seems to be confused. Again, I would say to the member opposite, this government and certainly ministries such as Justice has located the new justice centre in downtown Yarmouth. We've seen the best school construction carried out in this province at the greatest accelerated growth ever in the history of this province. Those are being located and renewed along with recreational facilities in rural communities all over Nova Scotia.

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This government believes in rural communities. This government supports rural communities and that's why they're prospering better than ever before.

[3:15 p.m.]

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

NSLC - BLUE BAGS: CHANGES - METHODS EXPLAIN

MR. GORDON GOSSE: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation. Many Nova Scotians are feeling blue, Mr. Speaker, and confused. They're confused about the decision by NSLC to stop using blue bags for people to take their purchases home in. In a secretive tradition we have all come to know that exists around the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation, this decision was not communicated to Nova Scotians, nor were they consulted. The vice-president of marketing says that part of the reason this decision was taken was that the new logo would show up better on white bags. I ask the minister, why was this decision taken without some opportunity for public input?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's question on the colour of bags, the strength of bags, the NSLC is a Crown Corporation, and they are in the business of returning the . . .

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

MR. FAGE: The NSLC has a mandate to the citizens of Nova Scotia to return a net profit that supports schools, highways, roads, education. Part of that mandate is ensuring that quality products are used, that Nova Scotians and visitors recognize the label and the new logo of the NSLC. Certainly, when the NSLC and their board and marketing expertise go forward, they take into account what will be noticed. Thank goodness the member opposite did notice this.

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, that's not the only recent decision by the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation that has Nova Scotians shaking their heads. In January the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation announced a new so-called pricing policy. The vice-president of NSLC promised at that time that this was not a precursor to a price increase yet, lo and behold, prices went up less than two months later. Will this minister admit that this so-called pricing policy was really just a cover for a price increase by stealth?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think if the honourable member checks industry's policy, industry, normally in January, February, the producers of alcohol and manufacturers would adjust their price in accordance with an increase in product costs. Those are the prices that the member saw the month following.

[Page 6074]

MR. GOSSE: Mr. Speaker, the price of booze isn't the only cost that's gone up at the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation in the last few months. Board members of the NSLC are benefiting from a financial boost as well - to the tune of 100 per cent in the case of the board chairman. This is the same board chair who had to check into the Casino Hotel at taxpayers' expense after a night of heavy wine tasting. Will the minister explain to this House how he can justify the increase without any foreseeable benefit to taxpayers?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question because it provides an opportunity to point out the significance of appointing a board of directors instead of a commission to govern the business practices of the NSLC. Since the switch to a board of directors and a better retailing and marketing and governance schedule, the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation's net profit returns to the Province of Nova Scotia, the people of Nova Scotia, is up over 15 per cent what it was, without price increases. Those returns show what can be accomplished; those returns build hospitals; those returns build schools; those returns build roads. Those are revenues Nova Scotians can use to improve their infrastructure and provide services to the province.

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

EDUC. - C.B.-VICTORIA REG. SCH. BD. STRIKE: RESOLUTION - PLANS

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, as a result of the proceedings to date in the House here, I've been pondering should I ask the question of the honourable Energy Minister from Cape Breton, the Minister of Education or maybe the Premier but, because of the mismanagement displayed, I think I'll focus on the Minister of Education. So my question is to the Minister of Education. Today, this minister is back to the drawing board, 18,500 students being denied a quality education, and this minister has failed to resolve the issue with the strike of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. This minister continues to do what this government does best, point fingers and blame others for the underachievement. I'm pointing the finger now at the one person directly responsible for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board strike and that's the Minister of Education. My question to the minister is, Mr. Minister, what's next?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with the endorsement of the government yesterday morning the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board presented an offer of binding arbitration to the CUPE executive which I hope will be passed on to the membership. I hope that they will accept that offer.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, that was yesterday. That was refused yesterday. The union refused it. Today is today, I want to know where we go from here? The minister's inaction is unfair to the students, it's unfair to the parents and it's unfair to the workers.

[Page 6075]

Mr. Speaker, there are students who are fearful of not graduating. The Grade 12 students are fearful of losing their money to go to college, their bursaries. Scholarships are being held in abeyance. What about the students who need every hour in class just to make it through? What about them? So the future is bleak for all of them. The special needs students, who are wondering why they are not in class and miss their teaching assistants terribly. My question is to the minister again. What are the next steps?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I share the honourable member's concern about students not being in school and workers being on the picket line. That's why I have called on all members of this House to support the board's position on binding arbitration. As the honourable member will know, binding arbitration to be quite frank, I think there was some misunderstanding by some members of CUPE about what binding arbitration is. Clearly it means that resources to meet the arbitrators decision would be available.

MR. GERALD SAMPSON: Mr. Speaker, if only this government had provided support to the school boards with declining populations, instead of focusing on an outdated formula for funding that doesn't work and hasn't worked. The students are being neglected. The minister has neglected the school boards and the students are paying the price for this. My question to the minister. Please relay to the 18,500 students impacted, their parents and the guests today in the gallery, when we can expect that all parties will be back in the classroom?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if the union would agree to binding arbitration, I expect that workers would be back on the job immediately and hopefully the students would be back in school on Friday.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - HFX. REHAB. PATIENTS: RELOCATION TIME FRAME

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. Back in 2001, 11 men with disabilities were temporarily moved from the Halifax Rehab Centre to Sunrise Manor. Nearly four years later these men are still crowded in temporary accommodations. Mrs. Betty Rich, a face that's become very familiar to members in this House, has been here more than her fair share and she'll tell you that. She's met with successive ministers of that government around her son Joey's plight. I want to ask this minister, how much longer do these 11 disabled Nova Scotians have to live in temporary shelter?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question because I want to point out that extensive renovations were done to accommodate them at Sunrise Manor, over $0.5 million. I have met with the mother in question on numerous occasions as has the previous minister. I've answered her questions. We continue to work

[Page 6076]

through the Community Supports for Adults renewal initiative. There were announcements last November and things are being well-received by that community in general.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's a pathetic answer. We've had 11 disabled Nova Scotians, people who believe in the dignity and respect, that they do not receive from the Department of Community Services. Being temporarily housed for four years is shameful and this minister should be ashamed himself.

I have in here, Mr. Speaker, a newspaper story saying that the minister was developing a plan for these disabled Nova Scotians. So I want to ask the minister, where's the plan and when can we expect it?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite because indeed over the last two and a half years there has been extensive consultation, not only with participants in the program, their families, the caregivers, advocacy organizations, professionals involved in helping them, to work on that plan. Last November, there was consensus on one part of the plan that the area that we should be addressing first is for those that need minimal supports but an area where there is a gap, I announced the Direct Family Support Program, where we assist families with the necessary financial resources to help them keep their adult disabled children in their home. In addition to that, we talked about the supervised department program going province wide and eventually, later this year, the Alternate Family Support Program, which is a form of adult foster care. There has been a lot of enthusiasm out there for these three initiatives and we look forward to moving on them.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's reassuring to the family members of these 11 disabled Nova Scotians, foster care! Four years and they come up with foster care. This minister had no problem giving his colleague for Inverness a group home in his constituency when only a handful were constructed under this government. So when can the other 11 Nova Scotians at Sunrise Manor expect the same courtesy and, quite directly, when will Joey have a home to call his own?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for mentioning the opening of MacDonald Hall, officially last Friday, and of course there is a very significant difference between these two circumstances. In the case of MacDonald Hall, we were working with the fire marshal to try to take an old facility and eventually move those residents into a new one. We worked with the fire marshal, we made it happened and we will do the same for other people in like circumstances.

[Page 6077]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

HEALTH - GYNECOLOGICAL SURGERY: WAIT TIMES - ADDRESS

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. According to a recent report released by the Capital Health District, the wait time for women who require gynecological cancer surgery has increased by a whopping 102 per cent. In March of last year the wait time for that surgery was 13.8 days and just nine months later, the wait time had grown to 27.9 days. In a province where the incidents of cervical cancer is above the national average, to have to wait a month for surgery is simply not good enough.

My question to the minister is, could the minister please outline what specific actions he has taken to address the delay for cancer surgeries in the Capital District?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for that question. The question of wait times is a challenge and it's a continuous priority with respect to the government. We are currently in the process of doing a very complete analysis of wait times throughout all of the province. I can say to the honourable member that I have had a very recent conversation with the Commissioner of Cancer Care Nova Scotia with respect to the cancer wait times and that is a priority that is being addressed as we speak.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, we, in the Liberal Party have known that wait times are an important issue for some time now, so I'm glad that the minister is finally catching up to realizing that. But his response is cool comfort for women in this province.

[3:30 p.m.]

I recently spoke with Don Ford of the Capital District and he indicated that his biggest challenge is having 120 beds per day occupied, 120 people occupying hospital beds who should be in long-term care beds or in home care. In fact, he stated, and I quote, "The surgical tap is the only tap that we can turn on or off in order to ease the flow."

So my question for the minister is, Mr. Speaker, will this minister finally admit that his neglect of the long-term care and home-care sectors has directly contributed to increased wait times for cancer surgery in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can remind the honourable member of is that we have in fact made very recent investments in Capital Health with respect to relieving the pressure on acute care beds by providing long-term care beds. If the honourable member listens carefully to the address of the Minister of Finance at the time of the budget, he will hear further indications that we're addressing the pressure on acute care facilities in the Capital District with respect to long-term care beds. That is part of our continuous effort to address this very important issue.

[Page 6078]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Well, Mr. Speaker, isn't that always the answer? Wait for the budget, you know, wait for the study, let's do another study, wait for this, wait for that? The acute care budget is out of control in the province. Hospitals aren't hospitals any more in this province because they're more and more like nursing homes and now you have women in this province waiting for cancer surgery at the QE II and their wait is longer and longer.

Mr. Speaker, my final question for the minister is, please, Mr. Minister, tell all of us once and for all when you're going to begin to take some comprehensive action, not just another study, real comprehensive action on this issue of long-term care beds in our province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member makes reference to what we are doing with respect to wait times in the Province of Nova Scotia. I spent the past weekend with the provincial-territorial ministers and the major portion of our agenda was on wait times. I'm quite encouraged by the fact that the steps being taken by this province are on a par, if not ahead, of what is being done in other jurisdictions in Canada. The problems we face here are not unique.

I already suggested to the honourable member when he might find some of his answers with respect to when we will relieve some of the pressure on the acute care sector in this province and, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite welcome to participate in the province-wide consultation that we're doing with respect to planning the location of long-term care facilities in the province.

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

AFRIC./N.S. AFFS. - BEECHVILLE: HISTORY - PROJECT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister responsible for African Nova Scotian Affairs. Mr. Minister, Beechville is an historic community in my constituency that I'm privileged to represent. An important part of the history of Beechville is the community's connection with its legendary United Baptist Church. Currently this church's graveyard property is being threatened by a proposed development - and, let me tell you, Beechville knows all about developers.

In February I corresponded with you requesting assistance for the community. Mr. Minister, could you inform the House and the community of Beechville what you have done to protect their interests against further developments in their historic community?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, as I had indicated earlier to the member who raised this matter to me at the time, our staff had offered to meet with the community and to provide any assistance they could as a conciliator towards resolving the issue. It's my understanding they have met and they continue to discuss the issue and look forward to

[Page 6079]

having a resolution in the community that is acceptable to both the community and the developer.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Hamilton did a terrific job that evening and I can say with pleasure, Mr. Speaker, as a past teacher of Wayn Hamilton it was wonderful to see him do the conciliation on that evening, but Mr. Hamilton cannot guarantee the very assurances that this community wants. Clarence Wright, the chairman of the church's board of trustees, wants guarantees that the road proposed by the developers will not be permitted to go ahead. This church dates back to 1844 and, as Clarence has said, if the church goes, there goes the name of Beechville. That's how important that is. Mr. Minister, what guarantees do you personally give to Mr. Wright, to the congregation of the Beechville United Baptist Church and to the community that this road will not, under any circumstances, be allowed to be built?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I do know how serious this issue is for the community. That's why we offered the assistance of our department, that's why we will continue to work with the community and with the developer to find a resolution that is satisfactory to both the community and the developer. We understand the pressures that community has faced with development all around it, and we understand very well the issue, and we expect to have a resolution to this problem very soon.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Reverend Clarence Armstrong is the passionate, committed pastor of this congregation. Clarence Armstrong, Clarence Wright and other community leaders would like to meet with you, not your staff. They would like to meet with you. They would like you to personally come to that community to see what they have to contend with. Mr. Minister, I ask you, will you get directly involved? Will you come and meet with the residents of Beechville on this important issue to this historic community?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, to the question, in fact I have met with a number of residents from Beechville with respect to this issue. I am prepared to go and meet with the pastor as well. He has not corresponded to me directly, but I did offer the assistance, very early on, of our staff and our department, and our Executive Director, Wayn Hamilton to help resolve this. I am more than prepared to go out and meet with the congregation and the pastor to see if there is something that I can do as the minister to help sort out this concern and issue.

MR. SPEAKER: I would just remind all members to direct their questions and address their issues through the Speaker, please, not directly to other members.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 6080]

ENVIRON. & LBR.: DART. INTERCHANGE - ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

MR. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Earlier this year HRM residents were outraged when your Conservative Government announced options for an interchange that would be encroaching on Shubie Park in Dartmouth. Representatives of that community are here today. According to the Environment Act, an environmental assessment must occur on a common public highway with four lanes or more and more than two kilometres or less than 10. Recently a freedom of information request included a diagram of the Highway No. 118 interchange broken down into sections, which together, when completed, would total more than two kilometres, a meeting your staff attended. My question to the minister is, why did the minister fail to order an environmental assessment when it was clear that the entire proposed project would be greater than two kilometres?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member for the question. It was my understanding that the road was under two kilometres, and that's why an environmental assessment wasn't requested.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, well, the document I've tabled clearly shows that it's more than two kilometres, and indeed Halifax Regional Municipality has put $2.1 million, this year, in their budget to complete the section of the road beyond that. So, therefore, it is over the two kilometres. On the issue, another, Page 30, environmental report, again obtained under the freedom of information, states that when you disturb the head waters of a watershed, you impact the water levels of Grassy Brook, and by doing this you jeopardize the future and well-being of the water quality and surrounding habitat. To quote the report, as illustrated in 4.4, the entire watershed of Grassy Brook can potentially be impacted by the proposed road alignment. I will table that report. My question to the minister is, ignoring the warning of both the potential impact to wetlands and the Grassy Brook watershed and again failing to order environmental assessment, will you order an environmental assessment?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will review the documentation that has been presented here today and speak with the member after that review.

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate the minister hasn't spoken with his staff because the staff attended all these meetings and evidently he's not up-to-date on the issue and it's a very important issue to the residents in the Dartmouth area.

Mr. Speaker, it's clear the Progressive Conservative Government would rather circumvent the law and ignore the warnings than be accountable to the people of this province he serves. My final question is, in light of the information revealed, will the minister be willing to do a full environmental assessment before this project proceeds?

[Page 6081]

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that we take protecting the environment extremely seriously and we look at all the information that's before us and when criteria is met, we order environmental assessments.

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

IMMIG.: NOMINEE PROG. - PRIVATIZATION

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Immigration. Back in 2002 this government announced the provincial Nominee Program - a program that they said at the time was going to fuel economic growth, particularly in rural Nova Scotia, by expediting 200 new immigrants to this province every year that we had the agreement. Yet a few short months later we have this government signing a contract with a private company to take over control of this program and as a result we've had only 15 immigrants actually show up on our shores in three years.

So my question to the Minister of Immigration is, why would his government sign such a contract to privatize the provincial Nominee Program?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, thank you for the question. In fact, there have been 71 families who have already moved here. There are more than 240 immigrants who have been approved to come here and live here. There are a number of other applications, I believe 160 in the process.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this contract with Cornwallis Financial is quite the scheme, I must say. Cornwallis Financial runs the entire program. They get to decide whether they want to extend the contract for two more years and the government has no say on it and this government has to beg permission of Cornwallis Financial if they want to release any details of that contract. So my question is, again to the Minister of Immigration, if he really believes that immigration is vital to the future of this province, why would he sign a contract that is nothing but a money-making scheme for a private company?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the member, the fact of the matter is we have a contract with Cornwallis Financial and the provincial Nominee Program is working very well. Cornwallis Financial brings a great deal of experience, it brings a great deal of professionalism towards this and we have three categories which are working extremely well.

Mr. Speaker, it is through the leadership of the Premier and this government that we are establishing the first Office of Immigration and through that we are welcoming not only hundreds of people to our shore, welcoming people who are going to add to the diversity and to the economic prosperity of our province.

[Page 6082]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, if this government was serious and actually ran this program themselves, we would have a lot more people on our shores now than the 15 that we have right now. The problem is you get what you pay for and this government paid nothing and, as a result, we've only got a handful of immigrants who have actually arrived in the last three years.

So my final question to the Minister of Immigration is, Mr. Speaker, why would you sign a contract that is signing away the future of our province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member has his facts wrong, clearly. In fact, yesterday I showcased two in our gallery alone and their families. So the member is wrong and he needs to get his facts checked out.

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

NAT. RES. - BIRCH GR.: STRIP MINE - REJECT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. More than 30,000 residents from the Morien area depend on fresh drinking water from the Morien watershed. The residents of Donkin, Tower Road, Port Morien, Birch Grove and Glace Bay depend upon this watershed and this watershed contains certain vital water sources, namely the heavy water dam at Sand Lake, John Allen's Lake and the Donkin Dam as well as many private wells.

Given the fact that his department had rejected the approval of a strip mine in Birch Grove more than 21 years ago, my question to the minister is, why is it being considered today?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member to my left, in December 2003, I made the trip to Cape Breton with my good colleague the Minister of Energy to announce three proposal calls in the Cape Breton area. We had the councillors from all those areas and we had the two MPs from the areas that were going to be affected, and everybody gave this a resounding endorsement. I can tell you that we have regulations in this province, through the Minister of Environment and Labour, to protect the watershed areas in that area.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my next question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Both he and the Minister of Natural Resources met with residents of the Morien area. In fact, the Minister of Environment and Labour, I believe, met twice with the residents of that area who are totally opposed to the strip mining in the Morien area. He's fully aware of two hydrology studies, the first named Groundwater Hydrology Studies

[Page 6083]

by Nolan White and Associates and the second, an Urban Groundwater Study by ADI Limited. Both these studies focus on the fragility of the soil and water stratus and the extreme danger of strip mining in the Birch Grove, Morien area. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, why is the provincial government even considering strip mining in this particular area?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I really do appreciate the question. As the member said, I had been down to meet with the residence of one of the proposed areas twice. We've had wonderful presentations that they've put a phenomenal amount of work into and there are some people on their committee who are geologists, who have retired and have brought many issues to light and presented them to me. We are now looking at an accumulative study to take a look at water supplies in those areas to see what kind of effect things will have. We're going to have an independent third party do that work and they will be talking with all those residents, gathering that information and coming up with a final report.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, quite simply, for the sake of protecting human health, the social economic well-being of society and the integrity of ecosystems in the Morien area, will the government please consider abandoning its proposal to develop a strip mine in Birch Grove?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, we're certainly looking at this information and we'll take into consideration the information that we gather. We're looking at the hydrogeology of the areas now. There is a great deal of information out there and additional information that I would like to see prior to making any decision.

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

EDUC.: BILL NO. 48 - PROCLAIM

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It is becoming an all too common occurrence that Nova Scotians and, in particular, residents of HRM wake to morning news reports of swarmings, robberies, shootings and car chases. These violent acts are frequently commitment by young people. On May 20, 2004, in the Spring sitting of this very Legislature, almost a year ago, all three Parties passed Bill No. 48 that would, ". . . make school facilities available free of charge to community youth . . ." and to senior groups. My question to the minister is, if creating positive opportunities for youth was a priority to this government, why hasn't this government proclaimed a bill that was passed with the support of all three Parties almost a year ago?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for drawing to the attention a very positive step by this government, the community use of school facilities. I can say that in spirit that policy is being followed. I can tell you we have not received the expressions of concern that we did last year before that legislation was passed. There is,

[Page 6084]

however, to be quite frank - and it had not been proclaimed, and the reason for it is that we were advised by legal advice that because schools not only provide the facility free of charge to citizens groups, they rent the facilities, that the rental conditions and the community use-provisions for free of charge were tied together, and before it's enacted they should go as a package.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 48, which was passed by this House, also requires the policy, and I think that's what the minister is referring to. The policy hasn't been worked out. If this is indeed a priority for our society and I think what you've pointed to, the importance of it, it has justice implications, health implications and community benefit. If it's such a priority, can the minister table the policy before the end of today?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there was a community use of schools policy in circulation prior to the passing of that particular bill. It was a draft produced by the department with partners taken to the school boards. I will - I see somebody nodding, we'll try. Thank you.

MS. WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, if the minister cannot table the policy, at the very least the Minister of Education should be able to tell us what is so difficult about drafting this policy. This policy is of vital concern to all of our communities. The bill was passed here with our intent to make the schools more open and accessible and to take away a lot of the financial obstacles to community groups. I think the intent and the spirit has been broken and I would like to know if he could tell us why it's so difficult to draft that policy with a whole year to do it?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it's not the policy that is the difficulty, it's the regulations which do have legal status. We're advised by the Justice Department officials that because there is rental use as well as community use that they should go forward as a package. As you know, the insurance issue has raised its ugly head since we passed that legislation. We're trying to work our way through that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES.: WILDLIFE MGT. - REVIEW

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Natural Resources. Some weeks ago the Department of Natural Resources' review of Nova Scotia wildlife management areas and sanctuaries started seeking public comment on 26 sites across the province. However, predictably, this is turning out to be a review by name and not by nature. In looking on their Web site, I was surprised - as many other people were - that 13 of these sites, including the Blandford Game Sanctuary, had already been listed as having no unique wildlife conservation values and were recommended for delisting.

[Page 6085]

It would seem clear and, I think, common sense to most Nova Scotians, that in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s, when most of these sites were designated, that we had a lot more wilderness than we do now. Therefore, the need for these sites is even greater. My question to the minister is, is the review actually taking the public's concern seriously or is it simply window dressing being used as a means to justify the department's already declared ends?

HON. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell that member and all members of this House, this government listens to the people of our great province and we will address the concerns of the citizens. That's why we've expanded the time frame to listen to the concerns of the people of this province.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to say, there's a first time for everything. The Department of Natural Resources new deadline of May 31st is fast approaching. People from the area have described the Blandford Sanctuary as being as important to their area as Point Pleasant Park is to the people of Halifax. The department has their Web site and their phone numbers, but this is not consultation. Will this minister take the time that is left in the review process and hold public meetings in the areas to be affected by the new listings?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, every day our department is getting hits on our Web site and getting e-mails, letters and faxes from people with concerns. We are listening to all those concerns and we will give due consideration to all the concerns the citizens have raised onto all the sanctuaries in our province and the expanded sanctuaries that we're looking at in the future.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister mentioned the expanded sanctuaries, but the minister didn't say that he wants to take out nearly 73,000 hectares by delisting and add 13, 000 hectares. I would say the distinguishing feature here would be the lack of trees. The national target for protected lands is 12 per cent, while this province languishes at 8 per cent, and what does this government do but delist wilderness management areas.

This is typical of this government, a process of perceived consultation to justify decisions already made. Currently the County of Lunenburg has no protected lands and this makes the issue around Blandford even more important to those people. So will the minister initiate the process to designate the roughly 463 hectares of Crown lands as a protected wilderness area in the Blandford Game Sanctuary?

MR. HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, just for clarity, I believe that the protected areas in our province on Crown land is approximately 20 per cent. I will say that we will be dealing with all the responses that we get and I will be making a determination after I get all of the responses in.

[Page 6086]

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

JUSTICE: OPERATION SHADOW - STATUS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians have expressed alarm at the recent crime wave taking place in our province. Just this last weekend in Halifax there have been12 robberies and since March 1st there have been 18 swarming-style assaults in the Halifax region as well. In 2003, this government cancelled Operation Shadow, which was launched as a pilot in Sydney and later was adopted in the Halifax region. Operation Shadow teamed up probation officers with police after normal working hours and on weekends to check up on people serving conditional sentences in the community - in essence, those who were serving house arrest. Without these after-hour check ups, criminals convicted of such crimes as arson or spousal abuse are left unchecked to see whether they are living up to the terms of their release. Right now probation officers only follow up with daytime visits and phone calls due to the lack of additional support from the police.

So my question to the Minister of Justice, why did this government scrap Operation Shadow.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the honourable member's question with respect to the matter. It's very simple. The reason for cancellation of that was the result of concern for safety of the community corrections officers in the situations they were attending, in situations where it was deemed to be dangerous, and out of respect to the workers who work for the Province of Nova Scotia that decision was made.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the whole idea was that for the safety of these correctional workers that they have a police officer with them so when they go and do checks at night or on weekends they would have the additional security. So that means that if you're serving house arrest that we have a way of making sure that you are serving house arrest, not only between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., which is the case right now, but they can check on weekends and they check at night. This is the government that cancelled that program and then said, well, because of the fact that we don't have the police working with our correctional officers, right now we'll only check on those serving house arrest between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., and other than that we'll pick up the phone and call them.

This is another example of where this government talks tough about making sure that the administration of justice is being upheld in this province yet turns a blind eye to the fact that the conditional sentences are a reality, and that it is now being abused because of this government's cancellation of this program.

So I ask the minister again - will he reinstate this program so that Nova Scotians can have a clear sense of confidence that house arrest means house arrest in Nova Scotia, not only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.?

[Page 6087]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings a good question and the question is about what we're doing. In fact, we have enhanced things around youth probation and intensive supervision of youth. We have improved our correctional services; in fact we have put $6.1 million into an organized crime initiative in this province through Criminal Intelligence Service Nova Scotia. We are serious about crime, we are serious about monitoring people on conditional sentences, and we are serious about protecting our workers.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, no one is suggesting that the workers shouldn't be protected. In fact, what we're saying is bring back the program so that the workers can be protected and they can make house visits after 5:00 p.m. and on the weekends. The situation you have right now is that they have to call because they can't go to the houses, and we're not expecting them to go without protection, but for the minister to talk about youth crime and that, it's not only young offenders who are serving house arrest, Mr. Minister, and I know you have an obsession towards young offenders in this province, but there are others and they're not all part of organized crime either. The fact is, again, you have people serving house arrest who are not being properly supervised by this province. So I ask the minister again, will you put back Operation Shadow so that Nova Scotians can again know that house arrest means house arrest in Nova Scotia, 24 hours a day?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again, I share the honourable member's interest in making sure that house arrest is effective. The most effective means of monitoring house arrest, in many ways, is the people in the neighbourhood, because no monitoring program can be there 24 hours a day. What is most effective most times is neighbours who see people who are under orders. If there's a violation, we act on those violations, and we monitor the people on house arrest.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - MIRA DIST. WELLS: DRAWDOWN - CEASE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question, again, is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Since 1996, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality has dug 11 deep-water wells in the Mira district to feed the urban cores of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Since that time, nearly 25 per cent of all the homes in the affected area where the wells have been dug have lost their water. My question to the minister is, how many homes in the Mira district must lose their water before action is taken to stop this continued drawdown?

HON. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. This is something, when the variance was issued some time ago, there was a great deal of discussion. Hydrogeologists were involved. At that point in time,

[Page 6088]

it was not determined that there would be adverse effects to people's wells. In light of the information, and information that has been passed to me, we certainly will be reviewing that prior to any decision being made.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the time frame for the variance has expired. That variance of an additional 300 gallons of water per day has resulted in an additional 15 to 20 homes losing their water. That does not include the number of homes outside the affected area, because that's an artificial boundary that has been drawn.

So my question to the minister is, given the information he has surrounding that variance, and given the information that I'm sure the municipality and the residents and the local councillor - I've provided him with a letter of detailed information on the serious effects on this issue - given all that information, will he give strong consideration to not approving that variance?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, certainly we'll take into account all information that becomes available with regard to protecting water supplies. As everybody in this House knows, and in the province, securing water supplies for residents is of the utmost importance, and we will take all technical information into consideration as we move forward.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as the minister well knows, and all members of this House know, without water the value of their homes is absolutely zero. We're talking about millions of dollars of lost property value, not to mention the loss of quality of life and so on. I would suggest to the minister that perhaps he and his department would consider directing the municipality to go into the Coxheath Hills between Coxheath Mountain and Beechmont Hills or to the East Bay Hills where there are natural aquifers. I would ask the minister if he would consult with the municipality and consider an alternate form of water resource so as to satisfy all stakeholders?

MR. MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate any information and all information that is available. I know that staff is working with the municipality, and we will continue to work to come up with an outcome that will be satisfactory to all parties involved.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: FUEL PRICE REGULATION - MIN. ACTION

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Yesterday I presented a petition on behalf of some 3,470 residents of Pictou County, calling on this government to regulate gasoline prices. I understand there are other similar petitions circulating around the province. What people are telling me is that they want regulation similar to the P.E.I. and the Newfoundland models, where prices remain stable for defined periods of time and where people are assured

[Page 6089]

their local community service station will remain viable. My question to the minister is, thousands of Nova Scotians are calling for stability in fuel prices by bringing back regulation in Nova Scotia, what action are you taking to make sure that this happens?

HON. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would know that we have a bill that is currently in committee. If the Party opposite would support that piece of legislation and move it into the House, we could debate the merits of that legislation and then move forward with the initiative.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome mention of that bill and certainly ask you to bring it forward. Our Party certainly wants regulation as much as other Nova Scotians out there. When we had our Select Committee on Petroleum Product Pricing last year, MLAs from all three Parties here wanted regulation as a viable option. The Retail Gasoline Dealers Association of Nova Scotia strongly supports price regulation and thousands of Nova Scotians are demanding regulation through various petitions. Our Party is prepared to present amendments to Bill No. 79, so we're asking the minister to bring it forward to Law Amendments so we can deal with it. My question to the minister is, will you commit today to give us a firm date when you will bring Bill No. 79 before the Law Amendments Committee?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I don't control the agenda of the Law Amendments Committee, but what I will say is that our Party, the government, brought forward a piece of legislation that would enable us to regulate the industry. Their Party is the Party that stalled that piece of legislation and held it in committee. I would say to Nova Scotians that if they really want that bill to move forward they need to tell the NDP and the Liberals that it's important to move that piece of legislation forward so we can move forward with this initiative on behalf of all Nova Scotians.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, regulation of fuel prices on P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador has stopped the trend to close gas stations; by contrast, in Nova Scotia, more than half of our gas stations have already closed. We had over 1,000 - now we have less than 500. Let's get on and get regulation in this province - bring Bill No. 79 forward.

Mr. Minister, when are you going to finally stand up for Nova Scotians and our Nova Scotia communities or are you going to continue to sit and do nothing?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I would describe that as an unfair statement. We brought forward a piece of legislation that would enable government to regulate and that Party blocked that piece of legislation in committee, and I'm asking them to step out of the way so that we can do the work we need to do on behalf of Nova Scotians. They're being unfair to Nova Scotians and we're out here to protect Nova Scotians' interests - not that Party.

[Page 6090]

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

EDUC.: C.B.-VICTORIA REG. SCH. BD. STRIKE - CABINET OPINION

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Minister of Energy and MLA for Cape Breton North has asked the Education Minister to get involved and settle the strike by workers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Mr. Premier, there's obviously a Cabinet dispute here between the member for Cape Breton North and the Education Minister. I'd like to know, and Nova Scotians would like to know, which Cabinet Minister's position are you in favour of?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Cabinet is in complete agreement that the sooner the strike is settled, the better for the workers, students and the people of Cape Breton Island. We believe that the proposition by the local school board, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, to offer binding arbitration - something our Cabinet supports - will achieve all of the objectives that are important to the workers, the students, the school board and the local people of Cape Breton-Victoria.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, funding inequities to the Cape Breton-Victoria board are the problem. The only way this is going to be settled is if the Minister of Education, the Premier, and the member for Cape Breton North, all get together and agree this board needs more funding in order to give these workers an equitable settlement and give them justice in their workplace. It's not going to happen until this government gets involved and does that.

I might remind the Premier that the option of binding arbitration was already turned down by the workers. So my question to the Premier is, what are you going to do about the inequities in the funding of that board, Mr. Premier?

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Would you please call Resolution No. 3051.

[Page 6091]

Res. No. 3051 - Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd.: Lbr. Dispute - End - notice given Apr. 18/05 (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as we have seen here today (Interruption)

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

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for his indulgence. Here in the gallery today we have a friend of mine, and a friend of all Nova Scotians actually, John Dunsworth, also known as Mr. Lahey on the hit television series The Trailer Park Boys. I would tell you he's a pretty good contract bridge player because I've taken him on once for a charitable cause and it cost me $56. So, John, would you please stand up and accept the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guest in the gallery today.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to talk about the situation in Cape Breton that currently exists regarding the school board strike. As we've seen throughout Question Period today, both the Minister of Education and now the Premier of this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if you would allow for an introduction?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I would like to get on with the debate of the day. It's a rather important issue.

MR. SPEAKER: Very well, proceed.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Some members may not be willing to take it seriously, but I am. We're talking about the education of children back home in Cape Breton. We're talking about workers who are out on a picket line and I'm not willing to give up my time right now to do some introductions in this House. It's a serious situation. My children are affected and the children of a lot of other people back home and it's time that this government paid attention to what's going on in Cape Breton.

[Page 6092]

So, Mr. Speaker, what we've seen in Question Period today and what we've seen from both the Premier and the Minister of Education is nothing but some glib answers, totally dismissing the concerns of workers from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and by doing that, they're ignoring every concern from back home, from every parent who's concerned about this issue as well right now. We are simply weeks away, weeks away from the end of the school year right now, and that's going to mean, if this strike continues to drag on, that there are going to be students who will not graduate.

They will not graduate from high school this year, Mr. Speaker. It means they miss out, as they're missing out now, of course, on their education and all other extracurricular activities that go with it. Graduating students are going to miss out on their proms. They're going to miss out on the parties, the various safe grad parties that had been planned, and they're going to put 13 years of education in jeopardy because this government simply doesn't care. This government likes to talk about fairness and they campaigned on fairness. The Premier himself is a big fan of fairness. Well, how about fairness in this case? How about fairness for students and fairness for workers?

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is no stranger to confrontation. He's no stranger to confrontation in a strike situation. It's this Minister of Education who just happened to be the Minister of Health during Bill No. 68 and I'm sure the minister remembers that - during Bill No. 68 when he forced nurses back to work in this province. I hope not for a second, I hope that this government and this minister - now the Minister of Education, then the Minister of Health - is thinking that if they prolong this long enough, eventually they're going to go down the road of legislating workers back to this province.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that the Liberal caucus didn't stand for it during Bill No. 68 and we will not stand for it during this current labour dispute either. So my message to the Minister of Education would be don't even go there. Don't even think about going there because right now the ball is in your court. It's not good enough to stand in this Legislature time after time after time, as you have today, and say, well, we've put an offer of binding arbitration before the school board, they're the employer.

Mr. Speaker, as the Premier knows and as the minister knows, the province funds school boards. You are the employer of the workers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. You have to take responsibility for what's happening there right now and I can't believe for a minute what's actually happening in this case, that the Minister of Education says, well, we made an offer, the school board has made an offer, it's not up to me, it's now up to the district school board and if they don't accept the offer, whatever happens, happens.

[Page 6093]

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I used a phrase to describe what was going on here, both in the House and outside of the House, and I said what's actually happening here is a sin. Now, it's a strong statement, but at the same time what's happening back home, when you have 18,500 kids who are no longer attending classes, that is a sin. This is a serious situation, but the government is not treating it as a serious situation. The government is treating it as - I think anyway, in their opinion - as just a labour dispute, that perhaps if they stall long enough it will eventually work itself out. It's not good enough. It's not good enough for the people of Cape Breton, or the children who are being denied an education right now.

Mr. Speaker, this government has neglected our children and the whole student body in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is suffering because of the inaction of this government. The solution should be very clear. The solution should be very clear to the Minister of Education - simply fund the school board properly and you won't be in this predicament; simply provide the funding that should be there for declining enrolment that's taking place.

Mr. Speaker, you can get an indication. There are people here today who have travelled for six hours on a bus to come up and protest this situation. They shouldn't have to be here. They should be home going to their jobs. They should be home with their families, but they took the opportunity to come here and hear Question Period and hear our debate about this situation. It is a shame. It is a sin for those workers and for the students who are involved. This strike is nothing more than simply a tragedy, it should not have happened. It should never have been allowed to get to the point where it is right now.

Mr. Speaker, there are people who are being hurt here and there are people, - as I mentioned the other night - students with special needs who are being especially hurt in this situation because they can no longer get the care that they require. They can no longer attend school because all of the schools, with the exception of one, are now closed in Cape Breton. That's an absolute disgrace that this situation has been allowed to get to where it is right now.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it's a question of fairness. Why can't you be fair in treating the workers of Cape Breton the same as you would treat workers in Halifax or Yarmouth or anywhere else in this Province? What's wrong with paying equal pay for work of equal value. Can the Minister of Education please tell me what's wrong with that principle?

Again, as I said, the Minister of Education is no stranger to confrontation here. He's taken it on the chin before and maybe he's willing to take another one on the chin this time around and just say, well, you know the government has put me out front and I'm willing to take one for the team, so to speak, and let workers stay out on the picket line for however long it takes until we finally break them down and they go back to work. I can tell you, from talking to some of the strikers outside today who have made the long trip to Halifax, it's not

[Page 6094]

going to happen. Their resolve is stronger than it's ever been since the day that they walked out on strike. An indication of that was the other night when the proposed agreement was put in front of them and it was more than two to one against that, against it.

The minister said today, you know, let's consider binding arbitration. The union has already said from day one they don't want binding arbitration, but the minister (Interruption) Well, if the government members have an answer to it, stand up. I want to hear you're concerned about Cape Breton too. You haven't opened your mouths during the whole thing, so don't open it now, because you couldn't care less about Cape Breton, and that's the whole problem. If this strike was happening anywhere else in this province, it wouldn't be dragging on as long as it is right now, and that's a fact. You'll have another strike coming up in the Strait area. You'll have all of Cape Breton schools closed and out on strike and you'll all sit over there with your silly little smirks, and you don't care about the fact that it's happening. You don't care.

If you cared, you'd be up and you'd be talking about it and you'd be putting pressure on the minister and you'd be telling the other ministers, get this strike settled, because we're a government that cares and we want to be fair to everybody in this province. But you're not being fair, instead you put out Mr. Confrontation to take the heat, because he can do it. He forced Bill No. 68 on us, he forced nurses back to work. He didn't give a damn about the nurses and he doesn't give a damn about these strikers right now, and that's a fact of life.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): That's a fact of life.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Your comments are unparliamentary. I would ask the honourable member to retract that statement.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I'm sorry, I retract the words, but let me tell you, this minister and this government, over this issue, are going down. That's what's going to happen. You're going down, Mr. Minister, and it's going to happen over this strike, because people will not forget. They will not forget. They haven't forgotten Bill No. 68 and how you forced nurses back to work in this province, and they will not forget, come election day, how you are forcing them out on a picket line and how you are keeping our children from getting their education, from graduating, from attending school, from enjoying the last days of Summer in school. They will not forget that this minister did it, and he'll go down and so will that government, eventually. They'll remember, let me tell you, they'll remember what's going on in this situation.

All the backbenchers who like to chirp in the back, Mr. Speaker, we won't be hearing from them anymore because they won't be around either. This is the kind of issue that I take personally. I guess I'm a little emotional. This affects my family, this affects my friends and

[Page 6095]

my neighbours. This is a strike that has hit home, and it's a strike that has affected children. Is anything more serious than the education of our children in this province? Absolutely nothing should interfere with that, but because of the inaction and the unfairness of this government, it has led to this.

I said yesterday and I'll say it again, wage parity is not a new issue that just all of a sudden popped up. Wage parity has been around for some time, the whole issue itself. The Minister of Education ignored it, as he ignores it now. I can't, for the life of me, Mr. Speaker, I can't understand. There are Cape Breton members in that Cabinet over there, but you wouldn't know it because we haven't heard from them in here, on the situation. No, haven't heard from them. All I heard is you spouting the same line as the Minister of Education, oh, we should accept binding arbitration. What a pile of baloney. (Interruptions)

The Minister of Energy, all he does is follow in line, like a little puppy dog following the mommy dog and following along and saying come this way, that's all the Minister of Energy does. That's all he does, that's all he's done since he was put in this Legislature. He has to stand on his feet and defend Cape Breton, and he hasn't done it, Mr. Speaker. He has not done it. Again, let me tell you, the people back home will remember it.

The people back home will remember it and they'll remember the actions or the inaction of this government, the inaction of the Premier, the inaction of the Education Minister. They'll remember that, as I said, if you're going to put our children's education in jeopardy as you have and put an entire school year and in some cases an entire education, an entire 13 years, if you thought about anything, think about, just alone, the students who are going to graduate this year. Think about them alone. Surely that would be enough to say, we've got to do something extra special in this case to put those workers back to work and to put those kids back in the classroom. This government simply doesn't care about this. If they did, we wouldn't be talking about this situation, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to be able to rise for a few minutes to talk about this important matter that is important to the lives of young people in Cape Breton and to the lives of those workers who are CUPE members in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. I guess I have to first address some of the comments made by the member for Glace Bay.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Just before you get into that, Mr. Minister, would you allow some time for an introduction?

MR. MUIR: Yes.

[Page 6096]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you, and through you to all members of the House, two gentlemen in the west gallery, Jeff Aitkins, who is the Chief Financial Officer for the Students' Union at, I suppose, UCCB, soon to be Cape Breton University, and also Scott Thomas who is the President of the Students' Union at UCCB and also the President of the Cape Breton West Liberal Association. I would ask that all members would give warm approbation and acknowledgement to these two fine gentlemen. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MR. MUIR: I, too, Mr. Speaker, would like to welcome the members in the gallery, and I should add that I will be sharing my time with the member for Cape Breton North

Mr. Speaker, in turning to some of the comments from the member for Glace Bay, there were at least three members of his caucus who supported the idea of an outside agent helping the parties come to a decision; in other words, binding arbitration. I think I heard it come from the member for Victoria-The Lakes the other day, the member for Cape Breton South said it in the media, and the Education Critic, I believe, as well made that pitch. I am really surprised that rather than supporting binding arbitration, which would put the students back in the classroom in the most expeditious way, that this member is out there with political mischief instead of trying to help . . . (Interruptions) trying to prolong the strike.

Mr. Speaker, he should be ashamed of that attitude. He should have accepted that option. We asked yesterday in the House that all members of all Parties endorse binding arbitration to get the students back into school - all members of all Parties and there were at least three members of that Party who did support that and I don't know what happened when the offer came to the table. All of a sudden they disappeared. I completely support the board's offer to CUPE to go to binding arbitration with staff returning to work. I agree with the school board's offer, as does this government, it's a good way to get the students back into the classroom and get the staff back to work. This is an unfortunate situation, there is no question about that.

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the members of the House, as I have in response to questions, I'm concerned about this, but I want to tell members again that there were CUPE locals in three other parts of the province who accepted similar offers without outside intervention. We believe in the collective bargaining process. We do believe that the matter can be settled at the bargaining table and, if not at the bargaining table right now, through the offer of binding arbitration, to take the outstanding issues to an outside thing.

[Page 6097]

Mr. Speaker, I met with six representatives, six members of the CUPE Local 5050, and four of the members were representatives of their bargaining team. One of the things that became clear is that not everybody who is a member of CUPE understood what binding arbitration meant. The people said the board had no more money and so this was the government's commitment, that if the arbitrator, whoever it might be, makes the decision that the workers are entitled, should be awarded greater wages than what was offered by the school board in the negotiations then the government would see that there was sufficient money allocated to the school board to pay what the arbitrator awarded.

I would hope that the members of the Opposition would help their workers understand that binding arbitration means binding arbitration. You aren't going to go back and say that there's not enough money to pay that or the school board doesn't have the funds to do that. When the government endorsed the proposal of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, we accepted that responsibility.

[4:30 p.m.]

I can tell you too, Mr. Speaker, that we hoped that the union is still considering the offer of binding arbitration, that they are actively considering it, and they will ask their members if they want binding arbitration. You know, as I understand, the initial reaction of the executive or the negotiating team, or whatever would be representing CUPE in that decision-making process, did not go to the membership with that offer and we would ask that they take it to the membership. We think it's a reasonable approach to a very, very difficult situation.

Mr. Speaker, although not all classifications of workers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board earn wages that would say that they are highest in the province; there are a number of the workers there who are at or above the provincial average and I think that has to be recognized. A lot of the comments on the floor of this House, or what I've heard, say everybody in that board has the lowest wages in the province and clearly that was just not the case. There's no question that there are some categories where others through negotiation have reached a greater wage but, on the other hand, the CUPE workers there in some categories are greater than their colleagues in other parts of the province.

That's what collective negotiations are, Mr. Speaker, a give and a take, but what we have to keep in mind foremost is the interest of the students. Unfortunately, we have a large number of students who are out. The offer of binding arbitration is the one that would put them back in the classrooms the quickest. If CUPE accepted binding arbitration and the workers went back and cleaned the schools, then we could have the students back in the schools by Friday.

[Page 6098]

Mr. Speaker, it's a sad situation, but I just wish I could say with confidence that the Cape Breton members of the Liberal caucus were supporting binding arbitration because at least two of them have called for it. I don't think they worked to encourage the workers to really fully examine binding arbitration and the benefits it would bring. I asked the member for Glace Bay yesterday in Question Period, would he support binding arbitration and he ran a rabbit track all around the question, you know, he wouldn't stand up and be counted. He wouldn't stand up and be counted for the workers in Cape Breton. He wouldn't stand up and be counted and say let's help get these students back to school. That's done, you know, he wouldn't stand up to be counted and go back and say, look, folks, I think this is the appropriate thing.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I will stand up and point out to the minister that, hello, the union turned down binding arbitration. Do you know anything about the strike at all, Mr. Minister? Do you understand that at the table the union turned it down.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's not a point of order.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe the invitation was extended to the honourable member before there was any indication that it was turned down.

Mr. Speaker, I say I really regret the situation in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board as Minister of Education and indeed as a parent. I know what it's like when your children are denied access to school. I also understand that the workers don't want to be on the picket line. There is a mechanism that has been proposed that would see the students back to school and the workers off the picket line and I hope it will be accepted. I'm going to now turn the floor over to the member for Cape Breton North.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to be able to join with my colleague, the honourable Minister of Education, to speak to this debate this afternoon. I want to say that everyone is concerned. As I said the other evening when we had an opportunity to speak to this with the emergency debate that the Liberal caucus brought forward and all Parties wanted to see in the House, and we rose to our feet to talk about this, unlike the member for Glace Bay's suggestions toward this. We've talked about it in our communities, we've talked about it within our caucus, and we're talking about it on the floor of this Legislature, and we're listening and we're all trying to work towards a common outcome with regard to getting a resolution as fast as possible and getting students in the classrooms and the workers back at work.

[Page 6099]

We also recognize, Mr. Speaker, that there is, in any negotiated process, a desire to have a fair and equitable outcome and the balance that's necessary in any labour dispute, and there is no one who would deter from wanting to see that outcome achieved. As the minister indicated, there is a collective bargaining process, and as he said the other night, had government stepped in and tried to force an early resolution, we would have been chastised by that same member for Glace Bay over there saying that we're interrupting the process.

Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place. It is the collective bargaining process. People are endorsing getting to binding arbitration and to resolving some of the wider issues, and there are issues that are part of this labour dispute that are not just isolated to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. There are issues that do become wider, and those have been identified by CUPE and the members as they speak to parity, but as you know there are a number of school boards in this province with various negotiating units in place, the processes have to be respected in those boards and we're trying to respect the one in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board as well.

Mr. Speaker, we're doing everything we can to make sure that all sides come back as soon as possible and recognize that there are wider issues that have to be addressed, and to make sure that we do go about doing that as well. It's not going to be done by trying to get up in this House, as the member for Glace Bay has done, to try to chastise everyone else, that we're not doing things when in fact the process is in place and things are moving forward.

Mr. Speaker, I hope we'll see a resolve as soon as possible, immediately. I'm hoping that as talks continue and people work for a resolve, we'll get this accomplished, that there will be a fair deal and a fair outcome for everybody on this. As a local member, a member from the region who cares about the people from his region, who desires to see a positive outcome here, and recognizes that it isn't as easy as waving a magical wand, like the member for Glace Bay would suggest as he got up in this House and tried to berate everyone else. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, what I did notice from here is as the member for Glace Bay barks off over there, I didn't notice the stamp, the patent-pending stamp on the member for Glace Bay's forehead that they've got the market cornered on compassion and understanding and caring in this province, because if that's the same Liberal Party (Interruptions) He represents a Liberal brand that cared so much, they cared so much that they rolled back wages in this province. They froze wages. They forced people to take days off. They gutted funding to education; they gutted funding to roads; they gutted economic development in this province. That's why they ended up in third place, not once but twice recently, because they have not proven to Nova Scotians that they have (Interruptions)

[Page 6100]

Mr. Speaker, the only patent pending for that member for Glace Bay is third place, not caring, not compassion. We're doing the necessary things, and we care enough to come to this Chamber to debate the issues of this province, but I'm not going to sit by and listen to Liberals suggest that they have some moral authority over this Chamber and they can talk about labour disputes in some righteous manner, because the Liberal Party is the last Party in this province that should get up and talk about fairness in the workplace when they gutted fairness, they took it away and they didn't follow due process. We're following due process, and the member for Glace Bay cannot talk about due process.

Mr. Speaker, the people deserve better than what the member for Glace Bay is going on about. I thank the people of this province who want an outcome, and this government is committed to achieving that, and I'll take on the member for Glace Bay any day. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks I'd like to introduce two people in your gallery. Billy Marsh and Cotter Oliver, two constituents of mine who are fine gentlemen. I would like to see them rise and seek the approval of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome all members in the gallery today.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now I'm left to follow those virtues of paragon when it comes to collective bargaining. How they bleed for the people on the streets.

This is an interesting debate because one went beyond and the other doesn't understand the basics. So let's get back to some basic ideas. The fact of the matter is, the minister talked about collective bargaining and respecting that right and then wants to use the hammer of binding arbitration which one side has rejected - one could say rejected soundly, Mr. Speaker.

The option is not there. I must go down and give the minister a little idea of the reason for that. What we're talking about here is the ability of both parties to get a collective agreement. Collective bargaining is a basic premise of the trade union movement. They have to be allowed to get at that freely, and it's recognized in the Department of Labour by the conciliation process and so on. The idea that an arbitrator could have understood the issues at any greater level than the two sides that were at the table is clearly not accurate.

[Page 6101]

We're not talking here about neither party knowing their position. Clearly, both parties knew their position and the public knew their position, so there was no coming forward. Now the fact of the matter is that the minister accepted the board's position on binding arbitration. The problem with it was, he says he recognized it, but he didn't go that other degree that will open the purse strings which the union had wanted all along, which made arbitration virtually not a necessity if he came to the table the way he should.

Arbitration is not the point. The point is that most people agree that collective bargaining should be held from a province-wide perspective, not a board-to-board perspective and that's why we're there. Arbitration will not get us to that point. Arbitration will not get these workers to that point, will not get this province to that point. That's where I would like to see the minister understand that view of arbitration.

Trade unions in this province, particularly in the last 15 years, have been put down and put down with wage rollbacks, wage freezes, freezes on collective bargaining and that's why we see the overall level of common sense around collective bargaining being eroded. People, indeed, have been pushing the option since the wage freezes of the mid-1990s and have been trying to play catch up. We know, workers know and legislators should full know that the way to balancing your books is not on the backs of our public sector workers, it just doesn't make sense. As soon as you get back at the table, you get back to where you were and the acrimony and rhetoric at that table becomes such that you can't get a fair and balanced collective agreement. That's the problem we're dealing with here.

We're not dealing with the sins of a couple of years ago, we're dealing with the sins of the mid-1990s when workers were denied the basic right of collective bargaining. It wasn't my Party that . . .

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You will never get that opportunity.

MR. CORBETT: The member for Cape Breton South says we'll never get that opportunity, nor that Party. The people of Nova Scotia will decide who gets to sit where and not the member for Cape Breton South. That's where it is. If he wants to go on a debate of representing workers, I will sure as heck represent them and I didn't put CUPE strikers in Sydney on strike when I was mayor because I never was mayor. Let's be honest about that.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's not go around with this heart on the sleeve and tell everybody what great guys we are when it comes to this idea of collective bargaining because what I said to you earlier, it's a term used now that where public sector workers find themselves, not in collective bargaining but in collective begging. These are workers, some of the lowest paid workers in this province, barely making over the minimum wage. They are a group of employees who very seldom work over 20 hours a week because of their job descriptions.

[Page 6102]

They are a group of workers seeking common dignity that the negotiator has said to the negotiating team, the negotiator for the school board said, I will slit my wrists before part-time workers get benefits. That's a shame to say that about workers. That's no way to bargain.

Those people are out there trying the best they can to participate in the economy of this province and for a hired gun of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, to tell workers that he will slit his wrists rather than see them get a raise, is unconscionable, but yet he gets away with that, a person that has no moral right to be at that table. He does not represent the workers. He does not represent the school board in any elective capacity or hired capacity. He's a hired gun, who is bringing a message of chasm to that school board. I would say a large share of responsibility rests on that person's shoulders for not being forthright with workers, being more worried about his income.

I would dare tell everybody on both sides of this House today that that negotiator's salary hasn't been impacted by this set of negotiations. He still received his, whether collectively bargained in a responsible way or an irresponsible way. There was nothing in it for that person to find yes in this. Indeed that's what this is all about. Many times and many more times in the future I'll lock horns with the Minister of Education over many issues.

What I want to do, if I could - if I've not gone too far - is to ramp down the rhetoric a bit, Mr. Speaker, and I ask the minister here in this House today to help facilitate to get these people back together. Whether it's through the veil how you see it or how the union sees it, I think there's a responsibility and I would think that both sides would agree with that, that we have to find a resolve. Maybe there will be other speeches as I said earlier, that I won't be as kind to the minister on this one and I think he dropped the ball a few times. I really have to bite my tongue here not to really give him a two-by-four across the head. We need a velvet glove about now to get this resolved. What I want to see from his department and the people who are involved with this is to get the sides together, to make sure that there's an agreement there. To make sure that what's being said, whether it's coming from the Liberal benches, the Official Opposition benches or the government benches, that it's accurate, that we get the information that we know, that we go to the source, make sure that we get to the school board and see their side, make sure we talk to the union and get their side. That's what we need to know.

We have to know that we're dealing with credible information, that the information that we have in front of us is stuff that we can say, look, we have to make a large decision here, to make sure the most important thing - clearly from my background in the trade union movement, I guess the easiest thing for me to say is to make sure that the workers get everything they want.

[Page 6103]

Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not what I'm going to say. I think the workers will get what they negotiate and I hope they will get a good agreement, but I think they agree with me at this point on what they want to see. They want to see themselves back in those schools, back in those cafeterias, back in the schoolyards, doing what they love to do - looking after the children of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board - because that's what it's about. The real shame here is we're not talking about a proverbial widget factory that there's no human cost.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as I said on Monday night, there's a real human cost here. There's a human cost to the strikers and the economic impact that they're willing to bear for a just settlement. There's a social component for those students out there who are preparing to go to university next year. There's a social cost for those innocent children of special needs who need the helpful instruction and aren't getting it. This is the real cost and this is what we have to be driven by.

Mr. Speaker, I understand fully that we just can't throw money, whatever side of the House we're on, it's not responsible just to throw money at a problem, but indeed what we find ourselves here, because of the inequities of the past, is we see no other alternative but for the Department of Education to get involved in a substantive way and that substantive way has to be financial. We all recognize, as the board recognizes, as the union recognizes, that that problem can't be solved at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board alone. It can't be resolved in the Strait area board alone and, indeed, in 20 months' time, when other agreements come open, the same thing.

So what we have to do, Mr. Speaker, is look at this in more of a holistic way and say how can we bring these sides together, everybody from Yarmouth to Cape North, how can we put together a package that would allow these people the dignity in their workplace that they deserve and in reality we would like to say money doesn't matter, but in reality it does. These people love their work, but also loving their work doesn't put a chicken in the pot. That's the reality. You can't go into Sobeys or SuperValue and tell them what a good worker you are and they're going to give you anything extra. When the rubber hits the road, it's salary. It's as clear and simple as that.

So what we want from this government is a clear indication that they will participate in finding a resolution. They will participate in getting to yes. That's what we need here. We don't need the rhetoric of my side, of the Third Party side, or the government side. What we need is reality of having an offer on the table that has the vision of the whole province, that's not a short vision with just one school board, or even two school boards. It has to have a vision that sees clearly from one end of the province to the other, Mr. Speaker.

So this is what we want this government to do. We will support this government in doing this. We want you to go forward. We want you to put an olive branch out to both of these parties. Use the power of your good office, Minister, to come together with these folks

[Page 6104]

and find the solution, find the yes in the mess, because that's what we need, Mr. Speaker. We want workers in our schools who are paid appropriately and, more importantly, we want the kids back in our schools so they can learn, be educated, and participate in this great province. Because no matter who sits on the government side, one thing I can say, this is the greatest province in this country and I'm proud to be a Nova Scotian. I'm always proud to be a Nova Scotian. I may disagree with that government from time to time, but what I want to say, there are days I'm more proud than others and I want this government to make me proud. I want this government to do the thing, make the workers proud, and sit down with them and get an equitable agreement. That's what I want. That's your challenge, minister.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it was our Party that introduced this resolution for discussion here today, as well as for the emergency debate that took place here Monday evening. I believe that we've brought the current situation with the strike to the attention of members of the House on the last few occasions that we've had to do that, including Question Period today. I certainly don't want to ramp the rhetoric up any more than it has already been ramped up this afternoon, but I do want reason to prevail here when we're talking about this strike and the plight of the workers who are out on the picket lines here and the children who are not in school. Let's not lose sight of the situation here and what has happened.

Mr. Speaker, I thought today in this House, during Question Period, the government was sadly lacking in their response to the questions put forward by both Opposition Parties regarding the plight of the workers on the picket line. The constant reference from the Minister of Education, to the fact that binding arbitration was asked for by the school board - somebody either neglected to inform the minister, or the minister conveniently forgot that he was told that the workers turned that option down. I continue to ask - what is it about that that he doesn't understand? That option is no longer on the table.

As a matter of fact the current situation is there are no options on the table right now, because it's obvious that this government doesn't want to deal, at all, with this issue, even though, Mr. Speaker, a member of the Executive Council from Cape Breton called upon the Minister of Education to become involved. The Minister of Education states he's not becoming involved and I believe that the Minister of Energy knew full well that would be the answer of the Minister of Education. I asked the Premier which position in Cabinet did he favour, the position of the Minister of Energy or the position of the Minister of Education? Another glib answer from the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I always thought that if Cabinet Ministers went afoul of government policy that they should do the honourable thing and resign from the Cabinet. That was always the mantra by which Cabinets would operate. If you disagree with government policy on an issue, then you should be prepared to stand up and defend that. That is why, in a resolution

[Page 6105]

earlier today, I called upon the Minister of Energy to resign his position in Cabinet, because he obviously feels very much different than the Premier and the Minister of Education.

Now I don't expect the Minister of Energy to do that. I don't expect that because he knew what the answer to his question was going to be before he put it to the Minister of Education. He is trying to give the illusion to the people of Cape Breton that he's on their side. Well if he wants to give that assurance to the people of Cape Breton, the people who are out on strike, then he should stand up for them by resigning from this Cabinet. If he doesn't agree with the government policy he has an obligation to step aside from his Cabinet position and assume his place as the member for Cape Breton North, and stand up and defend the people of Cape Breton.

If he's not prepared to do that, then his gratuitous statement earlier about asking the minister to get involved doesn't mean anything. And for the Premier to allow two Cabinet Ministers to have different points of view in public - I ask the Premier, which is the government's point of view here? It's obvious to me this government doesn't want to get involved at all.

Mr. Speaker, we know what the problem is here. We know what the problem is. This board has been underfunded for years, because of declining enrolment. The Premier said he was going to correct that in 1999. The education system in this province was going to be greatly improved, and boards that were facing inequities in funding were going to be beefed up with adequate funding, adequate funding to enable the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board to pay the striking workers a half-decent wage increase and, more importantly, make sure that they have jobs there in the future. Neither one is guaranteed right now. They don't know if they're going to get a half decent wage increase nor do they know if they're going to have jobs in the future. I suggest both of these issues have to be addressed by this government. Both of these issues can be addressed by the government admitting the funding is not sufficient to the Cape Breton-Victoria board to do the job.

[5:00 p.m.]

The government knows that. The government knows that we've had a terrible situation with declining enrolments in that board for the past number of years. That decline is continuing and as long as the education dollars chase the numbers in the system, we're going to have a problem in the Cape Breton-Victoria board. The government has to address that inequity.

We've reached the situation here where the workers have turned down binding arbitration because there was nothing projected out in the future of this. This was a one stop gap to solve this problem to get the workers back to work. No assurance that this will be employed in the future, no guarantees to the union that their concerns will be listened to in

[Page 6106]

the future. No guarantees except get this off the front page of the newspapers. That's all that's happening here.

But, the workers turned it down. The minister knew that before he addressed this problem here today. The minister knew that. Yet, he's trying to blame the Opposition Parties, particularly Liberal members who he said were in agreement with binding arbitration. What we said is, if the union wants it, we'll go along with it. That's what we said. But the union turned it down so we're saying the ball is clearly back in the government's court.

Mr. Minister, you are responsible for the education of children in this province. You are the Education Minister, not the chairman of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, not the Minister of Energy, not the Premier, not the members of the Executive Council, not us on this side of the House, but you, Mr. Minister. You are the custodian of the education system in this province. By the way, an education system that is the second most poorly funded system in Canada, that has failing grades just about anywhere you want to go.

Yet, in 1999, the Tory's own blue book said, we're going to correct that. Well, this is 2005.

AN HON. MEMBER: More money.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: More money. Where's it at? This is 2005. This is six years later and it's still not addressed. The funding in the board is still facing a shortfall.

HON. JAMES MUIR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I know the mathematics is a little off, but I just want to inform the members that the time this government has been in power, the per pupil expenditure has gone up 50 per cent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that was a fine point of order, but it doesn't alter the fact - the funding is still the worst in Canada per capita. You can wax eloquent all you want about the funding, you're still the worst in Canada. They're not my figures. What a weak response.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, if he wants to talk about something, talk about the inequities in funding to that board. I remind you this problem is not going away in this board because the enrolments are getting less and less in this board and we still have difficulties keeping the education system intact in this particular board.

[Page 6107]

The Minister of Energy, the member for Cape Breton North, knows that - he met with the board, as did we. He heard the plight of the board, as did we. We knew at that time there was an impasse coming and so did he. The government had an opportunity here to stop this impasse by allowing the board further financial means to deal with this crisis.

As I said earlier, this government can find money when it wants to for various business organizations or it can write off millions of dollars in loans at will, but it can't find a few dollars to give a half decent increase to the people working in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Shame on this government for that.

Shame on this government, as I said earlier in Question Period, for putting $2 million into a gaming operation and at the same time refusing to get involved with the plight of students and people working for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Shame on this government, on the one hand saying that VLTs are a curse and then taking an ownership position in the same company that's selling them but can't find money to look after people who are working for nothing. Shame on this government.

Mr. Speaker, our Party, and I believe all fair-minded Nova Scotians realize that this government at some point is going to have to get involved in this situation. The minister can stand in his place here and say he's not getting involved, but he is going to get involved at some point, we know that. It's inevitable, so why prolong the agony? Why prolong the problems in the board? Why prolong the situation where students cannot go to school and workers, many of them friends of mine and other members from Cape Breton, are out on the picket line for no good reason? Why my three grandchildren can't go to school? Will the minister tell me that? Why students may not be able to graduate this year? The minister hasn't addressed that, the minister is going to address it. When enough pain is spilled on the floor the government will suddenly come up with a way to solve this problem, because it cannot go on indefinitely. It can not go on indefinitely.

Mr. Speaker, again, like I said, I certainly don't want to ramp up any more rhetoric than has already been going on here in this House, but I believe Nova Scotians, and I believe the members of this Legislature want to do the right thing. I believe the members of this Legislature want to do the right thing. It's for that reason, at this time, I would put the question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate. We've heard a great deal this afternoon about the process of negotiation. Well, the decision makers, when it comes to the process of negotiation, are really those who are the employer, that is the school board, and the workers who are on the picket line. They are the ones who have the responsibility of making a decision to bring about a resolution to a dispute such as this.

[Page 6108]

Mr. Speaker, the school board has in fact made an offer to the membership.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just want to inform the House that it's obvious that this minister has been up as the point man and is now on his feet to try to talk this resolution out instead of letting it come to a vote, and that's what should happen with this resolution. Let this crowd - let it come to a vote. Let them show us whether they're in favour of settling this dispute or not.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I understand the Rules of the House, I have the right to stand in this House and to speak to any matter that is brought before the House. That's my right. I was elected by the people of Antigonish to come here to do just that, and that is what I intend to do this afternoon. If the honourable members opposite want to deny a member the opportunity to participate in the debate, then let them articulate that to the people I represent in this Legislature.

As I was saying, the responsibility of resolving this rests with the school board and with the membership of the union. Mr. Speaker, they are the ones who will ultimately resolve the issue. To the best of my knowledge, the membership of the union have not had the opportunity to respond to the offer made by the school board for binding arbitration. That has not been presented to the union membership. (Interruptions)

I will not sit down. I will stand in my place and I will speak . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order. Order. The time has expired for this resolution.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 149.

Bill No. 149 - Video Lottery Terminals Moratorium Act.

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

[Page 6109]

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise. Before I make some remarks on Bill No. 149, as a member from the Strait area I'm sure that the good people of

Antigonish would be very interested in knowing that the member they sent up here spent his time in the House trying to talk out a resolution rather than allowing it to go to a vote to end a strike. (Interruptions) I think it would be more appropriate that the people of Antigonish be made aware exactly of what their member was doing.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Antigonish on a point of privilege.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when I'm given an opportunity to present my position in this House, I intend to use that position and the point I made was that the membership did not get a chance to decide on a very important question and that is a valid debate point.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party has the floor.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, that member has been in this House long enough to know that his purpose in standing up today was to speak out the time to make sure that this matter didn't come to a vote and that was something that has been done by governments many times. For him to plead ignorance, you know, it's unfortunate because it's the Minister of Health who got up to do it because it's usually a role that's reserved for others. I know the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour has certainly been doing enough barking here.

MR. SPEAKER: I have to remind the member that we're talking on Bill No. 149.

MR. SAMSON: Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker, and certainly in speaking on that bill, again, it's too bad the member for Guysborough-Sheet Harbour, who certainly has a lot of barking to do, that he wouldn't have stood in his place and spoken on this bill. It's interesting because (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting the Minister of Health who didn't like it when my colleague was trying to get him to determine what he was going to say, but he seems more than happy to bark over instructions from his side.

[Page 6110]

Mr. Speaker, I can appreciate the frustration of this government because they know what they're doing is unconscionable in allowing 18,500 students to be out of classes. It's just unacceptable which brings me right back to the issue we have here because, once again, this government knows that what they're proposing for VLTs is unconscionable. They know themselves because do you know what, Mr. Speaker, every member in this House has either a member of their family, a neighbour, someone they know who has had to face financial ruin because of these machines, every single one in this House.

If the member for Colchester North doesn't have any, I'm left to conclude he doesn't have many friends to start off with or that he certainly doesn't know too many people in his riding because if he was a representative of his riding, he would be able to tell us in this House that his riding and his residents have also suffered by these VLTs. If he says that there's not one person in Colchester North who has seen financial ruin because of this, then shame on him, shame on him, and I hope the people of Colchester North know that that's what he was saying here in this House, that he's not aware of one person in his riding who has been negatively impacted, more importantly is the impact it has had on our small communities, the impact that it has had on our church groups, on our community halls, on our volunteer groups.

Maybe the member for Colchester North is not aware of any problems that they've encountered since VLTs have been brought in. Maybe he's not aware of any halls that are facing closure, any bingos that have been stopped that were for church groups, student bursaries that are no longer going to be offered because they can't raise the money anymore. The money has been leaving the communities.

When you have the community of Isle Madame that is seeing $30,000 to $40,000 leaving per week, it cannot be sustained, we're too small. How many other communities are out there that are seeing that kind of money being drained out of their communities? It's something that has been seen around the province and yet what does the government respond with? A half measure. But is that something we should be surprised? Not at all. There's the half measure for smoking. They just wouldn't go all the way. Yet in the Strait area, I'm proud to say, almost all of our municipal units, certainly the ones in Antigonish, Inverness and Richmond, took the initiative and they banned public smoking. They didn't wait for this government. Yet, the government refuses to go all the way.

[5:15 p.m.]

What did they do with the Loan Remission Program? They said we're going to bring it back. They brought back half the program, half the funding, another half measure. Then we have this issue of VLTs. We've heard the stories; we've heard the personal accounts. We've heard of the community groups that have been affected, and we're going to hear from more because more and more people are coming forward and they're seeing the devastation that this has caused. It's not a matter of losing $100, or losing $1,000 - when you see people

[Page 6111]

saying they lost $270,000 over the years, that's an amazing amount of money. This government knows that of the revenues coming from VLTs, 50 per cent of that revenue is coming from problem gamblers and yet the government says we're going to reduce the machines by 1,000 and we're going to take out the stop button and stop gambling at midnight. So you can lose your shirt right up until midnight now, that's the government's response.

Mr. Speaker, it is clearly unacceptable because this is where Nova Scotia is looking for leadership and I'm proud to say that our Leader in our caucus, and certainly with the direction of the MLA for Halifax Citadel, said that we've got a serious social problem here and the solution to that is to rid this province of VLTs.

Mr. Speaker, when I hear the Premier of this province, who is a family doctor, I think he's someone of honour. I have no doubt about that and I think Nova Scotians believe that, but when we hear him talking about South Carolina - this is Nova Scotia, we're not South Carolina. I can tell you that in Arichat if you take out the VLTs, no one is going underground or going to organized crime to gamble, and if someone is going to open up underground gambling in Richmond County, everyone knows everyone in Richmond County, where are you going to hide it? The argument is just not even practical. It's almost to the point of being foolish. Then the Premier first gets up and he recites all these numbers and each day there's someone to contradict his numbers and yet he continues to go along that organized crime, the Hell's Angels, is taking over the province. We're going to have all this underground thing.

When you have mothers who are coming forward and saying how much money they've lost, they're not going to gamble underground in some hidden area or in some basement or some dark alley. Where they're gambling now is right in the wide open. It's in the local Legion. I have to tell you, to hear the Premier say he's going to protect Legions, I can tell you in my community that's where all the problem gamblers are. They're at the Legion. I have a small Legion that has 11 machines and it has a bank machine next to the bar. Now who would have thought we'd see the day that you'd have a bank machine in a Legion, a community centre, and 11 VLTs? That's where the problem gamblers are in my community and yet the idea, this plan will not in any way address that. It's clearly unacceptable - the government's plan that is.

We brought forward a bill that is responsible because that bill has three major steps: a 50 per cent reduction by the end of 2005; a total ban in three years, which gives businesses, Legions and other groups a chance to adjust and to make necessary changes; and then a change in the law. I'm sure the member for Colchester North, who is certainly always big to talk about police and that here in this House, would know that changes in the laws that would say that mere possession of a VLT is enough to be convicted would do exactly what police need to do to be able to control this.

[Page 6112]

Here in this province, anyone who has a licensed establishment will already have liquor inspectors in place. A liquor inspector walks in to a bar that has illegal VLTs - you don't hide these things, they're quite large and they're quite heavy, you don't sneak them out in a corner, so we already have liquor inspectors going in, and we have already RCMP and municipal police forces. To suggest that they cannot do their job, I think is a complete disservice to those people who serve our province so well each and every day, and it's an awful shame that this government would say they don't trust the police to be able to keep law and order in this province, which is why they say we need to keep VLTs.

What's even more troubling is I was here in 1998, unlike some of the members on the government side, I was here, I was sitting on that side and I heard the Premier, who was then Leader of the Third Party at the time, the Progressive Conservative Party, say he wanted a moratorium on the amount of VLTs. No more - and we've all heard the quotes that he gave of how addictive they were becoming and everything - he said, no more, I give you my word, no more. We passed it. I'm not sure how the NDP voted. It think they may have at the time- I think they did support the legislation as well. I believe there was all-Party support for it, if I'm not mistaken. Maybe the Leader of the NDP can correct me, but I do believe it was all-Party support.

But lo and behold, while we're all sitting thinking there's a moratorium on the machines, here's the Premier and the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance signing deals with the Native bands in Nova Scotia to add more machines. Well what's the use of moratorium if you're going to keep signing deals to add more machines on top of it. See, they're argument of saying, well, we had to respect our deal with the Natives. That could have been done by using the existing stock. Instead, this was a sneaky way of going and adding more machines in this province. So add to the burden.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, it really did surprise me when I learned that, because I didn't think, on this issue, the Premier had been able to establish his reputation on one of those planks, that he would go and break that commitment to Nova Scotians. That's the situation we find ourselves in today. We have more machines today than we had in 1998. How did that happen? There was no one else in power but the Progressive Conservatives and this Premier, not that I'm aware of. So this happened under their own watch, their own commitment, which was broken by them.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say a few words. I know that the NDP caucus, as soon as we released our intentions and our bill, we did seek their support, we did ask them to support us in this initiative. We believed that they would see that this was a serious matter and one that was deserving of their support. I must say that I was extremely disappointed, personally, to see that the position put forward by the NDP was to suggest that there be a plebiscite. If there's one thing we've learned from this government it's that if you let them set up a plebiscite, they're going to rig it to make sure that it gets the results they want. I can tell you that's what we saw on Sunday shopping. They made sure that they put that question in such

[Page 6113]

a form that it was going to get the intended result. So to even suggest that we should trust this government to do another plebiscite on this kind of issue is just not acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, not only is that upsetting, to go to a plebiscite, but then when Nova Scotians are looking for leadership on this, the Leader of the NDP said, well, I'm not going to tell you how I'd vote if there is a plebiscite. The member for Dartmouth North said, I'm not going to tell you how I'd vote either. We've made it quite clear what our position is, Nova Scotians know. I have to tell you that when it came to the issue of seniors in long-term care, we didn't need a plebiscite to tell us that was wrong. The NDP didn't need a plebiscite, we didn't need a plebiscite. It was clear that that was wrong. When it came to the issue of them putting forward public auto insurance, they didn't need a plebiscite to learn that either.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to have the opportunity to enter into this debate on the bill brought forward by the Liberal caucus today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Inverness. I guess the issue that this bill has raised, and I did hear the honourable member speaking about the bill and the 50 per cent reduction, and in turn looking at this and increasing the fines for offences.

Mr. Speaker, the point of all of this, the point of the strategy, the point of all of the gaming announcements has been the fact that it is a three-pronged attack, if you will. It has to do with getting treatment for people who have realized that particular addiction, and it has the issue of prevention. We've been clear that as the program moves forward, that it's going to be monitored as to looking at how this is developing. We indicated there would be another prevalence study. We indicated that it would be evaluating all of the results of the various techniques that we've talked about, whether it's reducing the speed of machines, or taking the speed out.

Mr. Speaker, we can all talk about whether you want to talk about North Carolina or whatever but the fact is that the experience in other jurisdictions tell us that the market for illegal VLTs is there, and if the government is not involved in regulation it will become, as it did before regulation in this province, a part (Interruption)

Well, the honourable member for Richmond says it's a matter of enforcement. I would point to the honourable member, back before 1993, before the Act came in, and ask him if he believes or if he understands that there were machines in this province at that point in time. You can always talk about the enforcement. We can go into the question of Ontario and how they've increased their enforcement. We can go through all of those statistics, but the fact is that this business seems to attract illegal machines if there is not the regulation.

[Page 6114]

One of the main thrusts in this strategy and what we've put forward is that we believe one of the solutions in this is treatment for problem gamblers. People have to have the treatment and whether it's this addiction or other addictions, you have to have the treatment there for people. You have to try to do prevention and move from making the opportunities available, you have to try to make it so people realize and understand what this problem can do and how they're getting them, you have to make those available for them. That's what we were moving forward.

When you start down this road, the honourable member mentioned it's in his Legion in Richmond that has there are VLTs. Well, in my riding there's VLTs - not only in the Legion, but they're in a variety of places. People go there and people use them. I can say to you that since we've put forward this strategy, I have had people come and say, this is one of the first governments in Canada to start moving in this direction, to start looking at this as a real problem and starting to deal with it. Mr. Speaker, that's what we were saying in the strategy. You're developing these areas that you're going to work in and then you have to evaluate them. We have to know how these are working.

Maybe what they really meant to say in the budget that the Liberals brought forward is, we're going to reduce and go down to zero and then we're never going to evaluate. Maybe that's not what we're talking about here. Maybe they're just simply saying here that we will get people to look at monitoring these and we'll increase the fines, but the assumption here is that we're going to add a lot more police to go do that.

I think as this government puts forward the plan, we had spent a year of time. We spent a year going through a strategy review. We have asked people to put these through. We've asked people to make their opinions felt. We've looked at all of these different things and not only that, but we initiated Gaming Awareness Week, we initiated all those things so we could get people to make their comments.

Mr. Speaker, when you bring forward a plan, it has to be a comprehensive plan and it has to have a sense of direction and it has to be evaluated. That's what we need to do. I will thank you for allowing me to debate and I'll share my time with the honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, through you to the House and to my fellow colleague who spoke on the bill that's in front of us.

This has been an issue on the minds of a lot of Nova Scotians during the past Summer months and it has received a great deal of media attention and it has received a great deal of attention in this House as well. I think that's positive in light of the fact that we do have a problem in our province. We have a problem that in Health Promotion we take very seriously.

[Page 6115]

It's an issue that does affect many lives in our province - many family and friends and people like that.

But, the fact of the matter is we have put forward a strategy and that strategy has been put forward to not only take a look at the number of machines, but has taken a look at a much broader approach. What I think is unfortunate and what I haven't heard coming from the Opposition and perhaps the NDP will be speaking to this issue as well, but I certainly didn't hear it from the Liberals on the area of prevention and promotion. I think this is equally as important because we have individuals who are addicted in our province.

I was very pleased with the investment we have made with regard to this a couple of weeks ago. In fact, the additional $3 million makes our province per capita the second province in our country for expenditure with regard to those two areas specifically for gambling addictions. I think that speaks to the seriousness that we feel regarding this issue and the seriousness that we place in ensuring that the resources are there to treat those who need our help.

Those resources are being targeted in many ways. I know the members have probably taken a look at that strategy, but there are a number of things happening; developing and evaluating a demonstration treatment research project and that's important because the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, for addictions in our province, we have many individuals working on cross-addictions, many individuals working in addiction services, but we need a greater focus on the gaming side and we are bringing that focus. We also need better research on how to treat these individuals and over $500,000 is going to help do that.

[5:30 p.m.]

We're going to develop and implement an early identification intervention program, Mr. Speaker, which is also very important, especially when you take a look at the number of at risk gamblers that we have in our province and that has been done through the problem gambling index which is done, I think it's every four to five years, and I think it's every five years that it's done. That has shown us that we do have a number at risk and that's why those programs are so vital.

Mr. Speaker, we're also increasing problem gambling treatment resources to our district health authorities. Our district health authorities are in a tremendous position through Addiction Services in ensuring that the needs of that particular region of the province are met. They certainly can play a critical role and are playing a critical role with respect to that.

We had a debate during Question Period yesterday, Mr. Speaker, regarding the Gaming Foundation. Certainly there are opportunities for all groups to apply for funding. There are opportunities through the grant programs, there are opportunities through the district health authorities and there are opportunities now, which weren't there before, on a

[Page 6116]

new program through our community health boards based on the interest garnered through money which has been accumulating over a number of years. So it's a responsible approach and it's being done through the district health authorities. We're also going to do further work on enhancing our gaming strategy and we have money set aside for that.

Equally to that, Mr. Speaker, if you want to launch a program such as this, you have to ensure that social marketing plays a key role and that is being done - the gambling helpline. We've seen a dramatic increase in that as a result of investing the needed funds to ensure that people are aware of it. In fact, I believe the times, it's between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. we've seen a substantial increase simply by ensuring on television that, I guess it's the local community station where it's rolling all the time, that that line is a highlight and that is important because we are trying to target the individuals who need our help.

Mr. Speaker, education programs are equally as important for our seniors, for our youth in our schools, and also developing and implementing a community-based prevention program. So we need to take a look at a number of avenues and this, again, as I have said, has disappointed me because I have heard very little, if anything, from the members of the Third Party with regard to this issue. I think that all Nova Scotians will take a look at the government's plan and those who have taken a look at the plan say it's a balanced approach and hence the name on the strategy, a balanced approach, a balanced strategy. (Interruption)

Now, the Liberals, Mr. Speaker, I had to laugh, and I certainly don't want to go off the bill, but I did hear the member talking about education and speaking because education is tied into our strategy. I remember the farce that they had when they were in government with respect to education, what they did to the Strait Regional School Board and many other school boards, and that affected the type of programs you were offering, such as gaming and addictions and all that sort of thing and our programs, whether it was our PDR programs or physically active lifestyles. (Interruption)

I remember what they did to our schools, Mr. Speaker, and the people of our province remember and we will certainly see (Interruptions) The members, I hear them chirping now. I obviously hit a nerve with them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be able to join in on this debate this evening. As was mentioned by the members opposite and by my colleagues on this side of the House, this is a very important debate and it is certainly one for which I would like to extend some credit for the raising of this debate to the member for Halifax Citadel and also to several people who are here in the gallery today who have done a lot of work in trying to raise the profile of this issue.

[Page 6117]

I would like to get something out of the way right at the very beginning of this debate and that's this, that the members of this caucus will support this bill going forward to the Law Amendments Committee if it should come to a vote. The reason why we're going to do that is that we feel it's extraordinarily important that this debate take place in as many different forums as it can take place because it needs to be explored. It needs to be considered, not only by the people here in this House but by, I believe, the people of this province.

I fundamentally believe it's about a societal value, it's about deciding what level of gaming, of gambling we want to allow in our communities, in our province. This is a very serious question, and it's not one that just relies on our opinion, it's not one that we discovered, by the way, because the debates about gambling and gaming go back for as long as there have been Legislatures, as long as there have been governments. Gaming and these industries have been around practically forever, Mr. Speaker.

I'm hopeful - as the members of the Liberal Party know, we also have a bill before this House, and we are hopeful that when, if, we have the opportunity to call it for debate that they will support our bill going forward, because the essential thing is that it provides an opportunity or a space for this debate to take place. Our bill would allow the people of the province to make that decision once and for all. It doesn't rely, and I think this is a key point that I wanted to make, Mr. Speaker, on who is in the Chamber. It doesn't rely on a program that's going to take place in three or four years. It means that the decision is going to be made by the people, on a fixed date, on a fixed question. The member for Richmond said, well, we don't know what the question would be. Well, if he read the bill he would know that in fact the bill - if they pass our bill, the bill sets out a very simple, very concise question to which the answers are yes and no. Yes or no, whichever one the people would choose.

That idea to have a plebiscite, I would like to take credit for, the reality is that it has also been around for a long time, and I know that my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, introduced into this House I think more than a year ago, a petition with thousands of names on it asking for a province-wide plebiscite. In fact, again, I know Mr. Walsh and his organization, the VOLTS organization, were the people who collected those signatures and passed them along to the member for Timberlea-Prospect to table, which he was very pleased to do.

Mr. Speaker, in the process that went on, we asked through the omnibus poll with Corporate Research Associates, for them to place a question on their poll, between, I think it was February 10th and March 5th, to ask whether or not people would like to have a plebiscite. You know a resounding 81 per cent of the respondents said that there should be either a provincial-wide plebiscite or at the very least an allowance for a community-by-community plebiscite on whether or not there ought be gaming in their community. I'm going to table a copy of those poll results for your edification. I think it's an important indication of the way the people of this province feel about their right to have some say on this very important question.

[Page 6118]

I know that very recently an informal group met with the Liberal caucus and according to The ChronicleHerald reports, they wanted to increase the pressure on the minority Tories to reduce its relying on gambling revenue and it also wants to continue to push for a plebiscite on banning video lottery terminals. Mr. Speaker, that is as recently as February 8th, and I'll just table that so you can have a chance to have a look at it. If anyone else would like to have a look at it, they can look at it as well.

Mr. Speaker, we're joined in this call by who else but by the addiction experts who come from the government's own departments. Before the Public Accounts Committee on Wednesday, April 13th, Mr. LaRocque, when asked about the question of a plebiscite said, "We pride ourselves on living in a democratic society. We prohibit Sunday shopping in this province because we believe somehow that it intrudes on our values and impinges on the sensibilities of people who have religious beliefs and such and I can respect that." Then he was asked specifically whether or not there should be a referendum and he said, "Oh, absolutely, I think they should and I think the input could either take place through an overall plebiscite or by providing municipalities with the opportunity to make determinations based on how they perceive the level of damage and the challenges that they face at the local level."

Mr. Speaker, I was joined in this, oddly enough, by the member for Halifax Citadel in a column that he wrote, Leader's column, dated November 4, 2002. This is I think is a very articulate examination of the issue. He says:

"It was here that Joseph Howe argued passionately and successfully for freedom of speech. Citizen Centred Democracy is another chapter in that history of reform.

I have said that Citizen Centred Democracy is about trust. Pundits, legislators and think tanks lament the declining confidence of the public in government. I suggest the unaddressed problem is that government has lost confidence in the people. Nova Scotians care about their communities, about public issues. But Government doesn't trust them to play a meaningful role in the decisions about our common future.

Government has to restore the trust of citizens, starting by trusting citizens to participate more fully and more substantially in the decision making process. That is why Citizen Centred Democracy includes mechanisms for meaningful citizen initiatives. Citizen initiated referenda, with reasonable limits to ensure that the referendum question is on an important question of province wide concern in one of those mechanisms."

Well, what could be more important as I believe the member has said himself, an issue such as this. Here is an opportunity for us to exercise that right that the Legislature has to give to the people of Nova Scotia, the right to decide an issue of importance to the people.

[Page 6119]

Mr. Speaker, I couldn't help but be surprised at the selected memory of the member for Richmond when he was speaking because I too was in the House in 1998 when the moratorium bill came forward, in fact, the member doesn't remember, but the bill actually came forward on an NDP Opposition Day. We agreed, we called the Progressive Conservative bill at the time because we thought it was an important thing to do, and the member doesn't remember. He doesn't remember that the members on that side, the members of the Liberal Party stood up and they vociferously and passionately defended gaming and gambling and VLTs and the Minister of Finance said, we cannot allow ourselves to go back to the period when there were grey machines, when there were thousands of illegal machines.

That's what the members of the Liberal Party said then, and that is why it so important to come to a plebiscite because it doesn't matter who sits on those benches. It doesn't matter who sits on those benches because the people will have the opportunity to make the decision. We don't have to worry about the fact that the Liberal Party has had some 16 or 18 different positions on gaming over the last number of years. We don't have to worry about that. We don't have to worry about who is actually sitting in those seats, if anyone, because the decision will have been made by the people of Nova Scotia. So that's why it's important to use the mechanism that has already been used by this province, as you're well aware, in the matter of Sunday shopping.

I couldn't suggest for a second that Sunday shopping would be as important a matter as this one is, and I do worry about that despite the fact that the members says, oh, grey machines, everybody would know where they are and all of that. I worry about that because I had people in my office the other day saying they had grey machines that they were simply going to wheel back out. So I don't buy it. I think he's right in this regard, that it means investing more money in enforcement, and if the people really want to keep them out they can do it, but I just want to make that point.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I realize that we're winding down to the last moment and I do believe that this bill is very sincerely introduced. I do believe that what the member for Halifax Citadel and what the members for the Liberal Party are trying to do is to elevate the level of debate here. We support that and we will support the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

MR. DANIEL GRAHAM: Mr. Speaker, I think many of my caucus colleagues would say that 12 minutes is but a flick of time that I would begin to talk about VLTs in. I thought a bit about what I would say today and I realized that I have said most of what I have to say on this particular matter, and I will continue to say it as often as I need to.

[Page 6120]

I could do it for 12 hours, but there are people who are with us now and people who are beginning to speak out across this province who have much more to say than I have to say and, with the greatest respect of all the members who are here in the Legislature today, have much more to say and much more knowledge about this than we do. Some of them are with us here today.

Not all the people whom I'm about to introduce are problem gamblers, they're people who are concerned nonetheless about this problem and I would ask them to stand and be acknowledged as I call out their names. Don Swinimer from Sackville; Helene Hazrallah from Halifax; Pat Parker who has been helping on this issue for a long time; John Dunsworth, as everyone knows, is an advocate who was introduced a little while ago; I'm not sure if Regan Fraser is still up in the east gallery, if he is, he's standing; we also have present John Alphonse, who is with the musicians' union, expressing concerns about the challenges facing musicians; and last, but not least, we have the pioneer, the person who has been after us for a long period of time to finally listen to the truth about this issue and recognize that it is wrong for government to be in this business, and we have the opportunity to fix something. It is the voice of those people that needs to come through in this Legislature, and so when I was thinking about what I might say I realized that it's really more important to speak about what other people are saying on this issue.

If anyone would go to the GameOverVLTs.com! Web site and look at the stories of the people who have been plagued by these, the number of stories has been growing and growing, they will realize the kind of impact that this is having in people in their living rooms and kitchens across this province, stories that have been kept silent from family members and now the silence is beginning to break.

I give you a story about Jane. Jane says my husband worked: "for the government and went on short term leave due to the gambling, and then in 2000 he went on Long Term Disability, because of several attempted suicides. He was mentally and verbally abusive when he couldn't get money to gamble. He doesn't play the VLTs anymore though; he committed suicide in 2002 at the age of 39. Now I have a life without a husband and my young eight year old has no father. This was the ultimate cost of the VLTs."

At that Web site you'll also see comments from seniors, and a report was released by Saint Mary's professors earlier today about the challenges that seniors are facing uniquely with respect to this problem.

I will give you Shirley's story, Shirley MacKinnon from Lower Sackville. She says: "When my husband passed away, I received a $75,000 insurance policy. All I have to show for it is two pieces of furniture; the rest went into the VLTs. I also used my two credit cards for gambling and had to get a loan for $23,000 to pay them off and have nothing to show for the debt . . . I had to go to the food bank at one point as I had no money for groceries . . . I haven't gambled for about three years now, but at the age of 70, I should have been having

[Page 6121]

a much more relaxing and enjoyable time in my life instead of still paying on debts with nothing to show for it." (Interruptions)

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

MR. GRAHAM: Then there's Gerald's story: "I borrowed money from friends, had a loan at the bank and used credit cards. I also sold my house and gambled away the profit from it. While I'm still married, my wife left me because of my gambling. My son had been hurt deeply by this and is so disappointed, resulting in losing the trust I had with him. The gambling has greatly affected my health causing severe depression and several long stays at the N.S. Hospital. I have lost all of my confidence and am so ashamed and filled with guilty feelings. I am 69 years old, a time in my life when I should be able to enjoy myself, but all of that is gone. L. Gerald Roach - Halifax Area."

Then there's a story from John, from Halifax. He says: "I borrowed money from family and friends and then started using credit cards and bank loans, all to chase my losses. I had to go bankrupt in 1997, because of the gambling. My marriage of 25 years broke up over my gambling and there are wounds that will never heal. I can't seem to get over the shame of it all."

Then there's Jane's story: "I would spend any cash that I had and used an overdraft at the bank. I borrowed money from family and friends and would pawn or sell personal items. I lost $10,000 in RSP investments and eventually went bankrupt for $40,000 mostly for the VLTs. My health was also greatly affected and I suffered anxiety attacks. I would gamble for days, then spend days in bed."

Finally, there's Steve's story: "I started to lose hope of ever stopping for good, when I was not playing I felt anxious and could only think of the next time I can play. I started obsessing with death, feeling the only way I will stop is when my life is over. I had nothing to lose; my life had become a sick cycle of stopping and failing. The only thought that stopped me from giving up or even committing a crime to continue playing VLTs was my children. I didn't want them to suffer that kind of legacy or come visit me in prison. They deserve the best father out there and I just wasn't that guy. I do know that I was spiritually bankrupt, like the walking dead not in control of my own will."

These are just a few of the stories that finally people are showing the courage to speak out about. Bernie Walsh, who I mentioned earlier today and didn't mention his name, was the person who stayed in the wilderness for a long period of time and spoke about this. Many other people are showing courage now and I would say, the courage of our leader, Francis MacKenzie, to take a strong position with respect to this matter, is another person who needs to be acknowledged on this particular day.

[Page 6122]

There are options and there are myths. I appreciate what the Premier attempted to do back in 1998 and when I started today thinking about what it is that I would speak about, I thought about going back to the Premier's comments, often quoted, from 1998 expressing his concern about the problems of VLTs in this province. I don't doubt his sincerity at the time. But, more and more Nova Scotians are asking questions.

The actions taken by this government by reducing this number by 1,000 might appear on the surface to be a step in the right direction, but what it really means is that the slow machines that we have in this province will become fast machines. The ones that aren't so busy will become busy machines and ultimately the people who are stuck in the madness of VLT problem gambling will continue for a long period of time.

The figures that have been quoted by the Premier and others about whether or not this is a fixable problem in other jurisdictions are just not credible. I don't want to go through the fact that nothing has been mentioned after the reference to British Columbia - not a single thing has been mentioned about how many illegal machines are in British Columbia. I won't talk about whether or not Mr. Lee from South Carolina has actually given quite contradictory comments about the state of the problem in South Carolina which is quite contrary to what the research actually tells us. I just want to say, this is a fixable problem. This is something that Nova Scotians increasingly can be proud to say that we're taking concrete action on.

The minister responsible for the Office of Health Promotion got it backwards, I would suggest, when he suggested that they were focusing on the prevention side of this. The prevention side of this is to get rid of the machines. That's the only thing that's going to ultimately make this problem go away. What the government has been focused on is the treatment side which has, for a long period of time, required attention - 15,000 problem gamblers in the Province of Nova Scotia and less than 1,000 received treatment. Back in December of this year, this government saw fit to take $4 million that was created exclusively by VLT gamblers - most of that money from problem gamblers - for problem gamblers and diverted it to other purposes.

I'm pleased to see that the new $3 million money is going back in. I think it comes as a result of so many people saying that it was wrong to do this in the first place. But what the government's principal focus is on treating the problem, and if your focus us on just trying to make a complaint go away, a public policy issue disappear, then you're going to get the results that we've gotten with respect to this plan that was announced a few weeks ago, but if your focus is on fixing the problem, if your determination is to help the people who are in their home struggling with this every day, 10 suicides a year, then you start with a different story.

[Page 6123]

You spend your time asking your officials to give you good information. You spend your time ensuring that the voice of somebody like John LaRocque is heard in the Premier's Office, in the Cabinet Office, instead of getting the nonsense we got last week from Mr. LaRocque when he had to appear before the Public Accounts Committee, showing great courage and indicating that the foundation document for this strategy wasn't one that he could support, that he wasn't involved in the ultimate construction of this particular plan that's going forward. He's the province's gaming strategy specialist, and to find out that the material used to create the responsible gaming material for last year is alleged to now to have been cooked on false information from focus groups suggests entirely that this government is caught in the same addictions as some of the people who are in the gallery here.

This is fundamentally a situation where government needs to recognize the nature of its problem. It happens in the Department of Finance, it happens in Treasury and Policy Board, it's got to happen right through the line. Increasingly, we realize that this is the right thing to do, and research is coming forward to suggest that not only will this not be a loss to the government, this will have a positive economic effect. The research is sound, we intend to bring it forward, this can be done.

The people of Nova Scotia are expecting the men and women in this Legislature to serve and protect them. That responsibility rests especially with the government. This is a great opportunity for Nova Scotia to be a beacon to the rest of the country, and I say now is the time to do it. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you that eight months ago, I couldn't believe . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for debate on this bill has expired.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, that completes our business for today.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, the order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading and perhaps we will go into Committee of the Whole House on Bills. The bills that we'll be considering will be Bill Nos. 147, 148, 152, 153, 156, 157, 158, 159 and 160.

[Page 6124]

Mr. Speaker, with those few remarks, I move the House do now rise.

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.

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

We have reached the moment of interruption.

[Therefore be it resolved that the local grocery retailers be encouraged to buy local Nova Scotia products.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

GROCERY RETAILERS: NOVA SCOTIA PRODUCTS - BUY

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, indeed it's a great privilege to speak about this topic. In 1994, after I moved from New Brunswick to Nova Scotia to accept the pastoral charge in the Pereau Church, I was introduced - because the church was centred in one of the prime agricultural areas in Nova Scotia, in fact in Canada - to many of the problems and many of the concerns of the farming community in Nova Scotia. I remember speaking to one of the members of the church, Mr. Eric Rand, now since deceased, and for some reason we got to talking about what would happen if he won $1 million. He made the joke or the comment that if he won $1 million, he'd keep farming until he lost it all, until it was all gone.

[6:00 p.m.]

The agricultural industry in Nova Scotia is a very, very important industry. I use the word industry specifically, Mr. Speaker, because it is an industry, an industry that provides enormous economic benefits to the province that provides for many, many jobs. The farm gate for 2004 was almost $500 million. That's the size of what we're talking about. The direct

[Page 6125]

jobs that were created were 8,000. In manufacturing in indirect jobs we add another 6,000 jobs on as well and then the multiplier effect.

In Kings County alone, Mr. Speaker, which is the third most productive agricultural area in all of Canada, 80 per cent of Nova Scotia poultry is raised in Kings County; 70 per cent of Nova Scotia vegetables are grown there; and 55 per cent of Nova Scotia pork comes out of the Kings County area. So I guess the point I'm trying to make is agriculture is incredibly important to Kings County, incredibly important to the Province of Nova Scotia, and is facing very, very strong challenges, challenges which affect not only agriculture but, as I said, because of all the jobs that are created because of agriculture, it affects the lives of Nova Scotians. It affects the lives of every member here in the Legislature.

I said at the start that we need to rebrand and rechange our thinking from agriculture to think of it as an economic, as an industry the way we do with other industries, and many farmers that I've talked to have agreed with me on this and, in fact, have said, please push this. We're very quick to hand out money to various industries across the province because they provide jobs, but we're not so quick to come to the aid of agriculture when it's needed and yet, as I said before, agriculture is a huge industry here in the province - $500 million, 8,000 direct jobs and all the indirect jobs and the multiplier effects that are created.

Because of the importance of agriculture in Kings County, the Rotary Club to which I belong has a special day, well, actually two days, twice in the year, which is called the rural urban evening in which they bring in special speakers to try to bridge that gap between the business community and the rural community to inform people about the importance of agriculture. Agrifest which was a wonderful program put on by AgraPoint again was to help people understand the importance of agriculture because one of the problems that I face as a politician within my own caucus and a problem that other politicians who come from agricultural areas must face as well is that fewer and fewer people realize directly the importance of agriculture. They're not exposed to it. They go to the supermarket, they buy their food, and they pay the lowest price and then they think that that's the end of agriculture. This is one of the challenges facing agriculture.

I said agriculture has many, many difficult challenges that it's facing. I mean there are the traditional ones of weather and when I was elected in 1999, it was after a period of about three droughts in a row. Fortunately, we don't talk about the droughts anymore. Those have passed, but weather is a constant challenge for the farming community, the threat of pests and the problem that they can present, global pricing and the global market.

Agriculture, Mr. Speaker, is a global enterprise. My farmers compete with farmers throughout the world. People have this image of farmers as being backward. I don't know where it comes from. My farmers are on the forefront of global competition. When we talk about global industries, the farmers are there and they're ahead of many of the other industries in the Province of Nova Scotia, but the challenge and one of the challenges that I want to talk

[Page 6126]

about this evening that has arisen is the challenge of the retailers in the province. This has come about in large part because of two reasons. One is the vertical marketing where wholesalers and retailers are joined together and the other is the reduction of retailers, a reduction in the number of options to which the farmer has to sell his or her goods.

The problem with this is the vertical marketing, the reduction in options and, thirdly, that the people who are doing the buying for these retailers more and more are buying out of the province, most often in Toronto, often people who have no direct exposure to farming and certainly very little direct exposure to farming in Nova Scotia. This creates enormous difficulties for our farmers trying to move their products.

One of the very best farmers in Nova Scotia, and I would claim in Atlantic Canada, is a neighbour of mine, Richard Melvin. He grows cauliflower. Richard Melvin went through contortions trying to move his cauliflower crop. He has been rewarded, recognized, and I know members on the opposite side of the House would know this name and would know the respect with which this man is held in the farming community. When this person has to go through those sorts of contortions to move his crop, we know, I know that there's a major problem, and so the resolution.

Now the resolution is an apple pie resolution, basically. We all agree that retailers should provide more space for local products, and so we're all in agreement on that. That's good, but I think that we need to go further than that, Mr. Speaker. If moral suasion does not work with the retailers, if the retailers who have been talked to - I know, by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, because I've raised this issue several times over the years and he's sat down with the retailers, and I understand that one of the retailers, and I probably shouldn't mention them in the House but one of them is more open to local products, but nonetheless - if moral suasion doesn't work, then I for one, and I speak simply as an individual MLA, think that we need to do more.

The retailers need to understand that we as legislators are serious about this issue, because if the retailers will not make space and will not promote local products, then, Mr. Speaker, I fear in 10 years from now we will not have an agricultural industry in this province. Now perhaps I may be overstating the case, but I have seen farmer after farmer in my area unable to move their product, having to go through enormous contortions, as I said, and accepting and having to live on low prices which do not allow him or her to expand their business, to refurbish their business, to buy the equipment they need to produce the crops that they want to produce.

Mr. Speaker, we need to demand from these retailers, not just ask them. I've written to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with this point, we need to demand that they sell a certain portion of their product as local products. We know in other provinces, in Quebec for instance, I'm told that there's a very aggressive program by the provincial government

[Page 6127]

there and that the retailers respond. Now I understand there are more retailers in Quebec than there are here, but they respond.

Mr. Speaker, I'm asking for moral suasion, but if moral suasion isn't enough, I'm asking, as an individual, that we do more, and I know that the Opposition, I'm sure that the Opposition will support me on this. This is an important issue and is one I want to get on the table, and is one that for years I've talked about and written to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries about and I'm at the point where I need to do more, I need to say more. More needs to be done and I can't do it alone. Our farmers need the support that we as legislators can give them, and the retailers must listen to us.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Annapolis.

MR. STEPHEN MCNEIL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on behalf of the Liberal caucus. I want to thank the member for Kings North for bringing forward this resolution. I want to read the operative clause which says, "Therefore be it resolved that the local grocery retailers be encouraged to buy local Nova Scotia products."

First of all, Mr. Speaker, and to the member for Kings North, I think it would be interesting to define what he means by local grocery retailers. We, for all intents and purposes, in Atlantic Canada have a monopoly, two giants are controlling what takes place and, quite frankly, they don't care whether that product comes from California or Annapolis County. It doesn't matter to them how many people in the agricultural industry are affected by this. Quite frankly, the only thing that matters to them is the bottom line. They are just concerned about what they have to pay for that product.

I don't think there's any greater threat to the rural economy of Nova Scotia than the monopoly that's taking place in the food retail sector. One of the problems, Mr. Speaker, is that we're all afraid to admit that. We're all afraid to acknowledge the fact that we have a monopoly. We absolutely have no control over what's going on in that industry. I, for one, have always supported free market, I believe in that, the way it works. We're never getting back there in the retail industry, in the food industry. We need to begin to realize - the honourable member next door is afraid to use the term "regulation" - we need to begin to start looking at this industry. The moral suasion argument, quite frankly, is not going to work. It goes back to the bottom line.

We need to be willing to stand up for the Nova Scotia producers and say, we believe in them, we believe in the industry, we're going to support them and the only way to do it is by government to say you have a responsibility to this province to do business here and these are the steps you need to take. There's no better example of that than when you look at the dairy industry in Nova Scotia and you look at the fact it's a supply-managed product and yet a few months ago - it was all in the news - a producer in Ontario was receiving the same amount for his product of milk as they were in Nova Scotia, yet on the retail end in this

[Page 6128]

province the consumer was paying considerably more than a consumer in Ontario. Why? They might tell you for different reasons - I would suggest to you it's because there is no competition in this province.

It's rather interesting. During the crisis that we had with the BSE, when the price was falling through the floor and the producer wasn't receiving even a break-even price, we were unwilling to say you deserve a minimum price, yet what we do in the retail industry, the dairy sector, is we'll say to them we'll guarantee you a minimum price of $5.19 for four litres of milk, and yet in this province it's selling for over $6.19. Try to use the moral authority argument on that, it just will not work. Government is going to have to step in. I fully support the supply-managed commodity, but we need to begin to look at why consumers of this province are paying so much more for product than they are in other parts of this country.

I'll give you another example, a constituent of mine who has spent decades in the produce industry. They have a farm market, and what they used to do was take their produce into Annapolis Royal to the local grocery retailer. They would take it to the back door, the manager would come and buy it. He had all the confidence in the world in that product. He had all the confidence that not only was that product of quality, but that product would arrive on time and be there ready for use. Well, lo and behold, a year and a half or so ago they were informed that policy needed change. That policy had to change because they were being instructed that all product going into these franchise stores needed to go through central warehousing. Why? Because they were suggesting that perhaps this issue was a way to ensure that the people of my constituency had a better quality of product.

Well, there was no issue about the quality. The issue is that it's a way to be able to control what we're going to pay the small producer in this province. You bring it through us, bring it through a wholesale warehouse and we'll tell you what we're going to pay for it. If there happens to be a bad apple, so to speak, we'll get rid of the whole thing, but they can control it. Not only are they controlling the retail price at this point, they are now beginning to control the wholesale price.

This issue is of the utmost importance to all Nova Scotians, but most importantly to rural Nova Scotia. Perhaps, Mr. Speaker, I should start by reminding the honourable member in the House of a commitment that John Hamm made in July 21, 1999. On this date the Premier pledged that the PC Government would buy Nova Scotia goods first and overhaul tendering policies that hurt local businesses - six years ago. He further stated that his government will buy Nova Scotia first and they'll lead by example. I must ask, how much progress have we seen on this issue and on leadership? Six years later I would say we've seen very little.

[Page 6129]

It is interesting to note that at the Progressive Conservative Annual Meeting, I believe it was the 2004 meeting, when the Nova Scotia beef industry was going through its greatest crisis, the Premier made the announcement on institutional buying. To date we're still waiting for that to be implemented. Ironically, in this province, we are able to supply beef product to correctional facilities because it falls under provincial inspection, yet we are unable to provide product to schools and hospitals because it falls under federal inspection. And what have we done to try to rectify that in 18 months? Where have we moved toward trying to rectify that problem? We haven't done anything. It's rather ironic that we cannot feed our kids in school Nova Scotia beef, yet we can feed inmates in correctional facilities. There's something wrong with that. There's been plenty of time for us to move forward on that.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the BSE crisis hit the industry in May 2003 and, to date, we have spent millions of dollars on this issue. Not one of these initiatives has been used to ensure that local product arrives for the local people. I support, quite frankly, making shelf space available not only for beef but for all Nova Scotia products. I will throw out the figure of 20 per cent, and government needs to regulate it.

Government needs to say there's a cost of doing business in this province and one of those costs would be that if you want to sell product in this province, if you want to sell beef, we expect 20 per cent of it to come from this province. It's a small number. You know, for every 10 pounds of hamburger we expect two to be out of this province. I don't think that's too much to ask. I don't think that's too much to ask of an industry that is doing quite well in Atlantic Canada to come forward and support us.

It was interesting during the election of 1999, and I won't say in what constituency this happened to be in, the Premier was accompanying a Progressive Conservative candidate, and Mr. Hamm said, local manufacturers and producers should have an advantage in competing for government contracts. Other provinces do it, why don't we? It's a good question. We'll start by levelling the playing field so that Nova Scotia companies enjoy the same advantages as companies in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, P.E.I. when they compete for government business in their home provinces. They were great words then, why aren't they great words now? They should have been acted on.

It's interesting when we look at the BSE crisis and you look at what has been put in place over a period of time. When you look at the abattoir that has been opened in Prince Edward Island, it was one that dealt with Atlantic Canada, dealing with animals that are under 30 months. We had a golden opportunity as a province to buy hoofs. The government was offered those hoofs, to buy them so that local product could be sent there and come back as a finished material, something that we could be using in our own institutions. What did we do? We sat idly by while that was happening. We've put in place - the government has said last December that they have put on the table money to buy those hoofs. Well, we haven't

[Page 6130]

done that as of yet. The only hoofs that have been purchased for Nova Scotia have been purchased by specific producers, and they're using them for their own product. That is not ending up back into the institutions that the Premier spoke of at the annual meeting.

That just deals with one issue. I think, personally, when it comes to the beef issue, we need to begin to look at this more than just locally. We need to begin to look at an Atlantic Canada solution. What do we do with the cull animals? Why aren't we beginning to look at how we deal with that across Newfoundland, P.E.I., New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia? Why aren't we beginning to say, why are there only packing places in this country in Western Canada and Central Canada? What's wrong with Atlantic Canada? Why aren't we able to come together. We're sitting here waiting for a border to open.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that's going to open when our neighbours to the south decide it's going to open. There's not going to be anything we're going to be able to do here. So what do we do, sit here and say there's nothing we can do? Of course not. We need to begin to explore markets. We need to begin, and I'll put it out there, to encourage the federal government to put in place support to do an infrastructure study on how we can best position ourselves as a part of this country to take advantage of Europe. Why aren't we doing that at this point? We have spent millions of dollars trying to deal with this issue and we've gone nowhere. In six months those producers are going to be in the same position they were six months ago because we've done nothing to move this forward.

I would just like to close off by suggesting that if the honourable member has any way of having any one of those two giants sit down at the table and the government is going to put the hammer to encourage them and force them to buy local product, I will be more than happy to sit there and support that initiative as an individual member of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Kings North for presenting this resolution. A worthy cause, I must say. I listened intently to the member for Annapolis. He raised some good issues. It's a very big concern, this whole issue of accessibility for local product and the way in which the retail sector, which the member for Annapolis I think pretty clearly indicated, has become monopolized. The saddest thing of all of this, even if we were able to force - if that's the word we need to use - retailers, it would have to be processors and retailers to use local content, it would have to be on a basis, first of all, that they would only be forced to use whatever content was available, because in some commodities we don't have enough to meet whatever their retail demand would be and, certainly, in terms of beef, I've been told that Nova Scotia finishes about 8,000 animals a year and brings in 9,000 a month. So obviously we could never fill the demand, but if they were only forced to take what was here and then go outside to get their own.

[Page 6131]

I explored this for some time, I must say, Mr. Speaker, and at one point was of the view, that yes, this was possible. Actually, I don't have photocopies, but I can get them so I can table them, because I don't want to table this book. This is A Consolidation of the Agreement on Internal Trade, and this is the Interprovincial Trade Agreement.

The point that took my attention, I actually thought, gee, it is possible to do something locally. The member for Annapolis said he would like to see a definition of the term local. I checked, I forget now if it was Agriculture and AgriFood Canada, anyway I did try to find out if there was a definition federally for local, and it was fairly flexible. Some people say local is defined by anything you can bring into the province within 24 hours. That wasn't it. It just referred to what they called a local geographic area, so that gives you a fair bit of leeway.

My concern was Nova Scotia. When I looked at this interprovincial trade agreement, Mr. Speaker, in Chapter 6 it says, 607 actually, Part 3, "A Party may, under exceptional circumstances, adopt or maintain a measure inconsistent with paragraph 1 for regional economic development purposes, provided that:

(a) the measure does not operate to impair unduly the access of persons, goods, services or investors of another Party;

(b) the measure is not more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve a specific objective; and

(c) the Party promptly notifies the other Parties of the details of the measure."

Now, it says that under exceptional circumstances a party may adopt or maintain a measure inconsistent with Paragraph 1, so I'll read what Paragraph 1 says. "No Party shall impose or enforce, in relation to an investor of a Party or an enterprise in its territory, or condition the receipt of an incentive by an enterprise or on compliance with, any requirement to:

(a) achieve a specific level or percentage of local content of goods or services;

(b) purchase or use goods or services produced locally;

(c) purchase goods or services from a local source." or achieve a certain level of sales in the territory of another party.

So this is really - under this chapter on investment - very restrictive on the use of local. But, I thought there may be a loophole in terms of an exception under a regional economic development program. I'm kind of hanging my hat on that. Then it came to my attention in Chapter 9, Agricultural and Food Goods, on Article 905, Non-Sanitary and Non-

[Page 6132]

Phytosanitary Measures; "No party shall amend an existing measure, other than a sanitary or a phytosanitary measure, or adopt such a measure so as to restrict internal trade in an agricultural or food good."

Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that pretty well kills the notion of trying to promote local, because you'd be restricting goods from other areas. Actually I met with people at Intergovernmental Affairs on this, and that department actually was pretty well responsible for writing this agreement, and the individual who wrote that clause on regional economic development, plus one individual who was an economist for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and in terms of these trade issues, Intergovernmental Affairs looks at all the broad spectrum affecting government except for the agricultural side, and they have a specialist there of their own who speaks on this.

So I was really hoping, actually, that it might be possible to have legislation that could do this. I thought in particular of Pork Nova Scotia which is already set up as a marketing board. They go to the Natural Products Marketing Council. They make a request for a price based on their cost of production and the Natural Products Marketing Council can say, yes, you made your case, we agree with you, here's the price you can charge for your hogs, but yet when they go to the processor, the processor can say we don't have to buy your hogs at that price, here's what we'll pay you.

Then we get into this up and down, around help from the government to try to help out hog producers, or whatever, and it was always my contention that the price for the producer is already in the display case, we just have to come up with a mechanism to give him a greater share of that. Presently about 48 per cent of the consumer dollar goes to the retail side. So 52 per cent is shared among the processor and the producer. Well, I think we can pretty well bet who's getting the lower end of that deal.

So for my colleagues on both sides of the House I want to say this, that this resolution is a good initiative and the reason it's a good initiative is because these agreements are negotiated and renegotiated. It's important that the message goes to the Premier, to the government, to whatever individuals in whatever department who sit down and negotiate these agreements, that some flexibility is brought back so that you can actually market local. The reason it's important, the member for Kings North mentioned about the value in Kings County. Kings County has one of the three highest agricultural receipts in this country after Niagara Peninsula and I think the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

Now, that's pretty significant, but it's a very diversified economy in Kings County as well and agriculture is one of the cornerstones of that economy and if you were to pull that out of Kings County, all the other service sectors, first of all associated with agriculture would go, but then all the other services because you have young families there, you can keep a school open. You have teachers' salaries. You can attract a doctor or a clinic, whatever, whatever, whatever, and that's the reason we need to be able to give producers their price and

[Page 6133]

in all of this discussion, Mr. Speaker, there is no point having shelf space, getting local content, doing anything with local commodities if producers can't get their price. If producers are going broke producing it, what good have we done them?

That's what we have to do, Mr. Speaker, we have to have a mechanism not only that we can get local product in our stores and I think fuel costs, et cetera, et cetera, all these things are probably going to come together to make it more beneficial to be working locally because in the long run I think it's going to be cheaper, but I think we should move to help with co-operatives, farm markets, whatever we can do, but I like the idea on the big scale of getting local content in the grocery stores because people are going there, the majority of Nova Scotians are going there to buy, and they're taking that home and that's a market we should enter.

The downside or a couple of down stories would be, number one, Peninsula Farm, number two, Snair's Bakery, local, really serving their communities, creating jobs, that's the direction, it's an economic development issue.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all members for taking part in this very interesting and important debate this evening.

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

[The House rose at 6:29 p.m.]

[Page 6134]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3212

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Carla Benjamin of Oxford, Nova Scotia, was presented with the Centennial Volunteer Business of the Year Award by the Town of Oxford; and

Whereas the Centennial Awards were presented at a tea held at the Oxford Lions Community Centre on Thursday, January 27, 2005; and

Whereas the awards were given out to businesses of the town that went above and beyond in volunteering their time and effort to the Town of Oxford and its residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Carla Benjamin on receiving this award and we wish the businesses continued success and prosperity over the coming years.

RESOLUTION NO. 3213

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 Harrison of Springhill was crowned King of the winter carnival that was celebrated with a host of fun-filled events on February 23, 2005; and

Whereas the crowning of the Queen and King was the highlight of the week that was filled with many events such as movie theme day, snow sculpture challenge and create a team song challenge; and

Whereas, as well, money was raised at a mock jail to help a student pay off her medical fees. The week was a huge success and the students as well as staff had an incredible time due to such great organization of the event;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cody Harrison on being crowned Winter Carnival King by his peers and we wish you a successful year.

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RESOLUTION NO. 3214

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Cathleen Meekins of Springhill was crowned Queen of the Winter Carnival that was celebrated with a host of fun-filled events on February 23, 2005; and

Whereas the crowning of the Queen and King was the highlight of the week that was filled with many events such as movie theme day, snow sculpture challenge and create a team song challenge; and

Whereas, as well, money was raised at a mock jail to help a student pay off her medical fees. The week was a huge success and the students as well as staff had an incredible time due to such great organization of the event;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Cathleen Meekins on being crowned Winter Carnival Queen by her peers and we wish you a successful year.

RESOLUTION NO. 3215

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Fred Jackson was honoured with an award for Cumberland County Volunteer of the Year for District #9 by the Municipality of Cumberland Country at a volunteer luncheon on April 6, 2005; and

Whereas Fred has volunteered in his community of River Hebert for over 50 years which included 40 years of teaching at the River Hebert schools, a cadet instructor, a 4-H leader, member of the Masonic Lodge and;

Whereas Fred continues to volunteer his time in many ways to the community of River Hebert by always being there when needed;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Fred Jackson on this outstanding award and thank him for the years of dedicated volunteer work in his community and the Province of Nova Scotia.

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RESOLUTION NO. 3216

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Crystal Siddall was honoured with an award for Cumberland County Volunteer Youth of the Year for District # 8 by the Municipality of Cumberland County at a volunteer luncheon on April 6, 2005; and

Whereas Crystal has been volunteering her time to various organizations and groups for many years and is currently the President of the local 4-H Club, as well as being involved in the Cumberland County Exhibition, Canadian Cancer Society, PRHS Christmas Bizarre, just to name a few; and

Whereas along with volunteering her time and skills, Crystal is also an honour student and involved in school activities, and she accomplishes all of this while continuing with her farm responsibilities at home;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Crystal Siddall on this outstanding award and we thank her for the years of dedicated volunteer work to her community and the Province of Nova Scotia.

RESOLUTION NO. 3217

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 Memory Lane Heritage Village in Lake Charlotte is portraying rural life as it was between 1940 and 1950 in a new and unique "Living Memory" museum; and

Whereas this attraction, developed around the 1940s and 1950s, has marketed itself with great skill, and attendance is increasing by 100 per cent every year since its debut; and

Whereas in a commitment to keeping things as historically accurate as possible, the buildings, clothes, cars and food is reflective of the 1940s and 1950s - along with petting the lambs and feeding the sheep, a family can enjoy a meal in the cookhouse and take part in museum demonstrations;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the staff and participants at the Memory Lane Heritage Village for their commitment and dedication to making this new attraction an anchor on the Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 3218

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 since opening their doors in December 2003, Bear Den Café owners, John and Louella Levasseur, have been asked to offer more than just great food; and

Whereas because John and Louella are bilingual, customers have asked them to teach French conversation classes at the café; and

Whereas Louella now teaches French conversation class every Wednesday night in a very casual atmosphere where people learn how to pronounce words and sentences;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend John and Louella Levasseur for listening to their customers' needs and stepping in to fill their request - they are a perfect example of what being a small business owner is all about.

RESOLUTION NO. 3219

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas the western Shelburne County business community recognized four of their outstanding businesses earlier this Winter at an Excellence Awards Dinner held at the Barrington and Area Lions Hall; and

Whereas business award winners were Sam and George El'Jakl, Dorothy Penney, Smith and Watt Ltd., and Star Seafoods Ltd.; and

Whereas Sam and George won the Young Entrepreneur Award, Dorothy won the Woman Entrepreneur Award, Smith and Watt, the Small Business of the Year Award, and Star Seafoods Ltd. was chosen Business of the Year;

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Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly congratulate the business owners for winning these awards of excellence, and to the Barrington and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Shelburne County Business Development Centre for their participation in organizing the annual dinner.

RESOLUTION NO. 3220

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

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

Whereas volunteers have a very positive impact on our lifestyle; and

Whereas volunteers deserve recognition and acknowledgement of their efforts; and

Whereas Hubert (Hub) MacDonald has been nominated by the Council of the Town of Bridgewater as their Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and appreciation to Mr. MacDonald for his many years of volunteer service to his community and to Nova Scotia in general.

RESOLUTION NO. 3221

By: Hon. Christopher d'Entremont (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas 27 educators from across the province were honoured during an Education Week ceremony and reception on April 18th that focused on the theme History: Look in your own backyard; and

Whereas Daphne Saulnier of Ecole Wedgeport was one of the teachers honoured for working hard to interest students in local history; and

Whereas it is our valuable educators across the province that work hard to make learning fun and interesting, and without them we would be lost;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the teachers and educators across the province for their hard work and dedication, and for going beyond the call of duty every day.

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M. le Président, à une date ultérieure, je demanderai l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que 27 éducateurs de la province ont été honorés au cours d'une cérémonie et d'une réception tenues le 18 avril dans le cadre de la Semaine de l'éducation, qui avait pour thème L'histoire: Partout autour de nous; et

Attendu que Daphne Saulnier, de l'école Wedgeport était l'une des enseignantes honorées pour ses efforts visant à intéresser les élèves à l'histoire de la région; et

Attendu que ce sont nos précieux éducateurs dans toute la province qui travaillent fort afin de rendre l'apprentissage amusant et intéressant, et que sans eux nous serions perdus;

Par conséquent qu'il soit résolu que tous les membres de cette assemblée remercient les enseignants et les éducateurs de toute la province pour leur travail et leur dévouement, et pour les tâches qu'ils accomplissent chaque jour au-delà des exigences de leur poste.

RESOLUTION NO. 3222

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Health)

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

Whereas discussions were held this winter toward improvements to the Columbus recreational field in the Town of Antigonish, including a garden, the potential replacement or upgrading of the tennis courts, and the addition of enhanced lighting at the field; and

Whereas the Antigonish Knights of Columbus are exceptionally pleased with the support they have received from the Antigonish Town Council and the Nova Scotia Department of Economic Development towards improvements at Columbus Field; and

Whereas the Columbus Field Work Project is tied in with the enhancement of Main Street in downtown Antigonish;

Therefore be it resolved that the Antigonish Town Council and the Antigonish Knights of Columbus club be recognized by members of this Legislature for their diligence in wanting all residents to have a place for leisure activity for both themselves and family members in the Town of Antigonish.

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RESOLUTION NO. 3223

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas scientists in the applied geomatics research group at the Nova Scotia Community College will soon be using a system called Lidar (light detection and ranging system) to measure and map the earth's surface; and

Whereas the system is one of only a handful in the world and will allow scientists to map flood areas, monitor climate changes, measure forest growth, help farmers pinpoint the best areas to plant, and assist planners in finding the best locations for development; and

Whereas senior research scientist Bob Maher says the technology is so new not everyone knows how to use it yet, but he and Chris Hopkinson, also a research scientist, have signed a multi-year deal with Scotia Flight Services in Waterville which has allowed the company to purchase a larger charter plane to carry the Lidar system;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the applied geomatics research groups located at the Lawrencetown and Middleton campuses on this fantastic new technology, and thank them for keeping Nova Scotians a step above the rest.

RESOLUTION NO. 3224

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas 16 brave paddlers will celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Port Royal by taking an historic overnight canoe trip where they will retrace the steps of Jacques de Meulles from 1686 when he paddled over the lakes and rivers of the South Shore; and

Whereas organizer Darlene Ricker said that Annapolis County has been extremely helpful and supportive, giving them a grant to purchase supplies for their journey that will see them depart April 30th and hopefully arrive in Liverpool safely on May 8th; and

Whereas some of the paddlers will include Caledonia Middle School students to learn about history, local geography and filmmaking, and the trip will be filmed on land by Silvia Moore's Grade 6 class to document the experience;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish the paddlers and students success in their adventure, and thank them for striving to keep the history of the community alive and exciting.

RESOLUTION NO. 3225

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas Kyle Langille of Crowes Mills and Chris MacKenzie of Kemptown are members of the Canada Games Rugby Team; and

Whereas they had an extra-long March break honing their skills with their teammates in South Africa playing against some of the top under-19 players in the world; and

Whereas the Canada Games will be held this August in Regina where Kyle Langille and Chris MacKenzie are among a 28-member squad representing Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Kyle Langille and Chris MacKenzie lots of luck at the Canada Games and thank them for representing our province.

RESOLUTION NO. 3226

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas 28 young and dedicated Nova Scotians are heading to the Canada Games in August as part of the Nova Scotia Rugby Team; and

Whereas Eric Arts, Shane Bennett, Terrance Rochon, Brian Rushton, Todd Scanlan, Doug Rogers, Will Shaw, Shaun Taylor, Joe Young, Russell Todd, Johnathan Woodland, Vincent O'Malley, Allisdair Bishop, Scott Braun, Anton Nestel, Dan Briggs, Evan Cameron, Corey Reid, Matt Dunn, Darren Ells, Luke Richardson, Keegan Giles, Mike Hamsom, Chris MacKenzie, Tommy Hartlin, Andrew Kirkendal, Kyle Langille and Adam Little; and

Whereas the staff members - Glenn Johnston, Troy Myers and Derek Short - have worked tirelessly to prepare the team for the games to be held in Regina, Saskatchewan;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish the team good luck at the Canada Games, and thank them for representing our province.

RESOLUTION NO. 3227

By: Mr. William Langille (Colchester North)

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

Whereas a new fitness centre called Inspiring Fitness opened in Tatamagouche in November 2004; and

Whereas the new gym, owned by Jolie Arsenault and Stephanie Semple, offers fitness lessons, personal training, and lifestyle and fitness assessments; and

Whereas yoga classes are also available for all ages and a children's playroom helps busy parents find time to exercise;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Inspiring Fitness owners Jolie Arsenault and Stephanie Semple on their move to the community, and for their efforts to promote personal health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3228

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas the late William Hall of Kings County was celebrated this past November 2004 with a display at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic; and

Whereas William Hall was the first Black person, the first Nova Scotian and one of the first Canadians to receive the British Empire's highest award for bravery, the Victoria Cross; and

Whereas William Hall received his Victoria Cross in Ireland on October 28, 1859, and moved back to Nova Scotia to live with his two sisters, Rachel Robinson and Mary Hall, on a farm in Avonport;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the late William Hall for his brave military service, and thank the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic for its tribute to this important part of our history.

RESOLUTION NO. 3229

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas Grade 5 students at Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary School, situated just off Highway 215 in the Municipality of West Hants, were recently named as one of 12 schools under the jurisdiction of the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board to be recognized for being on a healthy track for life; and

Whereas the recognition follows a comprehensive healthy living program undertaken by the Office of Health Promotion and funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Information; and

Whereas the study was impressive enough to be published in the American Journal of Public Health in late February;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the Grade 5 students at Dr. Arthur Hines Elementary for their dedication and initiative in wanting to learn more about becoming healthier while reducing their risk for diseases later in life.

RESOLUTION NO. 3230

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the West Hants Pee Wee "AA" team captured provincial championship honours for the 2004-05 season at a tournament in Sydney Mines; and

Whereas West Hants finished the round-robin portion of the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record before winning the championship in overtime by defeating the Shelburne County Flames; and

[Page 6144]

Whereas Warrior players were recognized for their outstanding play, including Nick Parker who was named tournament MVP and first team all-star, David Wadden, was chosen top defenceman for the tourney and was also selected as a first team all-star;

Therefore be it resolved that the west Hants "AA" Warriors under the capable leadership of coaches Steve Nelson, Maurice Harvey and Garth Redden be commended for an outstanding hockey season and championship tournament.

RESOLUTION NO. 3231

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas a total of 19 staff from the Scotiabank branch in Windsor will be participating in the VON Caring for Life Walk; and

Whereas the staff members, including Branch Manager Steve Groves, will wear pedometers as part of a 6-week walk-a-thon which started on April 1st and continues until May 13th; and

Whereas Manager Groves was recently quoted saying, "Staff would be assisting in the fundraising program for VON while the branch itself would contribute matching funds raised by the nineteen staff members;

Therefore be it resolved that all members in this House commend the Annapolis Valley Branch of the VON as well as staff at the Scotiabank branch in Windsor for their dedication and understanding in wanting to assist the community in whatever way possible.

RESOLUTION NO. 3232

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the theme of this year's 34th annual 4-H Citizenship Seminar in Ottawa was Border and Opportunities; and

Whereas more than 60 participants from across Canada participated, including Katie Knowles from Hants County; and

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Whereas delegates to this year's seminar learned more about how youth can influence the political process and the political Parties which are a large component of the democracy process here in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Katie for being selected to participate in this esteemed seminar and wish her continued success with every goal she pursues.

RESOLUTION NO. 3233

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas Betty Ann Daury has been a snowshoeing coach with Special Olympics Nova Scotia for 13 years; and

Whereas Betty Ann was chosen as a national coach for the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Nagano, Japan from February 26 to March 5, 2005; and

Whereas two of the four snowshoe athletes that Betty Ann was responsible for won medals at the World Winter Games;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Betty Ann Daury for her commitment to the Special Olympics, not just in Nova Scotia but around the world.

RESOLUTION NO. 3234

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas 27 educators from across the province were honoured during an Education Week ceremony and reception on April 18th that focused on the theme History: Look in your own backyard; and

Whereas Stephen Nickerson of South Queens Junior High School was one of the teachers honoured for working hard to interest students in local history; and

Whereas it is our valuable educators across the province that work hard to make learning fun and interesting, and without them we would be lost;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the teachers and educators across the province for their hard work and dedication, and for going beyond the call of duty every day.

RESOLUTION NO. 3235

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas Meaghan Smart, a Liverpool Regional High School graduate, was well known on the junior curler circuit; and

Whereas following her move to Halifax, Meaghan joined the Mayflower Curling Club's Kay Zinck team as the fifth player; and

Whereas the Kay Zinck team won the Nova Scotia women's title, advancing to the Scott Tournament of Hearts in St. John's, Newfoundland;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Meaghan Smart and the entire Kay Zinck team for winning the Nova Scotia women's title and advancing to the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

RESOLUTION NO. 3236

By: Hon. Kerry Morash (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas the Liverpool Kinsmen Club has been assisting Canadian Blood Services for 40 years; and

Whereas the Liverpool Kinsmen Club has been supporting Canadian Blood Services longer than any other Kinsmen Club in Canada; and

Whereas the Liverpool Kinsmen Club was one of only two organizations across Canada acknowledged as Honoured Community Partners at a November 2004 Canadian Blood Services event to recognize everyday Canadian heroes;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Liverpool Kinsmen for 40 years of assisting Canadian Blood Services in their commitment to saving lives across Canada.

RESOLUTION NO. 3237

By: Hon. Michael Baker (Justice)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's oldest registered barber, Ivan Levy, is still cutting hair in the Magic Clipper Barber Shop on Maple Avenue in Lunenburg; and

Whereas Ivan, now in his early 80s, has been cutting hair for more than 40 years and only puts his scissors down on Wednesdays when he takes time to pay some bills and do some grocery shopping; and

Whereas Ivan has customers from all over Lunenburg County, while some customers even make the drive from Halifax for a haircut;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ivan Levy for his tenacity and longevity in the barbering business, and wish him continued good fortune.

RESOLUTION NO. 3238

By: Mr. Ronald Chisholm (Guysborough-Sheet Harbour)

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

Whereas 27 educators from across the province were honoured during an Education Week ceremony and reception on April 18th that focused on the theme History: Look in your own backyard; and

Whereas Derek Hayne of St. Mary's Education Centre was one of the teachers honoured for working hard to interest students in local history; and

Whereas it is our valuable educators across the province that work hard to make learning fun and interesting, and without them we would be lost;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the teachers and educators across the province for their hard work and dedication, and for going beyond the call of duty every day.

RESOLUTION NO. 3239

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism, Culture and Heritage)

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

Whereas 27 educators from across the province were honoured during an Education Week ceremony and reception on April 18th that focused on the theme History: Look in your own backyard; and

Whereas Stephen Kennedy at the Inverness Academy was one of the teachers honoured for working hard to interest students in local history; and

Whereas it is our valuable educators across the province that work hard to make learning fun and interesting, and without them we would be lost;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the teachers and educators across the province for their hard work and dedication, and for going beyond the call of duty every day.

RESOLUTION NO. 3240

By: Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay)

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

Whereas the Department of Education has a responsibility to the students and parents of this province to provide and deliver quality education; and

Whereas since forming government in 1999, this government and the Minister of Education have chronically underfunded the school boards in this province; and

Whereas the minister and this government have carelessly tossed the serious responsibility of educating children in the CBV School Board to the parents and the students themselves;

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Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education and this government admit their years of neglect and underfunding to the school boards of this province, and act immediately to resolve the issue in the CBV School Board.

RESOLUTION NO. 3241

By: Mr. Manning MacDonald (Cape Breton South)

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

Whereas this government has remained on the sidelines as workers strike in the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board; and

Whereas the Minister of Energy has tried to leave his given post and speak out on the issue, calling upon his own colleague, the Minister of Education, to take an active role in resolving this strike; and

Whereas it would appear that this government caucus cannot reach a consensus on an issue involving the future of children in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take the advice of his own colleague, and all members of this House, and finally look out for every employee of his department and step in to help resolve the strike.