The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

HANSARD 03/04/05-103

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

First Session

MONDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICE OF MOTION:
Res. No. 4983, Gannon, Lou - N.S. Human Rights Comm'n.:
Member - Appt., Hon. B. Barnet 9278
Vote - Affirmative 9278
Res. No. 4984, Hefler, Lorne: Belgian Draft Horses - Showing,
Hon. C. d'Entremont 9278
Vote - Affirmative 9279
Res. No. 4985, TCH - Highland Links: Golf Mag. - Rating,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 9279
Vote - Affirmative 9280
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rpt. - N.S. Business Inc. - 2004-05,
Hon. E. Fage 9280
Anl. Rpt. - Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Pet. Bd. - 2004-05,
Hon. C. Clarke 9280
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 274, Certified Management Accountants of Nova Scotia Act,
Hon. P. Christie 9281
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 4986, MacKay-Lyons, Brian - Architecture: Contribution,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9281
Vote - Affirmative 9282
Res. 4987, Coyle, Jordan/Gardiner, Ryan/Jacobi, Alex/Miles, Douglas -
Paddling Championships, Mr. K. Colwell 9282
Vote - Affirmative 9282
Res. 4988, d'Entremont, Chris/Morse, David - Birthday Wishes,
Mr. W. Dooks 9283
Vote - Affirmative 9283
Res. 4989, Perriwinkles Child Care Ctr.: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 9283
Vote - Affirmative 9284
Res. 4990, 14 Wing Greenwood - ACS Herc. Comm.: Feed N.S. -
Donation, Mr. L. Glavine 9284
Vote - Affirmative 9285
Res. 4991, Kings Transit - Buses: Launch - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 9285
Vote - Affirmative 9286
Res. 4992, Jubien House - St. Paul's Rector: Blessing - Thank,
Ms. M. Raymond 9286
Vote - Affirmative 9287
Res. 4993, Com. Serv. - Juniper House/CASA: Budget - Min. Honor,
Mr. H. Theriault 9287
Res. 4994, Keillor, Fred: RCL Meritorious Serv. Medal,
Ms. J. Streatch 9287
Vote - Affirmative 9288
Res. 4995, Head, William & Geertje - Anniv. (60th),
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9288
Vote - Affirmative 9289
Res. 4996, Webb, John - New Orleans: Emergency Shelter - Operation,
Mr. H. Epstein 9289
Vote - Affirmative 9290
Res. 4997, C.B. Capers: Women's Basketball Tournament Victory -
Congrats., Mr. Gerald Sampson 9290
Vote - Affirmative 9290
Res. 4998, New Glasgow KOC 1667 - Commun. Efforts,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9291
Vote - Affirmative 9291
Res. 4999, Saumure, Deidre - Golden Apple Award,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9291
Vote - Affirmative 9292
Res. 5000, Titz 'n Glitz - Anniv. (10th),
Ms. D. Whalen 9292
Vote - Affirmative 9293
Res. 5001, Dooks-Fahie, Michelle - HRM Police Science Prog.:
Completion - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9293
Vote - Affirmative 9294
Res. 5002, Douglas, Tommy: Can. - Contributions Recognize,
Mr. D. Dexter 9294
Vote - Affirmative 9294
Res. 5003, Health - Pharmacare Refunds: Min. - Thank,
Mr. S. McNeil 9295
Res. 5004, Hebb, Glen & Marilyn - Grassroots Excellence Award,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9295
Vote - Affirmative 9296
Res. 5005, Paul, Annie Ronnie - Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Award,
Mr. F. Corbett 9296
Vote - Affirmative 9297
Res. 5006, Health: Seniors Housing - Create,
Mr. H. Theriault 9297
Res. 5007, Reach for Dalhousie Comp. - CEC Team: Win. - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 9298
Vote - Affirmative 9298
Res. 5008, Pictou Lodge - TIANS Award,
Mr. C. Parker 9299
Vote - Affirmative 9299
Res. 5009, C.B. Screaming Eagles: Hard Work - Recognize,
Mr. Gerald Sampson 9299
Vote - Affirmative 9300
Res. 5010, HRM: Green Card Init. - Congrats.,
Ms. M. More 9300
Vote - Affirmative 9301
Res. 5011, Breton Books - Sydney/Area CC Award,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9301
Vote - Affirmative 9302
Res. 5012, Unemployment Rate - Fin. Min./Prem.: Credit/Blame -
Acceptance, Mr. G. Steele 9302
Res. 5013, Health - Retirement Benefits: Disclosure - Degree,
Mr. Michel Samson 9303
Res. 5014, Harbour View Sch. Breakfast Prog.: Holy Trinity Emmanuel
Church Parish - Contribution, Mr. J. Pye 9303
Vote - Affirmative 9304
Res. 5015, Progress Ctr. for Early Intervention: Service/Resources -
Importance, Ms. D. Whalen 9304
Vote - Affirmative 9305
Res. 5016, Davenport, David: Puck-Stopping Exploits - Acknowledge,
Mr. G. Gosse 9305
Vote - Affirmative 9306
Res. 5017, Acadia Axemen: Football Season - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9306
Vote - Affirmative 9306
Res. 5018, Parks, Rosa: Death of - Tribute,
Mr. K. Colwell 9307
Vote - Affirmative 9307
Res. 5019, Hampsey, Jim: Berwick Sports Hall of Fame - Induction,
Mr. L. Glavine 9308
Vote - Affirmative 9308
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 203, Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act 9309
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9309
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9309
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9316
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9318
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9319
Vote - Affirmative 9321
No. 222, Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery Act 9321
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9321
Mr. W. Gaudet 9336
Hon. R. Russell 9341
Adjourned debate 9341
No. 232, Optometry Act 9341
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9341
Mr. Michel Samson 9341
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9345
Vote - Affirmative 9345
No. 235 - Dispensing Opticians Act 9345
Hon. A. MacIsaac 9345
Vote - Affirmative 9346
No. 236 - Small Claims Court Act 9346
Hon. M. Baker 9346
Mr. M. Samson 9346
Hon. M. Baker 9362
Vote - Affirmative 9363
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 268, Pre-primary Education Act 9363
Ms. J. Massey 9363
Mr. L. Glavine 9367
Ms. M. More 9375
Mr. W. Gaudet 9382
Hon. J. Muir 9386
Vote - Affirmative 9387
No. 252, House of Assembly Act 9387
Hon. R. Russell 9388
Mr. D. Dexter 9388
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9390
Hon. R. Russell 9391
Vote - Affirmative 9392
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 237, Maintenance Enforcement Act 9392
Mr. F. Corbett 9392
Mr. Michel Samson 9392
Hon. M. Baker 9404
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9405
Adjourned debate 9417
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Private and Local Bills Committee,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9418
Private and Local Bills Committee,
Mr. David Wilson (Glace Bay) 9418
Law Amendments Committee,
Hon. M. Baker 9418
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Nov. 1, 2005 at 1:00 p.m. 9419
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 5020, Dalton, Diana Lee - CNSOPB: Chair - Appt.,
Hon. C. Clarke 9420
Res. 5021, Way, Raylene - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9420
Res. 5022, Carter, Michael - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9421
Res. 5023, Carvery, Maurice - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9421
Res. 5024, Chambers, Kim - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9422
Res. 5025, Clyke, Bobby - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9422
Res. 5026, Cross, Nathan - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9423
Res. 5027, Durling, Craig - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9423
Res. 5028, Foster, Karen - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9424
Res. 5029, Fournier, Thomas - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9424
Res. 5030, Hueston, D'Arcy - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9425
Res. 5031, McGrath, Anthony - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9425
Res. 5032, McMahon, Christopher - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9426
Res. 5033, Miller, Nancy - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9426
Res. 5034, Pothier, Jeffrey - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9427
Res. 5035, Rasmussen, Barbara - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9427
Res. 5036, Saade, Sam - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9428
Res. 5037, Seebold, Jeffrey - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9428
Res. 5038, Smith, David - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9429
Res. 5039, Smith, Holly - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9429
Res. 5040, Sparks, Anthony - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9430
Res. 5041, Stewart, Sara - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9430
Res. 5042, Venedam, Kathryn - HRM Police Sci. Prog.: Completion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 9431
Res. 5043, Argyle Township Courthouse - Restoration: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. S. McNeil 9431
Res. 5044, Bridgewater/Area CC - Bus. Excellence Awards Prog.:
Creation - Congrats., Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9432
Res. 5045, Cutler, Nelson - Bridgewater/Area Golden-K-Kiwanis: Club -
Pres. Appt., Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9432
Res. 5046, Covey Island Boatworks - Export Achievement Excellence
Award, Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9433
Res. 5047, L. & B. Electric - Lg. Bus. Excellence Award,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9433
Res. 5048, Kiesling, Ernest & Maria/Kiesling Const. - Innovation
Excellence Award, Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9434
Res. 5049, Wamboldt, Philip & Carol: Petite Riviere Vineyards -
Entrepreneurial Achievement Excellence Award,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9434
Res. 5050, Nauss Group: Boston Pizza Franchise - Opening,
Hon. C. Bolivar-Getson 9435
Res. 5051, Mt. Edward Spring Fling: Participants - Congrats.,
Ms. J. Massey 9435
Res. 5052, Walk to Sch. Wk.: Participants - Congrats.,
Ms. J. Massey 9436
Res. 5053, Dart. Heritage Museum - Models, Miniatures & More
Exhibition,^Ms. J. Massey 9436
Res. 5054, Portland Link - Bus Terminal: Users - Congrats.,
Ms. J. Massey 9437
Res. 5055, Cdn. Mental Health Assoc.: (Hfx.-Dart. Br.) Art Exhibition -
Congrats., Ms. J. Massey 9437
Res. 5056, Youth Health Centres: Success - Wish,
Ms. J. Massey 9438
Res. 5057, Cdn. Merchant Navy: Members - Thank,
Ms. J. Massey 9438
Res. 5058, Muscular Dystrophy Rally (06/05): Vols. - Thank,
Ms. J. Massey 9439
Res. 5059, BLT Commun. Awareness Day: Organizers - Thank,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9439
Res. 5060, Hfx. Co. United U-14 Tier 1 Soccer Team: Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 9440
Res. 5061, Walsh, Brittany - Baseball Accomplishments,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9440
Res. 5062, Brookside JHS - Beautification Proj.: Participants -
Thank, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9441
Res. 5063, Prospect Rd. Citizens on Patrol: Commitment -
Congrats./Thank, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9441
Res. 5064, Nat. Res. - Lewis Lake Prov. Park: Continuation - Ensure,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9442

[Page 9277]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2005

Fifty-ninth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. James DeWolfe, Mr. Charles Parker, Ms. Diana Whalen

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

9277

[Page 9278]

RESOLUTION NO. 4983

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

Whereas Lou Gannon, a former resident of Lower Sackville, has been named to his third consecutive term as a member of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission; and

Whereas as a commissioner, Mr. Gannon is one of the people responsible for policy and has the authority to approve settlements of complaints; and

Whereas Mr. Gannon is a well-known and respected member of this community, acting as the facility manager of the North Preston Community Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Mr. Lou Gannon on his recent appointment and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 4984

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

Whereas Mr. Lorne Hefler of Lower Sackville recently concluded a 36-year history with Belgian draft horses, with horses brought into the country by him winning champion and reserve champion in the six-horse hitch at the 2005 Maritime Fall Fair; and

[Page 9279]

Whereas Mr. Hefler has shown his prized Belgian draft horses across the Maritimes, as well as at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto; and

Whereas to show you just how involved Mr. Hefler was in the Belgian draft horse class, of the 42 Belgian horses showing at this year's Maritime Fall Fair, 32 had been owned at one point by Mr. Hefler;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House recognize the significant dedication and desire to perform with the best, which has been shown by Lorne Hefler since 1969 with his Belgian draft horses, and wish him every success, while his son Brenton keeps the competitive spirit alive in the Hefler family, showing two Belgians instead of the eight his father always brought to fairs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 4985

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

Whereas the Highland Links Golf Course has been named the number one course in Canada by Golf Magazine; and

Whereas on a list of the top 100 courses in the world Highland Links placed 71st, the highest Canadian ranking; and

[Page 9280]

Whereas another publication and read across North America, Golf Digest, has also rated Highland Links as its top Canadian public course;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs recognize the wonders of Highland Links and the magnificent potential such rankings provide to build upon Nova Scotia and Cape Breton becoming an even stronger tourist destination for golfers.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the concurrence of the House, I would like to revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to table the 2004/2005 Annual Report for Nova Scotia Business Inc.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to table the 2004-05 Annual Report for the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board.

[Page 9281]

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 274 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Society of Management Accountants of Nova Scotia. (Hon. Peter Christie)

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

[2:15 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 4986

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

Whereas Brian MacKay-Lyons is an architect and resident of the north end of Halifax who is widely recognized as one of the leading proponents of the regional style, which uses local materials and traditions but adapts them to his own distinctive vision; and

Whereas Brian MacKay-Lyons has created a series of distinctive and striking buildings, both residential and commercial, in locations ranging from the seacoast of Nova Scotia to Dacca, Bangladesh; and

Whereas Brian MacKay-Lyons has recently become the subject of a book entitled Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons, written by Malcolm Quantrill, which both discusses and celebrates the work of the book's subject;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature thank Brian MacKay-Lyons for his outstanding contributions to architecture in Nova Scotia, and congratulate him on the international recognition he has received as the subject of Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 9282]

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 4987

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

Whereas the 2005 Canadian Canoe Championships were held in Montreal on August 31st to September 3rd; and

Whereas Jordan Coyle, Ryan Gardiner, Alex Jacobi and Douglas Miles from the Orenda Canoe Club competed in the Juvenile Men's K-4 1,000 metre; and

Whereas Jordan, Ryan, Alex and Douglas won gold and became the national champions, setting a new juvenile K-4 record;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate Jordan, Ryan, Alex and Douglas, and wish them continued success with their paddling careers;

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 9283]

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 4988

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

Whereas on October 31, 1969, our very own Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and MLA for Argyle was born; and

Whereas the Honourable Chris d'Entremont celebrates his birthday today and I would like to wish him Bonne Fete, mon ami; and

Whereas on this day he shares his birthday with such famous people as the late John Candy, Vanilla Ice, and the Honourable David Morse, Minister of Community Services born on this day in 1954, which makes him a few years older than me;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Chris d'Entremont and David Morse a very Happy Birthday and many more happy, healthy years.

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. (Applause)

Order, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 4989

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

[Page 9284]

Whereas Eastern Passage is a growing community with a growing demand for licensed child care facilities; and

Whereas Perri Shippien has been operating Perriwinkle's Child Care Centre in Eastern Passage since 2001; and

Whereas Perri Shippien has worked extremely hard to build a new building to operate Perriwinkle's Child Care Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of Perri Shippien and her staff to create more child care spaces in Eastern Passage, and congratulate them on the opening of the new facility for Perriwinkle's Child Care Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4990

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 personnel of 14 Wing Greenwood pulled together in an effort to raise both 47,000 pounds of food and financial contributions of $20,400 for Feed Nova Scotia; and

Whereas 50 members worked to pull a Hercules aircraft full of food donated by the community 100 metres; and

Whereas Corporal Simon Kardynal, Corporal Bryce Mason, Private Jeff Hull and Private Wayne Fowler formed the ACS Herc Committee organizing the event, and were able to rally not only 14 Wing Greenwood, but the community as a whole to ensure this event was a tremendous success;

[Page 9285]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate 14 Wing Greenwood and acknowledge the contribution the ACS Herc Committee has made to gather the single largest food donation ever to Feed Nova Scotia, and wish them every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 4991

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

Whereas Kings Transit Authority officially launched five new Flyer buses at a ceremony in Kentville, June 8th; and

Whereas Shirley Pearl, widow of the late Kentville mayor Gary Pearl, cut the ribbon to launch the first bus named Gary Pearl and a second bus named Andy Patterson after the recently retired long-time general manager; and

Whereas the cost of the five buses totalled almost $2.2 million, and was funded by the Kings County member municipalities on a percentage basis: Kings County contributed 60 per cent; Kentville, 20 per cent; Wolfville, 15 per cent; and Berwick, 5 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Kings Transit Authority on launching these new easy access buses and hope it makes transportation within Kings County a little easier for those who need to use the service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 9286]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 4992

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

Whereas St. Paul's Anglican Church has operated Jubien House on the Purcell's Cove Road for 25 years as a home for the children of troubled homes; and

Whereas up to six young people at a time can live in the comfortable environment of Jubien House with caring adult supervision; and

Whereas Jubien House was dedicated on October 26, 2005 with the blessing of all the bedrooms, the kitchen, the recreation room, the backyard - not forgetting the furnace room;

Therefore be it resolved that this House send its best wishes to the residents and staff of Jubien and thank the rector of St. Paul's for his kind, conscientious and detailed blessing of the house and grounds.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 9287]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 4993

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

Whereas the Minister of Community Services has encouraged transition houses and women's programs to coordinate and amalgamate services; and

Whereas Juniper House in Yarmouth and CASA in Digby have worked tirelessly on a plan that will provide more effective and cost-efficient programs to women in both Yarmouth and Digby Counties; and

Whereas the assistant deputy minister wrote to the groups and approved a budget which the minister is now refusing to honour;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge the hard work and dedication of both Juniper House and CASA, and ask the Minister of Community Service to honour the letter sent from his department which approves the merger and all the budget requirements needed to ensure that the process is a successful one.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 4994

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

Whereas Fred Keillor, a lifetime member of the Chester Basin Royal Canadian Legion, has been awarded the Legion's highest honour; and

[Page 9288]

Whereas Fred Keillor was given the Meritorious Service Medal for his 27-year commitment to the Royal Canadian Legion; and

Whereas along with being a dedicated Legion member, Fred Keillor served on the Chester Basin branch executive as zone commander and as the Nova Scotia Command president;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Fred Keillor on receiving the Meritorious Service Medal award, and thank him for his dedication and commitment to the Royal Canadian Legion and its members.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 4995

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

Whereas William and Geertje Head are residents of Howie Centre on Cape Breton Island; and

Whereas William and Geertje raised three children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren; and

Whereas Mr. and Mrs. Head will be married 60 years on November 28, 2005, with a celebration on November 25, 2005 at the Delta Hotel in Sydney;

[Page 9289]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join with family and friends of William and Geertje in congratulating them on their 60th Wedding Anniversary, wishing them many more years of 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 member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 4996

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

Whereas the disastrous flooding that recently devastated the City of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina was a national emergency in the United States; and

Whereas the response to the emergency included persons brought in from Canada; and

Whereas one such person is John Webb, director of Emergency Social Services in the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services who operated an emergency shelter through the auspices of the American Red Cross;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Mr. John Webb of the Department of Community Services for his work in operating an emergency shelter in New Orleans to help persons who became homeless due to Hurricane Katrina.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 9290]

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 4997

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Capers were victorious at the Subway Centennial Women's Basketball Tournament on the weekend; and

Whereas forward Maureen Murrin, was nine of 17 from the field and totaled 23 points in the win; and

Whereas Natasha Eadie was the only other player in the double digits with 13 points;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Cape Breton Capers Women's Basketball team on their tournament victory and wish them best of luck in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 9291]

RESOLUTION NO. 4998

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

Whereas the Knights of Columbus, New Glasgow Council 1667, recently honoured Westville's Errol O'Neill with the Star Council Award, recognizing excellence in volunteer and charitable activities and in the recruiting of members; and

Whereas Mr. O'Neill is Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, New Glasgow Council 1667; and

Whereas besides Mr. O'Neill's award that was presented, the New Glasgow Council 1667 held their annual meeting and election of officers in September;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly recognize the significant community efforts put forth by the Knights of Columbus, New Glasgow 1667, and wish them continued good fortune as they strive to do whatever they can in Pictou County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 4999

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

Whereas on Thursday, October 27th, Beachville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary School held its Town Hall, featuring awards and student presentations, hosted by Principal Michael O'Leary; and

[Page 9292]

Whereas the Golden Apple Award, recognizing the contribution of volunteers in the Halifax Regional School Board, was presented to Deidre Saumure; and

Whereas Deidre is a dedicated, valuable volunteer at Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary School;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Deidre Saumure on her Golden Apple Award and thank her for her continuing contribution to the students of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary School.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 5000

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

Whereas breast cancer is the most common cancer among Canadian women and an estimated 710 women in Nova Scotia will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone; and

Whereas Titz 'n Glitz is a well-established breast cancer fundraiser for women only, to support friends, neighbours and people they love who are diagnosed with breast cancer; and

Whereas this fundraiser has raised over $500,000 since 1995, and these funds are distributed with the help of hospitals and social work departments across the province to aid breast cancer survivors in financial need;

[Page 9293]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House congratulate Titz 'n Glitz on its 10th Anniversary and encourage women to attend this year's fundraising gala on November 3rd, at Pier 21 in Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 5001

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

Whereas on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas my daughter, Michelle Dooks-Fahie, was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in her community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9294]

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 Opposition.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 5002

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

Whereas Tommy Douglas, recognized as one of Canada's greatest citizens, served as the NDP Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961; and

Whereas amongst Tommy Douglas' many contributions includes establishing the first public hospitalization program in Canada, and creating Canada's first Medicare program; and

Whereas the Government of Saskatchewan enacted legislation to acknowledge the contributions of Thomas Clement Douglas by celebrating Tommy Douglas Day throughout the province on October 20th of each year;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly recognize the many contributions of Tommy Douglas to our country, and congratulate the Government of Saskatchewan for delaring October 20th of each year Tommy Douglas Day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 9295]

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 5003

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

Whereas many seniors in this province spent time and energy over the past number of months getting their money back from the Pharmacare Program; and

Whereas the Liberal caucus' efforts ended with the government refunding all money wrongfully charged to seniors; and

Whereas the Minister of Health and his staff did the right thing in the end - giving the money back to the seniors who need it the most;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Minister of Health on doing the right thing, doing what the Liberal caucus asked them to do in refunding all monies wrongfully charged to seniors.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Human Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 5004

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

Whereas businesses of all sizes and types are crucial to having a healthy economy; and

[Page 9296]

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2005 Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Glen and Marilyn Hebb, owners of Indian Garden Farms in Hebbville, for being the recipients of the Grassroots Excellence Award.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 5005

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

Whereas entrepreneurs create jobs, tax revenue and achieve personal fulfillment through their creative energies; and

Whereas First Nations women are increasingly striking out on their own into the world of business; and

Whereas Ms. Annie Ronnie Paul of Indian Brook was recently awarded an Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Award for her years of operating her Canteen and Wooden Flowers;

[Page 9297]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Annie Ronnie Paul on her Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Award and wish her success in her business for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 5006

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

Whereas young people who pursue a career in elderly care are leaving our rural communities for other regions in order to find able employment; and

Whereas the population of Digby-Annapolis has a significant number of seniors lacking proper care and appropriate facilities to aid these people; and

Whereas there are businesses in the area interested in building assisted-living seniors' boarding homes, but the required government initiative does not exist to move these proceedings forward;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly strongly urge the government to help those involved with creating seniors' housing, ensuring more jobs for care workers and security for our elderly.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 9298]

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 5007

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

Whereas Ryan Andrews, Charles "Bobo" Eyrich, and Kelsey MacKenzie, who are students at Cobequid Educational Centre, won the 2005 Reach for Dalhousie competition; and

Whereas the CEC team outscored Kennebecasis Valley High School from New Brunswick in a close match to claim the title; and

Whereas by virtue of their win, the CEC team members earned free tuition in their first year of study at Dalhousie University;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate CEC students Ryan Andrews, Charles "Bobo" Eyrich, and Kelsey MacKenzie on winning the Reach for Dalhousie competition, and wish them every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 9299]

RESOLUTION NO. 5008

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

Whereas Pictou Lodge has been recognized for the second time with a Commitment to Excellence Property Recognition Award, and is one of only six organizations recognized as Employers of Choice in this province by the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas almost all of Pictou Lodge's staff, from housekeeping, front desk, dining room and sales, have been certified under the Tourism Human Resources Council; and

Whereas Pictou Lodge offers top-rate accommodations in a spectacular setting, with a fully professional staff;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Pictou Lodge General Manager Alain Bosse, and all employees, for offering quality accommodations to Nova Scotians and the world.

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 Victoria-The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 5009

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League set two new franchise records during recent home-ice action; and

[Page 9300]

Whereas the team broke their previous win streak of seven games with their new streak of nine games; and

Whereas the team also broke their previous road-record victory streak with their recent fifth victory away;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the hard work of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, and wish them the best of luck as they begin a new set of winning streaks in the QMJHL.

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 South-Portland Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 5010

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

Whereas this Winter is going to be a struggle for many people in the HRM who are homeless or at high risk of homelessness; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional Municipality's Housing and Homelessness Committee and staff created a green card to hand out to homeless and high-risk residents, full of resources on where they can get help; and

Whereas this Winter will be the second year for the green card, which has become a valuable tool for organizations to get the word out to residents about the services they provide;

[Page 9301]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the HRM Council and staff on the green card initiative, recognizing that it may not solve all the complex issues around homelessness but it is one way of helping those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 5011

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 the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce recently announced its 2005 Business Excellence Awards; and

Whereas Breton Books was honoured with a Business Excellence Award, which is presented to companies which have shown outstanding achievement during the current business year; and

Whereas Ron Caplan has spent the past 30 years bringing to life stories and challenges that define both the history and culture of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge and congratulate Ron Caplan of Breton Books for his most recent award, and extend their best wishes for many more successful years of capturing the spirit and history of Cape Breton through the written word.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 9302]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 5012

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

Whereas this government routinely issues a news release praising itself and taking credit in any month when the unemployment rate goes down; and

Whereas this government never issues a news release taking responsibility when the unemployment rate goes up; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia unemployment rate in September leapt from 7.2 per cent to 8.4 per cent, and true to form the government made no statement, issued no news release, and took no responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that this House ask the Minister of Finance and the Premier to explain why, if they take the credit when the unemployment rate goes down, they never, ever, ever take responsibility when the unemployment rate goes up, as it did in September.

Mr. Speaker, this being such a worthwhile resolution, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

[Page 9303]

RESOLUTION NO. 5013

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

Whereas in a report dated November 14, 2003, the Auditor General noted, "I have expressed concerns about how the obligations and costs associated with retirement health benefits were not fully and adequately taken into account in the financial projections included in the budget support and the debt reduction plan."; and

Whereas these concerns were expressed directly to former Finance Minister Neil LeBlanc; and

Whereas these concerns have yet to be addressed by the former minister of this government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that while this government claims they have fully opened the books to greater scrutiny, former Minister of Finance Neil LeBlanc followed proper disclosure when he felt like it, not when he was obliged to do so.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

It is agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 5014

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

Whereas the Harbour View School Breakfast Program has celebrated its 10th year of providing breakfast to children before attending school; and

[Page 9304]

Whereas during the 10 years, more than 62,210 nutritional meals have been served; and

Whereas the breakfast program is a wonderful example of a community and volunteers coming together to take care of a need;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly acknowledge the tremendous contribution made by the parish of Holy Trinity Emmanuel Church toward the progress of the Harbour View School Breakfast 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 Halifax Clayton Park.

RESOLUTION NO. 5015

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

Whereas the Progress Centre for Early Intervention is a resource and support centre for families who have children with special needs in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas early intervention means helping families who have infants and young children, between birth and six years of age, with developmental delays and special needs; and

Whereas the progress centre offers a range of programs and options based on individual family needs, as well as the unique needs of each child;

[Page 9305]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature recognize the importance of the services and resources that the Progress Centre for Early Intervention provides to families of children with special needs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 5016

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

Whereas for the period of October 10 to 16, 2005, David Davenport, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles goaltender, was named Defensive Player of the Week; and

Whereas during that period, he won two games, compiled a 1.44 goals against average, and a save percentage of .944; and

Whereas David's performance was a major contribution in helping the Eagles extend their winning streak to five games;

Therefore be it resolved that the Members of the Legislative Assembly acknowledge the puck-stopping exploits of David Davenport and wish him continued success in the season ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9306]

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 5017

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

Whereas on Saturday, October 29, 2005, the Acadia Axemen defeated the St. Francis Xavier X-men, 47-13 in the final game of the regular season; and

Whereas by virtue of this win, Acadia finishes the season with a 5-3 record, with a points for and against advantage over St. F.X.; and

Whereas on November 12, 2005, the Acadia Axemen will have home-field advantage for the AUS football championship and will play the winner of this week's game between Saint Mary's and St. F.X.;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Acadia Axemen on their successful season to date, and wish them all the best in the championship final on November 12, 2005.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 9307]

RESOLUTION NO. 5018

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

Whereas Rosa Parks was an inspiration to the world for the strength of her character, her steadfast resolve and willingness to stand against oppression and discrimination, and for her actions 50 years ago on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, that began a social revolution for civil rights; and

Whereas racism still surfaces throughout the world and in Nova Scotia it is no exception, especially now as we focus on attracting new immigrants to our beautiful province and welcome the different cultures to enrich our communities; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas Ms. Parks remained a symbol of how a single person could make a difference in society by being an example of justice and humanity, of acceptance and harmony, and of peace and tolerance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature recognizes the significance of Ms. Parks' action and strive to eliminate racism and social prejudice from our daily lives as well as how we represent our Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

[Page 9308]

RESOLUTION NO. 5019

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

Whereas Jim Hampsey is considered one of the best all-round athletes in the Berwick area; and

Whereas Jim's achievements have promoted the growth of sports in his community; and

Whereas the Town of Berwick has honoured Jim Hampsey by inducting him into their Sports Hall of Fame;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge and congratulate Jim Hampsey for his exceptional abilities as an athlete and for his contributions to the community, sports and recreation.

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.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 203.

[Page 9309]

Bill No. 203 - Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for a third time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a bit of time to summarize the NDP caucus' concerns about the involuntary treatment bill and to speak to the fact that while we do not support this bill, even if it could have been amended, we thought it was important to attempt to do some amending to this bill. I want to talk about what those amendments were that we thought would have made this bill a better bill on the record. Mr. Speaker, as you know, amendments are not part of the public record.

This bill expends the powers of government agencies, agents, the psychiatric profession to intervene, detain, restrain and treat involuntarily people with mental health disorders. This bill introduces into our health care system a couple of new features. One being certificates of leave for people who have a mental health disorder who are involuntarily in a psychiatric facility. What this does is it now means involuntary patients can be discharged into the community and have their involuntary status maintained while they live in the community.

It also means that those who are no longer involuntary patients, indeed may never have been involuntary patients, can be discharged into the community under community treatment orders and essentially required to comply with certain conditions laid out in a community treatment order. Failure to comply with these conditions will mean that a police officer will be able to be sent to pick the person up and return them to a mental health facility against their will if that is the situation.

These are extraordinary powers and extraordinary measures for dealing with people with mental health disorders in many respects. It's not the approach that this caucus would prefer to be taken when dealing with people with mental health disorders.

We all recognize that not so long ago families and government, in dealing with people with mental health disorders, sometimes had their family member locked away. Psychiatric facilities in the Province of Nova Scotia had locked wards and locked wards in this province were common in the 1960s and into the 1970s. (Interruptions)

[Page 9310]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's quite a bit of noise in the Chamber. I would ask the honourable members to please take their conversations outside.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, during periods of locked wards many people received treatment that they needed, and good treatment. We also know that during those periods there were unspeakable treatments in locked facilities. It has been well documented - the kind of treatment that occurred where people received electric shock treatments, they received, in fact, surgical procedures that we commonly call lobotomies and the administering of very harsh medications, including chlorpromazine.

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Certainly.

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

MS. DIANA WHALEN: Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing the interruption. I would like to draw the members' attention to the Speaker's Gallery. We have a guest with us today whose name is Jim Hoskins. He is a retired HRM police officer, an active community member, and he is also the Liberal candidate in Halifax Atlantic. I hope that everybody will make our guest feel welcome today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our former police officer to the gallery today and hope he enjoys the proceedings. It's nice to see you, Jim.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it was probably back in the 1960s and 1970s, a period of human rights movements around the western world, that questions were raised around the treatment of people with mental health disorders on locked wards and in psychiatric facilities. Those questions, I think, led to the amendments that we saw in the Province of Nova Scotia in our Hospitals Act that defined the circumstances under which people could be involuntarily detained and treated in a psychiatric facility. Those measures tended to be with a test of whether or not someone with a mental health disorder was a danger to themselves or to someone else and, in addition, they lacked the capacity to determine their own treatment.

[Page 9311]

So it was I think probably in the mid-1970s, the late 1970s, when I worked at the Nova Scotia Hospital in the late 1970s, there were still at least two locked wards in that facility, but the locks were slowly coming off the doors. There were new approaches to dealing with people with mental health disorders - approaches that really rested on a belief that it was important to develop relationships with people with mental health disorders and to intervene in caring for and in treating people with mental health disorders in a way that gained their trust and their co-operation and their involvement in their own treatment because that seemed to be both what worked for people with mental health disorders and that's what we all wanted. We wanted a system that would work.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that there is a huge amount of stigma associated with having a mental health disorder. Some people have called this the last taboo. There is quite often a perception that has been perpetrated over many, many centuries really that having a mental health disorder equals being odd, or crazy, dangerous, difficult, unintelligent, and nothing could be further from the truth. These are gross generalizations. There may be some people who have a mental health disorder, a very small percentage who, in fact, do pose danger, but certainly there is no correlation between having a mental health disorder and being unintelligent, being difficult, odd or dangerous, or any of those terrible stigmas or stereotypes.

Certainly one of the things that was voiced at the Law Amendments Committee and is of concern with respect to this bill is that this bill in some ways feeds into the stigmatization, the stereotyping of people with mental health disorders, rather than bringing in a Mental Health Act that would provide some positive rights for people with mental health disorders, the right to timely treatment and care, the right to having services available to them in their communities, for example. This bill takes a much different and much more narrow approach, and it leaves the public with the impression that there are people with mental health disorders, or that population is a population who can only be treated in an involuntary way because they pose such difficulties.

I was concerned at the number of times throughout the Law Amendments Committee process that people with mental health disorders were spoken of as being noncompliant or lacking insight into their illness. While, Mr. Speaker, we know that that can be true, the same thing could be said about people with diabetes. I have heard many physicians talk about people with diabetes who don't follow their diets and they don't take their medications in the way that they have been prescribed. This can be said for people with heart disease, or even people with some forms of lifestyle, smoking, and what have you.

It's of great concern that we would take a particular group of patients or people with particular kinds of health care disorders and we would categorize them in a particular way and then set out a piece of legislation to intervene in their treatment in a particular way. This really does perpetuate this idea that people with mental health disorders are odd, difficult and possibly dangerous and require extraordinary measures.

[Page 9312]

Mr. Speaker, this is not to say that there aren't occasions when there needs to be involuntary treatment, but to make the totality of mental health legislation in this province be about involuntary treatment does an incredible disservice to the people who have mental health disorders. We need a system that will provide early intervention, because we have, first of all, a commitment to reducing wait times. We need a system that will provide a 24-hour province-wide crisis line that will be there for people who are contemplating suicide or who are in the throws of depression and need somebody to speak to. The inadequacies of a full package or program of mental health services across this province are pretty extreme, in many respects.

[3:00 p.m.]

If we think we have problems, and we often do think we have problems here in the metro area with respect to an adequate services for people with mental health disorders, when you get outside of this particular urban core, perhaps the only other place that has a system that comes anywhere close would be in the industrial Cape Breton area, but when you get into rural parts of this province, it is fairly bare bones in terms of the mental health services that exist for people. So this is a very serious concern that we have with this legislation. This legislation is going to result in more people with serious mental health disorders in our community, and no services for these people. We already have seen, as the result of the reduction in hospital beds, a loss of probably 500 or so - maybe more than 500 - 600, 700 hospital beds. We once had 900 psychiatric beds in the Province of Nova Scotia. This would be in the 1970s, around the time that the deinstitutionalization movement started to gain some momentum. Today we have slightly more than 200 beds. I think it's 203 or 205 beds, and that includes beds for children and youth. This is a significant reduction in beds.

I look at this Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Bill, and I see they have this preamble that, for example, sets out some of the core principles that we think should be part of our mental health system, and they look great. But the reality is there is no ability to implement them. I'll use one of the examples. One of the principles talks about the right to have treatment - no, the desire to have treatment close to home, that a person with a mental health disorder will get treatment close to home.

The reality is, when I talk to people who work in the mental health system in this particular DHA, the Capital DHA, that every week we have somebody from the Capital District Health Authority - every week - who has to be sent to another DHA for psychiatric treatment because there are no beds available in this area. This is a very serious problem. So we have some of these nice principles laid out in the preamble, the first clause of the bill, but in reality, without the services and the resources, people aren't going to be able to have these core values reflected in the way they're treated in this system.

[Page 9313]

Mr. Speaker, during the course of this bill, we had a debate in the NDP caucus about whether or not this bill was amendable. To be honest with you, we felt it was very difficult to amend this bill, because there were so many pieces of the bill that had problems. In the end, we recognized that with the support of the Liberal Party this bill was going to go forward, as flawed as it might be. We decided that it would be the responsible thing to do to attempt to bring forward some amendments to see if we could make some improvements in the bill, particularly in some priority areas.

I want to say what those priority areas are. We wanted to do something to require the government to have in place assertive community treatment in those areas where people were being released into the community with insufficient supports. Sadly, that was an amendment that was not accepted by either the government or by the Liberal Party, which would have, I think, strengthened the bill in terms of providing some protections for people, that the assertive community treatment that's required would be there.

Another amendment we attempted to get into this legislation, Mr. Speaker, was to really beef up the patient's rights advisor - not a patient's rights, they have what they call a patient advisor in the bill. We wanted to see that strengthened so that there would be somebody who would actually be an advocate for and with the person with the mental health disorder. We thought that that position should be arm's-length from government, that the patient would have access in a timely fashion to the support of that person, and that there would be an ability to really provide advice and provide some advocacy.

Since we've been in the House, Mr. Speaker, the review board under the current Hospitals Act has issued its annual report, and that report talked about the concerns that they have for people who are currently in the psychiatric or mental health system who are there in an involuntary way and the fact that they have no access - not no access, but access to legal aid representation for the review board is very inadequate, so we felt that having an advocacy role would improve the supports that people with mental health disorders would need. Sadly, we weren't able to get support from either the government Party or the Liberal Party to improve that particular feature of this bill.

There were a couple of other amendments that we attempted to make in the bill, Mr. Speaker. We actually wanted to have a definition of restraint. There is a clause in this bill that provides for the detention and the restraining of a voluntary patient who's at a facility. People have suggested in their written and verbal submissions, and I've heard other people speak on this, that not only is this quite an extraordinary power to provide to a medical practitioner - and it's any member of the treatment team, so it's not just a doctor or psychiatrist - to actually detain and restrain somebody who's in a hospital, let's say, on a voluntary basis, but that it may open up the potential for some liability.

[Page 9314]

So we thought it would be really important to at least define what restraint meant, in a way that would indicate that the least amount of intervention - physical, chemical - would be what would be required. This is an amendment that we thought would actually offer some protection to people who are working in the system, as well as the person with the mental health disorder, but sadly that particular amendment was rejected as well by the government and by the Liberal Party.

We also attempted to improve the balance between the rights of the patient and, I suppose, the system itself, by allowing for a second opinion, to have in the legislation the capacity for a patient to ask for and obtain a second medical opinion, and this was rejected by both the Liberal Party and the government. In addition, we wanted to require that there be a second medical opinion given when a person was being admitted to a facility on an involuntary basis, and this as well was rejected by both the Liberal Party and the government Party.

So it was clear, I think, through the amendments process that the government and the Third Party had decided that this bill would pass as it is without amendments, and that whatever support the Liberals had provided to the government to pass this legislation was not dependent on making any improvements in the bill or guaranteeing that this bill be balanced in a way that would guarantee that the concerns that we heard in front of people at the Law Amendments Committee, including people who supported the bill.

There was one psychiatrist whose presentation comes to mind who came from the Abbie J. Lane, who, while speaking in support of the bill, had some major concerns about certain aspects of the bill. I think that it's a great disappointment that at least the members of the Third Party wouldn't have taken into consideration the concerns he raised. I know this gentleman, in the course of the past year or so I've spoken with him on a number of occasions about the concerns he had around the bill. He is a person of great integrity and high ethics. He felt compelled to come and put on the record to us the major concerns that he had. Even though he supported the general thrust of the bill, there were some very troubling pieces of this bill.

Essentially, one of the things he was most concerned about was the fact that this bill now, rather than treats involuntary admission and the ability to detain someone separate from their capacity to decide whether or not they would have treatment, which is the situation in the current Hospitals Act, they now have this sort of more conflated into one thing.

His feeling was that the result of this would be that there would be people who in fact could be dangerous to themselves or to someone else, who would be very capable of making a decision around their treatment, and he would be left with no option in terms of holding someone who's dangerous to themselves or someone else. His presentation was troubling, to say the least, in that regard.

[Page 9315]

Mr. Speaker, without access to the services that people require, without access to decent housing, without access to even basic information about the kinds of programs that are out there, like the Early Psychosis Program, without access to legal representation in front of the review board, without a 24-hour crisis phone line, without assertive community treatment, without a commitment and a plan from this government to reduce wait times and put in place the necessary health human resources that are required, this bill will not live up to the hopes of the family members who are desperate for treatment for their loved ones, and it also will not live up to the expectations of the public that people with mental health disorders not be abandoned in the community - panhandling on street corners and running out in the middle of traffic.

[3:15 p.m.]

This bill will not do one thing to change that. In fact, this bill may very well contribute to the problems, the very problems that the government and the Minister of Health have claimed will be solved. What we will do, in this caucus, is we will watch very closely to see how this bill is implemented, to see what resources and services are created to support it - not only here in the HRM, but around the province - we will be very vigilant about the resources that government are going to commit to this bill. The Minister of Health may not have wanted to talk about that - services or resources - and he may not have wanted services and resources linked to this bill. Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, he's not going to have any choice in this matter. The choice is ours and we are going to watch the resources and the services that are required to make this bill do what the government says it's designed to do, and get the early intervention that people need and to see that people aren't abandoned in the community and to ensure that more psychiatric beds aren't closed with nothing put in place for people who require the services and the treatment that they need.

Mr. Speaker, that's the commitment that this caucus will make, not only to the members of this Legislature, but to the people of the communities we represent, to the people of the province, to the families who have people with mental health disorders, and to the health care professionals, who are very, very concerned about the lack of resources in services to support many of the initiatives that this government brings forward.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know about you, but I intend to watch very closely. There are DHAs in this province who are planning on opening housing for mental health patients, which is great. We know that people with mental health disorders absolutely need decent, supportive places to live, but why is it that DHAs are opening housing? Where's the Department of Community Services? Our health dollars - do we have to use health care dollars to establish housing? Why are we doing that? There are lots of questions to be asked about how we're actually going to implement this bill. That's the position of our caucus. Those are the concerns that we have, and we will watch very closely what this government does with this legislation. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 9316]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, a few brief comments on third reading of Bill No. 203, the Involuntary Psychiatric Treatment Act. It's been said that it never hurts to do the right thing for the right reasons, and this bill is exactly a case in point of that statement.

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that this bill will save lives. Keep in mind the bill needs the support of services, but the bill is a step forward. In fact, I firmly believe that it starts a process that will modernize our mental health care system. And those who are opposed to the bill, have said that resources are needed. We agree, but as one presenter before the Law Amendments Committee said, it's time to stop placing the blame and passing the buck and making excuses. That particular presenter had a brother with severe mental illness, and those are the people that we have to help. Those are the people that this bill will help. What makes the bill so important is that there is treatment available, but how long must a person's condition deteriorate before help can be provided?

Mr. Speaker, what was noticed perhaps most of all throughout the debate, is that people, on behalf of the members of their family who are ill, and friends have been driven out of love for their family and friends to speak out. Not driven by embarrassment or that they just want the problem to go away. They spoke from their heart. They spoke out because they need support, not because they want someone else to take care of their problems, not because they want to make their problems go away, but because they want to protect and help their loved ones.

Today this bill will provide a much-needed option to professionals and most importantly, support to those families of those most seriously ill. It's designed to help those who are unable to make a treatment decisions because of a mental illness, get the treatment that they need when they need it.

This piece of legislation has seen its challenges, both on this floor and outside of these walls. One would think from the previous speaker that the only good piece of legislation that comes through this Legislature would have to contain amendments from the NDP. That's not the case, we have made amendments, the government has accepted our amendments, a major one being that after five years, this entire piece of legislation will be reviewed independently and then the findings of that review - it will be in the sixth year actually - will be presented to this Legislature. This Legislature will have a chance to go over this piece of legislation again at that time.

[Page 9317]

The current legislation is close to 30 years old and it doesn't always serve those with serious mental illness as well as it should. It is our view that this bill provides the ability of specialists to provide both services and care to those most in need sooner, before patients hurt themselves or commit a criminal act. In our view this legislation parallels current clinical treatment models by allowing for earlier intervention and treatment.

This bill will assist professionals in clarifying the grounds for examination. It increases the obligation of medical staff, with respect to timelines for assessment, it better clarifies the issue of consent, it outlines the identification and role of substitute decision makers.

We have heard from groups and individuals that the proposed legislation will further limit the freedom of those individuals and these are concerns that we and the government have taken very seriously. There are occasions, however, when an individual's illness compromises his or her ability to make sound judgment so that their own life or that of another may be at risk. These are the people and the families who will benefit from this Act. These are the people we would like to see protected under this Act. These are the individuals who many of the stakeholders around our caucus table spoke passionately about when we discussed those issues this past January. Perhaps the only issue which found universal agreement when myself, as Health Critic, met with the stakeholders, was that of resources; that was a universal agreement there was more needed.

According to the bill, provisions for community treatment orders specify that services must exist in the community available to the person and will be provided to the person that are key to this legislation. Since one can assume that those services would be available to all and not just those on community treatment orders, this legislation should result in an improvement in mental health services overall, and this is where we intend to keep the government accountable. This bill brings this province up to date with changes made in Acts across the country and it reflects not only the times that we live in, but the current model of clinical practice that is used today.

The mandatory external, independent review of the entire bill, which as I mentioned was recommended by our caucus as an amendment, provides the added measure that will evaluate the outcome of this legislation.

In closing, we, in the Liberal caucus, hope that this bill will mark a new day for mental health care in this province. Indeed no bill can solve all of the problems, no bill is a perfect piece of legislation, there has to be more resources dedicated to care. But in the end, we support this bill fully. Thank you.

[Page 9318]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to repeat many of the points that have been made on this because some very strong arguments have been made on both sides although, I think, as has been noted, particularly by the Minister of Health and other speakers, this legislation is extremely outdated. The reason why I have chosen to speak on this piece of legislation at this point is to put a human face on it without compromising the integrity and the security of the individual.

I've had occasion over a number of years, in fact since 1988 when I first came to this Legislature, to deal with issues regarding mental health for constituents of mine and others. There was one common theme that came out loud and clear - that was the people I dealt with complained that the Mental Health Act was obsolete, outdated and it did not fit the needs of the patient and the families affected.

I point out an example where a gentleman was committed to a mental institution after more than 50 years of marriage, suffering from a bipolar disease. Because he frequently did not take his medication and did not follow the prescribed orders of the mental health authorities, nearly compromised the life of his spouse after 50-some years of marriage. Despite the numerous attempts by his wife to have something done, because he was a voluntary patient into the system, because the mental health authorities felt that his condition was controllable, he was allowed to continue for years until the woman he married and loved so much was nearly a victim at his own hand with a knife.

I point out the example of a young truck driver who was a voluntary patient because of bipolar. The mental health authorities, although he was committed and released, committed and released, committed and released through the appeal process - whether that is a question of the fact the review board was too soft, too sympathetic, too accommodating to the individual rights and freedoms of the individual, I don't know.

I am not an expert, but I do know one thing - these families are just two examples and I could go on - have cried out for years for changes to the Mental Health Act of Nova Scotia. I'm pleased to see the review process in there. I'm pleased to see the voluntary process is being addressed in a manner that compels the government, the Department of Health, the medical profession and those experts, to deal with those inequities in the process.

Under the present legislation, there is a provision. There is an opportunity for two medical experts to assess an individual and commit that individual to stay in a mental institution even though that individual may have voluntarily subscribed himself to that facility. So there are provisions.

[Page 9319]

I believe from what I've been hearing - I know the member for Halifax Needham has made some very eloquent and compelling arguments because she has considerable background in that, but that's not what I'm hearing from the people I represent and others I have dealt with in this Legislature and at the ground level since 1988. I'm sure that with all the great wisdom and authority that exists within the medical community, the psychiatric community, the Department of Health, other provincial jurisdictions, the federal jurisdictions - my heavens, they must know what they're doing.

Why not give it an opportunity to work? The present system, the present legislation is not working. We know the bill will set out the principle and the objectives of what the government wants to achieve for the best interests for these patients and their families. The regulations will be the key. Certainly the respective critics will have an opportunity, I'm sure, to continue to put forth their concerns and make sure they're realized in a practical manner.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this legislation is a necessity. It's a necessity because that's all the information that I've received, compelling as some of the arguments may have been to the contrary. The member for Halifax Needham indicated that there would be more people in the community in need of these mental health services under the new Act than under the present legislation. Well, I haven't seen any indication to suggest that. She may be right, but she has not made her argument, in my view. While I respect her opinion, I would submit that perhaps at the regulatory process would be an opportunity to make sure that those concerns are brought into realization. Thank you.

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

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all honourable members for their participation in this debate. I think it's appropriate to say that it has been a long debate. In particular, I want to express my appreciation to all members of the Law Amendments Committee who exercised tremendous patience while they listened to all of the submissions that were made with respect to this legislation. I do know that they heard some very, very difficult evidence with respect to situations of untreated mental illness, and their response to that is very much appreciated, and the people who had an opportunity to present to the Law Amendments Committee were very appreciative of that opportunity as well.

I'm not going to give a long speech this afternoon in concluding this debate; however, I do want to remind members of the House that with respect to the issue of resources, relative to legislation on mental health, we have in fact increased resources to mental health as a government. My predecessor, who is now the Minister of Education, added an additional $2 million with respect to mental health, and in last year's budget we added another $2 million

[Page 9320]

to that with a commitment, in next year's budget, of an additional $2 million. One of the things about expenditures in mental health, Mr. Speaker, is that none of that has to go to equipment, none of it has to go to resources other than the resources of the human personnel being able to treat the illnesses.

One of the other things I believe we will accomplish with respect to this legislation is that there will, in fact, be far fewer individuals in our communities who will be going untreated as a result of the incorporation of this legislation. If we have fewer people being untreated, then, Mr. Speaker, there will be a consequent ease on the demands of our resources with respect to the treatment of individuals. So if we can reach out and treat more people who, up to this point in time, had not been taking the treatment in a manner prescribed by their doctors, then we will have more people who will be living their lives much closer to normal; therefore, they will require fewer incidences of the intervention of the health care system with respect to their continued care.

Reference has been made to the fact that the legislation will be reviewed in its entirety in six years. The great benefit of that review, of course, is the fact that we will no longer be in a position that we're in today, which is bringing forward legislation that's designed to correct legislation that's over 30 years of age. So there will be a process in place whereby the legislation will be updated and looked at.

Of course, we agreed to a change in the name of the legislation; there was some reference made to the emphasis and what that signifies, but really, what's happening here, and I think it was presented very well by one of the presenters who made reference to the disease of diabetes, that if the individual happened to wind up in a diabetic coma, she hoped somebody would intervene and deal with her condition while in that diabetic coma.

Well, Mr. Speaker, patients who do not take the required medication, with respect to mental illness, very often wind up in their own sort of coma and are unable to make the rational decisions that are required in order to have appropriate treatment of their illness. What we are doing with this legislation is allowing, in the same way that we allow the medical community to intervene with people who are in comas, the medical community to intervene in order to allow those people and give these people the appropriate medical attention they need so that they can carry on much quicker with normal lives, and as long as they are in a position of living normal lives then we will have done a great deal to reduce the stigma that is associated with mental illness.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all honourable members of the House for their patience with respect to this legislation. I look forward to its implementation and I look forward to very positive results as a consequence of that implementation.

[Page 9321]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 203. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 222.

Bill No. 222 - Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, it seems like a long time ago that we last talked about this, but let's go at it again. The Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery Act is what we're talking about and it's legislation that will enable us to take big tobacco companies on in a legal challenge. As we stated, it's British Columbia that started the whole process to be able to take action against tobacco companies for any tobacco-related illnesses. It's a subject that I think most people these days would agree with, the fact that this is something that should be done. At least most people these days are starting to take a serious look at just what happens, not only with second-hand smoke, but smoking in general.

Mr. Speaker, I have over the years had lots of experience, unfortunately, with smoking myself, but then through illness I had to quit smoking. It's one of the best things that I have ever done. One of the worst things I ever did was start, I guess, but it was proven to me that you shouldn't do it. There's nothing like first-hand experience, but back in those days, you know, when I was in that age group, 14, 15, 16, it was very prevalent - the fact that a lot of people smoked and everybody started smoking. That was the in thing, you know, all of the advertising was there and think how much we've changed just in advertising alone these days, not that it doesn't exist, there's still a problem with point-of-sale advertising in terms of tobacco, but at least nowadays we don't have it flashed across TV screens and everywhere else that tobacco is this very attractive thing, smoking is a very attractive thing to do, and everybody who was anybody used to have a cigarette lit and smoking it, and of course we all know the tragic results that that led to and the high numbers of statistics that have led to cancer-related deaths over the years.

[Page 9322]

Mr. Speaker, I guess it's incumbent upon all of us at this point in time to say where exactly we are headed with this. We know and we hope that we're headed towards a smoke-free society. Should we win a battle like this, it's going to take some time, that's for sure. We know that once the legal community becomes involved, it will be a lengthy process for the Province of Nova Scotia to join in this lawsuit and to take the tobacco companies to court.

Mr. Speaker, we do know that time is catching up with us. It won't be long - if we say a long time for this legislation to take place, we do know that throughout the time leading to that, whether it be seven, eight, 10, 20 years, whatever the case may be, it doesn't seem, in some cases anyway, to be getting any better. One of the alarming statistics that's actually out there is that the number of young people who are starting to smoke is actually on the rise a little bit, not on the decline. That's probably one of the most worrisome statistics that you can come across.

Generally, across the board, there are fewer smokers in this province, which is great. What's alarming is that about 33 per cent of the people between the ages of 20 and 24 are smoking. That's an alarming percentage. It makes you wonder, what exactly we're doing in terms of education at a very young age. Now we know, and I know personally, anyone who has experience with their own children that it's one of the first things - if you're a smoking parent - your children bring to your attention, why do you do that, why are you doing that, why are doing it in our home or in our car, whatever the case may be when I can breathe that second-hand smoke in? That will come from children at a very young age, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you. They know in part that the education is out there.

What happens is that as they get a little bit older and they face such things as point-of-sale advertising pressure or the peer pressure itself from their peers, they'll come to a point where they have to make that decision themselves. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, some of the decisions are not always right for our youth. They make that decision to start smoking, before you know it they're hooked on cigarettes, and you have an entirely different challenge on your hands.

Mr. Speaker, the devastating effects of tobacco-related illnesses and the cost of all those illnesses to our health care system - we can read as many statistics as you want and tell you, but I think that until it actually hits home or you know someone - I had the unfortunate news today, hearing that a very close friend of mine in Glace Bay had just passed away, only about a year after his retirement, less than a year after his retirement. He was a heavy smoker, a very heavy smoker, and there's no doubt in my mind that that attributed to an early death on his part. If we can, in any way, shape or form, help to prevent tragedies like that - this was a well-known person in the community, who was probably a friend to everybody. I've never met anybody who didn't like him. He'll be sadly missed. It's tough to even think that he's not going to be around any longer.

[Page 9323]

We know that when you're talking about the rate of cancer among men, lung cancer in particular, it's not as high, I think that's what the statistic said among women, but we do know that, for instance - I had the statistics here, Mr. Speaker - that lung cancer was the leading type of cancer-related death, accounting for 33 per cent of cancer deaths in males, 23 per cent of cancer deaths in females, and both cancer incidences and mortality rates were consistently higher for males over the past 28 years, and a pattern that's driven by lung cancer.

We know what's out there. We know what we have to do. It would be very easy, and probably one of the best things I've ever heard that was put to me by a constituent of mine, who said, well, if you're so serious about stopping smoking, why don't you ban tobacco? Why don't you just outright ban tobacco in the province and stop people from smoking? It would lead to people's health becoming better. Of course the answer is always - not openly public but the answer is - somewhat softly spoken, well, what would we do with all the money that you raise from taxes in this province?

[3:45 p.m.]

It's approximately $177 million that we get from tax revenues based on smoking, Mr. Speaker, in this province. I don't know, I would suggest if you took that $177 million and matched it up against how much money we spend on health care in this province, to treat smoking-related illnesses, then I think it would far outweigh at least and the end result would be that you would have more people living in this province - would be number one, of course, if they were not smoking - but it would far outweigh the fact that you would lose that tax revenue. Another point that I brought up when I last spoke on this subject was that based on that same figure, $177 million from tax revenues - when you talked about prevention and health promotion in this province - there's only about $4 million that is spent on health promotion and prevention of tobacco-related illnesses. That's a vast difference that you are talking about in that amount of money. It leaves you with the reality, I think, that we have to do more in Nova Scotia if we want to seriously tackle this problem of smoking.

This leads to why this bill is a good idea - the fact that Bill No. 222, the Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery Act - at the rate that we're going, Mr. Speaker, we all know this because this is related to health care and it gathers a lot of headlines in the news these days - that at the rate that we're going, if we don't smarten up pretty soon, all of our provincial budget is going to be eaten up by the Health budget, or as one person said to me, pretty soon there will be a Minister of Health in government and then there will be a Minister of What's Left Over. We know where that's headed and we have to do something about it. Well naturally, taking on legislation such as the Smoke-free Places Act and so on, establishing legislation such as that will, undoubtedly, and perhaps in the long term, help us in our fight to take on the fact that our health care budget is eating up our provincial budget overall. We know that we have to do something with that in the very near future, because when you start talking about dates like 2025, or 2050, or sooner, it doesn't sound like it's that

[Page 9324]

far down the road, especially when some of us are getting up in age, so we won't be around to deal with this. We have to leave these problems, unfortunately, to younger generations. That's what's happening. It may not seem like a big deal for some of us, but we're leaving our problems to future generations and the human factor in all of this, is how many lives do we have to lose in this province? How many people have to die from tobacco-related illnesses before we finally wake up and say that we have to do something about this and the devastating effects that it has on us as individuals and our families and friends.

I am a reformed smoker and I will never smoke again, I can make that assertion, that assumption and that statement here on this floor, Mr. Speaker, with absolute certainty that I will never, ever, do that sort of thing again. It's something that you have to get used to. It's the same as when we put regulations in here, if we put regulations in to ban smoking in certain places - not to smoke in restaurants and bars and so on. We've heard all the arguments for and against, but I have yet to run into a bar owner or restaurant owner in this province, or at least where I come from, who came to me and said that their business has actually suffered because you can no longer smoke there. In fact, it has been the exact opposite. They said their business has increased, because now they have more people coming in who weren't coming in before because they didn't enjoy the atmosphere. They didn't like the fact that they were inhaling second-hand smoke and they now go to those establishments because they like to have dinner, or whatever the case may be, in a fresh clean air sort of environment. People will get used to the new regulations. Who would have thought 20 years ago that the vast majority of people would want smoke-free places? Who would have thought that would have been possible in Nova Scotia or anywhere in this country, as a matter of fact? We always look to government to show leadership. That's why government is there. Government - the Executive Committee, the Cabinet - shows leadership on many issues.

In this case, they've lagged a bit. It could have been some time before that, indeed, we could have brought this legislation forward and jumped on the wagon train of British Columbia, but we were a little Johnny-come-lately on this one. Again, time is a factor because we don't know how long this is actually going to take to go through the courts and so on and how long we actually will have before we see any dividends that will result because of this legislation.

Should we win when the time comes, we would also have to make the decision of where that money's going to go. If that money should be placed in - perhaps the Finance Minister would know better the exact terms - but I think there's a general revenue fund the province has that can be used for any purpose at any time by the government. That's not a negative comment, I'm just saying that actually exists and if you were to receive a windfall from this legislation if let's say they decided to settle out of court, I guess that is possible. It may take years but if tobacco companies decided all of a sudden to settle out of court and they said, here's your chunk of money, let's settle it now, we're going to give the government this amount of money.

[Page 9325]

I'll be optimistic and say it's in the hundreds of millions of dollars. It would be a sweet windfall that the Government of Nova Scotia would come across. What's to be done with the money at that point in time would be another decision the government would certainly celebrate - that they had the money, but then to actually say, what are we going to do with the money from this? Should it be used only and exclusively for tobacco-related causes? Should it go towards treatment of tobacco-related illnesses only? Should it be used to perhaps put more money into the education of our children in the fight against smoking? Where would the government put the money at that point in time?

I'm receiving messages from the government benches, but they're not getting through to me clearly. (Interruptions) Right, if the government has plans to take all of the money that would come from this and just put it into roads, I would think the government would sit back and think a little harder before they reached that decision, I'm sure. There's a lot of other places they would like to put it, but my particular preference would be health care. I would think the money came from the illnesses of Nova Scotians, so I would think it would go towards treating the illnesses associated with tobacco smoking and preventing people from ever smoking in the first place. In particular, it would be, I would hope, aimed towards more prevention and health promotion from stopping our children.

There's nothing - I know I've had it said to me in a joking manner, that there's nothing worse than a reformed smoker. Nothing worse, because they like to stand up and they like to preach about all of the wrongs that they did and they got it over with and now they've found themselves and they no longer smoke.

I guess to some extent that's maybe what it sounds like in my case, but it also means that you've learned from your mistakes. There's no more valuable experience than learning from a mistake that you've made. If you've made a monumental mistake in your life - in this case if you happened to start smoking and you've learned from that mistake, albeit whether it be through an illness or however you've learned from that mistake, you still learned that it was never the proper thing to do.

It's never too late to do something right. I've made reference to that before in regard to other legislation. Again, although as I mentioned, the government may have been a little bit late in this particular measure of jumping onboard and coming onboard. It would never be too late for the government to support this legislation and say, here it is, we're going ahead with it as they had. As we're saying, we're in favour of this particular bill. It makes sense that we would take on the tobacco companies.

Mr. Speaker, we've all seen the ads. This is the ironic thing, that in the past several decades, the ads that you see on television, the ads that you hear on radio, the ads that you see in the newspapers and so on - of course a lot of it had to do with legislation that came from the federal government, banning a lot of ads or all of the ads on TV and in papers and

[Page 9326]

so on. The fact that we've learned from that, the advertising has taken a turn, so to speak, and is now advocating and getting the message across that smoking is not good for you.

There are national campaigns and many of them that are out there try to push home the message to us and to our children that smoking is not good. Second-hand smoke is not good. We've all heard of the court case of that individual who suffered from a tobacco-related illness, who had never smoked.

I know people who work in the bar and the restaurant industry, who are non-smokers, who think that they are, although they hope they never will be, quite susceptible. They know they're quite susceptible to tobacco-related illnesses, because they work or did work anyway, in a smoke-filled environment. Depending on how long you worked at that particular establishment, then your risk went up. Depending on exactly how long you worked there and what environment you worked in.

Now what happened, and again to make in relation to this bill (Interruption) Well, no, there has never been a short story involving tobacco, that's for sure, because it has been something that has been with us for a very long time, we all know that. To make the relation between the Smoke-free Places Act and this legislation, Mr. Speaker, you saw what happened with the Smoke-free Places Act. What's happening now is that it won't come into effect until December 1st of next year. As I said, between now and December 1st of next year, how long have we given for more people to be affected by tobacco, by second-hand smoke? Why is it taking that long? Why has the government stalled that long, for it to get to that point? Indeed, what the government let people go through, in this case, regarding the Smoke-free Places Act anyway, was they told the restaurant owners and the bar establishments and so on, build your smoking places and put people who smoke in there and spend money on building those facilities.

In some cases, Mr. Speaker, or at least I've heard, although I don't have any true statistics on it, but I have heard on the street, that indeed those smoking places were actually built by the tobacco companies and paid for by the tobacco companies. Something that I don't find too hard to believe, that a tobacco company would support an establishment building a place where people can go in and smoke cigarettes. I find that quite possible that indeed tobacco companies would support those initiatives. Then when the government said that's okay, now they've decided to say, well, we are going to go ahead with the Smoke-free Places Act and make it 100 per cent, but not until a year from now. If there were any expenses that were incurred by the establishment or business owners, they're going to have to go through it again a year down the road. But again, that doesn't certainly outweigh the fact that they would have people who would have been working in those environments who are susceptible.

[Page 9327]

Mr. Speaker, to get back to the point of advertising. What the tobacco companies will do - the issue that is there with the point of sale advertising is usually when you walk into a corner store or establishment like that, you'll see pretty elaborate displays. The first thing you see when you go to a clerk in a corner store is the tobacco display, behind the clerk, and that's what is referred to as point of sale advertising, which has become more elaborate.

It's one of the few remaining places that the tobacco company actually has to advertise and to reach out to consumers, in this case. Unfortunately, it also reaches out to younger consumers, because of course we know that corner stores are frequented by children. If you have a tobacco display and the cigarettes are on the back wall and every cigarette that you have is on display and it's all lit up and so on, and right next to it on the counter you have the candy display, you have things that children are interested in and, of course, our children are walking in and the first thing they're seeing is a very elaborate tobacco display. They're there to purchase candy, or whatever the case may be, and they see people buying cigarettes freely and so on. Of course, their first instance is to say what's associated with that and take it from there, it can go either way, I guess.

[4:00 p.m.]

We have to do more in terms of what we're telling our children, in terms of how we're educating our children on the whole issue of tobacco-related illness. As I said, Mr. Speaker, we know that the statistics are good overall, but when you delve into them deeper, the alarming statistics are at the younger age, that's where there's an increase as well, in the number of young girls in this province who are beginning to smoke.

Mr. Speaker, I was handed some statistics, that last year the government actually collected about $178 million in tobacco taxes. So I was off a bit, I was off by about $1 million, I guess, in my estimates of the tax revenues that came from tobacco taxes that are there. It's a huge amount of money. It's an amount of money, there are items in the tobacco-control strategy, I guess, that this government hasn't even touched.

You can see, Mr. Speaker, that this is an issue that we are concerned about. I've made a number of points so far, one being that we are supporting this legislation. It should be done. It should have been done some time ago, we know that. We're left wondering why it took the government so long to, as I said, jump on the bandwagon and join British Columbia that started the whole process to take on the tobacco companies over tobacco-related illnesses.

Why did it take this government so long to get there? They are there now. We're wondering what would happen, left wondering, and we would like to hear from the government as to exactly what they would do should this come about that a settlement is reached, whether it be at the end of the entire process, the judicial process, or whether it be in the middle of the judicial process, whatever the case may be, what they would do with any

[Page 9328]

monies that would come forward from the tobacco companies, and exactly where that would go.

We're extremely worried, Mr. Speaker, about the human factor in all of this, because nothing matters more than that. How many lives are going to be lost because the government has wasted time and has lagged behind on this and the Smoke-free Places Act as well, over that amount of time. How many lives are going to be actually lost in this province because of that? If the government continues to drag its feet on issues such as this, what we're left with is an extremely unhealthy population that is costing this province more and more on a daily basis in terms of health care.

Mr. Speaker, we all know, and we've heard it talked about in the past but, you know, there are some doctors who almost under their breath say some day, you know, we won't treat people who are smoking. If it ever came to that, what would happen if a doctor refused, saying because you're smoking, because you have spent years inhaling cigarettes and you've given yourself that disease, or whatever the case may be, let's use lung cancer as an example, we're not going to treat you because of that.

All of it is preventable if we spend more time and attention on the prevention aspect of it and preventing people from starting to smoke. Education is the key, it has to be the key, as I've mentioned, if we're going to achieve anything in terms of where we should go with a tobacco-free province.

I don't know, Mr. Speaker, if there is anyone who realistically could say that they would not like to see this province as a smoke-free province. I know you would have your opponents, your detractors who say as an individual they have the right to smoke. I guess - we're not arguing that right now - you have that right as an individual. If you want to do whatever you want to do with yourself in terms of smoking a cigarette, do you have that right?

But there are those who are out there right now, in the medical community and elsewhere, who are saying if you're going to do that to yourself, why should we treat you? As a medical person, why should we take health care dollars and treat you? That's not the argument I'm making, it's just a point that I brought up in light of this legislation.

The point is, I guess, that the devastating effects of tobacco-related illnesses are well known; indeed they have been known for some time, so there has been some time already wasted on this and that time no doubt, unfortunately, is going to mean that people become ill and, in this case, because it involves a serious illness such as lung cancer - whatever the case may be - people are going to die while we are here talking about such things as joining British Columbia in their effort to sue the tobacco companies.

[Page 9329]

I guess you can blame the tobacco companies - they manufacture tobacco, they sell tobacco and of course they bear the responsibility if they sell something harmful, if they sell something they know, and the warnings are there, can hurt you, that it can cause death, it can cause a number of illnesses, and has been known for some time that is the case, then why should we continue to allow that to happen?

It would be a responsible thing to do to tell Nova Scotians exactly what has happened in the past and what's going to happen in the future in terms of what we do with our tobacco taxes that we get, what we're going to do in the future. I think I can say on behalf of our caucus and on behalf of a lot of Nova Scotians that we're pleased to see the Supreme Court of Canada ruled the legislation was constitutional, that it was valid - British Columbia did have the right as a province to be able to bring the tobacco companies to court, to argue the costs that tobacco-related illnesses have had to the provincial Treasury. At the same time they argued the devastating effects that tobacco has had on people's health, their families, the communities and on the province as a whole.

In the Spring we knew this legislation had gone before the Supreme Court, and at that point we encouraged the government to bring forward legislation in the Spring sitting, but the government at the time said they were waiting for the Supreme Court of Canada decision. It was our belief at that time, why wait? How much does it cost this province to put legislation together? We do have some very competent, qualified people who work at the Legislative Counsel Office, in the different government departments, and they could have put that legislation together then. They could have proceeded with that legislation. We could have introduced it, passed it and then we could have waited for the Supreme Court decision at that point in time, instead of hanging on to the coattails of British Columbia and waiting for them to do that. We could have done all of that and been ready to say, when the Supreme Court decision came down, we're ready as a province, we've done our homework and let's go for it. We would have at least been one step ahead.

Anyway, that's in the past. We're here today and we're thankful for that. Now we've given ourselves the ability as a province to be able to take big tobacco companies to court and to be able to seek damages from them for the costs to our health care system, that's our primary case. It will also give us an opportunity to be able to highlight in a very public way to these tobacco companies the exact damage and the impact that it has had on people's lives and their families and our communities. I think it was mentioned on second reading that we shouldn't think for one moment that this is an action that's going to start tomorrow, going to start next week, next month or maybe even next year. I've mentioned it several times, Mr. Speaker. It my take quite some time before such a case can be brought forward.

We need to have a clear indication from the ministers, in particular the Minister of Justice - and I'm sure his officials will probably lead the charge - the Minister of Finance, who is going to be called upon to be able to provide concrete information as to how much treating tobacco-related illnesses has cost this province, the Minister of Health, who I'm sure

[Page 9330]

is going to be asked, through his department, to provide that kind of information, so we can put our case together. Let's make a good case when we go before the Supreme Court of Canada. It's not just a matter of being able to walk into court and say, okay, we think it costs us, I don't know, maybe $300 million over the years, and we want you to pay us that money back. The courts are going to want specific figures and that's going to be a challenge. We know that.

Mr. Speaker, let's not kid ourselves. I think if anyone were to ask the Minister of Finance today to give us a definite figure on what it costs to treat tobacco-related illnesses in this province, that's a pretty difficult question to ask and I think even more importantly, for him, it would be a difficult question to answer. Even the Minister of Health, I'm sure, would be hard pressed, if he were asked, to give us an exact figure of what it costs us, because it's not just treating cancer. It's doctors' visits, it's the specialists' visits, it's hospital time, all of those costs, the drugs, all of the equipment that's required, it's all going to have to be factored in when we finally present our case to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance may wish to correct me, but I would presume that our request would not be in the millions. I think our request may actually be in the billions of dollars. Over the years, I've no doubt that it's closer to that range, the cost it has been to our province, if we think about it, very easily could get into the billions. (Interruptions)

Well, the member for Dartmouth North says $11.5 billion. That sounds like a good figure to start with for me and we'll take it from there. I would have thought billions, I would have thought $10-plus billion, at least, would be a starting point. Don't think, Mr. Speaker, for a minute that the tobacco companies don't have it. They have that money. If it has taken a toll in lives and people's families in this province, then we deserve it. We should be given it.

Mr. Speaker, it's important and we should realize by this time, with the education that has come around this issue, it's not only those who smoke who suffer tobacco-related illnesses, but also those who are subjected to second-hand smoke, families and wives and husbands and children, who don't smoke themselves. They've all suffered these illnesses. They all require medical treatment. It's going to be a major case for this province. It's going to take some time. There's a great deal of work that has to be done.

Mr. Speaker, at the same time, this is a bill that provides an opportunity for the government and for us as Opposition to attack the tobacco companies and portray them in a negative light because of the illnesses and the disease that is caused by their product. We also have to keep in mind, that the Minister of Finance, at the same time, while saying we want people to stop smoking, also has to collect taxes every year that are coming in from Nova Scotians who continue to buy tobacco products, and it's a significant figure as I've

[Page 9331]

mentioned in the past. I'll repeat, though, that it raises the question of how much of that money is going into prevention programs.

So, if we bring in let's say, $100 million, and we spend $4 million to convince and encourage people not to smoke, I would like to say it's working but I think that most Nova Scotians and most members here in the House - if you drive by your local school, you drive by areas where your local young people gather - you would still be alarmed at the number of our youth in this province who continue to take up the habit of smoking. That's regardless, as I said, of all of the advertising that has been done, the education campaigns, the costs to our health care system, the pictures on the tobacco products themselves. They're quite disturbing. They continue to smoke.

Mr. Speaker, when I first saw a package of cigarettes that contained those advertisements that had that set of lungs, the ugly, black set of lungs that were tarred from smoking and all that, I thought if anybody at a youthful age would ever see that on a cigarette package that would be enough to stop them from smoking right there. It's not. Most young people tend to ignore those sort of messages, not even look at them, whatever the case may be. Although, we know in this province that it's against the law to sell tobacco to minors, it's still being done, it's still done. We all know that. There are people in this province who break the law, so we know that will be a factor as well.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, until we're prepared to take some of the tax revenue that's coming in from the sale of tobacco products and send a clear signal that we're going to invest that in smoking cessation programs, until that, there is quite, I would say, an air of hypocrisy on behalf of the government. To be saying they want to go after tobacco companies for the damage they've caused to our health care system and to the province and its residents, but on the other hand, the Minister of Finance is more than happy to collect the tax revenue as well.

We did raise the point that that would be a hard question for the Minister of Finance to even answer, that he would be hard pressed to come up with a figure of how much it actually costs. I know that he'd argue the tax revenue is going to the Minister of Health, for example, to help him deal with people who have suffered tobacco-related injuries. That's probably the case for a significant part of where the money goes, but where do we start putting an end to that problem? That's the question. Where do we start trying to, at least, control the problem to the point that it's going to hopefully become a more minimal issue? I don't know if we'll even get to see that, but at this point, we're a long way away. People are still smoking. That's the unfortunate part of it.

As I said at the beginning of my debate, I don't know if we'll ever be able to stop that, if we'll be able ever to say that this is a totally 100 per cent smoke-free province,

[Page 9332]

because we have the ability and we're doing it. We're banning people from smoking in certain places. But until we get that message across firmer, I don't know, the government will continue to raise taxes in the hope that they'll discourage people from smoking, but they are still buying the cigarettes. To raise those taxes - you can walk into your average grocery store today, or corner store and the first thing, as I mentioned before, that you are going to see behind the cash register is going to be that big display, all neatly packaged with big lettering and the whole thing, a big display of cigarette products. So if you go in for a loaf of bread or some milk, or whatever, you may be going to check your lottery tickets, to see if you are lucky as some people winning the millions of dollars that you can win on a lottery, if you go in to check your tickets, there it is, the first thing that you get when you go in there, you see that big attention, here are cigarettes. (Interruption) Mixed messages is exactly right.

You need legislation that would ban those tobacco-product displays. Those point-of-sale displays, is another area that you have to after. If someone wishes to purchase tobacco, let them ask for it. Let the clerk go get it, where it's out of sight, instead of allowing tobacco companies to be right there at the point of sale, and influencing not only ourselves, but influencing our children, is especially what I'm worried about. It would cut down, as well, I think, Mr. Speaker, on some of the crime. You know, that's where we are in this day and age because of what we have done, in some cases. Again, eliminate them would be my solution, but what you've done actually is made them more attractive to criminals, because they are there in corner stores, whatever the case may be. The professionals have told us, Mr. Speaker, that having those displays where they're located, is one of the temptations that continues to exist for people to continue smoking.

Let's say you're an ex-smoker and you walk into a corner store on a regular basis and, again, the first thing that you're facing is the big tobacco display, here it is - so until we make those changes, and we're going after the tobacco companies here, to sue them for tobacco-related illnesses, we have more that we can go after the tobacco companies for. For instance, we can go after them for the point-of-sale advertising. Until we start making the changes as a province that we need to make, rather than for the minister, then we have a problem in that area - we go after big tobacco so don't worry about the displays, the kids who are still smoking, the statistics, we go to court, we have a plan. It can't be the only plan that we have in terms of tobacco in this province, that we're going to join B.C. to sue the tobacco companies, we have to have an overall strategy.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about more tax increases on tobacco?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): That's certainly a point that the Minister of Finance is going to consider before he brings out his next budget. It's almost a tradition in this province that the cost of tobacco goes up with the introduction of a new budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: More revenue.

[Page 9333]

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): It creates more revenue.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does it go to smoking cessation?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Does a fair percentage of that go toward smoking cessation programs? Even the Minister of Finance wouldn't be able to answer no to this, because if you take a look at the two sets of figures, $178 million and $4 million, that's not what you would call balanced in any way, shape, or form.

AN HON. MEMBER: A bit of a weak message?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Yes, it is a very weak message, and you can assume that that's going to happen again, that in the next provincial budget you can assume, more than assume, I can say you're guaranteed that the cost of tobacco-related products will go up. You can also assume that the cost of health promotion, prevention associated with cessation programs is not going to go up percentage-wise compared to the cost of taxes that are going up. It won't be an equal footing at all.

So, Mr. Speaker, I'm hoping that the Minister of Justice will keep us up to date, keep us abreast of what's going on with this legislation as it moves through the courts. As I said, it doesn't always have to take years for legal battles to reach their conclusion. Settlements can be reached out of court and, when they are reached out of court, it tends to happen sometimes either quickly or the day before the court case actually starts, on the steps of the courthouse.

Whatever the case may be, we should be given frequent updates as to where we are, what our chances are, and not wait until just British Columbia has gone to court and then say once a decision is rendered, now we're going to go. We have to be there; in other words, if we're going to be a player in this, we have to be there as quickly as we can, put our case together properly, and we know that we'll have a good case and provide the statistics that are necessary for us to win our case.

From the time British Columbia actually started its action until the time we get a final decision, Mr. Speaker, which I would submit to you more than likely, if I had to guess, it ended up in the Supreme Court and so on. I don't know. Again, I'm not a legal beagle here, but there would be possibly appeals and so on and so forth and the government stay the course, that's the message, I guess, you've made a good decision, stay the course. I'm sure big tobacco is going to fight this as long as they possibly can, take it as high as they possibly can and, in the end, it will be the Supreme Court of Canada. So it's going to take some time, and let's move on it from there.

[Page 9334]

Mr. Speaker, we should be able to, and we always do, debate in this House the merits of legislation that the government brings forth and whether they're good or bad. We know, for instance, it's a decision that the Finance Minister takes sometimes, as I said, in each individual budget, whether or not to raise the cost of tobacco products; but it's a tradition that they do go up, and it's a certain thing.

So we know there's going to be more tax revenue in the next budget that will come from tobacco-related products. We know it's going to be there. We know that it's not going to go away because those taxes are being taken from those products that are still in use, so the illnesses associated with those products are not going to go away, they're going to be there. So, again, an overall plan would be a good idea for this government to come up with in terms of a tobacco strategy.

I think that - and I say this sincerely - what we're trying to do here is to help people in this province. I say that in all sincerity because I firmly believe that the government is doing that in this case. We don't have much control sometimes, unfortunately - nor should we - over what people do in this case, but I think we have the ability as legislators to openly debate the pros and cons of any subject.

We do that on a regular basis. You bring up a subject such as tobacco and let me tell you, you'll spark a lot of debate in a lot of places in communities whether or not we should be banning the actual use of tobacco in some places, what we should be doing in terms of educating our children, if we do enough to educate them on the pros and cons of smoking tobacco. Of course there are no pros as far as I'm concerned. Certainly, if you brought it up - should we take on the big tobacco companies in terms of a lawsuit, I really can't see any argument that could be made to oppose that.

I did have an e-mail from a constituent who said, quite bluntly, if you're going to agree with taking on the big tobacco companies to help recover costs from tobacco-related illnesses then, seriously, why don't you just ban tobacco in this province? Why are you going to be so meek as to say I agree with the government - why don't we go all the way? Why don't we ban tobacco? We know it hurts people, we know it kills people - why don't we just make it illegal in this province?

Again, you have to get back to the fact that unfortunately - I'm not using it as an excuse - if there's $178 million in tax revenue that comes from tobacco-related products, we're going to have to find a way to make up for the day - and I hope the day does come - that indeed we wouldn't have any revenues from tobacco-related products. I guess as one as a population, if all of a sudden we would wake up someday would be a dream if we would say as a group we're not going to smoke any more, we're not going to do it because we know it's unhealthy and it's not good for you. That would be a dream, but I don't think we will ever realize that fact, but we can control it and we can regulate it and we're doing that and we should be doing more about that.

[Page 9335]

Again, back to the actual bill itself, the Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery bill, we see this legislation as being good legislation. We take on the tobacco companies very carefully, making sure we have made our case, making sure that we know before we go into that battle exactly how much it's going to cost, making sure how much we're asking for, and making sure we're going to try to achieve a fair settlement with a strong case. The stronger your case, of course, the stronger your preparation, the better you've done your homework, then the stronger the case you will have to present to the courts. As I've said, we can expect a battle.

But all of that you have to weigh against how much it's going to cost us. All of that cannot even be compared to the human factor. The human part of this is that we know how much it costs this province in terms of lives, in terms of illness, and because of all of that how much it costs us to run our health care system, which is beginning to eat up the entire budget of this province. We know tobacco-related illnesses play a big part of that, the cost of those illnesses alone in our health care system, I would suggest - and to put a figure on that is a tough task, not an impossible task, but a tough task. It can be done.

Too much time has already been wasted on this. We've taken the time to wait and see what other provinces are going to do. We already knew that it was the right thing to do, we already knew that we should do it but we sat down and just watched. We shouldn't be doing that as a province because we know we have a high incidence of smoking in the province of Nova Scotia. The highest, I think, in the country is in Quebec, if I'm not mistaken, according to statistics that I've read - at least that would be an educated guess anyway that it would be in Quebec. We would probably be in at least the top five and if not the top three of the other provinces.

[4:30 p.m.]

We know that we've got a battle on our hands with the tobacco companies. We should be prepared for that battle, as prepared as we've ever been because we've seen how nasty that the big tobacco companies can be. We see how clever they are as well; we've seen them work their way into advertising of everything from tennis matches to car races to golfing. They're always there and it's almost become, not subliminal, but it's pretty close. The message is there, that you'll always get money for your sporting event from the big tobacco company - just don't say that we're a big tobacco company, call it something else.

We have to be very careful how we play this court battle with the tobacco companies and go into it fully prepared to take them on and make a stand and get what we justly deserve in this case. I think all parties would agree with that, that we have to make a stand now, now is the time for that stand and lets do it properly. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place.

[Page 9336]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise to say a few words on Bill No. 222, an Act to Recover Damages and Health-care Costs from Manufacturers of Tobacco. I was just looking at the press release that was issued by the government when this bill was introduced back on October 13th. The minister was saying that more than 1,600 Nova Scotians die each year from smoking-related illnesses and another 200 from second-hand smoke. I think those numbers speak for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, as the minister indicated in his opening comments when this bill was moved for second reading, that this bill is about holding the tobacco industry accountable. When we looked at how many Nova Scotians die from smoking-related illnesses every year and I'm quite sure your family, as my family, as everyone's family have stories to tell about losing loved ones to smoking-related illnesses. I think, looking at this legislation, we have to recognize that our provincial government, along with every other provincial governments in this country, has spent millions or billions in treating people suffering from lung cancer or related illnesses.

Mr. Speaker, again looking at these statistics, how many people lose their lives every year here in the Province of Nova Scotia. We can certainly understand very quickly that the provincial government spends millions every year and has been spending for many, many years. I know of personal friends, family members, who have lost their lives over the years to smoking. I want to start off today, when I look at the estimates that were tabled here earlier this year by the Minister of Finance. This year the Province of Nova Scotia is looking at bringing in $177 million in tobacco tax. When I look back at 2003-04, the revenue was $166 million. So in the last couple of years, that profit has shot up by another $10 million, and at the same time, we keep hearing people who have kicked the habit, who have stopped smoking. So it is kind of interesting to hear that the profit is going up. Yes, we recognize it and it seems to be pretty well a tradition - every time that the Minster of Finance tables his budget in this House, tobacco tax in the Province of Nova Scotia goes up, again and again. The sad part about this is where actually is this money being spent?

Mr. Speaker, this year the province is looking at taking in $177 million. We know we are spending approximately $4 million to $5 million in smoking cessation programs. I know in southwestern Nova Scotia, through the regional hospital in Yarmouth, staff have been offering programs to help people to stop smoking. A few of my friends who are involved in working with smokers have indicated to me, unfortunately, they could not take in more people because they didn't have enough money. I recall, having notified the Minister of Health Promotion, that our part of the province needed additional funding because there were additional requests from people who needed help to stop smoking.

I remember, Mr. Speaker, putting an ad out to inform the people of the Municipality of Clare that the provincial government had some programs, had funding set aside to help

[Page 9337]

smokers to kick the habit or stop smoking. I must say that the department did provide some additional funding. An additional course was offered through Saint-Anne's University in Church Point to help people to stop smoking. I know at least a minimum of 20 to 25 people took the time to contact our office to get more information because they were serious. They were serious about stopping this habit of theirs.

There is no doubt, Mr. Speaker, the more programs that are available, the more help we provide Nova Scotians around the province, and I must say, the government needs to be congratulated upon those initiatives. But is there enough? Probably not, because I know in Clare, in Digby County, in Yarmouth County, we were told by staff who work at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, they had no more funding available to help provide these programs, to help smokers to kick the habit.

Mr. Speaker, we are hearing that less and less people are smoking in this Province of Nova Scotia. You have to wonder. In 2003-04, the province took in about $166 million in tobacco tax. This year the province is projecting to take in about $177 million. So on one hand, we have less people here in the Province of Nova Scotia who are smoking, and at the same time, the government is taking in more money from tobacco tax. Of course, as I have said, with every budget - the Minister of Finance is looking to bring in some additional revenue - the tobacco tax goes up. So again, when you are talking to retailers around home, prices vary. You can buy a pack of cigarettes for around $8 or you can go from anywhere between $8 and $10, for one pack of cigarettes.

I have a brother who has been a heavy smoker most of his life, still is, who recognizes that smoking is not good for him. He recognizes that the price of cigarettes has gone up over the years. But, at the same time, Mr. Speaker, that the government continues to increase the tobacco taxes, we know that retailers are losing money. Why? There's no doubt, and we see this practically on a regular basis, that the underground economy basically tries to take a piece of this business as well. It's not fair. Retailers at home, as across this province, are losing. A lot of the small stores could certainly use the extra few dollars that they are losing along the way, every day, to help them with their business.

Mr. Speaker, when I look at how much the provincial government is taking in, and at the same time only making $4 million to $5 million available - $4 million to $5 million out of $177 million - that's the part I have difficulty understanding. We know more people are calling and asking for help to stop smoking. At the same time the government is taking a big chunk, but they're making very few dollars available to helping people stop smoking.

Mr. Speaker, I hope this bill that's before the House today will allow the Government of Nova Scotia to sue for damages, for health care-related costs. I hope that the government will consider, and that the Minister of Health will remind the Minister of Finance, that with every dollar the Province of Nova Scotia is taking in, we need to do a better job in helping Nova Scotians stop smoking.

[Page 9338]

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows that smoking is not good for you, and I'm not going to enter that debate. However, I think it's absolutely critical that the government recognizes the $4 million they do put forward to help Nova Scotians stop smoking is simply not enough. As I've said to people in Clare who were interested in signing up and participating in these cessation programs, unfortunately there was not enough funding available through the Yarmouth Regional Hospital to allow these courses, these programs, to be delivered to all those who are interested in taking part. Again, if the programs are available, I'm sure the pick-up will certainly be available as well.

Mr. Speaker, as we have said throughout this debate, the Department of Health, when we look at the department's Health budget, that the Government of Nova Scotia has spent millions, probably billions, over the years on treating people here in our province suffering from lung cancer and related illnesses. Are we looking at recovering the full cost for one year, five years, 10 years? How much is the government looking at recovering? We don't know. I'm sure the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance have some details on this, what they're looking at. Probably the Minister of Justice has a better idea in terms of how much the province is looking at recovering from big tobacco companies.

Mr. Speaker, I think we recognize the people who are are suffering from lung cancer and smoke-related illnesses, but we have to recognize there are people in this province who are suffering, families who are suffering, from second-hand smoke. As the minister indicated back on October 13th, we have approximately 200 people annually, who lose their lives to second-hand smoke. So, again, the need to recover these damages certainly goes beyond recovering the full cost of people who were smoking, or who were affected from smoking directly.

[4:45 p.m.]

Again, Mr. Speaker, it's absolutely critical that we need to consider a lot of people. I know there's a bill before the House and I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to talk about the smoking bill at a later date, but we need to do a better job in the Province of Nova Scotia. We know that the government continues to raise tobacco taxes in the hope that it will discourage people from smoking, but we do know that people are still smoking, still buying cigarettes. The revenue that the province is taking in is increasing again this year, as it's being projected. So we need to do more. We need to do more for the people of Nova Scotia, to protect them, and of course to help them stop smoking. More than 1,600 Nova Scotians lose their lives every year to smoking-related illnesses, you know, 1,600 a year, that's many people throughout all of our communities. So, again, the government could be doing a much better job in helping Nova Scotians stop smoking and to certainly lower these statistics.

[Page 9339]

Mr. Speaker, this bill, Bill No. 222, is going through third and final reading. Of course, this bill is going to go through third and final reading at some point. Our caucus is definitely in support of this bill. The big question is what will happen to this bill after it goes through third and final reading? I know the last clause of this bill says, "This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation." Now, that raises another question, because this government has a track record. We do all kinds of legislation through this Chamber but, unfortunately, when some of this legislation goes through, it seems after the House adjourns that that legislation is just set aside. I think it's absolutely critical that this legislation, once it receives third and final reading, that the House adjourns at some point in time and in the very near future, this government proclaims this bill to allow this bill to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has indicated a lot of research will have to go into this. I'm sure a lot of research has already gone into this. We know, and I'm sure that the Department of Health knows, and the Department of Finance as well, how much money has been spent in the last year, over the last five years, over the last 10 years, and longer, I'm sure. Those numbers are available. I would love to know from the Minister of Justice, when he wraps up on this bill, if he could provide the House with a little bit of information - what's going to happen once this bill goes through third and final reading? Now, again, nobody expects this to be dealt with overnight. This is going to be a long process for the Government of Nova Scotia to file suit in order to reclaim damages from big tobacco companies, manufacturers, smoking-related illnesses from over the years.

Mr. Speaker, this whole process of reclaiming or seeking damages from these tobacco companies from a certain period of time - and again we have not been advised in terms of how long the provincial government is considering when they will decide to file their case - as was mentioned here before, Nova Scotians should not think, should not even consider for one moment that this action's going to start tomorrow, you know as the bill goes through third and final reading today it's not going to start next week or the next month. As the minister indicated, the provincial government needs to do a lot of research before they file their case. This is a long, long process, and it's going to take quite some time for our government, for the Province of Nova Scotia to bring their case forward that will be presented in the courts.

The people, the public servants involved in putting our case together, there's a long process for it I'm sure, and there's no doubt that many people are looking forward to this and will be watching this very closely as it evolves through the courts. This bill will allow the provincial government to take legal action against the tobacco manufacturers, the tobacco companies, to recover health-related costs associated with tobacco-related illnesses. As I've said, the minister had indicated that the government will be doing research toward advancing our case in the courts - again, with no time frame that was shared with us, we can only assume it's going to be a long road ahead, a long process, and I don't believe for one minute that we're going to start looking at filing our court case any day soon.

[Page 9340]

At the same time, when you raise expectations, of course people always love to jump to conclusions - you know, how much are we looking at recovering? In terms of millions or billions, I suspect we're probably looking at billions. At the same time of course we're going to have to wait for the courts to render a decision over the case that will be brought forward. Again, jumping ahead in terms of how much money can we expect and where will that money be spent - certainly that brings on a different debate altogether.

We've seen this government - I'm sure everyone will remember the former member for Cape Breton Nova often spoke about the electronic toilet seats, as a matter of fact he said in this House that he had one, he had purchased one along the way just, I guess, to remember those good old days - not long ago we saw, just before the last provincial election, this Tory Government offered $155 cheques. Mr. Speaker, I recall in my first campaign, in 1993, I remember coming across a couple of individuals and they caught me off guard at first because I didn't really catch on quite quickly, they wanted to know if I was offering small bottles of liquor and finally I did catch on and told them unfortunately that practice was no longer in effect, that practice had been set aside. When I look at the last campaign, people receiving $155 cheques and I know some people at home have kept that $155 cheque and they've framed it to remember. They haven't cashed it, no, because they want to keep it for a keepsake. I'm sure we haven't heard the end of those $155 cheques.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I remember our Premier talking about waiting for more money coming from the federal government, hoping some day he could again look at providing the people of Nova Scotia with a tax cut. It certainly raises the topic once again assuming that some profits of some funding may be received by the province sometime down the road. Exactly what is the government planning to do with this money? I'm sure this will be brought back to the floor of the House in the weeks, months and years to come because I don't expect a decision over this any day soon. We may have a different Party in government, who knows what the future may hold.

As you're aware, politics in Nova Scotia are sometimes hard to predict. There's one thing for sure, at this game the people are always right and win or lose, you have to respect the outcome of that exercise. I'll close by saying this Bill No. 222, the Tobacco Damages and Health-care Costs Recovery Act, is certainly not going to happen tomorrow morning, it's not going to happen for a long time. This bill will allow our province to move, to go forward, to try to recover health care costs associated with tobacco related illnesses. I know, as everyone here does, it's going to be a long process, don't expect any decisions any day soon. There are certainly high expectations created naturally from this piece of legislation.

Again, our caucus is in support of this bill. We're in support of this bill going through and I hope that some day we'll have an opportunity to be provided with an update as to exactly where the bill stands, where we are with our case, so the people of Nova Scotia will be informed along the way, not left in the dark. Whether this bill leaves this House or not, the Province of Nova Scotia will actually get a chance to put their case forward at some point

[Page 9341]

in time. I hope that the Government of Nova Scotia will continue to inform the people of Nova Scotia on exactly where Bill No. 222 will lead, hopefully, to recovering some of the millions or billions of dollars from over the years that have been directed towards helping people of Nova Scotia with tobacco-related illnesses. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that we now adjourn debate on Bill No. 222.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 232.

Bill No. 232 - Optometry Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move this bill be now read for a third time.

[5:00 p.m.]

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak for a few moments on this bill. Like so many other bills, this is one that has come forward from an association of professionals that are seeking to make very important changes to the way their profession is governed, and there are other organizations that will also be bringing in these kinds of bills, as well, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 9342]

I believe we are all very aware of the importance that optometry and the practice optometry plays in our province. We have certainly come a long way when one looks at the technology that is available today not only here in Nova Scotia, but I believe throughout the entire world. As a result of that, it's extremely important that optometry, the legislation itself, both governing and licensing optometrists in this province, be brought forward.

I know, for example, one of the other organizations that has been looking for government to make changes to the way that they are governed is the dental hygienists here in this province. Prior to the House sitting, I certainly received a number of representations from members of that association who were hoping that there was going to be a new Act brought forward in this House to deal with dental hygienists. Unfortunately, up to this point, in this sitting, that hasn't taken place. I'm certainly hoping that there is ongoing discussions between the Dental Association and the dental hygienists here in this province that will allow that bill to come forward as well, because that is certainly another profession where a great deal of changes in their practice have taken place but, unfortunately, they continue to be governed by legislation which has been on the books for quite some time.

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of where this Legislature is working and bringing forward such legislation for these organizations. I know that the optometrists have done a great deal of work in making representation not only to government, but to the other caucuses in seeking these changes. It makes it that much easier, as legislators, when we know that the members of the associations themselves are coming forward and asking for these types of changes to take place because it's always a difficult position where government, on its own, decides to impose these types of changes and then we're left with the members themselves either not supporting the changes or questioning why those changes have been made. This is certainly an important step in protecting not only optometrists, but more importantly, in protecting the Nova Scotians who continue to use the services of opticians.

Mr. Speaker, in 2005, it's no longer a matter of just prescribing a set of reading glasses or glasses for corrective lenses for vision, we find ourselves in a day of contact lenses, which certainly have evolved over a number of years to when they first appeared, I believe around the 1980s, and it was the old hard contact lens, it was actually a glass being inserted into the eye. Following that, we even saw a case where people were being given a lens that could actually be kept in one's eye for 24 hours and could be kept, in some cases, for weeks if not months. It was a question of whether that was causing any damage and whether there was new technology. Today we find ourselves with new contact lenses now. Some are daily contact lenses, others are new brands that are considered to be breathable contact lenses, which are better for the eye. In fact, I wear those as I speak. It certainly has come a long way from the first days of contact lenses to where we are today.

[Page 9343]

For example, Mr. Speaker, one of the other changes we've seen in this practice is now the prevalence of laser surgery, which we are seeing more and more where Nova Scotians are taking the opportunity to be able to go in and to have corrective surgery done on their eyes so they don't have to wear glasses anymore. As I've learned in looking into this, it's not a guarantee that you'll never have to wear glasses again. In fact, they will tell you up front that it will correct your vision but more than likely once you reach the age of mid-forties to early fifties, there's a good chance you will need reading glasses, even after having the corrective surgery.

It's an indication, when one looks at this bill and one looks at modernizing this society, of some of the examples of the changes that have taken place in the practice. There are many more people that are practising optometry here in our province than what we had years ago. It seems to be that more and more children at a younger age are being tested for vision problems and are having to wear glasses. Again, that raises the issue of whether there's anything that can be done to try to correct those matters.

I grew up in a family where we were told if we ate our carrots, we'd have good vision. Out of four kids, we're all wearing glasses, so I question whether that advice works so well. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I actually did enjoy carrots. They never had to force me to eat them, but my vision is quite poor right now. They were cooked, I don't know if the Minister of Education is suggesting that wasn't the right approach, but we certainly had lots of them. We all suffer from vision problems in the family, so carrots might have assisted, but obviously, there was something else that might have been missing in that.

As I said, this is important legislation to bring about the changes to the practice of optometry, but again, it allows me to remind the government that in the past we have seen many bills come through this House - I believe our House Leader has risen on a point of privilege on this issue, that the government will have it pass its way through this House and then at the end of the day, it sits for months and in some cases, for years before it's actually proclaimed and the regulations are drawn up and put in place.

Hopefully, with this bill we are going to see the changes necessary and the government will implement those in a timely fashion. I think we owe that responsibility to the members of this profession. They have taken the time to bring forward legislation through, I'm sure, Legislative Counsel and also, I'm sure, staff from the Minister of Health's office. They've invested a significant amount of time in this and I think it would be completely unacceptable if at the end of the day it makes its way through the House - I think it's safe to say this legislation has all-Party support - that being the case, I see no reason why the government would have any sort of delay in proclaiming this legislation and putting the regulations in place to allow this profession to modernize itself as it has done here.

[Page 9344]

Again, as I've mentioned, there are many other associations and different professions that are looking for the same thing. If I'm not mistaken, I believe yourself, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, in your position as the member for Pictou East, have also tabled a bill that would deal with the planning engineers or professional planners. I believe that is the official title, which is an example of another association which wishes to update its legislation and to make the necessary changes to better reflect how their association is working.

I note, for example, that the next bill on the order paper, Bill No. 235, is the Dispensing Opticians Act which is another piece of legislation dealing with these groups. In the past, we've seen where I believe the professional designers - I think that was their title - I had mistakenly referred to it a few times, but they themselves had come forward and it was the same thing. They brought forward legislation, they had given us the letters of support from their membership, they were at the Law Amendments Committee to make their representations and they followed the legislation through the House. If I'm not mistaken, the other night here in the gallery, I believe I noticed Dr. Sangster who is my optometrist here in Halifax, from the group of eye doctors, Dobbelsteyn, Davis, Gray & Sangster, and so I was certainly pleased to see that they have been following this legislation through the House and have made themselves available to answer any questions that may come from this legislation, to assist us as legislators in making sure that this is the proper way to proceed and, more importantly, that it does have the full support of their organization.

So, Mr. Speaker, with those words, again, I am pleased to see that this bill has made its way through the House, that it has received support. I'm assuming it does have the support of the NDP on third reading. I haven't heard from them, but I'm assuming that they, as well, do support the optometrists here in the province and that they're giving their support to this bill being able to move forward. As I mentioned earlier, it is certainly our hope that the minister responsible, the Minister of Health in this case, is going to follow the legislation after it leaves this House and he's going to make sure that it is proclaimed in a timely fashion, that the regulations are in place, and that the bill is put into effect here in this province.

I believe that the ministers who are bringing forward legislation here should have an onus to follow through on it because, as we have shown, many of the bills that pass through this House sit and they're not moved on by the government. I believe if a minister is going to take the time of this House to bring a bill forward, that minister should at least bear the responsibility of following the progress of that bill, making sure that it is followed through, and not assigning blame to other members of government, or to Cabinet, or to Priorities and Planning, or to the Premier's Office, if legislation isn't moving forward.

Mr. Speaker, it's an important piece of legislation. I want to congratulate the Association of Optometrists who have brought this forward, all their staff who have worked on this and the provincial staff who have put time into this. It's another example of how this Legislature works at its best, when we can modernize the Acts dealing with professions here

[Page 9345]

in this province and we can do so by having their full support and having them as meaningful players in the process used to make those necessary changes. With that, I will take my place and look forward to this bill passing third reading. We'll certainly be following up to make sure that the government does make the necessary provisions to put this bill and its regulations in effect.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the Minister of Health it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be able to close the debate on this bill. I can assure the honourable House Leader of the Third Party that the dental hygienists and the dentists are working with the Department of Health. Their objective is to be able to bring forward legislation in the Spring with respect to that matter and I can also say that, at the urging of the honourable member for Colchester North, the government has, in fact, started a process of monitoring its legislation with respect to proclamation and the dealing in (Interruption) Colchester North, I'm sorry, what did I say? (Interruption) Bill Langille, what's his? (Interruption) Yes, Colchester North, okay. He's a very enlightened member, that's why he's doing it. We have put in place a process of tracking our legislation to ensure that regulations are being developed in an appropriate time frame and we are doing that. So, again, I'm very pleased to conclude the debate on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 232. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 235.

Bill No. 235 - Dispensing Opticians Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read for a third time. It is the companion piece of legislation to the bill which we previously passed.

[Page 9346]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 235. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 236.

Bill No. 236 - Small Claims Court Act.

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would now move that this bill be read a third time.

I would like to thank the honourable members who have supported the bill thus far. I believe that this bill will further enhance access to justice in Nova Scotia, and that it will in fact provide for those people, who hitherto have not been able to have these kinds of matter adjudicated at an affordable cost, with an opportunity to do so. With that, I would move third reading.

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on Bill No. 236. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to speak on this bill at second reading, so I wanted to take this opportunity to put on the record some of my comments. I should point out that I have spoken directly with the Minister of Justice relating the concerns I had with this bill. So he will be a bit familiar with some of the comments that I am about to make on this.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen the limits on Small Claims Court. I believe they may have started around the $5,000 range, then it moved into $10,000. I remember during my time here as a member that we also - and it was under this Minister of Justice, it may have been two or three years ago - increased the limit to $15,000. We're now moving, in this bill, Bill No. 236, to move that limit. We were going up in increments of $5,000, but this time we're jumping from $15,000 to $25,000.

[Page 9347]

Now, Mr. Speaker, in my limited legal career, I have actually had the opportunity to spend more time in Small Claims Court than any other court and, because of the nature of the court, it's an opportunity where like so many other aspects of the job as an MLA, people will look to you for guidance and, in some cases, for representation in this court. The idea with Small Claims Court is that people can go in and have their matters heard in a timely fashion and, at the same time as for lawyers or for MLAs, it's an opportunity to be able to go to court without the normal requirements of the paperwork and the filing that one would see in a typical court.

If one is going to go to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court or the Court of Appeal, the amount of documents that have to be prepared before you even step foot in court are quite significant. Small Claims Court is the exact opposite. The idea is to try to keep the court as simple as possible, making it as easy for Nova Scotians as possible to be able to access justice and to be able to have themselves heard on matters, which in the big picture may not seem important to others, but certainly for them are of great importance, whether it's commercial transactions, whether it is a fee-for-service where service wasn't properly rendered, whether it's an agreement amongst parties that wasn't respected, the amount of matters that can be heard through Small Claims Court is quite significant. I would submit to you that more and more people are using the Small Claims Courts system to have matters heard. The more we move the monetary limit on what can be claimed, naturally the more it allows for matters to be heard. Under the old rules, if you had a matter that was for $20,000 or more, you couldn't go to Small Claims Court unless you were prepared to reduce your claim to meet the $15,000 threshold. Now we've moved that up to $25,000 with this legislation, which makes it that much more available for Nova Scotians to be able to have their matters heard.

Now, some of the issues that I have with this, Mr. Speaker, one of the first questions I asked the Minister of Justice when I saw this bill was, who made the request to bring this bill forward? I fully suspected the answer would be the Nova Scotia Barristers' Society, a representative society of lawyers in this province and the authority, one would think, to speak on legal matters.

Lo and behold, no such request came from the Barristers' Society. This was a request that came from the minister's own staff. I would love to see what sort of documents the minister was provided, what sort of memo, what sort of brief was presented to him as to why we should be moving from $15,000 to $25,000. I've heard the minister's comments, the idea of expanding the court and increasing the threshold and allowing more Nova Scotians to access it, but I'm curious as to whether there was some sort of backlog that they were concerned about in other courts. Who was pushing for this?

[Page 9348]

Knowing that the Barristers' Society and its executive director have spent quite a bit of time here at the Legislature in the past when we've dealt with Justice bills, I must express significant surprise - I'd even say dismay - that on this, such an important bill, dealing with the legal system in this province, the Barristers' Society has been silent. To my knowledge, the executive director has been nowhere to be seen. I question why that is the case, because this raises so many issues, especially issues such as the non-represented litigants, which has been an issue in this province, which deals with the issue of legal aid. It also deals with the issue of Nova Scotians being able to access lawyers to represent them in matters.

We have absolutely no comment from the Barristers' Society. We have no comment from the Barristers' Society as to whether they support it moving up to $25,000. Should it be $50,000? Or, should it have been only $20,000? We don't know. They've been silent on that as well. What impact will this have on the adjudicators that we now have here in the province because, you know, $15,000 is a significant amount of money, but $25,000 is an even more significant amount of money. I would submit that by increasing it to $25,000 we're going to get into more complex matters.

Small Claims Court starts at 6:30 p.m. and at 10:00 p.m. it wraps up. When you will be dealing with cases up to $25,000 that are going to be involved, they will not be heard in one night. It's going to take much more time to have those heard. What plans has the minister made to possibly see that there be more Small Claims Court sittings in the province? Have they discussed that? Have they discussed the possibility of having to employ more adjudicators to be able to deal with this?

For the most part, we know most adjudicators are lawyers who have their own practice or they are members of a firm, so this is almost something that's done on the side. Realizing that it's not a full-time occupation, realizing some of the challenges they have dealing with their regular legal files, it makes you wonder if they will have the time to be able to commit to rendering very important decisions that could see parties awarded up to $25,000.

These are all questions I'm concerned about. One of the issues I raised with the Minister of Justice is, was he going to raise the filing fee because of the fact that we've moved to $25,000? Currently, I believe the filing fee is $75, which is not very much money if it's a $25,000 claim. Some might argue it's a lot of money if it's a $200 claim, but basically the minister has indicated to me that no such thing will happen, which makes it interesting that it costs $75 if you're filing for $200 or $75 if you're filing for $25,000 claim.

Without trying to be too presumptuous, I would submit that will be a great temptation for the government in the next months and years to come to change that filing fee to have some sort of a pro-rated type system that, depending on how much you're claiming, will be how much you have to pay for the filing fee. Again, I could be wrong and time will tell whether the Minister of Justice would do such a thing. He has told me that he won't, but then

[Page 9349]

again, it seems we've had commitments in the past that have been very - let's just say not kept, but they've been varied.

Those are some of the issues when we're dealing with claims of $25,000. If you're a party that's sitting at home and suddenly you get served and it says someone is taking you to court for $25,000, that's a significant amount of money. I don't think the average Nova Scotian has a cushion of $25,000 that they're keeping just in case they need it.

That raises the issue, if we have Nova Scotians out there who can't afford the services of a lawyer, what do they do? You can't ignore a claim for $25,000. One has to defend themselves, but the question becomes, is the Minister of Justice prepared not to review the services offered by Legal aid, for example. So that if someone who is of modest means would be subject to a claim in Small Claims Court for $25,000, are we prepared to look at the amount of services Legal aid provides to possibly assist those people, in that court, to defend themselves? Which raises the issue of how much service Legal aid provides to start off with. We know it's a limited service, I would say a quality exceptional service, but they're tapped out.

Most Legal aid lawyers are carrying a file load which is scary. There's no better way to describe it. It's an extreme amount of work that is put on them. They have very limited resources and the demand continues to increase. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have written to the Legal Aid Commission numerous times appealing their decision not to provide representation to individuals. I'm proud to say, and maybe I shouldn't share this but, I am proud to say they haven't refused one of the appeals that I have put on behalf of a resident of Richmond County. They have given them representation, each and every time. But with each letter, I write to them and I say, I understand the demands put before you far exceed your ability, the staff and the resources that you have, and that it is true. But, then again, I make the plea for my constituent and up to now they have accepted it. I realize, it can't continue. One day they are going to have to say, no, we just can't represent this individual because of the income or because of the area of law it is, and right now Legal aid basically is restricted to family law matters or criminal matters. That's it, and those are two matters that don't show up in Small Claims Court.

If you have individuals - we have constituents who are being faced with claims for up to $25,000, and they can't afford to get a lawyer. Who is going to go there with them? Is it going to be us as MLAs? I know I have done it on a number of occasions, but I'll tell you, I'm certainly not comfortable going to Small Claims Court without the necessary hours of preparation to represent someone for a claim of $25,000. (Interruption) Oh, yes. It's not an issue about me going to Small Claims Court. I can do that, but it's a matter of how much time, preparation is going to be in it.

[Page 9350]

I have seen cases in Small Claims Court where someone claims that they bought wood from an individual and the other individual says they never got paid. The claim was for $200. The two parties went in there and they argued over it and the decision was rendered, but when you are talking about $25,000, people aren't going in there unrepresented any more for $25,000. Those who can afford to aren't going in there unrepresented, but what do we do with those who can't afford it? Those who are the defendants, where all of a sudden the Sheriff is at the door and serves them with the papers. By moving to this limit of $25,000, are we putting in the necessary services to be able to assist Nova Scotians who might be subject to these claims.

The other thing I would have liked to have seen and I haven't had the opportunity to do so myself, but I wonder, what is the cap that is used in other jurisdictions throughout the country? Is $25,000 on the high end, the low end? Where are we at as compared to other provinces? Again, one would have hoped, as the minister indicated to me, that the request did not come from the Barristers' Society, but that it came from his staff. It would have been nice to see exactly why his staff recommended this? Have they addressed the issues that I have presented here today to be able to tell us, no, don't be concerned? We've looked at this, we've reviewed it, here is why we rendered this recommendation to the minister and here is why we believe this is going to make for a more efficient court system and that is going to allow Nova Scotians again to have easier access to justice. To have their matters heard in a more timely fashion.

One of the other matters, Mr. Speaker, which I raised with the minister was, are we going to put in strict time limits on the adjudicators to render decisions? I know the adjudicator in the Strait area has been very vigilant in being able to provide decisions in a very timely fashion, where I have been to Small Claims Court, which is about a half dozen times now I would say. Those were for matters for significantly smaller amounts of money. I question when he is going to have matters before him, him or her as adjudicator, that for $25,000, I would think that they are going to want to take some time before rendering a decision, recognizing the amount of money that is involved in that case.

I also question the minister on that and would hope that he would give some sort of indication in his closing comments about how they intend on dealing with that to make sure that Small Claims Court continues to be a court that is efficient, expedient, and can render decisions in a timely fashion.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the other matters that has been raised, and that I've brought to the minister's attention, is that the whole idea of Small Claims Court was for the most part an opportunity for people to be able to go to court and have their matters heard without the need to have lawyers. That was one of the original concepts of it and, for the most part, in the beginning that's how it worked because the claims were of a smaller amount so that it

[Page 9351]

didn't really make sense for you to pay a lawyer to go. Let's say if you were claiming $600 and a lawyer told you it was going to cost $1,500 for him to go to court with you, well, it didn't really make sense to ask a lawyer to go to Small Claims Court with you when that amount was smaller than what was being charged. But when you're moving to $25,000, let's not be naive, $25,000 is going to be an opportunity for bill collectors. It's going to be an opportunity for larger companies and for larger organizations which already have inter-legal counsel on staff or have ready access to legal counsel.

My fear is that they are going to now use this court as an opportunity to send their lawyers in to seek damages against Nova Scotians who are not in a position to defend themselves with lawyers as well. So my fear is that we're moving to a plateau where the playing field is not going to be level. It's extremely difficult if you owe money to an organization and you've been trying to find a way to pay them back, that suddenly they serve you with papers to go to Small Claims Court and a high-price lawyer shows up in the rural courthouses of Nova Scotia, you're left there to try to defend yourself and explain why you've been unable to meet their payment deadlines that they have submitted to you.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is an example of some of the concerns that are raised when we start moving the cap on claims in the Small Claims Court and we want to make sure that the minister is following the progress of this legislation once it's put into effect and once the Small Claims Courts are going to have the limit of damages increased to such an amount, to see what impact it is going to have. I'm curious as to whether the Minister of Justice has put any sort of a committee within his own department to keep a review of this because I'll tell you why that concerns me. We assume sometimes that when government brings in changes, they're actually watching to see what effect those changes are going to have but, unfortunately, in many cases, it's a false assumption on our part.

I'll give you an example. Bill No. 79 was passed in this House. It had to do with gas regulation, the Petroleum Products Pricing Act, I believe it was called. So it passed this House. Now, we know the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations stood in this House and said with this bill no other service stations will close. That's what he said. It's in Hansard. He said they won't close. Secondly, he said, we're going to protect Nova Scotians from high gas prices.

So when the deputy minister showed up in front of the Public Accounts Committee, we asked him, since Bill No, 79 passed, how many service stations have closed? He said, well, we don't keep track of that. I said, what do you mean, you don't keep track of that? Oh, he said, we get a report at the end of the year from Environment and Labour that tells us. So I said, do you mean to tell me an issue that has been of such importance to the government, of such importance to Nova Scotians, that you haven't kept track of how many service stations have closed since Bill No. 79? The answer was, no, we haven't.

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So again, Mr. Speaker, that's why I'm saying with this bill that one would hope that the government is going to keep track of that. When I rose in the House and I questioned the Premier about 60 service stations closing, their response was, well, there are some that have opened, but they've never told us how many, they never told us the difference, and never did the Premier explain why when his minister said no service stations would close, some have actually closed - a significant amount I would submit to you.

Why that failure hasn't been explained, well, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will remember that, as the Premier leaves this place, for the commitment made and the commitment not kept. It was even worse. When the deputy minister was asked if he supported the comments by his own minister in the House, he said, no, I can't, because the bill was never meant to achieve what he said it would achieve in the House. Again, this session that was to deal with energy, the Premier is silent on the failings of Bill No. 79.

Another thing, Mr. Speaker, if I can give another example of why it causes me concern, the minister and the Premier said that with that bill they would be able to bring in some sort of a warning of price increases. I think everyone will remember that. There was a 48-hour warning of any price increase. They were going to implement that, if only the Opposition passed Bill No. 79.

Mr. Speaker, we did that. So I asked the question of the deputy minister, what happened to the 48-hour warning? Are you guys still working on it? Lo and behold, the answer was, working on it, it's been ready for months. I said, well, what is the problem, why is it not being done? The government thought it was a wonderful idea. He said, Cabinet has yet to give instructions to implement it. So it's ready to go, the regulations are ready to go, ready to be put in place, it might take a little bit before it's actually up and running, but Cabinet has yet to give the instructions. So that's another example, when we make changes, or we see government bills coming in, it's a false illusion for us to believe that government is actually following up to see what the impact is.

Bill No. 79, there's no better example. With such an important issue, energy and closing of gas stations, the independent retailers who were here, the promises, the handshake from the Premier, and then to ask them if any service stations have closed since Bill No. 79, and for the deputy minister to say, no. Why? Because we don't keep track of that. Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that is why we would like to see, with this bill, if the government is actually going to give an assurance - let's say within the Department of Justice - that they are actually keeping track of, is there going to be an increase in the number of requests to use Small Claims Court, is there going to be a decrease, are they going to be keeping track of how many lawyers are involved in these cases as compared to before.

[Page 9353]

At the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, when lawyers are involved, I'm sure the adjudicators are receiving briefs and receiving memos and receiving different legal papers, putting forward their case. The question becomes, at what point does the cap reach the stage where the average Nova Scotian cannot walk into court and expect to understand the procedure or to be able to properly either defend themselves or properly argue their case, if they are the plaintiff? What is that limit? Is anyone even working on being able to tell us that?

Again, Mr. Speaker, as I said before, it disappoints me greatly that the Barristers' Society has been silent on this issue. I know I've had discussions with the Barristers' Society about the services offered by Legal aid, about the fact that more and more we have unrepresented litigants here in this province, people who are forced to go into court without legal representation. Our system isn't supposed to work that way. We cannot expect average Nova Scotians, or any Nova Scotians to have the ability to be able to walk into a court and be able to either understand the proceedings or be able to properly present themselves and have an appreciation of what is going on.

I'll give you an example. Mr. Speaker. I was in Small Claims Court not long ago with a gentleman who brought forward a claim. I believe his claim was for $400. That's fine. The defendants, who I went to represent, counterclaimed for $4,000. So when we were there it was clear that the gentleman who brought forward the claim didn't truly understand the situation he was in. It was clear, as we went, when I asked him, do you appreciate the fact that if you're unsuccessful here and we are successful that you are going to owe us $4,000? The gentleman just didn't understand how that was happening.

It came to the point where it was clear that he had no case, but we certainly felt we had one. I made the offer that if he drops this matter now, we won't proceed, but make sure - I told the adjudicator, please try to explain to him that if he doesn't want to drop this matter now and we do proceed, we will be vigorously looking for our $4,000 that we have claimed. I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, the adjudicator went to great pains to make the gentleman understand that concept. That was for $4,000.

Now, can you imagine what it's going to be like for $25,000. Now, even though you're claiming for so much money - let's say you're making a claim for $5,000 and you're the plaintiff, the defendant could come back with a claim for $25,000. So all of a sudden it's not so simple, Mr. Speaker. It's to the point now where you have to make sure. I question how many Nova Scotians who are thinking that Small Claims Court is a very efficient court for me, I don't want to pay a lawyer to go to Supreme Court, I want to be able to keep my matter as simple as can be, go in, have it heard, have a decision, that's it.

That's fine, but be careful what the defendant is going to come back with. All of a sudden, what may have been simple to you as the plaintiff to go in unrepresented, is going to be difficult when the defendant shows up with a lawyer looking for $25,000 in a

[Page 9354]

counterclaim. Those are some of the concerns that I have and, again, I don't have the level of comfort. I certainly support it, Mr. Speaker, when we move from $10,000 to $15,000, but at the time, and a review of Hansard will reflect that I raised similar concerns at that time as to how far were we prepared to go for small claims? How much was too much, or how much was enough? Those are some of the issues I raised back then. We were just moving at $5,000 increments at that point. This time we've jumped $10,000 to $25,000. Again, I not only share those similar concerns, I share them with much more zeal and vigour because of the fact that we're talking that much more money that is going to be put in front of the Small Claims Court system now.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues, as I alluded to earlier, is with the adjudicators themselves. I'm wondering whether the minister is prepared to table with us any sort of documentation that he may have had with the adjudicators or with any of their representatives indicating that the government is moving toward this plateau of $25,000, and whether they had any sort of feedback on that. As I mentioned earlier, we had legislation from the optometrists and it was clear that this was something that they support and that they brought forward, but I wonder, the adjudicators throughout this province, prior to the Minister of Justice sending out a press release saying he was changing the limit, were any of them actually consulted and asked, do you have any concerns or do you have any suggestion if we are to move to $25,000? To date, from what the minister has provided us with, we are left to wonder what sort of feedback they may have been able to provide. What sort of assurances they may have been able to give that they are happy with such changes, or whether they have some concerns with that. At the end of the day, they are the people who are going to be faced with these decisions with that much more money on the line.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other questions that I put to the minister is, will there be more money made available to adjudicators because of the fact that we now expect them to be able to render decisions for that much more money? One would expect that with that much more money comes more complicated legal matters being put before them. Again, there has been no indication at this point whether there will be any change in the pay that is made available to adjudicators here in this province. So we wait to see what the cost is going to be for that.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, I wonder if you would mind an interruption for an introduction?

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Sure.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery today we have Sandra MacDonald with us from the Cape Breton Partnership who was up here to appear before the Private and Local Bills Committee this evening. She is in the gallery today with the minister, and the member for Cape Breton North, also a Cape Bretoner. I'm sure that Sandra is telling

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the minister about the importance of the bill that is before the House today, and we all realize that it's an initiative for Cape Breton. I would like the members to give a warm welcome to Sandra MacDonald. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest here today and hope she enjoys the proceedings.

The Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning earlier, there are a number of issues which remain unanswered in regard to these changes. As legislators, we have a responsibility to be able to tell our constituents and tell Nova Scotians that we truly understand the impact that the changes that we are passing in this House are going to have. Unfortunately, I have to say that I don't feel that I am in the position to be able to give those types of assurances, and I'm not sure if my colleagues for the NDP, who have legal backgrounds, have those assurances themselves as to what the impact is going to be to this court system prior to allowing these changes to take place.

As I mentioned earlier, this is the second increase that has taken place in the Small Claims Court system since this government has been in office since 1999. It is the second increase that has been brought in by the Minister of Justice. What would have been interesting is if the minister and his staff had kept some sort of a record of the amount of matters heard in Small Claims Court when the limit was $10,000, after the limit went to $15,000, and what sort of presumptions his staff has made now that it's moving to $25,000. Again, that would give us an indication as legislators as to what impact it's going to have and some sense of assurance that, at the end of the day, a court system which has been working well is going to continue to work well under its intended structure even after these changes are going to be imposed.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues that this matter raises is the fact that once again under this legislation, Bill No. 236, Clause 3 says, "This Act comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation." I don't know if the Minister of Justice has set a date that he actually intends to have this bill proclaimed, and at what point Nova Scotians can expect that the court is going to move to the $25,000 limit. I don't believe the minister today has given that indication, and maybe when he rises to speak to close debate he'll give us an indication of whether that change will take place in 2005 or if he's waiting for some time in 2006 before making that change to the court. Again, one would also question what sort of notice will be given to Nova Scotians as to when this is actually going to take place.

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My fear continues to be when you are going to have $25,000 claims, Nova Scotians are going to see more and more lawyers in the Small Claims Courts of this province. When that continues to happen, our Small Claims Court no longer becomes an efficient court, one that is simple to understand and one that can give very rapid decisions. It's going to get more complicated, there are going to be more and more legal briefs being presented to the adjudicators, and I can tell you, Nova Scotians who are going to go into that Small Claims Court without representation, whereas the other party is represented, will clearly see that they are not on a level playing field, that they are at an extreme disadvantage, and that is going to be the point where Nova Scotians are either going to withdraw the claims they would like to bring to the courts or they're going to send a message to us as legislators, and to the minister, that we've gone too far in increasing the limit to $25,000.

Again, without seeing whether anyone is actually observing the court system to see whether there is any sort of negative impact on these changes makes us wonder how much longer we have to allow these changes to take place before we're able to examine clearly what sort of an impact these changes have had.

M. le Président, je voulais prendre quelques instants pour faire des remarques sur le projet de loi no. 236, le projet de loi qui cherche à changer le montant d'argent qu'on ai permit de vouloir faire des plaintes dans notre cour qui est connu comme le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures. Le cour même était créé pour permettre aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse d'aller avoir leur plainte entendue. Le système qui sera un peu plus facile à comprendre, qui sera un peu plus facile d'avoir donné des décisions et qui sera plus vite.

M. le Président, comme nous savons, les gens maintenant qui veulent allé en cour pour des différents processus, peuvent attendre des semaines, des mois, parfois des années avant que finalement qu'ils ont leur journées en cour. L'idée du tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures c'est l'idée que les plaintes peuvent être entendue sans avoir besoin d'attendre pour un grand montant de temps. Moi j'ai vu moi même des cas où est-ce que une fois que la plaintes est commencé, la demande est faite, les papiers sont donné au défendeur et à la personne qui amène la plainte dans la première place, on peut attendre peut-être un mois, parfois deux mois maximum.

Alors, quand on a un système de cour qui fonctionne comme ça je peux vous dire que c'est une bonne façon d'avoir des différents problèmes qu'il y a entre des gens, soit c'est des problèmes entre des contrats pour des services, soit c'est une entente entre des différents partis qui n'a pas bien fonctionné, il y a toute sortes de différents problèmes qu'on peut faire entendre au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures.

M. le Président, aujourd'hui avec ce projet de loi, on cherche à changé le maximum qui peut être revendiquer de $15 000 à $25 000. Comme je l'ai dis en anglais, voici le même Ministre de Justice qui introduit des changes, sa fait quelque années, je me rappelle de lui

[Page 9357]

parler au sujet içi à le maison, le montant avant le maximum était $10 000. Sa monter à $15000 en quelques années par ce Ministre de Justice et maintenant on fait la demande de l'augmenter par $10 000 à $25 000. Alors, la première question que j'ai posé au ministre j'ai dis, c'est qui a fait la demande d'augmenter le maximum de $15 000 à $25 000? Je m'attendais que le ministre allait nous dire que c'était le barreau, l'organisation réprésentant de les avocats de la province de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Malheureusement j'étais surpris d'entendre que la demande est venue du département même de la Ministre de la Justice.

Alors sa nous cause de posé la question c'est pourquoi? Pourquoi faire la demande d'augmenter le montant qui est permit dans ce cour? Est-ce qu'il y a eu des sortes d'études qui étaient faites par les fonctionnaires au bureau du ministre? Est-ce qu'ils ont faites une étude où un enquête de ce qui est passé dans toutes les autres provinces canadiennes? On ne sait pas sa non plus.

Alors quand on a un projet de loi qui vient içi qui a besoin de faire strictement avec l'administration de la justice içi à la province et puis que le barreau, de ça qu'on connait, n'est pas impliqué, ça me cause de posé des questions pour qui c'est qu'il pousse? Qui pousse cette initiative et pourquoi? Pourquoi la demande était faite pour augmenter le montant d'argent? La réponse on ne le sait pas, peut-être si le ministre avait nous présenter avec de l'information des ses fonctionnaires pour justifier pourquoi la demande était faite, là, comme parlementaire, on pourrait regarder ça et on aura une meilleure idée quand nous sommes demandé par les gens de chez nous qu'on répresente, pourquoi le change a était faite et voici les raisons que nous avons étaient présenter par le ministre, par les fonctionnaires de la Département du Justice.

Jusqu'a date on ne les pas. On était juste dit que c'était le temps d'augmenter le montant de $15 000 à $25 000. Il n'y avait aucune étude qui a était faite, on a aucune assurance que ça ne va pas décourager les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse de vouloir utilisé cet cour parce-que à la fin de la journée, on sait bien qu'au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineure s'addresse beaucoup le montant de gens qui attender pour des mois, des années pour avoir leur plaintes entendues. Alors c'était une grande fonction de l'administration de la justice içi à notre province. Mais maintenant quand on commence de augmenter les montants qui va être entendu là, est-ce que sa va encore baisser le montant des plaintes qui va à la Cour suprème où la Cour d'appelle içi à la Nouvelle-Écosse ou est-ce que sa va servir pour décourager les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse de vouloir avoir leur plaintes entendue à cet cour?

C'est sans question que nous allons avoir des plaintes de $25 000, c'est sans question qu'il va avoir des avocats qui vont être présent. Mais est-ce que les avocats va être la pour les deux partis ou juste pour un ou une? C'est ça la question. Qui amène la question de l'association de l'assistance judiciaire comme qu'on connait en anglais, Legal aid, et les services qui sont offerts par l'assistance judiciaire. On sait que les demandes qui sont faites à l'assistance judiciaire sont beaucoup, sont immense parce-qu'il y a beaucoup de gens dans

[Page 9358]

la Nouvelle-Écosse qui sont pas dans une situation financière pour payer pour des services des avocats.

Alors, l'assistance judiciaire continue d'avoir plus en plus de demande mais à la fin de la journée, on sait bien que l'assistance judiciaire a un budget, c'est juste un certain montant, alors ils ont juste l'accès a si tant d'avocats alors un moment donner, quand le budget va baisser et qu'on a juste un certain montant d'avocats disponible, faut la faire des décisions de restricter quelles services que nous allons offrir. On est rendu maintenant qu'avec des très peu d'exceptions pour la plupart l'assistance judiciaire va juste offrir des services pour des cas de la droit de la famille ou pour des cas criminelles, c'est tout. Alors, on sait qu'au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures les services d'assistance judiciaires ne sont pas disponible parce-que le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures n'entend pas des processus de familles ou des processus criminelles. On se demande qui va être la pour assister les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, qui font face à des plaintes de $20 000 ou $25 000? On a aucune indication de la Ministre de la Justice c'est combien qui va addressé cet question.

L'autre commentaire que j'ai faite c'est que durant mon temps içi à l'assemblée, sa fait sept ans que je suis içi, quand il a eu des questions de l'administration de la justice içi dans la province ou des projets de loi qui avait besoin de faire avec l'administration de la justice c'est quand que nous allons avoir le directeur générale, le directeur executif du barreau de la Nouvelle-Écosse qui serait içi faire le représentation, parler au parlementaire, avoir des discussions avec le Ministre de la Justice? Ca c'était une de les premières questions que j'ai demandé au Ministre de la Justice. Est-ce que vous avez eu des représentants du barreau sur cette question? La réponse était non.

Je faux dire, M. le Président, que j'était très surpris, pourquoi le barreau de la Nouvelle-Écosse n'a pas fait disponible de vouloir nous dire, comme parlementaire, si le barreau était en faveur de ces changes? Est-ce que le barreau même avait des différentes questions sur ce projet de loi? Est-ce que le barreau était totalement en support de ces changes? Malheureusement quand je me trouve içi sur le debat de la troisième lecture sur ce projet de loi no. 236, ça c'est des questions que je n'ai pas les réponses parce-que même quand nous avons eu le comité de amendement de loi, où on invite le public et les associations de venir faire des présentations sur les projets de loi, je comprend que le barreau n'était pas présent. Il n'ont pas fait la représentation.

J'ai reçu aucune lettre, aucune correspondence du barreau pour indiquer s'il était en support ou pas sur ce projet de loi. Malheureusement le Ministre de la Justice n'est pas en une position de pouvoir nous présenter sa non plus parce-que la discussion que j'ai eu avec lui, il m'a dit qu'il ne savait pas. Alors, la Ministre de la Justice nous présente un projet de loi pour changer l'administration de la justice dans la province et il nous dit qu'il a aucune idée la position du barreau de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Je vous dis que sa me trouble, sa me trouble beaucoup parce-que depuis que le barreau même n'a pas fait la demande pour cet

[Page 9359]

change, que c'est des fonctionnaires de la Département de la Justice. Sa me fait demander pourquoi. Est-ce que le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures ne fonctionner pas bien assez? Est-ce qu'il y a de l'information qu'ils peuvent nous soumettres sur cette question de pourquoi augmenter le montant de $15 000 à $25 000?

Je n'ai pas les réponses et je peux vous dire comme je l'ai dis en anglais, j'ai eu location comme vous savez je suis avocats mais j'était élu de très bonne heure dans mon carrière d'avocat alors j'ai pas eu l'occasion d'ètre en cour trop souvant pour des différentes plaintes mais le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures j'ai eu l'occasion d'aller pour plusieurs de reprises. Je peux vous dire comme plusieurs de les demandes qui est faites à nous au parlementaire, aller représenter les gens au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures est une.

Moi même depuis le fait que les gens chez nous sont au courant que je suis avocats, c'est souvant qu'il me demande d'allé les représenter et souvant, je peux vous dire que c'est difficile quand nous savons qu'il y a des gens que nous représente qui n'a pas de moyens de pouvoir payés pour les services d'un avocat. C'est très difficile à dire non, de ne pas faire disponible mais au même temps, je peux vous dire que c'est rendu à un point maintenant que si nous augmentons le montant à $25 000, sa va faire presque impossible pour des députés comme moi même ou députés soient qu'ils sont avocats soient qu'il ne sont pas avocats, d'aller représenté les gens au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures comme qu'on sait qu'à la fin de la journée que la demande et la plainte est pour $25 000.

Sa c'est beaucoup d'argent, est-ce qu'on est prêt de prendre responsabilités de dire qu'on a représenté cet personne et à la fin de la journée il on perdue et qu'il faut payé $25 000? Je vous soumets qu'on ouvre à la possibilité que les avocats, plus en plus, va s'impliquer à le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures, que les avocats va présenté des différents projets sur les questions de droits qu'ils vont présenté au judicateur qui doit à faire avec le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures. A un moment donner le cour va être plus difficile à comprendre, que les gens peut-être ne vont pas vouloir y participer si souvent et que malheureusement que l'administration de la justice dans notre province va pas fonctionner aussi bien qu'on aurait voulu.

[6:00 p.m.]

Une des autres questions que j'ai soumis au Ministre de la Justice c'était la question de les frais pour vouloir commencer une plainte au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures. Jusqu'a date aujourd'hui, si je ne trompe pas, c'est $75 pour vouloir commencer une plainte, c'était $75 aujourd'hui quand le maximum qu'on pourrait demandé était $15 000. Alors, naturellement je pose la question au Ministre de la Justice, si on va l'augmenter à $25 000 est-ce que les frais vont augmenté aussi? A ce point là, le Ministre de la Justice m'a dit, non, non, n'inquiéte toi pas, sa ne vait pas arriver. Mais, comme qu'on a vu si souvent avec ce gouvernement, les frais pour des différents services à travers le

[Page 9360]

gouvernement a augmenter pas chaque années mais sa augmenter souvent et puis c'est beaucoup plus chère maintenant de vouloir accèsé des services de le gouvernement que c'était avant l'administration des conservateurs qui est la maintenant.

Alors, c'est une question qui doit être posé, c'est une question que je m'attende que quand le ministre va se levé pour finir le débat à la troisième lecture, qu'il va nous donné des assurances, s'il n'a pas en écrit verbal, que les frais pour commencer une plainte au tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures ne va pas augmenter à cause de ces changes.

L'autre point que j'ai soulevé c'est est-ce que le Ministre de la Justice a mis en place des fonctionnaires dans son département qui vont être responsables pour surveiller le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures une fois que les changes seront faites? Comme ça peut-être qu'on peut avoir un comité qui va être dans un position pour nous dire si les changes étaients positifs, si les changes n'ont pas été positifs, qu'ils vont au moins nous donné une indication parce-que nous comme parlementaire, à la fin de la journée, si on va passé des projets de loi içi à l'assemblée, on s'attend qu'on peut dire à nos électeur qu'on a une bonne indication, une bonne assurance que les changes qui sont proposé vont avoir un effets positif içi à la province.

M. le Président, comme je le dis encore, parfois comme parlementaire on s'attend que quand le gouvernement va introduire des changes, qu'ils vont surveillé de ce point la pour voir qu'est-ce qui sont les effets de les changes. Mais, malheureusement, je connais des examples où sa n'a pas pris place. Je va vous en donné une, vous savez bien qu'au printemps nous avons passé un projet de loi, le projet de loi no. 79, le projet de loi qui était introduit par le Ministre des Services Municipales. Le Ministre de Services Municipales se demandait un projet de loi qui lui aurait donné le droit de protéger les prix de l'essence içi à la province. C'était un projet de loi qu'il nous a dit, il a assuré qu'aucune station indépendent de l'essence içi à la Nouvelle-Écosse aller fermé. Sa mis à sa place, nous avons Hansard et nous l'avons répété, il a dit dès cette journée avec le projet de loi no. 70, il aura aucune station de service d'essence qui va fermé mais au même temps nous allons protéger les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse au prix de l'essence.

Avant que le projet de loi ai passé une des plus gros chiffres qui ont étaient utilisé s'était le montant de station de services d'essence qui avait formé içi à la province. On avait les représentants de l'association des stations d'essence indépendent, M. Graham Conrad, qui a venu içi et nous avons donné les chiffres, on les connaiser bien. Une fois que le projet de loi avait devenu loi içi à la province, sa fait des mois maintenant, nous avons eu le sous-ministre du Département de Services Municipales qui est venu içi au comité de compte publique, devant se comité là, le sous-ministre était demandé de nous donner le chiffre de combien de stations indépendent de l'essence ont fermé depuis le passage du loi no. 79. Sa réponse, on ne sait pas. J'ai demandé pourquoi on ne surveille pas ça, j'ai dis combien vous savez, qu'après que votre ministre nous avons assuré les parlementaires içi à l'assemblée, les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse, que aucune station de services d'essence allait fermé après

[Page 9361]

son projet de loi et vous êtes pas même au courant de les changes où est-ce qu'il y a qu'on fermé? La réponse était non.

Maintenant, on sait encore, à travers de M. Graham Conrad, qu'il y en a 60 stations de services d'essence qui sont fermé depuis le projet de loi no. 79. Alors, le ministre lui même, ce ministre à place, nous a dit qu'il n'aurait plus qui vont fermé, qu'ils vont aussi protégé les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. On peut vous dire qu'aujoud'hui, sa n'a pas arrivé. Le Premier Ministre lui même a donner la main aux représentants des indépendents et leur a dit que de ce point içi, nous avons une solution. Alors, je donne sa comme une example où c'est absolument nécessaire que quand le gouvernement va passer le projet de loi no. 236, qu'on a quelqu'un du département qui va surveiller ses changes. A la fin de la journée, si nous allons augmenté le montant de le maximum qu'on peut avoir des plaintes au tribunal d'instances s'occupant d'affaires mineures de $15000 à $25000, il faut avoir une indication que ses changes va être des changes positifs.

Si les changes ne sont pas positifs il faut se demandé quel était la vraie intention de vouloir faire ses changes. C'est pour ça je m'attende que quand le ministre va parlé à la fin de la troisième lecture qu'il va nous donné des indications que sont département va se tiendre au courant de ses changes, qu'il va faire certain, qu'il ne va pas suivre l'example du Ministre des Services Municipales parce-qu'on sait bien que lui même n'a pas beaucoup surveiller son projet de loi, son projet de loi n'a pas complètement fonctionné et puis à se jour içi, il n'explique pas et le Premier Ministre n'explique pas non plus. Mais les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse aura l'occasion de passer jugement pas sur le Premier Ministre parce-qu'il serait parti mais certainement sur le Ministre de Services Municipales, sur le Ministre de Justice et sur tout le gouvernement.

L'autre question que j'ai posé au Ministre de la Justice, c'est avant que les changes ont été proposer, est-ce que le ministre a pris l'occasion de soit demandé au barreau ou soit demandé aux hommes et femmes qui sont responsables pour faire les décisions au tribunal d'instances s'occupant d'affaires mineures? Est-ce qu'ils ont demandé pour voir quelles sortes d'idées ou d'opinions qu'ils auraient eux même sur cette question? A la fin de la journée, comme je l'ai dis, on arrive de passé le projet de loi no. 236 comme si tant autre projets de loi qui doivent à faire avec des organisations professionelles içi à la province et c'est là que les organisations professionelles sont venus à nous, les membres, pour nous dire qu'ils veulent des changes au projet de loi qui nous guide et qui nous gouverne.

On s'attende que dans ce cas içi qu'on pourrait avoir les mêmes assurances du ministre, que les personnes qui sont responsables qui entend les plaintes chaque mois, chaque semaines comme sa se donne, que c'est eux même qui aura l'occasion de nous dire est-ce que ses changes içi sont des bonnes changes pour le cour? Est-ce que le cour est prêt pour ses changes? Est-ce que le système qui existe en place maintenant est prêt pour ses changes? L'autre chose que je vous soumet sont les décisions qui vont êtres faites sur les questions de

[Page 9362]

droits, qu'il va avoir des décisions qui pourraient donné jusqu'à $25 000, est-ce que nous allons mettre un nouveau système pour enregistré des processus du cour?

Je vous soumets que les décisions qui vont êtres faites par les juges pour les décisions des questions de droits, qu'il va en avoir de l'impacte de possiblement $25 000, est-ce que nous aurons un système pour enregistré ses processus pour faire certain si que sa va être mis en appel que sa va être facile de mettre tout l'information ensemble que le cour d'appel peut faire une décision à la fin de la journée sur le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures.

Je vous soumets à la fin qu'il y a beaucoup de question qui demeure sur ses changes. Peut-être à la fin de la journée dans les années à venir on va peut-être vouloir augmenter le montant plus que $25 000, peut-être, c'est possible, je ne sais pas si je serais içi pour voir ça mais si tous va bien, peut-être que je serais içi pour continuer le débat sur cette question. Sans avoir l'information sa nous laisse encore pour moi même pas confortable de vouloir dire que ses changes sans questions va être positif. Je m'attende que le Ministre de la Justice aura pris l'occasion de réfléchir sur les points que j'ai soulevé. J'ai pas eu l'occasion de les lire, mais je comprends que le membre NPD de Halifax Fairview a aussi fait des représentations à la deuxième lecture sur le projet de loi no. 236 et je suis certain que nous avons plusieurs de les mêmes points que nous avons soulevé.

Dans le prochain, quand le Ministre de la Justice va vouloir nous presenter des changes à l'administration de la justice içi à la province, qu'il va faire certain de nous donner l'information pour nous assurer que ses changes va être positifs, que ses changes va faire pour un meilleur système d'administration à notre province et que sa va faire un change positif dans la vie des gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse de savoir qu'on continue d'avancer en avant et d'en faire des changes nécessaire pour mieux addresser les questions qui face notre peuple içi à la province. Alors, M. le Président, avec ses commentaires je peux vous dire que notre parti va supporté le projet de loi no. 236 à la troisième lecture. Nous attendons dans le futur de poser des questions au Ministre de la Justice pour nous donner un comte rendu de qu'est-ce que l'impacte de les changes ont eu avec le tribunal d'instance s'occupant d'affaires mineures avec le projet de loi no. 236. Merci, M. le Président.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I appreciate the opportunity to briefly address some of the comments made by the honourable member for Richmond. First of all, again for the record, it is not the intention of the Department of Justice, nor I as minister, to increase the fees that are chargeable with respect to the matters in Small Claims Court - they would remain the same despite the increased amount. Also, we do have staff, we have the adjudicators who are able to do these kinds of matters and, Mr. Speaker, I can indicate to

[Page 9363]

you, as I've indicated to the honourable member, that if the appointment in a few parts of Nova Scotia were necessary to meet the increased demand, that isn't a difficulty, we have been finding a sufficient number of qualified people who are interested in applying for those positions to handle the demand.

The final matter was that, when necessary, people are able to obtain their Small Claims Court hearings for longer than an evening, they can be scheduled during the day. With that, I will move third reading, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for third reading of Bill No. 236. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill do pass. Ordered that the title be as read by the Clerk. Ordered that the bill be engrossed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 268.

Bill No. 268 - Pre-primary Education Act.

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

MS. JOAN MASSEY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to stand and take a few minutes today to talk about Bill No. 268, the Pre-primary Education Act. When my children were small, there were no pilot projects - that I knew about anyway - I could have enrolled my children in. So I find this very interesting to say the least - something new, something that at first seems like a simple idea that probably should just speed its way through, but when you listen to other people speak you certainly see that there are more issues involved in this than meet the eye at first.

[Page 9364]

As I said, when my children were small, one of the few things that I could do to access any sort of interaction between them and other children on any kind of a structured level was what was called Parents and Children Together, PACT. That was held in a church basement, actually, in Cole Harbour. We would go there and you paid a small fee, I think it was $2 for the parent and the child, and I can't remember at the time if there was actually a limit on how many children you could bring with you - usually I went with another parent who went with her two children, and I had two at the time.

The children enjoyed it, the mums enjoyed it - and it was mums, there were no dads there. They had activities for the children - not in a highly structured way, the children could have different play areas that they went to, and they would have playdough and various kinds of toys and activities, building blocks and things, but it was really more for children to interact with other children and see how they could socialize and get together. That was a time when money was tight and I can remember sometimes my friend would actually pay for my children to go because I didn't have the $2 on me at the time, to tell you the truth.

One of the good things about this bill, from what I believe the minister was saying the other day, was that it would be free. So I guess what that question leads me to is, who is going to be able to access that? I know it's only going to be offered in 19 sites, I believe, so what are the criteria involved in deciding which children will be able to come to that program in whatever schools? So the kinds of questions that pop up now are: how did they decide which schools; how are they going to decide, now that they've decided which schools, which children are going to be able to access it; have they communicated to the parents in the community; how have they advertised this? Because, to tell you the truth, I didn't know anything about it until I really heard about it in here, so it has not been something that I've heard a lot of talk about in the past.

So I'm just wondering as far as accessibility also, certainly a lot of parents don't have their own transportation to and from their jobs. Right now, especially in Dartmouth East, transportation is an issue, although just recently, close to us on Portland Street, we have the Link which is seeing a lot of ridership, but there's still a problem when you get off that bus at the end of the day, a lot of people still jump in a cab to get to the next spot that they're going to. So people are still having a problem getting to and from work, and I'm just wondering what kind of transportation is the province going to lay out for these parents. As soon as you start talking about transportation, and now we're talking about transporting 4-year-olds, we're in a totally different ball league.

I know the East Dartmouth Boys and Girls Club has some vans and I think there's the whole issue around how much a child weighs, if they can go in a booster seat. There are some small four-year-olds, there are some large four-year-olds. Are we going to be putting the four-year-olds in regular size school buses? If so, are they going to be monitored? I volunteered at one of my sons' elementary schools, and along with some other parents took turns riding on the bus and actually monitoring the activities on the bus, just trying to hold

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down the fort a little bit for the bus driver. When we first started, I actually saw children climb under the seats, from one seat to another, on the bus. It's pretty hard for a bus driver to contain what is going on in the bus and try and maintain his or her composure while driving down the road. I know four-year-olds - I don't want to say they're even more excitable, but I think I will go as far as to say that. To contain x amount of four-year-olds on a bus . . .

We all know at the beginning of every school year we come across the problem where some little tot gets off at the wrong bus stop. I've seen it happen in my neighbourhood and the parents go into immediate panic, everybody panics. Of course, thank God it always turns out okay. I'm just wondering how we're going to onload and off-load four-year-olds and who's going to be waiting for them at bus stops? Are the parents going to be coming to pick them up? Those are just kinds of questions about transportation.

Again, I'm wondering how the sites were chosen. I'm wondering if the school advisory councils were communicated with and consulted and how long were they consulted? How long ago did this process start? Also, the home and school associations - let's not forget the home and school. That was the backbone, the organization that started everything as far as school advisory councils spinning off and they both serve the children and youth in our community.

How much communication have we done with the school boards across the province on this? I haven't heard in the minister's talk - I don't think I heard him mention anything about that. Who's going to track this pilot project? If this is a pilot project - I think I heard the government said they were going to track it for two years - I don't quite understand what they mean by that. I can't see how you would get a feel for what it was actually doing or not doing for a child in two years. I don't think that's a long enough span of time. I think I would like to see that be drawn out longer.

When I listened to the honourable members from the Third Party talking about this the other day, they brought up a lot of good issues. It starts you thinking back to when your children were in school and some of the issues they faced when they were in school - especially in Grade Primary and Grade 1 when they were very small children. One of those issues is the lunchroom. Where are you going to put these four-year-olds in the same facility that you're putting the P-6s in? Right now, in a lot of the schools, the lunchroom programs are run by volunteers and whether or not they're volunteers or paid staff, a lot of times they're eating lunch - some schools eat lunch in the classroom, some in the gymnasium. They unfold tables, they put the tables out and they're sitting in there. I am just wondering now if there will be more money available to hire more lunchroom monitors to look after these four-year-olds and of course, there will be a cost in that. Are we going to have the resources available, not just in the lunchrooms but also in the classrooms?

[Page 9366]

I'm assuming one of the criteria for - I'm guessing - which site is going to host one of these classes, is space, obviously. So it would be in a school that would have a spare classroom. Is that the way to do it? If you don't have any space, you don't get one of these classes unless you're going to put a portable out in the driveway. I don't know about the fairness factor on that.

I don't know how parents are going to register for this. I know we have problems now with French immersion, the way it's done, parents coming out and lining up - it's first-come, first-served. Is this going to be the same thing? Are people who hear about it first going to be there first?

There's also the issue of monitoring these four-year-olds out on the playground. I know a lot of our schools have issues with the playgrounds that they do have. Some of them - I won't put myself out on a limb, but I would guess that a few of our schools have no playgrounds probably as I stand here and speak. They're in the midst of having them removed because they were unsafe and they're still trying to fundraise to replace them. I know a lot of us in this room have been involved in fundraising to build new playgrounds in our constituencies.

We were actually lucky enough in my riding to build a new playground. It was actually built to provide access to P-3 in one area and Grades 4 to 6 in another. I believe in the end we had an upper body area too. This all requires monitoring by adults, teachers, during recess and lunch. I'm just wondering how we're going to put four-year-olds out there with these ages groups. So, if you're not lucky enough, if you're not a school that's lucky enough to have a multi-tiered playground set up, then these four-year-olds are going to be in the mix with the Grade 6s and there's going to be a size difference and all kinds of problems there.

What we're talking about there is resources. One of the problems we know we have in the system is the lack of resources in the classroom. The lack of resources I believe our Primary teachers and Grades 1 to 6 face every day that we send our children and our youth to school. Teachers are there for our kids and they do the best job they can with the resources they're given. I know the parents help out as much as they can with their time and with their fundraising abilities. We all know the teachers, staff, community, parents and children together have worked very hard in all of our schools to fundraise to bring in resources that otherwise wouldn't exist there. I know teachers often spend money out of their own pocket on actually complementing what is offered for their children.

One of the things when people were talking of this the other day that I thought about was desk size alone. Four-year-olds can be a bit smaller than your five- and six-year-olds. I'm just wondering, do we have the resources, the desks. I know when my children were in school, desks were an issue and the schools were always struggling to replace aging desks that were falling apart, with newer ones.

[Page 9367]

I could go on, there are probably eight or nine other areas here - I'm talking about consultation, communication, government funding, where is the funding coming from, the ratio of teacher to student, the boundary issues. Are parents going to be able to move back and forth through boundaries? There's a myriad of other issues here and I might have some time in third reading to talk about it some more, but at this point, there are more questions than answers in my mind. I guess I am just going to have to wait for it to go through the Law Amendments Committee and come back for third reading. Maybe I will have some other points then. So I will leave it at that, Mr. Speaker, for today, thank you.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. LEO GLAVINE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place this evening to speak on a very important bill, an important piece of legislation that will bring legislative approval to the preschool program as announced by the province last year.

The starting point for me in regard to this piece of legislation, is that I would have like to see our province join the rest of the country in terms of our school entry age. There are currently seven provinces that have their students start school, if they are five years of age, January 1st. Nova Scotia, of course, is at September 30th, and I would propose that Nova Scotia join the seven provinces. I think from an educational stand point, there may be some, in fact, who would disagree with the seven provinces. I know from the point of view of having that kind of coordination, that kind of a certain degree of portability across the country, if your children are coming from one province to another. This has been a big issue. The school entry age in my riding and in my community has been one of considerable discussion, considerable debate and, in fact, a couple of the local elementary principals have been people who have led the charge. They have led the way in terms of proposing a change in this regard.

Certainly, when you live in a community that has a military base with 2,000 forces personnel, a little over 2,000 forces personnel, who are moving from one part of the country to another, there's no question that you are going to come across several families in each school year who come to the community expecting that their children will be going to school that September. They certainly haven't enquired at that point about the school entry age. They may have inquired as to what school their child will be going to. Certainly the story and recollection to me on many occasions by elementary principals, especially at the Greenwood and District Elementary School, is that it is quite an awakening for parents who find out that their child, whose birthday is on October 5th, will not be entering school that year, nor if it's on November 5th, or December 5th, they will not be entering school.

[Page 9368]

So with seven provinces having already the school entry age in place for January 1st, I think Nova Scotia should be moving in that direction, and I would propose that it's pretty easy for us to accomplish this. When it was brought up last year, I did discuss with a few members opposite, both Parties, and they saw it as a good bill that we introduced. It does have a little element of a price tag. There is a small economic change in terms of the numbers of teachers that may be needed in the system, so I can understand there was some reluctance on their part. However, that being said, if we were to implement this over a three-year period, moving from September 30th, to October 30th, to November to December, I think it would be a very smooth transition for the province.

I know of families, for example, in my area that did one of two things - have their child live with a grandparent for a month and then transfer back to the local school, that way they were in school in what would ordinarily be their time of entry in another province. Some went to a private school where, again, the same age restriction, entry restriction, is not on them, that way they jumped the hurdle of our provincial entry date. I am sure there are families here in the city. Last year when we did introduce our bill, I had a number of e-mails from families that felt the time had come for us to join the rest of Canada in that regard.

In my own view, I think that before the Pre-Primary Program was put into place, there should have been a considerably wider and more significant debate about this piece of legislation and this policy and plan by the government. Not in any way to downplay the value of early childhood education, I just think perhaps the process here, even before we got going with a pilot, could have received considerable debate, especially from the academic community, from teachers across the province, as to what should be some of the criteria for selection, for example. We know that 20 sites have been selected. There are some which are up and going currently. There will be four from HRM that will be starting in January. So whether or not the pre-Primary current plan is what the province should have in place, and that obviously will be evaluated over the next number of years - I thought perhaps a more thoughtful discussion about the very nature of that pre-Primary plan would, in fact, be held across the province.

I'm in an area where one of the pilots is taking place - the Greenwood elementary school is one of the sites. At this point in time, in October, I believe - 18 four-year-olds are currently in that program. I have yet to talk with the principal of the school to see how everything is unfolding.

One of the other areas of debate that I don't think got very wide circulation of ideas and feedback is along the lines of who should be the teacher, the worker, in the particular programs. Should it be somebody with a teacher's certification, should it be somebody who has childhood education training? I think we have settled, for now, on that particular area. So we are going with that model at the current time - somebody who is trained in early childhood education. So that may be another area that perhaps needs to be challenged, needs

[Page 9369]

to be debated as to whether or not we go with the certified teachers in our early childhood program.

Certainly one of the developments that has occurred in my local area as a result of the pilot is the closing of a daycare - a highly regarded 20-something-year-old daycare centre - the Little Toot Nursery which was a private and Lions Club partnering to have a program in the Kingston area. With the loss of a significant number of four-year-olds, I got a call from a number of parents in September saying that the person who owned the daycare, the private partner here, did not have sufficient numbers to make it economically viable, so they were going to be closing their doors. In fact, they have closed their doors. The nursery closed because they lost about 10 four-year-olds to the program at the Greenwood school.

One of the areas that I thought should have been given very, very strong consideration before the pilot went into place was the element of transportation, so we don't have four-year-olds currently using the school transportation system, which does place, I think, a serious limitation on accessing the program. That's very obvious in a rural area where for parents to drive those kinds of miles every day, through every season and the very cost itself becomes an inhibitor for children entering the preschool pilot, and that's another one of those considerations that I think needed to get a much greater degree of debate and flushing out, and see in fact whether or not the school boards felt that it was feasible, doable. Four-year-olds on the bus - some may consider that to be very young through - the course of 10 months. Also, the length of the time the child is at the school, that's another very important consideration. Whether they just go for half a day as four-year-olds, or a full-day program, I thought, again, was another area that should have had wide discussion.

In many regards, this program looked like it was in a hurry-up mode to get out there before the Fall possibly before we are into an election period, and I think while its benefits to the community and to our four-year-old, cannot be underscored, certainly some elements around the program, the logistics of this program should have been given, I thought, certainly a wider community debate, and certainly the big fact of all is that some people who were hoping to get their children in - and we're talking here about perhaps children who had a much higher need, their four-year-old has not progressed perhaps socially very well, doesn't have the elements of readiness for going to school that many four-year-olds may have, so I thought there should have been some basic criteria in place before we got started.

In regard to the Pre-Primary Program. I certainly like one of the ideas that we discussed very strongly during Summer 2003, and in fact long before that and that was the concept of the Healthy Starts program and I think we certainly need the benefit of such a program in Nova Scotia. This would have been a universal program. Every child in the first couple of years of life would have access to guidance in terms of nutrition, would have been getting the kind of testing that children should have in the first year or two of life, and it would certainly be looking at whether or not there were inadequacies in the shelter, and also whether or not there could have been helps for parenting.

[Page 9370]

So this Healthy Starts concept, I felt, in our province, especially where we have a considerable number of children who are in homes that are on our provincial assistance program. We do have about 33,000 Nova Scotians, so therefore we have a considerable number of children from those homes. I felt that the Healthy Starts program was going to be that first necessary essential piece to give some of the universal benefits that are there in our health care system, in our community health programs, and would give our children, I think, that kind of solid start in the first years of life. Especially children who are failing to thrive, if they can get some help in those first two years of life, their normal development can certainly progress and not be hindered and hampered by challenges that we still find in homes across the province.

[6:45 p.m.]

Again, another program that's in place which I think is a great model is the Hants County community health association. They have a screening and investigative program for three-year-olds in their county. I talked to somebody last year when we were looking at whether we resurrect Healthy Starts as one of our platform pieces, do we support strongly the preschool notion? I think the idea of a three-year-old who is at that mid-point of starting school, since our five-year-olds generally are the entry age for the vast majority of Nova Scotians, unless it's a private setting or home schooling, and then of course parents will start at an earlier age. I like the concept that does go on in Hants County. When a child goes through that screening process, again it's taking a look at especially a lot of the health parameters, a lot of those determinants of good childhood health and also determining, in other words, the pattern of early childhood growth which, of course, can be altered if we have interventions early on. That's the whole secret.

I would like to take a few moments to talk about one of the real benefits that the Hants County program has been able to identify, and that is provincially, we are putting into place a program to support autism. It is that age group of two to three years of age when, if children are diagnosed, it can make an enormous difference in the kind of outcomes that these children will have in terms of going to school and how they will do and achieve later on.

So these are the kinds of programs that I would like to see emphasis upon, Healthy Starts, the screening programs like we have in Hants County. There's no question that it is now a very proven fact - and I certainly do appreciate the Minister of Health who brought in the annual support for an autism program and has started with EIBI therapies in a couple of different centres across the province as therapists are getting trained. So I have always felt that before we ever look at the preschool program, before we look at the four-year-olds, let's look at those first three years of life and see how we can enhance the normal growth pattern of these children and put them in a position for greater success when they do go to school.

[Page 9371]

There is no question that as we take a look at the pre-Primary, this school initiative that, in fact, could become the norm in Nova Scotia as in the Province of Ontario. We could indeed, have a full bonafide program for four-year-olds. There is no question that its value has to be given very strong consideration. This again, is an investment. Government is saying that if we invest in our four-year-olds, there can be greater success throughout their whole continuum of education from Primary through to Grade 12. There are all kinds of studies, of course, that document programs that have been initiated not just in Canada, but in other countries around the world.

When we talk about early childhood education, one of the areas that is receiving a lot of study and evaluation at the current time, is the program in Northern Ireland, versus the other countries of Scotland, Wales and England. Another further comparative step is taking a look at the Northern Ireland program in relation to what is going on in Scandinavia. So it's a real interesting kind of, I think, investigative and critical analysis. In Northern Ireland children go to a formal education process at four years and two months of age. You have your literacy, numeracy and a number of curriculum areas that these children will be engaging in. Whereas in Scotland, Wales and England, children go to school at five years of age. Some may have possible daycare or nursery or preschool programs of a whole variety. Some have no schooling whatsoever prior to go either formally or informally before starting at the normal five-year-old school age.

One of the major areas that they are looking at is what happens to the child in the first five and also even successive years of formal schooling, if you have started at four years and two months of age, versus somebody who starts at five. Another comparative element is in Scandinavia, where the whole philosophy and the concept of early childhood education in fact has a very different emphasis.

The formal curriculum of the Northern Ireland versus one that is centered around the concepts of play, like what we will find in a country like Denmark. Now the real question is for the evaluators to find an instrument whereby they can actually make some good critical analysis. That's always the difficulty. We can make subjective analysis, but to develop an instrument - so it's interesting in reading some of the early childhood literature, one of the areas that, in fact, is receiving a great deal of attention is what is more beneficial for the child? What will help them adapt to later schooling and in other words, possibly help along the elements of success.

There is no question that we do need to be given consideration in the Province of Nova Scotia to take a look at some forms of early childhood education. All of us, I'm sure, on a personal level, are familiar with children, perhaps some of our very own. Certainly of our relatives or neighbours, and children who are not just precocious because of intellectual endowment, but children whose parents have worked with them in the home. The first occasions, I guess, for children to learn and where parents give that extra time to their children. We see the benefits in children who have parents who work at elements of

[Page 9372]

education from the time they're in their early months. Many educators, for example, especially out of Australia and New Zealand, talk about setting the seeds for literacy in the very first months of a child's life when you introduce them to books.

When you read to them. When you actually get them to move along the lines as you read those childhood stories. In fact, many children will learn the story by memory and then start the word association as they go along. It's very, very interesting to see children who have had that kind of exposure.

I believe that from even our own experiences, before we ever move into the formal analysis of early childhood education, we see from our own experiences with our children. In other words, what, in fact, may be one of the real - perhaps best - insights and that is giving a program.

For example, we know that schools across the country even at the kindergarten level in that very first year, there's a wide range of curricula. There's a very wide range of structural plans for the day. There are still jurisdictions that will have a half day of school, others that have a full day. Some that do put more of an emphasis on play versus the basics of literacy and numeracy.

I'm sure this Pre-Primary Program will have a very, very wide ranging and a very long debate over the next number of months. Certainly, I'm sure, during the two years in which this pilot will run. When I take a look at my riding of Kings West, I know there are many children who come to school at five years of age who have had little support in the home and their readiness level is not as strong as what it should be.

As I introduced the bill about changing the school entry age for Nova Scotia children, there was one school that seems to have a very significant catchment of children who come from very underprivileged or under supported homes. There's one school in my riding - this is a staggering statistic, one that teachers, the principal of the school and the larger community are very dedicated to turning around, and that is currently they have one-third, and I should probably do a resolution on this tomorrow, one-third of their school population that use the food bank. One-third of their school population in a rural school in my riding use the food bank. Clearly, an indictment of some of the needs that we do need to address.

[7:00 p.m.]

The pre-Primary, I think, will prove to be a valuable instrument for having children ready for going to school. I still think there needs to be some fine tuning and that children who have a great need for the benefits of such a program. In fact, I think it was just this weekend, I read a letter to the editor from a parent who has a child in the Pre-Primary Program, who was not strong on the program when she heard about it at first and thought that her child was progressing and moving along in a very good manner. After just a matter of

[Page 9373]

weeks in the Pre-Primary Program, the parents are speaking very strongly about the benefits, especially, along that socialization process, whereby the child is learning to be involved, learning to co-operate and learning those social skills which are, of course, a very big part of the learning process.

As we go along, and evaluation tools are put into place, and hopefully in drawing upon and making reference to the debate - which is I wouldn't say raging, but is certainly receiving a lot of attention in the U.K. - perhaps we here in Nova Scotia can find certain instruments of evaluation other than the strong kind of anecdotal, subjective analysis that the principal or the teacher in the program may give. I think bringing in that more formal evaluation process should in fact be a commitment from the Department of Education, if they haven't already put it in place, that there will be a formalized process in the next while.

In fact, there are many educators who have done a great deal of study and backgrounding preparation in the area of early childhood education. Now, of course, we know that this is a degree and Masters and PhD area that educators have in fact engaged in, there's a great deal of expertise available to us. We know that there is a major commitment to the concept of early childhood education in Canada, and that's why we in Nova Scotia have started down this road of taking a strong look at bringing in a formal program.

One of the areas that I do think we need to give perhaps the greatest and strongest look at may be that whole area of, do we use childhood educators or do we use those who have degrees and a teacher's certification. This is one of the areas that I hope the Department of Education, government, will take a strong look at as we move forward.

I would put forth the fact that anything we can do to increase the readiness factor of children before entering the formal school years is going to be a step in the right direction. We hear a great deal about this, especially from our Primary teachers who are teaching the widest possible range. We have some children, for example, who enter school at the Primary level who are already reading at a Grade 2 and 3 level, and we have some children who don't know the letters of the alphabet. We have this very wide range.

I would say that if we're going to have a strong Pre-Primary Program in Nova Scotia, I think we should certainly take a look at the criteria and those who will benefit from such a program.

One of the things that does happen when you get on your feet for a period of time, the member for Timberlea-Prospect has noticed, you do get a bit dry. I'm still looking for one of his long tirades in this session. We haven't heard him move in that direction yet.

[Page 9374]

As the debate goes on about the preschool program, I think one of the things that will happen is there will be an opportunity to do assessments of these children. Coming into school a year early, children who have hearing problems, for example, those who have even one small area along any kind of a disability spectrum, will get some identification. As long as we have the resources in place to be able to support the pre-Primary and take these children and get the testing they will need, then I think this is a step in the right direction.

There are a number of educators here in the Legislature and we all know the wait times for educational assessments, a battery of psychological tests has been one of our big weaknesses in our public education system. These are areas that can really help us as children move through our public school system. Again, getting the resources in place. If we have 20 pilots with roughly 20 children per pilot, 400 additional young people, it is my hope that when they do come in the doors of our public education system, they will be given that same kind of attention - physical, any medical needs they may have, psychological, any kind of disability range that may show up - that these children will get full identification and be given the opportunity for supportive measures.

One of the areas that is sometimes identified now, before children move into the school system, is somebody who will need an EA. This is a very cherished role and position here in the province. I know when they aren't available, I do hear. In the previous school year, we had considerable cutbacks in the Annapolis Valley District School Board and we did a lot of scrambling to get enough people in place for EAs. One of the things the pre-Primary should do is to have a good identification of children who will need this kind of assistance. Many now are identified before they come into school in September for their first year of school, but there are some who aren't.

Occasionally, I've been getting calls from schools where an EA is now shared. Sharing an EA when we have children with very high needs - we have many children in our system who have a tremendous range of physical needs. We also have developmentally delayed children who need a lot of concentrated and concerted efforts by our EAs. The thinner they're spread, the more challenges for the classroom teacher, the inability to meet the needs of the particular child.

So I'm hoping the Pre-Primary Program will become a good field of assessment, if you wish, as well as its offerings, educationally, for every child who does come in the system. As this program moves forward, it is my hope that it will get the support and the attention of the school boards right across the province. Some boards have had some difficulty with the start-up, perhaps for a number of reasons. I know HRM is not getting their program started until January. Hopefully that will not be too upsetting for some of the day programs, the nursery schools and so forth across HRM, when an additional 80 children are probably going to be taken out of some of their current schools.

[Page 9375]

There tends to be a knowledge among parents who are really vitally concerned about their children's education, and they're the ones who seem to get the good information, know when to get in and register and get their children moving in that direction. This is why I feel setting up criteria that will benefit many children who do have a range of needs will be part of this particular program.

I know that probably some of my colleagues want to wade into this debate and offer their thoughts on this bill. So, with that, Madam Speaker, I will take my place.

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

MS. MARILYN MORE: Madam Speaker, I'm really pleased to have an opportunity to speak on second reading of Bill No. 268, an Act Respecting Pre-primary Education. I'd like to set the context for my remarks. There are a number of perspectives that one could use to view this proposed legislation. You could view it from the best interests of the children perspective, you could view it from the needs of the parents and the families, you could view it from the early childhood education and care sector, you could view it from the school board lens, and you could also view it from the perspective of teachers and the NSTU that represents them.

I feel that, unlike many topics that we speak on in this Legislature, I have a unique perspective, because I can actually speak on many of those fronts. I'm the parent of two grown sons, I'm the grandmother of one, I was on the school board for 10 years and chaired the board for many of those years, and I also served on the executive of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. I'm now an honorary life member of that organization. I trained as a teacher; I taught for a few years and was a member of the Teachers Union at that time. I was married to a teacher for over 30 years.

While I don't have any specific training or experience in the early childhood learning and care sector, about 30 years ago, as a young mum, I did help others set up a co-operative play group in the community. I've stayed interested in the issue through all those years, and through my critic responsibilities have had a chance to become much better informed about the issues around early learning and care of children in this province. I've taken a particular interest in those issues.

Last Fall I had the opportunity to attend a groundbreaking National Child Care and Learning Conference held in Winnipeg. This was quite an eye-opener for me, as they had many of the national and international experts on these issues present. Since then I've become involved in the sector here as a member of the YWCA Task Force on Child Care and Early Learning. The Halifax YWCA was only one of four sites chosen for a national project on that issue. So I mention my background and experience partly to explain why I'm

[Page 9376]

interested in this bill, but also to give the rationale for some of the comments and questions that I want to raise.

[7:15 p.m.]

Now, Madam Speaker, I want to give credit where credit is due and so I want to begin by agreeing with a couple of things that the government has decided to do. I strongly believe that the investment of public money going into early childhood learning and care is a wise investment. We have seen international and national studies prove time and time again that the investment of public dollars into early learning and care is a very good investment because not only does it help the individual child in terms of their interests and love of learning and reading, it better prepares them for school. They get along better with their classmates and the children whom they play with. There are just so many benefits for the child, him or herself, but there are also benefits for the family, for the economy, for employees and employers. I'm a strong believer in good social policy leading to a good and healthy economic situation and I think sometimes that this government has it backwards in that they don't seem to recognize that the investment of time and energy and money into good social policy will actually benefit all workers and all employers in the province.

So I want to mention that I have a number of questions and concerns about this bill. One is, first of all, why do we need statutory authority to set up a pilot Pre-Primary Program? School boards in Nova Scotia have long had experience with the Head Start Program and the 4-Plus Program which both provide programming in a school setting for four-year-olds. So I'm not sure why we need this bill in the first place. Secondly, it makes one wonder whether the intent of this bill is actually to set up the regulatory framework for the pilot project or whether it's actually just to bring public and media attention to the fact that here is another checkmark against a list of campaign promises that this government has made. So, you know, you're left wondering whether this is more of a public relations or a promotional effort than it really is part of a carefully thought out and reasoned, comprehensive early learning education and child care plan for the province.

It also raises the question about whether the current programming for four-year-olds in the province, Madam Speaker, the Head Start and the 4-Plus Programs, have actually been evaluated. It would be very interesting, and I didn't see or hear any reference to this in the bill briefing or in the minister's introduction, to find out whether the evaluation for those two programs has been done because it may be a more obvious route to enhance or expand those programs rather than bringing in a third program for four-year-olds into the system. So we're left with some of those questions about whether, again, this is the best practice or whether it's just more of a promotional attempt.

[Page 9377]

I guess it also raises the question about whether this is another piecemeal approach to looking at the whole issue of early learning and care in this province because there are obviously voids that the Department of Community Services has not filled and it almost looks as though the Department of Education is trying to fill that void. So one would be interested to know how the two departments are going to coordinate their efforts on dealing with children under the age of five.

The other problem I have with this bill is that none of the rationale or explanation around it has given any indication that those who are going to be most severely impacted by the bill have been consulted. For example, I applaud the use of trained early childhood educators in the Pre-Primary Program because this is supposedly a program that is going to be play-based and is really based on the developmental needs of children before they start formal school programming. But it's interesting to note that there are going to be up to 20 pilot sites around the province, each of them requiring two fully trained early childhood educators. So this is going to drain up to 40 early childhood educators from the current mishmash of child care and learning circumstances in this province and it's interesting because we already have a workforce crisis in that sector.

First of all, I want to say that there is a core group of mostly women in the child care sector who love children, they provide quality programming and despite the low wages, they want to stay and they have stayed in that sector as directors and trained workers - and I want to give credit to those people because despite very difficult working situations, their love of children and their firm belief that the kind of service they provide to our communities and to our families is much needed and they stay there, but there's a lot of instability in the sector because of the low wages. You might think, okay, what are low wages? For example, most early childhood educators in our province make barely more than parking lot attendants.

AN HON. MEMBER: Really, with those responsibilities?

MS. MORE: Yes, so one wonders why, in a province such as ours, the care of children is almost put on the same level as people who collect money for the parking of cars.

It seems to me there's a bit of a value problem there, but despite the low wages there is a certain group of core workers - mostly women as I earlier said - who stay in the sector and do a wonderful job, but there's a lot of instability. A lot of the workers find that it's not a living wage, so they can't support their families, or they may have other pressures on their family budget and they can't stay in the sector. So there's a lot of movement in and out, and the low wages mean that there is no incentive there for some of our bright, energetic, young workers to want to get the kind of quality education that they need to rise to the top in that particular field, and so it doesn't entice people to go into the field and it doesn't entice them to stay there for a long period of time. It also doesn't encourage them, once they are in the field, to continue on with their education, to upgrade their qualifications or to go back and take some of the longer programming. I believe at Mount Saint Vincent University, the

[Page 9378]

program can take up to four years. So there is no encouragement there to become the best at what they do.

It's very unfortunate that in a sector that is already under pressure because there are not enough trained workers - there is actually a clause in the Day Care Act that allows for equivalency, so if a worker is deemed to have equivalent experience they are not forced to take upgrading or further education, but unfortunately there was never a sunset clause put on that and so there is no encouragement there for those workers to go back to school to gain further qualifications.

So, we have this crisis of the workforce within child care and now we're removing 40 well-trained early childhood educators. So my question is - actually it's pretty obvious and I think I know the answer - there's no way that the Department of Education could have done that in consultation with the early childhood learning and care sector, because they would have appreciated up front what that drain was going to be on those remaining in that particular field.

The other concern I have is around funding. Initial information that we've gained suggests that this funding is coming from the Education budget. Now I have to say, Madam Speaker, there is a lot of concern in the child care and early learning sector, that eventually those Education dollars are going to be replaced by some of the federal money that has been made available to Nova Scotia through the bilateral agreements for early education and child care.

If I could use an analogy, the current arrangement - I can't call it a system because it doesn't even deserve that label - of early learning and child care in Nova Scotia is like a leaky ship. It's now the responsibility of the Department of Community Services. They seem content to patch up a few of the holes and sort of limp into port, let's put it that way. In no way is the comprehensive planning and action that's necessary to take that leaky ship and turn it into something that's actually going to meet our child care needs and targets down the road.

There is a strong concern that the struggling child care and early learning sector in Nova Scotia is going to suffer from this program. They need to be involved in the decision-making, they need to be consulted, and they need to be reassured that the money that must be dedicated, in order to allow our current arrangement to evolve into an early learning and child care system, will be there when the plan eventually comes into fruition. I'm also wondering, if some of the Pre-Primary Programs accept children with special needs. Is there the additional funding that is going to be necessary to support the school boards in accepting those children. There's lots of funding questions that need to be resolved.

Many of the previous speakers have talked about concerns around access to the program, and I share those concerns. When you hear the minister talking about first-come,

[Page 9379]

first-served, the family has to provide its own transportation, you can immediately visualize a Pre-Primary Program that, at least in its pilot stage, is going to be more accessible to those with more options and with more income. The long-term result of that will be a widening of the gap in terms of school readiness. Those who need this program the most, perhaps won't have the same degree of access to it and they're going to be further behind when they start school. We're just going to see, in the early Primary and Grade 1 grades, a further widening of the gap between those who are prepared and are ready for school and those who, in a sense, almost will be over-ready for school and anxious to move into an accelerated program.

I do have a lot of concern about the access to programs. I'm also wondering if there was any baseline study in terms of the children who entered the 14 pilot sites to date. If this is a true pilot, then there has to be some sort of measurement or evaluation. We need to know what was the readiness level of those children when they started the project, otherwise how are we going to be able to measure whether the program is effective or not.

That relates back to my concerns about Head Start and 4-Plus. I know there have been lots of international - especially North American - studies done on the Head Start Program, and I think its value has been well proven. But I'm less sure of how well-evaluated the 4-Plus Program has been. Again, it might have been a better move to expand that program than to bring in a third option. In addition to doing some baseline studies of the children who went to the Pre-Primary Program, I think it's important to have a control group set up. Otherwise, we really won't be able to measure the effectiveness of this particular program.

In conclusion, I just want to reiterate a few of my concerns. The pre-Primary pilot project could actually be viewed as sort of a smoke-and-mirrors project, and perhaps it's meant to take the focus off the government's lack of ability and will to take a long-term visionary approach to developing an early childhood education and care system in Nova Scotia.

[7:30 p.m.]

It's interesting, because the Advisory Council on the Status of Women did a statistical series back in 2001 called Women's Paid and Unpaid Work: Women in Nova Scotia. It highlights the fact that in 2001, Nova Scotia had the lowest per-child allocation for regulated childcare in this country. I'm not sure the province itself has put in much more money since those days. It's certainly allocated some of the federal dollars from the various bilateral agreements on early learning and childcare, but we have a huge way to catch up to some of the other provinces.

For example, you might not be surprised, Madam Speaker, that in Quebec, which is really the model many provinces are trying to catch up to, compared to our $91 a year, in 2001, spent $980 per child in regulated child care - a huge, huge difference.

[Page 9380]

So whether it's research, whether you talk to people who have been in the sector for 30 years, whether you talk to parents who have been on so many waiting lists and still can't get into a licensed spot, the deficits in our system of looking after children, providing quality care and a learning experience, are huge in this province. We're awaiting publication of the so-called plan that's going to be sent by the end of December to the federal government, which is actually part of the requirements of the bilateral agreement.

I hope it's just not the fact that it was required in that agreement that that's the only reason our particular province did a very snappy, short-term, condensed version of a consultation. I'm told by some of the people who were fortunate enough to be part of that consultation that they were told the report that's going from the consultants to the department will not be made public. So they're very concerned about whether the plan that results from supposedly the end of this process if it even reflects the concerns and issues that were raised and the decisions that were highlighted at this consultation.

I'd like to challenge the minister and the Department of Community Services to make sure there is a public release of the draft plan that's going to be submitted to the federal government and that there is time for parents, workers, and researchers, people interested in these issues on early learning and childcare so they can actually have some input to the final plan before it actually goes to the federal government. Otherwise, there's no transparency to it. It's being done behind closed doors, in secret. We may never know until it actually goes to the federal government. There's no chance to respond or to improve upon the draft plan. That's one challenge the NDP, our caucus, throws out to the minister and the Department of Community Services.

The other thing I want to highlight is that every single aspect of our current arrangement of early learning and childcare in this province needs to be improved. It's my concern that the Pre-Primary Program, which is being initiated by another department of government, I guess our concern is, how is that going to fit into the so-called plan or the evolution of what we have into the future? It just seems to be another in a series of small attempts to improve one little situation and then they jerk back and go over to this side and try to work on something else.

The end result is not a system, it's just a continuation of the sort of mishmash of arrangements that parents and community groups and non-profit and commercial centres have set up to look after, quite frankly, a minority of the children who need licensed care in this province. It has been mentioned in a number of reports that much fewer than 20 per cent of children under the age of 12, who need licensed space either in after school or earlier preschool situations, actually have access to licensed spaces. There's a huge number of children who are in that informal sector. There are no standards. We have no idea whether they're safe, whether the experience that they are having is a positive one and that it's actually meeting their developmental needs.

[Page 9381]

What we need to see in this province, we need a clear, comprehensive draft plan, outlining how this government is going to build an early childhood education and care system in this province. We need a plan that explains the role of various departments in achieving it so that we can see whatever the Department of Community Services is moving forward on, how that relates and fits in with this Pre-Primary Program that the Department of Education is bringing forward.

We have to allow those who are most impacted by the plan to carefully study the recommendations and have the time to respond before it's submitted to the federal government, and time is getting short. I understand the deadline for that plan going to the federal government is the end of December. We have to provide adequate pay and training for mostly women who enter the early childhood care and learning sector. We have to make sure that whatever we do creates affordable, safe spaces in regulated care. We have to recognize the valuable service of those who are already working in the sector. We have to encourage parents and community representatives to be involved in the governance of these Pre-Primary Programs and also the early learning and child care centres. We have to encourage cross-government and cross-sector planning and action. We have to build the accountability and clarity of the decision-making process to instill trust and confidence in what the government is doing. We have to, most of all, increase the quality of the learning experience for our children and we have to ensure that public money is spent in publicly-managed non-profit early childhood education and care initiatives into the future.

I have talked previously in this Legislature about the danger of the big box operations coming into Canada. Many of them in the United States and in Australia have already made their brags that they are prime to come in and buy out and take over the commercial centres in our province and in other provinces in Canada. So it's not just our non-profit component of the early childhood and education sector that is at risk, if public money is spent in the commercial sector. Actually our own for-profit centres in Nova Scotia are severely at risk of takeover and buyout. One favourite tactic of some of the big box corporations providing child care in Australia is to move in next to some of the smaller for-profit operations and just take over. Underprice their placements and put the others out of business and then they raise their prices and they have a monopoly in that whole area or region of the country, and this has been done time and time again in Australia.

Mr. Speaker, while the issue of pre-Primary education may look like a small individual good news story, I think it has an impact on much larger issues and I think it points most vividly to the fact that this government does not have a comprehensive, quality plan for early childhood education and care in this province and we're not going to move forward until we have that. I think it's very unfortunate that in one sense the funding available to one department is going to rob those who are governed by another department and that we just don't see the coordination and collaboration necessary to build the early learning and child care sector in Nova Scotia.

[Page 9382]

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to speak perhaps on third reading, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and say a few words on Bill No. 268, an Act Respecting Pre-primary Education. There isn't much in this bill. I guess the first question we need to ask is whether or not we need legislation in order to allow this two-year pilot program to go forward. After all, a pilot program is just that - a pilot. It's not permanent unless the minister has some different idea about what's going to happen once this two-year pilot program is over.

Mr. Speaker, with a pilot program, certainly we will see changes moving along through the next two years. We'll probably see improvements, which are probably most likely to happen when you go through implementing a permanent program. These pilot programs in the next two years - again, pilot programs are not something, I don't believe, the government or the minister is looking at implementing further down the road. So I guess the first question is, why legislate the pre-Primary pilot program for the next two years? Obviously, the question that comes to mind is, is government looking at implementing a full-time Pre-Primary Program once this pilot program is over and, of course, looking at the bill, there are very few details. So we don't know exactly what the game plan here is once this pilot program is over.

Mr. Speaker, when I look closely at the contents of the bill, the bill is one line, and the remainder of the contents is set in regulations. So, again, there are very few details in this bill. It reminds me, or it takes me back to previous bills that were introduced in the House, where there are very few details available, you know, the entire content of the bill will be determined behind closed doors. That makes me nervous. Without the knowledge of any of the stakeholders, without the knowledge of the general public, the entire program will be determined by regulation that will be either drafted once this legislation goes through, or maybe the minister has the regulation and he's holding onto those once the legislation goes through.

I don't know but, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. That is wrong. With this legislation, the minister has an opportunity to lay out what the rules of the game are going to be, but he chooses not to. If the minister is certain this legislation is required, then he should show the strength of his convictions by bringing forward all of the details, not just a few of them because there is very little in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, early childhood development is the responsibility of the Minister of Community Services. So the obvious question is, why is he not playing a role in this particular piece of legislation? It would appear that the voice of those providing early childhood education services through the Department of Community Services has not had

[Page 9383]

a chance to be part of this program or be heard and, again, this is wrong. We have no indication that operators, who I believe do a good job in what they do, have been consulted. We haven't heard from the Minister of Education or from the Minister of Community Services, or even asked to be an active participant in this program. Again, looking at this bill that's before the House, there are very few details.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that there is value in early childhood education. Children in this age group are in a sensitive period for the development of independence, movement and language. We believe that this program offers an exceptional opportunity, one in which the needs and the development of each individual child is the central focus of the class.

Let me talk about resources. It is hoped that the children in the Pre-Primary Program are in their own enclosed serene environment, including their own classroom, play yard, and bathrooms. Again, I hope these needs are met. No details are available, so we're not sure whether this will be the case or not. There needs, Mr. Speaker, to be an emphasis on the careful use of the materials, appropriate choices, and respect for the work and feelings of the others in the class. This bill is silent as to whether the appropriate resources are made available to ensure that this is the case.

Mr. Speaker, this bill creates lots of expectations. Perhaps the biggest obstacle in this bill is the expectations that will be set. Once this bill goes through, the people of Nova Scotia will expect the program to be available - and when I say "available" that means that anyone who is interested in participating should be given that opportunity to do so. There should be no waiting list, as we're currently experiencing. Another factor is the ability to transport children to the program; again, that should not be a determining factor in whether a child is able to access this pilot program or not. Transportation always seems to be a barrier - always. In this case, in this Pre-Primary Program, it should not be.

Looking at this bill, I notice one of the clauses talks about the program being made available for children less than six years old. I know my honourable colleague, the member for Kings West, has a bill before this House talking about the school entry age. In our province, the cut-off date is at the end of September. Unfortunately, children who turn five-years-old after September 30th in the Province of Nova Scotia have to wait for another school year. I know because that has happened to me, it has happened to a lot of people I know, and I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, you're aware of people who have not been able to access a current school year because of their age.

Mr. Speaker, I understand there are seven provinces in Canada that follow the calendar year. There's no cut-off at the end of the month of September, so January 1st to December 31st determines whether or not a child is allowed to enter our public education

[Page 9384]

system. That is fair to everyone. Having spent 14 and a half years in the school system at home, every year where we had students moving in and trying to access the school system at home, unfortunately some of these children who had started school in other provinces at the age of five years old in the months of October or November, could not, because their birthday was after September 30th, so therefore those students were not allowed to continue their Primary education in our school board. That's wrong.

We need to have one system, one set of rules for all of our country. People move, families move, children change schools and there's an urgency the Province of Nova Scotia adopt these same rules. It is highly critical that all children should have access to public education. The cut-off should not be September 30th, as it is today in the Province of Nova Scotia. We should do as seven other provinces do in Canada currently under that school-age system. I hope that the government will consider at some time that we need to do like the other seven provinces are currently doing in this province.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of concerns this bill raises. A press release that the department issued on October 25th talked about a two-year pilot program, and it talks about each pilot site offering a full day. Again, there are no details in this bill how these sites will be picked. Of course, this bill, again, is short on details, so you have to wonder how the sites are going to be chosen.

I'm sure one of the factors they have to take into consideration, is there space available in the schools? It's practically impossible to begin a new program if there's no room available in the schools. I'm quite sure in many, many of our rural schools throughout Nova Scotia that is not a problem. Again, very few details are available. The minister failed to indicate to the House when he made his comments on the second reading of this bill; not knowing how these sites are chosen, I hope when the minister closes the reading on this bill that he will share some of those details with the House, Mr. Speaker.

The minister indicated that 720 children will attend the program during this pilot phase. Of course, Mr. Speaker, the first question that comes to mind, are there any restrictions on who will be able to attend these pilot programs? Not knowing, and again this bill is very short on those details.

Transportation - it doesn't say anything. If buses aren't available, if parents are willing to transport their child to these pilot programs, are they available? Again, the criteria are not available, so I hope that the Minister of Education may provide us with some of these details.

Mr. Speaker, I know in this province many of the school boards in the past continue to offer immersion programs. We've been hearing all kinds of stories from parents - camping out the night before to make sure they were first in line. With a restricted amount of seats available in many of our immersion programs throughout Nova Scotia, again you have to

[Page 9385]

wonder; with a limited number of 720 spaces available for preschool children, again you have to wonder what kind of criteria will the school boards be using in order to determine who will or who won't be able to attend.

Another question that this bill raises is the fact the province had announced back in the Spring that they're investing $750,000 in this pilot program. Is this per year, because we know it's a two-year pilot program, so are we looking at $750,000 annually or is this for the two-year pilot program? I hope that the minister will be able to share some of those details. Again, looking at the breakdown, how is this funding going to be divided up among the eight school boards across the province? Not know how the funding will be divided up, the minister has an opportunity to share some of these details.

Looking at Bill No. 268, an Act Respecting Pre-primary Education, there are very few details in that bill. A lot of those details will come out in the regulations. Again, we've seen this many times with this government, the details are not available, so we need to wait for the regulations. And not just us here in this House, I'm sure all the school boards are waiting to see the regulations, exactly how this is supposed to work.

I hope when the minister wraps up second reading of this bill he will be able to share some of the answers with us, because I'm sure the Department of Education has some answers. Why the minister decided, in his opening remarks on this bill, not to share those details with us, I don't know. I hope when the minister closes debate on this bill he will share some of those details with all of us.

In closing, once this two-year pilot Pre-Primary Program is over, what can we expect? Is it the intention of this government to introduce a full-time, public, Pre-Primary Education Program in our province? Not knowing those details, I'm calling upon the minister, in his closing remarks, to address this question. I'm sure many parents will be looking for details and for information, so I hope the minister will take this opportunity and provide parents in our province with many of the answers they're looking for.

Mr. Speaker, this is a pilot program, as I have indicated earlier. Why there is a need for legislation, I still don't understand. The minister was very vague in providing those reasons to the House so maybe when the minister wraps up second reading of this bill, maybe he could answer why there is a need to have legislation, in order to allow this pilot program to move forward. We know that some school boards have decided to start early. We know there are boards that will wait for the new year to begin before implementing these pilot projects within their school board.

Again, with those few remarks, I hope the minister will be able to provide us with some of the details that we're looking for. I know I've been asked by some parents at home, with no details available, it's practically impossible to provide them with the answers they're looking for. With those few comments, thank you for the opportunity.

[Page 9386]

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I'm rising to close debate on second reading of Bill No. 268, an Act Respecting Pre-primary Education. I would like to thank the members opposite for their interest in this bill although, to be quite frank, I think a certain amount of their debate was not really directed toward the bill nor its principles, it was nonetheless, on occasion, interesting.

Mr. Speaker, I'm going to answer a couple of questions. The member for Kings West, the member for Clare both emphasized, as did the member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, that it was a pilot program. I think it's very important for people to keep that in mind. It is an opportunity for the Department of Education and the Department of Community Services, as well as interested parents and other organizations, including members of the daycare community out there, which has come up from time to time, to make an accurate and fulsome evaluation of the benefit of this program.

[8:00 p.m.]

The member for Clare, as did the member for Halifax Clayton Park, back some time ago, asked why there is legislation. There's legislation for two reasons, and I don't like to seem trite, but as I told the member for Halifax Clayton Park, not on the floor of the House, one of the reasons there is legislation, quite frankly, is because I was told by our legal people that we needed it. And if they give me that advice, then normally I do adhere to it.

Secondly, from a practical point of view, as everybody knows, the Education Act, and the conditions of the Education Act, apply to children who are five on or before September 30th. Therefore, if we were to introduce another public program into the public schools, the suggestion was that we would have to make sure that it's seen apart and separate from the regular public school. Therefore, it would be most appropriate to have stand-alone legislation so that there would be no confusing this with the public school program. Clearly, it's different.

It's different because it is intended, as the member for Kings West said, to provide opportunities for children in a number of areas, to prepare them for learning when they get to school. The member for Dartmouth South-Portland Valley has had some experience in this field, and I believe spent 10 years as a school board member. I think she told me - and, if I remember correctly, when I first met her, she may have been President of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association. For her it was a long time ago; for me it was very fleeting. (Laughter)

AN HON. MEMBER: A mere girl.

[Page 9387]

MR. MUIR: A mere girl at that time. The thing is for a youngster to gain the most out of their first formal year in school, the Primary year. If they can listen, if they can work in groups - and for those of you who heard the interview on CBC this morning with the Elmsdale experience, and I see the honourable member for Halifax Clayton Park nodding her head.

Clearly, the feedback from those who were involved in this program - granted, it's only been operating for about two months - were indeed positive. If the first indication is to follow through, then what is being done has been a good thing for the young people who are enrolled and, also, it's supported by the parent group. Mr. Speaker, this is our intent. When school boards made the decision about where these pilots would be placed, and there are 19 pilots, 14 of which are up and operating now. I think one of the things that members of the House would recognize and, to be quite frank, this is what we encouraged in the Department of Education, that people move slowly to ensure that when they put the pilot there, they get it right. Rather than, if they didn't feel that they were ready to go in September or whatever it was when the school year began. We encouraged them to take their time and do it in a way that would see everybody gain the maximum benefit, and all the structures that would be put in place, so that an appropriate evaluation can be done by both early childhood educators and the education community.

One last thing I want to mention, Mr. Speaker, before closing debate on this, is simply that we do recognize that the discussion about transportation is an issue. We knew that when we began. We had that discussion on a number of occasions with the school boards that were going to implement the program and that's clearly something that has some problems with it, but we are confident that we can work our way through that.

Mr. Speaker, again I want to thank the members opposite who participated in this debate and with that, I would like to formally move second reading of Bill No. 268.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 268. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 252.

Bill No. 252 - House of Assembly Act.

[Page 9388]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: This amendment to the House of Assembly Act negates the requirement for you, Mr. Speaker, and the Internal Economy Board, to put in place a commission to examine the salaries and allowances paid to members of the House of Assembly. It puts in place a 2.9 per cent annual increase for members which is based on the 2004-05 salary increases for the Civil Service. I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to join the debate this evening on this bill. I have just a few things that I wanted to comment on. I realize this is moving on to the Law Amendments Committee and certainly all of us over the past number of days - since this bill has been before the House, as other matters have been examined, I guess by the media with respect to MLAs' pay and allowances - have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of looking at the way in which we receive our remuneration.

I want to talk just briefly about this particular bill because I believe that this bill represents in part what is the right thing to do with respect to remuneration and the way in which we are paid. It is a bill that comes before the House that is open for examination by not just the members of this House but, in fact, by the people of the province and it's open to the media and to people to pass judgment on whether or not this is the appropriate thing to do. I know I've seen, as many people have, the editorials that have appeared in the newspaper with respect to MLAs' remuneration and whether or not this is the time that it should happen, and whether or not it's enough, or whether or not it's too little, and all of that.

It becomes a difficult thing for us, as legislators, to deal with because we are in a very unique position. We are in the position, Mr. Speaker, where we end up having to pass legislation that is going to materially affect our own financial well-being. For most of us, and I think perhaps for all of us, we find that to be an extraordinarily difficult position to be in from time to time, you know, simply because I think that most people who come to this House, I really don't know any member of the House who started off by saying, well, the first thing I want to know in running for election is what it is that I'm going to get by the way of remuneration. Most people who come to this job, who come to the job of public service, come to it because they have a genuine belief that they have something to contribute to the life of their province.

I will defend before anyone the honour of participating in this profession. I believe that those people who come to serve the Province of Nova Scotia do so primarily because they believe that it is a worthwhile undertaking for them to take either in Opposition or on the government side. I don't think it's for us to shy away from these questions when they are posited. I know over many years, the way this developed was that a commission was appointed and recommendations were made. What we found out was that even though that

[Page 9389]

process was designed to be arm's-length and was designed to try and bring forward unbiased recommendations, that work could be seen to be of a transparent process. In many occasions they didn't end up being passed because the Legislature would become consumed with whether or not this was the right time for those recommendations to come forward and often, in fact, they didn't follow the recommendations of the commission that was set up to determine exactly that matter. All of that has led to some difficulty in dealing with this issue.

I have heard the Premier say that he is committed to bringing forward a mechanism to examine what I think is the fundamental point in all that, and that is transparency. That what it is that members of Legislatures receive, either in remuneration or in allowances, is done in a fashion that the people of Nova Scotia can understand. Not just the amounts, but also the process by which those amounts are arrived at, what they are intended for. I know that many people out there, Mr. Speaker, don't understand at all, what some of this is about. Somebody came to me and said, well, what is a franking allowance? I have never heard of a franking allowance. I had to explain to people that this is the way that allowances are made for bulk mailings into the constituencies. If a member wants to reach all of his constituency to publish a quarterly report or a semi-annual report, the mailing that takes place is through that kind of an allowance and, in fact, I would argue that that is an important aspect of the accountability process that most members of the Legislature engage in. They want their constituents to know what it is they are doing on their behalf.

A lot of our constituents live very busy lives and as much as we like to think that they are out there watching us on television, reading the paper about what we're doing and that they know that we're every day in here fulfilling the function for which we were elected, the reality is that the vast majority of our constituencies don't know what it is that we are engaged in here in the House, or what pieces of legislation we are championing, or what we are engaging in terms of debate on the various pieces of legislation that come before the House; and the only way that we get to communicate with our constituents is by having the ability to do that in the direct fashion and those allowances are provided for that purpose.

I'm not going to get into a kind of detail tonight on what those allowances look like or what they're supposed to be used for, Mr. Speaker, but I appreciate the commentary that comes forward that says that we need greater accountability, greater transparency on these things. I have heard, not just from members in my Party, but from members in all Parties, and I heard the House Leader for the Liberal Party talk and express his frustration around having been here for a long time in the House of Assembly and having seen many different kinds of mechanisms being tried, but not able to be used, in order to address that very problem.

[8:15 p.m.]

The point that I'm trying to make is that all the members, on the government side and on the Opposition side, recognize that when it comes to accountability the members of the House of Assembly need to be a model of accountability to their constituents. Whatever

[Page 9390]

mechanism the Premier can bring forward or that we can negotiate in order to try to make that happen, I think ultimately the jobs of the members of the House of Assembly will be made easier by that. We will have the opportunity to not to have to worry about this becoming a bone of contention every year among not just members of the Legislature but members of the public. I guess all of this is not just a general call for reform, but it is to say that action, I believe, needs to be taken in order to ensure that the kind of transparency that we expect from other government departments, that we expect from other members of the Public Service, that we expect from everyone else who deals with public funds is also what we expect from ourselves. I think there is general agreement among people, it's a question of finding the mechanism that will adequately make that happen.

So I stand here this evening and I realize that, in fact, most of what I've said is actually off the topic of this bill, Mr. Speaker. You have been very lenient in not calling me to task for that, but it's because I think this bill actually is a transparent process, one that will be examined by the Law Amendments Committee, that will be, as I said, subject to commentary. Even though we are cast in the position of having to talk about this subject, at least the process, and that's what I continue to hear from people, that it is the process that they want to see opened up.

I think those are my comments on this bill for this evening. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and give a few comments on Bill No. 252, the House of Assembly Act. As the Leader of the NDP has said, some of his remarks were off the topic, but nevertheless relevant. I would think that once the three Leaders in the House meet on the current topic under discussion, namely members' salaries and allowance, that our caucus will have an opportunity then to react publicly to what is going to come as a recommendation from the three Leaders.

Tonight we're dealing with the bill itself. You know, we've tried just about everything in the past years since I've been here to try to get this matter straightened out, regarding members' salaries, including setting up a commission of inquiry, which by the way, Mr. Speaker, was at great expense to the taxpayers of this province, and maybe some of them don't even realize that you don't get a commission of inquiry or a commissioner of inquiry for nothing. In the last case, Mr. Donahoe occupied that position and did it, I believe, just for expenses only, the last time, but even that was at a considerable cost to the taxpayers, he needed support services.

[Page 9391]

I can recall paying commissioners $60,000, $70,000, $80,000 a year in the years that I have been here, and then the recommendations would be ignored, or some of the recommendations would be too much for us to bear, or some of the recommendations would be ones that were simply not palatable by either the conditions of the day or by the mood of the public or by the mood of the press, or whatever.

So what method can we put in place here that is a fair method for salary increases at the present time? The only fair method that I can see that I think can stand the test of time and be acceptable is to mirror the average wage increases of public servants in this province. In this case it is 2.9 per cent, I believe, based on last year. The members of the House of Assembly are therefore entitled to only what the public servants in this province are getting, and I believe that's a fair way of determining, at least for the present, the remuneration of members.

My caucus and I certainly support the bill that is before the House tonight. Is it perfect? No, but it's a way of saying to the members of the House of Assembly that this is something that's not exorbitant, not something that's going to be out of whack with current increases that are being paid in this province, that it mirrors the public servants and, certainly, our Party will support the bill. Thank you.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the points brought forward by the Opposition members with regard to this bill. It's a pain every year that rolls around, as surely as Christmas, that we have to go through some kind of process to set our own salaries. I agree, it's not right. I agree that we should have some system in place that is fair and pays members what they should be paid, which is more than what they're presently getting. I agree that it should be transparent. I agree to those things.

The trouble is to get the thing in place first and then it becomes automatic where there's an increase based on the cost of living or based on whatever the Civil Service is paid or some other outside agency. We do have to get that first bill in and passed and I would hope - I won't be here, but when the new government comes into power after the next election, I would hope - that we have in place for that government (Interruptions) a process that will do away with this annual process, such as it is that we have. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 252. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 9392]

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker would you please call Bill No. 237.

Bill No. 237 - Maintenance Enforcement Act.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in support of this bill. Just a few short words on this bill. Sometimes in conversation after this bill was put forward, I had discussions with the Minister of Justice and we talked about this bill. There is some belief that some of this may already exist, which would be fine and so on, but what this bill does if someone who gets a judgment against him and they have to pay through maintenance enforcement and they're not paying their proper monies through maintenance enforcement, it will give the right to have their name put into the credit bureau so it would be another system of accessing that bad debt. Or, at least, a deterrent more than likely, is what I'd like to see. A deterrent so that those people would not negate their parental responsibility.

That's what we're looking for. We're looking more for a deterrent than an enforcement. So, with that said, I will be taking my place and looking forward to this bill going through the House. Thank you.

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise on Bill No. 237 and to make a few comments on this piece of legislation. I certainly want to commend the member for Cape Breton Centre for bringing this bill forward.

It certainly raises an important issue of maintenance enforcement and where we're at in this province. I think most members - if not all members - of this House have probably had constituents come before them who have had concerns about maintenance enforcement here in this province. I know that we have taken the opportunity to raise this issue with the Minister of Justice with just how much support is being made available within the maintenance enforcement staff here in the province.

[Page 9393]

I can tell you, throughout my own constituency office I've had, for the most part, in my case, they have been mothers and females who have come forward and who have been very disappointed with the efforts made by maintenance enforcement and the fact that many of them feel they have to carry the burden themselves of having to figure out where their ex-spouse is working, how much money they're making, where they are living, who is their employer? In many ways, they feel the burden falls back on them rather than it being the staff over at maintenance enforcement.

I know the Minister of Justice has told us here in this House and told us at committee that he has put more staff into maintenance enforcement and he has put more resources, but I would submit to you from the files I have at my office, there's still much more work that needs to be done by maintenance enforcement to be vigilant. I would submit to you that it is no way a critique of the staff at maintenance enforcement because I believe there's not enough staff in that department right now and they have a tremendous amount of files.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this evening I had the opportunity to speak about legal aid and legal aid lawyers and the number of files that each one of the lawyers at legal aid has to carry, which is a tremendous number. It's extremely difficult for them to have to reject clients, whether it's on an issue of income or whether it's on an issue of whatever area of law they're asking for representation on. Maintenance enforcement is no different. The staff is certainly limited in what they can communicate because of the vast number of files that each one of them bears responsibility for.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you it's disappointing when you hear some of the stories of how far individuals will go to avoid having to pay maintenance, whether it is to their spouse or whether it is to their children. It's incredibly amazing to me, having heard some of the stories, to what lengths individuals will go. It's disheartening, I would say. And whether it's the stories of individuals, people who should be paying and are saying I don't want to pay for my three children because it's my ex-spouse who's spending the money on her new boyfriend, it's not going to the children, that's extremely difficult to control, but at the end of the day you have obligations - the court has rendered a decision on how much support you should pay and you have to pay it.

Mr. Speaker, we hear that on a daily basis. It puts that much more of a challenge on maintenance enforcement, because these individuals are looking for more and more creative ways to subvert the system. I can tell of one example where a gentleman left his full-time job, which was paying well, so he could go on EI just so he would have to pay less support to his ex-spouse - these are not always rational decisions being made by Nova Scotians who are impacted by this. Needless to say, there seems to be quite a bit of emotion that comes into these decisions, and logic almost seems to go out the door, which makes it more of a challenge for maintenance enforcement staff because they have to try to enter the minds of these individuals to try to figure out exactly what they're doing and why they're doing it.

[Page 9394]

Mr. Speaker, any sort of initiatives that can be brought forward that are going to make this easier for maintenance enforcement staff and easier for the families and the children who rely upon this system for their income certainly are very favourable. Now, does Bill No. 237 add to that? Well, only time will tell as to what impact it might have. I know the government had introduced some amendments that said if you don't pay your maintenance you could lose your driver's licence. I can tell you, I know of a few cases where that has been a good incentive to have individuals pay their maintenance enforcement, because here in Nova Scotia, especially in the rural parts, it's quite difficult to do anything without a driver's licence. It's difficult to find employment, it's difficult to pretty much enjoy life in rural Nova Scotia without a driver's licence, because, as I've said many times, in Richmond County if you're waiting for a taxi or waiting for Metro Transit to come pick up you up, you might be waiting a while by the curb because, unfortunately, we don't have those services in our area.

Mr. Speaker, any sort of initiatives that are going to encourage people to respect the maintenance enforcement system are some that we fully support. I would like to have seen where the Minister of Justice might have been able to indicate to us . . .

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

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, I would have been pleased, knowing that the government has called an Opposition bill, which is a bit of a rarity at times, seeing a bill being called by either my colleagues in the NDP or our caucus - it's a bit of a rare event, which is all too unfortunate in a minority government when Nova Scotians are looking for all-Party co-operation here in this House. I would have certainly liked to have seen an indication from the Minister of Justice as to how he was going to incorporate the changes being proposed in this bill with, possibly, other initiatives which would have strengthened the maintenance enforcement system.

Very much similar to the debate we had earlier, Mr. Speaker, on the tobacco bill, which would have allowed the government to take legal action against tobacco companies, the issue comes down to how much support the government is putting into these initiatives, whether it be tobacco, whether it be maintenance enforcement, it's the same argument. From our concern, it's a half-measure and it's not enough.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, when you hear some of the difficult stories that are coming from our own constituents, mothers who are now single, who have one child or two or three or four, who are constantly spending their time battling to try to make sure that their ex-spouse is paying their maintenance payments. It's disheartening, Mr. Speaker, because it becomes all-consuming for the ex-spouse and you can only imagine if you are living in a household where the mother of the children is constantly battling on the phone to try to make sure that payments and support payments are being made that that carries on to the children and the stress that it causes within families under these kind of circumstances.

[Page 9395]

[8:30 p.m.]

This is not a new problem and I would submit to you, unfortunately, the trends of society would lead us to conclude that it's an issue which is going to grow. Therefore the question is, is support from the government growing to keep up with that? I would submit to you it is not, because if it was, both you and I and all other members of the Legislature wouldn't be getting the amount of calls that we are getting.

It disheartens me each time I need to pick up the phone and call the Maintenance Enforcement Office in Sydney to ask them, have you been able to track down this individual? I just spoke to his ex-wife, she says he now working here, he is making this much money. Are you aware of that? It's an unfortunate battle but one that probably each member of this House has had to face and I would submit to you that it is not something that's going to get any better, unless we start taking the issue seriously and we make sure that individuals who have a duty to maintenance to their ex-spouse and especially those who have a duty to maintenance to their children, are doing so.

There certainly has been some progress that has been made from what was there initially, but it has not been enough. Again, as I indicated, we would like to see from the Minister of Justice, if he could give us an indication as to how he is going to incorporate this bill with other initiatives which would allow us to deal with this issue in a more effective way.

Mr. Speaker, we know that there are initiatives already that have been put in place that individuals who do have maintenance orders against them, can have their wages garnished, so that there is direct payment being made to the Maintenance Enforcement Office and then forwarded off to the individuals who are recipients of the program, to make sure that actually a percentage of their income is going toward their enforcement orders. Again, there are too many cases where individuals, it's difficult to track down where they're working. I have had a case where the new privacy laws are making it that much more difficult for government to be able to track down information on individuals as to where they may be employed, how much money they are making and try to put in some garnishee orders against them.

There are initiatives in place but obviously there are still many loopholes that exist within the system which we certainly need to address within government and to try to make this stronger. I would certainly hope that with the government showing its support for this bill that the Minister of Justice may have indicated to us whether he is prepared to put more staff in maintenance enforcement to try to decrease the workload that is on the staff that is there currently, to try to have all of them be more effective in their efforts.

[Page 9396]

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, in following some of the cases, the caseworkers will tell you, we're not in the position to be able to follow, to call all of the clients, the recipients of maintenance enforcement orders to tell them all of the activities that are going on, that we instead rely upon them to contact us for information and to provide us with any information they have, which I can tell you causes a great deal of frustration. At the end of the day, in many ways, that frustration is being brought forward to us as elected officials. As I mentioned earlier, I could stand in my place and recite so many of the stories that I have before me and I know most members in this House would be quite familiar with those stories and while this is one more initiative being added, the question is, when are we going to sit down as elected officials to try to find a new means of being able to strengthen the Office of Maintenance Enforcement to try to deal with these matters.

I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, this is a government-wide issue because at the end of the day, many of the individuals who rely upon these enforcement orders, because they can't be dependent on it being a continuation, as a result many of them turn to the Department of Community Services. Many of them have no choice, but because of the fact that they are trying to raise their children, they would hope that because of the court order, they could expect a certain level of income, because of the interruptions that take place they often have to turn to the Department of Community Services.

So, there's a government interest in this as well because obviously it's costing the Department of Community Services a significant amount of money to support families that technically it would not need to support if maintenance enforcement was properly working. I would like the Minister of Community Services to give us an indication if his department has statistics that would keep track of just how many of their clients have maintenance enforcement orders in place because I believe it would give us a clear picture of just how well maintenance enforcement is working. Are people properly paying the maintenance that they should be paying? What, exactly, is the default rate here in this province? As the debate continues, possibly the Minister of Community Services will give us an indication on whether his department has been keeping those statistics.

As I know, one of my colleagues is not confident that those statistics will be made available to us but, Mr. Speaker, we're all interested in the expenses that are being incurred by the government. At the end of the day can we find savings within government. By finding savings, we find an ability to invest money in some of the other priority areas that the government is faced with. As long as maintenance enforcement continues to not be able to properly make sure that those who have orders against them are paying, again we have to bear the cost through the government with the Department of Community Services due to the unreliability of those payments and due to the stress that it places on families.

[Page 9397]

Mr. Speaker, while this bill is a small step on one issue, it certainly broadens the whole issue of marriage, the whole issue of support for families, the whole issue of the obligations that one has, not only to their spouse but to their children, and the impact that this is having on children throughout the entire province.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you from the families that I've had come before my office - when these children have to constantly be faced with not having income a certain month, or waiting for a cheque to come in, when it doesn't arrive in time - whether it's school supplies, whether it's to join certain sports, whether it's to enjoy what children should be enjoying, it has a tremendous impact. This is an issue which affects families and which affects our society as a whole and one which we should take extremely seriously. I would certainly hope that the government would look at this from a broader perspective and possibly be able to indicate to this House as to what sort of review they are prepared to undertake on this issue or if any changes can be expected to be forthcoming from the Maintenance Enforcement Program to make it even stronger than what it is today.

Again, as I was saying, Mr. Speaker, this is an important step. In this case the idea is that if a person is in arrears, that the information will be passed on to their credit rating agency. What impact is that going to have? We see more and more of these payday loan companies that are setting up. We see the advertisements that are saying if your phone has been disconnected and if nobody else will give you phone service, call us and we'll give you phone service - no questions asked. We see car companies that are saying, if no one else will give you credit and no one else will let you buy a car, call us, and we'll give you one. You know one has to really ask what impact this bill is truly going to have because at the end of the day - regardless of how bad your credit might be, it's always possible to continue to be able to buy items and to receive services.

So, as legislators, again, it's important that we evaluate the legislation that comes before us. While it may have the greatest of intention, it's alway important for us to be realistic as to whether it has actually any hopes of success, or whether it's actually going to deter Nova Scotians from reneging on their maintenance payments because, if they do, what this bill aims to do is it would be reported to their credit rating agency.

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments briefly from the member who sponsored this bill, but I would be curious exactly to see what this bill is based upon, if it is legislation which has been adopted from another jurisdiction, and whether the member sponsoring this bill can provide us even with some statistics that may show in areas where such a penalty is imposed, that there actually has been a change or a reduction in the amount of default for maintenance payments. Again, unless we're provided with that kind of information - I don't want to fault the member, I think he's trying to address an important issue and I think he's bringing forward a positive suggestion, and I certainly commend him for that, but all great intentions aside, the question is, will this bill actually have any impact or, once again, is it merely window dressing and an attempt to say that some form of solution was proposed on

[Page 9398]

a serious issue which actually, at the end of the day, really has no hope of achieving any result?

I think, for example, here in Nova Scotia, of constituents I have had who have been disconnected from Nova Scotia Power on too many occasions to repeat. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? For the most part, they can get power again. Whether it is with Aliant where they've been cut off, eventually they'll get phone service again. Or there are these phone companies that have been set up especially to deal with people with bad credit. Nova Scotia Power is a bit different because there's not really any company offering you electricity if Nova Scotia Power won't give you electricity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, it's a little different with electricity because there are not many companies out there offering you electricity if Nova Scotia Power won't. In fact, if you can't get electricity with Nova Scotia Power, other than a generator, or a wind turbine, or a water-type turbine, I'm not really sure how else you would get electricity. So that's a bit of a different situation.

Again, I raise that not to be critical of the member's legislation, I certainly commend him for raising an important issue and allowing us to debate that issue here in the House, but will it actually have any sort of impact in discouraging Nova Scotians who have maintenance obligations from meeting those obligations.

Mr. Speaker, there are two sides to the story, and often we talk about how negative it is when people don't pay their maintenance. At the same time, I have heard stories from people who are required to pay maintenance, which are unfortunate stories as well, and I can understand some of the challenges and frustrations that they face sometimes.

I had a gentleman who was quite upset that while he had a court order requiring him to pay maintenance, the court order also granted him access, and at the end of the day, he wasn't getting any access. So his argument was, why should I pay maintenance when I'm supposed to get access and I'm not getting access. He called me and said, look, I want you to help me. I don't want to pay my maintenance anymore. Well, very simply my answer was, you have no choice, there's a court order in place. Your only other option is to go back to court to be able to have the maintenance order amended. Again, the issue is money. This gentleman said, look, I work for a very low salary, I work two jobs. The last time I went to court, up to this point, it has cost me about $6,000, and I still don't have access.

[Page 9399]

So there are challenges throughout our entire system, on both sides - those who are waiting and hope that the government will have a system in place that will enforce maintenance orders, and those on the flip side who are supposed to pay maintenance and are frustrated at our court system, at the delays involved with the Family Court system, at some of the orders given toward access and custody which are not being respected. We certainly have a myriad of issues that are raised with this bill that I believe deserve a full discussion and certainly an indication from the government as to whether they take these issues seriously and what sort of initiatives they are looking at possibly imposing so that we can have a better sense of where the government is going on such an important issue.

As I have said, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say the way society is going that maintenance enforcement is going to be a thing of the past. That's not the case. We all know that the issues dealing with families with children in our society, more and more the importance of maintenance enforcement is going to continue to play a pivotal role in our province and in our society. We need to make sure that the government is prepared to properly respond to those situations.

I have to tell you, to date, my experience as an MLA, with the files that are coming before me, is that we do not have enough support in the maintenance enforcement division. Again, that's not a critique of the individuals who work there, it's a critique of the government that has not given it enough support. I know the workers there are great to work with. As I said, the Sydney office where I've had an opportunity to deal with have been very prompt, they have been very considerate and certainly are doing their best given the limited resources that they have. At the end of the day, workers can only handle so many files and, unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, those who are under maintenance enforcement orders are finding more and more creative ways to be able to avoid maintenance.

Mr. Speaker, if I'm not mistaken, I believe we did pass legislation here in this House that tried to give the government more power to have maintenance enforcement orders enforced outside of our jurisdiction. I believe there was an understanding through the Uniform Law Conference that all the provinces would adopt a system where each province would respect the other province as to whether someone under a maintenance enforcement order was going to Ontario to work, or going to Alberta to work, or whether someone from there was coming here to work, that the government would try to make sure as much as possible that enforcement orders were being respected in those areas. It's interesting, if the Minister of Justice would give us an indication of whether that system has been working and whether it has made some changes in how many individuals are respecting their enforcement orders, as to sort of what co-operation we are receiving from other provinces.

[8:45 p.m.]

The reason I raise that, Mr. Speaker, is I think we would be naive if we didn't recognize that for the most part, as much as the government may say our employment

[Page 9400]

numbers are high or our unemployment numbers are low, I think we just saw that the September statistics are starting to show a reverse trend as the reality is, for the most part, Nova Scotians often are leaving our province to go work in other provinces which means there's an extra challenge for our maintenance enforcement to keep track of individuals. It's a little easier to keep track of someone from Yarmouth to Cape Breton than it is to keep track of someone who is out in Alberta, or is out in Ontario, or British Columbia, or Saskatchewan. It makes it extremely difficult. Not only that, I know of individuals who go to work out in Alberta, in the North, and sometimes they change companies quite regularly. Depending on the job they're on, they can keep moving from company to company. It makes it extremely difficult for maintenance enforcement sitting here in Nova Scotia, trying to figure out who the individual is working for, how much money they're making, and how long they've been working.

One of the tools that maintenance enforcement has tried to use, Mr. Speaker, for an example, is people's income tax returns, but now income tax returns are useful when people file their income tax. I can tell you I know of one case that I've been dealing with that the gentleman, who is supposed to be paying maintenance, hasn't filed in five years. So his income tax return isn't useful for maintenance enforcement because he doesn't file. He has somehow managed to stay under the radar and not file. So how do you find out where these individuals work, how much money they made, how many weeks they worked, and how much maintenance should they have paid when they don't file their income tax.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, there are all sorts of tricks basically, I might as well use that word, that have been adopted by individuals to get around the system. The question becomes what are maintenance enforcement and the Department of Justice doing to close those loopholes and to make it that much more difficult? I would submit to you while the honourable member has great intentions with this legislation, I don't believe that it is going to close those loopholes. So what are we doing, as a government and as a province, to try to tell families who rely upon maintenance enforcement orders that we are doing everything we possibly can to make sure those orders are enforced.

Now, we could never be perfect, there's no doubt of that because human nature is that, regardless of what rules you put in place, someone will find a way to get around them, but how strong can we make those rules to give maintenance enforcement staff the resources they need and, more importantly, the powers that they need to enforce these maintenance orders because until we do that, we're going to continue to see families that are not receiving the support that they need. We're continuously seeing families turn to the Department of Community Services for support. It's not that they want to. In many ways these people are saying, we're embarrassed to go to Community Services because we shouldn't have to because there's a court order saying that we should be receiving this much money for the support of myself and my children, why should I have to go to Community Services, but they have no choice.

[Page 9401]

Mr. Speaker, I had a lady that I worked with and it was the same thing. She could never predict when she would get her maintenance payments. She would get them one month, wait three months, get them for two months, wait six months, and it was her only source of income for her young child. I told the lady, you should go to the Department of Community Services, because they could at least give you some continuity, and if you receive your payments, then they'll deduct that from what you're receiving. So technically, you're not taking any money from the department, you're only getting continuity to make sure that you're actually receiving your payments, and they will take the money, accordingly, that should have been received by you.

Her answer was, I don't want to be on welfare. As much as I tried to explain to her, technically you're not, this is just a way of ensuring that you're going to receive your payments, and, in fact, the money you should have been paid in maintenance will go to the government, so they're actually reimbursed for the money. At the end of the day she did not want the stigma of being a client of Community Services, nor should she have to be if the Maintenance Enforcement Program was functioning properly.

Mr. Speaker, I submit to you it is not. There's more work that needs to be done. Yes, the Minister of Justice has made changes, I do not deny that. I believe those changes have helped, to a certain extent, but is there more that can be done? Obviously there has to be, because if not, our Maintenance Enforcement Program is not working. Until we start addressing this issue as a whole, as to how it's working, such bills are important steps, but they are not the solution. I fear that these types of bills can be used by the government to say, we did something about maintenance enforcement, we passed NDP legislation.

Will that help the families in Richmond County who rely on maintenance? I don't think it will. I really don't think it will, because credit rating used to be an important aspect of society. People would fear any sort of bad rating on their credit. Today, it's a natural occurrence. Mr. Speaker, students who don't pay their student loan payments in time, before they find out, they get a notice saying that they've been given a bad credit rating because they missed a student loan payment. These are 20-year-olds, 21-year-olds, 22-year-olds, 19-year-olds who are getting bad credit from the student aid system, and we're saying that passing a bill for people who should be paying maintenance enforcement will give them bad credit, and that they're going to take this seriously.

A great many of our best and brightest students, for the most part, are entering their professions with a bad credit rating, because they may have missed a student loan payment. Why do they miss student loan payments? Sometimes they're under the belief that they have had their loan remission approved. There are some months where they're actually required to pay that they weren't made aware of. By missing those payments, even though they make all of their payments for the rest of the loan, they are left with a bad credit rating to carry around.

[Page 9402]

Again, Mr. Speaker, to say that the maintenance enforcement is going to get stronger by saying we'll give bad credit ratings to those who haven't paid in six months, we're doing that to our students, to people who've gone to university, who are going to be the future leaders of our province. We do that to them on a regular basis. They have no choice, they have to continue with that. As I mentioned before, there are so many lending agencies now, we see them on a regular basis, saying, you haven't gotten your paycheque in time, need money, well, come to this company and we'll give you money and wait for your paycheque. Pay no attention to the fact we're going to charge you 150 per cent a day for what we're giving you. That's in the fine print.

Mr. Speaker, that is the reality. People with bad credit continue to survive in this province, and for the most part they can survive as if nothing has ever happened. I believe this bill is a good faith attempt by the member for Cape Breton Centre to address an important issue, but more needs to be done. As long as you and I and all other members continue to hear the horror stories from constituents, from mothers with children who are not receiving the payments they need, children are being denied the quality of life they should be receiving, because maintenance enforcement has failed, we need to do more.

Again, as our system works, Mr. Speaker, I can stand in my place and talk all evening. It takes the Minister of Justice and it takes the government to actually make concrete changes. Unfortunately our system does not allow us to do that. We can't even call a bill. It takes the Government House Leader to do that. It takes the government to make this initiative. That's why I wanted to take this opportunity to remind the government that it's not just a matter of showing support for an Opposition bill, this is a call for a change to our maintenance enforcement system. Until we start doing that, we will continue to have the problems which I have highlighted. I would hope that the Minister of Justice will join in this debate, even give us a bit of a review of where maintenance enforcement is today compared to where it was in 1999, or where it was in 1990, for example, or where it was in 1985? Where are we? Where have we gone?

The Minister of Education says it's much better. I don't doubt - with time everything should get better. The question is, is it as good as it should be? That is the question that needs to be raised, a question I'm sure my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, will want to learn about. I'm sure he just doesn't want to see this bill passed, but wants to see what changes will be made in maintenance enforcement to make it stronger. I'm sure even he has had constituents who have come to him with some of the challenges that are being faced by families here in Nova Scotia.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the government has called this bill. The question again becomes, when will the government actually put this bill in effect? How quickly will the minister give maintenance enforcement staff the ability to implement this change? Second of all, as I mentioned with the earlier bills, will the minister even be keeping track to see whether these changes are going to have a positive influence on those who

[Page 9403]

should be paying maintenance enforcement or is it something at the end of the day which truly has not had any real impact on such an important issue?

As I said, Mr. Speaker, I believe the initiative is now in the hands of the Minister of Justice. I truly hope that he will take the opportunity in second reading to give us a bit of a sense as to what he's going to be doing on maintenance enforcement.

Again, I want to reiterate, we have come a long way in maintenance enforcement, there is no doubt. I know this minister has taken initiatives which have improved the ability of maintenance enforcement staff to enforce orders. The question becomes, is it enough? Can we do more? Is this a step in doing more? What other powers has his staff indicated they would like to have that may make it better?

One closing example. The minister has given his staff the opportunity to order that someone lose their driver's licence if they don't pay. How many Nova Scotians have lost their driver's licence under that system? Has that worked? That would be interesting to find out; how many people have had their licences revoked for not paying their maintenance orders? That would be interesting, because if the numbers are high, I would submit that it's having its designated effect. Then again, what impact is it having?

Those are initiatives the minister has brought in. I would hope that when he stands in his place he can give us an indication of what success those initiatives have had and whether he believes this initiative will have success as well. I don't know if he has the stats of how many people have lost their driver's licence because of the maintenance enforcement program. I'm sure his competent staff might be able to provide us with such information.

I believe it's an important element of this debate, to look at the entire Maintenance Enforcement Program. Is it working? Can we improve it? Is this an opportunity by opening this debate that the member for Cape Breton Centre has allowed us the opportunity to do to seek further changes to the Act through his bill. As we know, when we go to the Law Amendments Committee, the Opposition has a majority at the Law Amendments Committee so maybe there are actually more initiatives which can be added to the member for Cape Breton Centre's bill. I'm sure he wouldn't be opposed to that, if we can make his bill even stronger and more of a legacy for him. Not that I'm suggesting he's going anywhere anytime soon, but one never knows in this business how long one will be here.

I believe it is an opportunity, and I would hope when this bill does make it to the Law Amendments Committee and we have an opportunity to look at it, and the Minister of Justice hopefully will provide us some stats from maintenance enforcement that at the end of the day we can look and see if we can make this bill even stronger than what it is.

[Page 9404]

Maybe it is already sufficiently strong, but just in case, let us keep an open mind and let us do our best as parliamentarians to support the families out there who rely upon maintenance enforcement orders and to support the children who too often also rely upon these orders. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and speak to this bill that was introduced by the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre. First of all, I want to commend the honourable member. I know his sentiment in bringing this forward was, in fact, to highlight another tool that could be used by our maintenance enforcement system in this province to help protect families who are not receiving payments from former spouses.

[9:00 p.m.]

I was pleased to find out - actually after the honourable member indicated to me he was introducing this bill - to check with our Maintenance Enforcement Program to learn that they believe they have the authority under the existing legislation to do this, but I still believe the legislation is important and I will be supporting the bill because it will further outline one of the legislative tools given by this Legislature to the Maintenance Enforcement Program to assist in the collection of the monies owed.

We will have some minor changes to the bill to suggest at the Law Amendments Committee, that will improve it, but the principle of the bill that people's credit ratings can be a technique used to lead people to do what they should be doing voluntarily, which is to pay their maintenance orders without enforcement, I support that.

I would, however, like to make a couple of comments. One in particular is about the fact that I do believe that the maintenance enforcement system today is better than it was. I believe that a number of the changes that have been introduced over the last number of years - increased staff, improved legislative tools - have assisted the Maintenance Enforcement Program in enforcing court orders.

Do I believe that the problems are fixed? Absolutely not. Until every order is respected and paid, the system will constantly need to be reviewed and assisted so that people, particularly children, receive the money they are entitled to receive and which has been ordered by the courts.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that our department is vigilant, and I have given instructions to the department to look across this country, and indeed into the United States, to look at enforcement tools that are being used elsewhere to see what the most modern tools are that can be used to ensure payment under these orders. Our department will continue to

[Page 9405]

monitor the situation, continue to look for how we can better serve those clients whose orders we are enforcing.

I can also indicate that I continue to hope that human resources will continue to grow to assist in the enforcement of those maintenance orders. I can indicate that we are doing more and we will continue to do more.

I cannot go without passing comment on one that was from the honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party who talked about legal aid. I think it's important that the House know the national disgrace which is federal Liberal legal aid funding. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I just think that it's important for everyone in the House to appreciate that while year after year this House has continued to vote increased money to legal aid funding, that the core funding for legal aid in this province, given to us by the federal Liberal Government, has decreased. It waxes a little strange that the federal Minister of Justice, at Canadian Bar Association Meetings, which I have been going to for a number of years, continues to talk about the importance of legal aid funding.

Well, I agree with him, but do you know what? Never, ever does he match the rhetoric with the money. We need the money. I agree with the honourable member that increased funding, particularly for family legal aid, the so-called civil legal aid, would be a great assistance to our families. The problem is that while we have been growing our funding at quite considerable rates, the federal government is effectively at a freeze. In fact, the federal minister has waxed, opined that he's not really sure that that money, that that is an issue that he really should be involved in and he's very interested in talking about constitutional jurisdiction. You can't have it both ways. You can't mouth the words and say, what a wonderful idea it is that we increase legal aid funding at the same time not increasing the funding. So I would encourage the honourable members opposite to speak to their brethren in Ottawa to match the rhetoric with the money. That will truly benefit families in Nova Scotia as they try to enforce their orders, and with those few brief remarks, I would like to support the honourable member's bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, it's, as usual, always an honour to stand in this House and speak on any bill, but it's always a pleasure to stand up when you hear the Minister of Justice stand before this House and utter the words matching rhetoric with money. What an unbelievable statement coming from the Minister of Justice. For that government to say that you have to match rhetoric with money. Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable that that minister would utter those words from that government.

[Page 9406]

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, the fact that this government even called this bill is nothing more than a deal that has been worked up between the government and the New Democratic Party. That's all it is. (Interruptions) This bill . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I actually agree with the honourable Government House Leader. The honourable member is suggesting that members are involved in something that imputes motive in this House. I would ask the honourable member to retract that please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, if I made any reference to that, certainly I would retract it. What I . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you for retracting that. The honourable member for Glace Bay, we are on second reading of Bill No. 237. I will ask the honourable member to bring back his comments to the principle of Bill No. 237. (Interruptions)

Order, please. I could have also brought the honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party on the same issue. The honourable member for Glace Bay on the principle of Bill No. 237, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that clarification. I appreciate that clarification. In the words of the NDP House Leader, I'm not going to find much substance in this bill to talk about, his words. I will try, and it won't be much help looking at this paper because there is nothing there. That's the fact of the matter. Absolutely nothing there. The members of this House know full well and the Justice Minister knows full well, if you have dealt with any kind of issues whatsoever, with maintenance enforcement, you know that this is not going to be of any help whatsoever to the women and children who deal with maintenance enforcement issues; no help whatsoever, that's the fact of this matter.

The member for Timberlea-Prospect can bellow from the back of the bleachers as much as he wants, as he usually does, Mr. Speaker. Let him get up first if he wants to get up, and talk about it, but he knows full well that this bill, if you're talking about when the payer is six months in arrears and going before a credit rating agency . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 9407]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the member knows full well at second reading, he's not supposed to be reading directly from the bill, it's about principle, not clause by clause. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think every member in this House can be guilty of breaking several rules, whether it's reading from or otherwise.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the NDP House Leader for that lesson in what to do and what not to do in the Legislature. The fact of the matter is that we are talking about (Interruptions) Sure, if the House Leader of the NDP wants to stand up and talk about this bill, then go ahead. If not, I suggest he should perhaps hold his place and be quiet and let me have my say. Otherwise, he should go in the back rooms and talk with the other members of the NDP caucus about something they've introduced that means . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay on Bill No. 237.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let me give you some examples of what we're talking about here. I've had many examples come through my office in Glace Bay. Again, we're dealing 99.9 per cent here with women and with children, people who have come into the office and said, look, I can't do anything about the Maintenance Enforcement Act, and I've tried dealing with the office, whatever the case may be. Again, as the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party pointed out, it's not the fault of the staff who are at the Maintenance Enforcement Office in Sydney or anywhere else in this province. The fact of the matter is that these are difficult issues to deal with.

Here's the other statement that kind of hit home when I heard the Minister of Justice reply to this bill, Mr. Speaker - we are doing more and continue to do more. Heaven forbid that this government would continue to do more about maintenance enforcement. The fact of the matter is that this government is now introducing an NDP bill, Bill No. 237 - why are they doing it, is what most women and children in this province would be asking. Why are you introducing an NDP bill that deals only with a credit rating agency, when there's so much more that you could be doing to deal with the issues that surround this whole area of maintenance enforcement, much more?

I don't know the exact stats, I just know from individuals, and these are individuals who come into the office and say, hey, I'm owed $2,000, I'm owed $3,000, I'm owed $4,000 in maintenance enforcement, what can you do to possibly help me collect that money from my ex-husband, or whatever the case may be. Is this going to help? Is this going to help that

[Page 9408]

woman or child collect, and how so? Obviously, as the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party has correctly pointed out, being reported to a credit agency these days is not that big of a deal. Surely the government knows that. As a matter of fact, it might be a hindrance to actually collecting that money from that individual who is in arrears, if you report that person to the credit rating agency.

Has the member for Cape Breton Centre, who introduced this legislation, thought about that? Has the government thought about that? If you ruin a person's credit rating, how then does that person go about possibly getting money to pay the arrears to maintenance enforcement? (Interruptions) Well, it's possible. It's actually possible. You're talking about a person - it's going to take six months, according to the NDP's legislation, it's going to take six months to report them to a credit rating agency.

Mr. Speaker, it's just another example that the government is simply wasting time here. That's all they're doing, wasting time. They have nothing of any substance whatsoever to bring before this House right now, except to cherry-pick a member's - in this case an NDP member - legislation, and put it before the House and say, well, let's debate this, let's talk about this. So we can appease the NDP, let's hope that this gets through right away, because, maybe down the road, in two or three days, whatever the case may be, we might be able to use them. We might be able to get their help.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The member is out of order, and I would ask him to retract it again. The next time I'm going to ask him to take his place.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, let me bring myself back to Bill No. 237 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Withdraw the comment. Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay will withdraw the comment.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): I was just about to do that. Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I do retract that statement.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, the bill itself is looking at the issue of a credit rating agency. The Leader in the House of the Liberal Party brought up several points during his debate. One good point that he brought up was what happens if the person has not reported their income tax, because that's exactly what maintenance enforcement is

[Page 9409]

based on. It's based on your income tax return. If that person hasn't filed an income tax return for one year, two years, several years, whatever the case may be, then again you're left with a situation of exactly what does this piece of legislation do? Where does it go? What does it do?

[9:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as I said, if we want to do more, if we want to do more for the people who are directly affected by this, if we want to help the people who are affected by maintenance enforcement or the lack of maintenance enforcement and how we can make it possible for them to collect on arrears, or the case may be, then obviously the first thing we have to do is strengthen the resources that are available to these women and children. It sometimes takes months, absolutely months for any phone call to be returned sometimes regarding maintenance enforcement because the staff isn't there. The caseload is there. As we have seen many, many times throughout this province, the caseload is always there, whether it be in Community Services - the Minister of Justice himself indicated that the caseload is there, as the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party did with legal aid, the caseload is there, and maintenance enforcement workers find themselves with that same caseload.

Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, in order for you to change a maintenance enforcement order you must go and make application before the courts. That's where maintenance enforcement orders originate. So you don't have to actually go before a court, but you can fill out an application form that you can obtain at the courthouse, or wherever the office may be located, and you fill that out at which time, if I'm again not mistaken, there may be an arbitrator, I forget the exact term, who deals with the matter.

Again, time passes, Mr. Speaker. You're left again with a situation where the arrears continue. There may not be regular maintenance that's coming in. There may not be a regular payment that's coming in. In that case, again, the person may be affected by the fact that they're not receiving that regular cheque. The maintenance arrears are continuing to build and then they file the claim, they file the application, and it has to be dealt with. Again, you're left with time. If you have someone who's supposed to have been paying, if you have someone who's supposed to have been paying their arrears for six months and then all of a sudden you report them to a credit agency, then explain to me what does that do? What does it do? What benefit do you gain from reporting them to a credit agency?

Mr. Speaker, the minister himself has stood on his feet here tonight and said, if we go back in Hansard the minister said I'm not sure what use this legislation will be because we may already have the authority to do this. We may already have the authority to do this. The staff at maintenance enforcement say we may already have the authority to do this.

[Page 9410]

AN HON. MEMBER: Why wait six months?

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): So why wait six months, Mr. Speaker? If the maintenance enforcement staff, if the Minister of Justice through his department already has the authority to do this, why are we going to wait six months to put this legislation through? No, not to put the legislation through, it's not going to take that long, six months, if it does go through. Why would you have to wait six months in arrears if the maintenance enforcement staff, if the Minister of Justice already has the authority to do that, why wouldn't it be done?

Why are we dealing with matters of arrears already, Mr. Speaker? Why is it that we have to stand in this Legislature and talk about this type of legislation and talk about this bill if that power, if that authority already exists at maintenance enforcement departments across this province? It's a question that nobody has answered. It's a question that the Minister of Justice hasn't addressed. It is a matter that he directly brought up. He is the one who said that we may not actually need this kind of legislation because the people at the department already think that they have the authority to deal with that.

Instead, Mr. Speaker, the minister took the opportunity to try to, as this government always does, blame everything on Ottawa. Blame this on Ottawa, too, and blame everything from legal aid funding to whatever the case may be, let's blame it on Ottawa. If you want to match rhetoric with money, then the Justice Minister in this case, in this bill, shouldn't have to bring forward this bill because the Justice Minister and the Justice Department already have the authority; the authority has already been given to them to deal with these matters.

AN HON. MEMBER: More staff.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): You know, Mr. Speaker, more staff, that's one of the key points here. If you want to deal with arrears and there are more and more arrears that are building up in maintenance enforcement and you want to deal with them, then you give the Maintenance Enforcement Office the staff that they need. You give them the person power that they require to properly treat this and then you will have rhetoric, okay, that's no longer there, then you'll have the money that's necessary to take on this problem. It is a problem; this is a huge problem in this province.

I've had people come into my office and they've told me they're chasing their ex-husbands - I have to say, that's 100 per cent of the cases in my case - they're after their ex-husbands. These are women and children we're talking about and the arrears are substantial. These are arrears that build up and the Department of Community Services has no problem taking this maintenance enforcement and saying it's income. They have absolutely no problem declaring that income, but when it's not there, well that's a problem we can't deal with. That's a problem maintenance enforcement has to deal with, or whatever the case may be.

[Page 9411]

So here we are and we stand and we talk about a bill that has been introduced, it's a Private Member's Bill. It's a bill that's called by government and government tries to convince us that this is a bill that needs support, that this is a bill that will do good, that this is a bill that is the be-all and end-all of maintenance enforcement issues. It's going to help solve a lot of problems.

Mr. Speaker, that's not necessarily the case. You've already heard from the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party, who outlined for a considerable amount of time the problems that there are with this bill. There are a considerable amount of problems - staffing is just the surface. If you look at the whole maintenance enforcement issue, what we have to do is get serious about this problem in Nova Scotia.

The Leader in the House of the Liberal Party raised the issue again, you have the right to take away your licence - how many licences have been taken away? Have you used that tool? Has it worked? Have you taken that tool that has been given to you to try and bring justice to this question? Have you taken that and have you used it to your ability?

We don't know because nobody is answering our questions. Nobody is telling us whether or not that has been used. Is this going to be a useful tool in that same field? We don't know. The minister just decides to get up on his feet and say, let's match rhetoric with money and we're doing more and we continue to do more. Mr. Speaker, you know we can't live on platitudes like that in the Legislature. We need substance. That's what we need, the legislation in this Legislature. This is not a bill that gives us substance here. This is rhetoric. If you want an example of rhetoric, this is rhetoric. That's all it is.

Again, as the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party indicated, this is going to have . . .

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: . . . another speech, Dave.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): You know, the NDP House Leader can heckle me all he wants, but I have every right as a member of this Legislature to stand on my feet and debate any legislation that I feel free to do so. That's why the people of Glace Bay sent me here and I will continue to do that no matter how much the NDP complains, I don't care. The NDP can protest until the lights go out, I don't care. I will stand here and I will debate legislation when I don't think it's good legislation or when I think it's good legislation.

In this case, what we have here, as I've said, is we have a bill that's been introduced, it's a Private Member's Bill. The government has decided they're going to put forward this piece of legislation. They're trying to tell us that they've done something. They're trying to sell us something. It's like - I was going to say something, but I've had two warnings so far, Mr. Speaker, so I'm going to pull back a bit and I'm not going to go there - I'm thinking about it now, but I didn't say it.

[Page 9412]

This has an impact on the Department of Community Services and on community services in general. If there are two or three issues that have been to the forefront since I've become an MLA, that I deal with on a regular basis, social services and maintenance enforcement would easily be within the top five, and of course there would be things like workers' compensation issues and Canada Pension issues and so on and so forth. But on a consistent basis, if you talk about the number one issue, I think it would probably be in my own constituency anyway, social services, and maintenance enforcement issues have a direct correlation with social services issues. Usually the complaint that you hear, usually the first complaint that you hear is that look, I'm getting this much from maintenance enforcement and Community Services says that is dollar for dollar off my income assistance benefits that I think I'm entitled to.

Why is that? Well usually, Community Services or someone says, you make too much money. Which, Mr. Speaker, is a statement that I have said in this House before, that should never be made by any civil servant, because there is no one that I know of who is on community services that makes too much money. You don't get rich in Nova Scotia by being on community services and anybody who says that you do is not living in the real world.

Mr. Speaker, what happens is that because it's dollar for dollar, because of that connection, because of that correlation, what happens is that the dollars are clawed back. That's what happens. It's as simple as that. So if your ex-husband is giving $300 a month, that's $300 a month that you are not going to get from Community Services. That's $300 a month I may add, that added to Community Services, would certainly be a benefit to the people who would be collecting it. It certainly wouldn't make them rich. It certainly wouldn't give them anything that would put them in an income bracket that would be comfortable. All it would do is perhaps give them some more necessities in life and that would be the benefit of it.

Mr. Speaker, again, as I said, if the government is serious about maintenance enforcement issues, they could do a lot more than simply introducing this bill. A lot more. They could take the opportunity right now to do a thorough review of maintenance enforcement issues in this province. A thorough review, which I think the time has probably come that we step back and take a look at what should be done in terms of providing proper maintenance enforcement in this province.

What we've done throughout the years has been pretty willy-nilly or johnny-come-lately, whatever the phrase may be that applies to it. We have taken, like a grab bag, from other provinces and said, well that seems to work, let's apply it here. That worked out there, let's apply it here. Instead what we should be doing and what the government should be doing is saying, well let's take a look at the entire issue of maintenance enforcement, not just wait until there is a Private Member's Bill that deals with a credit rating agency or whatever. Let's take a look at the entire area of maintenance enforcement, what's needed to make it better, not what's needed to be complacent, not what's needed to try and satisfy the New

[Page 9413]

Democratic Party, not what's needed to try to sell Nova Scotians that you are actually doing a job. What's needed here is, probably, a thorough and even independent review of what's going on with maintenance enforcement.

Talk to the stakeholders. Talk to the people who are working in maintenance enforcement. Talk to the people who are dealing with income assistance. Talk to the people who rely on maintenance enforcement to actually live. Talk to them. Talk to the justice system, the courts, the administrators, the social workers who are dealing with these issues on a daily basis and ask them, are we doing enough in this province? Are we doing enough in terms of maintenance enforcement and what it provides to those who have gone through what sometimes can be a tremendously stressful situation, to go through the courts and actually end up in a maintenance enforcement agreement? There are all sorts of - I don't know how to describe it - when you go through a divorce let's say, and you go through the turmoil and stress that's involved with a divorce. You end up before a court, you end up before officers, and you end up relying on a maintenance enforcement agreement with lawyers involved. What's left at the end of the day is that you have this amount that's supposed to be provided to that person, on that day, at that particular time.

[9:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that's fine. The courts can say that. There are instances where people have had to apply and say, I can't do it, I've had a change in income, whatever the case may be, I can't. You can do that. It's not easy, but it's simply getting an application from the Department of Justice and applying to have your maintenance enforcement order changed in whatever way, shape, or form.

Mr. Speaker, my point was that when you go through that entire process, at the end of the day, you're left with a piece of paper that you expect will be enforced, because it is a legal document. Let's remember that, a maintenance enforcement order is a legal document. To suggest that just because your arrears would build up for six months or eight months, whatever the case may be, and because of that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, just to suggest that because of that amount of time, whatever arbitrary amount of time you should decide, just to suggest that after that amount of time passes that you would be reported to a credit rating agency - let me tell you a little bit about credit rating agencies. Credit rating agencies are regulated as well. The fact of the matter is, anybody who knows anything about credit rating in this province would know it's not that hard, after your credit rating has been ruined, to obtain another credit rating, to obtain a credit card, to obtain a line of credit, or whatever the case may be.

[Page 9414]

Mr. Speaker, again, another point to be made is that if the director of maintenance enforcement were to report your arrears to a credit rating agency, what exactly does that mean? What exactly would it do? Would it mean that your entire credit rating, your entire ability to borrow money, whatever the case may be, is ruined for a long time? You don't know. We have no way of knowing that. My suggestion to you would be that no, it would not. No, it would not. It would mean, as a matter of fact, that, simply, it is a reporting to a credit agency.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, I, too, find the noise somewhat objectionable, I appreciate your interventions. The fact of the matter is that the report that would be given by the director to the credit rating agency may amount to absolutely nothing. That's the fact of this matter. It may or may not result, and have the credit rating agency put a bad credit rating against you. It may, that's not necessarily the case. It depends on the rest of your credit rating and your past history and so on and so forth. It doesn't automatically ruin your credit rating, that you would have one report from a maintenance enforcement officer or director, in this case, as the bill says, that wouldn't necessarily put you in the bad books, in terms of the credit rating agency. It may just be noted on your actual credit record that this has occurred. It may not have any effect whatsoever.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it brings me back to, where have we gone with this? What kind of thought has actually gone into this? In this case I know it's a Private Member's Bill, but the government has introduced it, and therefore the government is supporting it, and why? What kind of research, whatever the case has been, has the government done on this? Again it brings me back to my original point as to why is the government is actually supporting this bill in the first place. The bill itself doesn't carry any weight, or it may not carry any weight. It has no guarantee that it will carry any weight before a credit rating agency. It has no guarantee that it will carry any weight before the actual Maintenance Enforcement Office.

What you have is an amendment to the Maintenance Enforcement Act that has been proposed and, again, it's left most of us here, anyway, in our caucus, scratching our heads and saying, why has this legislation been proposed? Why is it here? What good is it going to do? What benefit will there be to the women and children in this province who are desperately seeking help in this case? I mean desperately seeking help because I know in the cases I've dealt with, they have come into the office and they've asked, what can I possibly do about getting the maintenance enforcement benefits that are mine that have been awarded to me, what can I do to possibly get them as soon as possible, because I'm in dire straits and I need that help. This doesn't answer that, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't answer any of that. It doesn't answer the question of resources, it doesn't answer the question of staff, it doesn't answer the question of why this legislation is being introduced in the first place.

[Page 9415]

Again, I raise the issue, and I know that since I've started talking about this bill that I've been the subject of much heckling from the New Democratic Party. I don't mind that. They've asked why. They should have asked their member why before he brought in this bill; before that bill was introduced to this Legislature, they should have asked the member for Cape Breton Centre, why are you doing this? Then they should have asked the government and the Government House Leader, why are you introducing this legislation? Why are you calling this legislation at this point in time?

Mr. Speaker, I think the answers would be quite evident as to why they're doing that. I'll let the member for Timberlea-Prospect draw his own conclusions, since he's so great at solving everything else. He can draw his own conclusions on this one. The fact of the matter is, this again, this is not a case, and let me tell you something, this is not a case, as the NDP proudly thumps its chest, this is not a case of them standing up for families in Nova Scotia, because this is not standing up for families in Nova Scotia, not in any way, shape or form. I think it's a blatant attempt to try to do something, but I haven't quite figured out - or at least, I'm stopping myself from saying exactly what that is, at the same time drawing those conclusions to whatever the case may be.

Mr. Speaker, if the minister was serious about supporting this kind of legislation he would put forward such things as giving us some statistics on what the default rate is in Nova Scotia on maintenance enforcement agreements. What is it? How many people don't pay their maintenance enforcement agreements? How many people are we chasing around? Are we going to be out there chasing people around and saying, hey, we're going to get your credit rating, because we haven't been out there chasing them around saying, we're going to get your driver's licence? Or at least we don't know that, because the minister hasn't provided us with that information either.

The minister can bring up legal aid and how underfunded they are and thump his chest about how great they are funded by this province. The fact of the matter is, I know a number of people who have gone to legal aid looking for help with maintenance enforcement issues. So if that's the case, how many people are in default in this province? How many are there, and where are they? Where are they? In what county are most of them located, and what is their situation? What's the correlation between them and the Department of Community Services? Are most of them not being treated properly by the Department of Community Services? Should they be in receipt of more benefits, of income assistance?

There are so many questions that are associated with this bill that are not answered by this bill, and will never be answered by this bill, Mr. Speaker. If the NDP is serious in treating maintenance enforcement issues to this extent, then as I've suggested that if you want an entire review of the maintenance enforcement system in this province, then let the NDP support that review. Let the NDP stand up and say we support the Liberal Party and calling for an independent review of maintenance enforcement in this province. I think that's a great idea. I think that's something that, for instance, the member for Timberlea-Prospect

[Page 9416]

would support, because he's always so open and transparent. I know that the Cape Breton members over there would probably support it.

Anyway, that's probably not going to happen. What happens in some instances - and I'm not going to get too political - is that there's no good legislation for the NDP unless they introduce it. They have to introduce it and they have to propose amendments or else it's not good legislation.

Mr. Speaker, it's much like a lot of other Tory legislation that we've seen come before this House. This is a half measure, that's all it is. As a matter of fact it may be right down there with a third - I don't even know if it's enough to be a half measure. It just simply doesn't contain any substance; there's no substance there. You want to take a look at maintenance enforcement, there are so many other issues associated with maintenance enforcement. There are so many other areas that you could look at, other than just reporting someone to a credit rating agency. It doesn't scratch the surface, and members here, in particular the Leader in the House of the Liberal Party, have raised point after point after point that there has to be more done in regard to collection of maintenance orders.

Mr. Speaker, one of the questions that's raised by this bill itself is that if, indeed, and again it's the six-month regulation that's in here, what's required when you're in arrears, what happens to families then? What do you do for six months? Where does your income come from? What's done? Again, leading back, directly, to the Justice Minister's statement that I don't know if this is necessary because we may already have the power to deal with this, it leads to the ultimate question, if you have the power to deal with it, why haven't you dealt with it? Why haven't you done something with it?

You sit around on your hands all day, you haven't dealt with the issues of maintenance enforcement, you haven't dealt with a lot of other issues in this province - and I'm not even going to go there because I'm going to stay on what this bill is about, I'm not even going to go to the other issues, because there's a myriad of other issues that I could start talking about, but you would sit me down, and rightfully so, Mr. Speaker, you would sit me down. I'll stick just with this Maintenance Enforcement Bill. That's what I'll stick with.

Just on that bill alone, if you had the authority and the power to do something to help the women and children in this province, and you stood up in this House and said you haven't done it yet, you had to wait until a Private Member's Bill was brought in from the Opposition in order to even contemplate doing something for women and children in this province, is that what the Minister of Justice is telling us? That's what he's told us tonight, that he hasn't done anything for women and children in this province. He had to wait for an Opposition member's Party to bring forward legislation, or proposed legislation, before he would even contemplate doing anything. That's what we're dealing with here.

[Page 9417]

That's what we're dealing with, we're dealing with the ineptness of a minister who hasn't done anything, Mr. Speaker. That's what this legislation is about. He sat here and then he stood in his place tonight and he told us that we're doing more and we continue to do more, but at the same time he said we may already have the authority to deal with this, so I'm not sure what this legislation is going to do.

At the end of this session, what's the minister going to say then? In the meantime, women and children are out there and they have arrears regarding maintenance enforcement, they can't collect on it, they can't do anything about it, you're not taking their licences away, you're not chasing them, you're not going after them, you're not prosecuting them, you're not doing anything at all - the minister in question here - to help women and children in this province. Shame on the minister, Mr. Speaker, shame on the minister.

Is this all it takes? Is this the best that they can come forward with? Is this what's left at the end of the day in this session, that the best the Tory Government can come up with is a Private Member's Bill that says we're going to chase after your credit rating because you didn't pay your maintenance enforcement arrears? Is that the best that we can expect as legislators in this House?

Mr. Speaker, it's not a good idea. It's an empty idea. That's what it is, it's empty. I would have expected more, as a matter of fact, from the NDP. I would have expected more, because I've seen some of the legislation that they've brought before this House, and it had substance. This has nothing. This leaves an absolute void. And the fact of the matter is, that the government would even contemplate supporting this and bringing it forward, it leaves me wondering exactly what is going on and, on that point, let me move to adjourn the debate on this matter right now, please.

[9:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 237.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, could we have the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

[Page 9418]

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I will defer to the honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Private and Local Bills Committee, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 267 - Cape Breton Island Marketing Levy Act.

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

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON (Glace Bay): Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Private and Local Bills Committee, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 238 - YMCA of Cape Breton Act.

Bill No. 239 - Northern Yacht Club Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

[Page 9419]

Bill No. 247 - Correctional Services Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 1:00 p.m. The House will sit from 1:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. The order of business will be most of the stuff that's on the order paper. We'll do Public Bills for Second Reading, Public Bills for Third Reading, Private Members' Public Bills for Second and Third Reading. We'll do Private and Local Bills, I guess, and some Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I think that just about covers the waterfront and I move that we do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 1:00 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 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:47 p.m.]

[Page 9420]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 5020

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Energy)

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

Whereas Diana Lee Dalton has been appointed new chair of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which is entrusted with governance of petroleum exploration and development of offshore Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Ms. Dalton has had a distinguished career in law and consulting on natural resources, both in Canada and abroad, strengths that will help her provide leadership during this critical stage of our offshore's growth; and

Whereas the Department of Natural Resources Canada has approved that Ms. Dalton is the best choice as chair;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Diana Dalton on her appointment as chair of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, and wish her all the best in her new role.

RESOLUTION NO. 5021

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Raylene Way was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9421]

RESOLUTION NO. 5022

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Michael Carter was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5023

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Maurice Carvery was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9422]

RESOLUTION NO. 5024

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Kim Chambers was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5025

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Bobby Clyke was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9423]

RESOLUTION NO. 5026

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Nathan Cross was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5027

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Craig Durling was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9424]

RESOLUTION NO. 5028

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Karen Foster was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5029

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Thomas Fournier was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9425]

RESOLUTION NO. 5030

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas D'Arcy Hueston was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5031

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Anthony McGrath was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9426]

RESOLUTION NO. 5032

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Christopher McMahon was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5033

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Nancy Miller was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9427]

RESOLUTION NO. 5034

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Jeffrey Pothier was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5035

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Barbara Rasmussen was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9428]

RESOLUTION NO. 5036

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Sam Saade was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5037

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Jeffrey Seebold was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9429]

RESOLUTION NO. 5038

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas David Smith was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5039

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Holly Smith was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9430]

RESOLUTION NO. 5040

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Anthony Sparks was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5041

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Sara Stewart was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

[Page 9431]

RESOLUTION NO. 5042

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 on September 23rd at Pier 21, 23 new constables graduated from the HRM Police Science Program; and

Whereas these 23 brave new officers will work to enhance the safety and security in our neighbourhoods; and

Whereas Kathryn Venedam was one of those graduates bravely taking to the streets to serve and protect the citizens in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the 23 new recruits on successfully completing the Police Science Program, and wish them success and safety as they start their new careers.

RESOLUTION NO. 5043

By: Mr. Stephen McNeil (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the Tusket Courthouse in Argyle has recently been designated as a national historic site, representing a significant building type in British North America during the late 1800s to early 1900s; and

Whereas the national historic site designation is one of the most prestigious acknowledgments a piece of historical property can receive in Canada; and

Whereas the Tusket Courthouse will now be listed in natural tourism literature, which should help draw attention to this wonderful historical site and the beautiful area of southwest Nova Scotia; and

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all those who have worked countless hours to restore the Argyle Township Courthouse so that it can now be recognized for its historical significance with its recent designation as a national historic site.

[Page 9432]

RESOLUTION NO. 5044

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 we need to celebrate the successes of businesses in our community; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce organized the Business Excellence Awards Program; and

Whereas the community nominated local businesses to receive such awards;

Therefore be it resolved that the executive and members of the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce be congratulated by this House for their leadership in recognizing and celebrating excellence in the business community.

RESOLUTION NO. 5045

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 service clubs provide a variety of supports for citizens in their communities; and

Whereas service clubs depend on community volunteers to make the organization strong and effective; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Kiwanis-Golden K recently installed a new president;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Nelson Cutler, the new president of the Bridgewater and Area Golden-K-Kiwanis Club, for his dedication to serving his club and his community.

[Page 9433]

RESOLUTION NO. 5046

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 businesses of all sizes and types are crucial to having a healthy economy; and

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2005 Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Covey Island Boatworks for being the recipient of the Export Achievement Excellence Award.

RESOLUTION NO. 5047

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 businesses of all sizes and types are crucial to having a healthy economy; and

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2005 Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate L&B Electric, which is owned by 23 employees, for being the recipients of the Large Business Excellence Award.

[Page 9434]

RESOLUTION NO. 5048

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 businesses of all sizes and types are crucial to having a healthy economy; and

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2005 Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ernest and Maria Kiesling, owners of Kiesling Construction Ltd., for being the recipients of the Innovation Excellence Award.

RESOLUTION NO. 5049

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 businesses of all sizes and types are crucial to having a healthy economy; and

Whereas it is essential that we celebrate the business successes in our communities; and

Whereas the Bridgewater and Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the 2005 Lunenburg County Business Excellence Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Philip and Carol Wamboldt, owners of Petite Riviere Vineyards, for being the recipients of the Entrepreneurial Achievement Excellence Award.

[Page 9435]

RESOLUTION NO. 5050

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 small business development is the backbone of our economy; and

Whereas the Nauss Group and Boston Pizza International have opened a new Boston Pizza restaurant and sports bar in the Bridgewater area of Lunenburg County; and

Whereas this new business venture will employ 115 staff and provide a new food and entertainment service for residents and visitors;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Nauss Group, consisting of Shawn Nauss, Kurt Nauss, Michael Nauss, Andrew Nauss, Mitchell Nauss, Jeffery Nauss and Stephen Nauss for their entrepreneurship and the opening of a new Boston Pizza franchise.

RESOLUTION NO. 5051

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on May 14, 2005, I had the pleasure of attending the Mount Edward Spring Fling which generated approximately $1,500; and

Whereas the Spring Fling was organized by the home and school association, the principal, teachers and staff, and proved to be a fun-filled day for everyone; and

Whereas Jennifer Thompson, Gina Conrod and Roy Lilly, three of the school parents, worked very hard, along with other parents, to make the day a great success;

Therefore be it resolved that this government congratulate all those involved in the Spring Fling and thank them for their efforts to provide resources to our young people.

[Page 9436]

RESOLUTION NO. 5052

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on October 5, 2005, I had the pleasure to walk to school with some of the students and staff from Mount Edward Elementary School; and

Whereas many of our schools across Nova Scotia participated in the International Walk to School Week this Fall; and

Whereas the act of walking or cycling is good for both the person and the environment by reducing gas emissions from cars;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all those who participated in Walk to School Week this Fall and thank them for doing their part to help our environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 5053

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on April 27, 2005, I attended the Dartmouth Heritage Museum's opening reception for Models, Miniatures and More at the museum's temporary site, Evergreen House; and

Whereas the exhibition of Models, Miniatures and More captured the spirit and form of Old Dartmouth; and

Whereas many of the people in attendance that evening, including myself, felt very nostalgic when we saw models and miniatures that had been put into storage when the old site shut down;

Therefore be it resolved that this government congratulate the Dartmouth Heritage Museum on their successful exhibition and wish them all the best in the future.

[Page 9437]

RESOLUTION NO. 5054

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas in August 2005, the New Portland Link was launched and is quickly attracting many commuters, travelling from Dartmouth to Halifax in approximately 23 minutes; and

Whereas those who choose to park their car and take the bus are not only saving money on parking meters and gas, but are also helping to save the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions; and

Whereas the Portland Hills bus terminal free parking lot is now filled to capacity every morning and will need to expand;

Therefore be it resolved that this government congratulate all citizens who are doing their part to help our environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 5055

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on October 19, 2005, I had the pleasure to attend the opening of a wonderful art exhibition and sale in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch; and

Whereas the 7th Annual Mosaic for Mental Health, Creating New Horizons, was held at the Craig Gallery at Alderney Landing; and

Whereas even though the artwork was basically being purchased off the walls of the gallery at an astonishing rate, I did manage to purchase a piece of artwork for myself;

Therefore be it resolved that this government congratulate the Canadian Mental Health Association, Halifax-Dartmouth Branch, on their wonderful art exhibition and sale and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.

[Page 9438]

RESOLUTION NO. 5056

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on September 21, 2005, I had the opportunity to attend the signing of the memorandum of understanding between Capital Health and the Halifax Regional School Board at Prince Andrew High School for the funding of 16 youth health centres in the HRM area; and

Whereas Anthony Carter, now a first-year public relations student at Mount Saint Vincent University and previous volunteer chairman of the new health centre at Prince Andrew High School during its inaugural year, spoke about how this commitment is a wonderful opportunity for local high schools to teach students about healthy living; and

Whereas last year the clinics had more than 11,000 visits and provided 3,200 referrals, indicating just how important it is to provide our youth with the right information so that they can make the right decisions and choices;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish all the youth health centres great success in the coming years in educating our youth and helping them make informed decisions in regard to their health.

RESOLUTION NO. 5057

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on September 11, 2005, I had the honour to attend the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the national historic significance of the Merchant Navy and the Second World War; and

Whereas the text of the plaque reads as follows: The Canadian Merchant Navy contributed decisively to victory, transporting troops and supplies to many war zones around the world in support of the Allied nations; and

[Page 9439]

Whereas merchant mariners endured the constant threat of enemy attack, compounded by the dangers of the open sea. With courage, perseverance and determination, these men and women risked their lives on the oceans of the world. Many made the ultimate sacrifice in the effort to uphold liberty;

Therefore be it resolved that this government express our thanks to the some 12,000 Canadian and Newfoundland and Labrador merchant seamen and members of the Canadian Merchant Navy who faced enemy action and the hostile environment of the sea to deliver soldiers and supplies to war zones around the world during the Second World War.

RESOLUTION NO. 5058

By: Ms. Joan Massey (Dartmouth East)

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

Whereas on Sunday, June 5, 2005, I had the honour to attend the 2005 Atlantic Rally for Muscular Dystrophy which is a family fun walk, wheel, or run held in Dartmouth; and

Whereas Muscular Dystrophy Canada is a national voluntary organization committed to providing services and support to Canadians affected by neuromuscular disorders; and

Whereas this year was the 51st year of partnership with firefighters who have helped raise over $53 million to support research, equipment, programs and services for people affected by neuromuscular dystrophy;

Therefore be it resolved that this government thank all those volunteers committed to funding leading research to find the causes, treatments, prevention and cures for each of the disorders, and wish them much success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 5059

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas community groups from the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea area held a successful BLT Community Awareness Day on Saturday, October 1st; and

[Page 9440]

Whereas this event was much appreciated by all who attended; and

Whereas these volunteers and professionals continue to service the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank the organizers of the BLT Community Awareness Day.

RESOLUTION NO. 5060

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas the Halifax County United Under 14 Tier 1 Boys had a successful soccer season; and

Whereas this team captured a third place finish in provincial competition; and

Whereas team members and parents wish to thank coaches Jim Slaunwhite, Lee Thompson and Gerrard Reddick for their efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Halifax County United Under 14 Tier 1 Soccer team on its accomplishments.

RESOLUTION NO. 5061

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas Brittany Walsh of Timberlea has had a busy and eventful baseball season; and

Whereas Brittany, a Ridgecliff Middle School student, competed at Bantam Girls' National Baseball Championships in Fredericton; and

Whereas Brittany has played ball in the Timberlea Minor Softball Association and the St. Margaret's Baseball Association;

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Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Brittany Walsh on her baseball accomplishments with best of luck, on and off the field, in her future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 5062

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas community members and school staff and students have worked long and hard on the beautification project at Brookside Junior High School, including unique colourful mosaic and a memorial garden; and

Whereas these improvements have come about because of the leadership of parent Rita Schwartz and teacher Katherine Broadbent; and

Whereas these changes are much appreciated by students, staff and the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank all involved in the Brookside Junior High School beautification project.

RESOLUTION NO. 5063

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas the Prospect Road Citizens on Patrol continue to provide valuable service to the communities along the Prospect Road; and

Whereas the accomplishments and dedication of these volunteers were recognized at a celebration on September 11th at the Royal Canadian Legion in White's Lake; and

Whereas we much appreciate the efforts of the Citizens on Patrol;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate and thank the Prospect Road Citizens on Patrol for their commitment to our areas.

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RESOLUTION NO. 5064

By: Mr. William Estabrooks (Timberlea-Prospect)

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

Whereas the Lewis Lake Provincial Park in Upper Tantallon is a treasure for all to enjoy and cherish; and

Whereas this park has had another busy season of use; and

Whereas it is vital that the upkeep and maintenance of provincial parks such as the Lewis Lake Park continue all year round;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources continue to ensure that the Lewis Lake Provincial Park remains a priority for the Department of Natural Resources.