The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 4, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
National Flag (Can.) - Desecration: Safeguard - Legislation
Gov't. [Can.] Urge, The Speaker (by Mr. B. Taylor) 3153
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1016, Citizenship & Immigration (Can.) - Refugees: Contribution -
Recognize, The Premier 3154
Vote - Affirmative 3155
Res. 1017, Educ. - Libraries (N.S.): Service - Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 3155
Vote - Affirmative 3155
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1018, Volunteerism - Mr. Dan Johnson (Eastern Passage):
Visual Disability Fund-Raising - Recognize, Mr. K. Deveaux 3156
Vote - Affirmative 3156
Res. 1019, Commun. Serv. - Seniors' Prog.: Transition (Health) -
Explain, Dr. J. Smith 3156
Res. 1020, Sports - Hockey (N.S. Atom B Champs 1999-2000):
Westville Miners - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 3157
Vote - Affirmative 3157
Res. 1021, Internat. Refugee Day (04/04/00) - Refugees:
Contributions (Can.) - Recognize, Mr. Robert Chisholm 3158
Vote - Affirmative 3158
Res. 1022, Kings North MLA - Constituency Office: AGM - Ethicality,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3158
Res. 1023, Volunteerism - Springhill Vol. of the Yr.: Ken Melanson
(Springhill) - Nomination Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 3159
Vote - Affirmative 3160
Res. 1024, C.B. South MLA - Unparliamentary Language Use:
Removal Attempt - Change, Mr. J. Holm 3160
Res. 1025, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 111 (Dartmouth):
Litter - Remove, Dr. J. Smith 3161
Res. 1026, Health - Policy: Women - Central Role Recognize,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3162
Vote - Affirmative 3162
Res. 1027, Educ. - School Boundaries: Task Force Report -
Recommendations Decision, Mr. W. Gaudet 3162
Res. 1028, Educ. - Lifelong Learning: Commitment -
Rhetoric Empty Drop, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3163
Res. 1029, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Premier - Yogi Berra "Future"
Remember, Mr. D. Dexter 3164
Res. 1030, Fin. - Harness Racing: Support - Short-Term,
Mr. John MacDonell 3164
Res. 1031, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Peggy's Cove Rd. (Indian Pt.-
Peggy's Cove): Paving - Plans, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3165
Res. 1032, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Housing: Strategy - Develop,
Mr. J. Pye 3166
Res. 1033, Justice: Courthouses - Repair, Mr. H. Epstein 3166
Res. 1034, Educ. - Cavalier Dr. School (Sackville): Heritage Fair -
Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 3167
Vote - Affirmative 3167
Res. 1035, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. D. Dexter 3168
Res. 1036, Royal Cdn. Sea Cadet Corps - Iroquois (CFB Shearwater):
Est. - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 3168
Vote - Affirmative 3169
Res. 1037, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Prospect Rd.: Improve - Priority,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3169
Res. 1038, Educ. - Maths Teaching Excellence (LaJeune Naud Award):
Susan Wilkie (Cornwallis JHS [Hfx.]) - Congrats.,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3170
Vote - Affirmative 3170
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 371, Petroleum Directorate: Pt. Tupper Pipeline - Safety,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3170
No. 372, Devco - Donkin Mine: Dev. Cooperative - Miners (Jr.),
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3171
No. 373, Petroleum Directorate: Pt. Tupper Pipeline - Approval,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3173
No. 374, Human Res. - Gov't. Bus. Plan: C.B. - Ignored,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3174
No. 375, Health - Hospitals: Rural Areas - Future, Dr. J. Smith 3176
No. 376, Petroleum Directorate - Pt. Tupper Pipeline: URB -
Expertise, Mr. J. Holm 3177
No. 377, Exco - Code of Conduct: Violations - Punishment,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3179
No. 378, Justice: Family Law - Mediation Prog., Mr. H. Epstein 3180
No. 379, Econ. Dev. - Shearwater: Sale - Status, Mr. R. MacLellan 3181
No. 380, Health - Nurses: Shortage - Address, Mr. D. Dexter 3182
No. 381, Educ. - Marine Atlantic: Jobs - Training, Mr. B. Boudreau 3183
No. 382, Health - Valley Reg. Hosp.: Beds - Increase, Mr. D. Dexter 3185
No. 383, Educ.: Yarmouth Cons. HS - Van Licence, Mr. W. Gaudet 3186
No. 394, Fin. - Casino (Hfx.): Concessions Certain - Withdraw,
Mr. J. Pye 3187
No. 395, Educ. - Univs.: Designation Policy - Status, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3188
No. 396, NSLC: Liquor Stores - Privatization, Ms. E. O'Connell 3189
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 34, Health Authorities Act 3190
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3190
Mr. R. MacLellan 3192
Mr. John MacDonell 3204
Mr. B. Boudreau 3209
Mr. K. Deveaux 3221
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3230
Amendment moved 3242
HOUSE RECESSED AT 5:19 P.M. 3242
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:28 P.M. 3242
Amendment - Ruled out of order 3243
Mr. H. Epstein 3244
Adjourned debate 3249
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Petroleum Directorate - Pt. Tupper Pipeline: Permit - Withdraw:
Mr. J. Holm 3250
Mr. R. MacLellan 3253
Hon. G. Balser 3255
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 5th at 2:00 p.m. 3258

[Page 3153]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 4, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Wayne Gaudet, Mr. Kevin Deveaux

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the government have the 10 year permit to operate liquids gas pipeline to Point Tupper withdrawn and replaced with a temporary one until there is the assurance it meets the highest CSA safety standards.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cumberland South, I beg leave to table a petition and letter from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 45, Parrsboro. The legion has been presenting resolutions to the federal government since 1994 urging them to effect legislation to safeguard our national flag from wilful acts of desecration. The legion believes all levels of government can apply positive pressure and are asking that all MLAs of the Nova Scotia Legislature do so.

3153

[Page 3154]

Mr. Speaker, I know you support this decent and reasonable request and I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 1016

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

Whereas today Halifax will join cities across Canada in marking Refugee Rights Days; and

Whereas because one out of every six Canadian residents was born outside of the country, immigration policy has touched the lives of every Canadian and enriched the nation's cultural landscape; and

Whereas Halifax has long been an entry point for refugees seeking safety and a new life in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the contributions that refugees have made to our province and country, the role Canada has played in opening its doors to those fearing danger in their own country and applaud Canada's record of accepting more immigrants and refugees, in proportion to its population, than any other country.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3155]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1017

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

Whereas April 3rd to April 10th is Information Rights Week and Nova Scotia's 75 libraries are promoting the theme Information Matters: Evaluate it before you use it; and

Whereas never before has there been so much information so widely available to so many Nova Scotians; and

Whereas librarians are working to educate Internet users in determining accuracy, authenticity, objectivity and currency of web-based information;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize that Nova Scotia's libraries serve our province well, and by providing free universal access to information, they are a key component of our open and democratic society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 3156]

RESOLUTION NO. 1018

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

Whereas Dan Johnson has been an active volunteer in his community of Eastern Passage for many years; and

Whereas Mr. Johnson had raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, on behalf of those with a visual impairment, by conducting a type-a-thon on an annual basis; and

Whereas Mr. Johnson is again holding a type-a-thon from June 2 to June 3, 2000, in hopes of raising upwards of $20,000 for new equipment for the Sir Frederick Fraser School;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the extraordinary work of Mr. Dan Johnson, on behalf of those with a visual disability, and wish him the best of luck with his annual type-a-thon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1019

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

Whereas on Page 15 of the new Tory bible, On Course, the government boasts how relocating seniors' programs to the Department of Health is a positive step; and

Whereas there are residential care facilities in Nova Scotia that accommodate both seniors and those who are not seniors, for example, younger people coming out of mental health units; and

[Page 3157]

Whereas the Liberal caucus office has received calls from people who can't seem to get answers from the former Department of Community Services about this change, including two people waiting for placement at the Pleasant Rest Home on the South Shore;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services move to explain to the people his plans for the smooth transition of seniors' programs to the Department of Health so that they are not confused by poorly implemented government policy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1020

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 Westville Miners are the Nova Scotia Atom B Hockey Champions for 1999-2000; and

Whereas Coaches Brian Ashton, David Haslam, and Bookie MacDonald led the Miners to their championship victory at a recent tournament in Canso; and

Whereas from all reports, the Miners worked exceptionally hard throughout this entire hockey season in achieving the ultimate goal they were aiming for;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate all members of the Westville Miners Atom B team for their championship win.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 3158]

RESOLUTION NO. 1021

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

Whereas today, April 4th, is International Refugee Day; and

Whereas as conflicts continue around the world, the number of refugees entering Canada continues to grow; and

Whereas many refugees from all corners of the world have chosen Canada as a haven of safety, security, and for the opportunity to build a new life;

Therefore be it resolved that all members recognize today as International Refugee Day and acknowledge the contributions that refugees make to our society here in Canada.

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. 1022

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

Whereas the annual meeting of the Kings North Progressive Conservative Association will be held at the constituency office of the MLA for that area at the unusual time of 9:00 a.m. this Wednesday; and

Whereas just as unusual is the fact that the much reported upon ethics of the member for Kings North are being compromised by the fact that a political Party event is being held in a constituency office; and

[Page 3159]

Whereas the MLA should have a better understanding of the perceived conflict of interest considering his ethical background;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House urge the member for Kings North to think very carefully about the possible ethical breach posed by the conduct of a PC meeting in a constituency office and urge the member to have his Party members hold their meetings elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1023

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

Whereas Mr. Ken Melanson of Springhill, who was a trapped miner for five days in the Springhill coal mines in 1956, and has been nominated as Springhill's Volunteer of the Year; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas Mr. Melanson has volunteered countless hours to the Springhill Miners Museum, to escorting his award-winning float to parades throughout the province over the last number of years, as well as dedicating many hours to promoting Springhill and area; and

Whereas Mr. Melanson has shown his love for his home town of Springhill by being an ambassador at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick provincial border for the Springhill Miners Museum and the Anne Murray Centre for the past number of years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate Mr. Ken Melanson for his untiring efforts on behalf of the Town of Springhill and wish him all the best in the future.

[Page 3160]

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1024

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

Whereas the MLA for Cape Breton South told the Liberal convention that he is going to get thrown out of this House this week for calling the Premier a liar; and

Whereas this would be a repeat performance, although according to Beauchesne, it is equally unparliamentary to accuse a member of being a political bully, a bag of wind, insolent and impertinent, blatherskite and talking twaddle; and

Whereas it would be unparliamentary for anyone to accuse the MLA for Cape Breton South of being a dim-witted saboteur;

Therefore be it resolved that since the MLA came here only to get thrown out, he should save his long-suffering constituents any more embarrassment by taking his removal from the Legislature into his own hands.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 3161]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1025

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

Whereas Dartmouth has long been identified as the City of Lakes and admired for its beautiful natural setting by residents, tourists and visitors; and

Whereas provincial Highway No. 111 passes through the geographical centre of Dartmouth . . .

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, did somebody put something in the soup of the socialists here today? They seem to know something I do not know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor and would he please start again.

DR. SMITH: Whereas Dartmouth has long been identified as the City of Lakes and admired for its beautiful natural setting by residents, tourists and visitors; and

Whereas provincial Highway No. 111 passes through the geographical centre of Dartmouth, touching these lakes and abutting residential communities; and

Whereas increasing amounts of litter of all shapes and sizes has accumulated along the full length of provincial Highway No. 111 in a most disgusting and embarrassing manner this year;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, through the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Department of the Environment and Department of Natural Resources address their responsibility to the Dartmouth community and immediately act on correcting this embarrassing eyesore.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3162]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1026

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

Whereas on International Women's Day the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health presented a call to action for women's health and well-being in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas it calls upon Atlantic Canadians and government to support policy-based health research in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas it calls upon policy makers and government to make strategic social investments in a whole range of policy areas that affect women including health, employment and pay equity;

Therefore be it resolved that this government recognize the need to place women at the centre of health policy because of their roles as consumers, providers and caregivers.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1027

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

[Page 3163]

Whereas in mid-February the Minister of Education acknowledged that she had received a copy of the Report of the Task Force on School Boundaries; and

Whereas at that time, the minister said she would not make any decision until she had read the report; and

Whereas it is now over one month since she received the report, and she has still not announced her decision on the report's recommendations;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education immediately inform the members of this House of her decision on the recommendations contained in the task force report.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1028

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has the second-lowest Primary to Grade 12 expenditure per student in all of Canada; and

Whereas crippling cuts to education imposed by the former Liberal Government can only be undone by putting money back into the education system; and

Whereas the let them eat cake attitude of the Minister of Education indicates this government has no more intention of investing in a solid education foundation for young Nova Scotians than their Liberal predecessors;

Therefore be resolved that the Hamm Government drop its empty rhetoric about its commitment to lifelong learning and tell Nova Scotians that when it comes to educating today's children, they are on their own.

[Page 3164]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1029

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

Whereas in his statement to the House of Assembly on March 30th, the Premier quoted the master of misquotes, Yogi Berra who said, "If you don't know where you're going, you're not going to get there."; and

Whereas yesterday, when asked about his signature on the bottom of the Five Point Quality Public Service Protection Plan, the Premier appeared to say, "I signed what?", reminiscent of Yogi's famous defence, "I didn't say everything I said."; and

Whereas Yogi Berra also said, "It is tough to make predictions, especially about the future.";

Therefore be it resolved that when the Premier helps the Minister of Finance put the final touches on his budget, he remembers Yogi's famous line, "The future isn't what it used to be".

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1030

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

Whereas this Tory Government has finally decided to ante up at the races; and

[Page 3165]

Whereas the never-ending growth of VLT gambling has put 600 jobs at risk in harness racing and at the track; and

Whereas it would appear that racing should come under the umbrella of Atlantic Loto;

Therefore be it resolved that by placing only a one year bet on the ponies, this Tory Government is leaving the 600 people working in this area wondering if they will win, place or show.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1031

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

Whereas residents of the Chester-St. Margaret's constituency, who live on the Peggy's Cove Road from Indian Point to that scenic village would like to remind the Transportation Minister of his department's commitment to complete the paving of this road; and

Whereas this road is one of the busiest tourist routes in this province; and

Whereas regular users of this road are concerned about their safety on this neglected road;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works clarify for the residents of Chester-St. Margaret's his department's plans for the Peggy's Cove Road from Indian Point to Peggy's Cove.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

[Page 3166]

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1032

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

Whereas in 1992, the federal government abandoned its National Housing Program; and

Whereas Canada has been blasted by the United Nations for its poor performance on housing; and

Whereas except for British Columbia and Quebec, there are virtually no provincial or territorial housing strategies;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government, along with the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs, develop a provincial housing strategy for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1033

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

Whereas recently a Supreme Court Justice complained of the poor condition of the Digby Courthouse; and

[Page 3167]

Whereas the Supreme Court Justice felt that when the court building itself is in bad shape that means the administration of justice is not respected; and

Whereas the maintenance for court buildings is a provincial government responsibility;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice act immediately to review the condition of all courthouses in the province and to make the necessary repairs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1034

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

Whereas on April 6th, Cavalier Drive School in Sackville will hold its Heritage Fair, the first school within Halifax Regional School Board to do so; and

Whereas the Heritage Fair is a multi-media educational program intended to increase awareness and interest in Canadian history; and

Whereas the fair, that will involve students, businesses and community organizations, will give students an opportunity to tell their history stories and share information about local and national heros and events in their own way, using the medium of their choice;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank the organizers of the Cavalier Drive School Heritage Fair and extend its best wishes to all participants.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[Page 3168]

RESOLUTION NO. 1035

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

Whereas every day in the Province of Nova Scotia six more children are born into poverty; and

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,386 children have been born into poverty; and

Whereas this heartless Tory Government would prefer to talk about only one kind of deficit, a budget deficit;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,386 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1036

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

Whereas the Sea Cadets have a long and proud history of teaching leadership to the youth of Nova Scotia and Canada; and

Whereas the most recent Sea Cadet Corps to be established had its recognition ceremony on February 22, 2000, at CFB Shearwater; and

Whereas No. 339 Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Iroquois, named after the HMCS Iroquois, is made up of 35 eager cadets who are excited to be involved in the program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Iroquois on its establishment and wish the cadets and volunteers the best of luck in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 3169]

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. 1037

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

Whereas Fire Chief Doug Avery has called the Prospect Road "a killer highway" due to the increasing number of accidents on this busy road; and

Whereas Chief Avery is quoted in February 20th's Halifax Chronicle-Herald describing driving conditions on the Prospect Road as "atrocious"; and

Whereas an area residents' committee under the leadership of Linda Keddy continues to ask for improvements to this busy road;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to Fire Chief Doug Avery and to Linda Keddy for their leadership with hopes that the Minister of Transportation will respond by placing the Prospect Road at the top of the priority list for major improvements to secondary roads.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 3170]

RESOLUTION NO. 1038

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

Whereas Susan Wilkie is a skilled and devoted mathematics teacher at Cornwallis Junior High School in Halifax; and

Whereas the Province of Nova Scotia has recognized her talent and dedication by awarding her a mathematics teaching award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates Susan Wilkie on receiving the LaJeune Naud award for excellence in teaching mathematics.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[12:30 p.m.]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:30 p.m.; we will end at 1:30 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE: PT. TUPPER PIPELINE - SAFETY

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Mr. Paul Vandall who was very prominent in drafting the regulations for the Pipelines Act of Nova Scotia says that the liquids pipeline to the Strait is not safe and it contradicts the province's own regulations. Why would this government approve a licence for a pipeline that did not meet the province's regulations?

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THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this province has in place a regulatory body, the URB, that handles these kinds of issues. It would appear that Mr. Vandall has some serious questions as to whether or not the URB has made the right decision. Mr. Vandall's letter has been forwarded by government to the URB for a response to government to provide the assurances that their decision was based on good scientific information.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, what this province has in place is a liquids pipeline that is unsafe. The National Energy Board is world-renowned for their capacity to be able to inspect and regulate a pipeline, to give the proper approval. This government gave the licence for the liquids pipeline the day before the National Energy Board came down with their report. Why would this government give approval to a liquids pipeline that was defective before the National Energy Board came down with their report on the natural gas pipeline?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the member opposite, who had two years, or a year and one-half, to make changes to the URB and the relationship of government and chose not to do so, after just a few months in Opposition, his view obviously on the competency of the URB has changed.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier cannot skate from underneath his responsibility for the safety of the people of Nova Scotia, which is exactly what he is trying to do. I want the Premier to tell us today, is he going to suspend the operation of that liquids pipeline until it is safe, or is he going to let it continue to operate, jeopardizing the safety of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the Leader of the Liberal Party is quite prepared, before he has the information, to jeopardize the project. This government will act on information, not on allegations made by persons who perhaps, just perhaps, may have a vested interest in bringing forward the arguments that they have. What we have asked, clearly, is for the URB to respond to the letter to which the member opposite makes reference. When that response is received, this government will make the appropriate response to what it is the URB is saying.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

DEVCO - DONKIN MINE:

DEV. COOPERATIVE - MINERS (JR.)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier has committed this government to be a partner in trying to replace lost jobs in Cape Breton. He will know that laid-off, junior coal miners have formed a development cooperative that is pursuing plans to participate in the opening of the Donkin Mine. These miners are willing to invest their severance payments, that is how committed they are to ensuring local control

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of coal mining. I ask the Premier, will he tell this House what steps his government will take to help these miners gain serious consideration by the federal government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member opposite that those coal miners who will not be taken under the blanket of the pension plan being proposed by the federal government, will have an industry that they can continue to work in in industrial Cape Breton. I had an opportunity to meet with representatives from that group proposing a cooperative and the information that they are bringing forward is of great interest to this government and I would presume of interest to those who are negotiating a sale of the coal industry to private hands in industrial Cape Breton.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I say to the Premier that we cannot presume anything when it comes to the way the federal government is handling the shutdown of Devco. I want to say to him again that these are Cape Bretoners who want to work, who want to invest in a local business so there are long-term jobs in this industry. They feel like they have been shoved aside by the federal government over this issue and that Devco is simply being chased by foreign companies who may be interested only in Nova Scotia Power's contract.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, have he and his ministers put the issue of local ownership and control of coal mining on the agenda for discussion with Ottawa before this shutdown goes any further?

THE PREMIER: The minister in charge of the Devco situation for this government will respond to that question.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite well knows, the responsibility for Devco is a federal responsibility to negotiate with the union. In regard to the miners and the cooperative that they are forming, certainly we are prepared to make representation and I, as a minister, will make that representation on their behalf to the federal Minister of Natural Resources.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, let me say that I am pleased with that indication from the Minister of Natural Resources. It is the first indication we have had from any government, any minister, that they are going to do anything about local control and ownership of the coal mines in this province. We sure heard nothing about that from the former Liberal Government and they should be ashamed of themselves sitting here now.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: My final supplementary, Mr. Speaker . . .

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MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. (Interruption)

Order, please. The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, your supplementary, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Will the Premier confirm the commitment of the Minister of Natural Resources to sit down with these miners and review a strategy about how to remove the federal obstacles that are in place to local ownership and control of the coal industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have already had an opportunity to sit down with representatives of the miners who form the cooperative to which the member opposite has made reference and I will, on behalf of my minister, repeat the commitment that we will, in fact, make sure that the federal government is quite aware of the position taken by those miners and how they wish to integrate themselves into a private coal industry in industrial Cape Breton.

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE:

PT. TUPPER PIPELINE - APPROVAL

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier says he wants facts regarding this pipeline. Before Christmas, the government was saying that they would allow the National Energy Board to take the lead before approvals were given. They backed away from that commitment. Why did the government back away from allowing the National Energy Board to prepare their report and submit their report before they gave approval to the licence on that liquid line? Whose vested interests are they looking into? It is certainly not those of the people of Nova Scotia.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the pipelines were subjected to standardized tests and the initial testing. The NEB, because that particular pipeline was going to be used for transferring gas as opposed to liquids, was subjected to further testing. So in the eyes of the URB, they were satisfied with the results and the NEB, because their needs were different, asked for other tests.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier again, the province knew about these flaws in these pipelines. The flaws were so obvious that the National Energy Board stated they should have been picked up at the plant in Greece, not to mention here in Nova Scotia. Why did this government, knowing about those flaws, not stop the delay of that pipeline, why

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did they give a licence to this liquid line knowing that it is jeopardizing the safety of the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the minister responsible.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the whole process and purpose behind having an arm's length agency who makes the final determination is to ensure that there will be no political interference. We are comfortable with having that agency make recommendations and we acted accordingly.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the minister that the whole purpose of having regulations is that those regulations be followed, which this government hasn't allowed to happen. Now these are blatant defects in two pipelines that affect to a great extent the service and the safety of the people of Nova Scotia. This government has ignored those safety problems and has gone ahead with these pipelines in direct contrast to what is in the best interest of the people of Nova Scotia

MR. SPEAKER: Question. Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Whose vested interest is this government serving? It certainly isn't the people of Nova Scotia and I want the minister to tell us today.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, everyone's paramount concern is safety. At this point in time there is no gas being transferred through the pipelines in question. Both pipelines were tested at pressures that far exceeded the needs at which they would be utilized. The URB made a determination that for their purposes the pipeline was acceptable. The NEB has suggested to Maritimes & Northeast that there are means by which they can comply and they are working towards that now.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

HUMAN RES. - GOV'T. BUS. PLAN: C.B. - IGNORED

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. A lot of Cape Bretoners that I have talked to in the last few days were very disappointed while not being particularly surprised that this government's 94 page document entitled, The Course Ahead, makes not a single mention of Cape Breton. On their behalf I want to ask the Premier why his plan for Nova Scotia's future ignores Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: I had an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, (Interruption) The member opposite did repeat the question for me and I got it this time. What I can say, the member opposite asks why it is the government didn't make a specific reference to Cape Breton. This

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government has said from day one, it is the government for all Nova Scotia and all Nova Scotians. (Extended Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Cape Bretoners saw this government's commitment to Cape Breton when they took dead aim at Cape Breton in the last election in order to get some seats on the mainland. The document, The Course Ahead, mentions decentralizing government jobs to rural Nova Scotia but not a thing about decentralizing jobs to Cape Breton. Cape Breton has 20 per cent of the population in this province but only 10 per cent of government jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, has he sat down with the mayor of CBRM and the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union to devise a way to bring a fair share of government jobs into places like New Waterford, Glace Bay, Sydney or Sydney Mines?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that it would be appropriate at this point to point out to the member opposite that as recently as last week this government has partnered with the federal government to participate in the largest single job announcement in Cape Breton in decades. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thanks to the hard work of the local MPs up there, the federal government was finally reminded that Nova Scotia actually exists, that Cape Breton is a region in this province, because, Mr. Speaker, the politically motivated attacks by this Party and this government have been (Interruption)

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party please put the question.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, if you can't control the noise in here, then it runs into my questions, right?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I agree with the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party. (Interruption) Order, please. Would the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party please put the final supplementary question forward.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, given the devastating impact of his politically-motivated attacks on Cape Breton, will he instruct officials to draft an addendum to his plan for the province that recognizes in a respectful way

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the contribution that Cape Breton makes to this economy and the desperate need for attention of that economy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government deals in results, not addendums.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - HOSPITALS: RURAL AREAS - FUTURE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, a number of people around the province have been telling us they are concerned and scared that they are going to lose their local rural hospital. As the minister is well aware, these hospitals can be the cornerstone not only for health but for the community itself, hospitals such as Roseway Hospital, Digby General Hospital, Guysborough Memorial Hospital, those types of hospitals. Will the minister commit to Nova Scotians, particularly rural Nova Scotians, that their hospitals will be safe under this government's new health authorities? Will the minister assure people in rural Nova Scotia that their rural community hospitals, will be safe under the new Health Authorities Bill?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as we move ahead, the plan for the clinical footprint in Nova Scotia will unfold as the progress towards the district health authorities goes ahead. If he is asking right now, does this government have plans to close any hospital, the answer is no.

DR. SMITH: The technicalities perhaps in that answer, there could be a change of types of performance of the hospitals and services offered. Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note in the Health Authorities Bill the Strait-Richmond Hospital is notably absent from that list in the Act. The residents of the Strait area are concerned. Does that mean a change of the function of that hospital? Are they going to lose the hospital? Can the minister comment on that, Bill No. 34 that he introduced to this House and second reading last evening?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the member to not refer to specific bills before the House at this time. Would you like to rephrase the question, please.

DR. SMITH: It has been noticed on Bill No. 34, Mr. Speaker, by the people. My question (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please rephrase the question and not refer to bills before this House.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, a plan of status or closure of the Strait Richmond Hospital, I will ask the minister that direct question.

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MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I would have to say that I thought I had answered basically that the first time. Going back, and you are allowed to refer to legislation because we talked about district health authorities, and you were at the briefing the other day. You saw that was included in with St. Martha's Hospital as has historically been.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I know it is improper to refer to the bill, but it is absent from the bill, if the minister would like to check the bill, that Strait Richmond Hospital has been left off, just as a point of information, particularly for the Minister of Justice. There is no question that this bill as referred to was thrown together at the last minute. We saw evidence of that in debate here at the House. There are no assurances to residences in rural communities in Nova Scotia that their hospitals will not be closed or severely changed in their operation to a health clinic. What assurances will the minister make today to residents of rural Nova Scotia that beds in those small community hospitals will not be closed and changed or be down-graded to a clinic or some other . . .

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member. I would like to say that this government has listened more to rural Nova Scotians than certainly any other has in the last six years. What we are committed to is providing a responsive and sustainable health care system for the residents of Nova Scotia. We are taking some steps to do that and I can assure rural Nova Scotians and all Nova Scotians services will be there when they need them.

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE -

PT. TUPPER PIPELINE: URB - EXPERTISE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question will be through you to the Premier, but I was also pleased to hear that the Liberal Leader, who used to be the Premier and whose government gave the permission to lay the liquid gas line across the Strait without any public hearings, is now concerned finally about public safety. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to go to the Premier with some very specific questions. The Premier has referred to the letter that Mr. Vandall, who is an expert in pipeline regulations, concerns that he has raised that echo the concerns of the National Energy Board. The Premier has referred that letter to the Utility and Review Board for comment. My question to the Premier is simply this, what specific technical expertise with a working knowledge and experience in regulating gas pipelines and liquid pipelines, or actually working in industry, exists at the Utility and Review Board?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the minister responsible for the URB.

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HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the URB, as has been said earlier, is an independent agency. The government is not responsible for the members of that board. The government appoints those boards. They are independent of the government. The reason that they are independent of the government is to be free from political interference which this honourable member has often stood for.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is responsible first and foremost for public safety. The answer that I got from the Premier and the Attorney General is they do not know or if they do know, they know that it is nil. I want to ask a second question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. I want to know what technical expertise do you have in government to analyse the report that you are going to get from the URB, expertise that has a working experience in regulating gas lines and/or working in the industry, what do you have in-house that can even analyze a report that comes from the board that has already said it is unconcerned with the safety issues raised by the NEB and by Mr. Vandall?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite clearly knows, the expertise in government relative to this issue is in the Petroleum Directorate and I refer the question to the minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when the information is conveyed from the URB to the Petroleum Directorate, to the government, we will make a determination and in-house we do have people on staff who are conversed in that issue and if the need arises we need further expertise, then we undertake to contract to have people with the level of expertise needed to make specific determinations. So, in-house we have staff available to comment, but when they recognize the need for further information, they go out and retain that.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, again an answer which is really, we do not know and we do not have it, but we can go elsewhere. So my question finally again, Mr. Speaker, and maybe he will not lateral this one off, I think that even the Premier will acknowledge that the expertise to regulate and to know whether or not lines meet the safest of standards, the CSA Standards, that expertise exists in the National Energy Board?

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: Question to the Premier, will you ask the National Energy Board to evaluate the results of the evaluation of that liquids gas line to ensure that public safety, not protecting somebody's backside but the public safety is number one and that it will not be compromised?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is my contention that the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate gave a perfectly satisfactory answer to the member opposite and the only thing, really, it left in the minds of the people is absolutely nothing. The government is

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prepared to respond satisfactorily, and the problem that the member opposite has after getting the right answer is he was still required to come up with a supplementary.

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

EXCO - CODE OF CONDUCT: VIOLATIONS - PUNISHMENT

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, last January the member for Cumberland North crashed a meeting of the Highland View Regional Hospital and at the meeting threatened the hospital would come under government review if the community complained too much, and the minister also threatened that the salaries of two of the family doctors who were complaining would be revealed if they didn't back down. I want the Premier to tell me how the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing can possibly know the salary of these doctors when it would be the purview and the confidential information of the Minister of Health?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have no information relative to the question that the member opposite brings to the House, but I will refer that to the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can't do that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question that was asked, I believe should be asked to the minister responsible for that office.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ethics, it is called ethics.

THE PREMIER: Then it would appear that the answer to the question may be information that is held by the Minister of Health and I will refer it then to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I indeed was aware that as the MLA for Cumberland North, the member did attend a meeting of a group up there, but I have never received any report about these things that the member mentions.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a concern because the Premier brought forward his code of conduct, and said there was going to be legislation and yet there seems to be these kinds of allegations and pressures being applied on well-meaning people in the Province of Nova Scotia. What I want to know from the Premier is, what kind of punishment is he going to impose for people in his Cabinet and his caucus who make these kind of threats and intimidations?

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THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite clearly has some information that is not available to government. If he would table the information, we would be in a position then to respond to his question.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly pass along the information to the Premier but the question I asked didn't relate to particular information. What it did is relate to generally, is members of his Cabinet and caucus who do violate his code of conduct and, theoretically - if he wants to look at it theoretically - do something as what I have alleged, what is the punishment that will be given to those members who do that?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say that since we introduced the code of conduct that governs the conduct of ministers of this House, nothing has been brought to my attention that indicates to me that any minister of this government has broken the code.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE: FAMILY LAW - MEDIATION PROG.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Justice. Mr. Minister, the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia recently released their report which condemns the use of mediation for family law matters which involve women who are survivors of abusive relationships. The overwhelming majority of cases referred to mediation in this context ended up back in court. It didn't solve anything and ends up costing more. Will the Minister of Justice tell us why he is pushing a program that simply does not work?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: The honourable member asks a very good question. Unfortunately his evidence is completely erroneous. The report that was referred to, the transition house report, is horribly flawed and inaccurate. In point of fact, the Government of Nova Scotia has not, does not and never has pushed to have mediated cases involving abuse. That is not the policy of the government. We do not do that; we never have done that; and in fact, we have a very successful mediation and conciliation program in the family courts.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have read both the transition house report and the official reply to it prepared by the department, and I have to say I cannot agree with the last statement of the Minister of Justice. The minister is sending a very poor message to the women of this province, that is that he doesn't take their concerns seriously. One of the problems is the training standards in the area of gender discrimination and power imbalance, it is very inadequate.

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Mr. Speaker, when will the Minister of Justice listen to the voices of abused women in this province who have said no to mediation that is not truly voluntary and does not guarantee equal bargaining power?

MR. BAKER: I guess the member opposite didn't hear my response. The Government of Nova Scotia makes it very clear that we do not propose or support mediation in situations of abuse where there is an inequality of bargaining power. However, what we do support is a mediation and conciliation program, particularly the conciliation portion of that has an 85 per cent acceptance rate. In family law matters, that is an exceptional statistic, and it shows that what is happening in the Family Division of the Supreme Court is working.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a process is not voluntary just because you call it voluntary. When I read the department's guidelines what it says is that there is a pre-mediation process. That is inconsistent with saying that we don't put these cases through to mediation. Will the minister tell us that he will stop re-victimizing abused women and place an immediate moratorium on referrals to mediation, assessment for women who are victims of family violence, until this program is cleaned up?

MR. BAKER: I am appalled at the suggestion of the honourable member, that he or the Government of Nova Scotia should victimize families. What is going on here is the suggestion that mediation and conciliation shouldn't be used in family law matters. That is an adversarial approach that has been proven not to work. It completely misunderstands what is happening. What is happening is that the programs that exist today do not in any way force anyone involved in an abusive relationship to be involved in mediation. However, what we do have is the most successful mediation and conciliation program in the country, in Nova Scotia.

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

ECON. DEV. - SHEARWATER: SALE - STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier mentioned on November 17th that he would be meeting with the federal government later that month regarding the sale of a piece of property at Shearwater, and that he would be making the information coming out of that meeting public, and that there would be a final decision on the basis of that meeting as to the sale, before Christmas. Would the Premier be able to give us the information of that meeting and tell us where that particular sale stands?

THE PREMIER: I don't think I would surprise the member opposite if I told him that the sale didn't go through before Christmas. I would ask the minister responsible to bring the House up to date as to where the issue is today.

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HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would assure the member opposite that we are working to bring this to closure. It was a determination made by the Department of Economic Development and the government that at this particular juncture that property didn't fit into the overall strategy for the province. What we did though was enter into discussions with HRM and through that process have come to the determination that it does meet their purposes and they are in a position to go forward. We, as a department and as a government, have been working with them to ensure that happens.

MR. MACLELLAN: I am completely mystified why this government would not know that a takeover of Shearwater, if the federal government doesn't want it, would be in the interests of this province and certainly the Halifax Regional Municipality. It is fundamental, it is a marvellous piece of land that this province has to secure for the future of this province.

What I want to know is, has an agreement been reached with the federal government that if the province buys that piece of Shearwater, that they will have a right of first refusal to the remainder of the Shearwater property plus a right to have access to the water.

MR. BALSER: As I said earlier, we made a determination that at this point it did not suit the provincial strategy, it did fit very nicely into the strategy that HRM has developed and we are ensuring that the process will work through to completion. As has been said so many times on the floor of this House, we do not negotiate the details of a deal on the floor of the House, but rest assured we are moving it along.

MR. MACLELLAN: I am not asking him to negotiate on the floor of the House. I am not asking him. All I am asking are two questions: if that piece of property is bought for over $1 million, a small piece of property way in the back that is almost landlocked, will the province have the right of first refusal for the rest of the property? That is perfectly sensible and will they have access to the water so that it can be used for a tremendous project for this province. Will he tell us yes or no?

MR. BALSER: As was clearly articulated much earlier on the floor of the House, we recognize very clearly that there are some fundamental issues around what is to the best advantage in terms of the Shearwater deal. In our discussions with HRM and with the federal government we are determining what is in the best interests of HRM and we are working to see that those details are ironed out as we move to closure on this issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - NURSES: SHORTAGE - ADDRESS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I feel I need to remind the Minister of Health of the growing health care crisis in this province. Mr. Speaker, 29 beds were closed at the Yarmouth Regional Hospital last week because nurses have said they cannot handle the workload and

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they need time off. These are last ditch efforts on the part of hospital administrators and staff to cope with the crisis. I want to ask the Minister of Health, when will he address the shortage of nurses so that acute health care providers in this province are not pushed to the limits and forced to take such drastic measures?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I would say to the honourable member that we are continuing to address those issues now. There are a number of things that we have done as he knows; we have converted a large number of casual positions to full-time positions. We have added nurses - unfortunately the situation that he mentioned did exist and I really regret that - we have expanded the enrollment of the nursing schools, we have a nurse policy advisor who is working with other professional associations to address this issue. Unfortunately, this is a national problem, indeed it is a international problem and we have a large number of initiatives ongoing and they will bear fruit. Unfortunately, I cannot snap my fingers and cure it overnight.

MR. DEXTER: I had a tough time telling which Minister of Health that was. This is the second notice in two weeks of bed closures and the Premier says, the system has the capacity to absorb the people who would have to occupy those beds. The Yarmouth and Abbie J. Lane Hospitals' health care systems do not have the capacity to absorb those bed reductions. When will the Minister of Health stop downloading problems in the health care system onto the people and health care workers to the point that they can no longer cope?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would simply say that in the period of time since we have been in government, since last August, we have done more to alleviate this situation than has been done for a good number of years.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for the Minister of Health. Can he reassure the people of Nova Scotia, today, that they can expect no more bed closures in this province due to a nursing shortage?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will simply reiterate, I regret that there had to be bed closures. I think part of the good news was that for people who had to be displaced, there was capacity in the system to absorb them. Similarly at the IWK, we made arrangements. I think that is the good news for Nova Scotians. We should be looking at the good news, that we do have the capacity to make sure that everyone who has a medical need can be accommodated and well served.

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

EDUC. - MARINE ATLANTIC: JOBS - TRAINING

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. As all members know, last week in this House, the minister indicated that anyone who wanted

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training for the new jobs at Marine Atlantic in North Sydney should just call the community college. After calling around to community colleges, personally, I found that the Marconi College in Sydney is offering a course called the Marine Passenger Service Program. My question to the minister is, is the minister aware of any additional safety training that workers must take to qualify for these positions?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, no, I am not aware of additional courses that people taking that course would have to take. I will endeavour to find that information and inform the House.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, that is what my concern is because it is obvious that the minister has shown that she does not really care about what happens to industrial Cape Breton workers. Coming from the South End of Halifax, she does not know that many unemployed workers, particularly in that area of the province, do not qualify for training, because their unemployment insurance benefits have run out. My question is to the minister directly, what funding assistance is the minister prepared to offer people who do not qualify for HRD assistance?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge, people attending community college and other post-secondary institutions may be available for student loans.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I expected that was going to be the reply. It is my concern that for workers, it takes anywhere from two to three months to enter a student loan program, at least to get approvals. Three months from now these jobs are going to be gone. I hope that they do not go to our neighbours in Newfoundland who have been training people from the street all winter.

I will follow up with a question to the Premier. I want to recognize the efforts that the Premier put into this facility in North Sydney, and he has made a strong commitment to the community down there. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor. Please put the question.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier if he is comfortable giving responsibility for this promise to the Cabinet Minister who campaigned on eliminating jobs in Cape Breton last summer?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, despite the member opposite's distortion of the facts, I am quite comfortable that this minister is acting in the best interests of the people of Cape Breton and the jobs that the member opposite wishes to have provided for people in his area.

[Page 3185]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth Cole-Harbour.

HEALTH - VALLEY REG. HOSP.: BEDS - INCREASE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you know, the Minister of Health says he has good news about the health care system. I wonder if he thinks it is good news that it is becoming almost routine at the Valley Regional for the people to have their operations delayed because the hospitals have reached full-bed status. The hospital has the fewest beds per capita in all of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health why he has not acted to increase the number of beds to the provincial average so people won't have their lives disrupted through cancelled operations?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess my response to the member opposite would be that we are trying to make our decisions based on evidence and not only the Valley Regional Hospital, but every other facility in the province will have its needs assessed on objective evidence. As the member well knows, we are establishing a clinical footprint. He also knows that an external review of the emergency room services at the Valley Regional Hospital are ongoing as well.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what people are concerned about is who is going to be stomped by the clinical footprint, that is what people are concerned about. Last week the Valley Regional Hospital had to turn six people away from scheduled operations because it reached full bed status. I just want to know from the Minister of Health, does he even know that the Valley Regional Hospital has been forced to delay operations because it did not have an adequate number of beds?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I was not aware that there were six and I assume that what he has said is accurate. I know that from time to time in this province a service cannot be delivered, but I want to say that in this province people who need service immediately, they will receive it.

MR. DEXTER: Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the minister is not listening. Last week we told him that the Valley Regional Hospital had the oldest CAT scanner in Atlantic Canada and he said, well, you know, injured people in need of a fast CAT scan can simply go elsewhere. I want to ask the minister, why has his government refused to ensure that the Valley Regional Hospital has the equipment and the beds needed to serve the people of the area?

[Page 3186]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I do believe that the Valley Regional Hospital has the equipment and the beds needed to serve the residents of that area. I can also say that I have not been made aware of any requests for a new CAT scan machine down there, although it may have been made to the regional health board.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC.: YARMOUTH CONS. HS - VAN LICENCE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. By now the minister is aware of a 15-passenger van bought by the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School Alumni Committee. Principal Phil DeMille followed proper procedures and contacted all necessary departments, including the URB, before buying the van. He did everything this government told him to do to make the van legal for transporting students. After buying the van he was told he was not allowed to use it. Mr. DeMille has been trying to get answers from this government for several months now. This government promised to be open and accountable. Will the minister explain why there has been a delay of several months in getting the proper regulations and information to Mr. DeMille regarding the use of this van?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can explain the slight delay with one word, the word is Quebec.

MR. GAUDET: Quebec?

MISS PURVES: The van crash in Quebec, Mr. Speaker. I can also tell the honourable member that in a few weeks there will be a meeting between members of the URB, the Southwest Regional School Board, Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School and the Department of Transportation to discuss the issue of this bus.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will be following this very closely. I still do not know where Quebec comes into the picture but, anyway, at some point in time we will certainly get to that. This van has been insured all winter, but they have not been allowed to use it. The high school has lost money because they have gotten the run-around from this government. Can this minister tell them when they can expect full financial compensation? (Interruptions)

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

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat my question for the minister. Can Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School expect full financial compensation from this government?

[Page 3187]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as discussed earlier during this time, the government does not control the URB. The URB is concerned with safety of vehicles, that is the issue here. It is not an issue for the government; it is an issue for the URB and the owners of the van.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, what is even more surprising about this is Principal Phil DeMille has contacted the other schools about this, since other schools are using 15-seat vans for their students. Will this minister commit to tabling the appropriate regulations as soon as possible and making sure that all schools in Nova Scotia are aware of them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly I can commit to that. I would like to reiterate that we are primarily concerned with safety. The transportation of students in vans is an issue of safety, and this government is concerned about safety.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

FIN. - CASINO (HFX.): CONCESSIONS CERTAIN - WITHDRAW

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. When the former government gave in and allowed the new Sheraton Casino to be delayed until September 1999, this Premier said, "It looks like ITT Sheraton has had its way with the province . . . They're going to get a year's grace on the completion date . . . without paying the major penalty." My question, is the casino operator still having its way with the province or will this government listen to Nova Scotians and withdraw the permission for free liquor, easy credit and 24 hour gambling every day at the casino?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the minister responsible.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: The answer in a nutshell is no.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again to the Premier, when the concessions were granted to the casino, the Conservatives said that these guys don't deserve to govern. "They're a bunch of weak-kneed wimps" referring to that Party over there. Now the Premier and his Conservative team have the power to correct this mistake. When will his government amend the regulations to end free liquor, easy credit and 24 hour gambling that he has opposed and that Nova Scotians have opposed?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the minister responsible.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the original agreement was made by the previous government. At the present time, we are not prepared to rescind that agreement.

[Page 3188]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary, to the Premier, when ITT Sheraton was pushing for concessions, the Premier said, "I have encouraged the Premier and the government to play hard ball." Perhaps they got the message. I want to table those quotes with this House. Now Nova Scotians are asking whether the Premier remembers that message. When and how is he going to start playing hard ball with the casino operators?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that the day that this government took power is the day that we starting playing hard ball.

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

EDUC. - UNIVS.: DESIGNATION POLICY - STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Several weeks ago in a meeting with representatives of the Student Union of UCCB, the Minister of Education suggested that her department was looking into a designation policy for the province's universities. Will the minister please apprise the House if any members of her staff, or indeed herself, at the Department of Education are working on a designation policy for the province's universities?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, there are several members of my department working on the issue of designation of post-secondary institutions. This was going on when I came into the department and it is still going on.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in a study completed by Human Resources Development Canada on this subject, it was found that the most significant reason for students to default on their loans was the lack of employment. My question to the minister is, will the minister explain how universities that are located in areas of high unemployment will be able to maintain their students' eligibility for student loans under this new program if it is implemented?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, that is obviously a hypothetical question but I would like to inform the House that any designation policy that we may come forth with, which we have not done, would consider all post-secondary institutions, not just universities, and that the biggest problem that we have with high default rates that is causing the need for designation is private trade schools.

MR. MACKINNON: I guess, Mr. Speaker, she is suggesting privatizing education as well. As the minister well knows, the default rate at UCCB is high due to the extreme high levels of unemployment in Cape Breton and will be made even worse now that the government is eliminating a large number of the student summer employment programs. My question to the minister is, how will a university like UCCB survive if, in fact, the minister implements this policy initiative?

[Page 3189]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I think that we can discuss that more fruitfully when and if there is such a policy implemented by this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

NSLC: LIQUOR STORES - PRIVATIZATION

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the administration of the Liquor Control Act. I have a letter here, which I intend to table, in which the current Premier told the NSGEU, "Based upon evaluation of current information, it is the position of this Caucus that Nova Scotia liquor stores should not be privatized." So I want to ask the Minister responsible for the administration of the Liquor Control Act, why is this government considering the privatization of Nova Scotia's liquor stores?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I can tell the honourable member if we do change any sort of direction with regard to the NSLC, firstly, we will be fair to workers, definitely; and secondly, we will do what is in the best interest of Nova Scotians if there is a change in direction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, you have about 30 seconds.

MS. O'CONNELL: The Premier wrote this letter in 1996 when we faced serious deficit problems just as we do today. The only things that have changed are that the liquor stores are making more money and the Premier has pledged to the NSGEU to protect services from privatization. So I want to ask the Premier what happened, what changed his mind and why are they now considering privatizing liquor stores?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, very quickly to the member opposite, we are looking at every . . .

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 3190]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 34.

Bill No. 34 - Health Authorities Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The debate was adjourned by the honourable member for Halifax Needham.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left, please?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about eight minutes.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Bill No. 34, as I was saying last evening, is the continuing saga of the preoccupation of government with the organizational structure of health care, essentially bureaucracy rather than the content of what it is we need to be doing in terms of health service delivery in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. I think that it is really important that we keep foremost in our minds that Nova Scotians are relying on this government to ensure high-quality health care services when they need them and where they need them.

[1:30 p.m.]

We need to look at Bill No. 34 through that perspective and we have to ask ourselves, is this bill going to deliver high-quality health care services to Nova Scotians in the way that they need them and have come to expect. It is very doubtful, Mr. Speaker, that that will be the case. It has been pointed out, I think, by a number of previous speakers that the orientation of this particular genre of reorganization that is going on is highly predisposed toward illness care rather than wellness in the Province of Nova Scotia and that is very unfortunate indeed because ultimately we know that that form of health care is not sustainable. So Bill No. 34 will once again, I think, lead us into a never-ending sort of quest for sustainability.

I have taken a few calls from people who have wanted to know more about Bill No. 34 and what, in fact, the bill is going to deliver. In a nutshell, I think I have to tell people that what this bill means is further reorganization and mergers, amalgamations, rationalization, if you will, Mr. Speaker, that has implications in terms of layoffs and bed closures. So we do have to be very concerned about what is being proposed here by the government and this minister.

[Page 3191]

Really, Mr. Speaker, I don't know what it is that we can say to convince this Premier and this minister of the flaws in the direction that they are taking, the organization of health care delivery, with this bill. It has been clear to me for some time, I guess, that the Premier is strongly opposed to regionalization and decentralization as it had occurred in its very infancy, I would say, in the time when he was here on the Opposition benches. He seemed to be very stubbornly committed to reversing this process of regionalization and decentralization and seems to be much more comfortable with a health care system where the power and the authority is vested at the top of an organizational structure and hierarchy rather than vested in the community where people take more responsibility for their own health care, their own wellness, their own affairs, if you will. I think that this long-standing commitment to a much more authoritarian hierarchical structure that certainly the Premier in the past has argued for is reflected very much in Bill No. 34, and I am not sure if we will be able to move him away from that and show him that it is fundamentally important for the survival of a sustainable health care system to move away from this approach.

Now, I would like to go back and just reiterate, maybe with a bit more care and clarity, the points I made last evening about community health boards. I really think that this needs to be said, that this Bill No. 34, while they provide some authority to community health boards or some legislative legitimization of community health boards, they really have placed community health boards in a very subservient role in the delivery of health care. This was never envisioned by any of the previous task forces or Royal Commissions that have looked at the role of community health boards. It is certainly not the case that in other parts of the country that have moved to a regionalized, decentralized health care approach to primary health care provision that community health boards would have so little authority.

I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that in this model that is being introduced in Bill No. 34 community health boards will have very few resources to carry out their role. The impact of this set of circumstances, then, could lead to, I think, a clear undermining of community health boards as a meaningful participant in the development of health care services at the local level. There are many, many questions that we have concerning the numbers of community health boards, the relationship of community health boards to the district authority boards, and perhaps through the process of the Law Amendments Committee people from community health boards will come forward, and they will be asking for clarification with respect to these provisions. We will be providing, I think, suggestions for how to advance the role of community health boards in a regionalized and decentralized health care system. That really will be important, and it will be very important for the minister to have a very open mind and be prepared to give up some of the power that this bill brings to the minister and takes away from communities and from the regions.

Mr. Speaker, I think my time has expired, and I look forward to an opportunity to talk about this bill further.

[Page 3192]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to speak on the Health Authorities Bill. I must say, I am rather disappointed that the government has brought this bill forward, and in light of the information that has been presented to them that regional health boards were working. As the Minister of Health knows, as all members of this House know, that when we consolidated the hospitals into regional health boards, there was a lot of opposition because of the fact that there was a significant change, a dramatic change which I think made a lot of people uneasy. They felt that they were losing control, that their particular hospital would be swallowed up into a larger organization which would be insensitive to the needs of their communities. It was a new process that had to be adjusted to, to which the workers and the people involved had to familiarize themselves and for the first while it was not really accepted. I understand that - I think we all understand that because of the change.

As time went along, more and more people and certainly the authorities came to realize that the regional health boards were working. We had gone from 33 individual health units to four regional health boards. There was millions of dollars of saving in administration and the boards were doing the job. There was a concern in some areas that the areas were perhaps a little too large and the travelling to meetings was a problem, but certainly that I think for the most part was adjusted to and people came to understand that through these regional boards they were more able to have their input.

Prior to the regional health boards being put in place, the decisions were all made here in Halifax at the Department of Health by the minister, by the deputy minister. There was a guise by that that really communities could have their input, that because each hospital was a unit, they really had a say in what their direction would be.

That was a fallacy and it seems what the government has done is that they have returned to this process. It is very well hidden when you look at the Health Authorities Bill, you have really regional health boards under a different name. You have regional health boards now called district health authorities - it is just changing the name. The government made a promise to get rid of regional health boards so what they have done is changed the name regional health boards to district health authorities and they have increased the numbers from four to nine.

They have put the QE II and the Nova Scotia Hospital into a certain grouping, they have left the IWK-Grace out and the changes they have made have been not changes for the better and I feel really very badly about that because health care is so vitally important in Nova Scotia and where it took so long for the people to become accustomed to the regional health boards where they now realize that they were a good jurisdiction for the most part. In fact, we did save millions of dollars, just what this Tory Party asked for during the election campaign. In fact they said all of the increases in health care spending could be

[Page 3193]

accommodated by savings in administration, savings of waste, savings of duplication and that they expected to secure $46 million by reducing the administration cost.

It was a far-fetched promise, it was completely implausible, one would wonder how anyone would believe it, but it evidently worked. The fact is, anyone who would know health care would know that it would not be possible: one, to save $46 million in administration; and, two that it would only be $46 million that would be necessary to keep health care going in the direction it should be going. One of the reasons you couldn't save $46 million is because so much of the saving had already been realized by the amalgamation of certain hospitals into the four regional boards.

[1:45 p.m.]

I think that one would say that the Tories made this promise without considering the cost consequences of increasing the number of boards from four to nine. I disagree with that. I think that the government did it because they hoped and believed that they would be able to have the people of Nova Scotia think that they have kept an election promise: one, that they would believe it was a different set-up; two, that it was going to be better for the Province of Nova Scotia; and three, that it would in fact save money. None of those, in fact, is the case. What the government has done is increase the number of administrative units, which is going to cost more money. There is no way around that. That is going to be the case. By changing what they have done, they have, as we look through this bill, become quite conscious that so much more of the power is vested in the Minister of Health and the department here in Halifax.

You look through the Health Authorities Act, Bill No. 34, and you see that the minister has power over pretty well everything, and ultimately has power over the community health boards, that are going to be referring and suggesting to what are called the district health authorities. This means, of course, that the community health boards are really not going to have any power at all. They are going to have to be subject to the district health authorities, and then the district health authorities can't impose the thinking of the community health boards unless they get the approval of the minister and the deputy minister. It is going to be very frustrating to people in communities who honestly believed they would have input and that their input would matter when they find out that the suggestions they make are not going to go anywhere, that all of this process is going to be dictated to here in Halifax.

I would say, looking through this bill, that the one thing that perhaps would be a step ahead would be, really what I think it comes down to is balanced budget legislation. I think that is something that had to be done, something that we were prepared to bring forward, that the regional health boards, as they were under the Liberal Government, and the district health authorities could not spend as they wanted, there had to be some control. But saying that, there also has to be a reasonable amount of consideration shown to the district health authorities, as they are now, to allow them to be able to have funding sufficient to be able to

[Page 3194]

serve the needs of the public. I don't see that as taking place when I hear the government talking about how they have to cut back in health care and education. The Premier has said that health care and education are too large generators of spending not to escape the cuts that are going to take place by this government.

I think that what we have now is a change which is going to throw the whole thinking into sort of a chaotic setting, because you have taken the regional health boards now and changed the process around at a time when there are also going to be dramatic changes imposed by this government in their budget. I think it is unfortunate as well that the government did not wait for the Goldbloom report.

Mr. Speaker, you heard, from time to time, the Progressive Conservative Party talk about an agency that would investigate regional health boards. You were there and you were sitting attentively listening to these questions and these applications by the Progressive Conservative Party. One would almost feel that when they made their overtures, they were really sincere in wanting to investigate exactly what the effectiveness of regional health boards were.

We heard this almost daily in the House from the Progressive Conservative Party. We heard that they wanted this study. We agreed to the study and we even allowed the Progressive Conservative Party to nominate some people for this board that would conduct this study. It would seem that we had given to the Progressive Conservative Party what they had asked and one would assume that, at least in this case, they would be consistent, that they would say, well, now that we have got the study, we are going to make sure the study works and we are going to make sure that the proper information is brought forward and applied but, son of a gun, you know, the government did not wait for the report. Before the Goldbloom committee made their report, this government said that they were going to do away with regional health boards and, son of a gun again, the Goldbloom task force came down in support of regional health boards. (Interruption)

Yes, and this brings me to one of the most amazing things that this government has said and has just been reiterated by the Minister of Health that he does not think that the Goldbloom task force actually supports regional health boards.

MR. MUIR: They said they were not working.

MR. MACLELLAN: No, no, they said they were working, that actually not only did they say they were working, they thought that the hospitals in Halifax, the QE II, the IWK-Grace and the Nova Scotia Hospital, should be included in the regional health boards they were working so well. I mean to say they are not working is completely ludicrous when you know that the task force said that more hospitals should come under the umbrella of regional health boards. I mean it is . . .

[Page 3195]

MR. MUIR: We accepted a number of their recommendations, too.

MR. MACLELLAN: I guess that you accepted the fact that it was submitted on the day they brought it forward, but other than that I do not know what serious recommendations the minister or the government has accepted and they said in the Goldbloom task force, Mr. Speaker - and I am sure you are aware of this - they said that to reverse the process at this stage would further disrupt the system, increase costs and lead to a more fragmented system of health care. What better endorsement than that could the task force give in support of regional health boards?

I mean this task force also said that it was convinced that regionalization must be strengthened if it is to be continued. Well, you cannot say that they are not supporting regionalization if they say it should be strengthened if it is to continue. So I think the government is very weak on saying that the Goldbloom task force did not support regional health boards. Once again, we go through this tango with the Minister of Health where he is not listening to the music and he is going in his own direction and stepping on everyone's toes because it is obvious that the Goldbloom task force recommended regional health boards.

Mr. Speaker, I do have some problems with this bill other than just generally, that is totally unnecessary, other than the fact that perhaps there could be a case made for, I think Clauses 32 and 33, I have forgotten, where they deal with really effectively the balanced budget legislation, but other than that this is really totally unnecessary. It is going to cause a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unnecessary concern in the health care system in this province and I would think that the government is completely wrong in moving ahead with this bill.

Also, we want to say that so much of this bill is really temporary specified because the government all the way through this bill has said that there can be changes in the regulations, which would indicate that this is just a framework, this is just a skeleton, that the main thinking of the bill is going to be in the regulations, which will allow this government to make serious changes to the mistakes they have already made under the Health Authorities Bill by amending the regulations, and these amendments of the regulations are not going to have to be brought before the Legislature for review. This government now has an open door, a blank cheque, to further change health care delivery in this province, because so much that is in this bill can be changed by regulation.

I find that totally unacceptable. This is a very important area for Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians want to be absolutely sure their health care system is solid; they want to be sure that they are going to have some continuity; they want to be sure that they are going to have an input; and they want to be sure that the government is going to be funding, properly, the health care system. Now the government has said they are not going to fund properly the health care system because they have said, as the Premier mentioned, education and health cannot be exempt from the cuts because their percentage of expenditures are far too high.

[Page 3196]

I just want to mention, too, some examples. It says in Clause 5(1), "The Governor-in-Council may, by the regulations, alter the boundaries of a health district." Why is this government talking about nine health care districts when the number of health care districts could be so easily changed? I mean, we don't know if there are going to be nine, we don't know if they are going to be 10, 11, or 12. We don't know. Presumably, if the government wanted to act properly, they would go back to four and give them the same powers as you gave the regional health boards, then there would not be the disruption. But we don't know which way the government is going to go, whether they are going to go up, with more district health authorities, or they are going to go down, with fewer district health authorities.

The second paragraph in that clause says, "The Governor in Council may, by the regulations, annex the whole or any part of a health district to another health district." Well, if the government has given any thought to this, certainly they would know how many health districts should be actually involved. Should there be the nine, as they stated. Should there be more? Should there be less? Why are we going through this process of defending, in the case of the government, or objecting to, in the case of the Opposition - certainly the Liberal Party - the nine district health authorities when the government is not sure how many there should be, because they are leaving the way open for further changes?

The government also says in Clause 6(1), "The Governor in Council" - once again - "may, by the regulations, establish a district health authority to govern and manage the delivery of those health services in a health district for which it has been made responsible pursuant to this Act."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member of the Liberal Party realizes that he would be debating in principle, not referring and specifying in detail particularly, the clauses of the bill.

MR. MACLELLAN: I understand. I will just go through the bill without specifying the clauses. Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I have no problem with that, and I do appreciate your intervention; I certainly will comply.

I do think it is important to mention some of these things that are in the bill, whether we refer to the clauses or not, because they are going to go to committee, and the Law Amendments Committee is going to look at the thrust of this bill and they will hopefully make suggestions for changes. I think it is important that we discuss some of the proposed changes that could be made.

I want to also mention that it says in this bill that a person employed or engaged by district health authorities is not a officer, servant, or agent of Her Majesty in Right of the Province. Now, I want to know, and I want to know quite sincerely from the minister, and I hope he would clarify this, is that provision in there so that a person will not actually be an

[Page 3197]

agent or employee or servant of Her Majesty, or for purposes of this bill, is that person not deemed to be an employee, servant or agent of Her Majesty?

I would hope that eventually the minister would clarify that, because that particular point is followed immediately by the fact that it says nothing, in the previous comment that I made, affects the application of the Public Service Superannuation Act to any person. Presumably some of these people who are not deemed under the bill to be agents or servants or employees of the province are in fact actually employees, agents and servants of the province because they have the Public Service Superannuation Act applying to them. I would hope that the minister would clarify that.

[2:00 p.m.]

It says, too, that the board of directors is to consist of, "the number of voting members specified in the regulations respecting the district health authority, one third of whom shall be appointed by the Minister, and two thirds of whom shall be appointed by the Minister from among persons nominated by community health boards pursuant to . . ." another section. This other section goes on to say that if the minister doesn't like the names put forward, that he or she, in this case he, can ask for more names and continue, presumably, to ask for more names until he gets the people he wants. Here we have them appointing one-third of the board of the district health authority and asking for appointments or recommendations by the community health boards, not taking those appointments or recommendations if he doesn't like them, but going on and asking for more names and more names until, quite frankly, the government has everybody on the board of directors of the authority that he wants.

I would say, and I hesitate because this probably hasn't crossed the minister's mind, that he may want to appoint advocates of his political Party to the board of directors of the district health authorities. Perish the thought that the minister would ever have that thought cross his mind. Somewhere in a convoluted sense that idea may penetrate his mind and he may run with it. This would be horrible, and it certainly would be contrary to what we in Nova Scotia, certainly on this side of the House, would advocate. We certainly wouldn't look at that possibility, and it is just because I have heard of that possibility happening before that I mention it, not because I would ever think of it if we were in power. I do want to caution the minister that we will be watching this, and I think a lot of other people will be watching this. I would hope, in all seriousness, that the minister would be constructive in the appointments.

This board has to have the support of the communities. It has to have the support of the people of Nova Scotia, and if it is seen to be merely a rubber stamp of the minister and containing people who the minister has appointed for political or other purposes, then we are going to lose what respect remains for this process. I would ask the minister to look at this very carefully, to reconsider this, and to, perhaps, put something in this bill that would guard against that.

[Page 3198]

"The Minister may, where the Minister considers there is cause or incapacity, remove or suspend any member of a board of directors and may re-appoint, reinstate or replace that member, whether the member's term has expired or not." This appears to me to once again be very convenient for the minister. Even if one person who isn't somebody that he would like to have on the board slips through the process somehow, he does have this further ability to be able to weed them out later on. I would say that you have to give non-Tories a fighting chance to get on this board. There is a little overkill here, because where the first appointees may not all be to his liking, he can go and get further appointees until he gets the people he wants, and if somebody who is not exactly what he wants slips through, then he has the power to remove them. That is a little overkill. I would suggest the minister appeal to his philanthropic nature and his nature for being very conscious of what is necessary for the province and to perhaps correct that.

I want to say to the minister, too, where it also says that the district health authority shall identify . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, I remind the member that on second reading, it is not regular on this occasion to discuss details of the clause of the bill, so I would ask the member to please refrain from citing from clauses of the bill and speak specifically to the principles of the bill. Unfortunately, the second reading is for discussion of the principle of this bill, and that is what second reading is for.

MR. MACLELLAN: Let me just talk to the principles of the bill. There are various ways of doing this, Mr. Speaker, and I can do it any way Your Honour wishes. I have no problem with that. I can talk about the principles, and one of the principles I want to talk about are the annual reports. What really amazes me, I don't think I have ever seen this before, where the minister has the power to change the dates the annual reports can be submitted. I mean, it is an annual report. It is submitted after the fiscal year, but the minister can postpone the annual report, particularly if there is something in there he does not like, or if there is an election coming up or a by-election he can postpone the time the annual report is brought forward. This is absolutely incredible. I do not understand how any government can actually suggest this sort of thing and really have the people of the jurisdiction actually believe that this is a credible piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker. That certainly is not something that I would say would be acceptable. I don't think it is something that the Minister of Justice would find is acceptable because I know he is very strict on doing what is proper.

The by-laws that are brought forward are all subject to approval by the minister. All of the by-laws of the district health authorities are all subject to the approval of the minister.

Another principle, Mr. Speaker, that I want to mention is where there is a surplus at the end of the year. This bill requires that the minister may authorize the authority to retain all or part the surplus on such terms as the conditions as the minister may consider appropriate. My heavens, if the authority is shrewd enough, competent enough to have a surplus, don't brow

[Page 3199]

beat the poor people into spending that surplus because they are not going to like the way the minister is going to tell them to spend it. There is no latitude in this bill for freedom of action by the district health authorities. None. Even in the cases where these people, through their efforts of good management, manage to have a surplus, he even tells them how they have to spend it. That is just really heavy handed. I think it is unfortunate, and I think it is going to, in fact, cause the people in the health authorities to re-think as to whether they want to have a surplus at all, whether they want to manage the process that they have well, because they are not going to keep the surplus for the purposes they feel would be proper.

These are people that are there on the scene, on the ground, at the facilities. They have some idea of where they want to perhaps squirrel away a few dollars to do something that would be helpful that they feel the government, being in Halifax, would not acknowledge or would not be sensitive to. I see nothing wrong with that. If you set a budget and they have a surplus, for heavens sake, give them some latitude to spend the money in a way that would be suitable. You are taking away the incentive for a surplus.

You have balanced budget legislation in here. You have the requirement for balanced budgets and now you are saying if they do balance the budget, unless they balance it right to the point and whatever surplus they have is going to be the responsibility of the government to spend. I am having a lot of difficulty with that, Mr. Speaker, because I see that this whole thing has become very mean-spirited and I think it is totally unnecessary and why? Why is it unnecessary, totally unreasonable?

Mr. Speaker, another principle is that, "The minister may request the nominating committee struck . . . prepare . . . lists of additional nominees where the Minister . . ." wants additional nominees named. I mentioned that earlier. It also says, an additional principle . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, just to remind the member not to be reading the clauses clause by clause please. Stick to relevancy and the principle of the bill. Thank you.

MR. MACLELLAN: The government also is saying that no business plan is to be implemented unless it has completely approved it and, Mr. Speaker, I think that that is a little heavy-handed. I would hope that there wouldn't be delays. I would hope that the minister will, in fact, honour the commitment that if the government does not give approval, that it will be able to spend one-half of the budget it had in the previous year without violating the wishes of the minister and the department.

I also would want to ask the minister a question which has concerned me, and that is with respect to the insurance. I don't think there is enough detail here to really give us a full picture, but the bill states, in effect, that if the health authorities are changed or one health authority takes over all or a portion of another health authority, that the insurance is to stay in place. I don't know if the province is going to be the insurer of those assets or whether it

[Page 3200]

is going to be sent out to the private sector. I don't know if you change the risk or the circumstances of the policy, whether you can legislate that the insurer actually has to maintain that insurance. I would ask the minister, in all seriousness, if he would look at it because I think that it is something I would like to see clarified because in the case of loss of facilities, of equipment, in the case where someone is injured and there is a liability, I would hope that the insurance would hold if there is a change in the insurable package. I will leave it to the minister to look at that.

I have mentioned the principles of the bill that concern me the most but more or less to be general once again, I would hope that the government would show a lot more latitude. I would hope that the government would respond more directly to what the government said they would do and that is to give the communities more of an input, to allow the communities to have more say. What this bill does now is that the communities make recommendations to the district health authority. The district health authority has to - and I think this is fine, this is good - either encompass in their business plan the suggestions of the community health board or to write and give the government, the minister, reasons why they have not implemented some of the requirements of the community health board. I think that that is fine, but then, when the district health authority takes their business plan to government for approval, that government, of course, has to then approve what was included in the business plan as suggested by the community health board.

[2:15 p.m.]

In other words, the community health board's suggestions that are accepted by the district health authority are subsequently to be overturned by the government and this is the same government that wanted reasons as to why other suggestions of the community health board were turned down. There seems to be a contradiction here. Either the government is interested in implementing the recommendations of the community health boards or they want to find ways to keep the recommendations of the community health boards out of the business plans of the district health authorities. It cannot be both ways.

So I think what the government is doing here, it is more or less hauling and pushing at the same time. I think what they have done is they are trying to say to the community health boards, look, we really support your implementation, we really support your recommendations, we really want you to be involved, we really believe that you guys are the backbone of health care in this province and we want your suggestions, but at the same time they are throwing so many roadblocks in the suggestions of the community health boards that they have really essentially nullified the effectiveness of community health boards. I think that where you are dealing with volunteers and people who want to make health care better, that when they are going to be rebuffed so early and so often, you are going to lose the enthusiasm of these people and these communities. I think that that is going to be very unfortunate.

[Page 3201]

I do say that it was a good move to state in the legislation by the minister that neither members of the board of directors of the district health authorities or the community health boards will be subject to any liability which could happen in volunteer organizations. I think that is giving them protection which I think was well thought out, but I am concerned about how these people are going to maintain their enthusiasm, how these people are going to continue to want to participate in this process where they are not going to be really allowed to have their suggestions implemented. There are just too many logjams in their path.

The district health authorities themselves are going to be doing a lot of work, but they are not going to have any authority. I mean, how are you going to get good people to be reticent, to be caring, to be steadfast, to work, to plan the budget, when they do not have any say and everything they do, everything they suggest, has to be given to the minister who, of course, it will be the deputy minister, Napoleon, who will actually make the decision which, if his prior actions have any indication, are going to be very much what he wants and not what anyone else wants. I think that that does not speak very well for getting people involved in health care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I feel that this bill is wrong. I feel that this government is doing it because they felt they had to come out with something because they criticized the health boards. They are trying to disguise the reason they are doing this because they are trying to disguise it as something that is actually constructive and is going to work when it is not going to work. It is going to turn people against participating in this process. It has centralized the health care system and the health care decisions in this province, in Halifax more than ever before, and with a deputy minister who is too highly paid for what he is doing and for what he is suggesting. He is making over $180,000 per year himself, and then he goes out and looks for associate deputies, assistant deputies, associate assistant deputies, somebody in public relations, there is no end to what this deputy minister is going to spend to make himself look good, but to keep all the power unto himself.

This is really unfortunate. When you look at people who really want this health care system to work, who have worked long and hard to have a health care system that works, and where the responsibility is shared and where people in all parts of this province have an input, you look at this bill and you just become absolutely discouraged. All of the work that has gone into trying to make the health care system more self-sustainable, more cost efficient, to get better people into the administration and into the system, you just wonder.

This government talks about doctors, they talk about bringing new doctors into the system. Well, it was not this government and from the statistic that exists, is that in the last two years - that is from January 1998 to December 1999 - this Province outperformed all other provinces in Canada in securing new doctors for its jurisdiction and this province obtained 136 new doctors in that time period, which is very good. It was very good because people in the medical profession wanted to work in Nova Scotia; it has a good quality of life, the hospitals were working, the regional health boards actively went out and worked along

[Page 3202]

with the Department of Health to secure new doctors and it was working. We got good quality doctors and we solved a lot of the health care problems, not all of them, in various regions of this province.

I don't believe we are going to have the same success anymore as a result of this legislation. I don't believe that doctors, nurses are going to really operate properly under this system and I have a real concern with that. People in Nova Scotia deserve the best health care system that we can reasonably afford. Certainly we have to watch where the money is spent and we did that previously by reducing the administrative units down to four, saving millions of dollars. How this government is going to keep the spending down, one can only imagine. The Minister of Health today says they don't plan to close any hospitals. They may not close them, they may downgrade them into clinics or something else, I don't know. I would ask for a clearer statement from this government, at some point, that they are not going to close or downgrade any of the hospitals that remain in Nova Scotia. I think the people of Nova Scotia want to hear this. They want to hear their health care and the services that go along with it are going to be available to them in the future.

If we don't do this, we are going to continue to have people leave the communities in this province. We are going to have a continuing emptying out of people in our regions and that is only going to work, contrary to what we want to have in the Province of Nova Scotia. You cannot maintain communities if you do not have services. I am not saying that every small community should have a hospital, but there should be one within reasonable proximity and that is what I think we have at the present time. A further closing of hospitals is going to jeopardize that and it is going to make the people of the various regions of this province think twice about continuing to live in their communities.

It is going to make the young people think about whether they would want to get married and bring up families in those regions. I would ask the government, and I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, that if this government goes back on their commitment to maintain good health care throughout this province, then we in this Party are going to be there to criticize them at every turn. Now the Premier is here, and I know the Premier knows health care very well, and I know that he knows people very well, and I know that he has a sense a fairness, and I would ask him to maintain the principle that there will be good health care in all parts of this province, and that the hospitals and facilities that are now there will continue to remain in the status which they are presently constituted.

It is not easy to fund health care. It is not easy to really give the health care services we need, and some reorganization is going to be needed. We brought that out in our platform during the election, and that is why we felt we had to bring that forward, a $600 million program, spent over three years. I maintain that this government is going to have to spend more than an additional $600 million over the same three year period, because they haven't focused as to where the funding is going to be placed. The more they spend to patch up holes in the dyke without having a plan, the more money they are going to have to spend. That is

[Page 3203]

money that could go to a health care system that is more in tune with what is needed in this province, that is more in tune with the technological advances that have been made, and more in tune with the needs in long-term care and home care.

Mr. Speaker, these are very important points, because health care is very important. I don't for a minute believe that our system of universal health care in Canada is safe. I see threats in Alberta, I see questions as to what is going to be, what you can actually put a user fee on, I see that there could be a watering down of what the services will be to the people in this country, and the question is, where is the line going to be drawn and held? I would hope that the respect of this province will be respected. There is no question, no question at all, and I think anybody who studied the unity of this country will tell you that the factor that is the biggest unifying process in this country is our national health care. That unifies this country more than anything else. When you ask what it is to be a Canadian, people will tell you that it is our National Health Care Program that really means that we are Canadian. There are some other great features, I don't mean to minimize those. But if you ask the people their opinion, our National Health Care Program is paramount.

I would say that it is bills like this that allow the Governor in Council, the deputy minister to make all of the decisions, to change the system, to downgrade the system as he considers right at any particular time, allows the minister to overrule good suggestions of the district health authorities, puts his own people on the boards of directors, because they are supporters of his political Party. These things all add up to a reduction in health care service in this country and certainly in this province. I would ask the government to withdraw this bill, certainly to go over it and to change major parts of it, because it really is not progressive, it is not in keeping with where the people of Nova Scotia want health care to go, it is not in the spirit of targeting and having the funding for health care applied in the right direction.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that this bill needs very serious consideration at the Law Amendments Committee. I would hope that plenty of time would be allowed by this government for consideration at the Law Amendments Committee, because I wouldn't want to see it go in and come out in a day or two, before people actually knew that it had been in Law Amendments Committee but didn't have the chance to come and voice their concerns. There are a lot of groups who are going to be concerned with this bill. I would want, first of all, that proper notice be given that this bill is going to be considered in the Law Amendments Committee and when it will be considered, and that a good deal of time will be granted to the Law Amendments Committee to consider this.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I have a great deal of concern with this. I feel very badly about this bill having been brought forward. It is a major step backwards, and I would ask the government to not be so proud in its activity as to feel they have to introduce this bill just because they made a promise. They should give more consideration to what health care should be in this province. The progress that we were making in health care, the steps forward we were making, the fact that the regional health boards are now generally accepted as to be

[Page 3204]

working, and the time we took to get that feeling in place, the trust of the regional health boards is now going to be jettisoned. You are going to go back to square one and try to get the people supportive of this, and I don't think the people of Nova Scotia ever will be supportive of this. Thank you very much.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to Bill No. 34, Health Authorities Act. I have to admit that I wish I knew more about health and health service delivery in this province. I do want, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health to know that on Sunday, I turned 44, and I would like to have another 44 years, so if what he is doing to the health care system will ensure that, then I am more than happy.

The little that I have learned in the past two years, Mr. Speaker, has really come from my interactions with the individuals at the Community Health Board for Hants East. I am not entirely sure that this bill does anything more for them than any other previous legislation. If we were to stop and consider what is it that legislation should do, if we were to take a map of Nova Scotia and if we could turn on a light bulb that represented every person in Nova Scotia, then we would get a very clear picture of the demographics. We would know where most the population is, and we would be able to relate the need for services to the number of people there. That need would also have a relationship to the costs involved in implementing that service.

If we looked at Nova Scotia as a single unit, and stepped back from the communities in a way, and then decided in the case of what services we want to provide to Nova Scotians, what are the distances and the times and availabilities of those services in order for anyone to get to those services or for those services to get to them from any particular point, we would probably find that within the province there are those areas, maybe we could say 75 per cent of the province, that falls within a certain realm for delivery of service. In other words, we can provide specific services to individuals that they would expect should be delivered to those areas, and delivered it within a particular period of time. Then we would find if there were certain areas of the province, because of the population base, et cetera, and the size of those areas in relation to the population, that they cannot get the same level of service because of where they are located.

Some of that will make sense, and people choose to live where they live for a variety of reasons. But there are certain basics of health care that people expect to get simply because they are taxpayers in this province. I don't see that this bill actually ensures that any one will get any particular level of care or that there is any particular standard of care for all people in Nova Scotia. That worries me.

[Page 3205]

I know the minister is aware of my constituency. He is aware of problems we have had lately in the delivery of ambulance service. It seems to me that in my riding it is somewhat of an anomaly because we seem to have run into more problems there than in other places in the province. Therefore, the mould does not fit, so I would like to think that there is flexibility in this bill, where service that does not seem to work in a particular area we can make an adjustment and not try to apply the same model everywhere in the province. If there are those

areas that are anomalies, then we create an administrative anomaly or we create a service anomaly to fit those areas.

I am a little worried, I think, in the sense of the lack of clarity in the roles of the community health boards. The individuals I know in my area who are involved with the community health board are dedicated. As all members of this House probably recognize, when you meet any of these particular groups, you will probably find that the people who are on your community board are the same people who are either involved in Guides or they are municipal councillors or whatever, but they are same people who are involved in their communities in a variety of ways, and the fact that they are givers and are caring in their community means that they would also consider their community health board role to be important.

What happens in the case of the community health board in my area is that people can only do this for a certain period of time and then they tend to burn out, so the community health boards, I would say, have trouble recruiting people. Every time I am at a meeting, this is one of the things they bring up, they always tell the crowd that if anybody is interested in belonging or working with the community health board they would be glad to have them. I see this bill as perhaps making the role of the community health board somewhat more unclear, and I don't see that as a way to endear itself to the members of the community if you are trying to attract people to work with the community health board.

I am assuming from comments by the minister, when he introduced this bill to second reading, that he thinks that this piece of legislation is to the benefit of the health care system and to the benefit of all Nova Scotians. My notion of health care is that it comes from the ground up; in other words where the rubber hits the road is where decisions should be made as to what is appropriate for any particular community or constituency or whatever. Therefore input from the community health board would be important, but where the community health board hasn't been given a whole lot of authority or resources to work with under this piece of legislation, then I can see that there would be some frustration on their part to suggest things that would get to a certain level and then nothing will happen. They will stay there, and there will be no return back to the community.

I have noticed recently that in my own constituency, and we are probably no different than lots of other constituencies, and we also have, I think, the uniqueness of having a fairly growing urban area as well as having a fairly large rural part of the constituency, the urban part of my constituency seems to be able to maintain or attract doctors far more easily than

[Page 3206]

the more rural area, and actually probably one of the advantages of that is not just the population base but the fact that that part of my riding is really well within an hour of getting to Halifax. So even if a doctor didn't live in my area, he could live in metropolitan Halifax and go there every day to his office; it would not be a problem.

What I would like the members to think about are those parts of my riding where they are really working hard to find doctors, and I have noticed sometimes there are conflicts between different parts of my own constituency trying to attract doctors, and resources, well within the boundaries of my own riding. So I wonder, in the case of this bill and considering the way the community health boards and the district health authorities are set up, if we won't have too much resistance between community health boards trying to gain resources for their particular area, and I don't see mechanisms that will maintain synergies between community health boards.

I guess if I could consider the Minister of Health to be a guru of health care providing, then I would think, look, I am so confident in that individual that they can dictate or disseminate health care services on their own throughout the whole province because they are so knowledgeable as to what any particular area needs and, therefore, I put that in their hands and the community health boards, those individuals involved, or district health authorities, they can carry out roles in their communities that they would turn their interest to otherwise. To be honest, and meaning no disrespect to the minister, I do not see him as having enough knowledge to single-handedly provide information or resources to the whole province on his own and control and conduct the whole health care system.

So what I see is a need for community health boards and their input into the decision-making. I expect the minister, because of the power that he has retained in this legislation, will have people in his department who will tend to guide him through this process whereby they will say from what has come up from communities whether or not that is worthwhile doing or not worthwhile doing and depend on dollars, et cetera, but I do not see that as any different than the system we have now. The people in my area seem to have a good toehold on the needs of the area and even though they are involved with community health board level, they definitely have no guarantees that even in a limited way that they can get anything that they need for their communities.

Actually a lot of the people in my constituency who either are involved with the community health board or advise the people on the community health board, they have some knowledge of the workings of the health care system. That means, not that anybody, you know, in one quick glance has an overall view of how this should work, but they have been involved with the system. They have been involved with different programs. We have some individuals who have worked as nurse practitioners in the North. They bring a different view to programs that should be provided by health care or the role of nurse practitioners in the health care system. So I would look to these individuals as people who have insight and can

[Page 3207]

give valuable information to the community health board as to what programs might work very well in rural Nova Scotia.

The question is, how does this bill enable anything to get from the community health board level anywhere else? If it gets to the district health authorities, what happens to it after that? With the minister's authority, he really has the decision-making power, or those people who he designates, and when we have a lack of resources, and I will be very interested to see what the budget does to this bill because it would seem to me that if you are going to provide health care and you are not going to provide dollars, then you are going to have a contradiction in terms because I have not seen anything about the health care system that generates money.

Everything that I know about health care is you have to spend dollars to provide a service to the public, but there is nothing within that system that generates dollars and hearing the comments of colleagues from the Liberal bench, I would worry about what direction the minister might take and actually that is a concern because of the power of the minister. If he so deems privatization, then I would say that this would not be in the best interests of Nova Scotians and actually has not proved to have been in the best interests of anybody yet in this country any place that it has been tried. It has only proved to be costly and not effective.

So I am worried about the fact that there does not seem to be any written standard of what vision the minister has for the province as far as health care delivery, that there is nothing to say right off the top, this is what we want all Nova Scotians to have, and then beyond that because of certain criteria, then people will get this, this and this. I think if that was set down in legislation, then we would have community health boards that really are not going to be fighting against one another for resources that are lacking, and I think that if we tend to pit one area against another, that only works to the benefit of the minister, because there does not seem to be any united voice in trying to get any of these resources. (Interruption)

[2:45 p.m.]

The Provincial Health Council has been holding meetings around the province and I assume they still are. They came to my riding, and we were actually quite glad that they did, because the original intention was that they would only go to Hants West. It took some bargaining on the part of the members of the community health board to get a meeting in Hants East. When I read the newspaper report of that meeting, it seemed as though the members involved seemed to interpret the meeting as that there were various factions within my constituency that were not united. Actually, the point of the meeting was that people from various areas of my constituency would come and express the concerns that they had for that particular area of the constituency, not that they had to agree or support a different view of someone else who had a different need from a different part of the constituency. They wanted the council to be aware of all of the needs in various areas of the constituency.

[Page 3208]

What I am concerned about is that maybe we will be doing this on a much larger scale with our community health boards bargaining for resources for things they need in their particular area, and that will be seen as being pitted against another community health board looking for either a similar thing or maybe for something different. There won't be any united voice among all players within the province for the things that they need. Actually, they should be speaking with a united voice to the minister to ensure that he gets the same message of what Nova Scotians are wanting in the case of health care.

This bill, if I understand the minister correctly, and I am always curious as to why we read something into a piece of legislation that the minister seems to wonder how we got there. My read on his comments is that he thinks that this will decentralize authority within the health care system and give more say to the community health boards. I would say, if that is true, great. But I don't see it, and actually, because of the power left with the minister, I don't see them having much authority at all, and not only that, no resources to carry out anything that they may want to do anyway.

I think the people on the health boards are going to take an approach whereby they hope to be proactive in the delivery of health services to the area and not to be cog in a wheel and just react to whatever happens.

Nowhere in this piece of legislation does it mention anything regarding preventive health care services or programs that would tend to lead to a healthier lifestyle, that would tend to keep people away from acute care. This is based on the medical model or illness model, and there does not seem to be anything that acts in a more proactive way for the promotion of good health throughout the community. If we consider the year 2000, it is time, from so many avenues related to health, that this is the direction that governments have to go. That is not to say that you don't provide these other services, you have to. But there definitely has to be resources put into those areas to ensure that people live healthier and don't put demands on those services that we once used to.

So, I am wondering how this piece of legislation is, or the community health boards, as we identify them in this piece of legislation, are any different from those that are identified with the Regional Health Boards Act of 1994. What is new? I don't see that there is anything new as far as the identification of the community health boards in this bill. What do I worry about? Well, the discretionary power of the minister is something that I worry about in this bill. I wonder about employee protection, about the power of the minister with regard to possibilities for privatization and I think about the fact that a bill that was really designed to talk about de-centralization doesn't seem to be doing that.

The question of the need for nine boards in a population as small as Nova Scotia, how did you come up with that number, Mr. Minister? I would like to know that. I want to make the minister particularly aware that it will be the people on the ground that will make this system work and there are people that are knowledgeable and they have the best information

[Page 3209]

regarding their own communities. I certainly hope the minister makes this system flexible enough that these people don't spend their time spinning their wheels and getting nothing. I think for them, actually what they are able to accomplish for their community is what will maintain their interest. There is no incentive like success and therefore, if the minister wants people to be involved, then he is going to have to deliver some of the things for which they are looking.

I certainly look forward to seeing this bill go forward. I would like to see what the input in this bill will be from the people at the Law Amendments Committee and I certainly hope that the minister will be listening to some of the possible amendments that these individuals will be willing to make. Thank you very much.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I guess I will start off by expressing my discomfort, especially when I read this bill, I was shocked. I am appalled. I am new in this House, it is my second session of the House of Assembly and I am confused, I have to admit. I thought things worked differently than what they do. I just feel for my colleagues on the other side of the House, I don't know how they are going to face Nova Scotians after this bill goes through. This is probably the worst example of introducing a bill to fulfil an election promise.

The promise was made during the campaign on the basis of confusing facts and smothering it all and messing it all up basically. They made many promises as the Third Party in this House and during the election campaign that they didn't understand or didn't even consider the consequences, or even the costs which will occur as the result of this bill. My opinion is that it is nothing short of a knee-jerk reaction from this government to fulfil an election promise that they made and they want to be able to stand up and say, well that is four or five commitments, promises that we made and that is five that we fulfilled, without much regard for the taxpayer in the Province of Nova Scotia.

During the election the Tories, of course, made it very clear, they went throughout the province preaching that regional health boards were not working. That was clearly the message that was sent out. Well, the Tories were telling Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, something that as a Party they knew was false. They knew that it wasn't true, and they made statements and commitments based on theories without really following through or much thought.

Nova Scotians know, Mr. Speaker, that regional health boards were beginning to work . . .

[Page 3210]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I believe the honourable member opposite suggested that something was said by members opposite that they knew to be false, and as I understand, Mr. Speaker, that would be unparliamentary. I would ask that the member should retract that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, I would advise him if he did say something or make any accusations, I would certainly ask that he retract those, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will remove that remark if I may, and I will replace it with just a clear statement that they went about the Province of Nova Scotia making statements that they did not know whether they were based on fact or fiction. They just said whatever they felt like saying. Whenever an audience was in front of them, they rose to the occasion; the result is the same. But I do apologize to the honourable minister and any member of the House opposite if I infringed on their credibility when I said it was false. I would not suggest that they deliberately did this. They just tried to entertain, and I don't believe they realized themselves that they were going to be taken seriously. That shocked everyone, particularly in the area I came from, that is for sure. (Interruption) Yes, we did have a few shocks for both Parties.

Nova Scotians knew that regional health boards were beginning to work. I think it is obvious that it was a new process, a new beginning, and it was beginning to work. It was a learning process. Ordinary Nova Scotians contributed, voluntarily, a great deal of time and effort to make these health boards work. They took the task at hand very serious. They accepted the situation that the health system in the province was in. They took it upon themselves as volunteers to put a strong effort into creating a health care system that Nova Scotians could rely on, and that they could have confidence in. That process, Mr. Speaker, was in the beginning, a new learning process. However, as time went on, these boards were getting better and exceptionally good at what their intent was and that was to improve the health care system in this province.

Those boards were comprised of volunteers from various communities throughout the province. The individuals I spoke to were not just concerned with community or local issues, they were concerned for the betterment of health care throughout the province; that is what they were committed to. They put that effort into action. We were at the turning point of creating a system in this province that all Nova Scotians could be proud of. They could be proud of it and have confidence in it that it would be there for the people when they needed it. That is what I feel is very unfair about this bill that is before the House today.

[Page 3211]

[3:00 p.m.]

It is obvious the Tories put the cart before the horse, in more ways than one, of course, but in particular, in this way. Come hell or high water, the Tories were bent on dumping regional health boards, without any thought or consideration for the people, the volunteers committed to putting this effort forward. They did it without even waiting to see the results of the task force that was commissioned for regionalized health care. Having a genuine interest in this House, of course, before I was elected to it, I saw the Premier as the Leader of the Third Party on a regular basis stand up in the House demanding that a review of these boards be taken into consideration, and that a review was in order.

The previous administration in government agreed to that request. They agreed. They believed in that process so firmly, they had confidence in the results that were obviously shown on a daily basis, and they didn't have a problem with telling Nova Scotians that the health care system that they helped create in this province was working for the betterment of all Nova Scotians, so they agreed to the review. They put a task force in place, and it was the Goldbloom report. I think the Premier is very well aware it, though he doesn't speak of it. I am sure he has read it.

What did they do as soon as they came to power? What did they do? They didn't even listen. They didn't even wait. No waiting, no nothing, they just whoom, swung the axe, slam, the regional health boards were eliminated without even telling these volunteers who took the issue on, the very people who were very knowledgeable within the health system, who committed on a daily initiative to improving the health care in this province and contributed many hours of their volunteer efforts, they were just taken and slashed. Not even a phone call, they were just eliminated, out of the picture, overnight. I think that is very unfair. I think that it was very unfair to treat volunteers in that regard, whether it is health or any other volunteer in this province. We should treat volunteers with a little bit of the dignity and respect that they deserve.

While the Tories were Third Party in the House, it is no secret, they routinely demanded a review of the board, all the boards. The Tories agreed and expressed their pleasure when the review process was put in place and announced by the previous government. They thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. They knew it, they knew that the review would prove what the Tories knew, better than all the health care workers in the province. That is what they thought. But they knew that the review would come out with the truth. The fact is, the boards were working. They were beginning to see real accomplishments within the health care system.

The government of the day, who was led by my Leader and then-Premier Russell MacLellan, commissioned the review, and agreed we would settle questions once and for all. Simple as that. Let's do the review and get an indication from one of the top medical experts, certainly in this country, and let's find out what he has to say about regional health boards.

[Page 3212]

I believe that was reasonable. So they agreed. The Premier agreed and at the time the Health Minister, Jim Smith, agreed we have nothing to hide, let's go out and do a review and we will bring in a very credible individual, and we will let him go out into the community and let him bring back a report and if there is anything indicated in that report that these boards were doing wrong, they would work to have it corrected.

That was the intention of the review, but the Tories made up their mind long before the review process even began, or long before it was even finalized, that is obvious. They were not going to listen to the hospital administrators who had an opportunity to have an input into this review. They did not want to hear what they had to say; they certainly did not have any time to listen to the health care providers who also had an opportunity to have input into this review. They were not interested in what they were saying. They did not want to be told, like they knew above these people. They did not want to listen to what these people were saying and, what is worst of all, they were not going to listen to what ordinary Nova Scotians said about their health care. They did not have any interest whatsoever, none, and that is obvious because they did this before the report was even made public.

They had a plan right from the day when they were all shocked, in July, when they won the election, but they were too proud, Mr. Speaker, they certainly had to continue on the trend and fulfil another commitment and be able to stand up in the communities and say, we have fulfilled another promise. The system that they broke - and it is broken, they broke it, it is broken today, it is not working yet, and I don't know if it will ever work again - the system that was working is now broken. That is obvious.

In the summer you have the Goldbloom report which has an outline of recommendations - I am certain many of the backbenchers over there did not read this report. They could not have. I don't believe that they did and I would suggest that they should rush out and get a copy and read it before they vote on this issue - the task force felt very strongly that the recommendations must be adopted in their entirety. If the current government at that time, which was the Liberal Government of Russell MacLellan, was serious about really fixing health care in the Province of Nova Scotia, then the recommendations would be adopted entirely. Now, even I can understand that.

The report went on to say, "The Task Force is convinced that regionalization must be strengthened if it is to be continued. To reverse the process at this stage would further disrupt the system, increase costs, and lead to a more fragmented system of health care." That is what the report indicated very clearly. So the Goldbloom report says that taking power away from the regional health boards would do three things, which have already been done by this government: it will disrupt the health care system; it will cost taxpayers more money; and it will create a less effective system of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3213]

That, Mr. Speaker, is a quote right from the report; it is not Brian Boudreau, MLA for Cape Breton The Lakes saying this. It is the report. This bill clearly destroys any progress that volunteers, health care professionals, administrators, any individual who volunteered their efforts on these boards, all the effort that went into making this system work in the province, is gone. It is history. In this bill, destroyed. With the elimination of these boards, it is destroyed, a health care system that could have been the Cadillac in the country. Maybe the health boards do deserve a bill in this House, but I would suggest that it is not this one. This bill has no flexibility whatsoever. It is not realistic. It is obviously wrong.

In reading this bill, it is scary. Some very serious problems with the make-up of these community boards. In fact, the bill does not adequately address problems such as funding that will occur in the future in the health care system. From the outset, the bill limits the talents and the skills of the people allowed to sit on the boards. Those ordinary Nova Scotians who I keep hearing about, who we all represent, don't have ample opportunity to have input into their health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. I will continue on to tell you why I believe that is so.

This bill says that any member of a board of directors of any organization is not permitted to sit on a community health board. Just imagine. Mr. Speaker, that certainly goes against what I know about volunteers. The volunteers that I know are involved in many aspects of community life. The majority of volunteers I am aware of, and I know quite a few of them in my community and in the surrounding areas on Cape Breton, they are committed to everything. They are involved in everything from the Cancer Society to Heart and Stroke; a lot of things. Now this government eliminates their participation into their health care. It is as simple as that. They just simply are not permitted, by law, to participate in the health care system.

In Nova Scotia where democracy rules, you tell me that is right. I don't believe anyone could ever convince me that that is right. It limits the new board's ability to have the most talented people on these boards. It eliminates that. There are thousands of Nova Scotians out there who would love to serve their communities and the people of the province on their local community health board, however, they are not allowed. They are not permitted by law, because if you serve on another board, you simply don't qualify to sit on this board. Your participation is exempted, you are not welcome, you are not wanted. Simple.

If I could make a suggestion. Perhaps the Tories could stack the boards with their poll captains. You better do it soon because after the next budget, they will have trouble finding poll captains. I also have a lot of serious problems, Mr. Speaker, with the power given to the Minister of Health under this new bill. We have already seen how the minister and the deputy minister are building their own little empire in downtown Halifax. Under the Health Authorities Act, the minister may remove or suspend any community board member, anytime, it is total control. If you say something I don't like, buddy, you are out of there. Either do as I tell you or as I suggest or you are gone. Now that is some way to handle health care boards.

[Page 3214]

[3:15 p.m.]

The minister also has the authority to, ". . . re-appoint, reinstate or replace that member . . .", so in fact, the minister may get angry at an individual today, next week calm down and reconsider his opinion of the individual and he could reappoint him. That is more like dictatorship and is not really democracy, in my opinion. It gives the minister an unacceptable level of control over the members of these boards. I don't believe that is why Nova Scotians chose the Progressive Conservatives last July and I don't believe that is what they really believed would be coming from this government.

I see a lot of smiles and smirks over there, but I bet it won't be, the first time you get sick and go to the hospital, you won't be smiling and smirking. Imagine the minister having the authority, of a board member who speaks against the government, just pointing his finger and having him removed. That is a form of democracy that I really don't want to become too familiar with, I will tell you that.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, it is a routine activity we see here in the House, it is a gag order. It is imposed on caucus members, now they are going into the communities with it. Just because members of their own caucus don't have the backbone to stand up and have an input into the direction that their government is taking them, I would suggest that the volunteers, the residents of this province are not going to accept the fact that gag-order government is not what they want; they don't want gag-order government.

We will punish you if you say anything bad about us - that is quite a message to send out there. That is really something to treat your volunteers and the people that are really committed to health care, how you are really going to dictate to them and control. If you don't like what we say, out the door, simple as that.

Another clause of the Health Authorities Bill states that the minister may, if he feels it appropriate, convey, ". . . some or all the Minister's responsibility for delivery, governance or management of the health services . . ." to the board. Another clause states that, "The Minister may dismiss members of a district health authority . . ." replace them with an official administrator if the board requests or if the minister considers that the board has ceased to function, or "if the authority has failed to comply with any order of the Minister or the Minister's delegate;" who is the minister's delegate? Are going to see another indication that we have seen in Sport and Recreation by the minister responsible by appointing a backbench MLA as a spokesman. Is that the type of delegation that we are talking about here? An unappointed individual who is criss-crossing all over the province announcing good news on behalf of the minister that is responsible, when staff within Sport and Recreation apparently is not considered capable of doing that? Is that what we are looking forward to within our health system?

[Page 3215]

On one hand, the minister is trying to seize all the power for himself, at the same time divorcing himself from his responsibilities. The minister simply is not being accountable, and it is not really any surprise to me after, as I indicated when I stood up here, this being my second session of the House, I am getting familiar with this. I can't imagine a reaction from ordinary Nova Scotians out there on the street who depend on the health care in this province every day of the week, what their reaction is going to be. That is what is going to be interesting. I guess we are all waiting for that.

The minister and his deputy, the deputy of course, it is no secret that he is the highest-paid deputy minister ever in the province of Nova Scotia, have not been accountable since day one. They are not accountable to anyone. (Interruption)

Approximately five months ago the current Minister of Health took away all the power that was invested in the regional health boards and he moved it to the Department of Health itself. He took the power and the control over the delivery of health care, and he put it right in downtown Halifax. Right into the deputy minister's office. I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, this is not the system of health care that Nova Scotians want. They don't require it and they don't want it.

For the first time ever in Nova Scotia, there has been no consultation, no public input, no accountability into the delivery of health. The regional boards that were in place, with just one phone call they were eliminated. There was no one spoken to. These individuals who were gaining valuable experience and making decisions within the health care system were just eliminated. Gone, out the door. This is our new democratic system we have in place. Out the door, see you later, guys, we don't need you anymore. And, by the way, we don't care what direction you would like to see health care go in or we don't care what you think about it. We don't want to know. Nothing, just go away and don't ever come back. Then, of course, after about a week or so, the minister was embarrassed that he even sent letters out thanking them for their commitment and all this. This is the way we treat our volunteers in the Province of Nova Scotia.

In my opinion, it was a clear violation of the Canada Health Act. I have done a little research. Section 8(1) of the Canada Health Act clearly states that health care must be administered by a public body. I see the minister over there shaking his head. For the last five months, that has not occurred. Since the day regional health boards were eliminated overnight by a phone call at 10:00 o'clock at night, this province has been in violation of the Canada Health Act. Way to go, guys. Minister, great way to run a department. Good message to send to Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious here that the deputy minister that has just been recently appointed by this government does not fit the description. The bill does not fix the problem either, and I believe the minister knows that. I happen to believe the minister is a very caring individual. (Interruption) What I can't understand is why the minister would try to eliminate

[Page 3216]

every Nova Scotian in the province, every resident. We are close to one million people in this province and this bill does not give Nova Scotians back their say in the way they receive health care. They have no opportunity whatsoever, unless you are a friend of the government or you don't belong to a board, on the Kinsmen, or any other board and you don't volunteer any of your time and effort in sports organizations in your community or whatever, then we are going to appoint you to this new board. I would like to know where the qualifications are going to come from to get people to sit on these boards. It is amazing.

The bill clearly keeps all the power in the hands of the minister and the deputy minister and I do not believe that is what this province requires and I really do not believe that is what the residents in the province want. I do not believe that is why they supported that Party, across the floor, last July. All you have to do, Mr. Speaker, is look at Clause 46 of the bill, and perhaps some of the backbenchers may want to check that clause. It says, "A community health board shall not govern or manage the delivery of health services." That is what it says. Even I can read that.

If Nova Scotians are going to have a right and an opportunity to have an input in the direction of the health care in the province, then how are they going to do it? You guys over there, you do not even want to hear what Nova Scotians have to say about their health care system. They do not trust Nova Scotians to make decisions with regard to their health care. It is a nice, kind, tidy way of telling Nova Scotians, no, we do not think you are qualified to make decisions within the health care system. We do not feel, for the last number of years, you have made the right decisions in health care and your efforts were not appreciated, so go on home and don't come back.

The Minister of Health continues to go around saying, don't complain, please don't complain, just go away because we know what is best. The Tory Government is obviously taking the power without assuming any responsibility, so they think. They want to take the power but the responsibility is somebody else. I will give you an example. The bill also says that any borrowing carried out by a district health authority for working capital is the responsibility of the district health authority. That is what the bill indicates. It seems to allow district health authorities, at least that statement indicates to me that these district health authorities are going to be permitted to run a deficit. When they get in trouble, or a hospital down the road needs a piece of machinery - life-threatening - so that they can provide proper care to the citizens of this province, then we will just run out and borrow the money, go get it for your residents, for the people who rely on it.

[3:30 p.m.]

You guys go borrow the money for it and you guys go pay it back. Then they are going to go down the ladder and go out into the community and put functions on to try to fund-raise and use the volunteers at that level to raise funds to support the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is wrong. We all know it is wrong. I know it is wrong; the

[Page 3217]

people I represent know it is wrong and the members over there on the other side of the House know it is wrong.

Never mind the fact that Premier Hamm promised to solve all the problems in health care. All the problems, they were going to be solved. Without a doubt, $46 million would solve every problem we have within health care. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you remember as well as all Nova Scotians during the campaign last summer when that promise was made. We could fix every problem in the health care for $46 million. Not a problem. He said give me the opportunity and I will do it. That is what the residents in this province were told: give me the opportunity and I will fix the health care with $46 million.

He also indicated that he could find a measly $46 million with cuts throughout administration, Mr. Speaker. Well, instead of cutting administration, the Tories have added the most expensive deputy minister in the history of the province and that is something, that is really a superb cost-saving measure. I have to see this one happen; I have been closely related to business all my life and I have yet to understand how this move is going to work. You are going to save the health care, but you went out and hired the most expensive deputy minister in the history of the province, and you are going to save money and it is only going to cost $46 million. That is reality. That is not to say that the staff for the new deputy minister is highly paid staff hired specifically for the deputy minister.

Now they have a new way to save more money. As a new way to save more money they are going to eliminate four regional health boards and create nine, from four to nine and you are going to save money. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how that cuts administration. From four boards to nine, and you are going to cut administration.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask the Minister of Finance.

MR. BOUDREAU: It is pretty simple math, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest. I would suggest the Tories over there are having kind of a difficult time either adding or subtracting. It is obvious that nine boards will cost more than four; that is obvious and it is unavoidable. It just simply cannot happen and I think this government is about to find that out in real short order. It is not going to take long, but I think there are going to be bigger problems than that to deal with within the health system. How are the assets of the four boards going to be divided? How are the assets going to be divided equally, fair and square, four boards, how are those assets going to be divided fairly among nine boards?

There is another one I am waiting to see. I have to see this one. How are the assets from four regional boards going to be taken and shared fairly with nine boards? Perhaps what we need over there are maybe a few elementary students for the Minister of Education to do some adding and subtracting. This issue alone opens up a very serious legal can of worms. Again, another cost-cutting share when the lawyers get involved and everything else. We are

[Page 3218]

going to save a whole bunch of money on this, real major saving here - not to mention the overlap between the former boards and the new boards. What about the overlap in territory?

How will the assets be split up in these cases? Even in areas where that situation does not take place, I have to see this. This is going to be awesome. I certainly hope the intention of the minister or the new deputy minister is not to start taking equipment and start moving it around and stuff like that because if it is, I would suggest there is going to be strong resistance to a manoeuvre such as that from area residents in every community of this province. I would caution the minister, how he is going to do that one? I am glad that is his duty. The bill does not address the problem.

Also, there will be costs and expenditures associated with the creation of nine whopping new boards at no cost. It is not going to cost a cent, the minister says. Imagine. Creating nine new boards, and they are going to appoint, anoint or whatever, members of these boards, they are going to put this bookkeeping system in place, they are going to hire individuals for these boards, and everything else, and it is not going to cost one cent. He expects ordinary Nova Scotians to believe that. There are a lot of surprises coming in the months ahead. Nine boards are going to cost more than four boards, that is obvious, and it is unavoidable. The minister knows that as well as I do. There will be bigger problems than that to deal with, I would suggest.

It is not clear, either, how the government is going to allocate transitional funds. There is no mention of that. The minister and the deputy minister are going to decide that after the fact. After the bill is made into law, then the minister and the deputy minister will sit in their downtown Halifax offices and will decide how much money this region gets, how much that region gets and how much that region gets. Nine boards, nine areas. Will the costs associated with this be in the department budget, when the budget is brought in here? The minister is shaking his head, of course not. No, of course not. It will probably come in as some other phantom department that will be created.

There are many problems with the bill, Mr. Speaker, and the biggest problem is that the bill simply is not needed. It has no place in this House. It should never have been brought in here. The regional health boards were working fine and this Minister of Health knows that and so does the Premier. Even the Health Department says that. The minister is not aware of what his own department is saying? I find that very hard to believe. The latest issue of the Department of Health newsletter clearly has high praise for the Eastern Regional Health Board. Now that has me confused. If these boards are not working, then why the praise?

It is simply amazing. The newsletter clearly indicates, Mr. Speaker, that the Canadian Council on Health Services congratulated the Eastern Regional Health Board for its commitment to improving the quality of health care and services in the region. Yet the minister stands before the people of Nova Scotia and states with a straight face that the boards don't work. They were not working, they are broken and they are no good and all

[Page 3219]

those volunteer efforts, were not worthwhile. Just trash them, put them in the garbage, throw them away. I am going to create a system here that is going to work for all Nova Scotians and I am going to replace it with nine new boards with no cost to anybody. If he expects ordinary people to believe this, he had better pinch himself and wake himself up. This is reality we are living in.

This newsletter and the report from the Canadian Council on Health Services is a very positive report for the system the Tories say is not working. The very system the Tories say is broken, is broken today - I agree with that - because five months ago the minister at 10:00 o'clock at night made a phone call and eliminated all the boards contrary to the Canada Health Act. The provinces have already begun, Mr. Speaker, to innovate and adapt to the pressures of expensive new technologies, an ageing population, shortages of doctors and nurses, in particular, especially in rural and remote areas in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is a known fact.

The Premier is to my knowledge a very well-respected family doctor - and I wouldn't state anything else, because that is the information I have - so he is aware that primary care is the first contact for a patient when they require medical attention. Primary care can function better under regional health boards so that Nova Scotians can move easily between the doctor's office, the clinic, the hospital, the home and community care, depending on what their needs are. I would suggest that the Premier, being a family doctor, is well aware of that.

Information services are certainly not addressed adequately in this bill, either. It has been identified by all members of the health care profession in Nova Scotia that if patient transfers and information transfers were going to be better administered, then a better system of communication is going to have to be established.The previous government did that. It is done, it is in place, it is there, delivered.

The previous government of Russell MacLellan delivered telemedicine. They had a plan for the regional boards so that they could communicate very easily and, more importantly, reliably. That is very important. I don't see anything in the bill, and I am certainly not a medical professional, that is for sure, but I certainly don't see anything in the bill or from this government in general which is going to go any further with any initiatives in regard to telemedicine. I see the minister looking at me over there, but he is not shaking his head yes or no or anything. I guess he got mum over the last few minutes. When I say something he doesn't agree with (Interruptions)

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the current Minister of Health needs to take previously-developed priorities that were developed by the volunteers within the health field in this province, not by Jim Smith or Russell MacLellan or any member of the previous Executive Council. There were priorities that were put in place by the people who know health care

[Page 3220]

within the Province of Nova Scotia, the front-line workers and the health-line workers, people who know and people that we should accept advice from in regard to these issues. These people created these priorities. This minister should also prepare a common plan for the long-term goals of regional health care. That is where his attention should be taken, not to try to embarrass and slash and destroy the efforts of volunteers within the health field in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is ridiculous. It is utterly ridiculous. I would suggest it is not much short of gutter politics.

No deputy minister can reform a health care system alone. (Interruptions) The deputy minister knows that. The current Minister of Health knows that. The good doctor, the Premier, he knows that. They are aware of this. No deputy minister, I don't care how much you pay him, you could pay him any amount of money you want, but there is no deputy minister, wherever you bring him from, that can reform a health care system alone. It is just impossible; stop-gap measures will not work.

Mr. Speaker, this government has introduced this bill in the guise of putting responsibility back into the community. This bill has done just the opposite. It has put the power back into the hands of the deputy minister, is actually what it has done, the same place it was the last time the Tories left here in 1993. I think we are all familiar with that. I am concerned that so far this government certainly has a poor track record for leaping before they look. I would be very interested to learn what research has been done by the department with regard to the funding formula for these boards. I would be very interested in that. I know the minister is over there holding up some books and everything else. Let's see where the funding formula is, buddy, send it over here.

Has the issue been dealt with? We don't even know if the issue has been dealt with. It is not indicated in any of the books the minister is holding up over there. There is no indication whatsoever for funding. None. I haven't found it, and I have researched every document that has been provided by this document by this government in regard to this bill, and I can't find the formula that is going to decide the amount of money these boards actually get to operate. Perhaps, since they are self-appointed, how are they going to operate? Are they going to borrow their own money? Is that another manoeuvre the Finance Minister is going to have to keep from adding to the deficit? He is going to want his boards to go and borrow their own money to operate from day to day, perhaps. We are not sure. I am not saying that they are going to do that but I simply don't know because there is no information in regard to that issue. It is not being provided. I don't even know if the issue has been dealt with yet. I don't imagine though, anyone would create a board and then try to figure out how it was going to get the money to pay for it. I can't imagine. That is not usually the procedure but then you never know with this government and this minister. I guess maybe it is possible.

[Page 3221]

I have to wonder if it is conceivable if the Minister of Health would present this bill before the House without a concrete plan as to how his government and his department were going to fund these new boards. I look forward to the minister's answers in the days to come because I can assure him that there are going to be many questions.

Mr. Speaker, one of the major problems in health care when this Party came to power was that regions across the province were competing with each other for resources. That was a major issue within the health field. One of the greatest accomplishments of the regional health boards was the specialization of the boards with regard to service. We got away from having regions compete with one another and began to see regions share with each other. That was the direction of our minister, James Smith, and the leadership he provided to the department while he was there. This was a major accomplishment and I know this new system does bring us back to times when different regions competed for the resources and unfortunately, I just see that everything is happening again, just like the last time the Tories were in power.

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, alluded to last evening, this is a bill, thou shalt not bill. Thou shalt not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired. Before I acknowledge further interventions regarding Bill No. 34, I would recognize the honourable member for Kings West on an introduction.

The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for us today to have the Cattlemen's Association in our gallery and two of the members, who are representatives on this committee, are from my constituency, Phillip Franey and Mike Horsnell. So if you would stand for an acknowledgement by the House.(Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to the Cattlemen's Association to the Nova Scotia Legislature.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I just want to take some time to speak on Bill No. 34. It is funny because I was thinking about this when the government originally announced that they were going to move from regional health boards to district health authorities. It is like the changing of the guard or the changing of the leaves as the seasons change. When governments come and go, there seems to be this desire to sweep out the old and bring in the new no matter what the results or the repercussions. It can be as simple as changing the colour of the Government By Design from a red Liberal, when they were in power, to a blue Tory, now that the Tories are in power or it can be a little more complicated.

[Page 3222]

It can change the name from Government By Design to The Course Ahead. It can be as complicated as the announcement the Premier made last week where he specifically outlined reform in government structure which, as was noted by our Leader earlier last week, is just the same old Donnie Cameron, John Savage, Russell MacLellan reforms being recycled and regurgitated. It seems to be that whenever a government comes in, whether it be Tory or Liberal, replacing the other, there seems to be a desire to continually try to change for the sake of change, not necessarily for the sake of actually acknowledging what might have worked and what might not have. I am not here today to defend the regional health boards and what they did. Many do and I think many have articulated that.

What I would like to note just for the record, Mr. Speaker, is that the Tory Government seem bent on removing regional health boards and replacing them with something called district health authorities but, quite frankly, the differences are in the semantics, I guess, more than they are in the details. Yes, maybe there are some times in which the minister has more control, but really we are still talking about boards that are here in the province on a regional basis, or district basis, depending on which government you are, and they are articulating a vision and a plan for health care in those areas. Whether it is 4, or 9, or 7, or 52 boards, I think in the end we are really missing the problems with our health care system.

Quite frankly, sometimes I suspect that what is really happening, Mr. Speaker, is that this sort of tornado of change that occurs whenever governments change hands, is really intentional, if not subconsciously, because what they are trying to do I think is create this whole whirlwind of change, whether it be structural or substantive, in a desire to try and make it look like everything is new. So the Liberals were bad because they could not reform government, we will do it. The Liberals are bad for having regional health boards, we will do it differently and this sort of opposition for opposition's sake, without ever really looking at the substance and, indeed, avoiding the substantive change that is truly needed in health care in this province and in this country, and that is the real shame, quite frankly, the fact that this House is wasting time talking about structural change in health care management when instead it should be debating true health care and the changes that are needed in order to make it survive in Nova Scotia and in Canada.

As I say, I think that is, if not the intent, it is the end effect, that we are here to debate what, quite frankly, in my mind will create chaos. We saw four, five or six years ago, - I do not remember exactly how many years ago, Mr. Speaker - when John Savage's Government brought forward the regional health boards, the administrative changes that it made created the chaos that it created in the system. I like to call it fifedom building, but what we had was a system that had been operating - yes, there might have been problems with it - but the Liberals felt it was necessary to revolutionize it. They changed it into regional health boards and what that did in the end was create confusion; who is in charge, where do I report, let's set up another organizational chart, let's have another facilitator, let's have some more meetings, let's bring in more people with suits, let's pay more consultants, and in the end we will be more efficient. We will move forward. We will be better motivated.

[Page 3223]

Do you know what? We are going to hear the same thing again over the next year except it will be everything with a district health authority, not a regional health board. There will be more suits, more consultants, more facilitators, there will be more people coming in with organizational charts and flip charts trying to explain to the people on the front line of health care why this will be better for them, but in the end there will still be confusion and there will be confusion for years over who they report to, who they should be taking direction from, where the money is coming from, and over how that money is being spent. In the end it is administrative chaos that is preventing us from dealing again with the substantive issue of health care, health care in our communities, health care in our regions, health care in our districts, whichever term you want to use, and health care in our province.

It is that chaos, Mr. Speaker, that I am afraid of. It is that chaos that I believe will result in more devastation to our health care system. At a time in which funding is tight, yes, at a time when expenses are going up, I think it is from $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion in the last five years or so that health care costs have gone up. No one can deny those facts, but why waste the time talking about administrative change? Why waste the time creating confusion amongst front-line health care workers when, in fact, what we should be looking at are ways of reducing the costs, ways of addressing those.

Now, playing devil's advocate, some of the government will say this is a necessary step in order to get to the point where we can control costs and it is a point in which we can control the cost, turn the ship around and make sure that we can maintain our health care system. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the cost of the administrative chaos that this will create for the next two, three, four years, will outweigh any benefit to the structural change and the more accountability that this government would argue is going to come from something called a district health authority as compared to a regional health board, even though I am not really sure at times whether there is any true difference.

That is the other key, is that this government has argued from day one, whether it be health care or economic development or what have you, that we do not have the money. We can't afford it, we must do it differently. Health care is rising as a cost to our government. We must stop that. Yet we waste the time changing from district health authorities from regional health boards. We waste the time and the money it costs to create more boards to pay more per diems. Quite frankly, if we learned one thing from the regional health boards, good or bad, Mr. Speaker, that they might be, I think one thing people can agree on, it created fiefdoms.

[4:00 p.m.]

Where before we had hospitals that maybe had administrators, we then created human resource departments. We then created consultants upon consultants that had to advise on various issues. We created travel costs with these regional health boards. Well, now instead of doing that at four fiefdoms, we are going to have nine fiefdoms. We are going to have nine

[Page 3224]

groups that are going to be doing the same thing, building the same empires and spending the same costs as would have been done. Granted there might be some ministerial control, but in the end, Mr. Speaker, there will still be those extra costs.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member mind giving up the floor for a few moments for an introduction?

The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure at this time to introduce a number of members from the Cattlemen's Association. I understand my esteemed colleague the member for Kings West, has introduced a couple, but I will re-introduce them as well as members of staff of the Department of Agriculture. Ladies and gentlemen in the audience, it is my pleasure to present Charles McKenzie, President of the Nova Scotia Cattlemen's Association; Mike Horsnell, Vice-President; along with Dave Oulton, a member of the board; along with Philip Franey, a Valley producer on the board. Ladies and gentlemen, as well, I would like to introduce to you the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Alan Steel; Dave Sangster, Production Technology; Brian Smith, Agricultural Development; Derrick Jamieson, the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board; Sean Firth, Beef Specialist with the department. As well, I would also like to note, I believe Ian Blenkarn is here with Proag, and Ian is consulting, working with the Nova Scotia Beef Producers. I would like the members of the House to extend congratulations and warmest regards. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Again welcome to our guests in our gallery.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and welcome to the guests as well. But I don't think I have any cattle farms in my riding. I do have a poultry farm.

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the health care system, as I say we are fiefdom building, we are creating smaller, maybe, but still expensive empires in which people fight for parking spaces outside the hospitals or the offices. Instead of having four of these sorts of arguments going, we are going have nine. Instead of having four human resource consultants, we are going have nine. Instead of having four assistants to the directors of finance, we are going to have nine. These are the costs that will build up. These are the costs that will be there. Quite frankly, it is a natural part of any structural change. A natural part of the chaos that is created in a structural change is that the money will seep to these people who have a tendency to alway rise to the top, always seem to make it, and always seem to be able to garner the funding and the jobs out of these processes. That is money that is not going into the health care system into front-line workers.

I want to particularly talk about also the community health boards, because, Mr. Speaker, if we are talking about real change in health care, not administrative change, not changing the chairs on the deck of the Titanic, you have to talk about the community health

[Page 3225]

boards. From my own personal experience, I spent some time originally when these community health boards were set up on a committee that was helping organize one for the Dartmouth area. It was very educational, in my mind, learning a lot about what these health boards would actually do. Quite frankly, they were advisory in nature only.

Our Party has always staunchly believed that we need to give more actual power to these community health boards. It is at the community level that the people: (a) have the most input; and (b) have the opportunity to give that input in a way that is meaningful. When you have a district health authority or a regional health board, whatever you may call it, what we are talking about are bigger boards, and in this case, we have a minister who has the most authority in the end, Mr. Speaker.

In those circumstances, the community health boards cannot be truly functioning and have the power to ensure those communities and the needs that they have are being met, whether that be the need to address high rates of cancer in the Sydney area, whether that be the need to address planned parenting in Halifax, or whether that be the need to address mental health issues in other parts of the province.

Mr. Speaker, what will happen is that when these community health boards do not have real power, two things happen. First of all, the voices that are "advisory", that are providing advice to district health authorities - regional health boards, the minister, whomever, fill in the blank - those voices are truly never really heard because unless someone has the power to actually make decisions, they are nothing more than a voice in the wilderness.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, what will happen is people will begin to realize that you can change the name, you can more than double the number of them, and you can make them more local in size compared to the regional health boards, but quite frankly people will soon learn to understand that these community health boards have no power and, therefore, their communities will always be left out.

If you live in River John, for example, what is going to be different about being in a district health authority as compared to a regional health board? Quite frankly, the decisions are still going to be made in New Glasgow now; maybe then they were made in Truro. I am not even sure where the Northern Regional Health Board's office is, but the point is, Mr. Speaker, the interests of that community - whether it be River John or Parrsboro or Wedgeport for example - are ones that will always be lost out to the bigger centres.

Granted, if you are in Yarmouth, if you are in Kentville, you probably will have more of a voice over your own ability now to deal with health care than when it was a Western Regional Health Board based somewhere else but quite frankly we are still missing the point, which is every community should have the right and the power and the funding to have more say over how its health care is dealt with. We have seen success in that, and I will get to that in a minute, Mr. Speaker, where communities have been given the power and it has worked,

[Page 3226]

but, for some reason, whether it be the Liberals before or the Tories now, they are afraid to actually bring forward changes that will result in communities having a real voice.

What do we have? This is a piece of legislation that creates no structural change, but just creates administrative change. It will create chaos, it will cost money, it will be an administrative nightmare, and it will build nine fiefdoms, as compared to the four that were there previously, and we still have community health boards without any power.

I just want to wrap up identifying the problem before I go on to some solutions, Mr. Speaker, by talking a bit about some comments that our Party has heard from community health board members around this particular process and this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 34. My point is, I think that community health boards do feel like they are disenfranchised, that they really don't have an opportunity to be provided with information. We have had some people tell us that the Department of Health is terrified of public involvement, so they have legislated community health boards, but have not given them any power to do anything other than make suggestions.

This goes back to my point. This verifies it, that clearly governments are afraid to provide people with the power to actually make decisions in their communities. That is a dilemma and, quite frankly, it is disturbing that we don't recognize that these people have the opportunity to have a strong voice.

Someone else said - when we consulted with them - people feel very vulnerable about losing services they currently offer, services taken away because they are offered in Antigonish or Sydney. That is also the point I made earlier, that a lot of communities have community health boards that are going to be ignored, where before there might have been four centres that were being catered to, we may have nine now, but the vast majorities of communities in Nova Scotia are still going to be left out in the wilderness and aren't going to be given a chance to be heard.

Someone else noted in this piece of legislation that the duties are not clearly spelled out and everything is very vague. Well, there is probably an intent in that. Again, if you go into the theory that this, whether intentional or not, will create chaos, then vagueness is part of the chaos, because in the vagueness it is the people who have a tendency, whether it be the consultants or whether it be "health experts", they are the ones who will always find a way of getting a cheque out of this, and it is the front-line health care workers and the community members who will be lost in the shuffle.

Some other members of community health boards have told us that they are doubtful that these district health authorities will actually pay more than lip-service, only have to consider their plans that they have no obligation to act on them. That is no different than the regional health boards, Mr. Speaker, and all they are really doing again is changing the number from four to nine of boards of directors and maybe giving the minister some more

[Page 3227]

authority, but quite frankly, we seem to be going farther and farther away from the fact that communities should have more control over how health care is delivered and the long-term strategy for health care in their communities.

Some other members of community health boards have told us they are having trouble getting volunteers. As I suggested earlier, morale will fall. It requires a large time commitment and disillusion about how much impact a community health board can actually have. They have to do a lot of work to complete the community plans, will this work just add up to nothing? Again, why are we making people on a voluntary basis be advisors when a lot of that information is never actually dealt with?

I remember in this House, I think it was only a year ago, that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley stood up and said that his community had produced a health plan demanding an ambulance, I believe, in that community, EHS. They said we need that, now I can't answer the question that it was ever dealt with, but here is the point; that there was a group of people in a rural community that clearly, and I assume they were part of the Central Regional Health Board at the time, were not being heard. Are their voices going to be heard any better now that it is still going to be Halifax that is making the decisions? I doubt it. I wonder if that member at some point might be willing to speak and tell us whether or not there are some changes in how he feels that things are going to be dealt with.

Some other members of community health boards have told us that health care staff are extremely demoralized with all the changes and they don't know what to expect next. Just as they are getting comfortable with regional health boards, another change, more uncertainty. There is one word for that - chaos. As I said earlier, this verifies again, that all we are talking about is changing one system over to another and some would say that changing the water on the beans sometimes works, but I would suggest in this case, the beans are not going to taste any different.

I have identified some problems for this particular piece of legislation and with the overall system of community health boards, DHAs, RHBs, MOH and every other initial in the book, but let's start talking about some solutions because as I have said in this House before, I don't think it is just the job of the Opposition to sit up here and complain, but to suggest potential solutions. Unfortunately, none of them is actually related to this legislation directly because this legislation is about administrative change. If we are truly serious about structural change, if we are truly serious about reducing costs in health care, if we are truly serious about ensuring that we maintain a universal, one-tiered health care system in this province and in this country, then we must make those changes, we must make them quickly.

What do I mean? Well, I think there are a lot of things that could be noted and we have had lots of debates in this House before - hopefully we will have many more - about what needs to be done. Here are some specific examples. Our Party has long espoused that the medical doctor is a key role in the health care system. The role of a medical doctor is

[Page 3228]

changing, it is not what it used to be. There are many health officials out there who can do better jobs in specific areas, whether it be occupational therapists, physiotherapists, nurse practitioners, LPNs and midwives, there are people out there who are better at doing specific components of the health care system and, quite frankly, they do it in a more cost-effective manner.

Specifically, we have heard more recently that this government has said they don't want to move in that direction. I remember hearing that on the radio one morning and I said to myself, that is very disturbing because they are sending the wrong signal. We are telling people that health professionals other than doctors are not going to be given the freedom, the ability to ensure that our health care system can survive in a cost-effective manner. They are the key to that.

Obviously, the easy ones or the simple ones that we have heard in the past are making nurse practitioners more available, giving them the actual authority. I know there is a pilot project, I do not know what the status of that is, but I would hope in the end we would recognize that the more that we can transfer from doctors to nurse practitioners the more cost-effective it is and the better service that we are providing to our clients. Those should be the goals of any change, not just administrative changes that seem to benefit the few.

I think another aspect that needs to be dealt with structurally is the whole issue of how we pay doctors and I would suggest to you when our Party was doing consultations in the past two years, that there are many doctors out there who will tell you it is not an issue of wanting to make money - obviously they are doctors, they care about their clients, they care about their patients - it is the fact that they are working hundreds of hours a week, potentially, and have a lot of clients, a lot of patients - I don't want to quote a number because I will probably be way off, but a lot of patients, and, quite frankly, too many to really be able to care for them.

[4:15 p.m.]

What we heard from a lot of physicians was, if you were to set up community health clinics in a way that I was not going to be alone in rural Nova Scotia, that I was going to be in a position where I would have three or four other doctors whom I could consult with, almost a critical mass, maybe give us a nurse practitioner, set up a community clinic that has the community involved - you have the community involvement, you have doctors who may be paid a salary or some other form of payment, rather than fee-for-service, you would be setting up a system that would be more cost-effective, would potentially save the government money but would also provide doctors with a quality of life that didn't require them to work 100 hours a week and gave them a much better patient load, allowed them to have vacations, maybe gave them a pension. These are the benefits that many doctors would be looking for, very interested in. Quite frankly, we don't seem willing to even look at those problems, we

[Page 3229]

seem more interested in administrative changes and that is why I have a problem with this particular piece of legislation.

As I mentioned earlier, communities must be the integral part of any changes to our health care system. Our communities do have the ability to care for their people. We just have to give them the power and the funding to make decisions at a local level that allow them to have more say over how their communities function and how health care is delivered in those communities. I suggest the community health clinics because there are some examples in this province of how they have worked and worked very well. I would hope that is something this government would look at with regard to structural changes in the health care system, an alternative delivery system that could result in a much better way of ensuring that we have doctors in rural areas, we have good nurses, nurse practitioners and potentially other health professionals.

I think the other aspect of this is - and this is the one that always floors me - we were consulting with the health care community about a month ago, Mr. Speaker, and I remember saying, we keep hearing about the costs going up from $1.2 billion to $1.7 billion. Why is the cost so high?

More recently I was talking to some nurses at the Dartmouth General Hospital. I forget how many they said but they said we have so many beds that are full with long-term care patients because there are no long-term care beds for them. That is $1,000 a day at a regional hospital, to keep a long-term care patient there. It is $100 a day in a long-term care bed. Now, do the math. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, it is a lot cheaper. Yes, there might be a capital investment up front but in the long run we can save over $100 million a year in health care costs by transferring those hundreds of long-term care patients to long-term care beds, away from regional and district hospitals. That is what is needed. That is the long-term vision - recognizing that health care, as it is being done, based on an acute basis, based on not promoting preventive medicine, not addressing long-term care needs, that is ensuring our costs go up. Until we address those, until we do that, until we ensure that communities are involved in the decision-making process, we will continue to have spiralling health care costs and nothing will be done to help it, other than potentially destroying the system we have.

It can be fixed, Mr. Speaker. I would suggest to you that the government must just have the vision and the plan to do it. The problem is that they seem bent on dealing with Bill No. 34, which is administrative change, which will create administrative chaos and will do nothing for structural change. Until we begin to deal with structural change, until we begin to recognize that health care can be done in a way that maintains a universal health care system but also provides decent health care for all Nova Scotians when they need it, then we are going to go in one of two directions; we will continue to spend more and therefore, we will continue to have problems with covering the costs of health care and preventing deficits in our province, or we will move to a system which some in the federal level are promoting, under the Canadian Alliance, which is a two-tiered system.

[Page 3230]

That is the beginning of the end of Nova Scotia and of Canada and what we stand for and, quite frankly, what our Party has stood for forever. That is why we must change things. That is why the chances are there, that is why we must grasp at them, Mr. Speaker. Let's not waste our time on administrative changes, let's start dealing with the real needs of people on the front line with health care. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of observations, interventions on this most important piece of legislation, Bill No. 34, An Act to Provide for Community Health Boards and District Health Authorities and Respecting Provincial Health-care Centres.

Mr. Speaker, I took the liberty of reading this particular piece of legislation from stem to stern three different times. Each time I read this particular piece of legislation, like I am sure all members would find, the more you read it, the more you will find in there. Sometimes I found myself trying to read into the different clauses of the legislation things that, perhaps, weren't there and things that were in there that I missed the first time. But, lo and behold, upon my third reading, I came across one very interesting clause that I think deals with the thrust and the nature for which this government is directing health care in Nova Scotia.

I know, Mr. Speaker, that we are not to debate clause by clause in this particular piece of legislation, but there was one particular clause that really caught my attention. Clause 23 (1)(g). It was a very obscure clause in a lot of ways, but it went right to the heart of what the principle of this particular piece of legislation might, in fact, provide in the final analysis. The clause states, "The Minister shall make by-laws with respect to the conduct and management of the affairs of a district health authority including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, by-laws", and I will fast forward down to (g), "respecting the management and administration of the board and associated institutions."

Therein, from my perspective, is the key. What is an associated institution? Now, if we were to look at a piece of legislation that was introduced by the Klein Government in Alberta, we could very easily draw a lot of correlations that would, in fact, make this almost as if it was mirror legislation. In other words, Mr. Speaker, this government is setting the tone and opening up the door for privatized medical services in Nova Scotia. If we look under the regulation clause of the bill that makes provisions for the government to define any word or phrase that is not defined in the definition clause of the bill, the Governor in Council would have the power to do that.

If you looked at that particular clause, therein lies the authority for the government to empower the local boards that they are establishing the authority to make by-laws and to regulate and to oversee any type of medical facility, whether it be a hospital, or I believe they used another word in there, health care facility, that sort of thing, or, indeed, it could be an

[Page 3231]

associated institution and that, in itself, could be a private medical clinic. Also, within that would be, although it doesn't spell it out very clearly, the authority to be able to make provision for some user fees. Now, if that is, ultimately, what the intent is, then I think the government should be a little more explicit. The government has made the argument that we are trying to bring health care back to the community, so that people in the community will have more control over their destiny, their health care issues. They will have more input into the system.

Let's go back into the early 1980's and even before, where we had some 32 or 33 local hospital boards. In other words, every local hospital had a board of directors that would have input into the process of medicine and health care in that respective jurisdiction, and people from the community-at-large would be appointed by the government of the day and, supposedly that system was to have worked very well. Along came the Royal Commission on Health Care - which, by the way, was initiated by Premier John Buchanan - addressing or at least providing some initiative, some direction, some enablement that we would have to address some of the inequities and the problems within the health care system in Nova Scotia. So, what happens? Within that recommendation - and that was certainly supplemented and supported by subsequent studies, and I am not going to go into each one of them individually, I believe the Premier and the government is well aware of each and every one - they recommended that we move toward regional health boards, which we did.

I don't think it would be appropriate to say that was the end-all or cure-all. No doubt about it, there were some growing pains; there were some problems; there were some successes, but I believe that the Goldbloom report certainly addressed many of those issues. Certainly if we look at the western hospital board, there were many concerns raised at the local level, perhaps because that particular hospital board advanced the agenda of financial accountability much quicker than the needs and the wishes the community were willing to accept. Mr. Speaker, ultimately, what the report stated is that regional health care boards were here, they are working, and we are moving in the right direction.

Let's focus on what the Minister of Health is saying. He is saying - if I interpret his comments correctly - that we have a problem in managing our resources, our human resources, our financial resources, and all the supplemental resources whether it be hospitals, the different pieces of equipment being overutilized in one area and underutilized in another area, that this was the initiative that he wanted to address. So, what is he going to do? He goes back and goes from four boards to nine boards. First of all, it is a contradiction.

The minister, contrary to what the Premier and the government have said, is inflating the size of government. In inflating the size of government, they are increasing the cost. Now what consideration has been given to the additional cost on the additional CEOs that have to be commissioned? So we are looking at an additional five CEOs for each of these district hospital boards. Now, if you look at approximately $80,000 or $100,000 per individual, you are talking about anywhere from another $400,000 to $500,000 added cost to the

[Page 3232]

administration of health care in Nova Scotia. We are also looking at the fact that we are increasing the total number of appointments to these respective boards, anywhere from - if we have four at approximately 15 or 16 per board - about 64 to 135. If you have 15 per board of the nine new boards, it is a great opportunity if the government wants to have greater control because, in the legislation, the minister and the Executive Council essentially have fairly strong influence and input and, in some cases, control as to who sits on the board.

For all intents and purposes, the government, very sophisticatedly, has designed a process to control health care services from downtown Halifax, whether it be the minister or the deputy minister, in every region of the province. The appearance of localized control and authority, and in some cases input, would certainly be called into question.

[4:30 p.m.]

If the minister sees that issue in a different perspective, then I would welcome his comments. Given the fact that the government unilaterally wiped out all of the boards that we had without proper process or consultation, and then handed all that authority over to a deputy minister who had very little working knowledge of the health care system in Nova Scotia, one cannot help but be suspect of exactly what the government will do given this new process, if it is to be approved. Let's not be naive, the government has the numbers; they will approve it eventually and if that is what the Minister of Health and the Executive Council want to do, they will do it.

Let's focus on the financial accountability. If the intent is to get the health care costs under control then you have to ask yourself, is this the process to do it? We are not naive either, we were in government, we faced escalating health care costs. There are a number of factors to that - not just administrative inequities in the system that the minister and the Premier during the election campaign, when they were campaigning, suggested that a lot of the financial overexpenditure could be brought under control by realigning management and bringing those costs under control to the tune of some $46 million and then everything would be fine. Well, obviously that is not the case. We are dealing with some real people, with some real problems. We are dealing with the reality that we have an ageing population. What we have are increased demands on our health care system. The government and the minister have charted this particular course.

Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat surprised to read a quote out of this particular document that was provided to all members of the House. It is called "A Better Way: Putting the Nova Scotia Deficit in Perspective" and it was prepared by the Canadian Centre for Policy Initiatives, dated April 2000. On Page 22 it drives right to the heart of this particular issue and a number of other issues that the government is proposing to deal with. "Nova Scotia does not have a deficit crisis. More than 55% of the most recent deficit figure, used by the provincial government to justify the contemplated drastic cuts in program spending and reduced services, is made up of one-time items such as costs related to Sysco and Y2K."

[Page 3233]

Further down this think tank goes on to say, ". . . the Nova Scotia government is imposing an unacceptable toll on public services and the quality of life in the province already suffering from the massive cuts of the 1990s." Obviously that is in reference to the Premier John Savage Administration. "It risks undermining the viability of Nova Scotia as a desirable place to live, work, and invest."

We see here, Mr. Speaker, that the government has charted a course that is not dealing with the cause, it is only dealing with the symptom. I honestly believe that the more I hear about this particular regional hospital board issue versus community hospital board the more convinced I am that this was a political position that was taken by the government because it was a position of a previous life that seemed to be politically popular, but in reality the government is out of sync with reality. It is living in a time warp to think that this type of process will address the needs of the people of Nova Scotia on health care. The only way that can become a reality is if the government moves towards providing some user fees or some additional methodology which I believe the government has alluded to very subtly and stated in a subliminal fashion, private health care.

Now if this is part of the Ralph Klein agenda, then they brought in some pretty good craftsmen to articulate this piece of legislation, because every clause within this bill, Mr. Speaker, that has an intent or an objective or a purpose to support the principle of the bill always has an escape clause. You will see, we appoint the boards and so on and so forth but then, in the final analysis, but the minister can do this, but the minister can do that, or the minister will have the final say, so essentially it gives the minister some rather wide-wielding powers and authority pretty much similar to what is outlined in the proposed legislation that is now before the Alberta Legislature.

Now, it is called Bill No. 11, for those who are interested, Alberta's Health Care Protection Act. Well, it has to be protection health care for two groups of people: ones who have money, and ones who don't have money. Those who have the resources to ensure they have health care, and those who will be provided in another fashion. I think it is sad that the government would embark upon such an initiative in such a very low-key fashion.

I would welcome any minister in that government to stand up and suggest that I am wrong in the direction that this piece of legislation is going. This is setting the tone, this is setting the groundwork. It is like the footer in a foundation, this is setting the base work for things to come.

If you look at the wide-wielding powers of the Executive Council, Mr. Speaker, very well, we now have for non-essential services, there are some user fees on certain items such as tray fees, taking blood samples, and there is even the suggestion that we are going to start moving towards putting some fees to ambulance utilization between hospital units and to and from one's residence, those types of user fees that could very easily create some difficulty for the average Nova Scotian.

[Page 3234]

To give you an example, Mr. Speaker, I am given to understand that we have some 2,000 doctors in Nova Scotia, and I am also given to understand that the average doctor would issue approximately three of these pan fees per day. So at a cost of $15 per tray, that is $45 times 2,000 times the approximate number of days they would work in the run of a year - 225 - and you are talking over $25 million. All they would have to do is increase that by $1.00 and therein lies an additional revenue source. The government is setting up the structure so all these things can happen so that the bad news can be blamed on the people in the community and the good news can be extracted for the benefit of political pleasure.

The cost of taking blood samples, $5.00 per syringe. Who is to say the government would not double that? Undoubtedly, they will and they will certainly use their politically-appointed boards to orchestrate this private approach to medical services in Nova Scotia. What other services are within the realm of opportunity to back-charge to the general public of Nova Scotia. These are the things, Mr. Speaker, that the minister and the government have not spoken of.

If you look at even the issue of the premiums from Pharmacare, and that was certainly an issue that when we were in government, that gave us lots of difficulty because it was a difficult issue. There were concerns that there was overprescribing for seniors, there was a lack of accountability, and just the whole process had to be brought into check. Now, if the minister and the government decided they wanted to increase that by $1.00, well, they would pick up an extra $120,000 a day or for every dollar of revenue, or for every time a senior would use that, if you have approximately 120,000 seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia. I see the minister crunching numbers over there. I am thinking off the top of my head as I am crunching numbers, too, so he has the advantage, he has a calculator. (Interruption)

I can't be too far off the mark when he is concerned about numbers because he knows deep down this is all designed to figure out a way on how to extract more money from the people of Nova Scotia to deal with the cash crunch that they have found themselves in. They led the people of Nova Scotia to believe that $46 million would solve their problems and now the minister is sitting there and he cannot even come close to hitting the Richter scale because he knows he is off. He knows he is off and he is trying to prepare himself for the budget. He will be travelling with more than just one other person. He will be travelling with threes and fours because there is more security in numbers and he may certainly need that when he brings down his budget, I am not sure.

Realistically, Mr. Speaker, people are not going to be happy with the fact that the government will be found to try to realize a political promise because it looked good. It looked good on the surface. Politically and cosmetically it sold very well during the election. Bring health care back to the people. Bring health care back under control at the local level. Let's examine what happened when it was under the community level before when the Progressive Conservatives were in power. What happened to health care in our area? Well,

[Page 3235]

well, well, talk about trade-offs for political purposes. I venture to say I think the minister's hair would certainly stand right on end if I were to relate some of the stories.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go ahead.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, okay, I will just give you one. The time there was a major concern at the Cape Breton Hospital that called into question the allocation of funds by the administration at the Cape Breton Hospital in Sydney River, which is in my constituency. Well it was, it is gone now. There is just a parking lot. It was called into question about diverting funds that were designated for one initiative within the health care system, and they were moved around to subsidize the activities in another because of funding issues. That was all called into question because it was having a major negative impact on the management of that particular facility, because the CEO of the day, who was also the CEO for the adjoining hospitals, was using those monies and diverting them away from the facility in Sydney River. What did they do? They commissioned an independent study.

[4:45 p.m.]

They brought in an expert from Newfoundland to do an analysis of the situation. What did he find? He found there was a major problem at the management level, and he made certain recommendations. Well, that local political board of the day held a closed-door meeting. They were so polarized, as was locally reported, because the minister himself would know, the only way to keep a secret is to tell no one, but when you have a half a dozen or a dozen people sitting at the meeting, sooner or later, one of them is going to say something. That is what happened. The recommendations of this particular expert were overlooked by this political board because it would have created a political incident. I believe if the minister checked the records, he would find that is the case.

That is what happens when you get too local, and inefficiencies are far more pronounced than one would realize. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, one could make a lot of arguments on the other side of the issue, but that is just one that stands out. I could identify a number of others, but I don't want to belabour that particular issue. The fact of the matter is, what the government is doing here is trying to relive a political objective back in the 1980's. Perhaps some of the Buchananites have major influence in that Cabinet. You see the Minister of Finance, he was a minister in that government, and lo and behold, financial accountability was not a big factor with them then. Something on the road to Damascus made him realize that the old ways were not working. Yet they are going back. By bringing this particular piece of legislation in, Mr. Speaker, they are turning back the hands of time, and inflating the size of government is not going to be the answer because it is totally contrary to what the government has stated it wants to do.

[Page 3236]

With great fanfare in the Red Room last week, the Premier said they have to reduce the size of government and they are doubling the total number of political appointees. They are increasing the total number of CEOs by more than 100 per cent. If you take all those associated costs, you are looking at, between the CEOs and the political appointees, if you extrapolate the cost per board member from past years, Mr. Speaker, between those two issues alone, you are looking at three-quarters of a million dollars.

What type of financial analysis has the Minister of Health done on this particular issue? I would suggest that either he is getting poor advice from his hired hand from British Columbia, or there could very well be some structures, political, small "p" political structures within the bureaucracy of the Department of Health that have their own agendas at play here, Mr. Speaker. But, certainly, we are not putting money on the front lines where it is needed.

In fact, I had a call this afternoon from a lady through her councillor out in the Porters Lake area, who, because she refuses to pay $10 for some report, the doctor will not provide for health care for her. That is absolutely unspeakable to even hear a story like that and that lady, by the way, as we speak is in the process of writing a complaint to the medical profession. I encouraged that particular lady to send a copy of that complaint to the Minister of Health. Is that what it is coming to in Nova Scotia? If you don't have money, you don't get health care? Is that what this particular piece of legislation is going to do, set the foundation for that? I fear this is the thin edge of the wedge. It is not what is said in this legislation, it is what is not said. It is what is not said in this legislation that scares Nova Scotians.

This government has done a great job on spin doctoring, not providing doctors, but spin doctoring. This government sets its sights on certain platitudes and then tries to sell it in a very shallow, unresearched and lack of thoroughly examined fashion. I am concerned about this particular piece of legislation because when the government has such wide-wielding powers to provide by-laws with respect to the conduct and management of associated institutions and they have not defined them. Why not? Are these the private clinics that Ralph Klein is pushing in western Canada? What a coincidence. This government has done everything it possibly could do by mimicking Premier Lord's initiative and agenda; they were not satisfied in just going to Mike Harris in Ontario, they had to keep going west.

I make a prediction that a year from now this government will be doing everything it can to support private health care in this province. It may be in a limited fashion, but it will be there, it will be almost mirror legislation, mirror action, mirror initiative to what has happened in western Canada. Do you know why? All we have to do is go back and review the resolution that the Minister of Health brought in the House here just days after the House opened, asking for all-Party support so he could go to Ottawa and pound away at the federal government because the federal government was cutting back on his percentage of contribution to health care in Nova Scotia. That is a legitimate argument. All members of this House, including the Opposition, the Liberals, we supported that, but this is his back-up plan, just in case he can't get his way on centre stage, he is going to start with the private health

[Page 3237]

care system. That is what this minister is going to do. Look, read between the lines, how else is he going to get the money to meet his financial objective? He has to either cut back on services, increase taxes, a combination of both, or go towards private health care - some user fees. (Interruption) The minister is getting into the spirit of this debate, I can tell. Is it little wonder that the Opposition would be suspect of this particular piece of legislation?

The minister, in this legislation, has even made reference to the fact of having audited financial statements at the end of the fiscal year, and even the possibility of introducing the Auditor General into the process to make it look so genuine on financial accountability. That is good. We support financial accountability. We certainly do it every Wednesday morning at Public Accounts. The fact of the matter is, what is the principal objective of this particular piece of legislation? Is it improved health care services in the province? The minister is shaking his head and he said, yes. Is it improved financial accountability? The minister is shaking his head yes. Is it designed to help bring health care costs under control? The minister is shaking his head yes. Is it to introduce any additional user fees, if necessary? The minister is not shaking his head yes, but he is not saying no. He is smiling, Mr. Speaker, because we are not far off the mark.

There is the consideration of finance as being a major component of this particular piece of legislation. I wanted the minister to assure all members of the House that was, in fact, the case, because there is a reason and the minister knows what it is and he will be telling us when he brings down his budget. Because the minister also knows that he has the authority to start moving these boundaries, these community health care district boundaries, as he so chooses.

Let's go back to the chairperson of this study group he sent around the province. I forget what her name is. But I found it fascinating. One day, I was listening on CBC Radio and they were doing an interview with this particular individual. She essentially stated that health care dollars would be allotted on a per capita basis. So, in other words, if you live in a small community in southwest Nova Scotia, whether it be Lunenburg or Yarmouth or Cumberland County, don't expect the same level of service because you don't have as many people there. So if you are equally or more sick than someone living in metro here, you may not get the dollars because there is not enough healthy people living in the community to quantify or justify the dollars being allocated for that particular board.

So here we go. Everything is centralized all over again. We have come full circle, haven't we? We have the appearance of local economy, local control, local self-determination but, yet, the minister and his government will provide a policy initiative that will make that almost impossible at the local community level. So the only way he can achieve his agenda is to ensure good political appointments that will toe the line and put politics ahead of health care, like it used to be back in the early 1980's under John Buchanan. That is exactly what is going to happen. I make that prediction.

[Page 3238]

I see the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin is clapping. She is happy with that. Maybe she has a list of political appointments she would like to get on a board. Well, if she is really excited about bringing politics into health care, all we have to do is remind her what happened to the justice system when politics was introduced under a Conservative Regime. Then I don't think she would be sitting over there shaking her head yes with her list of names and applauding this type of initiative, I don't think she would.

[5:00 p.m.]

Well, is this what health care is going to be in Nova Scotia? We bring in a piece of legislation that opens up the door - he says, good legislation for private health care. I say no, because that minister is off the rails, he is off the track. He should be put on CPR, he needs a lifeline, and I don't mean Regis Philbin. (Interruptions) I am getting there.

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have?

MR. SPEAKER: You have 19 minutes.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, because those were just my introductory remarks, so I will have to come back at a future time.

I am somewhat curious, Mr. Speaker, as to the consultative process the minister used before he provided this legislation to the House. This particular piece of legislation, if one were to examine it, particularly starting at, I would say, from about Clauses 4 to 19, there is a tremendous amount of empowerment to the minister that would allow the minister to over-rule many of the local initiatives. So I think perhaps if the minister were able to better clarify that relationship, at least from a practical point of view, the relationship he would anticipate between himself - if not himself, his deputy minister - and the local boards across the province. I think that is fundamental to ensuring that local community input is genuine.

Well, let's assume that we are appointing these people to try to get the best quality people from the community and the government is being open, accountable and genuine in its efforts - the initial board especially - why not call a public meeting in that particular district and notify the general public that everybody should come to this particular meeting for the purposes of electing people to this particular board, a series of nominees. In this particular district . . .

MR. MUIR: Maybe that is how it is going to happen.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, the minister says that may be the way it is going to happen but that is not the way it is written in the bill, the nomination process. The minister can say, oh no, I don't like that, his tie is not very blue, and that could mean a whole lot of things. It could mean that he really doesn't have a good understanding of the health care needs in that

[Page 3239]

particular community. It could mean, heaven forbid, that he is not of the right political persuasion, it could be a lot of things. I know the minister would never ever contemplate something like that.

The human resources community has certainly demonstrated the lack of political bias, for some people, but that is presuming you are on the right side of the equation. I see the member for Dartmouth South just chomping at the bit to get in and defend this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I think it is important that every member of this House speak on this legislation because it will have such a profound effect on the way health care services are being delivered for decades to come. I think they have an obligation to stand up on behalf of their constituents and tell their constituents why they support a move that would set the stage for privatized health care in Nova Scotia. I would invite them, I would certainly entertain any suggestion to the contrary that in fact an associated institution is not a private health care clinic that the government is contemplating, because let's not forget, under the regulation section, if a word or a term or a phrase is used but not defined, the Governor in Council can define it afterwards, down in the bunker so nobody knows. So is an associated institution a private health care clinic? (Interruptions) Oh, we will know. When the people of Nova Scotia realize that the government has misplayed its hand on this very important issue.

The Minister of Health knows full well when the commitment was made that they would correct all the problems in health care for $46 million, they had as equal access to the information as we did. Let's not forget, we were in a minority situation and they held us accountable on the basis of financial accountability. The minister, when he was sitting on this side of the House, was very diligent on this issue. He knew the facts. He knew all the dynamics of what revenues were coming in and what the expenditures were and the allocation for acute care, for long-term care, for Pharmacare, you name it. This member had the information and you could tell because of the questions he asked. He knew. We can only assume that they knew exactly what they were talking about when they said they could correct this problem in Nova Scotia for $46 million, and now the minister is saying that is not the case.

Mr. Speaker, you wonder why we in the Opposition ranks and the people of Nova Scotia are becoming very uneasy about what is happening. I am quite concerned that the government is going to sacrifice the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and, indeed, a publicly-funded health care system because of a political commitment. I think that is fundamentally wrong.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member might entertain an introduction from one of the other members?

MR. MACKINNON: Sure.

[Page 3240]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce to the House four gentlemen. They have travelled from Canso and are representatives of Canso Town as well as the fishing industry in Canso. First of all, I would like to introduce you to Pat Fougere, Pat is head of the Trawlermen's Association from Canso; as well, Brian Parker is a trawlerman; Mayor of Canso, Ron George; as well, the Economic Development Officer for Canso, Scott Conrod. I want to thank the House for their warm welcome of our friends. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, one of the objectives of the district health authority is to ensure that they avoid duplication of health services. Now, part of the problem that I have with that, first of all, I think the general intent is good. The last thing you want is to have two CAT scanners in a particular facility where you only have the need for one, I just use that hypothetically as an example, or whatever other particular medical devices or pieces of technology or equipment. I have to confess, I am not totally comfortable with a lot of the language because I don't have a medical background, so I qualify that. I think we can safely say that it is important not to have a duplication of service in one area when you have no service in another area. I think essentially that is what the objective is. Part of the problem with that is that the government, the minister, could very easily adjust the district boundary to satisfy a particular demand or interest or lobby perspective that would be taking place between two adjoining districts. Then it becomes a political issue. Who does the government satisfy?

I certainly would be concerned that such an initiative would, in fact, create a disparity of health care services in one jurisdiction to the expense of another. We saw that issue of unfairness or unevenness on the jail issue of Bedford versus Dartmouth. I confess I don't personally have all the dynamics at the community level to understand the pros and cons, but certainly from the arguments I have heard to date, I would suggest that the people in Dartmouth North have been treated most unfairly. The only reason that it went from Bedford is because of the political influence that the Minister of Community Services had on the issue.

SOME HON. MEMBER: Wrong riding, you are not even in the riding.

MR. MACKINNON: I am very well aware that it is the same general community.

The government can try to use semantics and parochial examples, but the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, they stuck it to the people in Dartmouth North because they were not on the government side. If that is what they will do in the justice system, what are they going to do in the health care system? That is shameful, and they sit there, so cavalier, oh, those people in Dartmouth North, they are not that important, let's stick the jail over there. What are they going to do? Are they going to gerrymander the boundaries for health care, too, for political purposes? My, my, my.

[Page 3241]

Well, Mr. Speaker, I have a concern with the way this government is operating. I realize the government is sensitive on this jail issue because they know that the people of Nova Scotia will judge them accordingly. It is a bit like the Highway No. 101 commitment, with or without federal help we will pave that road. We will twin that highway this year. The Minister of Transportation made the commitment during the election that he would certainly make sure that construction would start before the end of September. He made that during his all-candidates debate. Do you know what? He has not done it yet. He has not. He has cut a few trees on the side of the road, but they were Christmas trees.

Let's be realistic. I don't want to get sidetracked; rabbit tracks. The fact of the matter is, the board of directors for these respective districts are required to hold public forums on accountability, on the operations and activities of the district health authority in seeking input from the public. Mr. Speaker, the question one has to ask is, does that include the issue of financial accountability, because that is not included in there. Perhaps the minister would be willing to amend his legislation to ensure that the public forum includes financial accountability, because it is not there. If the minister is genuine in ensuring local control, local input, local autonomy on health care and finance of health care in respective jurisdictions, I would suspect that he would want to include that. Particularly, in that same supporting clause, the next one to it is the issue of ensuring the lack of duplication.

[5:15 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the minister has really missed an opportunity here. He has missed an opportunity to consult with Nova Scotians. The politically-appointed travelling tour band that he sent around the province stated right from the outset that health care dollars would be funded on a per capita basis. It had nothing to do with whether you were sick or healthy.

AN HON. MEMBER: Wrong.

MR. MACKINNON: That is exactly what that lady said on CBC when she was interviewed. I listened to it, the Chair of your Health Care Committee getting input on health care.

MR. MUIR: . . . adjustments for age and illness.

MR. MACKINNON: No, not at all. Mr. Speaker, all these backbenchers who are sitting there in rural Nova Scotia, whether it be on the government side or the Opposition, will soon find themselves in a very precarious situation when they have to go back and try to explain to their constituents why there are no health care dollars in that particular community whether it be Shelburne, or Cumberland County, Liverpool, Cape Breton. Unless you start getting people moving in there, and lots of them, it doesn't matter. A sick person down in Liverpool,

[Page 3242]

or Yarmouth, or Shelburne, will not get the same level of health care service as they will in metro and that is built into this legislation.

I would employ . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Implore.

MR. MACKINNON: Implore, it is a tough one, but the fact of the matter is I would encourage every member, particularly those backbenchers supporting the government policy, to look at this in detail because your constituents will be onto this issue with or without your support and they will hold you accountable for blindly following and rubber-stamping an initiative to move towards privatized health care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the minister has indicated that financial accountability is an issue here, so in wrapping up my comments I would like to move an amendment to this particular piece of legislation, and I will circulate it for all members. Given the fact that the minister has stated financial accountability is a major issue in this, I think this is a very worthwhile amendment.

I would move the following amendment, "Following the word 'that' in the motion for second reading, the following words be inserted: 'The House opposes any new user fees to be imposed on the health care system of Nova Scotia as a result of the restructuring of governance of the health care system'."

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, can we have a recess for five minutes?

MR. SPEAKER: Has the Government House Leader received a copy of the amendment?

MR. RUSSELL: No, I have not.

MR. SPEAKER: All right, five minutes so the government can take a look at the amendment. Can we recess for five minutes?

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[5:19 p.m. The House recessed.]

[5:28 p.m. The House reconvened.]

[Page 3243]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak to the amendment that has been proposed. (Interruption) I am rising to speak. I haven't heard the Speaker say anything one way or the other yet.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Well, I saw the honourable member on his feet and I assumed that he wanted to make an intervention in regard to the motion that has been made.

MR. EPSTEIN: I wish to speak to the amendment that has been made.

MR. SPEAKER: No, I haven't ruled on it yet.

MR. EPSTEIN: As a small point of order, Mr. Speaker, you might help me in my understanding, if I am not correct. I don't think there is anything in front of you yet. A motion has been made. I rose to speak on it and I think have the floor. I haven't heard anyone object yet to the motion.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. A motion has been made by the honourable member for Cape Breton West. I asked for a five minute recess so I could review the matter and I want to make a decision on that now.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West moved a reasoned amendment, "Following the word 'that' in the motion for second reading, the following words be inserted: The House opposes any new user fees to be imposed on the health care system of Nova Scotia as a result of restructuring of governance of the health care system,"

My understanding is that a reasoned amendment at this stage of the game would have to relate directly to the opposed principles of this bill, which my understanding, my feeling, at this point, this amendment does not. So, for those reasons, I will not allow the (Interruptions) Order, please, if I may finish. The reasoned amendment moved by the honourable member would have to basically oppose the principle of the bill that is before the House today, which is basically about administrative restructuring and has nothing to do with user fees. So, based on that, my ruling is that I will not allow this amendment.

[5:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if I could, and I certainly respect your decision, albeit during my comments very clearly the minister, not only today but during his opening remarks, made reference to the fact that this bill was about financial accountability. It is by the minister's very own comments, and Hansard will show that.

[Page 3244]

Mr. Speaker, given the fact that Clause 23(1) of the bill makes provision for the Governor in Council to be able to do things that could very well have a financial implication, it is quite clear that, "The Minister shall make by-laws with respect to the conduct and management of the affairs of a district health authority including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, by-laws . . . (g) respecting the management and administration of the board and associated institutions." This particular section has not been defined; the Governor in Council is empowered to make that definition on a future date which could very well be private health care institutions, private clinics.

At least in legislation in other jurisdictions, as in Alberta, they are defined. The minister's own words have simply and clearly stated, this is about good health care and financial accountability in health care. So, Mr. Speaker, while I respect your decision, I guess personally, I still am going to be taking issue with it, to myself if I am not allowed to on the floor of the Legislature, because I am only responding to the minister's very own comments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we have been on quite a geographic tour this afternoon, I think, as we have been considering this bill. I have heard reference to Tory Ontario and to Tory Alberta and I think I even heard reference to Tory Halifax Bedford Basin, as we have been moving around. I thought I might add to the geographic tour that this bill seems to have engendered. I would like to make some reference to the Soviet Union, as long as we are doing this.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I assume that what the honourable member is going to speak about is relevant and has to do with the principle of this bill. (Interruptions) Pardon me? Okay, the honourable member may carry on, please, as long as it is relevant. Thank you.

MR. EPSTEIN: It is absolutely relevant, it is only a matter of style, Mr. Speaker. You will know that in the back and forth that is sometimes part of the interaction in this House that there are comments and heckling that not infrequently have been directed at our Party. It has often been along the lines of red baiting, the suggestion being that we are, hands down, fans of life in the Soviet Union. I have heard that kind of suggestion made by various members here.

Now, I don't take those comments too seriously when they come from people who clearly would not know the difference between a trade union, a credit union and the Soviet Union. (Applause)

There is something about this bill that does put me in mind of the Soviet Union and I want to assure members that we are looking to build a Jerusalem in Nova Scotia's green and pleasant land and are very much aware of the flaws of other societies. What reminds me of that is a story that circulated about the health care system in the Soviet Union. The story is

[Page 3245]

as follows: two men arrived at the emergency ward of one of the hospitals in Moscow. They had injuries that needed taking care of and after they had been waiting for five or six hours, one of them said to the other, Comrade, I am fed up. This is not the way the health system should be working. I am going to go off and I am going to shoot the Minister of Health. He went off, about two or three hours goes by and he returns. What happened? said his friend. Well, he said, I thought I might as well come back, that line is longer than the line here.

I suppose that at this point I should immediately put on record that, in all due deference and respect to the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill, that in no way do I want to suggest that anyone should take action based on this little story. I wish the honourable member long life and good health.

There is something about this story that I think we should consider and what puts the minister four-square in my mind is the position that he would occupy as the undoubted head of a health care system if this bill were to be adopted. The minister would be the person who would be able to exercise such a vast array of powers that it is hard to think of any kind of good comparison that doesn't involve upper echelon apparatchik. Surely, that is what is being offered to us. This bill is so sweeping in the nature of the powers that it gives to the minister that I have been trying to contemplate or think of other examples of this range of powers being given to a minister that is exercisable in such an amazing way. I don't think that we have precedents in the way we have been structuring government in this province. I don't think the Minister of Education has such powers, the Minister of Education has to deal with school boards that are elected entities, elected entities I repeat, and there is a detailed Statute that sets out the nature of the powers that the Minister of Education has to exercise. There are opportunities for public involvement and there are standards and all of these things are specified in the Statute and with binding force. That is completely absent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Much too much noise in the Chamber. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has the floor. Thank you.

MR. EPSTEIN: That kind of accountability to the public or to their elected representatives in some format is just completely absent from the bill that we have been given. That power that is being given to the minister is to control a vast system that is, as we know, crucial to everyone in this province. It is crucial because of course the matter of health, health promotion, treatment, all of these things, touch each of us all the time. It is important because of the infrastructure that is in place, it is important because of the cost. So, in subject matter, in the apparatus, in the infrastructure, this is something that we all deal with. There are a vast number of employees who work in the system.

When I read this legislation I have to ask myself, what is it about the nature of the system that makes it even remotely necessary, desirable, that this kind of power ought to be exercised by one person? Well, it certainly doesn't emerge from the legislation, nor does it seem to emerge from anything I have heard from the government as proponents of this bill.

[Page 3246]

Why have they chosen this model? Isn't it possible to conceive of a different model? Isn't it possible to conceive of a model that builds into it a high degree of democracy? Isn't it possible to conceive of a model that has a high degree of public participation that is meaningful public participation? Well, I think it is. I think it is easy to understand a model that might be built around that. I also think that the whole of the public record in Nova Scotia, as far as enquiries into health care are concerned, has tried to direct us towards a public participatory model that is a meaningful one. This is true from the time of the Royal Commission through to the time of the Blueprint Committee, through to every debate that has ever been held in this House.

When is it that we see the public stirred up and coming to talk with us in great numbers? Was it so very long ago that we dealt with a strike by the paramedics? It just happened. What we saw there was a huge amount of public support for this group of employees. We saw that it was front page news - the lead up and the event itself. Everyone was concerned, everyone wanted to have their say, everyone had things to say. If we look at other provinces where there have been labour interactions with groups like nurses, these are major occurrences, these are events when the public comes forward and wants to be involved. But you know what, even more importantly than times of labour strife, the public wants to be involved in planning the system. We know that the public has opinions about what the health care system ought to look like.

As the government engages in its regular polling, they know that if they ask questions about health care - which I don't think they did in the last poll - that they would get instant responses from any number in Nova Scotia that they might care to call. Every member of this House knows that in their own constituency associations, in their own constituencies and in their riding associations, that whenever anyone calls up they may well be calling about health matters. They frequently do. In fact, of course the Minister of Health himself has tried to address health care matters, the shortage of doctors in his own riding, by encouraging people to phone him, and they do. They do it, not because he, particularly, happens to be the Minister of Health. We all get these calls in our ridings. What it indicates is that people have opinions. They know what they want. When it comes to health care, they want the system to be there for them and their relatives when they need it. They want that system to be a community-based system that is responsive to the particular kinds of needs that they have identified in their community, because they know, on the ground, what is the hierarchy of priorities in their district.

[5:45 p.m.]

I have had some first-hand experience with this kind of community planning for health care. There exists, in Halifax, the North End Community Health Association. The community health association operates a community health clinic on Gottingen Street. For four years, I was a member of the board of that association. For two of those years, I chaired the board. The North End Community Health Association was started in the mid-1970's. It was the first

[Page 3247]

community-based health clinic in Nova Scotia. It was formed by community action. People in the community got together and said, look, in our neighbourhood, we don't have doctors and dentists. We need services here. They got together and they incorporated a non-profit society and they raised money and they found offices and they brought in doctors and they brought in dentists and they started to do community health care planning. It was the thrust of that kind of on-the-ground, community-based activity right here in Halifax that set a model for several other clinics that have started up elsewhere in the province.

Now, there are different models. There are different ways of going about doing this.

But the North End Community Health Clinic did exactly what it is that we now hear people talking about when they talk about community health boards and what it is that community health boards might usefully do. The North End Clinic realized that there is a need for dentists, so they brought in dentists. They realized that a number of the traditional physician functions could be performed by nurses, so they hired nurses and they assigned them some of those functions. When the community identified a need for education programs for young mothers, for young, pregnant women, then the clinic organized those. The clinic made sure that well mother and well baby programs were put in place.

When the clinic realized, through having a community-based board and through having regular participation with members-at-large in the community, that a number of the problems in the community could be described as social issues, then they hired a social worker. So a social worker has always been part of the professional employees working out of the health clinic. This was a local community decision taken on the ground because they understood what their priorities were in their community. They were able to identify them and, furthermore, an effective structure was put in place in order to actualize it, in order to take steps to move on it. It wasn't in the abstract. It wasn't something that depended upon the goodwill of someone somewhere else. They got the system going. They hired physicians. The physicians got to keep a portion of their MSI billings and a portion went to support the clinic, including those associated professionals, the nurse and the social worker and, to a certain extent, the dentists. This is the way it went.

The main point is that here we have in front of us something that is 25 years old in its history, that has formed a model that has been extremely successful and that we ought to be building upon. We ought to be able to take this model and not just implement it but improve upon it. One of the main things about the clinic is that it was a democratic organization in which people were elected from the membership-at-large; you became a member of the association by being a patient of the clinic. That is pretty straightforward. What that meant was that everyone got to participate, if they wanted to come to the AGM and everyone had standing and could be elected and everyone could participate on the board.

The clinic took a leading role in Nova Scotia in terms of reform of health care. I am happy to say that during my time as Chair of the Board, we hired Johanna Oosterveld to be Executive Director of the North End Community Clinic. She was a member of the Blueprint

[Page 3248]

Committee. She was very active in laying out the path that ought to be followed in order to take this community-based model that really was oriented as much towards prevention and promote prevention of illness and promotion of health as it was towards treatment. She was a strong advocate for that. Her voice was heard at the Department of Health, her voice was heard at Voluntary Planning, her voice was soundly rooted in the North End community.

I had the impression that this model, which valued what it is that community-based health organizations could do, was one that was commending itself to the thinkers and planners inside the Department of Health. I have to say that I am, at the very least, extremely disappointed to see this kind of legislation come forward from the minister when there is a better model available to him now, and has been available for at least 25 years, right here in our own province.

The centralization of powers in the hands of the minister is enormous. The powers are centralized in the hands of the minister not just vis-à-vis the community health boards, but also vis-à-vis the DHAs. It has been a long time since, in my private law practice, I incorporated a company, but I have to tell you that I used to do it. I dealt with any number of clients who came and said, incorporate a company for me. One of the things I remember from company law is that there is a big distinction between the objects of the company and the powers of the company. When I read this legislation, setting up DHAs, all I see are objects but no powers. I see that the objects are to create policy and advise the minister. The objects exist in a vacuum without any powers guaranteed by Statute. There are no powers given to the DHAs under this Act, let alone are any powers given to the community health boards.

Indeed, with respect to the community health boards, we are told very explicitly that they are not bodies corporate, they have no contractual power, can't own property, can't buy and sell things, can't behave in any way that might even remotely indicate that they have any independent decision-making powers, can't behave - the assumption seems to be in this legislation - as if they will even have a budget to spend. So I am very mindful of this distinction between objects and powers when I read this legislation. No powers seem to be contemplated here for the community health boards and, even worse, no powers are contemplated except through the good grace and future discretion of the Minister of Health for the DHAs.

The legislation says that they can own property if the minister decides it is okay. They do become employers if the minister says it is okay, and they can go ahead and behave in some kind of independent fashion if after the minister appoints everybody and tells them it is okay and has not amalgamated them out of existence, but it is clear from stem to stern in this bill who it is who is in control and it is one person, that is the Minister of Health.

[Page 3249]

True enough, the minister will be advised by his staff in the Department of Health. True enough, right here between Granville and Hollis Streets in the Joe Howe Building, the minister will have advisors who will look at the province as a whole and tell the minister what it is that he might usefully do but, in the end, if DHAs are not given any effective powers and if the community health boards are not given any effective powers, how can they complain? They cannot complain because there is no power that they have to exercise under the Statute.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of debate on Bill No. 34?

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I should now at this point like to move adjournment of debate on this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: 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, I move that the House do now rise, to meet on the morrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I am just wondering if the Government House Leader would like us to tell him officially the business of tomorrow?

MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely. Mr. Speaker, I defer to the honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as always, we are just trying to be helpful to all members of the House. The hours tomorrow, as the Government House Leader has said, will be between 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. The business for tomorrow is we intend to call Bill No. 39 and Resolution No. 803.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise and meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 3250]

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject for the late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto:

"Therefore be it resolved the government have the 10 year permit to operate liquids gas pipe line to Point Tupper withdrawn and replaced with a temporary one until there is the assurance it meets the highest CSA safety standards."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - PT. TUPPER PIPELINE:

PERMIT - WITHDRAW

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, for introducing this very timely and, I think, very responsible resolution for debate this afternoon. I certainly hope that the government actually will listen to some reason and start to try to address what I believe is a very serious safety concern.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution, if you note - and we are trying to be responsible in our comments - we are asking only that the 10 year permit, the licence to operate the natural gas liquids line to Point Tupper be withdrawn, and we are asking that that be replaced once again with a temporary permit to allow an opportunity for those very serious safety concerns that have been identified to be investigated and hopefully rectified.

We recognize when we are bringing forward this motion that the whole Sable Offshore Energy Project could be shut down if that line in itself is shut, and the implications of closing that line are very serious. We recognize that, but we also recognize that safety has to be the number one priority. Safety is far more important than dollars. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, and members on the government benches that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board has actually placed restrictions on the operations of the offshore production rate because of concerns they have found with the fire retardant system on that rig, and the concerns that the plastic fibreglass-wrapped pipes are also not up to the proper standards and that their integrity at this point cannot be assured for more than a year. So they are operating under a temporary permit in the offshore.

[Page 3251]

[6:00 p.m.]

SOEP as well. SOEP also built this line, Mr. Speaker, and SOEP likes to champion themselves as the leaders in safety, so I am sure that they must be in support of making sure that safety concerns have been addressed.

I want to go back a little bit in history, and I want to refer to a couple of documents, and I will be tabling those documents, in fact I made copies so I will table them even before I refer to them, so that I won't have to do so afterwards.

Mr. Speaker, there are two lines running to Cape Breton. One is a liquids line and one is a natural gas line. Those two lines were built at the same time by SOEP under approval that was given by the provincial government. It was much to my shock - because I had never heard of the Energy and Minerals Resources Conservation Board, and it certainly had not been active until the former government used that body to give permission for the construction of the lines across the Strait without the full environmental hearings - the lines were put in. That is history. We have pipeline regulations in this province that say those pipes have to be to the highest CSA standards. That is for good reason. Safety. To ensure that the integrity of that pipe is safe, and that human life and the environment will not be placed at risk. So the pipes were laid, and the one pipe, the liquids line, is to remain with SOEP. That is to transport the liquids which would contain things like propane and butane and those things. And the gas line, the separate natural gas line which is in the very same trench, was to be sold then to the Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline as part of the larger Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline system. In order for Maritimes & Northeast to get permission, a licence to operate, they have to get the approval of the National Energy Board. Thank heavens, in this case for the National Energy Board and their expertise.

Remember, Mr. Speaker, these two pipes, side by side in the trench, were built together using the very same kind of eight-inch pipe imported from Greece; both carrying materials or destined to carry materials because the gas line has not been approved, that are potentially extremely dangerous if those pipes should happen to rupture.

The National Energy Board, and I want to refer to them, and I asked questions of the Premier today, and he handed off to the Attorney General or the Minister of Justice, he handed off to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. But I asked questions about what kind of expertise exists within, for example, the Utility and Review Board, the same body that gave permission to operate the liquids line on March 1st, one day after the National Energy Board said no to operating the gasline. Both lines were supposed to be designed to carry the same amount of pressure, contrary to what the Premier would have people believe.

[Page 3252]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier to the Minister of Justice, as he deflected it, the Minister of Justice could not tell us what expertise, technical specialty, exists within that board with a working knowledge, a working experience in regulating gas, pipelines or actually working in the industry. Nor could they tell us what expertise exists even within government to analyse the report that is going to come back from the URB because of a letter that was written to the Premier from Mr. Paul E. Vandall who is an expert in this field and who is involved in setting up those pipeline regulations to the province in the first place.

The National Energy Board said, "Based on the information submitted, the Board is not satisfied that the Point Tupper Lateral can be safely opened for the transmission of natural gas." The National Energy Board, which is used to regulating gas and liquids lines across this country and has a lot of experience, is not satisfied that it is safe. Nova Scotia says we are not concerned about what the National Energy Board says, we are convinced, we are sure it is safe. Well, you show me the expertise that you have and the qualifications of the people and the research that you have done that shows it is safe. "Considerable uncertainty exists regarding the integrity and safety of the Point Tupper Lateral as presented in the technical report - Point Tupper Lateral Pipeline Integrity Engineering Assessment dated December 1999." We are not talking about a long time ago. ". . . sections of pipe containing defects exceeding the limits allowed . . ." and goes on to say ". . . are probably present in the gas and natural gas liquids pipelines. The number, size and location of longitudinal seam defects in the Point Tupper Lateral are unknown at this time." They also go on to say that they pose real safety risks.

We are not playing games here, this is not a political matter, surely to heavens. Is or is not safety the number one priority of this government? If it is not, state so clearly. If it is, do the right thing, ask that the 10 year permit be yanked, replace it with a temporary permit. Ensure that an independent assessment by experts, and I suggest delegate that authority to the National Energy Board for the time being under contract because they have the expertise. Have that line inspected. They put devices down, for example, that they call PIGS, they are electronic devises that go in and they measure the thicknesses of the walls, they can detect cracks, seams, problems. Have that line investigated during the temporary time, let us not wait for a future disaster, that is too late. It is unacceptable to approve a line when serious questions about its safety and integrity have been pointed out by a national, credible organization like the National Energy Board.

It is starting now, it is in production. We are not saying shut down the whole project, just make it a temporary permit to identify, and what is so crazy about that idea. You have to get your car inspected for safety every year. We are talking about, if I might Mr. Speaker, some products that if they go bump in the night, you will notice. The responsible thing. You can discount Mr. Vandall if you want. When a body like the National Energy Board - and you know you don't have the expertise in the House - raises these serious concerns, you have a responsibility to have those concerns investigated.

[Page 3253]

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

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: I am very pleased the minister is here tonight, I think this is an important question and I know he is very serious about this. The only question is the difference that we, on this side of the House, place on this problem. I don't think anyone wants to see pipelines that are defective being used in the Province of Nova Scotia. The government seems to feel that this liquids line is suitable for the use intended. We don't and in listening to my friend, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, I don't think he believes they are suitable either. I have no trouble with the resolution that the member for Halifax Chebucto has brought forward. I think it is quite responsible, in light of the seriousness and, frankly, in light of what I have heard regarding this pipeline.

These are two pipelines, and I won't go, again, into what the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has said. He has given a fairly good background on exactly where these pipes are going to be and how they are going to be found in the ground. I think that the one thing that I would mention though is that the natural gas pipeline was inspected by the National Energy Board because it was a requirement for the sale. They did not have to inspect the liquids line, but they did anyway. They did look at the pipe. They didn't make a commentary on the suitability of whether there would be a problem ultimately but they did say that line that was being used for the liquids, is the same pipe that is being used in natural gas.

The government says there is greater pressure because of the natural gas, than there would be for the liquids. I think that that is open to dispute. Certainly, at any given time, we don't really know what pressures are going to be put on the liquids line because, I think, eventually, what we are going to have is a lot more natural gas coming ashore than is presently the case. You are going to have a lot more liquid in the pipe and, therefore, you are going to have a lot more pressure on that liquids line.

I don't want, Mr. Speaker, to lose sight, in the future, of this problem. This is why we have to resolve it now. If we allow the government or any other Party to say, this is suitable and the natural gas coming ashore is increased and the amount of liquids is increased and everybody has forgotten about the state of this line, then we could be in for a very severe problem. I would say that if the government is prepared to replace this permit with a temporary permit, that would be suitable. I am very much concerned that the government is going to ignore this and, in which case, I think what is going to happen is you are going to have an outcry from people to say, just shut down that liquids line.

If we go back to what the National Energy Board has told us, one thing they have told us is that this pipe is so defective that is should have never been allowed to leave the yard in Greece, that there are sufficient defects that are obvious enough and of a sufficient nature that

[Page 3254]

it should never have been taken out of the yard and loaded on board a vessel. I understand, as well, that this pipe had a very rough crossing and there were certain things that happened. I am just trying to find out a little more detail about that and what other problems the pipe had. I don't want to make an allegation because I can't substantiate it and I didn't hear it directly from a source, but there is a rumour that there was a fire and that the pipe was involved in a fire, so, thereupon, the pipe coming to Nova Scotia in that condition.

The Natural Energy Board also says that, up until Christmas, the government was prepared and, in fact, stated that they would let the Natural Energy Board take the lead on determining whether this pipe, both lines, were suitable and were safe. Somewhere, between Christmas and the time the National Energy Board brought down its decision, the government changed its mind. I don't know whether that was the clearance for insurance from Lloyds of London that caused them to change their mind or some inspection by the Utility and Review Board. The government had the right attitude initially, let the National Energy Board look at these lines and determine if they are suitable because the National Energy Board is the organization, is the agency that has expertise in determining whether the line is sufficient, if there are defects, where those defects are, can they be corrected, how long it would take to be corrected or not.

[6:15 p.m.]

Now we have defective pipe in these two lines. We have Mr. Paul Vandall who was very instrumental in preparing the regulations under the pipelines Act for Nova Scotia, saying that this pipeline, the liquids pipeline, is a safety hazard and that it is defective and it should not be allowed to operate. You can't discount someone who has this credibility. When we were in power he asked to work with us on the regulations. Now I don't know the man's politics, I don't know the man personally. We do know that he is very reputable and that the regulations drafted are very good. Now he is saying as well that the government is violating its own regulations by allowing this line to be used. I think these are very serious accusations.

The other feature is, here we are trying to start a new industry in Nova Scotia. We are trying to tell Nova Scotians that look, natural gas is the fuel of the future - it is clean, it gives a great burn, it is economical, why don't you think about natural gas? We are going to have lots of it and we are going to be telling people that we, here in government, know it is safe.

Now, all of a sudden, this comes up. How are the people in Nova Scotia going to look at this when even before the first home in Nova Scotia is connected for natural gas, there is a question as to the quality of the lines being used. I think this sends a terrible message. How did these pipes get buried in the first place, having this pipe so defective? How in the name of heavens do you have reputable organizations, such as SOEP, putting this pipe in the ground and burying it. Now the other feature is the Nova Scotia Government gave a licence for the use of this pipe the day before the National Energy Board brought down its report. (Interruption) The day after, was it? I thought it was the day before, but one way or the other,

[Page 3255]

that is even worse, the day after, that they knew of the report of the National Energy Board and they still gave this approval. That is totally wrong.

Now you can blame the Utility and Review Board and say it is separate and apart but if, as the member for Sackville-Cobequid says, that the government granted this licence the day after the National Energy Board came down with its report, then they did it with their eyes wide open, knowing that there were these defects.

When we were in government we worked darn hard. I don't know, I can't get the agreement of other members in other Parties on that - we worked darn hard with an industry that just began, we took it from scratch. We drafted regulations, we did everything we possibly could to assure people in this province that this was going to be an industry of the future, there were going to be jobs and you would be able to do it safely.

Now this government comes and cavalierly dismisses the biggest safety question with which we have been faced, Mr. Speaker. I think it is wrong, I don't appreciate the fact that the government has done this because it has nullified a lot of work that we did. I would ask the minister to review this and to look at this recommendation and to really agree to this regulation. I quite agree, the National Energy Board is an appropriate agency to be doing this investigation. I think this resolution is very fair and I would ask the government to adhere to it. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise tonight and engage in a debate at this level. Oftentimes late debate subjects are subject to empty political rhetoric and obviously an issue of this magnitude is one that deserves the attention of the members of this House. What we have here is an issue of safety to a degree, and we also have an issue of political interference which is what is, by and large, being suggested by the resolution. Certainly, everyone is concerned about safety, and I know one of the previous speakers spoke specifically about the safety record of the Sable project members. The way in which they proceeded do deal with safety issues is one that is exemplary in terms of industry standards. So, I am confident that those companies are every bit as concerned about the safety issue as are we.

Obviously, what this resolution is fundamentally asking this government to do, is revoke a permit that was issued by the Utility and Review Board. It is saying, government members, we want you to overturn a decision made by an independent arm's length board. It is asking government to interfere in that agency's decision-making process. Now it can be cloaked in the issue of safety, and again, certainly safety is paramount to all, but fundamentally, what they are suggesting is that politicians enter into the decision-making process of a quasi-judicial board; a quasi-judicial board carries a great deal of weight.

[Page 3256]

I want to call attention to the Act which, in fact, empowers that board. Section 16 of that Act, and I will read verbatim: "In a matter over which the Board has jurisdiction, the Board and each member has all the powers, privileges and immunities of a commission appointed pursuant to the Public Inquiries Act." That is a significant statement: " . . . all the powers, privileges and immunities of a commissioner appointed pursuant to the Public Inquiries Act." Those powers are those of a judge, Mr. Speaker, a person who is viewed to be impartial, to undertake to find the information necessary to make the correct determination. That is what we are talking about. We are talking about politicians by right of the fact that they hold office, entering into a decision-making process. Some of the speakers have called into question the ability of the URB to make a determination based on the level of expertise. Well, I hazard a guess that the level of expertise that body can bring forward in terms of making the correct decision is far more substantive than that which elected members bring to bear.

We also should look a little further into the Act and see what else it says. There is even more evidence to indicate that the URB has full legal power to compel people to testify at hearings, and if they don't, the Act even tells what can apply:

"Where a person fails to comply with an order of the Board or a subpoena or where a witness refuses to testify to a matter regarding which the witness may be interrogated before the Board or a member, a judge of the Trial Division of the Supreme Court shall, on application of the Board or a member, compel obedience by attachment proceedings for contempt as in the case of disobedience of the requirements of a subpoena issued by the Court or a refusal to testify therein."

What that implies, Mr. Speaker, is that the board can bring forth the power necessary to make sure that it has the information to make the correct determination, a determination that will be made free from political interference. All of the privileges of a judge and immunities and powers including the ability to have someone cited for contempt. This is the body that this resolution would ask us as elected representatives to overturn.

Mr. Speaker, I am not prepared to do that. I acknowledge . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, a question for the minister. I listened to the minister's comments, and I appreciate the importance and the independence of the Utility and Review Board, but I want to ask the minister, who is ultimately responsible, who is ultimately accountable if the line is unsafe? The minister can talk about precedents and procedures, but government does have the ability to direct that the proper assurances are followed, and they also have the responsibility to ensure that human life is not going to be placed at risk. If there is any reasonable reason to think that that could be, is the minister saying that even though there may be a risk we cannot and we will not interfere because we have decided it is

[Page 3257]

somebody else's responsibility and therefore we will wash our hands of that? Is that what the minister is saying, we wash our hands of any responsibility for the safety?

MR. BALSER: The member opposite would take any opportunity to speak at length. What I have said here is that safety is of paramount concern to everyone involved in this decision-making process. What I have also said is that when one requests political intervention in a decision-making process by a board that is at arm's length, by a board which has the power and ability to call forth the level of expertise it needs to make an impartial determination as to what is in the best interests, if he is suggesting that politicians should then immerse themselves in the decision-making process at whim, I have a serious concern about that. I have confidence that that board, as did the NEB, made a determination.

What I would like to do at this point, though, is talk specifically about the two pipelines. As I said earlier on, the pipelines were tested at the same time and met the standard level of testing necessary to be compliant. What was acknowledged at that point, though, was that the gas pipeline would be subjected to higher pressure, would be subjected to a more constant load than would the liquids line. Obviously, anyone knows that a pipe - whether it is a plastic pipe for conducting water or a gas line pipe - may be suitable for one purpose and not for another. Now that is not to minimize the concern around public safety, that is simply to say, and to acknowledge, that something that is suitable for one purpose may in fact not be suitable for a second purpose.

The other thing to remember is that in the NEB letter, to Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline Ltd. about the issue, they suggested that they could work in concert with that company to resolve the issues, and that process is being undertaken. The other thing to be ever-cognizant of is that these pipelines are not put in and simply left. There are a number of fail-safe mechanisms that, in the unlikely event that there is a problem, immediately result in a shutdown. The other thing is that the pipelines are constantly monitored in terms of what is going on with them.

I am confident that the URB made a determination based on the needs to which that pipeline would be subjected and they are confident that the pressures that the pipeline was subjected to in terms of the water - that did in fact cause at least one or two fractures in the testing process - resulted in information that allowed the URB to determine that the liquids pipeline is suitable for their purpose. Obviously there will be continued monitoring of the lines over time and, again, what we see here is a request on the part of the Opposition members for government to become involved in the decision making of an agency that has the integrity and the reputation of being able to operate at a distance from political interference, and that is particularly problematic for myself.

The other issue, that there has been concern raised by a private sector contractor around whether or not the process was appropriate. I believe, not to minimize the person's level of concern, but certainly in terms of how these things came about, this gentleman came

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after the fact and perhaps a bit because of his inability to gain employment. Certainly the concerns that he raised are concerns that we are cognizant of and what we did with his letter was direct it to the URB to determine how most appropriately to respond.

The integrity of that organization is in question, and I am sure they are going to act in an appropriate manner and when they provide the information as to how they have responded to this government, we will take the appropriate action. Obviously, as I have said before, safety is a paramount concern, and one would be concerned if Opposition members were to be using political opportunism to bring forward an issue such as this and I question perhaps how that plays into the issue of safety.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for this very interesting, very critical debate this evening. We are now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]