The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Apr. 6, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice - Eskasoni Gaming Commission Report, Hon. M. Baker 3359
Vital Statistics Annual Report, 1997, Hon. N. LeBlanc 3360
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Justice - Eskasoni Gaming Comm'n.: Gaming Revenues - Review,
Hon. M. Baker 3360
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1086, Estimates - Committee of the Whole House on Supply,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3362
Res. 1087, Culture: Quilt, Year of (N.S.) 2000 - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3363
Vote - Affirmative 3363
Res. 1088, Educ. - DalTech Eng.: Natl. Comp. (SafeNAP) -
Winners Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 3363
Vote - Affirmative 3364
Res. 1089, Tourism - Atl. Prov.: Partnership - Acknowledge,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 3364
Vote - Affirmative 3365
Res. 1090, Fish. - Fishery: Native/Commercial -
Res. Acceptable Support, Hon. E. Fage 3365
Vote - Affirmative 3366
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1091, Gov't. (N.S.) - Power: NDP Role - Consider,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3366
Res. 1092, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. J. Holm 3367
Res. 1093, C.B. East (04/04/00) - Candidates-Congrats./
Electorate Patience-Thank, Mr. D. Hendsbee 3367
Vote - Affirmative 3368
Res. 1094, Agric. - 4-H Progs.: Funding - Continuance, Mr. D. Downe 3368
Res. 1095, Educ. - Commun. Col. (N.S.): Commercial Pilot Prog. -
Graduates Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 3369
Vote - Affirmative 3370
Res. 1096, Health - Breast Cancer: Emmie Luther-Hiltz -
Vol. Efforts Acknowledge, Hon. G. Balser 3370
Vote - Affirmative 3370
Res. 1097, Sydney Mines Vol. FD: Commitment - Commend,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3371
Vote - Affirmative 3371
Res. 1098, Sysco - Min.: Vision - Use Urge, Mr. F. Corbett 3371
Res. 1099, Justice (Can.) - Home Invasions: Criminal Offence Define -
Support, Mr. T. Olive 3372
Res. 1100, Tourism - Ski Cape Smokey: Funding - Commit,
Mr. K. MacAskill 3373
Res. 1101, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sc. Bd.: Equitable Funding - Efforts
(Anna-Marie Sarto & Mike Brownlow) Recognize,
Mr. K. Deveaux 3373
Vote - Affirmative 3374
Res. 1102, Agric. - Harness Racing: Support - Thank, Mr. W. Langille 3374
Res. 1103, Sports - Skating (Short-Track Speed Can. Champs.):
Jo-Anne MacLean (Millville) - Medal Winner Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 3375
Vote - Affirmative 3376
Res. 1104, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Twinning -
Begin, Mr. W. Estabrooks 3376
Res. 1105, Health - Yar. Rotary Club: Yar. Reg. Hosp. -
Fund Raising Commend, Mr. R. Hurlburt 3376
Vote - Affirmative 3377
Res. 1106, Strait Area - Radio Station (FM 101.5 The Hawk):
Bob & Brenda MacEachern - Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 3377
Vote - Affirmative 3378
Res. 1107, Justice - Restorative Prog.: Domestic Violence - Remove,
Mr. H. Epstein 3378
Res. 1108, Canada Post - Port Hawkesbury PO: PO Boxes Add'tl. -
Thank, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 3379
Vote - Affirmative 3379
Res. 1109, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Fossil: Awareness (Min.) -
Ensure, Mr. R. MacKinnon 3379
Res, 1110, Volunteerism - Parrsboro Youth Vol. of the Year:
April Strong - Congrats., The Speaker (by Mr. B. Taylor) 3381
Vote - Affirmative 3381
Res. 1111, NDP (N.S.) - Sysco: Actions (1998-99) - Result
(Gov't. [N.S.-PC]), Mr. P. MacEwan 3381
Res. 1112, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Housing Strategy (Nat'l.) - Urge,
Mr. J. Pye 3382
Vote - Affirmative 3383
Res. 1113, Health - DementiaGuide.com: Bus. Plan Natl. Award -
Nicole Methvan & Clare Biddulph (SMU MBA Students) Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 3383
Vote - Affirmative 3383
Res. 1114, Culture - Special People Drama Club (Antigonish):
Successful Production - Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 3383
Vote - Affirmative 3384
Res. 1115, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads Rural: Repair - Prog. Intro.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 3384
Res. 1116, Econ. Dev. - Holt's Take-Out (Prospect Rd.):
Commun. Commitment - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 3385
Vote - Affirmative 3385
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 422, Health: Home Care - Establish, Dr. J. Smith 3386
No. 423, Exco - President: Harness Racing - Intervention,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3387
No. 424, Exco - President: Harness Racing - Intervention, Mr. D. Downe 3390
No. 425, Exco - President: Harness Racing - Intervention,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3392
No. 426, Exco - President: Harness Racing Aid - Involvement,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3393
No. 427, Exco - President: Harness Racing - Intervention Investigation,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3394
No. 428, Econ. Dev. - ABN Amro: Rail Assoc. - Deal,
Mr. R. MacLellan 3395
No. 429, Sysco: Sale - Deadline, Mr. F. Corbett 3396
No. 430, Sysco - Sale: Rail Associates - Deal, Mr. R. MacLellan 3397
No. 431, Health: Transition in Care (Study) - Implementation,
Mr. D. Dexter 3398
No. 432, Exco - Clerk: PAC (22/03/00) Sysco - Deadline Evidence,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3399
No. 433, Agric. - User Fees, Mr. John MacDonell 3401
No. 434, Tourism - VIA Rail: Hfx.-Sydney - Orangedale Stop,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3403
No. 435, Human Res.: Gov't. Bus. Plan - Decentralization, Mr. J. Pye 3404
No. 436, Educ. - Marine Atlantic: Jobs - Training, Mr. B. Boudreau 3405
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 34, Health Authorities Act 3408
Mr. H. Epstein 3408
Amendment moved 3414
HOUSE RECESSED AT 2:15 P.M. 3415
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:34 P.M. 3415
Amendment - Ruled out of order 3415
Hon. R. Russell 3418
Previous Question Put 3418
Mr. W. Gaudet 3419
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3425
Mr. M. Samson 3437
Ms. E. O'Connell 3454
Mr. D. Downe 3461
Adjourned debate 3465
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health: Home Care - Humanize:
Dr. J. Smith 3466
Hon. J. Muir 3468
Mr. D. Dexter 3471
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 7th at 9:00 a.m. 3474

[Page 3359]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 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 Leader of the Liberal Party:

Therefore be it resolved that this government put a human face on the social and health issues such as Home Care in Nova Scotia.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a report prepared by Grant Thornton on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia with respect to the Eskasoni Gaming Commission.

3359

[Page 3360]

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the recently completed Vital Statistics Annual Report for 1997, published by the Department of Business and Consumer Services. The annual report is also available on the website.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to share information with the House today about an important accountability issue. Recently, our government retained the firm of Grant Thornton to conduct a review of the sources and use of gaming revenues received by the Eskasoni Gaming Commission. In addition, the firm also conducted a review of the internal controls related to the gaming operation.

Information had been brought to our attention that called for prompt action on the part of the Province of Nova Scotia. The information was unverified. It claimed that VLT profits at Eskasoni were being used for purposes that clearly were not intended under our Gaming Agreement with the band. Yesterday my officials met with representatives of the Eskasoni Gaming Commission. They talked about the necessary changes that we believe will protect the community's right to access these funds. This was a very positive meeting, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to work closely with the community.

The review shows that the funds totalling $466,000 were used to pay wages of band councillors and to make vehicle payments on behalf of the band chief. This represents 60 per cent of the funds made available through the VLTs. We believe this goes against the spirit of our agreement. We have indicated that proceeds from VLT sales on reserves should be used for the benefit of the entire community. The social and economic situation in First Nations communities across Canada highlights the need for revenues to be used for the benefit of all. We support that entirely. We intend to do our part to ensure that revenues are used for the proper purposes.

Mr. Speaker, we have indicated to Eskasoni that gaming revenues shall not replace funds for band administration. The band receives its administration funding from the federal government. It is also required to report directly to the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on questions of administration funding.

[Page 3361]

To support the community's demand for stronger accountability, we have brought forward a number of recommendations. We believe these recommendations will address the accountability issues that have been raised, and I believe it is what the residents of Eskasoni are entitled to. I have indicated to the band that we would like a new gaming agreement by April 20th. That gives us two weeks. If we can't resolve issues by then, I will have no choice but to direct that the 64 VLT machines at Eskasoni be disconnected. I want to stress, I am hoping that this will not occur. We are totally behind the community in its demand for openness, for transparency and for accountability among its elected members and I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge today the full cooperation we have received from the Eskasoni Gaming Commission so that we could complete the review.

Mr. Speaker, I have tabled earlier today, sections of the financial review completed by Grant Thornton. The report outlines the parameters of the review but will exclude the appendices and other references such as bank transaction account numbers that contain private information. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the minister's comments. First I want to thank him for providing us with the statement earlier today, I appreciate that very much. I believe the minister is in charge of this file and doing the right thing here, with regard to working with Eskasoni.

The timeline of April 20th is tight, but then again, they have known about this issue for some time. This is not a surprise to Eskasoni and certainly, not a surprise to the minister, that there are some concerns there, so the whole issue of accountability is very important, especially when it comes to revenues that are coming from VLTs. Originally, that was brought in to be an economic opportunity and those monies were to be there to derive economic self-reliance in the future.

So, I appreciate the minister's comments and I look forward to the report and hopefully trust that they will find a cooperative solution, working in cooperation with each other. Thank you.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the problem that the minister and his department have attempted to address is a serious one, without any question. I would make this suggestion, though, that instead of the threat that they will take the 64 VLT machines out, which is contrary to an agreement reached over a long period of time, that maybe what he should suggest that if an agreement isn't reached, that the funds will be put in trust until a new agreement is reached. It is an issue that is unquestionably serious, to recognize it took a long time to get these agreements and get them put in place.

[Page 3362]

I think what we want to try to avoid is shifting back into a paternalistic, externally-driven agenda where again, the government is trying to impose something on the community, where what we really need to do is ensure that there is a longer-term solution and that longer-term solution is in the hands of the Aboriginal community. I am concerned with the third from the last paragraph of the minister's statement which says that, we will have an agreement in two weeks, or else. I know that the minister wants to try to communicate they are going to be tough on this and I think they can do that and at the same time be respectful, by ensuring that there is real cooperation and negotiations.

A solution needs to be found and it will undoubtedly take some time. I think the government has gone down the right road in terms of trying to find what it is that happened, as a result of this agreement and how these funds are being expended. The problem exists, it needs to be corrected, and I would hope the government works in a cooperative and most importantly, a respectful way with the Aboriginal community, to see that the right thing is done. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 1086

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall:

(1) read and table the message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates of the Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, for the consideration of the House;

(2) table the Estimate Books;

(3) table the Crown Corporation business plans;

(4) table the Estimate and Crown Corporation business plans resolutions;

(5) deliver my Budget Speech; and

(6) move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province, for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, being Supply to be granted to Her Majesty, and the Crown Corporation business plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

Mr. Speaker, the budget will be tabled on Tuesday, April 11, 2000.

[Page 3363]

[12:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1087

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

Whereas the culture of Nova Scotia is an essential expression of the identity of the people of the province; and

Whereas since 1989 the Province of Nova Scotia has recognized crafts through the celebration of a craft theme year; and

Whereas quilting has continued to be a significant component of our culture;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House join with me in recognizing the year 2000 as the Year of the Quilt in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1088

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

[Page 3364]

Whereas four DalTech mechanical engineering students - Scott Landry, Gordon Ross, Alex Ferguson and Ian Auchinleck - recently won the $2,500 first prize in the National Engineering Competition for a system called SafeNAP; and

Whereas the project they designed monitors a baby in its crib for apnoea, or cessation of breathing; and

Whereas the system is socially beneficial and has been noted by judges and faculty for its marketability;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature congratulate the quartet of DalTech students for their award, their technical and entrepreneurial skills, and for developing a system that may help save lives.

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 Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1089

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

Whereas the tourism sector in Atlantic Canada sets the standard for interprovincial cooperation that is the best in Canada; and

Whereas as an example of that cooperation, 21 Nova Scotia industry partners joined with their Atlantic Canada colleagues on a recent tourism trade mission to five key U.S. markets; and

Whereas by participating in this integral initiative, Nova Scotia had the opportunity to reach important travel trade contacts and leverage the profile that a promotion of this magnitude generates;

[Page 3365]

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly acknowledge this partnership which is enabling all Atlantic Provinces to work together to increase tourism business.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1090

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

Whereas I met with the federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister, Herb Daliwal, on March 25, 2000, to discuss efforts to integrate the native fishery and the commercial fishery; and

Whereas the fishing industry directly contributes over $1 billion in export business alone for Nova Scotia and is the largest in Canada; and

Whereas peace, safety and a properly managed commercial fishery is needed for this continued success;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House unanimously support the efforts of all groups in finding an acceptable resolution to the fishing season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 3366]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to take this opportunity to say that on April 4th there was a by-election in Cape Breton East, one that was very seriously, and I think forthrightly, contested by all three Parties. I am sure that all members of the House would want to join me in congratulating the victor in this by-election. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce in your gallery, Mr. Speaker, Mr. David Wilson, the Liberal candidate who was victorious. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1091

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

Whereas the NDP line is that there is no difference between the Liberals and the Tories; and

Whereas the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government was the most compassionate government in the history of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas with every passing day the people are seeing how vast the difference is between the Russell MacLellan Liberals and the right-wing Donald Cameron Government of John Hamm now in office, thanks to the perfidy of the NDP;

Therefore be it resolved that as Nova Scotians contemplate how terrible this present government is, they should consider the role the NDP played in bringing it to power, and how the Tories would never be in power today were it not for the NDP.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 3367]

RESOLUTION NO. 1092

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I can't top that, but it is good to have some levity, once in a while, in this House.

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, 1,398 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 1,398 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1093

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

Whereas the people of Cape Breton East, especially all volunteers and candidates associated with election campaigns, should be congratulated for having just persevered through their third of three election campaigns in as many years; and

[Page 3368]

Whereas while the voters spoke in favour of the former candidate in Tuesday's election, the Progressive Conservative candidate, Brad Kerr, was able, at the same time, to increase his total vote by 158 per cent over last year's tally; and

Whereas while our Party was looking forward to having, in this House, a representative from industrial Cape Breton through Mr. Kerr, we are extremely proud of his efforts and those of his campaign team;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Kerr, as well as Mr. Saccary and Mr. Wilson, and thank the good people of Cape Breton East for their patience with the democratic process.

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 Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that 17 per cent is probably a lot higher than they are going to be after the next budget.

AN HON. MEMBER: You have been there. (Interruptions)

MR. DOWNE: Never been at 17 per cent. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1094

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

Whereas the Premier said that he was committed to 4-H but said he could not reveal funding levels because of the budget; and

[Page 3369]

Whereas the Education Minister revealed that her budget would stay the same; and

Whereas the Agriculture Minister released that his budget would include user fees.

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier commit to the same funding levels for 4-H this year so that the youth in rural communities can be assured that the 4-H programs will continue.

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 Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1095

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 the collapse of the Career Academy of Aviation in August 1998, left more than 100 students in the educational and financial lurch; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Community College stepped in with a two year commercial pilot training program; and

Whereas the first class has successfully completed its program;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend Colin Lewin, Chris Young, Nick Granter and the other 45 students in the commercial pilot program of the Nova Scotia Community College who have, against enormous odds, successfully completed their program.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3370]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1096

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

Whereas breast cancer affects the lives of thousands of Nova Scotian women and their families; and

Whereas Emmie Luther-Hiltz, a breast cancer survivor, has been recognized as a champion for the issue of breast cancer awareness; and

Whereas the May 2000 issue of Chatelaine features the personal story of Emmie Luther-Hiltz and her sister Gwen Luther-Lashley in the article, "Can This Drug Prevent Breast Cancer?";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in publicly acknowledging the selfless efforts of Emmie and the hundreds like her who volunteer their time in the fight against cancer.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 3371]

RESOLUTION NO. 1097

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

Whereas the Sydney Mines Volunteer Fire Department is one of the top volunteer fire departments in the province, if not the whole region; and

Whereas recently the fire department made a new addition to their rescue capabilities when they took delivery of a new amphibian watercraft built in Tantallon, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this new watercraft will allow the fire department to better carry out their duties to protect the people they serve;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend all associated with the Sydney Mines Volunteer Fire Department as they continue to demonstrate their strong commitment to safety and protection in their community.

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 Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1098

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

Whereas the Minister responsible for Sysco was warned in advance by his expert advisors that the government's December 31st deadline for the sale of Sysco made it impossible to get the best deal for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the Premier and minister ignored the advice and made the false announcement that "Sysco is Sold" on December 31st; and

[Page 3372]

Whereas the minister's explanation is that "Everyone views hindsight with 20-20 vision";

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the minister to start using some foresight instead of relying on his Tory 20/20 hindsight to map a direction for the Nova Scotia economy.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1099

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

Whereas home invasions represent a cowardly, criminal act committed against some of our most vulnerable citizens; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's Justice Minister has acted decisively by providing strict sentencing guidelines for this crime to the Public Prosecution Service; and

Whereas that same minister has also urged his federal counterpart, the Honourable Anne McLellan to do her part to crack down on this form of crime;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House support this province's call for the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to include home invasions as a separate criminal offence.

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

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3373]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1100

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

Whereas Ski Cape Smokey is outraged that the Tory Government came through with only half of the money needed and the message that there would be no more to come; and

Whereas without the provincial government's full support, the hill is unable to get federal money for equipment such as snow making machines; and

Whereas its economic impact is estimated to be $1 million in terms of wages generated and spin-off business to accommodations and restaurants in the local area;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government make a commitment to Cape Smokey and the residents of Ingonish to support and fund the ski hill which will allow them to lever federal funds to upgrade their facility.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for 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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1101

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

[Page 3374]

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board has been saddled with a two-tiered funding arrangement between the former cities and the former county because of the current Education Act; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board has been working hard to rectify the problem by finding an equitable resolution that ensures all students receive a similar amount of funding; and

Whereas two staff from the Halifax Regional School Board have worked very hard to convince the Halifax Regional Council of the need for an equitable funding solution;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Anna-Marie Sarto and Mike Brownlow for their efforts on behalf of the children of the Halifax Regional Municipality and for their hard work on behalf of the Halifax Regional School Board.

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 Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1102

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

Whereas this government recognizes the importance of the harness racing industry to the economies of rural Nova Scotia and industrial Cape Breton; and

Whereas the owner of Tartan Downs in Sydney, Jack MacNeil, praised the government's decision to provide transitional support, stating, "It's good to see the government had the insight to see the value of harness racing to rural communities;" and

[Page 3375]

Whereas none other than a former member for Colchester North and Cabinet Minister of the MacLellan Liberal Government, Ed Lorraine, congratulated and thanked me for this government's support of harness racing;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank the current Minister of Agriculture and Marketing for providing support to the hundreds of jobs and spin-off benefits associated with this important industry in rural Nova Scotia and industrial Cape Breton.

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 Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1103

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

Whereas on April 2nd, Millville native Jo-Anne MacLean won three medals at this year's Canadian short-track speed skating championship in Saskatoon; and

Whereas this 19 year old freshman at the University of Calgary won silver in the 500 metre, bronze in the 1,500 metre and bronze in the 3,000 metre; and

Whereas a week earlier in Regina, Ms. MacLean won bronze in the 500 metre final of the North American short-track speed skating championship;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their sincere congratulations to Jo-Anne MacLean on her outstanding performance at this year's Canadian short-track speed skating championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 3376]

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. 1104

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

Whereas Highway No. 101 continues to prove that it is unsafe; and

Whereas Highway No. 101 desperately needs to be twinned now before any more people are injured or die; and

Whereas twinning Highway No. 101 was a promise made by the Minister of Transportation to his constituents during the past election;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government immediately begin the twinning of Highway No. 101 so that future disasters can be prevented.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 1105

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

Whereas the Yarmouth Rotary Club is strong and vibrant and recognizes the importance of community involvement; and

[Page 3377]

Whereas the Yarmouth Rotary Club is presently working hard on raising the final $20,000 of the $50,000 commitment by them as part of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital expansion fund; and

Whereas Yarmouth Rotarians work on a number of special projects in any given year to assist with such things as medical equipment and care;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly commend Yarmouth Rotary Club President Anne Marie LeBlanc and her fellow Rotarians for their dedicated volunteer work.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1106

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

Whereas Strait area radio station 1410 CIGO began broadcasting in 1975, quickly becoming a leader in the social and economic development of the Strait area; and

Whereas on Monday, April 3, 2000, CIGO ceased to exist and has been replaced with FM 101.5 The Hawk; and

Whereas to mark the transition, recorded messages from station founder Gerry Doucette and original Station Manager Sandy Hoyt were played as the Strait area entered the new millennium with a new standard of broadcast quality;

[Page 3378]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bob and Brenda MacEachern on their transition to FM 101.5 The Hawk and all those who played a role in making the Strait area's own radio a success in both the past and those who will make it a success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1107

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

Whereas domestic violence is an issue where the victim feels violated, intimidated and vulnerable in regard to their attacker; and

Whereas the Department of Justice has chosen to include this type of crime in its Restorative Justice Program; and

Whereas the last thing a victim of domestic abuse wants to do is to have to go through a restorative justice counselling session with her abuser;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Justice act immediately to remove domestic violence from the Restorative Justice Program.

Mr. Speaker, I see waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 3379]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1108

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

Whereas it has been an extremely slow methodical process in an attempt to have additional post office boxes installed at the Port Hawkesbury Post Office; and

Whereas after a number of years of being forced to deal with government bureaucracy and red tape, Canada Post has finally agreed to the installation of 1,200 new mailboxes at the Port Hawkesbury Post Office; and

Whereas the new mailboxes are being installed in conjunction with the beginning of civic addressing and a division of postal codes for the town through Canada Post;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Port Hawkesbury and area citizens for their perseverance and thank Canada Post for seeing that Port Hawkesbury's needs were finally met.

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. 1109

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

[Page 3380]

Whereas the Government House Leader admitted yesterday that he was having difficulty accomplishing the government's agenda despite their pronounced majority in the House; and

Whereas this is not surprising given the Government House Leader's previous tenure and loyalty to the Buchanan Regime; and

Whereas neo-Conservative sentiments, such as those embraced by the Buchananites, have gone the way of the dinosaurs;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works be made aware that a fossil is still, really, a fossil.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

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

Whereas the Premier revealed yesterday that he actively promoted a resolution of the harness racing industry's concerns in collaboration with his long-time friend and political manager, Cyril Reddy of the Truro Raceway; and

Whereas the Premier also declared yesterday that he will not keep his own commitment to protect public services if government employees do not cooperate with his political agenda; and

Whereas the Premier also suggested that Nova Scotians should have been able to extrapolate from his campaign promises the kind of decisions he is now making;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to help Nova Scotians extrapolate the pattern of favouritism, cronyism and private interest that has become apparent from his incompetent decisions.

[Page 3381]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to take a look at that resolution please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1110

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 April Strong of Parrsboro has been nominated as Parrsboro's Youth Volunteer of the Year; and

Whereas April will be recognized for her efforts as being President of the Parrsboro Youth Town Council, editor of the school year book, President of the Student Police; along with many other community related commitments; and

Whereas April Strong will be recognized for her efforts at the upcoming Volunteer Appreciation Ceremony to be held in Parrsboro on April 19th, which I believe is on a Wednesday, Mr. Speaker;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate April Strong on this very important recognition and wish her all the best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1111

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

[Page 3382]

Whereas each day brings new revelations as to how the Tories have gambled with Sydney Steel and put its future at great risk through Hamm-handed bungling; and

Whereas were it not for the treachery of the NDP, the Tories would still be a third-place rump in this House and Sydney Steel would be under the responsible stewardship of the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan, which would still be in office; and

Whereas the latest news that ABN Amro had cautioned against the brinkmanship these Tories pursued on imposing artificial sales deadlines on Sysco is but one more example of what the NDP, through their irresponsibility, have brought upon us;

Therefore be it resolved that this House note that had the NDP only acted more responsibly in the period 1998-99, the government now destroying Sysco would never be in power.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1112

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

Whereas homelessness and substandard housing have reached a crisis in Canada; and

Whereas Nova Scotia has its share of homeless persons - and families living in sub-standard housing; and

Whereas Canada and Nova Scotia are rich in natural resources that can provide affordable housing to all;

Therefore be it resolved that this province call upon the federal government and other provinces to adopt a national housing strategy and housing supply program that recognizes housing as a human right.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 3383]

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. 1113

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

Whereas Nicole Methvan and Clare Biddulph, two Saint Mary's University MBA students, have won a national business plan competition with their plan DementiaGuide.com; and

Whereas DementiaGuide is an Internet-based disease management tool for patients, doctors and caregivers of people with Alzheimer's disease; and

Whereas this new interactive program is based on the work of Halifax native Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, a leader in Alzheimer's research;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their sincere congratulations to Nicole Methvan and Clare Biddulph for their national award-winning business plan.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1114

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

[Page 3384]

Whereas the Special People Drama Club of Antigonish is composed of adults who have mental and physical challenges; and

Whereas on Sunday, April 2nd, the Special People Drama Club performed its play, A Matter of Perception, at Bauer Theatre; and

Whereas the previous week they received a citation at the town's one-act play festival;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Special People Drama Club and Director, Pauline Liengme, on its second successful production.

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1115

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

Whereas during the election this Tory Government promised to address the condition of secondary and rural roads across the province; and

Whereas some potholes along the Little Pond Road are reported to be half-a-foot deep, causing motorists to drive on the opposite side of the road; and

Whereas there is a great deal of traffic on this rural road, from heavy trucks to buses carrying elementary, junior high, and high school students;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government fulfil its promise to fix roads and introduce a highway program that will look after deteriorated roads in rural areas across this province.

[Page 3385]

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1116

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

Whereas many businesses on the Prospect Road give of themselves in their services so freely to make our communities better places to live and bring up our families; and

Whereas the Holt family has served these communities for many years through their tireless example of involvement; and

Whereas Holt's Take-Out, in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Legion in White's Lake, provided a wonderful turkey dinner to over 200 seniors recently;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its thanks and congratulations to the Holt family for their continuing commitment to the residents of the Prospect Road.

Mr. Speaker, I 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.

[Page 3386]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: HOME CARE - ESTABLISH

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Today the Minister of Health announced that the report, The Transitions on Care, had identified that 1 out of 4 people in acute care should be moved to long-term or home care. The minister also went on to say that the long-term care beds are up to 99 per cent full. My question to the minister is, what are the minister's plans to free up long-term care beds and establish a system of home care in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of initiatives that the government is currently undertaking. Probably the most important of them right now is the move toward single entry access.

DR. SMITH: I compliment the minister for carrying on an initiative that the previous government had started and I wish him well.

Mr. Speaker, our Party had introduced a detailed and a costed plan for taking the strain off acute care by opening new long-term beds and moving people into home care when the circumstances were appropriate. My question to the minister is, how can the minister ever hope to implement a plan for long-term care when he has already stated today, here in the Red Room, that there will be no new money for health care? How can the minister implement that plan for a continuum of care and long-term care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have a number of initiatives going on. One of the more important ones is the move toward single entry access and I will give the previous government credit for thinking about that but we are the ones putting it into action. The whole system works together. It is like a jigsaw puzzle and all the pieces have to flow together. (Interruption) I didn't hear what she said. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, would you tell these rascals to be quiet while I answer the question?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The rascals. (Interruptions)

[Page 3387]

MR. MUIR: I apologize, Mr. Speaker. There are a number of initiatives ongoing, Mr. Speaker, and as the honourable member knows, he was in the press conference this morning, we said that we haven't got all of the pieces together yet. We are in transition to moving towards that and obviously there will have to be some reallocation of funds . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on your final supplementary.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister can make light of all of this but I think this is a very serious matter and Nova Scotians are looking for serious answers. The difference is, the Liberals identify problems and we found solutions. (Interruptions) That honourable minister, he has identified problems and he rambles on about single entry and that sort of thing, reallocation of funds, cutting out fat in administration . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Question.

DR. SMITH: Will the minister explain to the people of Nova Scotia how he plans to build a continuum of care and find transition monies, monies that are going to cost extra in moving to that continuum of care, how will the minister identify the reallocation, as he said today, of new monies, of monies within the system to build that continuum of care when there is no . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, some of these answers will become apparent in the budget.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If there is agreement, just to keep everything in order with the House, I said I would rule on a resolution that they need for the minutes and I will add another minute on to the Question Period if it is okay. The notice of motion that was moved by the honourable member for Hants East, I am ruling out of order. I feel that it indicates personal gain by the member. Again, Question Period will end at 1:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO - PRESIDENT: HARNESS RACING - INTERVENTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, the Premier's conflict of interest guidelines start off with the following phrase: "The public is entitled to expect Ministers of the Crown to act in a way that ensures that the public interest is always paramount." Yesterday the Premier admitted outside this House that on behalf of his campaign manager, the Premier personally intervened to help broker a resolution of concerns about Atlantic Loto's withdrawal from harness racing. I want to ask the Premier to explain

[Page 3388]

why he acted on the basis of this private-partisan interest instead of ensuring that the public interest was paramount?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I am delighted that the member opposite asked the question because it gives me an opportunity to say, first of all, the decision of the amount of funding that would be put in to sustain the harness racing industry as it is weaned from government support was made before I had any conversations with the gentleman to which he referred. I delivered the amount and indicated to that gentleman he should continue negotiations with the Minister of Agriculture. I am delighted to have the opportunity to clarify the misconception the member opposite has.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier, point two of the ministerial code of conduct says: "Ministers must make every effort to ensure that their departments are not used for partisan political purposes." I want to ask the Premier, will he tell this House why he contravened that section of his own code of conduct by acting in concert with his own campaign manager to send the signal that the only way to get money from this government is through Hamm Tories like Cyril Reddy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Agriculture to respond, to tell us how the decision as to the amount of funding was made.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important that we clear up some facts on the matter. First of all, the amount of funding was based on last year's contribution from the Department of Agriculture to the harness racing industry. Last year's funding, if the members opposite care to check, will show that approximately a little over $1 million was invested in the harness racing industry. That was what the amount was based on, on no other figure; $3 million was invested totally through Atlantic Loto and the Department of Agriculture by the Province of Nova Scotia. We have allowed $1 million to proceed on this issue and that is how the amount was determined.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The issue here, Mr. Speaker, is that this Premier cut a deal with his campaign manager. That is the issue here. The Premier knows . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member, I feel, is making an accusation by saying he cut a deal. (Interruptions)

Order, please. I feel the honourable member is suggesting that a deal was cut and if you have documentation or something to prove that, fine, but if not, I would ask the honourable member to withdraw that, please. To say that an honourable member cut a deal, I do not think is right.

[Page 3389]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am operating on the basis of information that the Premier supplied to the media outside this House yesterday, that he intervened personally with Mr. Reddy in order to see that this money went into the harness racing business.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member suggested a deal was cut. It makes it sound like it is something underhanded. I would ask the honourable member to rephrase that, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am raising some concerns that something wrong was conducted here. That is exactly my point. That is why I am going through the issue of the Premier's own code of conduct rules and if you would allow me, I will pursue this further . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will allow the member that if he will withdraw the words "cutting a deal" and rephrase that please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Intervene on behalf of, negotiated personally on a matter that he should not have. I retract the other words and put those ones in if you like, Mr. Speaker.

My final supplementary is to the Premier. The Premier knows that under his code of conduct, no ordinary citizen can make a complaint against him or any of his ministers. I want to ask the Premier, will he do the right thing, and will he, on behalf of his Cabinet, ask the commissioner to investigate the role of the Premier in this matter and the relationships of the Premier and Mr. Reddy, and in particular whether the Government of Nova Scotia and the Office of the Premier were used for Conservative Party purposes?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite obviously does not want to be confused by the facts. I would ask the Minister of Agriculture to describe to the House any influence that this member had on the decision that he made relative to funding of the harness racing industry in Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is absolutely right. This issue was completely decided before any reference was passed from any MLA in this House to Cyril Reddy, to any other racetrack owner, any other breeder, anyone associated with the harness racing industry. What happened here, and is clear to everyone's understanding, is that the department, in consultation with the harness racing industry, and other MLAs came up with a reasonable solution. The Premier referred that solution onto Mr. Cyril Reddy as per my request. I have had meetings with Mr. Reddy and anyone else concerned with the harness racing industry.

[Page 3390]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

EXCO - PRESIDENT: HARNESS RACING - INTERVENTION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have a question for the Premier. Last night I heard the Premier in his discussions with the media. He talked about his involvement with a very good friend of his, a campaign manager and a current employee of the Truro race track, indicating that he had talked to him before, during and after the election about the plight of the harness racing industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. During that time, he indicated that he had basically brokered a deal on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture for the Truro Raceway. (Interruption)

In light of that, Mr. Speaker, and I am having a hard time with this voice. I would appreciate quiet in this House. In his own ministerial conduct that he tabled November 18th, it said (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Your light is off. Order, please. (Interruption) Because I called order. Members are coming very close. To ask a question is one thing, but the words that are used to ask (Interruption) Obviously, everyone saw this media thing that I didn't see. I don't know what was said. I would again ask the members to please use words that are professional in this House. (Interruption) Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to please put the question.

MR. DOWNE: Professionally brokering a deal with a friend, campaign manager and a Minister of Agriculture, and I quote in his code of conduct. It says, "A minister must disqualify himself or herself from any decision making process . . ." (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please put the question.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the question is, it says, " . . . the minister's private interest, or to improperly seek to further another person's private interest.", should be disqualified and resigned from government. I ask the Premier, are you in violation of your own code of conduct? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, in search of a point - he has yet to find one - mentioned that I had a previous discussion about racing with the individual concerned. Yes, I did. That discussion occurred when I attended the races last summer at the Truro Raceway. That was the discussion I had prior to the events that I described yesterday to the media. That is what I was talking about. That is the event. I don't see anything in that that puts me in a conflict of interest.

[Page 3391]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, his very good friend, his campaign manager, his buddy that he has IOUs for, he took him to the racetrack, and he even said he lost on his bets when he was at the racetrack. Nevertheless, he was there. He has been influenced by the process. He has been influenced by his friend. He has an IOU out and, furthermore, it says in his own code of conduct . . .

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . any decision-making process where a minister knows or ought reasonably to know . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . that there is any opportunity . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. DOWNE: The question is, again, on Section E of his own code of conduct, to reaffirm or participate in any decision-making process, the individual should resign. I believe that the Premier was influenced, did influence . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Premier wants to respond to that.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has just indicated, as other members have said earlier, I can't go fishing. Now the member opposite is saying I can't go to the horse races. (Laughter) One of the responsibilities, I feel, as Premier, is to be concerned about employment across this province. The harness racing industry is important. It sustains a number of jobs in the Truro area, in the Inverness area and in the Sydney area. We are concerned about those jobs. I will be active in every file in this province that concerns the preservation of jobs, the creation of jobs or bringing in new jobs, and I will not apologize to the member opposite for that kind of . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Applause) Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West on your final supplementary.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the Premier broke stride with his own conflict-of-interest guidelines. What kind of Premier do we have here today, who sets a code of conduct for his ministers and breaks the conduct code himself by involving himself in influencing the decision of . . .

[Page 3392]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. That was a question. (Interruption) There was no question.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO - PRESIDENT: HARNESS RACING - INTERVENTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier to respond to the admission he made outside the House yesterday, that on behalf of his campaign manager, he personally intervened to help put together a deal with harness racing. The Premier said in response, oh, he didn't do that, that it was actually the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. I would like to ask the Premier if he would present proof here in this House today that he was not directly involved, as he suggested yesterday, or that somehow the timing got him out of the way. Would he provide some proof here today to contradict what he said outside the House yesterday?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite, I was asked a question by the media and what I said is, I took the number from the minister and delivered it to the gentleman involved with racing, the spokesperson for the harness racing industry in Nova Scotia. I suggested to that person that he contact the minister to finish up the arrangements with the harness racing industry. At no time did I alter, or suggest, that the number given to me by the minister, made in consultation with his department, should be changed in any way, shape or form. I simply took a number and delivered it. That was my involvement in the case.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think what was just described there is a job description of a lobbyist, or a middleman, or of a broker of some sort who puts deals together. I want to say to the Premier that his action is sending a clear message to Nova Scotians that if you want anything resolved, you have to be a personal friend of the Premier or other members of Cabinet. I want to ask the Premier if he would explain to Nova Scotians why it is that he is running this province on the basis of who his friends are rather than what is in the best interests of Nova Scotians? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: I would say to the member opposite, my friends are those people who are employed because we have a harness racing industry in the Province of Nova Scotia. People are working in Colchester County, in Inverness County and in the Sydney area because we still have the horse racing industry. I am supportive of that industry, but we are weaning that industry away from public support. I would also say to the member opposite, perhaps he should have a consensus of the members of his own caucus, who are actively involved in petitioning the government to support the harness racing industry on behalf of people who have petitioned them.

[Page 3393]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, people have to learn from what is happening here today. For example, the charities should have gone directly to the Premier. Cab fare for deputy ministers, but nothing for the disabled; money for harness racing through Mr. Reddy, but no money for 4-H; cooperate or else. The message for public services is, let's make a deal with the Premier's own campaign manager. My final supplementary, why does this Premier continue to divide the province into a short list of political pals who get friendly service and nearly one million other folks who are left out in the cold? Why do you do that?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can reassure the member opposite that this government works in the interests of all Nova Scotians, from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. I will repeat that this Premier and this government will work to protect every job it can in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is our intention, through the course of our mandate, however long or short that is, to improve the employment situation of the people of Nova Scotia and we will not be embarrassed.

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

EXCO - PRESIDENT: HARNESS RACING AID - INVOLVEMENT

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's own conflict of interest guidelines say a minister must disqualify himself or herself from any decision and, it says, where improperly used, would seek to further another person's private interest. Did the Premier, in fact, exclude himself from the Cabinet decision to give this $1 million to harness racing in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say, first of all, is the recommendation that came forward from the department was the one that was passed by Cabinet. It was not altered in the Cabinet Room. I do not recall if that amount went through with the budget estimates of the department or if it went through as a separate OIC. I would have to go back to the Cabinet records to review that, but what I can say to the member opposite, there was no alteration of the recommendation that came from the minister to Cabinet. It was passed as it was brought forward from the department and the minister.

MR. MACLELLAN: I will go on if I might. The conflict of interest guidelines says that any decision-making process where the minister, ". . . ought reasonably to know, that there is an opportunity to further the minister's private interest or to improperly seek to further another person's private interest, the minister shall (ii) withdraw from the decision making process, . . ." The decision-making process would have been the Cabinet decision to approve $1 million. Did the Premier exclude himself from the meeting at the time the decision for the $1 million was brought up, yes or no?

[Page 3394]

THE PREMIER: Number one, I had already indicated that I would research that; number two, the Premier receives no personal gain from the decision that was made about the harness racing industry in Nova Scotia.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, how many decisions about harness racing is this government making? He had a person who had worked - his campaign chairman who stood to benefit from this $1 million. There is no question the Truro Raceway will benefit more than any other from this $1 million. Doesn't the Premier see the conflict in which he has put himself? Why doesn't he realize that he has made a mistake? Why can't he acknowledge to the House that he was wrong?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe there were three questions there. If the honourable Premier would like to answer one?

MR. PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer the question to the Minister of Agriculture who can shed a little light for the member opposite.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to shed some real facts on the accusations here. (Interruption) If I may, if they would like to hear the explanation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption) Order, please. The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing has the floor.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, 600 people, directly and indirectly, receive benefit from this policy, not Nova Scotia, not a single individual. In Truro, 22 people received benefit from this because they are employed at the Truro Racetrack. There was no personal benefit here to anyone. This is an industry support we are doing. Here we have people here, chicken farmers, trying to make decisions for harness racing. What do you think is going on? (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EXCO - PRESIDENT: HARNESS RACING -

INTERVENTION INVESTIGATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. When questioned about his involvement with Mr. Reddy and this money that was granted to harness racing, he said yesterday outside this House that he had personally intervened to help put it together. Surely the Premier understands the concerns that most Nova Scotians would have about what the Premier admits was his direct personal involvement. Will he agree here, today in order to ensure that his own reputation and that of his office is cleared, that he will refer this matter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for an investigation?

[Page 3395]

THE PREMIER: Yes.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Premier in referring that matter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner that he ensures the commissioner will clarify, because the Premier does not seem to know or remember, whether or not he was at that Cabinet meeting when the decision was made whether or not the funds were to be granted. Will he ensure that the commissioner is given clear direction to investigate everything with respect to his own guidelines?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that the conflict of interest commissioner is quite capable of applying the code of conduct without receiving specific direction from this member or any other member.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to say in my final supplementary that this matter does have a reflection on the Premier's office, on the Premier personally and on his government, and I appreciate his willingness to refer the matter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for an investigation and a report. I would just ask the Premier to ensure and to commit here today that that commissioner's report will be made public immediately upon its completion and tabled here in this House.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will assure the member opposite.

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

ECON. DEV. - ABN AMRO: RAIL ASSOC. - DEAL

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. In June, ABN Amro made a presentation to the Board of Directors of Sydney Steel and they said that, in the best interests of Sysco, a hurried process for the sale is likely to result in a failed option or sale to a buyer that is not qualified. Would the minister tell us, because he is considering a lawsuit against ABN Amro, did ABN Amro actually propose the deal between Rail Associates and the government that was brought forward on December 31st?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the way in which it unfolded was that ABN Amro was tasked with bringing forward potential purchasers, and they did, in fact, bring forward Rail Associate's name as the client who would be interested in pursuing an offer.

[Page 3396]

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to know too, did ABN Amro actually bring forward this proposal? Was it the choice of ABN Amro to go with this Rail Associates deal? I think it is important to know exactly what ABN Amro's role was, in this particular deal of December 31st.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the Rail Associates deal was brought forward through the ABN Amro process. Yes, they were the ones who brought forward the name Rail Associates.

MR. MACLELLAN: They brought forward the name of Rail Associates, but they didn't make this deal. I think, and I want the minister to tell us, that this proposed suit against ABN Amro is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover the fact that this government actually put this deal together with Rail Associates on their own, yes or no?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the ABN Amro process brought forward the name Rail Associates. We then worked with Rail Associates, through our legal counsel, to iron out the details of the deal.

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

SYSCO: SALE - DEADLINE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, every few days we learn more details about the way this government used Sysco for political gain. Now we have learned that the Premier and his government were told by ABN Amro that the arbitrary December 31st deadline jeopardized any possibility of a sale; the experts from ABN Amro said that the political manoeuvring would threaten the jobs of 750 people in this province. I want to ask the Premier, why would he knowingly jeopardize the livelihoods of 750 families by placing a politically-motivated deadline on the sale of Sysco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, open-ended processes don't work. When you want to sell something, you set a deadline. I believe that the strength of that decision is why we have so much good interest in what is happening out there, relative to Sysco, today.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can say what he wants, but deep down he knows that he sacrificed 750 families for political gain. The truth is deep down, and he knows that. Now my question will go to the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister responsible for Sysco. ABN Amro said a hurried decision would lead to failure. Why did you ignore their advice?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when we formed government, the arrangement with ABN Amro was already in place. Everyone was aware of the December 31st deadline. In fact, in discussions with ABN Amro, we asked them specifically whether or not they would be able to work within the timelines that had been laid out by the previous

[Page 3397]

government, and they felt confident that they could do that, and, in fact, were asked periodically throughout the process leading up to December 31st for updates. They seemed confident and were confident that they could work within that existing agreement.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this very minister has said publicly, hindsight is 20/20, and he knows that. Everyone knew, including the minster, what was going on. My final question to the minister is, why won't this minister admit today, in this House, that he imposed a deadline that he knew full well would result in a failed attempt to sell that plant as an ongoing operation?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, once again, the December 31st deadline was in place, all parties were cognizant of that date, all parties were consulted as to whether or not it was a realistic time-frame, and all agreed that it was. Leading up to the failure of the Rail Associates arrangement, everyone felt that we were working towards a positive resolution. We were committed to finding a buyer who would operate the plant as an ongoing operation, but unfortunately that did not happen.

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

SYSCO - SALE: RAIL ASSOCIATES - DEAL

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, on January 24th the minister said that the province was pulling out of the deal with Rail Associates because the consortium, Rail Associates, did not bring forward the down payment in the form of cash. They did give a bond presented by the Bank of Nova Scotia to the government's lawyers and the lawyers turned it down. Why did this government turn down the deal based on the fact that the down payment was a perfectly good bond, but not cash? Can he tell us that?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, legal counsel did not reject the bond; the Bank of Nova Scotia, because it was unusual in nature, did not accept it.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister said on January 24th that he wanted cash. Did he expect Rail Associates to come with a wheelbarrow full of $20 bills? What did he actually expect Rail Associates to do in performance of their obligation?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, what we expected was that the companies involved would handle themselves as anyone does in international financing arrangements, and that is to transfer the money to a bank that was mutually acceptable and from there to transfer it into the account that had been arranged by the government's legal counsel.

[Page 3398]

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that he wanted cash. He wanted cash. Why did he say he wanted cash? I mean, what was he expecting them to do? This was a deal that broke down within three weeks after it was announced. It was formulated by this government, not by ABN Amro. It was doomed to fail . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . did the minister not know that from the very beginning?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, one of the clauses in the agreement was that on a certain date $1 million American would be transferred into an account in this province, and that was the issue. We were not concerned about that money, what form it was, whether it was dimes, or pennies, or dollars, or a bond issue. What we wanted was the money transferred into the account on a specified date, and that did not happen.

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

HEALTH: TRANSITION IN CARE (STUDY) - IMPLEMENTATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this morning the Minister of Health announced the results of the study Transition in Care, which lays out what seniors can expect to see under this government. This reminds me of what happened under the Savage Government when they announced their plan for rationalization of long-term beds, but it was really all about cost-cutting. That plan did not work, and there is no indication that this plan will work. I want to ask the Minister of Health where he intends to get the funds to implement the changes recommended in this report?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated this morning to the honourable member, this report is under study. Clearly one of the major things that is in that was the move towards a single-entry-access system and the funds, and he will see in the budget that will be presented that we intend to go ahead with that. If he is looking for specific numbers, it would seem to me to be a budgetary item and I do not think I can really comment on that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister has said that he intends to do this within the existing health care envelope. The minister speaks of closing hospital beds, but there is no plan in place at the other end. There is only announcement of this new system. Change takes money. When will the Minister of Health commit to increasing funding to home care services to levels which ensures adequate services are provided within the community?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have made it abundantly clear that we are moving towards a more community-centred model of health service here in the province. Obviously, home care and continuing care is part of that and the actual move towards that, we are in

[Page 3399]

transition, it is not something, as I say, you just snap your fingers and do overnight. He will see this in the fullness of time.

MR. DEXTER: That is what is known as a dodge, Mr. Speaker. I believe the seniors and their families will need a commitment, today, from you. When will the minister assure Nova Scotians that this is not a veil under which to justify budget cuts and that after these new internal adjustments, seniors will be able to access a level of care they require once they are discharged from the hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the move today is not about budget cuts, it is about improving services to Nova Scotians, it is about having a sustainable health care system and a sustainable health care system obviously means one that the province can afford. I don't have to lecture the honourable member opposite on the dire financial straits of this province and the fiscal challenges that we all face as Nova Scotians but needless to say, the initiatives that were recommended today, once fully implemented, if indeed we accept all of those recommendations, should result in a more cost-effective health system for the people of this province.

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

EXCO - CLERK: PAC (22/03/00) SYSCO - DEADLINE EVIDENCE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In documents obtained by the Canadian Press, it indicates that the government knew full well that an artificial sale deadline would hurt the chances of selling the Sydney steel plant. The Clerk of the Executive Council, Jim Spurr, contradicted this at a Public Accounts Committee meeting. At the Public Accounts Committee he said that a six month deadline for ABN Amro was not a problem. My question to the Premier is, why was a senior bureaucrat responsible for Sysco sent to the Public Accounts Committee to lie for this government? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It may not be against a member of the House but it is certainly language that is unparliamentary. It is unparliamentary to call someone a liar. I would just ask the honourable member to rephrase it, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, to rephrase it, the man came to the Public Accounts Committee and he lied. We can prove that, but in the interest of pursuing my point, I will change my wording to say that the proper wording might be a verbal inexactitude. (Laughter) Now will the Premier answer the question?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister responsible to respond to the question.

[Page 3400]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that the deputy responsible for Sysco, it was requested that he appear before the Public Accounts Committee and in terms of what he said, his comments around whether or not the timeline would impact on the sale process, he was involved in the board of directors meetings that involved ABN Amro. As I indicated in response to an earlier question, was the timeline going to affect ABN Amro's ability to work through a successful resolution in terms of the sale, he was well aware that they said at that time, no it would not. They were comfortable and confident that they would be able to work within the deadline that was prearranged by the previous government.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I tell you, Mr. Speaker, this government is putting new meaning to the word lie. My supplementary (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions)

THE PREMIER: You are not going to be thrown out. You have already said that. Why don't you just walk out? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Again, I remind the member that (Interruptions) Order, please! I would ask the honourable member to use parliamentary language, please, in this House, so I would ask the member to retract that and rephrase that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I am not going to rephrase anything. I am not going to ask that again. I just made a comment. It wasn't part of my . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Still, it is unparliamentary language within this House. (Interruptions)

Order, please! Order!

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You have already told me that the word lying in this House in unparliamentary . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, so you retract it. Thank you.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . I told you that before. I did already.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, a professional, non-partisan Public Service is a hallmark of responsible government, something that is missing opposite. If indeed Mr. Spurr was misleading this House, he should be resigning. My supplementary question to

[Page 3401]

the Premier is, will the Premier ask for the Clerk of the Executive Council to resign immediately?

[1:30 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the gentleman to whom the member opposite refers is a competent, devoted senior official of the Province of Nova Scotia. The successful conclusion of a Sysco file, much of the credit, will be able to be awarded to that particular senior official of the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause) When that day occurs, I would hope that the member opposite, who does have a genuine concern for steelworkers and their families, would be gentlemanly enough to go up to that particular senior civil servant and congratulate him.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Now, the Premier is becoming a comedian, along with everything else. Mr. Speaker, this government is trying to cover up its own failure. The Clerk of the Executive Council, on behalf of the government, has sent threatening letters to steelworkers, and other people like Stewart Hendon, Rick Lawlor and Myles Paisley; in other words, if you don't get with the program, you are out of here. That public servant crossed the line, Mr. Premier, crossed the line, on behalf of your government. Now, he has misled the House and I am asking you, Mr. Premier, to ask for his resignation or if you condone his activities?

THE PREMIER: The gentleman in question is an excellent servant of the Province of Nova Scotia and I will not be asking for his resignation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. - USER FEES

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. Another day, another minister musing about higher user fees for Nova Scotians. Yesterday the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing, the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Minister of Natural Resources, all appeared at a business lunch in Sydney. He said there will be fee increases for many fisheries and agricultural-related permits. My question to the Premier, where among your 243 election promises is there a single mention of higher fees for Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is asking me to comment on words uttered by the Minister of Agriculture, and I would ask him to respond to the question.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter as the member opposite knows, when you are trying to control and spend dollars efficiently on behalf of the public in this province and in the situation where we are dealing with a deficit, obviously, one of the

[Page 3402]

ways to do it is in looking at fees that are charged for services in some departments which I represent, as a way to ensure there are proper dollars there to pay for programs.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. This is a government intent on increasing revenue by stealth. This government didn't have the guts to make its intentions plain in the last election. I don't remember the Premier running on a platform of higher user fees and this government also doesn't have the guts to bring these proposals to the floor of the Legislature (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Unless there are 51 people who would want to come up here and sit, I will do it, thank you. I would ask the honourable to please retract that, that is unparliamentary language; on two occasions, "guts". It is. (Interruptions) It is. Order, please.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I will retract that, Mr. Speaker. This government didn't have the intestinal fortitude to make its intentions plain in the last election. I don't remember the Premier running on a platform of higher user fees. This government also doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to bring these proposals to the floor of the Legislature for public debate, instead we get ministers making hints at business lunches. My question to the Premier is, when will this government stop playing peekaboo with Nova Scotians and bring forward a comprehensive discussion paper on its plan for new and higher fees?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer, to the member opposite, a representative of the Party that wants it both ways. The Party that criticized the government for 243 commitments, clearly outlining what it would do if it got elected. Today, the same Party is saying, you were not clear as a government what you were going to be doing after you got elected. You can't have it both ways. It is one way or the other. Make up your minds.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, we read this morning that the Halifax Regional School Board is being forced by this tight-wad government to debate new fees for education services. These services include community-building programs like English as a second language. My question to the Premier, what steps is this government taking to ensure that new and higher user fees will not be imposed by cash-strapped municipalities and school boards?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is getting hard to hear the questions, but I believe the question is, how does the government intend to control school boards in introducing user fees into education? That would be a question either for Municipal Affairs or Education. I will try the Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Education is responsible for the delivery of core education services. There are other services that school boards provide that they may or may not wish to attach user fees to. I can assure this House that for the core

[Page 3403]

education programs of the department and the curriculum that is needed in the schools there will be no user fees for those programs.

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

TOURISM - VIA RAIL: HFX.-SYDNEY - ORANGEDALE STOP

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question through you to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. VIA Rail Canada recently decided to reinstate passenger rail service on the Halifax to Sydney run and is proposing to implement a train to be called The Bras d'Or, a tourism-oriented train that will make that run for those who want to enjoy rail travel once again over that stretch of track. The Orangedale Station Association which operates a railway museum in the former train station at Orangedale has asked that that train stop at Orangedale so that the passengers aboard can step outside and see the museum en route. I think that is an excellent suggestion. I have been into that museum myself quite recently, and I was very impressed with the displays there. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please, before the train goes by.

MR. MACEWAN: I would ask the Minister of Tourism if he could update the House as to the efforts that he has undertaken to try to bring about an agreement from VIA Rail Canada that that train, when it begins, would stop at the Orangedale Station?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I am well aware of the Orangedale Station as it is in my riding. We are in a marketing initiative with The Bras d'Or to ensure that it is properly marketed not only for Nova Scotians, but Atlantic Canada and elsewhere. There is a timeline which only allows the train to make one stop on the way, and that is in Port Hawkesbury for one hour due to the amount of hours required. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that this initiative will be a great one for Nova Scotia. We are looking forward to it this summer.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, it is rather difficult to hear what the minister has said over the din, but I gather from the uproar that he did not say that he has been successful in arranging for that train to stop at Orangedale. As that particular train station has been the subject of a rather famous song by the Rankin Family entitled the "Orangedale Whistle" which states in part, the station master looked all around along the track both up and down . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't know if the Minister of Tourism heard the honourable member's question. Could he please put the question.

[Page 3404]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. MACEWAN: Perhaps he can sing it for us in his reply. I would like to table that song by the Rankin Family.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption) Order, please. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova please repeat the question only.

MR. MACEWAN: It is rather to difficult to repeat all that. My question to the minister is, is it his intention to implement the terms of this song by the Rankin Family that the train could not be found?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: I wish I could sing it for the honourable member, Mr. Speaker, and I thank him for the question again. There is a certain timeline which suggests that the train will leave here in the morning, it has to be in Sydney by a certain time that evening. There is time for one stop and one stop only and that would be in Port Hawkesbury for one hour and again I say, this is a great initiative for Nova Scotia, a great initiative for this government.

MR. MACEWAN: I cannot understand for a moment why that train should stop for a whole hour in Port Hawkesbury and not stop for even 15 minutes in Orangedale and I would like to ask this minister, will he insist that that train stop at Orangedale or else resign as Minister of Tourism and Culture? (Interruptions)

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: The concerns from the Orangedale station have been brought forward to The Bras d'Or and VIA Rail, but again as I say, there is time for one stop and that is in Port Hawkesbury which is about mid-way and that is the way it is, Mr. Speaker, and I do not think I will be resigning over this issue. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HUMAN RES.: GOV'T. BUS. PLAN - DECENTRALIZATION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday two ministers directly contradicted something the Premier had said only last week. The Premier's otherwise vague restructuring plan is pretty clear, at least on one point. It says that the government will relocate some of its central office functions outside the metro area. Yesterday, two of his ministers said there were no plans for this to happen. My question to the Premier is, why doesn't this government know what its left hand is doing or what its right hand is doing?

[Page 3405]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Natural Resources to answer the question.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is, the question I was asked in Sydney yesterday, are any of the three departments that I am responsible for, moving to the area, I quite truthfully said to the reporter, no, we had no intentions. What we are dealing with in this budget is ensuring that a massive deficit run up by the previous government is dealt with and we put this province onto the proper economic road.

MR. PYE: That is extremely difficult to digest. The otherwise vague restructuring plan says that decentralizing government jobs will ensure that the economic fabric of our rural community will be protected. That was by the Premier, yesterday the Minister of Finance said, "We don't look at moving government around as a form of economic generation." My question to the Premier is, which version of government policy should Nova Scotians believe? The version of the Minister of Finance or the Premier's version?

THE PREMIER: What the intention of government is that all of the moves will be made on the basis of a business plan. Those plans that make sense will be followed, those plans that do not make sense will not be followed. That was the statement of government and those are the statements that we have been hearing from all government ministers, not only the two that you are quoting here today.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that is a plan to ignore rural communities and community development. My final question to the Premier is, when will the Premier admit that his promise to decentralize is just another vague generality that he has no intention of keeping?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that this government has every intention of keeping the commitments that it makes to the people of Nova Scotia.

[1:45 p.m.]

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. Yesterday, Tory members in the Newfoundland House of Assembly were demanding that all new Marine Atlantic ferry jobs go to Newfoundland. I want to table a document that proves Nova Scotia training programs do not start until March 20th. This is months behind Newfoundland. I want to ask the minister, does the minister feel she has done enough to make sure Nova Scotia workers are on an equal footing with Newfoundland in regard to these jobs?

[Page 3406]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I feel that the community college has been working on this issue since it was first brought to our attention last fall. They have provided a tailor-made course for Nova Scotians.

MR. BOUDREAU: I am going to go directly to the Premier. The Premier was in North Sydney and he met with the workers and he met with community officials from the regional municipality down there. He has made the commitment, on behalf of the workers, to the community. Mr. Premier, what are you going to do to ensure that these jobs go to Nova Scotians? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have never had a job where so many people wanted to do it for me. (Interruptions) Order, please. In all fairness to the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. Put the question only, please, the quick end of your question.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier, what will you do to fulfil the commitment you made to this community and the workers at this terminal in North Sydney to ensure that Nova Scotians have equal opportunity for these jobs?

THE PREMIER: A good question. I will continue to work with the senator responsible for Nova Scotia in the federal Cabinet. I will continue to lobby the federal government aggressively, and I will continue to work cooperatively with the member opposite to make sure the jobs come to his area.

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

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. During Question Period, the Minister of Agriculture made some very derogatory comments impugning that I and, in fact, all chicken producers, chicken farmers and their families were not able to make decisions. I find this particular statement by my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture, absolutely unacceptable. I found his comments insulting to me personally and insulting to my colleagues who are in the feather industry and to their families. I find it even harder to take it when the Minister of Agriculture, who in fact is the minister responsible for representing chicken farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia, would make such a derogatory comment.

Mr. Speaker, through you, I am asking the Minister of Agriculture to stand up in this House and to apologize to the chicken farmers and to me for making it appear that farmers are stupid and cannot make decisions. I think that is absolutely deplorable for a Minister of Agriculture to ever impute such derogatory comments on the farm community. I ask for his apology. (Applause)

[Page 3407]

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

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to clarify my comments in the debate earlier. The comments were intended that harness racing is an industry best receiving advice from people involved, the horsemen, racetrack owners in harness racing. (Interruptions) Involvement from the chicken farmers are best put to the minister involved in the feather industry. That is what I do on a daily basis. When I am involved with the feather industry, I take advice from the feather industry. The member opposite knows that last fall when we were dealing with the feather industry, we were taking advice from him directly to the minister. If it is the harness racing industry, we take direct advice from that industry.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I just cannot imagine this dairy farmer, Minister of Agriculture - one of the most important sectors of the economy - would ever be this insulting to the chicken producers of the Province of Nova Scotia. We have before us today a Minister of Agriculture, himself a farmer, who takes direction from whoever, possibly now the Premier, who is a doctor, who is advising him on issues of money for horse racing. I find that the minister, today, is the most insulting Minister of Agriculture I have ever heard or seen in this Legislative Assembly, to say that chicken farmers in this province cannot make a decision regarding . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has raised a point of order. I am going to review Hansard and I will report back to the House. (Interruption) Is it on the same issue?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Yes, I would like to raise a point of order with the honourable member. Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the honourable member rave on about his credibility, about the industry. All members of the farming industry and community are responsible people who make responsible recommendations, and certainly each one of those commodities make responsible recommendations in the greatest degree when they are focused on their own industry. I fully resent the comment that farmers are stupid - and censure - that the member opposite made. He is the one who made that comment.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: You said it. You are the one . . .

MR. FAGE: I said no such remark, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have already indicated to the House I will take it under advisement and report back.

[Page 3408]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

Bill No. 34 - Health Authorities Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you might assist me by letting me know just how much time I have left in the period.

MR. SPEAKER: You have approximately 36 minutes.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When we left off the other day in our debate about Bill No. 34, we had reached the point where I had reviewed what I found to be some of the main features of this bill and some of the main problematic features of the bill. The two I had touched on . . .

MR. SPEAKER: You have 24 minutes. Sorry.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will just carry on, noting now the new time.

The point we had reached in debate the other day was that I had reviewed a couple of the main outstanding features of the bill, the ones that I found to be among the most objectionable here. I started with the review of the very extraordinary powers that were proposed to be granted to the Minister of Health under this bill. I had to say that this was unprecedented so far as I was aware and also, so far as I was aware, completely unnecessary to deal with the nature of the problems that we have in front of us.

The second point I had turned to was a question of the importance of the community health boards and the whole conception of community health. I had observed that the necessity of building a health care system from the ground up was one that did not seem to be reflected in this piece of legislation. I had noted for members the important history that we

[Page 3409]

have had in Nova Scotia in trying to put together community-based health initiatives and I had reminded members that we had had some success in moving in this direction.

Having noted those matters, I now want to move to several other points which seem to me to emerge from this bill and that present a serious and problematic aspect to it. The one I wish to deal with just at the moment is the problem of in part what is ignored in this legislation because, although it purports to deal with reorganization of the administrative side of health care, we have to recognize that there is a whole array of problems inside the health care system and according to the needs of those problems or problem areas, that is how we have to measure how efficacious the bill is.

I want to just note what it is that we are seeing as part of the transformation of the health care system now. Inevitably we know that all of these changes have either started to take place or will take place in our health care system. We know, and you will all recognize, I am sure, as I list them, that there is going to be an increased pace of change, of transformation, inside the health care system with respect to all of them. The first, of course, is the problem of nursing. Everyone knows this is a difficulty. There is the problem of home care. There is the problem of hospices. There is the problem of health education. There is the problem of extended care or nursing homes. There is the problem of community clinics. There is the question of HMOs. There is the question of the extent to which remuneration of physicians ought to be put on a different basis than it now exists.

Each and every one of these particular points is an aspect of the health care system regarding which we know there are urgent questions. On nursing, probably I need say very little. I cannot think that there is a member of this House who, having gone through the election that we went through last year, is not aware, in depth, of how crucial the need is for additional nurses in our health care system. I am sure every member is aware of how pressing it is that we find ways to educate more nurses and to recruit and attract and retain nurses inside our system. We know that we don't stack up well in this province when compared with other provinces when it comes to making working conditions attractive for the nursing profession. It is not surprising, therefore, that new graduates in nursing choose to go elsewhere in large numbers.

I don't see what it is in this bill that moves us toward improving conditions for nurses. What we hear from the minister in his explanations, including the comments given today, is that he is preoccupied with something he calls a footprint. The minister is preoccupied with something he calls a single entry system but he doesn't tell us very much about what he means by that. None of it seems to have much direct bearing on how it is we are going to improve the situation with respect to nurses.

I say exactly the same problem arises with respect to home care. What is it that every Nova Scotian learned was wrong with the previous government's approach to health care reform, so-called, starting in 1993? When the Liberal Government then under Premier Savage

[Page 3410]

embarked upon the transformation of health care at the time, what they did was they started closing hospital beds without putting in place any kind of adequate home care system. Everyone knows this. I think the previous government admitted to it but certainly we all know that that was the case. We all know that this was a fundamental error of approach to administration of the health care system yet, Mr. Speaker, I don't see anything in this bill that tells us we are going to put in place a new administrative structure that will even remotely guarantee that those mistakes will not be repeated. Where is it in this bill? It is not there. There is nothing in this bill that would lead in the direction, let alone guarantee, that alternative supports are in place before changes are made to the traditional tertiary care system.

I don't want to be misunderstood. I certainly think that changes are needed in the tertiary care model that has been at the forefront of our health care system. I think there is widespread agreement amongst policy makers in Nova Scotia that that is needed. But where is it in this bill? Where is it even by implication? I don't see it. I don't see a commitment to principles. I don't see it by way of efficient administrative structures.

[2:00 p.m.]

I make this same point with respect to hospices. We need them, we know we are going to need more of them. We know that with both an ageing population and with the particular problems of some particularly difficult terminal diseases, that there is a place for hospices in the health care system. Where do we see something in the new administrative structures that are being proposed through this bill that will tell us that we will have that system up in place? We don't see it. Instead, what we see is a statement today from the minister, and what he is getting ready to do is close more hospital beds under the name of efficiency. What he intends to do is get people out of hospital much more quickly than in the past. But he says nothing about where it is he is proposing these people should go. There is certainly nothing in his star piece of legislation that would let us think that his mind has been turned to any of these problems at all.

What about health education? We know that health education is a huge part of keeping people healthy in the first place. We know that if people understand, that they can make healthy choices for themselves, they won't run up the bills in the health care system. We know that if people are brought to believe and act upon their beliefs in a range of easily identified things, like smoking, nutrition and exercise, that ultimately they will not be the expensive burden on the health care system that we have seen. That is important. But where is it in this bill that this is somehow adopted as a principle or facilitated by the new administrative structure? I don't see it.

We know that extended care or nursing homes are going to be needed. We know all of those things are required as the population ages. Quite clearly, there is going to be increased demand for those services. Where is it in this bill that we are told this is a priority of the

[Page 3411]

government? Where is it in this bill that the new contemplated administrative structures will facilitate putting in place the nursing homes, the extended care facilities that we know now are going to be needed? It is not there.

This is true again, with respect to community clinics. I spoke the other day about my own personal experience with the North End community health clinic. Other clinics have come into being in Nova Scotia. We know that this is a model that is desirable. But where is it in this bill that they go on record as saying, yes, we embrace this model? Where is it in this bill that they put in place an administrative structure that facilitates the creation of new community clinics? It is not there.

I think that what is missing from this bill is some kind of clearly-laid-out commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act. That is another way to sum it up. We have never yet in Nova Scotia actually passed mirror image legislation to the federal Canada Health Act. The federal Canada Health Act says that the health care system has to be accessible and universal and portable and not-for-profit and comprehensive. Those are the principles according to which federal dollars are made available to the provinces to run a health care system.

Why have we not, in Nova Scotia, ever adopted a parallel piece of legislation that says those are the principles upon which we are going to run our health care system here? That should have been done years ago. Indeed, members of this Party for years have regularly introduced into the House bills that would have established a Nova Scotia health Act on exactly the same principles as the Canada Health Act. Our Party has called them for debate, these various bills, but never have we been able to win the support of whichever Party was in government to adopt those bills. They have either been ignored or talked out.

This would have been the opportunity for the Minister of Health to come forward and say to us that he supports the principles of the Canada Health Act and wants to see them embodied in legislation in Nova Scotia that is part of his new conception of how health care is to be administered here. But we don't see principles in this bill. What we see are a lot of detailed, convoluted provisions that have to do with administrative structures, that concentrate power in the hands of the minister. There is nothing principled about this.

If we don't explicitly turn to those principles and make them the touchstone of what we do in the transformation of the health care system here, then we are going to find ourselves floundering around with some kind of new administrative system that is ultimately directionless except for the direction that the particular minister of the day cares to give to it. I don't find that acceptable. This is simply a huge omission from the nature of the bill.

What that means is that in the end, all of us who are general citizens in Nova Scotia are the losers. I don't see very many winners here, when I try to balance it off. Certainly the minister is, to a certain extent, a winner, if he wants to accumulate that much power in his

[Page 3412]

hands. I suppose the new district health boards will be winners, in some sense. I don't doubt that the physicians will be winners under this system. Certainly other employees inside the system are not likely to be winners. That brings me, if I may, Mr. Speaker, to another aspect of this bill.

Might I trouble you, Mr. Speaker, to let me know just how many minutes I have left.

MR. SPEAKER: You have 20 minutes.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The next aspect of this bill that I want to turn to is the question of labour relations as contemplated under this bill. I know in second reading debate we should steer away from any kind of detailed discussion of the clauses of the bill. All I can do, I think, is assure the members that I tried to read my way through, in as much detail as possible, all the various clauses of the bill to try to understand exactly what it is that the bill contemplates.

In reading those clauses, what I have tried to do is understand exactly how there will be impact on the employees in the system, under some contemplated reorganization. The starting point for that is to recognize that there is a huge amount of power given to the minister to direct a reorganization of the system. That is one of the main thrusts of this bill. It is not just that the minister has general direction of the policy of the Department of Health and through them to the regional health boards or the district health boards as they are going to be. It is, in fact, more specific than that.

The minister will have power to rearrange the employment situations of everyone involved in the health care system. I will be able to do that by taking portions of the health care system that are up and running now, either in existence under the regional health boards or in existence in the non-designated organizations and move them around, or indeed end them. That is the nature of the power that the minister has. That is the starting point, is to recognize that that power exists.

One of the main points about that, of course, is that there is nothing in this bill that calls for the minister to do it by negotiation with the employees. I am sure it does not trouble the government, but it troubles me. Even if we assume that the government is not interested in making these kinds of decisions by negotiation but wishes to do them through administrative order direct from the minister, then what we have to focus on are what are the consequences for the employees. This is the problem of successor rights.

This is the question of what happens to employees who are in an employment situation where they have collective agreements and pension plans and seniority and established hierarchy, certain scales of pay, a whole variety of benefits that are the normal kinds of benefits that go with a unionized workplace. You know what? This bill is deeply flawed when it comes to this aspect of matters. I can give you an example of what might happen under this

[Page 3413]

bill. One example is that the employees at the Nova Scotia Hospital, following the functions that are performed there, might be transferred to another entity. They might be transferred to the QE II. If that happens, then their employment situation will no longer be governed by the Trade Union Act, it will be governed by the Civil Service Act. This is not a desirable position for them to be in because there are consequences. If that is what this bill intends, it should say so, but if it is what the bill does not intend, then there should be protections and guarantees built in.

I can give you another example of something the minister could do. The minister could take employees of the regional health boards, as indeed I think he is likely to do, and transfer them over to the district health boards. Do you know what will happen? There is nothing there that deals with the terms and conditions of employment and says that the same terms and conditions of employment apply; there is nothing there that says seniority is not lost; there is nothing there that says, accumulated benefits that have vested, stay; there is nothing there that says the new employer is bound by the collective agreement; and there is nothing there that says that the new employer is a successor for pension purposes.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I have a serious problem with those omissions from this bill, because there is no doubt that what is contemplated is a rearranging of the system. If not, why are we even dealing with such a bill?

[2:15 p.m.]

In leaving out this whole array of matters that are fundamental and important employment matters, the government has chosen, in this bill, to ignore not just common sense and fairness to the employees, but has chosen to ignore precedent. It is not unprecedented, in our province, that there have been rearrangements introduced by the government into the employment situations of large numbers of employees. One example, of course, is the creation of the regional health boards in the first place. At that time, people who were employees of the addiction services were transferred to the regional health boards.

Mr. Speaker, they took with them all of those protections that I listed before and that was specified by Statute. Here is another example. When the Victoria General Hospital was merged with the QE II, the employees took with them, by Statute, all of the protections that I listed before. Here is another example. When the community colleges became independent, those employees took with them the terms and conditions of employment, the collective agreement, their seniority and their vested rights, plus their new employer became the successor for pension purposes. It is not in this bill.

The last example I can remember readily was the Nova Scotia Power privatization. There is something that this government did. I think most of the other examples were Liberal examples, but the Nova Scotia Power privatization is something that this same Party's

[Page 3414]

previous government did back in 1992, and there were specific provisions in the legislation there that did this for those employees.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There seems to be a lot of background chat. If people want to carry on conversations - I remember a former Speaker saying that - maybe they could have them outside the Chamber while the member is speaking. Thank you.

The member for Halifax Chebucto has the floor.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I think that the government, in contemplating what it is proposing to do in Bill No. 34 had better turn its mind, on a fairly urgent basis, to its omissions with respect to labour relations. Here is the point I think we have reached. I have reviewed what I regard as serious problems with this bill. The latest point I raised was problems with labour relations, but, before that, I looked at the extraordinary powers that had been given to the minister. I looked at the difficulties with respect to community health boards - that is, community health not being advanced - and I looked at other kinds of omissions. I have to say, I am now led to want to make an amendment to the bill that is before us.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to move the following motion:

" That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words:

'The House should not approve any restructuring that authorizes the minister or any of his staff to contract services to private hospitals and health care providers during the national debate about Alberta's Bill No. 11.' "

In making this motion, I am mindful of your ruling the other day with respect to the nature of this bill.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, could we have copies of that?

MR. SPEAKER: I believe copies are coming around now.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Allow us a moment, just to peruse it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member rose on a point of order and sat back down.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 3415]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, all that I am asking for is that we recess for three or four minutes or so, while you have a chance to have a look at it, and everybody else.

MR. SPEAKER: If everyone is agreeable, I have had the opportunity to review the amendment. So, unless the honourable members want to review the amendment themselves before I make my decision (Interruptions) Exactly. I am going to rule whether this amendment is in order or not. (Interruptions) Very, well. We will recess for five minutes.

[2:15 p.m. The House recessed.]

[2:34 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

Before I make a ruling on the amendment submitted by the honourable member, I call upon the Leader of the New Democratic Party for an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure to welcome back to the House a good friend of ours and a good friend of Nova Scotians and I would say in particular the people of Yarmouth County, a former MLA for Yarmouth, member of our caucus and his wife, Karen. They are in town for personal business and I want to say on behalf of my colleagues that we miss Mr. John Deveau's insight and contribution in our caucus and we want to wish him and his wife and their family all the very best. I would ask all members of this House to join with us in welcoming him back and we look forward to seeing him again. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto moved the following amendment: "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words:

'The House should not approve any restructuring that authorizes the Minister or any of his staff to contract services to private hospitals and health care providers during the national debate about Alberta Bill No. 11.' "

The basic thrust and basic principle of Bill No. 34 is about reorganization of administration of health care here in Nova Scotia. In this amendment proposed by the honourable member, there is nothing in the amendment to make it adverse to the basic principles of this bill. I am ruling, therefore that this amendment is out of order.

The honourable Government House Leader. (Interruptions)

[Page 3416]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: He does not have 10 minutes.

MR.SPEAKER: Order, please. I think we agreed the other day that once an amendment was moved that the member ceased his time.

Order, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand the decision last week was that when an amendment was found in order that then you could not speak on it, but the fact is you found that the amendment was not in order, then he still has ten minutes left, I believe and I don't see why he cannot continue with the rest of his time.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that when the amendment had been put during debate that if the amendment failed to receive the approbation of the Speaker, then that was the end of that person's time at bat.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think that what we are dealing with is a simple rule that a member cannot speak to an amendment that they have moved. That is right? We agree with that. In other words, if the amendment was in order then debate would begin on the amendment and it would therefore be out of order for the member who introduced that amendment and moved it to speak on it. We are now back on the main motion and the member has not sat down and ended his debate, has not yielded his place on the floor and I believe he has nine minutes left. There are a few points I am sure he would like to make on this important matter.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It certainly has been the practice of this House when a member does rise and speaks in debate and tables an amendment, whether that amendment is in order or not in order, that member takes his seat. I certainly agree with the House Leader.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I just want to clarify something because I made a similar point to the member for Halifax Chebucto. What I told him was what we generally do is wait until there is about 60 seconds left in our time allotted before we introduce an amendment. In other words, the time is eaten up. It is not a question of procedure, it is a question of the fact that time has elapsed in the hour, that is all. The matter at issue here is whether or not a member who introduced an amendment that was ruled out of order can resume debate on the main motion and I believe that it is consistent with standard Rules of Order that that in fact would be the case.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, I guess my understanding was, in all fairness, that when a member finished speaking on second reading of a bill and when he moved an amendment, he was finished his time. It seems that, although I appreciate the comments made by the

[Page 3417]

honourable members, I am ruling that that will be the case, that the honourable member has finished his time and that we will move on to the next speaker.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order and it is certainly not to question your decision from a previous date, but clearly in Hansard, on Page 3111, the Minister of Health in his opening remarks on second reading declared quite unequivocally that one of the principles of this bill was financial accountability. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate exactly what is here and I am looking for some clarification from the minister, if it is strictly on the reorganization structure or if, in fact, his comments in Hansard are in contradiction to your ruling? We need to have some clarification.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I appreciate the honourable member's comments. However, I did not base my decision on what is in Hansard, I based it on the bill. So my interpretation and legal advice is that my decision was based on the fact that this amendment is not adverse to the basic principle of the bill. What was said previous is not what I based my decision on, but merely what was in the bill. (Interruptions)

Order, please. If the honourable member is questioning my decision, the decision is final.

MR. MACKINNON: No, I indicated on a previous day I would certainly respect your decision, but what I am asking is if the minister is looking for members of the House to be able to either provide their approbation or further understanding of this particular piece of legislation, he has clearly stated that the issue that I raised was a major component and addressed in his bill, if he could please assist the members of the House so they would get some clear direction rather than conflicting direction because, obviously, Mr. Speaker, you have made a ruling. I respect that, but I would implore the minister to, please, give us some clear indication as to what the principle of the bill is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just in response to what (Interruption) Pardon me? No more recesses. Anyway, are there any interventions on the point of order?

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this is a debate we have had in this House for many years now about what a reasoned amendment is because a reasoned amendment has to argue against, has to be adverse to the principle of the bill. Let me just say that I have never gotten a reasoned amendment through this House. Do you know why? Here is a good example. We are arguing back and forth about what the principle of the bill is. I do not agree with this minister or members of this government about their interpretation of the principle of the bill. What we are getting again today is the government's interpretation of the principle

[Page 3418]

of the bill. So how in the name of heaven can we ever bring a reasoned amendment in that would be adverse to the principle that we do not accept?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In all fairness, what you have today is a decision of the Speaker and not of the government and that is my (Interruption) Thank you. Were there any further interventions on the point of order?

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I take it that we are back on the debate?

MR. SPEAKER: Back on the debate.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the previous motion and that the question be now put.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is in order. (Interruptions) The honourable Government House Leader was up three times and I sat him down because there were points of order. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The motion as put by the honourable Government House Leader, is in order.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on that point of order, or on the motion that is on the floor, I have actually attempted several times to get on my feet to speak on this bill. So maybe Mr. Speaker could rule on whether or not the Government House Leader has first shot at the House or remaining speakers are entitled to speak on this bill?

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: My understanding of the way we operate in this House, although it is not in the rules is that we rotate around the House. You already had a member speak. (Interruption) The New Democratic Party has already spoken on the bill, therefore, it is the turn of the government. Mr. Speaker, I again move the previous question. I move that the question be now put.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am filling in for my colleague who has now gone as House Leader, I find the position that is before us now is asking this House to have closure on the debate on the bill. I find that we have speakers who are here and are prepared to stand up and discuss this. This is exactly what this House is all

[Page 3419]

about and we want to be able to debate and discuss properly this very important bill. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER. Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, I think this House is wanting to be able to debate this bill. We have colleagues who want to get up and earnestly and honestly discuss these bills. I find it (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor. Please.

MR. DOWNE: It is unacceptable for the Government House Leader to stop debate at a time when we have members who want to get up and speak on this bill. This is not a repressive process here, this is supposed to be an open process to discuss bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: The honourable member does not understand what the previous entails. The previous questions simply stops further amendments, but the debate can continue. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption) Order, please. The motion has been made. I agree to that. The next speaker on the bill is the honourable member for Clare.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege, if nothing else. The Minister of Health has stood in this House and stated the principle of the bill is the reorganization and structure of health care in Nova Scotia but he has also stated that the principle of the bill is also financial accountability. It is in Hansard. He stated that it is included in the bill. We are not even allowed to talk about it. There is something wrong with this process. I don't care what anyone says.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption) Order, please.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 34, an Act to Provide for Community Health Boards and District Health Authorities and Respecting Provincial Health-care centres.

As previous speakers on this bill have said, the reason why this bill has been introduced is no doubt to fulfil an election promise.

[Page 3420]

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

MR. GAUDET: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor for an introduction. In fact, I have two introductions and I will try to be as brief as possible. I would like to take a moment to introduce a special guest in the gallery. I am pleased to introduce Chief Lawrence Paul, of the Milbrook First Nation, who is with us in the gallery. I want to congratulate Chief Paul on his recent re-election. He is Chairman of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs and co-chair of the Atlantic Policy Congress. I will be talking to him later this afternoon. I would like to have the House give their warm welcome to Chief Paul. (Applause)

A second introduction. In the west gallery this afternoon are three members of the Citizens in Action Committee from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. They are with us to watch the proceedings of the House this afternoon. Mr. John MacMullin, Mr. Dennis Miller, and Mr. Ken Ball, I would ask them to rise and receive the greetings of the House. (Applause)

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, as many previous speakers on this bill have said, the reason why Bill No. 34 has been introduced is to fulfil an election promise. We can recall this bunch from the across the floor saying, vote for us and we will eliminate four regional health boards. Well, this election promise was certainly made without considerating the cost or the consequences. During the last election, the Tories told Nova Scotians that the regional health boards were not working. Well, we all know differently, the regional health boards were working. We all know of the dedication and the commitment of the volunteers on these regional health boards.

Mr. Speaker, any time you move towards a new format, you need time to let the process grow, you need time to let the process develop, but unfortunately, time was not on the side of these regional health boards. This Tory Government was determined, from the beginning, to dump the regional health boards. What is surprising, or Nova Scotians are not yet aware of, was before the election, this Tory Party was demanding a review of these regional health boards. Yes, to see if these boards were working, and we agreed, we agreed with a review which was commissioned.

But do you know what? The Tories did not wait for the review. They were not interested in hearing what Dr. Richard Goldbloom, the Chairman of the Minister's Task Force on Regionalized Health Care in Nova Scotia, had to say, or what hospital administrators had to say, or what health care providers had to say, and worst of all, this Tory Government was not interested in listening to what Nova Scotians had to say. I have difficulty understanding

[Page 3421]

why they were interested in a review on these regional health boards before the election, and yet after this Tory Party was elected, they were determined to dump these regional health boards.

Mr. Speaker, after they formed this government, we have heard every day that they wanted to review everything; yes, review everything, everything else, I guess, except regional health boards. I find it strange, with the interest that this Tory Government has in reviewing everything else in government. They did a review with the P3 schools, they did a review on the school board boundaries. They reviewed all the programs. They reviewed all the departments but they are no longer interested in a review on these regional health boards.

So there has to be a reason - maybe that these four regional health boards were working. I guess one day this group across the floor is in favour of one thing and then, shortly thereafter, they have changed their tune, right after the election. This Tory Government went ahead and eliminated the four regional health boards. Mr. Speaker, they did this without first looking at the results of the Goldbloom report, the Minister's Task Force for Regionalized Health Care in Nova Scotia, but do you know what the Goldbloom report said about taking power away from the regional health boards? It will do three things. First, it will disrupt the health care system. Second, it will cost taxpayers more money. Third, it will create a more fragmented and less effective system of health care. It is obvious that the Tories had made up their minds that they were not going to listen to the task force. They were going ahead anyway. They do not want a review now, they do not want to see the report of the task force. They just do not care, they just want control.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is not just about eliminating four regional health boards; it is about having control. Five months ago the Minister of Health took the power away from the regional health boards and moved it back to downtown Halifax, to his office. Just like before, downtown Halifax will run the health care system in Nova Scotia. We have already seen how the Minister of Health and the deputy minister are hiring more staff in their entourage to help them control the health care system from downtown Halifax.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: That is not front line.

MR. GAUDET: No, it certainly is not. So now the control centre from Halifax is saying they want to replace four regional health boards and turn them into nine district health authorities. I guess another promise they made, they were going to reduce administration in health care. So you replace four boards and you create nine boards. It just does not add up, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SAMSON: Tory accounting.

[Page 3422]

MR. GAUDET: My friend here says it is Tory accounting. I guess we are going to probably see some fancy and creative Tory accounting along the way. (Interruptions) Furthermore, the Minister of Health is responsible on appointing members to these district health authorities. I can hardly wait for these nominations to come up before the Human Resources Committee.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will keep the power in the hands of the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Health. Under this bill it says that community health boards shall not govern or manage delivery of health services. I guess this government is not interested in hearing what Nova Scotians have to say in our communities. Maybe they do not trust Nova Scotians to make their own decisions about health care.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask the people in Yarmouth.

MR. GAUDET: What is Yarmouth? What does he say about the Yarmouth Hospital? The MLA for Yarmouth is upset. Didn't they close beds over there? Didn't they close beds in Yarmouth or something? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, just a little less uproar, please.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will be able to acknowledge some of the rabbit tracks some of the members are making.

Mr. Speaker, under the previous Liberal Government regional health boards were responsible for developing the network of community health boards across this province. Community health boards were responsible for developing community health plans and the Clare Community Health Board has been operating for approximately four years now. It is a group of dedicated and committed volunteers from Clare who have worked for almost two years in developing a community health plan. Many meetings were held and many issues were identified; however the board identified five top issues that they wish to concentrate on at this time. They are mental health, education, 911 signage, substance abuse and lifestyles.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Clare community health board has also developed local action strategies for improving health care in our community, and just to highlight a few of these initiatives they are pursuing to address some of these issues that they have identified; for example, the 911 signage. They have entered into partnership with the Lions Club at home and now approximately 76 per cent of the homes in Clare have signs up. They certainly have been very productive.

[Page 3423]

In the education sector, every Monday they recruit people from Clare, people who are involved in the different sectors of health care, to be interviewed on the local radio station to speak on home care, transportation for seniors and people with disabilities, diabetes, and many more health-related topics. With regard to the mental health issue, they have already organized two stress-management workshops, one in French and one in English, and more will be organized in the future.

Mr. Speaker, again, this special group of volunteers are doing an outstanding job at home, but now the people of Clare, Digby County, and Yarmouth and Shelburne Counties are faced with a 29 bed closure of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital. I will table a copy of the Vanguard, the March 31st edition, in case some of the members of the House are interested.

AN HON. MEMBER: What does it say? Tell us, Wayne, what it says.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am being asked by my colleagues on this side, what exactly does this article have to say? The Yarmouth Regional Hospital started this past Monday and they closed 20 beds; shortly they will close another 9 beds. Why? To allow nurses to take a vacation because the nurses are overworked.

Mr. Speaker, by April 17th, one-third of the hospital's 89 acute care beds will be closed; one-third of these beds. This closure will be extended for up to two months and maybe longer. It would not surprise me. I hope during this time that not too many people from home and from the tri-county area - from Digby, Yarmouth, and Shelburne Counties - will have to travel to Bridgewater or to Kentville or to Halifax for services.

Mr. Speaker, we need more nurses at the Yarmouth Hospital. The Tories promised to hire new nurses during the election; they also promised a bursary program for nurses. We are still waiting. Since the election, this government has only converted some casual nurses to full-time positions, and this is good news. It is a step in the right direction, but it still does not address the problem of 140 nursing vacancies in Nova Scotia. There needs to be new nurses hired and kept here to work in the province, and only the Liberals had a plan to do that, and I am very grateful to admit that to the House.

At the Yarmouth Hospital, they are suffering because the Tories have not yet lived up to their promise, so the Yarmouth Hospital took action and closed beds. This is the only way they could give some nurses a break. Mr. Speaker, I would encourage this government to provide the funding needed and the guarantee to job security to our nurses before they are forced out of the province. My next door neighbour's daughter is graduating in nursing next month and I hope she will be able to find work and full-time employment with full benefits here at home and not be forced to move away.

[Page 3424]

Under this bill the local areas will not be able to take emergency steps to relieve the stress on nurses caused by this government. The reporting and approval structure outlined in the bill puts all powers in the hands of the minister in Halifax. This bill will do little to improve access at the local level. Service delivery and the issue of access have been improving in recent years and this was a sign that the system established by the previous Liberal Government was working.

The Tories are jumping in and radically changing the system on a whim, but worse, they are changing the system based on incorrect information. Last week the Tories introduced The Course Ahead. (Interruption) On Page 10 of this new Tory bible, it says, "They watched health care devour an ever-increasing share of their tax dollars while the waiting lines grew longer."

My question is, where are the facts to back up such a negative statement? A report released last September said Nova Scotia had some of the lowest waiting times in Canada for those waiting to see a specialist. The report called Waiting Your Turn - Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada found Nova Scotia tied with Ontario and Quebec for the lowest total wait times in 1998. The report looked at average wait times for 12 specialty areas from neurosurgery to medical oncology.

Another survey done for the QE II found that 76.9 per cent of patients asked thought wait times for surgery were reasonable. The Tories are obviously not talking to the people in each community. This is what the Goldbloom task force did. They talked to the people who are running community health boards; unfortunately the Health Authorities Bill does not give local people in local communities any power over their health care system.

Under this bill, the community health boards must have their business plans approved by the district health authorities. There is nothing in this bill that says how the district health authority should move forward with a business plan from community health boards. There are no details. This bill does not outline the reporting procedure very clearly. That means no accountability. The district health authority then reports to the minister. Under this system, the community has very little say.

What if the community health board had a great plan that requires funding that the minister does not approve of? What avenue does the community health board have to appeal to the minister directly? It is not made clear in this bill, Mr. Speaker. We can assume that the community boards have no avenue.

Mr. Speaker, speaking of Tory promises, do you remember the one where Premier Hamm promised to fix the problems in health care with only $46 million? Remember that promise? That $46 million will fix it all. (Interruptions) Cut the administrative fat within the department (Interruptions) You are right. The Tories did say they could find the money needed through these cuts, through fat and through the administration of the department.

[Page 3425]

Well, this $46 million quick fix turned out to be well over $208 million, they have put into health care. (Interruption)

Someone said earlier today that the Minister of Health probably needed a plan to fix the problems in health care. Maybe we can provide a copy of ours, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) My colleague is just giving me pointers that no doubt (Interruption) This Minister of Health certainly has had some help and some advice from the Premier and the Minister of Health from Alberta under the Klein Administration, and certainly from Ontario, and probably from our neighbouring province. It seems the road show just keeps travelling around the countryside.

What is surprising about all the money that is being invested in health care, is here we have the Tories adding the most expensive deputy minister in history - $180,000 - and on top of that, Mr. Speaker, they just keep hiring more staff, more of an entourage to the deputy and to the Minister of Health.

This piece of legislation is all about power and control. It puts the power back in Halifax, in the hands of the Deputy Minister of Health. I have a clipping here that I picked up the other day. (Interruption) Yes, I will. Dated Thursday, March 30th, from the Chronicle-Herald, an article by David Jackson, "The health authorities will replace four regional boards. The government gave the boards' power to the Deputy Health Minister Tom Ward in the fall."

From the deputy's hand to the minister's hand, the power remains right here, Mr. Speaker, in downtown Halifax. This is where the big decisions and all the calls are going to be made. Even more surprising, it is the same place it was the last time the Tories were in power. This is where all the big decisions were made.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I hope the Minister of Health and his deputy minister will not ignore the people in rural Nova Scotia. I also hope they will not remove services and resources from our end of the province and transfer them elsewhere and force our people to come up to Halifax or to drive to other parts of the province for services.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the New Democratics.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I don't know that that is the title of our Party in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: For clarification, the Leader of the NDP.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and stand to speak to Bill No. 34. I have to tell you I found it interesting. I just want to say as I start debate on this bill, that I was one of the unfortunate members of

[Page 3426]

the House that went through the Liberal reform of the health care system. So I have a bit of context for what it is that the Minister of Health is now doing and I must say I chuckled to some degree when the Minister of Health said earlier today this reform has nothing to do with saving money, it has nothing to do with deficit reduction, because we heard that time and time again from the former government, the Liberals, sitting opposite here.

[3:15 p.m.]

I do not think there is any question that the central issue in the last election campaign was health care, you know, what did the Parties have in mind for dealing with the crisis in the health care system? You heard what the Liberal Government at the time were planning to do. They had a little pot of money over here, $600 million, that they were going to invest in the health care system, as someone referred to him, as Merlin the Magician used to say at the time, that that $600 million is going to go poof, and the expenditures in health care are suddenly going to level off and suddenly all the problems in the health care system are going to be over.

To say that that was wishful thinking I think is an understatement, I think though the sentiment that they would be wishing that the problems they had created over the past six years would be over was the right thing to wish, Mr. Speaker, there is no question about that. I honestly believe that the Minister of Health who initiated the health reform in 1994-95, Ron Stewart, had good intentions and was responding to a problem that we had in the Province of Nova Scotia. We were probably the last province in this country that was beginning to move on the changes that needed to go into health care. Other provinces, I think almost every other province other than Nova Scotia, had already begun to move towards a devolution of authority from the centre into the communities, had already begun to move into an authority structure where communities had more responsibility and more input and the ship of the health care system had begun to move towards having more emphasis on primary care than acute care.

The Province of Nova Scotia had not done that until the Liberals started in 1994-95 and they did not start, in fact, it was a Tory Government of John Buchanan throughout the 1980's who were given report after report recommending that in order to get better outcomes in health care, in order to get a handle on expenditures, that they needed to begin to move towards a more decentralized decision-making process within health care. They needed to focus more attention on primary care. In other words, public health, public education in health, more clinics, more alternative vehicles by which to deliver health care to Nova Scotians but, again and again, the Tories ignored those recommendations, Mr. Speaker.

In fact, I saw this bill come in and I thought, hold it now, we are going back to the future here with this move from four regional boards to nine district health boards. That sounds familiar. Nine districts sounds awfully familiar. Sure enough, I went back to the 1989 Royal Commission on Health Care that was submitted to the then Tory Government, and they

[Page 3427]

talked about how it was time that the number of administrative regions in the province which were then nine would be reduced. They did suggest in that report four regions, Mr. Speaker.

What they recommended and what they said on Page 53 of that report is that regional services not be concentrated in one designated centre or regional hospital. You see, what existed forever until the former government tried to change it through the 1990's was that health care was oriented around acute care. It was decisions about what kinds of services would be delivered depended upon the hospitals, and depended upon the people running those hospitals and delivering services within those hospitals. The health care system was dominated by acute care facilities, Mr. Speaker. Research throughout the western world, starting in probably the mid-1970's, was highlighting how important it was to reorient and reorganize the health care systems more towards community input, community control.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party please yield the floor for an introduction?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I would be happy to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you to all members of the House, it is my distinct pleasure de vous presenter le député fédéral du Bloc Québécois. Il est membre de la region du Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup--Témiscouata--Les Basques. This afternoon, we have the distinct pleasure of presenting to you the MP for the Bloc Quebecois for the riding of Kamouraska--Rivière-du-Loup--Témiscouata--Les Basques. Mr. Paul Crête. Could you please rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and welcome to the Member of Parliament and his guest. The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the context of Bill No. 34, and what I was referring to is the fact that the former government had attempted to finally listen to the many reports that had been written, the research that had been done, about the direction of health care. Now when I saw Bill No. 34 I felt like we were going back to the way things used to be. There was report after report that recommended that the way it used to be is not the way health care should be organized in the Province of Nova Scotia.

As I said, increasingly through the mid to late 1970's and certainly during the 1980's and since, there has been a great body of research which has said that the best way to get the best outcomes for the health of the population is to focus more attention on primary care, and education, making sure that people had other avenues through which to access health services than simply a hospital or just a doctor. The idea of having all decisions centralized in hospitals was not the way to go.

[Page 3428]

My point is that the former Tory Government ignored those recommendations. The Liberals came in in 1993 and on the basis of the recommendations for the Blueprint Committee who tabled their report in April 1994, the Liberal Government began the process of regionalising health care.

The recommendations of the Blueprint Committee primarily were to set up, in effect, two-tiered, regional health boards which would basically plan and organize and see that health services are delivered. Community health boards were to be put in place to feed into the regional health boards information on the health care needs of any particular community and recommendations on how best the regional health boards should deliver the services in those communities.

The government of the day went part of the way by setting up regional health boards, but I said at the time and we said at the time and others did that unfortunately, they did not take it the next step. Community health boards were allowed to establish almost on a completely informal basis. It took four years for there to be 30 community health boards in the province, they received little, if any, administrative support, their responsibilities, their mandate existed nowhere in law so they did not have any standing. It was extremely difficult for them to recruit membership, to have any impact on regional health boards and the decisions those regional health boards were making and most important, the most difficult thing and the most problematic thing was that the communities did not have an avenue to have input into the regional health boards.

That is really where things broke down. Along the way, as we debated these moves by the Liberal Government here in this House, throughout the country in jurisdictions where there has been a shift from institutional care or a focus on institutional care to a focus on community primary care, there was always the recommendation that the system cannot accommodate a withdrawal of money. There needs to be a transparent process take place and instituted whereby members of the community and every jurisdiction that is affected, need to see where the money is going. Whatever decisions are being made, the concern is that if suddenly you, as the government did, shut down a hospital or you close down hospital beds and tell Nova Scotians or tell members of the community that it is okay because there is home care and there are going to be clinics and there is going to be this, but they do not see any of that; all they know is that the hospital they used to go to, they cannot go to anymore and they get nervous, they get anxious and they begin to lose faith in the process, lose faith in what it is that the government is trying to do.

Ultimately, that is what I would suggest to you ended the life of that Liberal Government, that Nova Scotians had lost faith in the government's ability to deliver. When we stood in this House and debated with the then Minister of Health, Ron Stewart, on this issue, we said to him, you are talking about services being in the community to replace the services that you are cutting out by shutting down hospitals and hospital beds, but members of that community do not see that. Tell them the truth, that what you are doing is you are

[Page 3429]

participating in reform because you want to reduce the deficit, that what you are trying to do is save money and that you are getting hung up in your reform process because you are trying to serve two masters. One of them being to deliver more responsible and more effective health care on the one hand, and on the other, you are trying to pay more attention to the Minister of Finance, who wants to reduce the deficit and the debt.

[3:30 p.m.]

Again, Mr. Speaker, they are both laudable goals, very important goals to try and achieve, but you can't. Jurisdictions all over the world have said that when you are trying to reform your health care system from one based on acute care to primary care, you can't at the same time, suck a big chunk of money out of the system. You have to have the services in place that are going to be there as a replacement before you start cutting out of those services like hospitals and hospital beds. It didn't happen and, ultimately, even though the then Liberal Government went to Nova Scotians with a promise to put $600 million back in health care, Nova Scotians had lost their patience, I think, and at the time just didn't believe what it was the Liberals were promising.

The Tories who were running in the last campaign, Mr. Speaker, suggested there was not going to be a lot of cuts in health care. That there was not going to be a lot of changes. The savings they were going to realize were going to be administrative savings. They also came up with this idea to get rid of regional health boards. What they couldn't explain to people was how was getting rid of regional health boards was going to improve in any way, shape or form, the delivery of health care on the one hand, and how was it going to save money?

I think what Nova Scotians are realizing today is that maybe that was an answer they should have waited for from this government before they cast their ballots. They took this government on faith, they took a leap of faith with this government, and maybe now they are just beginning to realize that that is exactly what it was, once again, a government is breaking faith with the voters.

Here we have a piece of legislation which puts in law this idea that you are going to take four administrative structures and replace them with nine and somehow you are going to get a better delivery of service. We have a bill here, Mr. Speaker, that takes away the little bit of autonomy the community health boards had, that rolls out a string, a strong string I think, right down from the community health boards, and it runs up through the district health boards and ends up in the minister's office down on Hollis Street. The Minister of Health, once again, just like in the good old days these people would say, the bad old days that most Nova Scotians would say of John Buchanan, once again, the Minister of Health is going to be pulling the strings. Once again, the Minister of Health and his officials on Hollis Street are going to be making the decisions about the kind of health care that Nova Scotians receive on the main street of communities throughout this province. I think that is wrong. It is wrong

[Page 3430]

headed. I think it is inefficient and I think it is disrespectful to the ability of most Nova Scotians to be able to make those decisions about the kind of health care they need.

Frankly, it makes the minister and his officials just that much more susceptible to lobbying, to influence, to pressure, from the community or from special interests and that is a matter of some considerable concern.

We had suggested and continue to suggest that members of the communities that have participated in the community health board process should be given medals of honour because even though their status was ambiguous, even though their roles and responsibilities in the health care system were questioned, they continued to participate because they believed in the idea that who knows better what health services a community needs than members of the community. I think they hoped that this government would bring in legislation that would mandate, through law, the roles and responsibilities of community health boards, that they would not only get status, but they would also get responsibility.

In this legislation that is not the case. Once again, they are going to have to go to the district health boards and they are going to be asked to come up with plans, but there is no assurance whatsoever that those plans will even be considered. There is no responsibility on the part of the district health boards that they will pay attention to the plans that the community health boards bring forward. So already, I am hearing from community health boards a sense of discouragement, a sense of defeat, here we go again and how are we possibly going to keep ourselves in the game, no autonomy, no room to act.

Mr. Speaker, once again, they only have an advisory role on what services should be. Again, I say to you that in report after report it is community health boards that are the key, community health boards that are the key to ensuring the type of health care that is delivered is the health care that is appropriate for that community but, again, this government has missed the boat on that and that is a problem. Again, there is only one-way accountability and that is from the bottom to the top. It is the minister who will hold all those other levels accountable. It is not the community. Where it is the community health boards that will be getting the flak from the community, the community health boards do not ultimately, or even at an early preliminary stage, have any determination on what happens. Everyone is accountable to the minister, but nowhere is the minister accountable to the community health boards or to the communities.

The current bill, Mr. Speaker, has three different groups doing the planning, community health boards, district health authorities and the Department of Health, all doing planning. How is that all going to be coordinated? There is a lot of room there for concern. So, once again, what we have done is we have gone back and I think that was part of the commitment, I think many of us saw that underlining the promises by the Tories, leading up to the last election and during the last election was that wanting to take it back to the way it was, where

[Page 3431]

the hospitals were the ones that had control over how health care was going to be delivered and that is a problem.

Six years, nearly seven years after health reform began in the province, public health care is in chaos, mental health services are spotty, inadequate and, in some places, non-existent. That is as a result of a lack of co-ordination, and I do not see any change in this and that causes me some considerable concern.

We are going to have a whole shake-up here; the system, all the people that have been participating on boards, working at different levels are going to be shuffled once again. The people who are delivering health care, some people have suggested that maybe the doctors will be okay in this, maybe the nurses will be okay in this, but the other people who deliver health care in the Province of Nova Scotia, the people who deliver support services, the CNAs, the LPNs, the Nursing Assistants, the people who deliver maintenance services and the cleaners, the dietary services people, the laundry people, there is all kinds of evidence, Mr. Speaker, that this bill will provide this government with an opportunity to unload hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of those other health care workers who are so important to the delivery of health care in this province.

There has been some suggestion that this government is going to head down the privatization road. Institutions like the QE II, even though they have had experience with privatization gone bad, you think that they would have learned that when they brought in that private consultant who concocted Project Quest and spent $8 million to $10 million and came up with nothing, did not even file a final report, and the government of the day had to pay $1 million just to get out of the deal, but the problem is that it was the QE II who brought in that private-sector firm in order to look over the management of that service, and they brought in the private sector to manage casual nurses in the QE II, a complete fiasco.

Yet, once again the rumours are rampant that, as we speak, the QE II is in the process of contracting out maintenance services in that hospital. They are going to go outside and lay off the people who work to maintain the power plant and the infrastructure in that facility and hand it over to the private sector. I think we can see, through this merger bill - and that is clearly what it is, certainly here in the capital district - other strategies like privatizing dietary services in one facility to be used to distribute dietary services, deliver food to all of the other institutions, but the problem that I have - other than the idea that going down the privatization road you lose control over the quality of service and you lose control over the cost of the service - is basically what you do is you take money away from employees, you take the paycheques of those health care workers and you cut them in half, put half of it in the pockets of a private operator and pay the newly privatized workers half the salary.

The other part of this, Mr. Speaker, is that in all of the mergers that are being proposed throughout this legislation, there is no definition, there is no process provided for what is going to happen to those employees and their terms of contract. Who is the employer going

[Page 3432]

to be now? Can you imagine working in the health care system, Mr. Speaker, after six or seven years of chaos where people were originally employed by a hospital or by a public health unit by the Province of Nova Scotia, and then suddenly their employer became a regional health board, and there were run offs between unions. It was an awful mess. There is no question about that.

Now you are going to have the same thing as we try to figure out who the next employer is going to be for these employees. What is going to be their employment contract? Is the collective agreement that they are affected by now going to be thrown out the window? What are going to be their terms and conditions of employment? Will that have to be renegotiated again? That is a concern that I have and that hundreds of thousands of people who work in the health care system have, Mr. Speaker, as a result of what is being proposed here.

Very little direction, all kinds of plans for shaking up the system, but no explanation as to what the outcomes are going to be. For example, let me just tell you we got a bit of an indication today in the minister's statement. The minister said today in the facilities review, the committee reported, contrary to the evidence that has been provided, that for example, in the Valley Regional, they have a shortage of beds, and the people are being sent away because there are not enough beds. The facilities review said it is not a problem with the lack of beds. It is a problem with how they are being allocated. Even though we hear time and time again about hospitals who have many of their beds filled by people who should be in long-term care beds, but can't be released because there are not any long-term care beds.

The facilities review and the minister now tell us that it is not a question of not having enough hospital beds, it is not a question of not having enough long-term care beds, it is just a question of how you allocate them. I don't know what that means, and if someone wants to go to the Valley Regional, or if someone is in the Valley Regional and needing a nursing home bed and maybe there is a vacancy in Cape Breton, maybe they will go to Cape Breton. I don't know exactly what it is the minister is talking about. If there are no beds, no place for anyone to go in the Valley Regional Hospital for a particular procedure, they will send them to Antigonish. Maybe that is what the minister has in mind, and the facilities management group have in mind, is that they will begin to put Nova Scotians on the bus and send them around searching for a place that will let them in.

The concern is, Mr. Speaker, that there is not sufficient awareness of the degree of the problems that exist out there, and the need to put other services in those communities. We continue to have communities, including the minister's own community, in a state of crisis as a result of not having enough doctors. Well, when are we going to see a government come forward with alternative strategies for a community like that? Are there ways to bring in more doctors, if that is required, or other ways, like putting some doctors on salary, instituting nurse practitioners, setting up clinics that are funded through capitation? Report after report

[Page 3433]

over the past 20 years has said that the best way to meet the gaps and to deliver services is to (Interruption) Well, why are there so many gaps? You don't know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. I wonder if honourable members would place their comments through the Chair, please, and through the Speaker.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The Minister of Health, as I was participating, was trying to send some information over, and he reminded me that when they were on this side, he used to challenge the then Minister of Health in the Liberal Government about the fact that there weren't enough doctors in Truro. The Minister of Health of the day used to say, but per capita we have the most doctors in the country, per capita. The then member for Truro-Bible Hill used to say, but that doesn't do any good for the people in Truro. Right? That is right. He was right then. He is wrong now, because now he is saying the same thing. Now he is saying the same thing that the then minister said. When the then minister was up on his feet a little while ago, on this bill, he was saying the same thing. No wonder Nova Scotians get a bit cynical about the debates that go on in this place. The faces change but the rhetoric is the same. It must be terribly discouraging, because nothing changes.

The problem is we are hearing the same things come out of the minister and his officials about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. Single-access points are not a bad idea, but if they are controlled by the institution, by un-institution, then I say that the chances are that the decisions, the models that come out of there, in terms of how to respond to problems, are going to be institutionally-based. The bias is going to be, again, in favour of acute care and in favour of the institutions, and that is taking us back. Taking us back again.

I said this during the last campaign, that I had as much problem as anyone else about where we had gotten to and the problems along the road in the health reform initiated by the Liberals, but I said then and I say now, the answer is not to go back to the way it was before, because the intent was a good one. The intent was right. We had moved some degree away from a centralized health care system, based on institutions, to one that was more reflective and more responsive in the communities. There are all kinds of gaps and all kinds of problems, but in terms of structure, in terms of process, I believe that we had gotten a distance down the road, and what we needed to do was to keep going, keep going to make the system more responsive to the community, to properly establish accountability with the community, to ensure that services like public health, which was in such disarray in the province, was properly funded and delivered in a way that recognized the responsibilities of primary care in this whole system, that we needed to go that way.

Instead, what this government has decided to do is very conservative in a small c way, it is reactionary, it is like nirvana is back, the way things used to be. We know that that is not the answer, that that is not the way to go. Clean up your mistakes, or the mistakes that existed, fill the gaps, but don't try to roll the clock back. I am extremely concerned, Mr. Speaker, that, in fact, is what this government has done with their health reform bill.

[Page 3434]

We had some debate earlier in this House about issues like privatization, about what could ensue from this bill. Members of this caucus suggested that, in fact, the manner in which this bill is set-up, the control in the hands of the minister and his staff, that chaos is going to be created. Once again, from shaking up the administrative structures. It is going to leave the system wide open for privatization, wide open to discharging hundreds, if not thousands, of important health care workers in the system.

We wanted to debate that issue. We wanted to debate that principle that the minister has not been clear on, but our attempts were rejected, Mr. Speaker, because it was suggested that that wasn't the principle. But I think we will see, as things are played out, as the course of events unfolds, that our concerns were very legitimate. I say to you, and I will say to this minister again he would have had a proper recognition of the employees to be affected in this bill. Otherwise he would have had appropriate processes and protections in here for the employees affected.

It is, again, a question of accountability, a question of the minister trying to maintain the strictest of control and I say, Mr. Speaker, that I think that is the wrong way to go. We have been working to try and contact as many people as we can who are involved in the health care field, who are out there; people working on community health boards, regional health boards, people working in the major institutions and we have heard some positive things. What is interesting is that even though there have been problems in the way that the previous government and this government have been managing the health care system, the people working in the system are so committed and are so dedicated to delivering quality health care to Nova Scotians that anything you give them, they are going to try to work with. No matter how badly abused they are, they are going to stand there and they are going to do their best to work with what they have.

There have been some, and I can understand why, who have suggested that the single entry point is a good one, because it has been chaotic and that services like public health can now be delivered by one board and not a couple of hospitals and a regional health board. Maybe that will make a difference. They are hopeful that this government is committed to what they say, what they have been saying publicly, which is trying to ensure that there is a single-access point, that services are coordinated and that the funding will be there. Those are the commitments that this government has made. There are people working in the system today who are very hopeful that this government will live up to those commitments.

There are others, Mr. Speaker, who are feeling extremely discouraged by what it is that Bill No. 34 seems to do. People are concerned that they will have an even more difficult time in recruiting people to the community health boards, for example, because as I said earlier, while the mandate to some degree has been spelled out in this bill for community health boards, they still have little if no autonomy. They still are completely and utterly dependent on the good graces of the district health authorities. Their status has not changed and some

[Page 3435]

of the people we have talked to from community health boards have thrown their hands up in the air in discouragement and said, what is the point in staying around.

[4:00 p.m.]

On the other hand, I understand that there are some Tories who have been coming forward and saying, we want to be on the community health board now. Some community health board people have said, you know, we have gone to this community time and time again and we are having such a hard time to recruit people and all the rest of it and all of a sudden the Tories are coming out of the woodwork because they want to get on the train that is not stopping in Orangedale, but they want to get on the Tory train, just like Mr. Reddy did, Mr. Speaker, they want to get on the Tory bandwagon. Again, you know, the problem is that the role of the community health board is extremely limited in that they can refer stuff up to the district health board, but whether or not it is paid any attention to whatsoever, it doesn't matter.

Of course, we know in this bill that ultimately the appointment of community health boards, if people were to leave now, appointments or of the community health boards is a district health authority and appointment to the district health authority is by the minister. So, once again, we have a case where the minister is completely and utterly in control of this system.

I guess we are going to see in the budget that comes down on Tuesday the kind of commitment this government is going to make to the delivery of health services because if they try to cut a big chunk of money out of the health care system at the same time they are reorganizing it, they are going to run into the same problems that the former government did, Mr. Speaker. Somebody I think who plays a fairly key role in the delivery of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia said to me the other day, with the problems that we have had with the lack of participation by the federal government in the health care system over the past seven years, the next year or year and one-half is going to be critical in terms of us maintaining the integrity and the viability of the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I think it is extremely important that this government and this Minister of Health, in particular, heeds those words and those concerns. I understand the financial pressures that this government is under as it relates to health care because of the way the federal Liberals have withdrawn their participation. It has been devastating, but at the same time, what it means is that we have to pay greater attention to how resources are allocated and we cannot fall into that old pattern of just leaving the decisions in the hands of the institutions, that the answer to health care problems can be answered by hospitals. It has been proven to not be the case.

[Page 3436]

Hospitals are extremely important. The role they play is extremely important, there is no question. I am afraid that this government, just as they did when John Buchanan was the Premier, are going to be led along by the nose by the establishment that is concentrated in the institutional centres in the Province of Nova Scotia. If that happens, then the door is going to be wide open to privatization of health care services in the Province of Nova Scotia. Ultimately that is the fear.

In the next little while we are going to see just what this government is going to do, in terms of user fees, in terms of restricting access to health services for Nova Scotians, by asking Nova Scotians to dig deeper into their pockets if they want to access services. They say we are not going to increase taxes, we are going to lower taxes. (Interruption) The member in the far reaches there says read my lips. Well, we know someone who said that came to eat those words. The issue here is that this government says we are not going to raise taxes, we are going to lower taxes. At the same time they are boosting user fees, licence fees, any other fee imaginable, to levels that we have not seen in this province before.

Nova Scotians say to me, it is money out of our pockets: You call it a tax, you call it a user fee, it is my money that you are sucking out of my pocket. That is a problem, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians are going to see a continuation of what we saw under the Liberals, that is, an increase in the tax burden as unprecedented in history, through the increase in user fees and licence fees and the like.

So, Mr. Speaker, I guess as I wrap up - my time is coming near - debate on this bill, I want to say that I was really disappointed in this piece of legislation, Bill No. 34. You know I am as optimistic, if not more so, than the next person in that I listened to the rhetoric of the minister and I am always hopeful that they will come forward. I used to stand here in my place when debating with the then Minister of Health, Ron Stewart, and say, you know you are saying all the right things, you are making all the right noises and then you do something like, whatever it is they do. I want to support you, you are going the right way but then you do something that really messes it up.

This minister is saying all the right things, he has all the language down but he brings in a bill like Bill No. 34 which takes us back to the pre-1989 days when the Royal Commission on Health Care said you have to break down these nine regions, you have to make sure that you cut down on the administration and this government is increasing it and that is wrong, Mr. Speaker. Ultimately that will be to the disadvantage of health care services in the Province of Nova Scotia. I think Nova Scotians are going to see that as it plays out over the next number of weeks, as we see hospitals shut down, as we see hospital beds shut down. We know that physician recruiters are having a real tough time, as difficult as they have had in 10 years, getting doctors to come to Nova Scotia because of what this government is planning to do in the health care system. That is only going to make the problem worse.

[Page 3437]

If the Minister of Health and the Premier think that doctors from Manitoba, B.C., Europe or the United States can't read the newspapers and don't know what is going on here in Nova Scotia, then they are just simply not thinking straight. When recruiters go outside this province, physicians are saying to them, is it true what this government has got planned? If it is, I am not coming, because where they are going with health care is not my idea of health care. That is what most health care providers in this country have to say about this province, and that is unfortunate. This government had an opportunity, I think it has blown it now with Bill No. 34, to bring about some positive changes to health care in the Province of Nova Scotia, but why should we expect anything more from a government that wants to take things back to the way things were under good old John Buchanan.

Let's not forget, Nova Scotians felt good because the government of the day was spending a lot of money, but we don't have a lot of money to spend anymore. If they try to do things the way they did then, then it is going mean real hardship for Nova Scotians.

I look forward to this bill going to the Law Amendments Committee, to hearing from health care providers coming forward to debate the bill. I have talked with a lot of people involved in the health care system who are pretty discouraged, indeed. I don't know that they will even bother coming to the Law Amendments Committee. Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, we will continue our process of consultation with Nova Scotians. The health care system is the most important program being delivered by any government in this country, and we are going to do our utmost here in this caucus to ensure that another government like the past government does not try to derail and destroy such an important program. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and a privilege to rise today to speak on Bill No. 34. Certainly I have some mixed feelings, to say the least, on Bill No. 34. It was with interest that I listened to the comments from the Leader of the NDP because it was a bit surprising to me because if I filter through what he said and lift a veil under what he said, I think what he was trying to get at - is that with all of his criticisms of our Party, what he was trying to say - was that, in fact, the way we were moving in health care was the right way to move. While it had its problems, I think what he was trying to say is that at least we were moving in the right direction. There were some problems with that and I think that is what he was trying to get at, that the intention was good and that there were some refinements to be made. I agree with him.

There were some concerns with regional health boards, especially coming from an area such as mine, Mr. Speaker. Richmond County is a very rural area, isolated in many ways, in many parts of the county. Having boards which cover such large territories does raise concerns. There were concerns from our areas. That was something that was being worked on. We had the Goldbloom report which went throughout the province, had hearings throughout the province and tried to listen to the concerns of people with regional health

[Page 3438]

boards if a good report came forward, and it was time to move on that report, and to refine the process which clearly was established to be working.

Instead, suddenly when the election came up the Tories campaigned and said, well, no, we are going to complete scrap regional health boards and put in community health boards. Today before us, we have Bill No. 34, which I guess the Tories would see as an opportunity to again put a checkmark next to their blue book saying they have fulfilled their commitment. Again, Mr. Speaker, as with every other piece of legislation this government has brought in, we are left with the fundamental question, why? What is the reason for Bill No. 34? What thinking went behind Bill No. 34? What studies, what evidence, what proof, what does this Tory Government have to establish that Bill No. 34 is good for the Province of Nova Scotia? (Interruption)

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Fiscal accountability.

MR. SAMSON: The honourable member for Preston says fiscal accountability. What proof is there that this will bring fiscal accountability? Is this the bill that the government is putting in to cut its administrative fat which they said was in the system, which they said they could just cut that and save health care in Nova Scotia?

[4:15 p.m.]

They went from four regional boards, which they said had too much administration, and now we are going to nine boards, and that is going to be the fiscal accountability that the member for Preston claims. Well using that logic, I have no problem seeing how the government convinced him that Bill No. 34 was the right way to go; obviously he was not one of the more difficult ones to convince to support this bill. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, unlike the member for Preston, over here on this side of the House we actually do ask questions and we don't accept things at face value, and we use some intelligence in our reasoning, and with that the question comes up of what evidence does this government have.

If the Minister of Health had walked in here and said we have a study and here are the numbers, here is proof that this is going to work. We had this while we were six years in Opposition. We had this, when we spent our six years on this side of the House. We were thinking, we were coming up with solutions, and here is our solution and here is why it is going to work. Do we have any of that in this? Again, Mr. Speaker, like every other piece of legislation, nothing. The government comes in saying all the problems with regional health boards and how community health boards are going to solve this, and yet they have absolutely nothing to present to this House to back up their arguments.

Mr. Speaker, again, as I have said with the other bills, in this day and age that is unacceptable. To ask us, as legislators, as being responsibly elected people in this province, to give an endorsement to legislation which has absolutely nothing to back it up to indicate

[Page 3439]

that it would have any form of success, other than fulfilling a Tory promise, is completely unacceptable.

Mr. Speaker, regional health boards had a mix of effects in my own riding of Richmond County. The Strait Regional Hospital, which is located in the Community of Evanston, which services the entire Strait area, indicated that under regional health boards they had gotten more accomplished than had ever been accomplished before under the old structure. They said that a regional health board was the best thing for the Strait Regional Hospital.

On the other hand, I had the St. Anne's Community & Nursing Care Centre, which is located in the beautiful Community of Arichat. They did not like regional health boards because they did not fall under regional health boards; in fact they had their own community health board, of which they were quite proud. I would go so far as to say that the St. Anne's Community & Nursing Care Centre, hopefully, was part of the Tory logic when they came up with these community health boards, because they probably had one of the most successful community health boards in the Province of Nova Scotia.

They are a unique institution, Mr. Speaker. They are a smaller institution and they are unique in their whole structure. I won't get into that, because I am going to stick to the discussion on this bill, and that goes to the point that I was saying that I had mixed reactions on this bill, and I think Nova Scotians will have mixed reactions on this bill because of the idea of turning back the clock and going back to where we were before when we realize that where we were before, the system was not working. It just was not working. We had serious problems which had to be addressed.

Using regional health boards was one step in addressing those problems, but to now say let's turn back the clock, let's go back to where we were before, realizing the problems that were encountered, unless the Minister of Health has some sort of information or evidence that he can prove that this is the right way at this point here, certainly I cannot support this bill as it now stands, unless he can convince me otherwise that this is the proper way to go.

Mr. Speaker, health care is the one thing I would say that Nova Scotians cherish the most. In rural Nova Scotia, it is a constant concern. As the Leader of the NDP said with physician recruitment, I have spoken numerous times on the issue of physician recruitment for the Richmond County area and for the Strait area. Fortunately, we have achieved a great deal of success in the last few years by working together, the community, the health care providers, and government. We achieved great success.

Health care is essential for ridings such as my own and for rural Nova Scotia. I am not here to try to scare Nova Scotians or even scare my constituents in trying to cast aspersions on what the government's intentions are. When I see a bill such as Bill No. 34 come to the floor of this House from a Tory Government that sat in Opposition for six years saying we have thought this out, this has been clearly thought out, this is a good piece of legislation and

[Page 3440]

then when I flip through the bill, I cannot find the Strait-Richmond Hospital. It mysteriously disappeared from the Department of Health according to Bill No. 34.

I have received a number of calls from my constituents saying what is this Tory Government trying to do? Why is the Strait-Richmond Hospital not included in this bill? I did the responsible thing and I said I will speak to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health tells me that it was a clerical error, this bill which is going to revamp the one issue which affects every single Nova Scotian which they cherish so much, my hospital was a clerical error. That is how well they thought out Bill No. 34. A typo. My health care institution which services the entire Strait area was a typo to this government - or was it a typo?

I took the minister's word, I am hoping he is ready to put it down on paper and bring an amendment into this House which includes the Strait-Richmond Hospital as part of this to indicate that I should have accepted his word. While we seem to have a hard time getting any amendments in with this Tory Government, so we will not be able to do it as an amendment at this stage at least.

As bad as it was that the Strait-Richmond Hospital did not make it in there, St. Anne's Community & Nursing Care Centre has not made it in the bill either. Not a mention of it and we are still not quite sure where it is. The fact that the minister and his government do not know where it is, is awful scary, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to fear-monger. I know that my socialist colleagues have made a career out of fear-mongering and I will not follow in that path, but I want to tell the minister and this government right now that these clerical errors and these little slip-ups which they claim it is, is unacceptable. You cannot toy with the health of Nova Scotians and with the institutions which they have worked so hard to maintain and to build and to preserve.

I am hoping the minister will immediately give indication in writing to this House that those two institutions are included in this legislation and that they will be maintained by this government, that this government has no intentions of cutting these institutions or changing their current responsibilities in health care and that it is his intention to maintain those institutions. I look forward to seeing that.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before during the election the Tory Government campaigned saying that regional health boards were not working. They were not working, they could not find one good thing about regional health boards. Not one good thing. Obviously they did not speak to anyone at the Strait-Richmond Hospital because they made it quite clear that regional health boards were working for that institution.

They did not say why it was not working, they just said it was not working. When asked how are you going to fix it, well we will put community health boards in. Why are you going to put community health boards in? I do not know, that is the way we had it before when Buchanan was there so let's give it another kick at the can, see if we cannot bring back

[Page 3441]

the glory days of John Buchanan. Only a Tory would have considered them to have been the glory days.

As I said, regional health boards were a revolutionary decision made by the Government of Nova Scotia at the time to try to bring back our system of health, try to put it back on its course and try to make it sustainable. There were problems, I have admitted that before. There were several problems, I admit that, as I indicated, even in my own riding. Some institutions were not pleased with the process, but we are working on that. That is why you had the Goldbloom report, that is why it went all around the province, that is why it came forward and made recommendations about how to make the system a better system. That is how government should operate.

When government brings in legislation, it is clear it is not always going to be perfect, that is why we continue to make amendments, make changes, revamp it and here was another opportunity. Yet, the government got the Goldbloom report, took it, hopefully they put it in the recycle bin and not in the garbage in order to preserve our environment, but they didn't pay very much attention to the Goldbloom report and that is a shame. The way they treated the Goldbloom report is how they treated the people who volunteered on these regional health boards who were told, you have no say, you have no power, you have been dismissed, thanks for coming out. I don't even think they got thanks for coming out, they just said you are dismissed, and they did so in an underhanded way. That is a shame because even with the Goldbloom report - it is funny because when the Minister of Health trumpeted this bill and he had, up in the gallery, the people who had worked on this advisory board to bring in Bill No. 34, many of those same faces were the faces on the Goldbloom report, who had worked to make regional health boards a success; the same faces. (Interruptions)

Well, yes, it tells me something. It tells me that these people are committed to health care in Nova Scotia and the least they can do is try to bring some sense into this government. Even the way they were treated, they are so committed to health care that they still stayed on and said, well let's, at least, see what we can do to preserve what we have and stop these Tories from taking away everything. How ironic. The people who advised the Liberal Government on a system which they felt was so flawed, suddenly were the same advisers they felt were appropriate for their new community health boards. How ironic, Mr. Speaker.

The way they took the power away from the boards was a despicable act. To take the power of the regional boards and move that all onto the deputy minister is an insult to people throughout the entire province. I have to laugh, Mr. Speaker, I see the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs trying to adjust one of the paintings. It seems that everything, after being on that side of the room with this government for a while, starts to be a little crooked, starts to lean a little bit. (Interruption) Needs to be adjusted, yes.

[Page 3442]

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, as the facts have shown, when the decision came to cut all the power to the regional health boards without the great work and the due diligence of the Liberal caucus, they may have actually gotten away with this but they were caught red-handed taking all of the power from these volunteer boards, these volunteers who worked on these boards, and sending it all up to the ivory tower here in Halifax, to the deputy minister. How ironic, this was the exact same government when, in Opposition, accused us of centralizing all the decision making here in Halifax and not giving that power to Nova Scotians throughout this province. Suddenly they were doing the same thing - not the same thing, they were doing even worse by putting it all into the hands of the most expensive deputy minister in the history of this province.

That goes to speaking on both sides of your mouth. When you tell Nova Scotians, elect us, these Liberals have all of these buddies sitting in the Department of Health, and they said this because I remember the MLA for Queens - and I am sure the Minister of Transportation will recall his good colleague from Queens - in the Public Accounts Committee just riling the government and he would actually say the names of some of the people in the Department of Health who he said were Liberal cronies and they were an example of this administrative fat, if we got rid of these guys everything would be all right in health care - $46 million, all of the money they could save.

I am not sure if the current member for Queens used the same campaign tactics but it is quite possible. He probably learned from his predecessor. This was their belief, Mr. Speaker; administrative fat. They mocked the $600 million investment fund. They laughed, they said those crazy Liberals are trying to make you believe that health care needs $600 million, we can fix it with $46 million. That is what this government said. (Interruption) No, they won't be able to fix it with $400 million, that is correct. It is all about being honest to Nova Scotians and we are seeing another example that the Tories would say anything, anywhere, at any time, to win that election, and Bill No. 34 is another example.

Mr. Speaker, when the Tories were in Opposition, consultation, consultation, consultation; who have you consulted, who have you consulted? The same question is now thrown back into their face. Whom have they consulted on Bill No. 34? Whom have they spoken to other than through their blue book, the bible according to the Tories, of how to solve all the problems in health care, go back to the past, turn back the clock.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is not good enough and, as the point was made earlier, the fact is that while these Tories don't think it is anything serious, the word is out there in the medical community that what is coming forward in Nova Scotia is not going to be pleasant. I know, myself, as I have said earlier, the efforts for physician recruitment in our county, that they are starting to say no one is even interested in Nova Scotia right now. They see what is coming. We see the problems happening in Yarmouth now, just an example of what is to come.

[Page 3443]

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, without being too pessimistic, it does not look like it is going to get any better because people are saying, look, you had a regional health board, you were on track to move forward in health care, to try to bring the system back on line, and now you are turning back the clock. Turning back the clock, what does it do? It closes beds in Yarmouth. Doctors there are having problems. Nurses are overworked. Health care providers are overworked. That is what this is doing. The member for Yarmouth thinks that that is a great thing. (Interruption) His constituents will judge that come the next election.

The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that that is the fundamental problem here, the vibrations that this is sending throughout the system. We all know the problems that were faced in the early 1990's when we had an exodus of doctors, not just from Nova Scotia but throughout Canada, who were going to the United States. They were all leaving for the United States for better days ahead, is what they were led to believe. Slowly, but surely, as we started to bring our health care system back on line, these doctors were finding out that everything was not glory down in the States. The quality of life was not what it was in Nova Scotia or in Canada and they did not like being down in the States. So slowly, but surely, they started coming back.

We started to rebuild and we have seen success throughout this province in physician recruitment and the most ironic part of this, Mr. Speaker, in recognizing the problems it is facing, one would think that the Minister of Health himself would be aware of this because in his own area - and this is not something to mock him because this is a shame and no one mocks this - but he should know his own area is one of the areas in this province most in need of doctors. Yet even he has the blindfolds on; it is like a horse at a fair, the blindfold is on and he is not even looking because this Tory is saying we are going full speed ahead whether there are rocks or not, or whether anybody falls overboard, pay no attention, we are going full speed ahead. He knows now the pressure he is under because I felt that pressure when I got elected and we had no physicians in Richmond County. Now he is feeling that and he is the minister. Imagine the responsibility that is brought to bear on him as the minister and he does not realize that it is this type of legislation and it is this type of decision making by his own government that is making it an even steeper uphill battle for him in getting physicians in his own area and in other areas throughout this province.

Mr. Speaker, as you know from the task force, the Goldbloom report is well known, the task force felt very strongly that their recommendations must be adopted in their entirety if regionalization was going to be a success and if the problems with that system were going to be addressed, but as I said before, this government completely ignored that report and did not even look at it because if they looked at that report, they would have to admit that, well, maybe community health boards are not the way to go, we said it in our blue book, we suggested it, but maybe it is not the way to go and that would have been fine. This government could have told Nova Scotians we are here for your best interests, of you, the Nova Scotians, not for the best interests of the Tory philosophy, but in the best interests of you and instead, once again, rather than admit maybe they were not pursuing the proper avenue, full speed ahead is what the minister has decided to do, what his government has

[Page 3444]

decided to do. Even in the face of the reality that this system is not the best system for health care in Nova Scotia, they were not able to look past that.

Mr. Speaker, you know, yourself, that in the Goldbloom report, those who worked on that report were some of the most experienced people in health care throughout this province. They came from every part of this province. Mr. George Kyte, a resident of St. Peters in my own riding, was a member of this task force. Ironically, this government recognized Mr. Kyte's commitments and his abilities in health care because they appointed him to their new task force on these community health boards; how ironic.

Mr. Speaker, one of the members of the task force, Sheila Scaravelli, is a Director of Patient Care Services at the Aberdeen Regional Hospital. This ironically is someone who lives in Premier Hamm's own backyard, and even she was ignored by this government; right in his own backyard, she was ignored by this government. He didn't ignore his campaign manager, but he ignored one of the most proficient health care providers. The Goldbloom 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." These are the people who were deemed to be the most qualified and talented people in our health care system. This is what they said.

What does this government say? Not good enough. We don't agree with you, we feel this is the proper way to go. That is fine. But what does this Tory Party have to prove that those professionals, those experts on the Goldbloom report were wrong, that what they are doing is not going to disrupt the system, is not going to reverse the process? What do they have to tell us? Well, look, pay no attention to what the Goldbloom report said, here is the evidence that we have to prove that what we are doing is the proper way to go. Well, Mr. Speaker, the fact that they have none, is a shame. We have seen on other bills where they had no evidence. They had nothing to back up why they were doing things. That was a shame then. But, to do so with health care, what Nova Scotians cherish so much? To what extent will this government go in trying to ram through the blue book onto the people of Nova Scotia, whether it is in their best interests or not in their best interests. It is time to put a stop to this. It is time that they take that blue book and burn it if they have to and say we are going to govern by what is best for Nova Scotians not governed by what it says in our blue book, even when the blue book is clearly not the right way to go.

Mr. Speaker, the Goldbloom report says that taking power away from regional health boards would do three things. It would disrupt the health care system, naturally, as was done when they took all the power from the health boards and gave it to the deputy minister. It would cost taxpayers more money. That is clear. You go from four boards, which the Tories said had too much administrative fat, and you go to nine boards, only Tory accounting logic could conclude that that is going to save the people of Nova Scotia money. The third thing it says is that it would create a more fragmented, less effective system of health care. How

[Page 3445]

could this government and this minister overlook these three most important points that the Goldbloom report singled out to this, the previous government and to this new government? How could they look past that and not put any weight into the concerns being raised?

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that Bill No. 34 will destroy any progress which has been made in our health care system. Maybe community health boards deserve legislation, but not this legislation. This bill has no flexibility, the Health Authorities Act is not realistic. It certainly does not address the problems in funding. Even the day after Bill No. 34 comes into effect, St. Ann's Nursing Centre will still have problems with funding. The Strait-Richmond Hospital will still have problems in funding. St. Martha's Hospital will still have problems in funding. This is not even addressed.

Mr. Speaker, there are also, as we have said before, serious concerns about the make-up of the proposed community boards. From the outset, the bill limits the talent and the skills of people actually permitted to sit on these boards.

The Health Authorities Bill says that any member of a board of directors of any organization is not permitted to sit on a community health board. Let's go through that again. Any member of a board of directors of any organization is not permitted to sit on a community health board. Well, Mr. Speaker, who are you eliminating here? In many ways, who you are eliminating is some of your most talented people in the communities. Unlike the logic of the Minister of Agriculture, even though they are not specifically in the health care field, I still believe and our caucus believes, like probably most Nova Scotians believe, that they have a contribution that could be made to our health care system.

The Minister of Agriculture seems to believe that unless you are in that profession you have no business in making any suggestions to that profession. In using that, I would hope that tomorrow he will resign as the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture for, obviously, he has no background in the fishing industry, therefore, using his logic, one would conclude that he is incompetent to be the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. That is according to his logic.

Mr. Speaker, to deny people from sitting on these community health boards, and how ironic this is coming from a government which appointed Brian MacLeod to review long-term care facilities, knowing that he is one of the biggest operators of long-term care facilities in this province, and happens to be a Tory. So, that was fine for him to sit on that board and to make recommendations in a field of which he stands to gain, yet, on community health boards, dealing with your community hospital, well, no, don't get any business people in that. They might try filling their pockets from working on these community health boards. Imagine the logic, the twisted Tory logic, which went into this bill.

[Page 3446]

Is this democracy, Mr. Speaker? No, it is not democracy. You cannot deny people because of their profession from serving on community health boards. The Minister of Justice should know that. He should know that very well. Why, in God's name, would this government try to deny business people or people who serve on a board of directors of an organization from sitting on these community health boards? What was the twisted logic used in that? We don't know. The Minister of Health seems to be very quiet on many aspects of this bill. But, I would go so far as to say that his silence will only guarantee that he will have to spend more time in this House on debate on Bill No. 34. It certainly will not work in his favour for speedy passage of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, with these restrictions, it is clear that there are thousands of Nova Scotians throughout this province who would love to serve their community under local community health boards. But, because of this legislation, since they possibly serve on another board, the Tories say they are not good enough and, therefore, they should not be contributing to these boards.

Mr. Speaker, also, as already has been raised, the fear on this side of the House is that this bill is an attempt for the Tories to go back to the old days of rewarding their supporters. Maybe that is not what will be done. Time will tell. I will assure you, if that is what their intentions are, this caucus will certainly make it known to Nova Scotians. We will wait and see. It is ironic because if they are going to appoint their poll captains and reward them on these community health boards, I suggest that they do it before budget day, because it might be hard to find anyone who will admit to being a Tory after budget day. So they would do best to make their appointments very soon.

Mr. Speaker, as it has been raised before, Nova Scotians have said throughout the years, especially in rural Nova Scotia, that they felt too much of the decision making in the Department of Health was based here in Halifax. Our government made great strides to try to change that perception and move the decision making back to the regions throughout this province to try to address that. What did the Tories do? They made the same allegations. They are all in an ivory tower in Halifax and criticizing our government. So what did they do in response? They gave even more power to the Minister of Health and more power to the ivory tower here in Halifax.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear the facts are speaking for themselves that we have seen how the Minister of Health and his deputy minister - the most expensive deputy in the history of this province - are building their own little empire in downtown Halifax, just next door here, in fact. Under the Health Authorities Act as proposed, the minister may remove or suspend any member of a community health board. Talk about buying silence, talk about buying cooperation and support of government legislation. The minister himself can swoop down, even in Richmond County, and take away and remove someone on a board if he does

[Page 3447]

not like what that member is doing. Swoop down from his ivory tower in Halifax, and remove a member from a board. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, the democracy Nova Scotians have to look forward to under this Tory Government.

The minister under this bill may also reappoint, reinstate or replace that member. So if they throw you out, at least there is an option for you to go back on your hands and knees, beg forgiveness of the minister, swear your allegiance to the Tory Party and he might just put you right back on that board.

AN HON. MEMBER: And make a donation.

MR. SAMSON: Make a donation. Well, I didn't see that in the bill, but maybe it will end up in the regulation, so we will have to watch those regulations just in case.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that what this bill does is give the Minister of Health an unacceptable level of authority over the members of these boards and over the future and the decision making of health care in this province. It is clear that the Minister of Health can easily dump any member who speaks out against the government, and that is unacceptable that here in Halifax they could decide. The minister himself is not accountable to this House. It is a majority government. He can do as he pleases. He, himself, has the sole authority to remove people at will, to swoop down and remove them.

It is clear that this is another attempt by this Tory Government to place a gag order, and in this case I would say a most despicable gag order, because trying to buy the silence of the hard-working men and women throughout this province who have dedicated so much time and a part of their lives dedicated to preserving and enhancing health care in this province, these are the people that this government wishes to buy their silence. It is a shame, Mr. Speaker.

In a democracy, Mr. Speaker, if you do not approve of what government is doing, if you do not approve of what someone is doing, you have the right to whether through the media, or in any other venue, to express your dissatisfaction, but this has been removed in Bill No. 34. If you say something the Tories don't like, bye-bye.

Another section of the Health Authorities Bill states that the minister may if he - or possibly in the future, she - feels appropriate convey some or all of the minister's responsibilities for deliverance, governance or management of the health services to the board. Mr. Speaker, under this, if the minister is under a bit too much pressure or is a little bit too tired, he can just dump all of these responsibilities onto the board and escape accountability in himself, and one could only wonder what sort of situations this could place on the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3448]

Mr. Speaker, yet another sections states that the minister can dismiss the members of a district health authority and replace them with an official administrator if the board requests. Or, it goes on further, if the minister considers that the board has ceased to function, or if the board has, "failed to comply with any order of the Minister or the Minister's delegate." So if you don't do as we say, you are gone. Do not question what we tell you. Do not make suggestions as to what we have told you to do. Do it or you are gone.

Mr. Speaker, I would go so far as to say that Nova Scotians will not be fooled by this government. Who would go serve on a community health board knowing that they have absolutely no input and they have absolutely no ability to make any change in the delivery of health care in this province when this government has clearly dictated in Bill No. 34 that you do as we say or you are gone.

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

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the honourable member for Richmond for yielding the floor. I would like to introduce to the House in the Speaker's Gallery, Ken Melanson and his wife Jean, from Springhill. Ken has an interesting story; he was trapped five days underground in the mine disaster in 1956, which just so happens to be the same year that I was born. He is very involved in promoting the Springhill Miners Museum and the Anne Murray Centre and also Springhill in general. He is here to receive the Volunteer Award on behalf of the Town of Springhill tomorrow. I would like to welcome him to the House.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker. I, too, want to welcome our special guests here with us today in the House. I hope they find the debates they are watching most interesting.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the part that says they can cease the function of a board if the board, " . . . has failed to comply with any order of the Minister or the Minister's delegate." Who would be the minister's delegate? What could that possibly mean? I guess we will have to wait for the regulations to see the exact specifics on that.

Again, it begs the question, can the campaign manager or local Tory president walk down and say he is not pleased with how they are operating and therefore, either you start doing what we tell you or I am going to call the minister in Halifax and he is going to swoop down here and you are gone.

AN HON. MEMBER: Jim Spurr will send him a letter.

[Page 3449]

MR. SAMSON: Yes, maybe Mr. Spurr could become useful to this government again, doing more dirty work.

Mr. Speaker, on the one hand the Minister of Health, through this bill, is trying to seize all the power himself, through his department, while, at the same time he divorces himself of all responsibility and accountability. So they want to control everything and make all the decisions but the minute there are any problems, guess who gets the blame. It is not the Tories, not the Minister of Health. They will blame these community health boards in which they have tied their hands, put a gag order on them and basically made them completely ineffective. They will be the ones who will bear the blame for this government.

Mr. Speaker, the minister and his deputy, as I have said before, the highest paid deputy in this province, have not been accountable since day one. The minister sat on this side of the House, he condemned this government for our efforts at physician recruitment, yet now that he is the minister, he has no solutions and he uses the same lines that were being used before. While he was on this side of the House and he could not see any success in physician recruitment, now that he is minister suddenly he sees great success. Yet when one asks him, what are you going to do for physician recruitment for Truro, Springhill or other areas? He says, I don't know, hopefully doctors will come. That is not good enough, Mr. Speaker.

As I said before, five months ago the Minister of Health took all power away from the regional health boards and moved it to the Department of Health in a most underhanded manner. For five months all control over delivery of health care has rested in downtown Halifax. Richmond County didn't have a say, the Strait area didn't have a say. Everything was being decided right here in Halifax, exactly what that member, the minister, had riled against us for doing, or what he accused us of doing, while he was on this side of the House, suddenly now he was blatantly taking all the power and putting it into Halifax.

For the first time ever in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, there has been no public input, no public consultation and no accountability into the delivery of health. What is even most despicable, Mr. Speaker, is that the minister and this government will say it was in our blue book. That is what Nova Scotians voted for. (Interruption) Minister of Transportation says that is right. When they talk about user fees and raising taxes, that is what people voted for.

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that Nova Scotians did not vote for Bill No. 34 as it now stands. Maybe they bought the Tory line that community health boards were the solution to everything but they didn't vote for what is in Bill No. 34 as it currently stands. This government will not get away with telling Nova Scotians or telling members of this House this is what we were elected on, this was our platform - we are fulfilling that promise. That is not true, we are not buying it and the most important thing, which comforts me most, is that Nova Scotians are not buying it.

[Page 3450]

The fact that there has been absolutely no public input, no consultation and no accountability in this process of bringing in Bill No. 34 makes it a clear violation of the Canada Health Act. Section 8.1 of the Canada Health Act clearly states that the health care must be administered by a public body. The Deputy Minister of Health does not fit the description of a public health body. If he did he would be a very expensive public health body, but he does not fit that description. This bill does not fix this problem.

The Health Authorities Bill does not give Nova Scotians back their say in the way they receive health care. It is quite clear that the bill states that if these health boards do not adopt the policies of this government and do not listen to exactly what this government says, the minister will swoop down and either remove individual members or just completely disband them and replace them with some sort of other officials. The bill keeps the ultimate power, not the accountability, in the hands of the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Health.

When we look at certain clauses of the bill it states that community health boards shall not govern or manage the delivery of health services. Why have community health boards if they can't even do this most basic function? Again, the Tory Government does not want to hear what Nova Scotians have to say. When they say, we are doing this; we are going full speed ahead regardless of what is ahead of us; we are not paying attention to any signals coming on either side; we are moving straight ahead regardless of the repercussions because it is in our blue book. That is unacceptable, Mr. Speaker, that is not responsible government. That borders on being a dictatorship where it says, we are moving ahead and their constant excuse - I heard the member from Yarmouth shout it out again - that is what we got elected on. That is not what Nova Scotians elected this government on. Nova Scotians didn't elect this government to shut 28 or 29 beds in Yarmouth. They did not vote for that; they did not want that, but that is what they have under this government.

Mr. Speaker, they do not trust Nova Scotians to make their own decisions about health care. The Minister of Health is saying constantly, don't complain, I know what is best for you. Without being overly critical of him, it is clear that he does not know best how to solve physician recruitment problems. I don't accept that he knows best how to solve our health care system. There is no one in this House that knows best how to solve this system. We are elected here to be leaders of our own districts and to come to Province House and to listen to the debates, to listen to our constituents and listen to opinions being expressed to find the best possible solutions to represent our constituents and to move this province forward. This minister and this government are clearly failing to do that. It appears that the Halifax Chamber of Commerce are about the only people that they are listening to. The fact is, I would go so far as to say, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce will not be enough come next election time to re-elect many of the members on the government side.

[Page 3451]

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Tories are taking the power without assuming any responsibility. As I said before, they will be the ones who make all of the decisions, the fundamental decisions, but when it comes down to problems in certain districts, when the community health boards say, wait a minute, this is not our problem, in reality we are just here, we have no power or anything, we are just figureheads here, in essence, Halifax is the one to blame for this. Rest assured, the minister and the Department of Health will be quick to lay blame on these volunteers and these people on community health boards and will accuse them for any problems there might be with this system, and that certainly will not be acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, for example, the Health Authorities Bill also says that any borrowing carried out by the district health authority for working capital is the responsibility of the district health authority. This seems to allow district health authorities to run a deficit, because suddenly with all the control they put in, when it comes to the finances, they say, no, no, no, you take care of that, we will tell you where you can spend your money, what you can spend it on, and what programs you can have, but you worry about paying for everything and you are responsible for that, we don't want anything to do with that. Again, where is the accountability of this government?

Mr. Speaker, there are also some major problems which this bill completely fails to address. Never mind that Premier Hamm promised to solve the problems in health care with only $46 million. Remember that promise? Our Party remembers that promise. Nova Scotians remember that promise and they will remember it for a long time. The Tories clearly said they would find the savings through cuts in administration, the famous administration fat where they are going to save all of this money. Instead of cutting administration, the Tories have added the most expensive deputy minister in history, as well as huge high-paid staff for the deputy. Now the Tories are saying they want to take the four regional health boards and turn them into nine boards and again save money on administration; again, Tory Accounting 101.

This is not cutting administration, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians are not fooled by this. It is simple math and it is becoming clear to Nova Scotians that this Tory Government can neither add nor subtract. Nine boards will clearly cost more than four boards. That is unavoidable and a basic fact. There will be even bigger problems than this. How are the assets of four boards going to be divided fairly among nine boards? This opens up a terrible legal can of worms. There are areas where there is overlap among the new boards and the former board. How will assets be split up in these cases? This bill completely fails to address this problem.

I will give you a real example of this. In Richmond County there are a number of constituents who use St. Martha's Regional Hospital for any surgery or any major health difficulties they might have. Another big portion of Richmond County uses the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. When this government came to power, suddenly they told the people of

[Page 3452]

Richmond County, well, you have to decide where you are going. Are you going that way or are you going that way, but you cannot go both ways, which one do you want? So does the minister say I am going to take responsibility, I am going to help you out through this and try to find a most reasonable solution for everyone? No, he sends out one of these people on his task force, one of these hardworking volunteers, and says, no, you go down there and you figure it out. You tell them which way they should go.

So in the end, Mr. Speaker, they told the people of Richmond County you will go with this health board. This is who you fall under. This government has decided you can no longer decide which board you want to be in. You will be in this board. Under the regional health board Cape Breton and the Strait area were all under the same board. So there was no problem of deciding whether you wanted to go to St. Martha's Hospital or the Cape Breton Regional Hospital. It was all under one board. Now this is just an example of where they are splitting hairs, and telling constituencies such as Richmond County, you are no longer going to be able to choose the institution, we are forcing that upon you. We are forcing what board you will be under. That is just a real life example.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that there will also be costs and expenditures associated with the creation of a whopping nine new boards, new administrators, new offices, new buildings. It is not clear to what extent this government has allocated for these transitional funds. Will the costs be represented in the Department of Health budget, which, as we all know now, will be coming down Tuesday?

Mr. Speaker, I have many problems with this bill, but the biggest problem is that this is not needed. Nova Scotians do not need Bill No. 34 now. I would not go so far as to say they will never actually need Bill No. 34. They clearly do not need it now. The system does not need this disruption. This system has had enough ups and downs. It does not need another by this government just so that this government's Minister of Health can trump around this province and say, look at the checkmark next to our famous blue book. It is not acceptable.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that regional health boards were working. There were problems, it is clear, that is why you had a Goldbloom report. That is why you had Nova Scotians saying, look, how about we make some of these changes here? How about you look at what the problems are? That was taking place, the process was in place to do this. Now that the system is just about ready to be working very efficiently, these Tories come in and say, out it goes, we are bringing in this new system and, unlike the Liberals, the new Tories and these community health boards will be absolutely problem free. Not one Nova Scotian will complain under the administration of community health boards because the Tories know everything. You elected them July 27th because they know everything. They know what is good for you, they know what is best for you, and if they don't they will tell you what is best for you. There will be absolutely no problems from here on in.

[Page 3453]

I hope the Minister of Justice will stand in two years time and thump his chest if he likes and say I was right. I told you there would be no problems with community health boards. I told you, you silly Liberals were wrong. I had all the answers, I knew what was right. I have the evidence to back up that this was the proper way to go, here it is. The Minister of Transportation can stand up and thump his chest, although not too hard, and say that he was right, he had all the answers. Yes, not too hard, because we are not sure what system of health will be there to help him if he hits too hard. I give him that simply as a friend and as a little piece of advice for his well being. (Interruption) I am not sure.

Mr. Speaker, what is ironic, in the latest issue of the Department of Health newsletter, what is on the front page, a glowing report and praise for the Eastern Regional Health Board. It sings the praises of the what they have been able to do. I join with the Department of Health because they deserve to have praise sung upon them. It says that the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation congratulated the Eastern Regional Health Board for its commitment to improving the quality of health care and services in the region. How can that be? How can this Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation say this when these Tories are saying that everything is wrong with the system, and we can't have regional health boards. They are failures. They have never succeeded. They are no good.

So, once again, not only are Nova Scotians, the hard working volunteers in our health care system wrong, but even this Canadian Council on Health Services is wrong also. Silly Canadian Council on Health Services trying to say that a board has done something good when this almighty Tory Government has clearly said that they can't do anything good and everything about them is wrong. Once again, we will see what the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation has to say about community health boards in this government in a few years time. See if they will sing the same praise as what was sung for the Eastern Regional Health Board.

Mr. Speaker, provinces have already begun to innovate and adapt to the pressures of expensive new technologies, an ageing population and shortages of doctors and nurses, especially in remote orders.

We know that primary care can function better through regional boards, better integrated acute care so that Nova Scotians could move easily between the doctor's office, the clinic, the hospital, the home and community care depending on their needs. By moving from four boards to nine boards, one can only wonder whether this ease will continue to exist under this new Tory Administration. I gave the example for Richmond County; we have two major institutions which my constituents rely on, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital and St. Martha's Hospital. We have been put in with the board of St. Martha's, does that mean now that my constituents no longer have a choice but they will be forced to go to St. Martha's rather than go to the Cape Breton Regional Hospital? Only time will tell if that is the case or not, but certainly if it is we are in for very interesting times in this province and the people of Richmond County and throughout this province will speak quite clearly about what they think

[Page 3454]

of this government as compared as to who they were led to believe they were electing on July 27th.

Mr. Speaker, information services are not addressed adequately in this legislation. 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 was going to have to be established. We did this. We have established tele-medicine, we had a plan to integrate the regional boards so far as they could communicate very easily and most importantly, reliably. This exists in my area, it is in many other areas and we are on the right track.

Mr. Speaker, at this point I am not prepared to support Bill No. 34 unless this government has something more that it can show to prove to me and to my constituents that this is the proper way to go for the future of health care in our province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise to add my voice to those of my colleagues who have spoken in opposition to Bill No. 34 because as they have suggested, it is a truly retrograde, backward looking that is, piece of legislation.

If we stop for a minute and we think about what has happened in the world generally in the last 20 or 30 years, and it applies to all facets of public life and public participation, not just to health care, we have seen an increasing democratization, that is to say increased knowledge and participation by citizens in the public life of their communities. That is not to say that throughout history there have not always been dedicated and involved citizens who have supported their communities in thousands of ways.

In the last number of years there has been an acknowledgement, usually grudging, from governments that citizens do have enormous contributions to make to the lives of others in their community; whether it be in health care, education or whatever sphere of public good citizens participate in. Speaking particularly about health care, there has been a huge democratization of health care in the world, especially in the last 30 years and particularly in the last 10 years and I speak to some extent from personal experience when I tell you that the growth of health care information is phenomenal - the growth of information, the access to information for people who are not medical practitioners of any sort. The Internet is the best example of this.

Mr. Speaker, if you had any idea how many hundreds of sites there are on the Internet which are designed not just for people actually trained in some aspect of medical care, but for those who are called - and I hate the word - health care consumers who now can directly by-pass the system in order to access information so they don't get unfiltered information, but they get information through many different filters, as opposed to just one.

[Page 3455]

[5:15 p.m.]

My point, Mr. Speaker, is that people are far more knowledgeable about health, health care, their own, those of their family members than they used to be. Now we see this trend in other aspects of the community. We see an ever-increasing movement to alternative therapies, for example; we see an ever-increasing interest by every citizen, I would say, in health promotion, illness prevention, if you like; planning for health care futures by good habits and good eating, for example, and exercise in the current time-frame. So all over North America and other places too, and that includes Nova Scotia, health care has become much more the responsibility of those who are consuming it than it used to be.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell a story on my mother and I will because she is not alone. It is a fairly typical story.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little bit too much background noise and the member for Halifax Fairview has the floor. If people want to carry on conversations, maybe they want to do it outside the Chamber.

MS. O'CONNELL: My mother thanks you, too. My mother, I think, is fairly typical of her generation. Six years ago, when she had to have a surgical procedure in Halifax, the doctor came around with the consent form and said, Mrs. O'Connell, I would like you to sign this, but first I have to explain to you what it says. She said, oh, please. I don't want to know. Don't tell me anything. I will just sign it. This very patient man said, well, you see, we are not allowed to do that, so I have to read this to you and explain what each thing means. She said, I don't want to know. Please don't tell me. I don't want to know. Well, Mr. Speaker, it was explained to her, in spite of her protestations, and that is an indication that, more and more, all those involved in that kind of a transaction are aware that everyone has a stake in health care. Everyone has a stake in illness prevention, health promotion, healthy eating and all those other things.

So what do we have here, Mr. Speaker? We have a piece of legislation that I would say counters every social tendency, as well as, in particular, every commission on the subject of health care since 1972. First of all, it is not about health care anyway, which is what people care about, it is about the structure of health care management in this province. It suffers from the sins of health care that we have been trying to evolve from for 20 or 30 years. It is or is potentially hospital centred, as the hospitals move back to the centre of the district board.

It concentrates power, almost completely, if not completely, in the hands of the minister and, therefore, removes that powerful democratic element that was starting to bubble up and grow and evolve and become mature and skilled, for example, in the level of community health boards and regional health boards, and leaves, ultimately, the door open for the Minister of Health, I would say, to do absolutely anything that the Minister of Health wants to do or his Party or his government or his cronies want him to do. Of course it has been

[Page 3456]

mentioned earlier but, Mr. Speaker, that does include the privatization, in a major way, of health care services in this province.

It is well known that we are a Party who have, throughout the years, ever since 1944, when Tommy Douglas brought in hospital health care in Saskatchewan, we have been known throughout the years for at least attempting, the very best we can, to defend the public health care system and we have found over and over again, as have others, that not only does the struggle never end but sometimes we move so far backwards that the struggle almost has to begin again.

I want to talk about power because this is the key to this bill, Mr. Speaker. As I have said, this is not about health care, it is not about the things we should be addressing in the Province of Nova Scotia, it is about the structure of health care management in this province. I want to talk about structure because that is what the bill talks about. I am not sure, although there have been very many general comments by members from their places, about how this bill concentrates power in the hands of the minister, removes the possibility of constructive involvement at the district and the community level, but I want to do it in a little more detail because I think it brings the point home.

In the first place, and others have said it before me, we go from four regional health boards to nine health districts. So we now have health districts and we have a lot more, over twice as many as we had regional health boards. Okay, Mr. Speaker, how do you get a district health board together? Well, here is how you do it, according to this bill; one-third of its members are appointed by the minister - I will speak more about that - two-thirds are appointed by the minister. This two-thirds is chosen by the minister from a list of nominees from the community health boards; one-third and two-thirds are three-thirds, so they are all appointed by the minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: You were a math teacher, weren't you?

MS. O'CONNELL: No, I was an English teacher but I can add, I can even do fractions, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

Now I thank the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova for his encouragement. All joking aside, let's look for a minute at those two-thirds who are appointed by the minister, based upon a list presented to the minister from the community health boards.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday. I have been on the Human Resources Committee for almost four years; now that may, indeed, be a fate worse than death but the fact of the matter is that only recently, when this government came to power, did it invent something called a screening panel for appointments to government boards and commissions. This is a list of qualified people for a post on a government board or

[Page 3457]

commission, from whom the minister may select, can select, has the power to select and does select, his appointee.

Well, Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a tremendous opportunity for friends of the government to be appointed to district health boards. How many of them would there be? That is the next question. Well, guess what, we don't know. The legislation does not say how many people there are going to be on district health boards. Worse, this legislation says that the regulations will determine it, and if the regulations don't get around to determining it, why then the minister will determine it.

Now, how many Nova Scotian friends of the government can you fit onto nine district health boards, Mr. Speaker? Well, since we don't know, let's speculate. If you look at the clause in this bill on community health boards, the range of members is from 9 to 15. Let's just take that number in the absence of any other number, move it over to the district health boards, and let's say there are 9 to 15 members on each district health board. Once again, I am going to wow this House with my expertise in the science of mathematics. If there are 9 members of the district health board, then this gives the opportunity for 81 friends of the government to sit on district health boards; and if there are 15, why that number grows and expands to 135 friends of the government, Tories to do the bidding of the Minister of Health on the district health board.

Okay, you say well, maybe they won't be there forever. Well, how long do they serve? We don't know, the bill doesn't say. And, if the regulations don't say, then the minister will say. So here we are with the perfect structure for a top-down, unaccountable district health board. (Interruption) Now, in contradiction to what the member for Richmond said earlier, it is not the community health boards, but the district health boards that have a restriction on them about who can serve. This particular restriction that I am referring to, Mr. Speaker, is that members of the district health boards cannot serve on other boards.

Now, Nova Scotia, in my understanding, has the highest level of volunteerism in the country. We have a large number of rural communities. This government has now decided to exclude from participation on district health boards every single person in this province who has made a commitment through that particular method of sitting on a board to their communities. I would bet, Mr. Speaker, that there are thousands of them. Who are these people who are going to be excluded? I made a very short list of some of the community and health care and other groups that would have a tremendous amount to offer a district health board and who, as I understand it from reading this bill, are excluded from sitting on the district health board. Family planning organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Nova Scotia. Who better than people knowledgeable in this particular and very necessary form of health education and treatment. Who better to participate on a district health board? But no, sorry. Service clubs known historically, not only to serve their communities through the particular activities of their clubs, but to have spent their volunteer time over the years raising money to subsidize the health care system, whether it is to buy wheelchairs for children or any other

[Page 3458]

activity that they engage in. Am I not right that service clubs in this province have spent their communal and organizational lives helping their community in these very specific and constructive ways?

Recreation clubs, Mr. Speaker. There is a recognition now that recreation and athletic pursuits are determiners of good health in the future and are big cost savers for the health system. Who better than to participate in the district health board than people who are participating in and knowledgeable about the benefits of health and recreation to the members of their community? They are not eligible.

[5:30 p.m.]

What about the Victorian Order of Nurses? There is a group of primarily women I think, who have been doing home care in Nova Scotia since before we knew the phrase, who have had to fight for a living wage so that they can continue to take on the job that they want to do in this province and supplement home care, a very poor, inefficient home care system. There they are out there, day after day, and they haven't any say in a district health board.

Teen health centres, for example, are an interesting one, Mr. Speaker, because they have another restriction. You cannot participate unless you are 18 years old, so not only are we saying that young people who are devoting themselves to their communities, whether it is at the teen health centre in their school, or some other community activity, they are not eligible either; transition houses, who know the social, medical and human costs of the society that we live in and who have seen what can be done to amend these wrongs and to prevent them in the future; women centres, who provide a whole range of service and resources, who are in there in their communities helping women and their families day in and day out; and Children's Aid Societies. Who better knows the needs of children, vulnerable, disadvantaged children? Who better knows that the determinants of health are laid out in early life and who could contribute in an enormous way to district health centres?

We have not mentioned people who work with seniors. The Alzheimer's Society has knowledge, compassion, skill, and has been growing in its capacity to serve the communities as the population of ageing people in our society grows. Early childhood centres, pre-schools, and day cares, again, a group of people in our community who have skill, knowledge and expertise about that crucial phase of life.

Mr. Speaker, an organization that I used to be on the board of and which I have a deep affection for is the Canadian Association for Community Living, a group of people who come together in an organizational way to support, counsel and anything else they can do for families who are challenged by having a family member who is mentally challenged and for whom the costs to families are sometimes very high.

[Page 3459]

Then, of course, there is the obvious, the school boards. If you want to start looking at how to maximize the use of health care resources in this province, why would you not be putting health and education together? Who better than these people, who were elected, by the way, by their communities, who better to sit on a district health board?

So, Mr. Speaker, I have to scratch my head and I have to ask myself the question, who is left standing except the minister and whatever Tory cronies there are in the world who do not sit on boards, but stay home and - I don't know - watch Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The other question, does this rule apply to the Chamber of Commerce? I want to know that.

MR. JOHN HOLM: The Metro Chamber.

MS. O'CONNELL: The Metro Chamber, because I want to know that. Having made my point about district health boards - and it is a serious one, Mr. Speaker - I think it is a fatal one in terms of this legislation. Let's go to the next level. Let's go to community health boards. We do know how many there are going to be, maybe, on community health boards.

MR. HOLM: How many?

MS. O'CONNELL: Maybe 9 to 15 and, Mr. Speaker, they are going to have three-year terms, maybe. This is my favourite line in the whole bill, Mr. Speaker, that these members are going to be chosen by an open and transparent process decided by the minister. Hello! (Interruptions)

Now I do believe the minister is listening and thank goodness for it because this is a mess. There are a range of tasks for community health boards outlined in the bill, but one of those tasks is to prepare the list of nominees for the district health boards selection by the minister. There we have it again - ditto, ditto.

Is it so revolutionary to consider that just maybe there ought to be elections for some of these things? What a concept. This from a Party that is crawling on its knees with gratitude after an election. It knows what elections are. What is the matter with saying to the people of Nova Scotia, guess what, I am no smarter than you. You can do this and you bring to this the expertise of your family and your community and your professional life and you have something to offer.

We may all remember the long, agonizing process by which we finally got elected school boards. They used to be appointed by the municipalities and then they were sort of half elected, then finally, we got elected school boards. What we have seen, which costs the government energy which they do not like to use on it, I guess, is enormous democratization. We have seen schools and school boards central to the life of the community and there is much more public discussion then there used to be and sometimes much more public pain,

[Page 3460]

Mr. Speaker, because that is what democracy is about. It is slow, it is cumbersome, but it works because it works for everybody.

I am also reminded, because when you look at this thing, what you have is all this accountability flowing down from the minister and none coming back up. Everybody down the line step, step, step, step, step; has to do this, that and the other thing at the behest of the minister, everything except kiss his ring. There is no accountability back up the line. There is nothing that says community health boards will slave away in good faith. I have an echo in my mind, there is a certain parallel in some senses to school advisory councils who have been slaving away around this province trying to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in schools and discovering inch by inch and word by word and deed by deed they do not have any power to effect the wise decisions that they attempt to make.

I probably should not say this here, but a certain member of my family who works for a certain employer was sent off on a course last week. Initially I thought it was amusing, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. The course the employer sent him on was called, Managing Without Authority. It seems to me there is something funny going on here, there is something strange and this Managing Without Authority seems to me to be an excellent phrase to describe what is going on in this bill. In fact, I think what we have in this bill is, we have not just Managing Without Authority, but we have accountability without authority. I see the member for Dartmouth East nodding his head in agreement. Be still my heart. There we have it, we have accountability where these community groups are going to slave away as community groups do and we know that they do because we participate in them ourselves; we have been there. They work hard they work late, they work for no money, and they bring it to Dad, and he says this is no good, I don't like it. Let's do something different. I don't see any hope for citizen participation in a meaningful way under this structure for district and community health boards.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to sum up by expressing some of the areas of concern, not just around management and structure, although they are all certainly related. Let me just sum up this way. The minister does have all the power, there is no question about it. He can do as he pleases, and this is a kind of closed-shop management that this province can do without and needs to do without.

Number two, community health boards have no autonomy, they have no room to act. The only thing the district health authority has to do after these community health boards have slaved their guts out, is to explain to them why they are not listening to them. I predict, Mr. Speaker, that under this structure, we will see, as I have said what happened with school advisory councils, the frustration level will rise, people will feel ineffective and powerless, and that is because they will be, under this structure. Pretty soon, all those people who went there in good faith will walk away, and there will be no one left but the friends of the government. That's if there was anyone else in the first place who could get a way in.

[Page 3461]

Number three, there is only one-way accountability, and that is from the bottom to the top. Everyone in this structure is accountable to the minister and nowhere is the minister accountable to the community health board or to the communities. Mr. Speaker, they are the ones on the front lines. They are the ones that are going to get the flak. They are going to have to try to explain their own impotence to the members of their community.

Number four, the bill sows confusion about this planning, whether or not it is ever listened to ultimately. Three different groups doing planning? I don't see any mechanism for coordination, and the community health boards will be at the bottom of the heap. As the plans come down, they will be at the bottom, and they will have to absorb the impact.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think in case it is lost on anyone in this Chamber, I certainly do oppose this bill. I strongly oppose it, as do my colleagues in the New Democratic Party. This is not a bill that empowers communities. It is a bill that consolidates power with the Minister in the Department of Health and the phrase, downtown Halifax, has been used over and over again. It is not what the people of Nova Scotia voted for. They did not vote to have power taken from their community and concentrated even more in the hands of one person.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this bill, I think, just increases the genuine frustration and, in some cases, agony, of the people of Nova Scotia who are desperately in need of health care services. The only thing that can happen as the result of this bill is a growing frustration and growing distrust of government on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, politicians in this province have a long way to go as it is to engage the trust of Nova Scotians. What this bill will do is it will have a large impact. It will, in a serious way, increase the distrust of this government by the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today to talk about Bill No. 34, a bill that was brought in with a fair amount of fanfare, a bill that the Conservative Government have said that they believe is primarily important to development of the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia, a bill that, supposedly, will improve health delivery, from one end of this province to another, a bill that has been alleged to say it will save money and a bill that was developed to help strengthen health care in the future.

I say, Mr. Speaker, that this bill is none of the above. In fact, I would say this bill is for no other reason than to fulfil a political agenda and a political promise made before and during the election campaign. That is what this bill is all about. It is not about being fiscally responsible. It is not about providing input from Nova Scotians. It is not about improving the

[Page 3462]

health delivery system in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is to fulfil an election promise, something that the Conservative Government are more keen in doing than in providing good government and good health delivery Nova Scotians.

I note that the members opposite are keenly listening to this debate. If they listen real good, they will be able to hear it. I notice the Whip in the back of the room spent a few days up in Cape Breton trying to see if they could improve the fortunes of the Progressive Conservative Party and, if I recall correctly, earlier today, he was bragging about the 17 per cent support for the Progressive Conservative Party in Cape Breton. I think, actually, that member was bragging quite well because probably 17 per cent is about as high as they are going to get over the next period of time.

To fulfil election promises, this Conservative Government is able and willing to do anything. It doesn't matter about cost. It doesn't matter about service delivery. A case in point is the forensic hospital where they said, we are going to move that hospital because we don't believe that we can get an individual elected unless we stand up and say that we need to change that location. So what did they do? They had the election and now we have the $8 million Community Services Minister sitting in the front benches because they didn't care about location, other than the fact that they just wanted to politically get somebody elected. I have never seen such a blatant, political process of vote-buying in all my life.

I am sure that Nova Scotians realize that that $8 million, or thereabouts, could be used for beds in hospitals around this province, $8 million that could have been used to provide better health care delivery to the people in Cape Breton or in Yarmouth, $8 million that could be used to maybe help to be able to provide more nurses so that the new hospital in Yarmouth could be able to keep those beds open. I know the member for Yarmouth, the MLA for Yarmouth, is concerned about that because he is an MLA who is concerned for his people and the health and safety of his people and the benefit of having a quality health care delivery system in Yarmouth. He supported the efforts of our Liberal Government in putting money into that hospital and expanding the base there. I am sure that good member for Yarmouth is very upset that they could not find ways to pay nurses to be there to keep those hospital beds open. Instead, we have an $8-plus million plus Community Services Minister. I think that is really too bad. I am not saying anything personal about the minister, I think he is a very fine gentleman, I just find (Interruptions) He is not cheap anyway, $8 million.

I just want to say that the member opposite is a fine gentleman. I am not taking this personally, but I do find it very interesting how this Progressive Conservative Government, as pious as they are, as self-righteous as they are, are so determined to do their agenda with or without the consultation of Nova Scotians, whether it is just or fair or right, it is their way or the highway or no way.

[Page 3463]

I note that the Minister of Finance is now leaving the debate. I am sure that he is busy going back (Interruption) Oh, the Minister of Finance is leaving, is that what I am supposed to say?

MR. SPEAKER: No, you are now allowed to mention that.

MR. DOWNE: Okay. Well, as members do leave the House, whoever they might be, I wish them good luck over the next few days and realize that health care is one that we are looking for money for, and not just $46 million they said they could promise to fix the problem.

Let's go back and take a look at (Interruption) I see I have the attention of a couple of prominent second bench Conservative members across the way and I appreciate that. Prior to this promise about changing the regional health boards, the government of the day said, we think that regional health boards that we currently have are not working. They said we need to do an independent study to determine whether or not those boards are, in fact, functioning properly. Do you remember that? I remember in the House the then Leader of the Third Party, who is now the Premier, making it very clear time in and time out that they wanted a study done and consultations, to see if it was working, whether it is cost-effective, whether, in fact, the regional boards that we had were working in a way that would provide good health care delivery.

Well, it didn't take long for the Tories' rhetoric, when they were in a Third Party position, to alter when an election comes because they then have gone from saying - and of course we listened to them as a good Liberal Government under the leadership of Russell MacLellan, we listened to the Third Party. We supported the Minister of Health at the time, one of the best Ministers of Health that this province has had, and I would say he knew his portfolio; we listened to the Third Party rhetoric across the way when they were jabbing away and saying we need to do that study. We trusted them, we believed them. We believed that Tory machine over there was actually telling the truth to us, that they think a study would have been an appropriate way to go.

So what did we do under the leadership of our good Premier at the time, and a Minister of Health? We commissioned a study to be done, the Goldbloom report, a task force that was sent out to consult with Nova Scotians, a very reputable body, a team of experts led by a chairman that is highly regarded in the Province of Nova Scotia for his professional ethics and for his professionalism in the medical field. That board was instructed to go and take a very serious and critical look at how the regional health boards, in fact, were operating and how they were working.

They came back with a report. Before that report was able to be given the light of day to Nova Scotians to show what was there, this Conservative Government said, it doesn't matter what the public consultation was all about, it doesn't matter what the people of Nova

[Page 3464]

Scotia were saying about the health system and the regional health boards. This government of the day said it doesn't matter, in fact we don't even care what anybody says about that because it is our way or no way. We know best, no matter what we said in the House, we know best. So what they did is they came out with their own agenda with or without the report and without looking and listening to what the report said.

We all know in this House that that report made it very clear that the regional health boards were working and were effective, and they were cost effective. They were going through growing pains as any other new board will, and I am sure this new government has gone through growing pains, backbenchers growing pains, front bench growing pains, budget leak growing pains, ministers who don't know their portfolio growing pains, ministers who still don't know their portfolio growing pains, slow to rise to questions and lack of ability to answer questions growing pains. We know all about those growing pains that they have. I am trying to be nice.

Mr. Speaker, the growing pains of the health boards were not nearly as disrespectful to a process of proper consultation as the Party that is now in power. I say shame on them. The Third Party demanded the regional review to be made, almost daily in the House, and I remember the member sitting across the way when he moved into the front benches. That was just after a slight little coup that almost took place, they moved him to the front benches. I remember that and appreciated his loyalty and support to the Leader. I really did. I thought he might have been the only one of that crowd who really showed great support for the Leader at the time. I respected that. Maybe a couple of others that did the same thing. Right away he got bolstered to the front and did very well to make sure that everyone knew that health care was a priority to him. He talked about the needs and the concerns of the Truro area.

I remember him repeatedly talking about the needs and the concerns of those who are in seniors' homes that are in need of Level 2 and Level 3 care, and how he continually pointed out that the moratorium should be lifted and we should go forward with health reform and a way to look after those. I, too, agreed with him as I have written him letters on this issue. I have read the letters, I don't think he wrote one of them, but I know that the good minister is going to look into that and hopefully we will have a report back soon. It has been studied about 55 times, and we still haven't heard it.

So the Tories said consistently that they need to review to see if regional health boards work. But the Tories did not wait for the review, and Dr. Richard Goldbloom and his respected team of experts went for a long time working around the communities listening to people. The New Democratic Party supported that we do this study. We did. We listened to the members of this House, the request from the Progressive Conservative Party and the request from the New Democratic Party and we listened like gentlemen and said, let's do what the honourable members are suggesting. (Interruption)

[Page 3465]

So, Mr. Speaker, I say shame on the Conservatives for not following through with what they had asked for. I guess we are running close to the time of adjournment, and I have only gotten to Page 3 of 30-some pages that I want to go through. I shall say that I am just starting to get warmed up, and my voice is starting to get lubricated enough to be able to start to talk. We hope that this will be able to continue. Can I keep going?

MR. SPEAKER: We are getting close to the hour of adjournment. I am wondering if you want to make a motion to adjourn the debate on Bill No. 34.

MR. DOWNE: I move to adjourn the debate on Bill No. 34, and we shall undoubtedly go back to this at a later date.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 34. 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 the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. and we will sit until 3:00 p.m. The business tomorrow, we will resume the debate on Bill No. 34, and then we will start off at Bill No. 29 and run through Bill Nos. 31, 32, 33, 35, et cetera. (Interruption) And Bill No. 39? No, I don't think so.

Mr. Speaker, just for everyone's edification, we will be sitting from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Monday; 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m on Tuesday; 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday; and 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday. Does everybody have that? Friday is to be arranged. We will try to work something out.

I move that the House do now rise to sit again on Friday at the hour of 9:00 a.m.

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

The motion is carried.

[6:00 p.m.]

We now turn to the resolution submitted by the Leader of the Liberal Party.

"Therefore be it resolved that this government put a human face on the social and health issues such as Home Care in Nova Scotia."

[Page 3466]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: HOME CARE - HUMANIZE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the House for the opportunity to address the motion in the late debate this evening that speaks in terms of putting a human face on social and health issues, such as home care in Nova Scotia.

How does a government put a human face on these particular issues that are such an integral part of the very survival of Nova Scotians and the development of children and families? I think it is important, initially, to know the issues and to understand the problems of those people who are interacting. Groups are saying that government must become more business-like. I think there is a lot of truth in that. We know of the accountability issue and all of those other issues.

Government is called upon to provide services, Mr. Speaker, of which other businesses, business as we know it in the private sector, of course, would not lend a hand to because there is not a profit motive or it is extremely difficult. So the services that government is called upon to provide are difficult and they are challenging and they are becoming more challenging. I think it is so important that governments understand the issues that are involved and not give in to something that might be popular or a poll that is showing a certain attitude would be more in favour.

I think, particularly, of the Young Offenders Act and how the children and the youth who are interacting with that Act touch so often the various departments of government, particularly Health, Community Services, Justice and Education. So there is an example of governments perceiving the wish of the people to be tough and no one is saying have youth run wild and not be responsible for their actions. But there are other factors involved with the behaviour of children that starts very early in their life, that governments do have a real responsibility to put a human face on the core services that they offer families and children.

There are some issues, Mr. Speaker, that I think would be difficult and how, for instance, when this government first took over, how would you put a human face on the cuts that this government made, the $2 million that was ratcheted from charities. How do you put a human face on that? The bottom line was what they were interested in, the balance sheet and the bottom line and not the human impact. It is certainly impossible to put a human face on an action such as that. We have the issues relative to the charities, the Metro Food Bank and the gambling centre for addiction.

[Page 3467]

Also, Mr. Speaker, the Tories promised seniors that they would eliminate the Pharmacare premium. There were committees that they were involved in during the time of our administration. That was a promise that they were going to do. I think that is nice. That puts a nice human face on the government. They are going to help seniors, particularly those who are on fixed incomes and most of them are. What has happened? That has not happened and I think, again, it is the bottom line and we will look at this budget to see what, in fact, will happen. Whether, in fact, there will be more increases in Pharmacare. It is very difficult to put on a human face when a government is promising one thing and then, at budget time, in fact, other things are brought forward.

Cutting student employment grants, it is extremely difficult to put a human face on activities such as that. They saw a way to reduce spending. The reality is that they are really limiting the ability of a poor family to send their sons and their daughters to university. We saw recently the cutting of winter programs the expansion of the base - more people involved, yes, but how do you put a human face on when the total numbers and the total amount of those particular grants were cut? They are trying to reduce the spending, but at whose expense is that? How do you put a human face on a government that chooses to do those types of activities? People require these jobs, they require them to make ends meet throughout the year for their families. As well, back to the charities, the charities need these grant workers to help see them through the winter.

It all comes back, there is an interaction happening here that is so important. I mentioned above what I thought were some of the issues that one must know about the needs of families, the particular needs to know those issues. We look at the social work part of the social issues and 71 social workers were announced a short time ago. That was on the website and it has been removed. I can't find out around this province, Mr. Speaker, at all, whether there have been any hired.

I believe there have been some welfare cops hired. I think that has been true, but I hope that is not what they are going to be calling social workers because a social worker - there are Acts in this province that say clearly within law who can call themselves social workers. I see resumes for people who call themselves social workers and they are not. I hope this government has not backed down on those 71 because I was prepared to really give a lot of credit to a government that was starting to put a human face on the profession of social work when they said they had funding and that minister said that he had funding for 71 new social workers. All I can find out is some welfare cops being hired. I can see it, it is all coming clear now why the calls to my constituency office are increasing, Mr. Speaker, because Dartmouth is one of the areas that was targetted for that. That is fair enough, that people are held accountable and if they are not eligible for assistance that is fine. Let's put a human face on it and treat these people with some dignity. They don't need to be policed.

[Page 3468]

I mentioned about the social workers, Mr. Speaker, and putting a human face, because child protection is an area where you can actually save lives. There have been lives saved in this province because we brought in better legislation, better addressing the issues of caseloads that are high and probably will always remain high regardless, because it is always a catch-up issue, but this is very important, for a government to keep a human face in that social aspect.

The secure treatment facility that we talk about that now I believe is on hold. I am positive it is on hold. Nobody will admit that but the Minister of Health had promised that for his own area during the election and now we hear very little; $1 million was put in the budget last year, and has that been spent yet? We can't find that out. Let's put a human face on those that do need that type of facility for treatment and for care.

Health. The continuum of care that we heard this morning. How do you put a human face on the continuum of care when you are bringing in reports that identify needs for long-term care, home care and those types of initiatives and yet there are no transition monies to back that up. Next Tuesday we will see, Mr. Speaker, and we will look at that because the decisions are ethical. These are the issues within health care, particularly in pharmaceuticals, technology - who gets those? Who gets what there? Dr. Nuala Kenny was very big on this, but as she found - I can't quote her, but she said she would stay if she could live with the decisions she had to make and I don't believe that she could. She is an ethical and honourable person.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution does speak in terms of home care. I just want to say that home care as we know it was brought in by our administration and that home care was started in June 1995 and we were about 20 years behind the rest of Canada in home care. The needs of palliative care, I think there is no other area that the government can put more of a human face on the service that they deliver, the responsibility to people than that of a home palliative care initiative and we will be looking for it in the budget if that will support that particular initiative. I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to stand this evening and talk for a few minutes about how this government has put a human face on social and health issues such as home care here in Nova Scotia. I am pleased to say, I think it was portrayed in our blue book during the campaign last summer, and in the period of time since we have been in office there has been no government in recent history that has dealt with the issue of putting a human face on social and health care issues than the government that is now in power. Our commitment to health care and health and social problems I think has been unequalled.

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I would like to thank the member for Dartmouth East for his statement about the initiative of my colleague, the Minister of Community Services, in putting, I think it is 71 more social workers in place in this province. I think the addition of those to the Department of Community Services will do a tremendous amount in helping some of the people who are among those who are in greatest need here.

We have, in speaking specifically of home care - and I recognize the efforts of the previous minister and the member who just spoke in starting the Home Care Program here in Nova Scotia as we now know it, in 1995 - the program has evolved since that time and, indeed, today more than 18,000 people benefit from it, or did benefit from it last year and the number would be greater this year. So the Home Care Program is an important one in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and the priority of this government is to provide home care services to the Nova Scotians who need it most.

Now we know there are some instances in the province, Mr. Speaker, where home care services are being provided to people who perhaps don't need it or who can do without it. That is unfortunate but that is part of having a great system or a large system. Our priority was, I am sure, the previous administration's, to try to put home care services where they can do the most good for people in Nova Scotia.

The role of home care services is going to be more important as we move towards a more integrated health care system. In the meantime, if we are to have these services that will put a human face on health care and social issues, health and social programs, we have to have a system that is sustainable, and we have to have a system that recognizes the fiscal limitations of this province and also the serious financial situation in which we now find ourselves. What I am trying to say, Mr. Speaker, is that if we continue to spend without control, to make decisions without looking to the future in terms of sustainability we are going to take, this would be the worst thing this government could do. It would totally remove this human face which people speak of in health and social issues, such as home care, because they would not be available, because there would not be any money to support them.

This government is very committed to home care and we recognize the growing importance of this health care sector. We are committed to ensuring that Nova Scotians will have reasonable access, based on assessed needs, to an appropriate and integrated range of services in the home and in the community. The Department of Health will continue its important partnership with the acute care sector by sustaining what has been built and by further strengthening the acute home care component of the program.

Home care in Nova Scotia provides a variety of quality services to individuals at home, enabling them to receive care, as well as assistance from family and friends. This includes chronic home care, acute home care, home oxygen, and home support. Thus, the variety of people who deliver these home care services is quite great, and the range of skills needed does vary from situation to situation.

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I can say, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of Nova Scotians who are acutely ill, who have chronic illnesses, who are able to be in a much more pleasant surrounding in their own home rather than being in a acute care facility or a continuing care facility because of the home care services that are offered. Again, I have to remind people, Mr. Speaker, that the Home Care Program we have is committed to the provision of quality services and delivering those services in a manner that is effective, efficient and sustainable over the long term.

[6:15 p.m.]

While it will be difficult to make the kinds of changes we would like to make in this sector, given our fiscal situation, I do believe there are steps that we can take to improve everything that operates around this sector. I believe, for example, Mr. Speaker, our commitment to implementing a single entry access for continuing care services will be one significant step that will help all Nova Scotians and I will speak more about that in a moment.

First, I want to underline our challenges, all of our programs, not just home care, face strong fiscal pressures. We have a very good program in place that helps thousands of Nova Scotians and if we look down the road, home care services will continue to be an integral part of our health care system and we certainly hope that in the coming years we can afford to expand and enhance services in this sector.

For many years health care providers, managers, administrators and consumers have identified the absence of single entry as one of the most significant barriers to ensuring timely and appropriate access to continuing care services; not to mention, Mr. Speaker, the ongoing problems in determining the most appropriate level of care. Single entry access has been in great demand from people actually working in the field, and the development of a better system is something that must be done.

I would refer, Mr. Speaker, to the press conference this morning where we were talking about the Health Facilities Review, the remarks of the CEO of the Cape Breton Health Care Complex, who had come back to Nova Scotia from a province where he had had experience in the single entry access system, and how positive he was.

AN HON. MEMBER: What province was that?

MR. MUIR: I believe it was Saskatchewan from which he came, but he went there from Nova Scotia. He had some really great reports, Mr. Speaker. I think one of the interesting things was how enthusiastically he spoke of it. I just cannot help but think that all those who were present would have been influenced by his comments and his general attitude.

I am happy to say that we have moved beyond discussion on this issue and are taking action to make our vision for coordinated access a reality here in Nova Scotia. We have set April 1, 2001, as the target date for the full implementation of this particular program and we

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will have a demonstration project running this fall. We will be inviting proposals for the project early in the summer.

Establishing a single entry access model will help ensure service delivery is based on seniors' needs and that a full range of service is continued. Assessment, intake, placement and care plans will all be streamlined in the interest of seniors. The ultimate goal is to promote and foster independence for seniors while making sure that adequate services are identified and delivered in the most cost-effective manner.

One of the things that I would like to mention just before I close, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that this government - recognizing that services for seniors were distributed through two departments which did create some hurdles for them and I am sure some frustrations by seniors and their families who were availing themselves of these services, is that the government - has now consolidated the services being delivered to seniors in the Department of Health, at least the health services that would be provided to them.

One of the things that we have done, the Seniors Citizens' Secretariat has now moved over to the Department of Health, Mr. Speaker, and we have it there for advice and I am delighted to have them with us.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening on this resolution. I was also pleased to hear the Minister of Health talk with some admiration, of Mr. Malcom and, of course, the experience that he gained while he was in Saskatchewan and, of course, Saskatchewan has a long history of the protection of Medicare, as does Manitoba which has the longest and I think most fully evolved Home Care Program in the country. Of course, both of those provinces did that under New Democratic Party administrations.

I must also say I heard the Minister of Health speak earlier with some admiration of the Minister of Health of British Columbia. I have no doubt that is because he recognizes that that government has also a commitment to putting a human face on government and, of course, that is just true of the New Democratic Party over the years. I think that has been the experience of people in those provinces.

This government, on the other hand, has been quick to set up and shepherd through two bills which I think are very representative of their approach to social and health issues in Nova Scotia. Of course, there is the present bill, Bill No. 34, the Health Authorities Act, and I would like to say a little bit more about this although we have already touched on it greatly in this Chamber over the last couple of days, but the other one was Bill No. 9, Mr. Speaker, and that is, of course, the Ground Ambulance Services Act. You will remember, as I do, that Bill No. 9 was a particularly telling piece of legislation because it was, after all, the first test

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of the willingness of a new government to respect its employees; indeed, to put a human face on government. That was their first opportunity to do that.

Mr. Speaker, these front-line health care workers were asking for a little respect for the service that they provided to people in distress. Did they get it? I want you to think about it for a minute. When is the face and touch of the government truly seen and felt by its citizens? It is not when things are going well. No, it is when things are in turmoil and crisis. That is when they look to government for leadership. That is when they look for the human face of government. Do they get it?

Mr. Speaker, God forbid, but if you or any member of this House should ever find themselves in medical distress, it is a good bet that one of the first faces that you are going to see is the face of a paramedic. These men and women wanted to negotiate a new deal. They wanted to be treated fairly. They came to the members of the government and the members of this House, and they related to us these heartbreaking, gut-wrenching stories about some of the situations they found themselves in. They pointed out that if someone came to jump-start your car, they made $10 an hour, but if they came to jump-start your heart, they got $5.00 an hour. They didn't feel that was fair, and we agreed with them at that time.

What was the response of government to these people? I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, it was Bill No. 9, the most Draconian, repressive, disrespectful piece of legislation to come before this House in many years. It was anti-democratic, it was contrary to international convention, and it was contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which Canada is a signatory to. In short, in my opinion, far from putting a human face on government, it was a disgrace, and it was done in a way which was particularly troubling because it was done without thinking. It was done as a natural inclination of the government, and that is what is so disturbing to people.

Now, we have Bill No. 34, and Bill No. 34 ignores every suggestion that has been made about the way in which you decentralized health services in this province over the past 15 years. What it does is, it entrenches the old model of health care, the hospital-centred health care model where all the decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of the Minister of Health and that, Mr. Speaker, is a step backward. Far from empowering communities to make their own decisions, the community health boards are now simply advisory. They do not have the power or authority to make decisions for the communities that are going to rely on them, that are going to look to them for leadership. They do not have that authority.

What they do is they pass on recommendations to district health authorities which in due course pass on recommendations to the Minister of Health and the Minister of Health gets to decide whether or not they are going to accept those recommendations. Nothing requires the government to actually institute the program or services that are recommended by the community health board.

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As I have said, there has been a lot of debate about that in this Chamber and I do not want to use up all my time but I think, suffice it to say, that this legislation does nothing to root health care in the community, it does exactly the opposite. It holds people at a distance and it puts bureaucracy first, it puts the Minister of Health first, that is what it does. Today, the minister released the findings of his department's facilities review and you heard him mention that when he spoke earlier.

The minister has a couple of phrases that he likes to emphasize: clinical footprint is one and the other is the single entry system. The clinical footprint is in fact just nothing more than a buzz word - it does not mean anything. It does not mean anything to him - well, maybe it does mean something to him, but it certainly does not mean anything to the rest of us unless he explains what he means when he says that. That is why I said the other day in this Chamber, what people are worried about is not the clinical footprint but who is going to get stomped by the clinical footprint. That is what people in communities right around this province are concerned about. They are concerned about the implementation of budget measures that are going to negatively impact the delivery of health services in their community.

The other one, the single entry system, does mean something. At least it can mean something and in fact, I think that if we really approach the single entry system in the way in which it has been done in other provinces, it can do just exactly what this resolution suggests should be done - it can put a human face on government. It could give people the services that they need in their homes, to stay in the comfort of their own surroundings with their family for as long as is reasonably possible. That is what single entry could do.

To do this, there has to be an investment. There is going to have to be an investment by the government, not just in the system but in the actual delivery itself. You are going to make sure that the home care services themselves are available. It is no good to assess people if you do not have the service to deliver. We can put in place adequate home care if there is the political will, if there is the leadership from the Minister of Health and what it means is that he has to be prepared to say we are going to make the investment now and we are not going to cut other parts of the Department of Health. That means that people out there are not going to have to worry about whether or not their facilities are going to be cut, they are not going to have to worry about whether or not programs or other services are going to be cut. They know that they can rely on these services until the home care services are in place.

There is no reason that we should not be able to provide service to every individual who is ambulatory. The real human face of government is the application of compassion at a time of need. That is the way that you put a human face on government. Unfortunately, this government and this minister have not committed to making the investment and that is why other programs and services and facilities are at risk, Mr. Speaker.

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MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and that concludes late debate.

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