The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 11, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1086, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3681
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3681
Mr. J. Holm 3699
Adjourned debate 3702
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1204, Dennis Bicknell (Sackville) - Death of: Sympathy - Extend,
Mr. J. Holm 3703
Vote - Affirmative 3704
Res. 1205, Tourism - VIA Rail (Hfx.-Sydney): Orangedale Stop - Action,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3704
Res. 1206, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Sam Slick - Disassociate,
Ms. E. O'Connell 3705
Res. 1207, Educ. - Acadia Univ.: Quality Prog. - Commitment Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 3705
Vote - Affirmative 3706
Res. 1208, Sports - Hockey (QMJHL): Hfx. Mooseheads -
Performance Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 3706
Vote - Affirmative 3707
Res. 1209, Commun. Serv. Comm. - Chair: Appoint - Action (Premier),
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3707
Res. 1210, Environ. - Bras d'Or Lakes: Sewage - Resolve,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3708
Res. 1211, Agric. - 4-H Conf. (Winnipeg 2000): Adam Scanlan
(Rich. Co.) - Selection Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 3708
Vote - Affirmative 3709
Res. 1212, Sports - Hockey (Atl. AAA Bantam-Irving Oil Challenge-
Cole Harbour): Teams - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 3709
Vote - Affirmative 3710
Res. 1213, Educ. - Schools: Save Learning Environ. - Ensure,
Mr. D. Downe 3710
Res. 1214, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. J. Pye 3710
Res. 1215, Health: Physiotherapy Week 2000 (Cdn.) - Recognize,
Dr. J. Smith 3711
Vote - Affirmative 3712
Res. 1216, Fish. - St. Ann's Hbr. (Vic. Co.): 5M Aqua Ltd. -
Lease Approve, Mr. D. Dexter 3712
Res. 1217, MLA - Budget (2000-01)-Attend/Golf-Refrain,
Mr. K. MacAskill 3712
Res. 1218, Tourism: Orangedale Railway Museum - Promote,
Mr. P. MacEwan 3713
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 437, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Layoffs - Unpromised,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 3714
No. 438, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Impact, Mr. R. MacLellan 3716
No. 439, Fin. - User Fees: Tax - Addt'l., Mr. Robert Chisholm 3717
No. 440, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Co-Pay - Increase, Mr. D. Downe 3718
No. 441, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Unpromised, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3719
No. 442, Health: Budget (2000-01) - Cuts, Mr. R. MacLellan 3720
No. 443, Commun. Serv. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Unpromised,
Mr. K. Deveaux 3721
No. 444, Agric. - N.S. Farm Loan Bd.: Commitment - Broken,
Mr. D. Downe 3722
No. 445, Health - Care: Promise - Broken, Mr. D. Dexter 3724
No. 446, Health - Nurses: Recruitment - No., Dr. J. Smith 3725
No. 447, Econ. Dev.: Team Can. Mission (New England States) -
C.B. Absence, Mr. F. Corbett 3727
No. 448, Health - Alzheimer's: Drug (Aricept) - Formulary Include,
Dr. J. Smith 3728
No. 449, Environ. - Health Ctr.: Review - Status, Mr. D. Dexter 3729
No. 450, WCB - Appeal Costs: Injured Workers - Responsibility,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 3730
No. 451, Nat. Res. - Dominion Beach: Plan - Table, Mr. F. Corbett 3731
No. 452, Nat. Res. - Graves Island Prov. Park: Land - Sale,
Mr. K. MacAskill 3732
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 32, Water Resources Protection Act 3733
Mr. John MacDonell 3734
Mr. D. Downe 3738
Mr. H. Epstein 3747
Adjourned debate 3750
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Justice - Family Law: Abuse - Mediation Exclude:
Mr. H. Epstein 3751
Ms. E. O'Connell 3753
Mr. M. Parent 3753
Dr. J. Smith 3756
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 32, Water Resources Protection Act [Debate resumed] 3759
Mr. H. Epstein 3759
Hon. R. Russell 3765
Vote - Affirmative 3766
No. 31, International Wills Act 3766
Hon. R. Russell 3766
Mr. H. Epstein 3766
Mr. M. Samson 3769
Hon. R. Russell 3769
Vote - Affirmative 3770
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 37, Preston Area Housing Act 3770
Mr. D. Hendsbee 3770
Mr. W. Estabrooks 3772
Mr. M. Samson 3773
Adjourned debate 3782
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 12th at 2:00 p.m. 3783

[Page 3681]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 11, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

[Res. No. 1086, Estimates - Comm. of Whole House on Supply - notice given April 6, 2000 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to notice of motion given by me on April 6, 2000, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001, which is:

3681

[Page 3682]

"I hereby transmit Estimates of sums required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 2001, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them, together with the budget address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures, to the House of Assembly.

Signed,

John James Kinley

Lieutenant Governor

April 10, 2000"

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table the message from His Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House; I would also like to table the Estimates Book, the Crown Corporation Business Plans, the Estimates and the Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and 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 documents are tabled.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and present to this House, and to all Nova Scotians, a budget that firmly but fairly deals with our financial difficulties. A budget that redefines what government will do, and just as importantly, what government will no longer do. A budget that will position Nova Scotia to be a "have" province sooner rather than never. A budget that makes choices now, so that we will be able to make choices in the future.

Mr. Speaker, this government promised the people of Nova Scotia fundamental change. This government is delivering on that promise. We started with a smaller Cabinet. Two weeks ago, the Premier announced that over the course of the next year, Nova Scotians will see the face of government fundamentally change and the size of government significantly reduced. Government will be smaller, but it will also be better organized and better equipped to provide the services that matter most to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, as a government, we understand that our first obligation to our citizens is to protect their priorities. That is why our restructuring initiatives and this budget target waste, duplication, and non-essential spending. We know that the people of Nova Scotia have already made many sacrifices in the past: forced municipal mergers, wage rollbacks, forced unpaid leave, hospital closures, deep cuts to education and rural roads. Nova Scotians were told those sacrifices would make all the difference. They haven't! Reduced staff levels were allowed to grow back, while our debts were simply buried in the financial statements of our

[Page 3683]

hospitals, regional health boards, school boards, P3 leases, and in the annual reports of Crown agencies. Mr. Speaker, those days are over.

Last fall, this government introduced modern-day accounting principles that accurately and openly reflect the true costs of government. Nova Scotians now know the full and painful truth of the extent of our financial problems. From now on, Nova Scotians know that a deficit is really a deficit, a surplus is really a surplus.

This budget maintains the commitment to provide a further $11 million to our municipal partners according to the Municipal Service Exchange Agreement for social services. Moreover, we will continue to provide the Harmonized Sales Tax Rebate to Nova Scotia's municipalities, universities, colleges, schools, hospitals, qualifying non-profit organizations, and charities at a total cost of $45 million.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure Nova Scotians will be relieved to hear that there are no increases in personal income tax, motive fuel taxes, or corporate taxes. (Applause) In fact, let me take this opportunity to repeat, this government is not standing in the way of Nova Scotia taxpayers getting a break from Ottawa. Every cent of every dollar that Ottawa is handing back to Nova Scotians by way of tax cuts will go to Nova Scotians. This government is not clawing back a single penny. Moreover, this government fully intends to give its own tax break to Nova Scotians as soon as we have the financial capacity to do so as soon as we get our own financial house in order.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what this budget is all about. This budget is about finding the right balance:

The right balance between what the government is best equipped to do and what the private sector, non-profit sector, or individuals can do better.

The right balance between what government can afford to do and what it would like to do.

The right balance between helping dependent Nova Scotians who don't have a job and growing our economy so they will have that chance.

The right balance between rural and urban opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, this government will achieve a balanced budget by taking a balanced approach. (Applause)

I want to take a moment to describe the extent of our financial difficulties and to examine what the consequences of ignoring the deficit and the debt would mean to Nova Scotians now and in the future.

[Page 3684]

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia's debt will soon be $11 billion. It has been growing at the alarming rate of more than $1,000 per minute. This year alone, Nova Scotia taxpayers will be required to contribute an additional $85 million in Net Debt Servicing Costs. That brings the total amount of money Nova Scotians will pay in interest on the debt to just under $900 million. Every cent of that $900 million comes from one source. It comes out of the pockets of hard-working Nova Scotians and it is not doing a single thing to benefit our province. It is not making our roads safer, it is not helping families or children in need, or supporting patients in the hospitals or students in the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is now spending 19 cents out of every dollar on servicing the debt. That is more than any other province in Canada. Some people will make the argument that it is okay to keep borrowing from the future to pay for today. They will make a passionate case that every dollar government spends is necessary and that every service government provides is critical.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the simple truth is, it costs money to borrow money. If we borrow money today to pay for the day-to-day operations of government, we will have even less money tomorrow to spend on those things that matter most to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, there is a sad irony to all of the demands we place on government in the name of a better, fairer, more prosperous Nova Scotia. The irony is, it will be our children who will pay the tremendous cost of the debt. They didn't create it. They didn't make the decisions that brought us to where we are today, but they will be the ones who pay the lion's share. Twenty-five years of living beyond our means, 25 years of borrowing hasn't made us a more prosperous province, it hasn't made us any healthier, and it hasn't helped our students reach the top of the class. It is time we learned from our mistakes. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, this budget asks all Nova Scotians to accept less today so that we will have more tomorrow. It is important to remember that we travelled this road together, we must find our way back together. There is no better time to start our journey than now when our economy is strong.

Mr. Speaker, as government realigns its priorities, Nova Scotia's private sector will be increasingly required to be the engine of economic growth. Fortunately, it is well positioned to do so. Nova Scotia witnessed widespread economic gains in 1999. Exports of goods and services were up 10.3 per cent. Merchandise exports to international markets grew 15 per cent. Major contributors included paper, lumber, rail cars, tires, and shellfish.

Tourism revenues grew by 16 per cent. Investment in the IT sector was also up and is poised to grow even more with Halifax being selected as the Canadian landing site of a $1.2 billion fibre optics network.

[Page 3685]

As well, employment was up, housing starts were way up, and motor vehicle sales continued their strong growth. All positive signs that Nova Scotians have confidence in the future. The fast pace of growth witnessed in 1999 is expected to slow this year with the completion of Tier One of the Sable Offshore Energy Project. However, the extra value of natural gas exports this year will sustain the growth in total exports for 2000.

It is clear that Nova Scotians are making headway in terms of developing a more diverse, modern economy. They deserve no less than a modern, focused government that knows its place; a modern, focused government that concentrates more fully on the priorities of its people.

There is no better time, when the economy is performing well, to shrink the size of government. Now is the time to get our fiscal house in order when the economy is well positioned to absorb the impact of reducing the size of government.

Last year, growth in business investment, employment, and personal incomes caused provincial revenues to grow as expected. National growth also led to higher revenues than originally estimated. As well, Nova Scotia Resources Ltd. posted lower than expected losses.

Offsetting the good news were higher debt-servicing costs and year-end accounting adjustments. Nova Scotia's 1999-2000 deficit is now forecast to be higher than the original estimate, up from $497 million to $765 million.

Modern accounting practices require the full disclosure of the impact of selling Sydney Steel. As soon as these one-time costs became known, government was obligated to count them as part of the deficit. That is the right way, the honest way. Removal of this one-time extraordinary expenditure item of $379 million from our provincial deficit at the end of fiscal

1999-2000 would leave a deficit from continuing operations of $387 million, a $110 million improvement from the original budget estimate.

Mr. Speaker, the amount of the debt that must be paid back in foreign currencies has been a significant problem for the province. I am pleased to report that over the course of the last year the amount of foreign currency exposure has fallen from approximately 50 per cent to 36 per cent. This has been due in part to a rise in the Canadian dollar against the American dollar but also active management on the part of government to reduce exposure on outstanding debt issues. This government will introduce legislation to reinforce these good financial management practices. I am pleased to announce that we now expect to reach our legislated goal of 20 per cent exposure to non-Canadian dollars in our debt portfolio within five years. (Applause)

Let me take a moment to talk about the fiscal challenges government faces this year. At the end of fiscal 1999-2000, Nova Scotia's deficit, excluding Sysco's liabilities, totalled $387 million. A significant amount by anyone's calculations, but it does not tell the whole

[Page 3686]

story. This year, we must also find the dollars required to, among other things, cover off reductions in federal transfers, provide for increased debt-servicing costs, and meet government's contractual commitments. There are positive offsets and some areas where spending obligations are now complete, such as the Fisheries Early Retirement Program, election expenses and Y2K, but they fall short of covering off the added costs of new spending requirements and do nothing to reduce the deficit.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand before the House and present a budget that has faced those challenges and honours the commitments we made to Nova Scotians. We are making the kind of fundamental changes needed to bring government spending more in line with government revenues, while minimizing the impact on those services that are most important

to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the budget numbers verify this statement. This government made decisions that resulted in reductions of $295 million. As a result, the total 2000-01 year-end deficit is estimated to be $268 million.

Mr. Speaker, we are making considerable progress toward balance. Part of the reason is obviously due to the fact that the costs associated with selling Sysco will not reoccur. We have once and for all put that behind us. (Applause) But putting Sysco's costs behind us is not good enough. More needs to be done. And that means changing government. These efforts are well under way.

It is important to note that, as the new efficiencies of our restructuring initiatives and smaller government take hold, Nova Scotia's deficit will continue to shrink. Net Program Expenses will be reduced a further $51 million next year, leaving a projected deficit of $91 million at the end of 2001-02.

Mr. Speaker, this budget puts us on course to achieve a truly balanced budget in fiscal 2002-03. It also puts us on course to provide all Nova Scotians with a 10 per cent cut in personal income taxes the following year. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, to ensure that government does not repeat the mistakes of the past, this government will introduce tough new accountability legislation. This legislation will enshrine the government's financial accountability for all government organizations, including school boards and health boards. It will also ensure that there is only one bottom line and that over time it is black, not red. It will ensure that Nova Scotians know not only the full and exact cost of government but also how their tax dollars are being spent. As part of next year's budget, we will introduce a surplus management plan. This plan will address the needs of Nova Scotians, including tax reduction, debt reduction, and providing core services. (Applause)

[Page 3687]

Mr. Speaker, health care has been, and will continue to be, a priority of this government. We are committed to ensuring that all Nova Scotians, no matter where they live, have access to an affordable and high-quality health care system. But Nova Scotians can no longer afford to pay for a system that is not providing the best value for the dollars spent.

If money alone were the answer to good health care, Nova Scotians would have the best health care in the country. Last year, Nova Scotia spent more per capita on public health care than any other province in the country. There is a mistaken perception that Nova Scotia's health care budget has actually experienced deep cuts in recent years.

The truth is, the health care budget has actually increased by nearly 38 per cent in the last three years. While health spending has been escalating, federal contributions have dropped dramatically. In 1996-97 health care costs to Nova Scotians amounted to almost $1.3 billion, accounting for more than 36 per cent of Net Program Expenses. In 1999-2000 they amounted to almost $1.8 billion, $0.5 billion more, accounting for nearly 42 per cent of Net Program Expenses.

The fact of the matter is, unless we begin to rein in the spiralling cost of health care, it won't be long before we have no money left for anything else: schools, roads, or assistance to families in need. The problem has been that government was simply writing the cheques, without putting in place the necessary checks and balances to make sure the money spent was spent wisely.

Mr. Speaker, the answer to improving the level and quality of health care to Nova Scotians isn't in borrowing money and writing cheques. It is in focusing on proven outcomes and community involvement, it is in a renewed emphasis on prevention and integrating services.

Mr. Speaker, the Health Authorities Act now before the House, along with the new clinical services review, are two key initiatives that will improve the quality and level of health

services available to Nova Scotians and ensure a sustainable system. These two initiatives will also help ensure that Nova Scotia taxpayers finally get good value for every dollar they invest in health care.

Mr. Speaker, this budget calls for a 4.7 per cent reduction in the total health care budget. When you factor out the amount of money spent last year on Y2K, the total real impact on this year's health budget is $51 million, amounting to a reduction of 2.9 per cent.

As in every other area of government, we will find these savings, to the greatest extent possible, by cutting administration, by eliminating duplication, and by weeding out non-essential spending. Mr. Speaker, we expect our health care partners to do no less.

[Page 3688]

Front-line caregivers will be protected to the greatest extent possible, particularly our nurses. This government is committed to more, not fewer nurses. We are committed to making sure that the overall number of nurses working across Nova Scotia goes up, not down. That is why we have created approximately 150 more full-time nursing positions, established the position of Nurse Policy Advisor, and, among other initiatives, established the

Nursing Student Bursary Program. We will continue to work with the nursing profession to improve their work environment and to provide them with greater opportunity for influencing clinical outcomes.

Mr. Speaker, this budget also protects funding for long-term care. It is critical that this funding remain stable as we move to a new single-entry system, where Nova Scotians in need of care move smoothly from one service level to another, depending on their level of need. This government has also kept its commitment to invest $1 million in disease prevention initiatives.

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, our efforts to make the transition to a more cost-effective health care system are not made easy by the federal government. Ottawa continues to add new pressures on all provincial spending areas by refusing to come to the table as a full partner in Medicare. We will continue to aggressively pursue Ottawa for full restoration of the health care dollars it has withdrawn from Nova Scotia in recent years.

At the outset I mentioned an increase in the total dollars to be spent on education this year. Again, at a time of severe fiscal pressure, this increase, as modest as it is, speaks to the

importance this government places on our education system. In fact, Mr. Speaker, this government is on record as saying that actual cash expenditures on education will not be reduced, at any time, during our mandate. Such a move would be entirely inconsistent with our commitment to support new learning opportunities for Nova Scotians throughout their lifetime.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, today's budget increases funding to Nova Scotia's Community College system by $2 million and provides a further $4 million in operating grants to universities. As well, we have completed the commitment to provide a $4.8 million capital investment in university and college capital upgrades.

The public school capital construction program will also continue. As well, this budget includes nearly $20 million more in funding for school maintenance and renovation. In addition, we have provided $15 million for teacher wage settlements.

[Page 3689]

Due to increased spending in these areas, other reductions were required. We said we would start by eliminating duplication and waste and by targeting non-essential spending, and we have. The total administrative cost of running the Department of Education has been reduced by about one-third. We expect school boards to follow our lead and to shave every

available dollar from administration.

Mr. Speaker, there should be no teacher layoffs as a result of this budget. However, the combination of new budget pressures and a drop in student numbers means that not all retiring and departing teachers will be replaced over the next two years. As school boards make decisions regarding teacher staffing, we expect them to make a special effort to protect class sizes during the critical early years, from Grade Primary to Grade 6.

Additionally, the Department of Education will slow the development of the ever-expanding school curriculum, which detracts from the essentials and results in new cost pressures on school boards. It simply makes no sense that, at a time when too many students

are trying to learn the existing curriculum from photocopied textbooks, government continues to introduce new programs that demand costly teacher upgrades and expensive new resources.

Mr. Speaker, we expect our universities and colleges to make no less of an effort when it comes to eliminating waste and cutting non-essential spending. We firmly believe they have the capacity to achieve savings through administrative cuts and through strategic alliances: measures that would go a long way in limiting student tuition increases.

Mr. Speaker, like health care, the costs of maintaining social services in Nova Scotia have increased significantly in recent years. Almost 75,000 individuals presently rely on government for assistance. This means roughly one in every 12 Nova Scotians depends on government for financial support. Some of these clients come under the Family Benefits Program, others come under the Social Assistance Program, still others fall under a program piloted several years ago in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I have no doubt that the vast majority of people on social assistance want to live independently, but for one reason or another, they simply don't have the means to find a job. And that's because the social system is not presently structured to work at helping people overcome barriers to independence. Far too many families enter the system only to be largely forgotten. For example, Family Benefits recipients who have been in the system for extended periods of time are not presently receiving the kind of support they need to help them achieve independence. Mr. Speaker, we cannot allow this to continue. As announced last week in The Course Ahead, this government is committed to providing more targetted assistance to help families achieve independence. The Department of Community Services will be reorganized and restructured to focus less on simply processing and monitoring applications, and more on supporting recipients in their efforts to begin sustaining themselves and their children.

[Page 3690]

To allow this to happen, we are moving to a single-entry system that provides one rate of assistance. All new clients coming into the system will receive a new standardized rate that is a combination of the three rates currently provided. All clients presently in the system will be maintained at their existing rate of assistance for this year. If the new standardized rate is

higher, existing clients will qualify for the higher level. This will mean some clients will receive less, others more. All clients will continue to receive rates higher than those offered

in either New Brunswick or Newfoundland.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, recipients on social assistance will soon be supported by a system that works to help them meet their need, their desire, for long-term independence and the sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with it. We understand that it will take time to redesign all of the protocols, programs, and policies currently in place, but we are

wasting no time in terms of helping families become self-reliant.

To help social assistance recipients overcome child care barriers that prevent them from seeking employment, 50 new subsidized child care spaces will be opened and made available to single parents. Mr. Speaker, this is in addition to 50 new spaces being provided through the Healthy Child Development Initiative. In keeping with our commitments, the subsidy for all 100 new spaces will be attached to the child, not the day care centre. As well, government is investing $500,000 in a new adult basic education initiative to benefit Nova Scotians caught in the low-education, low-opportunity trap.

Mr. Speaker, our government believes the first step we must take to encourage new business investment and create new jobs is to stop the build-up of the debt. Every business owner, every potential investor wants to know whether the deficits of today will turn into a higher tax bill tomorrow. That is the fundamental relationship between rising debt and business confidence. Without business confidence we will not have long-term economic growth. It is that simple.

Nova Scotia's business community understands that the most important thing government can do to attract investment, to stimulate the economy, and to create new jobs is to get the province's deficit and debt under control, and to leave more money in the hands of Nova Scotians.

To do that, Mr. Speaker, we must challenge the status quo and begin fresh. My colleague, the minister of Economic Development, will soon release a major discussion paper that will form the basis of an economic growth strategy for Nova Scotia. This document will give Nova Scotians an opportunity to participate in developing new strategic initiatives that meet our objective of growing the economies of all regions of the province.

[Page 3691]

In this budget, a number of initiatives for business have come to an end. This budget also reduces funding to the Department of Economic Development by 45 per cent. We are refocusing the efforts of the Department of Economic Development to better deliver our fiscal and economic goals.

As well, I am announcing that a number of tax credits scheduled to expire over the next few years will not be renewed. Others will be changed. This is consistent with our commitment to close tax loopholes or change tax credits to make sure they meet their

original objectives.

Accordingly,

The ISO 9000/ISO14000 tax credit will expire Dec, 31, 2002.

The Manufacturing and Processing Investment Tax Credit will be reduced from 30 per cent to 15 per cent effective January 1, 2001. The credit for new investments will expire, as planned, on December 31, 2002. This change brings the costs and benefits of this measure more in line.

The Research and Development Tax Credit will be changed to close a loophole that allowed companies to receive the credit on a government grant.

The Film Industry Tax Credit is extended for two years. The rate will be reduced from 32.5 per cent to 30 per cent in metro and increased from 32.5 per cent to 35 per cent in rural Nova Scotia. This change is designed to encourage film and video investment in rural Nova Scotia, including industrial Cape Breton and Shelburne where taxpayers have already invested in two sound stages. Additionally, the asset cap, which excludes companies with assets over $25 million from accessing this credit, will be removed.

The budget also includes a measure that eliminates a rebate that has benefited mainly manufacturers and processors. The grant in lieu of property tax the province has been paying to municipalities to offset property tax on machinery and equipment will end.

In keeping with our commitment to support small business growth in rural Nova Scotia, we are extending the tax credit for the Community Economic Development Investment Fund aspect of our Equity Tax Credit for two years to December 31, 2003. In cases where the Equity Tax Credit is used outside this program, we will complete our review on this measure before the credit is set to expire at the end of 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I am also confirming our move to gain more control over the personal income tax system for our province. The details of the new calculation method will be established in legislation brought before this House in a matter of days. I will also be tabling

[Page 3692]

an independent report that verifies the impact of these changes on Nova Scotia taxpayers will be neutral. (Applause)

[2:45 p.m.]

Je veux prendre un moment pour vous décrire comment nous sommes arrivés aux décisions contenues dans le budget. Durant la campagne électorale, avant d'être élus, nous avons été ouverts et francs le peuple de la Novelle Écosse. Nous leur avons dit ce que nous avions l'intention de faire. Nous avons promis de réviser tous les programmes et les services du gouvernement. Nous avons promis de libérer les contribuables des coûts des services qui pourraient être offerts plus efficacement par d'autres. Nous avons fait cela, Monsieur le président.

[I want to take a moment to tell you how we came to make the choices that are reflected in this budget. During the election campaign, before being elected, we were open and frank with the people of Nova Scotia. We told them what we intended to do. Among the promises we made was a commitment to review each and every program and service of government. We promised that we would free taxpayers of the cost of providing those services that could more effectively, or more efficiently, be provided by others. We did that, Mr. Speaker.]

This budget eliminates programs and significantly reduces others. Mr. Speaker, the simple fact is we can't afford everything, we can't do everything, we can't be all things to all people. The most important thing government can do is focus on those things that matter most to just about everybody. That is exactly what we are doing.

Mr. Speaker, in carrying out our review of programs and services we came to another conclusion. When government can't pay for the day-to-day operations of our hospitals, of our schools, of our justice or social service systems without going to the bank, it has to take a hard, second look at being in the gas business, in the bookselling business, the hotel business, the golf business, and the liquor business.(Applause)

As previously announced, government is closely examining the merits of selling Nova Scotia Resources Limited. A valuation exercise is presently under way to determine what is in the best long-term interests of Nova Scotians.

As well, as outlined in The Course Ahead, government is seeking a private-sector management company to operate Nova Scotia's three resorts: Liscombe Lodge, The Pines Resort, and Keltic Lodge. This is one step short of selling them outright, but, Mr. Speaker,

that option is still on the table.

[Page 3693]

Mr. Speaker, today I am also announcing that this government will no longer own and operate its own bookstore and that it is relinquishing its interest in the Northumberland Links golf course according to a previous agreement with the club's membership.

Mr. Speaker, this government does not believe that selling liquor is a core function of government. In fact, Nova Scotia is the only province in the country that wholly owns and operates every aspect of the liquor business. This government will revisit our exclusive ownership and control over the warehousing, distribution, and retail functions of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. There are any number of options leading to greater private-sector involvement. We will be examining all of them. If we conclude that it makes sense to both taxpayers and consumers to move forward and privatize one or more of these functions, it will be done.

Again, this government promised smaller government, and this government is delivering on that promise. In keeping with the ministry concept recommended by Voluntary Planning's Fiscal Management Task Force and as outlined in the document The Course Ahead, the number of government departments and secretariats is being reduced from 21 to 14. The objective is not simply to shrink the size and cost of government, but to organize it so that services can be delivered more effectively.

The new structure outlined in The Course Ahead will combine "like" functions and help us achieve the kind of efficiencies that are lost when departments work in isolation of one another, or when departments fail to take advantage of opportunities to save money simply because they are used to "doing their own thing."

That is why we are bringing asset management under one roof, everything from leasing office space and vehicles to buying computers. That is why we are bringing regulatory functions under one roof, everything from food inspection to tobacco enforcement. That is why we are bringing loan administration under one roof.

Further, today I am announcing that the adjudication functions of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority will be merged with the Utility and Review Board. The remaining responsibilities will be assigned to the Department of Business and Consumer Services and reviewed as part of the government restructuring process.

The mandate and cost of all other agencies, boards, and commissions is also under review to ensure that they serve a legitimate purpose and that they achieve good value for every tax dollar spent. Those that don't will be eliminated. Others with "like" functions will be merged.

[Page 3694]

Mr. Speaker, it is simply wrong to think that smaller government means that service levels can't be maintained. This government simply doesn't buy the line that "bigger is always better" or that less spending means less access to government services. In fact, the only people who believe that are those who think there is no waste in government.

I would ask them, does it make sense to offer a host of different government services, all sharing common services, all located out of different buildings in the same town, sometimes within the same block? No. It doesn't make sense for the taxpayer; it doesn't make sense for Nova Scotians trying to access service. We can streamline services, we can save dollars, and, with a little ingenuity, we can even improve upon the level of service.

Mr. Speaker, over the next 12 months we will be merging government offices whenever and wherever practical, whenever and wherever it can be demonstrated that we can achieve efficiencies and either maintain or improve the quality of service.

Mr. Speaker, if Nova Scotia is going to have a fighting chance at being a have province, we need to make some key investments now: investments that will pay long-term dividends for all Nova Scotians. This government believes that the best investments we can make are in children investments that help them personally grow and professionally succeed. We are therefore committing nearly $11 million to expand or implement new services and develop new programs that will help families, children, and young adults. (Applause)

This budget includes investments to help young Nova Scotians learn to read, including $1.5 million to develop a comprehensive literacy strategy, starting at the elementary grade level. Programs to be expanded include Reading Recovery and Active Young Readers.

La Nouvelle-Écosse sera la première juridiction au monde à utiliser la nouvelle version élaborée en français du programme Reading Recovery Observation Survey. Cette année, nous

poursuivrons nos efforts dans le but d'étendre ce programme aux élèves acadiens et francophones sur l'ensemble de la province.

[Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction in the world to utilize the redevelopment in French of the Reading Recovery Observation Survey. Work will continue toward the goal of extending the program to Francophone/ Acadian students across the province this year.]

This budget includes measures to assist children with developmental challenges, including:

$615,000 to expand the number of Early Intervention Initiatives

$2 million to reduce wait times for assessment and to provide treatment for children believed to have autism or developmental delay.

[Page 3695]

This budget includes support for low-income families and their children, including:

$3.3 million under the Healthy Child Development Initiative

$1.6 million for a new program to help low-income families purchase back-to-school supplies

$1.7 million under the Direct Assistance Program targetted exclusively to families with children.

Additionally, a new section in the reorganized Department of Health will now focus on children's health. As well, $3.1 million has been provided to hire 71 new child protection workers.

This government understands that these investments alone make every child an A student; they won't make every troubled child's life better. But, Mr. Speaker, they are significant in that they send the clear message that this government is committed to making key investments in families and children now, so that all Nova Scotians will realize long-term dividends in the future. (Applause)

This government understands the value of our rural communities and rural way of life. We understand, as well, that our rural communities and the industries that sustain them are increasingly being challenged on any number of fronts. Whether it is Mother Nature's impact on our farms, forests, or fishery, or the exodus of our young people who move away to pursue opportunities elsewhere, communities in rural Nova Scotia are feeling new pressures.

At the outset, I said all Nova Scotians would be affected by this budget, and they will. But Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to ensuring that the economies of rural Nova Scotia are not only sustained, but grow - that young Nova Scotians have a chance to live and work in the place they grew up. This budget therefore contains a number of measures to support economic opportunities in rural Nova Scotia and to ensure equitable access to government services. I have already referenced an increase in the rural roads maintenance budget, the continuation of the Community Economic Development Tax Credit, and amendments to the Film Industry Tax Credit, all of which help ensure that rural Nova Scotia is treated fairly. These initiatives speak to government's role in setting the climate for investment.

Mr. Speaker, we are also prepared to make strategic investments to support growth in rural Nova Scotia. In our resources sector:

a $1.9-million increase in assistance to Nova Scotia's farmers affected by market conditions and dramatic climate changes

[Page 3696]$600,000 to support and fund a New Entrants Program for young farmers

a $1.5 million revolving loan fund to enable Nova Scotia's boatbuilding industry to expand into the lucrative pleasure craft business

As well, my colleague, the Minister of Natural Resources, is presently working with industry to develop a significant new initiative to support a sustainable and healthy forestry sector here in Nova Scotia.

This government is also providing:

continued support for Tourism Marketing Initiatives based on the 1999-2000 investment

expansion of the Community Museum network - the moratorium has been lifted

a $250,000 investment in cultural development initiatives to help market our cultural strengths and generate export revenue.

As much as possible we have worked to protect our key cultural institutions. This includes committing $100,000 in operating support for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia's Western Branch and $125,000 for the annual Celtic Colours International Festival in Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our commitment to ensure that rural Nova Scotians have equitable access to the services provided by government, I am announcing that within the next 12 to 18 months every county in Nova Scotia will have access to one-stop shopping for a wide range of government services, everything from government tender information to licence renewal to registering a new business.

Mr. Speaker, I want to spend a few moments to address what this means for the people who work in the public service of Nova Scotia. We recognize that behind the dollars and the job numbers lie people whose lives will be affected. We know that families and communities are concerned about what it all means.

We have taken steps to lessen the individual impact on our employees. As much as possible, the job losses are coming through attrition. That means in many cases vacant positions are abolished. People who are retiring are not replaced.

Nevertheless, there is no ignoring the fact that with a smaller, more focused government we need fewer people. There is also no ignoring the fact that 70 per cent of the cost of operating government comes from salaries. That means, many contracts will not be renewed, and casuals who had expected work will be disappointed. Yes, Mr. Speaker, there will be

[Page 3697]

layoffs. For those directly affected by a layoff, we intend to follow the processes outlined in the current collective agreements and establish fair severance arrangements.

This budget results in a reduction of approximately 600 full-time equivalents positions in the direct Civil Service of the province. In addition, 400 teacher reductions are expected to occur through normal attrition. Restructuring in the health facilities and boards will result in 600 fewer full-time equivalents, primarily from administration and support. Taken in total, the expected reduction in full-time equivalents for the broader public sector is 1,600 full-time equivalents. Mr. Speaker, this is a very large number. We hope to manage approximately one-third of the expected reduction through normal attrition and retirements.

The impact on individuals is undeniable, and painful. But the pain for all Nova Scotians will be greater if we are unable to reach a proper financial balance in this province; a balance

between our desires for public service programs and our ability to pay for them.

Mr. Speaker, a few minutes ago, I talked about finding the right balance between what government is best equipped to do and what others can do better. I talked about what government would like to do and what it can afford to do. I want to take a moment to address the need to strike a balance between who uses and who pays for government services. This government firmly believes that fairness dictates that those who benefit from a particular service should pay more to help sustain those services.

One program that continues to grow beyond government's capacity to sustain it is Pharmacare. This government is committed to ensuring that this program is available to seniors for many years to come. But, Mr. Speaker, taxpayers simply cannot continue to absorb the significant year-over-year increases in program costs. In the last three years alone, the cost of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program almost doubled from $42 million to $83 million. Effective midnight tonight, the co-pay will increase from 20 per cent to 33 per cent per prescription to a maximum ceiling of $350. The annual premium of $215 remains unchanged this year. In future years, co-pay and premium increases will be linked to drug cost and utilization increases.

Mr. Speaker, we will also be moving to recover the cost of providing 911 service. This will be a flat-fee charge and not a fee charged for calling 911.

While ambulance fees will also be increased, we are eliminating the unfair charge for transferring patients from one hospital to another. In total, new or increased cost-recovery measures amount to $20 million.

This government received a strong mandate from the people of Nova Scotia to carry out its four year plan. This budget confirms we are on course. Program expenses will be brought into line with revenue growth.

[Page 3698]

I have already referred to many of our commitments. Let me mention a few more.

We are lifting the grandfather clause on the Seniors' Property Tax Rebate Program and will begin phasing in the program so that all qualifying seniors have fair access to this program.

We are providing an additional $1 million to expand respite services for families caring for family members at home.

We are investing $500,000 to aggressively market and encourage investment in the Cape Breton economy.

We will be proceeding with the Buy Nova Scotia First campaign to encourage support for Nova Scotia business.

Mr. Speaker, we said we would keep our word as a government, and we are. (Applause)

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this budget is about balance:

Balancing need against want, cost against benefit, the future against the past.

It's about priorities: education and lifelong learning; access to quality health care; an environment that fosters economic growth; and help for dependent people to become self-reliant.

It's about principles: fairness, quality of service, value for money, and accountability.

It's about the importance of government keeping its word, doing what it said it would do.

This budget is about thinking smart about what government does, and, just as importantly, how it does it. It's about sharing the load, where everyone is asked to contribute his or her fair share. It's about honestly and openly reporting to all Nova Scotians on where we started and where we are headed. Most importantly, this budget is about what kind of future we will leave our children. A future of opportunity here at home, or lack of opportunity that forces them to leave home.

Mr. Speaker, the choice is clear, the road we must take is clear. In my first Budget Address, I said we would take the road less travelled. That journey begins now.

[Page 3699]

Mr. Speaker, it will lead to a better Nova Scotia, not one filled with fleeting hopes, but one of lasting benefits in which all Nova Scotians can share. Thank you.

[3:00 p.m.]

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to begin my remarks this afternoon and make a few comments. Then I will, as is the tradition, adjourn the debate and presumably conclude my remarks on Thursday.

As I begin, Mr. Speaker, I am struck by one sentence in the minister's closing comments under his Conclusion. He said, "It's about the importance of government keeping its word, doing what it said it would do." I don't know how members of this government can stand here in support of this budget, make such a statement, and then look at themselves in the mirror.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how gullible the Tories believe Nova Scotians are, but I can tell you that if this is the Tories' vision, if this is the Tories' plan, not only have you been the biggest disappointment in many a year for Nova Scotians, but I would suggest that you have taken back your handshake with Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I just have to ask, is this the best the government could do? It was not very long ago we were knocking on doors and the Tories said that they had a vision. They had a plan. They knew the financial situation of this province and they promised that health care and education were to be the top priorities for their government. Well, you tell me how taking 400 classroom teachers out of the classrooms across this province, is going to be improving the educational opportunities for our children. You tell parents whose children are in the education system or whose children will be coming into that system, how their children are going to be better off educationally with larger class sizes, with less resources, with less social workers, psychologists, and all the others who are so essential in identifying children at risk. Now, you tell me. You tell them how those families are going to be better off.

Better still, Mr. Speaker, you show me where, in your 1999 election platform, you said that you were going to be cutting the classrooms of Nova Scotia. You said this was about government keeping its word and doing what it said. You show me where you promised Nova Scotians that you were going to make education harder in this province, and reduce the educational advantage for our children. Show us. I say shame on you.

You tell me how taking 600 health care workers out of the health care system in this province and reducing the overall funding is going to be improving health care in this province. Where is your plan? You tell me how that is going to be making the jobs of nurses and others who are struggling in a system that is already under attack, how that is going to

[Page 3700]

make it better. You tell us how cuts in acute care beds are going to improve it. What happened to your commitment to increased long-term care beds? Where has that gone in this budget?

You know, this government went on a scare tactic, building up this rhetoric about the size of the deficit in this province, inflating it beyond what it really was, underestimating revenues considerably, which I would suggest you are doing yet again. In the last couple of years it has been to the tune of about what, $160 million a year? So, build up this panic so that you could justify breaking your promises. You cannot justify that, Mr. Speaker, you just cannot.

Tell me, where did the Tories promise that they were going to be cutting agriculture and the agricultural offices across this province? Is that in the blue book? Do we have a new blue book. Is there a revised edition out there somewhere?

AN HON. MEMBER: Annotated, 243(a).

MR. HOLM: I am being told that it must be 243(a). Well, it must be 243(c) at least, because they didn't talk about cutting the 400 teachers or the 600 staff from the Department of Health either. Those jobs across this province in the agricultural community are extremely important to those communities and extremely important to that industry. What about Cape Breton and over all? All rural communities, indeed. What about Cape Breton? What do we have here for Cape Breton and other economically depressed areas? We have $500,000 to help market it. At the same time you have taken $2 million out of the University College of Cape Breton.

Did the Tories promise in the blue book that they were going to add $20 million to the cost of post-secondary education, by eliminating the loan remission program for low and middle income families? Is that in your blue book? I have heard so many promises or so many things from the Tories over the years, that I sometimes get confused because sometimes they talk out of both sides of their mouths.

I seem to remember very strongly that they talked about putting an end to the clawing back of the National Child Tax Benefit. What happened to that in here? Do you know, Mr. Speaker, we have been introducing a resolution each and every day in this House and I believe, if my memory serves me correctly, today we should be at Resolution No. 1428. That is 1,428 children who have been born into poverty since August 17th when the Tories took office and what are they doing here to help? Certainly they are not doing anything on the clawback of the National Child Tax Benefit which is aimed at assisting those families and those children in greatest need. That was in the blue book that that was going to be eliminated. What are you planning to do to actually benefit those who would be applying for social assistance, will be receiving? It is my information that those figures are to be cut for those families and individuals who are in a state of crisis, as of April 1st past.

[Page 3701]

There is going to be an additional few dollars provided and it is important money, Mr. Speaker, to provide additional school supplies each August for children who are returning to school, but you cannot eat the erasers. You cannot eat the sneakers. I hate to tell the Premier this, but the amount of money that is being provided for back to school supplies will not begin to cover a fraction of the costs that those families actually face.

No tax increases but, yes, look at all these user fees. This is like the dance of the seven veils. You get a little bit here, you get a little bit there. I say to you, and I suggest Nova Scotians say to you, come clean, lay it on the table. What user fees are you going to increase? Put a list on the table. Tell them. We know 911 is there. We know that you have cranked up by over 50 per cent the co-pay fee for Pharmacare and that that is going to be generating an extra $8 million and that amount is going to keep going up year after year. We know that, but we don't have the full list of your hidden fee structure. You have it, presumably you have it. I should not say that they do because in truth that is giving this government too much credit. That is implying that they have thought it through that far and that they actually have a plan.

I seem to remember that the Tories were opposed to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program, or not the program, but the payments, the co-pay, when they were over here and they knew how to get rid of it. Funny thing, Mr. Speaker, how short their memories are.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is not so funny.

MR. HOLM: But it is not, as my colleagues correctly point out, funny for the seniors of this province. It is not funny for Nova Scotians who are going to be hit with those higher fees and taxes because that is what they are and in case this government has forgotten about this in their obsession with one type of deficit and one type only, that over 50 per cent of Nova Scotians have an income of less than $25,000 a year.

AN HON. MEMBER: Less than $20,000 a year.

MR. HOLM: Yes, 55 per cent are less than $25,000 and 50 per cent are less than $20,000. Those are going to be the people who are paying these fees. They don't have Cabinet salaries. These are people who can least afford it. So when you are talking a balanced approach, let's talk a true balance that includes the social as well as the economic impact; that includes health, that includes education, that includes programs for those who are least advantaged.

[3:15 p.m.]

The government, in their address, talked about cuts in the assistance for business. They have cut in half the amount for community economic development, but the special assistance fund has actually increased.

[Page 3702]

Mr. Speaker, I said I would begin my remarks today, and there are many more things that I could very quickly say off the top of my head. I have used what I had intended this afternoon, which is 15 minutes and I will conclude my remarks on Thursday. However, let me just conclude by making this my final statement today. Yes, I will acknowledge that in this budget there are some very modest improvements in certain areas, but as an overall document that has a vision for this province that looks at how we are going to be growing the economy in this province, generating increased jobs, getting our fair share of the revenues from our offshore and onshore resources, looking for ways to assist individuals and families to be able to obtain the educational and job opportunities they deserve so this province can move forward, this budget has been nothing but a resounding failure. To think this government has also left 1,600 public servants hanging without even any indication to them of what their future holds for them after their service to this province, is an absolute, disgraceful betrayal.

Mr. Speaker, as I take my seat today, I have to say that Nova Scotians might be pardoned for asking this question, when did the Tories tear up their blue book and the commitments they made to Nova Scotians during last summer's election?

I would move the adjournment of the debate and for the debate to be resumed on a future occasion.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, I recognize the honourable member for Lunenburg West on an introduction.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to introduce, in the west gallery, Michael LeFave of Bridgewater; a Grade 10 student at Bridgewater High School. He is job shadowing me today as part of his one week Career Week Program for students who are blind or visually impaired that are attending the APSEA Program. Michael is job shadowing me because of his interest in politics and of hopefully a political career someday. I would ask members of this House to kindly welcome Michael. Michael, if you could wave your arms so we can see you and welcome you here and let you know we do appreciate your efforts. (Applause)

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

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to re-introduce to the House a very good friend of this place who hasn't been with us since the last election, Helen MacDonald from Bras d'Or and she is accompanied by Rosella MacDonald, no relation, and I would ask the House to give both of them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

[Page 3703]

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce a familiar face to these Chambers, also in the west gallery, the first elected representative for the Preston constituency, Mr. Wayne Adams. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, the winner of the late show submission for this evening is the honourable Leader of the NDP. The resolution reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government take the advice of the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia 'where abuse is an issue, parties get their day in court without going through mediation.'"

The late debate will commence at 6:00 p.m.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1204

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

Whereas the community of Sackville joins the family and many friends of Dennis Bicknell in their sorrow over his sudden passing on April 8th; and

Whereas Dennis Bicknell, a leader in his community, was very active in the Sackville Rivers Association, the preservation of Second Lake, the development of flood plain controls and walkways, Canada Day celebrations, Toastmasters, his local residents association, amateur sports and transportation issues; and

[Page 3704]

Whereas Dennis Bicknell's many awards include the Halifax Regional Municipality's 250th Anniversary Medallion, the Lake District Recreation Volunteer of the Year Award, the Province of Nova Scotia's Environmental Award, and the province's Environmental Award for a Citizens Group;

Therefore be it resolved that this House give thanks for the life of Dennis Bicknell and his many accomplishments and extend its deepest sympathies to his wife Mischa, daughters Kim and Nori, and his many friends.

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. 1205

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 Honourable Rodney MacDonald, Minister of Tourism and Culture, is Cape Breton's representative in the current provincial Cabinet; and

Whereas as the regional representative for Cape Breton in Cabinet, it is the duty of this minister to lobby for projects and programs which would be of advantage to Cape Breton, and particularly to his own constituency of Inverness; and

Whereas the minister's lack of resolve on the Orangedale station stop for the planned Bras d'Or tourism train, and blind acceptance of VIA Rail Canada's position as gospel truth, does not show leadership on behalf of Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the record to date of Cape Breton's Cabinet voice is such that it appears that we have no voice at all, and that the minister should roll up his sleeves and get involved on the Orangedale train stop issue or any issue of concern to the people of Cape Breton.

[Page 3705]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Interruption)

I guess the train is coming through. It is going to stop at the Legislature instead.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1206

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 in preparation for the budget, the government has made reference to Yankee thrift and has said that "Like our New England cousins, Nova Scotians have long understood the value of a dollar"; and

Whereas these references conjure up Sam Slick, the Yankee clock peddler, who relied on soft sawder to sell Nova Scotians $6.00 clocks for $40; and

Whereas Sam Slick accused Nova Scotians of conceit, laziness, ignorance, greed and lack of confidence in their province;

Therefore be it resolved that this government disassociate itself from Sam Slick's opinion that "there ain't a livin' soul in Nova Scotia knows his own business real complete, farmer, fisherman, lawyer or doctor", or else risk the wrath of Nova Scotians who, in Sam's words, would have a "conniption fit".

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1207

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

[Page 3706]

Whereas in September 2000, Acadia University will be the first university across Canada to introduce an E-commerce degree; and

Whereas the new Bachelor of Computer Science, with specialization in electronic commerce, will be offered at the undergraduate level; and

Whereas Acadia's Industrial Advisory Board has concluded that E-commerce graduates will be sought out by small, medium and large enterprises around the globe;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Acadia University for their ongoing commitment to delivering quality educational programs.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1208

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 Halifax Mooseheads gave it their all in their quest to become Quebec Major Junior League Champions, but unfortunately came up short against the tough Rimouski Oceanic, the number two-ranked junior team in the country; and

Whereas the outcome of their hard-fought series against the Oceanic is not reflective of the team's commitment to excellence and hard work throughout the 1999-2000 season; and

Whereas the Halifax Mooseheads hockey team and their enduring and enthusiastic fans will now turn their focus to winning the Memorial Cup tournament in May, in which they will be participating as the host team and city;

[Page 3707]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Halifax Mooseheads for putting forward such a great effort in the play-offs and throughout the entire season, and offer our heartiest wishes of good luck in the upcoming Memorial Cup.

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 Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1209

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

Whereas the Standing Committee on Community Services of this Legislature has not met since November 1999; and

Whereas the chairman of this committee has advised the Premier that he wishes to be replaced; and

Whereas without a chair this committee is unable to meet to examine many issues of importance to Nova Scotians such as child poverty, services for seniors, welfare-to-work policy and gambling, to name just a few;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier act immediately to appoint a chairperson for the Standing Committee on Community Services.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 3708]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1210

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

Whereas there are 33 shellfish lease areas along the Bras d'Or Lakes closed to fishing because of high faecal coliform levels; and

Whereas the closures of these lease areas has increased by 100 per cent since 1990; and

Whereas some older cottages along Baddeck's shoreline are equipped with straight-pipe sewage, which simply collects waste from its source and drains it directly into the water;

Therefore be it resolved that this government immediately take action to resolve the problem of raw sewage being dumped into one of Nova Scotia's most scenic waterways, the Bras d'Or Lakes.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1211

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

Whereas Richmond County native Adam Scanlan is the recipient of a National Travel Award to attend a 4-H Conference in Winnipeg from March 29th to April 1st; and

Whereas Adam was selected for his involvement in 4-H activities and his outstanding contributions to the community; and

Whereas the objective of this conference is to present a positive picture of agriculture and help delegates appreciate the importance of agriculture in our Canadian economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Adam Scanlan on his accomplishments and continued involvement in his local community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 3709]

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.

[3:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1212

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

Whereas this past weekend, Cole Harbour played host to the Irving Oil Challenge Cup Atlantic AAA Bantam Hockey Championship; and

Whereas in a hotly contested championship game the host, Cole Harbour Red Wings, defeated the Newfoundland-Labrador provincial championship team, the Bay Arena Rovers, 3-2; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia representative team, the Halifax Hawks, won the consolation prize of third place, defeating the P.E.I. North River Flames 4-1;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all the teams who participated in the Irving Oil Challenge Cup, especially the Cole Harbour Red Wings and the Halifax Hawks, and thank the organizing committee and volunteers of the Cole Harbour-Bel Ayr Hockey Association for hosting this very successful event.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 3710]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1213

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 Hamm Government promised in its blue book to establish a zero tolerance policy for violent behaviour, ensuring our schools are safe places to learn; and

Whereas the same blue book promises a standard code of conduct for students and teachers to emphasize mutual respect, responsibility and discipline; and

Whereas 13 year old Daniel Pretty of Bridgewater was severely beaten at Hebbville Academy and is now recovering from head injuries he suffered at the hands of another student;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government keep its promise and act quickly to ensure our education system provides a safe learning environment for our youth and our children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1214

MR. JERRY PYE: 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

[Page 3711]

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,428 children were 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 health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,428 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1215

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

Whereas Moving Into the Millennium is this year's theme for National Physiotherapy Week 2000 to be held from April 9th to April 15th; and

Whereas the goals of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association are to achieve better lives for our citizens through the advancement of physiotherapy education, practice and research; and

Whereas our previous government was proud of the partnership forum with physiotherapists during the process of updating the legislation governing their profession;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize National Physiotherapy Week 2000 and urge all public officials and private citizens to join the physiotherapy profession to secure better health for all our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 3712]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1216

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

Whereas this week is the most important week of the session with the provincial budget coming in today; and

Whereas this budget will profoundly affect every community in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas 50 members of the Legislature have set aside personal commitments and constituency duties to scrutinize carefully the budget document;

Therefore be it resolved that no one should take this time to play golf when they should be manning the barricades.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1217

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

Whereas St. Ann's Harbour in Victoria County has good potential for mussel farming; and

Whereas local fishers want to be proponents with Bounty Bay Shellfish of Morel, P.E.I., to grow, harvest and process mussels; and

[Page 3713]

Whereas doing so would provide much needed jobs to the local economy, as well as providing a good quality mussel for market;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Fisheries consider favourably the application for leases to 5M Aqua Ltd., to utilize the harbour to provide for much-needed jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1218

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

Whereas in addition to failing to provide leadership on Cape Breton issues, the Cape Breton "voice" in Cabinet, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, lashes out at anyone who calls attention to his underperformance; and

Whereas in yesterday's Cape Breton Post, on the Northside Victoria page, the minister is quoted as chastising me, claiming that I do not do my homework, and that whatever VIA Rail Canada says is what must be done insofar as scheduling of the Bras d'Or tourism train goes; and

Whereas we have done our homework, and find from diligent research and consideration that the chief problem with the Bras d'Or train not stopping at Orangedale is the lack of enthusiasm for this proposal from this minister;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism and Culture should be promoting the Orangedale Railway Museum, and insisting that the Bras d'Or train stop there, rather than acting as a servile apologist for VIA Rail Canada executives handing down decisions from Montreal.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 3714]

The time is 3:37 p.m.. Oral Question Period will expire at 4:37 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this is the Question Period following the Budget Address. I would like to ask if the Premier and the Minister of Finance could come forward.

MR. SPEAKER: We will take a minute. Perhaps we could adjourn for five minutes with agreement.

Is it agreed?

We will have a five minute recess.

[3:38 p.m. The House recessed.]

[3:47 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 3:47 p.m. Oral Question Period will end at 4:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): LAYOFFS - UNPROMISED

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. I refer to the Premier's attention, here is the platform the Tories ran on in the last election campaign. I have been through it again and I cannot see anywhere in this book where it says that you are going to get rid of 400 teachers. I don't see anything in this book where it says that you are going to get rid of health care workers, let alone 600 health care workers. There is nothing in here and I want the Premier to tell me where in his platform that he laid out for Nova Scotians he said that he was going to get rid of these workers?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite if perhaps he would take a few minutes and go through it again and look at the pages that talk about a balanced budget, that talk about a smaller government, that talk about a reshaped

[Page 3715]

government, that talk about government doing those things that government should do and doing them in the context of a balanced budget.

The member opposite has all kinds of criticism. The member opposite and his Party have yet to come in with a single constructive idea for government to help us through the financial crisis that has been created by 25 years of overexpenditures.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this book talked about how Nova Scotians were overtaxed. The Tories and their Leader, John Hamm, talked about how we need to make sure that Nova Scotians have more money in their pockets. Nowhere did they talk about user fees for things like using the ambulance, for seniors who want to use Pharmacare, home support services and drivers' testing. I want to ask the Premier, he wants to tell Nova Scotians, why is there such a difference between the John Hamm who said that Nova Scotians are overtaxed and the John Hamm who has just brought in a budget that sucks millions of dollars out of Nova Scotians' pockets?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that this government is doing a balanced approach. The member opposite, the Parties opposite know that other provinces, because they have addressed this situation much earlier than ours, are going to be very soon bringing in tax breaks, the kind of tax breaks that if we are not prepared to follow, will result in jobs leaving Nova Scotia, our economy being destroyed by bad government.

We will not allow this to happen. We will provide good solid government, balancing revenues and expenditures, to grow the economy to allow Nova Scotians to have the greatest single advantage we can give them and that is a job.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, John Hamm and the Tories told Nova Scotians that they would see huge increases in forestry spending, big increases in highway spending. That is in here and they didn't get it. What is in this budget is a discussion about the elimination of jobs and services in the Agriculture Department - that is not in here. Will the Premier explain to rural Nova Scotians why it is he has cut the heart out of the Agriculture Department in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that to the Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is this budget has been in consultation with the Federation of Agriculture and suits the needs of what they have requested and this budget provides more money to the farmers of Nova Scotia on the ground than the previous budget that was set down.

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

[Page 3716]

EDUC. - TEACHERS: CUTS - IMPACT

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this past winter the Voluntary Planning Commission, commissioned by this Premier and this government, stressed the importance of education to the economic future of our province. Will the Premier explain to this House how cutting 400 full-time equivalent teaching positions will improve the quality of education in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that a balanced budget is required. The member opposite knows that it is not an option for this government to raise taxes. The member opposite knows that unless we balance the budget the same people who enter schools today will have no future in this province. This government is determined to provide a future for the young people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this honourable and that honourable member know that if we don't invest in our young people with a proper level of education, they are not going to be able to compete in tomorrow's economy. I want to say to the Premier and I want to say to the whole government who brought forward this terrible budget, how can they expect the school boards in this province to maintain class sizes between Primary and Grade 6 when they have cut 400 teachers in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: This Premier and this government will not take budget lessons from the Leader of a Party that brought in a budget last spring that had it been passed would have resulted in a downgrading of the credit of this province and would have wreaked financial disaster on this province. We cannot take lessons from that government.

MR. MACLELLAN: I say to the Premier that all of those quotes that he has in his budget about the improved economy, about the improved financial position weren't as a result of his government, they are a result of the government that he replaced. I want him to remember that. We will see how good his economic results are in the year to come and I say to this Premier, we will see how good the economic results are when this government and that Minister of Education stop the improvement in the curriculum as they say they are going to do and cut back in information technology and the new knowledge-based system . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party please place his question.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, he has said that he is going to downgrade information technology. How does he think that is going to help the young people of today compete in the future?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that question to the Minister of Education.

[Page 3717]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there will be no downgrading of information technology in this budget.

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

FIN. - USER FEES: TAX - ADDT'L.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the government announced today that it is adding $29 million in user fees. In other words, it is going to squeeze another $29 million out of the pockets of ordinary Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier to tell me so I can maybe explain to my constituents, why isn't that a tax?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the member opposite has shown so little insight that his constituents will actually be explaining the budget to him, because he obviously doesn't understand it. (Interruptions) What the member opposite is failing to indicate to anybody, because one time he is talking about taxes, does he want taxes to go up? On the other hand, he is talking about providing an unlimited supply of services which would cost more than this province could actually afford. What we would like to get, on the government side, is some indication from the member opposite, by way of his questioning, where exactly he is in all of this because it is not apparent.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: There is $29 million being sucked out of the pockets of Nova Scotians; 1,600 hardworking public servants in the Province of Nova Scotia, and not a word about it during the election campaign, Mr. Hamm. Tell Nova Scotians why you didn't tell them the truth in the election. Tell them.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite, smaller government. That is what that document says, and smaller government means fewer people.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is a question of trust. It is a question of having broken the trust with Nova Scotians. No mention in the election campaign, no mention in this document, about an increase in user fees, about 600 health care workers about to go, about 400 teachers leaving the classrooms. I want to ask the Premier, and all members of the front bench here, to explain, here in the House today, why Nova Scotians shouldn't hang their heads in shame as a result of the budget that you have released here today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe, unlike the interpretation of the member opposite, the majority of reasoned Nova Scotians will say, finally we have a government that is coming to grips with reality, that will ensure that this province has a future, that we don't have a government that will destroy the economy.

[Page 3718]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PROG.: CO-PAY - INCREASE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how the Premier talks here today. During the election, these were all concerns about the future of this province, and now it is a big deception to Nova Scotians about the reality of what he stands for. Just two years ago now, Mr. Premier, you promised that you would eliminate the Pharmacare premiums for seniors. Today, you announce a dramatic increase in co-pay under the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. My question to the Premier is why does he believe that seniors could not afford to pay the Pharmacare premiums two years ago, but today they can afford to pay even more, in the cost of Pharmacare delivery for seniors in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, seniors were given options as to how the province could best finance the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. I would ask the Minister of Health to discuss those options.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess I would say that contrary to the previous government, when we make decisions such as that, we do consult with those who are going to be affected. (Interruptions) I think it is important to note that the Pharmacare premium remains the same this year as it was last year. The pressures, as everybody knows, anybody who pays any attention to issues in Health, on Pharmacare are going up, up and up. If we are to have a Pharmacare system for seniors in this province, it has to be like everything else, I honestly believe that most seniors are willing to participate so that they can have a Pharmacare system, which still remains among the best in the country. I can tell you, as well, seniors who are on a limited income, there is relief for them in terms of the premium

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I don't remember seeing ambulance fees going up in the blue book. I don't remember Pharmacare going up by $4.4 million or home support programs for seniors increasing by $2.2 million. In the last campaign the Premier promised to ensure that input from seniors and the interests of seniors are at the forefront of his government-making decision and of decisions that will be made in the future. My question, again to the Premier, will the Premier fess up and tell this House what consultation took place with seniors before he implemented these changes to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health had those consultations and I will refer the question to him.

[Page 3719]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the position of the government was that we had to have a Seniors' Pharmacare Program that would serve their needs as well as one we could afford. We met with a representative group of seniors and presented some options to them and the option which was contained in the budget was the one that they selected.

MR. DOWNE: It is interesting, Mr. Speaker, their way of consultation is showing them the death chamber, or hanging by a rope. In other words, they picked a few seniors' representatives and gave them options of either cutting off their right leg or their left leg and said pick a choice. The reality is they did not consult with Nova Scotian seniors with regard to these premium increases. Why has this Premier broken his commitment, broken his promise, broken his word to seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that the question is coming from a senior member of the previous government who had actually cut funding for the Senior Citizens' Secretariat because they were not interested in hearing what seniors had to say. We restored the funding and strengthened the Senior Citizens' Secretariat because this government is interested in what seniors have to say.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - TEACHERS: CUTS - UNPROMISED

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It is clear that the theme of this budget is betrayal. It is a betrayal of the promises John Hamm made less than a year ago during the election campaign and it is a betrayal of our children in the system that is educating them because 400 teaching positions are being cut by this heartless, short-sighted Tory Government. My question to the Premier is, where in your election platform, which is decorated with your smiling face, did you promise cuts to 400 teachers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that we have a declining enrolment in the Province of Nova Scotia. The member opposite has heard the Minister of Finance say that teachers will not be cut, but through normal attrition we will have fewer teachers. We will allocate teachers specifically to Primary through to Grade 6 to make sure that class sizes there are protected.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is clear that in a have-not province, where education should be important, we have a have-not Premier. The President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union said today that this is a devastating budget for education.

The government claims more money is being spent on education, but this isn't true. Page A16 of this Budget Address clearly shows that $878 million was spent on P to 12 last year and $859 million will be spent this year. That is a difference of $24 million. My question

[Page 3720]

to the Premier, where, in your election platform, did you promise to cut spending for our children's education?

THE PREMIER: What this government clearly is saying is that bankruptcy for the province is not an option for our children. That is what this government is saying. Again, I challenge the members opposite to come forward with a single constructive suggestion for this government to deal with the impending financial crisis that we are being forced to deal with.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, a constructive suggestion for the Premier would be in my final question. When will you admit that this budget is a dreadful mistake, and education deserves more funding?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the simplistic views of those being expressed by the members of the Opposition fail to realize that you cannot balance the budget unless you address the entire spending of government, when you have health and education resulting in over half the expenditures of the province. What we have said, we will address a balanced budget in this province because it is necessary for survival, and survive this province will.

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

HEALTH: BUDGET (2000-01) - CUTS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Health have said continuously that they want a good health care program for the people of Nova Scotia. In this budget, they have cut acute care funds by $73 million, at the same time, they have only increased the funding for long-term care by $1.1 million and home care by $1.7 million. How can they devastate acute care, have people come out of acute care and not have proper long-term care and home care for them to go into? How does this fit with the Premier's plan for health care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the Leader of the Liberal Party for that question. There was money taken out of the acute care budget for hospitals, but $40 million of that was Y2K costs. We do believe there are a number of adjustments we can make in concert with those institutions. As I said earlier, we have a lot of creative and exceptionally able people in our health care system, and they can make adjustments so that the quality of health can remain high. At the same time, this province can be assured that there will be a health care system in the future.

[Page 3721]

MR. MACLELLAN: The quality of health care cannot remain high if millions and millions of dollars are taken out of acute care. The QE II, for instance, will have its budget reduced by $32 million; $32 million, without any significant increase for long-term care or home care. What kind of plan is that? What does he plan to do with the people that won't be able to go into acute care because of those budget cuts? Where are they going to go?

MR. MUIR: I have to go back and check my notes to check the accuracy of the honourable member's number regarding that cut. (Interruption) I am sure it is, but I know that sometimes the honourable members, I don't say this disrespectfully, don't always interpret things the way they should be interpreted. I can say that the honourable member presents a challenge for us, and we are presenting that challenge to the people who are running our health care system. We do need to have a system where we can flow people through the acute care system in the hospitals. The report we tabled last week indicated about 25 per cent of our hospital beds, on the average across the province, are occupied by people who could be served just as well in another setting. He has outlined that challenge, and we are working on that, Mr. Speaker.

We have committed more money to continuing care. We do believe that some of the administrative efficiencies that he is referring to once the QE II is fully integrated into the Capital Health District, these savings will be achieved so that we can do these things a little bit more effectively.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is no good to say to someone who is critically ill today, it is too bad you didn't get sick in 10 year's time, because we would have the system for you at that time. People are sick today, they need good health care today. This minister, this Premier, this government is devastating acute care hospitalization in Nova Scotia without having the proper home care and long-term care for them. How does that fit into any plan, let alone a plan this twisted government may have for the people of Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I recognize the concern the honourable member is expressing. Unfortunately, there are items or situations in Nova Scotia where people don't always get the care that they would like to have immediately. But I can tell you and everybody in this room knows it, when Nova Scotians are sick and they require care by our medical system, they get it.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - UNPROMISED

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, one of the things amongst many in this budget that is unbelievable is that this government will be cutting social welfare assistance by $100 per month for Nova Scotians on assistance. That is 8,000 or more children in this province who are going to have $100 less for food, for clothing and for heat and shelter. My question

[Page 3722]

is for the Premier. Where in your election platform, Mr. Premier, did you promise to eliminate hope for needy families in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the strengths of our budget, of course, is the programs that we are initiating for children in Nova Scotia. The same children living in poverty that we are reminded about everyday in the Legislature by way of resolution. But I would refer the question to the Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would say that if he looks at the implementation of the budget, if he looks at the programs there, he will see that not all people have gone down in rates. (Interruptions) I would ask him to look at the back to work programs where we have put those in place and our initiative is to make people self-reliant.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, let's talk about self-reliance. This government is going to provide 100 extra day care seats for people in need, yet there are 8,000 single mothers that you are going to try and force off welfare. That is workfare and it is workfare that won't work. So my question to the Premier, will this heartless government stop its agenda of workfare and start providing real assistance to those in need in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it really is disappointing that the member opposite seems to suggests that Nova Scotians, given an opportunity to get education to allow them to move into the workforce, would not respond positively to that kind of an opportunity, the kind of an opportunity that that member and that Party are frightened to talk about.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, now let's really look at how heartless this government is. While they are cutting welfare rates for the poor, they are increasing $175,000 for senior managers in the Department of Community Services, more travel expenses, more salary. So my question to the Premier, why do you continue to help your buddies while trying to penalize those who can least afford it in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that question is beyond the comprehension of any reasonable person.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. - N.S. FARM LOAN BD.: COMMITMENT - BROKEN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture. During the election campaign, the Tory blue book on Page 27 promised to, "Maintain the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board as a separate entity;" In The Course Ahead, it says that economic development will consolidate loan administration functions for Agriculture, Fisheries, Housing, and the Business Development Corporation. Basically, I believe, what the

[Page 3723]

minister has done, and the blue book has done, is broken their commitment to Agriculture. How can the minister justify this apparent flip-flop on his blue book position relative to the Farm Loan Board as a separate entity in Agriculture?

[4:15 p.m.]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly I appreciate the member opposite pointing out the situation, as it does highlight that the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board will be in the forefront of farm lending to the farming community of Nova Scotia. Certainly, if we can create administrative efficiencies by combining the rear-office job of a number of boards and commissions and lending agencies in this province, then we have done a good service for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board certainly will remain, to the farming community of Nova Scotia, as the lender of choice.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it says in the blue book "as a separate entity." Clearly it is not a separate entity. Maybe that is why he got Mr. Cox to be the chairman of that instead of firing the former president or chairman of the Farm Loan Board who was doing an excellent job.

My question to the minister, in light of the slashing in the budget of Agriculture of some 21 per cent in the Department of Agriculture and Marketing and some 36 per cent in the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, how many staff will be gone from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing and the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture by having reductions in excess of 21 per cent and 36 per cent respectively?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. Obviously the member opposite certainly is not concerned about recommendations put forward by the agricultural community and representation of who they want on boards and commissions, but that is neither here nor there. The important issue here addressed is the size of the estimates for the department. When the one-time, drought-relief-accelerated payment is taken out, the Department of Agriculture and Marketing expenditure is within a couple per cent of where it was, if not a little larger; certainly the program is larger. The Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture expenditure, as long as the one-time payment relating to the TAGS program is taken out, is of the same proportion it was last year. So I would remind the member opposite that his math is somewhat like his math from his previous administration, when he was on this side of the House trying to convince this side of the House that there was a balanced budget out there on a $600 million deficit.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as we go on about who the farm community felt was the best person as chairman of the Farm Loan Board, I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing - who, I know, doesn't like to take advice from anybody in Agriculture any more - to just ask his colleague behind him who the farm community thought should be there. My question to the minister, how many staff are going to be affected? How many staff are going

[Page 3724]

to be affected by these cuts? He is refusing to answer that question. Either he doesn't know, he is incompetent, or he is scared to tell Nova Scotians in the Civil Service how many he is going to fire from the Department of Agriculture and Marketing.

Now I will give one compliment to the minister, he did keep the 4-H program after a constant barrage of questions from this side of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please place his final supplementary question.

MR. DOWNE: My final question to the minister is, how can he break as many promises as he has with regard to developing programs as the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing, and still expect the trust of the farm community, the slash and burn tactics that he has given to the Department of Agriculture and Marketing?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that there have been no promises broken, as the member opposite well knows. What has been made and delivered is a commitment in close consultation with the Federation of Agriculture in this province. The program will be increased to the farming community, the program has been increased in this budget to the farming community. There will be more services to the farming community than in the previous government and agriculture in rural Nova Scotia is the number one commitment of this government, unlike the previous administration.

Certainly his question in regard to employee numbers will be answered in estimates, Mr. Speaker. Certainly the commitment is 100 per cent here. I don't know what the problem is with the member.

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

HEALTH - CARE: PROMISE - BROKEN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you know if there was ever a simplistic document, it is this one, but you know it is simple to make commitments when you don't intend to keep them.

Mr. Speaker, this government ran on a commitment to improve health care for Nova Scotians. It was the number one item in this book, yet here today the government is showing its true colours by cutting health care funding by nearly $100 million. The budget singles out health care for the biggest and deepest cut. I want to ask the Premier, why did you tell Nova Scotians you would increase health funding, and then turn around and slash it?

[Page 3725]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what this government has said to Nova Scotians is that we are going to give them 100 cents for every tax dollar. What we have said to Nova Scotians, we cannot go on increasing health care funding at 12.5 per cent per year, which is what has occurred over the last three years, the highest increase of any province in the Country of Canada. We can't afford it, no other province could afford it. What we are saying is, we are going to get full value out of every health care dollar, and we will have increases in health care spending commensurate with increases in revenue so we can deliver a balanced budget.

MR. DEXTER: Well, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier kicked off his campaign, he promised more funding for health care in years one and two. He did not promise more user fees and higher Pharmacare costs. Yet, here today, we see millions in new user fees for ambulance, home care, 911 services and Pharmacare. These user fees make health care inaccessible for those who cannot afford it. I would ask the Premier, why didn't you tell Nova Scotians that your real plan was to increase health care user fees not health care funding?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the member opposite to look for government spending in the last budget that was passed by the previous Liberal Government and look at the health care spending today. It shows a very substantial increase in health care spending.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is a betrayal. He said one thing during the election, but he is delivering something different today. He promised to address the shortage of doctors and nurses immediately, but these problems are not addressed in this budget. I want to ask the Premier, what happened to your commitments? Did you cut them, too?

THE PREMIER: I didn't get the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, please repeat the question.

MR. DEXTER: I would be happy to repeat it, Mr. Speaker. What happened to your commitments? Did you cut them, too?

THE PREMIER: This government, by way of the blue book, has made a great number of commitments to Nova Scotia, and Nova Scotians, and it will keep those commitments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NURSES: RECRUITMENT - NO.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia says clearly that very few new nurses are working in Nova Scotia since the Tories took power, and this government claims to have

[Page 3726]

followed through on a Liberal commitment to convert many casual nurses to full time. My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, can the minister tell us today in this House exactly how many new nurses he has recruited or have been recruited in Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to say to the honourable member that the number of nurses working in Nova Scotia today is greater than the number was when we assumed office last fall. There have been upwards of 145 to 150 people have been converted from casual to full time as well.

DR. SMITH: Well, Mr. Speaker, I try to facilitate Question Period by asking a very distinct, short question. I guess maybe the reason the members don't ask that kind of question is because you don't get an answer to that, either. My question to the minister today, does he know, since he has become Minister of Health of this province, how many new nurses - not conversion of casuals - are working in Nova Scotia than before he took over as Minister of Health?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes, but I will have to get that information because I just don't have it at my fingertips.

DR. SMITH: I must have missed my question, because I don't understand what he is answering yes to. My final supplemental, Mr. Speaker. We know that there have been some beds closed at the Abbie J. Lane Hospital and the Yarmouth Regional Hospital due to a nursing shortage of beds there. How does the Department of Health plan to address the immediate nursing shortage and are these on top of that going to be some of the 600 staff that we hear will be missing from the Department of Health? Does this also include nurses who could keep some of these beds open in the Abbie J. Lane Hospital and the Yarmouth Hospital, some of those, are they part of the 600? Will we not only not be seeing new nurses, will we be seeing a decrease in the nursing profession complement in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member well knows that this government has done more to work and to see that there are nurses in the health system in Nova Scotia than a government has certainly in the five previous years before we took office. He knows the initiatives we have. We have, according to our platform, hired a nurse policy advisor and she has been working with the nursing associations to develop strategies to increase the number of nurses.

I can say, Mr. Speaker, that I regret the fact that there had to be beds closed in the Yarmouth Hospital as well as the Abbie J. Lane. The only thing I can say, as I said the other day, is that this is unfortunate. We are working to try to resolve that. We are working with the nursing professionals, but the comforting thing is that the people in the Yarmouth area and the people who were housed at the Abbie J. Lane, they can get service in some other section of the system as needed.

[Page 3727]

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

ECON. DEV.: TEAM CAN. MISSION

(NEW ENGLAND STATES) - C.B. ABSENCE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in March of this year the Premier was in Washington speaking on behalf of doing business in Halifax. Now we have Nova Scotian companies joining the Team Canada mission to New England commencing on May 8th. Companies participating are from Halifax, Saulnierville, Dartmouth, Windsor, Truro, New Glasgow and Yarmouth. The Premier stated in his release on Friday, April 7th, that this mission is all about creating jobs for Nova Scotians. Well, my Nova Scotia includes Cape Breton, but there are no Cape Breton companies. I ask the Premier, why no Cape Breton companies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, by way of background, the Department of Economic Development sent out invitations right straight across this province to see if companies were interested in participating. The initial expression of interest failed to generate the number we needed so we sent out a subsequent call and, lo and behold, unfortunately, I guess there were no companies from Cape Breton that wanted to partake at this particular time. I would assure the member opposite though that ECBC is currently putting together a trade mission to focus on Cape Breton companies that will be participating in the New England market later on this year.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I am asking more about what the province is doing and he is telling me what the federal government is doing. This is a golden opportunity to create employment in Cape Breton. Last year's Team Canada mission reaped more than $3.5 million in sales for Nova Scotian businesses. My question again is to the Premier, can he tell us what steps his government in a concrete way have done to include Cape Breton business people on this important mission?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development gave a clear articulation of the efforts on behalf of his department to encourage Cape Breton companies to participate. We want companies from one end of Nova Scotia to the other. I would encourage the member opposite to go out and encourage Cape Breton companies to come forward and be part of the team mission. We want those companies. You can help.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, if that is a challenge, I certainly accept. We have businesses from my own hometown this very day that are leaving for Germany and taking workers with them because this government is not providing assistance. So I guess the question is, why are the groups willing to participate with ECBC and not willing to participate

[Page 3728]

with the department here in Nova Scotia? That is the question, Mr. Premier, why won't they participate with you? Is it a lack of cooperation from your government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Economic Development.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, trade missions generally focus on strategic opportunities. It may well be that in this go-around companies did not see the Team Atlantic Program as being appropriate to their needs. The other thing is that the funding arrangements may have implications for companies. Certainly the strategy of the province is that companies that go on trade missions now must pay their own way.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - ALZHEIMER'S:

DRUG (ARICEPT) - FORMULARY INCLUDE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. A spokesperson within the minister's own department has been quoted as saying that Nova Scotia's formulary committee, regarding pharmaceuticals, did not find strong enough evidence that Aricept could have significant benefits for Alzheimer's disease. My question is, will the minister tell this House what, in his opinion, would constitute strong enough evidence?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises an interesting question. There is a Pharmaceutical Advisory Committee here in Nova Scotia, as there is in other provinces, or a Formulary Advisory Commission, which is made up practitioners and experts in the field of pharmacology. Like my predecessor, I accept the advice of that particular group. I can say, too, that the best information that we have, although Aricept does appear on the formulary of a couple of the other provinces, that it has never been recommended by a provincial formulary committee that it be included.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, will the minister assure the people of Nova Scotia that the cost of a drug is not the final criterion for placing them on drug formularies in Nova Scotia, drugs such as Aricept for Alzheimer's?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is referring to the drug, Aricept, and the information that has been given to the department by the formulary management committee is that the clinical evidence to support its inclusion on the formulary is not great enough to include it.

[Page 3729]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, will the minister tell the victims, and their families, of Alzheimer's disease what he plans to do in order to get drugs like Aricept on provincial formularies? There was a time, maybe a year or two ago, that you could have said the evidence was not in. I think the evidence is in. There are people who need this medication. It is $150, $170 a month. What does the minister intend to do? What will he tell the victims, and particularly the families of those people suffering from Alzheimer's?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying that I have the utmost sympathy for people, and their families, who are afflicted with Alzheimer's. I appreciate the interest the honourable member is showing in trying to help them. However, the fact remains that the drug, Aricept was reviewed by the Nova Scotia Formulary Advisory Committee three times, including in the last two months, it was also reviewed by the Formulary Advisory Committee of New Brunswick and was turned down there as well. The general consensus is that the evidence on Aricept is not sufficient to include it in the formulary here in Nova Scotia.

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

ENVIRON. - HEALTH CTR.: REVIEW - STATUS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in May 1998 this House unanimously passed Resolution No. 115, which called for leading experts in the field of environmental medicine to conduct an external review of the Nova Scotia Environmental Health Centre. This review was part of this government's blue book commitments. I am tabling a letter from the Premier, dated November 4, 1999, in which he says the review will occur in the next few months. My question to the Premier is simple, a few months are gone, where is the review?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer this to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I am delighted for this question because it does save me, perhaps, having to make some sort of an announcement before too long, that we are continuing with our process to get that review under way. Reviewers have been selected, we have recently sent out the frame of reference to an environmental committee, for their information. Indeed, there is a date for that review to be scheduled, Mr. Speaker, I just can't remember what it is, but it is within the next 60 days.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, information has been leaking out about the proposed review. It is being said that Dr. Irving Broder has been chosen as a reviewer. Dr. Broder has long championed the theory that environmental illness is a psychiatric disorder. I ask the minister, will he assure this House that this is not the case and that consultation with all interested parties will be carried out before the reviewers are chosen?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am not so sure that the floor of this House is an ideal place to be breaking out the composition of a committee that is that important.

[Page 3730]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what is important is a commitment from the minister on consultation. Consultation with interested groups is just one part of the solution. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit today to fulfilling the mandate of Resolution No. 115, calling for leading experts to be appointed from the international practice of environmental medicine?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that we will be fulfilling our platform commitment in this regard.

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

WCB - APPEAL COSTS: INJURED WORKERS - RESPONSIBILITY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, one of the items that has been outlined in today's budget is the issue of legal fees that are being paid to cover the expenses of injured workers in the Province of Nova Scotia on appeals. I noticed that in the cost recovery section of the budget, there is a suggestion that the Province of Nova Scotia will be charging the cost of the legal services back to the injured workers.

My question to the Minister of Labour, Mr. Speaker, is why are the injured workers of Nova Scotia going to start paying for their appeals?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I want to thank the honourable member for the question, Mr. Speaker. I think I found the section that he is referring to. I can indicate that Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that does not recover, from the Workers' Compensation Board, the cost of legal services provided to workers appealing decisions of the WCB. What we are doing is bringing it in line with that.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I must say, I am extremely astounded to hear what the minister has said. What he has stated in this House is that he is prepared to violate the principle of the no-fault insurance policy, legislation that was introduced and approved in this House. My question is, why is the Minister of Labour attempting to violate the principle of the workers' compensation no-fault insurance policy?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, that is, clearly, not a violation of the no-fault insurance policy. It is a practice which is bringing Nova Scotia in line with what is done throughout this country. It is nothing more than that.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that some 1,500 to 2,000 injured workers that may want to appeal their claim on an annual basis will be precluded from doing that because, quite simply, they may not have the money. What the minister is saying is, if you don't have the money, you can't do anything to protect your rights under this new no-fault insurance. So what I am asking the minister is, what process is he contemplating putting in

[Page 3731]

place, short of a direct charge to injured workers, which is a violation of the no-fault insurance program? It is extremely detailed and I would suggest that the minister may want to consult with some legal counsel within his department, the Department of Justice and the Workers' Compensation Board.

My question is, what policy is he putting in place to clearly delineate that this is not an attempt to curry favour with big business in the Province of Nova Scotia? They are the ones that will benefit, Mr. Speaker. I ask, what protection is afforded to the injured workers of Nova Scotia on this principle?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have just listened to the grossest misrepresentation of facts that I have heard in this House since I have been back here.

For the honourable member to stand in his place and suggest to injured workers that they will have to pay from their pocket the cost of these appeals is totally misleading. It is not what is in the book and the honourable member knows the difference, Mr. Speaker.

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

NAT. RES. - DOMINION BEACH: PLAN - TABLE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister of Natural Resources. As he is no doubt aware, in 1993 the province took over administration of Dominion Beach. At that time it was the Department of Lands and Forests. Now they had a master plan but that master plan was never shared with the people of Dominion.

I would like to ask the minister today, does he know what that master plan contains and is he willing to make it public and table that document?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, Dominion Beach, as residents of the area would know, is what is referred to as a winter beach, where the beach sand and some of the aggregate there shifts during the winter and in the spring, most of the time, a storm will bring that sand and a nice coat back to the beach. We, as a department, have taken over possession of that particular facility and will work with the community in developing a plan to develop the beach over the coming months.

MR. CORBETT: Well, Mr. Speaker, I asked for a public acknowledgement of the document, the master plan and the minister was not forthcoming with it. So you know, Dominion Beach is important because it is really the only beach recreation area that provides any opportunities for such in the Glace Bay-Sydney regions. This beach, as a recreational area, is an integral part for tourism in that region.

[Page 3732]

I want to ask, with that in mind, will the minister tell what his department is going to do this year, by way of rectifying the winter damage at the Dominion Beach site?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly this is a very important beach to the Sydney area and certainly to the residents of all of Nova Scotia. This beach, as well as other ones, received extensive damage from the storm of January 21st. As the member opposite knows, our budget is limited but this beach, as well as others, will be addressed the best we can with our limited resources, to put that forward this year. Thank you.

MR. CORBETT: Well, I want the minister to know that the beach area is more than just an area for swimming. The sand dunes, the wetlands ecosystem, it is a bird sanctuary. This does have all kinds of implications as far as tourism and recreation go. So what I want to know is will you, as minister, involve the other departments, such as Transportation, your own department and the Department of Tourism and Culture to come up with a plan that will secure the future of that very important resource for industrial Cape Breton?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the Province of Nova Scotia is concerned about this beach, as well as many others. This one offers great tourism potential and we certainly will be working with what resources we have, with other government departments, to develop, in conjunction with the local community, the best facility we can on this particular site.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - GRAVES ISLAND PROV. PARK: LAND - SALE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I, too, want to keep the Minister of Natural Resources on his feet. Two weeks ago in this House, the minister did not deny that the province was planning to sell a strip of Graves Island, and the minister knows full well - he said so two weeks ago - that it is the most precious provincial park in the province. The minister is now contemplating selling a strip of this parkland to a private landowner by the name of Mr. Thomsett.

Last year the Integrated Resource Management Team had instructed the previous minister that Mr. Thomsett already had enough land and has ample access to his property. Can the minister tell me today why he is considering overruling the IRM Team which recommended against selling parkland to a private landowner?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly thank the member opposite for the question. We end up at the same point, near the moment of Question Period being done again this week as in two weeks ago, though I certainly would convey that the department, through the Integrated Resource Management Team, is looking at this particular proposal. There is a problem here with a property owner regarding a boundary line and enough property for a

[Page 3733]

driveway for this particular house. No decision has been made, however, we have it under advisement at this point.

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. MACASKILL: I want to thank the honourable minister for the answer. Just last year the department staff recommended against settling any piece of that precious park. I want to ask the minister, what consultation took place before the earlier recommendation of staff was overturned and this very serious and precedented decision to sell private parkland to Mr. Thomsett was made?

MR. FAGE: The only thing I can acknowledge to the member opposite is that no decision has been made unless he has information that I don't have.

MR. MACASKILL: Will the minister commit today not to sell any public property at Graves Island Park until his department has fully consulted with the local community?

MR. FAGE: Certainly the member opposite is right to request that the Integrated Resource Management Team have a look at this. That is currently what is happening and a recommendation will be coming forward to me as minister and at that point we will evaluate it in conjunction with the local community. Thank you.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 32, the Water Resources Protection Act. The honourable member for Hants East adjourned debate.

Bill No. 32 - Water Resources Protection Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 3734]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue the debate on this bill, on the principle of this bill, and actually I am pleased to see the direction the government wants to go with this bill: An Act to Protect the Water Resources of Nova Scotia. I think that even in this day and age there are Canadians and Nova Scotians who would say that at one point in their lives, the thought that they would ever worry about water being sold in large quantities out of this province or out of this country, would never have entered their head.

As we have seen, nothing stays the same in this world. With all the indications of the talk of the global economy, the fact that trade barriers seem to be released and the fears that governments have about losing jurisdiction over what it was they normally felt would be their control. I think even with the free trade agreement, the first inkling that the possibility of shipping water out of Canada - and my understanding of that agreement is it refers to bottled water - but I think the fear for all Canadians is that some government at some time would allow for the export in bulk of water from this country. I am glad to see the provincial government here has decided to take a stand, and a piece of legislation that would stop that.

I know other jurisdictions have considered it. Recently the Province of Newfoundland seriously considered allowing bulk sales of water and there was an entrepreneur ready to sell water to Europe, I believe, and was certainly able to show that he could make money at it, and the rub when it comes to selling water is really no different than any other commodity that we sell in this country. The case was made that we could create jobs by selling water. Well, I think all Nova Scotians would certainly wonder what is the value of those jobs when you consider selling a resource like this. It is certainly tantamount to the notion of selling the air we breathe. There is no other fluid that has the life-sustaining capability that water does. I think the government is well advised to walk down this path with a piece of legislation that may prevent that.

I have to admit, Mr. Speaker, I was a little bit concerned at a second glance of this piece of legislation, and perhaps, when the minister rises to close debate if that occurs today, but at some point, he might explain Clause 8 in the bill, which seems to give the Governor in Council the ability to write regulations for the circumstances under which water may be removed from the portion of the Atlantic Drainage Basin located within the province. When I read that, I actually started to question what role that had in this piece of legislation, and if this piece of legislation was to prevent the sale of water or bulk sales of water or export of water, whichever way you want to refer to it, then why would we have a clause in the bill that would allow the Cabinet, basically, to prescribe the circumstances under which those actual sales could occur? This is certainly one clause where I would like to see some clarification. I would hope that the minister will do that before this bill gets to the Law Amendments Committee.

On the assumption that I am misreading this and that the bill is actually designed to do what I think it is designed to do, and that is restrict or prohibit the sale of water from this province, then certainly, I agree with the government on that. Actually, I think the whereases

[Page 3735]

of the bill are appropriate, "WHEREAS Nova Scotia's water resources are essential to life and well-being in the Province and to related environmental and economic objectives and therefore must be conserved and allocated to ensure long-term self-sufficiency and utilization to the greatest benefit of the population; AND WHEREAS the future domestic need for water is unknown, the availability of potable water is undetermined and the impact of climate change on precipitation, and hence water supplies, is uncertain and management of the resource must be based on sustainability and reflect the precautionary principle relative to future supply requirements;"

I think you can't make it much clearer than that, and I think that what has been stated in the whereases of the bill certainly gives the intent of the government in this regard. I think there are people whose only concern about water is that when you turn on the tap it is there. The question of the role water plays in an ecological sense does not ever really enter their minds. I am glad to see there is a reference to ecology when it comes to water. Even though this is a country that we tend to think has an unlimited supply of water, we do know there is a difference between quantity and quality. In order to ensure that we have supplies for what we actually need, both in terms of the human population or the industrial demands for water, but also in what we would refer to as natural demands for water, that there are those ecosystems that don't know that there are towers in Halifax that require so many gallons of water per day that the concept of water does not exist.

Organisms that rely on stimulus and response to stimulus as a mechanism for survival only can't survive if they don't have enough water. They don't contemplate the existence of it. It is important for those of us who seem to be the greatest users of water, the greatest polluters of water and those with the greatest disregard for it, but the greatest knowledge of it. We are the only ones that we know of that have actually related the relationship of water to our actual existence. Even though the human body is somewhere in the 90 per cent range made up of water, even a food such as milk, which is somewhere in the 90-plus per cent range for water, so we tend to take it quite a bit for granted. But there are those organisms for which the absence of it in their environment, not just for drinking but reproduction, could cost the elimination of an entire species.

I think that we have always taken the notion that in the spring of the year, we have more water than we do at other times. Well, that certainly makes some sense. Usually, we have more snowfall in most winters in this country and we have a climatic change that may or may not be affecting the amount of precipitation that we get. That actually has not yet been finally determined, but I would say that the information is coming that would indicate that we may be in real trouble as far as water supply, in the natural sense of how much precipitation actually hits the land.

Mr. Speaker, there are, I guess, probably four types of precipitation - rain, snow, hail, sleet - and probably fog would be a fifth one. You have to question, well, what happens to this water when it hits the surface of the earth? Well, it either runs off the surface or it

[Page 3736]

percolates through the soil into a water-table or a stream and some of that water is picked up by plants, through their root system, given off through transpiratation through their leaves back into the environment. The rest of that water makes its way to the lowest point, which is something that most people are able to pick up on. We know water runs downhill. So on that journey to the lowest point, which here would be the Atlantic Ocean, what happens to that water as it travels? Well, either humans or other animals take advantage of it and it is returned through their excretion or perspiration, in some cases. Then evaporation will take the rest of it as it moves on to the ocean.

This water cycle, which for us has continued, I guess, since the time actually that water was generated on this planet, we have to think what it is that we are doing that somehow affects this and how much water is going to be readily available. I live on the end of a lake in this province, Grand Lake, and it is part of the watershed area for the Municipality of East Hants. Over the last three years, we have had three droughts and the impact on the users for that water has been severe.

Actually, it is causing many concerns for the residents in the area. It is causing concerns for the businesses in the area. Actually, the plans for business had to be curtailed by the municipal office, simply because they couldn't ensure water supply for those businesses. So there is a strategy afoot to try to determine how it is that we can secure our water supply for that area.

Actually, it has probably been timely that we have had some discussion about the Farm Practices Act and the Right to Farm legislation, because one of the biggest aquifers in the area is underneath one of the largest farming sectors in the area and that is in the Shubenacadie/Hardwood Lands area of my riding. It was only through drilling for kaolin clay that they actually discovered the aquifer and actually discovered a section of it which seems to have unlimited supply and is quite pristine in quality.

A relatively cheap discovery of this water, Mr. Speaker, has kind of led people to think that here is a water supply that can be used to meet the needs of a growing urban environment, but, yet, has also raised the ire of the farming community which is a little bit concerned about the impact of the urban sprawl in draining that aquifer and what it will do for their businesses. Actually these are dairy businesses. My constituency produces 20 per cent of the milk produced in the province so if you had that in one container, it would be a lot of water, although it certainly won't all come from that one aquifer. The major dairy sector in my constituency is in that area.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think that all aspects of water in our lives have to be taken into consideration with this piece of legislation. I think it is not enough to think about quantity, although that has to be a major part of it. In other words you don't have enough, you have

[Page 3737]

real problems. Also, the thought that any of that water could be contaminated in any way so you can't use it, has to be another concern, and not just the fact that humans can't use it but all those other living systems that require it also have to be able to use it and have a reasonable supply.

I know that this will be a much bigger question as time goes on and in other jurisdictions in the country. I think that certainly if I was a Californian I would be looking north to Canadian water, in the hope for what it might mean for survival there. You have to realize the demands, when you are trying to water a desert, they become quite extensive. I think that is actually what is happening in California, they are watering a desert. It has allowed a lot of progress, it has made it an incredible agricultural area. The surplus from California actually could supply Canada with food, which would give you some indication of its potential as a food producing area. I think Canadians, by and large, are lucky in the sense that we have as large a land mass as we do and that our population, for the most part, has been developed away from a large part of our water, although the contradiction to that, of course, would be the Great Lakes, which certainly would be an exception.

I think the disadvantage is that as populations become more affluent, have more money, have more time to spend on recreation, one of the first places we tend to head to is to those areas that have freshwater, whether it is for cottages, boating, et cetera. We tend to contaminate those first. Insofar as we have a large water supply in this country and we still have it in an area that is yet basically undeveloped, it doesn't seem to have stopped the way we pollute. I think it is important for all members to think about what it means when heavy metals, for example, or PCBs find their way into the water supply.

I know that after the flooding occurred in the first phase of the James Bay project, there was a lot of leaching of mercury into the water and that made its way all the way into the native community who fished in that area. You have to realize the impact. If you are going to say, well what can we do to relieve that, probably to abandon the flooding of large wooded areas would be one way to prevent that. You have to question the good that is achieved in this country from a project of that magnitude, the benefit of which has gone to another country, in the form of electricity.

I think if we look at the voice that came from the United States actually to prevent the second phase, due to the efforts of Matthew Coon Come, I think when it comes to what you are going to do with a freshwater supply and how you are going to try to regulate it, there were some serious questions that didn't get answered in the case of the first phase of the James Bay project and the question of what benefit it actually gave to the people who lived in that area and also what benefit to Canadians in general.

In the case of other contaminants like PCBs, they have made their way into the food chain, into the Arctic. They are now found in the fat tissue of the people who live there, and in the seals and polar bears, so we tend to, right off the cuff, think of a country this size and

[Page 3738]

the fact that Canada has quite pristine and clean and usable water but we never stop and think about what contaminants are already there and the fact that our water supply is limited, based on how much of it we can use and not just on the volume of it.

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to see this piece of legislation go forward. I would like to see the minister stand and address Clause 8 for a little clarification, and I want to reiterate that I am little concerned about exactly what that clause means and a little concerned that maybe that clause is a way for the government to actually do what the bill seems to think that they are not intending to do. So with that I will relinquish the floor and allow another speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague for his discussion on Bill No. 32, the Water Resources Protection Act. At the outset, I want to compliment the minister for bringing this bill forward. The intent behind it is one that I certainly support and also I believe his information with regard to his department clearly points out the importance of the need to protect and preserve and to make sure that we continue to have one of life's essential aspects of survival, and that is quality water.

As many of us know, under many negotiations under NAFTA and other bilateral agreements, Ottawa felt that it was imperative that the provinces should have an input and the ability to legislate and protect one of the greatest resources that we have, and that is water, and for that, obviously, we are here today to talk about this particular bill that is before us. I might say that this is a bill that our provincial government should consider as being a very essential and very serious one.

The bill bans the removal of 25 litres of water or more from the province with the exceptions or caveats that are built into the bill. Now, that is not a lot of water. I am sure that some of the people who are leaving to go to the States, who have these big travel homes and things of that nature, probably will be in violation of the bill right off the bat because they will be travelling south of the border with good quality Nova Scotia water and their water supplies may be, in fact would be in excess of 25 litres. I would hope that we would not want to be enforcing a law on our good Nova Scotians who would be taking their Winnibagoes or their mobile motorhomes south of border with good quality water, that in fact they would be in violation of the bill right off the bat, so I would assume that the minister might want to take a look at some aspects of the 25 litre requirement, to have a few caveats in there.

I will say that the minister did add a few caveats to this bill that were very important. One is to deal with the issue of fish exports and that fish exports, in fact, I don't believe there is a restriction on the water allocated to the fish exports and for transporting fish which remain frozen. I think that is a good thing for the minister to have realized and certainly moves in the right direction.

[Page 3739]

I do have a couple of questions with regard to the current exporters of water. I don't know how many altogether export quality water for the purposes of drinking south of the border. It seems to me, I forget the exact number of people who have a licence to do so, but in that ability to be able to export for grandfathering those individuals, those water exporters as it were, the legislation does not protect us from a small number of firms putting a strain on the Nova Scotia water supply with regard to exactly how much volume of water they can export south of the border. I believe that we need to take a very serious look at that. Although some might say that that is not a very serious problem, water will be, continues to be and will be even more so, a commodity that will be of tremendous value in North America.

We export a number of commodities through pipelines, natural gas and oil. My colleague, the Minister of Health over here, indicated he had some natural gas to export himself but, anyway, commodities we will export, just like we are going to have a wheeling of power, we have it in the United States now. I believe you will see down the road the ability to wheel power in North America and when that happens, then that is a commodity that is shipped through the lines. Well, water could very well be that commodity that could be used and I think it is important for us to make sure that we have legislation in place to protect us from turning that commodity of water into a pipeline of activity south of the border only to find out we, ourselves, will be short of that.

Do the existing licence holders have the ability to increase the amount of water being exported? I don't know if there is any criteria established in that legislation or in the licensing of exporters that curtails or limits the amount of water that they export. I would think that there should be some level of quota as it were to the export of that water. I would like to see whether or not this legislation could take a look at the amount of quota that would be allocated and what would be a reasonable amount. When we have no water or very little, it would be zero. In some people's views, we have excess amount of water, but I think we have to be very prudent with regard to that.

One has to ask themselves a question in regard to the economic side of this. The individual who does have a licence currently - and no new licences, as I understand, would be issued - anybody who currently has a licence would have quite an interesting commodity in itself because that licence in effect would be worth a fairly substantial amount of money at some point in time, if not current today. The question really is, is the licence or the quota as it were transferable. Is it transferable upon a sale of the individual firm? Is it inter-transferable in the company structure itself? Is it transferable as a partnership arrangement with another firm? I think those questions are ones that should be looked into in regard to what value that licence holder could derive by this legislation. The question is whether or not that particular licence would be sold at some point in time down the road and receive large financial benefits because of the fact of the restrictions, or the amount of restrictions that this legislation would bring in.

[Page 3740]

There are some areas in here with regard to the obvious issue of that export of water. Many people who live in a city have water and probably, Mr. Speaker, you really don't think too much about the fact that you have water every time you turn a tap on. It is generally always there. A lot of us take water for granted who live certainly in some of the urban areas. Whether the water quality is what we all want is a question maybe. But generally I think that people in the cities take water for granted.

[5:15 p.m.]

Now I, for one, live in rural Nova Scotia and I have a well; in fact, I have two wells in fact; I have seven wells in our operation. I learned a long time ago I cannot take water for granted because no matter how many wells I have, you cannot always be assured they are going to produce water when you need it. So one really realizes the importance of water when one doesn't have any. So I hope that in looking at this piece of legislation we realize that we should be looking forward, certainly proactively, to securing what I consider an essential part of the substance and stability of a province, that is water supply.

During the wars, many people in Europe literally starved to death. So after the wars were over, the government of the day made agriculture as being an essential part of society's survival and made security of food supply part of a major part of the policy plank of government. There will, in my view, or could, in my view, come a day that water could hold the same level and degree of importance. I think for that reason we have to be very prudent and very careful in regard to the decisions we make here today.

What is the policy in regard to policing the current licensing of water exported out of the province? As I mentioned earlier, I say the Minister of Transportation and Public Works probably has all this information about how many large vehicles leave the province to go down for visits and tourism, large vehicles that would hold more than 25 litres of water, that is one issue.

The other issue is, how do we police the amount of export of water in the province? I really don't know how we would police it. We have a quota or we have an allocation maybe of licensing of water but who stops the large bulk carriers to check to see whether or not that is water in the vehicle? How do we know for sure the amount of water that we currently are exporting out of this province?

Most people would say, well, what is the big deal? We have lots of water. If you fly over Nova Scotia, all you see is lakes and water and we should not worry about it. Well, I think we should worry about it. I think we should be concerned about it and we also should be aware that we have very little policing, that I am aware of, in regard to some of the problems of export of water. The question is, who will police it? Would it be the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who would be going out and inspecting and checking at the border crossings for how much, who is exporting water from the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 3741]

Would it be Customs and Immigration that would be the logical body that would inspect vehicles for the purpose of exporting water. Of course, somehow or another, these individuals would have to know what the quota allocation of that export would be, so it is not just a matter of checking to see the water but, in fact, realize that there is some sort of control mechanism on how much water will be exported from the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now one of the really interesting debates and questions that I am sure my learned colleagues in the room here today would ponder is the whole issue of the NAFTA agreement. First we had the CUSTA Agreement, the Canada-U.S. Trade Agreement then we had the North America Free Trade Agreement. In those agreements there is some question whether or not we can absolutely enforce the ability to protect one of the most important assets, one of the most important resources we have, that is water.

Now this will be challenged at some point in time, it will be debated at some point in time. If I know the good old United States of America, when they need something they will continue to be as vigilant as possible to try to change rules or manipulate situations to their advantage. Now our good friends south of the border, I am not trying to cast aspersions on their ways and who they are. We respect the American Government, and the American people. But I use an example of the softwood lumber. Every time we get a ruling on softwood lumber to our favour, well, not to our favour, necessarily, just that they realize that we are right, no more is the ink dry on the paper than the Americans are back challenging that decision again. If the Minister of Natural Resources would have been here, he would realize that that is an ongoing battle that we have - excuse me, I am not supposed to say that. I am sorry. I take that back, Mr. Speaker.

We realize that that will be an ongoing battle and softwood lumber is an ongoing battle and that provinces across the Atlantic Region have fought the battle. Industry, with provincial government support, primarily led by industry, I might say, have continually fought the Americans, time and time again, on softwood lumber issues. I think water could very well be that same battleground, at some point in time. That some point in time may not be that far away.

Within the last year I attended a session on global warming and the effect that will have on different regions within North America. Some will be happy to say that Nova Scotia's climate will probably be getting warmer. We are seeing statistics lately showing that the world climate is increasing and that temperatures are on the rise. There is some concern about water swelling and flooding and so on and so forth. But, in this particular area, we are going to see a dramatic change in climate, whether it is El Nino or son of El Nino or whatever the situation will be, I happen to believe that there have been some massive changes within the system with regard to global warming. Because of that, areas that now have a minimum amount of water supply will even have less, according to some of the information we have received from Environment Canada and from the Department of the Environment itself in Canada.

[Page 3742]

So we, above all, should be very cognizant of the fact that we live in an area that water supply could become a tremendous asset just for our own survival and that we should be very careful in regard to whether or not we want to actually move forward on the basis of exporting that commodity. Global warming is an issue. I know that the good Premier has a responsibility and has, undoubtedly, brought this issue forward with his colleagues and the New England Governors, as did the former Premier, our Leader, Russell MacLellan, bring forward this issue of global warming and the issue of acid rain and mercury pollution to the New England Governors.

We are geographically located, in some ways, as the gateway of opportunity to the world in Nova Scotia, but we are also geographically located as the sink of industrialization within the United States of America and the jet stream happens to bring a tremendous amount of pollutants to our area. That pollutant flow is not healthy for ourselves, for our land, for our trees and, yes, for our wildlife and, above all, our water. We should be very cognizant of the fact that government, provincially, and government nationally should be extremely vigilant and tireless in their efforts to bring forward changes within the global warming issue or within the issue of acid rain and mercury pollution that have a tremendously negative effect on this environment here.

I would ask that the Premier and the government and the Acting Minister of the Environment continue to work with the Environment Ministers across this country and south of the border to put pressure on Ottawa, to put pressure on Central Canada, to put pressure on central United States and put pressure on the New England Governors and States to fight hard with EPA and other jurisdictions to make sure that acid rain and particulates and mercury and so on and so forth do not continue to contaminate our community, our people, our resource and our water resource. For that is extremely important.

The impact of this environmental problem has profound effects, not only on water supply, but on the issue of agricultural production, on forestry production, and on the safety of our wildlife. Mercury is another issue. The tests they have done on loons, they are finding loons are actually dying in freshwater areas of Kejimkujik National Park, they are actually finding loons that are full of mercury contamination and actually dying. That is wrong, where are they getting that mercury pollution? It is coming in and it is landing on our land from other jurisdictions. Notwithstanding we have responsibility here to make sure that our environment is clean as well, but clearly the majority - according to staff information, I remember reading - it is coming from central Canada and certainly the central United States. That jet stream means that we are the sink of those contaminants that come into this area and it is not necessarily our fault that we are the recipient of some of those very serious problems that will affect the area of water.

I was drinking coffee there and I will wash it down with a good glass of water - cool, clear water. Being a chicken farmer - I guess according to the Minister of Agriculture I am not allowed to talk about any other, or have any ideas in regard to how other agricultural

[Page 3743]

production takes place, but you know, I happen to have been President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture and I had the responsibility of representing all agriculture. Unlike the Minister of Agriculture I never was biased to one group or another, I tried to run and look after all of agriculture and treat them with the greatest respect; one thing we haven't seen from this Minister of Agriculture. What I have noticed about agriculture production, and certainly on the horticultural side, is the amount of water we use. We have some very serious issues of making sure that that quality of water is there for the farm production in Nova Scotia. Good quality water for our own agricultural production so that we, as a society, can be self-sustaining in agricultural production and, in fact, find ways to export and create new wealth and jobs in rural Nova Scotia.

Water really affects us in many ways; it affects our ability to be able to survive as a human being, because a fairly large percentage of our body is water; it affects us in a way that we are able to harvest our crops because without proper water and irrigation we would not be able to produce crops; as well as keeping our livestock alive. I guess I can only speak as a chicken farmer, I am not allowed to speak as a dairy farmer or have any views of dairy farming, but I can tell you, dairy cattle drink a lot of water and chickens drink a lot of water, turkeys drink a lot of water and hog farmers and hogs drink a lot of water and so water is very important to us all. (Interruptions)

Does the Minister of Agriculture have a question he wants to ask, Mr. Speaker? Is he able to ask a question of a chicken farmer over here? Would the minister like to ask a question or is he just ranting to himself over in the corner? Anyway, I know a few dairy farmers in my area and they will tell you that cattle drink a lot of water. I think when you talk about the importance of survival and saving our water, we should be cognizant of the fact that water supply is essential to us, is essential to the trees that grow, the grass that grows, the vegetables, the crops and to us as a society. So we have to be very careful when we start taking a look at those greenbacks that are shown to us when people want us to export. (Interruptions) No, nobody is behind you. I know you guys are nervous over there but your back is almost right against the wall and you don't even know it, so you should be safe. In here you are all right, it is when you go on the streets that you should worry.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there will be a day when people will be coming up here, companies, saying why don't you export that water, you have an abundance of fresh, clean water in Nova Scotia, simply give it to us in the United States, or wherever, because we want to use it. I think we, as a society, should be so careful about exporting something as essential as water to our society. We take it for granted, we don't realize the implication until it is gone but I can assure you that this legislation goes part way in trying to protect the natural resource that we have. I complimented the minister and I complimented his staff for bringing it to the attention of the minister, about the importance of preserving this issue.

[Page 3744]

I go back now to the bill. (Interruptions) I was going to get there, I am actually staying pretty close. Mr. Speaker, there are some in this room who would lead you to believe that I was not talking to the bill but I am sure that you would have corrected me if I had not been, so I assume that by that the Chair feels I am doing just an excellent job, albeit some might disagree. So I continue to talk on the principle of the bill and I appreciate the Speaker's support of my ability to articulate the principles of the bill, while some Opposition members are critical of that.

Clause 4, "Notwithstanding anything contained in any other enactment, including the Environment Act and the regulations made pursuant to the Environment Act, no person shall be granted an approval to and no person shall (a) drill for, divert, extract, take or store water for removal;" I think this particular part of the bill is saying you cannot store water for future sale down the road, "(b) sell or otherwise dispose of water to a person for removal; (c) convey or transport water for removal; or (d) remove water, from the portion of the Atlantic Drainage Basin that is located within the Province." So, in other words, we are preserving certain areas.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the member that he is not allowed to be reading from the clauses of the bill. This is on the principle of the bill. (Interruption) Well, if the member wants to talk about the principle of the bill, and he is right, I did feel that he was talking about the principle of the bill and I have no problem with him continuing but a clause by clause review and reading of the bill is not appropriate at second reading. I just want to remind him of that, thank you.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for acknowledging the fact that I was using that as support of why I am speaking toward the bill. I notice the minister over in the corner again is cackling away with some sort of statement. I can't imagine why he would be cackling and hackling and scratching and digging, similar to a chicken, when he is not a chicken farmer. He is merely the Minister of Agriculture who has a bias against chicken farmers. Maybe he is trying his best to . . .

HON. ERNEST FAGE: On a point or order, Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the member opposite that the actual name of the Poultry Association of Nova Scotia is the Nova Scotia Chicken Farmers Association, so that he may have that information and realize that that is the proper name of the organization.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. That is not a point of order.

MR. DOWNE: I assume you will rule this biased Minister of Agriculture out of order by that point of order because I don't think it was really a point of order. Shame on him, shame, shame. When I am up here talking about an issue of water that he would actually try to correct an issue of the name of the Nova Scotia Chicken Producers Marketing Board or

[Page 3745]

the Nova Scotia Chicken Farmers Association. They are two different, separate organizations, which this Minister of Agriculture is learning.

Now, I want to go back to the bill, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Agriculture, above all, should realize that Bill No. 32 is a very important bill to the agricultural community. I know that he can't speak on behalf of any other organization than the commodity he represents, at least that is according to his logic, so he can't really understand, but I, as Past President of the Federation of Agriculture representing all farmers, can respect the fact that water is essential to the agricultural production across livestock and the horticultural sector.

Mr. Speaker, I leave this to the government members to ponder, and that is, number one, the licensing of water exports. Can they be transferable? Are they going to become a commodity? Are they going to be made so that an individual will actually be able to make a profit from the sale of the licence once we put restrictions on the amount water exported out of the province.

Number two, I think the government should expand on the fact of how much water do they consider is a reasonable amount to export from the province? I don't know how much the current amount is. I would hope the minister would be able to inform the House of exactly how many litres of water are currently leaving the province. Will that amount of litres actually be able to increase under this legislation, stay the same, or decrease over a period of time?

Number three, I would hope that the minister will be able to explain to us how in the name of heavens he is going to be able to police the export of this precious commodity, water, to the United States of America or wherever else it is going to be exported. How he is going to police that will be very interesting to all of us, because I think the intent is to control it. If he can explain to this member and members of the House, and I am sure even the Minister of Agriculture would want to know that one, exactly how that is going to be done, would be appreciated.

Number four, I would hope that the minister can inform us under the NAFTA agreement - maybe the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Trade or the Minister of the Environment - how we are going to deal with that if there is ever a challenge under NAFTA on the ability to export water. I hope this Legislature would be unanimous in its support of protecting water as an essential part of our survival in our province, to that of any marketable area.

Number five, Mr. Speaker, the minister that brought it in is also the minister responsible for making sure that the environment is protected in a way so that things, like global warming, acid rain and things of that nature do not have a negative impact on this precious commodity of water. I would like to see what the minister will do to ensure that is preserved. Hopefully, we can have unanimity in the House in regard to measures from a national perspective and

[Page 3746]

from a bilateral perspective to combat the issue of acid rain and other problems that are causing pollution to this area.

Another area I think that will be a debated issue at some point in time in this House is with our First Nations people. First Nations people have indicated very clearly that the issue of title would give them certain privileges within the Province of Nova Scotia. Now, the acting Minister of the Environment, who is also the Minister of Justice, who is also Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, maybe can answer this issue, but until we determine exactly on the issue of title, one might be concerned about the fact that we might not have exclusivity of control of water exports out of the province. Maybe another nation within this nation might have the ability to set quotas and to establish exports of this valuable resource.

I would hope that we would find a way to deal with this particular area, because under treaties of 1752, First Nations Treaties that have been enshrined in constitutional changes over periods of time, allow for certain rights of the First Nations people. I don't know how this legislation on its own would circumvent any Supreme Court ruling on the issue of title. In my discussions on title with First Nations people, they have indicated they wish to have the water surrounding the province and its assets, the land and the assets above and below the land in the Province of Nova Scotia. If in fact, that is what ends up happening, water would be a commodity that they could have jurisdiction on, and I think we have to be concerned about just how this bill interacts with those discussions and what the potential outcome of a Supreme Court challenge on the issue of title to the Province of Nova Scotia might be.

I realize that bills cannot be all-inclusive, cover off all issues, but that would be one that I think could be a possibility and one that I would hope we are cognizant of. The issue of NAFTA, as I indicated, will be the other challenge that this province will be subject to at some point in time, and I hope that we are now preparing proper debating positions and arguments from a provincial point of view, to secure our water supply for generations to come.

This bill is one part of it, but as a lawyer yourself, and lawyers know international agreements such as CUSTA and NAFTA and other bilateral agreements maybe supersede provincial legislation. I don't know. Or maybe provincial legislation is superseded by federal law. Does an agreement between nations supersede even federal law? I think we have to be very careful how we position ourselves on this issue; in fact can we even position ourselves against challenges south of the border to go after water and quality water from Nova Scotia?

I know my good friends who are rural members across the way realize that softwood lumber is one that we have won more battles time and time again, but there will be a day that if we are not sharp all the time, those guys are going to try to find a way to weasel and get out of the rights of Nova Scotia and the rights of Canada, potentially losing that bill, and I would hope that this government realizes its responsibility to do what it can today to make

[Page 3747]

sure that we protect water resources in the Province of Nova Scotia, and part of that might very well be positioning ourselves with regard to the NAFTA agreement.

Mr. Speaker, how are we doing on time?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about 24 minutes left; we will be adjourning at 6:00 p.m. for the late debate.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I note that we have members who are literally drooling at the opportunity to jump into this debate on water. I will let them get at this issue in a very short period of time, but I want to say that I want to again compliment the minister's staff in the Department of the Environment for being so proactive in bringing the realization of this issue to the attention of the minister, and I know that the former Minister of the Environment was very instrumental in looking into this issue. The former Minister of the Environment - well he is gone now - would realize very well the importance of the water supply. So, with no further comments, I would now adjourn my debate and I will turn it over to my colleagues who would like to carry on the debate on Bill No. 32.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: In our caucus we are enthusiastic supporters of Bill No. 32. An Act to Protect the Water Resources of Nova Scotia is a bill that, for a whole variety of reasons, will win the support of our caucus.

[5:45 p.m.]

I want to lay out a variety of those reasons. The first reason is a reason of timeliness, but this is a reason of timeliness that I think is best expressed in the following words: it is about time. When I look back at the history of how it is that in our province we have considered water, I turn first to a report that was done in the Department of the Environment almost 10 years ago now. There is a report called Clean Water for Nova Scotia, dated June 1991. At that time, the Honourable John Leefe was Minister of the Environment. One of the recommendations made by those who wrote this report was in the following terms. I am quoting from Page 17 of this report, which has already been tabled in front of the House, many years ago. This is Section 8.0, titled Export of Water. Here is what it said, "These recommendations should be considered as the basis for legislation for the export of water. 8.1 The export of surface water and groundwater should only be permitted provided it is surplus to the needs of the province. The sources must be identified, and the maximum withdrawal of the water resource calculated by considering the impact on the other users."

More details are given in this recommendation, but the main point is that we knew 10 years ago, according to a report that was written for the then Minister of the Environment, that legislation was required to control the export of water from Nova Scotia. So we have to

[Page 3748]

start off by asking, why the delay? What has been going on for the last 9 or 10 years? Make no mistake, we certainly support this legislation, but we ask, again, why the delay? What has been going on? Why did it take so long?

The need to deal with this was quite clearly identified. I have to say that this is only one of the recommendations that was made with respect to environmental issues associated with water back in 1991. There are a whole array of issues and I will talk about some of them in a little while. But this is one of them that probably would have been amongst the easiest to deal with. We haven't really seen a great deal of legislation in the intervening years dealing with this question of how to regulate water. Nova Scotia has had, for many years, a Water Act. In 1995, when the Environment Act was revised, the Water Act and its provisions were incorporated as a section of the Environment Act, but there wasn't really much in the way of improvement or change. I am not certain there were any improvements or changes. But that was the last time we saw anything happen with respect to legislation that deals with protecting our water resources here. I could be mistaken, but I have to say, it has escaped my notice if, indeed, there has been some previous attempt in the intervening decade to deal with water. Let me repeat, we support this, but we certainly are left wondering why it has taken so long for this matter to come forward.

There is a second reason that we find ourselves very much in support of this bill. That has to do with the principles that are set out in the preamble. Those are principles that recognize the idea of sustainability and that recognize the importance of the precautionary principle. Sustainability and precautionary principles are ideas that are listed in the Environment Act as being ideas that should guide the thinking of the province when it comes to dealing with all matters around the environment. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that under the specific provisions of the Environment Act, which was adopted in 1995, there is mandated a five year review, Section 174 of the Act requires that. We are now at the five year point. What that means is that we have now started the five year review of the Environment Act. I am very worried that there will be pressure to ignore the ideals of sustainability and the tool of the precautionary principle in revisions to the Environment Act.

I have to say that my worry is lessened somewhat by seeing the principle of sustainability and the tool of the precautionary principle show up in the preamble to this particular bill. For surely, if the ideas of sustainability and the precautionary principle are on the minds of even the part time Minister of the Environment that we have at the moment, then they will find their way into a new Environment Act. So, I welcome that thrust in this bill. It seems to me to augur well for the kinds of initiatives that we can expect when we see not just the new Environment Act, but any other initiatives out of the department.

Now, there is a third reason that we support this bill. It was on my list even before the honourable member for Lunenburg West raised the question of the respective powers of a province vis-à-vis the federal government in cases of international treaties. It was on my list to say why it is that we admire this legislation. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that I, on a

[Page 3749]

couple of occasions recently in talking about other bills, have addressed their constitutional law aspects. I made an offer to the honourable Minister of Justice. I promised him that if he would stop introducing unconstitutional bills, I would stop giving small lectures on constitutional law in the Legislature. He hasn't taken me up yet on my offer. That is probably just as well, because I find now I am going to have to withdraw that offer and put a different proposition to the honourable minister.

The different proposition I want to put to the minister is that I am now going to give a small lecture on constitutional law precisely because the bill that he has introduced is a constitutional bill. It is constitutional in the very best way, and it is constitutional in a fashion that I hope the minister remembers when, under the strain of other aspects of federal-provincial relations. Here is the point. There exists a power for the federal government to enter into international treaties. This power is specified by Section 132 of the Constitution Act. The problem is, what happens when the federal government signs an international treaty that has something to do, either in whole or in part, with an area of activity which is an area of constitutional responsibility belonging to the provinces.

Is it proper for the federal government to enter into such an international treaty? Well, the answer to that seems to be yes. Can the federal government, on the other hand, pursuant to such a treaty, enact laws at the federal level that interfere with areas that are areas of provincial responsibility simply because the federal government has entered into an international treaty? Well, the answer to that seems to be no. We know this because it was litigated in the 1930's. This is the famous Labour Conventions case decided in 1936 or 1937 by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The following thing occurred.

You will recall that this was the decade of the Depression. It was a world-wide depression. As part of the reaction amongst Western countries, there was an international treaty that had to do with certain aspects of terms and conditions of employment, including minimum wage. The federal government, in 1932, signed on as a party to that international treaty. The federal government then purported to pass legislation that dealt with minimum wages and other things affecting provincial industries. In the normal course of events, this would have been a clear intrusion into a matter of provincial responsibility. The only thing that gave the federal government any plausible right to be enacting such legislation, was that it had signed an international treaty.

This matter was duly litigated, made its way through all levels of the courts and, in the end, there was a ruling from the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council that said, no. The federal government is not entitled to enact laws that trench on areas of provincial responsibility simply because it has signed an international treaty on that subject. It is certainly within the authorized powers of the federal government to sign such an international treaty, but if the implementation of that treaty requires provincial legislation, then that is the nature of the Canadian Constitution. I should point out that the United States Supreme Court, interpreting a similar kind of provision in the United States Constitution, ruled otherwise.

[Page 3750]

They are the federal government pursuant to its power to enter into international treaties can pass implementing laws.

The reason that is relevant to what it is that we are dealing with in this bill today is that it is quite obvious that part of the motivating factor behind this bill is to come to grips with the effects of certain international treaties. I have in mind the NAFTA. I have in mind the GATT. I hope that since our government has taken the view, in this bill, that it is asserting its provincial jurisdiction and not leaving it exclusively to the federal government to enact consequential legislation, that they will not forget that when it comes to other aspects of international treaties, including the two that I have just mentioned.

Mr. Speaker, I see we are approaching the moment of interruption.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately two minutes left before the moment of interruption.

MR. EPSTEIN: In that case, I will continue before moving adjournment, if I may. I have a lot of other points I want to turn to. I will just continue then, if I may, briefly, with respect to this one point. We know that the federal government almost turned to another international treaty - the multilateral agreement on investment. In the end, it did not do so. But one of the aspects of that would have been to regulate certain matters of trade and investment in ways that probably would have trenched on provincial powers.

I have to say that it seems to me that, under our constitutional arrangements, the NAFTA and GATT also trench on provincial powers, or have potential to. Yet, we have never passed, in our province, nor has any province, passed implementing legislation. The assumption seems to have been that because the federal government entered into the treaty and passed legislation, that that ended the matter. Well, I don't think it does. I think that one of the lessons of this bill and its implied assertion of provincial jurisdiction over water, including the export of water, is that there is a legitimate constitutional ground for us that I hope we keep.

Mr. Speaker, I now move that we adjourn this debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 32.

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

The motion is carried.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The Adjournment motion has been chosen as announced earlier by the Speaker and won by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. The motion for tonight's debate is:

[Page 3751]

"Therefore be it resolved that this government take the advice of the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia 'where abuse is an issue, parties get their day in court without going through mediation.' "

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - FAMILY LAW: ABUSE - MEDIATION EXCLUDE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, although this was a motion put forward by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, I have been asked to speak to it and I am very pleased to be able to do so. It comes four-square within my critic area, which is that of Justice.

[6:00 p.m.]

You will know, Mr. Speaker, that we have had recently extended exhanges within this House on the problem of how it is that the Restorative Justice Program should interact with the very particular and very difficult circumstances of women who have been or are currently being abused by their partners. This problem is one that we have to take extremely seriously and what the motion says is that it is not appropriate that in cases of abuse to use the mechanism of restorative justice.

I want to be very clear that we support the basic idea of restorative justice. We support the idea of encouraging people to get together and work out their problems if it is at all possible. There is much virtue in this but, at the same time, we have to be realistic about what the limitations are and we have run up in this instance smack dab against one of the limitations of this process.

What has happened here is that unfortunately, as often happens in the implementation of systems, not all the possible circumstances were thought through in advance. One of the areas in which an attempt was made to apply the mechanism of restorative justice was between spouses or partners where there had been cases of abuse. It was very quickly realized by those in the non-governmental organizations who run shelters for such women that this would not work. Those who run those shelters were quickly faced with instances of women saying that they simply did not want to participate in this process. A survey was then conducted.

[Page 3752]

The survey was of the most admirable sort, that is to say it was a grass roots survey in which the actual experiences of the women involved were gathered. This is a good way to gather information about a problem. What the women said was that in instances of abuse they did not want to be forced to go into a room, even with a mediator, and deal with their abuser. They did not want to sit with that person and pretend that something could be worked out.

To the credit of those who were administering this program in the government, they very quickly began to understand that this was a problem and to the credit of those who were administering that program in the government, they began to take steps to try to deal with the situation. The focus here, however, is really on whether the nature of the steps that have been taken are adequate to deal with the problem.

In one sense we could say, yes, this is a problem of definitions, just a problem of words. When abused women talk about abuse, they mean one thing; when the department talks about abuse, it means something slightly different. Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is the nub of the problem, and it is not just words, it is a serious problem.

I think it was offensive to the women who had been victims of abuse to hear the honourable Minister of Justice refer to the Research Report, which set out the words of those women as being flawed and inaccurate. I suggested to the minister that he owed an apology to the abused women in this province and I think that is still the case.

The dispute is over a couple of things. The dispute focuses on whether there ought to be a rule against using the Restorative Justice Program not just where abuse is current, but where abuse is recent and also where the abuse has not necessarily been physical, but the abuse has extended to mental or emotional abuse as well. In the views of the women who have experienced the abuse and in the views of those who are involved in the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia and who put together the report, the wider, more inclusive view of abuse is what is appropriate. They are very concerned that that wider definition be used and they are also concerned that there be developed a very good screening instrument so that the professionals who are deciding whether the cases are appropriate are sensitive to all possible circumstances. That instrument, in their view, has not yet been developed. More work needs to be done.

My friend, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, wishes to make some remarks with respect to this issue as well. If I am permitted, Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield the rest of my time to that honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: There are approximately two minutes left.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 3753]

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Out of necessity, Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. I want to concur with the remarks that my honourable colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto made. I would like to add just a couple of comments. I, too, felt, on behalf of these women, quite offended by the notion that this report was flawed and inaccurate and I would like to challenge that assumption on the basis that the kind of research that was done here is experimental. I would like to challenge it by asking the House and the government whether it believes - and these are abused women whose names have been changed to protect them but who told their stories - if Geena P's story is flawed and inaccurate, is Linda T's story flawed and inaccurate, is Barbara B's story flawed and inaccurate, is Alicia R's story and MN's story flawed and inaccurate? Or, is the government suggesting that either these women lied or that the researcher misused or abused the information they had been provided with? I find this horrifying and unsettling for these women who have bared their souls in order to improve the situation for abused women in this province and to prevent the kind of misapplied techniques of the courts that can only hurt them and re-victimize them as they have been victimized before. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Before we actually deal with the resolution before this House, Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my personal delight with the introduction of mediation in this province and the whole concept of restorative justice. For far too long I have personally felt that the justice system concentrated on punitive measures only and that we have had ample proof, through studies, that these punitive measures have in many cases done little to decrease crime in this province.

I have also had a long-term personal involvement in various programs of restorative justice in Kingston, Ontario where we pioneered some programs in the prisons in Kingston, Ontario and in Moncton, New Brunswick where along with the Mennonite community from out West, the Mennonite central committee, we pioneered some of these programs in Dorchester and Springhill and also some involvement in Kings County with the correctional centres there, both for adults and for youth.

I am delighted with the program personally and delighted with the introduction of mediation and am glad to see that the honourable member also mentioned this in his opening comments on the importance of mediation and the importance of restorative justice. I don't think that that should be lost sight of in any sort of small criticisms that may be made. This is really a great step forward and any criticisms that are made are small and really don't deal with the substance of restorative justice.

The resolution specifically before this House deals with the case of parties who have been abused and I guess in response to that I fail to see where the criticism comes. The Department of Justice in putting forth this program has made provisions for people who have been abused . . .

[Page 3754]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: A question for the honourable member, Mr. Speaker. I thank the honourable member for accepting the question. Simply put, I am rather perplexed with the direction of this debate and somewhat curious as to why a Minister of the Crown who represents these issues in this department, is not responding to this particular issue. Why do we have a member who is not a member of the Executive Council addressing this most important public policy issue which is addressed on public policy through some proposed legislation as well as a budgetary measure and we don't have a Minister of the Crown addressing these issues?

MR. PARENT: The reason I am responding is out of my personal involvement with restorative justice programs and also, I am functioning on behalf of the Minister of Justice as a spokesperson for the government at this stage. I have appreciated that opportunity to do so in large part because of my interest and my background in this, so thank you very much for the question.

As I said, I find the resolution before us is superfluous in that already the Department of Justice has set in place screening policies and procedures at the three stages of the court process, including initial intake, conciliation and mediation. This policy states quite clearly that mediation is not to be conducted when either party does not want to mediate and that makes the whole resolution rather superfluous; if one party doesn't want to mediate, then they will not be candidates for mediation.

The policy also states that mediation will not be conducted when there is current or ongoing abuse or violence. The policy states that mediation will not be conducted when there is fear that past abuse or violence will reoccur or that there is any pattern of control or of manipulative behaviour that impacts on the party's ability to negotiate or to present their views or that there is any possibility of harm or risk to safety, including risk to children and risk to other family members. In a sense, the resolution is really a superfluous one. This is already taken care of by the policy put in place by the Department of Justice. It goes on with this policy to talk about other risk factors or red flags, such as talk of suicide, mental health programs, abuse of alcohol or drugs and these are also reasons why mediation would not be embarked upon in that specific case.

Moreover, all clients are advised to seek legal counsel from the very beginning of the court process and this is part of it through all the stages of the continuum of service . . .

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a question? My question to the honourable member is this, the honourable member said that there is a screening process in place. Our office was informed last Monday by a senior official that there was no screening tool yet in place for past abuse. Can the member verify the truth of this from the department?

[Page 3755]

MR. PARENT: Yes, I was informed by the department today that there is a screening process in place. That is why I consider the resolution rather superfluous. The other thing is that all clients are advised to have legal counsel throughout the whole process and all stages of the continuum of the service. If clients want to proceed with mediation and the mediator believes, even in cases where the two clients want to proceed with the mediation, Mr. Speaker, and the mediator believes that there may be some sort of risk, the mediator can make the decision that mediation will not proceed. It is really in cases where both parties and the mediator feel comfortable with the process of mediation that mediation would proceed. I think that the resolution, whatever substance it may have had some time in the past, really is superfluous at present.

[6:15 p.m.]

The report that was referred to, the THANS report, I think the Department of Justice has taken this seriously and respectfully. When the Minister of Justice talked about the flaws in the report, I don't think he was talking about the flaws within the stories of the women who gave anecdotal evidence - that I think was taken very respectfully and seriously - but he was talking about various flaws that he saw in the report and the department saw in the report. One of those flaws would be that at times the report failed to differentiate between cases of private mediation and cases that were before the family division of the Supreme Court.

The definition of abuse is another one that was raised by the honourable member who introduced this resolution and the question of what abuse means and how far the net should be spread. Of course there is the ongoing possibility of discussing that. One might argue that in the THANS report the definition of abuse was so wide that it became rather vague and that one needs a more focused definition if there is to be any way of differentiating when mediation should take place and when mediation shouldn't take place. That I think was really the substance of the Minister of Justice's criticism. He certainly was not criticizing the stories of the women or the experience of the women who felt some sense of discomfort with the mediation process, he was criticizing some of the comments that may have been made that were made without adequately differentiating between private mediation and between those cases before the family division of the Supreme Court.

The mediation process that is put in place then is one that I think will benefit Nova Scotians. It is one, as I said, I am delighted to see come before us. When we had a briefing on this, I personally expressed my personal delight that the Restorative Justice Program had come this far and the safeguards that were being put in place in regard to situations of abuse of either women who were abused - which would be the majority of cases - or perhaps sometimes children or even men, I think, would make sure that no one goes through the mediation process who doesn't feel comfortable with it and who is not a fit candidate for the mediation process. This is going to continue in my understanding, not only at the initial intake stage, but through all three stages of the court process; through intake, through conciliation

[Page 3756]

and through mediation. If at any time in that three stage process there is a feeling that mediation is not the right thing to do, if there is some sense that one of the partners feels intimidated by the other, then mediation will be disallowed at that case.

Mediation really will be a voluntary process and be a process where there is some feeling on all three parties that there can be a safe and fair negotiation. In light of these policy recommendations by the Department of Justice and in light of the overwhelming benefit of proceeding with some form of restorative justice, I find this resolution superfluous and really already addressed by the Department of Justice. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to be involved in this debate this evening. I just want to start by saying I understand this basically is an issue relative to alternative dispute resolution involving mediators, either court provided or private. We speak of restorative justice, and it is my understanding that was a bit different, but I do largely understand, we are talking about alternative dispute resolution. I believe the issue we are speaking of, particularly the media reports and others, involves issues of domestic violence, involving family violence and impacting children, and perhaps even involving children as well.

The question is, are the changes that have taken place adequate? It is important that whatever system is in place that it does not continue to abuse or further victimize a victim, whomever that victim might be. We hear both sides of the debate here this evening. It is too bad the minister wasn't here to answer for his department. The NDP are saying they have checked and this screening mechanism is not in place, and if it is, it is not appropriate for past violence. That is my understanding of that. However, we know there is some system in place, but is it adequate? I think that is the issue.

The member for Kings North said it was in place, the member for Halifax Fairview said it was not. Whatever it is, Mr. Speaker, the system must be clearly understood, and there must not be intimidation either by the spouse or the abuser or the court system itself. I think that is the issue. We know that mediation has become a very sophisticated profession in that many are lawyers, but there are people of different professions involved in mediation. I think that is very important, the changes that have been made in this area.

It is good that this is a topic. I think it is important that this issue is dealt with and is clearly understood. It is part of our court system. As the resolution said, where abuse is an issue, parties get their day in court without going through mediation. That is the issue here tonight. This is very sensitive, and I think some good points have been made in debate here this evening. When the NDP asked the Minister of Justice about the Transition House report, the minister said the report was flawed. To quote the Minister of Justice from Hansard, he said, "The Transition House Report is horribly flawed and inaccurate." The minister will have

[Page 3757]

to be accountable for that, and he is not able to do that at this time. The minister, of course, tried to clarify what he meant as the member for Kings North has tried to do as well.

I think the minister's response, essentially, Mr. Speaker, shows either a lack of understanding of the issues, or a lack of compassion or it is an insensitivity to the issue of abuse. The Transition House Association of Nova Scotia was not impressed with the minister's statement, and I must say, I don't blame them. The Transition House report, as was mentioned by other members here this evening, was based on interviews, which may not be scientifically accurate, perhaps, but it certainly gives a good feeling of the experiences at least of those people. That is how they felt and what they believed.

Now if something else happened and something else is in place, and they didn't understand it, that means the system is not working, Mr. Speaker, and it must be a concern to all of us here. As I mentioned, it was not a statistical survey, and the report was about real women and about real experiences of those women. These women perceived the problem with the mediation process. If they perceive the problem and they had difficulties, then there are difficulties with the system. In this case perception equals reality.

The Transition House report deserves better treatment from the Minister of Justice. These people have been on the forefront, not only delivering services, but certainly in a strong advocacy role for a much-neglected issue of family and domestic violence. Women in cases of abuse often do not want to be forced to face their abusers in a mediation process, and that is fair enough. They say that the abuse is a further abuse and another trauma. Members would agree.

It is important that we listen as legislators to what these women are saying about the system. It is important. I was impressed when I was there as Minister of Justice, with the attempt to involve programs of restorative justice, alternative dispute resolution, and all of the other programs. I think that is the part most of all, perhaps other than some understanding of the court system and how it worked behind the scenes, I think the programs that were in Justice, to me were the most enjoyable part of being the minister. But it is important that they work well, that they not just become something you hang your coat on, that they are working, and they may well not be working properly, at least for all people that interact with the justice system.

It is a good indication I think - the report has been - of what women perceive to be the problems. So if these women perceive this to be a problem, then other women may well believe that to be true and it will be very difficult, another roadblock to bringing their accuser before the courts.

I noticed today, Mr. Speaker, there was a part missing from the Community Services budget, the Family Violence Prevention, $54,000 was absent; also, the Adult Protection Service was missing from that budget. We will have a chance to debate that at a later time,

[Page 3758]

but I certainly hope this is not a signal from this government that the services will be missed there or they will be put off somewhere else and be less visible to Nova Scotians suffering domestic violence.

The framework for Action Against Family Violence was released in April 1999, and was considered to be a success. I know I don't have a lot of time, but I did want to just touch on something such as the framework for Action Against Family Violence. I think it had a positive impact, within the justice system, on family violence. The evaluation did show a significant increase in charges, and it also showed shorter waiting time for the court appearances, and improved responses of those touched by family violence. It was introduced, as I mentioned, by our government in 1995, and it included integrated polices responding to family violence and these policies reflected a pro-arrest and pro-prosecution policy. The goal was simple, if there is abuse at home there will be an arrest. I think these are all the components and this is why we have to look at that budget very carefully to see where the resources are being placed.

Other vital components of the policy include a training for front-line Justice workers, an accountability mechanism, and enhanced victim support services. More than 3,000 Justice workers were trained, Mr. Speaker, since the introduction of that program and the workers there would learn about the cycle of violence. So all the people within the system that abused people, women particularly, meet with need to be specially trained and better trained and also sensitive. This is an ongoing issue to upgrade these particular workers. They learned about the roles and responsibilities of each component of the system and how service could be linked in responding to family violence.

I know I only have a short moment here and I don't want to prolong, but the conviction rate of 65 per cent compared favourably with the rate for similar offences and, as I mentioned, the arrest rate and those types of initiatives, the results of the program were very positive. It also pointed out some problems. We need to look at the problem of family violence from different angles. The justice system can respond swiftly to criminal acts, but the system has minimal impact on the dynamics of an abusive relationship. I think that is what we are speaking of here today, so the intervention of a mediator may or may not be the way that it is going to work the best.

As the member mentioned, one of the people may take themselves out of that particular system, but there is room for intimidation within that and I think that workers have to really be aware of that, especially if the abuse has gone on for long periods of time. Often it is very subtle, very mind-controlling, and that type of abuse can well allow into the mediation process and negate all the good work by all the good people who are trying to make family violence the type of crime that it is, a crime against society and one where we have to be ever-vigilant.

[Page 3759]

I thank the members for having this topic here this evening. I think it is an important one. There has been some difference of opinion, but we would like to see the minister be more accountable perhaps and more forthright in his apologies for those types of comments. Thank you.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late debate. Just before the Adjournment debate, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto had the floor.

We will now resume debate on Bill No. 32.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 32 - Water Resources Protection Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we were discussing Bill No. 32, An Act to Protect the Water Resources of Nova Scotia. I was explaining a variety of reasons why our Party will enthusiastically support this bill. We had reached the point where I had identified a few different reasons for it.

One was on the principle of better late than never, noting that it had been about 10 years since there was a public report done for the Department of the Environment suggesting that such legislation was appropriate. The second reason was the recognition in the recitals that important principles, which are also reflected in the Environment Act, are respected in this bill, which, I think, sets a good context for our embarking this year on a revision of the Environment Act, as we will. The third reason had to do with what I regarded as a beneficial form of constitutionality.

I have managed, at this point I think, to indicate at least different three reasons for supporting the bill without turning seriously to the question of environmental considerations, but I wish now to do that because that is the next reason for our support for this bill.

Everyone, I think, who has spoken so far has, very correctly, identified water as a life support system. It is not a commodity only, certainly not a commercial commodity only. It is not just a convenience. It is a life support system. In that respect, it is like a number of the natural systems about which we know, unfortunately, not enough. It is like the forests and it is like the air and it is like biodiversity and it is like climate and all of these themselves are

[Page 3760]

connected. We require healthy systems for each of these different aspects of how life is arranged on our planet.

I think all members in this Chamber know that all of our life support systems are under extreme strain. I think that all members in this Chamber know that the situation is a desperate situation. I take the view that this bill is probably the most important bill that we have had presented to us so far this session, simply because it deals with water. This bill is more important than the Health reorganization bill. Health reorganization is important, but water is a life support system. World-wide, our life support systems are under strain and I think that many members in this Chamber will share my apprehension and fear that within our lifetimes, we will see significant breakdown of one or more of our life support systems.

If we don't take that problem seriously and if we don't take it more seriously than any other problem, we will be making a profound mistake for which we will pay the consequences. It is a mistake for which our children and if we have them, if they exist, grandchildren will also pay the consequences.

It is not that we don't know evidence already, because there is an abundance of evidence with respect to all of our life support systems. We would consider the air, we have seen the dramatic rise in cancers due to the breakdown of the ozone layer. We know that the breakdown in the ozone layer is purely attributable to human activity. We know that in many parts of the world, particularly in urban areas, the air is unhealthy to breathe. That is due to human activity; it is due to burning fossil fuels, primarily, and it is due to industrial effluents.

It is important to recognize that world-wide and in our nation, 75 per cent to 80 per cent and more of the population lives close to one another in cities. It is urban areas where these problems of air quality are the worst. What happens if there is a dramatic rise, an exponential rise in the numbers of skin cancer due to further deterioration of the ozone layer? How are we going to cope with that? Just slap on some sunscreen, wear a hat, wear a T-shirt? That is a wonderful way to live. It is not, perhaps, what we want, but it is what we have, and it is only going to get worse.

Is the air going to be breathable? We live here, we are fortunate. The air is still relatively clean here, although heaven knows, we have a number of significant problems, which I will get to in a moment. In Mexico City, in Katmandu, in Delhi, let me tell you that in those countries, in those cities, people are having significantly shorter lifespans than we have here, and the problem is not getting better. The problem is getting worse, and the problem in those places will continue to get worse.

We see desertification, that is to say, advancing areas of deserts around the world as climate begins to alter and change. That means loss of good farm land. If there is a loss of farm land, people can't eat because they can't grow their crops. That is a major problem. How many millions of people are we going to see displaced or starving to death or scrambling

[Page 3761]

for food resources as a result of that? All of this has to do with human activity as well. We know that there are rises in infectious diseases, and this has to do with human activity, including environmental activity.

We know that there is loss of biodiversity. What we don't know is what the consequences of that will be. The reason we don't know that is because we are simply not well enough informed about how all systems hang together. It will be many years, if ever, before our researchers and scientists will be able to tell us enough about biodiversity so that we can confidently say, oh, it doesn't matter if this or that species disappears.

What we know is that there are major transformations going on, and what we also know is that those transformations are not good for our species, and what we also know is that you can pick any one of those systems, and we know that they are endangered, we know that they are subject to stress, and we know that if they collapse, any one of them, there will be dire consequences, the nature of which we cannot accurately predict.

That is why I see this bill that, at least in a mild way, begins to deal with the question of sustaining our water resources as a virtuous bill. It is at least taking a small step forward. It is taking a small step forward with respect to an issue that is one of the most pressing issues that we have in front of us. I don't have to remind members here that water is one of our life support systems - they know that. Perhaps what they don't know is where all our water goes every day.

I will start with what I think is quite a striking fact. In Atlantic Canada, 52 per cent of the population rely upon groundwater as the source of their drinking water, not just for their drinking water but for all of their domestic needs. What that means, since we all rely on surface and groundwater, is that those are people who are on wells as their system. This is set out in the 1994 State of the Environment in the Atlantic Region report published by Environment Canada. That is a very striking fact. What it means is that, if there are threats and stresses to those groundwater supplies, then those people are very vulnerable.

Let me give you another very striking fact. Almost half of the daily water consumption in Nova Scotia is by our pulp and paper plants. The pulp and paper plants use more water every day than all of the municipal systems in the province. This is a fact that was documented in the 1991 Department of the Environment Study that I referred to earlier. One of the problems with that, of course, is that this is not a pure and clean use of the water. It is one of the arrays of stresses on the water.

The stresses come, as I think other members have noted, from air pollution. The member for Lunenburg West very accurately pointed out that Nova Scotia, along with the other Atlantic Provinces, is on the receiving end of the air currents that come across North America and that pick up pollutants in the American industrial heartland, Ohio particularly. Those pollutants end up here as particulate matter and as acid rain. So, that is one source of

[Page 3762]

problems for our water supply. Another is our own industrial activity here. Another is agricultural activity. Another is improper control and treatment of sewage. Another is our own burning of fossil fuels here.

Overall, we are seeing the signs of stress. We see them in our lakes and in our streams. It is not as if we were blessed with no inherent problems of our own. Certainly it is true that there is a fair bit of water here. A lot of that is surface water. We are beginning to encounter problems with the subsurface water. We have heard for several years now from our agricultural areas about the problems they are having with access to quantity of water. This is a problem throughout the Annapolis Valley and starting to be a problem in parts of Pictou County. We should take these early signs and act on them. We should take these early signs and realize that we need comprehensive programs and legislation to deal with ways to protect this fundamental and crucial life support system.

What I worry about is that although this particular bill is a step forward, it is still a small step forward. What I worry about is that the problem is of a magnitude well beyond the range of remedies that we have begun to contemplate. What I worry about is that it takes so long to react when all the signs and symptoms are there.

Now, there are fundamentally two ways a problem can be dealt with. We can use our brains and our foresight and look ahead and realize a problem is coming and do something about it now, or, we can ignore the problem or maybe tinker with it and wait until a disaster arrives and then scramble to play catch up. We saw that latter approach when we saw the collapse of the groundfishery. I don't want to see us repeat that mistake with our other life support systems. Unfortunately, that is the trend. Unfortunately, the trend is to just wait. That is the wrong approach. It has potential there for major disaster.

[6:45 p.m.]

As I said, although it is only a small step forward, it is the right step - it is one of the right steps because, by implication, it recognizes that we have to do something to protect this precious life support system.

Now, there is another reason we support this bill. It has to do with the economics of what it is that we are looking at here. Other speakers have mentioned the question of export of water. I think we have to put this in a context, we have to understand the role that Canada plays vis-à-vis the United States. Canada's role vis-à-vis the United States, which has a much larger population than we have, has always been that of supplier of natural resources. Indeed, historically, although not originally aimed towards export to the United States, that is the very reason for the existence of Canada as now organized.

[Page 3763]

Since the early 1600's Canada, or that portion of it that was explored by Europeans, was explored in order to extract the old staples, cod and fur and lumber. They were the staples for 300 years. Then a new set of staples emerged but Canada was still a provider of resources. The new staples, well, fish survived; wheat became added to that list. No longer was it timber but it became all wood products, including pulp and paper. Added to that list of new staples was energy in the form of hydroelectricity. More recently the Canadian economy has transformed itself a little bit again but only to the extent that we have expanded the energy sector so that it includes oil and gas, and that is it. We have managed to develop a small manufacturing infrastructure but we are still, so far as the United States is concerned, a supplier of raw materials.

We know from history that when the United States is interested in one of our resources, the language they use to describe it is as a continental resource. When they are interested in our pulp and paper or our timber, our fish, our wheat, our gas, our oil or now our water, they describe it as a continental resource. This debate has been going on for a long time because planners in the United States have recognized that their need for water is going to be enormous because they have abused their own resources and their own aquifers. They have their eye on the day when they can either tap into mighty Canadian rivers or see water otherwise delivered to consumers in the United States. It is only right that we should recognize this and it is only right that we should take steps to protect our resources in a way which I have to say has not generally typified how it is that we have protected our resources in the past. That is not even true of the recent past in our very own province with respect to natural gas.

At least this isn't a bill to say, oh, let's build a pipeline to the United States to export our water so they can pay us for it so maybe, in the future, we can afford some of it for ourselves, because that is what we did with natural gas. This bill, at least, starts off on the right foot. This bill starts off by saying, this water is ours. Let us assert our sovereignty over it. Let us recognize that we have needs of our own. Let us recognize that those needs come first. We all know that because of the provisions of NAFTA and GATT, that we have to be very careful about how we go about doing that. We know that when proposals came for bulk exports from Gisborne Lake in Newfoundland or from the Great Lakes in Ontario, that stopping that bulk export was crucial under the international agreements to maintaining our national and sub-national sovereignty over our water. So I think it is important that we have at least taken that step of asserting sovereignty over our resources.

Let's not be fooled. This is not the end of the matter. This is only one step in a long, complicated process in which negotiations are going on. This is a step in a long, complicated process of negotiations in which the Americans are going to use whatever tools they can to try to get access to our resources. So let us be very careful. I welcome this legislation, again, for that reason. It looks like the right step.

[Page 3764]

Mr. Speaker, that gets me to another point that I want to raise about this legislation. Although this legislation is apparently designed to protect the water resources of Nova Scotia, let's not overlook the fact that what it does is it sets up a mechanism to allow the export of water from Nova Scotia. What it does is it says, you can't export unless the regulations say that you can export. Now, you can read that as saying this is a prohibition of bulk export, but you can also read that as saying this sets up the circumstances to allow bulk export. Now, if this is the format of the legislation that we are being asked to adopt, we are being asked to take one mighty big leap of faith. The leap of faith that we are being asked to take is that the minister in charge, the government of the day, will exercise a prudent approach. We are being asked to assume that the minister of the day either won't permit the exports, or will do so only after making sure that our own domestic needs are taken care of.

If that is the case, we have to ask, by what measure? How much is enough? Has the government told us how much is enough for here? Has the government told us what quality of water is enough for here? Has the government told us what public consultation it will go through before allowing bulk exports? Has the government told us how much it might contemplate selling? Has the government told us what price it might extract? If the precedent is the bundle of benefits or the price that we got for our natural gas, I have to say, I am not very encouraged. So, I am worried about this. I am worried about the ambit of the power that is being given regulatory control over this major natural resource. Now, we will support the bill, although I have to say, I would be a lot happier if we saw a firm set of regulations or something else built into the bill that addressed the question of how the ministerial discretion was going to be exercised but, it is not there.

Let me turn to one last aspect of this bill, because I think I might be running out of my time fairly rapidly. It has to do with the problem of penalties. The difficulty I have with this part of the bill is not that there are penalties, clearly, there ought to be penalties to make it a major inhibition for anyone who might wish to contravene the Act. I think that the sums involved are probably the right sums. What I am concerned about, and I should be very specific about this, is when I compare this bill with the equivalent bill that has been put in place in Ontario, there is in place under the Ontario legislation the kind of provision that allows the government to treat each and every day as a separate offence. That is missing in our bill. Our bill seems to treat one whole course of conduct with a maximum penalty of $1 million as the whole of the offence. Now, if it turns out that a supplier of bulk water can sell that water for $5 million, then paying $1 million penalty is the equivalent of a licence fee. What is necessary is to make sure on the Ontario model that each and every day is a separate offence. I would ask the minister responsible to consider that as we go through to the Law Amendments Committee process.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that we are supportive of this bill, and we will be voting for it as it heads on through into the next stage of deliberation. Thank you.

[Page 3765]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on an introduction.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with a sense of pride that I introduce some young visitors in our Gallery tonight. We have members of the 1st Hammonds Plains Scout Group with us. One of the parents, Mr. Muldoon is accompanying them, and with them is a very well known volunteer who is involved in a lot of activities in the community that I am fortunate enough to represent, Mr. Gerry Samson. I would ask you to stand gentlemen and receive the greeting of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, I would like to close the debate on this bill, but before I do so, I would like to assure the members opposite that I have been taking notes of the remarks they have made, and the points they have brought forward. Some of them will probably require greater explanation, and perhaps in the Law Amendments Committee, will lead to possible amendments to the bill. In particular, two things caught my attention. One was with regard to NAFTA and whether or not this bill would have any cause and effect with regard to the NAFTA arrangements. Also, as to whether or not the 25 litres of export that is permitted under the bill is sufficient. Maybe it should be greater to take into account those who are using the water for purposes other than the export of water. It has already been mentioned about the export of fish, et cetera, but there are other things, I don't know if ice is water to be quite honest, within the definition of this bill.

I know that, for instance, during the summer months, we frequently have boxcars just with fresh vegetables going out and ice blown on top, so there would certainly be more than 25 litres of water in that particular case and they are also exported south.

[7:00 p.m.]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto spoke about the offence, whether or not it should be just a penalty for the offence or whether it should be a penalty for day one, day two, day three, day four, et cetera, with an escalating clause within the bill itself. So, Mr. Speaker, I will certainly, in fact I have already brought some to the attention of the Minister of Justice, and I will bring the remainder to him. I am sure that this bill will be debated further at the Law Amendments Committee and I am sure that there will be some matters coming forward before the committee.

Mr. Speaker, I would now move second reading of Bill No. 32.

[Page 3766]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 32. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 31.

Bill No. 31 - International Wills Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, again I am rising on behalf of the Minister of Justice to move second reading of Bill No. 31. I must confess that if I start getting into this bill, I will be treading where those who are not learned in the law fear to tread. However, my understanding of this piece of legislation is simply that Nova Scotia becomes a member of a convention that permits validity to international wills, and the international wills that are made in the Province of Nova Scotia to be executed in other countries. That is my understanding of it, although I am sure that the lawyers opposite are going to tell me perhaps I am all wet. With those few remarks, I move second reading of Bill No. 31.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I thought that the honourable minister did a very good job of explaining what it was that this bill is all about. I rush to assure him that this bill has the full support of our caucus, but I do have a couple of things to say about this bill.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: We come from the John Holm school of debating.

MR. EPSTEIN: That is right.

MR. ESTABROOKS: He is paid by the word.

MR. EPSTEIN: If it were only true, Mr. Speaker, that we were paid by the word, but we speak for posterities.

Mr. Speaker, there are just two aspects of this bill that I want to note. One is the very interesting fact that the international treaty that is being advanced and furthered by this legislation is an international treaty that was signed back in 1973. You have to wonder what

[Page 3767]

has been going on between 1973 and the year 2000 that we finally got around to introducing a bill to implement. I don't think the government, as I think I am hearing from some of the mutterings from the members opposite, can blame some other administration without adopting some of the blame themselves for this long delay.

Now it may have been that they were thinking about this carefully. It may have been that successive administrations were making sure that all the Ts were crossed and the Is were dotted, but you know I noted that in 1977 Ontario adopted its Succession Law Reform Act which did in that year, that is to say 23 years ago, exactly what it is that this bill is doing right now. So I find it peculiar that something seems to have gone on, perhaps in the Department of Justice - I cannot think where else it might have been - that somehow the file must have been lost, but it is to the credit of the present Minister of Justice that when he was hunting around in the obscure nooks and crannies of the storage shelves of his new department, that he managed to find this old initiative. I think it is to his credit that he was so thorough as to find this. I am not sure if it is because he is allergic to dust and found that this was the file that had the most dust on it, he sneezed the most when he was near it. I am not sure whether he chose this as sort of the one that was at the bottom of the pile and, therefore, the oldest and the one that needed the most attention. I am not sure. Unfortunately, we have not heard from the minister as to just what it is that led him to choose this bill now, but I think it is to his credit. I suppose we have to say, as we said on the last bill, better late than never.

I hope we do hear from the minister about what has been going on since 1973 when this international treaty was first signed and why it is that Nova Scotia has been laggard or is it hesitant or is it careful? I am not sure. I would be happy to have some kind of explanation. It would be illuminating to help us understand exactly how it is that the Department of Justice works.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if honourable members could perhaps turn down the personal volumes a little bit so all members can hear the honourable member who has the floor.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought I was being asked to speak up, which I would be happy to do for the honourable minister.

AN HON. MEMBER: Go slower and use small words.

MR. EPSTEIN: All right. I have been advised to go slowly and use very small words. Well, Mr. Speaker, I said there were two points I really wanted to turn to with respect to this bill. I think I have identified the first one in no uncertain terms, it is really an invitation to the minister responsible to enlighten us as to the inner workings of his department and how he chooses his priorities.

[Page 3768]

However, the second is much the same point, in fact I guess exactly the same point as I made with respect to Bill No. 32 and its constitutional law aspects. I am going to put this on record yet again. We all know, Mr. Speaker, that repetition is the essential tool of teaching. This is why the teachers all sat us down when we were in Grade 3 and Grade 4 and made us recite the five times table until we got it correct. (Interruption) Well, in the last bill it was the water torture, that's right. This time it is an act of will.

Now here is why I like this bill. I like this bill for exactly the same constitutional law reason I liked Bill No. 32, that is because it asserts provincial jurisdiction in the face of an international treaty. This is exactly the right thing to do. Let us note that what happened here is that the federal government signed an international treaty in 1973 but was not able to implement that treaty on its own because wills are recognized as a subject matter traditionally under the constitutional jurisdiction of the province, as an aspect of property and civil rights in the province, the federal government was not able to bring in an Act at the federal level in order to implement the treaty. To be completely efficacious, it requires each province to do this, and this is as it should be. This is consonant with the 1937 decision of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in the Labour Conventions case.

I am very happy to see the Department of Justice, the Minister of Justice, mindful of this eminent judicial authority and therefore, bringing this bill forward within that context. Again, I want to remind the government and the members opposite that this is exactly the way things ought to be, if the federal government should ever sign any international agreements that have, as part of their subject matter, something that is within provincial jurisdiction. I hope that that government or any Nova Scotian government will not automatically assume that once the federal government has signed some international treaty that might have implication for something that we would normally pass laws on, that is the end of it. I hope that government or any Nova Scotian government will assert its sovereignty over the areas of constitutional jurisdiction that it has in the face of any treaty that the federal government signs.

Now we have two precedents in this session of the House, Bill Nos. 31 and 32 that have tended to do that. Bill No. 32 tended to do it; Bill No. 31 here does it very explicitly. Let there be no doubt and I hope the federal Minister of Justice is watching. I hope the federal Minister of Justice is aware of this bill, I hope the federal Minister of Justice and especially the federal Ministers of International Trade understand that Nova Scotia is asserting its constitutional jurisdiction over its appropriate areas and that we here will not stand for any improper intrusions on the part of the federal government onto our areas of proper constitutional jurisdiction, even in the face of an international treaty.

Let me say again that this bill has our support. We look forward only to the minor clarification from the minister as to how he happened upon this dusty old file, but once we get that I am sure we will be able to proceed with this in a very expeditious fashion and it

[Page 3769]

won't take, I think, another 27 years to actually get it put into law. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: I was starting to think that rambling was going to take 27 years, but fortunately it didn't last that long. I am certainly pleased that he actually supports the bill. God help us if he didn't support it. I will be much more brief on this bill; certainly Bill No. 31 appears to be a commendable effort by the government and the Minister of Justice to bring us in line with this convention.

One of the things that curiously, I guess, and I will look for the minister to clarify this, it is kind of striking the few countries which are actually a party to this convention. The only ones actually listed are Belgium, Cypress, Ecuador, France, Italy, Libya, Niger, Portugal, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is interesting, I noted in glancing through the bill, that it says once this is adopted, notice by the secretary of the council must be sent to the United States to indicate that we are now a partner in a convention but, ironically, on the countries listed the United States does not appear actually to be a party to the convention. Certainly, we will be looking for a bit of clarification from the Minister of Justice as to why that is the case and this isn't following; I believe seven other provinces in Canada have already adopted this legislation.

Certainly we will support this bill going into second reading. Basically, it creates a more uniform system of wills for the people of Nova Scotia and especially it is in recognition of the new era that we are in with Nova Scotians and Canadians travelling throughout the entire world, and this is a matter of avoiding any potential problems with wills that might have been produced here in Nova Scotia or in other countries.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to the Law Amendments Committee to see if there are any interventions at that stage from the Nova Scotia Barristers Society or any other group that may have some concerns about this legislation. But to date, certainly we will support it going through second reading to the Law Amendments Committee and we will have a look at it again after that process. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister, it will be to close debate on Bill No. 31.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of Bill No. 31, the International Wills Act and I noted that the member for Halifax Chebucto said he wondered where the Minister of Justice got the idea. I am wondering that myself since he mentioned that it went through in 1973, the federal law? Well, it may have been stuck down

[Page 3770]

in the closet with the Great Seal of the Province or something, perhaps, and the Minister of Justice doesn't visit the Great Seal very often.

[7:15 p.m.]

I must confess that the question raised by the member for Richmond is interesting because, as I understood this bill - and it was quite some time ago that we caucused the bill - I thought that the Minister of Justice had told me that the U.S. was actually a member of the convention and that the greatest advantage to Nova Scotians was the fact that if they were in the International Wills Convention and they died in the U.S. or somewhere else, there would be compatibility, I guess is the word I am thinking of. So, Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 31.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 31. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.

Bill No. 37 - Preston Area Housing Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and an honour to rise here this evening to provide some debate on second reading. First of all, I would like to thank the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs for giving me the opportunity to introduce this bill and also to speak on it. I would like to take the opportunity to speak a little bit about the history of this particular bill, before we get into the bill itself.

[Page 3771]

It was 30 years ago in this House in 1970 on April 9th, which happened to be my 10th birthday - that makes me 40 now, folks - the PC Government of the day at that time introduced Bill No. 131. It was the honourable George Snow, who was the minister at that time and also the member for Yarmouth. I would like to thank that gentleman who brought this particular legislation forward at that time.

AN HON. MEMBER: A good member.

MR. HENDSBEE: Good member at that time and today, too. Back in 1970, Bill No. 131 became enacted as Chapter 144. Not until 1976 under the Liberal Administration, Bill No. 112 was introduced and later the Acts of 1976, Chapter No. 39 made some adjustments to the bill. Not until 1989 did the Revised Statutes under the Progressive Conservative Government of the time did a consolidation of all the various previous Acts, so Chapter Nos. 144 and 39 remained at Chapter 353 of the Revised Statutes of 1989.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about my experience with the Preston Area Housing Fund and its board. My first experience with them came in 1989 to 1991, as the EA to Mr. Tom McInnis who was the MLA for the Eastern Shore and also one of the Ministers of the Crown at that time. Over those couple of years I had the great experience of working with the Preston Area Housing Fund through the minister's office for the Replacement Home Program that brought in 22 new houses to replace some of the dilapidated homes in the community of North Preston, as well as bringing water and sewer infrastructure for the first time into the community.

Later on I had the privilege to serve on this board. From 1993 to 1996 I was the Municipal Councillor for the Halifax County District 8 and, under the competition board at that time, the municipal councillor for the area served automatically on the board. Subsequently from 1996 to 1999 as the HRM Councillor for District 3, I still carried on that function. At that time in the late 1990's, 1996-97, there had been a lot of discussion in the communities about adequate representation on the board. Right now, as the board stands, there are more government appointees than there are community representatives. It was felt perhaps there should be more of a balance of community representation on the board than there are government appointees. As well, they wanted to do some updating and housekeeping of the bill. A lot of discussion was going on with the various ratepayer organizations at the time, as well as the WADE organization, the Watershed Area Development Enterprise, as well as the Preston Area Housing Fund Board. A lot of discussion was going on, but no one was taking any action to go forward.

I took the bold initiative in 1997 to write a letter to the Minister of Housing at the time, the honourable Guy Brown, suggesting my own opinion as to what kind of board composition recommendations that he ought to consider. I would like to thank that minister for responding to my letter at that time. He instructed and advised the Preston Area Housing Fund Board to make such adjustments to its composition if it wished.

[Page 3772]

Back in 1997, recommendations came forward to the minister at the time and also the Minister of the Environment, the honourable Wayne Adams, who was the MLA at the time, but no adjustments came forward. Subsequent to that in 1998, after the election in which Yvonne Atwell came in as the member at the time, she brought in the recommended amendments that would have brought in some adjustments to the board. I am glad and proud today that I was able to take the next step forward. Just because, under the minority situation at that time, a Third Party's bill got no satisfaction or the light of day, but I am glad to see it took another Conservative Government to come forward to make some significant changes to the board. I am proud to introduce such amendments.

Basically, there are four amendments in this package: the board's composition, the terms of office, some gender terminology corrections, as well as reference to the quorum for the board. There may be some discussion by members of the other Parties about the removal of political representation on the board. As a municipal councillor, I have seen a lot of discussions go on at that fund, as well as some discussions with various government departments, be it municipal, provincial or federal. It was felt that the community wanted to have more empowerment and self-control of its jurisdiction. Perhaps political representatives should not be on the board as voting members, but they would be apprised and kept informed of various developments and be asked to solicit their support whenever necessary.

Basically, those discussions came forward with various recommendations. With the amendment of compositions, they would like to make the balance between the communities: two representatives from North Preston, two representatives from East Preston, a representative from Cherry Brook, a representative from Lake Loon, as well as the other five government staff appointees. Perhaps once this goes to the Law Amendments Committee, we may have to ask the department for some further analysis with regard to the government staff appointees, because now the ministerial titles may have to be adjusted to reflect the departmental responsibilities recently introduced by this government.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to, if I could, move second reading of the bill.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that the previous speaker obviously was a busy man when he was councillor, putting up with his various styles of dress and dealing with the mayor at the time, that he pursued this issue for as long as he did. I appreciate the history lesson he gave us, in particular the reference to Yvonne Atwell and her particular role, and the fate of Private Members' Bills during those days. It seems to be a little different now that we have a different approach, however the same concern. I don't want to refer to it clause by clause, but I must share that the members of our caucus are concerned somewhat with the method, the structure and the process of appointing the various representatives from the community.

[Page 3773]

It is my understanding that if you look, there are representatives of municipal government. There are two persons, and there is that word, appointed, appointed. Then there are two other persons appointed by the Minister of Housing. From that group of six, we get into the particular concern that then we are going to have, if I understand correctly - and maybe the member could correct this for us at committee - that we are looking at the fact that the community is going to have the opportunity to elect representatives. Now, that is a concern that we want clarified. If it is going to be a process, and we understand the importance of having this sort of bill come forward to represent the various communities that will be members of the Preston Area Housing Bill. I think it is a concern that this particular matter, when it moves on to committee, is more clear than it is at present, because the last thing, and I heard the member opposite as he went through the history, he pointed out that there wouldn't be, I believe the term he used, political appointments. I think it is of some concern that it is clarified that this particular bill does not, as it says in my notes prepared by my friend, the honourable member for Dartmouth North, turn into a place where "the friends of David end up being on this board."

That disparaging comment aside, I know the member for Preston has a few friends. I don't know whether he has enough to fill up these board appointments, but I want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, and to the member who introduced this, that that particular clause, and I am not referring to the clause specifically, but when it goes to committee, I think it is important that the process is clarified. Will the people of these various communities that are going to be represented, will the people of Cherry Brook, Lake Loon, East Preston and, of course, North Preston, actually be having their say, or will the member for Preston be out there looking for eight friends, if he can find them, that he can put in these positions? I think that has to be clarified.

I don't mean it in terms of disparaging comments, but I think it is important this evening to put those comments on the record on behalf of the member for Dartmouth North who, based upon his municipal experience, brought that concern to our caucus. I wanted to assure the member opposite that we look forward to working with him as this moves on to committee and we want that particular part of this bill clarified for our interest. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, I don't think I can be as brief on this bill as I was on Bill No. 31. Certainly, this bill raises some serious questions. It is unfortunate that the member for Halifax Chebucto is not here, because, if he was here, I am sure, had he looked at the bill, he, once again, would raise his repetitious drudgery and ramblings about the Constitution by what is being proposed here in this bill.

First, to start off with, I thought it was interesting, the little snide comment made by the proponent of this bill that because it was a minority government is why it didn't see the light of day. Well, I am pleased to say, under a minority government, we passed 39 pieces of

[Page 3774]

legislation, as compared to this majority government in the last session, which passed 18 pieces of legislation. I think that record speaks for itself and I believe the reason that this bill did not come forward at that time is because of the very concerns that we still have with the bill as it is.

Mr. Speaker, certainly, we heard the member for Preston indicating that he had talked to Guy Brown, the then Minister of Municipal Affairs, and told him what his concerns were with the board, how the board should be changed, how it should be made better, the gospel according to Hendsbee. What we want to know, really, is Bill No. 37 just a reflection of that own member's intentions or his own aspirations for the Preston Area Housing Commission, or what sort of real discussion and debate took place to bring this bill to where it is today?

Mr. Speaker, it is important when we have bodies such as this important body, that we try to have as much representation as possible from the different areas in the communities that they serve. I am quite concerned that what he is saying in the bill is that, under this bill, the people being appointed - they will be forced to have certain representatives, a certain amount of representatives from each specific area. In this day and age, I think what we have done, not only as Nova Scotians but as Canadians, is break down the barriers between communities and say look, we are a whole, not all these different units. But what the member is proposing we do is that we take the constituency of Preston and we divide it into four separate areas and say, when we are putting together this board, you must, under this legislation, have two persons from North Preston, two persons from East Preston, one from Cherry Brook and one from Lake Loon. Other than that, if that is not there, it will be a violation of this Act.

Mr. Speaker, that is a serious concern. I don't think in this day and age any of us are interested in building walls in any constituency, especially in Preston, and I am surprised that member would want to do that. I think what could be in this bill is basically a statement of intent to try to have, where possible, representation from the vast areas. My concern is that when we are looking for the best qualified people here, are we going to lose some of that because of these ironclad requirements that have been put in this bill, that even though you are qualified, if you happen to be from North Preston, there are already two other people on that board; well, sorry, you cannot serve on that board, you are going to have to either move to East Preston, Cherry Brook, or Lake Loon.

That is exaggerating a little, Mr. Speaker, but certainly we realize that in small communities - and Preston is a relatively small community when we look at other communities throughout, so I think putting these kind of restrictions are a serious concern. I wonder when we go, if this bill does go any further, that the member for Preston will be able to indicate who is supporting this bill and maybe give us an indication of what kind of consultation he has done on this bill. Who has he spoken to? Has he spoken to the current municipal councillor in his area? Has he spoken to HRM to see what they think? Has he even spoken to the good people of Preston to see what they believe or is this just an ability to do what he told Guy Brown years ago, his vision for this, and now having the opportunity to sit

[Page 3775]

in a majority government, has convinced the Government House Leader to allow him to carry forward with this particular bill?

Mr. Speaker, we all realize the importance of housing commissions and the importance of making sure that the people are independent as much as possible and that there are not favourites being played or in any way any sort of influence being put on people and using the debate or the lure of housing to get certain favours or promises from people. Certainly we don't want to see that, but it is interesting to see that a member of this government, the same government that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has already brought legislation here to remove the restrictions which had been placed on people, I believe, tax assessors and land assessors for a municipality who were not permitted to run for municipal office because of their employment, we knocked that out. I think under the recent Act the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs brought in on the non-resident landowners, there is another section in there which allows other municipal employees who had been denied the opportunity to run for office, he has removed those barriers.

We have the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs who is knocking down barriers to allow people to seek office and to serve, and then we have the member for Preston who is throwing up barriers and saying that if you are elected, or if you are on a certain board, or in this case what I find to be a little bit too far, if you are on a village commission, you cannot serve on the housing commission. Now, Mr. Speaker, where are we going here? Where is this government going? It is pulling to the left in one sense and then the member for Preston is hauling them right back to the right with his proposition that if you are a member of the Senate, House of Commons, House of Assembly, or if you have been elected under the Municipal Elections Act or the Village Services Act, you are denied by legislation from serving on the Preston Area Housing Commission.

Mr. Speaker, we are all concerned about having politics played or influence being put on such a sensitive issue as housing, but I think to take the brush the member has and to swing it the way he has, and paint the amount of people he has, and say if you hold any of these positions, therefore there is a perception you are going to play politics on this commission and, therefore, no matter how good or how well you would serve this commission, we are denying you from serving on this commission because of the fact you are on a village commission, or you are in municipal government, or any of the other ones that are listed above.

Again, Mr. Speaker, that is a fundamental concern of ours. Again, it comes to the question of what is the basis for this. Why would one want to exclude someone who has been elected under the Village Services Act? I don't hear anything from the member for Preston, usually he is quite good at responding when he is asked questions, but he is being quiet tonight. He is either being quiet because he has actually become polite or he actually doesn't know the answer. I am not sure, we will find out when we go to Committee of the Whole, if this bill makes it that far.

[Page 3776]

That is another one of the concerns we have here. First, you have divided Preston up into four areas, and now you have denied certain people, because of an office they may hold, from being able to serve on this housing board, but then he goes one step further. One step further, as if he didn't trample enough on people's rights. Again, I regret the member for Halifax Chebucto could not be here to enlighten us with the constitutional questions which are being raised by this bill. I am sure if the bill does go further, he will have some discussions; in fact, he is joining us now.

I hope the member for Halifax Chebucto does pull out Bill No. 37 and see for himself the constitutional arguments that may come out of this bill introduced by the member for Preston. The third part is that what he has put in here is that if you have been appointed to the board, you can be reappointed, but you cannot be elected as a member of the board for more than two consecutive terms.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the question comes up, well, why? Why, if someone is doing a good job, doing what is expected of them on this housing board, and during that time they have gained some expertise with how it works, naturally we expect that people over time will become more efficient, more proficient in this, but now the member for Preston says, you know if you get there the second time, once you are done, thanks for coming out, but that's it. Because of the fact that you have served for two terms, we are not going to allow you to serve again.

We know that our neighbours in the United States are known for using these kinds of provisions. In fact they actually have that for their president; their head of state in the U.S. is only permitted to serve two terms and is banned by law of serving for a longer period of time. Yet, here in Canada we have no such provision, the Prime Minister can stay in office for as long as the good people of Canada decide to keep the Prime Minister there.

Here in our little province, even the Premier, there is absolutely no restriction on the length of time that the Premier can serve this province, and this is the gentleman or lady who is in charge and the head of state for our whole province with a $4.3 billion budget. We would allow that person the right to serve as long as they have the confidence of the people, yet the member for Preston is suggesting to us that we should deny that same right to the people in his constituency who will serve on this housing board. One has to ask, why would he put such a regressive limitation in this bill?

I see in the explanatory notes that - well, unfortunately the explanatory notes don't explain the reasoning behind this decision. It just says that it has been put in there, so I am left to ask, why is that? Does he have any sort of evidence that after two terms on the housing board you lose your youthfulness, or you are not as good as what you used to be and you should be discarded and replaced? I don't know, maybe he has some sort of a study or some evidence in his pocket which would indicate why that clause has been put in here. Again, in his introduction, I don't even believe he mentioned this clause in his opening statement, if I

[Page 3777]

recall correctly. I don't even think he made mention of it as to why this House and the members of this House should even consider limiting, putting this regressive provision in there that says if you have been appointed or elected to this board, two terms is all you get and then it is "see you later, thanks for coming out".

Those are parts of this bill which we have serious concerns about. I really don't believe that this bill, the way it has been presented to this House, our caucus certainly does not have any evidence to show the reasoning that came behind this, that HRM is in support of this, that the current councillor for Preston is in support of this. In fact we now know, according to the members, that he has just dusted off an old bill which would have been a year to two years old and has just thrown it back here on the floor of this House; that is based on the statement he made earlier.

Mr. Speaker, until we can get some sort of confirmation or some sort of evidence why we should be lifting these barriers in the community of North Preston by saying, you must have two people who come from North Preston or the commission cannot function, you must have two people from East Preston, you must have one from Cherry Brook, and you must have one from Lake Loon. Really, do we need to put that in legislation? Is that necessary?

As legislators, we have to ask ourselves, are we tying the hands of these commissions by putting these specific requirements in legislation? I am not overly familiar with the community of Preston, but I am sure that it is no different than any other community in this province, and the people are good people, and when they serve on such commissions, they do so in the best interests of their neighbours and friends in that community.

I think that if the member had come in and said that he wanted some sort of a statement saying that the commission should undertake all possible efforts to have representation from all parts of the Preston area, I think that would have been the appropriate way to go here. I still think that the member has time - obviously he has lots of time - before this bill makes it way through, again if it does, to say I am going to withdraw, Clause 1 in this case, and not put that onerous requirement that you must, under this legislation, by law, have the representation, the specific amount from the specific area.

I don't think it is fair to the people of his community. I think it is saying that we, here in Halifax, the 52 MLAs have to sit down and dictate to you in Preston how you should appoint a commission because we don't believe you can do it on your own in a fair and equitable manner, so we are going to throw an Act at you, under the law, and say you have to do it this way because we don't believe you can take care of matters yourself. I don't think that is really what the member for Preston wishes to say. I know it is certainly not what anyone in our caucus wants to send as a message to the good people of Preston.

[Page 3778]

Again, at this point in time, I am troubled by those particular requirements. When we start legislating to that extent, we have to ask ourselves - as I said earlier - are we denying competent and capable people from serving on this commission because of these onerous requirements that we have put on them? At the same time, on the flip side, being a bit pessimistic, are we putting people on the board who are not as qualified as what we would like simply because we need a representative from that actual area, under this bill? Even though we have five more qualified people we would love to have on the board, they don't reside in the specific area, we have to have one from that area, so we are going to hold that up, and we are going to go find someone we agree is not as qualified as what we would like but they are from that area, and so it meets the legislation that has been imposed on us by our own MLA, and we are going to have to appoint that person as a result of that.

Mr. Speaker, really, I don't think that sends a good message to the people of Preston or anywhere in this province, to start putting these barriers in our differing communities. I think if this legislation goes through in its current state, it is sending a very dangerous message, I believe, to the rest of the province, in that this government believes that for housing commissions and other agencies to operate properly, they must have specific requirements legislated as to who can serve on their board; other than that, they can't function properly or adequately. I don't think that is the message we want to be sending, especially when this government has made it clear that it is undergoing massive restructuring with agencies, boards, commissions, even departments.

If this is the message that this new government is sending out, to say, look, if you are going to serve on any of the agencies, boards or commissions, we are going to put these onerous requirements, that you have to have one from Richmond, you have to have two from Guysborough, you have to have one from Yarmouth, you have to have two from Truro, really, I don't think that is the way this government wants to go. I certainly am confident that that is not the way Nova Scotians want this government to go.

We are in the process of tearing down some of the divisions in our province, and we are moving forward as a collective whole for the good of residents from one end of this province to the next. So now, for the member for Preston to say, look, I am putting this forward, I spoke to Guy Brown, a former Minister of Municipal Affairs, I said, look, this commission is not working, there is politics in it, I am suggesting to you that you make sure that you legislate that there be people appointed from the specific communities in my riding, because I am not confident enough that the people who are there will use good judgement and do their best to have representation from the entire riding. They will pick people from only one area or they will select certain people. So I am going to put the iron fist down, hold their hand and say, look. You guys can't do it on your own, so, as your good MLA, I am going to come here and show you how it is done and tell you exactly step by step how to do this.

[Page 3779]

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think that sends a very dangerous message. While this might be a small housing commission when we look at the big picture, it is the precedent that could be set by this. I know, certainly, in my own riding, we are not in the process of building up barriers or putting up barriers when there are hospital boards or different agencies. We are not in the process of saying that you must have appointees from these specific communities or the boards cannot function. So, certainly, this bill here, as it now stands, I don't believe it has been well thought out. I don't believe it is particularly what the community wants to see. I don't believe that even the government has spent the appropriate amount of time looking at this bill to see if this is what they want to say as part of the Hamm message and part of where this government is going on the issue of restructuring in this government by putting such onerous requirements on these boards.

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, the requirement that certain elected people, regardless of who they are, regardless of their experience, because of the fact that they sit on a certain board or they have been elected to a certain position are automatically, case closed, denied the opportunity to sit on this housing commission.

Again, I point out the fact that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has brought forward legislation here which has removed such restrictions from municipal employees, good legislation. We have supported it. We have indicated our support for it. To say that because someone has a certain position with a municipal unit that they should be denied the opportunity to serve their constituents as an elected official. We have already indicated that we do not support putting up those kind of barriers, which is why we have given our voice of support to the minister when he brought forward this legislation. So, at this point, to turn around and say, well, the member for Preston is bringing this in.

Again, because you have been elected under the Village Services Act, you should not be permitted to serve on the housing commission. Really, Mr. Speaker, I completely fail to see the logic behind that. I am wondering if the member for Preston even has an idea why this has been put in. Why would they be denied the opportunity to sit on a housing commission simply because they have been elected to a village commission?

Mr. Speaker, the other issue that it raises is that it puts a cloud of suspicion over elected officials. We all know in this profession that there are many suspicions, that people often make judgements against elected officials, which are not fully reasoned and, in many cases, completely inaccurate. If we support this bill as it now stands, basically, what we are doing is we are saying, yes, you should be suspicious of elected officials because here we are telling you not to trust elected officials on a housing commission. Because if they are on a housing commission, they are going to play politics, they are going to play favourites and it is going to be corrupt.

[Page 3780]

So here we are, as elected officials ourselves, each day when we go out to our constituencies, we try to get past this bias and this impression of elected officials and, yet, today we are being asked to pass a bill which, in essence, would be an admission by us that, yes, do not trust elected officials, because elected officials on boards such as housing commissions will play favourites. They will hold up applications because someone may not have supported them or they will give housing positions and opportunities to people simply because they owe them a favour or they voted for them.

Really, Mr. Speaker, I think that that is not an accurate reflection of what elected officials do. I think elected officials, we all know and all 52 members of this House know that it is a great sacrifice to present yourself for office in this province and in the municipal units. People who do so are there to do the best for their residents, not in any way to harm people and to say, because you did not vote for me, I am on the housing commission so you are going to remain homeless or you are going to remain in your dilapidated home because of the fact that I control that; I am going to play the worst form of politics possible, and I am going to deny you that.

I don't think that is fair. I know if I was on the village commission in the constituency of Preston, and I saw this bill, I certainly would be upset, because that is, in essence, what this does. This is saying, if you are on a village commission, you should not be on any housing commission because you are going to play politics, and you are going to harm . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just caution the honourable member that I have certainly extended him a lot of leeway and latitude and have been very patient with him, but he is being very repetitive. I wonder if the honourable member would try to find new subject matter to discuss on the title of this particular bill.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I think the speaker before me said it, that some things bear repeating, and it is good to be repetitious sometimes. I have done my best not to follow my colleague down the constitutional road. I don't want to do that. (Interruption) The member for Dartmouth South says I should read the constitution first. Well, I think I will put up my knowledge and education against his any day if he wishes to do so in his ignorant way over there. (Interruption) We have well become used to his ignorance, but again, Mr. Speaker, I won't bother going down (Interruption).

Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I realize I have mentioned these points a few times, but it shows the importance of this for members of this House to be asked to pass what I would say is regressive legislation by limiting people because of the fact that they serve in a certain position from being able to be . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is discriminatory.

[Page 3781]

MR. SAMSON: Exactly, it is discrimination based on political office, and it certainly is not a message which we want to be sending to the people of Nova Scotia.

Again, Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out before, the requirement that if one has been elected once and then they get reappointed, then at that point, that is it. They can no longer on this housing commission. It goes against the idea that if one has served, with time, one gets better; with service, one gains more knowledge, one understands how the system works, one becomes more efficient.

To say that at the end of two terms that one should no longer serve again, the honourable member has failed to bring any sort of logic or evidence to the floor of this House to indicate why we should allow such a regressive clause in this bill to be pursued and to be implemented.

We can all think of situations where we have had people who have served for many years, have given up their time on commissions and boards and on community groups and the experience they have gained. What a shame to say that under this legislation, we can have someone who is on the Preston Area Housing Board and is one of the best commissioners possible, and now, because you serve two terms under this requirement which has been put in by the member from Preston, at that point, you can no longer serve in any way on this.

Monsieur le président, pour permettre le membre de Preston d'aller avec, avec cette loi, No. 37, c'est très, très sérieux, l'example que ça donne aux gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse et la communautée à travers de cette province, à travers de cette province, pour dire, pour dire - pour mettre en droit - que c'est absolument, absolument, absolument qu'il faut appointer des gens juste à cause de la région, la région de la communauté ou ils demeurent; à dire bien, à cause de ça, on va vous appointer. Vous n'êtes pas la meilleur personne qu'on voudrait avoir sur cette commission, mais depuis qu'il nous faut qu òn a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would caution the honourable member, and I readily admit that while I am not proficient at French, Beauchesne does say, the rule against repetition is difficult to enforce. The honourable member does have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, at any time, while I am speaking Canada's second official language, you feel I am being repetitious, by all means, please bring that to my attention, and I certainly respect your ruling.

Monsieur le président, comme je disaits, de permettre le membre de Preston de, de venir ici à la Maison avec cette loi, No. 37, et de nous demander de vouloir, de vouloir passer ceci et de dire que, quand qu'on est entrain d'appointer des gens à une commission, qu'il faut absolument qu'ils sortent d'une, d'une région spécifique et que le montant de chaque région soit specifique. Alors, M. le President, ça ce n'est pas acceptable. De cette jourée aujourd'hui, on est en train en cette province de hauter les barriers qui est là. D'hauter les differences entre

[Page 3782]

les communautés et de dire que nous sommes pas juste des, des communautés tout seuls, on est partie d'une tout grande province, on est une collectivitée, il faut avancer ensemble dans les meilleurs intérêts de tous les gens de cette province, pas juste d'une région.

L'autre gros problème qu'il y a, c'est les gens qui sont élus à des certaines positions. À ce point la, on dit bien, la si on veut une certaine position, on ne peut pas servir sur ce housing commission de, de la région de Preston.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member wish to adjourn the debate in either language, so we could recognize the Acting Liberal House Leader for tomorrow's business which is Opposition Day.

MR. SAMSON: Monsieur le président, ça me fait grand plaisir de terminer le débat ce soir et j'espère l'occasion de pouvoir me présenter encore une autre journée pour continuer le débat sur la loi no. 37. Merci.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 37.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: On a point of order, could I just ask . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. On the point of order, the . . .

MR. HENDSBEE: Just for clarification . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The motion was to adjourn debate on the piece of legislation, and I would recognize the Acting Liberal House Leader for tomorrow's Opposition business.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Monsieur le président. (Laughter) Tomorrow following Question Period we will be moving to Bill No. 40 and Resolution No. 805. I move adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow?

MR DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I thought it was standard on Opposition Day. The hours are from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. We will be sitting at 2:00 p.m. and we will be rising at 6:00 p.m. The order of business will be, after Question Period we will be moving on to Bill No. 40 and Resolution No. 805.

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

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The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]