The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 18, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
SPEAKER'S RULINGS:
Previous Points of Privilege:
Agric. - Min.: Remarks ("Chicken Farmers" [p.3394])
Point of Privilege by Mr. D. Downe [p.3406]
Ruling: Not a Prima Facie Case of Privilege 4130
Res. 1348, Dart. S. MLA - Educ. Week: Concerns - Min. Meet,
(Moved by Mr. K. Deveaux) [p.4060]
Point of Privilege by Mr. T. Olive [p.4078]
Ruling: Not a Prima Facie Case of Privilege 4130
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Educ. - Teachers: Lay-Offs - None, Hon. J. Purves 4130
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 45, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Plebiscite Act, Mr. F. Corbett 4134
No. 46, Financial Measures (2000) Act, Hon. N. LeBlanc 4134
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1374, Yukon - General Election (17/04/00): NDP Defeat -
Voters Commend, Mr. P. MacEwan 4134
Res. 1375, P.E.I. - General Election: Premier Pat Binns (PC) -
Re-Election Congrats., Hon. J. Hamm 4135
Res. 1376, Tourism - Min.: Mabou Agric. Office Closure -
Budget (2000-01) Oppose, Mr. F. Corbett 4136
Res. 1377, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Balance Attempt -
Unacceptable, Mr. R. MacLellan 4136
Res. 1378, Col. N. MLA - Tatamagouche Court Closure:
Budget (2000-01) - Oppose, Mr. J. Holm 4137
Res. 1379, Econ. Dev. - Shaw Communications (Dart.):
Digital/Internet Commitment - Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 4138
Vote - Affirmative 4138
Res. 1380, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Job Losses - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4138
Res. 1381, Kings N. MLA - Rich/Poor Gap: Budget (2000-01) -
Oppose, Mr. J. Pye 4139
Res. 1382, Sisters of Charity - Sister Joan O'Keefe:
Sister of the Year Award - Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 4140
Vote - Affirmative 4140
Res. 1383, Sports - Chess (N.S. Scholastic Challenge):
Lun. Co. Students (4) - Success Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 4140
Vote - Affirmative 4141
Res. 1384, Col.-Musquodoboit Valley MLA - Transport. & Pub. Wks.:
Hwys. Dissatisfaction - Oppose, Mr. F. Corbett 4141
Res. 1385, Fish. - Pictou Co. Rivers Assoc.: Work - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4142
Vote - Affirmative 4142
Res. 1386, Educ. - System: Values Disregard - Detention (Gov't. [N.S.]),
Mr. R. MacLellan 4143
Res. 1387, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4143
Res. 1388, Health: Dental Health Month (Apr. 2000) - Recognize,
Dr. J. Smith 4144
Vote - Affirmative 4145
Res. 1389, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Endurance - Culloden Battle
Linkage, Ms. E. O'Connell 4145
Res. 1390, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Englishtown Ferry: Resumption -
Reveal, Mr. K. MacAskill 4145
Res. 1391, Educ. - Improvements: Methodology - Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4146
Res. 1392, Sports - Richmond Arena Assoc.: Dedication - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 4147
Vote - Affirmative 4147
Res. 1393, Kings MLAs - Budget (2000-01): Devastation - Reveal,
Mr. D. Dexter 4147
Res. 1394, Agric. - Budget (2000-01): Mabou Office Closure -
Fairness Ensure, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4148
Res. 1395, MLAs (Backbenchers [PC]) - Free Vote: Premier - Allow,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4148
Res. 1396, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Secret - Understand (Min.),
Mr. W. Gaudet 4149
Res. 1397, Tourism - Water Trails (N.S. Org.): Support (Nat. Res. &
Econ. Dev.) - Encourage, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4150
Res. 1398, Peter Mancini & Michelle Dockrill (NDP MPs [C.B.]) -
Hypocrisy: Award - Grant, Mr. P. MacEwan 4150
Res. 1399, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Children - Future Struggle,
Mr. H. Epstein 4151
Res. 1400, Commun. Serv. - Poverty & Unemployment: Alleviation -
Inability Condemn, Mr. Manning MacDonald 4152
Res. 1401, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Rich/Poor Gap - Increase,
Mr. John MacDonell 4152
Res. 1402, Health - Parkinson's Month: Cecile Offiler (Lun.) -
Contributions Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 4153
Vote - Affirmative 4153
Res. 1403, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Background Focus,
Mr. J. Pye 4154
Res. 1404, EMO - Disaster Fin. Assist. Policy: Fishermen &
Pty. Owners - Exclusion Review, Mr. M. Samson 4154
Res. 1405, Environ. - Inspection Serv.: Adequate - Implement,
Mr. J. Holm 4155
Res. 1406, PC (N.S.) Party - Importance: Tory Backbenchers -
Explain, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4156
Res. 1407, Premier: Ideology (Ont.) - Eject, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4156
Res. 1408, Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Rethink, Mr. W. Gaudet 4157
Res. 1409, Educ. - Children: Intention - Reveal, Ms. E. O'Connell 4158
Res. 1410, Educ. - Min.: Confidence - Lost, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4158
Res. 1411, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Wrong - Admit, Mr. K. Deveaux 4159
Res. 1412, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 113: Project - Shelve,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4160
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Cuts, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4160
Rejected 4162
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Fin. - Introduction of Tax on Taxable Income, Hon. N. LeBlanc 4163
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 496, Agric. - Mabou Office: Closure - Plans, Mr. R. MacLellan 4164
No. 497, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Funding - Reduction,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4165
No. 498, Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Cuts, Mr. R. MacLellan 4166
No. 499, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Teachers Young - Future,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4168
No. 500, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - School Boards
Consultation, Mr. R. MacLellan 4169
No. 501, Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Cuts, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4170
No. 502, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Teachers - Cuts Prevent,
Mr. W. Gaudet 4171
No. 503, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Min. Resignation,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4172
No. 504, Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Lay-Offs, Mr. Manning MacDonald 4173
No. 505, Agric. - Budget (2000-01): Prod. Tech. Branch - Cuts,
Mr. John MacDonell 4075
No. 506, EMO: Budget (2000-01) - 911 Fee, Dr. James Smith 4176
No. 507, Agric. - Budget (2000-01): Mabou Office - Closure,
Mr. John MacDonell 4177
No. 508, Nat. Res. - Budget (2000-01) Cuts: Fire Protection
Inadequate - Compensation, Mr. K. MacAskill 4178
No. 509, Nat. Res. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Specialists,
Mr. John MacDonell 4179
No. 510, Econ. Dev. - Econ. Strategy: Paper - Release, Mr. P. MacEwan 4180
No. 511, Justice: Correctional Ctrs. - Closures, Mr. H. Epstein 4181
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. K. MacAskill 4182
Mr. K. Deveaux 4186
Mr. B. Barnet 4190
Mr. P. MacEwan 4194
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:53 P.M. 4195
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 4195
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Cuts: Students - Disadvantage:
Mr. P. MacEwan 4196
Mr. T. Olive 4198
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4201
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:30 P.M. 4203
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:24 P.M. 4203
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 43, Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, Petroleum
Resources Act and Pipeline Act 4204
Mr. J. Holm 4204
Adjourned debate 4212
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 19th at 2:00 p.m. 4212

[Page 4129]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 18, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, last Thursday during Question Period, in response to a question from the member for Cape Breton Nova, I told him that the consultant's report on Highway No. 101 would be coming available in the next week or two. I was in error. The actual contract has not as yet been let and that was my error in thinking that the contract would be let within a week or two. I apologize to the honourable member for giving him information that wasn't necessarily correct.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, the winner of the late debate for this evening is the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova:

Therefore be it resolved that 1,800 teaching and support staff jobs lost from our schools will leave Nova Scotia students at an education disadvantage.

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

4129

[Page 4130]

Also, on Friday, April 7th, the member for Lunenburg West rose on a point of personal privilege. This was as a result of a comment made during the previous day by the Minister of Agriculture and Marketing. After having an opportunity to review Hansard, I find that there is not a prima facie case of privilege and I am ruling so.

As well, yesterday the honourable member for Dartmouth South rose on a point of privilege. This was as a result of a notice of motion given by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. Again, after reviewing Hansard, I find there is no prima facie case of privilege and I am ruling so on that.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as members of this House know, school boards received their budget numbers a week ago today, sparking quite some debate. Yesterday, department officials shared details with school boards that should shift this debate. Options we presented to school boards should mean no lay-offs for teachers and they should mean a reduction of no more than 400 teaching positions province-wide.

Mr. Speaker, let me say this up front. Life would have been much easier for everyone, including me, if this information could have been shared last week but we wanted to talk to the Teachers' Union as they are our partners in the administration of the pension plan and those discussions could only be meaningful after the budget numbers were known.

Now the facts are on the table, and I regret to say, Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed with the school board response to date. Yesterday, we presented options that are innovative; they are progressive; they are good for teachers. I had hoped school board officials would spend the day working through the numbers, instead they chose to walk away. Even after those options were presented, the school boards would not move an inch from their numbers, numbers they based on a straight mathematical calculation, without consideration of what we can do to manage differently.

[Page 4131]

In a nutshell, Mr. Speaker, I heard one message. School boards want more money. That is their bottom line, whatever facts or numbers we present. Let me say, when I met with the school board chairpersons, I sincerely appreciate the pressures they face, and quite frankly I would love to give them more money. But the days of buying our way out of a problem are gone. That is what got us into this mess in the first place. (Applause) We can no longer pretend that tomorrow will look after itself. As a government, we have a responsibility to think of tomorrow and the days after. That is the basis of the options we presented yesterday. These options are good, not just for teachers but for education. And best of all, they are voluntary.

Once we get beyond 400 teaching positions, our plan will allow school boards to rehire new teachers; new teachers who come at less cost to the system, so school boards can meet their salary targets. More significantly, these teachers will bring new ideas and energy to our classrooms, to mix with the experience and dedication of our teachers now there. Quite frankly, the options will work much like the early retirement package that the former government boasted about, except our options will not have a price tag in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This year alone that package is costing $30 million that could otherwise have been spent in the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, let me share the details of our options - options that are voluntary, options that are cost neutral. Two options will allow teachers to work part time. The first, I expect, will hold real appeal to young parents. Under this option, a teacher would work part time for two years, while continuing full-time pension contributions to protect the future. The second part-time option could appeal to teachers close to retirement, who want to ease out of the classroom. The teacher would work part-time, with a reduced pension, then after two years, retire with a full pension. A third option provides teachers 50 and over the opportunity to retire with a pension adjustment. This option, for the first time, gives teachers the opportunity to retire before the age of 55 or with 35 years of service. Finally, option four allows a teacher, two years' short of retirement, to take a leave of absence with a full pension for the teacher at retirement.

Mr. Speaker, we will post these options on the Education website so individual teachers can consider them. We do have a timing issue though. Currently, the Education Act requires school boards to complete the process of lay-off notices and appeals by May 15th. My deputy is approaching the Nova Scotia Teachers Union about extending this deadline. This would allow teachers to consider the options before them without the stress of receiving lay-off notices. This is the kind of cooperation, the kind of flexibility, that would help everyone in what I know is a tough budget. It is tough for everyone. That is why I want to again call on school boards to work with us.

While we fully expect these options to appeal to hundreds of teachers, you can never predict exactly how many teachers will take advantage of them. It is a personal decision for each teacher. My bottom line is this. There will be no more than 400 teaching positions taken

[Page 4132]

out of the system as a result of this budget. That commitment is firm. That is why we have asked school boards to go back, talk to their teachers, and rework their numbers. If the final numbers vary from what is estimated, we will sit down again with school boards and work through the numbers.

In any scenario, we must look first and always at administration and find savings in areas that have the least effect on classroom priorities. To do this we have to keep talking and we have to stay focused on the facts. The fact is we are talking of a reduction that is less than 3 per cent. No matter what math you use, it does not mean 15 fewer schools in the southwest. It does not mean classes of 50. It does not mean 1,000 fewer teachers. The budget does mean doing things differently. It does mean that education, like everyone else, must contribute to a massive debt problem that costs us more than $1,000 a minute and it must mean that while we protect what is most important for our children today, we must also remember the needs of the children of the classroom of tomorrow. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Minister of Education for providing me with a copy of her statement earlier today. I also appreciate the minister rising in the House today to make this statement, but this statement does not portray the reality of the crisis facing education in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we have gone from where this Minister of Education has said there will be no teacher lay-offs; now, no more than 400 lay-offs province-wide. A figure the school boards say are grossly incorrect. School boards are saying: Annapolis Valley, they are looking at laying off 140 teachers; the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provinciale, 16 teachers; Cape Breton-Victoria, 150 teachers; Chignecto Central, 70 teachers; Halifax, 264 teachers; Southwest, 110 to 120; the Strait Board, 80 teachers; a total of 760 teachers.

AN HON. MEMBER: So far.

MR. GAUDET: So far, that is right. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education wants a 12 month saving in eight months. This saving does not add up. In her remarks she accuses the school boards of basing their numbers on a straight mathematical calculation. The reverse is true here. It was the minister who took $20 million, divided by an average teacher's salary of $50,000, and came up with the number of 400 teachers who had to be cut. How dare she accuse school boards of making straight mathematical calculations?

In the minister's comment, she says that, "As a government, we have a responsibility to think of tomorrow and the days after." Let me remind this Minister of Education that her responsibility is to make sure that students in the Province of Nova Scotia have access to good, quality education. (Applause)

[Page 4133]

[12:15 p.m.]

The minister brings forth options that are voluntary for teachers. How can she assure this House that she knows how many teachers will avail themselves of these options? What she and her department are doing here is pure speculation. The minister states that her deputy is approaching the NSTU about extending the deadline for lay-off notices. This deadline is enshrined in the Education Act and can only be changed through an amendment to the Education Act, passed by this Legislature. Does she have an amendment prepared to be tabled in this House today?

The minister is asking for school boards to work with her department as partners - well, hello, is anyone home? It is ironic. Now she wants to work with the school boards as partners, yet she refused to recognize them as partners when she was preparing her Education budget.

In closing, I want to say that I am concerned about protecting what is most important for our children today and that is to have access to good, quality education here in this province. That is why I stand here today on the side of our children in the Province of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, watching this minister skirt around the Education budget is like watching someone do the dance of the seven veils. The only plan this minister and this government have for education is obviously a PR plan, damage control, reading from prepared text. It reminds me of the failed health mortgage fund of the former government.

The unmitigated arrogance to stand in this place and say that the numbers from the department are the accurate numbers and the information from the school boards is totally out of line. The unmitigated arrogance dismissing the information from people who are on the front lines of delivering education in this province is unbelievable. These are the people who have direct knowledge of the impact of she is doing is going to have in the classroom.

In the Halifax Regional School Board alone, 360 teaching positions will be lost; 486 actual bodies will be coming out of the classroom. There will be a loss of academic programs, an inability to meet the special needs requirements of students with disabilities, unacceptable class sizes and higher drop-out rates. There will be a reduction or elimination of French Immersion programs, music programs, fine arts programs, library supports, technology, and guidance. There will be an elimination or reduction of resource and learning centres; program assistance supports; speech, social work, and psychological services; integration supports and transportation adaptations. Classes will be held in common areas such as auditoriums, cafeterias, gyms and on stages. This is a disgrace.

[Page 4134]

Nova Scotia has the second lowest funding of education in Primary to Grade 12 in the entire country. Now we are even lower. In the election campaign, Mr. Speaker, this government, this Premier campaigned on investing in education in year one and in year two. This is another broken promise.

Every member of this House has an obligation to represent their constituents fully, responsibly and thoughtfully. Education is not a drain on this province's resources. It is an investment. This government is demonstrating how short-sighted it is with respect to investing in the children of today and the future of Nova Scotians tomorrow. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will have the final say on this, and when they have that say, they will be giving a failing grade to the Hamm Government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth East on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I have been so taken with this minister's statement today, I completely lost my place here in the agenda. I did want to introduce a friend of mine from Dartmouth East, Mr. Kenneth MacLaren. Although he comes here frequently, once a session, I do like to introduce him to the House and thank him for keeping his interest. If he would stand and receive a warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 45 - Entitled an Act to Enable Residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to Require the Municipality to Hold a Plebiscite Respecting Policing or Public Safety. (Mr. Frank Corbett)

Bill No. 46 - Entitled an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures (Hon. Neil LeBlanc)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1374

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

[Page 4135]

Whereas the Tories are basking in their lopsided win in P.E.I., although it seems like only yesterday when Joe Ghiz and the Liberals held every seat on the Island; and

Whereas the voters of the Yukon yesterday displayed greater wisdom when they turfed out an arrogant New Democratic Party administration and elected in its place a majority Liberal Government; and

Whereas the NDP had campaigned in the Yukon with an apparent belief in the divine right to rule and with Brezhnev-like overtones that no socialist government once in place could ever be put out;

Therefore be it resolved that the voters of the Yukon be commended for imposing a reality check on the delusions of the NDP and demonstrating that NDP Governments in office can indeed be turfed out, whenever they get out of touch with the people.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 1375

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

Whereas yesterday, the people of Prince Edward Island re-elected Premier Pat Binns and his Progressive Conservatives with a strong majority government; and

Whereas this resounding victory is recognition of the dedication and commitment of Premier Binns and his team; and

Whereas despite their differences of opinion, the Leaders of all three Parties conducted themselves with dignity and respect throughout the campaign;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Premier Binns and his government on the occasion of their successful re-election and wish them continued good government in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4136]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1376

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

Whereas the Minister of Tourism has promised to resign if the Mabou area's Agriculture office is closed; and

Whereas this office is slated for closure in his own Party's budget; and

Whereas he is the first Tory Minister to come forward and speak against this savage Tory Government's budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism should know that the best way to pursue his fight for keeping two staff in the Mabou Agriculture office closure is to vote against his government's budget, and that it only takes four votes to defeat this horrific budget.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1377

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

Whereas in November, following a disastrous House session, Premier Hamm complained to the media that he "feels misunderstood"; and

[Page 4137]

Whereas five months later, Nova Scotians understand all too well the budget secrecy over the massive education and health cuts and the countless job lay-offs; and

Whereas it is this Tory Government that misunderstands the anger swelling up across Nova Scotia as a result of their unfair, unkind, and unwarranted budget;

Therefore be it resolved that this government is beginning to understand that Nova Scotians will never stand for balancing the budget on the backs of the school 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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1378

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 member for Colchester North has spoken out against plans to close the Tatamagouche satellite court; and

Whereas, unlike the Minister of Tourism, he has not put his job on the line, leading one to believe he is just playing politics; and

Whereas if he was really serious about fighting for his riding he would not be afraid to put his job on the line;

Therefore be it resolved that if doesn't wish to risk his job, he can vote against the budget like the Minister of Tourism will be doing, and remember that it only takes four Tories with courage to defeat this savage Tory budget, and he now makes two.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

[Page 4138]

RESOLUTION NO. 1379

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

Whereas the management and staff of Shaw Communications of Dartmouth introduced digital cable and high-speed Internet service to their customers on April 15th at Alderney Landing; and

Whereas these advancements will afford Shaw customers access to information from around the world, as well as information from across Nova Scotia through a partnership with local content providers; and

Whereas the introduction of this technological advance in our region will enhance our province's reputation in this field;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Greg Keating and the employees of Shaw Communications on this important occasion, and thank them for their continued commitment to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1380

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

Whereas the regressive Conservative Government is laying off 1,800 education workers, 1,000 hospital workers, and at least 600 other civil servants; and

[Page 4139]

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas the total of 3,400 good paying jobs is equivalent to the maximum amount of people who worked on the Sable natural gas and Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline project; and

Whereas if this government follows through with these cuts, the economy will be thrown into recession;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the government for attempting to destroy the Nova Scotia economy by eliminating 3,400 direct jobs and the employment that relies on those jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1381

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

Whereas today in The Chronicle-Herald, the member for Kings North writes passionately about his concern over the growing gap between the rich and the poor; and

Whereas his own savage Tory Government is perpetuating this gap by inhumane cuts to social welfare benefits, the health care system and education; and

Whereas the member should be commended for such laudable thoughts;

Therefore be it resolved that it is obvious we have found another member within the Tory ranks who will vote against this budget, and now Tory members we only need one more.

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 Minister of Community Services.

[Page 4140]

RESOLUTION NO. 1382

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

Whereas Sister Joan O'Keefe, originally from Dorchester, Massachusetts, responded to the calling of the Sisters of Charity to serve God's people; and

Whereas she has served the people of Bridgewater, St. Ignatius Parish of Bedford, and since 1989 served the people in the Single Parents Centre in Spryfield; and

Whereas she is described as a woman of faith, hope and love and described as the Mother Theresa of Spryfield by Sister Elizabeth Hayes at the Elizabeth Anne Seton Awards Dinner, where she received the Sister of the Year Award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Sister Joan O'Keefe on this award for all her hard work and guidance in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1383

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

Whereas four Lunenburg County students placed in the top three provincially at the Nova Scotia Scholastic Chess Challenge on April 9th; and

Whereas all winners will compete at the Maritime Chess Challenge on April 30, 2000, in Truro; and

[Page 4141]

Whereas Spencer Landry of Bridgewater Elementary will represent Nova Scotia at the Canadian Chess Challenge in Calgary from May 20th to May 22nd;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Kevin Maclean, Spencer Landry, Cory Milder and David Cote on their outstanding accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1384

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

Whereas the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley blasted the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in the Truro Daily News; and

Whereas the paper has noted that the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has kept strangely quiet in the past number of months; and

Whereas in his letter to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley cited wide public dissatisfaction with the department's attitude on Stewiacke's request to lower the speed limit through the town, which will cost no money at all;

Therefore be it resolved that if the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley really wants to make a difference, he can vote against his government's budget which does not make roads and highways in this province a priority.

Bingo! That's number four. No more callers, sir. I look for waiver.

[Page 4142]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1385

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

Whereas the annual Fishing and Outdoor Recreation Expo took place this past weekend in New Glasgow; and

Whereas this annual event is sponsored by the Pictou County Rivers Association; and

Whereas funds from this expo are used for a variety of fishing-related projects in schools throughout Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that the Pictou County Rivers Association be recognized by the members of this Legislature for their diligent work in the county year-round.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[Page 4143]

RESOLUTION NO. 1386

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

Whereas a commitment to lifelong learning was to be a cornerstone of this Tory Government; and

Whereas since coming to power this government has taught Nova Scotians a lesson about broken promises, secrecy and lack of consultation on matters affecting our children; and

Whereas instead of offering strong leadership and a clear course, the Tories have acted more like a schoolyard bully;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government deserves to be held after class and given detention for its total disregard for the values of our education system.

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 Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1387

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

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

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,470 children have been born into poverty; and

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

[Page 4144]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,470 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. 1388

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

Whereas the month of April has been designated National Dental Health Month; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Dental Association has pioneered an oral education initiative that is fun, interactive and impacting upon the oral health of school children across the globe; and

Whereas during the month of April dentists across Nova Scotia will be speaking to classrooms, community groups and employee groups to discuss the importance of proper oral health care;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize April as National Dental Health Month and endorse the theme of putting the focus on healthy teeth and gums in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4145]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1389

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 Nova Scotia's Scottish heritage is often celebrated both in our modern Celtic culture and in the heritage of those who fled the Highlands to settle here centuries ago; and

Whereas a significant event in the history and development of Nova Scotia was the butchery which took place at the Battle of Culloden on April 16, 1746; and

Whereas Culloden opened up a period of government atrocities, repressive legislation and heavy-handed central government that drove many Scots off their native soil;

Therefore be it resolved that the Progressive Conservative budget has been far too appropriate an event for Nova Scotians to endure on the 254th Anniversary of the Battle of Culloden and the repression it unleashed.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1390

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

Whereas last week in this House the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said the Englishtown ferry would begin operating on or before April 17, 2000; and

Whereas today is April 18th and the people are still waiting for operations to start; and

Whereas the province is also waiting for extra revenues from increased fares;

Therefore be it resolved that this minister call someone in his department to see if anyone there can tell the truth as to when services will resume on the Englishtown ferry.

[Page 4146]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1391

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 Minister of Education stated in this House on Thursday, April 13th, "We are saying that everyone has to make sacrifices. This is not an ideal world. We cannot have one teacher per child throughout the system as much as we would like to do so."; and

Whereas it is now obvious that it will be one teacher per 50 students; and

Whereas the minister also stated that " . . . the drop-out rates in Nova Scotia are a real concern, so are literacy rates and numerous other problems that have plagued our province and our school system for a number of years and we are trying to do something about those problems";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to the House, parents, students, teachers and school board officials how she will improve these problems while her own incompetence is decimating the education system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 4147]

RESOLUTION NO. 1392

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

Whereas the Richmond Arena Association is made up of volunteers throughout Richmond County; and

Whereas the association is funded through fund-raising initiatives, Richmond Municipal Council and corporate donors such as Stora Enso and U.S. Gypsum; and

Whereas the Richmond Arena has had another successful year implementing numerous changes, including a major expansion, while at the same time maintaining the lowest ice rental costs in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend sincere congratulations to the volunteer board members of the Richmond Arena Association for their continued hard work and dedication to the social, recreational and economic development of our county.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1393

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

Whereas the three MLAs from Kings will know that it is the southwest region of the province who is being hardest hit by this savage Tory budget; and

Whereas the MLA for Kings South knows that his constituents are no longer wasting their time building gallows and are instead looking for a horse, a rope and a limb; and

[Page 4148]

Whereas cuts to hospital funding will result in large job losses, teaching cuts will affect the local economy and the loss of courthouses and agricultural jobs mean former employees will not have the money to spend on the local economy, which will in turn cause a downturn in a thriving economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the three ineffective and silent MLAs from Kings should speak up about the devastation this budget will cause in their own backyard.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1394

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

Whereas according to today's Chronicle-Herald, the Minister of Tourism has publicly opposed the Minister of Finance's budget; and

Whereas one would expect that if the closure of the Mabou agricultural office is still included as part of the Minister of Finance's budget when it is called for a vote, that the Minister of Tourism would vote against this budget or withdraw from Cabinet; and

Whereas while the Minister of Tourism publicly challenges this neo-conservative agenda, the Tory backbenchers are subject of continued gag orders;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier John Hamm abandon this double standard within the Progressive Conservative caucus so that all Nova Scotians receive fair and equitable representation.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1395

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

Whereas it will only take four Tories to defeat this savage Tory budget; and

[Page 4149]

Whereas it is obviously time for Tory backbenchers to develop a backbone and do the right thing; and

Whereas the Premier said himself that he would allow his members more free votes and to vote the way their conscience tells them to;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier put into action what he promised and allow his members to vote with their conscience, that is if they still have one.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1396

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

Whereas the Minister of Education told Nova Scotians not to worry about teacher layoffs because her budget was not going to be touched; and

Whereas this was a blatant breach of budget secrecy which in the end was not even true; and

Whereas the reason the minister gave for not consulting with Nova Scotia school boards was that decisions surrounding the budget are secret;

Therefore be it resolved that this minister go back to school and try to understand the difference between budget secrets, budget leaks and what is simply a bad budget.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4150]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1397

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

Whereas coastal islands, beaches and headlands have been used by generations of Nova Scotians for recreational purposes; and

Whereas these coastal environments are also a mainstay of our expanding tourist industry; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Water Trails organization has initiated an exciting pilot project covering the coastline from Halifax to Lunenburg;

[12:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Tourism encourage the Ministers of Natural Resources and Economic Development to support this valuable initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1398

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

[Page 4151]

Whereas until recently New Democratic Party Members of Parliament Peter Mancini and Michelle Dockrill strove to outdo one another in denouncing as patronage all job-creation grants, and seeking to skewer Human Resources Minister Jane Stewart; and

Whereas in the twinkling of an eye, all this was forgotten when Prime Minister Jean Chretien arrived at Sydney with jobs to announce, terming these patronage at its best; and

Whereas at this, Mancini and Dockrill broke through the lineup, wrestled to get next to the Prime Minister for photographers, and rushed to take credit for the patronage so delivered;

Therefore be it resolved that the order of total hypocrisy, third class, should be awarded to Dockrill and Mancini for their 360 degree flip-flop on the patronage issue, as demonstrated by this impressive history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1399

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

Whereas in the story of Peter Pan, the lost boys living in never-never land could be children for life; and

Whereas no one would want to be a child in Nova Scotia schools, even temporarily, while struggling daily with classrooms of 40 to 50 students let alone be a child for life; and

Whereas this Premier says we must make cuts now in order to make a better future for our children;

Therefore be it resolved that you cannot make a better future for children in this province if Captain Hook and Smeed are robbing them of their education today.

[Page 4152]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1400

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

Whereas a study of urban poverty in Canada was released by the Canadian Council on Social Development, indicates one person in four in the Cape Breton Regional municipality was poor in 1995; and

Whereas since then, unemployment has worsened with the impending closure of Devco and the possible closure of Sysco as unofficial unemployment in some areas is 50 per cent; and

Whereas the government has completely abandoned its role with regard to economic development;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the current government for its inability to recognize that government must play a role in alleviating chronic poverty and unemployment.

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1401

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

Whereas university is quickly becoming the playground of the rich; and

[Page 4153]

Whereas if you want a decent grade-school education in this province, you will have to send your children to private school; and

Whereas it will once again be only the rich who can afford quality education for their children while the rest of Nova Scotian children will have to make do with Third World school conditions;

Therefore be it resolved that it is now obvious to all that this Tory Government wants to increase the gap between rich and poor in this province by plundering the education system.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1402

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

Whereas April has been designated as Parkinson's Month; and

Whereas Parkinson's disease affects more than 100,000 individuals, and is the number one chronic pain disorder in Canada; and

Whereas 94 year old Cecile Offiler gives to the Lunenburg Parkinson's Chapter by donating a handmade quilt to be auctioned off;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize April as Parkinson's Month and congratulate Cecile Offiler on her outstanding contributions to her local community.

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.

[Page 4154]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1403

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

Whereas The Daily News editorialized today that there is a huge gap between how the Minister of Education and the province's seven school boards view the impact of education cuts; and

Whereas the editorial goes on to call for the minister and the boards to reach a compromise to prevent further harm to students; and

Whereas it goes on to suggest the minister has been led astray by her department's senior officials who suggest policy from their ivory towers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House suggest that all Nova Scotians should look beyond the minister's department to the Cabinet Table if they want a better understanding of why the minister is gutting the education system.

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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1404

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

Whereas on Friday, January 21, 2000, Richmond County suffered severe damages as a result of gale-force winds combined with extremely high tides; and

Whereas local fishermen and property owners were hit the hardest due to loss of wharves and fishing gear along with the erosion of major tracts of property; and

[Page 4155]

Whereas the long-awaited provincial Disaster Financial Assistance Policy was released on April 13, 2000, and specifically excluded fishermen and property owners from receiving any compensation from the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act immediately review this misguided policy so that both fishermen and property owners may qualify for damages for the losses they have incurred as a result of this disaster.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1405

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 very able member for Timberlea-Prospect, yesterday in estimates, exposed an environmental nightmare in progress at the McCain-owned Rothsay rendering plant in Truro; and

Whereas the Minister of the Environment says his department continues to monitor the situation, and one at a composting plant in the Sackville Industrial Park, yet he has cut five of his departmental inspectors; and

Whereas the same minister apparently takes comfort in the fact the owner of the plant has hired a consultant to try to fix up the problem with continued spills of potentially hazardous substances;

Therefore be it resolved that this House does not share the minister's fox-watching-the-chickens or blind-faith approach to environmental policing, and calls for him to implement adequate inspection services within his department.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 4156]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1406

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

Whereas while in Opposition, John Hamm advocated free votes for individual caucus members; and

Whereas this policy was further advocated in the Tory's election platform; and

Whereas gag order after gag order on Tory backbenchers is the new-found Conservative policy;

Therefore be it resolved that Tory backbenchers explain why support for the Tory Party is more important than standing up for their constituents.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1407

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

Whereas it appears that the honeymoon is over for Bernard Lord's Tories in New Brunswick, with farmers and public servants publicly voicing their great displeasure with his devotion to the epistles of Mike Harris; and

Whereas a former Tory strategist recently remarked that, "Anybody can be Mike Harris if you have the American auto pact", pointing out that Harris-style policies don't work with our Atlantic economy and culture; and

[Page 4157]

Whereas this Hamm Government would do well to heed Dalton Camp's other advice to Lord, that he stop, "taking advice from the small group of politicos who helped him win the election", and govern in a proper fashion;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to stop treating Harris as Lord and throw the Ontario ideology into the Binns, where it belongs.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 1408

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

Whereas 22 new courses were cancelled under Tuesday's Tory budget; and

Whereas these courses range from P to 6 Health, Grade 11 Gaelic Culture, to P to 6 Music, to name a few; and

Whereas it is a constant challenge for our students to keep up with their Canadian counterparts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Hamm Government rethink their stand on education to ensure that students from across this province remain competitive with their counterparts across this country.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 4158]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1409

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

Whereas the Tory blue book, Page 15, states, "Too many teachers are faced with overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources."; and

Whereas the blue book also promises to establish, ". . . a visible, consistent and functional education system based on the most appropriate international standards . . ."; and

Whereas what the Premier and his cronies didn't tell Nova Scotians is that those international standards they want would be the same as schooling in a Third World country;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and Minister of Education come clean with Nova Scotians and tell them they never intended to provide adequate education for children in the first place.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1410

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

Whereas school board officials say the Minister of Education is living in never-never land if she thinks only 400 teachers will lose their jobs; and

Whereas in this House on Thursday, April 13th, the minister stated that, ". . . the numbers being touted by the school boards would result in a far bigger loss of teaching positions than we anticipate, plan for, want, or will tolerate.", and she also told this House those numbers would be reconciled yesterday, Monday, April 17th; and

Whereas it is now obvious, minister, that trying to sprinkle pixie dust on your department's fabricated numbers did not and will not work;

[Page 4159]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education has lost the confidence of the school boards, officials in the system, teachers, students, and parents, and flying away to never-never land will not solve the problems she is causing in the education system.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1411

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

Whereas the Southwest Regional School Board announced that the high school in Lockeport will have to be closed because of this government's budget cuts to education; and

Whereas this means high school students in Lockeport will have to be bused to Shelburne, a long, one-hour drive each way; and

Whereas the minister continues to reassure Nova Scotians that cuts can be done with relatively little disruption to the classrooms;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the Minister of Education to admit she was obviously wrong with a simple, 'D'oh?'

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.

[Page 4160]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1412

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

Whereas the proposed Highway No. 113 between Highways No. 102 and No. 103, constitutes poor use of limited Department of Transportation highway construction funds; and

Whereas Highway No. 113 will interfere with an area of old forest wilderness that has been described by local residents as a "little Keji right next to Metro"; and

Whereas Timberlea area residents do not foresee this road as a benefit to local traffic;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation instruct his staff to shelve this project as a poor use of highway construction funds when more pressing projects need his department's attention.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, under Rule No. 43, I move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance, and that is the devastating reduction in the number of teachers, teaching assistants and other staff who provide public school education.

The school boards announced Monday afternoon that they are receiving $53 million less than will be required to maintain elementary and secondary school education at the levels which exist this year. The school boards confirmed that public schools in Nova Scotia will receive less per student than is provided in any other province.

[Page 4161]

The school boards, which are the only bodies in a position to know, state that the government funding requires a reduction of 744 in the number of teachers, and a reduction of 1,100 in teaching assistants and other staff who support classroom education. By any definition, this is a devastating cut.

[1:00 p.m.]

The Department of Education has responded to this crisis on Monday by offering new and unexpected options for early retirement of teachers. The department has offered no options to maintain the number of teachers, to maintain existing class sizes or even to maintain the student-teacher ratio at its present unacceptable level.

Every member of this House knows that parents, teachers and students see this devastating reduction as an issue of great urgency. The largest-ever meeting of school representatives in southwestern Nova Scotia was held last Friday in Liverpool, before the full extent of the reduction was known. Similar meetings are planned tonight in the metropolitan Halifax area and in the Annapolis Valley.

The importance and the urgency of this matter cannot be underestimated. Although the estimates of the Department of Education will at some time be reviewed, that review by the Committee of the Whole House on Supply is not a debate and does not deal directly with this matter.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotian families are looking to this House as a forum where their concerns and hopes will be heard. I submit that this is an urgent matter deserving the immediate attention of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham served notice under Rule 43 in request for an emergency debate on the noted subject. The notice was received by my office, the Speaker's Office, within the time parameters of the Rules of this House. Also, in making a decision on this request, I have to determine whether the subject matter is covered by administrative responsibilities of the government, which it is. I also have to consider, as well, ". . . the probability of the matter being debated by the House within a reasonable time by other means." That is according to Rule 43(4A).

This certainly is an important matter. However, as all members are aware, the Education budget will be coming before this House probably later this week or early next week in estimates. This gives an opportunity for all members to question the minister on the department's budget and the effect it will have on the issues mentioned by the honourable member for Halifax Needham. I feel, also, there is ample time to debate the issue during Question Period, Opposition Days and late debates. Therefore, based on those remarks, I am denying the request made by the honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 4162]

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. On Page 43 of the Rules and Forms of Procedure under, "Question to House for leave", the rule clearly states that if three or more members of the House wish to have the question put to the House on whether or not the member has leave to have the emergency debate, that the question can be then put to the House. Members of our caucus are standing to request that the question be put.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. My understanding is that that would be only if the Speaker is satisfied the matter is proper to be discussed.

Rule 43(7), "If the Speaker is satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed . . .", and I am ruling it is not.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. This matter is of grave importance to every Nova Scotian and it was brought to the House today I think in the spirit of trying to make this House and all Nova Scotians aware of the serious situation that we are facing in education.

Mr. Speaker, when you are making your ruling under Rule 43(4A), you state that, ". . . the Speaker also shall have regard to the probability of the matter being debated by the House within a reasonable time . . .". Well, I contend that the matter of the Education estimates are going to be debated within a reasonable period of time but this urgent matter that was raised here by the member opposite may not be debated in the context that she put that matter here today and I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that you should rethink your decision.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have made my ruling.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am on Rule 43(7), Page 42 and continuing on to Page 43. It says, "If the Speaker is satisfied that the matter is proper to be discussed, he shall read the motion aloud and ask whether the Member has the leave of the House. If objection is taken, the Speaker shall request those Members who support the motion to arise in their places and if more than ten Members rise accordingly, the Speaker shall call upon the Member who has asked for leave."

Mr. Speaker, I am suggesting to you that there are more than 10 members in this House who take objection and who would like to have permission to give the member leave to have this emergency debate when the House rises tonight at 8:00 p.m. If you need . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you, I have heard enough. As I said before, I have made my decision. Subsection (7) is only based on if the Speaker is satisfied that the matter is properly discussed. I have made my decision.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are wrong.

[Page 4163]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is quite obvious that the interpretation of the Rules of the House you have just made are correct. In other words, if the Speaker does not accept the motion as being suitable for an emergency debate, that is the end of the matter. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, before we get into Question Period, could I have the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Opposition for granting leave, I very much appreciate it. I had indicated to the press I would table it. I am tabling a report prepared by Grant Thornton regarding the personal taxation system, Introduction of Tax on Taxable Income.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, good afternoon. (Interruption) I am not on the golf course, Mr. Manning, but anyway I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the presence and recognize Dr. David Reid and Stella Campbell from the Halifax Regional School Board, the chairperson of the school board and the superintendent of the school board. I would like to welcome them to the House. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 1:08 p.m. and will end at 2:08 p.m.

[Page 4164]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

AGRIC. - MABOU OFFICE: CLOSURE - PLANS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, in the budget bulletin entitled Changing with the Times in Agriculture, it is stated that the department is consolidating its 12 local offices into five regional service centres in Antigonish, Kentville, Sydney, Truro and Weymouth. The Minister of Tourism and Culture is quoted as having said that, "Inverness MLA Rodney MacDonald has promised to resign if the Mabou area's agricultural office is closed." I want to ask the Premier, is the Mabou office going to be closed, yes or no?

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

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly as the honourable member is aware from the press, the office in Mabou will remain open so that 4-H services which are maintained through the province may be maintained as well as service to the nearby Camp Rankin.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the Premier has blinked and he has chosen some members over another who can mouth off and state what they want and he will knuckle under while others who make the same request cannot. A Minister of the Crown has broken Cabinet solidarity and he should be relieved of his duties no matter how much this Premier may like that individual. I want to ask the Premier, in light of the fact that he has backed down from the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the member for Inverness, what will he do with the MLA for Colchester North who said, "Conservative MLA Bill Langille says he'll fight a plan to close the Tatamagouche satellite court."? I ask the Premier, will the Tatamagouche satellite court remain open, yes or no?

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

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the issue brought up was with respect to Tatamagouche. The department has reviewed the matter. We feel that there are significant costs involved in operating that courthouse. If there is another plan that comes forward that allows us to reduce or defray those costs, we will look at it; otherwise, for the moment, the decision stands.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious the Tories have drawn two lists: members they want to see brought back in the next election and members they don't care if they are brought back or not in the next election. There is obvious preference being shown for some members, when a minister should have to resign because he breaks Cabinet solidarity, he is allowed to get away with his mistake.

[Page 4165]

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

MR. MACLELLAN: I certainly will, Mr. Speaker, I would be glad to. I want to ask the Premier, why has he backed down and allowed the member for Inverness, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, to have dictated to him contrary to what is stated in the budget while the member for Colchester North has not been allowed to do the same thing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can refer but what I would say to the member opposite, to the Leader of the Liberal Party, that unlike his government, this is not a spineless government (Interruptions) This government is going to address the real problems that are facing Nova Scotia and it will stick to its guns. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): FUNDING - REDUCTION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. This Premier actually promised to end overcrowded classrooms. He promised to provide more resources to public school teachers. Lockeport learned yesterday that they are losing their high school. Today the Halifax Regional School Board reports that it will lose 350 teachers permanently and that if the Tory cuts were directed only to the junior and senior high levels many classes would have to be held in common areas such as auditoriums, cafeterias and stages. I am tabling that analysis here today.

I want to ask the Premier, will he tell Nova Scotians why he promised to put more money into education and then did the exact opposite now that he is in power?

THE PREMIER: May I say to the member opposite that this government has embarked on a plan that will provide the opportunities for our young people that for many years now they had been denied. What needs to happen right now is for the school boards to sit down with the department and the minister to work out an approach to maximize the savings that must be found in the delivery of public school education so that more of the money will be directed into the classroom where it belongs.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It is kind of laughable, Mr. Speaker, the Premier is talking about consultation; he should have let the Education Minister consult with the school boards and the Teachers Union prior to laying this budget on Nova Scotians.

[Page 4166]

The Premier's government claimed that the regular retirement schedule meant a total job loss in education of 400 teachers. That was as false as the Tory platform was, Mr. Speaker. The truth is: the loss of rural schools; an average junior high class of 32 in metro; an average class of 28 in metro elementary schools. The Education Minister clearly is not calling the shots here. So I want to ask the Premier, why is he putting a generation at risk by forcing students into even larger classes, eliminating hundreds of teachers and teaching assistants instead of helping our schools recover from the Liberal cuts?

[1:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: The one premise on which I do agree with the member opposite, is that it is extremely difficult to follow in the footsteps of such bad government. On the other hand, we are faced with a serious financial crisis, the victims of which will be the young people of this province if we do not take definitive action to solve what is happening in this province. This government is determined to do that.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, this Premier and this Party didn't tell the truth to Nova Scotians when they were running for election and they are still failing to tell the truth about this budget and I want this Premier to tell Nova Scotia parents what the truth is, what this budget means in real terms to the drop-out rates, time spent with each child, lost opportunities to help children with talent and with special needs, and the ability of our children to compete in a knowledge economy. Will the Premier tell the truth, the whole truth about what his government is doing to our schools and to our children?

THE PREMIER: The truth is, it is time for the school boards, the Department of Education and the minister to sit down and reconcile the numbers, reconcile the differences and work out a plan that directs more public school funding into the classroom where it belongs.

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

EDUC.: BUDGET (2000-01) - CUTS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to read a fax from a teacher at Liverpool Regional High School that she sent to her husband. It says, "Brian . . .", meaning Brian Murray, ". . . visited all classes during the homeroom block to inform the students as to how the education cuts would impact on this school. Secretarial and custodial staff have also been informed that they should expect cuts. As Hester puts it . . .", and that is Hester Croft, the secretary, ". . . 'the savings from this kind of nonsense is so minuscule as to be ridiculous.' . . . Brian has told me that the anticipated cuts at this school will hit people as high as 16 years on the seniority list . . . this is after all term and probationary positions are let go." That letter is from Mrs. Pat Morash, the wife of Kerry Morash, the MLA for Queens.

[Page 4167]

I want to put a human face, as much as this government can understand human faces, and I want to ask the Premier, why is he determined to devastate the education system in Nova Scotia and cut 1,800 people in the province in this jurisdiction?

THE PREMIER: It would appear it is very convenient for the Liberal Party Leader to ignore what has been coming out of the Department of Education in terms of a rational plan relative to teachers. It is obvious that the Leader of the Liberal Party is unconcerned about the facts; the facts are that there is a rational plan and we will work through that rational plan and we will do it in consultation with school boards.

MR. MACLELLAN: There is no plan, rational or otherwise, from government. They have talked about $88 million to be spent on restructuring costs this fiscal year. They also talk about $126 million next year, $107 million the following year and $109.5 million the year after that.

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

MR. MACLELLAN: I want to ask the Premier, why is he misleading the people of Nova Scotia? Why doesn't he acknowledge and tell them truthfully that these cuts are going to go on for the whole mandate of this government?

THE PREMIER: Since the Leader of the Liberal Party is anxious to be engaged in a budget debate, I will ask the Minister of Finance to handle this question.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I believe here today that the Minister of Education outlined in her statement that there are dialogues going on between her department and the school boards. Those dialogues have not been taken to the extent they can. I think the minister has put forward a plan that will deal with many of the issues the Opposition Members are putting here today which is the worst-case scenario. If we want to have a debate, the debate should be on the facts, because we had a $500 million deficit last year. That is something that bunch on the other side is refusing to acknowledge.

MR. MACLELLAN: I want to say to the Minister of Finance before I ask my question to the Premier, that this Premier outside of this House referred to the parents and the school boards as hysterical because they are concerned about what this government is doing. I want to ask the Premier, why does he think that parents who want the best education for their children, good education, should be considered as hysterical when this government is devastating this educational program? Parents have that right. . . .

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

[Page 4168]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the hysteria to which I referred, is demonstrated by the reaction of those on the Opposition benches, who are not the least bit interested in what it is that we are putting forward as a rational solution to the tremendous financial devastation that that Leader and that government created in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party if he would table those documents he referred to, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): TEACHERS YOUNG - FUTURE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The impact of this devastating budget in the Education Department is going to be felt most strongly by young teachers. Contrary to what the minister says, there will be teacher lay-offs and wherever there are lay-offs, it is the young teachers who will get laid off first. These young teachers are already talking about leaving Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, what do you have to say to the many young teachers who will lose their jobs and their futures because of your budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have said in the past, and I repeat, that as a result of this budget we are not going to have to have teacher lay-offs. We have put forward a plan which we hope will have enough take-up to meet our targets, without laying off teachers, young or old.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, yesterday, my office received a copy of an e-mail from a young school librarian, whose name is Kenneth Malcolm, sent to the member for Queens and copied to the Minister of Education. Now this librarian and his wife, who is a young term teacher as well, both fear for their jobs. They are expecting their first child and feel they may have to leave Nova Scotia to find work. They have a simple question for the Premier and now I am going to ask the Premier that question directly. Their question is, does Dr. Hamm feel that driving young people out of Nova Scotia is doing what is best for this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that if, in fact, the government does not take responsible positions in terms of the challenges that face us as a province, then we will be undermining the future of those young people, and we will be contributing to driving them out of the province. What we are doing here is providing a rational approach so that those young people, for whom we all have great empathy and concern, will have a future here in Nova Scotia.

[Page 4169]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, let me recap where we are today. We have young people in despair. We have school boards in open revolt. We have the Nova Scotia School Boards Association saying the Minister of Education must be in never-never land; we have the Teachers Union calling for the minister to resign; and we have the first of many school closures announced yesterday in Lockeport. My final question to the Premier is, when will you go back to the drawing board and withdraw this disastrous Education budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the drawing board, to which I will refer now, is a meeting between the School Boards Association, the school boards of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Department of Education and the minister, to reconcile the differences of opinion as to how we can bring financial responsibility to the delivery of public school education in this province.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

CUTS - SCHOOL BOARDS CONSULTATION

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education stated yesterday that the reason she did not meet with the schools funding review committee was that, "the situation was too horrendous". We have a Minister of Education who is planning to decimate the education system in Nova Scotia, and she won't meet with the school boards because she doesn't have the courage to face them. She is afraid to confront them and tell them what she is going to do, so for that reason she won't go and get their input. I want to know from this Minister of Education why she didn't have the courage to face these school boards and the people in education and tell them what she was going to do, to get their input, so that she would have some idea of what these cuts were going to do to the education system in Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the horrendous situation to which the honourable member refers were some of the budget scenarios that all departments had to go through before the budget. They were horrendous. It was not something I believed was necessary to share with that particular group.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, if you can't share the future of education with the school boards of this province, then this government is more whacked-out than I ever imagined it was. I have never heard anything so ridiculous since I talked to the Minister of Health yesterday. This minister told me on April 13th, the groups' meetings were postponed until after the budget, when they could deal with real numbers. I want to ask the Minister of Education, does she not think the devastation that she has put on the backs of the parents and the school children of Nova Scotia reflects real numbers?

[Page 4170]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would say the real numbers do not reflect devastation.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable that this Minister of Education is so out of touch with not only education, but the feeling of this province. I want to ask her, in light of what the school boards have said, does she still believe that there are not going to be any teacher lay-offs?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there should be no teacher lay-offs as a result of our budget, and I repeat that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC.: BUDGET (2000-01) - CUTS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. In last week's disastrous budget, the Minister of Finance said, " . . . there should be no teacher layoffs as a result of this budget." Then the Minister of Education said that 400 retiring teachers would not be replaced. Now yesterday, the Minister of Education admitted that only 88 teachers are eligible to retire this year, in the whole province. My question to the Minister of Education is, how could your department have been so far out of touch with reality?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is right. There are a certain number of normal retirements, of which a percentage will probably retire. There is normal attrition in the whole system of more than 10,000 teachers. There are also retirement options . . .

[1:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Lay-offs.

MISS PURVES: Not lay-offs, retirement options, four different retirement options which we believe will result in that net number of 400 teaching positions.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of Education presented the school board with what she calls teacher workforce adjustment options and these four options were not part of the budget and they weren't part of the minister's budget discussions last week. Now it is obvious that this document was cooked up over the weekend in a desperate attempt to paper over the minister's budget blunders. My question to the Minister of Education is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth, that you are just making up the budget as you go along?

[Page 4171]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are telling Nova Scotians the truth. We are telling them the truth for the first time about a cost to many systems in our province that previous governments have just poured money at. We are deeper in debt and this government is telling the truth about what we plan to do about it for the benefit of all Nova Scotians in the future.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Destroying education in this province is not a benefit to Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. Now when the school board saw this document yesterday, they quite rightly pointed out that it doesn't do one thing to protect and promote the quality of classroom education and it won't stop education lay-offs, teachers being laid off. My final question to the minister is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth, that the Education budget isn't worth the paper it is printed on?

MISS PURVES: The Education budget, Mr. Speaker, is a tough budget, as is the rest of our budget, but it is manageable and it is what the public of Nova Scotia needs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): TEACHERS - CUTS PREVENT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this Minister of Education is really hard to follow. One day there are not going to be any teacher lay-offs, the next day there may be 400 through attrition. Well, let me tell you, school boards across Nova Scotia have said they will be sending out lay-off notices to upwards of 1,000 teachers across Nova Scotia. So according to the Education Act, these notices must be sent out by mid-May. Not only will teachers receive lay-off notices but schools will also have to be closed, causing lay-offs of support personnel also. My question to the Minister of Education is, is the minister prepared to get real and listen to the facts as presented by the school boards and make the necessary budgetary adjustments to prevent these lay-off notices from going out?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would certainly prefer that these lay-off notices not go out. I would prefer to get back to the table with the school boards but the problems in this province are real and they must be dealt with.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, according to the Education Act, permanent contract teachers may only be laid off for just cause or for lack of students to teach. Will this minister be introducing an amendment to the Education Act allowing teachers to be laid off for lack of funds?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the honourable member is suggesting I should introduce such an amendment but right now we have no plans to do so.

[Page 4172]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister. If the minister is not prepared to adjust the Education budget to prevent teacher lay-offs, will she grant the school boards' request to abolish the one-year waiting period for school closures?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will respond to any requests I receive from school boards.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - MIN. RESIGNATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to refer my question through you to the Premier. Today, the Premier stood in defence of his Minister of Education and her department's figures. He has called parents, teachers, and school board members in the province hysterical. He has said that all we need to do is sit down and have a dialogue and it will all get straightened out because the department's figures are right. I want to ask the Premier, is he prepared to stand by his minister to the extent that if it is shown that she is wrong - as everybody else in education says - that, in fact, there will be teacher lay-offs, there will be lay-offs of teaching assistants and other support staff, there will be school closures, will the Premier ask the Minister of Education to resign?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that what has to happen now is not the hysterical kind of reaction that is coming from the Opposition benches, but a meeting between school boards, the Department of Education, and the minister, to reconcile a solution to a very serious problem in which this province finds itself, and I would hope that somewhere along the way we will seek some kind of responsible approach by members of the Opposition in recognition of the very serious financial situation this province finds itself in.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier and his minister have basically called school board members in the province liars. They have said the Teachers Union is lying, and that they are right and everybody else is wrong. They have presented a budget which says there will be 400 vacancies that will not be filled. They say there will be no teacher lay-offs or other lay-offs in the education system. If that is in fact the government's position - it was the budget, you tabled it, you are supporting it - if you are wrong, Mr. Premier, will you seek the Minister of Education's resignation immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was part and parcel of this government defeating the previous government on the basis of an unsupportable budget simply because it would have driven the province into bankruptcy, because it would have resulted in a downgrading of the credit rating of the province. When did the member opposite - who, on that particular day, was responsible - become so irresponsible that he wants this government to go down the same road?

[Page 4173]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I know it is a tough question; I am asking the Premier to tell the truth. I am asking the Premier to back up his contention that everybody else in the education system is lying. If he is so convinced that his minister and her department are right and that everybody else is wrong, will he commit here today that if what the school boards say, what the teachers say, what the parents say, and what the Teachers Union say is right, and the minister is wrong, will he seek her resignation?

THE PREMIER: I want to use my answer to correct an impression that the member opposite seems to want to create. This member, since he came to public office in 1993, has never accused any public official, any member of the Opposition, anybody in a responsible position, of lying.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not true. That is another one of your stories.

THE PREMIER: The member opposite, if he can debate that, table the information.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

EDUC.: BUDGET (2000-01) - LAY-OFFS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, parents and teachers in Nova Scotia are concerned about the devastation that is about to occur in the education system. My question is to the Premier. Over the past two weeks the Minister of Education has stood in this House, and repeated her words outside the House, that there will be no need to lay-off teachers in the province, that 400 positions would be eliminated through attrition. On March 30th, in a copy of Hansard that I will table here, I quote the minister, "Mr. Speaker, another thing I said yesterday and repeat here in the House is that with the budget that we will have in the Education Department, we do not anticipate the need for teacher lay-offs." Does the Premier stand by his minister's statement that there will be no teacher lay-offs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does not seem to realize that the biggest difficulty that the minister is facing right now is not dealing with her budget, it is dealing with the cost overruns in education created by the previous government. Number one, a $30 million payment this year out of the Department of Education to deal with the ill-conceived early retirement program of the previous government; dealing with mammoth cost overruns in the P3 school construction project of this government. Those are the real challenges facing the minister, not dealing with the questions that are being delivered by the members of the Opposition.

[Page 4174]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will be dealing with the schools they should be building in Sydney at another time. Right now I want to ask the Premier again, as a result of this government's budget, officials of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board inform me there will be 128 teachers and 100 support staff cut from that school board and notices are being prepared to go out as we speak. In view of the minister's repeated statements regarding no lay-offs in the school system, will you confirm that these lay-offs of teachers and support staff in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will not have to happen?

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

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we need to sit down again with school board officials and the chairs to talk about these numbers. To be fair to them, they need a chance to look at our retirement options and run their numbers through again. The dialogue is not over.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am sick and tired of being misled by this Minister of Education, and everybody in this House is sick and tired of those platitudes that are coming from across the floor. My supplementary to the Premier is that the Minister of Education has misled this House more than once in the past couple of weeks, and either she is a liar or she is stupid, one or the other. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) I would ask the honourable member to retract those statements.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: At least I am not lying on a regular basis.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not saying anything that is not true.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: This member . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am asking the honourable member to retract that statement.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: She said in this House before, Mr. Speaker, . . .

[Page 4175]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am asking the honourable member to retract that statement. (Interruptions) Order, please. I am asking the honourable member to retract the accusation he made about the honourable Minister of Education. Yes or no?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am so upset with the way this government is treating the education system of this province that I am prepared to stand on my statement that this minister is lying to this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Since the honourable member refuses, I am naming the honourable member and I would ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove Mr. MacDonald from this House. (Applause)

Order, please.

The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. - BUDGET (2000-01): PROD. TECH. BRANCH - CUTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture says the private sector will step in and fill the roles offered by the experts he laid off from the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture. Somebody stands to make a lot of money milking Nova Scotia's farmers as a result of the minister's purge. Will the Minister of Agriculture confirm that his recently departed Executive Assistant, Bev Connell, who owns Proagri Consulting Limited near Windsor, is well positioned to take advantage because of this minister's massive lay-offs in production technology?

[1:45 p.m.]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the offer made on the $2.2 million fund are commodity groups who will direct the money, and they have the first opportunity to hire anyone displaced within the Department of Agriculture.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, Mr. Connell was at your side as you were orchestrating the very cuts he now stands to make financial gain from. What assurances will you give Nova Scotia farmers and laid-off workers that your EA was not in flagrant conflict of interest?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, the member well knows the fact of the matter is that the $2.2 million fund set aside is for commodity groups to hire specialists who are currently employed with the Department of Agriculture.

[Page 4176]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is any regulation that says they are limited to who they can hire. I want to table this document from the Registry of Joint Stock Companies, which shows the relationship between Mr. Connell and Proagri Consulting Limited. This is a serious matter. I want to ask the Premier, will he commit to investigating whether the minister's former EA played a role in orchestrating a budget that his private company now stands to benefit from? Will he do that for Nova Scotia farmers?

THE PREMIER: I must say I am a little disappointed. There would be others in the House that would wear that question much better than the member who put it. (Interruptions) However, what I will say is that this government is committed to the farmers. I am not sure if the member opposite is saying that those advantages that this government is providing to farmers, by way of this budget, are ill-conceived or not. What exactly is the member's point?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

EMO: BUDGET (2000-01) - 911 FEE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last fall the Minister of Health brought forward emergency 911 legislation, and when this bill was introduced, it contained a clause for charging user fees on every telephone in Nova Scotia. At the time the minister said, just because it is in the bill doesn't mean we are going to use it. Last week the Minister of Finance announced his government was going to introduce a 911 user fee tax. My question to the minister is, how much will the charge be on the 911 user fee tax?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it will be a fee for telephone, basically. I am afraid I can't give the exact answer to that. It has be approved by the CRTC. I don't have the numbers in this book. If he wants to ask me during the debate on EMO, I would be pleased to provide it. It is not a significant amount.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this government promised to be open and accountable, but as of Friday, MTT apparently had not been consulted on this new tax. We are on the threshold of a new competition in the delivery of local telephone services here in Nova Scotia, all Nova Scotians know that. My question to the minister is, will the minister tell this House why that the organization which would administer 911 system, MTT, has not been consulted?

MR. MUIR: I take it you mean MTT; Emergency Measures Organization would be the group I would see as being responsible for that and obviously, they were consulted. The role of MTT in this thing, as the honourable member knows, Nova Scotians do pay a user fee for 911 and it goes to MTT for their own expenses. What we would be prepared to do if we get permission from the CRTC to do this is to go to MTT and ask them to - administratively this would be on the phone bills and they would collect it.

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DR. SMITH: I didn't want to get into too much detail here in Question Period, but there doesn't seem to have been a consultation with MTT on this particular change. A tax by any other name is still a tax and we all know that. Will the minister confirm today whether all phone lines will be included on this 911 user fee tax? Will residents, businesses, faxes, modems and cell phones all be included on that 911 user fee tax?

MR. MUIR: It would be our intention, as the honourable member knows - to just clarify some other things, right now in that 911 fee that is collected by MTT, cell phones aren't included in that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. - BUDGET (2000-01): MABOU OFFICE - CLOSURE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Agriculture. At the risk of appearing to be not nice, there are few places that this disastrous budget is hit harder than in agriculture. The betrayal of the agricultural community is made worse when we see backroom deals being cooked up between Cabinet Ministers. The budget documents say that the Mabou office of the Department of Agriculture will close, but the minister from Mabou says the Mabou office for the Department of Agriculture will not close. My question to the minister is, why can't you tell Nova Scotia farmers the truth that you have cooked up a secret deal with the MLA for Inverness that contradicts the budget?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: As the honourable member knows, if he had read the highlights and details of the budget, that there were 12 offices in Nova Scotia, 5 regional centres are left, plus there is a provision for 4-H in other locations and certainly 4-H is a presence in Mabou which we wish to continue and it is consistent with the budget. As usual, the member opposite is short-sighted and has problems understanding.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I think I read the budget highlights and they said Mabou was closing.

The Minister of Agriculture has said to the media that he will go ahead and fire the two people working in the Mabou office, but the office itself will be kept open. The Mabou office, which is the only agricultural office in a major agricultural area of Cape Breton will benefit from an occasional drop-in visit from a staffer in the Sydney office. So, when the minister from Mabou talks bravely about threatening to resign if the Mabou office is not kept open, all he is really talking about is keeping open an empty office. My question to the minister is, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth that you would rather keep open an empty office then provide real service to farmers?

[Page 4178]

MR. FAGE: As usual, the member opposite has trouble reading all the lines in a paragraph. I will table a document right here, 4-H specialists will be located in offices across Nova Scotia and other locations other than the five regions. It is right here, as well, we have guaranteed all farmers now in Nova Scotia, not only the ones in Mabou, if they want agricultural representatives' services, those services will be provided to them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I haven't been at this long enough to read between the lines but I can read the lines. My final question to the Minister of Agriculture. Will you rip up this disastrous budget and go back to the table with Nova Scotia farmers?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as all Nova Scotians know, especially farmers, they desire to seek growth and opportunity in Nova Scotia, and for years have been talking about more programs in Nova Scotia. Well, we delivered more programs in Nova Scotia and we are prepared to discuss the industry implementation of the budget, at any time and that is occurring in Truro as we speak.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - BUDGET (2000-01) CUTS:

FIRE PROTECTION INADEQUATE - COMPENSATION

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Natural Resources. The minister knows that we have had several years of hot, dry summers and the indications are that this will continue. Last summer, over 1,425 more hectares were burned than the year before, and the minister also knows that the budget for fire protection services has been slashed and burned by $700,000. My question to the minister is, has the minister any plan to compensate woodlot and landowners for any losses caused by inadequate fire protection services?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I thank the honourable member and former Minister of Natural Resources for the question. All I can say to the honourable member is that last year in the member's defeated budget, when he was minister, there was $325,000 for fire protection; this year there is $550,000. So I would say our commitment is slightly stronger for fire protection.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I think if the honourable minister wants to dig further in the budget he will find out that there was a lot more money last year overall than we have this year.

Anyway, let me go to the minister again on my first supplementary. The minister knows that his department is committed to an interprovincial agreement administered by the Canadian Inter-Agency Forest Fire Centre, or the CIFFC. I understand that group is meeting in Halifax next month. This agreement depends on Nova Scotia providing a certain level of

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services to other provinces in times of need. We have also heard that Natural Resources is getting rid of their fixed-wing Piper Aztec airplane. Will the minister guarantee that Nova Scotia's commitment to the CIFFC will not be compromised by these budget cuts?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, a very good question that the honourable member poses. Certainly we will be honouring our commitment, and are honouring our commitments to agreements for interprovincial forest fire suppression.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that arson accounts for one-quarter of the forest fires in Nova Scotia. Can the minister explain how cutting the arson sniffing police dog will result in better protection for our forests?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member poses a very good question. Originally, the service was the sole provider through the Department of Natural Resources in Nova Scotia, but since that time regional police forces, RCMP, and civic forces have developed canine units. As a department, and as a government faced with a $600 million deficit, we looked for alternative service deliveries and ways to more efficiently deliver service. Certainly, other opportunities for enforcement with canines exist in this province, deliver that service, and we are prepared to allow them to exert their proper role and save the taxpayers of Nova Scotia those dollars.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

NAT. RES. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - SPECIALISTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Natural Resources. The Minister of Natural Resources is firing the province's only two Christmas tree specialists. These technicians give crucial technical, marketing, and export advice to producers across the province on a daily basis. Without access to these specialists, the industry believes many small growers will fail. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Natural Resources is attacking a successful multimillion dollar industry. Minister, what studies have you done to ensure the loss of these specialists won't hurt small Christmas tree producers?

[2:00 p.m.]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the Christmas tree industry in Nova Scotia is a vital one. As well, we are looking for opportunities to ensure that costs are kept under control and alternative service deliveries happen here in Nova Scotia. Again, there are two positions here, we are having ongoing discussions with the Christmas tree industry at supplying them funding to hire their own technicians to supervise the production and help with their expertise and priorities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 4180]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister, in place of these specialists, the minister is offering a paltry $50,000 grant to the Christmas Tree Council. The council itself has said that this plan cannot work. It is not enough money and it can't replace the access industry had to the specialist knowledge of these two technicians. I want to ask the minister why are you cutting off smaller growers from the resources they need to survive and prosper?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, the fact of the matter is that it would be the Christmas Tree Growers Association who had hired a specialist, not the individual Christmas tree producers. That block funding is being offered to them so they, as an association, may hire those individual technicians to continue the operation and the expertise that has contributed to that industry and will continue to make it a vibrant part and a growth part of the forest industry in Nova Scotia.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Proagri must do that too, Mr. Speaker. The bottom line is that this minister is going to put Christmas tree growers out of business for the sake of saving about $70,000. I want to ask the minister what studies he has done to indicate what the economic loss to Nova Scotia will be by removing these specialists?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the member is confused again. This is the same member who was in favour of putting money into the harness racing industry until the budget was announced. After he read the newspaper, he was against the harness racing industry. What kind of credibility do we have here?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

ECON. DEV. - ECON. STRATEGY: PAPER - RELEASE

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Economic Development. I would like to ask the minister if he could explain to the House, we are awaiting with great anticipation his economic strategy. In the meantime if you look at the budget documents, the government is predicting that unemployment will rise to 10.4 per cent from 9.6 per cent. Obviously, the government doesn't have much faith in its own plan, Mr. Speaker. I wonder if the minister could advise the house when he will be releasing his economic strategy paper?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. We have been working on the strategy for some time. It is in the final phase. In fact, we have had meetings within the department to see how it will roll out, and it will be happening within the next week or so.

[Page 4181]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to its receipt with bated breath. In the meantime, there are no enterprise zone tax credits in the budget presented by the Minister of Finance. There is absolutely no indication in the budget that I can see that this government is serious about alleviating unemployment which, in Cape Breton, is over 20 per cent, perhaps closer to 50 per cent, and the government is laying off 1,800 in education, 1,000 in health, and Lord knows how many more elsewhere. Why has the government abandoned economic development with no plan and with no vision for the future as part of its budgetary strategy?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we are concerned with economic development right straight across this province, being well aware of the issue in Cape Breton. It is not unique to Cape Breton. There are other areas in the province that also face chronic unemployment. So we are putting in place a strategy that will address that. In terms of what we will be doing specifically for Cape Breton, the issue of the $3 million contribution to the Devco fund, that is in place. We have had meetings and put in place a preliminary structure on how that money will be expended. I remind the member opposite, too, that the largest single employment announcement in Cape Breton in the last number of decades, 900 jobs, came about as a direct result of this government's involvement in that program. We are working for that.

MR. MACEWAN: I see he is lining up with Peter Mancini and Michelle Dockrill on that one. But in any event, the government is actually driving the economy into recession and, in some areas, into complete depression, as is revealed in the provincial budget tabled by the Minister of Finance. As people are losing jobs, fewer will be paying taxes, and the province will go deeper into deficit. I would like to ask that Minister of Economic Development, through you, Mr. Speaker, will his government recognize that a healthy economy should be their focus, and implement a tax credit strategy to increase employment in areas outside of metro Halifax?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as part of the economic development strategy, we will be reviewing those things that seem to work well. As this point in time, we are convinced, as is business, that the best approach is to reward success, and that is being done through the payroll rebate. In terms of how effective tax credits are in actually stimulating the economy, there is some question as to how well they do work. In some instances it has been verified that tax credits actually cost more to the government, in terms of what they do, than the actual benefits which accrue. Certainly there are opportunities, and we are looking at tax credits across the board, after the budget has been addressed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE: CORRECTIONAL CTRS. - CLOSURES

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we know that the Department of Justice is proposing to close a number of correctional centres around the province, but we have never heard an explanation of what the alleged benefits of these closures are. Take the Kings

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County Correctional Centre, for example. It is modern, it is in good shape, it has room for expansion; it is an ideal candidate for staying open and for expansion, if needed. Will the Minister of Justice tell us why he is determined to move jobs out of Kings County and into metro? Is this what his Party promised rural Nova Scotia?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the intention of the government is not to create jobs through correctional centres. The intention of the government with respect to correctional centres is to house inmates; that is the purpose of correctional centres, nothing else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about 25 seconds.

MR. EPSTEIN: Colchester County Correctional Centre, not much wrong with that facility either. Will the minister tell Tory voters in Truro why he is so confident of their votes, he thinks he can take them for granted?

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, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity, for a few moments this afternoon, to address the House on a various number of issues. Whenever I have the privilege to speak in the House, I always try to squeeze in a few words about my constituency of Victoria and the good people who have supported me over the years. Today will be no different.

[Page 4183]

I want to begin by giving a little bit of history about Victoria. We all know that the history of Victoria dates back to 1497, when the European expedition led by John Cabot landed on the northern tip of the county. The abundance of fish in the area brought fleets from many European countries in the early part of the 16th Century. To follow up on a debate that took place in the House just a short time ago, regarding the bill presented to the House by the honourable member for Dartmouth South, the North British Society Act - I think it was Bill No. 36 - I want to follow up with a little history, if I may, on the point that was brought to the floor by the member for Cape Breton West, who can go to a greater depth than I in history, probably, right across the province.

He made reference to the separation of Victoria County from the adjoining counties of Cape Breton. This was accomplished in 1851, Mr. Speaker, without much effort. The agitation such as it was for a division was confined principally to what was known at that time as Little and Big Baddeck and met with no opposition in any quarters. The representatives of the then United Counties introduced the measure which was entitled . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. I would ask the members to take their conversations outside. The honourable member for Victoria has the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, we go on, and as we learn from the Journals of the House that this bill was read a second time on Wednesday, February 19, 1851. It was ordered to be committed to the Committee of the Whole House on February 25th that same year. The Chairman reported from this committee that they had gone through the bill and it was to be reported to the House with no amendments. It was then ordered that the bill be engrossed, and on Saturday, March 22nd, it was read a third time. It was passed and sent to the council on Wednesday, April 2nd. A message came from the council stating that they had agreed to the bill. Finally, on April 7th, 1851, the Lieutenant Governor gave his assent to 15 bills, among them the ones whose progress we are outlining, thus, the bill to separate Victoria from the counties of Cape Breton then became law.

Mr. Speaker, it has been my honour and privilege to represent the people of Victoria for over eleven years. Since 1988, I have gone from Opposition to government, to Cabinet Minister and back to Opposition. Now, Mr. Speaker, during my time in government I must admit I considered it something like Noah's Ark, it is a bit better to be on the inside than the out. Now, I am not quite sure how the backbenchers would feel in this government if they would look at it from the same perspective because they would find themselves on a Noah's Ark without a captain or with a captain who doesn't know where he is going, and the crew members who could offer very little support. I would assume that their feeling would be, it is better to be on the inside. Where they are going, I am not quite sure.

[Page 4184]

Mr. Speaker, whatever side of the House I stand to speak from, my role here is to represent the people of Victoria to the best of my ability. I think I have done that, at least I have tried to do so, and I will continue to do it, regardless of where I sit in the House. That has not always been easy, but I am grateful for the help of various members of the community of which I serve. The people who work so hard to get me elected are the first ones to let me know when I am not doing as they would expect. They can tell me that I should try to do better. (Interruption) Thank you, Robert, I appreciate it.

Mr. Speaker, an individual who has been with me for a long time is my constituency assistant, Daria Beddow, who has offered to me over the number of years she has been with me, probably over seven years or so, a great deal of support, and I think any member who can count on their constituency assistant to do so much of our work, it is certainly a pleasure. It is great for me that I can count on that lady to be a shield and to handle and deal with so many constituency issues. I give her my full praise today.

Mr. Speaker, without the support of constituents, I know my job would be a lot more difficult. It is on their behalf that I am proud to point to the many accomplishments that we, as a Liberal Government prior to our defeat last summer, have achieved together with their support. There are a number of special mentions, but I will begin with the North Victoria Community Centre. This was a facility that has seen plenty of action over the years. It was built in northern Cape Breton in Cape North in the early 1980's and it served as a cross-country skiing venue when Cape Breton hosted the Canada Winter Games in 1987. Now it serves several hundred residents living north of Smokey and, indeed, just last year, we were happy to learn that the centre was successful in getting federal-provincial infrastructure funding.

That great infrastructure funding that was available to so many small communities prior to 1996, Mr. Speaker, was a tremendous boost to many areas of our province because to raise money in these small communities is very tough and the communities find it very difficult to raise money to support things like the community centre north of Smokey or in Cape North. This type of centre often serves as a focal point for the community and the community deserves a well-maintained facility. I would hope that somehow, some way or another, maybe in the years to come, or the days to come, that there may be a program whereby we can again come to the aid of the small community centres.

Mr. Speaker, we have the North of Smokey Economic Development Authority and this has been a great help and a boost to the area north of Smokey. They are always busy. They are presently conducting a study for the development of wilderness hiking trails in the system through the protected areas of northern Cape Breton because hiking is one of our favourite activities in the Highlands of Cape Breton. So any investment we can make to our trails, like our contribution to the Trans Canada Trail and others, is an investment in economic growth.

[Page 4185]

Along with hiking, visitors to Victoria County enjoy many of our outdoor activities - the sport of golf. Now, Mr. Speaker, I don't know if you are a golfer or not, but I know you are very familiar with the area of Baddeck and the Ingonish area. I don't have to tell you about the world-class golf courses we have and, of course, that is again thanks to the former Liberal Government for bringing the Baddeck area one of the premier golf destinations in North America. It is projects like this and the new clubhouse at the Highland Links Golf Course in Ingonish that adds so much to these rural communities. I know that there are many members in the House who would enjoy a good round of golf. So any time they have a few days, I think it is very appropriate for them to come to Baddeck and play Bell Bay, then move on to Ingonish and play Highland Links, and then on to Cheticamp and we can provide for them a great day of golfing.

AN HON. MEMBER: I will take you up on that one.

MR. MACASKILL: Good, good. Mr. Speaker, you have heard me raise the issue of Ski Cape Smokey on many occasions in the House. My love for that facility has been I think overflowing over the years that I have spent in this House. We have had some difficult years. We have had some years where the weatherman has not been favourable to us, but I still believe that if we could get that modern snowmaking equipment in place, we would not have to rely so much on snow. We have the cold weather and we have the ability to make snow and that operation would pay for itself. The impact of losing such a facility is astronomical because if you take that out of the area north of Smokey, it means job losses in hotels and lodges. Even the provincial resort there will notice the loss of the closure, if it should happen, to Ski Cape Smokey.

Another very pretty area in my riding, Mr. Speaker, is Pleasant Bay. The Pleasant Bay Development Association is also a small community group that works very hard. They have built a very nice ball field with the help of the provincial government and also the development of a whale interpretation centre. Mr. Speaker, this interpretive centre will be a great advantage to the area and in terms of tourism, it will add greatly to the Cabot Trail. I am glad this centre had some free publicity this past spring when it was discussed in the legislation. I want to thank my colleagues from my left, the New Democratic Party for raising this issue in the House in the last sitting.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of beautiful things to see in Victoria County, but I feel the thing we are most proud of is our culture. In May of last year, the Gaelic Council of Nova Scotia received a grant from the Department of Education and Culture and that was very well received. This funding was used to implement the first Gaelic Awareness Month, which is the month of May, and took place in May 1998. Another area we are very close to in my riding and is very close to my home is the famous Gaelic College. I know the Minister of Tourism, while he is not in the House, would also be a great supporter of that institution, as I believe he taught fiddling there two years ago or maybe later than that.

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I will be consulting with the Minister of Tourism who I know understands the importance of culture to our area and being our neighbour to the west, I am sure he will honour a commitment to raise awareness of the great culture we have in Victoria County. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being able to speak for a few minutes on the debate going into Supply. I want to take this opportunity, between the last session in the fall and the beginning of this session at the end of March, well, let me back up. I think it goes back even before that, during the election. I was going around door-to-door, talking to constituents, talking to voters, and there was particularly a lot of concern around education. I want to take a couple of minutes to describe my riding. My riding of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage is what would generally be considered a suburban riding with many young families. In fact, I think they make up the bulk of the riding. Many people with children in school, predominantly in what is the former Halifax County, but one area in the South Woodside area in what was the former City of Dartmouth. But, for the vast majority of people in my riding, education is the major issue. It is the one service particularly that they see from government on an ongoing basis and what government can do for them and should be doing for them.

It goes back to the old question. Do we make our province successful by slashing and burning, or do we do it through growing and investing? We have heard a lot about that today and since the budget was released. I am sure we will hear much more about it. But I want to take this to the level of my riding, Mr. Speaker, and talk a bit about one of the issues at that time that sort of reared its ugly head and that was the whole lunch fee issue and the lunch fees being imposed on families as a form of taxation quite frankly, they weren't happy to see and they opposed.

Based on that, I decided to start consultations in my riding with regard to education. It started in the fall when I met with principals of the various schools. For the record, I should just mention them. There is the South Woodside Elementary School, with Anna Marie Sarto who is the principal at that school. There are also many schools in the Eastern Passage area: the Ocean View Elementary School, with Mr. Cainen as the principal; Tallahassee Elementary School, with Mr. Gomes as the principal; and then obviously the new Seaside Senior Elementary with Mr. Fowly and the new Eastern Passage Education Centre with Gary Walker. I met with all of them. I also met with the two principals of the high schools, Mr. de la Mothe at Cole Harbour District High School and Mr. Buck at Auburn Drive High School and also with the principals of the schools in the Cole Harbour area, both at Colby Village Elementary with Mr. Crosby, Astral Drive Elementary and at that time with the principal off on leave, it was the vice-principal, Ms. Coady with regard . . .

[Page 4187]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: I wonder if the member opposite would entertain a question. I appreciate the member's indulgence. Would the honourable member please tell this House what kind of impact would picking up all the tuition costs for Nova Scotia university students and community college students have on the education budget, or would it be his wish to add that number to the deficit? If he could give us a number and I thank the honourable member for indulging me.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be distracted by rabbit tracks. If the member is interested, he can always check out my web page: deveaux2000.org and he can have an opportunity to look at how I detail the plan with regard to that.

Getting back to my riding, there are two other schools I forgot to mention. The Caldwell Road Elementary; and then Astral Drive Junior High School, with Mr. Allaway as the principal of the junior high school. I had an opportunity to meet with them, the parent-teacher organizations and for purposes of Woodside, it would have been the home and school. I was glad to have an opportunity to meet with all them and get a sense of some of the issues concerning them.

Then, I had some town halls in January and particularly in February where we had over 120 people attend. People actually try to attempt to have town hall meetings, we know how difficult it is sometimes to have people attend. That was in three locations: Cole Harbour, Eastern Passage and Woodside. I thought it was important to gauge the issues that were affecting and concerning parents and teachers and members of the school board and students with regard to education in our community.

Let me start first of all, Mr. Speaker, with Cole Harbour and talk a bit about some of the issues that they wanted addressed and I thought important to put on the record. First amongst them was class size and overcrowding - I will put those two issues together. The Colby Village-Willowdale area of Cole Harbour is an area that is growing quite quickly. It is an area that has a lot of young children at the elementary level. It is an area that is in desperate need. It has the largest junior high school, I believe, in Nova Scotia, if not the largest, one of the largest, in Astral Drive Junior High School with 650 students. They have to eat lunch in shifts and it is a school and an area where clearly the crowding at the elementary level, Astral Drive Elementary School for one, there are portables being used and there is clearly a concern with overcrowding and with class sizes. I would have liked to have been able to tell them, based on this budget, that there were some issues that maybe could have been addressed; unfortunately, I don't think that is going to be the case, but it still is something that is growing in concern for them and I am sure that after last Tuesday, will continue to grow.

[Page 4188]

They also identified some other issues, both violence and drugs in the schools and how that can be addressed. There was a lot of discussion about changes in the school system, peer mediation and how it does help, but the fact is that there are still a lot of concerns and a lot of fear about violence and drugs in schools.

Finally, in the Cole Harbour area, there are a lot of issues around funding of the school system which, of course, has become a much more important issue. It was almost prophetic of them at the time to raise these issues, now they begin to see that there are still issues of concern and they really aren't being addressed. At that time, it centred around supplementary funding and the need for the former county to have the funding necessary to be able to have the quality of education that is found in the former cities of Dartmouth and Halifax. I think we can now extend that to the funding issues with regard to the province's commitment to the schools and how that will be affected.

With regard to Eastern Passage, the number one issue in that area is the need for a new high school. Those kids - there are currently 450 or so, and in a few years it will probably be up to 600 - are being bussed, probably about 20 minutes per day, out into the Cole Harbour area, and that is a real concern for the community. Eastern Passage is a close-knit community, it is a community that . . .

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member is in competition with some conversation outside the Chamber, but he also seems to be in competition with some in the Chamber. I just wonder if you would turn those personal conversations down just a little. (Applause)

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So the key issue in Eastern Passage, being a close-knit community, being a community of almost 10,000 people, it doesn't even have its own high school, it is forced to bus its students outside of the community. It is something that I feel, as the MLA for the area, must be dealt with on two levels. One is, of course, dealing with the local school board and the Department of Education, encouraging them and lobbying them to attempt to address that, but also at a local level I believe it is important for an MLA to take a proactive role, and I have started to do that. Subsequent to the meetings, the town hall, we have had a meeting of a group that is going to be struck to begin to do the work, the research, the promotion of a high school for the Eastern Passage area.

I am aware that there are other areas in the Halifax Regional Municipality that need high schools but, quite frankly, if we are to be proactive, if we are to see a community like Eastern Passage continue to grow, a high school is a necessity. I hope we can continue to work on that, not for next year, but for four or five years down the road. Hopefully we can begin to be a little more proactive in addressing issues of overcrowding in our schools through some proactive work.

[Page 4189]

Some of the other issues raised in the Eastern Passage town hall included technology in the schools and how that is being used, how sometimes it is being seen as a replacement for a teacher, not an aid in the classroom, and that is crucial. I think a lot of the parents and students there felt that technology cannot replace a teacher, but what it can do is help in the education of students. We must realize that fine line and the difference between the two.

One of the neat little issues that was raised by some of the students at that town hall was the issue of school uniforms. They were actually quite interested in experimenting with it, and I thought that was quite informative. I don't know if it is indicative of all the students in the school, or in Nova Scotia, or even in the regional municipality, but at least it shows that the students themselves have their own opinions about some of the benefits that can be gained from such a project.

Finally, funding was a major issue in Eastern Passage, with supplementary funding being the key there but again, subsequent to this budget, I would suggest it has become a bigger issue with regard to provincial funding as well.

Mr. Speaker, just to conclude, with regard to the last community where we held a town hall meeting, that was in Woodside, Imperial Oil area, and was very interesting. It is a very different community than the other two. It is one that has different challenges. Again, it has supplementary funding from the former City of Dartmouth, so it is able to have some resources for the students there who have the needs that they do. It is a smaller school, and its concern is ensuring that the school stays open, because it is a long bus ride for the young kids if they do have to close it; and its concern is for sufficient resources, whether it be speech therapists, social workers, resource teachers, librarians, who are there to ensure that they are able to gain enough skills to be able to compete when they move on to Prince Arthur Junior High School.

One of the things that I particularly raised with them, and hope to begin to have meetings on, is the issue of inner-city school status. I personally believe, quite frankly, that any school in this province that wants a four-plus program should be provided with the facilities to do it. Why? Because if we are talking about growing and investing, if we are talking about investing in our children, it starts at a younger and younger age. Between the ages of zero and five, there are a lot of problems that can be addressed if the government has an Early Childhood Intervention Program.

This isn't spending, this isn't wasting money, this is investing in our children. Why? Because the money invested then pays off in spades later on. It is a lot less money spent on jails, on assistance, on adult education, and on health care, that are much more demanding if a person doesn't have the tools early on, so some think a four-plus program will go a long way. Currently, I think it is in four or five schools in the regional municipality.

[Page 4190]

Even if it is just kept to the regional municipality, I would suggest that the South Woodside School is the perfect candidate for this kind of program, given the socio-economic background of the people in that community. I would hope that it is something that would be particularly considered, either by the regional municipality, the school board or the Department of Education. I would like to see a four-plus program extended and other inner-city school assistance for the community. They deserve it, and I am hoping to work with them to fight that battle.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, those town hall meetings were effective for one very good reason: it allowed me to listen to the constituents in my riding about an issue that is a very big concern to them, education. It is very timely now, with the budget debate, that I have an opportunity to discuss a little further their concerns, whether it be funding, whether it be overcrowding, whether it be too-large class sizes, whether it be violence in the schools, whether it be inner-city school status for some areas, or whether it be a new high school. All those issues revolve around communities and their education system and the need for them to feel comfortable that their children are getting the best education possible.

Mr. Speaker, I would hope we will have more time to debate this, but this budget clearly doesn't do what many of us would like, which is grow and invest our economy and our social structure, and that includes investing in our children so that we are better able to have people later on who can get high-skilled jobs and stay here in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak about two very important projects that are underway, or soon to be underway, in the community of Sackville. The projects I speak about are the Sackville Sports Stadium and the soon to be new Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, for the community of Sackville and the surrounding communities.

I would like to begin to talk about the Sackville Sports Stadium. For the members here in the House and those who may be watching at home, the Sackville Sports Stadium was built 10 years ago and includes a pool, a fitness centre, an arena, a meeting and concession area, and is currently under a massive expansion.

Mr. Speaker, the Board of Directors of Lake District Recreation Association have undertaken an expansion to that facility of 40,000 square feet. This expansion, when completed, will include an expanded lifestyle centre; a lounge and restaurant; an enlarged fitness centre; a six-sheet curling rink; an expanded parking facility along with a number of other associated uses. This 44,000 square foot addition to the Sackville Sports Stadium will go a long way to help the volunteer board of directors to meet their objective of operating on a completely balanced budget.

[Page 4191]

Mr. Speaker, the Board of Directors of the Lake District Recreation Association have been operating recreational facilities in the community of Sackville for in excess of 20 years. The board of directors have, on their own, raised millions of dollars towards these facilities. They own and operate the Sackville Arena, the Sackville Sports Stadium, the Sackville Leisure Centre, a canoe club, and a host of other small recreational facilities throughout Sackville. They are a complete non-profit volunteer board of directors who volunteer their time and efforts to raise money so that the recreational needs of the community of Sackville can be met and achieved.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize a particular group of people who have worked hard for the community of Sackville in this expansion plan. The Lake District Recreation Association of Sackville has set a goal of raising $1.5 million toward the expansion of this facility. Now, six weeks into their campaign, they have already reached the $800,000 mark. That is certainly worth noting in and of itself. A lot of the reason why they have been so successful and why the community has rallied behind them, why we believe this board of directors will complete their goal and meet their target achievement, is the group of people they have combined together to help them raise this badly needed money so they can expand this facility without any additional cost to taxpayers.

I would like to take a minute read the names of the individuals who are working hard and tirelessly on behalf of the community of Sackville. Mr. Speaker, there's Gary Anderson; John Ballam; Bob Bissett; a vice-president of the Bank of Montreal; Grant Black; Jim Brookbank; John Byrne; Scott Cahill, the owners of a Tim Hortons franchise; Bruce Clark; Dale Clattenburg, a local teacher; Yvonne Colbert, we all know who she is; Jack Dehmel; John Doyle and George Ferguson. The chairman of the group is Fred Gallop; Bill Hatcher who happens to be the Halifax Regional Municipality's Volunteer of the Year this year; George Hoskins, a local business person; Denis Huck who works for the Halifax Regional Municipality in the Sports and Recreation Department; Kara Innes; Dave Ivany; Linda Johnston; Julie Wysocki; John Keizer; Ann Louis Kerr; Betty Lou Killen who is the managing director of the facility; Diane Levandier who is a staff person; Ian MacLaine; Anne McDade; Gordon Morgan, a long-time and hardworking community volunteer who works hard, puts in a great deal of effort, not only at Lake District Recreation, but in a whole host of things, including Canada Day. He is just a tireless volunteer who works full-time volunteering for the community of Sackville. There is Charles Nauss; Moe Nickerson; Don Oram and Phil Otto.

There is Chris Power. Chris Power is actually the campaign chair, Mr. Speaker, and he is the CEO of Farmers Dairy. Chris Power is a good person from Sackville who works hard for his community, who understands the needs of the community of Sackville; he, along with the support of his company, has done a great job in raising money. There is Ron Mayhew who operates Sportwheels in Sackville which is a landmark sport and bicycle shop.

[Page 4192]

There is Glen Slauenwhite, Mr. Speaker. Glen Slauenwhite is the President of the Lake District Recreation Association who has been involved in the community for 60-some years. He has shown outstanding leadership and commitment to his community and works hard in spite of some recent illnesses. This gentleman has done a great job, a fantastic job for the people in his community. There is also Chad Winters and there is Shawn Hines. These are just a group of 40 volunteers, Mr. Speaker, who have worked hard and made substantial commitments to the contribution.

In addition to the commitments made by the people who work and live in our community, the staff at the facility has as well made contributions. In fact, the fund-raising team challenged the staff to dig deep into their own pockets, to look at their own ways that they can raise money, and they asked them to see if they can come up with a $20,000 contribution towards this project. In fact, after just a few weeks they have exceeded that. They are now at $23,000 and they are building.

Mr. Speaker, I have a list of other generous donations that have been gathered to support this particular project. It is really an outstanding list. The Board of Directors of Lake District Recreation Association have fund-raised on their own over the past number of weeks and months and made a contribution towards this project of $150,000. The project also received funding of $100,000 from the Sackville Landfill Compensation Fund towards this worthwhile project. The Kinsmen Club of Sackville has gone out and fund-raised. They have helped to raise funds for a number of projects throughout the community, including ice-cleaning machines, and the list goes on and on, but they have contributed $75,000 towards this project.

Mr. Speaker, amazing, there a number of anonymous gifts from corporations. One corporation not wishing to be named donated $65,000 towards this project. Another one not wishing to be named donated $60,000 and a third one donated $30,000. The Sackville Golf Course, which has operated a par three golf course in my home community of Middle Sackville for a number of years, a small business that works hard to provide employment for the community, has also come through with a very generous donation of $30,000; Mighty Muffler, $20,000.

Scooters Hockey Club, which is an old-timers hockey club, they have had a club in Sackville for 20-some years, I am not involved, I don't qualify, Mr. Speaker, it is 40 and over. I am not old enough yet, but I am sure you, as a Deputy Speaker, would qualify for that.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are getting there.

MR. BARNET: I am getting there. At some point in time they might be generous enough to recognize my skill and age contribution but, Mr. Speaker, hockey clubs have a hard time raising money to meet their own obligations, but this club has donated $20,000. They have gone out and raised the money and made that contribution towards this project.

[Page 4193]

Mr. Speaker, Ballam/Able Insurance, a local insurance agent, has donated $10,000. We have an anonymous personal donation, a gentleman from the community of Sackville has reached into his pocket and donated $10,000. This is an amazing thing. Quite frankly, it is a little bit hard to understand. People are really getting behind this particular project to come in and, for no gain, to reach in their pocket, grab $10,000, and put it on the table and say we believe in your project, that is absolutely wonderful.

Mr. Speaker, two major banks have each pledged $15,000. I am sure it is the hope and the desire of the group to see if all the major banks could make such a contribution and it would go a long way to help them reach their goal.

[2:45 p.m.]

I spoke about Ron Mayhew who is the operator of Sportswheels, he is on the Board of Directors, not only did he volunteer his time but he also gave his money - $5,000. I spoke about another businessman, Mr. Hoskins, he owns a refrigeration company, another $5,000.

The staff that work there, the people who are the part-time workers and the full-time workers reached into their own pockets and they have raised and/or contributed amongst themselves $23,000. They set a goal of $20,000, they are now $3,000 above that goal. They have a number of months to go before they have to finish their campaign and I think they are well on their way.

This project speaks a great deal about the community spirit, the commitment the people of Sackville have to each other. This project will go a long way to benefit not just the residents of Sackville but Beaver Bank as well. It will benefit the residents of Hammonds Plains and Lucasville, the residents of Kinsac, Bedford, Fall River, Waverley, even Timberlea and Tantallon. There are people who use that facility from all over metro, people who have an opportunity during their lunch hours to play shinny hockey there, people who use it for fitness and eventually will use it for curling and a whole host of other initiatives.

It is clear to see that the board of directors and the fund-raising committee have done a great deal of effort and work and made a great contribution towards this campaign and I am sure that members of this House would go a long way to thanking them for what they have done.

The fund-raising goal, as I stated earlier, was $1.5 million. Even before the official launch of the fund-raising campaign, they had collected and gathered some $800,000. This speaks a lot about the contributions the people of this community have toward this project. It is my belief that the project will go a long way to improving the life and the well-being of people in Sackville and Beaver Bank, the surrounding communities. The fund-raising committee has made an application to the Sport and Recreation Commission, it is my hope and expectation that they will be successful - time will tell. The budget is before us and

[Page 4194]

hopefully, we will see that this project receives its due consideration along with a host of other projects that are being put forward by other communities.

This facility certainly speaks for itself. The commitment the community has to this facility speaks for itself and the contribution that it will go to the well-being and the health and the lifestyle of the people of Sackville certainly will be something that will be far-reaching and long-lasting, well into the future that will affect positively the people of this community for a long time.

I spoke earlier of two facilities. The second one that I would like to take a little bit of time and talk about is the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre. For those of you who aren't aware of what the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre is, it is a multi-service government facility where people in the community of Sackville can receive emergency health care, diagnostic tests for health services, counselling, physiotherapy, work with the social services department that is located in that facility; it is a multi-government type of facility that looks after the social and health needs and the community needs of the people of Sackville.

This facility is an added-on, retrofitted former liquor store that has served this community well over the past 20 years, but has outstretched its useful life. The Cobequid Multi-Service Centre Foundation, along with the Department of Health and the other partners have realized that the four walls and the location of this facility don't lead well to an emergency health care facility, they don't lead well to the clients that it serves and now is the appropriate time to take that facility, to expand that facility and to look at the future of the community.

In the 20 years since that facility has been operating, the community of Sackville and surrounding communities have grown double in size and the clientele that is served in that particular centre is a clientele that has continually expanded year after year. It was pleasing, Mr. Speaker, to hear during budget discussions here earlier today, that the Minister of Health has made a substantial commitment towards this new project. There is budget funding for $2.5 million, which is a share of the cost toward this facility. I don't have enough time to talk about the board of directors and the foundation members who have worked so tirelessly, but I would like to point out two members, that is, Mr. Tony Benson who is a tireless care worker for health care. He has done a great job, a yeoman's service in the communities of Sackville and Beaver Bank, and, as well, Mr. Paul Benoit, who is heading up the fund-raising. I am out of time? Thank you, very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West has approximately two minutes. Pardon me, Cape Breton Nova, I apologize.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: It would be a privilege to represent Cape Breton West, but right now I represent Cape Breton Nova. In any event, Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words in what time might remain concerning this government's most unfortunate attitude

[Page 4195]

towards agriculture. Now we heard about the events of the election on Prince Edward Island last night, and traditionally in Prince Edward Island, the Minister of Agriculture was the most important member of the Cabinet because agriculture was the most important industry on the island. In Nova Scotia, agriculture is also an important industry, and I think the agricultural sector of the community ought to be entitled to a great deal of respect. Goodness knows, we are all very much dependent on their output daily. We pray at the beginning of the session, give us this day our daily bread. Well it is the farmer who provides that daily bread along with the baker and all those other hands the product the farm passes through before it reaches the table.

It seems to me this government has adopted a very cavalier attitude. We have some members of this caucus here who have some interests in agriculture, and we are very proud of the achievements of those particular individuals. We have a member, for example, who has a very successful poultry raising operation. I think, Mr. Speaker, we should be proud of that operation. Those perhaps who aren't too familiar with it ought to go and visit it and see for themselves the very scientific application and practice that takes place there. Goodness sakes, I have never really seen such a computerized, technological, scientific and clearly thought-out operation in the field of agriculture anywhere else, as that particular operation. Yet, it seems to have become a topic of mirth and of all people, to the Minister of Agriculture. We notice also that this government is closing down all kinds of services in the field of agriculture. They are closing down operations that even their own members are required to revolt in order to protect and to save.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:53 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Wayne Gaudet in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption, and as was indicated earlier there was a draw for a debate on the Adjournment motion. The draw was won by the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

[Page 4196]

EDUC. - CUTS: STUDENTS - DISADVANTAGE

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the submission that won the draw this evening reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that 1,800 teaching and support jobs lost from our schools will leave Nova Scotia students at an education disadvantage."

A rather obvious statement - a statement that reflects great concern. We have seen expressions of concern here this afternoon and a frustration, because it is a very emotional situation where you have a government, that in a headstrong and obstinate way, insists that all is well, while the evidence all around them is to the contrary and where our education system is what is lying in the balance.

The fact that the Minister of Education saw fit this afternoon to divest herself of a ministerial statement of attempted clarification and back-pedalling suggests to me very strongly that the government itself feels the heat of what they have done, of what they have brought on themselves, because they inherited an education system that was intact. The previous government, the Russell MacLellan Government had the most ambitious school construction program in the history of Nova Scotia well underway, and it would be continuing uninterrupted to this day were that government still in office. But thanks to the NDP, they saw to it that another government was installed, and look what they are doing. Look what they are doing.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education insists there is nothing to worry about, that all is safe and sound, and that all these claims that teachers are going to lose their jobs, and there is going to be reductions in classroom services and so forth, is all Opposition propaganda, just a smokescreen, it is not real, and if people would just bear with her, she will get it all sorted out and will be right back to where it used to be. Well, to believe that, you have to believe that the administration staff and the school boards of this province, all of them, are utterly incompetent, utterly deluded, and totally wrong in the information they are making public.

I have here an extract from the front page of the Cape Breton Post, April 13th, Cuts called a disaster, school superintendent warns of major lay-offs is the headline. Underneath that it goes on to report that the superintendent, the chief educational officer of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board reports that a $6 million loss in the budget of his system, inflicted on him by this government opposite, is going to result in the loss of 220 employees by September. Is that man incompetent and unfit to hold his position? Is that man unqualified for the office that he holds, that he has been appointed to by the school board? Until now that wasn't believed to be the case. The man holds a doctorate in the field of education and is a long-time experienced professional school administrator. Is he insane that he is imagining these things? I think not, but that is only one district school board.

[Page 4197]

I have here another bulletin I got from the Strait Regional School Board, news release, budget bulletin: Strait Board hit with large education funding reduction, largest in the province it claims. Largest in the province. It goes on to outline at great length how the cuts imposed by this government on that particular school board are going to result in a terrible wrecking of the education system they have set up there.

Then you go through the various other school boards in the province, their administration, their management states, in the Annapolis Valley, 140 jobs are to be lost. In the Conseil Scolaire, 16; Chignecto-Central, 70; Halifax Regional, 264; Southwest Regional, between 110 and 120; jobs total 760 teachers just gone, like that. The Minister of Education comes in here this afternoon with some flimflammery saying, that is not really so because we have these nice alternative options that will cut it down to just the loss of 400 teaching positions. For example, a teacher could work part time for two years, while continuing full-time pension contributions to protect the future, My, my, my, is that what they have to offer our senior teachers? Is that the way in which they want to end their careers? Two years of part-time work with part-time pay, to pay bills that remain at their full level? That's option A.

Option B is that the teacher could work part time and then face a reduced pension. Whoopee, Mr. Speaker, I am sure those people who are going to have their pensions taken away from them and have them live on a reduced level of pension income for the rest of their lives, I am sure they are going to be strongly motivated to want to go out and work to re-elect this government in the next provincial election.

A third option provides teachers 50 and over the opportunity to retire with a pension adjustment. My, how nice. That is a reduced pension of course, it doesn't mean an enhanced pension, it means less money in your retiring years. Go out to pasture and spend 80 cent dollars or 65 cent dollars or whatever. That is their idea of how to fix the education system in the province. There wasn't a hint of any of these plans on their way to office, in their flaunted blue book or in any of their election advertising and appeals for votes, there was certainly nothing of the kind, even hinted at, even suggested as a possibility should they come to office. No, they were going to put education first. To achieve that, they were going to close Sydney Steel, I think.

In any event, they were going to put education first. They were going to see to it that the system they had inherited from past governments was going to be preserved, maintained and enhanced. Mr. Speaker, what a sad contrast with past Tory Governments in Nova Scotia. The Government of Robert Stanfield put education first and foremost, and that was largely why it was so successful over a term of 14 years with being re-elected to office four times. In the Stanfield years, the education system in this province was greatly enhanced, greatly improved, greatly expanded. Stanfield put more emphasis on education than on anything else, including industrial development.

[Page 4198]

Now these people have turned that approach completely upside down and they are out to wreck, destroy and sabotage the education system of this province as a matter of government policy. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we in the Opposition can't condone that. I don't know if we can prevent it. We could if I think three or four of their ranks were to defect or to resign, then that government could be overthrown and possibly (Interruption) Yes, indeed overthrown, they laugh at the suggestion. My, what arrogance. It certainly happened to the NDP Government in the Yukon last night. They were overthrown. They were turfed out and replaced. It can happen to that government, too, and it will happen because they will be held accountable by the people of Nova Scotia.

I think most citizens in this province want to see our education system protected above all else. They want to see our government protect the education system above all else. They are not that concerned with matters of public finance. They expect the government can and will raise the necessary money to cover the bills. I am speaking here from the point of view of the average citizen, the person on the street. They want a balanced budget for their own pocket, certainly, but they are not particularly concerned about that with reference to the government.

In all my 30 years in public office, I never once had somebody stop me on the street and say, I want a balanced budget. Never once. Certainly many have said they want to see our education system protected and enhanced. Are you signalling my time is up?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, honourable member, you have about 15 seconds.

MR. MACEWAN: Well that is certainly 15 seconds too few to embellish the next idea I was going to advance, but I will have another opportunity, Mr. Speaker, at a future time. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate, and I have received the phone calls that other people have received and I think it is quite bothersome in many states, but I think the problem that we have to recognize tonight is that this debate is about numbers. There are some numbers that are very clear. Despite all of Nova Scotia's financial pressures, we have increased overall spending to education this year, a fact that seems to be lost on many people. Even in public education, we have maintained total spending.

The money the school boards have available for operations is going down just 2.3 per cent - those are the numbers, Mr. Speaker. We would like to provide increases in all areas, of course. Unfortunately, this province simply is not in the financial situation to do so. So what are we obliged to do? Look for opportunities to make reductions where it is reasonable

[Page 4199]

to do so. Where the reductions are manageable. We think a reduction of less than 2.5 per cent in school board operations is reasonable.

The problem is, instead of looking for creative ways to make this reduction, this debate has turned into a numbers game. The boards have to make the effort. They have not made the effort yet, they have to learn to make the effort. Their first response is not good enough. Why suddenly are class sizes going to double? That is increased by 50 per cent when we are talking about a reduction of 2.35 per cent. This has become a great game for people who want to waste the classroom time by artificially filling it with 50 students when the numbers simply don't support that - now or in the scenario we propose.

The facts show that this reduction is reasonable and is manageable. The average class size at elementary school is 23.4 students; junior high is 25.9 and senior high is 23. To reduce by 400 teachers and maintain P-6 at the present level, junior and senior average classes would have to increase by an average of 2 students per class. Right now, 51 per cent of high school classes have between 21 and 30 students. Mr. Speaker, 35 per cent of classes are smaller than 21 students and the remaining 14 per cent have 31 or more. We think the reductions we are asking school boards to make are reasonable. School boards now have options within their budgets that should prevent lay-offs for teachers and ensure a reduction of no more than 400 teaching positions province wide.

Let us look at the history of the largest school board and then come to our own conclusion about a serious effort at cost reduction. The Supplementary Detail of Expenditure 1997-98, salaries and wages, the budgeted amount of salaries and wages in 1998 was $3.6 million; the actual amount spent was $4.2 million. That is really careful budgeting, I think that is about $600,000 more than what they budgeted for. Hard to believe. If a private sector company did that, they would be out of business.

Property services, salaries and wages, the budgeted amount was $13.1 million, the actual spent was $13.6 million. There is another half million dollars, Mr. Speaker. In 1999, while in 1998, the actual board management salaries and wages was $4.2 million and they budgeted, as a result, they said well, we can't spend that much, so let's only budget $3.8 million. Well, they spent $4.8 million, $1 million over budget in 1999. At the same time, they knocked $100,000 off the library, and I can't believe it, they knocked $600,000 off guidance. Library and guidance are eyeball to eyeball education issues. It is amazing they can increase the budget and administration's salaries and wages by $1 million and not take into consideration the library and the guidance. That is what we are looking at. These options allow teachers more flexibility, the options that are being provided - to retire early or work part-time. We think these options are progressive and good for teachers and good for education.

[Page 4200]

Mr. Speaker, we expect the options now on the table will appeal to hundreds of teachers. Once school boards reduce beyond the limit of 400 teaching positions, they can hire new teachers at less cost to the system. More significantly and more importantly, these teachers will bring new ideas and energy to our classrooms to mix with the experience and dedication of our teachers now there.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I can't believe that individuals in the education system had the unmitigated gall to walk out of meetings where they might learn how to manage their budgets better. Instead, they are off to plan stunts and send out flyers on class sizes rising to 50. The numbers simply don't support that. The problem is, they simply don't want to see any positions reduced, positions in administration and other non-classroom situations.

The point is, is it possible to make some strategic reductions in budgets without having a dramatic effect in the classroom? I say, yes it is. There are options for doing that and they are in the hands of the school boards now. We think they have a responsibility to consider them, not take the ball and go home. Every other government funded organization has got the financial message. When are the school boards going to get it? The fact is, the union would rather not; as usual, they want more money and that is the only response that will make them happy.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, ask the classroom teacher where he or she would redirect funds and you will then start to get constructive reorganization within the education system. (Interruption) Exactly.

Mr. Speaker, I go back to the budget for property and services when we are talking about why we have concern and why we believe that the school boards are not making the effort. Under property services, salaries and wages, for 1998, they spent $13.6 million. In 1999, they budgeted $13.2 million, not bad. They knew they had to save some money. Unfortunately, they jacked that up by $1 million and spent $14.1 million on salaries and wages. On supplies and materials, in 1998, they had an actual expenditure of $3.4 million. They thought, we had better cut that back in 1999. So they cut it back to $3.2 million. Unfortunately, they added, I think, about $900,000 and spent $4.1 million. These are not eyeball to eyeball classroom expenses. These are salaries and wages at the administration level of the school boards. These are positions that are not teaching kids. They are positions that are teaching typewriters and desks how to walk back and forth and push their chairs around the offices.

What we are making them do and want them to do and will force them to do, through intelligent discussion, showing them, Mr. Speaker, the errors of their ways because it is in writing. We must make it very clear to the school boards that we are not going to stand by

[Page 4201]

and let the classrooms suffer, while the administration does so well at the expense of the taxpayer and the students. How much time do I have?

MR. SPEAKER: Approximately, one and one-half minute, honourable member.

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased. (Interruption) I am glad the honourable member is interested because, under salaries and wages and special education, the actual for 1998 was $18.9 million and the budget was set at $23.8 million and they spent $25 million. It is just incredible. Community collaboration and partnerships - this is one I really love, because, with the exception of the foreign students, none of this money is going into the classroom. In 1998, the actual was $2.4 million. They budgeted $1.5 million in 1999 but, with salaries and wages, they spent $2.5 million, another $1 million.

Mr. Speaker, we just came up with $8 million over expenditure in salaries and wages in the school board of HRM. I would suggest there is some room for some movement. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as we sit here tonight and debate this resolution, meetings are happening around Nova Scotia and decisions are being taken. These decisions are agonizing decisions. These decisions are about whether or not somebody's child who needs help with their math is going to get it; these decisions are about someone's child who is coming to school who is troubled is not going to be noticed; these decisions are about somebody's child who thinks they are not good at anything, but they are good at art or music. They are not going to be good at anything anymore because they are not going to have those opportunities. So that is what is happening tonight in this province. This is not a matter for attacking the school boards. (Interruption)

The honourable member on the other side likes to puff himself up and strut around like some sort of a peacock, spouting figures. Well, you know, there are lots of things we can say about education in Nova Scotia. According to Stats Canada, in 1993-94, total public expenditures in Nova Scotia were the third lowest in Canada per student. That was followed by four years of cuts to school boards, totalling more than $180 million. By 1997-98, Nova Scotia had dropped, and we were the second lowest expenditure, from P to Grade 12 student expenditure. Now, with the current situation in this government, we have the distinction of being the last province in the country, per pupil expenditure. That is not something to strut around and crow about, with all due respect, Mr. Speaker. Shame on that member.

Now, since 1997-98, the provincial government in this province has started to put funds back into the school system, but school boards are still $80 million short because of the cuts. Last year the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group, in their 1999 report, said that they required $106 million to bring the school system back to where it should be, and they got

[Page 4202]

slightly less than half that amount. Now this government has the audacity, the unmitigated gall, to lay blame at the feet of the hard-working school board members across this province who have worked their hearts out to try to deal with horrendous education cuts, restructuring, and instability in the system. What kind of respect do they get for the work they have done? They get this kind of respect - no respect - they get beaten up on the floor of the Legislature by a member. That is an outrage, an absolute outrage and we shouldn't stand for it.

Now let's be clear about the importance of education in this province. I would like to ask members, how is cutting education, which will contribute to illiteracy and drop-out, fiscally responsible? You tell me. How is contributing to worsening education outcomes for our kids contributing to fiscal responsibility? This is fiscal irresponsibility.

Let me tell you a sad story. I was leaving my constituency office one evening last week, and there is an amateur boxing club in the building my constituency office is in. I observed these two young men coming out of that club. One young man turned to the other and said that one good thing about jail is that you can get an education when you are there. Now that is a sorry comment on the state of education in this province if young people have to say that they can get more access to education in the Correctional Service than they can in the school system.

We will not stand for this and neither will the people of Nova Scotia. What we require, Mr. Speaker, is a different climate in this province, one that doesn't attack teachers; one that doesn't attack volunteers; one that doesn't attack school board members and parents. We need a climate where people are prepared to sit down and talk and work out the problems that exist. We need a process that is responsible, respectful, sensible. What this government is doing was not necessary at all. They like to talk about the deficit. They inflated the deficit purposely so that they could go forward and they could cut programs. They want to attack program spending as the source.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, on a per capita basis, Nova Scotia's program spending has been consistently the second lowest among all provinces, well below the average of all other provinces. What we need is a different framework for managing our debt and deficit, one that ensures there will be no social deficits. One that makes sure that social deficits are kept under control so that program cuts are not imposed on people and in areas where they can least afford to be put. One where we protect public services and our quality of life that makes Nova Scotia the desirable place it is to live, to work and to invest.

Attacking education will have the opposite effect, Mr. Speaker. It will create a situation where this province will be unattractive for people to come and to invest in this province because people want a high quality education system. Now they are going to look at this province as some kind of a backwater place. We are tonight going to see a situation where in various school boards around the province their options are being laid out. Right here in

[Page 4203]

the Halifax Regional School Board, they are looking at laying off 486 people. Notices are being issued to teachers before May 15th in one school board alone because of their irresponsible cuts.

We will be seeing situations like the following. These are the options that are being discussed right now over in Dartmouth, at the school board. Elementary classes, we are looking at elementary classes with on average 28 students. A loss of 78 classroom positions; a loss of 10 specialist positions; a loss of 30 resource positions; a loss of seven vice-principal positions; less student service support; elimination of Grade 6 instrumental music; elimination of elective options. Let's talk about junior high students. We are looking at a class average in junior high of 32 students. (Interruptions) A loss of 77 classroom positions; a loss of 60 specialist positions.

I think that the member for Dartmouth South who made his attack - on behalf of the government - on the school boards obviously has no idea what is involved in operating a school board. He has no idea of what is involved in teaching in a classroom. He has no idea what it must be like to be a parent with a child who has a special need, who really requires the support. But I can tell you, on that side of the House, there are a number of teachers. There are lots of parents on that side of the House and it is hard to believe that today these members stood and cheered when the Minister of Education maintained her position of cuts to education.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for the Adjournment debate has expired.

The House will now reconvene into the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[6:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

[7:24 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened with Deputy Speaker Mr. Kevin Deveaux in the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made some progress in considering Supply and asks leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4204]

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. 43.

Bill No. 43 - Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, Petroleum Resources Act and Pipeline Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, last evening I began my remarks; I am sure that everybody remembers every word that I said and certainly (Interruptions) the members opposite say that they have their notes so maybe I should have a test and ask them some questions to see how well the lesson went and to see if they can remember what I said so that I would not have to repeat it. Of course, this government isn't all that friendly towards education so I would really wonder whether or not they were good students and listened. I will try not to trespass too much by repeating some of my comments of last night, at least no more than is necessary in order to make my point this evening.

Mr. Speaker, I say at the outset that I will be voting in support of the bill going on to the Law Amendments Committee. I have to admit that this is one of those very rewarding times - and I say it is very rewarding - because for a change somebody on the government benches is actually listening to what somebody from this side of the House is saying. It is quite gratifying to see that the minister has actually listened to some of the comments and he even remembered that last night, after I had been speaking for about a minute and one-half, that he had suggested that I should sit down so quickly. I want to assure you that I will try to be very obliging to the minister and I will sit down at least by 8:00 p.m. and maybe even before that.

There are a number of points that I very seriously would like to make with regard to the legislation, and there are a number of issues that I want to raise with regard to the legislation and, quite honestly, with the memorandum of understanding that the minister also introduced along with the bill when he had his press conference downstairs talking about this particular piece of legislation.

[Page 4205]

First of all, Mr. Speaker, the first thing, of course, the bill does is to change the name of the legislation of the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act by deleting the words "and Mineral". So it is going to become known as the Energy Resources Conservation Act. The other thing it does, and I fully support this and if we have learned anything, certainly we should have learned one important lesson from the Westray disaster, that being it is extremely important to separate some key functions of government.

Mr. Speaker, we saw the situation, as the minister, has a better memory than I, because the minister is telling me I said this last night, but some of the members opposite may not have heard this, but it is extremely important that the body that is promoting and advocating the development of something like the production of energy, and as we had previously, the Department of Natural Resources that was a body that was promoting the development of the coal industry at Westray, it is extremely important that the same body that is promoting the development is not also the very same body that is regulating that industry. That was a major criticism after the Westray Inquiry and major recommendation, that there needs to be a separation of functions.

So, Mr. Speaker, in this I have no difficulty whatsoever in saying I support the principle that the body, here being the Petroleum Directorate, that is promoting the development of the industry should not also be the very same body that would be responsible for the health and safety issues, nor should it be the same body that is responsible for addressing environmental issues, nor should it be the same body that is responsible for regulating it. Those elements I say at the outset that I support.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things, and in order to check my recollection, the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate even saved me a little trip into the library where I was going to go and pull out the existing legislation, under the current legislation of the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, there is the ability, or there is something and, quite truthfully, when it was first used, to the best of my knowledge, I had never heard of the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Board - now, that is a board that is established under the Act and it is a board that is made up of senior public servants appointed, of course, by government.

Some of you may remember, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you probably would yourself remember that it was that board, the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Board that gave approval across the street for the construction of the pipelines to Cape Breton, without there being any public hearings, or any environmental assessments. Some of us, and I admit that I was caught on that one, thinking that there were going to be public hearings and the National Energy Board would be holding hearings on the construction of that line going across the Strait. They did, in fact, hold hearings on the line, but they were not the ones who gave permission for the laying of the line under the Strait.

[Page 4206]

[7:30 p.m.]

In fact, SOEP got permission from the former government to build those lines across the Strait and the diameter of those pipes was set and the approval was given without any public consultation, without any environmental assessments. One thing that this bill does is it continues the existence of that board under a new name. The only thing that is going to be removed is any reference to the word "mineral", but the board still exists. The opportunity for that board which is made up of the senior public servants of government, appointed by Cabinet or by the Premier directly, that body still will have the power to issue licences to construct lines under waterways, like the Strait of Canso, without any public hearings whatsoever.

This legislation that is before us, and if my memory serves me correctly, and on this I believe that it does, the Tory member of the time, the member for Kings North, George Archibald, close friend to most members of this government's benches and certainly a friend to members of all sides of the House - closer to the Tories, though - that if my memory serves me correctly, he was quite - as was I - outraged at the process that was used to grant that licence. I even seem to remember the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, now Premier, also expressing some outrage and displeasure with the way in which that board had granted that licence.

This legislation that we have before us today would have been a perfect opportunity to have corrected that problem. There are regulatory powers being given to departments, like the Department of the Environment and to the Utility and Review Board for inspection services, but you know they have done nothing with that board. If this Tory Government wants to act in as irresponsible a manner as the former Liberal Government did, there is nothing in this legislation that will change that. That power still exists.

Mr. Speaker, through you because I am not permitted to talk directly to the minister responsible for the legislation (Interruption) I appreciate you telling me to go ahead, Mr. Speaker. So, I say to the minister and I say to the backbench member behind the Premier, I ask you to look at this legislation and to ask yourself, is it in the best interests of Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians to have that board to continue to have the authority without any public consultations, without any arm's-length review mandatory to be able to grant licences to install pipes. We will have another discussion. The member says, not too long ago, we had a discussion about arm's-length, and we will have one again in a moment or two.

Now, Mr. Speaker, those lines are two things that have been in the news media not too long ago, in fact, since this House came back into session, not very many weeks ago. On February 29th, the National Energy Board - the national body that regulates and inspects gas lines across this country and who are responsible for approving and monitoring natural gas and liquids lines that run interprovincially and internationally, and which the former government and the current one obviously still supports - gave permission to be the body to

[Page 4207]

regulate the main transportation systems within Nova Scotia, the ones that have already been approved.

That agency which has the expertise refused on February 29th, 2000 to grant an operating licence for the natural gas line to Point Tupper. The reasons given, that line, that pipe, had serious flaws. It posed a serious safety risk. The pipes contained flaws in them that should have been detected at the factory or at the mill where they were produced. Instead, this body, of course, had not been overseeing the installation of those lines across the street, because those lines have been laid with the approval of that conservation board. (Interruption)

The member for Preston wants to know if it was a union shop, and quite truthfully, I have no idea whether the shop in Greece that produced those pipes was a union job or not, but quite truthfully, I really don't care. What I am more concerned about is public safety and environmental safety. Now maybe those aren't issues that concern the member for Preston, but I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, they concern members on this side of the House. (Interruption)

Yes, it was made in Greece. He still wants to know. Listen, the member for Preston wants to know, Mr. Speaker, maybe we could collectively put our heads together at the end of tonight's session, and see if we can find the phone number for SOEP. We can get the phone number, ask that the phone number be delivered to the member for Preston and then, tomorrow morning, we can even remind him to call SOEP and ask them if it was a union job. The reality is, the National Energy Board refused to grant an operating licence because they had serious concerns about its integrity and its safety.

March 1st, one day after the National Energy Board said no to an operating line, approval was given to operate the liquids line built out of the same kind of pipe in the exact same trench that the gas line was laid in. That approval was given by Nova Scotia through the Utility and Review Board which does not, Mr. Speaker, have the expertise on staff to be able to evaluate it. The National Energy Board said the safety risks were increased because there were two lines in the same trench. It also said that the kinds of flaws that existed in the gas line would probably also exist in the liquids line because it was made with the same kind of pipe, from the same factory. Maybe the member for Preston will find out if that was made in a union shop too, when he finds out from one, he will find out about the other. Silly kind of comment from the member for Preston when we are talking about human safety.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other things that the government could have done, if you are going to be asking that an arm's-length body like the Utility and Review Board be responsible for regulating and inspecting, the one thing that this government could also do, and require in legislation, is that they have the expertise on staff to be able to do the evaluations or, if they do not have the expertise available on staff ask that they have that work done by somebody who does have that expertise, like the National Energy Board.

[Page 4208]

I haven't heard back yet from the Premier. Questions have been raised and experts have raised concerns about the safety of that line, and the Premier said he was referring those issues, the letter and the concerns that were brought forward, he was forwarding those to the Utility and Review Board for their response. That would have been what, a couple of weeks ago?

Mr. Speaker, we on this side, because of the advice and what the National Energy Board was saying, we took that as a serious concern; the possibility that a pipe can go bang in the middle of the night is serious. Now the Premier said that he was referring that matter to the Utility and Review Board - of course, the same body that approved the liquids line for operation one day after the National Energy Board said no - he was going to get a response from them. I am wondering, has it come yet? The Premier is shaking his head no. I appreciate that, and I appreciate the Premier being very candid. I say that sincerely, and I am not being sarcastic when I say that.

I hope - some people don't believe me obviously, but I was serious when I said that; I am not being sarcastic when I say that. I do appreciate that forthright answer - Mr. Speaker, I would hope that the Premier will make enquiries, hopefully tomorrow, to find out what is holding up that response; we have a right to know. It is not good enough to say that the lines carry different products, one is gas and one is liquids, and that they operate under different pressures, because the pressures actually, on the liquids line, go up and down as they can in the natural gas line. Both of them were actually built, supposedly, to be able to withstand the same amount of pressure, because they knew that the pressure would have to be increased as the product that is coming in from the offshore also increases.

Do you know they failed twice? The third time it passed. That line needs to be thoroughly inspected and thoroughly inspected on the inside. The government can say it is a third party, arm's-length body like the Utility and Review Board, but I am saying if an incident occurs and the government has been warned, no arm's-length is going to save this government from being held accountable. We must have assurances that those lines are indeed safe.

A couple of things that I want to talk about with regard to the legislation. In one of the sections - and I am not dealing with sections, I am dealing with the principles that are contained in a certain section of the legislation, and maybe the minister, when he is wrapping up his debate, I don't know when it will be, maybe it will be Monday, Monday is a holiday, so maybe Tuesday, but under Clause 11, what that clause does is give to the government additional regulatory making powers. What those regulatory making powers have to do with are things like "respecting fees and financial security for permits, licenses, agreements and leases and other approvals issued pursuant to this Act;"

[Page 4209]

[7:45 p.m.]

I won't go on and recite the next one, Mr. Speaker, because then I would be trespassing upon what I am supposed to be doing in second reading debate, but it has to do with recovering costs for services. What I want to know, and it was interesting in the Financial Measures Act that was introduced by the Minister of Finance today, one of the provisions is one that continues the provision in the existing legislation that says that the companies involved in the offshore are not subject to paying any taxes until or unless legislation should change. I have to suggest that they are making pretty sizeable bucks in the offshore.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The member is quoting a provision that was in the Act that he read which said that companies participating in the offshore don't have to pay tax, but there is another provision that he not aware of and, just to clarify it, they are taxed as companies that are onshore. So they do pay tax. That provision was taken in isolation and the member wasn't aware of the other information. Since this is a public debate, I think it is very important to get that on the record. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, but it is certainly enlightening information.

MR. HOLM: I want to say, Mr. Speaker, through you, it is, indeed, very enlightening information and I thank the minister for the clarification. Because that was a question that was asked, in fact, in the news scrum downstairs and given to them later on. The minister said he would get the information to them, and he did. Unfortunately, for the rest of us who were at the press conference when the minister couldn't answer the question, he didn't come back to us with that information. I want to thank the minister from saving me from possible embarrassment in the future, but I still will want to see that detailed information that the minister is talking about.

Where I really want to go to with the point that I am trying to raise, I want to know - because one of the key things that this government is trying to do is to cut and to slash; we see what is happening in health care, we see what is happening in education - I want to know what the government is prepared to do to try to increase revenues? I want to know if what the government is proposing here, and I hope it is, I sincerely hope they are planning to do this, and I would like to know what kind of formula you are going to use if you are doing this, if a company wants to explore for our gas and our oil onshore, are they going to pay for that privilege? Are they going to put money into the kitty of the Province of Nova Scotia? They should. You are darn right they should. You go to any other province, any other jurisdiction. Go to Alberta. Go to Saskatchewan. Go to Manitoba. Go to Ontario. If a company wants to drill for oil or gas to explore, they pay. They don't just go in and say, we want a licence and we are promising that we are going to spend so much money on exploration. They actually belly-up to the table. They put money on the table and that money goes into the coffers of the province.

[Page 4210]

From the offshore, Mr. Speaker, right now, what are we getting? Zip into our coffers. Those companies that are going out and getting the rights for five years, for seven years or, maybe, in perpetuity, if they go and get what is called a significant discovery, they don't pay a cent to the people of Nova Scotia directly for that. They promise that they will spend money in exploration costs, but that money could be spent in Houston, Texas, where they may have rented the rigs; it may be spent in England, where they are using consultants, but there is no requirement that it be spent in Nova Scotia. They don't pay to us, there is no cheque cut. If they promised to spend $700 million, they are not promising to cut a cheque to Nova Scotia for $5 million or $7 million or $10 million or any number of dollars for the right to explore for our resource.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, we know certainly that the wealth of resources in the offshore - and let's not play any games here, we know what Sable has and it is not the $3.5 trillion, we know that it is up around $18 trillion at least. We know what is out under Panuke, it has not all been finalized yet but we know it is a massive discovery. We know there are major finds and that the potential in the offshore on the far shelf, we know the resource is there.

All I am saying to this government and to the minister, and I would like to have an answer from him because that is on the offshore and this is only dealing with the onshore, I want to know, are you going to charge them for that right? If so, how much? What percentage? How are you going to do that? That is money that could be going into paying for education . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Do you want to know what that has to do with the bill?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I would like to know what the last 10 minutes had to do with the bill. The honourable member has about six or seven minutes; if he could speak to the bill, it would be very helpful.

MR. HOLM: I am, Mr. Speaker. I am talking about the matters respecting fees. I am trying to find out if the government is going to be charging fees. I am trying to get clarification from the minister. I started off some time ago saying that. I am trying to make the case for why the government should be charging fees because if they do charge fees - let's say for the licences that the government is going to be issuing this year and companies want to explore onshore. Let's say that for a few licences that we charge, let's say, $10 million for a product that will be worth many millions of dollars, just for the right to explore. This isn't royalties. Ten million bucks, that is half of the amount that they cut out of the education budget this year. If they want to use our resources, well, let them start to pay more for the maintenance of essential programs in our province. That is where I am coming from. That is how it relates to the bill. I am sure you understand that, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 4211]

Now, Mr. Speaker, along with the bill that the minister introduced and when he was introducing it, he introduced a memorandum of understanding, a memorandum signed by the ministers for various respective departments. It deals with the Department of the Environment, the Department of Labour, the Department of Natural Resources, the Petroleum Directorate, and the Energy and Minerals Resources Conservation Board, herein referred to as the EMRCB, and whatever other departments might happen to be referred to.

Now in this memorandum of understanding there are a number of things. First of all, what the memorandum does - so much of it is common sense, and I don't have disagreements with a lot of the things that are laid out. I know common sense, if you use that with Progressive Conservatives is an oxymoron but occasionally (Interruptions) I apologize, Mr. Speaker, I was getting some advice from I guess that would be my right. (Interruption) Well anyway, Mr. Speaker. . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable member - I thought you were finished.

MR. HOLM: Oh no, I was just starting to get warmed up. I was listening to the comments coming from my right, that was the government that was in before and the ones who are still smarting from the decisions - or Nova Scotians are still smarting from many of the decisions that they made. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, they have some difficulty with hearing another perspective. (Interruptions).

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things - and I will try to touch upon some of these - if people want to give me a little help for a moment. (Interruption) There is in this memorandum of understanding requirements that departments do things like notify each other, as expeditiously as possible, of significant concerns related to the petroleum activities. They are going to exchange information among themselves in a very formalized manner, but there is no requirement - in fact, if you look to the tail end of this memorandum of understanding, they talk about how you have to be cautious because of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

So as they are sharing information, and I have to ask, Mr. Speaker, why is the government concerned about hiding information that could be of significant concern dealing with the petroleum activities? Wouldn't that be in the public interest, to have that information made available? Openness, the light of day, is one of the best ways to ensure the proper procedures, proper health, safety, and environmental issues, are addressed.

If that information is kept secret, then you will have the motivation - and we have seen this from governments of both stripes that have occupied government benches in this province before - you have seen matters of significant concern swept under the carpet, kept in secret, Mr. Speaker, until the problem blew up.

[Page 4212]

Now I see you looking at the clock quite anxiously. Are you suggesting, Mr. Speaker, that you would like to request that I adjourn the debate? On your request I will do so, otherwise I will keep talking.

MR. SPEAKER: That will be fine. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate?

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would not want to move adjournment without your request because then if I lost the vote on the motion I would lose my place and I have a couple more things that I want to say. So at your request, Mr. Speaker, I would move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 43 and look forward to the chance to speak again.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable House Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow it will be our intention to try to deal with two items, Resolution No. 1365 and Bill No. 45, which was introduced today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. The House will sit until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]