The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 19, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF NEW MEMBER:
Mr. David Wilson (Cape Breton East), Mr. R. MacLellan 4213
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4214
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1413, Culture - Acadian History: Rev. Clarence d'Entremont Bequest -
Le Musée Acadian Preservation Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 4215
Vote - Affirmative 4216
Res. 1414, Tourism: Sea and Spirit Theme (2000) - Support,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4216
Vote - Affirmative 4216
Res. 1415, Health - Operation South: Volunteers - Recognize,
Hon. J. Muir (by Hon. G. Balser) 4217
Vote - Affirmative 4217
Res. 1416, Environ. - Earth Day (Internat.): Significance - Recognize,
Hon. M. Baker 4217
Vote - Affirmative 4218
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1417, Sackville-Cobequid MLA: Happy Birthday - Wish,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4218
Vote - Affirmative 4219
Res. 1418, Educ.: Budget (2000-01) - Change, Mr. R. MacLellan 4219
Res. 1419, DND - Sea King Helicopter Fleet: Relief - Provide,
Hon. R. Russell 4220
Vote - Affirmative 4220
Res. 1420, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Children - Hear,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4220
Res. 1421, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts Effect - Inspect On-Site
(Educ. & Fin. Mins.), Mr. W. Gaudet 4221
Res. 1422, Health - Aberdeen Hosp. Fdn. & Trust: Work - Commend,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4222
Vote - Affirmative 4222
Res. 1423, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. D. Dexter 4222
Res. 1424, Gov't. (N.S.): Style (1991-93) - Abandon, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4223
Res. 1425, Econ. Dev. - Truro & Dist. C of C Vol. 1999: Ms. Wendy
Robichaud - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir (by Mr. W. Langille) 4224
Vote - Affirmative 4224
Res. 1426, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts Consequences -
MLAs (SW Reg.) Face, Mr. John MacDonell 4224
Res. 1427, Netherlands - Hon. Consul (N.S.): Peter McCreath
(Chester-St. Mgt's.) - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Chataway (by Mr. K. Morash) 4225
Vote - Affirmative 4226
Res. 1428, Gov't. (N.S.) - Old Testament (Passover): Modern Issues -
Relevancy Remember, Mr. H. Epstein 4226
Res. 1429, Parks (Can.) - Kejimkujik: Ecological Treasure -
Staff Applaud, Mr. K. Morash 4226
Vote - Affirmative 4227
Res. 1430, Metro Food Bank Soc. - Commun. Leadership Award:
Ernie MacIsaac (Middle Sackville) - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 4227
Vote - Affirmative 4228
Res. 1431, Econ. Dev. - Cochran Entertainment/Snyder's Shipyard:
Theodore Too - Launching Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 4228
Vote - Affirmative 4229
Res. 1432, Metro Food Bank Soc. - Helping Hands Awards:
Recipients - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 4229
Vote - Affirmative 4230
Res. 1433, Agric. - Bedford Horticultural Soc.: Anniv. 50th - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 4230
Vote - Affirmative 4230
Res. 1434, Chester Mun. - Prettiest Town (Can.) Top 10: Harrowsmith
Country Living Mag. - Selection Congrats.,
Hon. J. Chataway (by Hon. M. Baker) 4230
Vote - Affirmative 4231
Res. 1435, Lt. Gov. Award (Conservation): Katharine Mott (Stewiacke) -
Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 4231
Vote - Affirmative 4232
Res. 1436, Econ. Dev. - Scotsburn Co-op. Serv.: Anniv. 100th -
Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 4232
Vote - Affirmative 4232
Res. 1437, Aldershot Sc. & Commun. Park Assoc.: Project - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 4233
Vote - Affirmative 4233
Res. 1438, Volunteerism - IBM Hfx.: Employees - Congrats.,
Ms. M. McGrath 4233
Vote - Affirmative 4234
Res. 1439, Sports - Basketball (Women-Acadia Univ. MVP):
Robin DeYoung (Westville) - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 4234
Vote - Affirmative 4235
Res. 1440, Health - Telethon Champion Family 2000: Matt MacDonald -
Fund-raising Congrats., Hon. J. Muir (by Mr. B. Taylor) 4235
Vote - Affirmative 4236
Res. 1441, Tourism - Yar. Co. Tourist Assoc.: Work - Recognize,
Mr. R. Hurlburt 4236
Vote - Affirmative 4236
Res. 1442, Seashore Vol. FD: Dedication - Thank, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 4236
Vote - Affirmative 4237
Res. 1443, Volunteerism - Lake Dist. Rec. Assoc.: Sackville Commitment -
Appreciate, Mr. B. Barnet 4237
Vote - Affirmative 4238
Res. 1444, Girl Guides (Can.): Anniv. (90th) - Applaud, Mrs. M. Baillie 4238
Vote - Affirmative 4239
Res. 1445, Sports - Festival of Sail (Dart.): Sue Conrad & Team -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 4239
Res. 1446, Youth - Guys. Youth Dev. Assoc.: Fund-raising - Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 4240
Vote - Affirmative 4240
Res. 1447, Econ. Dev. - Rodger & Sharla Cameron (Kentville):
Entrepreneurship - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 4241
Vote - Affirmative 4241
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 512, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Protests - Necessity,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4242
No. 513, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Backbenchers (PC) - Free Vote,
Mr. D. Wilson 4243
No. 514, Fin.: Budget (2000-01) - Withdraw, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4244
No. 515, Exco - President: Policy - Responsibility, Mr. R. MacLellan 4246
No. 516, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Election Promises - Unfulfilled,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4248
No. 517, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Schools - Support Staff,
Mr. W. Gaudet 4250
No. 518, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Funding - View,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4251
No. 518, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Superintendents Meeting -
Agenda, Mr. R. MacLellan 4251
No. 519, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): School Boards - Cost Drivers,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4253
No. 520, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Special Needs/Disabilities -
Funding, Dr. J. Smith 4254
No. 521, Sysco - Sale: Purchaser - Jobs Factor, Mr. F. Corbett 4255
No. 522, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Post-Secondary
Consequences, Mr. D. Wilson 4256
No. 523, NSLC - Privatization: Methodology - Reveal,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4257
No. 524, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): C.B.-V. Reg. Sc. Bd. - Impact,^^
Mr. P. MacEwan 4258
No. 525, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Info. - Accuracy,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4260
No. 526, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): School Closures -
Excluded Assurance, Mr. D. Downe 4261
No. 527, Educ. - Anna. V. Reg. Sc. Bd.: Meeting (Berwick [18/04/00]) -
MLAs (Anna. V.) Absence, Mr. John MacDonell 4263
No. 528, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Strait Reg. Sc. Bd. - Impact,
Mr. M. Samson 4264
No. 529, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Ross Rd. School - Impact,
Mr. D. Dexter 4265
No. 530, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): SW Reg. Sc. Bd. - Impact,
Mr. W. Gaudet 4266
No. 531, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Tantallon JHS - Impact,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4267
No. 532, Tourism - Resorts: Privatization - Cost-Benefit Analysis,
Mr. K. MacAskill 4268
No. 533, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Projection Verify,
Mr. F. Corbett 4269
No. 534, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): C.B.-V. Reg. Sc. Bd. - Impact,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4270
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cutbacks - Oppose, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4271
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1365, Educ. - Cuts: Decimation - Review,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4272
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4272
Hon. J. Purves 4275
Mr. D. Downe 4277
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4282
Hon. R. Russell 4286
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 45, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Plebiscite Act 4287
Mr. F. Corbett 4287
Hon. A. MacIsaac 4290
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4292
Mr. J. Pye 4295
Mr. B. Barnet 4297
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Culture - Inv. Co.: Contributions Significant - Recognize:
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4298
Ms. E. O'Connell 4301
Mr. F. Corbett 4303
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 20th at 9:00 a.m. 4305

[Page 4213]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Mr. Russell MacLellan and Mr. Paul MacEwan escorted Mr. David Wilson into the House.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, today I have the honour to introduce to you the newly elected member for Cape Breton East. He has taken the oath, signed the roll and claims now his right to take his seat.

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome. Let the honourable member take his seat. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party on an introduction.

4213

[Page 4214]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have the opportunity to introduce to you and to all members of this House today some guests in the east gallery - the one behind me - the President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Donnie MacIntyre; and all 22 regional executive members of the NSTU with their Executive Director, Jim MacKay. The members of the Teachers Union are here today, as you can appreciate, to listen to the debate with respect to the impact this budget has had on education in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would like to ask all members if they would join me in welcoming the members of the NSTU here today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, the late debate submission this evening was submitted by the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture and it goes as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the significant cultural contribution the people of Inverness County have made to life in Nova Scotia.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from a group of students and parents in the north end of Halifax, in my riding, who say, we the undersigned disagree with the cuts to education. This has been signed by approximately 96 people and I have affixed my signature to this. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

[Page 4215]

RESOLUTION NO. 1413

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs, Monsieur le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que le Musée de Pubnico-Ouest et le Centre d'Archives de Pubnico-Ouest se sont dévoués à la tâche de cataloguer la collection de documents historiques acadiens du père Clarence d'Entremont léguée à la Société historique de Pubnico-Ouest; et

Attendu que ces travaux ont été faits sous l'habile direction de madame Bernice d'Entremont, présidente du Musée Acadien de Pubnico et de madam Pauline d'Entremont, responsable due centre de recherche; et

Attendu que plusieurs bénévoles ont porté main forte à monsieur Colin Bourque, archiviste embauchée pour coordonner les travaux trés chers aux Acadiens;

Sachez maintenant que l'Assemblée législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse offre ses félicitations à ceux et celles qui se sont engagés de ces travaux de préservation du patrimoine acadien remise par cet éminent Acadian, le père Clarence d'Entremont pour êtres appréciée par les générations à venir.

Mr. Speaker, for the members of the House I will repeat it in English.

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

Whereas Le Musée Acadian et Archives of Pubnico-Ouest has been cataloguing the collection of Acadian history generously bequeathed by the late Reverend Clarence d'Entremont to La Société historique acadienne de Pubnico-Ouest; and

Whereas this work has been coordinated through the hard efforts of Mrs. Bernice de'Entremont, Presidente du Musée Acadien and Mrs. Pauline d'Entremont, responsable pour le centre de recherche; and

Whereas the work has been actually carried out by numerous volunteers and Mr. Colin Bourque, an archivist who has been hired to help coordinate the work which is near and dear to the hearts of Acadians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to all those who have worked on this project so far, and wish them every success as they continue to preserve for future generations the legacy of a great Acadian, Reverend Clarence d'Entremont.

[Page 4216]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1414

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

Whereas Nova Scotians and visitors alike are being encouraged to celebrate Nova Scotia's Sea and Spirit in 2000; and

Whereas the province has adopted the Sea and Spirit theme to link community events and activities throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this theme represents the deep bond Nova Scotians have with the sea, and the spirit of the people who live in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in acknowledging the Sea and Spirit theme, and encourage participation in the many activities planned in communities across the province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 4217]

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1415

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

Whereas Operation Smile is a volunteer-based organization that provides medical services to children with cleft palate and education to health care professionals in developing countries; and

Whereas groups of surgeons, anaesthesiologists, dentists, nurses, speech pathologists and support workers dedicate their vacation time and money to travel to developing countries to help those less fortunate; and

Whereas staff at the IWK-Grace hospital make up the majority of Canadians who participate in this generous and beneficial educational experience;

[2:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to thank the volunteers of Operation Smile for their dedication and contribution in bettering the lives of children in developing countries.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Acting Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 1416

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

[Page 4218]

Whereas every April 22nd Earth Day is celebrated as the largest, most commemorated environmental event around the world; and

Whereas Earth Day is a day to stop and reflect on the importance of our environment and how each and every one of us can change our habits to ensure we preserve it; and

Whereas Nova Scotians, through their commitment to solid waste diversion, through reducing, reusing and recycling, have made many positive results in improving our environment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize the significance of International Earth Day and applaud the hard work of all Nova Scotians, municipalities and others, who have donated their time and energy to making Earth Day a success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1417

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 today, April 19th, is the birthday of a long-standing member of this House; and

Whereas the member for Sackville-Cobequid celebrates his 53rd birthday on this auspicious day;

[Page 4219]

Therefore be it resolved that we wish the member for Sackville-Cobequid a happy birthday and many more to come.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver. (Standing Ovation)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. 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.

RESOLUTION NO. 1418

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

Whereas yesterday the Premier accused people from across this province of being hysterical; and

Whereas students, teachers and parents are an integral part of our education system; and

Whereas Nova Scotians must be commended for caring enough about the education of their children to fight these devastating cuts proposed by the Tory Government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier of this province and his Tory Government turn their sinking ship around before students lose out on the quality of education they deserve.

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 4220]

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1419

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

Whereas continuing mechanical problems found within Canada's Sea King helicopters have placed the lives of our soldiers, airmen and sailors at risk; and

Whereas as late as Monday, a crew found themselves in another emergency landing situation near Lawrencetown; and

Whereas this has led to a situation which is unacceptable and which demands immediate attention before the lives of any more of our military personnel are put at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House call on the federal government to immediately provide the promised relief for Canada's aged and ailing Sea King helicopters.

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 Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1420

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

Whereas today this Tory Government has seen exactly what students think of its Education budget; and

Whereas students know exactly what kind of effect this budget will have, not just on their education, but also their futures; and

[Page 4221]

Whereas over 1,000 children have now spoken out by demonstrating at this very House, they have spoken out about losing their teachers, their schools, school courses and school programs;

Therefore be it resolved that if you will not listen to the Opposition Parties then at least listen to the very children you profess to be thinking about.

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 Clare

RESOLUTION NO. 1421

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

Whereas both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education have claimed that large class sizes are acceptable; and

Whereas, because of the Tory budget, large class sizes will become a reality for students across this province; and

Whereas it will be impossible for teachers to properly educate students within these large classes;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance remove themselves from their ivory towers and relocate to classrooms across Nova Scotia after 1,000 teachers will have to be laid off and large classroom sizes become a reality for students across this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4222]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1422

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

Whereas due to the charitable contributions of many community-minded businesses, individuals and the work of the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation and Trust, the purchase of a new digital imaging system for the hospital's Ophthalmology Department has taken place; and

Whereas this new digital imaging camera allows for pictures of the retina to be taken and transferred directly to the computer screen instead of waiting a week or two for the pictures to develop; and

Whereas on-the-spot diagnosis by the Opthalmology Department will save critical time for patients;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the House of Assembly commend the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation and Trust for their superlative work in the community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1423

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

[Page 4223]

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, 1,476 children have been born into poverty; and

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,476 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1424

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

Whereas the Minister of Education has indicated there should be no teacher lay-offs because of her budget, while at the same time the Premier says people are being hysterical on the issue; and

Whereas the member for Dartmouth South claims that administrative mismanagement is the reason for teacher lay-offs in the Halifax Regional School Board; and

Whereas yesterday, Rambo, the Minister of Justice, failed in his attempt to bully his employees of his department as they questioned the Premier about his open and accountable government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government abandon the Donald Cameron style of blaming everyone else but themselves for their own predicament.

[Page 4224]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1425

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

Whereas volunteers give selflessly of themselves to strengthen our towns and villages; and

Whereas Wendy Robichaud, Community Liaison Officer with the Colchester-East Hants Regional Library, has been named Truro and District Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year for 1999; and

Whereas Ms. Robichaud was chosen because of valuable contributions to the International Tulip Festival and her work with community groups ranging from Nordic Ski Nova Scotia to the Truro Music Festival, the Colchester Community Garden Association and the Spartans Gymnastics Club;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ms. Robichaud for this well-deserved recognition and for her dedication to her community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

R ESOLUTION NO. 1426

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

[Page 4225]

Whereas last night I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend and speak at a school board meeting in Berwick; and

Whereas none of the local Tory MLAs bothered to attend and listen to the concerns of the very people they represent or even to defend their own misguided government; and

Whereas the very task an MLA is assigned upon election is to represent their constituents, whether those views correspond with their own Party's actions;

Therefore be it resolved that the members from the southwestern region be reminded that at some point they will have to go home and face their constituents.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1427

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Honourable John Chataway, the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas former South Shore MP, Peter McCreath, a resident of Chester-St. Margaret's constituency, has made a career of public service; and

Whereas Mr. McCreath has served as federal Minister of Veterans Affairs; and

Whereas Mr. McCreath has been recently appointed Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch Consul for Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Peter McCreath on his appointment and wish him well representing Queen Beatrix and the Kingdom of the Netherlands Government in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 4226]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1428

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

Whereas this evening is the important Jewish holiday of Passover; and

Whereas the Passover celebrates the coming out of Egypt by the Jewish people under the leadership of Moses; and

Whereas remembrance of Old Testament history is always relevant to modern issues;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government remember that it was Moses and not the NSGEU or the NSTU who said, "Let my people go".

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1429

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

Whereas the Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks last month highlighted Kejimkujik as a positive example of what a park could be; and

Whereas the park's ecologist has stated that at any given point, 20 to 25 research projects are being carried out at Kejimkujik; and

Whereas the park was described last year as the catalyst that has allowed many agencies and professionals to combine their talents and expertise to address difficult issues like acid rain and biodiversity;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud staff of Kejimkujik National Park for this recognition and for ongoing efforts to make this provincial ecological treasure more than just a park.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4227]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1430

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

Whereas Ernie MacIsaac recently received the Metro Food Bank Society's Community Leadership Award; and

Whereas this award recognizes Mr. MacIsaac's outstanding contributions with the Metro Food Bank Society, as well as his commitment and hard work in addressing the larger issues of hunger and poverty within a broader community; and

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has something to say?

Whereas his contributions to the Beacon House in Middle Sackville is evident, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank has the floor.

MR. BARNET: Whereas his contributions to the Beacon House in Middle Sackville is evident, late nights, weekends and whenever work is required;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ernie MacIsaac on receiving the Community Leadership Award from the Metro Food Bank Society and extend our sincere appreciation for his many generous contributions.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

[Page 4228]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1431

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

Whereas this morning Theodore Too was launched from Snyder's Shipyard in Dayspring, Lunenburg County, watched by a large crowd of interested spectators; and

Whereas Theodore's construction is a testament to the skill and hard work of the workforce at Snyder's Shipyard; and

Whereas Theodore Too is part of the long and distinguished shipbuilding tradition in Lunenburg County where the vessels constructed include the Bluenose and Bluenose II;

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates Cochran Entertainment Incorporated, Snyder's Shipyard and its workforce, and the other Nova Scotia craftsmen whose hard work and dedication have helped create this Nova Scotia ambassador to the world.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 4229]

The motion is carried.

The honourable for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce a guest in the west gallery, Ms. Sandra Himmelman, who is President of the Nova Scotia Home and School Association. Sandra has been going around the province talking to teachers, parents and students about the concerns of education. She, in fact, is also championing this yellow ribbon campaign for Speak Up For A Brighter Future In Education. I ask members of the House to please give a warm welcome to Ms. Sandra Himmelman and let her know we do want to speak up for education. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1432

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

Whereas the Metro Food Bank Society relies on the dedication of its more than 300 hard-working volunteers every day of the year; and

Whereas last evening the Metro Food Bank Society held its annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner to say thank you to the many individuals who have given so generously of their time and energy; and

Whereas a number of Helping Hands Awards were presented to volunteers nominated by the staff of the society;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize this year's recipients of the Metro Food Bank Society's Helping Hands Awards: Trudy Vik, Margo Duncan, Charles Turner, Judy Young, Charlotte Mercer, Clarence Deyoung, Cameron Bremner, Walter Westwood and John and Andree Gracie, and extend our sincere appreciation to all who volunteer and contribute to this very special organization.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4230]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1433

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

Whereas more than 50 years ago the interested gardeners of Bedford decided to form the Bedford Horticultural Society to promote gardening in the area; and

Whereas over the years they have helped beautify the community by doing garden beds at the Bedford intersections, at the cenotaph, post office and local cemeteries; and

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the Bedford Horticultural Society on the accomplishment of 50-plus years of service to the community of Bedford.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1434

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Honourable John Chataway, the honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas this year the Town of Chester was named one of the 10 prettiest towns in the Harrowsmith Country Living magazine's annual list; and

[Page 4231]

Whereas Chester has been selected for being rich in history, rich in scenery and rich in intangible qualities; and

Whereas one of the greatest compliments in the article came from Americans who summer in Chester and wish it were closer to home;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the people and the Municipality of the District of Chester for being chosen as one of the country's 10 prettiest towns.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1435

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

Whereas Stewiacke resident Katharine Mott of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley recently received the Lieutenant Governor's Award for Conservation; and

Whereas Ms. Mott is a former president of the Nova Scotia Salmon Association and has become known for her work in protecting wild Atlantic salmon stocks and the rivers that they inhabit; and

Whereas the Lieutenant Governor's Award noted Ms. Mott's dedication, commitment and leadership that she has exemplified in undertaking fish restoration projects;

Therefore be it resolved that Ms. Mott be recognized by members of this Legislature for winning this prestigious award and wish her all the best in her future salmon preservation activities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 4232]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1436

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas this past weekend a landmark Pictou County industry celebrated a century of excellence; and

Whereas Scotsburn Cooperative Services, formed 100 years ago by a group of dedicated Pictou County farmers, now stands as an industry leader; and

Whereas Scotsburn Cooperative Services has grown from its humble beginning as a butter producer to a diverse operation currently selling milk and other dairy products throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario, with a long-term dream of someday entering the U.S. market;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Scotsburn Cooperative Services on its 100th Anniversary, and recognize this proud rural enterprise has held true to its traditional rural roots in the community for which it is named.

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 4233]

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1437

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

Whereas the Aldershot School and Community Park Association is working to ensure asphalt is making way for flowers, trees and grass in the form of a natural park and playground; and

Whereas the group's ambitious community $191,000 project is receiving lots of community and national support, including a grant from the Millennium Partnership Program; and

Whereas this project is not only beautifying our area, it is also addressing safety concerns regarding old playground equipment and, just as important, bringing a community together for a common goal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House praise the vision and energy of all participants in this project which will be, once completed, a real boost to the community of Aldershot.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1438

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

Whereas the Building Healthier Futures Corporate Award was won this year by IBM Halifax employees; and

[Page 4234]

Whereas this group has done a wonderful job supporting and encouraging staff in community volunteering, having supported three projects in 1999 with three different organizations; and

Whereas those projects include the Adopt-a-Shop Pilot Program at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, the Youth Leadership - Junior Achievement program and a program of special projects with the Metro Food Bank;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate IBM Halifax employees for this recognition of their volunteer efforts and assistance in supporting their communities and to their employer for fostering this initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1439

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

Whereas Westville, Pictou County native Robin DeYoung was recently selected as the Acadia Women's Basketball Most Valuable Player; and

Whereas besides the MVP honour, DeYoung was also Acadia's top rebounder during the 1999-2000 season; and

Whereas Acadia women's coach Laura Sanders has praised DeYoung's determined work and her commitment to the basketball team;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Robin DeYoung of Westville, Pictou County, and wish her all the best with future basketball endeavours and her career plans.

[Page 4235]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1440

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Health, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the MacDonald family from Bible Hill-Truro has been chosen as this year's Telethon Champion Family and will be representing Canada during the Children's Miracle Network; and

Whereas Matt MacDonald has shown great courage and spirit in his fight against cancer; and

Whereas Matt wanted to give back to the IWK-Grace, and through fund-raising efforts he has generated more than $7,000 for the health centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House take the opportunity to thank Matt MacDonald for his generous fund-raising efforts and congratulate the MacDonald family for being chosen as the Champion Family for 2000.

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.

[Page 4236]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 1441

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

Whereas the Yarmouth County Tourist Association is currently hard at work preparing for the start of the upcoming tourist season; and

Whereas it is the goal of the Yarmouth County Tourist Association to extend the length of the tourist season by creating awareness about what the Town and County of Yarmouth have to offer; and

Whereas this year's theme, Nova Scotia 2000 Sea and Spirit, will come to life in Yarmouth with the official kick-off of the tourist season, in conjunction with the first running of the Scotia Prince on May 5th;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the hard work and dedication of the Yarmouth County Tourist Association, and offer our support as they endeavour to make 2000 the longest and most exciting tourist season ever.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1442

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

[Page 4237]

Whereas recently a celebration was held in Port Bickerton honouring the hard work and dedication of local volunteer firefighters; and

Whereas the Seashore Volunteer Fire Department, formed 30 years ago after several homes in the community were destroyed by fire, has grown both in size and in importance to people in this rural community; and

Whereas the provincial Fire Marshal, Bob Cormier, was in attendance to present a 25 year medal to Ellis Kaiser, and to recognize Walter Bingley and Keith Horton for their 30 years of service to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank all members of the Seashore Volunteer Fire Department who risk their lives in serving their community, and congratulate Ellis Kaiser, Walter Bingley, and Keith Horton for being recognized for their many years of dedicated service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1443

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

Whereas volunteers are an important thread in the fabric of our communities; and

Whereas volunteers in our communities touch each and every segment of life; and

Whereas tonight the Lake District Recreation Association will hold its annual volunteer recognition banquet in honour of those volunteers who have contributed so much to their community;

[Page 4238]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend our sincere appreciation to the volunteers and to the Lake District Recreation Association for their continued commitment to the community of Sackville and surrounding communities.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1444

MRS. MURIEL BAILIE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas for the past 90 years, the Girl Guides of Canada - Guides du Canada - have been the largest organization for girls, led by women in this country; and

Whereas the Girl Guides of Canada have challenged girls to reach their potential, empowering them to give leadership and service as responsible citizens of the world; and

Whereas on the weekend of May 6th the Nova Scotia Girl Guides will hold a special 90th birthday celebration entitled Up, Up, and Away, recognizing the heritage of guiding, culminating with a parade through the streets of Halifax on Sunday morning;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the important contributions of the Girl Guides of Canada, and join with the Nova Scotia Girl Guides in celebrating the 90th birthday of this very special organization.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4239]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1445

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

Whereas Dartmouth's Festival of Sail will take place July 17th to July 24th at the new Alderney Landing complex; and

Whereas this event will provide a boost to downtown Dartmouth, giving thousands of people a look at the downtown area; and

Whereas the Dartmouth Festival of Sail is being organized by the Nova Scotia Schooner Association and the American Schooner Association;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate chairperson Sue Conrad and her team for showcasing downtown Dartmouth with this unique event, and wish them every success.

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 East.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to introduce members of my immediate family, some who have made a long trip here from Glace Bay, to attend today's swearing-in ceremony. In the Speaker's Gallery today, from my right to left, is my sister, Mary Beth; her daughter, Emily; my sister, Katherine; my sister, Mora; and my sister-

[Page 4240]

in-law Danielle, her son Ian, and her daughter Sarah. I would like the house to join me today in welcoming them, please. (Applause)

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I just want to introduce here today, four people who have put a lot into expressing their opinion on the opposition to the government's education policy in the budget. I would like to introduce Schuyler Smith, Ardath Whynacht, Kathlene McGuinness and Greg McNeil. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1446

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

Whereas the Guysborough Youth Development Association recently hosted its first annual Youth Talent Cabaret at MacIsaac's Hall to raise funds for their youth centre; and

Whereas the cabaret offered something for all ages, featuring a number of talented acts from throughout Guysborough County, followed by a catered cold plate dinner; and

Whereas the event proved to be very entertaining for all who attended;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the event organizers along with the many individuals and groups whose time, talent and expertise contributed to the success of the first annual Youth Talent Cabaret, and encourage the local community to continue to support this important organization.

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 4241]

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1447

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

Whereas Kentville residents Rodger and Sharla Cameron recently had their business recognized by Atlantic Progress Magazine; and

Whereas their business, Cameron Seafoods, includes ownership of the Hall's Harbour Lobster Pound, a restaurant as well as a seafood exporting business; and

Whereas Atlantic Progress Magazine ranked Cameron Seafoods 17th on their annual list of the 50 fastest growing companies in Atlantic Canada for experiencing a 130 per cent growth in their business over the last three years;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly congratulate Rodger and Sharla Cameron for their perseverance and hard work in their efforts and wish them the best in the years ahead.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period shall begin at 2:48 p.m. and end at 4:18 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

[Page 4242]

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): PROTESTS - NECESSITY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct a question through you to the Premier. Right across Nova Scotia, people are rising up to try and make this government recognize what it is doing to our schools and to our futures. I want to take the Premier back to June 30th where, not far from here, at the Grand Parade Square, he gave a speech about education. I want to ask the Premier a question directly out of that speech. The question is, why should people have to mount an insurrection against their own government to protect the things that are most important to them?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very right; they shouldn't. This government wants to sit down with school boards and work its way through a logical approach to how we can deliver education in this province with the amount of money that is now available to us. That is what we want to do, have the dialogue around a table in a logical, informed way so that the real numbers can come out and we can come up with real solutions.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier continues to appeal for calm, but I say that calm would be an irrational response to the treachery that this government has shown Nova Scotians. When the Premier spoke about education only months ago, he said that already we face a shortage of teachers. He said, school boards shouldn't have to deal with problems not of their own making. He said, if the Liberals were defeated, junior high school students would keep their band program and family studies.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: He said senior high school students . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . would keep their teachers. My question to the Premier is, why will he not lift a finger to try to keep his commitments to the students and parents of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of this government to keep all of its commitments. What many fail to realize is that every suggestion that comes from across the floor from the members opposite is, spend more money. What quicker way to destroy the future of the young people of Nova Scotia than to continue deficit financing and to leave them with the legacy of debt that has been created in this province in the last 25 years.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am sickened by this Premier's response to the commitments that he made to Nova Scotians and that he is now betraying. Here is another one, my Party and I recognize every school as a community within itself, one that

[Page 4243]

should be respected so that in turn its members will respect others. My question to the Premier is, when will he and his government start showing respect to Nova Scotians by telling them the truth about how many teachers, how many teaching assistants and other classroom resources are going to be wiped out as a result of his budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the real numbers will come out around the negotiation table when the school boards sit down with the Department of Education and the Minister of Education and we work through this in a rational fashion. The suggestions of the members opposite, day after day since we came into this House, more spending, more debt, less future for the young people of Nova Scotia.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): BACKBENCHERS (PC) - FREE VOTE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. I think I know for whom the bell tolls because it is a school bell and it is tolling for the Premier. The pressures mounting on the Premier are obvious. There are cuts to education when his minister said there would be none, a Party that can't maintain a quorum, the Minister of Tourism and Culture threatening to resign, and backbenchers vowing to fight courthouse closures. Our caucus office is receiving upwards of 100 faxes and e-mails per day and most . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: . . . coming from constituents in government-held ridings, people bewildered by the cuts . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: . . . to education. My question to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is this. In light of the pressure your backbenchers are under, does the Premier believe in his budget enough to allow his caucus a free vote on that budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the greatest pressure that this government is under and this entire caucus is under is the pressure created by the mismanagement of the Liberal Government since 1993. That is the pressure that this government has to deal with.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think it is time that government stood on its own two feet and stopped blaming other people. Putting all partisanship aside, I really feel for the backbenchers opposite. After all, these cuts are impacting on the students in their ridings as well. Also, the Education Minister led us to believe that these were not coming. She misled all members on this side of the House, or did she? My question to the Minister of Education

[Page 4244]

is this, did she give one set of budget numbers to Nova Scotians and another set to members of her own caucus?

HON. JANE PURVES: No.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is those simple little answers that we are becoming accustomed to and that is why we have protesters outside this Legislature today. There is something in the air, something called the blue flu and the government backbenchers now hold all the cards. They know it. People in the gallery here today know it and the constituents know it . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: . . . so watch out. Let me get to the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, will the Premier tell the House what, if any, retribution members of his Party would receive if they were to absent themselves from a budget vote?

THE PREMIER: All members of this government are committed to a better future for all Nova Scotians, unlike the previous government that we replaced which was spineless and weak and never did come to a solution to the problems that face Nova Scotians. (Interruption)

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

FIN.: BUDGET (2000-01) - WITHDRAW

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to direct my question to the Premier. I want to talk a little more about the commitments the Premier made to Nova Scotians in order to get elected. In his speech of June 30th with respect to education, he said that the Liberals didn't think through a solution. They just reacted by trying to impose their will on the board. Mr. Speaker, tens of thousands of parents, teachers and students see today that this Premier is repeating that terrible mistake. He is trying to impose his will without thinking through the consequences. I want to ask the Premier, will he not face the truth, withdraw his fundamentally flawed spending estimate and advise his Finance Minister to prepare a revised budget?

THE PREMIER: Yes, we have thought it through and no, we are not prepared to deal with the consequences of not doing what the majority of Nova Scotians feel has to be done, and that is take a responsible approach to the way we deliver all programs in this province before we are driven into bankruptcy, which that member opposite seems to condone.

[Page 4245]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: People voted for this Premier are ashamed of themselves for having been taken in by the lies that were told during that election. I spoke this morning to an elementary school . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would you repeat that? Did you say that the lies that were told?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I said there were lies told to Nova Scotians this summer.

MR. SPEAKER: By who?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: By this Party when they were running for government.

MR. SPEAKER: Rise to retract that statement, please. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable member is saying that members of this House lied. I would ask him to retract that.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have not been able to get an answer about why they made a commitment to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I have asked you to retract the statement when you said they lied.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I will retract it.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: But Nova Scotians know the truth.

MR. SPEAKER: Carry on.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to say to the Premier, I spoke this morning to an elementary school teacher with 15 years' experience who is about to receive a lay-off notice because this government is wrong, wrong, wrong. It was a lie to say that 400 teachers were reaching retirement age, it was a lie to say that job losses in education would not exceed 400.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member suggests that people in this House lied. The Chair will not tolerate that. I am asking you to retract the statement that people lied.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, information was provided that was wrong.

AN HON. MEMBER: Prefabricated the truth.

[Page 4246]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier a question. What will the Premier do when he recognizes that his budget's other claims about the Education budget were just as wrong? Will he not agree to withdraw this budget?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is having difficulty obviously, understanding what the minister has been saying about how the program that will be made available and is being discussed with the Teachers Union, relative to teachers taking early retirement or working part time. I would ask the Minister of Education to take the opportunity to let the member opposite know what in fact is being proposed.

[3:00 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what is being proposed is a reduction of 400 teachers in the system through a number of retirement options. That is all we are proposing. This may not be the most wonderful thing we could do for the education system. It is a very modest reduction. We have very good teacher to student ratios in Nova Scotia, much better than in the early 1990's, 400 teaching positions, through attrition, no lay-offs.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to return to the Premier. We are hearing the same kind of stuff that we heard from this government when they started the assault on the education system. These guys have picked it up and are carrying it on even worse. I want to ask a real simple question to the Premier. Is the Premier saying that no matter how many teachers and other school resources are lost, no matter how wrong he is about the effect of the Education budget, he intends to continue to ignore what Nova Scotians are saying and to impose this budget anyway?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, no, we are not ignoring Nova Scotians. I would like the Minister of Education to describe, for the member opposite, the process that we would like to undergo with school boards to bring resolution to the impasse that we find ourselves in now.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what we want to do, would like to do, are doing today, is inviting superintendents back to the bargaining table next week to talk about the numbers, to talk about the pressures they face. We are not going to change the budget. (Interruptions) We are going to talk to the school boards, so that we don't have to have negotiations either on the floor of the House or on the street outside or in the schools.

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

EXCO - PRESIDENT: POLICY - RESPONSIBILITY

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Murray Coolican, the President of the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce is a well-known

[Page 4247]

Tory backroom functionary, who has been making policy for this government since August 16th. It seems now that he is not content just to make policy, he wants to enunciate policy. He stated that the school boards should be eliminated. When is the Premier going to tell Mr. Coolican that he really isn't the Premier of this province, that the job is filled, and when is he going to distance himself from this person?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this Premier doesn't plan to distance himself from any Nova Scotian. This government will represent each and every Nova Scotian, from Glace Bay to Yarmouth, all 930,000 of them.

MR. MACLELLAN: I think that the Premier has just said it, he is not prepared to distance himself from this pseudo Premier, his shadow Premier. Obviously he speaks for the government. Will the government tell us that he in fact is speaking for the government, and this government does plan to change the school board structure in Nova Scotia?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party, would you repeat the question please.

MR. MACLELLAN: I think that Mr. Coolican is speaking for the government, and will the Premier tell us to what degree and how Mr. Coolican is speaking for the government, and how this government plans to change the school board structure in Nova Scotia? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is about four questions.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is that Mr. Coolican speaks for the metro Chamber of Commerce. If the member opposite has any information that would lead him to believe that Mr. Coolican or anybody else speaks for this government, other than members of the government, I would be pleased if he could table it here to substantiate what he has just said.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I am simply inviting the Premier to say that he does not speak for the province, that he doesn't speak for this government, that school boards aren't going to be eliminated and that, in fact, I ask the Premier, will he tell the Minister of Education to negotiate openly with the school boards, to consult them, to go back to square one and between the Minister of Education and the school boards come to a new structure for educational funding in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the Leader of the Liberal Party didn't hear the answer to a previous question. Actually that question was answered, but I would invite the Minister of Education to repeat the answer.

[Page 4248]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, negotiating with the school boards is what we want and what we hope to be doing starting next week, again.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

ELECTION PROMISES - UNFULFILLED

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Hamm blue book will surely go down as one of the most cynical and misleading political documents ever produced in Nova Scotia. This books says, "It's time government started looking at education as an investment in our future rather than simply as a cost to government." Now that quote is attributed directly to John Hamm. The Premier and his troubled Minister of Education repeatedly defend their disastrous Education budget as a necessary part of fighting the deficit now.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the Premier is, when will you admit what is now obvious to everyone in this province, that you never intended to keep your election promises made during the campaign?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of this government to keep all of its commitments. I just wish that the member opposite, in fact all members opposite, would make some commitment to come up with some constructive ideas other than to spend more money to continue driving this province further and further into debt because, depending on what day it is, you have a suggestion for the government each and every day - depending on who happens to be in the gallery - to spend more money.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't think I need to remind the Premier that this is what he said he would do when he was in government right there, okay? This same blue book says, "A PC Government will dedicate itself to an education system which is adequately funded, fully focused on the student and the classroom and which will prepare young Nova Scotians to compete in the job markets of today and tomorrow."

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, we see what is happening outside this House today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4249]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . as a result of that Premier's budget, don't we? My question to the Premier is, what kind of life lessons do you think our children are learning from a Premier who will say anything to get elected?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right. We are committed to providing an education to allow young people to enter the job market. One of the commitments that we have made, and as the member opposite is aware, 17,000 young Nova Scotians last year applied to our community colleges for 7,000 positions and 10,000 young Nova Scotians were denied access to our community colleges because the community colleges are underfunded. We made a commitment this year for increased funding to the community colleges so that the young people who, over the next few years, will graduate from our high schools will have an opportunity to get job training at the community colleges, because that is one of the real weak links in our education system.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows full well if our young people can't get through Grade Primary to Grade 12, they will never get into the community colleges. The blue book also promises professional development opportunities for teachers, additional resources for students with special needs. It promises adequate access to youth support services such as social workers, public and mental health professionals; all wrong. Mr. Speaker, all of these things will be cut as a result of this disastrous budget. My final question to the Premier is, why should Nova Scotians believe a single word you say when you are so flagrantly breaking the promises you made nine months ago?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite continues to use tremendous poetic licence in terms of what she thinks is going to happen to the education system. I would ask the Minister of Education to respond to the remarks of the member opposite.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right. We have all those things in our system. This government believes in education. We have committed not to spend less this year, next year, the year after, any year of our mandate. It is the only area which has received that commitment. I would like to point out that in spite of what some members opposite may say, $1.2 billion is not no money, $1.2 billion is a huge amount of money that is being invested in the youth of this province, this year and the next year and the next year.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to table the documents she referred to, please?

Order, please. If the honourable members would listen, they would hear. I asked for the honourable member who asked the question to table the documents she referred to.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The blue book?

[Page 4250]

MR. SPEAKER: Whatever she had in her hand. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): SCHOOLS - SUPPORT STAFF

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on Page 16 of the Tory campaign blue book, the Tories promised to ensure adequate access to youth support services such as social workers, public and mental health professionals. So with the changes in community and family structures in today's society, the need for adequate support services for the young people in our schools is needed more than ever. My question to the Minister of Education is, how does the minister intend to provide for the ever-increasing need for support workers in our schools?

HON. JANE PURVES: We intend to support these needs by continuing to put resources where they are needed, in the hands of nurses, social workers, teachers, to the best of our ability, to see that each child receives adequate care.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, school boards across this province are maintaining that with the proposed $53 million budget cut to public education they will no longer be able to provide these necessary support services. What will you, as Minister of Education, say to the parents of those children who need these support services, but cannot get them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this $50 million budget cut is being thrown around. We did not propose a $50 million budget cut in education. We proposed a 2.4 per cent budget cut in the public education system.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable Minister of Education, she knows full well that there is a $53 million cut to public education in this current budget that is before the House. On a future day we will have further discussion. My final question to the minister is, if, as Minister of Education, you cannot live and meet the commitments of your Party's campaign platform, will you do the honourable thing and resign as Minister of Education? Yes or no.

[3:15 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our Party intends to keep our commitments to the students of Nova Scotia, the parents of Nova Scotia, to all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 4251]

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have reviewed remarks made by the Tory member for Dartmouth South in late debate last night that were insulting and inflammatory about education. For example, he said of teachers and school boards in this province that, " . . . as usual, they want more money and that is the only response that will make them happy." I want to ask the Minister of Education if the comments by the member for Dartmouth South reflect the views of this government? Do you believe that school teachers' primary interest is money?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, everyone receiving funds from government wants more money. It is not the same as saying that someone's primary interest is money. I would say though, I repeat, yes, everyone wants more money. The boards want more money. Everyone does. We just don't happen to have it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is set to fire nearly 1,000 teachers and her colleague, the member for Dartmouth South, claims teachers only care about money. My question to the Minister of Education is, why has this government chosen to pick a fight with teachers at the expense of students and education in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have not tried to pick a fight with teachers. We are not picking a fight with teachers. We are offering teachers a retirement option that should make many of them quite happy. This is not fighting with teachers.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that this Minister of Education is not going to stand up for education in this province. My final question is for the Premier. Mr. Premier, will you stand up for educators and school board officials in this province and direct the member for Dartmouth South to issue a written apology for his outrageous statements last night?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will give the member opposite the benefit of the doubt. She was here last night. She has misread a lot of things that we have said. Probably a check of Hansard, when it comes out, will indicate that, again, the member opposite has used quite a bit of poetic licence in generating her question.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

SUPERINTENDENTS MEETING - AGENDA

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The minister has condescendingly agreed to meet with the superintendents next week. Is the result of that meeting just to grace them with her charm or is she going to offer

[Page 4252]

something tangible to the school boards, to the superintendents? Has she got some money that she can offer them to put education back where it should be or is she just going to charm them into agreeing with her? What is the reason for this meeting?

HON. JANE PURVES: I am glad the member opposite thinks I am so charming, not everyone would agree with him. Mr. Speaker, the invitation went out today to the superintendents from the deputy minister to meet again with the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group. That is not a meeting the minister attends. This is a meeting of officials and that is where people roll up their sleeves and get to work. That is what the meeting is about.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I consider the minister about as charming as Lucrezia Borgia. (Interruptions) Maybe I was too kind to her. Other than the fact that everybody around the room is going to have bare forearms, what is going to be the reason for this meeting? What is the minister going to give these school boards? What is she going to offer the superintendents? What is going to be, in her opinion, a step forward that is going to resolve this horrible situation in which we find our education system as a result of this budget?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, there are about four questions, but if the honourable Minister of Education wants to answer.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the meeting will be about the budget pressures other than the teacher retirements that the school boards face and what we may, in the department, be able to do to help them. Other than that, I don't believe that I should be talking about this on the floor of the House.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, people throughout this province are concerned, gravely concerned about the position this government has placed the education system in. That meeting is not going to happen until next week. Can't the minister find some humility and some humanity to be able to tell the students and the parents of Nova Scotia that she is going to offer something tangible in this meeting, that she is going to offer something in a financial way that is going to resolve this mess that this government has placed the educational system in in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I would like to tell these students and parents of this province is that we are not going to allow a 2.4 per cent cut in the public education budget to balloon into a 10 per cent cut of teachers across the province, plus closing 15 schools, plus, plus, plus. That is not going to be allowed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 4253]

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): SCHOOL BOARDS - COST DRIVERS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday, the Premier and the minister were saying there was plenty of room to cut in school board administration. I heard the Premier say that outside again today. I want to table a study from the minister's own department, written less than a year ago. This study looks at cost drivers in one board, the Halifax Regional School Board. The minister's own department identified the cost drivers as things like special education, wage parity and full day Primary. There is not one word in this study about fat administration.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question to the minister, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth, that your call for administrative cuts is just political hot air?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government is telling Nova Scotians the truth. I know what the cost drivers are in the school boards and the whole education system. But the fact is, we do not have endless amounts of money to give away. So what I am asking the school boards to do is to look at their administration and try to make the kind of cuts that we have had to do in my own department.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, even if there were some small savings in administration, like getting rid of cell phones or isolating Nova Scotia by eliminating out-of-province travel, it would amount to a tiny fraction of the $53 million needed by the school boards just to maintain the status quo. Now I want to table a comparison of municipal and school board administration costs that shows school boards have administrative costs of 3.3 per cent or one-half the administrative costs of municipalities. My question to the minister is, here is more evidence that you are wrong when you say that school boards haven't already . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . been cut to the board. When will you table the evidence you have that says you are right?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, in school boards across the province, I know that they have been trying very hard but it is still $24 million of public money and I do not believe that it has been trimmed to the bone and we will try to make sure that it is.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well the minister likes to say that her department is taking an administrative cut of one-third but like everything else the minister says, it just isn't so. Now I have the documents to prove it and I will table those as well.

[Page 4254]

Those documents show that they have simply moved administrative money around in her own department.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My final question to the minister is, when will you admit that the school boards know what they are talking about and it is the minister who doesn't have a clue?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I never said the school boards don't know what they are talking about. What I said was that I am asking them to look for administrative cuts and I am still expecting them to be able to find some administrative cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

SPECIAL NEEDS/DISABILITIES - FUNDING

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The student mix in our classrooms has changed. Students with major disabilities and special needs are there. In the Community Services budget, there was no new money for technical aids and support. Students with disabilities often need special technical assistance in our school system, we all know that. My question to the minister is, since the money for such assistance is lacking in the Community Services budget, can the Minister of Education explain what additional funding is available to assist students with disabilities in our classrooms?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I don't have that information with me right now but I would be glad to table it when I get it.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as the minister knows, there are special needs students who may not be getting the attention that they need and what they deserve in the classrooms within our communities. My question is where, in the Education budget, is there additional funding for those students to get the attention that they need in the classroom? She must have some idea by this time, surely to goodness, where this money is for the special needs children in our classrooms.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal of money in the Education budget for special needs children but for the specific question that the honourable member asked, I said I would get back to him and I will.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we learn that the Family Violence Prevention Initiative was axed by this Tory Government and this program helped to train teachers to identify signs of abused children within the classroom. My question is, how is the Department of Education

[Page 4255]

making sure teachers receive the training that they need to identify and deal with abused students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the department and the boards spend a great deal of money on teacher professional development and will continue to do so.

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

SYSCO - SALE: PURCHASER - JOBS FACTOR

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for Sysco. As we know, tomorrow is the deadline for bids on the Sydney Steel Plant. The Premier and the minister are on record as saying they prefer to sell the plant as an ongoing concern. Nova Scotians want assurances that you will make every effort to keep operations going and avoid a fire sale. I want to ask the minister a very simple question. Will you confirm that Sysco will be sold to the bidder that proposes the most jobs and the best economic benefit for the community, yes or no?

[3:30 p.m.]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, obviously we have said repeatedly that it is our intent to find a purchaser who will continue to operate the plant. The reason for the extension that was granted to E & Y was because there has been significant interest in purchasing that operation. Once we make a determination of what the proposals entail, we will make a determination as to which is the best and in the best interests of the people concerned.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it is an apropos statement, the last out turns off the lights, because this is going to have a major impact on Nova Scotia Power. If Sysco closes, Nova Scotia Power will lose a major source of revenue and will put an upward pressure on residential rates; on the other hand, if it is sold as a going concern, Nova Scotia Power could possibly get more revenue, and we might even see a decrease in residential rates. I ask the minister, will you confirm that if Sysco closes, Nova Scotia Power will lose about $5 million in annual revenue? Tell us today, will your government move to protect customers from any resulting rate hike?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia Power, in light of the uncertain future of Sysco, which has been a problem for a number of years, it is my understanding they don't include the purchase of electricity from Sysco as a line item in their revenue statements, so there is no need for them to make adjustments, whatever happens to Sysco.

[Page 4256]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians know how Sydney Steel has been used as a political football by both of these Parties, and their continued interest in playing politics with Sysco. I want assurances, as all Nova Scotians want assurances, that the sale will include the best interests of the workers, the community and, indeed, the province. Therefore I ask the minister today, will he commit today, before signing any deal on Sydney Steel, that he will first present a full explanation and details of that deal for the full consideration of this House? I ask you to make that commitment today.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we have put in place a team of experts who will determine what is in the best interests of the province and the taxpayers right straight across Nova Scotia. We have said we want to find a purchaser who will operate the operation as an ongoing affair, and that is our first intention. The other thing is that obviously we have a board of directors that represents a broad base of constituents, that will be brought into determining what is the best proposal.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

CUTS - POST-SECONDARY CONSEQUENCES

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. We all know the government has cut and slashed funding for the province's public school system; 50 students in a high school class. Shame. My question for the minister is, how can she expect Nova Scotia's students to be prepared for a university or college education when she is destroying the quality of high school education that they are going to be receiving?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is not destroying the quality of high school or any other kind of public education; 2.4 per cent of nearly $700 million is not a lot of money. This will not destroy our education system, it will not destroy our classrooms in high school, junior high, elementary, or anywhere in the public education system.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that is not a very enthusiastic response, because it is not a very good answer to the question. My first supplementary for the Minister of Education, in addition to teacher lay-offs and cuts to support services and school closures, we have also learned that curriculum development will be stopped in many key areas, like science and social studies. My question is, how can this minister expect our students to compete when they enter college or university if our curriculum development falls further and further behind that which is offered to students in every other Canadian province?

[Page 4257]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our department is not stopping curriculum development. What our department is doing is slowing curriculum development. It is slowing down the frantic pace under the former government, for which textbooks were not provided and for which teachers and school boards constantly complained.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, what that department is doing is slowly killing education in this province. Clearly this government has no plan for education, no plan for the future of our young people, no plan to ensure Nova Scotia remains Canada's learning province. My final supplementary is for the Minister of Education, will this minister go back to the drawing board, when it comes to school funding, so she can live up to her commitment of March 29th, and that there will be no teacher lay-offs and no cuts to Nova Scotia's public school system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government's plan for education and for children in this province is to start living within our means.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

NSLC - PRIVATIZATION: METHODOLOGY - REVEAL

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I didn't hear who you were directing your question to.

MS. O'CONNELL: My question is for the Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act. Mr. Speaker, last week's disastrous budget announced a review of privatization options for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. The budget document said a governmental committee would be set up. Since budget day, there has been no further information, but the ferret tells us that a committee has been struck and the members are working. My question to the minister, why can't you tell Nova Scotians the truth about your plans to privatize the Liquor Commission. Why do we have to ferret it out?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: We have been very up front, as mentioned last week. The working committee will be comprised of someone from P & P, Finance, a deputy minister, someone from the commission and, as well, the general manager. We have been very up front. They will analyse various options available. They will come back by the end of June to P & P and we will move forward from there.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the trouble, we don't know exactly who is on it. We sometimes hear that the committee has six members, some say it is five and some say it has three. We know the committee is chaired by the Deputy Minister responsible for the Liquor Control Act, and includes Greg Lusk from the Department of Finance and Greg Beaulieu from Priorities and Planning. It may also include Alison Scott, the chief bottle

[Page 4258]

washer for the Cabinet. So I want to ask the minister, when will you table a complete list of the privatization committee's members, their deadline and their term of reference?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Can the honourable member repeat the question? I didn't hear it in the noise.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor. Would you please repeat the question.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, when will you table a complete list of the privatization committee's members, their deadline and their terms of reference?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will be happy to table who is on the committee, in the coming days. That is not a problem. As well, the committee has met, and they are going over some of the terms of reference, and I will be glad to share those with the honourable member when that has been done.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister saying that, but the problem is that once again this government has shut out one of the most knowledgeable stakeholders in the process. I am talking about the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission employees and their union. Real people with real families who live in real communities. Some of them even have a Tory MLA. So my final question to the minister is, why are you treating the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission employees with such disrespect?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can assure you we are not treating the employees with disrespect at all. The committee has met, and they are going over the terms of reference. As I said to the honourable member, I will be happy to share them with her on a future day and I will do so on a future day. We are not treating anybody with disrespect.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): C.B. -V. REG. SC. BD. - IMPACT

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, as head of government, and with reference to this morning's front page headline, Hysteria not helping - Hamm, which, if you take the dash out, it actually makes a pretty good headline: Hysteria not helping Hamm. Indeed. The Premier will be well familiar with the content of that news story so I don't need to summarize or paraphrase it, but I would like here to table another front page news story from The Cape Breton Post of April 13th. "Cuts called 'a disaster' School superintendent warns of major layoffs."

[Page 4259]

I have highlighted here three copies, one for the table, one for the Premier, and one for his Minister of Education, and they can read those, expressing the opinion of Dr. John Hayes MacNeil, the Superintendent of Schools for the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board, that the Minister of Education's budget is going to result in the loss of 220 employees by September; the breakdown being 150 teachers and 70 support staff.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Does the honourable member have a question?

MR. MACEWAN: I would like to ask the Premier, as head of government, if he would recognize to this House and to the community the special challenges faced by teachers and support staffs in regions with high unemployment, like the region I come from where unemployment is officially estimated at 20 per cent and in reality it is probably . . .

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

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the talented member for Cape Breton Nova for his question. What has to happen, of course, is that Mr. Hayes and all superintendents come and have a meeting . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: MacNeil. Hayes MacNeil.

THE PREMIER: . . . with the minister so we can have the numbers that the minister is talking about, we can rationalize what it is. Any reasonable person who goes through the budget and looks at the amount of money that is being made for education, relative to last year, will come to the same conclusion that those massive numbers simply don't fit. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is well aware of the particular problems facing the coal mining industry in Cape Breton today, with the massive loss of jobs there, and the problems faced in the steel industry that were just raised a couple of minutes ago. The impact of the loss of this number of jobs in the industrial region right now, of 220 more jobs lost, is going to be horrendous; it is going to be horrendous. I would like to ask the Premier, in view of the special challenges of trying to survive in an area of high unemployment, would he commit to restoring and increasing the funding to the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton Nova speaks with genuine passion about the economic woes of Cape Breton, in particular industrial Cape Breton, and I share that concern, but I feel obliged to remind the member that this government will do and is committed to doing a lot better to solve those economic woes than the government we replaced.

[Page 4260]

MR. MACEWAN: I am going to conclude my final supplementary by a one-sentence quote from Dr. John Hayes MacNeil and he states, "There is nothing worse than people who trivialize a serious problem." Would the Premier not agree that those remarks apply to the answers that he has just given the House, Mr. Speaker?

THE PREMIER: I did lose the question, but I believe that the question had something to do with trivializing. This government is not trivializing anything it does. We have a very serious problem; we have a very serious problem created by 25 years of deficit financing. If the problem had been easy to solve, that government would have solved it, or any of the governments over the last 25 years. The problem is difficult. The problem is severe and this government is determined to solve it to give Nova Scotians (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): INFO. - ACCURACY

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. We do have a problem. We have a communications problem here. Nobody knows whether they can believe anything that comes from this government.

[3:45 p.m.]

I have a question that I have been asked to present to the Premier from students here in the gallery who represent some of those who are participating in the rally outside against these ugly cuts to the education system. The question has to do with why there (Interruption) and if the member for Cape Breton West would wait for a second, I will put this question that was presented by one of the students in the gallery. The question has to do with why there are no accurate figures coming from this government about what the consequences are of the budget that has been tabled by the Minister of Finance. As the minister responsible, I would like to ask the Minister of Education, on behalf of the students, why has she and her department not been able to present accurate information about the true consequences of her budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all the information we have presented is accurate. We have asked school boards to make certain adjustments to their budgets and we have outlined a retirement plan that we estimate to be accurate, but as the honourable member knows, we have to wait to find out what the take-up is. Our message and our numbers have been accurate.

[Page 4261]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You see, Mr. Speaker? When this budget was first tabled, the government said that there would be 400 teachers retiring and then all of a sudden, the people who actually know what those figures are, the Teachers Union and the school board said, no, wrong; a lot less than that and as a result, there is going to be lay-offs. I would like to ask the minister to explain why it is that she is so right in her department and the school board and the Teachers Union and the teachers in the schools are so wrong.

MISS PURVES: Our numbers, estimates were always based on retirement options. Now that the union and the boards are aware of the other retirement options, I believe that they will find that our numbers are not wrong.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: You know what is so pathetic about all this? It is that a budget was tabled in this House that has dramatic impact on education and this government didn't talk to anybody else in the education system. It is shameful. It is absolutely shameful. I can't get over it.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I want to ask the Premier to tell the students outside and the students in the gallery and the teachers and the school board members and everybody else concerned about what he is doing with education, why it is that he would present a budget in this House of which he doesn't understand the consequences? Why would he do that to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Not only am I aware of the consequences of the budget, I am aware of the consequences if this government doesn't take action. In fact, and if we don't do something to secure the future of our province and of our young people in that province. If this were an easy situation, then we would not be the last government in the entire country to come to grips with the financial situation that we are facing. The members opposite have questions. What the members opposite don't have are answers. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

SCHOOL CLOSURES - EXCLUDED ASSURANCE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on March 29th we heard the words by the government of the day, there will be no cuts to education. Later we heard that there will be 400 positions affected in the education system in the following year. The minister today has said there will be no school closures in the Province of Nova Scotia. Yet, in the southwest region, they have said in Lunenburg County alone that Petit Riviere, Gold River and Riverport could very well be lost.

[Page 4262]

My question to the minister, who knows that these cuts are bigger than she is willing to admit in this House, can she assure this House that there will be no school closures in the Province of Nova Scotia and in Lunenburg County this year?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows that no Minister of Education could promise such a thing this year or any other year. Certainly his government never did.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister, no matter what she says one day, she retracts the next. She promised that the money in education would be the same, she has changed that by over $53.3 million. Today, she said there will not be closures in schools and now she is saying there will be closures in schools. Unacceptable, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: My question now goes to the minister. Last year there was $1.3 million added to the base funding to the Southwest Regional School Board for equality and equity and fairness. This year that was taken out and it is the only region in the province where it was taken out. My question to the minister is, why is she picking on the Southwest Regional School Board, condemning the children, the administrators and the teachers of that region against other regions of this province? Why?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that equity funding was put in the base formula of the Southwest Regional School Board.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am not allowed to call her a liar, but I can tell you right now that there are enough people in this audience and who are watching this show here today and children outside knowing what she is saying is false, according to the staff of the Southwest Regional School Board. Now, the Premier has said, snip snip, a little bit of fat out of the administration will resolve our problem. He said it to Health . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . and he is saying it to Education. I phoned the Southwest Regional School Board and said, if they cut the administrative staff in . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: My question is to the Premier. If you cut all the administrative costs in the Southwest Regional School Board, which is about $2.86 million, the deficit is still $4.8 million. I ask the question to the Premier. How can they bring education forward in the Southwest Regional School Board if they have no administration and a deficit of $4.8 million? You need to put money into the program and will you commit . . .

[Page 4263]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should know, I really believe he does know, that it was not the position of this government that all of the make-up would be on administrative cuts. But what the government is determined to do is to make sure that administrative cuts play a large role in coming to grips (Interruption) with this budget in Education and every budget that this province has tabled. Every single one. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Hants East.

EDUC. - ANNA. V. REG. SC. BD.: MEETING (BERWICK [18/04/00]) -

MLAs (ANNA. V.) ABSENCE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. Last night in Berwick I was at a school board meeting. There was standing room only of 700 concerned parents crowded into the school gymnasium. It was crowded, very crowded but there was still enough room to squeeze in some Tory MLAs. So could the Premier explain why there weren't any Valley MLAs at the meeting in Berwick last night? (Interruptions)

THE PREMIER: Thank you very much; because the MLAs were doing what they are supposed to be doing when the House is sitting, here in their seats participating in debate.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the people at that meeting last night would have been glad to give them a seat in that gym. The parents at this meeting last night wanted their MLAs present so they could give them this message, protect our children's education. Yesterday, the MLA for Yarmouth brushed past reporters who wanted to ask him about the impact of the budget on Yarmouth and yesterday not a single Tory MLA showed up for a meeting of the Halifax Regional School Board.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: My question, Mr. Speaker, for the Premier. Mr. Premier, will you tell your MLAs to stop avoiding their constituents and start addressing the concerns of parents who oppose this disastrous budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite, and I congratulate him for his energy, we have to maintain the quorum here but if the member opposite would stay in the House and be guaranteed to stay here, we could have some of our MLAs go to these meetings, as long as you would help us keep the quorum in the House.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter from Mr. Steve Baskwill, Secretary of the Lawrencetown Consolidated Advisory Council. It says that presently at Lawrencetown Consolidated, 25 per cent of students are on the resource caseload

[Page 4264]

and others are waiting. This means that those students need special support and the budget means they won't get it. My question is for the Premier again. What do special needs students have to hope for from a government that is so out of touch with the real needs of real students?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is starting to come to the nub of the problem. What we are attempting to do is design a system that directs a higher percentage of everything that goes into the Education budget into the classroom. That can only come about with meaningful negotiation with those representatives of the school board. The Minister of Education has invited them to a meeting and that is where productive discussion on all of this will begin.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): STRAIT REG. SC. BD. - IMPACT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. As the minister may or may not know, the Strait Regional School Board has the smallest enrolment and one of the most complex demographic profiles. The Strait Regional School Board is the least likely board to benefit from streamlining administration. My question is, will the minister tell the people of the Strait area why the Strait Regional School Board's funding is being hit the hardest of any Nova Scotian school board?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member opposite knows very well that the Strait board has a serious problem with declining enrolment and over the last few years there has been special funding for that board to cope with that problem, the same as there has been equity funding on the South Shore and different kinds of help for other boards for their particular problems. The Strait board's numbers this year are simply reflecting an even further decline in enrolment even though the department has done its best to protect that board from the full consequences of that decline.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what little consolation it will be to the parents in the Strait area that is the one area that is undergoing the greatest development in this province to see that this minister is abandoning them in their time of need. The Strait board now has to pare $4.5 million from its operating budget. My question is, can the minister tell this House and the Strait Regional School Board what cuts they should make as a result of this reduction in funding?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have asked the boards to find their own ideas and present their own ideas for what they may do for these problems and that is precisely one of the reasons that we wish to meet with them next week.

[Page 4265]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister continues to say that there should be no lay-offs and the board cuts should be made in administration. John Cameron, Director of Operation for the Strait Regional School Board, said if they cut all positions at the board head office, they would still have to lay off 75 teachers. My final question is, will the minister admit today that she knew all along that her budget would cause massive lay-offs in teacher positions when she introduced it in this House?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly I will admit no such thing and I repeat that of the total budget of nearly $700 million, it is very surprising to me to find out that a 2.4 per cent cut means 10 per cent reductions all over the place.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): ROSS RD. SCHOOL - IMPACT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is time for a little reality therapy for the Minister of Education. Ross Road School, which is shared by students from my riding and students from the riding of Preston, has 31 teachers. They have just learned 20 of those teachers are about to be fired by this government. I want to ask the Minister of Education how well she thinks the Ross Road School will be able to continue operating after she just fired 65 per cent of the teachers who are presently working there?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member well knows, the school boards are responsible for teacher hiring and firing. This government has not fired any teachers, and will not be firing teachers as a result of this budget. That is all I have to say. No lay-offs as a result of this budget. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the principal there told me the tension was so thick they could cut it with a knife. The minister can say what she wants, but the fact remains, she just fired 65 per cent of the teachers at Ross Road School. There are 549 students at Ross Road and this September, there will be 11 returning teachers. How can the Minister of Education continue to say not a single teacher will be laid off when we know that 20 teachers are about to be laid off at Ross Road School alone?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have a news release which I am prepared to table from Stella Campbell, the Chairperson of the Halifax Regional School Board who agrees that we should be meeting next week, and I would like to table that piece of good news. And, to repeat, 65 per cent of the teachers at Ross Road School are not going to be fired.

[Page 4266]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the Minister of Education up on what she says. Will the minister stand in her place right now and give her personal guarantee that no teachers are going to be laid off at Ross Road School? (Interruptions)

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly I will tell the honourable member that there should be no teacher lay-offs at Ross Road School, or anywhere else, as a result of our budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): SW REG. SC. BD. - IMPACT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The Southwest Regional School Board is facing a cut of 3.61 per cent in this budget. Along with the government's removal of funding for the board, they require an increase of $2.5 million to stay even, and an additional $700,000 in increased fuel costs. So the total amount to be cut from the school board's budget is $7,213,600. My question to the Minister of Education, can the minister explain how a school board can have a budget cut of this amount and not lay off any teachers?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have two issues here. We have our budget measures and we have the problems the school boards were struggling with in the first place, many issues the same as other Nova Scotians, the same as health boards, the same as many people. I would say the Southwest Regional School Board can find savings. Its budget is over $60 million.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, that is going to be interesting for the Southwest Regional School Board to find savings of over $7 million. My next question to the minister, with the loss of teachers comes the closing of schools. You can't have one without the other. In order to live within its budget, the Southwest Regional School Board will have to close a number of schools. Can the minister explain how a school board can have its budget cut by $7 million and not close any schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the issue of closing schools in Halifax and in the rest of the province has been going on for decades, as the honourable member knows, since so many closed during his time. Now, I would say that the promise not to close schools can never be made and that is just reality that we all face. If student ratios were increasing, we probably would not have to close schools. But the student population is going down and that is the reality we have to face.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is, three of the schools scheduled to be closed by the Southwest Regional School Board are in Clare: Clare District High School, Havelock School and Baie Sainte Marie school. These students will have to

[Page 4267]

leave the Municipality of Clare and some students will have to travel to Weymouth and Digby County and some others will have to travel to Yarmouth. Will the minister explain to the people of the Municipality of Clare why she is closing their community schools and destroying the very fabric of their community?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government is going to save the education system. It is going to save the other areas that are priority areas, like health. We are going to do that by not constantly borrowing money for today and never being able to pay it back tomorrow. Thank you.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): TANTALLON JHS - IMPACT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I just got a call that eight teachers at Tantallon Junior High School just received their pink slips. Tantallon Junior High is a little school just outside of town here with about 600 to 650 students in it. I would ask the Minister of Education, what should I tell those teachers, that it is okay, the pink slips don't mean anything and that the minister guarantees they won't lose their jobs? Is that what I will tell them?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, we will be meeting with the school boards next week and we will try to deal with all these issues, not here on the floor of the House. Thank you.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Eight teachers from Tantallon Junior High have just received a pink slip. Does the minister know what a pink slip is? A pink slip is when you are told your job is gone. She may have a meeting next week with the school board, but these people have received, today, a notice that their job is gone.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I don't want to know about the meeting next week. These teachers want to know about this pink slip today. Will she tell me what it is that I can tell these teachers at Tantallon Junior High, who have been given a pink slip today, told their job is gone, terminated over? What can I tell them?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell those teachers that they should talk to the people at the school board and, perhaps, ask why the school boards have found it necessary to indulge in these tactics when negotiation is possible.

[Page 4268]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: One minute the minister and the Premier say there are not going to be any lay-offs, the next minute they are handing out pink slips to teachers, Mr. Speaker. Tantallon Junior High is a growth area. There are now 600 to 650 students and it is going to be bigger next year. The minister says she has a meeting next week with the school board and that her budget and the budget of the Minister of Finance will not result in lay-offs to teachers. Will she stand in her place today and tell the teachers at Tantallon Junior High School, who just received pink slips, they have nothing to worry about, that as a result of their budget there will be no lay-offs, their jobs are secure, and she will get that straightened out next week with the school board. Will she give us that commitment?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax School Board has a deficit. The Halifax School Board was talking about teacher lay-offs before our budget came along. I repeat what I have said before, there should be no teacher lay-offs as a result of our budget measures.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TOURISM - RESORTS:

PRIVATIZATION - COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Tourism. In the budget, the Finance Minister said our provincially-run resorts would be turned over to the private managers. The Tourism Minister said this would be in the best interests of Nova Scotians from a financial aspect. Can the minister provide the details of the cost-benefit analysis that was done, to prove this move is in the best interests of Nova Scotians?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we will be pursuing a private sector management contract. This can bring significant marketing power to the table. As well, I would be happy to give the honourable member the numbers with regard to the financial situation of resorts. I will give them to the honourable member in the upcoming days.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister said that the option to sell the resorts is still on the table, and he knows he can't sell Keltic Lodge because of the long-standing federal agreement. When I first brought this issue to the House of Assembly, I understood there had been no negotiations with Ottawa. How can the province keep its option to sell Keltic Lodge, or keep that on the table, without first talking to the federal government?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we will not be selling Keltic Lodge, as we lease it from federal government, as the member indicated.

[Page 4269]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this government has the obligation to be up front with Nova Scotians about the plan for our provincial resorts. Can the minister confirm, today, whether he or any officials from his department has entered into any discussions with John Risley or any of his associates, regarding the sale of the provincial resorts?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I missed the last part of the member's question, if he could repeat it again. There is quite a bit of noise.

MR. MACASKILL: Has the minister or anyone from his department entered into discussions with John Risley or any of his associates regarding the possible sale of our provincial resorts?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: As I indicated, the first thing we are doing is going after a private sector management contract. We are not in any kind of negotiations with regard to a sale.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - PROJECTION VERIFY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we have heard much talk today about a new meeting coming up with the Minister of Education, but last week the Minister of Education said, don't worry, I am meeting with school boards on Monday and we will straighten this all out, no problem. Well, that meeting has come and gone, and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is facing cuts of up to 150 teachers, as well as 70 support staff. Madame Minister, the pink slips are going out next week. My question to you, when will you finally admit your projections have no basis in fact and put an end to your senseless attack on the education system of this province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am defending the education system in this province. I am defending students; students in the public system, students in community colleges, students in universities. It costs a great deal of money to educate students. We are spending a great deal of money on students. We would like to spend more. In a few years time, perhaps we will be able to spend more.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, empty promises like that do little to help the economy of Cape Breton that has already been devastated by this government. Cape Breton Island has already been hit by thousands of job losses. This government says it would help the Cape Breton economy. Bull to that. Instead, the Minister of Education is throwing hundreds more out of work. Worse, this attack is on the education system, which means fewer opportunities for these students. I ask the minister, why didn't you tell Cape Bretoners the truth, that you

[Page 4270]

intend to create more unemployment, take away the best chances for these young students to improve the fortunes of themselves and the Island? Tell the truth.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what creates fewer opportunities for students is a bankrupt province. Thank you.

MR. CORBETT: Maybe that minister, Mr. Speaker, could put some of those pressures on her rich friends from south end Halifax instead of coal miners in Cape Breton. Maybe she should do that. She should take some of her booty she has in the bank.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: The minister said programs for students with special needs will not be affected by her disastrous budget. Well, she is wrong again. She is damn wrong. I ask this minister, what do I tell teachers like Susan . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Put the question, please. Order, please. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre please put the question.

MR. CORBETT: I will. What do I tell teachers like Susan Brown or parents like Trevor Leadbeater who say the programs for students with special needs at St. Agnes School in New Waterford are being cut? Where do these children go now, Ms. Minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our teachers, our administrators and the department, we do a great deal for students with special needs. We never can do, perhaps, as much as we would like, but we spend tens of millions of dollars and there are thousands of people in the system trying to help these children.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): C.B.-V. REG. SC. BD. - IMPACT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. She has indicated that the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board must makes cuts in administration. Three per cent of its total budget is administration. That is about $3.4 million. If you were to eliminate the cut in administration because of the $3 million cut in provincial funding, that would eliminate 90 per cent of the board. How would the minister explain that rationalization with 90 per cent of the budget cut in administration?

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

The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

[Page 4271]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, before we go into Opposition Members' Business, could we have the permission to revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

Is it agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that reads as follows: "Fellow classmate as you know there have been heavy cutbacks in our school system. Cutbacks will mean that there will no longer be as many teachers, which means that there may be 40 -50 students per class, which is unacceptable. There will be severe cuts to Languages, Drama, Art, Physical Education, the musical, and extra curricular sports. The special needs students will be severely cutback in the help they so desperately need. Also about 800 teachers will be out of work and about 200 teaching assistants and special help teachers. This petition is for people who disagree with the cutbacks so please, if you value your education, sign below."

Mr. Speaker, I have upwards of 1,000 names on this petition that have been submitted from students from outside of this building and from here in the gallery. I will affix my signature to the petition and I so table it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the west gallery, observing the Question Period today and the debate about the Education budget, three students from Queen Elizabeth High School, Allison Baker, Allison Smith and Megan Grant. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

[Page 4272]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have distributed the times. They will have to be adjusted now by a couple of minutes and I have also distributed them to both the government and the Liberal caucus. Would you please call Resolution No. 1365.

Res. No. 1365, Educ. - Cuts: Decimation - Review - notice given Apr. 17/2000 - (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to start off the debate on this resolution and I would like to read the resolution. The resolution says:

"Whereas school boards now say that 744 teachers will lose their jobs along with 1,100 others, such as janitors and teachers' aides; and

Whereas the dismantling of programs such as music and French immersion will also result; and

Whereas the Minister of Education is now suggesting that the school boards are exaggerating numbers and that only she is correct;

Therefore be it resolved that Education Week is the time for the Premier to ask himself if the decimation of the education system in this province is what he hopes to leave as his legacy with proposed funding cuts that would mean Nova Scotia will spend less on education per student than any other province in Canada."

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that we are here today during Education Week. Education in our province has been thrown into crisis with this budget and throughout Question Period this afternoon members were receiving green message sheets telling us where throughout the region the pink slips were being issued. I would not want to be one of those teachers having to go home tonight and speak with their families and let them know that they received a pink slip today. They have no idea what their future looks like and these are people who are dedicated people, who are very committed to education.

On Sunday evening I was visited by my niece who lives in the Truro area. She is a 15 year old student who is in Grade 9. She is a good student, but she is a very quiet young person, much like her aunt, and she raised with me the cutbacks in education and she said in her very quiet way, you know Maureen, I have about 30 students in most of my classes now and some of the students in my class have real, serious problems and what that means is the teachers never have enough time to give me help and I don't want to raise a fuss and I don't want to call attention to myself when I know there are other people who need help more than I do. I felt sick. I thought, how many young people are there like my niece who are quiet and

[Page 4273]

who are the students who need some one-on-one attention and the teachers with larger class sizes and the implications of this budget, they are just not going to get to those students.

I have five schools in my riding in the north end of Halifax, four of them are elementary schools, one is a junior high. Three of the four elementary schools have been designated as inner-city schools. That is because of the very large numbers of low income families in that community. Many children who come to school are children of single parents, many who come to school are from African-Nova Scotian families that historically have been disadvantaged socially, politically and economically in our province. In those schools, they have smaller class sizes and teachers' assistants, there is a Four Plus Program, a Head Start Program for students and this is a very important thing to try to give those kids an opportunity to have the same quality education and the same outcomes in education as children from more advantaged backgrounds.

Mr. Speaker, this budget and the implications of this budget for small class sizes, the Four Plus Program, teaching assistants in those programs, will have a dramatically negative impact on these schools. Parent-Teacher Associations in these schools and in schools all over Nova Scotia are constantly fund-raising and increasingly they are having to fund-raise for things that should be part of the core services in our education system.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that child poverty has grown in our province and that has had a profound impact in the classroom. There are children who come to school who have not had enough to eat. There are children who come to school whose families cannot afford the designer clothes that are so much a feature of an increasingly consumer-oriented society and that results in theft of designer clothes. Teachers have had to deal with this over and over again. The pressures on teachers are enormous and the pressures on principals to deal with many social problems and issues is extraordinary. The expectations we have heaped on teachers to deal with the prevention of violence and dealing with bullying, to deal with eating disorders, to deal with sexuality, to deal with racism, to deal with medications and medical conditions, to deal with children with special needs, this is the stuff that front-line teachers have to deal with every single day.

Mr. Speaker, that is the picture on the front lines and is it any wonder then, when we study the impact of how teachers are spending their time, they report the extraordinary amount of stress they are under. They talk about the limited amount of time they have to plan, to upgrade their own skills, to deal with students one on one. Teachers tell me all the time that by the time they deal with all of these other issues, there is very little time left over sometimes to teach the core curriculum and they have been pushed to the wall. They have been pushed to the wall by governments for the past seven or eight years in this province.

Mr. Speaker, according to Statistics Canada, in 1993-94 total public school expenditures in Nova Scotia were the third lowest in Canada at $5,339 per student. That is when John Savage came to power. By the time he finished four years of cuts to school

[Page 4274]

boards, that government had ripped $180 million out of Nova Scotia's school system and we were the second lowest funding per capita in the country. With this government and what they are doing to education, we now have the distinction and Premier Hamm will have the distinction of taking education funding in the Province of Nova Scotia to the lowest provincial funding per capita in the country and the lowest in North America. Unbelievable.

AN HON. MEMBER: Lower than anywhere.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: The issuing of pink slips today is a real indicator of the absolute ineptitude of this government in managing education funding in this province. What was the first thing they did when they had an opportunity to deal with education? They suspended the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group. They suspended them. They decided that they would not consult with and involve in the preparation of the budget the very group who had the information of what the level of attrition would be this year and next year in terms of early retirements, what the actual situations are that school boards are facing with respect to all of the programs they have to provide and the resources that are required to provide it. They kept this group absolutely in the dark about what their plans were and then they sprung it on them in the budget. They did it in a way that was fairly deceitful because they said one thing when, in fact, they knew that the implications of what they were bringing onto the floor of this Legislature were something entirely different. It is unbelievable that this is the way one's government treats its own citizens. A government should never treat its own citizens in this manner.

[4:30 p.m.]

I want to say very clearly on behalf of our caucus, that we cannot afford to allow education to suffer for two or three years and then attempt to pump millions of dollars into the system to try to repair the damage. It doesn't work like that. Education funding and educating our children does not work like that; you have to maintain an even system, one that pays attention to the needs of children each year. Any member of this House who is a parent will know that if you have a child who has a bad year, trying to recover can be next to impossible. Every single, solitary year in the school system matters profoundly. Once a child has lost their confidence, their self-esteem and the knowledge that they would get in a particular year in the school system, you could lose that child forever.

Last night I told members in this House a little story about leaving my constituency office and seeing two young men come out of an amateur boxing club. One young man turned to the other and said, you know one of the good things about jail is you can get an education there. I thought, what a sorry comment on what it is we are providing to our young people in our school system. We need to maintain our education programs. To stand here and talk about their commitment to lifelong learning and investment in education because some money has been put into our chronically-underfunded community college system, is a disgrace. Students will never find their way into community college or into our university system unless

[Page 4275]

they have the basic foundation which they get in our school system between Primary and Grade 12. This is fundamentally important that we maintain our Primary to Grade 12 school system.

Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, what is going to happen here is what we have seen with the other slash and burn approaches to health care and education. The hard lesson that this Hamm Government has to learn is that these kinds of spending cuts are not sustainable. They have not been sustainable in this province and they have not been sustainable in other places where they have been attempted. What they do is they damage the social fabric of the community and ultimately governments are then forced to re-invest, scramble and re-invest heavily and ultimately their decision to attempt to bring a deficit under control is undermined. So this is not the approach that will work, and they will have to learn that hard lesson but, unfortunately, the pain they will inflict is pain we will all have to live with while they are on their little learning curve.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments today to talk a bit on the positive side of our education system, and note that Education Week is a time to celebrate all the good things in our education system, even though these are tough times, especially in tough times. I would like to recognize all the people who contribute to eduction. Parents, family members, teachers, staff, and communities are a vital support to education at all levels, and I recognize that. The teachers deliver high-quality programs. These people support kids across the province in all aspects of their growth and learning.

The debate we are hearing today from the students outside, from parents at school board meetings, and from school boards, reflects a very strong commitment to education, Mr. Speaker, and I recognize that and appreciate that. People feel strongly that they want to keep the good things we have. It is working now, they are say, and they don't want to lose anything. Nothing. I thank them for that passion, and I share that passion. We want to make the education system the best it can be now and in the future. That commitment and belief is the core of what makes our education system strong today.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is we don't have the luxury of keeping absolutely everything the same tomorrow as it is today and, if we do, we will risk erosion of this system down the road. The province's financial position has forced us into an uncomfortable position. We have no choice but to contain or reduce spending, even in areas we cherish. The largest pieces of the government spending pie, like education, cannot be exempt from this process. So what we are saying is that some small changes now, a few reductions at this point, will put us on the right track, will give us some much-needed flexibility later on.

[Page 4276]

We need to protect what is most important in education to make sure we can keep it permanently. We want to be in a position to augment and improve education in the future, to make sure students are getting the best services possible, but this situation, Mr. Speaker, the financial situation, has obliged us to take an unprecedented look at all aspects of the Department of Education's spending. This includes every aspect of our operations, from the smallest item at the highest level to the largest item at the lowest level. Our choices were based on a fundamental principle: we prefer not to spend money on administration if it can be redirected for other more important things.

Mr. Speaker, this process is not easy. It has not been easy, but it is necessary. I believe many members on the opposite side know full well it is necessary. What we are asking is for our education partners to look at what they may be doing that they may be able to change. We have identified opportunities to reduce spending at the department as well as the school boards, and we will have to work together to find ways to proceed.

One of the strategies is to reduce the total number of teachers in the province. We know this choice is difficult, and we would prefer to avoid it. No one, including us, wants any teachers to leave, but when you consider all the available options, we think this can be done. We believe schools can reduce the total number of teachers without a dramatic impact on students. There are teachers who retire; there are teachers who leave the system every year. On top of that, government has put some teacher workforce adjustment options on the table to facilitate retirement, and part-time options that might reduce the expense of the teaching force. We think these options are good for teachers, and we think they reflect what is reasonable. We are asking school boards and teachers to carefully consider these options, as we have.

Mr. Speaker, I know everyone feels strongly that more money is the only answer, and I have heard their views. But, we are asking for their cooperation as we try to implement a reduction of just 2.35 per cent. We are asking for public schools across the province to accommodate a total of $18 million less than the $782 million they received last year. A lot has been said about what this will do. It is believed that this 2.35 per cent will devastate the system, forcing 20 per cent or 50 per cent reductions in some areas.

Mr. Speaker, our figures don't support that. We know there is room in the system to accommodate this 2.35 per cent reduction. I don't think it will be easy, but I think it can be done without having an undue effect on the classroom. We have a couple of figures that support this. For example, we don't see this change as having much of an effect on pupil-teacher ratios. They will change from about 16.4 pupils per teacher last year to 16.8 this year, under this budget. The numbers are nowhere near as high as the ratio of 17.4 in 1997-98. I know that students, teachers and parents managed well enough at that time. We also know that enrolments have been declining for the past five years and will continue to decline. At the same time, the number of teachers has increased. Therefore, we think that within these numbers there is the flexibility to reduce the number of teachers.

[Page 4277]

Mr. Speaker, I recognize there are other pressures in the system. School boards have various other needs, they have rising fuel bills, they have accumulated deficits. These are additional challenges, there is no doubt about it, and we will all have to work together to solve them. I understand that public rallies and meetings are part of this process. But the reality is, the only way these issues will be resolved is if we sit down to work them through. When I met with school board chairs last week, they explained their challenges, again. They were very passionate about their beliefs in the education system, and I am committed to meeting further with them. My deputy is scheduling a meeting with superintendents next week.

Mr. Speaker, having said all that, the fact is there may be some circumstances that cannot be solved. Some school boards say that no matter what they do, there will be significant cuts to the classroom. School boards are talking about some very extreme things in relation to this 2.35 per cent cut. Facing a drop of that 2.35 per cent, some want to close multiple schools, lay off hundreds, shut down many cherished programs. We will not let that happen. (Applause) If school boards find they cannot manage and there is no strategy that we or they can find to help, then we will have to find a way to prevent such changes.

What I am saying, indeed, challenging everyone to think about is how we can contain our spending to make sure the education system we have is sustainable. We will be identifying our priorities, and we will have to make adjustments. There is no question about it. We are committed to maintaining a quality education system for Nova Scotians, and we stand by that commitment. We must all work together to make sure children get the public education they need and deserve. We need good education today, and we also need it 10 years from now. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand up in this House today to discuss and debate this resolution - Resolution No. 1365 - that talks about the so-called legacy of this Tory Government in regard to its commitment to education, a legacy that they will undoubtedly regret ever making, the decision that they are making to undermine and gut the educational system in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame, shame.

MR. DOWNE: We are hearing shames, and we are hearing youth, we are hearing the future of this province, around this Legislative Assembly, crying out for somebody in this government to listen, crying out because they are concerned about their future, crying out because they know the injustice and the wrongdoings that this government is going to be doing to the educational system is wrong.

[Page 4278]

Mr. Speaker, this is the blue book. If you want me to table it later, I can do that. "A PC Government will dedicate itself to an education system which is adequately funded, fully focused on the student and the classroom and which will prepare young Nova Scotians to compete in job markets of today and tomorrow.

There are literally thousands and thousands of youth, teachers and parents around this province, who cannot believe what this government is proposing to do with regard to this budget. When I hear the Premier, this Premier, this doctor in rural Nova Scotia - for years I heard him fight for the issues of education in this province - stand up and say we cannot afford to put money into education, I say this government and this province cannot afford not to invest in the education of the people of this province. We cannot afford not to invest in our young people in this province.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I watched this debate today for an hour and a half and other than the Minister of Finance, the Premier and a couple of other frontbenchers, the back bench in this government did not clap every time there was an answer. Most times they were there with their heads bowed down. They were ashamed.

Some of them said to me, what is with this yellow ribbon? It is about speaking out for a brighter education and I have some here if they have the stomach and the guts to wear it because that means they are prepared to fight internally and externally for more money in the educational system. There are some over there who are so much wanting to come over to take it, but they are afraid. They are afraid because they know if they are prepared - look, we have got a member over here, okay - now, let's see you stand up and do something about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's right, let's see him talk.

MR. DOWNE: There is enough hypocrisy on that side of the House that one member for Preston walked over here to wear this pin and I will ask that member when we vote for the budget, come a few weeks from now, if he will be voting in favour of or against this educational budget and this budget in total. I bet you he will not have the guts then to stand up and fight for his people or his children or the educational system, but he wants to wear the pin.

You know, the hypocrisy of this government in the budget, Mr. Speaker, there should be no teacher lay-off as a result of this budget. This is what the government sold Nova Scotians. During the election campaign they said that they are going to commit money to education, they are going to commit to the future foundation of economic opportunities through education. The task force, Voluntary Planning said the same thing, the foundation of the future of this province, the economic strategy is predicated on the issue of education.

[Page 4279]

The Minister of Education said there would be no cuts to the educational funding program, then the minister says - and every time they say that, Nova Scotians believe them. People believe them, but you can only lie to Nova Scotians so many times or tell . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to retract that statement, please.

MR. DOWNE: I will retract that statement and say you can only try to fool the people so many times by telling them things that are not truthful. That is what this government is doing and they are going to leave a legacy that they have destroyed the future of this province by taking away the educational funding that is required.

The bloodletting of this government, let it be very clear, they seem to be happy about bloodletting and cutting and slashing and burning; they are excited about it. I had ministers coming in here joyfully happy, laughing and everything else about these demonstrations and saying, finally people know that we are really Tories. We are really redneck Tories. We are really the rightwing agenda Tories and we love to see the suffering out in the House and in the streets of Halifax and around rural Nova Scotia.

Well, I want them to know, Mr. Speaker, the bloodletting that has been going on here will not dry, it will stay wet as long as they are alive. In the next election we will know, and Nova Scotians will know, that that blood did not dry and they will not forget exactly the devastation this government is doing to the future of this province.

Four hundred teachers, they said. Well, the numbers that I have by the industry, by the people, by the experts, by the people responsible for budgets of education throughout this province are saying 700, 800, 1,000, somewhere in that vicinity, 1,100 people affected, whether they are bus drivers or working in the educational system. Mr. Speaker, the cuts are phenomenal. Yet, this government says, we cannot spend money on our youth. We cannot invest in our children. I keep going back to the statement they cannot afford not to invest in the students.

How many teachers do we have across the way? We have a few teachers over there. They know all too well what this is all about. What I can't understand, some of them were in this House when we were in power, and all I ever heard them say was how important education is, why we need to make the investment.

I never heard any of this redneck crowd stand up and say cut education, Minister of Finance, cut education. I never heard the Premier of the day say, cut the programs in education, minister, because it is wrong to give it to the educational system. I never heard that Premier stand in this House and say cut programs for health, Minister of Finance, because we can't afford it. I heard that Premier and that Minister of Health and that House Leader say one thing, you can't afford not to invest in health and education and social programs in the

[Page 4280]

Province of Nova Scotia. Now, they are government, and look at them. They slashed and burned and cut. They laugh, they mock, they rejoice in the pain people are seeing in the Province of Nova Scotia. They are celebrating. I have seen them laughing in this House. It was appalling for many colleagues in this House. They said, you went through it before, it is our turn now. We are kind of looking forward to it. Everybody has their rainy day. So this is our rainy day, big deal. People forget about it come the next election. Well, I can tell you, they will not forget it. (Interruption) That is right, minister, they won't forget this, and you know that.

School closures. I was happy to hear the minister say today - we heard it in the House - there will be no school closures. She said that in the debate. I am concerned for my riding, I have to go to a meeting tonight where they are saying there is a potential school closure; Petite Riviere. Beautiful little school; committed community. Riverport is another one. The list goes on. The minister said there will not be. Then I asked her again to reaffirm that position, and then she says, well, I can't really say that. So, finally, we are starting to have this government realize they cannot continually mislead Nova Scotians. The reality is, we don't know if there are going to be cuts to schools. We don't know if there are going to be closures. In fact, most people in the system say there will be cuts to programs.

Then the Premier and the Minister of Justice went on and said, well, snip, snip, cut, cut, it is just a matter of administration. Cut a little bit of the administration, the fat in the system is massive. You know, the previous governments never managed anything. The people in the system are wasteful. They are just wasteful, Mr. Speaker. Snip, snip, cut away a bit of administration. Well, I checked out the administration. In the Southwest Regional School Board alone - by the way pink slips are going, Premier. I know you guys did everything you could to claw back on the issue of pink slips ever sifting out to the people today, until this budget is approved. Well, they are coming out, and I bet you are ticked off. I bet your Priorities and Planning crowd is ticked off, and I bet your Cabinet is ticked off, because somebody didn't pay attention to a directive to make sure you quiet all pink slips until after this budget is approved, and then the blood will continue to flow, but it is slipping out much to your dismay and frustration.

By the way, there is a pink ribbon if you are prepared to stand up and vote against this budget, there is a pink ribbon here for you, and that will show your commitment to the youth and educational system in this province. If you want it now, you can come and get it. I will be happy to give it. I will go over there and give it to you.

Now, the administrative side, cut it and the problem will go away. I checked with the head of the Southwest Regional School Board. If you fire all the elected representatives, let them go, you shut down all the administrative side, shut the whole thing down. Pack them up, ship them out, nobody's there; $2.86 million. Yet, the Southwest Regional School Board needs $7.5 million to make this thing work, just to hold the line, not growing it, to hold the line.

[Page 4281]

So where are they? They have no idea what they are talking about. We have said, repeatedly, they have no plan. They have no real understanding. I know they have to make cuts. I know they have to make tough decisions, but it is clear when they talk about the future economic opportunity and building self-reliance in our youth and education, and the main foundation of what they are talking about is the one area they are prepared to literally destroy.

This morning I went up to New Germany Rural High School. There were 200 students and parents and teachers at 8:00 a.m. this morning. Premier, you remember going up there to New Germany Rural High; you remember being up in that area. Two hundred people showed up, frustrated, mad and concerned. I later went down to Park View Education Centre. We had students from Centre, from Mahone Bay, from Hebbville Academy, from Bridgewater, from all over, seven different schools, and the executive of the student council were there. They are saying to me, make sure you fight for what is going to happen here, because we even know what is going wrong. We even know what the problems will be. Yet, this Premier, this front bench, and this Minister of Education haven't got a clue. It is all administratively going to be fixed. A magic wand is going to come by.

I can tell you, it isn't going to come by in this, the week of education. The week of education, it is shameful. Can you imagine? They are cancelling Education Week. This morning we said to the youth, the students, we don't think it is a good idea to go out and just stop everything you are doing. We have to be thoughtful. We have to be professional and we have to make sure we present the cases articulately and fairly. I bet you they are going to do that. It is pretty frustrating. I had a librarian come up to me today, tears in her eyes, and she said, Don, I got my pink slip. I am gone. I am out of a job and the library will have to go. They are going to shut it down.

How can they sit there, pious as can be, realizing that in rural Nova Scotia - by the way, this is a government that is there to strengthen rural Nova Scotia. They are the government of rural Nova Scotia, albeit they want to cut off Cape Breton, but the rest of rural Nova Scotia, that is what you stand for - you are undermining the opportunity, you are creating a phenomenal disparity within the system for the children in rural Nova Scotia.

We talk about the cracks in the system and how kids fall through the cracks. This system is set up that now people and children who need teacher assistance, it won't be there. In my riding, Verge House is a program where mature adults who are challenged go and they teach them in practical areas so they can go out and become active members of society. There has been some great success. Do you know what they are doing in this thing? They will be putting them back into a high school environment where they will fall apart and collapse under that structure.

Mr. Speaker, I find that this government, if it has the conscience and the backbone of what they said during the election campaign, "honest, open, transparent, integrity" and the words "investing in education" are there . . .

[Page 4282]

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

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are speaking on this resolution with respect to the impact of the budget on education. We have had, today, here in this House and outside of this House - and it is still going on - quite a sign of the concern being felt by students, teachers, and parents. A number of people came in here and sent us notes and talked about the concerns that they had about their schools and their teachers.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Education have been on their feet on a number of occasions in the face of the announcements of eight people at Tantallon Junior High getting a pink slip, eight people at Prince Arthur Junior High School getting a pink slip, 20 people at Ross Road School getting notice that they would be terminated and the government says, well, we are going to ignore that that is even happening.

They say there is nothing else they can do, that the financial position of this province is such that we have to cut and trim back because we are making an investment in the future. What makes it difficult for me to understand I think the teachers and students and parents and others outside is, what are you waiting for? What is in the future? What about us? What about the people right now in school? What about the people who work in the school system, the education system? What about the people who depend on it who are going there?

I talked to a high school student last night over in Dartmouth who said that he was having a hard enough time trying to find the right courses so that he could attend NSCAD next year, because of the cuts that have been happening over the past number of years. Now, if you add this on top of it, he has been told that the programs he desperately needs will not be available and it will be two more years for this young man before he will be able to get into NSCAD, before he will get the required programs. This what is happening.

The government talks about it, and we heard it from the Liberals, let me tell you, we heard from 1990 through until the government under Russell MacLellan came in and they decided to turn a corner and start spending money again. That is all we ever heard - we had to do it, we were forced to do it, even though we promised in the election in 1993 that we were going to create jobs, we were going to invest in education and health care, they cut and they slashed and they hacked and created chaos in the education system that the education system still has not recovered from.

Now this government comes in and they are adding pain upon misery, to the point where the very survival of our education system as we know it is in jeopardy. That is the obvious stuff. It is going to come out, the students who are here and the teachers and the

[Page 4283]

parents and others who are here will continue to tell this government, tell us, tell others, exactly what is happening, what the consequences of these cuts are. They are significant and we are going to hear about them: special education, resource recovery, curriculum options, classroom sizes, music, art, all of those programs are being jeopardized.

What really makes me sick to my stomach about all this, is the tone of what we are hearing from this government now. I sat in Opposition when John Hamm was the Leader of the Tories in Opposition and a number of these Cabinet Ministers sat in Opposition. They talked about things like education; they talked about the investment, the need to invest and the need to ensure that we were able to compete by providing a quality education to our students. They ripped the Liberals up one side and down the other.

When I picked up the speech of June 30th from the Leader of the Tory Party in the election campaign and read that again this morning, I was almost physically ill because it was like that was then, this is now. We didn't really mean it is what John Hamm is trying to tell Nova Scotians; the Minister of Health, the same thing. You didn't believe us; you didn't think we were actually telling the truth or that we meant what we were saying. (Interruption)That Minister of Health says, that is the problem, people believed us.

Let me revisit that speech on June 30th for a few minutes because I tell you, what has happened is that the Tories under John Hamm have added so considerably to the sense of cynicism and mistrust and alienation that Nova Scotians feel about politics and about elections and politicians and government. It is criminal, really.

Let me look at a bit of this. You may recall that this came on the heels of a concern raised by the Halifax Regional School Board that primary was going to be eliminated, affecting 58,000 students. We made quite a fuss out of this because this was an awful thing to have happen and so the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and all the rest of the Tories were running under these commitments.

The Leader of the Tory Party said at the time, I think it is sad that if not for the fact that we are in the midst of a provincial election, those students would have suffered unjustifiable cuts. He goes on and he says, Liberal incompetence needlessly placed the education of more than 58,000 children in jeopardy. He is right. They lost sight of the children in the classroom; right again. They lost sight of the students whose future rests with their schools, they lost sight of the values and discipline the school offers young people. My Party and I recognize every school as a community within itself, one that should be respected - you can almost picture him reading this - so that in turn its members will respect others.

He went on and he said, students and parents were left to twist in the wind while government issues dictates that ignored the root cause of the difficulties. Doesn't that sound like exactly what is happening today? The government is issuing dictates without appreciating

[Page 4284]

and properly communicating the consequences. He went on and he talked about school boards, the same school boards that the Minister of Education is condemning, the school boards that the member for Dartmouth South yesterday was condemning and that other members opposite have condemned. He said, the new school boards were left to deal with problems not of their making. He went on and he said, already we face a shortage of teachers.

When you see that and then you hear them say, well, it is okay if we don't rehire 400 new teachers, that's not really lay-offs, that's 400 less teachers in the classroom in Nova Scotia. Already, the Tories said in the summer, there was a shortage of teachers and yet, one of the first things they did when they had the opportunity, was to add to that. As we know, Mr. Speaker, the people who are actually on the front lines say it is going to be a whole lot worse than 400 teachers.

The speech goes on and it says, once again, Liberals didn't think through a solution. They just reacted by trying to impose their will on the board referring to the Halifax Regional School Board. Right again. We agree. The Liberals should have been condemned for that and were, properly so. Now they're doing the same thing. Now, the Tories are doing exactly the same thing that they condemned the Liberals for, and they are doing it with a straight face which makes me so sick.

He says here, this is the Leader of the Tory Party, John Hamm, I am pleased that programs at the Halifax Regional School Board won't be cut and I don't criticize the extra funding says Dr. Hamm. Why should people have to mount an insurrection against their own government to protect the things most important to them, he says. What do you think is going on outside here? What do you think that meeting in Berwick was all about last night with the 700-odd parents and teachers and students and the 700 or 800 that attended the Halifax Regional School Board meeting over in Dartmouth last night?

What about the hundreds, literally thousands of people who have been outside this building this week? He goes on and he says what we have seen is just the start of what six years of no planning will bring, six years of blindly cutting in order to balance the budget. He condemns the blind cutting just to balance the budget. What we have seen over the last two weeks has proven that nothing beats having a plan. The Tories want to have a plan, a plan that you share with people in advance. That is why we presented our plan to the voters.

What plan, the plan that was in this budget? I don't think so. I don't think Nova Scotians saw that plan. They snuck that sucker in under the table. They snuck that one in under the table and Nova Scotians feel like this government has shoved the shiv in real deep. That is what Nova Scotians are saying to me, Mr. Speaker. That is why we presented our plan to voters. We want people to know that we do the hard work before we make decisions, you know, the disrespect that this government is showing Nova Scotians. They said what they had to say during the election campaign to get elected and they don't give a hoot anymore. Now,

[Page 4285]

all of a sudden they have to deal with the budget. They knew what the books were in the summer.

We knew how bad it was and so did they, but still they made commitments. Instead they continued to make commitments, Mr. Speaker, and told Nova Scotians what they thought they wanted to hear with absolutely no intention of fulfilling those commitments. I, for one, am a Nova Scotian who is totally and utterly ashamed of this government and ashamed oftentimes to call myself a member of this Legislature. How can the Premier stand in his place in good conscience and say that this gutting of the education system is somehow in the best interests of students, somehow in the best interests of future generations? How does the member for the Eastern Shore square that with what is happening? How does he explain to his constituents that this is, in fact, in their best interests?

It is not what they said when they got elected, Mr. Speaker, and I believe it is shameful. Do you know what is going on here? This government is cutting and slashing away at education and health care at the core in order to reduce the deficit and the debt as quickly as they can so that they can bang off a bunch of tax cuts to their rich friends and the wealthy corporations in this province. That is what is going on here. This government is, once again, governing in the interests of the few against the interests of the many and they are saying, to heck with the concerns of young Nova Scotians, the teachers and the parents. I say shame on you. You have not heard the last from these students, like the ones in the gallery from Oxford School, and from other schools here in Halifax and from right across this province. You have not heard the end. You have bitten off more than you can chew and these students and their parents and teachers are going to let you know that loud and clear. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired on the resolution.

The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 45. I am sorry, did you say that the time has expired, Mr. Speaker?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, that is what he said.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Education did not take her full . . . She only took (Interruptions) But we had lost a couple of minutes when we first started so if we continue along, we are going to go exactly until 6:00 p.m.

MR. HOLM: So that means, Mr. Speaker, that there should be about three and one-half minutes left because this was to go to 5:18 p.m. Then we add two minutes on so that really brings it to 5:20 p.m. So there is close to five minutes left of time to debate on this issue.

[Page 4286]

[5:15 p.m.]

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I hadn't meant to enter into this debate this evening because my voice is not very good. However, having listened to the hysterical ravings from that other side for the last four hours now with regard to education, I am glad that I do have the opportunity to say a few words.

Mr. Speaker, we are seeing theatrics in here. This isn't reality, this is theatrics. There is not a member over there who does not understand what this government is doing. This government has a commitment and we are fulfilling our commitment. I hope they are listening. We made a commitment during the last campaign that we were going to balance the budget and we will keep that commitment. We also made a commitment that we would protect the education system and the health system, and we will.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many members over there have heard the rumours from the various school boards around the province of the number of teachers that are going to be laid off. The teachers are sending their children home with various pieces of paper which describe how individual school boards are going to lose 170 teachers, 220 teachers, 1,000 maintenance people. I defy these people to show me mathematically that that could be possible because it is not possible. (Interruption) I have done the math, my friend. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, may I ask a question?

MR. RUSSELL: No.

MR. SPEAKER: No.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is surprising that this gentleman over there wants to ask a question. The $600 million man. Do you realize if those persons had been returned to power, you would have gone out with $600 million. That is your solution to the power. This crowd over here, their solution is the Bob Rae solution, $10 billion. They have no conception of governmental control. They have no conception of how to run a government. (Interruptions) The children in this province will be educated, they will be educated well. This government will assure that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

[Page 4287]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, these gentlemen over here for the last two days have been trying to get thrown out of here by those kinds of tactics. That is not the way we are going to solve the educational problems in this province. We are going to do it with negotiations with the school boards. The Minister of Education has invited the school boards to come and meet with her, and they will be meeting with her again next week. This matter will be resolved because we are determined that the children in this province will receive an adequate education, and that the school teachers and the other people within the administration of the school boards, that are let go, will receive a fair and just release.

Mr. Speaker, I am just wondering if any of these gentlemen . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: And lady.

MR. RUSSELL: . . . oh, and lady, have spoken to their teachers within their area as to the five point program that the minister came forward with. I spoke just about 4:00 p.m. this afternoon to some teachers in my area and they are seriously considering taking up that offer.

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for the resolution.

The honourable New Democratic Party House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that was very amusing.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 45.

Bill No. 45 - Cape Breton Regional Municipality Plebiscite Act.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I rise to talk about this bill that I put forward, Bill No. 45, 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. Speaker, this is a very important bill to a lot of people in that municipality. One of the primary reasons that this bill is before us today is because of forced amalgamation, a deed that was hoisted upon the people of the County of Cape Breton and told, take it, we have

[Page 4288]

done it and that is it. There was no going to the people and finding out whether this was what they wished. There was no sitting down with the residents from Cape Breton and saying, give us some input, let's see what we can do for you. No, it was forced, quite literally, down their throats, of the residents of industrial Cape Breton, which is, indeed, the old County of Cape Breton.

Now, Mr. Speaker, why was that forced amalgamation done? Well, if you had the ability of hindsight, maybe you could just rewind the tapes a bit about some of the politicos of the day who were telling us that it was necessary because, (a) many of the municipalities were going bankrupt and (b) it would be the best overall for the residents of that area, that we would see many good things pour out of forced amalgamation.

Some of us remember that the ink was not quite dry after the swearing in ceremonies of the new mayor and council of that municipality when the Minister of Municipal Affairs of the day, Sandra Jolly, was saying, no, we are not going to give you any money, you are left to your own devices. This is a marriage that has been arranged by us, but we are not going to give you any nest egg money, if you will, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) No dowry.

We have a forced amalgamation. Did the government of the day have the sensibility to go out and say, we are going to start putting the services together and everything will be running fine, so the municipality, when it comes into force, will be up and running, all these programs and all these departments? It will be seamless. We will make sure that the department of works are all melded together first and then we will make sure that the public safety sectors are done, the fire and policing and so on and the clerical positions. That would make so much more sense. But what the government of the day did to the community is, they said, here you go, what we are going to do is hire administrators on the front end that the administration, the elected officials, have no say in hiring and then we are going to hoist this upon you again and you are going to go forward.

So with just those few facts there, Mr. Speaker, you can certainly see the frustrations at the people within that municipality. With this daunting challenge in front of the elected offices in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton, they are trying to move forward. They had successfully negotiated quite a few collective agreements with the fire services, police services, the inside and outside workers; some with work disruptions, some at the eleventh hour, some a little easier. There were many employees displaced over this forced amalgamation.

So we are here, some years later, and, financially, is that municipality any better off than the group of smaller municipalities? I would think you would get a very large argument to say, no, they are not. So what is happening? A municipal government is forced to make decisions about public safety, not based solely on public safety but based on fiscal reasons.

[Page 4289]

Now I guess a point of interest, along this trip what had happened was the situation at Sysco, the situation at Devco, we have massive unemployment and basically no commercial base, no industrial base for taxation. Yet this municipal government is asked to plod along as if it is business as usual.

We have heard the argument here today about what mess a this government inherited and how they are hoisting it on to the other government, the government that preceded them. Well, this, I could tell you, Mr. Speaker, was a debt not made by any one regional municipal councillor or mayor. This was a debt that was placed on them by forced amalgamation when nobody was allowed to vote yea or nay on it, this is what Big Brother is going to do for you. I think there is also a very large area of argument that could say that Cape Breton indeed was used as a guinea pig, that we will wait and see and watch Cape Breton under a microscope and we won't retrace our steps when we force HRM into existence. I think that is a very large argument.

So what happens? As I said, Mr. Speaker, they are forced into making a decision about public safety, based solely on monetary reasons and not public safety reasons. Large groups of citizens then get involved, some probably not for the purest of reasons but, nonetheless, they are residents. This has caused a great deal of concern in industrial Cape Breton. We can argue all day as I said, about the reasons these people have shown up at public meetings and do they have an agenda. You know, quite frankly, that is not our role, nor is it the role of the elected officials and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

What I do see as our role is to make sure that these people are listened to. As I said at the outset, this is not an easy bill to put forward. But the mere fact that some may see us going into a jurisdiction and forcing a hand. Well, I will say to that, there is not nearly as much downward pressure being put on that council as was put on industrial Cape Breton when it was forced to amalgamate. All we are saying is to answer the frustrations of the many residents of industrial Cape Breton, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, allow them to have this one single plebiscite. Then, whoever wins, it is over. We have allowed them to have their say. This is what this bill is all about, the ability to let the residents once and for all, after nearly a decade of governments telling the people of Cape Breton that this is the way you have to operate your municipal affairs.

Well, before I take my seat, I hope the Minister of Municipal Affairs will be getting up. I hope that he would see this in a favourable light, would support this bill going further and that we would be able to give, once and for all, the people of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality a voice and a vote in what their future policing concerns will look like. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 4290]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I appreciate the opportunity to participate in the debate on this bill which came before us yesterday and has been brought to the House, I think it is probably about the speediest movement of a bill that I have ever seen, coming from introduction, to the House. Well, I have seen them once they get here move pretty quickly through the piece, but in terms of this one.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this of course is the debate which is on the principle of the bill and when we talk about the principle of the bill then we need to come to an understanding of what that principle is, or what is entailed in that principle. The wording of this bill is very specific, it is aimed at a particular problem. However, it does introduce into the process, a means which is not involved or not covered under the current provisions with respect to the Municipal Government Act or with respect to the Act which created the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, nor with the provisions of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

It is very interesting, Mr. Speaker that when the previous Legislature, which was a minority Legislature which provided a very unique opportunity for political Parties to have an input into the formulation of the law - much greater input than is ordinarily the case - that the issue of plebiscites is one which was not brought forward in a manner that is contained within this bill. There is, of course, referenced and there is the opportunity for plebiscites to be heard, but those plebiscites come forward from the municipal unit and it is a tool, if you like, of governing, for a municipal unit if it so desires or wants to use that particular instrument to assist it in the governing process.

The Legislature in recent times - and the bill, the Municipal Government Act was proclaimed on April 1, 1999 and when all Parties with the ability to come forward and to make a very significant contribution to the formulation of legislation saw fit to bring the Municipal Government Act forward without any provisions with respect to plebiscites coming from the citizenry or permitting requests for plebiscites to come forward from citizens. That, Mr. Speaker, is rather indicative of the attitude that must have existed during the period of that Legislature. I believe that that attitude indeed reflected a respect for the process that was put in place to allow municipal governments to be able to exercise their right to govern responsibly with respect to the matters over which they have jurisdiction. Heaven knows, members of this House have often heard municipal governments are at times quite willing to express opinions on matters that don't come under their jurisdiction, but I won't go there today. They are quite willing to do that, but that is not the purpose of my comments today.

The previous Legislature saw fit not to deal with this instrument, that is to give the citizenry the ability to come forward. That, I think, is something we need to reflect upon as we consider the bill that is before us today because at a time when there was so much capacity

[Page 4291]

to make a contribution to the formulation of that legislation, it was not seen fit to come forward with this sort of a plebiscite device. So you ask yourself - this is a specific piece of legislation aimed at a specific problem, however, the Municipal Government Act and the charter which created the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, those pieces of legislation saw fit to give to the municipal governments the authority to be able to govern and to make laws which affect their municipality and the people who live within that municipality.

So, the Legislature has said to the municipal units, we will put in place legislation that will allow an election to take place and that election, once it takes place will elect the people who will govern the municipal unit for the period of the next four years. The legislation said to those people that you will govern and you will conduct yourselves, and as long as you conduct yourselves according to the law, then we will take a hands-off attitude with respect to how you govern yourselves.

So, Mr. Speaker, when we consider this piece of legislation, and we consider the attitude that existed at the time the Municipal Government Act was brought forward and, at the time the legislation that created the Cape Breton Regional Municipality was brought forward, we have to ask ourselves, is it reasonable, today, to be talking about changing the rules which were confirmed as recently as April 1, 1999. Is it reasonable for us today to change those rules because a municipal unit in its decision-making process created a situation where there was a great deal of reaction within the community. I am not minimizing that reaction in any way. It is real, and it is something for which the members of that municipal council will have to be held accountable for as they go to the people in October. That, sir, is the process that the Legislature put in place when they proclaimed the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act and when they confirmed the contents of that Act with the bringing forward of the Municipal Government Act and proclaiming it on April 1, 1999.

Is it reasonable then for us, today, to turn around and say, no, we didn't mean that? We didn't mean for you to be in a situation that when controversy arises, we will step in and bail you out. That is our interpretation of bailing out. I am sure it is not the interpretation that municipal units would give to this kind of action as they would look at it across this province. What in effect we would be doing, Mr. Speaker, if we were to adopt this piece of legislation, we would be saying to all of the municipal units throughout this province that we trust you as long as you stay out of the headlines. We will let you govern, but just don't create a stir. Don't make difficult decisions. Don't be responsible for your decisions. That, in effect, is what we are saying when we come forward with legislation such as this.

Mr. Speaker, we have as a Legislature - I wasn't here but many of you were, and you voted for the legislation - given to the municipal units the power to govern, and we have set it out clearly what it is that they were to do. Whether it is good government or not, the people will decide, and they will have that opportunity in October to decide whether it is good government. (Interruption) And, that is the philosophy under which the municipal governments throughout this province are currently operating.

[Page 4292]

Mr. Speaker, is it reasonable for this body to turn around and three-quarters of the way through the piece, suddenly decide, no we don't want you to be governing that way. We want to change. Is my time getting close, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have five seconds.

MR. MACISAAC: There were so many things I wanted to say here today, Mr. Speaker. I want to thank the honourable members for their attention, and I look forward to hearing the rest of the debate.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing this particular piece of legislation before the House, because, albeit that it is somewhat shortsighted in the dynamics of approach and, as the minister has suggested, in trying to determine what in fact was the principle of the legislation. I have to go back because I feel somewhat compelled to draw to the attention of the various members of the House, some of who were here before, a little bit of history. That will put things in perspective, certainly, for the honourable minister, who wasn't here at that particular point in time, but it is important to understand why I would support the general principle of a plebiscite, but not necessarily in the context for which the minister has made particular reference.

We go back to June 1994. A piece of legislation was introduced in this House called the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Act. Mr. Speaker, it is public record, and I will certainly table the agenda for Monday, June 6, 1994, whereby every municipal leader who came from the eight municipalities, under the old process, supported that particular piece of legislation. I sat on the Law Amendments Committee when they did. I asked the then Warden Coady and Municipal Clerk, Dave Muise, if they supported that particular piece of legislation and they said, yes. The reason why that came before the House, quite frankly, is because, just the session before that, there was a Cape Breton County Charter piece of legislation that was before this House, a Private Member's Bill, which, in my view, is nothing more than a veiled attempt to look after some political agendas, which would have cost the municipal taxpayers, under the old Municipality of the County of Cape Breton, upwards of $2 million in additional taxes. That is why I opposed it.

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what has been said at the introduction of this particular piece of legislation, let's fast forward to the exchange of services legislation. I will also table the presentation that was made by John Coady, Warden of the Municipality of the County of Cape Breton and Chairman of the Cape Breton County Joint Expenditure Board, which is the umbrella body for all eight municipal councils, at that particular juncture. He said that he must applaud the government for its willingness to assume the full cost of general assistance in the area soon to be regionalised in industrial Cape Breton. The initiative will certainly relieve the

[Page 4293]

new regional government of what would have been a significant negative financial burden had we been required to carry that responsibility for general assistance.

Mr. Speaker, if we have elements at the municipal level who misled the taxpayers in those regional municipalities, the provincial government cannot be faulted in its entirety. I opposed that, not because I opposed my government, per se, but because I believed that Warden Coady was misleading the people in Cape Breton County. He was misleading them in the first degree. The only two municipal units out of the eight that opposed that exchange of services was the Town of North Sydney and the Town of Louisbourg. But, yet, it was a bit of a contradiction because, under the C.A. Campbell Report, they wanted the best of both worlds. So they had a bit of a dichotomy on their hands themselves. So it was important to set the tone for the reality of this situation. The minister has raised a very important point about the provincial government possibly interfering with the conduct of the ability of municipal governments to conduct and perform and function on behalf of the municipal taxpayers.

Let's go back a bit. There are some oversights in any particular piece of legislation. All he has to do is look at his own legislation that is before the House here, Bill No. 42. There are some 20 amendments in his particular piece of legislation to correct some errors and omissions and some oversights from the Municipal Government Act that was adopted back in 1999.

[5:45 p.m.]

If we go back to when Halifax and Dartmouth had their own charters, they had the provision in their charters, Mr. Speaker, to allow the residents to call for a plebiscite. I believe it is erroneous, the approach on this particular piece of legislation. I do, because it demonstrates a limitation on the thought process of what some of the major issues are to follow, not only in the days and months ahead, but in the years to follow. But there is some potential for correction. I would certainly support it going on to the Committee on Private and Local Bills and the initiative of a plebiscite in general and the fact that there is a 10 per cent requirement of the ratepayers, or the residents, to sign this petition.

It is a mirror image of what we have on the agenda for next week on our Opposition Day; what a coincidence. Why wasn't it the 5 per cent, or whatever it was, under the old Halifax or Dartmouth City Charters? It was just monkey see, monkey do. I don't want to go there, but because it is a very serious issue and I respect the minister's concern on this issue, and the fact that you would have upwards of 10,000 residents raising public concern, not to mention the number of people who are too afraid, too intimidated, from either side of the issue, Mr. Speaker, to raise concern.

[Page 4294]

I raised an issue in the House last week. One of the major problems we have in that regional municipality is the high cost of management. The administration in that municipal government is one of the highest, as a percentage of its total budget, of any agency in the province. That is part of the problem. That is why I believe, Mr. Speaker, when the facilitator was sent down, it should not have been a facilitator from the Department of Justice, it should have been a facilitator from the Department of Municipal Affairs because there is a problem with financial mismanagement as far as I am concerned and the evidence is overwhelming.

When you have, on average, a municipal unit that has the cost of administration upwards in excess of 8 per cent and the average is somewhere between 3 per cent and 4 per cent, you have to stop and ask yourself, why could they not come up with an extra $1 million? If you corrected that one issue alone, you would have $4.25 million to address that problem. There was no reason, Mr. Speaker, we are talking value for dollar because our provincial transfers . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Running for mayor. Russell for Mayor.

MR. MACKINNON: No, I am not interested in running for mayor. Been there, done that, Mr. Speaker, to experience is to know, but . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We have ascertained that he does not want to run for mayor. Maybe the honourable member will let us know which other post he may be interested in running for?

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.

MR. MACKINNON: Very intriguing. Let's get back to the principle of the bill.

I realize my time is limited here but I really do believe, Mr. Speaker, there is the potential to address this - even if it dies at the Committee on Private and Local Bills - there is a particular issue and look at the dynamics in a much broader scope than has been put forth by the presenter of this particular piece of legislation. So I would ask the government to give some consideration to that because, if not, we may lose an opportunity to correct some of the errors and omissions of yesterday. (Applause)

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: On an introduction, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my colleague, the honourable member, for yielding the floor for a moment. I would like to introduce a constituent of mine who has been here this afternoon watching the debate. Her name is Amy Hum. She is a Grade 8 student at Oxford Junior High School and she lives in

[Page 4295]

the north end of Halifax. I would ask her to stand, and I would ask the members to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill No. 45. I want the honourable member for Cape Breton West to recognize that this bill is open and receptive to amendments once it is passed on to Private and Local Bills Committee.

Let's be honest. This bill is derived from a very important critical issue that is affecting the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton and that is the right to policing services. The right for the citizens to have a voice and a say on the level and the type of policing services they will have within their municipality.

I spent 11 years in municipal government and far be it for me to tell the provincial government to butt into the affairs of municipal government, but there happens to come a time when provincial government must step in and must offer some sense of direction. What I am saying to you, Mr. Speaker, is many citizens within municipalities are very passionate about the delivery of at least two very essential services; one is fire and the other is policing and not necessarily in that order. They are extremely passionate about that delivery of service and one in which they feel obligated to make sure they receive, as citizens of a municipality.

I want to tell you that I served on the Police Commission of the former City of Dartmouth and I was also a resident of a small fishing village down the Eastern Shore. Each were policed by two different levels of policing services. In one area you had the municipal police service under the City of Dartmouth and the other, which was a rural community, had the RCM Policing services.

I want you to know that citizens become accustomed to the level of policing services they receive, and over a period of time they become familiar with the level of policing services and truly appreciate the level of policing services they get.

By the way, I lived in Westmount for a period of three years as well. When I lived in Westmount there was a RCM Policing service in that area - I still think it might be there and in Coxheath and the surrounding area. People were quite passionate about their policing services there, they felt it was the best level of policing services they could possibly receive and related it to the kind of policing service they were getting from the RCM Police.

I want you to know that the now Premier, who sat in Opposition, and when we were in a minority government recognized that obviously - some things through municipal amalgamation - people were not treated fairly. They were not treated fairly simply because they didn't have the right to say whether they wanted to be a part of an amalgamated municipality or not. As a matter of fact, many people had called for a plebiscite, and I recall

[Page 4296]

the amalgamation of the Halifax Regional Municipality. In fact, I know Peter Kelly in the Town of Bedford, then Mayor Peter Kelly, had a plebiscite for his residents and an overwhelming majority - I think it was somewhere over 80 per cent of the people in that Town of Bedford - opted out of amalgamation.

Also, the citizens of Dartmouth wanted a plebiscite and they were not afforded the opportunity, even though it was under the charter that would have allowed them, the council of the day thought it was far too costly to introduce a plebiscite, even though it would have only cost around about $25,000 to have that plebiscite at that time. I voted in support of having a plebiscite when I was sitting on municipal council simply because I felt that historically it is important to recognize what people say and how concerned people are about their communities and about their municipalities.

I want to go back to a bill that was introduced by the now Premier, who was, in fact, the Leader of the Tory Party in Opposition when there was a minority government. That was Bill No. 28 that was introduced in 1998. As a matter of fact, it was a Private Member's Bill. It was to, hopefully, introduce an amendment to what was then called the new Municipal Act. I want to just read one "whereas". It says: Whereas some boundaries of resulting regional municipalities are inappropriate because of the failure to take into account the different needs, the wishes, the resources of inhabitants of urban and rural areas of those regional municipalities. Mr. Speaker, that speaks directly to the policing services and those in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to go to another part, where, in fact, it also states: Whereas there is widespread discontent and disapproval in amalgamated areas; there is another area where there is widespread disapproval and discontent over the level of the policing services. I think the intent of this Bill No. 28 was to recognize that amalgamated municipalities did not take into account the kinds of different communities that are part an the amalgamated municipality.

What I want to say to you is that here, last week, when the residents came up in a busload and stood and spoke to me, and I have had calls from individuals in Westmount, senior citizens from that area, and many of the calls were saying, listen, what do we do to have municipal government listen to us. We have 4,000 people strong; we were at the Centre 200; we asked for that information and we wanted the municipal government to listen to us and at least make sure there was a plebiscite. That is all the citizens are asking for, that there be a plebiscite during the municipal election.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that, yes, this bill is going to, hopefully with the support of all members of this Legislature, it will go on to Private and Local Bills Committee and, hopefully, there will be room for amendments. So I would like to call for the question and move the bill on to Private and Local Bills.

[Page 4297]

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, before I speak on Bill No. 45, were there two minutes left?

MR. SPEAKER: Actually about a minute.

MR. BARNET: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, as a former member of the Halifax Regional Council and a former member of Halifax County Council, I know too well that from time to time municipal councils are faced with very difficult decisions. As a former municipal councillor, I know that on an issue of siting a landfill or siting a compost plant or a whole host of things, a zoning change that might be allowed within the municipal planning strategy, that there could be a large segment of the population that might feel, for some reason, that they are negatively impacted by this.

My concern is that if we cherry-pick issue for issue or municipality by municipality and say, now on this issue at this time we can allow a plebiscite and overrule the legal and authoritative jurisdiction of a municipality, it could go down the road to a slippery slope where, in fact, this Legislature then becomes the municipal government and each and every decision that a municipal government makes will then go before a plebiscite - I am out of time?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. The time has expired for the debate.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, with the agreement of the members opposite, the House Leaders for the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party, the hours tomorrow will be from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. However, I expect that we will complete the business of the House before 5:00 p.m. Question Period will be immediately following the daily routine, as it normally is.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: My understanding was that the Question Period was actually going to be held at noon, at 12:00 o'clock. That was our understanding.

MR. RUSSELL: That is fine, as long as we can get agreement that we are going to revert backwards and forwards. So, we will do the daily routine and then we will go right into Government Business and we will start with the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[Page 4298]

Then at 12:00 p.m., at noon, we will go until 1:00 p.m., when Question Period will come out from there and go back into Supply again and get in another couple of hours.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to tell the two Parties that I would also like to get a bill through second reading, which is the Acadia University Act. (Interruptions) Well, we will try to aim to get out of here at 3:00 p.m. or shortly thereafter. We may do a little bit of the Committee of the Whole House, whatever.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House rise until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for the late debate this evening submitted by the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture is:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the significant cultural contribution of people of Inverness County have made to life in Nova Scotia."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

CULTURE - INV. CO.:

CONTRIBUTIONS SIGNIFICANT - RECOGNIZE

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand today and to offer a few words on culture in Inverness County, something which is very near and dear to my heart. In Inverness County we are fortunate to have a diverse number of cultures within our boundaries. We have Mi'kmaq located in the Waycobah area, and they have their music and their dance. Many place names in Inverness County such as Mabou are Mi'kmaq. Mabou means shining waters. We have a well-established Dutch communities. They are well-known in the agriculture sector. We have Acadians in the northern part of Inverness County from the Margarees to Cheticamp who are well known for their music, dance, language and great energy. We have Irish who are located near the Margaree area and, of course, we have the Scots. I will be speaking on the Scots, people who came from Scotland, a great deal throughout my 10 minutes.

[Page 4299]

Mr. Speaker, along with that, of course, we have other diverse cultures where people came from Sweden, Germany, et cetera. All of these groups have made a significant contribution to the culture of, not only Inverness County, but I believe to the province as a whole. My focus will be my forefathers, those who came from Scotland, many who came following the Highland Clearances. They came by the thousands, from places like Lochaber, Skye and Glenelg and Roy Bridge and that is where my people came from, Roy Bridge and Lochaber. Many came from the Islands.

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to visit Scotland a couple of times, and it is quite unbelievable to hear the music, to see the faces, to talk to people and get a sense of some of their stories and sense of humour. I could have been in Marion Bridge, or I could have been in Iona or I could have been in Glencoe, and I wouldn't have known the difference. When they came, they settled in many places throughout Inverness County. The settled in Creignish, along Route 19. They settled in Craigmore, Judique, Port Hood, Mabou, Skye Glen, Wycocomagh, Lake Ainslie, Scotsville, Inverness, the Margarees - which there are too many to mention here to night, probably seven or eight of them - and all the way up to Cheticamp.

When they did come and settle, they brought with them, as I said, their dancing, stories, songs and, of course, their language. [Gaelic used.] I did have an opportunity to learn some Gaelic, Mr. Speaker, although it is pretty rusty. We were very fortunate in school when I was in elementary school to have some Gaelic, and I had the opportunity to take some at St. F.X. One of the reasons I did take it was because it is a part of who I am. It is a part of what my forefathers did take with them to our great Island. There is a strong link with our fiddling and our dancing and our piping and I am going to be touching on that. I will speak of my own family as I am most familiar with that.

My great-grandfather, for instance was a piper and a fiddler. My grandfather, John Angus Beaton, known from the Mabou Coal Mines Fiddlers, he brought a great amount of music with him from the coal mines. There is a strong link there. His sons and daughters, my Uncle Kinnon Beaton, Joey Beaton plays the piano. My Aunt Mary, whose husband was a former Liberal MLA here, Danny Graham, for Inverness South, plays the piano. Her sons play the fiddle, her daughter plays the fiddle and her other daughter plays the piano. Mr. Speaker, to be honest with you, the list goes on and on. In Inverness County, it often runs in families. You have the Beatons, you have the Rankin Family, who are well known, not only in our own area, but known throughout the world for their rich and unique music and what they have brought to the stage.

Mr. Speaker, I told you that I would be speaking a little bit about the connection between fiddling and step-dancing. Many people often take it for granted. They hear a tune or they see a step dancer, but there is much more to it than that. What it is, and I will give you an example, when they came from Scotland and settled in areas like Mabou or Inverness, we were blocked off away from the mainland of the province. Because of our geography and because there was a lot of sharing of stories and music, a lot of the fiddling tunes have Gaelic

[Page 4300]

words to them. I don't know if a lot of people realize that. So there is a very strong connection, as well as with the step-dancing. This is why we have been able to maintain it, something which has changed significantly in Scotland over the past couple of hundred years, and something which they are attempting to take back as much as they can, because it is a strong part of their history.

We still have a few thousand Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, and many of them come from Inverness County and places like Antigonish or down in the Sydney area. The words and tunes such as [Gaelic used] or we had Put in the Big Chest, there are a number. They are more than just tunes and they are more than just Gaelic stories or Gaelic songs. They are about who we are. Many times, people will say, it all sounds the same, but when you come from that area and you hear the music and you see the dancing, you realize that it is more than that. When I see a step dancer, I see not only a step dancer, and I don't only see a step, but I see someone who is part of the music and part of the time and part of who they are.

I remember listening to Natalie MacMaster, a friend of mine, who is very well known. She is a teacher as well from the Teachers College. I believe the Minister of Health was there at the time. She has taken her music across Canada, across the United States and across the world. These are people we are extremely proud of.

AN HON. MEMBER: She is in Rome now.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: She is in Rome now. That is right, I did hear that. She is, maybe, even, possibly, having an audience with the Pope. So we have gone quite a long way. Her mother actually comes from Mabou. She is a Beaton from Mabou.

AN HON. MEMBER: She used to work in Antigonish.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: She used to work in Antigonish, Minnie Beaton, that is right. As well, her uncle, Buddy MacMaster, another very well-known fiddler and, actually, his son is my EA. You can't escape it in Cape Breton, that is for sure.

As I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, and I start thinking about the music and the language and how it has gone out with people like John Allan Cameron or how it has gone with the Rankin Family, and there has been some change, somewhat. That is healthy, as well. In any cultural society, you have to grow, but it is also important to maintain the tradition. That is why you have to not only just mimic that, but you have to understand it. That is, I think, what many people in my area understand it is that they are doing, they are playing a musical instrument.

I start thinking, Mr. Speaker, we did have, at one time, a show, and the member for Cape Breton Centre is probably familiar with it, the Vanishing Cape Breton Fiddler. That sparked a great interest in our names. I think of people like my first cousin, Blair MacDonald,

[Page 4301]

and I think of a tune my uncle recently made and it is called Blair Benny Kenny Sandy Findley, John John Donald MacDonald or something like this. But, when he plays that tune, when he step-dances, it is unbelievable. He is part of the music. It is more than just playing a tune. It is a story about who he is. It is a story about where he comes from. It is a story about the hills. I know, myself, when I play a tune or when I have the opportunity to listen to a tune, it is more than just a tune. I hope the honourable members, next time they hear a tune, will think more about what the tune actually means to the people and where they come from. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise with some pleasure to speak on the resolution that has been brought forward by the member for Inverness, the Minister of Tourism and Culture. I learned something listening to him tonight, for sure. One of the things I learned was the great variety of cultures that are present in Inverness County. Had I thought about it, I might have known most of them, but I certainly wouldn't have known all of them.

Mr. Speaker, what the member for Inverness probably doesn't know is that - well he might know - if you grow up in Antigonish it doesn't matter what you were to begin with, you are a Scot when you leave. Although my family were of Irish ancestry and I was born in Halifax I spent most of my growing up years in northeastern Nova Scotia and I know it is not Cape Breton, but it is the next best thing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Wannabes.

MS. O'CONNELL: Yes, a Cape Breton wannabe. I, too, was exposed to Celtic culture at a time when it was not world-famous and popular and I am sure that the member for Inverness does not know that in the 1950's - well, perhaps he does know - we had a Gaelic choir in Antigonish which made several records, if I can date myself by saying that. I couldn't join this choir, Mr. Speaker, until my sister left, my older sister, because we only had one dress and one plaide and one carn gorm brooch. However, when she graduated from high school, she bequeathed the white dress, the Fraser tartan plaide and the carn gorm brooch to me and I joined the Gaelic choir. It might be of some interest to members to know that the Gaelic teacher was Mother St. Veronica, who was the sister of the late Premier Angus L. Macdonald, who was born in Port Hood. So I also can attest to my knowledge of tartans, having worn countless tartan skirts to school day after day, including some of my favourites; I had a MacLean tartan, I had a MacLeod of Lewis which was wonderfully bright and colourful. We participated in one of the cultures that the member for Inverness has mentioned tonight.

I do want to say, though - and he knows this - there is more to culture than Scottish culture, there is more to culture than Acadian culture, there is more to culture than the Mi'kmaq culture, and so on. Last fall in this House the minister made a statement one day I

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remember in which he hinted broadly that he understood that culture was a much more organic concept than simply the flinging of a caber or the singing of a tune. I think he knows that and in fact if we look at the definition of culture, it comes from the Latin and the French and it means to till or cultivate; the art or practice of cultivating. So culture is something that we cultivate and it is much broader, as I said, than simply selling kilted lassies to tourists or buying a CD.

The interesting thing about all this is that if you take this broad, and properly broad, definition of culture, we have to look at what previous governments and this government together have been doing to the culture of this province and I will happily use Inverness as an example of the results of political decisions that can emaciate and in fact asphyxiate, a culture. We lived through and we all survived the terrible arguments all over this province about the closing of schools in that context - it was to amalgamate schools to build high-tech schools. What became clear when we met with communities was that to take the school out of the community was in a very real sense to take the life out of the community and that means the culture. It loses its power as a cultural centre, whether that is a meeting place for quilters, whether that is a meeting place for choirs, whether it is simply a meeting place.

We have seen, in spite of the richness that has come from Inverness County we have seen a decimation of rural culture in this province and I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that there are signs that this government will contribute to the emaciation and the death of the rich rural culture in this province through other means as well and I would like to raise, in particular, something in the minister's own constituency. I also looked up the meaning of the word agriculture, Mr. Speaker, and agriculture is the French from the Latin, agricultura, again meaning cultivation, the cultivation of a field. My understanding is that in his own constituency the minister took a brave step and said he would close his own office if the agriculture office in Mabou was closed.

[6:15 p.m.]

Without putting too fine a point on whether an open empty building has a value, it may have, in fact, in the cultural sense. It may be there for the community to use even if it loses one deeply significant symbol of its rural culture. Nonetheless, the minister showed some understanding when he made the statement that he would demonstrate his solidarity by closing his own office should the agriculture office be closed. Well, I see him backtracking in the paper today and I am sorry to see it, Mr. Speaker, because he does have a broad understanding, not just of the many heritages that he listed that are . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, as indicated, the office in Mabou is staying open. So I don't know what point the honourable member is making, when I am not backtracking from anything. The office is staying open and my office is staying open.

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MR. SPEAKER: Obviously it is a disagreement between two members, it is not a point of order.

AN HON. MEMBER: A good point.

MR. SPEAKER: A wonderful point.

MS. O'CONNELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Did I hear you say that was a wonderful point because perhaps you should also mention that this is not a fully staffed office and my understanding from reading the press is that agricultural representatives will have to come, I understand, from Sydney, should people need assistance. So I think the point is clear. The point clearly is that the rural communities of Nova Scotia are under seige in a lot of ways. There is a kind of population resettlement policy going on, by other names, and I fully admit that the previous government led the charge on this, at least in the years that I have been here, but I see a damaging tendency among this government's members - and certainly we see it in this budget - to erode the culture in the truest sense of the word, erode the culture in these rural communities, whether it is gutting education funding for rural communities, whether it is taking staff out of the agriculture office in Mabou, or any one of a number of other examples I could give.

Mr. Speaker, I would have to say that while I truly respect the member's comments on the rich, particularly the Scottish culture, of his constituency - and certainly that is the culture I know best having lived in northeastern Nova Scotia - I feel he may be in need of a small warning here, that if we want to preserve all those cultures in Nova Scotia, whether they be in Inverness, or in Clare, or whether they be in the urban regions, wherever they be, I urge upon the government extreme caution and an understanding of what their policy decisions do to communities as they rent the fabric of their culture.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the Minister of Tourism and Culture brought this forward today because, like him and like the speaker before, I am a firm believer that if we don't invest in our cultural mosaic, we will lose it. I come from the Town of New Waterford. It doesn't readily jump out at you as being a melting pot of sorts, but back at the turn of the 20th Century there were many people from all over the globe who came to New Waterford to work in the coal mines. As a matter of fact, for those of you who have had the distinct pleasure of coming to New Waterford, I would invite you to come up and visit Colliery Lands Park. When you are there, you will see this very large granite monument, various columns of granite. On there are the names of people who have died in the coal mining industry. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, as someone from the Town of Springhill, how that digs at a person's stomach if you come from a coal mining background. But, this is called the Fatalities Monument. It is sad in one way because it represents loss of life in an industry. But, the other side, from an historical perspective, shows

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you the people from all over the world - I think it is the Kenzie MacNeil song, "people who come from all over the world," those lines. You have Czechoslovakians, you have Germans, Italians, literally all creeds, races and colours.

It is very important because if you look at it, the predominant culture on Cape Breton has to be Scottish. It is because in a lot of ways the lack of a sustainable economy right now that you don't have an influx of people from other countries. But it is good, nonetheless, that we have had the foresight to hang on to our Celtic heritage because this is vitally important. I remember in the industry I worked in broadcasting, Mr. Speaker, before I came to this House in broadcasting, that I spent many of my hours taping fiddlers, step dancers, piano players and got to know a genre that I knew very little about. I was introduced even before that to that genre, to some degree, by my in-laws who are both from Inverness County. Mary Jessie Cameron was my wife's mother, and she was from West Lake, and my father-in-law, Tom MacPherson was from Rocky Ridge, then he moved out of the suburbs down to the big city, right to Port Hood.

It is a real fine culture because I got to meet people like Duncan MacQuarrie who has passed away and Margaret McPhee who just passed away a few years ago and her son Dougie. But my father and I used to always tell this story about Duncan MacQuarrie. I don't know how well the Minister of Tourism knows the background of Duncan MacQuarrie, but Duncan was quite the fiddler, and he had some old 78s still around somewhere. Duncan used to work in the coal mines and he liked to not let his throat get dry on the weekends. The story goes, going into miners vacation, all the miners were sitting around the wash-house, and they are all wondering what they are going to do for miners vacation and someone asked Duncan, he said, Duncan, what are you going to do for miners vacation? He said, well I am going on a drunk and I wish it was over. So Duncan had a very good wit besides having a very good bowing arm.

Mr. Speaker, it is those little bits of oral history that have been passed down to generations that make our culture exciting. You know, this is not the type of debate where you could probably raise it up a notch, as we say, about it. I think it is a fairly good time to tell the minister how important culture is everywhere in this province. It jumps at us, if you will, this Celtic heritage. Just around the corner, I am sure there might have been some kind of a beverage room in Cheticamp that the minister might even play at with a fellow named Glenn Graham. I remember, as a matter of fact, taping him there. For the record, he is a very fine fiddler; as a minister, we will let history decide that one.

Mr. Speaker, in closing I want to remind the minister that this whole province has a culture and a heritage as deep as anywhere, and hopefully his time as the minister will show that he has highlighted this, that he funded it properly, and he has moved it forward and that we are all the better for it. Thank you.

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MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the members for the most interesting discussion this evening.

We stand adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.

[The House rose at 6:26 p.m.]