The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House adjourned:
October 26, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 25, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4367
Educ.: Lifetime - Lasts, Mr. H. Epstein 4368
HRM: Fire Service Policy - Oppose, Mr. B. Taylor 4368
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. W. Gaudet 4368
Educ. - Whycocomagh: P-12 School - Demand, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4368
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. M. Samson 4369
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 4369
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Justice - Gaming: Eskasoni Band Council - Agreement Signed,
Hon. M. Baker 4370
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1477, Environ.: Battery Check Day (26/04/00) - Proclaim,
Hon. M. Baker 4371
Vote - Affirmative 4372
Res. 1478, Agric. - Food Safety Sec.: Alexander Officer Award (2000) -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 4372
Vote - Affirmative 4373
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1479, Fin.: Budget (2000-01) - Rethink, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4373
Res. 1480, NDP (N.S.) - Workers (Ex-Prov.): Hiring - Condemn,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4373
Res. 1481, Econ. Dev. - Lake Banook Condos.: Innovative Props. Inc. -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 4374
Vote - Affirmative 4375
Res. 1482, Culture: Les Voix d'Acadie - Congrats., Ms. E. O'Connell 4375
Vote - Affirmative 4375
Res. 1483, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Consequences -
Responsibility Take, Mr. Manning MacDonald 4376
Res. 1484, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Westville: Green Streets Can.
Commun. - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 4376
Vote - Affirmative 4377
Res. 1485, Eastern Shore MLA - Budget (2000-01): Converted -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 4377
Res. 1486, Agric. - NSAC: Funding - Restore, Mr. D. Downe 4378
Res. 1487, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Counting - Einstein Note,
Mr. D. Dexter 4378
Res. 1488, DND - Sea King Helicopters: Replacement - Encourage,
Mr. K. Deveaux 4379
Vote - Affirmative 4380
Res. 1489, Health: Secure Treatment Ctr. (Truro) - Awaited,
Dr. J. Smith 4380
Res. 1490, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Special Needs - Sacrifice Details,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4381
Res. 1491, Educ. - Sc. Bds.: Students - Interest Congrats.,
Mr. K. MacAskill 4381
Res. 1492, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Students - Future Recognize,
Mr. John MacDonell 4382
Res. 1493, Educ. - Trust: Fdn. (Gov't.-People) - Recognize,
Mr. M. Samson 4383
Res. 1494, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Muns.: Law Knowledge -
Apparent, Mr. J. Pye 4383
Res. 1495, Fin.: Budget (2000-01) - Resubmit, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4384
Res. 1496, Culture - Heritage Can. Fdn.: Retirees (N.S.) -
Contributions Recognize, Ms. E. O'Connell 4385
Vote - Affirmative 4385
Res. 1497, Yarmouth MLA - Constituents: Decisions -
Support (Lib. [N.S.] Caucus), Mr. W. Gaudet 4386
Res. 1498, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Mr. F. Corbett 4386
Res. 1499, Gov't. (N.S.) - Resign, Mr. P. MacEwan 4387
Res. 1500, Kings N. MLA - Educ. Stats. (Anna. V.): Gov't. (N.S.) -
Listen, Mr. K. Deveaux 4387
Res. 1501, Sports - Glace Bay Hall of Fame: Inductees (22/04/00) -
Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 4388
Vote - Affirmative 4389
Res. 1502, Educ. - Joan Donaldson (CBC Newsworld) Scholarship:
Danielle Stone (Kings Col.) - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 4389
Vote - Affirmative 4390
Res. 1503, Sports - Skating Contest (MasterCard): Genelle Babin
(D'Escousse) - Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 4390
Vote - Affirmative 4390
Res. 1504, Agric. - Farmers: Services Privatization - Info.,
Mr. John MacDonell 4390
Res. 1505, Gov't. (N.S.) - Rating (Prov.) Decline: NDP (N.S.) -
Engineered, Mr. P. MacEwan 4391
Res. 1506, Kings N. MLA - Budget (2000-01): Admissions - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Wilson 4392
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 550, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Teachers Attrition,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4393
No. 551, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - School Bds. Plans,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4394
No. 552, Educ. - Expenditures: Certain - Justify,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4395
No. 553, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Teachers Options,
Mr. W. Gaudet 4396
No. 554, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Funding Formula - Revise,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4397
No. 555, Fin. - Depts.: Mergers - Cost-Benefit Analysis, Mr. D. Downe 4398
No. 556, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Students Future,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4400
No. 557, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Economy (N.S.) - Devastation,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4401
No. 558, Health: Care - Cuts, Mr. D. Dexter 4402
No. 559, Agric. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Services, Mr. D. Downe 4403
No. 560, Educ. - Schools: Whycocomagh-Mabou Busing - Lengthy,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4405
No. 561, Educ. - Student Loans: Remission Prog. - Relief,
Mr. P. MacEwan 4406
No. 562, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pilot Projects: Privatization -
Details, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4407
No. 563, Health - Budget (2000-01): Home Care - Consequences,
Dr. J. Smith 4408
No. 564, Lbr. - Farming: Tractor (Roll-Over) Safety - Action,
Mr. John MacDonell 4409
No. 565, Fish. - Budget (2000-01): Aquaculture Licence - Fee Increase,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4410
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Ms. E. O'Connell 4411
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4414
Mr. D. Morse 4418
Mr. B. Taylor 4421
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:27 P.M. 4422
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:58 P.M. 4422
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Promises: Unfulfilled - Info:
Mr. D. Dexter 4422
Mr. P. MacEwan 4425
Mr. B. Taylor 4428
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:28 P.M. 4431
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:59 P.M. 4331
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 43, Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act,
Petroleum Resources Act and Pipeline Act 4432
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4432
Hon. G. Balser 4433
Vote - Affirmative 4435
No. 46, Financial Measures (2000) Act 4436
Hon. N. LeBlanc 4436
Mr. H. Epstein 4437
Adjourned debate 4446
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 4447
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 26th at 2:00 p.m. 4447

[Page 4367]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject of the late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should tell Nova Scotians why he has broken faith with them and why he can't tell them the truth about what he is doing to the already devastated health care services.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the students and parents of Prince Arthur Junior High School addressed to the Minister of Education. The operative clause is rather lengthy but in essence it is to take issue with the Minister of Education's budget.

4367

[Page 4368]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the concerned students of St. Agnes Junior High School. "All we would like to say, quite simply, is that money comes and goes but education lasts a lifetime." It is addressed to Dear Mr. Hamm. I have affixed my signature. There are 240 signatures on this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of, ". . . the undersigned residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality are opposed to the Halifax Regional Municipality Fire Service policy that would diminish the role or possibly disqualify volunteer fire fighters age 60 and over."

Mr. Speaker, this is an original petition and I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition in the form of letters that I have received from parents from Yarmouth addressed to Premier Hamm and copied to the MLA for Yarmouth. It says, "Dear Premier Hamm, As a parent with a child/children attending Yarmouth Central School, I am outraged by the funding cuts to public education as laid out in the provincial budget of Tuesday, April 11th. Education is our insurance for the future of a vibrant, healthy and energized Nova Scotia. The funding cuts of your government are being done on the backs of our young people. This is wrong and it is unjust. As a citizen of Nova Scotia, I demand that your elected government reconsider its position in regard to funding for public schools in this province. Our children deserve nothing less." I will affix my name to this petition and I certainly will have more in the days to follow.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing 1,024 signatures on behalf of the residents of Whycocomagh and area who desire a full Primary to Grade 12 school in Whycocomagh. The operative clause of the petition reads, "The government's financial budget should not be balanced at the expense of our children.

[Page 4369]

As citizens, taxpayers, merchants and voters, we demand a full P-12 school in the community of Whycocomagh." I have affixed my signature to the document and with your permission, I would like to draw attention to residents from the Whycocomagh area who have joined us here today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very hard to hear the speaker. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . and who are in the west gallery. I would ask them to rise and receive the welcome of members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by teachers of the Strait Regional School Board. The operative clause is, "We, the teachers of Inverness and Richmond, understand government's need to be fiscally responsible and to protect the province's future. However, we will not sacrifice the education of our students by allowing government to destroy our education system." This is signed by 22 of the teachers and staff of Whycocomagh Consolidated School, who I believe are the colleagues of the Minister of Tourism. This is in addition to the 191 signatures I tabled last week and I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, today we have in the east gallery, visiting with us from Shelburne County, from Clark's Harbour, the most southern tip of Nova Scotia, Marlene Smith and also we have Kaye Mood from Beaver Dam. I would ask that they rise and receive a welcome from the House. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 34 - Health Authorities Act.

[Page 4370]

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to announce to the House that our government has reached a new gaming agreement with the Eskasoni First Nation in Cape Breton. The agreement was signed by the Eskasoni Band Council last week. We issued a news release last Thursday, but I wanted to follow up today, with members, since I raised the matter here in the House two weeks ago. The Eskasoni community was seeking improved accountability and conflict of interest measures. I am pleased to report that we have an agreement that addresses those concerns.

The bottom line is this new agreement will ensure that the proceeds from VLT sales are used for community and economic development projects for the benefit of all, and the community will be consulted on how to best use those funds. They will not be used to displace funding provided under arrangements with the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, I want to publicly thank members of the Eskasoni Band Council and the Gaming Commission for their cooperation. I look forward to working with them and others in the community, as we implement the details of our new arrangements.

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to comment again on this statement which we saw on Thursday, that came out from the government via a press release. From what we understand, reports are that it is a good deal in that there has been a reaching of understanding between the two parties. Whenever that can happen, that is a good thing. I don't know if you remember, but when the minister made his original announcement about trying to reach this agreement, he sort of threatened that if the deal wasn't reached, he was going to pull out the VLTs. I suggested that I didn't think that heavy-handedness needed to be laid on, I was sure the parties going into those negotiations in good faith would be able to come to an agreement, and from all indications, this is an agreement that has been reached in good faith. I congratulate the minister and his officials for having done so, as well the Eskasoni Band Council for having reached this agreement.

[Page 4371]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I rise here today to say that I am very pleased that the minister was able to reach an agreement, a fair deal, as I understand it at this point, only by the media comments, with the Eskasoni Band. I indicated to the minister, when he rose in the House before, that I supported the actions he had taken, and that this must be dealt with immediately. For that, I am very pleased to see this has come forward. I believe that the importance of the whole issue of gaming agreements cannot be overstated. My hope is that the minister makes sure that members of the Eskasoni community will have the maximum benefit of these gaming revenues.

In order for our caucus to fully endorse the agreement, if the minister has not already done so, we would appreciate it if the minister would table the new agreement, so that all members can have a look at exactly what the agreement states. Again, we hope that the agreement will benefit all Nova Scotians and also the members of the Eskasoni Band.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Minister of the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 1477

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

Whereas the Department of the Environment is committed to improving our environment through reduction, reuse and recycling; and

Whereas rechargeable batteries are an excellent way to ensure the use of recycling and battery products; and

Whereas the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation, or RBRC for short, is announcing that April 26, 2000, is Battery Check Day across North America, which is the day when everyone should dig out their old nickel and cadmium rechargeable batteries and take them to be recycled;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House proclaim April 26, 2000, Battery Check Day in Nova Scotia.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 4372]

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 Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1478

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

Whereas the Alexander Officer Award is presented annually by the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors to an organization or health agency for outstanding meritorious achievement in the area of public health; and

Whereas the Food Safety Section of the staff of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing protect the public health through education and inspection activities designed to improve food safety in the province; and

Whereas the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors recently honoured the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing, Food Safety Section, with the Year 2000 Alexander Officer Award for outstanding and meritorious achievement in the area of public health;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all staff members of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing, Food Safety Section, for their contribution toward protecting the public health of Nova Scotians and receiving the Alexander Officer Award.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4373]

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 Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1479

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

Whereas in an e-mail sent to our office, a student writes, "you've ruined tomorrow's hopes, tomorrow's dreams and tomorrow's leaders. And what you see today, is not going to be gone tomorrow, it's left an emotional and permanent scar on everyone"; and

Whereas what e-mails and letters to our office are now indicating is that children are losing hope and living in fear that this savage Tory Government will destroy their futures without their permission and consent; and

Whereas in the Tory blue book on Page 15, it 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";

Therefore be it resolved that this heartless Tory Government rethink its Education budget and remember the commitment it made to our children during the election campaign.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The resolution was too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1480

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

[Page 4374]

Whereas the former member for Sackville-Beaver Bank accuses the NDP of increasing her campaign costs and alienating people in her own riding association; and

Whereas out-of-province campaigners were brought in by the NDP to work on the members' campaign; and

Whereas the member for Timberlea-Prospect has consistently rejected the idea of bringing in outside workers to run his local election campaign;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the NDP for their inability to recognize the want and harm caused by not placing faith in Nova Scotia workers and resorting to hiring mercenaries from outside the province.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1481

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

Whereas a new condominium project on scenic Lake Banook is the result of the hard work and dedication of a group called Innovative Properties Inc.; and

Whereas this $5.5 million project is the result of native Dartmouthians giving back to their community; and

Whereas the first phase of this project is a clear indication to the residential development community that Dartmouth is open for business;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud Drew and Sheilia Sperry, Robert Bell, and the other directors who have clearly demonstrated their commitment to our Dartmouth community.

[Page 4375]

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 Halifax-Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1482

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance and the member for Clare will have to bear with my fractured French. I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Les Voix d'Acadie is a choral group of more than 35 men and women who devote their leisure time to making Acadian music; and

Whereas the work of these dedicated amateurs is both beautiful and culturally enriching; and

Whereas on April 8 and April 9, 2000, Les Voix d'Acadie held its annual concert at Ecole Carrefour du Grand Havre, to a full house each time;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Les Voix d'Acadie on its successful concert and hope for many more in the future.

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.

[Page 4376]

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1483

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

Whereas during a televised CBC interview the Minister of Education admitted that her department underestimated the reaction of Nova Scotians towards this budget; and

Whereas the Minister of Education openly stated that communication should have taken place with the school boards prior to the release of the budget; and

Whereas during the same interview she blamed Opposition Leaders, school boards and the media for adding to the hysteria;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education take full responsibility for the mess she has created.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1484

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

Whereas the Town of Westville has been designated a Green Streets Canada Community for its role in promoting and protecting Canada's urban forests; and

Whereas Green Streets Canada recognized Westville's efforts because of their promotion of nature within the town's Acadia Park; and

[Page 4377]

Whereas Fred Polley of the Westville Heritage Group along with Raymond Cameron, chairperson of the town's park committee, committee member John MacKarney and Westville Mayor Sandy Cyr should all take great pride in their efforts of being designated a Green Streets Canada Community;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs of this House of Assembly congratulate Raymond, Fred, Sandy and John for their immense contributions in getting Westville designated and wish them every success in the future.

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 Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1485

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

Whereas it only takes four Tory MLAs to defeat this savage Tory budget; and

Whereas it looks like number six will be the member for Eastern Shore; and

Whereas we must congratulate the constituents of the member for Eastern Shore for calling their MLA into account for his government's actions, particularly relating to the Twin Oaks Hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate the member for Eastern Shore for joining the ranks of the converted, who are: the Minister of Tourism; the member for Kings North; the member for Colchester North; the member for Queens; and, our personal favourite, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 4378]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1486

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro is the only teaching facility of its kind east of Quebec; and

Whereas under the Tory budget $1.5 million has been cut from the Agricultural College; and

Whereas budget cuts will mean the loss of 99 agricultural jobs and 55 product specialist positions;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government immediately restore funding to the Agricultural College to ensure the future of the agricultural industry in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1487

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

[Page 4379]

Whereas no matter what the Minister of Education says, we are all reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson's statement that "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say."; and

Whereas the Minister of Education should be reminded of the saying of the prophet Kahlil Gibran, "We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them."; and

Whereas the minister should also be reminded of Churchill's admonition, "To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day.";

Therefore be it resolved that when it comes to education, as Einstein said, "Not every thing that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage on an introduction.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, up in the west gallery is the Member of Parliament for Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore, Peter Stoffer. If the House could rise and acknowledge him. Glad to see he is here. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1488

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

Whereas the Sea King helicopter has been in service for over 36 years and is maintained admirably by members of the Armed Forces located at CFB Shearwater; and

Whereas the Sea King has shown its age and is in desperate need of replacement; and

Whereas the federal government continues to delay the tendering process for the replacement of the Sea King helicopter;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the federal government to act quickly to replace the Sea King helicopter to ensure the health and safety of the crew members and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4380]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1489

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

Whereas the Tories campaigned on a promise to open a secure treatment centre for youth in the Health Minister's riding within one year of the election; and

Whereas this is another broken Tory promise, since last week it was revealed that the $1 million cost of the project is not in the budget; and

Whereas about 25 Nova Scotian children are being treated in other provinces at a cost of approximately $2 million a year;

Therefore be it resolved that nine months later Nova Scotians are still waiting for a secure treatment facility in Truro but are only getting broken promises from this Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 4381]

RESOLUTION NO. 1490

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

Whereas a teacher who is a resident of Timberlea-Prospect is going to be cut at William King Elementary School in Herring Cove; and

Whereas this teacher deals with four children who have special needs, one who is autistic; and

Whereas the parents of these children have been told these children will now be integrated into mainstream classrooms or their parents are going to have to make another exhaustive search of the local schools to find a place for them;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to parents of special needs children why she is willing to sacrifice them in order to achieve a balanced budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1491

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

Whereas school boards across the province worked all weekend preparing to fight to save our education system; and

Whereas the Hamm Government has alienated school boards across the province by not consulting them; and

Whereas after refusing to consult school boards, Premier Hamm then accused them of being hysterical;

[Page 4382]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate school boards across this province for choosing the interests of students over the bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1492

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

Whereas in an e-mail sent to our office by a student, she asks, "Why is our government not concerned about the future of Nova Scotia?"; and

Whereas, this student points out, "The future lies with its young, the students of Nova Scotia. We are the next generation of Nova Scotia citizens, and what we become determines the future of our province"; and

Whereas she also points out that, "to gouge and destroy our education system is to foolishly cripple the future of Nova Scotia by making the next generation, my generation, incompetent and incapable of managing our province and contributing to the deficit's reduction";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education recognize our future, Nova Scotia's future is sitting in classrooms right now across this province and that cutting education now destroys the future we want and hope to build for our children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 4383]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1493

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

Whereas the Minister of Education has repeatedly claimed that school boards across Nova Scotia cannot be trusted; and

Whereas the Department of Education did not consult with school boards prior to releasing the budget for fear they would leak information; and

Whereas the minister has requested a meeting between her department and school boards to be held this week;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education recognize that trust is the basis of foundation for a solid relationship between government and the people.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

[12:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1494

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

Whereas on April 17th an emergency meeting of the School Advisory Council for Lockeport Family of Schools was held; and

[Page 4384]

Whereas the Mayor and Council of the Town of Lockeport also attended, along with several hundred citizens from the Lockeport area who were concerned about the forthcoming closures of the Lockeport High School; and

Whereas after this meeting council met and passed a motion that points out to the Premier that this school closure violates the Municipal Government Act, Section 519(1);

Therefore be it resolved that it is apparent the municipalities seem to know the law a bit better than this Tory Government and that the government be reminded that they, themselves, are not above the law in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1495

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is now rated ninth in economic growth according to a Toronto Globe and Mail study; and

Whereas at this time last year, under a Liberal Administration, Nova Scotia ranked third in the country; and

Whereas the lack of credibility for the figures and this year's provincial budget will further undermine Nova Scotia's economic growth;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm Government acknowledge the errors of its budget and resubmit a new, realistic and credible budget for the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 4385]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1496

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 three members of the Heritage Advisory Council have retired: Dr. Neil Boucher, Ms. Janice Gill and Mr. Laurent d'Entremont; and

Whereas two other members have also resigned: Father Emery Brien and Mr. Matthew Graham; and

Whereas Elizabeth Pacey has also stepped down from the Board of Governors of the Heritage Canada Foundation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contributions of Dr. Neil Boucher, Ms. Janice Gill, Mr. Laurent d'Entremont, Father Emery Brien, Mr. Matthew Graham and Elizabeth Pacey for their efforts in preserving our provincial and national heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

[Page 4386]

RESOLUTION NO. 1497

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

Whereas last week a crowd of concerned parents, students and teachers gathered outside the Yarmouth MLA's constituency office; and

Whereas the Yarmouth MLA promised to set up a public meeting in Yarmouth with Cabinet Ministers and Education Department staff; and

Whereas the Yarmouth MLA spoke about the budget and was quoted in the media as saying, "If we can't make it work, then I'm going to have some hard decisions . . .";

Therefore be it resolved that each and every Tory MLA has some hard decisions to make and the Liberal caucus fully supports the MLA for Yarmouth in his fight for his constituents' concerns.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1498

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

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

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 1,512 children have been born into poverty; and

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

[Page 4387]

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by 1,512 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1499

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

Whereas the Tories are incompetent, as shown by their bringing the Public Service of this province to a state of breakdown and chaos; and

Whereas the Tories are divided, as shown by half of them intending to support Joe Clark federally while the others lean toward the CREEP party or whatever else it is called this week; and

Whereas the Tories are befuddled, as shown by half of them believing the real Leader is Dr. John Hamm while others think it may be Murray Coolican;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tories should give up before matters get any worse, resign from office, and call on His Honour to form a government from the one Party capable of providing reliable and responsible administration, the Liberal Party.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1500

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

[Page 4388]

Whereas the member for Kings North is once again pointing out to his own Party that the Department of Education's numbers just don't make sense in the Valley area; and

Whereas the member for Kings North states of the government's formula, this formula doesn't work in this region; and

Whereas in today's Chronicle-Herald, he is also repeating what teachers and school board officials in his riding have said since the provincial budget, that the Education Department job loss figures aren't accurate;

Therefore be it resolved that since this Tory Government won't listen to Opposition Parties, parents, school board officials, students and teachers, now at least maybe you will listen to one of your own.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1501

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

Whereas the Glace Bay Hall of Fame for Sports and Community Volunteers held its inaugural induction ceremonies on Saturday, April 22nd, at the Bayplex in Glace Bay; and

Whereas Jason Simons and Robbie McDonald were posthumously inducted as the first members of the Hall of Fame, and a scholarship in their name will go annually to Glace Bay High School; and

Whereas this endeavour to honour local people who excelled in areas such as sports and volunteering is indeed a worthwhile cause;

[Page 4389]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nick Bonnar and the members of the organizing committee of the Glace Bay Hall of Fame for a job well done, and wish them continued success in their efforts.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1502

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

Whereas each year, scholarships are awarded in honour of Joan Donaldson, the founding head of CBC Newsworld; and

Whereas scholarship recipients receive $2,000 in cash and are placed in a four month paid summer job at one of CBC Newsworld's four main production centres; and

Whereas Hatchet Lake resident Danielle Stone, a University of Kings College student, has received one of these prestigious scholarships this year for her high academic achievement in the field of journalism;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature offer its congratulations to Danielle Stone, with best wishes of good luck in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4390]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1503

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

Whereas 12 year old Genelle Babin is one of three Nova Scotia finalists in the MasterCard "My Most Priceless Moment in Skating Contest"; and

Whereas the D'Escousse native was one of 500 skaters across Canada to submit an essay on her most memorable moment; and

Whereas Genelle is a member of the Richmond Figure Skating Club;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Genelle Babin on her accomplishments and wish her the best of luck in the second round to be held later this month.

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1504

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

[Page 4391]

Whereas strawberries, as well as other crops, are currently inspected by entomologists before leaving Nova Scotia; and

Whereas our farmers currently have a good reputation with the quality of our exports; and

Whereas that good reputation is now at risk as these specialists from the Harlow Institute in Bible Hill are being phased out by this heartless Tory Government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Agriculture explain to this House how he expects cash-strapped farmers, who have suffered through droughts of the past years, to pay the private sector for services that the Department of Agriculture traditionally carried out for them.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1505

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

Whereas the Russell MacLellan Government, while in office, was one of the best provincial governments in Canada, if not the very best; and

Whereas this good government was not good enough for some, who insisted that anything else would be much better and pulled the MacLellan Government down for want of confidence; and

Whereas as a consequence, we got a change all right and now they should be happy, although it seems that at least privately some of them recognize they made a mistake;

[Page 4392]

Therefore be it resolved that someone has to answer for how Nova Scotia went from having the best provincial government in Canada to having the worst, and that the NDP should not be let off lightly for having engineered this catastrophic catastrophe.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1506

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

Whereas we all know that Tory times are hard times and that the budget cuts will devastate our education system; and

Whereas the numbers given by the Department of Education don't add up to those of school boards across the province; and

Whereas the MLA for Kings North has openly admitted that his government's job loss figures are inaccurate;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the MLA for Kings North on serving the needs of his constituents, and we encourage him to serve them better by catching the "Blue Flu" when the time comes to vote on this disastrous budget.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 12:41 p.m. and will end at 1:41 p.m.

[Page 4393]

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - TEACHERS ATTRITION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Finance. This government promised more money for education, more teachers, more classroom resources and smaller school boards. Today, 948 lay-off notices are going out; 948 over the next two days. This is what 948 lay-off notices look like.

The Minister of Finance told Nova Scotians that there would be a total of, ". . . 400 teacher reductions . . . through normal attrition." That is an exact quote from his Budget Address. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, will he guarantee that teacher numbers are reduced only through natural attrition, which is what he promised in his Budget Address?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party indicated today about the lay-off notices going out. I can say from our government's position that the school boards should have waited until the discussions that are going to take place this week. Per their contract, they have until May 15th to do that. It was a few days lead time. They could have waited. I can't speak on behalf of the school boards but while those discussions are going to take place between the Minister of Education and those very same school boards, they could have waited at least until such time as those discussions had taken place before mailing out those notices.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education got her numbers from this Minister of Finance, not from the schools, so I am going to go to the source. This government is the gang that couldn't shoot straight, the gang that can't count, and yet they want to take over from the democratically-elected school boards in this province. It is not a matter of when the lay-offs happen, that is not the issue. The Minister of Finance made a budget commitment that there would be no teacher lay-offs. That is the issue. So I want to ask the Minister of Education to tell Nova Scotians why she and the Minister of Finance have back-pedalled so far so fast from the commitment that no teachers will be laid off?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, from the time the budget was introduced, we said we were looking to reduce 400 teaching positions throughout the system, through retirement and attrition. That is still the case. Lay-off notices were not sent out by this government.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I am going to go back to the Minister of Finance, the minister who wants to either dump it off on the Minister or Education or dump it off on the school boards. Let someone else take responsibility but me, says he. Two weeks ago, the Minister of Finance was calling for much bigger high school classes. He said junior and senior high schools did not need much. But now he'd rather have the Minister of Education and the school boards share the spotlight. I want to ask the Minister of Finance, who is responsible for government policies and who is responsible for that budget, will he tell the truth about the

[Page 4394]

cuts in his budget, what effect they will have on schools throughout the Province of Nova Scotia? Will he, once and for all, tell the truth?

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. LEBLANC: I have said the truth in my answer to the member before. There are discussions going on between the school board and the Department of Education. Mr. Speaker, there are differences of opinion on the number of teachers that will be available to retire through attrition. The Minister of Education has said that. I know that the honourable member across wants to make this into an issue during Question Period, but that is not how this is going to be resolved. This will be resolved by those very same school boards that the honourable member makes mention, sitting down with the Department of Education and finding a solution to this.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - SCHOOL BDS. PLANS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, last Thursday night the Minister of Education, in a CBC interview, said she will not allow the school boards to lay off teachers. She will not allow the school boards to make any other kinds of cuts needed to balance the budgets. I want to ask the Minister of Education, what plans does she and her government have to prevent the province's school boards from making the cuts that they have to make because of the cuts imposed on them in this government's budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our plan is - and it has been said in this House - to get back to the table and have some serious discussion about the numbers and the differences of opinion about these numbers. That is our plan.

MR. MACLELLAN: This minister and this government have never had a plan. Never had a plan. They have no idea what they are doing or what these cuts are going to result in. The Strait Regional School Board has already said they will not impose those cuts. The Chignecto Central Regional School Board has said that they may follow. This is not planned; this is going to happen. I want to know what this minister is going to do when these school boards do not impose those cuts. What is she going to do to force them to impose those cuts?

MISS PURVES: Discussions are on for tomorrow; there were some discussions last week with financial officers. We will go over those numbers and the plan that we have and the plan that we still have will be to reduce the total number of teachers in the system by not more than 400 through voluntary means.

[Page 4395]

MR. MACLELLAN: The Minister of Education is in a time capsule. Doesn't she know what the school boards have said they are going to do? There is no disagreement anymore. Her own member for Kings North agrees with the school board's figures. Now, what is she going to do? Is she considering doing away with school boards? Is she going to terminate school boards in this province? Is she? If she is not, will she tell this House today that she is not going to terminate school boards?

MISS PURVES: Yes, I would be pleased to tell the honourable member the answer to that question. We have no intention of terminating school boards.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - EXPENDITURES: CERTAIN - JUSTIFY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Part of the story of this devastating Education budget is misplaced priorities. Then this government and this minister presume to lecture school boards about how to spend money to achieve a high quality of education. My question to the minister of misplaced education priorities is, what kind of moral authority do you have to lecture school boards on spending priorities, when last October you authorized your department to spend over $5,000 on a "banquet with beverage" for 125 people?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, if a school board superintendent wants to order a new desk for $5,000 - there are lots of spending choices in government and within school boards that we may or may not agree with. The banquet with beverage, I am not sure which banquet that was but I would be glad to find out for the honourable member, and to tell the House about that expense.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is a government and this is a Premier that like to trumpet personal spending restraint. It is also a government with a Minister of Finance for whom the Waldorf Astoria wasn't good enough, but he is not the only one with expensive habits. My question to the minister of misplaced education priorities, what kind of moral authority do you have to lecture school boards on spending priorities, when in January you authorized the purchase of a $6,500 laptop computer for your executive assistant?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, ministers authorize a great many expenses in the run of a day, a week, a month. Laptop computers, desktop computers are needed by all civil servants, by Cabinet Ministers, and no doubt by members of the Opposition. Laptop computers are a necessary part of work today.

[Page 4396]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is clearly a minister who believes in doing as I say, not as I do. Last September, this government said there would be no out-of-province travel without the personal approval of each minister. My final question to the minister of misplaced education priorities, what kind of moral authority do you have to lecture school boards on spending priorities after you approved 157 out-of-province trips since last August, including sending people to Norway, Trinidad, Brazil, Sweden, Cameroon, Haiti, Iceland, plus five people on one trip to Ireland?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not supplying some of the cost recoveries associated with some of those trips. We have an educational marketing arm of our department that helps to sell programs to the universities and public schools. The Norway project is totally cost-recoverable and funded by the federal government. I suggest the member opposite do a little more research before she asks such questions in the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has maintained that there will be total net reduction of 400 teachers in the public education system. We all know, including the honourable member for Kings North, that the minister's figures are totally inadequate. However, the minister continues to insist that despite only 88 teachers retiring this year, she can reach the 400 teacher reduction by offering teachers four workforce adjustment options. Option one offers a reduced pension for teachers who are at least 50 years old and wish to retire but are short of the requirements for a full-service pension. Will the minister please explain to this House by what percentage will the pension be reduced?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my understanding, the pension would be reduced by 5 per cent a year.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary to the minister. Option 4 will permit teachers to take a leave of absence without pay for two years before retirement, while pension plans continue. Will the minister please tell this House how many teachers, with today's high costs, will be able to take the two years off without pay and still contribute to the pension fund?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are many individual circumstances in which such an option might be attractive. We need teachers to have time to consider these options so we can judge the amount of take-up that we will be getting from these options, and that is part of the plan.

[Page 4397]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, still looking at that plan, can the minister please tell this House and all Nova Scotians when these totally ill-conceived and totally inadequate options were developed by the Department of Education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, these options have been being worked on for about a month and one-half.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): FUNDING FORMULA - REVISE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Minister of Education. The minister has assured Nova Scotians that there will be no teacher lay-offs. Her Party also promised that rural Nova Scotians would receive priority from this government. Well, at one rural school, Kingston School, 17 teachers have been told that they are going to be laid off. A teacher has asked me to read the names here to see if that would help move this government but I want to ask the Minister of Education, what has she done to revise her education funding formula on the basis of the information that her department has received from school boards to ensure that these disastrous lay-offs at Kingston do not happen?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, my department has been trying to meet with school board officials, has met with them last week, we will be meeting tomorrow and we will continue to meet with school board officials so that these lay-offs will not take place.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, some of the teachers on that list include Jennifer Pinch, Mary Kendrick, Sherilyn Kinsman, Heather Carter, Kathy Babcooke, Kelly Ward, Jennifer O'Toole, Caroline Adams, Donnie Chisholm . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order! The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party, I would ask you to put the question, please, as opposed to reading a list of names. Thank you.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, those are Nova Scotians, those are teachers who have asked that their names be read in this Chamber because they are some of the teachers who aren't going to be laid off who have already gotten lay-off notices. So I want to ask the minister, will she admit that her government made a disastrous miscalculation and withdraw her funding formula to clear the air before tomorrow's meeting with the school boards?

[Page 4398]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are looking to reduce the teacher workforce because the student population is declining. We are looking to reduce it by a very modest number. We are not looking for lay-offs and we will not tolerate lay-offs.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, there isn't even a Tory backbencher who believes that this minister and this government have any idea what the real numbers are. The minister is blowing a golden opportunity here today to start turning around a crisis that her government has unleashed. So I want to ask the minister, in good faith, given all of the information that she has received, before she goes into that meeting with the school boards tomorrow will she withdraw this funding formula which is compelling school boards to lay off teachers by the tens, by the dozens, by the hundreds?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the number we are looking for we still believe is quite achievable. We are still looking for that number. We do not want school boards to be laying off 10 per cent of the teachers and doing various other things in order to achieve a very modest reduction.

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - DEPTS.: MERGERS - COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The Finance Minister, when he came to office, promised Nova Scotians more accountability and while the minister has overstated the budget deficit, we should concede that the government must be fiscally responsible, but when the government announces that 21 departments and secretariats would be brought together under 14, one would assume that the government did its cost-benefit analysis to calculate the savings for Nova Scotians. My question to the minister is, did the minister's department, or any other government department, do a cost-benefit analysis to see if these monies will actually save the taxpayers any money?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member has asked me this question in the estimates and I will give him the same answer today that I did there. The answer is that this government has stated to the people of Nova Scotia that we will run a smaller government. We have done that, first of all by having a smaller Cabinet and also a much smaller support staff. The changes that we have put in place will bring about savings in the sense that there will be less administration in place.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance, after asking the question a few times in the Red Room, did admit in fact that the government did not do a cost-benefit analysis. I would suggest that the failure to provide a cost-benefit analysis means that this government does not have a clue of the direction it is taking, this Harris-Hamm agenda with

[Page 4399]

no plan. My question to the Minister of Finance is, when the minister proposed cuts to Health, Education, Agriculture, and Economic Development, did he do a cost-benefit analysis of those cuts and would he table them in the Legislative Assembly here today?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite was the Minister of Finance in the previous administration. When we took over the office last fall, we had a deficit of $500 million. The previous government made changes that mean we are spending $85 million more this year, $29 million more in lease payments in P3 schools. If they had been responsible, we would not be having a discussion about anything, let alone education; we would have the money to properly fund them.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, a member who was part of the Buchanan disaster, the disaster that ruined this province for many years to come and ruin the opportunities for these students who are here today; this member was a member of that Cabinet and this is really absolutely gross negligence on his behalf to speak the way he is.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: You cannot handle it.

MR. DOWNE: I can handle it as long as you can handle it. You backbenchers cannot handle it right now.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, massive cuts to Nova Scotia's future, whether they are in students, or teachers, or in agriculture, or any other part of the economy, my question to the minister is, how can the minister defend the indefensible and say with a straight face that his budget will reduce the deficit when he has not done a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether this budget is going to save money or cost money to the Nova Scotia population? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the honourable member's question is that we are making changes. The previous administration made changes that did not save money. I will give you a good example, regional health boards. I challenge that member to ask the people across this province whether that made any changes. We spent $500 million more per year under that minister's guidance than we did the three years before. Nova Scotians don't believe that we were receiving as equal a service as we were three years before. These changes are necessary to protect the system.

[Page 4400]

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - STUDENTS FUTURE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. This is going to be a tough week for school principals as they inform young teachers that they are being terminated at the end of the school year. These young teachers are the lifeblood of the teaching profession. They are innovative. They are well trained, they are energetic. One principal has to give a pink slip to a teacher this week who coached three school teams and who also coordinated a valuable educational trip outside the province. My question to the minister is how do you suggest this principal offer these important activities to her students next year in her school?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to young teachers and principals that these programs will exist in schools next year. We want young teachers in our schools and we want the new graduates teaching in our schools. And, they will be teaching in our schools.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Willard Cavicchi, the Principal at Brookside Junior High School, does not look forward to releasing a young, popular, French Immersion teacher who is involved as the driving force of the school's annual musical production. This young teacher has told me personally, teaching is all I ever wanted to do, Mr. Estabrooks. I ask the minister, how would you advise Mr. Cavicchi to bring the lay-off notice to this outstanding young teacher.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I know many school boards are handing out lay-off notices, and I know it must be very hard on the principals. I was talking to one yesterday who was describing his experience to me. But, these people will not be laid off. We are not looking for 10 per cent lay-offs across the system, and it is not going to happen.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I will take the advice of my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre and try to stay cool. Next year, Sir John A. Macdonald High School, with its proud tradition of student involvement will no longer have teachers to produce the yearbook, to direct the drama production, to serve as the school's network manager, to coach the provincially-ranked wrestling team because Martha Norris, the Principal of that school, today gives pink slips to those young teachers. I ask the minister, how do you recommend that Martha Norris offer those services to those kids without those young teachers next year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I repeat again, we are looking for a reduction of up to 400 teaching positions across the system. We will not tolerate the termination of young teachers in schools. The services will be offered next year.

[Page 4401]

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

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): ECONOMY (N.S.) - DEVASTATION

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. In his budget, the Minister of Finance says that our government believes the first step we must take to encourage new business investment and create new jobs is to stop the build-up of the debt. He says that without the business confidence, we will not have long-term economic growth. It is that simple.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the business confidence seems to have evaporated. The report on business in The Globe and Mail, which predicted Nova Scotia as having the third largest economic growth in the country, is now saying six months later that we will be ninth out of the ten provinces. Why doesn't the minister just admit that his slash-and-burn budget, his slash-and-burn idea and agenda for Nova Scotia is just going to be devastating to our economy?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings up a point that we in Nova Scotia should ignore the debt, ignore the mounting debt we have and, of course, the consequences of doing that. Government sets up an atmosphere where people either want to invest in a province or not. I mentioned earlier in Question Period that in this one year alone, we are going to spend another $85 million more just in interest costs. I will tell you right now, businesses look at whether or not governments are responsible, and we have to put our books in order, so that people who come to this province feel there is a future here. (Interruption)

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance himself has said, we are not going to be able to deal with this debt unless we grow the economy. Yet, in his own budget, he predicts an increase of unemployment in Nova Scotia. He knows what he has done to the economy of this province, and it is all downhill because of the policies of this Minister of Finance and this government. When is he going to wake up and realize that unless he changes his ideas and starts putting some economic planning into place that this economy is going to go down the tubes because of what this government is doing?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will quote the honourable member's own comments, "a future"; in this budget, we have put forward a four year plan. The previous administration did not deal with this in the long term, and that is part of the problem. The debt has continued to increase at an alarming rate. Nova Scotia has the highest payment of interest per revenue collected in the country, by a large amount. That is a danger to every program that we have, whether it be Health, Education, Community Services, or the other departments that we have. We have to make some responsible decisions so that we can have the system that Nova Scotians deserve to have.

[Page 4402]

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the greatest danger to the economy of this province is this government. The Report on Business, on the minister's budget, says that the provincial government's planned economic spending cuts will not only reduce public sector employment but probably impair consumer confidence as well. This government is intentionally downgrading the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia to suit whoever it is that is giving them advice in the back rooms of this province. Will the minister not realize that his economic policies are wrong, and the fact that he is downgrading health care and education is also going to discourage people from investing in Nova Scotia?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, when the honourable member was asking the question, part of the backbench behind him was saying that we are fudging the figures. We have brought the books of this province into accordance with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Nova Scotians will know the truth. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find it incredulous that the member opposite is saying that we shouldn't show all the expense of the government on its books. He is saying that Sysco should be kept off the books. He is saying that NSRL's losses should be kept off the books. I find it amazing that that same bunch is saying that we should include Nova Scotia Liquor Commission profits on the books. People know today whether we are going ahead or going behind, and that is one accomplishment that this government (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH: CARE - CUTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government promised to be open and accountable, instead it has introduced a budget which is not telling the truth about health care costs and about health care cuts in this province. When the Western Regional Health Board takes into account the normal cost-drivers, they estimate that they will have to cut in the area of $19 million from their budget, not $2.8 million, as the government says is the case. The government has provided $1.2 million for capital and infrastructure funding, when the region has estimated emergency costs are in the area of $7.7 million alone. My question to the Minister of Health is, why is it that the government is misleading Nova Scotians about the kinds of cuts it really intends to make in health care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government is not misleading anybody about the reduction in the health care budget, and indeed we are continuing to meet with all the affected people to make sure that everybody is singing off the same song sheet. It is misleading for somebody to stand up and say that we aren't telling the truth.

[Page 4403]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is true, the government does know what the real picture is, and they have put off letting the public know until the beginning of the summer when the revised health care budgets from the regions will actually come down. Last Thursday, the two Tory MLAs for Preston and Eastern Shore met with concerned constituents about health care and they refused to talk about this government's plan for $83 million in health care cuts.

[1:15 p.m.]

Obviously there are two kinds of people: the Tories who know and the other people who won't be told. Why is he keeping Nova Scotians in the dark and hiding the real picture about the devastating impact of this government's cuts to health care?

MR. MUIR: It is hard to believe that we just went through 12 hours of estimates and we still get a question like that. However, it does serve to support something that I have been saying for a long time: this is a group over there that does not want to listen.

In terms of the business plans for the regional health boards, those plans are being constructed now that the budget figures are firm. Certainly, the fact that a couple of our members did meet with health people - and I guess that they did - the information that they were given was what they had. It was not the intent to be hiding; this was a two-way process, this is not just one way.

MR. DEXTER: It is two way, the minister is going to find out just what kind of a two-way process it is, too. He has drastically underestimated the number of cuts that are going to have to be made in the regions, Mr. Speaker. I want to know from the Minister of Health, why doesn't he respect Nova Scotians and tell them the truth?

MR. MUIR: One of the truths for Nova Scotians is that which was just spoken by the honourable Minister of Finance - there are about $800 million items of truth in this past fiscal year and in addition to that, about $11 billion worth of truths. Health, as the honourable member knows, occupies about 42 per cent of the program spending. We laid it out, government was going to get smaller and all departments would have to participate as we get this financial mess, that the previous bunch left us, under control.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - SERVICES

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture. The minister has stated in the House that he is offering more services to farmers and not less. This weekend, Cape Breton Liberal MLAs met with the Cape Breton Federation of Agriculture, and members were vehemently opposed and critical of this minister for making

[Page 4404]

those statements. One member related, it is like a bunch of generals in Halifax drinking tea while the front-line workers bear the brunt of these serious cuts. My question to the Minister of Agriculture, does the minister actually believe his government is offering more services to agriculture and if so, would he share with the House what they are?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Certainly, here in Nova Scotia, as the honourable member, the former Finance Minister knows, we have a serious deficit problem. What we are trying to achieve here is operating obviously within our means and yes, the size of the budget is smaller, but the number of programs offered to farmers and the amount of money going in to programs is larger.

MR. DOWNE: To make it very clear, what we are trying to find out is the truth about this budget and that is one thing that government is afraid to tell, is the truth about the budget. Again, I ask the Minister of Agriculture, will he be forthcoming to Nova Scotians and Nova Scotia farmers by his comments in this House when he said he is going to provide more benefits to Nova Scotia, not less? Ask him to prove it on the floor of the Legislative Assembley and tell the truth.

MR. FAGE: Obviously the honourable member opposite has a problem with reading the budget. When estimates come up, we will be more than prepared to show it to him.

MR. DOWNE: I have no problem reading the budget at all. This minister took 20 per cent of the budget of Agriculture; they have eliminated 130 services offered to farmers by the elimination of the production and technology branch. This minister stood in the House and said he consulted with the farmers of Nova Scotia. He said there will be no program cuts and he told the Federation of Agriculture, he guaranteed them, no program cuts.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: He has misled the Federation of Agriculture, he has misled this House and he has lied to Nova Scotia farmers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has made an accusation that the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing has lied and I would ask him to retract that, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I take this issue very seriously . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . and in the heat of debate . . .

[Page 4405]

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

MR. DOWNE: I should not have called the Minister of Agriculture a liar but I will say this, this Minister of Agriculture misled . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West retracted that statement and I ask the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing to respond to the question, please.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, or at least the member opposite knows, if it comes to the situation where consultation with the Federation of Agriculture, and all farmers, and reasonable means at annual meetings I attended across this province, that is not in discussion here. As far as finite details, general options were offered forward. There was never a statement made that current programs would be maintained. What the statement was, there will be more programs offered, more programs are offered.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS:

WHYCOCOMAGH-MABOU BUSING - LENGTHY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Even before this disastrous Education budget, school amalgamation and P3 site selection was devastating for some communities, parents and children. Whycocomagh is one of those communities where the plan to bus children from that area to Mabou, in September, is an example of where children will be spending up to four hours a day on a school bus. My question for the Minister of Education is, would you allow your children to ride a public school bus for nearly four hours in a day?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Whycocomagh situation is a difficult one. I realize that. I know we have guests in the gallery who care very much about their school there. People are talking about school boards. Am I going to terminate school boards? At the moment, school boards have control over busing that is within their territory. That is part of their job. The busing routes for the new school at Whycocomagh are being discussed with the parents and the community and the school board, and it is their job to do so, not my job.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, when members of that government were on this side of the House, they were very quick to tell the parents in Whycocomagh that they felt the plan was flawed and it should be reviewed. Now I want this minister to explain exactly what has changed now they are on that side of the House?

[Page 4406]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the plan was reviewed. I went up to Whycocomagh, and I have spoken with the concerned parents group several times. There is going to be a new school for Whycocomagh, that was not part of the original plan, but the plan to bus the high school students to Mabou will stand.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, parents and children in Nova Scotia are rapidly running out of hope that this government puts the same value on their children and on education as Nova Scotians do. My question to the Minister of Education is, will you take some time and talk to these parents and commit to reviewing that decision to bus their kids four hours a day? It is absolutely not acceptable.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, very few, if any, children, according to the latest information I have, will be bused four hours a day. That is an exaggeration. It is the kind of exaggeration that has not helped the situation, Mr. Speaker, when we are trying to deal with getting our fiscal house in order and asking modest cuts from every sector, the most modest from education and health, but still from those sectors. We are going to deal with this problem Nova Scotia is in, and exaggeration is not going to help.

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

EDUC. - STUDENT LOANS: REMISSION PROG. - RELIEF

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, through you a question to the Minister of Education relating to student debt. The cost of post-secondary education has caused an ever-increasing debt burden for young people graduating from our universities, estimated at increasing in the range of 4 per cent to 6 per cent this year, adding to students debt load, and the students, of course, desperately need relief from the escalating cost burden. I would like to ask the minister if she could inform the House how she proposes to provide relief for students with a heavy debt burden from student loans?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, for any student who applied for a student loan up to the end of March this year is eligible for loan remission. The program will be ending the year after. I have said so in estimates, and I said so during Question Period.

Mr. Speaker, we will be looking at other forms of interest relief that will take effect the following year. Meanwhile students do have millennium scholarships. They have interest relief. It is not a good situation for some students. I admit that, but the majority of students will have some help available, and the majority of students will get a good education and they will do very well. They will be able to repay their loans.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister fails to reassure me with that answer. As she states, yes, the government has cancelled the student loan remission program to take effect on March 31st. That is already behind us and so it doesn't exist as of right now. I

[Page 4407]

would like to ask the minister again, if she could advise the House how she proposes to help those students who need loan remission assistance now that her government has cancelled the loan remission assistance program?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the loan remission program actually does carry forward into next year. Loan remission is given at the end of a student loan period, so that those who applied this year are, in fact, eligible for it. The cancellation takes effect the year after.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I will shift the angle of attack somewhat by mentioning the fact that the commercial banks have now opted out of the student loan program. That is a very major development. I would like to ask the minister as a final supplementary, what are her plans and the plans of her government for the future of the Nova Scotia student loan program, for its administration?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the commercial banks have indeed pulled out of the federal student loan program. That is correct. To date, they have not pulled out of the provincial student loan program, and my department is in communication with the banks to carry on somehow with the student loan program for Nova Scotia for next year. Our contract is in place until the end of July.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PILOT PROJECTS:

PRIVATIZATION - DETAILS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Last week, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works confirmed in this House that he intends to start contracting out jobs in his department. He said he would start the process of privatization with four pilot projects which will probably begin early next year. My question to the minister is very simple. Where exactly will these four pilot projects be?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there has been no determination made as yet as to where those alternate service delivery areas will be. However, I shall reassure the honourable member that there is no intent for that program to start during this year. It will probably start early next year.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I remember the member opposite making campaign promises to immediately twin Highway No. 101. I don't recall him promising to contract out jobs in the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Nova Scotians have a right to know what you are planning to privatize. So, Mr. Minister, will you table in this House today a complete list of the services provided by your department that you are prepared to contract out?

[Page 4408]

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. RUSSELL: The only service that we are contracting out at the present time will be the salt contract this fall. As far as the remainder is concerned, I have nothing to table.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, that "at the present time" does not send the right message to workers. Mr. Minister, department workers in your department have a right to know what is going to happen. How much notice will you give these employees that they will lose their jobs as a result of contracting out?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, contracting out does not necessarily mean a loss of jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - BUDGET (2000-01): HOME CARE - CONSEQUENCES

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Under our previous government home care saw a real growth in the number of services provided and those receiving those services. This government increased the budget this year for home care for less than $2 million essentially. Considering the increase in wages, this will probably represent a reduction in services and in waiting lists. My question to the minister is, will the minister explain if, in fact, his plan for home care includes reduced services and waiting lists in home care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, home care is a very important part of our plans for health here in Nova Scotia. Clearly, like other sections of the Health budget, which this honourable member knows very well, we have re-examined home care, long-term care, acute care, and these things; what we are trying to do is integrate them all. Coupled with that, of course, is the continuing care or the long-term care with the single-entry point which we are hoping to get up and running. His specific question, does the budget consist of cuts to the home care service and longer waiting lists? I certainly hope not.

DR. SMITH: It is a plan that requires a plan based on more than hope because already we are hearing of people being denied services in home care; people who had received it before, become more ill, get into hospital, come home, and services are being cut. Again my supplementary is, how does the minister plan to relieve pressure on the hospitals while effectively cutting back on home care? You can talk about single entry, the continuity of care, integration of services. How are you going to cut back on the hospitals and also home care at the same time? Can you explain that to the House, Mr. Minister?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there has been no cutback to home care. One of the things that has happened is that we are concerned that the people who need the home care services most are the ones who get it. There have been some cases in the past where home care

[Page 4409]

services perhaps were not needed as much as they are in the other cases and clearly in our reform of the health care system we are looking at that as well. There is no cutback in home care.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, no wonder there is so much trouble with this government making themselves known as to what they are doing because essentially there is a cutback in home care and for the minister to get up today and say that is just not right because with increases in wages, and the modest increase that there is, there has to be a cutback in home care.

Recommendation number nine, Mr. Speaker, on the Health Facilities Review Report, says that the province should invest in community-based continuing care. My question to the minister is, why are you, Mr. Minister, abandoning the review and breaking your promises by effectively cutting home care while encouraging hospitals to cut back on their beds which they will have to, due to the cuts within the acute care system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again, we have not cut back in home care. The honourable member in his first question indicated that the budget has increased this year, and we agree with that. However, we continue to work with the institutions and with all components to try and get a system that works. We hope to have a pilot up and running this year where, basically, the responsibility for home care and continuing care and everything else will be referred back to one of the districts.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

LBR. - FARMING: TRACTOR (ROLL-OVER) SAFETY - ACTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Labour. A man in Lunenburg County died over the weekend when his tractor rolled over on him; this is third such death in the past month. My question to the minister, why has this government added months of delay in implementing roll-over protective structures legislation that has been ready for more than five years?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question, and the subject matter he raises is one which of course points out the need for us to achieve a compliance with safety with respect to roll-over devices and tractors. That, sir, is what we are striving to do.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will go back to the minister again and see if I can get an answer to this question. We are the only province in all of Canada without roll-over protective structures regulations. These roll bars cost as little as $500 to install and may well have saved the lives of these three people. I want to ask the Minister of Labour, does his

[Page 4410]

government accept responsibility in these three deaths, considering the government has prolonged the delay of the roll-over protective structures legislation now up to five years?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, all of the investigations with respect to these incidents have not yet been fully completed. The indications at this stage are that the full implementation of the regulation would not have applied in the instances that we are referring to. There is one incident where, in fact, it appears - and until I have seen the complete report - that, in fact, there are regulations in effect which would have covered that situation, and they perhaps appear not to have been complied with.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister may want to do some further investigation. The incident this weekend may be the only one that has not been fully investigated, but the previous two have been fully investigated. There are 1,500 tractors in this province without roll bars. Will the government consider developing a loan or bursary program to help farmers with the $500 cost of implementing roll bars on these tractors?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we believe the difficulty in terms of compliance with respect to this regulation is one of culture. It is one of ensuring that people adopt the attitude of safe practices with respect to operations, not only on farms, but everywhere. That is the objective and that is what we are working toward.

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

FISH. - BUDGET (2000-01):

AQUACULTURE LICENCE - FEE INCREASE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries. The minister confirmed during the budget deliberations there will be some fee increases in his department, which many would argue is a tax grab. Would the minister please confirm that the fee for an aquaculture licence will increase from $100 to $200 for a U-fish operation and from $100 to $300 for all other operations?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. Certainly a number of fees and structures, as indicated in the estimates, will be increased. I would prefer to table the full list of the exact amounts of the changes at a later date, and when they are ready for publication, I will table them.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, will the minister further confirm that services, such as the processing of applications for site expansions, the amending of documents, and applications for the sale of sites, which were provided free of charge, will now cost $100?

[Page 4411]

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, we are examining all possible ways that people who derive a service, who derive an opportunity to increase their revenue should help pay for the cost of that happening. Certainly, each one of those areas that the honourable member has mentioned is under consideration for that type of fee structure.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, in response to my first supplementary, the Minister of Labour made reference to regulations that may already be in place, and held up a little booklet, I am assuming, which referred to those regulations. I just wonder if the minister could table that, so that I could view it later.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour, as I recall, did not quote directly from that document. However, if he wishes to (Interruptions) Order, please. However, if the honourable Minister of Labour desires to table it. He didn't directly read from the document.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: It is not my intention to get into a squabble over what I did or did not do. I would be happy to table the document. As a matter of fact, I will table both of them, there are two versions.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to spend my few minutes going into committee today talking about the situation that we find ourselves in, in this province, at the present time. I say we, because although the government has been responsible for this

[Page 4412]

dreadful budget that is distressing Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, we are the people to whom the people come, and that is because each of us represents a certain number of people around the province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about this initially, by telling you where I went on Thursday morning of last week. Last week, on Thursday morning, I attended a Citizenship Court at Halifax West High School. This was the first time they had had one at the school, they volunteered to host it because a student at the high school was becoming a citizen of this country. I don't know how many new citizens took their oath or affirmed their citizenship on Thursday morning, I don't remember exactly how many of them there were, but they were from 20 countries and they were from all over the globe.

Mr. Speaker, one of the privileges of having this job that we have in this House is that we get invited to ceremonies such as this one. I was proud to raise my right hand along with these new citizens, and so were 400 or 500 students from Halifax West High School who came to participate in this ceremony. We all raised our hands, and we affirmed or reaffirmed our citizenship. I got to thinking about the countries that these new citizens had come from. When the list was read off to us, it was clear that at least some of our newest citizens, on Thursday, had come from countries where they suffered repression, lack of freedoms, including freedom of expression, and that they had left or fled in order to come to a country where the democratic ideal is upheld and indeed struggled with every day of our citizenship.

Mr. Speaker, last week we saw a fairly large number of students come to this House and voice their protest against this government's budget on Education. Again on Thursday we saw a large group of students and by and large, I think they were a younger group. What they were doing - and I don't know if they were aware or not - was they were living their citizenship in a situation they considered to be a dire one. I want to tell all members of this House a story about what I saw outside on Wednesday because I don't think anybody else saw it.

[1:45 p.m.]

At 5:45 p.m. on Wednesday - the protestors had dispersed at 5:30 p.m. - I looked out the window from the lounge and what I saw were seven or eight students cleaning up Granville Street. They had garbage bags, they had come to the Commissionaire and asked, could we please have some garbage bags so we can clean up the street. There they were in the pouring rain, following the hail that had preceded it, using their protest signs to scrape wet paper off the sidewalk and off the street and scooping it into garbage bags, so when they left the street on Wednesday night, it was as clean as when they had arrived earlier.

What an act of citizenship to start the job and to finish the job. I was immensely proud on behalf of anybody else around here who is a parent or a teacher or a grandparent to see what these young people were doing. I said to a couple of members of the media who were

[Page 4413]

still around, I would like to read that in the newspaper and I would like to hear that on the radio. We didn't hear it on the radio and we did not see it in the newspapers, and that bothered me a little bit because we are quick enough to hear when students damage property or injure each other or all the many things that go on in our cosmopolitan school populations. What I witnessed restored my faith in so much and confirmed my faith in the job the Education system does in spite of enormous obstacles that have been put before it.

Mr. Speaker, the obstacles are getting larger, the mountain is almost too high to climb over, and this government brought it on itself. I have to tell you, they should have seen it coming, they should have known that acts of citizenship were going to break out all over this province. I will tell you why they should have known.

When the government sent the Voluntary Planning task force out to do its bidding, having had six or seven public meetings around the province, they came back with an education section in the report. The report felt compelled to add a recommendation on education and it said - and I am paraphrasing, I don't remember the exact words - that it recommended that this province have a deep and wide-ranging debate about education in this province.

When Voluntary Planning came to our caucus, as I understand they did to others, to explain how this got there, Allan Shaw, the head of the Voluntary Planning group, said, we didn't go looking for this, we didn't ask for this, but it is out there, everywhere we went people wanted to talk about education. This is a group sent out by the government to do a job and when it came back and said what it had heard, the government covered its ears. The result today, I think, is extremely exciting. It may be unnerving for the government, it may be slightly messy in the streets, but we are a peaceful country and by and large, there are very few among us who don't treasure the right in this country to speak our minds.

Mr. Speaker, I will grant everyone in this country the same right that I take for myself. I will even grant it to the writer of an e-mail that came to me last week, and I suspect that this e-mail came to other members of the Legislature. I heard the word hysterical and the word hysteria used in this House to describe what was going on out there. Well, aside from the fact that it is generally a term of derision that has historically been used on women, I question whether peaceful public protest can be categorized as hysteria.

I offer you, in its place, an e-mail which was sent to me, and I assume to other members, through the chamber of commerce website, where somebody pushed a button - and she did sign her name, but I have no intention of using it in the House - and signed her name to a letter which in no uncertain terms made allusions to similarities between James Keegstra and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. Now, that is hysteria, and that is a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy to boot.

[Page 4414]

I stand in my place today - and I am very glad to do so - between, if you like, the first wave and the next wave of real people coming to say real things to a government they elected and wanting this government to listen to them, and I say we are living an education. I strongly agree with parents and schools and principals and teachers who do not think that small children should be trampled underfoot at protest groups, and I know that there are principals and teachers all over this province working today to make sure that the small children are in their school, in their place, where they belong, a place of safety and learning, and where they will learn as much as their level of learning will allow - we call it developmental readiness - they will learn, at their own level of learning, what it is that is going on.

Mr. Speaker, I suggest to you and to all members of this House, there isn't a 12 year old, a 13 year old, an 18 year old, or a 16 year old in this province who doesn't get the drift, real clearly, and there is not a single child in this province between the ages of 12 and 18 - or whatever age is the school-finishing age for them - who doesn't understand every single thing that is going on. I say to them, exercise your democratic right, speak out for your own future. Speak out with your parents. Speak out with your teachers. Speak out with your principals. Speak out with your community. Nobody knows what they need better than those very students who are involved in the school system.

I want to say, too, during this lull, that there is a kind of learning going on that will not happen sitting at a desk in a classroom, whether there are 10 kids in the classroom or 50, as the minister recommends. There is a kind of, what we call in the schools, active learning going on, and there are acts of citizenship and free speech breaking out all over this province. I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the lesson these children will learn, if this government doesn't listen, will produce a generation of citizens who are cynics. They have heard a government that hasn't been clear, that hasn't done its homework, that hasn't read the books right, and now is struggling to try to make it sound plausible.

Mr. Speaker, they are not fooled, and I am here to tell you that their acts of citizenship should be prized, their voices should be listened to and when it is all over and done with, they, too, will be voting, their other act of citizenship, and they will come to this process either scorned and cynical or they will come to this process with a deep, profound and valuable understanding of what it is we prize most about our society and that is the democratic process.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of observations with regard to a number of important issues before the House and, in particular, education. As most know, the Education budget that has been tabled by the Minister of Education by most accounts, if not all, is somewhat seriously flawed and, by the minister's own admission, is in dreadful need of some additional consultation and some reworking.

[Page 4415]

In fact, on Friday past, Mr. Speaker, I raised with the minister the concern that she had raised during her many answers in Question Period, and in fact during her budget deliberations, that representatives from the various school boards should go back to the table and enter into some additional dialogue and provide some constructive proposals on how to resolve some of the financial dilemma that the province finds itself in. I produced a document to that effect where the Halifax Regional School Board, in fact, had prepared a restructuring proposal that would see and realize a saving of some $1 million, but ironically the Minister of Education was somewhat oblivious to the existence of this particular document.

So is it little wonder, Mr. Speaker, that members of the Halifax Regional School Board and, indeed, school boards right across this province, would be somewhat suspect of the minister's numbers on her budget estimates of a potential lay-off of some 400 province-wide. I am somewhat perplexed because on one hand the minister will say that the issue of the shortfall of $2.5 million can be addressed through teacher lay-offs, but on the other hand she says that can be worked through some administrative reworking of their numbers in the various boards across the province.

So, Mr. Speaker, is it one, or is it the other, or is it a combination of both? It would be, I think, advisable for the minister to apprise all members of the House to assist in the deliberations which of the facts are the ones that she is, in fact, holding true to. In fact, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board in my general area, which is the second largest board in the Province of Nova Scotia, it has met with senior administration officers, principals, from right across the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board earlier today, and indicated that as of tomorrow there will be lay-offs of some 25 permanent teachers, 115 probationary teachers and 20 term teachers, totalling 160 all told.

So, Mr. Speaker, if we were to take the 160, plus the 338 or so who were put forth by the Halifax Regional School Board today, we can easily see that the numbers are well in excess of what the Minister of Education has stated are the real numbers of those affected. Obviously, every program, every child within the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will be affected. We are going to see some 30 resource teachers, 13 French teachers; and a total of eight French immersion teachers affected. So this is totally contrary to the facts as put forth by the Minister of Education. Only one of the two sets of figures can be correct and since all these officials within the various boards across the province are, in fact, taking these real actions on some real issues affecting real people and having a direct impact on the students in this province, one cannot help but conclude that what they are doing and what they are saying is correct versus what the Minister of Education is saying.

[2:00 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, we go back. I am somewhat disappointed that members of the Conservative caucus in their different life forms seem to have a different opinion today than they did less than a year ago, or thereabouts. Several of the former members of the Halifax

[Page 4416]

Regional Municipality who now serve in the Conservative caucus, the honourable member for Eastern Shore, the honourable member for Preston, and indeed the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, had some rather different positions than they do today.

Ironically, then councillor Barnet, who is now a member sitting in the Conservative caucus, was very feverish in his presentations at municipal council that the province should live up to its real obligation when it comes to funding of education. Mr. Speaker, that honourable member, when he was a member of Halifax City Council, claimed that the province should return to its 90/10 funding formula - 90 per cent of the cost of education is provincial and 10 per cent for the municipality. Presently, by the minister's figures, 83 per cent provincial and 17 per cent municipal. Now that honourable member is supporting that inequity that is downloaded on the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Now if you took, for example, on a $200 million budget, now I am not sure of the exact figure, but let's say for the sake of discussion, the Halifax Regional School Board has a budget of $200 million; 7 per cent of that, we have $14 million that is being downloaded unfairly onto the Halifax Regional Municipality. Now these three individuals who are now members of the Conservative caucus are saying that is okay. When they were on Halifax Regional Municipality, they were blaming the bad old Liberals for doing a terrible job representing the people within the Halifax district school board, and indeed, the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, it is rather sad to see these honourable members sit so silently and support a Minister of Education whose figures literally do not meet the acid test that has been put forth by the school boards right across this province. They are stating in black and white the number of people affected, how students are going to be affected, what the bottom line is in their budgets. The minister has put out a figure of some $20 million and is not able to defend that $20 million. It is little wonder that people would be suspicious of what is happening.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, just in the last day or so, we had the honourable member for Kings South who says that the figures the minister puts forth that affect his particular district don't add up. So, if we have a member of the Conservative caucus who is supposed to be part of this consultation process, saying that the minister's figures don't add up, it is little wonder that the teachers within the Valley district school board, or indeed, the parents or the students would have little confidence in this minister's budget.

Mr. Speaker, that is not the proclamation of the member for Cape Breton West, that is a member of the Conservative caucus who is supporting a budget that they cannot completely analyse for themselves. In fact, I am even further confused by the minister's statement in today's Daily News, Tuesday, April 25th. The minister wants to extend the deadline for teacher lay-offs by one month. Well, what a coincidence. What a coincidence that in a month's time, in all likelihood, the House will be shut down. There will be less public attention focused, in a very concentrated fashion, after that particular date.

[Page 4417]

Mr. Speaker, the minister wants further consultation, but what she really wants is to find some way, some mechanism within the process to filibuster, to delay, and to confuse the issue so that the vote will take place, the slash-and-burn will be perpetrated on all the boards, teachers and students across this province, and then the cameras will be shut off, and the minister can go and hide, either down in the bunker or perhaps maybe take another trip or two out of the province. There seems be a lot of trips within that particular department.

Mr. Speaker, realistically, for the minister to ask for a one month delay, knowing that the absolute deadline for the school boards to issue their lay-off notices is May 15th, I think is a bit of political mischief. It is political mischief. The minister knows full well that what is happening within the various schoolboards across this province is, in fact, real. The Minister of Finance has stood in this House and said, we have a serious debt problem. Well, let's look at it. How in the name of heavens did we get to this state? Prior to the Liberals coming in to power in 1993, almost $700 million was being expended from the annual budget towards the interest payments on the debt that was built up under the John Buchanan and Donnie Cameron regime, which the Minister of Finance was a party to. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who is now the Government House Leader, would like to try to make people believe, in his little tirades up and down like a jack rabbit, they had nothing to do with it. Where was that honourable member for 15 or 16 years when this province and its credit rating were being compromised?

Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals took over in 1993, the banks were calling, the bonding agencies were putting us on notice, the unfunded liability at the Workers' Compensation Board, the unfunded liability with the Teachers' Pension Fund, we can go on and on. You don't hear them calling now. Why? Because of some good management, leadership, initiatives that were taken under the Liberal Government. The unfunded liability was reduced dramatically to correct the inequities that were put forth under the Buchanan Regime because they had that board so saturated with partisan politics that is it any wonder that 95 per cent of all the appeals at the higher appeals board were overturned. Why? Because of political interference. The honourable Government House Leader knows because he was a party to it. He was the Minister of Labour at the time. Thanks to the initiatives under the Liberal administration, the unfunded liability will be reduced in less than 50 per cent of the time that was laid out under the 40 year plan. It will be corrected in less than 23 years. It won't take long for this government to politicize it again.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is getting short, but let's not be spooked by the voodoo politics and the numbers that are put forth by the Minister of Finance. He is inflating his numbers, he is fudging the books as far as I am concerned. He is inflating the numbers on this new process of amortization on capital assets by putting artificial numbers to make things look a lot worse than they are. People will not be fooled, they will not be fooled . . .

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

[Page 4418]

The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, kwe, that is Mi'kmaq for greetings. First of all, I would like to thank the honourable member opposite for pointing out the importance of being mindful of the credit rating agencies; what he says is quite true. I would also like to thank the people of Nova Scotia for electing this government and therefore giving the Premier the opportunity to choose our Minister of Finance for bringing in a budget that as the member opposite recognizes maintains our credit rating, because when you owe $11 billion which has been accumulated over 25 years . . .

MR. JERRY PYE: Exactly, 25 years.

MR. MORSE: That is correct, 25 years says the member for Dartmouth North. Thank heavens his Party did not have a chance to add to it because I am sure he would have outdone us both.

MR. PYE: Talk about Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia . . .

MR. MORSE: . . . and, in fact, as the member for Dartmouth North heckles me, I would like to thank him for pointing out Saskatchewan, because Saskatchewan is indeed the one exception. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker it is always so much easier to get up here and speak for 15 minutes when the members opposite assist me with their heckling, and I thank them for their assistance. It is very considerate of them. (Interruptions)

Anyway, the point the honourable member for Cape Breton West brings up is that another quarter percentage point because of a downgrade in Nova Scotia's credit rating with the $11 billion would add over $25 million a year which is just out the window.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Finally using your MBA, David.

MR. MORSE: I thank the member for Timberlea-Prospect for that observation.

This is where we are, Mr. Speaker, and we are going to deal with this situation. This budget has taken a stand to make sure we do not let down future generations by going further down that slippery slope. The member for Cape Breton West has spoken most eloquently about this dire situation that we as a province are in, and I appreciate the confidence he shows in the current Minister of Finance, and I share his confidence. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to recognize a gentleman, John Morrison, from Kentville and his seatmate up in the gallery, Dick Rawlins from Kings South, in the Bishopville area. Mr. Rawlins is actually a former school board chair from the Kings County

[Page 4419]

District School Board prior to its amalgamation. Mr. Rawlins is very interested, as is Mr. Morrison, in what is going on with education here today. I would ask them to stand and accept the warm greetings of the House. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, a wise person told me that it costs an extra $9,000 a day to run the Legislature while we are in here. I think as the member for Timberlea-Prospect points out, we should always be mindful of the costs, and I hope I choose my words carefully and try as best I can to give value to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia; $9,000 a day is a lot of money. If you want to tie up the Legislature for two or three days debating a tax on 911, maybe a few pennies a month, we may indeed spend enough money here in the Legislature than what we would perhaps raise in a month for a relatively small tax. I would just encourage all members from all Parties to be respectful of the time that they speak in the Legislature, because it does come at a cost.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: A question, Mr. Speaker. I thank the honourable member for accepting the question. I am really flabbergasted to hear the honourable member saying that upwards of $1 million in user fees on the telephone service for the people in Nova Scotia is only pennies. How can the honourable member diminish the seriousness of that situation?

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: You take what the CRTC allows, you divide it by 12, and you will find that it is a very small amount on a per line basis. (Interruption) Good of you to point it out, honourable member for Cape Breton West.

Mr. Speaker, I had a distinct privilege today. It is one of those warm memories that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Fuzzy.

MR. MORSE: Warm, fuzzy memories that I know I am going to cherish from my time here at the Legislature. I got a call last week from the co-president of the Horton High School Student Union. There was quite a bit of consternation within the Horton community, as I guess it is fair to say there is throughout the province, about what is going on with education. He asked me whether I would be prepared to perhaps come in and speak with the school.

I guess I felt that the only way this could happen is if it was during school time and I felt that it was perhaps only appropriate to speak with the principal which I did on Thursday. He welcomed the opportunity to have me come. He was not sure as to what the reception would be because they are getting a lot of conflicting stories, some of which are originating here in the Legislature. Anyway, I accepted his invitation. I was very impressed with the students at Horton. I was very impressed with the staff at Horton. They gave me the first hour of the day, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

[Page 4420]

I would like to still be there answering their questions because it was a very constructive experience. They were polite. They were interested in what was going on in the province. They were astute enough to understand that there is a big picture and that they also bear some responsibility for our conduct as a government. They were concerned about education, but also about the debt and they were appreciative of the fact that ultimately they were going to inherit our legacy to them.

They were looking for a broader perspective, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank Scott Lombard and Jarret Gates for their invitation. I would like to thank the principal, Andrew Clinch, for the courtesy that he and his staff showed me and I would encourage all members to seize on these opportunities should you be so fortunate to have one. Only by getting out and talking to these bright young students in a question and answer format, as pointed out by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, do you get to understand what their concerns really are and try, as best I can, to answer their questions, very good questions. This allowed me the opportunity as a representative of this government to explain that Education and Transportation were the only two departments of any significance that actually got a funding increase in this budget, an extra $1 million to Education, an extra $10 million to Transportation.

However, to be fair to the school boards, that did not translate into larger funding for them and we are dealing with a $30 million early retirement package that we are still paying for from early in the 1990's; good intentions, but I am not sure if paying capable teachers at the peak of their career to stay home was a good decision or not, and I was not here at that time to appreciate the debate, so I just make the comment, and I reserve judgement out of respect for my predecessors. (Interruptions)

The member for Cape Breton East is making a lot of comments, but he is not being clear, and I am not able to hear him, so I take it he is just heckling me. (Interruptions)

He confirms he is just being obstructive and I guess that is just his way of adding to the process today. Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out if the member opposite could pipe down for long enough, I was referring to the $9,000 a day that it takes to keep this open, I would point out he has just wasted a couple of minutes. If my colleague from the Party opposite would like to get his calculator out, he might be able to get up and advise us how much Nova Scotia taxpayers' money the member for Cape Breton East has just wasted.

You know it is ironic that I would be up here today (Interruption) The member for Dartmouth North is very astute when he gets up. If we are misbehaving when we are in the House and we are making a noise, he always waits for us to be quiet. I think I just got an acknowledgement that he is going to behave a little bit better, at least while I am standing up here. At least I hope so. (Interruptions)

[Page 4421]

I would like to talk about P3. Isn't it ironic that one of the first persons in this province who stood up and said what in the world are the Liberals doing with P3, the cost of these schools is just unbelievable. A total lack of structure. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, could I ask for order, please? Mr. Speaker, could I ask for order, please.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Kings South has the floor. Continue.

MR. MORSE: Thank you. Mr. Speaker, $30 million this year and $8 million for the maintenance contract. How dare you! How dare you criticize our Education budget. You saddled the children of Nova Scotia with those P3s. You did it to keep it off the books. You did it. You did it because you wanted to look good in the eyes of the electorate, and you would put it off until somebody came along and told the truth and shed light on the deficit. Shame!

Mr. Speaker, I am having a problem here today. I have two and a half pages, and I am not even halfway down the first.

There are three components to where we are today. The part I have talked about, and that is the province's ability to put adequate funding into the system. Our ability is much restricted by the situation. There is the caring school boards, and they are doing their best under difficult circumstances, and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union are doing their best under the circumstances, and they are also caring people. But, Mr. Speaker, 25 years of deficits is a hard lesson to learn, and that is what we are doing with this budget. Thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for Kings South for making a very helpful contribution to the debate going into Supply this afternoon. I listened very closely to other honourable members, especially the honourable member for Cape Breton West. The honourable member in his way accused honourable members of being jack-in-the-boxes or jack rabbits and things of that nature, but during his discourse not once did he offer a helpful suggestion to help us out of this very difficult situation that we are facing as a government and that we are facing as 52 MLAs in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I tabled the document that addressed the very issue that the honourable member is claiming that I did not address, so please, listen to the speeches and you will get some information.

MR. SPEAKER: This is a disagreement between two members and not a point of order.

[Page 4422]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, that was a very helpful and generous ruling, I appreciate the ruling that you make and you know with your wealth of knowledge that Beauchesne says on occasion, perhaps on numerous occasions, you will have two contradictory views on one issue and I think that is what we have here today. The honourable member is suggesting that he tabled something helpful, well I do apologize honourable member, because I haven't had an opportunity to examine that document, but based on my experience in this Legislature, and it is some time now, I think I can safely say that I do know bafflegab and rhetoric and I understand verbal diarrhea when we hear it. It is quite obvious that members opposite in the Liberal swarm and in the NDP herd very seldom ever offer a helpful suggestion. They can carry on and criticize the government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The motion is carried.

[2:27 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Kevin Deveaux in the Chair.]

[5:58 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should tell Nova Scotians why he has broken faith with them and why he can't tell them the truth about what he is doing to the already devastated health care services."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

HEALTH - PROMISES: UNFULFILLED - INFO

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity this evening to rise and to address this resolution. I think it is important on a day like today. I understand that the Premier got kind of a rocky reception up in Cape Breton. I think it is clear and evident from the people who are outside the building as we speak, we are certainly hearing, in our constituency offices every day from Nova Scotians who believe that this government ran on one set of promises, one set of commitments, to the people of Nova Scotia and now, having

[Page 4423]

been elected, having won the confidence of the people, are now busy implementing an agenda and a set of programs and a set of initiatives that are not only completely contrary to what they told the people of Nova Scotia they were going to do, but, in fact, are very detrimental to many Nova Scotians from all walks of life. They are affecting people in every age group, from small children right through to the seniors in our province, whether it is in Education or in Health, or whether you happen to be a farmer in the Valley or whether you happen to work for Transportation and Public Works. All of these people are being affected by initiatives that have been undertaken by this government, apparently without any consultation whatsoever.

Health care is only one of the areas that it becomes most obvious to people that what they voted for and what they got are two completely different things. Mr. Speaker, I want to take you back and I want to read, if I might, just a little bit of what was told to Nova Scotians. I want to go back because there were two elections held in March 1998 and then again in July 1999, elections that were held very close together. People looked at the commitments that were made by the Parties in both of those elections and they carried with them much of what was told to them from one election into the next. This particular document that I am going to read a little bit from is called Putting People First, which was the commitments of the Conservative Party when they were running in 1998.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall this, what it says is, "Nova Scotians want to know their health care system will be there for them when they need it. They want and deserve guaranteed access to essential health care services, regardless of where they live. We believe there has been too much focus on the structure of the health care system, and not enough focus on those who provide and receive care. We are committed to the five principles of the Canada Health Act: a single-tiered, universal, portable, accessible, and comprehensive system. We are committed to a health care system that puts people first, and we will ensure meaningful involvement for providers, consumers, and communities in shaping the future direction of health care in Nova Scotia." That is what the Conservative Party of Nova Scotia was telling people in Nova Scotia in July 1998.

To be a little bit more specific, what they were saying, in specific - and I want to spend some time talking about seniors in this province, because I don't think there is any particular group in the province that feel more grossly betrayed by the provincial Progressive Conservative Party than seniors. Seniors are the ones who went out and placed their faith in the Progressive Conservative Party, only to find that at the end of the day, they weren't going to be put first, these people weren't going to be put first, they were going to be put last.

In 1998, the Progressive Conservative Party said, in consultation with seniors, we intend to restructure seniors Pharmacare to eliminate premiums and to ensure private insurers plans pay first and taxpayer-funded plans pay second. Can you imagine the surprise of the seniors in my constituency, and I think the seniors in all 52 constituencies across the province, when the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia became the government, and they looked to them to live up to their commitments, the commitments that were made in July

[Page 4424]

1998, to people right across the province. I am sure they waited with bated breath as the budget for the year 2000-01 was unveiled by the Minister of Finance. We must remember, this was the first budget, because as many of us said, well, the Tories came in in July 1999, and they said, look, the budget for 1999 is set, it is already set and we haven't had any control over it. There is nothing we can do, all we can do is bring back in the budget that the Liberal Government had. We can't really change anything this year, but you wait until next year.

Seniors did that. They waited for next year, because they felt that, yes sir, the Progressive Conservative Party would live up to its word, and that would be the end of Pharmacare fees. What happened? What happened when the budget documents were actually released? Well, lo and behold, not only were seniors' Pharmacare fees not released, not only were they not released, the co-pay was increased from 20 per cent to 33 per cent. The premiums weren't done away with. An absolute, utter, and complete betrayal.

The Minister of Health sits there and likes to heckle, because when you don't have anything else to say, what you can do is you can heckle. I know that when the Minister of Health was attending university in Virginia, when he was cheering on the Cavaliers in Charlottesville, I am sure that the health care system down there appealed to him. I am sure it appealed to him. What he decided he was going to do, he was going to take the education he received in the U.S. and he was going to bring that back to Canada, and he was going to see to it that we got a United States-style health care system in this province. Why wouldn't it? We are all products of the education we get and, if you do your master's degree in Virginia and if you do your doctoral work in Virginia, it is only natural that you are going to absorb what it is that you see.

I want to tell the Minister of Health right now that the people of Nova Scotia, the seniors of Nova Scotia, do not expect to see a United States-style of health care delivery system in this province. They don't want it and, if that is where you got your education and if that is where you got your information, I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, you should take it back because the people here know all too well what the result will be of the increase in Pharmacare premiums. It is not just me.

I was pleased to point out to the Minister of Health a study conducted in Quebec, not by an internal body of any kind, this was done through the auspices of McGill University, the Department of Public Health for Montreal, the Unitersité de Montréal, and McMaster University. They assigned researchers, and what they did was look at what happens when you increase fees to seniors. You know what happens? Seniors stop taking their medications because they can't afford them. It is only understandable, when you have to trade off the money that you have for medication with other aspects of your budget, whether it happens to be, well, it could be fishing licenses I suppose, because of course they promised to do away with those as well but, instead, they find that they still have to pay, I think it is $6.00 now for their fishing license. Another broken Tory promise. It has nothing to do with health care, Mr. Speaker, but nonetheless another broken promise by the Conservatives.

[Page 4425]

What happened is when they don't have enough money to buy their medication, they end up in emergency rooms, they end up in acute care facilities. You know what happens? The government ends up paying out more money to support them in those institutions. They pay out more money in order to support them than they save. So it has been an absolute and complete betrayal of the people who elected the Tory Government, the seniors.

I just want to tell the Minister of Health that what he should do is he should remember, you know it is not Kansas . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would think it almost inevitable that the debate sooner or later would focus more on health than on any other aspect of government activity because the cut, both in absolute and proportionate terms, has been far greater in Health than in any other department of government. It has been far greater in Health than in Education, far greater in Health than in Agriculture, although not proportionally because one-fifth of the agricultural budget has vanished.

AN HON. MEMBER: More than that.

MR. MACEWAN: More than that, all right, then more than that. My rough arithmetic is that one-fifth of the agricultural budget has vanished, so I think it is rather inevitable that the debate sooner or later would come around to health, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: How's your health?

MR. MACEWAN: My health is good, my friend, much to the consternation of my political opponents.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Tories used health prominently in their last election campaign. My learned friend who preceded me read extensively from their 1998 election brochure. There was one that they had in 1999 that perhaps was not as verbose as the great big volume, it was just a single page, a card stuffed into the mailboxes in the riding of Halifax Citadel. But that infamous document stated that "A John Hamm Government will close Sysco once and for all" and there is a picture of the Sydney Steel plant with "CLOSED" stamped on it. Underneath it there was a hospital bed and it was stamped "OPEN". Then " Priorities Matter stop pouring $$ into SYSCO protect our Health Care System." Vote Jane Purves of Halifax, Progressive Conservative Party.

[Page 4426]

I have tabled this item before, I think several times, but if any honourable member wants it to be tabled again, I have another copy here for the table. (Interruptions) I do not know if it is authorized by the official agent or not. The copy I have does not make any mention of that which would, if that is a true copy of the original, constitute a violation of the Elections Act, but we will not get into that right now.

The fact is that that type of advertising implied to the people of Nova Scotia that this government would protect health care. That was the pitch on which they ran. Now they have brought down a budget, we are asked to accept their numbers as gospel truth; I don't believe the numbers in their budget. It is possible for a government to falsify a budget. We know from experience in the Province of British Columbia that the NDP Government in British Columbia deliberately falsified a budget, not just once, but I believe twice, the budget known as the fudget-budget, and if it is possible to have a fudget-budget in British Columbia, why should it not be possible in Nova Scotia?

We can do anything on the East Coast that can be done on the West Coast, Mr. Speaker. So I think it is clear that when governments in other jurisdictions produce figures that are not correct, that these people can also. I think that our budget, the budget on which the NDP brought us down and so paved the way for the election of the crowd opposite to assume power, I think that that budget tabled by the honourable Don Downe as Minister of Finance, was founded on some pretty valid numbers and the numbers that he tabled certainly did not paint the picture that the numbers tabled by the crowd opposite has tabled.

In fact, our budget was in balance except, of course, for the planned investment of additional money into health care, demonstrating that we were committed simultaneously to a balanced budget and to developing our health care system, Mr. Speaker. How can you beat that? (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: You can have your cake and eat it, too.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, indeed. Now, Mr. Speaker, these people came to power in the second election in 15 months as organized and orchestrated by those who felt that the MacLellan Government was so terrible and so bad that anything else would be an improvement over it. Well, we have got the anything else now and what has happened? Bed closures coming. We have no idea actually what is coming because this government has admitted that they have set a new precedent here in Nova Scotia and that is the tabling of a budget lacking the details of what it is that they plan to do, and then they challenge the Opposition to ferret out those details by active ferreting activity and they just give vague generalities and platitudes of what their intentions are.

So we do not know what they intend to do, but we know their plan. We know their plan is to get these budgetary estimates through here in the 75 hours provided, then put the vote, and I don't know how they will get all their backbenchers to vote, but I suppose they

[Page 4427]

will get pavement or something that will keep them in line. When the budget is passed, the next day you can expect to see the House recessed until Lord know when, perhaps the day before Christmas, and that will give them lots of time in an uncontested, unopposed, unferreted way, to implement their actual plans in the field of health, but we are expected right now to fly blind, to take them at face value and to believe that they are going to protect health care while simultaneously reducing the budget of that department far more than the budget for Education has been reduced at all.

We have seen in education, the results of their cuts, because there are certain contractual obligations that kick in when you remove money from the system. School boards have to give notice to employees that we don't have the money to pay you come September and so you are going to get your pink slip now so that you will have due notice. The health care system apparently does not work that way. They can wait until after this session of the Legislature has recessed to start issuing the pink slips and so that the people get the full picture of what it is that they plan to do, but we can be safe in assuming, Mr. Speaker, very safe in assuming that the implications of that card that was circulated in Halifax Citadel about protecting our health care system by shutting down Sydney Steel, or whatever it was that they planned to do, will not prove to be true in the end and so to that extent we are justified, I think, in saying that they have misled the people of Nova Scotia.

They legally have the power at the moment and I know it. They elected more members than any other Party or any combination of Parties in the last election, and under our constitution they will remain in power until their term has ended or they choose to go to the polls earlier by dissolving the House in the issuance of a writ or they face internal collapse because of the catastrophe they are bringing upon Nova Scotia, and maybe some of their members won't have the fortitude to stand the gaff, and they will revolt and they will overthrow that government, and that government will disappear and become a very quickly forgotten memory in history.

[6:15 p.m.]

I hope that happens soon, because I think Nova Scotia needs a responsible government that will strike a balance between the need to keep the financial interests happy on the one hand and the need to protect public services and continue to deliver them on the other. That is the formula the Liberal Party stands for, Mr. Speaker. The Conservatives are the captives of the banking interests. The NDP are the captives of those who say spend, spend, spend, as Bob Rae did in Ontario until he had accumulated a deficit of $13 billion. We stand for the middle road, avoiding the dangers of either extreme, but striking a balance between protecting the public interest and seeing that the credit rating of the province is maintained.

When we get that approach in government once again, Mr. Speaker, then I think we are going to see a much quieter, calmer and happier people. We are going to see a great lessening of demonstrations and of excitement among the people because we can get back to

[Page 4428]

good, solid, sensible government, and we can get the show on the road once again as it was in the days of that terrible Russell MacLellan Government that some just had to bring down because anything would be an improvement over it. How much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: One and one-half minutes.

MR. MACEWAN: One minute and one-half for a little cadence. Well, Mr. Speaker, I could get into the specific aspects of what they are doing to Pharmacare and to many other aspects of our health care delivery system. I simply know this, you cannot pull a major amount of money out of a very delicate and sophisticated system without damaging it. (Interruption) He wants to know if I still play hockey. I don't know if that has too much to do with the resolution now before the House. (Interruption) Oh, it relates to my health? As I said earlier in the debate, my health is excellent, and I hope to be able to continue in political life for many years to come, no thanks to this government, and no thanks to what they are doing for our health care system. I thank you.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased tonight to debate on a resolution which is questioning this government's accountability and commitment to tell the truth about what is taking place in the health care sector. The problem is not that we are not telling the truth. The problem is that the members opposite have chosen not to listen. What we are doing in health care is ensuring a system that is sustainable, responsive and secure. What we are doing in health care is making the decisions that are needed to protect core health services and to balance the needs of today with the anticipated needs of the future.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to use my time this evening to give the members opposite and Nova Scotians an overview of what we are doing in this province to ensure Nova Scotians have a health care system they can depend on today and well into coming years. For example, to ensure timely and appropriate access to continuing core services and care services, this government is working with the sector to establish single-entry access. For many years, health care providers, managers, administrators and consumers have identified the absence of single entry as one of the most significant barriers to ensure timely and appropriate access to continuing care services, not to mention determining the most appropriate level of care.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if I could digress just for a moment. You know those scissors that the barber used to trim the hair of the honourable member for Dartmouth North, I have a suggestion where we could employ those scissors this evening. I don't think I had better mention is right here and now. Let's get back to single entry. Single entry-access has been in great demand from people actually working in the field, for it is quite simply something that must be done. I would challenge all members opposite to go out and talk to the health care providers and ask them what they think of single-entry access.

[Page 4429]

Establishing a single-entry access model will help to ensure service delivery is based on seniors' needs. The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour talked about seniors, well, single access will ensure service delivery is based on seniors' needs and that a full range of services is offered and considered. Assessment, intake, placement, and care plans will be streamlined in the best interests of - get this - seniors. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, April 1, 2001, is the target date for implementing our single-entry access system. This will follow a demonstration project of the model which we plan to run in the fall. As I explained at the outset, some members opposite aren't prepared to listen, but we are telling the straight goods here tonight, we are offering the straight goods. Now, a very positive step, already taken by the Department of Health and the Department of Community Services, was transferring senior programs and services from the Department of Community Services to the Department of Health. It was one of many necessary steps to take in our shift to single-entry access. It puts the province in a much better position to meet the needs of Nova Scotians and meet the needs of seniors. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no denying the need for clear direction in our health care system. We recognize that many of the challenges in health care today are symptoms of larger issues, below the surface, and are committed to making fundamental changes. Yes, there are many issues. We are not here to point fingers, what we are doing is disclosing a plan. These changes will come in the form of a strategic plan based on solid evidence and community input, which directs monies where they will be of the most benefit. (Applause)

Just weeks ago, the Health Minister, the Honourable James Muir introduced legislation to establish nine district health authorities. These authorities will be smaller than those mega-mammoth regional health boards created by the members opposite when they were in government, yes, the Savage-MacLellan Liberals. These authorities will be smaller and the communities will have some control in the decision making. The communities of Nova Scotia will have a say in the decisions that are being made. Guess what? The district health authorities will keep costs under control. (Applause) The days of runaway deficits to the tune of $767 million are over.

With the help of health care providers and administrators throughout the province, we also recently completed a comprehensive review of acute care facilities, which showed us that as many as one in four people in hospitals could not be discharged because of delays in accessing other services. One in four. This review is the first for Nova Scotia and underlines the need for improved planning and better use of resources in health care delivery. The findings will be . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 4430]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the honourable member entertain a small question? (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am being encouraged by my very supportive colleagues to say no, and therefore I take direction from my colleagues, no, I can't take a question. As we indicated, one in four people in hospitals could not be discharged because . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The point of order being in concert with the resolution that is before the House, I am simply concerned as to whether the honourable member is simply reading from a prepared text or is he simply off his medication. (Interruptions)

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I know colleagues . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.

MR. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I have come to know, over the years, and it has been several years now, a number of members in that Liberal caucus. It is not unusual for that honourable member for Cape Breton West to make a disparaging remark, but some of those honourable members opposite, a couple in the back, back row there, are very honourable gentlemen. Sometimes you have to examine the back rows to find honourable gentlemen. There are some there too. But in this case, a couple of the lads at the back of the class, so to speak, are very fine individuals. But that character, you never know what he is going to say next. If the Premier was here, we possibly could get him to write up a prescription for the honourable member, if he is looking for some medication.

Mr. Speaker, let's get back to some points and some facts. I know that the Liberal caucus won't enjoy this particular comment, but, during 1997, and many people talked about the Chretien Liberals in Ottawa cutting back on the health-social transfers to the province. You have to wonder where David Dingwall from Cape Breton-East Richmond; Dianne Brushett from Cumberland-Colchester; Michael Savage from Dartmouth; Geoff Regan from Halifax West; Mary Clancy from Halifax; John Murphy, Kings-Hants; Francis LeBlanc. He is the guy, remember Francis LeBlanc, who beat out Roseanne Skoke in the old Central Nova riding? It was changed to Pictou-Antigonish. You know what they did? They cut health transfers to the province of Nova Scotia and we are still suffering and seniors in Nova Scotia are still suffering the consequences of what those scoundrels did.

Mr. Speaker, there is more, Beverley Peters, Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore; Derek Wells, South Shore; Vince MacLean, Sydney-Victoria; Harry Verran, South West Nova? Now come on. Where are they now? Those honourable members, at the time, they had no difficulty running out and slicing and cutting away the health care dollars that

[Page 4431]

were coming to the Province of Nova Scotia. Look what we are trying to do today? We are running around with a $767 billion deficit, a nearly $11 billion debt and no money in the bank to provide vital health care services. So what we are trying to do is be fair. We are trying to be responsible to Nova Scotians. That Party with that leftist ideology, they can't offer one concrete suggestion. They will get up and criticize. Saskatchewan, with an NDP Government has the highest Pharmacare rates in all of Canada. Is that what Nova Scotians want? Don't have the audacity to stand up and tell us about your government.

You better be careful. I hear footsteps coming behind that NDP Party of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Party is sneaking up, Mr. Speaker. It is absolutely ridiculous bafflegab and verbal diarrhea for those members in that NDP caucus that are telling us . . .

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

[6:28 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Kevin Deveaux in the Chair.]

[6:59 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 43.

[Page 4432]

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

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am not up here representing the member for Sackville-Cobequid, but thank you for the introduction, to the Government House Leader. (Interruption) I am sure the Speaker is aware of the protocol of the House, Mr. Minister.

I just want to make a few comments on Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend Chapter 147 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act, Chapter 342 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Petroleum Resources Act, and Chapter 345 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Pipeline Act. That is a very weighty title for what is essentially some housekeeping legislation that is before this House regarding the whole question of jurisdiction. It is a substantial title and in some areas people might suggest, and I am sure the minister would agree, that the responsibility area may be a little bit confusing and, hopefully, this bill may clear it up.

I am sure the minister would also agree that this bill was quite some time in the making and being put together. Let me say to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that our Party does not have any problem with the bill going on to the Law Amendments Committee; however there are a few comments I would like to make on it. I believe the 15 clauses that are contained in this bill deserve some scrutiny at the Law Amendments Committee and certainly in Committee of the Whole House eventually, when the bill comes back to the House. I think the Petroleum Directorate is assuming, quite rightfully so, more responsibility, not less responsibility in this particular bill.

During your preamble, Mr. Minister, regarding the bill in your initial outline you talked about perhaps there is a breakdown in jurisdiction and, hopefully, this bill will clear that up. Will the bill clear it up? I think only time, the testament of time will probably suggest whether it will or not. But what the bill does I think is it essentially removes the control over safe practices and exploration and controlling of pollution, and the ensuring of environmental protection exploration, from the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act since they are now being carried out by two departments of government and the URB. I think that is probably something that has been suggested for a period of time and I am happy to see that that is where this bill is heading.

It also removes minerals from the application of the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act since mineral resources are now the responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources, and I believe that would be a reasonable thing for this bill to do and a reasonable direction to head in.

[Page 4433]

It also removes from the Energy and Mineral Resources Conservation Act the authority of the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting safety standards because that is now the responsibility of the Department of Labour together with the URB - it makes sense - and transfers the general management and supervision of the Petroleum Resources Act from the Minister of Natural Resources to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate, something that I felt very strongly about during my short time in that particular responsibility area.

It also removes from the Pipeline Act the power of the Energy Board to deal with the clean-up and disposal of substances that have escaped from a pipeline since, again, the Department of the Environment is now responsible for dealing with escaped substances, and again it makes eminent sense. It also removes from the Pipeline Act and gives the Department of the Environment and the Department of Labour, together with the URB, the power of the Governor in Council to make regulations pertaining to the reporting and repair of leaks or breaks in a pipeline, the protection of the environment, and safety in the building and maintenance of pipelines in submarine areas, and examinations and investigations by the Energy Board into matters relating to the control of pollution and conservation of the environment in the development, construction, and operation of pipelines. I believe that that particular section is also a very good section that is inserted in there for very logical reasons.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is not too often, when a government bill comes to the House, that we, in this Party, can stand and support such a bill, but in this particular case I do not see any reason why our caucus will not be supporting this as it makes its way through the House.

Again, let me remind the minister that this bill was not thought up yesterday, it has been around for a while and it is just now making its way to the House. I congratulate the minister for bringing it here. It is a timely bill. I think it is more than housekeeping, I believe there are some important considerations here that should invoke some discussion at the Law Amendments Committee and also in Committee of the Whole House on Bills, as we move through this bill in clause-by-clause discussion.

I don't want to hold up the bill any longer, Mr. Speaker. I don't know whether there are any other speakers. There certainly are not any from our caucus but I am not sure whether the NDP want to talk any more on this bill so I will conclude my remarks and hopefully have a chance to pick it up again in the Law Amendments Committee or certainly at Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for his insightful comments. I do want to take the opportunity in bringing closure to debate

[Page 4434]

to address some of the points raised by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. I know in his remarks, as I said when he was speaking or leading up to his speaking, that sometimes you tend to wander a little far afield. He raised some questions about the public hearing process that was undertaken prior to the construction of the natural gas liquids line to Cape Breton and expressed concern. I think the honourable member may, at that point in time, have suffered from a wee bit of a lapse of memory. The line that he raised as an issue was subject to exactly the same set of public hearings and input process that was undertaken for the whole of the Sable project, so that particular line was conducted after a review involving a fair amount of input.

The Joint Review Panel process provided ample opportunity for input and the final regulatory approval that was granted depended on the evidence introduced to that panel on environmental and socio-economic impacts of that particular project. I think the member for Sackville-Cobequid was also concerned about the Energy Resources Conservation Board, that it would be able to permit the construction of pipelines in the province without public input. I want to clarify that. Since last fall the Energy Resources Conservation Board has been in place and it is the sole prerogative of the Utility and Review Board to permit the construction and operation of pipelines in the Province of Nova Scotia. Any pipeline greater than five kilometres in length also requires that an environmental assessment be undertaken that includes public hearings under the Environmental Act.

Another part of his comments, in speaking to the bill, the member also questioned the URB's ability to retain expertise. Mr. Speaker, this matter is fully within the competency and the mandate of the URB. In fact, in Clause 3 of the Regulations it says that the chairman may engage the services of professional persons, technical persons and experts to advise the board upon such terms and conditions as the board deems fit. So, in the event that they do not feel they have the expertise in-house to address a concern, they have the ability to retain that expertise when it is needed.

The bill also goes on to say that the board may recover the costs from the companies that are applying for approvals. In addition, the board is also free to set up an inquiry if it feels there is a need for additional information. So there is, in fact, no limitation or inability of the URB to act in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia.

The fourth issue that the member for Sackville-Cobequid raised was a question of fees, under Clause 11 of that bill, the one that is currently before the House. This section is designed to clarify the law with respect to cost recovery, when it comes to managing the onshore petroleum resources of this province. Under Canadian law, recently confirmed by the courts, a fee must be reasonable recovery for a cost of service. It cannot be turned into a tax designed to raise revenues for a consolidated fund. The bill before us today would allow a system of onshore exploration and rights insurance to operate without the undue burden on Nova Scotia taxpayers, and I think that that is a fair consideration.

[Page 4435]

The fifth issue that was raised is in regard to the economic rents for the resource itself. In the offshore, there is no question that the cost of exploration is high. In the deep water blocks that are being proposed for exploration, the cost may well run between $30 million and $50 million. That is a significant investment. It is going to be taking place in an area that to date has had no exploration. It is a risky undertaking. It is in our best interests, the taxpayers, the people of Nova Scotia, to encourage companies to use their resources to explore for oil and gas, because if they are successful, then we will be successful as royalties accrue to the province.

It is slightly different in the onshore. In the onshore the cost of exploration is much less, and as a result and to the reflect the fact that the risk is less, we charge an economic rent. But it is a relatively modest rent, when you compare it to the cost of the offshore. But we do see provincial revenues accruing as a result of these charges, in fact, $150,000 for leases last year.

The final point I want to raise is the question of the letter Mr. Vandall wrote to Premier Hamm. As the member for Sackville-Cobequid well knows, the letter was sent to the Utility and Review Board for response. I am told that the board's response is imminent and the Premier has already indicated that when he is in receipt of the response, it will be made public. As the member opposite knows, the companies involved in the pipeline to Cape Breton have submitted a work plan to the National Energy Review Board on this very matter - the safety of the liquids and gas lines. I understand that this plan is designed to focus on the sections of the pipe that are most likely to be defective, or in question. Those sections will be rigidly tested and if flaws are uncovered, then the URB will be informed of the NEB's information and it will be up to the URB to make a determination as to what course of action should be undertaken.

I know the member for Sackville-Cobequid has suggested repeatedly that political interference would probably be the appropriate course of action, but we have gone to great lengths to ensure that the URB can act at arm's length in what is in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia. I would suggest that we need to have faith in them as a board and in their ability to make decisions unencumbered by political interference.

I feel, as has been said by speakers opposite, that this is a good bill and that it is, by and large, a housekeeping bill, one that has been in the works for some time and I look forward to moving this on to the Law Amendments Committee so that we can have further discussions. So on that, Mr. Speaker, I would move second reading of this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 43. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

[Page 4436]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act.

Bill No. 46 - Financial Measures (2000) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this bill is a lengthy document. The biggest reason that it is is there are provisions here that bring the existing Income Tax Act in compliance with the federal legislation. This bill is 98 pages, a large portion of that is the provisions of the income tax changes that we are doing. I indicated that we are looking to bring the old Act into complete agreement with the federal Act because as we move forward into the new tax on net income, we want to make sure that any appeals that may happen on the previous Act, that there would be no problems in any cases that we, as a province, would have in any appeals that may be made by citizens of Nova Scotia. We have looked through it and changes have been made to any inconsistencies in regard to the federal Act and that is a large portion of it.

[7:15 p.m.]

The second part of this is the introduction of the new bill which brings about a radical change in how we calculate income tax in this province. We will no longer have tax calculated on the federal tax. We will now have tax calculated on the taxable income of an individual. This refers specifically to individuals and not to corporations, but it is a drastic change. It is one which has pretty well been done by almost every province in Canada. If not all of them have done so I would be surprised, because I know they are all weighing their options.

Mr. Speaker, although we are moving to a new tax system, it is important to say that Nova Scotia will not collect the tax. Collection will still take place by the federal government. So, the definition of what a taxable income will be, will still be the same as it is by the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, these are two very lengthy parts of the bill. They are very technical, and I appreciate that most of the members would have difficulty in trying to go through them clause by clause, and I will prevent that pain. There are other things in this bill, and I will list some of them. I know some of the members have heard some of them, but I will go through them. There is the winding-up of the Nova Scotia Alcohol and Gaming Authority, which is going to be moved into the Utility and Review Board in regard to the adjudicative functions, with the balance of that going into government departments. There are provisions in here that arbitration costs, which are currently being paid by the province, will no longer be paid. There is provision here that the Emergency "911" Act, the cost of administering 911will be paid on

[Page 4437]

a per phone basis. That will be no more than what the cost will be, not a source of revenue over and above that. It is important that people recognize that.

Mr. Speaker, there is another provision within this bill that refers specifically to the wind-up of the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission, and there is provision in here that winds-up that entity. There is another provision within this bill that amends fees in regard to the Probate Act. Also in here, there is the repealing of the Expenditure Control Act which was an Act introduced by the previous administration, and there have been considerable amendments to the Provincial Finance Act. I refer members specifically to Clause 71 which refers to accountability, and this is the new legislation provisions that government has put in place whereby we will be bringing about legislation that states that our government will be bringing forward surpluses from the year 2002-03, and how we will account for that. There are also provisions in here whereby every department that over-expends appropriations will have to submit to the Clerk of the House an explanation of the amount and the reasons why that is so. That is to make sure that if government departments over-expend, they would also have to account for that.

Mr. Speaker, there are provisions that were there from the previous administration in regard to the Expenditure Control Act, that if we do run a deficit, we would have to bring a resolution into the House. That was a provision that was there by the previous administration. I agree with that provision. It was a good idea. We have also carried that forward into this legislation, and that is to make sure that we as a government, if ever that occurs, and it is not my intention to do so, that would bring this resolution into this House whereby all members of the House would have an opportunity to speak on it to pass it.

There is also another provision in here, Mr. Speaker, that I think is important, and it is the amending of the Senior Citizens' Financial Aid Act. There was one change done by the previous administration that I felt was wrong, and that was in regard to the people who could receive the property tax rebate. I am sure you are aware, as many Nova Scotians are, if you became a senior citizen subsequent to 1995 you were not eligible to receive this program, which meant that many seniors were in receipt of a program that others who suddenly reached 65, could not access. I have spoken to many senior citizens who felt that was unfair. This provision will allow that to change. The government has put into place a phased-in approach so that all senior citizens will be treated equally in regard to this.

Now, I have indicated that there are 98 pages, Mr. Speaker. There was a lot of detail in this bill, but with those few brief comments, I will move second reading of Bill No. 46, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. It seems like old times today, having the opportunity to deal with financial matters. In the absence of the honourable

[Page 4438]

member for Sackville-Cobequid, I was able to spend a little time in the estimates a little earlier today, having some exchange with the honourable Minister of Finance. It was enlightening. It was a pleasure, as usual. It just confirmed me in my firm opposition to the budget that he has brought down.

Mr. Speaker, quite clearly, what has happened, what we are dealing with in Bill No. 46 is the legislation to implement the detail work that goes along with the budget that has been presented. Clearly, we have the opportunity to vote separately on these matters, but they are, undoubtedly, related. Not only are the budget and the Financial Measures (2000) Act related, they form the cornerstone of the whole agenda of this government, as I understand it. I have looked at the 243 promises, but they boil down to little more than what it is that the minister has offered us in his budget, the first, he thinks, of three or four over the coming mandate of his government. Clearly, the whole thrust of what it is that this government believes it is about is to get the deficit under control in a three year period and then move to a small tax cut. That is it. That is the whole government agenda for the next four years. They believe that this brought them to power and they believe that, somehow, this will lead to their government being re-elected.

Quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with here is an agenda spread out over the next four years that is modelled but exactly on what it is that the Progressive Conservative Government, under Mike Harris in Ontario, decided was the winning ticket. I have to say that although it worked for Mr. Harris, I don't think it is going to work for Dr. Hamm. It is not a program that will commend itself to Nova Scotians. I think we have started to see it already with the public demonstrations this week. When school children come out to demonstrate, knowing exactly what it is that they are doing, then I think the government should take this as a serious sign that they have gone amiss. The government should take it as a serious sign that they have misread the Nova Scotia populous.

If this is the core of the government's program, then it requires close scrutiny. At the same time, the main points are obvious to everyone. The main points are that the government is dedicated, as the Premier constantly tells us, to reducing the size of government. Why do they want to reduce the size of government? They say that this is the only way to put the budget into balance. Quite obviously, this is not the case. Quite obviously, there are other routes that could get the government to the point where the budget is in balance, without the kind of attack on public sector services directed to people that we see in this budget and in the Financial Measures (2000)Act.

I listened today to the honourable former Premier, citing with approval a study done by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. That study was released publicly about one month ago. What that study points out is that there is a different route for achieving budget balance in Nova Scotia and that route is to rely primarily on healthy growth in the economy, on a slightly revamped tax system and, in particular, on maximizing the revenues to

[Page 4439]

government from our resources. It does not require the sell-off of public assets. It does not require increased user fees. It does not require reductions in essential public services.

Unfortunately, what we have in the Financial Measures (2000) Act, what we have in the budget that goes along with it, is not this progressive agenda, what we have is a very regressive agenda. All of the wrong policy choices are being made by this government. I will tell you why they are out of step with what it is that the public in Nova Scotia expects. We in Atlantic Canada live in a relatively poor part of the country, at the same time the predominant signal that is being sent to the Canadian public, including everyone who lives in Atlantic Canada, is that the economy in our country is prospering. The dominant signal is being sent to them by the federal government, which is running big surpluses. When the federal government runs big surpluses and starts now to offer tax reductions, then that sets the tone for what it is that every citizen throughout Canada expects. They don't expect that this is a repeat of 1993 and a program to disinvest in the public sector.

What poll after poll indicates - and the federal government, to a certain extent, listened to the Canadian public - is that Canadians want re-investment in public services, and they want it now. They don't want pie in the sky, by and by, when you die. They want it now. They know that it is possible to do now. The Canadian public, including every Nova Scotian, knows that they went through the tough times exercise with the former Liberal Government, under Dr. John Savage, starting in 1993. They didn't like it, but they went through it. It was a double whammy because the federal government was doing the same thing nationally. But Nova Scotians had been through it, they don't want it again. It didn't work, and they don't want it again. In choosing to do it again, the government is, as I say, here in this province, uniquely in the country, widely out of step with what it is that the public expects and wants. The government will pay for it. They will pay for it at the polls the next time, because this agenda will not work here.

There are fundamental differences between the economy of Nova Scotia and the economy of Ontario. I will tell you one fact that struck me very strongly when I was looking at what it is that the Minister of Finance offered to back up this bill. You probably will have noticed that for most of the figures given by the Minister of Finance, there are just two years of figures given, the 1999-2000 fiscal year that we have just finished, and the 2000-01 fiscal year that we are embarking upon. For a variety of some figures, he gives multi-year projections. Sometimes, when it comes to things like major economic indicators, the value of the Canadian dollar against the American dollar for example, he gives projections for four years. But the one that struck me was the projection for unemployment. He gives that for the next three years. The projections that the minister gives for unemployment are national and for Nova Scotia. The projections nationally are for a declining rate of unemployment. The minister says, and the Auditor General, who looks over these underlying macro-economic assumptions and attests as to their reasonableness, supports these projections.

[Page 4440]

Here is what they are, for Canada, overall, the unemployment rate, the minister tells us, is going down. It is going down from 7 per cent to 6.8 per cent to 6.4 per cent. That is the projection over the next three years for unemployment for Canada, but for Nova Scotia, under this government, they are telling us unemployment is going to go up. They are telling us under their administration, due to their financial policies, the unemployment rate here which has dipped below 10 per cent is going to go back up above 10 per cent. They are telling us that over the next two years it will go up to 10.2 per cent and then 10.4 per cent. What is the picture? The picture is that nationally the unemployment rate is going down, and in Nova Scotia, under this administration, the unemployment rate is going up. Why?

[7:30 p.m.]

If this budget, if this Financial Measures (2000) Act is supposed to be so good for Nova Scotia, why is the unemployment rate going up? But, these are reasonable figures that the staff of the department generated and that the Auditor General told us are reasonable projections. Do you know what that is? That is 5,000 additional people who are going to be out of work over the next two years of Tory administration in this province. What in the heck is going on?

I can tell you what is going on. This financial formula as embodied in the Financial Measures Act isn't doing anyone on the ground any good. The average person who is going to be out there looking for a job is not going to find it. What the heck is happening here? After years of fighting to get the unemployment rate down, having a achieved the fact of getting the unemployment rate below 10 per cent, now we are being told it is going back up. Now, 5,000 Nova Scotians are being told in this budget document, as a result that is tied to this Financial Measures (2000) Act that they are not going to be able to find work. They are going to be looking for work, but they are not going to find it. Do you know who those 5,000 people are? They are not going to be here in Metro in my riding. They are going to be rural Nova Scotians, people who live in the ridings of all those backbenchers over there who sold a bill of goods to all the rural voters of Nova Scotia when they told them, trust us. Everything will be fine if you vote Tory. We will take care of you. It will be okay. They appealed to a sense of frugality that seemed to think somehow smaller government - those magic words - would not translate to loss of services in their districts. Ha! It is translating now into loss of services.

There were things that the rural districts in Nova Scotia quite clearly wanted and still want. They want roads. They want access to natural gas at an early date. They don't want to lose physicians, they want to gain physicians. They want to see natural resources protected. Where is any of that in this budget? Where is any of that in this Financial Measures (2000) Act? It is missing. They were sold a bill of goods, and those 5,000 that I am talking about are going to be unemployed in those districts. That is where the brunt of this Financial Measures (2000) Act, embodying that minister's budget, will fall, on those rural areas. Let me tell you over there, it is a big mistake for you personally. Someone may not have taken you aside and

[Page 4441]

explained it to you, but to get your pension, you have to be elected twice. The front row is fine; you are not fine. That is the hard fact. By running up the unemployment rate in the rural areas, you aren't going to be able to do that.

There is a lot missing in this bill. Never mind that it is completely wrong-headed as I think I have just indicated. Never mind that it misses the boat for you as your long-term investment in your future. You will find out. I can see that you are sceptical, but you will find out.

Here is a question for you. Central to the platform and central to what it is that this bill sets the agenda for is the sell-off of public assets. They are getting ready to do this. Quite clearly, this bill gives the kind of powers to the government that would allow them to begin to do that. Never mind our scepticism based on our experience with your very unhappy major precedent back in 1992. Let me ask you what it is you are planning on doing with the money you get from the sale of your assets? Where is it going? That is not in this bill. It should be. It is a financial measures bill to implement a budget that says we are planning on selling off assets. There is nothing here that says what you are planning on doing with that money. Other governments, when they sell off assets, they have a plan. There is no plan here. I don't know how you could have missed it. Murray Coolican actually wrote about it in the paper and told you what to do with the money that you get if you sell off an asset. It was in one of his columns. Here is what he said you ought to do with it, Take it directly and use it to pay down the debt.

Do you know what? I cannot think of any precedent, but I want to go on record as saying I agree with Murray Coolican on this particular point. If you found some asset to sell off - I am not going to agree with you, I am sure, on which ones you choose and I am sure you are going to get the price wrong, and I am sure you are going to sell it to the wrong person, but if you do it - I would have thought you would have given some contemplation to what you do with the money. I have certainly thought about it and if some money does roll in, it should be used directly to pay down the debt.

Now, what are your other options? I should point out again that there is not a word about this in the Financial Measures (2000) Act, but there should be because you are planning on selling off assets.Why is this overlooked?

Your other options would be to take the money, as the federal government has done for some things, as the government in the U.K. has done for some things, and create some kind of special fund for some special purpose. Given what you are doing in the education system, maybe you might create a special fund to reinvest in the education system but, no, that is missing. That is not here, but that is one category of something that might have been said in this bill about what to do with the money that is going to roll in from the sell-off of assets, not there.

[Page 4442]

The minister suggested to me, today, when we were chatting in the other room, that the money might just be used to reduce the deficit in some particular year. Mr. Minister, I have to say - I said it to him earlier today and I am going to say it to him and his colleagues right here now - that is a big mistake. You cannot use extraordinary revenues that come from the sale of assets, a one-time sale, because you cannot sell an asset twice, you cannot use it to reduce a deficit in a given year. You put that money directly into paying down the debt unless you set up some kind of special other project.

I see some nodding on the other side of the Chamber because they understand that and the wickedness of contemplating the possibility of taking some of the money from the sale of assets and using it to reduce the deficit in any given year is that it gives a false picture of what the deficit is as an ongoing factor of life in the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is exactly what I thought we heard unendingly from the members opposite that they did not want to do. We heard that they wanted to give an honest complete picture of the balance sheet for the Province of Nova Scotia and so they should. We would have done it as well. That was high on everybody's agenda when we were together in the Opposition, that that should happen, there should be an honest set of books and how the minister can possibly suggest even for a moment that he was thinking about doing that is beyond me, is beyond belief, and should be beyond the tolerance of his colleagues over there. Well, he did say it, he said it this afternoon in the Red Room. I hope he will reconsider.

That brings me back again to the core of the puzzle here, why is there nothing in this bill about how to deal with the money that is going to come rolling in from the sale of the assets? I guess they may have just overlooked it, it is a possibility, kind of forgot about it. That doesn't make a lot of sense to me, given that it was so central to what it is that the government is planning to do in order to reduce the size of government, in order to focus on the core activities, in order to steer instead of row. Do you know what? I think I have an explanation as to what it is that explains the absence of any clauses in the Financial Measures (2000) Act around dealing with the proceeds of the sale of assets. Does anyone want to guess? Do you know what the explanation is? They don't expect to make any money from the sale of the assets. That is the answer. No one thought of what they would do with the money, because they are not going to make any money. It is going to be a fire sale.

How much are they going to get for the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited? I don't know, they say. We are thinking about it, we are not going to tell you, we have a study going on, and we are certainly not going to tell you what we would value it on the open market value as being. I can't believe it, do I hear some members opposite saying they don't know what a fire sale is? Here is a fire sale, a fire sale is when you sell off damaged goods at below-market prices. This is not a highly technical term, even though the honourable Minister of Health doesn't seem to be familiar with it.

[Page 4443]

The main point is that I bet they are not planning on making any money from the sale of the assets, that explains it. That explains why they didn't bother to put anything into this bill that tells the public how they are going to deal with the revenues that are going to come flowing into our coffers from the sell-off of the public assets. How much are they going to get from the sell-off of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission? They don't know. Do you know? You don't know. Do they know? They don't know. Does the public know? The public doesn't know. Why doesn't the public know? Because they haven't a clue, the government hasn't a clue that they are prepared to share with the public about how they propose to do this. Undoubtedly, they are lining up customers. Undoubtedly, when they choose how to sell off bits and pieces of it, it will end up in the hands of the same bunch of people who ended up owning Nova Scotia Power. That is the major precedent.

I hear some members opposite expressing a little skepticism about my main point, but I have yet to hear one word from any of them over there as to what revenues they expect to get. Was it in the budget? No, it wasn't there. Does it show up in the revenue projections for future years? No way. Did the minister even know what he might do with the money if it came in? He did not. If I am wrong, if it turns out that the government has a plan to suddenly make us rich, to perhaps establish some kind of heritage fund, like the Province of Alberta, based on the millions and hundreds of millions of dollars, perhaps, that are going to flow to the public as a result of the sell-off of assets? I would be happy to hear it. I would be happy to hear the big numbers. I would like to see it, and then I would like to hear exactly what it is that they are proposing. I want to hear the details. Who are they going to sell it to?

Now, I have mentioned it several times, but it is worth telling again, what happened the last time they tried to sell something? This bunch, their predecessors, indeed with some overlap in individuals, in 1992, sold off the largest public asset that we had at the time, Nova Scotia Power. They sold it off. Do you remember Bill No. 204? Some of my colleagues over here were around when that was going on, and if they don't remember, they should read up on it. Go read the debates from Bill No. 204 in 1992. It was wonderful. Many people from that Party, many people from our Party, explained why it was that it was a bad deal; in fact everyone from our Party at the time spoke in opposition to it.

[7:45 p.m.]

I was struck by just how profoundly mistaken that was. Never mind that there was no policy context for this decision; never mind that the Department of Natural Resources issued a think-piece in November 1991 about energy policies saying that when it comes to electricity, we are not really too concerned because we own Nova Scotia Power and it will do whatever our policy is on energy.

Well, that is fine, until January 1992, when all of a sudden the Premier of the day, the Tory Premier of the day, the mentor of the present Premier of the day, stands up and says, oh, I have a bright idea, we are going to sell off Nova Scotia Power. Well, that was it. No policy

[Page 4444]

context there. They just decided to do it. Well, who did they sell it to? You know what? I read through the share ownership list, all 12,000 names as of April 1993, and made notes as to who, a year after the sell-off of Nova Scotia Power, owned it. Prior to the privatization, we all owned it; it was owned 100 per cent in Nova Scotia. After the privatization, it was owned 75 per cent to 80 per cent by a very few, very large institutional investors, banks, and trust companies located elsewhere in the country. They owned 73 million of the 85 million shares. Not Nova Scotia companies; not Nova Scotia individuals.

When you looked at which Nova Scotians were able to buy shares, I seem to remember a number of names that kind of stood out on the list as I read through it. Joseph MacDonald kind of stood out, for 20,000 or 30,000 shares; he is not exactly the average Nova Scotian. The Fountains owned a heck of a lot of shares, almost as many as Joe MacDonald, as I recall. I little grouping of Jodreys owned a fair number of share; a little grouping of Sobeys owned a fair number of shares.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Don't go there.

MR. EPSTEIN: Well, I beg your pardon, and I won't mention the fishing lodge. The picture that emerged was not of a kind of democratic sell-off, broadly based and rooted in our province. The sell-off was to a few large corporate entities and, inside Nova Scotia, reflected by who went on to the board of Nova Scotia Power, the major corporate interests. If the Liquor Commission is sold off, what possible reason could we have to think that something different might occur? None. You know what? As bad as that is, it is only preliminary to the main point about the sell-off of Nova Scotia Power, which is that is was sold off, honourable Minister of Health, if I may use this term, at fire sale prices. It was sold off under value, it was sold off wildly under value.

The public of Nova Scotia owned Nova Scotia Power completely in 1992, at the beginning of the year. What was the value of Nova Scotia Power? Well, that is a matter for some dispute, because there are different methods of calculating the value of a company that is an ongoing business. But when a business is a monopoly business and isn't being sold off and broken up at the same time, but is being sold off as a monopoly and where the regulatory regime guarantees a good rate of return every year, guarantees, then that enters into the calculation of the worth of the company. Never mind the value of the capital assets, never mind the cash flow, that was a company that was making money and that was a company that has made regularly, since 1992, $100 million of profits every year. That is eight years of $100 million of profits that could have been going to paying down our debt, or maybe it could have been used to help improve public services. That was money, that in the last eight years, due to the last time you privatized a major asset belonging to the people of Nova Scotia, is not and has not been in the pockets of the people of Nova Scotia. You gave that money away and you are getting set to do it again.

[Page 4445]

At the time, the Opposition Parties told you that the valuation that was being put on the company was wrong. What guarantee do we have that this won't happen again? No guarantee. Not even close. What are we being told? We are being told that there are studies going on about the privatization of our two other major assets: Nova Scotia Power was number one, our interest in the offshore is probably second, although the Liquor Commission given that it is a regular revenue maker, is probably third.

There are perfectly good policy reasons why those things are owned in the public sector. If the government has decided, for policy reasons, that it doesn't want to be involved in those businesses, it would be useful if they could try and state what those policy reasons are. Since they haven't stated them, what are we left to conclude? What we are left to conclude is that they are probably getting ready to do with those assets exactly what they did in 1992 with our other main asset. Again, I say, they are getting ready for a fire sale.

How would you decide the true value on the open market of something like the Liquor Commission? Well, let me tell you, when you compare those two assets that are being studied for sale, the Liquor Commission, Nova Scotia Resources, it is true that Nova Scotia Resources have some liabilities, you wouldn't want to overlook that, but it is equally true that the Liquor Commission is a good business to be in. In fact, I have to tell you that if the government was thinking of privatizing the Liquor Commission the same way it privatized Nova Scotia Power, I will make an offer here today to buy it. Heck, I will buy it and you can name your price. I will go to the bank and say to them, the government is about to give me the exclusive right to import, process, warehouse, and sell liquor to 1 million people in Nova Scotia for the rest of my life. I would like to borrow a few dollars. No problem, they will say, just tell us how much you want.

I would be happy to resign my seat. I will buy it. I, my children, my grandchildren, and Epsteins on into the future will be rich forever. But for some reason, I don't hear the government rushing to take me up on my offer. They might have someone else in mind. I am sure that the members aren't short on hearing suggestions from people who likewise are saying to them, pick me, pick me, I'll buy it. I am sure there is a line-up around the block that is longer than the line-up of the students outside demonstrating, of companies that are prepared to buy it if that is what they are being offered. If the government is even thinking of breaking it up into component parts, I bet there is still a long line-up to buy it.

Are they going to sell it off, if they sell it off, at a good price? I don't think so. You know why? Because in Bill No. 46, there isn't a word about what it is they are planning on doing with all the money that is going to accrue to the public of Nova Scotia as a result of the profitable sale of our public assets. Not one word in this very long bill, 98 pages as the minister reminded us a little while ago.

[Page 4446]

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, although I am disappointed there is no provision in there, I am not surprised. What do we see in this bill, if we don't actually see solid suggestions as to what to do with all this big influx of cash they are expecting? I will tell you what we see. We see page after page of increased user fees, telling Nova Scotians that the cost of being a resident of Nova Scotia is going up by enormous amounts at every turn.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 46.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was just getting into it, but thank you. I will move adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 46.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will try to be brief. I rise on a point of order before the day ends to address a statement made by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on Thursday, and I did get a look at Hansard. I am not entirely sure why the honourable member felt the urge to attack me, but I am sure my gallivanting around the province, as he put it, to various school board meetings may have prompted it, and I don't think there is any point getting into a debate about whether I work for the concerns of my constituents more than he does or anything like that. Those things are best left for election day. I am sure there are some rumours filtering out of Hants East as to how well I take care of my constituents.

The point I did want to address was a comment made by the honourable member regarding my lack of initiative in relation to some of my constituents at the Indian Brook Reserve in Shubenacadie. I didn't think that it was necessary, although I can change my way of operating, but I didn't copy for the honourable member every piece of paper I had sent on their behalf. I certainly did contact the federal Minister of Fisheries regarding their concerns.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has risen on a point of order, and it is quite lengthy. We have a very short time to do the order of business for tomorrow. I will review Hansard and report back to the House tomorrow.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, following the daily routine and Question Period, we will be calling Resolution No. 1305 first. Then we will be calling Resolution No. 1281. If time permits, following that we will call Bill No. 38. I move that we do now adjourn.

[Page 4447]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if we could possibly revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees before we adjourn?

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 42 - Municipal Law Amendment (2000) Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The motion is for adjournment until tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[The House rose at 8:01 p.m.]