The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 26, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 4449
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Downe 4450
Fin.: Budget - Disagree, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4450
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. Manning MacDonald 4450
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. W. Gaudet 4451
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - TCH: Antigonish - Route, Hon. R. Russell 4451
Econ. Dev.: Growth - Strategy, Hon. G. Balser 4453
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1507, Culture - Hydrostone Dist.: Preservation - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4458
Vote - Affirmative 4459
Res. 1508, Culture - Music: Beverley Grove (Violinist HSO) -
Service (40 Yrs.) Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 4459
Vote - Affirmative 4459
Res. 1509, Educ. - C.-C. Reg. Sch. Bd.-Millbrook First Nation:
Literacy Partnership - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 4460
Vote - Affirmative 4460
Res. 1510, Educ. - Techsploration 2000: Innovation - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 4460
Vote - Affirmative 4461
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1511, Educ. - Sch. Bds.: Abolish Quest - Power Grab,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4461
Res. 1512, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Ms. E. O'Connell 4462
Res. 1513, Kings S. MLA - Coffee: Type Switch - Urge,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4463
Res. 1514, Tourism - Atl. Can. Tourism Partnership: Concentrics
Communications (Dart.) - Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 4463
Vote - Affirmative 4464
Res. 1515, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Crisis - Responsibility Accept,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4464
Res. 1516, Health - Med. Professionals: Recruitment Plan - Table,
Dr. J. Smith 4465
Res. 1517, WCB - Widows' Pension: Betty Bauman &
Debbie Krewenki (Glace Bay) - Congrats./ Ruling-Abide,
Mr. F. Corbett 4466
Res. 1518, Sports - Curling (N.S. Master Ladies Champs):
Mayflower CC (Hfx.) - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 4466
Vote - Affirmative 4467
Res. 1519, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Positional Changes -
Testing Undergo, Mr. M. Samson 4467
Res. 1520, PC (N.S.) Backbenchers - Budget (2000-01):
Opposing Role - Power Rangers Adopt, Mr. D. Dexter 4468
Res. 1521, Sports - Kayak (Olympics 2000 Australia): Karen Furneaux
(Waverley-CHEEMA) - Selection Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 4468
Vote - Affirmative 4469
Res. 1522, PC (N.S.) MLAs - Budget (2000-01): Dissension -
Increase, Mr. H. Epstein 4469
Res. 1523, Culture - Icelandic Settlers (N.S.): Celebration Anniv. 125th -
Organizers Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 4470
Vote - Affirmative 4470
Res. 1524, Health: Blood Donors (Eastern N.S.) - Recognize,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4471
Vote - Affirmative 4471
Res. 1525, William Laurie Thorbourne (Liverpool):
Commun. Contribution - Recognize, Mr. K. Morash 4471
Vote - Affirmative 4472
Res. 1526, Timberlea-Prospect MLA - Bruins Tie: Wear - Continue,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 4472
Vote - Affirmative 4473
Res. 1527, Sports - Athletics (Anna. V. Running Club): Netherlands
(Mem. Dedication) Visit - Recognize, Mr. M. Parent 4473
Vote - Affirmative 4473
Res. 1528, Sackville Lions Club: Anniv. 30th - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 4474
Vote - Affirmative 4474
Res. 1529, Pictou Town - Flag New: Significance - Recognize,
Mrs. M. Baillie 4474
Vote - Affirmative 4475
Res. 1530, Sports - Swimming: David MacDonald (Port Hawkesbury) -
Commitment Recognize, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 4475
Vote - Affirmative 4476
Res. 1531, Tourism - Festival of Sail (Dart. 17-24/07/00): Organizers -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 4476
Vote - Affirmative 4476
Res. 1532, RCMP - Ms. Dawn Robin Sutherland (Earltown):
Graduation - Congrats., Mr. W. Langille 4477
Vote - Affirmative 4477
Res. 1533, Percy Hill Shatford (Chester), Death of - Contribution-
Recognize/Sympathy-Extend, (By Mr. D. Hendsbee)
Hon. J. Chataway 4477
Vote - Affirmative 4478
Res. 1534, Party (N.S.) Liberal Leader - Question Period: Sexist Remark
& Defamatory Comment (Educ. Min.) - Retract, Ms. M. McGrath 4478
Res. 1535, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Prioritize, Mr. W. Gaudet 4479
Res. 1536, Youth - Lucas Porter (Port Williams): Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 4480
Vote - Affirmative 4480
Res. 1537, Health - Cancer Soc. (Cdn.-Pictou East): Jim Veitch -
Dedication Appreciate, Mr. J. DeWolfe 4480
Vote - Affirmative 4481
Res. 1538, Econ. Dev. - Auto Tech. (Master Level Cert.):
Rick Long (Sackville) - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 4481
Vote - Affirmative 4482
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice - Review of Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service,
Hon. M. Baker 4482
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 566, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Statistics Accuracy,
Mr. R. MacLellan 4483
No. 567, Educ.: SW Reg. Sch. Bd. - Dismissal, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4484
No. 568, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): Caucus (PC) - Free Vote,
Mr. D. Wilson 4485
No. 569, Educ. - Election Campaign: Policies - Difference,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 4487
No. 570, Educ.: HRM - Funding Formula, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4488
No. 571, Fin.: Budget (2000-01) - Withdraw, Mr. Robert Chisholm 4489
No. 572, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Lay-Offs - Notices, Mr. W. Gaudet 4491
No. 573, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Teachers - Jobs Save,
Mr. D. Dexter 4492
No. 574, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Special Needs,
Mr. D. Wilson 4493
No. 575, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Campaign Promises - Reality,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4494
No. 576, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Strait Reg. Sch. Bd. -
Special Educ. Impact, Mr. M. Samson 4496
No. 577, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): French Immersion - Impact,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4497
No. 578, Educ. - C.B.-V. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Equipment - Funding Restore,
Mr. K. MacAskill 4498
No. 579, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Special Needs - Impact,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4499
No. 580, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Teachers Statistics Adjust,
Dr. J. Smith 4500
No. 581, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Privatization: Jobs - Guarantee,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4501
No. 582, Educ. - Teachers: SW Reg. Sch. Bd. - Lay-Offs Confirm,
Mr. D. Downe 4502
No. 583, Sysco - Sale: Bids - Criteria, Mr. F. Corbett 4503
No. 584, Educ.: C.B.-V. Reg. Sch. Bd. - Lay-Offs,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 4504
No. 585, Sysco - Sale: Bids - Union Participation, Mr. F. Corbett 4506
No. 586, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Teachers
(Term/Probationary), Mr. P. MacEwan 4507
No. 587, Agric.: NSAC - Cuts, Mr. John MacDonell 4508
No. 588, Educ.: SW Reg. Sch. Bd. - Funding, Mr. D. Downe 4509
No. 589, Econ. Dev. - C.B.: Economy - Action, Mr. F. Corbett 4510
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS UNDER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1281, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Focus, Mr. R. MacKinnon 4511
Mr. W. Gaudet 4511
Mr. B. Barnet 4513
Ms. E. O'Connell 4516
Mr. M. Samson 4519
Res. 1305, Educ. - Min.: Resignation - Tender, Mr. W. Gaudet 4522
Mr. R. MacLellan 4522
Mr. T. Olive 4525
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4528
Mr. R. MacKinnon 4530
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Tourism - Anna. V. Blossom Festival: Contribution - Recognize:
Mr. M. Parent 4533
Mr. D. Downe 4536
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 27th at 12:00 p.m. 4539

[Page 4449]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the winner of the late debate this evening was the submission by the honourable member for Kings North.

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the valuable contribution that the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival contributes to tourism in the Valley area and all Nova Scotia.

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

Also, yesterday the honourable member for Hants East rose on a point of order. I am ruling that that issue is not a point of order but merely a discrepancy of facts between two members, so therefore not a point of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on an introduction.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure today to introduce to the House three guests that we have with us who are the children of the honourable member for Hants East, John MacDonell. In the audience we have Lydia, Hillary and Kelton. If they would stand up, they are here today to see their father at work. (Applause)

4449

[Page 4450]

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

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, today we have visiting with us in the east gallery, Her Worship, the Mayor of Lockeport, Sarah Huskilson, and her Councillor, Elliot Morash. I would ask that they rise and receive a warm welcome from the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition in the form of letters sent to me that I have received from parents from Shelburne County addressed to their MLA, Mr. Cecil O'Donnell. It states, "I am writing in reference to the proposed budget and its cuts to the education system. I am outraged that the government would consider taking more from our children when some schools are already working to the bare bone. I hope that you will truly represent the voters in your constituency and vote against this budget on Tuesday." I have affixed my signature to this as well and I would like to table this.

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 117 signatures collected by Nick Budden, an 11 year old, Grade 5 student in a Valley school, I believe in the riding of the member for Kings South. The operative clause of the petition reads, "Signatures of People Who Disagree With the New Budget." I have affixed my signature as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition today protesting funding cuts to education. The petition is from 500 students of Holy Angels High School and MacLennan Junior High School in the Cape Breton area. The petition is addressed to the Honourable Jane Purves, Minister of Education. I have attached my name to this petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

[Page 4451]

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition in the form of letters addressed to the Premier and copied to the member for Yarmouth. These letters are from parents from the Yarmouth area which says, "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."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my name to the several hundred letters. (Applause)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to announce an important step forward for the continued growth and expansion of the Trans Canada Highway in Nova Scotia. For more than two years, the Department of Transportation and Public Works engineers and private consultants have been studying various aspects of where to build a new four-lane Trans Canada Highway at Antigonish. Public and professional opinion on the so-called Red, Blue and Brown routes has been as mixed as the colours on an artist's palette. But despite the differing opinions, it was my responsibility to choose one route that would shift plans for this important highway from neutral, back into gear.

Since becoming the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in December, this project has been high on my agenda. One of my first acts as minister was to review the reports before me and listen to the opinions of staff and members of the communities of Antigonish, Guysborough and Cape Breton. Mr. Speaker, one thing was clear, all concerned want the best possible highway, a safe highway, one that maximizes the economic opportunities a project like this can bring to northern Nova Scotia.

All had legitimate reasons for putting forward their points of view. I think it is appropriate at this stage to recognize the effort invested in this highway debate by all residents of Antigonish and the surrounding communities. To say that they care about their community is an understatement. It is the passion of these people that caused this decision to be considered in every light possible, so that the route announced today is unquestionably the right one. As a final check and balance, I ordered that this project undergo an independent

[Page 4452]

peer review to ensure that the highway routing we choose will be the right one. Mr. Speaker, I will table the peer review and my department's recommendation report today.

Mr. Speaker, our government has chosen the so-called Blue alignment for this stretch of the Trans Canada Highway. (Interruptions) Not necessarily so. This 14 kilometre route runs from Addington Forks Road in the west to Taylor Road in the east. It is approximately 300 to 600 metres south of the existing highway at the Town of Antigonish.

Our plans are now to proceed with environmental assessment, detailed highway plans and property acquisition. The environmental assessment will take a minimum of two years. Survey and detailed design takes another year, and the province must also buy any property necessary to build the highway. The earliest possible start date for construction would be 2005. As Highway No. 104 is part of the National Highway System, construction is dependent on federal/provincial cost-shared funding.

Mr. Speaker, a new Trans Canada Highway will bring safety and economic opportunity to northern Nova Scotia. It is time for all concerned to stand together and to take advantage of the opportunities that this new highway will bring.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table two copies of the report. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister's announcement relates to a matter that I have raised extensively here in the House in Question Period and at other times. He characterizes it as an important step forward. I would characterize it more as marking time at enormous and unjustified expense. (Applause)

Our Liberal Government, when in power, had already made this decision in January 1999. This very route had already been decided at that time, based on a report by a Nova Scotia engineering firm, namely Beasy Nicoll Engineering Limited. They recommended the very route, the very alignment, the very configuration that the minister has just announced. But a funny thing happened on the way to the new highway, by a margin, I believe, of 18 votes or was it 14, a new member was elected for Antigonish, and he insisted that the decision of the Department of Transportation was not good enough and that the whole thing had to be revisited and so it was. An out-of-province firm, Arthur Scott and Jack DeChiara, was retained from Ontario without tender at a cost of $40,000, interestingly just the amount that will be required to hire one more teacher for the amount that this crowd wasted on needless back-pedalling and time marking and spinning of wheels on this subject over the past number of months.

[Page 4453]

[2:15 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I cannot congratulate. There is nothing to congratulate here. They have simply gone to Ontario and spent $40,000 to discover that the Liberals were right all along. The only thing I could add to that, sir, as a postscript is that were I the honourable member for Antigonish, having caused all this difficulty, I think the appropriate thing to do would be to resign my seat.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I know my voice will have the attention of the crowd today. That sort of histrionics is not what we are interested in. I am interested in the fact . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: No, of course, you are not. You are interested in power.

MR. ESTABROOKS: My compliments, Mr. Speaker, go to the Department of Transportation, the engineers, the people who made the choice, the people who recommended in advance that the acceptable, safest, most economical route was the obvious route. Yet this minister went behind the backs of those engineers. This minister decided in his wisdom to bail out his political buddy and to hire some out-of-town experts when already the Department of Transportation people had made their recommendation.

Kingsley Brown in a letter to the editor in the New Glasgow Evening News says it right, I will table this, "Ron Russell had made a serious indictment of the professionalism and competence of his own department, and the political implications are profound." A waste of one teacher at Antigonish Rural, $40,000 in somebody's Ontario pocket. I say get on with it and stop taking care of Tando. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, this morning I had the pleasure of releasing a document, Toward Prosperity - A Discussion Paper, intended to guide the development of an economic growth strategy in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I launch discussion on this issue with a great hope for Nova Scotia, a hope this is a starting place. Its purpose is to create a vision and the principles that will guide the discussion on how we can take what we have and move forward; how we can review what are our best potentials for growth, to maximize Nova Scotia's opportunities for the future. This paper offers a vision of a province in which people have an opportunity to reach their full potential in self-sufficient communities that support enterprise through a high quality work force, a competitive business climate and networks that provide world-class opportunities.

[Page 4454]

Mr. Speaker, it is a vision I know we can attain. Today, I am pleased to share with my colleagues on all sides of the House that this is a beginning. Immediately we will begin to engage business leaders, stakeholders and sectoral leaders in round table discussions to gather their thoughts and advice around the proposed strategy. We want and need their input to truly capture the advantages and the challenges that exist in communities right straight across this province, communities from Yarmouth to the tips of Cape Breton and everywhere in between.

These discussions will be arranged and led by the province's regional development authorities. We believe they know and understand their communities the best and that they will be able to hear concerns and hopes and move things along in a positive direction. The document is also available on the Internet so that all Nova Scotians will have an opportunity to review and offer feedback on the direction that is proposed in the discussion paper.

Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned, the visions and principles to guide the discussion are part of this document but I want to share with this House what I view to be the critical factors for economic growth in this province. To be effective, we must demonstrate commitment to partnerships, partnerships with communities, with the private sector and with other levels of government. We all want the same things - a prosperous Nova Scotia. Together we can work towards that common goal.

Innovation is also critical, Mr. Speaker. We must be forward thinking and show a willingness to adopt new technologies to best position Nova Scotia to take advantage of its natural attributes.

We know that business is the best creator of jobs. We must make it easier for business to operate. We have begun with a commitment to create "one window" service for business which was designed to reduce red tape. I think that we can go even further, Mr. Speaker. We can go further and make Nova Scotia the most attractive province in all of Canada in which to do business.

Linked with this is the Department of Labour and the labour market. We have the right skills for the jobs in Nova Scotia and we want all Nova Scotians to be able to participate in the new economy. And as Nova Scotians we must be able to take advantage of the global market place as it currently exists. Our new strategy will demonstrate a focused effort to improve our opportunities to export product, to develop new markets. We want to become more competitive in a complex and changing world.

Discussions will continue, Mr. Speaker, and the feedback that is invited to be brought forward until sometime in June and at that point we will move on to the second phase of the process, that is refining the proposal for formal presentation to Nova Scotians by mid-September. The result of all this will be an economic growth strategy for all Nova Scotia. It will provide a blueprint for sustainable development, creating an environment where Nova

[Page 4455]

Scotians can thrive. It will create a place where revenue will enable the government to provide the services which Nova Scotians have come to expect and do deserve.

Mr. Speaker, our objective is simple. It is to live in a vibrant, confident Nova Scotia; a Nova Scotia in which all citizens are able to achieve their full potential. I think I can speak on behalf of all members of this House when I say that we can make this possible.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Economic Development acknowledges the province has a need for a formal economic growth strategy. The timing is right, so many options are coming together at this point in time to provide tremendous opportunities that did not exist before. We have an emerging oil and gas sector, we have an exploding information technology economy, we have a global market place and a re-invigorated resource sector. We also have a booming tourism sector; all of these things coming together to create a wonderful opportunity for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, today we are beginning the process of partnering with all Nova Scotians. Based on the input that we received, a strategy will be formulated that will provide a direction and a focus for our attention in years to come.

Mr. Speaker, this is truly a good document to begin the discussions that will create the proper climate for the business future of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table that document now. (Applause)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of the statement earlier today, although you would need a seeing eye dog to read it. I don't know if that is part of the government cuts, but at least we could get something that I don't have to buy a magnifying glass to read it.

Mr. Speaker, that is all I am going to thank him for. This is a document that has little of substance, very little to thank him for in this particular document and I will tell you why. There was almost no mention in this year's budget of economic development initiatives anywhere. Because there are not any. There was no reference of any importance to areas of Nova Scotia with high unemployment; no mention of any remedies. And Cape Breton is a good example of that with upwards of 50 per cent unemployment in some areas in Cape Breton.

The document talks about Toward Prosperity - A Discussion Paper and, Mr. Speaker, it is just that, a discussion paper; more discussions, not in itself a bad idea. As a matter of fact it may be good for future direction, if we have a future. But we are dealing with now, and the serious situation in this province that we presently face.

[Page 4456]

This paper, Toward Prosperity, offers a vision but not jobs, just vision for the future. That, Mr. Speaker, is little comfort for those who need work now.

The minister speaks about a competitive business climate, networking. These are empty words if the structure is not put in place to accomplish these goals. I like the idea of the RDAs facilitating the discussions. That is a good step. They, too, however, Mr. Speaker, will need the supporting tools to do that task. Questions will arise. For example, which government department is going to take the lead to implement the suggestions? Is it the Economic Development Department? That department has just been gutted, 40 per cent of its budget gone and no other government department has been identified as a department that will lead in the economic development initiatives in this province over the next few years.

We just went through a similar exercise in Cape Breton on the future, a shifting economy, a partnership. Does that sound familiar? Good suggestions emerged which would help the local economy adjust for the future. Goals to reduce unemployment, stimulate growth. Everyone agrees with the recommendations but no commitment from government to actually do anything with the agreed remedies.

I want to just read from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald of this date regarding the Premier's comments in Cape Breton. When asked if he was going to anything about the initiatives that were proposed, he said, ". . . the report was 'a beginning point' but hedged when asked if the province would provide funding. 'We are going to continue making those strategic investments in Cape Breton . . .'", but no money. Mr. Speaker, the Premier was evasive because they don't have any intentions of doing anything about poor areas in this province that need financial support. We do not need further discussions. We need a government with the political will to actually do something in this province.

The proposals that were put forth in Cape Breton and elsewhere in Nova Scotia won't happen soon. Why? Because it involves an actual commitment. It is easier to continue talking, ragging the puck, if you will, with no commitment, just talking. Many words of encouragement from the minister. I would like to see some actions that accompany those particular words. His government and the Government of Premier Hamm doesn't have any idea where they are going with the economic problems of this province in the future and there is no meat on the bones of this document today, none. There is no reason for anyone to be excited (Interruption) unless you are someone who likes talking.

The final comment I would like to make in regard to this document is that we are going to continue to talk about our problems for a while. The government continues to talk and it is ironic that this document comes to this House today, on the very day that 310 people, teachers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, were given their notices of lay-off this morning and another 3,000 provincial servants are going to be laid off in this province over the next few months, in Health, in Education, in Civil Service departments. So how can

[Page 4457]

anybody have any confidence in a document like this, a smokescreen document brought here today to try to divert attention from the real problems this province is having.

Mr. Minister, you can talk the talk but the Hamm Government's cut and slash and no hope agenda is what is really happening here.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the minister for providing us early today with the competition but I can't read this either. It may be just my stupidity, not my glasses, because there is nothing there. I sympathize somewhat with this minister because for 10 years we had a boss-hog style of economic development. If you knew the guy, he came in the back door, the PLIs, the tech links, and they got the money. Real Nova Scotians didn't have access to that money. It was the boss hogs. (Interruption) Oh, oh. One second, I hear the cross-country driver. He is yucking back there.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this document, if it did something to move economic development forward for this province, we would be supporting it, but it is another wait and see document. Doesn't this government get it? Over the last two weeks we have had people outside this very building screaming and hollering about the inequities brought upon the people of this province by this government. But they want to study it a little bit; let's study it for a while. The minister and the Premier were in Cape Breton yesterday and the mayor told them the economy is in a crisis situation, and their reaction was there, there now little boys, there, there, when we get around to it, we will get around to it. Translated, it means we haven't talked to Murray Coolican yet to tell us what to do. (Interruption) That is your advisor, Minister of Agriculture, that is your advisor.

What do we have, Mr. Speaker? We have a minister promising a market to be able to be taken up by the workforce. By God, who is going to train that workforce? When you have the "slasher" over here as the Minister of Education, cutting departments, telling children it is all right to have 50 or so students in a classroom, how in the heck are they going to learn? Where is our future? Where is it? Tell these people out there. If you had any pride at all about this province, you would go out there and hear their cries and not say sanctimonious things like this Premier says, well if you don't have any suggestions, go away little girl. He is so full of it. He has no answers; absolutely no answers. Then they come and say we are going to give you a document. You know what, that is not going to feed laid-off steelworkers, laid-off coal miners, laid-off teachers and laid-off janitors this year.

[Page 4458]

Mr. Minister, I implore you, stop studying and start working. Get people out working now. Invest in it. Don't go down the road of the Liberals in the boss-hog style. Sit down with people. Sit down with RDAs. Invest, get it moving, but do it now. Quit your studying; get it moving. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, up in the west gallery - actually it is two separate introductions, if you don't mind - two members of the Halifax Regional School Board who are here today to observe some of the discussion around education and, hopefully, may have an opportunity to speak to the minister at some point. Grace Walker from Eastern Passage, Cole Harbour, Dartmouth South area, and Joan Massey from the Woodlawn area. If they might stand and be acknowledged. (Applause)

Also, Mr. Speaker, in the west gallery, Mary Rothman from the Canadian Association of Community Living and Susan LeFort from the National Anti-Poverty Organization who are here also to observe the proceedings today. If they might stand and be acknowledged as well. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1507

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

Whereas yesterday the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a plaque commemorating the historic significance of the Hydrostone district; and

Whereas designation is only part of the effort required for effective heritage preservation; and

Whereas the most crucial role in preserving our built heritage is played by the residents of neighbourhoods like the Hydrostone;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in thanking residents of the Hydrostone district for preserving this part of our heritage, and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada for recognizing this unique district.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4459]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1508

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

Whereas Nova Scotian musician Beverley Grove has been a member of successive provincial orchestras in this province since arriving here in 1957; and

Whereas Ms. Grove has been a valuable member of our arts community, including performing as second violinist in the Halifax Symphony, the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra and now with Symphony Nova Scotia, as well as with the P.E.I. Symphony and the Confederation Centre pit orchestra; and

Whereas Beverly Grove is now embarking on her retirement from professional symphonic life;

Therefore be it resolved that the province acknowledge the contributions made by Beverly Grove and congratulate her on her 40 years of service to our cultural community.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 4460]

The honourable Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 1509

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 Millbrook First Nation has signed an agreement with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board to provide a literacy program to nine schools; and

Whereas this program will benefit both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in our province; and

Whereas this partnership supports the already positive relationship between the school system and the Millbrook community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and the Millbrook First Nation for their literacy partnership.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1510

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

Whereas Techsploration 2000 provides young Nova Scotian women with the opportunity to explore trades and technology-related career options; and

Whereas 15 Nova Scotia industry sponsors and education partners, including the Department of Education, support this initiative; and

[Page 4461]

Whereas Techsploration 2000 recently received an honourable mention from the Conference Board of Canada for Business and Education Best Practices;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the provincial coordinators of Techsploration 2000 for their recent honour and for developing an innovative means of introducing trades and technology-related careers to young Nova Scotian women.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1511

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

Whereas the Minister of Education disbanded the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group in January because she wanted real figures, refusing input from one of the most important groups in our education system; and

Whereas it has been speculated that this lack of communication is a way for the Hamm Government to abolish school boards across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas in the last election campaign, Premier Hamm promised to solve the problem of school boards which he said are too large and too remote from people;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier's quest to abolish school boards is merely a disguised power grab that would put our children's future completely in the hands of the Minister of Education.

[Page 4462]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1512

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 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, 1,518 children have been born into poverty; and

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,518 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 South.

[Page 4463]

RESOLUTION NO. 1513

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

Whereas the member for Kings South totally lost it yesterday in this Chamber; and

Whereas one reporter even suggested that the honourable member switch to decaf; and

Whereas the member for Kings South lectured Opposition members by asking, how dare they criticize the government's budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the member for Kings South to switch to decaf and remind him that democracy requires an effective Opposition and how dare he try to stifle democracy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1514

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

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has just joined with the Government of Canada and members of the tourism industry to form the Atlantic Canada Tourism Partnership; and

Whereas this partnership will offer free e-mail accounts to tourism operators in Nova Scotia and throughout the Atlantic Provinces using E-commerce to promote an industry worth more than $1.25 billion in this province and employing more than 36,000 Nova Scotians in 1999 alone; and

[Page 4464]

Whereas the establishment of these accounts will be managed by Concentrics Communications of Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the management and staff of Concentrics Communications and wish them well in the completion of a task so important to the growth of our tourism industry in the years ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1515

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

Whereas yesterday in this House the Minister of Education tried to shift the blame for lay-off notices onto the region's school boards; and

Whereas we would like to remind the Minister of Education that the government, her government, is the one cutting funding to school boards, forcing them to issue lay-off notices; and

Whereas in an attempt to shift attention away from her own incompetence, the Minister of Education is doing everything she can to blame others for her mistakes;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education accept fully today responsibility for the crisis in education she and her government have created.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

[Page 4465]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1516

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 quality of the education system is often the key factor considered by young professionals when deciding to move their families to an area; and

Whereas the cuts to education will hurt Nova Scotia's ability to recruit and retain doctors, nurses and other needed medical professionals; and

Whereas the agenda of the Education Minister is totally incompatible with the Tory election promise to make Nova Scotia a desirable place to live and work;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government table its plan to recruit and retain medical professionals in the face of these destructive, disruptive and devastating cuts to health and education.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[Page 4466]

RESOLUTION NO. 1517

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

Whereas the Workers' Compensation Act discriminated for years against many widows of men who died in industrial accidents by cutting off their pensions if they remarried, a situation countenanced in only one other province in Canada; and

Whereas two of these widows, Betty Bauman and Debbie Krewenki of Glace Bay, spent many years fighting both in and out of the courts to have these widows' pension benefits restored; and

Whereas yesterday the Nova Scotia Supreme Court found the Workers' Compensation Act discriminated against these widows on the basis of marital status and ordered the Workers' Compensation Board to pay over $7 million in pension benefits to 62 widows of men who died in industrial accidents;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Betty Bauman, Debbie Krewenki and all the widows for fighting the good fight and urge the Workers' Compensation Board to abide by the ruling and not make the widows suffer through a costly and time-consuming legal appeal of the court's sound decision.

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 Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1518

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

Whereas this year's Nova Scotia Masters Ladies' Curling Championships recently returned with a fourth place finish in the National Championship in British Columbia; and

[Page 4467]

Whereas this year's provincial champions hail from Halifax's Mayflower Curling Club; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia champions are: Skip, Adine Boutilier; Mate, Margaret Cameron; Lead, Eve Tupper; and Second, Phyllis Pettigrew;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate these four women on their curling victory both at home and the tremendous efforts which brought a laudable fourth place for Nova Scotia at the Canadian Masters Ladies' Curling Championships in B.C.

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 Richmond.

[2:45 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1519

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 stated that she will not allow school boards across the province to make education cuts by laying off teachers; and

Whereas the minister has refused to offer any additional money to boards to stop these lay-offs; and

Whereas on March 9th, the Minister of Education stated that she would not interfere with democratically-elected school boards;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education immediately undergo testing for amnesia before she injures herself flip-flopping from one position to another.

[Page 4468]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1520

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

Whereas in a speech to children on education in Middle Musquodoboit on Wednesday, June 23, 1999, the Premier stated, "If these children could vote the Legislature would be home to Power Rangers, Tele Tubbies and Barney would be Premier;" and

Whereas we now have our own version of the Tele Tubbies, with the Minister of Education taking on the role of Laa-Laa, the Minister of Finance as Dipsy, the Minister of Justice as Tinkie Winkie, and the Minister of Health as Po; and

Whereas Barney is not and cannot be Premier because children love Barney and they do not love the Premier, who is cutting education and as a result destroying hope in their futures;

Therefore be it resolved that if the backbench Tories really want to take on the role of the Power Rangers, they could develop some strength of character and vote against this savage Tory budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 1521

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

[Page 4469]

Whereas Karen Furneaux of Waverley, a kayak member of the CHEEMA Aquatic Club, has been competing since 1989, including internationally since 1993; and

Whereas Ms. Furneaux, this past weekend, won the 500 metre K2 kayak event, with partner and former Olympian Carolyn Brunet, in Gainesville, Georgia; and

Whereas by winning this event, Ms. Furneaux becomes the first confirmed Nova Scotia athlete to qualify for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Karen Furneaux for all her hard work and dedication. We wish her all the best as she represents Nova Scotia and Canada at the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics and hope she brings home the gold.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1522

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

Whereas yesterday, in this House, a seventh discontented Tory backbencher was pointed out as another possible dissenting voice on this savage Tory budget; and

Whereas that member is none other than the member for Yarmouth; and

Whereas we are all aware that just four Tory votes are required to defeat this savage Tory budget;

[Page 4470]

Therefore be it resolved that the voices of dissension are growing in the ranks, and they are led by the Minister of Tourism, the member for Kings North, the member for Queens, the member for Colchester North, the member for Eastern Shore, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, and now the member for Yarmouth.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 1523

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

Whereas the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia is celebrating, this year, the 125th Anniversary since Icelandic settlers first came to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Icelandic Memorial Society of Nova Scotia was established nearly two years ago to educate the public of Nova Scotia's Icelandic past; and

Whereas this summer, the dedication of the Markland Icelandic Settlement Memorial Cairn will take place on the Caribou Road/Fairbanks Lake in the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature extend our best wishes to organizers Dolly Belmore, Glenda Burrows and all society members, such as Sarah Huskilson from Lockeport, as an historic moment of Nova Scotia's history is celebrated.

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 Pictou East.

[Page 4471]

RESOLUTION NO. 1524

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 Canadian Blood Service recently held a ceremony in Antigonish for individuals from eastern Nova Scotia who have donated blood 100, 75 or 50 times; and

Whereas our country's volunteer blood donation process is essential to supply blood and blood products daily for any number of critical or routine medical procedures; and

Whereas a number of Pictou County residents were on hand to be presented with an award at the ceremony;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize the gift of life offered so generously by residents across eastern Nova Scotia and urge them to continue this act of selfless generosity.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1525

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

Whereas Laurie Thorbourne of Liverpool, Queens County, will celebrate not only his 91st birthday later this year but also his 68th wedding anniversary with his wife, Dorothy; and

Whereas Laurie is a member of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame, having played with the Liverpool Larrupers in the 1930's and the 1940's before serving for several years as head coach of the Liverpool Little League; and

[Page 4472]

Whereas Laurie also served as a Liverpool Town Councillor for 14 years and was an active member of the Liverpool Fire Department, eventually receiving the department's Long Service Medal and an honorary membership in the department;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the immeasurable contribution made by William Laurie Thorbourne to his community of Liverpool and wish him, together with his family, the very best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1526

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

Whereas the member for Timberlea-Prospect is a self-confessed yet frustrated fan of the Boston Bruins, and let it be known that I am too; and

Whereas the same member promised to allow his colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, to turn his Boston Bruins necktie into a Boston Bruins bow tie if the Bruins sacked Head Coach Pat Burns; and

Whereas the Bruins have renewed Coach Burns' contract for at least one more year;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Timberlea-Prospect continue to wear his Bruins tie with the same pride and dignity that he displayed throughout the regular season and to do so without fear of persecution by any of his colleagues on the other side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4473]

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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1527

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Running Club has been invited to visit the Netherlands from today through to May 8th to participate in the dedication of a memorial in honour of the liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian soldiers in 1945; and

Whereas the AVRC is one of only three athletic groups in Canada to have been honoured with such an invitation; and

Whereas this visit will present members of the AVRC with an opportunity not only to learn about an important part of our proud military history but also to serve as Canadian ambassadors abroad;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the Annapolis Valley Running Club for this distinction and wish the runners well during their visit to the Netherlands.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 4474]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1528

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

Whereas the Sackville Lions Club held their 30th Charter Anniversary this month; and

Whereas the Lions Clubs across the province work hard to fill the needs of communities and people; and

Whereas the Sackville Lions Club's effort touched nearly every single resident in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Lions Clubs across Nova Scotia and congratulate the Sackville Lions Club for 30 years of dedicated service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1529

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

Whereas the Shiretown of Pictou will soon have its own flag; and

Whereas the flag will bear the crest of the town's coat of arms, a tall ship representing the Ship Hector, with the cross of St. Andrew as its sail, floating in the blue and white waves against a red background, with a single yellow star sitting above the ship; and

[Page 4475]

Whereas this flag will be unique in that it will depict a portion of a registered coat of arms;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House recognize the significance of the Town of Pictou's new flag and the special meaning it will have to the celebration of the official launch of the Ship Hector this September.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1530

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

Whereas 15 year old swimmer David MacDonald of Port Hawkesbury is only seconds away from qualifying for the junior nationals competition this summer; and

Whereas in his first years as a senior swimmer, David is within three seconds of qualifying in the 100, 200, and 1,500 freestyle categories; and

Whereas David has already had a busy and successful year in the pool, competing in a number of meets including one of the top competitions of the year, the Senior Age Groups at Acadia University, where he captured a silver and a bronze medal;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the commitment and dedication of David MacDonald as he works toward reaching the junior nationals this summer, bringing him one step closer to his goal of competing in the upcoming Canada Games.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 4476]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1531

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

Whereas this summer the beautiful City of Dartmouth will host the Festival of Sail from July 17th to 24th at the new Alderney Landing complex; and

Whereas this event, which will be held at the new Alderney Landing complex, will provide a tremendous and needed boost to downtown Dartmouth; and

Whereas both the Nova Scotian Schooner Association and the American Schooner Association are busy organizing the Dartmouth Festival of Sail;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature congratulate organizers, including chairperson Sue Conrad, for bringing this unique event to downtown Dartmouth, and invite all those with a keen interest in schooners to visit this display in July.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

[Page 4477]

RESOLUTION NO. 1532

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

Whereas Dawn Robin Sutherland of Earltown, Colchester County, recently graduated from the RCMP training school in Regina and accepted a posting in Kelowna, British Columbia; and

Whereas Ms. Sutherland, before joining the RCMP, graduated with her Bachelor of Commerce from Dalhousie University, and with her Bachelor of Education from the University of New Brunswick; and

Whereas Ms. Sutherland is now enjoying her work in Kelowna as an active member of Canada's prestigious national police force;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate Ms. Dawn Robin Sutherland as she pursues new challenges in law enforcement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1533

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

Whereas Percy Hill Shatford served the people of the Municipality of Chester for 18 years as a municipal councillor, six of those years as warden; and

[Page 4478]

Whereas Mr. Shatford was also a founding member of the Hubbards and District Volunteer Fire Department, and named the Hubbards Area Lions Citizen of the Year for 1991-92; and

Whereas Mr. Shatford passed away on March 17th at the age of 76;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the contribution Mr. Shatford has made to the Chester area and extend our sympathy to his family on their loss.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1534

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

Whereas the Liberal Leader last week stepped beyond his duty and privilege during Question Period to use the opportunity merely to make a personal attack on the Minister of Education; and

Whereas the Liberal Leader suggested the minister, by scheduling a meeting with superintendents this week, was not making a serious gesture to work out a very serious situation within education, but instead asked, "Is the result of that meeting just to grace them with her charm?"; and

[3:00 p.m.]

Whereas the Liberal Leader, unhappy with his first inference, suggested that he considered " . . . the minister about as charming as Lucrezia Borgia . . .", a woman whose reputation and history was highlighted by the criminal acts and excesses of her infamous family;

[Page 4479]

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Leader take this opportunity to retract both his sexist remark and his defamatory comment regarding the minister's character which added absolutely nothing but a low grade of debate to an issue and an individual, both deserving of more respect.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Clare.

R ESOLUTION NO. 1535

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 the Premier said that his government was doing what they promised to do; and

Whereas in the Tory blue book nowhere does the Hamm Government promise to devastate our education system; and

Whereas while the government is cutting education, it is feathering its own nest by increasing the P&P budget and keeping on four communications officers in the Department of Education;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his government decide what is more important, the future of our children or the position of spin doctors who can't make the Education budget look good no matter how hard they try.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 4480]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1536

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

Whereas Lucas Porter of Port Williams, Kings County, is one of a select group of only 82 Canadians to be recognized as a McDonald's Millennium Dreamer for his many contributions to his community; and

Whereas this distinction follows three 1st place awards at the Kings County Music Festival as well as innumerable performances at school assemblies and choir, charity and most importantly, church recitals; and

Whereas Lucas is scheduled to participate in an interactive symposium at Disney World between May 8th and May 10th;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lucas Porter for his outstanding accomplishments, wish him well during the symposium and thank him for serving as a role model for so many Nova Scotians, young and old alike.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1537

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

[Page 4481]

Whereas April is the fund-raising campaign month for the Canadian Cancer Society; and

Whereas Jim Veitch is the Revenue Development Chairperson for the Canadian Cancer Society in Pictou East and works tirelessly for this important initiative; and

Whereas Mr. Veitch worked closely with numerous volunteers on an annual basis to ensure necessary funds are raised from the Pictou East area so that important research continues on this deadly disease;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly extend our appreciation to Mr. Veitch as he continues his work in a very dedicated manner.

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 Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1538

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

Whereas Rick Long of Sackville is one of two team leader technicians in the nine bay service department of Toyota East; and

Whereas since beginning with Toyota East in 1993, Rick Long has completed numerous training courses and recently passed the third of three level training exams, one for each level; and

Whereas completing the three level exam gives Rick Long the Master Level Certification, a level obtained by only five other Toyota technicians in Atlantic Canada and one of only 118 in all of Canada;

[Page 4482]

Therefore be it resolved that all members in this House congratulate Rick Long on his successful achievement of Master Level Certification and wish him all the best of luck in the future.

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.

Just before we continue on, I think there has been an agreement passed in this House in regard to the wearing of buttons and I think that would extend as well to the display of paraphernalia or pamphlets or whatever on the front of member's desks. I would ask those who do have them on the front of their desk, would you please remove them. Thank you.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could have the consent of the House to revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to table the report entitled the Review of Nova Scotia Public Prosecution Service, A Report on the Westray Prosecution by Duncan R. Beveridge, QC and Patrick J. Duncan, QC and the attached Appendix A.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

[Page 4483]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Oral Question Period will begin at 3:05 p.m. and will end at 4:35 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - STATISTICS ACCURACY

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, yesterday Ann Jones was quoted in the Shelburne Coast Guard as saying that at the meeting that the school boards had with the Department of Education last week, the Deputy Minister of Education agreed with the school boards that the figures of 400 teacher losses through attrition and a $26 million reduction in spending were not correct and that there would be over 700 teachers laid off and more than $53 million taken off the budget of the Department of Education. It seems now only the Minister of Education believes her own figures.

When is the Minister of Education going to drop those bogus figures that she has been using, come up with some real figures for her meeting with the school boards and the superintendents so there can be a meaningful resolution to this terrible problem with our school system in Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can't comment on third party reports of a meeting that I didn't attend. But I will say that at a meeting today the school boards and the department officials are talking, they are still talking, nobody has walked out and I am very hopeful about that meeting.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that it seems that no one is supporting the government's position on education. The chairman of the government caucus, the member for Dartmouth South, has said in the past, "threatened cuts to French Immersion, music and other enrichment programs, as well as possible school closings cannot be allowed to occur." Now, he said that in 1992 in his capacity as secretary to the Parents Advisory Committee on Education . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: . . . in responding to budget cuts less severe.

When is the Minister of Education going to realize that she is devastating education in Nova Scotia, that there are going to be cuts to music and arts and we are going to lose bright, young teachers and have school closings? When is she going to realize that and when is she going to change her position?

[Page 4484]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are going to have many, many, bright, young, teachers. We do and we will have many more in our system. There is no need for cuts to French Immersion, music or anything else. That is not the plan of this government. Education is not being devastated now or in any other year during our mandate.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Education how we are going to maintain these bright, young, teachers when they are being laid off by the hundreds by the school boards forced to do this because of the government's cuts to education? Where are the young teachers and the instructors in information technology for the new technologies in our education system going to come from? This minister is completely out to lunch about the education system and she is the minister. When is she going to realize what she has been doing has been devastating?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There were two questions there.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the bright, young, teachers in technology and everywhere else are going to come from our education system, from our programs offered by our universities. We have excellent teachers. We will continue to have excellent teachers. The teacher numbers are going to be more in line with declining enrolment, that is true. Our education system will remain excellent.

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

EDUC.: SW REG. SCH. BD. - DISMISSAL

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. Moments ago outside this House, the Premier told Nova Scotians to judge him by what he does, not what he says. It is too bad that he waited until now to tell Nova Scotians that they can't rely on his word. Yesterday, the Minister of Education said, we have no intention of terminating school boards. Yet, today, the Premier has confirmed that his government is summarily dismissing the duly elected school board for southwest Nova Scotia. I want to ask the Premier whether he executed the Southwest Regional School Board as a lesson to other school boards, and to anyone else who dares to tell the truth about what is happening to education in this province?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, again, the Leader of the New Democratic Party disappoints, because he has no problem getting up in the House and taking a statement made by another member and twisting it to his own convenience. Having said that, what we are committed to is providing an education system, over which we have enough control, so that we can determine that more dollars that are put into education end up in the classroom, and less dollars end up in administration. We cannot do that unless we have some semblance of control.

[Page 4485]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is about being straight, it is about telling the truth. People in southwest Nova Scotia will welcome this decision, if it gives democratic control of their schools to boards that are less remote. But if the board is being dismissed without a democratic replacement, it means that the Minister of Education is taking direct control of education in five counties. I want to ask the Premier whether he would confirm if his government is calling immediate elections to let the people of those five counties maintain democratic control of the school operations, or is this another power grab by this Tory Government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the New Democratic Party that it would appear that much of the information that he must be receiving on the street is incorrect. If he can be a little bit patient, he will be able to receive the correct information and ask questions on the correct information.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am getting my information from what the Premier said, that is my problem. On March 9th, the Education Minister said she would not interfere with a democratically elected school board. Today, in the face of honesty from school boards, in the face of outrage from Nova Scotians about his government's broken election promises, with school boards locked up in private with the Premier's handpicked deputy minister, the government has begun to interfere with democratically elected school boards. I want to ask the Premier, how can Nova Scotians possibly view the timing of this abrupt dismissal of an elected board as anything other than an attempt to stifle an independent voice in support of our schools?

THE PREMIER: I would hope, at some point, the member opposite, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, would decide what it is he wants the government to do, because for two weeks now he has been criticizing the government for not having enough meetings. Today his criticism is directed at the government because the deputy and the department are at a meeting with school boards. You can't have it both ways. Shall we meet, or shall we not meet? The Leader of the New Democratic Party has to make up his mind.

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

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): CAUCUS (PC) - FREE VOTE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. One of your 243 promises was, ". . . to give members of the Legislative Assembly greater freedom to represent the views of the people they represent." The MLAs for Kings North, Yarmouth, Pictou West, Halifax Bedford Basin, Shelburne, and every single Tory MLA now in the House are being told by the people that they represent not to vote for this budget. The Premier was afraid to answer this question last week, so I ask it again. Does the Premier believe in his budget enough to allow his caucus a free vote?

[Page 4486]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the recently re-elected member for Cape Breton West . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: East.

THE PREMIER: East, I am sorry.

AN HON. MEMBER: You can't tell the difference.

THE PREMIER: I can say to that member that every member of this caucus is determined to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia the agenda on which we were elected. That is our commitment, that is what we were elected to do and that is what we plan to do. (Interruptions) Now the member opposite may have some problem with that because he represents a Party that doesn't have those commitments.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that can't be his final answer and I suggest maybe he should ask the audience outside here today and he will get his final answer. The MLA for Shelburne said in his local paper that he may vote against the budget. He said, "I was elected to represent the people of Shelburne and that I will continue to do." Well, maybe he feels a case of the blue flue coming on.

May I ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, through you, what retribution can a Progressive Conservative MLA expect if they should happen to be absent from this Chamber on the day of the budget vote?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it really must be disappointing to Nova Scotians when there are so many important issues to be debated in this House and we have Opposition Parties that can't contribute anything constructive to the debate other than hypothetical questions.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, there is nothing hypothetical about Tory MLAs being quoted in the paper such as the MLA for Yarmouth who is quoted as saying, "I will never vote on that budget until I know all of the impact on my community." My final question to the Premier, is the Premier deliberately, then, leaving backbenchers in the dark because he is afraid that they will not vote for the budget if they know all the facts?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that question must really indicate to the people in Cape Breton East, it must be heartening to them, who have real serious concerns about their economy, real concerns about health care. They have real concerns about whether or not this province can continue to provide services for all of the people from one end of this

[Page 4487]

province to the other and the member opposite is concerned about what is happening down in Yarmouth with that member who happens to represent his people very effectively.

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

EDUC. - ELECTION CAMPAIGN: POLICIES - DIFFERENCE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. Last June 23rd at Middle Musquodoboit Elementary School, knowing the state of the province's finances, the Premier warned the re-election of Liberals would mean, "There will be fewer dollars for new schools, fewer dollars to pay teachers, to buy books, or provide services for special needs students."

AN HON. MEMBER: Another lie.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Does that sound familiar, Mr. Speaker? You know, this Premier didn't knock on a single door and say to people, elect me and I will lay off hundreds of teachers. I want to ask the Premier why he won't be honest enough to admit that he is singing a different tune now than he sang last year in order to get elected?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that what the Leader of the New Democratic Party brings to the House on a daily basis in Question Period is his interpretation that this government didn't talk about what it is it was going to do if it got elected. It was interesting because the Leader of the New Democratic Party has a close working relationship with Rick Clarke, the President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour. Mr. Clarke said - and I quote Mr. Clarke and I hope the Leader is listening - and he said this on April 12, 2000 over CJCH, "I am not totally surprised with anything that comes out of this government because they campaigned on a lot of this. They talked about privatization, they talked about making government smaller." That is what we talked about. Rick Clarke heard us. Where was the Leader opposite?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I guess we are supposed to throw this out, we are supposed to burn this and listen to what Rick Clarke has to say about what the government did. On Page 15 of this beautiful blue book it says, "It's time government started looking at education as an investment in our future rather than simply as a cost to government." Do you know what? Nova Scotians got the message. The problem is the Premier forgot what he said during the election.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: My question, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians want to know when this Premier and these Progressive Conservatives will start looking at education as an investment in our future rather than simply as a cost to government?

[Page 4488]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite makes reference to the investment we will make in our future. The first challenge that faces this government is to make sure that this province has a future.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians know, and that is why they are outside, that was not what they heard from this Premier during the election campaign and when people cannot get one straight answer from their own government, then that is what they are going to do, they are going to take to the streets. The Premier used plain language when he promised more for public education. The people who elected him want a plain answer now. So I want to ask the Premier, why can he not tell the truth about this budget and the devastating impact that it is going to have on the education system?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what this government is doing is getting control of expenditures so we can increase our investment each year of our mandate in education, and we will keep that commitment but, first, we have to make sure that we are expending all of the funds that are expended now effectively, getting more and more pennies out of every dollar into the classroom.

The member opposite will probably take some time before he realizes that what we are dong is very rational. What I am saying to the member opposite, is that that member opposite participated in defeating a government that did not take that point of view. We would like some short-term support on a government that is responsible and geared to provide a future.

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

EDUC.: HRM - FUNDING FORMULA

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I have received the minutes from the Halifax Regional Municipality Committee of the Whole from January 26, 1999. The minutes clearly show that Councillor Barnet, now the MLA for Sackville-Beaver Bank, expressed sympathy about the Halifax Regional School Board's financial problems. In fact, he went on to state that they should encourage the province to "live up to its previous commitment of the 90/10 funding formula for education", and that position was supported by the member for Preston.

I am sure the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank must have raised it with the minister. Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, would the minister please apprise all members of the House as to what her response was to the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank when he approached her for his solution on the funding formula dilemma within the Halifax Regional School Board?

[Page 4489]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I would like to say about the 90/10 formula is that the department and the municipalities are approaching that formula as fast as they can, that new programs work under that formula, and old ones that are grandfathered, don't, and that is the commitment that the previous government made that we are also moving towards.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on March 2, 1999, the minutes of the Halifax Regional Municipality's Committee of the Whole show that Councillor Dooks, now the member for Eastern Shore, wanted to "get the province to commit to improving educational programs and facilities in HRM's rural communities". So my question to the minister is, is the minister prepared to adjust her budget to incorporate these wishes of the member for Eastern Shore?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am sure all members of this House wish to improve educational opportunities for all children, rural or urban, or anywhere in between, and so does this government.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if this question is going to be of any value because the first two weren't answered. My question to the minister is, what consultations, if any, did the minister have with her Tory backbench MLAs before making her budget decision?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all backbenchers, members of the Cabinet, we all discussed education, health, everything else. Mainly, the result is that this budget is the beginning of a path towards fiscal prudence and getting our House in order, and that was the end result of all our discussions, and that is why we have the budget we have.

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

FIN.: BUDGET (2000-01) - WITHDRAW

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to go through you to the Premier once again. I want to take you back to June 23rd in the Middle Musquodoboit Elementary School, where the Premier didn't talk about smaller government. He criticized hacking and slashing in education. He said at that time that education, after all, is one of the greatest factors in determining the future health of individuals and community.

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly why people are rising up in the streets, because of this government's broken promises. I want to ask the Premier, why will he not be big enough to admit his mistake and his betrayal of Nova Scotians and withdraw this disastrous budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government was faced with a lot of serious choices. The member opposite knows full well that we did not go with across-the-board cuts as many were suggesting would be the appropriate way to go but, we did establish a list of priorities.

[Page 4490]

At the top of that list is education and health, because Nova Scotians have told us for many, many months that those are their priorities. That is why the budget looks like it does, and that other departments have, in fact, been more heavily hit than education and health.

Now the member opposite who has never really had to make hard decisions, can be very critical of what this government is doing. I will accept the criticism, because that is a responsibility. But, I can tell you Nova Scotians elected us to be responsible. They elected us to fix a problem. We are going to be responsible and we are going to fix the problem.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians elected them because they got sold a bill of goods, let's understand. Back at the old Middle Musquodoboit Elementary School the Premier was feeling pretty good about himself. (Interruptions)

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The Premier was feeling pretty good about himself back at the Middle Musquodoboit Elementary School. He said then, one of my favourite parts of campaigning is visiting schools. Let me tell you, there are a lot of schools that would like to see this Premier today and get some answers about their peekaboo budget.

The MLA for Kings West says the Premier has promised Tory MLAs that there will be more money for education. I want to ask the Premier, won't he share this new education budget with the rest of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite makes reference to a peekaboo budget. I would suggest strongly that the member opposite take a peek at Page 25 of the Budget Address when it outlines Improved Literary Services, new funding $1.5 million; Expanded Services for Children with Autism, $2 million; Expanded Early Intervention Programs, $0.6 million; Expanded Healthy Child Development Initiatives, $3.3 million; Targeted Direct Assistance Program, $1.7 million; New Back to School Supplies Financial Assistance, $1.6 million. Have a peek at that, Mr. Leader of the New Democratic Party. That is not a peekaboo budget, that is a budget that tells you what this government is going to do.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the Premier going out on the steps and telling the thousands of concerned Nova Scotians what a great guy he is. The Premier is on a well-worn path - Donald Cameron, John Savage, Russell MacLellan, faced down protests and recklessly hacked away at the education system, our students have paid the price. The Premier (Interruptions)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4491]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier, he has been quick to intervene when his political friends and fishing buddies want government money, why will he not intervene on behalf of Nova Scotia schools, just as vigorously as he had with his political and fishing buddies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the Leader of the New Democratic Party - who is more interested in whether I go fishing or whether I go to the horse races than he is in real issues - when he is talking to the young people up in the Musquodoboit school, perhaps a message that I would like to deliver, that this government has made an increased investment in our community college system, so when they graduate from school, there will be more places for them to get vocational training. That is a message I would like to deliver to the young people in the Musquodoboit school system. There are a lot of good messages for me to deliver. I don't think I am going to be able to depend on the Leader of the New Democratic Party to do the delivery.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Time and time again the Minister of Education has insisted, in this House, that there will be no teachers laid off for the coming school year. In fact, she keeps insisting that the reduction now of 400 teachers will come from retirements and attrition, despite the fact that less than 100 teachers will be retiring. My first question to the minister is, if, as the minister states, there is no need for teacher lay-offs, why were up to 800 teachers all across Nova Scotia given their lay-off notices yesterday?

HON. JANES PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the teachers given lay-off notices in the last few weeks and in the upcoming weeks, we did not issue those lay-off notices. Those teachers are not going to be laid off and that will become very clear.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this government and this Minister of Education - I can't say lying, right, so I guess I have to say (Interruptions) So many good words. I won't go there. My question to the minister is, why did the minister, when she said there would be no lay-offs, request the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to agree to an extension of the deadline for issuing lay-off notices to teachers?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the reason we made that request to the Teachers Union was very simple, because we wished to avoid the pain of teachers receiving lay-off notices which would later have to be rescinded.

[Page 4492]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am sure not just myself but there are lots of people out there who can hardly wait to hear this good news that is coming forward. I understand that the department officials are meeting with superintendents and board chairs and financial staff. I hope there is more money coming to the table. My last question to the minister is, does the minister believe that conditions contained in legislation passed by this House can only be changed or altered through the process of amending that legislation in this House?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is yes.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): TEACHERS - JOBS SAVE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, every year a group of children who attend Mount Edward School, in my constituency, collect money for Lent. They all pay five cents a day out of their allowance, and at the end of Lent they vote on where the money is to go. This year the choices were between a hospital, an animal shelter, a school trip, or to save their teachers' jobs. This year the winning vote went to save their teachers' jobs. Here it is, Madam Minister, the Lent collection totalling $27.35, from a group of young children who want to save their teachers' jobs. My question to the minister is, these children have done their part, when will you do your part and promise them that their teachers' jobs will be saved?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have said in this House many times that we are looking for a 400 net reduction in the teacher workforce and those children are going to have their teachers. I would like to say to those children that it is very heartwarming to see how much they care for their teachers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to remind the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour that it has been the agreement of this House in the past, there are no props allowed. (Interruptions)

Order, please. There are no props allowed so I would ask the honourable member to put it down.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, there is a note in here, there is a note that I am going to table as well for the minister from Veronica, Grade 3; she writes, "We want to give the government the money so the teachers can keep their jobs." Aubrey, in Grade 2, writes, "We want a good education." Andrew, in Grade 3, writes, "The new kids who are coming into school should have the same teachers that their brothers and sisters have." My question to the minister is, if you will not listen to the parents, if you will not listen to the teachers, if you will not listen to the Opposition, when will you start listening to the children?

[Page 4493]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are listening to children and we will listen to children. This budget is about the children of today and the children of tomorrow and the children of tomorrow after that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is this, what will it take to convince you that you are wrong and that the Nova Scotians who are lining the streets outside the House today are right when they say that this budget will devastate the education system in this province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this budget is the first big step on the way to saving the future of this province.

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - SPECIAL NEEDS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, people are being hurt during all of this, people who rely on others to help them lead their lives. I have a letter from Linda and Cam Roberts to the Minister of Education that I want to table and pass on to the minister. Their daughter, Arlene, is a Grade 10 student at Glace Bay High School. In the letter she says, "Our daughter, Arlene, suffers from developmental delays and severe visual impairment." She goes on to say, "The closure of a resource room and the loss of her student assistant will end Arlene's education." My question, Mr. Speaker, what can the Minister of Education do to assure that Arlene will not lose her right to an education?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the threatened cuts of all kinds that school boards have talked about in the last couple of weeks are unnecessary. What we can do to save that child's education or other children's education is to continue to talk with school boards and stay at the table and figure out creative ways to implement the savings we want from this budget in order to preserve education for Arlene and all the other Arlenes.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that lay-off notices have already gone out. These people have been notified they are being laid off. Budget cuts mean an effective end to teaching assistants, for instance, in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. It means students like Arlene, who I am talking about here today, do not have equal access to the education system.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. WILSON: The letter addressed to the minister also says, Mr. Speaker, that Arlene has soared and her parents are very proud of her. My question to the minister, does she even feel those programs are necessary or is Arlene out of luck?

[Page 4494]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, I do feel those programs are necessary. Arlene is not out of luck. What we are looking for is voluntary reductions in the teachers' workforce of a very modest amount. We are not talking about cutting special education and we are not talking about cutting Reading Recovery; in fact we are going to be adding to it. What I am saying is all this talk of these baby seals and sacred cows that are being taken out of the system is just talk. It is very destructive talk.

MR. WILSON: I am frustrated, Mr. Speaker, by this, but I am not going to lose it like some honourable members did yesterday. I am not going to lose it; I will remain calm.

The education cuts are cold, calculating, they are heartless, and they are a direct result of budget cuts imposed by that government. My question is, why won't the Minister of Education do the decent thing for all of the Arlenes and all of the counties in this province and restore education funding so every child has the right to an equal and accessible education system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, equal and accessible education for the children of this province is precisely what this government intends to preserve.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): CAMPAIGN PROMISES - REALITY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It is hard to pick out who will be the hardest hit by this devastating education budget, but one group that is definitely feeling the pain is parents, students, and teachers in rural Nova Scotia. Many of those schools are in the constituencies of Tory MLAs, and each one of those MLAs should be embarrassed and ashamed at their betrayal of their campaign promises to protect rural schools. My question to the Premier. When it comes to rural schools, why is there such a huge gap between your campaign rhetoric and the educational reality?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that what this government is all about is providing a solid financial foundation, on which we can build a solid educational delivery system in the Province of Nova Scotia that will allow our young people to have the kind of education that you and I and everyone in this place wants them to have, but the soft approach that the members opposite are taking will never lead to that kind of a result.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this morning we received a copy of an e-mail addressed to the Premier. It is entitled "A Plea for Help from a Rural School." It is written by Shane Warner, a Grade 11 student at Cornwallis District High School in Canning. Shane says that people throw around huge numbers: 1,000 teachers cut here; $1

[Page 4495]

million saved there. These numbers are just too big to comprehend. It is only when you zoom in and look at the effects to a single person that the effects from the loss . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: . . . of a single teacher can you start to understand the situation. My question to the Premier, and I want to ask the same question that Shane is asking. There are thousands of people protesting on your doorstep every day demanding answers, why are you ignoring them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government and this Premier is not ignoring anyone. Perhaps if we could say to Shane that, like Shane, all of us have difficulty in comprehending what $100 million is. When the Minister of Finance says that even to provide the services that we are providing this year we will have to borrow $268 million to do that, that means for every Nova Scotian this year, despite what we have done, we will have to borrow $300 for every single Nova Scotian to pay for the program this year and that is not a sustainable approach and that is not a responsible government. We are moving down the road so we can say to Nova Scotians that we are giving you good programs at an affordable cost and we are going to cut debt servicing costs so we can direct . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Southwest Regional School Board is proposing a series of 23 school closures and consolidations, and I will table that list. This headline from the Liverpool Advance says, Budget bedlam - Milton, Mill Village, Greenfield could be axed in the cuts. That is all in a Tory constituency. My final question to the Premier is very simple. When are you going to start listening?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: It really boggles the mind that the member asks a question, when are you going to start listening, because the member opposite has not been listening, because that information has been refuted by the school board. They retracted that proposal, so my question is, when are you going to start listening?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just like to remind the honourable members that the questions and answers and dragging on in time are infringing upon all members of this House who want to ask questions and give answers. So I would ask you to speed up a little bit.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 4496]

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

STRAIT REG. SCH. BD. - SPECIAL EDUC. IMPACT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the members of this House well know, the Strait Regional School Board has refused to do its budget based on the cuts from this government. The Strait Regional School Board has said if it conforms to the budget cuts as outlined by the Department of Education, it will have to lay off all of its special education teachers as well as the support staff who act as teachers' aides to the special education teachers. This, despite the fact that the Minister of Education has said there will be no lay-offs. My question to the minister, there is a special needs child with a hearing impairment attending Felix Marchand School, a P to 4 school in Louisdale. This child, who has superior intelligence, needs the services of a special education teacher to successfully complete her education. Can the minister assure the parents of that child that she will continue to have the services of a special education teacher?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say two things. First, is that the Strait Regional School Board representatives are at that meeting with my officials today, and we expect some good results out of that meeting and, yes, I would like to say yes for that child and for other children with special needs. This government believes in helping special needs children. What else can I say? The money is there, the $41 million we provided last year is there again this year.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, these concerns are real, and the parents of these children are worried because of this government's budget. Will the Minister of Education assure the parents of the other four special needs children in this particular school that they also will continue to have the services of special needs teachers next year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the parents of all special needs children that this government cares about their children and will continue to provide services.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister says that talks of cuts to these programs is false and unfounded and insofar as scaremongering. My final supplementary, if the Minister of Education is so confident and serious that special education programs and teachers' aides will not be cut, will she commit today to the parents and to Nova Scotians that she will resign if there are any such cuts because of her budget?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I wish to assure this House that this government is committed to children, to special needs children, to all the children in the school system and will continue to be committed to those children.

[Page 4497]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): FRENCH IMMERSION - IMPACT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. I would like to table a letter from the minister's department to the Executive Director of Canadian Parents for French. In it is outlined the devastating impact this budget will have on core French and French Immersion Programs. My question to the minister is quite simple. Why didn't you tell Nova Scotians the truth, that in your own department's words, French second-language programs will be seriously affected by this budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Department has cut a lot in curriculum development. There have been administrative cuts in English programs, French programs and other programs. We have found that necessary in order to deliver services to the classrooms. There will be effects on education, they will not be devastating, they can be lived with for a few years while we get our financial house in order.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to read from a note I received last week from a young man who is going to have to live with this minister's Education budget. Jeff Forbes, a Grade 9 student at Oxford School, says that if French immersion is cut, then he and many others would have wasted 10 years doing French immersion. My question is, will you withdraw this disastrous budget so students like Jeff won't have wasted 10 years in French immersion? Having to live with it isn't good enough.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I repeat that there are going to be modest cuts coming from the Department of Education. There are going to be modest cuts that school boards will have to live with for a few years. We are not ending French immersion, Jeff's 10 years are going to be worthwhile and so are his future years.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as many as 56 of 100 to 120 French language teachers in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board alone have been issued lay-off notices. My final question to the minister is, how can you be so unconcerned about the impact of your disastrous Education budget on the many students, parents and teachers whose lives have been thrown into complete turmoil?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am not unaffected by the turmoil that has been generated by unfounded talk of lay-offs all over the place - 10 per cent of the workforce, French immersion, special needs - all these things are ending according to people out there. It is not true, we are committed to education now and in the coming years.

[Page 4498]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

EDUC. - C.B.-V. REG. SCH. BD.:

EQUIPMENT - FUNDING RESTORE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is also to the Minister of Education. As the minister knows, the previous government announced a much-needed expansion to the Boularderie school in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Last fall, the Community Planning Committee met with the board to discuss the needs for the school and they were told that funding was available, only the absolute bare minimum in equipment and supplies.

Information I have received indicates that the board has been forced to make another 25 per cent reduction in the already bare minimum needed to run the school. This school will open in the fall. My question to the minister is, how does the minister suggest that Boularderie school teach children with a 25 per cent reduction in bare minimum for equipment?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that this government has not approved of all schools in the past, some of which are very close to being palaces, but I will say to the member opposite that I will check into the details of what is going on in that particular school and I will get back to him.

MR. MACASKILL: I thank the minister. Also, Boularderie school is home to an innovative program, an arts program called Learning Through The Arts. This federal-provincial pilot program is shared with Westmount and the Baddeck schools. From what I understand, there are five of these pilot projects across Canada, one being in Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. So I ask the minister, why are you allowing this important arts program, which is partially funded by the federal government, to fall victim to education cuts?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would have to look into that program. It doesn't seem to me that a program that was partially federally funded should be falling victim to budget cuts. My suspicion is that this is one of the programs, that by announcing its demise, would create the most fear among people, the most disliked. Therefore, I commit to looking into that program, but I would say parents do not necessarily have to worry about the end of that program.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again I thank the minister and I hope she is sincere and looking into this program to see it is not cut. The minister has stated already today that any lay-offs that have already gone out will be rescinded by her or her department, and the minister, of course, has already admitted that the debt of this program won't happen, and if it does, it is certainly an indication that her commitment to education is not very strong. I ask

[Page 4499]

the minister again if she will commit to the House today, to look into this arts program and to make sure it is not cut, and these teachers who have already been notified their jobs will be finished, will also be rescinded?

MISS PURVES: Yes, I commit again to look into this program, Mr. Speaker. It sounds like a very good program, and I definitely commit to looking into the fate of that program.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01): SPECIAL NEEDS - IMPACT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. The minister's earlier reference to baby seals and sacred cows must be especially painful for parents who have children with special needs who are worried about the impact of the education budget on their children. I want to ask the minister about Mallory, a girl who has cerebral palsy, who is challenged intellectually, physically and visually, but is fully integrated into her neighbourhood school. The minister knows about Mallory, because Mallory's mom wrote to the minister. My question to the minister is, what do you have to say to Mallory and her mother, who fear this budget means an end to their hopes for Mallory's future?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, before I answer that question, I would like to clarify the baby seals reference. I was referring to programs which by their very nature are so good and so loved they are always the first to go when anyone is threatening cutbacks. I was not referring to people, I was referring to programs. What I would like to say to all parents with special needs children is, again, this government is doing whatever it can within its resources to help these children achieve a better life.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my supplementary question to the Premier. In doing so, I want to share with the minister a letter from Dr. Elizabeth Guptill, a family physician in Bridgewater. Dr. Guptill is writing as a citizen, a parent and as a doctor. She writes to the Premier, and I quote: "Learning disabled, economically deprived, emotionally deprived children do not have the support they need in this system, now . . . We will pay dearly in the future for compromising educational resources to our children." My question to the Premier. You love to tell people you are a doctor. When will you and your government wake up to warnings from people like Dr. Elizabeth Guptill about the health and economic problems that are so closely connected to this devastating education budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, Dr. Guptill and others are among a legion of concerned Nova Scotians, but their concerns don't end with what is happening with the education budget. They also include a government that is moving towards making things better.

[Page 4500]

[4:00 p.m.]

That member opposite and that Party opposite participated with us in defeating the previous government because they were not providing that kind of an approach. The government is providing that kind of approach. We are going stepwise to a better future for the young people of Nova Scotia and for all Nova Scotians. The initial steps will be troublesome. The road is rocky, but the direction is right.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, received a letter yesterday from parents of another child with special needs. In her world, says her father, she trusts everyone. In her world, everyone is equal. In her world, she celebrates successes of tying her shoes, zipping her clothes and learning to ride her bike. For many, it is taken for granted. I want to ask the Premier the same question that this girl's father is asking us. With cuts to education and teacher lay-offs, where are the children going to be who truly need additional support and guidance?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government realizes that the challenge ahead is very daunting. The situation in which we find ourselves is very troublesome for all Nova Scotians. Is the member opposite saying that we are going to help young Nova Scotians by not borrowing $268 million this year, but some greater number? Is that what the members opposite are suggesting? I don't believe the majority of Nova Scotians feel that that would be a responsible thing for government to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

CUTS - TEACHERS STATISTICS ADJUST

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The minister knows that 164 probationary teachers in the Halifax Regional School Board received lay-off notices yesterday. It has been indicated that up to 360 teachers may be chopped from the Halifax Regional School Board alone. This nearly equals the maximum number of teachers the minister said would lose their jobs right across the province. My question to the minister is, is the minister now prepared to admit that her 400 number is wrong and adjust it to reflect the reality that is unfolding right across this province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is illustrating my previous point about exaggeration and fear-mongering, as a result of this budget.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we can tell those teachers and those people that got the lay-off notice that that is just fear-mongering on behalf of the board and I am sure they will be pleased to hear that and so will their families. The Halifax Regional School Board is cutting $1 million from the administration budget. Despite this cut, 360 teachers will still lose their

[Page 4501]

jobs. To the minister, how will the minister guarantee that students in the Halifax region will not see the quality of their education drop as a result of budget cuts?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, quality of education is of paramount concern to this government, the education that children are receiving today, tomorrow, next year and in 10 years' time. We are committed to that. It is the only area in government in which we are committed to not dropping the budget the year after.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I believe, and we believe, that the Halifax Regional School Board is making a real effort to deal with the cuts imposed by this minister, by this Premier and by this government. My question to the minister is, when will the minister stop trying to blame school boards for their serious threat to our children's education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I, too, believe the Halifax Regional School Board is now making a sincere effort with its budget. I think all the boards, together with the department, can make very sincere and good efforts with their budgets in order to achieve some modest reductions in this year's Education budget.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. (Interruption)

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PRIVATIZATION: JOBS - GUARANTEE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I need some quiet in this House so I can make this important . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I cannot hear you.

MR. ESTABROOKS: You can hear me, Mr. Speaker. You have heard me before. My question is to the Minister of Transportation. Yesterday, when I asked the minister how he would treat workers laid off as a result of privatization, he said, " . . . contracting out does not necessarily mean a loss of jobs." I would have an easier time believing those words if the minister was prepared to back them up. My question is, and I will ask the minister, will you stand in this House today and guarantee that no jobs will be lost in your department as a result of privatization?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer that question. We have not as yet fully explored all the options that are open to us as far as privatization is concerned and we probably will not know the answer to that I would think until probably next year.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the minister told us yesterday that he would start contracting out through four pilot projects, starting next year, like he just said, but he did not know where the pilot projects would be. Can the minister at least tell us, how much of your department's work will be contracted out through pilot projects?

[Page 4502]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, again, that is a difficult question to answer because we have not as yet identified what would be an area of sufficient size to make a tender proposal attractive. I would suggest, however, that the pilot project should be of sufficient size to adequately supply information with regard to the cost of the ultimate service delivery and also to compare the results that we are getting from private enterprise compared to what the Civil Service is providing.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I apologize for my impatience. That minister is not telling Nova Scotians the truth. I would like to table, if you can hear me, a memo from the minister's director of operations and services that says 30 per cent of all department activities will be privatized. Mr. Minister, you are not telling Nova Scotians the truth, 30 per cent. My question to the minister is, will you now admit your plan to privatize at least one-third of your department and tell this House exactly where the privatization will take place?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the honourable member cannot read very well; for a school teacher, I am rather surprised. What we are saying is that of all the operations that we have in the Department of Transportation, approximately one-third of those particular types of operations can be privatized, not one-third total of all the operations of the Department of Transportation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

EDUC. - TEACHERS: SW REG. SCH. BD. - LAY-OFFS CONFIRM

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we have heard here today the minister and the Premier basically blaming everybody else in Nova Scotia for the problems in education except herself. Without question, the minister's retribution on the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board will be felt very shortly is what I understand. My question to the minister, can the minister confirm today that the Southwest Regional School Board because of its budget and her budget cuts will be losing 100 contract teachers and, in addition, 150 term positions will not be filled?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, no, I cannot confirm that.

MR. DOWNE: I am not surprised you cannot confirm it because her numbers of 400 do not add up anywhere in this province. Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education continues to stick to her script, even as the errors continue to add up on a day-to-day basis. The slogan that she uses every day is that there will be no school closures in Nova Scotia. However, this minister has not been clear to Nova Scotians with regard to the services within the school system, specifically with libraries. My question to the minister, can she confirm today that her cuts to the school board funding will not result in the closure of libraries throughout Nova Scotia, yes or no?

[Page 4503]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, regarding libraries, there are two areas of funding in the Department of Education that have to do with libraries. In one area there will be some cuts, in the other area there will be an increase in the grant to libraries. Libraries and books are the very foundation of education. I believe that, my government believes that, and I am sure the member opposite also believes that.

MR. DOWNE: I understand that in Lunenburg County alone there will be nine libraries closed. My final supplementary, much of this conflict surrounding her cuts has been her own doing, resulting from her flippant remarks, such as, chill out, or 50 kids isn't too bad in a classroom. Well, I have one for this minister, lead, follow, or get out of the way. Get out of the way of education in the Province of Nova Scotia. We know she hasn't led and she cannot follow.

My question to the minister today, will the minister acknowledge her personal responsibility in creating this mistrust between her department and the school boards, and do the honourable thing and that is to resign as Minister of Education in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I do take responsibility for my department, our government takes responsibility for our budget. The aim of our budget is to create a better future for the children and all citizens of Nova Scotia.

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

SYSCO - SALE: BIDS - CRITERIA

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for Sysco. The call for bids at Sysco is now over. Now it is a matter of evaluating the proposals for the purchase of Sydney Steel. Any rational approach to this sale would say that getting the most jobs and economic benefit to the community are the most important criteria for evaluating these signs. We don't know what this government's criteria is because it is a secret, it is a secret to the workers, it is a secret to Nova Scotians.

I ask the minister, will you make public today the criteria for evaluating the Sysco bids and, at the very least, will you confirm that maximizing employment and economic benefit will be the highest priorities?

HON. GORDON BALSER: I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. Mr. Speaker, as we have said consistently, our purpose is to find a buyer who will continue to operate the plant as a private sector operation. In the interest of the taxpayers, we have to ensure that the business proposal that is ultimately acceptable balances job creation with what is affordable on the part of the province. On the surface, yes, maximizing job opportunities would be a number one priority but, again, it cannot be done with the infusion of additional monies by the province.

[Page 4504]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, it is no secret this government hasn't got a great track record - if you will pardon the pun - when it comes to Sydney Steel. I think it is fair to say it was an embarrassment to this government when your own Premier proclaimed, on December 31st, we have a sale, we have a sale, and we have seen where that went. Nova Scotians have the right to know that this government won't be using the current round of bid evaluations to settle old scores. They have the right to know that their government is evaluating bids solely on merit.

Mr. Minister, will you assure Nova Scotians that the evaluation process will be based on the bids and not politics? Why won't you end the secrecy and table the criteria today?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I assure the member opposite that the decision will be made on the basis of a sound business plan not on politics.

MR. CORBETT: Excuse me for not jumping for the roof here with this group. I want to know, as most Cape Bretoners want to know, we need jobs and that is not too difficult to understand, jobs are the factor here. My question to you, if it isn't keeping the most jobs and maximizing the benefit to the community, what is it that you consider the top criterion for evaluating bids for Sydney Steel?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, certainly jobs are a factor, but obviously the overall sustainability of the project is what is going to be critical. We have to analyze the business plan, what options the proposal includes in terms of job creation, long-term sustainability and diversification of product lines. So there are a number of factors that have to be weighed and that is why we have retained expert counsel with regard as to how to proceed.

[4:15 p.m.]

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

EDUC.: C.B.-V. REG. SCH. BD. - LAY-OFFS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister of Education. The Minister of Education continues to exist - or insist, I should say - she continues to exist all right but she shouldn't, but anyway she continues to insist despite the facts . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Exist in this House as minister, I am talking about, and she knows and you know what I am talking about.

[Page 4505]

Despite the fact that her cuts will only cost 400 teaching positions through attrition - in other words, no actual lay-offs - despite the fact that in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board this morning 150 teachers were laid off, including 25 permanent teachers, Mr. Speaker, of course she made no such promise with regard to teachers' aides and other support staff, and she has shown little interest or any concern in the loss of those staff, my question to the minister, does the minister have any idea how many teachers' aides, librarians and other support staff will lose their jobs as a result of her education budget disaster? How many?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the school boards to implement up to 400 voluntary retirements from the system; that is what we are looking for from the public education system. As well, we are looking for administrative positions. We are not looking for support positions, support teachers, we are looking for positions in administration. That is what we were asking the school boards to show us what they would do first.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I will tell the minister how many are getting laid off. I have received information that 150 support staff are going to be laid off and that is 150 people and 150 families; that is 50 more than first anticipated. Add to that the 160 teachers who were laid off this morning and you are looking at 310 job losses in an area with 20 percent unemployment now. How can the minister justify her callous attitude towards teachers and support staff in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are looking for, I repeat, administrative positions and we are looking at up to 400 teacher positions through retirement; we are not looking at ending support staff for children in the classroom. We want to keep the money in the classroom. We are looking for administrative reductions and some teacher reductions.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess nobody is laying them off. I guess that somebody put a slip in their hands, but nobody knows who. The minister who controls the budget here is the Minister of Education. I am telling you that 310 people are getting laid off in the Cape Breton Board.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I am getting nowhere with the minister's solution of the day rhetoric to this particular problem so I am going to go to the Premier. Quite simply, Mr. Premier, why are you allowing the destruction of education and the economy of Cape Breton, is it political payback time for Cape Bretoners?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can remind the member opposite that this government was instrumental in the largest job creation program in decades in Cape Breton Island. I can remind the member opposite that this government has committed $12 million to the economic development package for Cape Breton, a much more effective approach than that member and that government ever came up with since 1993. (Applause)

[Page 4506]

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

SYSCO - SALE: BIDS - UNION PARTICIPATION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The newspapers are reporting (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order.

MR. CORBETT: Newspapers are reporting today that the Premier is finally considering letting the steelworkers' union have some involvement in the evaluation of the Sysco bids. As the Premier knows, my colleagues and I believe this is the right thing to do. So I ask you, Mr. Premier, will you stand in the House today and confirm that you are going to ask the union to participate in the evaluation of the bid for Sysco?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that was a question put just within the last few days by the union head of the steelworkers in Sydney to the minister responsible. I would ask the minister responsible to provide the answer to the member opposite.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, we have consistently indicated that we are willing to engage union representation in the process where appropriate. A recent announcement is that the union has decided there is one particular proposal being put forward which they endorse over and above the others, so we are very concerned about a conflict of interest that may exist, when in fact, they have decided that one proposal perhaps has more merit than others. We are looking at that, and once we make a determination, we will see how to proceed.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister and the Premier seem to be at odds here. One is saying that we will take them to the table after we straighten out a few legal problems and another is saying there is a conflict of interest. Well, boys, let's get it together, is it a legal problem, is it a conflict of interest? Which one? Tell me now, please.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, they are one and the same, in fact, there are legal implications when one questions whether or not there may be a real or perceived conflict of interest. What we are concerned about is ensuring the process moves forward in a way that will be the best possible resolution for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and for the people who potentially will be employed in the steel operation run by a private sector operator.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, everyone knows the only experts in this province in the steel industry are the steelworkers. Yet, time and time again this government refuses to treat them as an equal partner. They have agreed to sign the confidentiality waiver. That is not good enough for this group. Now they are putting new road blocks up. Will the Premier tell

[Page 4507]

us, what is it going to be? Are they going to be a full partner or are they going to be your toady voice? Tell us now, which one will it be?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the one thing that this government and the minister responsible for Sysco is determined is to not allow a situation to develop in which the very best possible sale for Sysco for all concerned will be compromised. This government will not go down that road, despite urging by members of the Opposition.

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

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

TEACHERS (TERM/PROBATIONARY)

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Education. When the Department of Education negotiated the collective agreement with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, it agreed to a seniority clause that means when a school board is faced with lay-offs, the boards first lay off their most junior teachers. This normally means that the first teachers to be let go are the term teachers, followed by the probationary and finally the permanent contract teachers. I am wondering if the minister would be able to advise the House if she can tell us how many term teachers and how many probationary teachers there are currently serving in the province's school systems?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will provide the information to the House. I don't know the exact number.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, the minister should be aware that as a result of her budget, almost all of these term and probationary teachers in Nova Scotia are going to lose their jobs. I want to ask the minister through you, sir, is she prepared to revise the Education budget to provide the appropriate funding to keep those term and probationary teachers working in the public school system? She has hinted that perhaps there is something around the corner, something unspecified. What is it? Would the minister apprise the House, please?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, if there were any such thing, school boards would be apprised first. There are always term teachers in the system. There will continue to be term teachers. There will be sabbaticals. People will get pregnant. We need term teachers and term teachers will continue to exist.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to pose my final supplementary question to the Premier on this business. Yesterday my grandchildren came home from school with blistered feet. If you wonder why they had blistered feet after a day in school, it worked out that they hadn't been in school during the day. They spent the whole day tramping the streets protesting against this government. I would like to say that that symbolizes to me how our education system has completely disintegrated. There is chaos in our school system today.

[Page 4508]

You can't send your kids or your grandchildren to school, they won't spend the day learning, they spend the day walking the streets protesting against this government. I would like to ask the Premier if he will admit the situation has gotten out of control and accept the resignation of the Minister of Education forthwith?

THE PREMIER: No.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC.: NSAC - CUTS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my question through you to the Premier. Mr. Premier, you said your budget supports the agricultural sector by changing with the times, but the reality we are seeing is that you are way out of touch with farmers. You have axed $1.5 million from the budget for the Agricultural College, the province's only facility for provincial technical training for tomorrow's farmers. I want to ask the Premier, will you tell us why you are attacking the Agricultural College and jeopardizing the future of farming in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, the member opposite has erroneous information.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to table a letter from the principal of the Agricultural College, and also a copy for the Premier. The principal of the college says that these enormous cuts must result in job loss. It is the same situation we are seeing with public education - job losses at schools mean the quality of education goes down. My question to the Premier is, will you tell this House how many jobs at the Agricultural College will be lost, and what are you going to do to protect the quality of education?

THE PREMIER: I respect the question from the member opposite. The minister responsible is not here to provide that detail. If the member opposite would bring the question forward again when the minister is here, I am sure he will provide the answer.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I thought the Premier really made some decisions as far as the budget was concerned. The Premier and his minister have fired specialists who once worked for the province, in all likelihood ensuring they leave the province to find work. Now he is gutting the one institution that might have trained new specialists. I want to ask the Premier, why are you determined to see that Nova Scotia is left with no agricultural specialists now or in the future?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can't comment on the preamble because there is so much background noise, it didn't carry. I think I caught the question, and the question had to do with the number of specialists available to the agricultural industry? Just the question would be fine.

[Page 4509]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East, please repeat the question only.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Premier, why are you determined to see that Nova Scotia is left with no agricultural specialists now or in the future?

THE PREMIER: I can say to the member opposite that the agricultural industry will benefit from many of the changes brought about by this government, including enhanced programs that will be available. My understanding is that some of these programs, in fact, will be very helpful to farmers who wish to access certain technical expertise.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

EDUC.: SW REG. SCH. BD. - FUNDING

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Last week in the Chamber, the minister stated that equity funding for the Southwest Regional School Board would in fact be the same as it was in a previous year, and there will be no loss to the base funding. I have a document here today I would like to table, that was presented April 17th by the Department of Education, and in fact points out that there is over $1.03 million reduced from the base funding for the Southwest Regional School Board. My question is to the minister. Will she now admit that she misinformed this House on the facts that the baseline funding for the southwest board was actually reduced instead of held the same?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the baseline funding for all the school boards was reduced. I was talking about equity funding for the Southwest Regional School Board. The equity funding, I am told, is now included in the base for that board.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, clearly, this minister does not understand that part of the equity funding was established as the base in the Southwest Regional School Board. That was agreed to by the Department of Education. Clearly, this minister doesn't understand how the calculations are made and, secondly, she doesn't under that base funding has, in fact, been cut. That was part of the equity issue. Will the minister do the honest thing here today and admit to this House and to the public that she was wrong and restore the funding projected for programs in the base funding for the Southwest Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I repeat, that, for various reasons, overall funding to the board was reduced, but the equity situation in the Southwest Regional School Board is still recognized.

[Page 4510]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, a cut is a cut is a cut is a cut. I will talk to you about a cut. The Verge House in Bridgewater, the special needs students who are there, those programs will be closed or moved to a general education level at Bridgewater High School. The minister knows all too well, or she should know all too well, that the Verge House and other programs like the South Shore Alternative Program are important to the students of our community in Lunenburg County. Will this minister restore the funding in the base funding for the Southwest Regional School Board, so programs such as this will be able to be continued in our region of Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our government and my department will continue to provide the programs that are most important to Nova Scotians. Not every program will survive, but the most important programs will survive. We are going to have to get through a very difficult situation and it is going to call for some modest cuts.

MR. DOWNE: You come down to Lunenburg County and talk to the people who are affected . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the honourable member for Lunenburg West to please come to order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

ECON. DEV. - C.B.: ECONOMY - ACTION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the partnership alliance told the Premier what they thought of his government's plan for economic development. They had their own plan. The Premier, in typical condescending fashion, said that he was impressed with the plan, that he liked that it came from within the region and that maybe he could use it in his own plan back here in Halifax. Not a day later, this government launches a discussion paper asking for communities to tell them what their ideas are for economic growth. Mr. Premier, when will you stop wasting the time of Cape Bretoners and get down to the real work of turning the economy of Cape Breton around?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, and yesterday the Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia were presented with the Framework for Action. The Minister of Economic Development was there. We can integrate what we received from the alliance with the plan the minister tabled today. We would hope that similar plans will come forward from other parts of the province to integrate the economic development efforts of this government with those of communities.

MR. CORBETT: This Premier and this government fail to realize there is a crisis. There is a real crisis in the economy of Cape Breton. Yet, they want to go report after report. To highlight these crisis, I will mention a few things. Cape Breton has the highest unemployment

[Page 4511]

rate in this country. One in four people live in poverty. That is real, Mr. Premier, that is real real; and 50 per cent of the economic activity is dependent on government transfers of some sort or other. The mayor says that there is a crying need for immediate solutions and this Premier gives them a few pats on the head and says, well, well, dear, wait and see.

My question to the Premier is, when will the Premier stop making the people of Cape Breton jump through hoops and start putting action behind his empty words?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the people of Cape Breton, as I can all Nova Scotians, that we will be making strategic investments in the economy. I would hope that . . .

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1281.

Res. No. 1281, Educ. - Teachers: Cuts - Focus - notice given Apr. 13/2000 - (Mr. R. MacKinnon)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Resolution No. 1281.

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education worry less about people chilling out and worry more about teachers' jobs and the education which is going to remain for our children, thanks to this Minister of Education's cuts."

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday, April 11th, this Tory Government introduced a budget that is devastating to the public education in Nova Scotia. This Minister of Education has directed school boards throughout our province to cut $20 million in teachers' salaries and $7.3 million in other specified areas. That is a $27.3 million cut in public education. Furthermore, school boards have told the Minister of Education that they need an additional $26 million in funding to maintain the existing system. The Minister of Education again fails to acknowledge that school boards need this funding to cover salary increases, to cover higher fuel costs and to cover pre-existing deficits.

[Page 4512]

Mr. Speaker, with this $27.3 million cut, plus the additional $26 million needed to maintain the public education system, in total the impact of the cuts to the public education system this year is $53.3 million and from day one this government has been secretive about the size of cuts to education. Premier John Hamm said if people want the truth about this budget, it is up to the Opposition to ferret out the facts. That is exactly what we are doing. I should also point out that I understand the government backbenchers are also trying to ferret out the details of this budget.

I honestly believe that the Minister of Education did not know the real impact of this budget on the public education system. I will table a copy of this press release that was released jointly by all school boards, by the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, and by the Association of the Nova Scotia Education Administrators, telling us of this $53.3 million cut to education. These stakeholders know, not like the Minister of Education, that this budget cut of $53.3 million will have a devastating impact on public education.

Mr. Speaker, I honestly believe that this Tory Government, that this Minister of Education, and especially those backbenchers on the government side, do not understand what impact this budget cut will have on public education in Nova Scotia. The impact of these cuts will have a devastating effect in our classroom in the short term and these cuts may lead to permanent erosion of our education system in the long term. These cuts will be felt directly by our students right across this province. Many teachers will be losing their jobs. Many support staff will be lost - secretaries, bus drivers, teachers' aides, librarians, library technicians, clerks, janitors, cafeteria workers and many more.

Mr. Speaker, we can understand why members of the NSGEU, the NSTU and CUPE are upset. The impact of these cuts to public education will bring unacceptable class sizes; will reduce services for students, including students with special needs; eliminate or reduce programs in French immersion, music and fine arts, library support, technology and guidance; will mean higher drop-out rates and school closures, moving students to neighbouring communities. I know that there are three schools in Clare that are on that closure list.

Mr. Speaker, communities will suffer. No wonder students, teachers, parents, support staff, school board members and the public are upset about these cuts in education. Again, I don't believe that this Tory Government understands the impact this budget will have on public education in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, you cannot blame the students, the teachers, the support staff, parents and everyone else joining them across the province to protest these cuts. We can hear them from outside.

Before the vote is called on this budget next week, it is important for everyone in our province who is upset about this budget to let the Tory Government members know. Even the backbenchers, Tory MLAs, are starting to openly criticize their own government budget

[Page 4513]

figures. People have a right to be worried. This Tory Government again is not being honest with Nova Scotians. This Education Minister is responsible for making sure that students in the Province of Nova Scotia have access to a good quality education. This Education Minister does not appear to know what is going on in her own department or, yet, what impacts this budget will have on public education.

Mr. Speaker, just listen to this litany. For example, on March 29th, the Education Minister said that the budget would not result in fewer teachers in the classroom - March 29th. Less than two weeks later the Education Minister admitted that 400 teachers would be let go. She even went further by saying this would only average out to be one teacher per school that would be let go. Well, we are hearing differently today. When the school boards and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union took a closer look at the numbers revealed in this budget, the numbers of teachers who will lose their jobs in Nova Scotia could reach 800 or more.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education wants 12 months savings in 8 months to meet her $20 million cut in teaching positions. These savings don't add up. All of these cuts to education were done without any consultation. Last October the Education Minister promised to meet with the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group, which includes school board officials, to discuss their budget. These meetings were never held. Now the Minister of Education wants to work with the school boards, yet she refused to recognize them when she recommended these education cuts to her Cabinet colleagues for approval.

Mr. Speaker, now with the reality of a crisis facing public education in Nova Scotia, this Minister of Education is trying to do some damage control. (Interruption) Yeah, let them eat cake - trying to do some damage control on this budget cut to public education. This proves the Tory Education Minister is afraid of her own budget.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus believes that this government should not balance the books on the backs of our children. In closing, I would invite any Nova Scotian who is worried about education cuts, how these cuts will affect their children and their community, to let the Tory Government members know before the vote is called on this budget next week.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise in this House to speak to Resolution No. 1281. Today is a good day to debate this resolution which is about the best way to preserve our education system now and into the future. Many people have visited this Legislature today and other days to express their concerns about the education system. We have heard them on the streets outside, we have seen them in the gallery and I know that all

[Page 4514]

members of this Legislature have been speaking with concerned citizens in their home communities.

Public debate is a normal and healthy part of the legislative process. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I applaud the commitment that this shows. Some people have travelled for hours to Halifax to express their views on this issue directly to their elected representatives and to the minister herself. That is their democratic right and members of this Legislature honour and appreciate that as much as anyone. In fact, people on all sides of this debate generally agree on what is most important here. We all agree that education is key to ensuring young Nova Scotians personally grow and professionally succeed. This government is showing leadership and making sure that educational opportunities are available to Nova Scotian students today and in the future. That includes those students who voiced their concerns outside today and to the children and the grandchildren in the coming generations. In fact, we can't continue borrowing to finance today's programs if it means that tomorrow's are compromised. Unless we get our deficit and debt under control, the very future of public education in Nova Scotia is in serious jeopardy.

The province pays more than $900 million annually to service our debt. This money does absolutely nothing for any students in Nova Scotia. It is because we are concerned about this that we have made proposals that we have here today, not because they are easy but because they are absolutely necessary.

Without trying to minimize the views of those who are taking part in this public debate, there is indeed a need to remain calm. I have listened to my constituents, both young and old, who are worried about the things they have heard in recent days about the public education system. I listen to the debates and the questions and the rhetoric here in this House regarding the education system. I have studied the facts along with my caucus colleagues and after careful consideration of all this feedback, I am concerned that many of those taking part in this debate are misinformed about the facts. Many of the students outside are reacting to the thought of class sizes doubling. No one in this House believes that, it is just not true. One can understand the outrage they might feel, no one wants to be cramped in a room competing for attention. This idea is upsetting for sure, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, this reaction is based on fiction, not fact. The Department of Education can show the class size will not change significantly in any way. The numbers provided to the school boards also support the idea that there would be only a slight, if any, increase in class size. The fact is, class sizes in many grades are quite reasonable right now. Most classes are between 20 and 30 students, and although I haven't made a personal commitment to count each and every class, it is my guess that there are more classes with less than 20 students than there are classes with more than 30 students. That is a good thing.

[Page 4515]

When September comes this year, I expect that most students and parents will notice little, if any, change in the overall class size beyond the school year and the variations they have seen each and every year. Mr. Speaker, we need to put things into perspective. The budget requires the school boards to find savings of a total of 2.4 per cent. We have heard at the same time projections of 10 per cent loss of teachers. That defies logic. It is beyond all reason to suggest that this would result in massive school closures, substantial teacher lay-offs as well as dropped programs. It is beyond all belief that any of the proposed changes will mean the demise of our public education system. None of the dire predictions about school closures, massive lay-offs or deep program cuts will ever happen as long as this government is in office.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, we believe a 2.4 per cent reduction in school boards' budgets can be achieved with a very minimal impact on classrooms. It is also important to note that while overall student enrolment has dropped by approximately 6.5 per cent over the past four years, the total number of teachers has increased by over 3 per cent. The cost to the public education system continues to go up, while the number of students entering the school system continues to go down in each and every school board across this province.

Nova Scotia's declining school population provides opportunities to better manage the system so that we will protect the integrity of classrooms in the future. It is only reasonable, Mr. Speaker, that we take advantage of opportunities to reduce the number of teachers as enrolment declines. It makes sense that the number of teachers should not continue to go up when the number of students continues to go down. The fact is, this is a completely reasonable approach. Making these changes, however, requires ingenuity, flexibility and a willingness on the part of all partners to come together. We need to focus squarely on the students and openly discuss the pressures we collectively face. As a government, we are prepared to do our part.

Mr. Speaker, that is why the school boards have been invited back to the table. That is why we have proposed flexible retirement, leave or part-time options for teachers. These options will ensure the pupil-to-teacher ratios remain at or near the same level. Even with 400 fewer teachers, the pupil-to-teacher ratio in Nova Scotia this year will be less than it was three years ago. A very important point.

I fully understand that the circumstances facing all of the boards are not the same, and that some face greater pressures than others. That is why it is so critical that all boards are back to the table, not as isolated entities looking no further than their own boundaries and the school board next door, but as partners in education who share the common objective to protecting the quality of education for all students, from one end of the province to the other. As a government we are proposing some new and different solutions to what are obviously long-standing challenges facing public school systems. We are asking the boards to work with us to manage the kind of system-wide changes that are needed to ensure the classrooms and the quality of education we provide are protected.

[Page 4516]

The Department of Education is meeting with school boards today. This is an honest and concerted effort to resolve outstanding issues so that children in classrooms are protected. The number one priority of this government has and will continue to be securing a good future for our children. Mr. Speaker, there are reasonable and responsible solutions within reach. We know solutions can be achieved without compromising the quality of education for either today's students or students in the future.

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have two minutes, until 4:57 p.m.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I want to convey to the members of the House an incident that happened last night at the school my son attends. I was asked to be there by the Parent Teacher Association as their elected representative and as a father with a son at that school. There were 50 or so parents and teachers at this meeting and they had a number of concerns for me and for our government. I was able to address a number of those concerns and alleviate a lot of the concerns that they had, but one important thing happened. A teacher asked me if I was aware of any teacher who had a profound impact on my life and would I feel comfortable with the fact that our government is maybe causing harm to somebody in that position. In fact, I did say to that person afterwards that there were two teachers who had a profound impact on my life for a very important reason.

I am about to reveal something very personal and private that I haven't kept completely to myself, but I don't share it with everybody. I feel it is important at this point in time to do that. When I was six years old, Mr. Speaker, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. The teacher in my Grade 1 class noticed my concerns and my issues and she brought them to the attention of people who could help me. That teacher, along with my grandmother, who was a teacher, did a great job for me. So like everybody, we are all concerned about teachers and we are concerned about the impact that every change might have on our students.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that I believe our government is looking to the future, and the future of this province is a lot better based on this budget and I think we should all support that. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, the first thing I want to say about Resolution No. 1281 is that I have absolutely no intention of chilling out. Whether that gives comfort to the other Opposition Party or not, I don't mind. But I want to say that doesn't mean that I won't be calm.

[Page 4517]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Beaverbank is indicating that his microphone is still on. Honourable member for Halifax Fairview, is your microphone on?

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I will say, in case my microphone wasn't on, that I have no intention of chilling out and, indeed, that is to speak, I suppose, in a way in support of Resolution No. 1281. I think it is a really good day for us to ask some serious questions about what is really going on right now around this province, outside this Legislature, and in the schools and homes throughout Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of the second volume of Alice in Wonderland, that is, Through the Looking Glass. I don't know how many members remember reading it or having it read to them. When the Queen of Hearts go barging through the garden screaming, off with their heads, off with their heads, Alice wants to know what it is that they have done, and the answer is, nothing really, it is just that the Queen feels like chopping off everybody's head. You know, there is an air about this, of indignation on the government side. Right? There is an air of indignation as if they somehow had a lock on the truth. They know everything and we know nothing, so I think it is a really good time to just ask some straightforward questions.

The first question I want to put before the House is this one, why, if there are to be no teacher lay-offs, are teachers being laid off?

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Good point.

MS. O'CONNELL: Thank you. The member for Clare says that is a good point. The second question that I want to put to the members here is this one, why, if the government says there are going to be 400 teacher losses by attrition, do the boards say it is actually almost double that, Mr. Speaker?

[5:00 p.m.]

The third question, Mr. Speaker, is, why is 400 okay? I have not heard enough about this. Why is the debate somehow about whether 400 teachers will not erode and significantly and perhaps permanently damage the education system? Why is that not being discussed as we quibble about the numbers?

My next question, Mr. Speaker, is, why is it that the minister does not listen to the people who know the answers? We did not make this up out of our heads. This is not our issue. We are the Opposition. We represent the people who come out and say, speak for us. That is our job, and to be patronized for it by the Premier and others is an extremely galling situation to be in.

[Page 4518]

Mr. Speaker, another question that comes to mind - and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank tried to address it in his notes he was reading from - and this is a question I don't think has had an airing here, I don't think it has been dealt with, I don't think it has even been opened up for discussion, how is it that destroying the education system today helps one single student in the future? I want to know. I really want to know. We saw cuts from 1990 to 2000 in this province and we saw them in education for years and the system has never recovered from this whirlwind of changes and initiatives combined with cuts. So I am going to ask this question, how does destroying the education system today help one single child of tomorrow? I fail to see it.

The next question I want to ask, and it has been asked, but I want to go on the record as asking it, Mr. Speaker, is why is it that this government tries to pretend it campaigned on cuts to education? I certainly don't remember that. It does not matter how many times they say it, there is enough on the public record to prove that it isn't so, that for them to say we are just doing what you want, is an absurdity. It really is an Alice in Wonderland situation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask another question. If the government is right about all this, why are there people in the streets again today? Why am I getting 25 e-mails a day? Why am I getting 78 e-mails on a holy holiday weekend from Friday to Monday morning? I want to know, I really want to know, and I want to know, too, how come parents are wrong? How come grandparents, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces are wrong? How come they are all wrong? How come the teachers are all wrong? How come the administrators are all wrong? How come the students are all wrong? How come the support workers are wrong and the tech-support workers, and the psychologists, and the physicians, and the reading specialists, and the librarians, and let's not forget the parent support groups, the Parent Teacher Associations, the school boards, the school boards associations, the school advisory councils, rural Nova Scotians, urban Nova Scotians, how come they are all wrong? You tell me that?

Everybody is wrong but this holier than thou crowd, who sits over there telling us we don't see what we see, we don't hear what we hear, and we don't speak for anybody, not even those voices we can hear right now.

The budget came into this House, and I marked it down as a very special day on the calendar, on April 11th. That was two weeks and one day ago. Every day the Opposition has raised the matter of Education cuts in this House. Every day the minister has popped up and down like a jack-in-the-box and given what I would call her tape-loop response, the same three sentences - and I am glad to see you agree with me, Mr. Speaker - over and over again, the same two or three responses, sounding like one of those tape loops that just goes around and around and never ends.

Mr. Speaker, what that indicates to us, the minister has no knowledge of education, the minister has no understanding, no knowledge to base it on, no depth, and what is really terrible for the people of this province is, she has no desire for any. In conclusion, I just want

[Page 4519]

to remind this House and the government members that the government response has been, how dare you criticize us.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise and speak on Resolution No. 1281. I want to commend my colleague, the honourable member for Clare, for his comments on this issue. I want to acknowledge the comments made by the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. I want to tell him that whoever wrote that speech for him, he should consider that person to be his biggest enemy, because what he read was the most moronic text that I have ever seen in my life. Whoever wrote that for him was not doing him any favours. I can't believe that that member would even stand in this House and read what he did read. That is putting aside the personal comments he added at the end. What he read - it is clear to us - is what has been fed to the Tory backbenchers, and how their support, which we see is wavering every day, has been bought on this budget. The logic that he uses to say, I believe that taking 400 teachers out of a system will not increase class size, I don't know what math class he took when he was in school, but I would like to see the algebraic equation that he used to come to that conclusion.

Mr. Speaker, it is just incredible that a member would stand in this House and make that statement. As I said, I don't believe he wrote that speech. I think someone wrote it for him, someone in Education, maybe even someone in Finance wrote that for him, and he read it. But to think that he would stand in front of kids that here in the gallery, students themselves, and try to tell them, we are taking 400 teachers out of your schools, but hey, don't worry, the class is going to stay the same size.

Mr. Speaker, we have a duty to be truthful when we are here in this House. I must question how truthful that member was when he read what he read. One of the statements he made is, well, look, our enrolment has been going down, but our teachers keep increasing. He said this is right throughout the province. Again, I don't expect that member to have knowledge of what is going on throughout the province. It is unfortunate that he would make such statements, that someone wrote for him. If it was he who wrote that, either he is blatantly ignorant about what is going on throughout this province, or he was intentionally trying to mislead this House.

The fact is, where I come from, the Strait Regional School Board, in the last four years, has reduced its teaching staff by 25 positions per year, for a reduction of 100 teachers in those four years. So how can that member, as a member of government, stand here and say, there have been increases in teachers from one end of this province to the next. That is not true. The facts show that. If that member wants to show something else, I challenge him to do so.

[Page 4520]

Mr. Speaker, whether it was a Liberal Government or not, at least we were truthful to the people. We didn't come in here intentionally untruthful to the people of this province. (Interruption) That member has a proud history of that, he served in John Buchanan's Government.

In this House, a few days ago, on April 13th, I asked a question to the minister about French language education and the cuts to that program. That minister, in Hansard at Page 3917, she said, "I would like to tell the member opposite that we are strongly committed to the Acadian culture. We continue to be committed to it. I would like to say . . .", now here is the golden part, ". . . that in spite of cuts to administration, this government continues to spend far more per student on French and Acadians in this province than they do on English." That is what the minister said; in other words, be quiet about the cuts to the French program, we are already spending more than we spend on the English, so you should not be complaining.

Yesterday when I asked that minister to back up that statement, she admitted that when she said that, she knew that 50 per cent of every dollar spent on French language education comes from the federal government. In fact, they spend less on French language education per student than they do on the English students. I said it yesterday and I will say it again, that that minister, when she said that, was intentionally misleading this House because she knew what she was saying was not true.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable member, in Beauchesne, Parliamentary Rules and Forms, it had been determined long before I took the Chair that "intentionally misleading the House" is unparliamentary. I would ask the honourable member to try to stay away from that type of language during the course of this debate.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, there are certain words we are not allowed to use and I have not used them, but I have described the actions, what has happened here. The actions speak for themselves - a Minister of the Crown stood before this House and made a statement, knowing it was not correct. There is nothing more despicable than that. To say to students and to parents throughout this province, playing them off, saying, well you should not complain about the cuts to French immersion or to the Acadians, we are already spending more money on you than we are spending on the English, something done intentionally to cause division in this province, to try to divide groups. For a minister to intentionally do that is nothing short of being despicable. Her actions to date are along that same nature and that is why we have so many of her fans here today.

Mr. Speaker, she tells us, well, there will not be any lay-offs. This is some of the logic; when the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank spoke, he used that same logic, it is only 400. So you have eliminated 400 through retirement but you have made 30 per cent cuts in administration. So let's talk about administration for a minute. Now I hope the backbenchers are listening. I am going to try to make this as simple as I can. People who work in

[Page 4521]

administration with school boards, the vast majority are teachers who, in most cases, have several years of seniority. When you cut administration, those teachers leave the school board and come back into the class. When they come back into the class, they bump out who is there with less seniority than they have, which is usually probationary, contract teachers or even term teachers or those with less seniority. They bump them out. So that is not just 400; you now have 400 that the government has admitted to, we have 30 per cent in administration - we haven't got a number yet but whatever that number is, an equal amount will be taken out of the system by bumping them out.

Let's put a face on this for you. I don't like to get personal but let's put a face on this for the backbenchers, so they can know what this means. Under that program and under the cuts to administration and the bumping out that will take place in the classroom, your own colleague, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, would be unemployed under your plan. He would be one of the young, bright, educated teachers in our province who is going to get bumped out by these cuts to administration. So when you are congratulating yourself and you are saying we built the future, know that you have just terminated the job of your Minister of Tourism and Culture. That is the reality here. Think about it. If you don't have teachers in your family - I have two sisters who are teachers, both of them are facing being bumped out because of the cuts to administration where teachers with more seniority will be returning to the class and bumping them out. When you are looking at those 400 and saying well, it won't increase the class size, that is the most moronic argument I have ever heard. Think about those young teachers who will be bumped out.

The minister says, we are not going to cut French immersion or the music programs. But when you start bringing these senior teachers out of administration back into the class, you are bumping out your youngest teachers, the ones who have taken French immersion education in university, the ones who have taken music, the ones who have taken Gaelic language, they are all bumped out. Who is going to teach French immersion if you have no one in the system who can speak French? Only this minister would believe what her argument is, that there won't be any programs lost. She says, no more extra curriculum. None of these teachers are going for any more training. That is out. That is gone. No more training. What you have got is what you get. So, unless these schools spare some of their French immersion teachers from being bumped out, who is going to offer the program? Are we going to return to the days where French immersion is taught in English.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is how it all started. I remember my teachers who had gone to St. F.X. University who had graduated French, were taught French by an English priest at St. F.X. We can't return to those days. What this minister is proposing. She took offence when I talked about the cuts to the French language programming, but the facts speak for themselves. The fact that the Minister of Finance himself is the Minister responsible for Acadian Affairs, and he can sit there silently while the Collège de l'Acadie gets a $500,000

[Page 4522]

cut, and the Nova Scotia Community College gets another $2 million this year. It is shameful, and an insult to the Acadian people and the Acadian community. Nova Scotians will judge this minister for her chilling out and not to worry, next time we go to the polls. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes debate on Resolution No. 1281.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1305.

Res. No. 1305, Educ. - Min.: Resignation - Tender - notice given April 14, 2000 (Mr. W. Gaudet)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, Resolution No. 1305 says:

"Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union in a news release yesterday stated that phone calls that morning to five of the seven regional school boards revealed that less than 100 teachers were eligible for retirement; and

Whereas during Question Period, yesterday, the Minister of Education continued to insist that 400 teachers will retire next year; and

Whereas the minister's statements concerning cuts in education and the number of anticipated teacher retirements are so incredulous that she has lost the confidence of all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education do the honourable thing and tender her resignation as Minister of Education as recommended by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union."

Mr. Speaker, I think this resolution goes to the extent of the anxiety and concern that people in Nova Scotia have to what is going on with the education system in this province. It goes to more than just numbers, more than just teachers, more than just support staff, it goes to what we are going to provide for our young people; the education and the future that it going to be provided for them. It is a concern of parents. It is a concern of the teachers who really care. I really get annoyed when I hear that teachers are just in it for the money, it is just a job, that they really don't care about what happens to the students. Anybody who believes that really shouldn't be discussing this. They shouldn't be in this Legislature. They shouldn't even be dealing with education.

[Page 4523]

The fact of the matter is that we have good, concerned teachers in Nova Scotia, concerned teachers who have infected their students with the thirst for knowledge and a concern for what they are going to be in the future. This is what we want. This is what we want our young people to be concerned about. This is what we want them to think about. Where are they going? How are they going to get there? What are the tools they have in their education system that are going to give them this jump into adulthood, this leap and step into a good career? All this is eroding, Mr. Speaker. It is eroding because this government doesn't see the connection. It just doesn't see the connection.

I look at this Minister of Finance and his budget, and he says, without business confidence we will not have long-term economic growth, it is just that simple. Well, Mr. Speaker, we have read in the Report on Business Monday that there is not the confidence in Nova Scotia business. They talk about the cuts that are being made, not only will it be employment, but it is going to cause concern to consumers in Nova Scotia. Well, it is causing concern to more then just consumers. It is causing concern to parents and students and people we would like to see come into Nova Scotia, people who are now looking at Nova Scotia at the lowest per student investment of any province in Canada.

I wonder if this government can see, if they can walk and chew gum at the same time, when they cut our young teachers without realizing who in the name of heavens is going to teach information technology in our schools. How are these young people going to be ready for the challenges of the next decade? Mr. Speaker, we only have to look at the last 15 years to see how this world has changed, how it has changed at home, how it has changed in the workplace and how it has changed in our schools and universities. Without information technology and solid training in information technology, they are not going to be on a level playing field with students in other provinces. It is just that simple. They are not going to have that same advantage.

Yet, we have a government that is laying off - through the school boards, because the school boards don't have the money to be able to keep them - young teachers who have taken special training in teaching information technology and computer training, teachers that have just taken, for instance, a B.Ed. course that is offered by Acadia University, to give special instruction to these young teachers in how to impart the knowledge, the techniques, the way to operate computers and how to open the doors in the mysteries of computer technology. These teachers are gone.

I have a letter here from Barrington Consolidated School. The Minister of Health, there is a great example of anybody concerned about anything. He takes the wings off of flies in his spare time. Mr. Speaker, I want to talk to you about the Barrington Consolidated School. Here is a letter from the principal of that school to the member for Shelburne. He says in his new school that will be opening in September, there will be an elimination of the software budget of $7,600, that 63 computers will be without any software programs when the school opens in September. The computers that the former Liberal Government provided can't be

[Page 4524]

used because there is no money for software programs. Even the Minister of Transportation has to know the connection between computers and the software necessary to use them. You have to know that. As thick as anyone in that government may be, you know you need software programs to operate computers.

I just talked to two students from Windsor, in the minister's own riding, who have 73 computers that they don't have software programs for. Now, surely to heavens, the minister, if he puts his thinking hat on and if he holds his head together, can make the connection. I can't believe that in this province this is being allowed to happen, that teachers are being laid off who are needed to (Interruption)

Yes, they are being laid off. The only who doesn't believe that is the Minister of Education and that is because she is in a fantasy land. She is talking Alice in Wonderland, as the member for Halifax Fairview has said. She isn't in the real world. Goodness knows where she is, but she isn't in the real world. Her own deputy minister is telling the school boards that their figures are right and theirs are wrong. Now, how in the name of heavens can that not be picked up by the minister herself.

Mr. Speaker, schools are going to close. Make no mistake about that. They have to because they can't afford to be kept open. The school boards, if they are allowed to stay open by this government, and I say if, and the Southwest Regional School Board is a question mark right now. We don't know what is being done by this government because they are not dialoguing. You know, they went into this whole thing in a vacuum. They went like Genghis Khan through the steppes of Mongolia without any idea of where they are going to wind up, because Genghis Khan didn't have a map, neither does the Minister of Health, neither does the Minister of Education. They don't even have anyone there to point them in the right direction. The Minister of Education doesn't listen to school boards. The one board she has told has to meet, she won't let them meet because she doesn't want to hear the bad news that they are going to give her. She doesn't want to hear that what she is doing is wrong, so she doesn't let them meet, and then she complains that she doesn't have the necessary information she needs to know where she is going.

Mr. Speaker, try to pick the bones out of that. How in Heaven's name can you follow the example of a Minister of Education who is doing that? The people of Nova Scotia are absolutely incredulous; the Tory backbenchers are incredulous. Why wouldn't they be? They are listening to what the parents and the concerned citizens of their ridings are telling them, and they can't help but be incredulous and concerned. I am concerned; you are concerned, Mr. Speaker. We are all concerned about where this is going and where this is going to lead our whole generation of young people in the Province of Nova Scotia before this government is turfed out, and even then a lot of damage will be done that will take years to compensate for.

[Page 4525]

Mr. Speaker, we have to do something. They have to do something, and that is start smartening up and do what is necessary for a good education program in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on Resolution No. 1305. I have been looking forward to this opportunity because I believe that my responsibility as an MLA is to be just that, responsible. It is my duty to act in the best interests of this province, and those interests are best served when people sit down together and talk through their problems.

What this resolution speaks to is not the competency of the Minister of Education, it speaks to the mentality where passing the buck rules the day. Well, this government and this minister have refused to do that. Instead of passing the buck, she has acted responsibly. She has made some tough decisions, and she has tried to balance many interests. What this resolution speaks to is a mindset, where the only objective is to make somebody into a scapegoat, and there are some honourable members who see that as their responsibility.

I sat in this House yesterday and listened to an MLA, a former teacher nonetheless, stand in her place and say that children in junior high school should leave the classroom to stand on the streets. Now, if that wasn't enough - and I know that in the heat of debate we often take a step too far - I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that the same member, who was once concerned small children might get trampled by protesting adults, would ask children in junior high schools to put themselves in that situation. Perhaps we should be debating whether or not the member for Halifax Fairview should resign. The member's comments are completely irresponsible. But we are debating whether or not a minister who encourages children to stay in school should resign. Nova Scotians know there is something wrong with this picture. It is obvious why Jane Purves is the Minister of Education and why people who ask children to leave school are left in the role of critic.

There is a former Minister of Education who sits on the other side of this House. There is no need to debate whether or not he should resign; the people have made that decision for him. It is unfortunate that he didn't have the chance to deal with some of the pressures that were created, during his six years in government, before he left; it is too bad he didn't sit down, like Minister Purves has asked her staff and the school boards to do today, and talk about the $33 million shortfall that he forced on the school boards; it is too bad that he didn't have a chance to deal with $20 million in over-expenditures for P3 schools, because he didn't exercise any control over his budget; and it would have been nice if he had cleaned up the amalgamation mess his Cabinet colleagues left him with. Maybe he was planning to borrow the money; that was the solution they came up with when they botched health care. Yet, we are standing here today debating whether or not Jane Purves, a minister who is willing to identify priorities to control spending, should resign. That is ridiculous.

[Page 4526]

[5:30 p.m.]

If there is a minister who should resign, it is that former minister, but it is a moot point. The people of Nova Scotia made their decision last July. He is lucky, though, he has the Honourable Jane Purves, the Minister of Education, to deal with those problems. She is doing the job he couldn't do. Nova Scotians don't believe in punishing people for being competent. They don't punish honesty and they don't want a minister to resign. They want her to do her job, Nova Scotians want that so the children in school today won't be worrying about their children and their community.

Mr. Speaker, senior departmental staff are meeting with school boards today. If the current dispute is to be resolved, it has to be done at the table. This is an honest and concerted effort to resolve outstanding issues so the children in the classroom are protected. The spirit of this process, which I know the minister encourages, is one of cooperation, but let's face facts. The reality is that these dialogues between the minister, the boards and the Teachers Union have become adversarial in nature. The minister has been clear that 400 teaching positions can be removed from the system through retirement and attrition. This remains the government's position.

The school boards have said the 400 figure is wrong. At a meeting last week held to discuss our differences, school board officials walked out. They then announced that 700 teachers would lose their jobs. It is our belief that the boards were exaggerating the numbers, the boards left before the department was able to explain how the 400 figure was arrived at. The school boards left before the department had the opportunity to fully discuss the plan to reduce the number of teachers through early retirement options or part-time work. Instead of constructive dialogue, the boards instead resorted to fanning public concern. Many of the boards proceeded to issue lay-off notices even though the deadline was the middle of May. When it was suggested by the minister that an extension to the May 15th date would support constructive dialogue, the union rejected the idea.

The boards should have waited until all the facts were known, Mr. Speaker. If they had, the boards would not have added to public confusion. Take a look at press releases.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I wonder if the member would entertain a brief question?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South says no.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If this member has all of the information and is so persuasive as he says he is, then he should take his speech outside and tell it to the people and see how many people who know what is going on will buy a single word of what this member . . .

[Page 4527]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I hope you will give me the extra waste of time that the honourable member just provided me. Take a look at the press releases issued by just five of the province's seven school boards immediately following the provincial budget. Add up the numbers in those early press releases and you end up with a total number of teachers to be laid off, above 810. For example, Halifax Regional School Board's original press release said 300 teachers would be laid off, yet two articles in the same newspaper last week gave the number as 340 and 360 teachers. The Halifax Regional School Board was also quoted in the media of suggesting that 10 per cent of its teachers face lay-offs. In the last school year, the Halifax Regional School Board had 3,468 full-time equivalent teaching positions. That would give us yet another number, 346. So we saw a rapid escalation of numbers at various times in one week. The Halifax Regional School Board said it would have to lay-off 300, then 340, then 346 and now 360. According to this morning's newspaper, the number of lay-off notices has now jumped to 488; 164 in the first or second year and 322 permanent. In the course of one week, the number has gone from 300 to 488.

I find it very interesting to note that the only person who hasn't changed her tune, the only person who started at 400 and is still at 400, is the Minister of Education, the Honourable Jane Purves. So I guess the message is, if you have the strength of your convictions you should resign. If you tell the truth and refuse to be bullied into saying something different, then you should resign. If you make tough decisions, if you try to balance, you should resign. Quite frankly, that is what Nova Scotians want in a minister. They want someone who knows what they are doing and will do it and that is what Jane Purves intends to do.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot help but wonder because I know every Cabinet Minister, every MLA, every public servant, has to take their knocks, why has the attack on the Minister of Education been so personal? (Interruption)

The Queen of Hearts, Calamity Jane, Jane Antoinette, and from a former Premier, a man who is supposed to be an example of dignity and decorum, we get Lucrezia Borgia. Maybe it is because Jane Purves does not need to moan and wail and flail her arms in the air to prove and try to be cute to make a point. Maybe it is true that confidence really is quiet. Maybe the fact that she is not going to play the game has them so mad, Mr. Speaker. She is not going to scare people. She is not going to shout and holler. She is not going to bully anyone and she is not going to be bullied.

Maybe she is going to do her job as a good Minister of Education first and above all and worry about the politics later, but that does not answer the question why the personal nastiness from the boards, from the NSTU, from this House. What is so different? It cannot be because she is a woman. Our friends in the NDP would not allow that. Is it because, for the first time since 1993, she is an Education Minister who isn't a teacher? Is that it? Is it the

[Page 4528]

thought of new ideas, new approaches and new challenges so horrible coming from a non-teacher? Is that why the union will not deal with her?

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on an introduction.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make an introduction. I am informed that this afternoon we have with us a number of students from a very fine junior high school in the north end of Dartmouth. It is a junior high where I used to teach for quite a number of years - John Martin Junior High School. I would like to ask the students from John Martin to please rise and receive a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, a wise person once said that when you are in government, when you have power, tough decisions are not hard decisions. People who have power find it very easy to make tough decisions. However, what is really difficult when you have power is making compassionate decisions. That is the difficult thing when you have power, being compassionate and if we have ever seen a fine example of how difficult it is to be compassionate when you have power, this crowd has displayed it amply in the last couple of weeks.

Let me tell you, Mr. Speaker, this Education budget is an unmitigated disaster. Everybody knows it. It has caused and it will continue to cause untold grief to children, to parents, to teachers, to support staff, to administrators, to elected school board officials. MLAs on all sides of the House have had a flood of e-mails, letters, phone calls, demonstrations and yet this government is entirely unmoved. This government, this Premier, comes into this place and advises the Opposition that we are soft.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you I have absolutely no difficulty being soft. I have absolutely no difficulty if that means standing up for education and paying attention and listening to people around this province because I don't consider being soft a weakness. I don't consider having compassion and listening to the people who elected us to come to this place a sign of weakness whatsoever. I have to ask, what in the world has happened to the Premier? He has become the Tin Man out of the Wizard of Oz - unbending, unyielding, without any heart whatsoever, but unlike the Tin Man who wanted a heart, this Premier is not the least bit interested in acquiring a heart. He wants to be tough, he doesn't want to be soft. He doesn't want to listen to people from Nova Scotia. He doesn't want to hear from the students.

[Page 4529]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is no better. When she is questioned about cuts for children with special needs, she flippantly talks about sacred cows and baby seals. Shame on that minister; special education is not a sacred cow. It is nobody's sacred cow and it is nobody's baby seal. It is an important program, of fundamental importance to hundreds of children and parents in this province and how dare anybody stand in their place here and equate Special Education Programs or French Immersion Programs as being sacred cows and baby seals.

Now I want to tell the Minister of Education and the Premier why education is so important to Nova Scotians and members of this caucus and why we understand what members of that government and the Premier so clearly do not understand. I am almost moved to buy the Premier a little gift, The Doubters Companion: A Dictionary of Aggressive Common Sense, by John Ralston Saul, a gentleman who we have had the privilege of having here not so long ago. I am sure the Premier met Mr. Ralston Saul.

Let me tell you what he says about education. He says that public education is the single most important element in the maintenance of a democratic system. The better the citizenry are as a whole, the better they are educated, the wider and more sensible public participation debate and social mobility will be. He goes on to say that we could do worse than to reduce classes from the typical 20 to 30 students, down to 10. This would mean hiring more teachers and our public budgets tell us there is no available money. A more important point is that there be even less money in a society of functionally illiterate citizens. That is an absolute truth, Mr. Speaker. Education is an investment and taking money away from education, ripping it out of the system as we are seeing this government do, will only lessen our society and contribute to higher levels of illiteracy in the society.

How much does an unemployed teacher or an unemployed university-educated potential teacher really cost the state if integrating accounting methods are used? There are the direct costs, the costs of a long-term investment in their training. We have trained all these people you have laid off; we have paid hard-earned, Nova Scotian taxpaying dollars to train those individuals who have gotten their lay-off notices. Don't lecture us about fiscal responsibility, don't you dare lecture us about that because that is the height of irresponsibility, to invest heavily in a trained labour force and discard them for other provinces. That is what you are doing. That is what you are doing. The Minister of Health knows that better than anyone. (Interruptions)

[5:45 p.m.]

We need to talk about the power of consumption of these people in the economy, the multiplier effect. For every employee, there is a multiplier effect in terms of our economy, and you are throwing this away. Now, in the past few days, Mr. Speaker, I have been asked more than once by young people and parents, why are they doing this? Didn't they know? Now, people in Nova Scotia are very decent. We all know that. They expect others to be decent.

[Page 4530]

They believed that their government and their Premier would not have done this knowingly. But, you know what? I have to say, honestly, that they have in fact done it knowingly. It is becoming very clear to me that they have done this absolutely knowingly. I witness the Premier, the Minister of Education and other members, many of them in the teaching profession, who don't seem too concerned. They give the Minister of Education rousing applause and standing ovations, knowing full well the impact this will have. This government is the biggest disappointment that Nova Scotians have seen in a long time.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on an introduction.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to introduce to the House, four students from Halifax West High School who have come today to watch the proceedings and to participate, and I know at least two of them have been here before, and are enjoying the proceedings immensely in spite of the circumstances. I would like to introduce to the House and when I do, I would love to have them stand up so we could welcome them: Sara Delany, Courtney Green, Christina Petrella and Amanda MacDonald. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on this particular resolution, but at the very outset, because of the rather eloquent dissertation by the member for Dartmouth South, I can't help but quote from that honourable member's previous experience doing community service. Tim Olive, Secretary of the Parent Advisory Committee on Education, better known as PACE, said yesterday, threatened cuts to French immersion, music and other enrichment programs as well as possible school closings cannot be allowed to occur. Now that was on April Fool's Day, 1992.

Now, let's fast-forward, Mr. Speaker, into his new life form as a Conservative backbencher and why he would be supporting the Minister of Education and not supporting this resolution. As per the introduction by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, we do have some students from Halifax West High School, and I will be addressing a particular issue on that one, because . . .

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 4531]

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce three people in the Gallery who are from the beautiful riding of Kings North. Janet Pearson, Bev Roy and Becky Lightfoot. They are here with the group that has come down to make their views known today. If they could rise and we could give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, okay, let's get right into the meat and the potatoes here. This time last year, the Province of Nova Scotia was rated number three in the country for economic growth. One year later, after this government took power, it is now number nine. At the rate it is going, it is going be a banana republic. That is point number one.

Point number two. The Minister of Education stood in the House yesterday . . .

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Would the honourable member table that information he has just spewed out?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable member agree?

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely. I will even provide, Mr. Speaker, a copy of The Globe and Mail newspaper, since the honourable minister doesn't have access to that. Despite the fact there are four communications officers in the Department of Education. Four spin doctors to look after the minister's hide because she can't be forthright with the students and the parents and the teachers and the people of Nova Scotia on this education issue on a budget that she cannot defend. She cannot defend those numbers. She said 400 maximum cut in administration. What has happened? It has been teachers. It has been support staff. It has been teachers' aides. Programs. You name it. Next it will be schools. Where are the Tory backbenchers? What are they saying for their constituents?

It is great to stand in this House and do fine introductions, but what are you going to do for them? Stand up, be the representative. Look at Joseph Howe and remember what he stood for. He stood for the people that put him here. Stop being wimps for a politically motivated, neo-conservative agenda.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member is very concerned about this issue he is talking about, but I would ask that he refrain from calling the honourable members names. Thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will not call them names. I will just think it. Okay, let's fast-forward to Halifax West High School. Last week, I asked the Minister of Labour if he would ensure that the fire marshal's regulations were not being violated.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he say then?

[Page 4532]

MR. MACKINNON: He said I was scaremongering. That is what he said, Mr. Speaker. This is a matter of law that you are not allowed to have too many students in the classroom. At Halifax West, there are as many as 36 students in a class with a total size of 660 square feet. You require 20 square feet for every student. That is the law. That is the fire marshal's law. The Minister of Labour should know that. But the fact was he didn't want to do what he was hired to do, he hid behind a political agenda, he was protecting the Minister of Education because her numbers didn't add up and he didn't want to face reality. But negligence of duty is a very serious concern. We shouldn't have any more than 30 students in a class, by law. That is only appealable to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Labour is not doing his job. He is putting the students in that school at risk. Do we want another Westray? I hope not. I will table this. I wrote to the fire marshal today because his boss, the minister, refused to do his job.

Mr. Speaker, I had occasion to talk to some of the parents and the students and the teachers outside. I am told that another school, Sir John A. Macdonald High School is in violation of the law. Let's not go back to fossil fuels. The Government House Leader, when he was Minister of Labour, put the safety regulations on hold and what happened? We have had three deaths in Nova Scotia because they were playing politics. We have had two because they put the roll-over regulations on hold and the other one with confined spaces in Port Hawkesbury. Is that the type of conscience we have? I am choking. I knew it would happen, it was only a matter of time. They are choking us all.

Mr. Speaker, I promise not to get excited. I am not going to be like the Minister of Education and chill out. This is too important to these children. The Minister of Labour is deliberately defying to do his job. I will table this with the minister and the Minister of Education. The fact is, by law, one of two things must happen, either they close those classrooms or they start taking students out of the class, which would mean just in that one school alone they would have to hire one more teacher and create another classroom. That is according to the law, but the Minister of Labour is deliberately not doing his job.

Mr. Speaker, the students who are here today would be somewhat taken back to realize that the minister's executive assistant has spent $6,000-plus of taxpayers' money just for a laptop. That is three times the cost of a laptop. That is the type of priority they have. What do we get? We get the ramblings from the member for Kings South because he has an obsession about the P3 school which, by all accounts, if you talk to the people in that constituency, the teachers, the parents, the students, they are very happy with that facility. I am not sure where that guy has landed.

Mr. Speaker, I will table this because I know all members of the government caucus would like to see this member in action. That is Tory representation by the backbenchers in that caucus.

[Page 4533]

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

MR. MACKINNON: I am just getting warmed up.

MR. SPEAKER: I know. Save it for another day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow will be from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will do four hours of Supply, then we will go into Public Bills for Second Reading and we will do Bill No. 46, the Financial Measures (2000) Act. So, I move that the House do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to rise until noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We have now reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings North:

"Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the valuable contribution that the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival contributes to tourism in the Valley area and all Nova Scotia."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

TOURISM - ANNA. V. BLOSSOM FESTIVAL:

CONTRIBUTION - RECOGNIZE

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak about the Annapolis Valley Festival and its impact and contribution to tourism, not only in the Annapolis Valley but throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. The importance of tourism and cultural events, such as the Annapolis Valley Festival, are well known and I think it is gratifying to me that the Human Resources Committee, which I have the privilege of chairing, has decided that the next item they want to look at is culture in Nova Scotia. One of the items they are specifically interested in is the many festivals we have throughout this province and the contribution those festivals make to the cultural life of Nova Scotia.

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I had the privilege of representing the Premier at a lecture that His Excellency John Ralston Saul gave in the Red Room. He talked about the importance of culture for Canadians and for our understanding of ourselves. One of the things he specifically said at that time, and he did say, was that we should not value culture simply for the economic activity it generates and for the boom to the economy, but we should value culture for much deeper reasons. In his analysis, Mr. Speaker, culture was the mirror in which we saw ourselves as a people. If that is true, if a culture is a mirror in which we see ourselves, then the mirror that the Annapolis Valley Festival puts forth is a mirror that emphasizes the importance of agriculture in the Annapolis Valley, as my honourable colleague from Kings West has spoken about, the mirror that it puts forward is the great beauty, the scenic beauty of the Annapolis Valley.

Those of you who ever been there when the blossoms all come out, tucked between the North and the South Mountain with the fertile farmland, know how beautiful it is. The third thing that the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival provides a mirror for is the sense of community that we have in our riding and in the ridings surrounding it. There is a sense in which we cooperate together, we work together, we help each other, and we feel that we are part of a large family.

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The Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival I think is a very important tourism draw for the Valley, but deeper than that, I think it is a cultural event as well which, Mr. Speaker, as I said, it emphasizes our agricultural roots. It illustrates the great beauty of the area that I happen to represent, along with my other colleagues, and also it focuses on the sense of family and community; the willingness to help and to work together; to laugh and to cry together; to be a community.

It seems like there have always been apple blossoms in the Annapolis Valley. Nova Scotians know it is spring and this is how we determine spring in the Annapolis Valley by the aroma of the blossoms as they settle in on a May breeze and the scent of fruit trees in bloom has long been a lure to visitors who come up from Halifax and Dartmouth and from other areas of the province when the blossoms start to spring.

Apple production began in earnest, Mr. Speaker, in 1620 and although there was often talk of a spring festival to coincide with the blossoms' appearance, it really was not until much later, in 1933, that finally this talk translated into some form of action and the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival was born. The two co-chairs of that first festival were Frank Burns and Reg Caldwell and they were ably assisted by a committee consisting of the late Mayor G. W. Lyons, H. Bishop, G. R. Palmeter, R.W. Harris, M. A. Girvan, Dr. J. McGrath, T. P. Stent, Garth Calkin who is a member of Rotary with me, and R. D. Bligh, all of these citizens of the Town of Kentville.

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I am happy to say that one of the goals of the committee that they set for themselves was to convince the provincial government of the day of the Apple Blossom Festival's potential as a tourism attraction and the government obliged and supported it. The province continues to this very day to support the festival although there has been a booster club associated with the festival that solicited support from participating communities for many years and, indeed, in 1986 a patron's program was developed to encourage businesses and other organizations to become sponsors of this important event.

The original objectives of the festival organizers were to make the Valley's apple industry better known in North America and in Europe and to publicize the scenic beauty of the area and the historical background of Longfellow's Evangeline and also to provide an opportunity to foster and develop local talent through participation in various festival events. One of the things that has become very popular recently is the opening of the festival where a Maritime group is brought in to sing or to play. This particular year, Mr. Speaker, it will be Great Big Sea and we expect a large turnout for that.

The organizers with these goals certainly achieved them and, in time, the Apple Blossom Festival became known throughout Canada and the United States because of newsreel coverage of the Blossom Queen and the historical pageants that were a feature of this festival. During the Second World War, which may be of interest to you, the festival turned its attention to raising funds for war-related activities, such as the Queen's Fund and the Red Cross.

It gained in popularity since its inception in 1933 and today the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival is one of the premier tourist events in North America and, in fact, in 1991 it was selected by the American Bus Association as one of the top 100 events of its type across this continent and that is quite an achievement, Mr. Speaker, for a small community such as ours.

It used to be that the festival dates were fixed each year after consultation between the festival committee and one of the Valley's horticultural experts, but as the festival grew in popularity and became so important within the tourism calendar of tourist specialists throughout North America, it became necessary to plan further and further ahead. So festival dates are now set five years in advance with the last Thursday in May as the starting date and this particular year, I invite all of you to come down to the beautiful Annapolis Valley, and I think, as the honourable member for Kings North would say many times before in this House, he would invite you down to one of the best places in Nova Scotia and in Canada.

The festival will be held this year from May 24-29th, and you have my personal welcome to come to that. The festival always opens with a volunteer recognition night in New Minas to honour the contributions and dedication of the many volunteers who make this festival a success year after year after year. I could go on and on with the list of names, which I won't, but I want to mention one, a dear friend of mine, David Hovell, who has worked very

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hard at this. There are many people such as David who have given of their time sacrificially. They work throughout the year, leading up to the next festival.

The reigning Queen Annapolisa - which is another important aspect of this festival - and the new princesses are special guests at a formal tea in a Valley community on Friday afternoon. A Children's Parade is held on Saturday morning, and the Grand Street Parade, which is what I think attracts the most people, is held on Sunday afternoon in the Town of Kentville. Last year, I believe there were over 100,000 people gathered for this Grand Street Parade. A family showcase, where Great Big Sea will be playing, a major outdoor concert held in the Memorial Park in Kentville was added in 1995, as I mentioned earlier. It includes a children's program and then entertainment from a major regional or national act. Then it concludes with a spectacular fireworks display. This is a very popular venue, where families come out and picnic on the hill overlooking the town as the fireworks come up, sponsored by Michelin for the last few years.

On Sunday morning, the festival party, led by Queen Annapolisa and her princesses, worship at a local Valley church, and the afternoon schedule includes visits to Armed Forces Day at Greenwood and to Grand Pré National Historical Park. There have been many changes in this festival, but one thing hasn't changed and that is the spectacle of trees heavy with these lovely pink blossoms and the scent of apples, signalling the end of winter and the promise of a new spring. A beautiful time, a beautiful festival, important for our region, important for the Valley, and I invite you to come celebrate with us this spring.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in the late debate, as it is called, on the issue of the Apple Blossom Festival. How appropriate to be talking about the Apple Blossom Festival in this, the middle of the debate on the budget, a budget that has far-reaching effects on all aspects of Nova Scotia's economy, notwithstanding the issue of agriculture. I concur with the member for Kings North, who brought this issue to the forefront and talked about the tremendous benefit of tourism. Because of the Apple Blossom Festival, tourism actually grows, people come to visit, and I concur.

As people travel to see the beautiful blossoms of the apple trees, people always marvel at the hard work of the farm community in the Annapolis Valley and how committed they are to it. Also, the science and technology transfer that is behind the tree development, and the development of the genetic strain within those different varieties of trees. The tree blossom years ago, why they celebrate it, it is an expression of hope. It is that spring has come and summer is coming and the crop is coming. The farm community had an expression of hope, no matter how bad the season was last year, they see the blossoms and they know that the fruit is going to bear and maybe the crop will be a good one this year. Farmers and farm families throughout the Valley and throughout Nova Scotia took pride in the fact that there

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was hope for tomorrow, hope about the industry, and hope that everybody wouldn't leave, hope that there is a future in the farm community and in the production of apples and agriculture.

I want this government to know something very clearly that that hope is vanishing. A 20 per cent cut in the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Marketing's budget is not a small cut. A 20 per cent cut in a department's budget means that we are losing a major part of the agricultural community. We are losing a major part of the economic development of the farm community. We are losing the opportunity to have a little hope about what this really means to whether they are apple producers or the horticultural sector or the floricultural sector or the livestock sector, whatever sector of the farm community, they have been ravished and hurt and devastated and somewhat betrayed by the fact that the Minister of Agriculture and this government has walked away from its commitment to rural Nova Scotia.

This Minister of Agriculture said that he consulted with the Federation of Agriculture. Well, this farmer talked to the Federation of Agriculture and I found out what this so-called consultation was all about. I hope that the Premier checks with the Federation of Agriculture to really find out what was said and what was not said. I hope the Premier and his other Cabinet colleagues phone some of the farm community, some of the farm leaders, to find out what they think this has done to their industry.

When you realize that one of the major parts of the agricultural community, the Production Technology branch within the Department of Agriculture and Marketing, has been absolutely wiped out. This is the body that interfaces directly with the farm community. They interfaced and worked, front-line workers, with the apple producers, with the vegetable producers, the poultry producers, the feather producers as they call them, the dairy, the beef, you name it. These are the specialists that worked hand in hand with the farmer and the farm family and the farm community because they are engineers and specialists in finance and everything else. They have been gone.

I know the minister has said, well, the previous cuts to Agriculture and, yet, the bureaucracy in Agriculture has been allowed to stay there. Well, I happen to believe that the Department of Agriculture and Marketing was one of the best departments anywhere in this government. I understand, and I am sure the Premier would check with a former Premier of this province, a former Minister of Agriculture, and he will tell you what the Department of Agriculture was all about in this province. It has now been ruined and devastated by this cut. This is not a little cut. A whole division is gone.

What is left in Agriculture? We have a lending program. Yes, that is important. We have food safety, which is maybe going over to Environment. We have the assistance programs, which I understand the minister is saying, get rid of this bureaucracy in Agriculture because they don't do anything and I will give you all sorts of grant money that will keep you happy. Well, the farm community hasn't got sucked in on that message one bit. Yes, there is

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the assistance program, but that is basically what is left in Agriculture, a mere shell of programs that are there for the farm community, but nowhere near the importance of the heart and soul of the Department of Agriculture and that was a day-to-day activity that the Production Technology branch provided to the farm community.

They did the visits to the farms. They came to my farm and they helped me when I was 22 years old and first-time farming in Nova Scotia. They came to my farm. They assisted me. They told me what to do right. They helped me. They guided me. They shepherded me through to a point where our farm has been successful. It was those people, those individuals, those specialists, that helped the small farms. I have said, in this House, that maybe the minister's approach, his right-wing agenda approach, is that the big successful farms will survive, thank you very much, without this assistance. Well, maybe he is right.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, and I want the Premier and the government to know that there is an awful lot more to agriculture than a bunch of big farmers, because 75 per cent or better of the farm community are small, mixed-farm operations. He knows that. Those are the people who are hurt the most and that is what fundamentally bothers me, because we have cast aside the small family farm operation in this province because of this particular decision by the minister.

I have a letter, today, from the University of Toronto, Botany Division. This individual was astounded, it goes on. It is a letter to you. You probably maybe haven't had time to read it. I can understand that. It says, "I was astounded to learn that the Production Technology Branch has been designated in the current budget for closing. As a plant pathologist who has taught plant pathology and agricultural botany for over 30 years, I have a special appreciation for those in every province of our country who are the direct contact to our farm and grower . . .", throughout all of Canada. He goes on to say about the fact that it is the front-line workers within the farm community that are now gone.

It concludes, "I recognize that your government must make cuts to the budget but view that doing this through cutting the Production Technology Branch is false economics." You are producing a false set of economics because you are hurting the agricultural production opportunities by taking away the research, the development, the technology transfer, the specialists that help the farm community. The mom and dad farm community that I am proud to be part of.

As a former President of the Federation of Agriculture, I fought just as hard for the small farmer as the big farmer because we are all part of the farm community. I remember all too well in this House, when the current Minister of Agriculture makes fun of an individual in a commodity because they are not supposed to make a decision. Well, I can tell you something. I have never in my life seen any government be so belligerent and so cocky and so arrogant and so mean that they have basically not only ridiculed a member of this House

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personally and never wanted to apologize, but more importantly, they have ridiculed and helped destroy the confidence of many rural farmers about these cuts.

I have had phone calls, faxes, and we are going to have this debate in this Chamber with this minister. I have seen the Federation of Agriculture's comments in the paper. I have had other farmers' phone calls and comments to me saying we voted for them. They said they were going to support rural Nova Scotia. They are the Conservative Government that understands farmers. We voted for them. I can't believe, they say, all of a sudden they literally pulled the heart right out of the system and never blinked an eye. The Minister of Agriculture is hiding by saying, I consulted with the Federation of Agriculture. They support it. Well, they do not, make this very clear, they do not support what this government has currently done. The farm community does not support the fact that you have taken out all those jobs of those specialists, Mr. Premier, that have dealt with the farmers on a day-to-day basis.

Yes, the Apple Blossom Festival is a great time, and yes, going to see that parade has always been a measure of hope of the crop that may come. But I want you to know, I want you to seriously know that you personally should take a very serious look. You personally, phone some of the farmers. Don't phone the backroom boys. You phone some of the farm leaders in this province and ask them, will this have a negative effect on the farm community and farm production in the future of this province. I think you will find that that cut you made out of a budget that is so small, they had 20 per cent that you basically have taken the economic opportunity of growth of these sectors of all commodities in this province, you have put them behind, you have hurt them and maybe crippled them to some degree.

I am not out here to be . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. I would like to thank you for taking part in this debate this evening.

We are adjourned until tomorrow at noon.

[The House rose at 6:19 p.m.]