The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., Mar. 29, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 2811
POINT OF PRIVILEGE:
House of Assembly - Chamber Access: Clerk of the Executive Council
(Mr. James Spurr) - Violates
(Point of Privilege by Mr. Russell MacKinnon) 2812
Ruling: Past Procedure Applies 2813
Vote - Affirmative 2813
Speaker's Ruling on Previous Point of Privilege:
Human Resources Committee - Legal Advice (Point of Privilege by
Mr. Russell MacKinon [p.2754])
Ruling: No Prima Facie Case of Privilege
Committee Decide on Advice 2813
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 865, Commun. Serv. - Metro Turning Point: New Bdg. -
Completion Recognize, Hon. P. Christie 2814
Vote - Affirmative 2815
Res. 866, Health: Anemia Awareness Week (Mar. 27-31, 2000) -
Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 2815
Vote - Affirmative 2816
Res. 867, Agric. - 4-H Careers Conf. (Can.): Attendees
(Adam Scanlan [Rich. Co.] & Walter Paige [Hants Co.]) -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 2816
Vote - Affirmative 2816
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 33, Family Maintenance Act, Hon. M. Baker 2816
No. 34, Health Authorities Act, Hon. J. Muir 2817
No. 35, Housing Development Corporation Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2817
No. 36, The Scots: North British Society Act, Mr. T. Olive 2817
No. 37, Preston Area Housing Act, Mr. D. Hendsbee 2817
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 868, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Leak (Min.) - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 2817
Res. 869, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Ms. E. O'Connell 2818
Res. 870, Commun. Serv. - Community Based Options Prog.: Review -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 2818
Res. 871, Exco - Mins.: Backbenchers (PC) - Assistance Recognize,
Mr. K. MacAskill 2819
Res. 872, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. School Bd.: Funding - Equitable Ensure,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2819
Res. 873, Educ. - Kings. Co. Comm. For Equal Educ.: Office New -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 2820
Vote - Affirmative 2821
Res. 874, Pictou East MLA - Press Release (Emergency Debate
[28/03/00]): Criticism - Refrain, Mr. B. Boudreau 2821
Res. 875, Health - Seniors: Pharmacare Premiums - Plans, Mr. D. Dexter 2822
Res. 876, C.B. Centre MLA - Job Creation: Interest Level - Raise,
Mr. B. Barnet 2822
Res. 877, Health - Seniors: Pharmacare Premiums - Level Assurance,
Mr. J. Pye 2823
Res. 878, C.B. South MLA: Comments (Sysco Dep. Min.) - Apologize,
Mr. D. Morse 2823
Res. 879, Econ. Dev. - Stanfield's Ltd. (Truro): ISO Designation -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 2824
Vote - Affirmative 2825
Res. 880, Commun. Serv. - Cape Sable Is. (Shel. Co.):
Family Resource Ctr. - Employees Commend, Mr. C. O'Donnell 2825
Vote - Affirmative 2825
Res. 881, Health - Aberdeen Hosp. Fdn. & Trust: Work - Acknowledge,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2826
Vote - Affirmative 2826
Res. 882, Econ. Dev. - YES Prog.: SW Reg. Winner -
Matthew Holleman (Waterville) Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 2826
Vote - Affirmative 2827
Res. 883, Commun. Serv. - Good Neighbourhood Energy Fund:
Salvation Army & NSP - Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 2827
Vote - Affirmative 2828
Res. 884, Econ. Dev. - YES Prog.: NE Reg. Winner -
Christopher MacIsaac - Congrats., Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2828
Vote - Affirmative 2828
Res. 885, Lun. West MLA (Former Fin. Min.): False Surpluses -
Justify, Mr. W. Langille 2829
Res. 886, James Bell Ferguson (Ferguson Industries Ltd.) - Death of:
Condolences - Extend, Mrs. M. Baillie 2829
Vote - Affirmative 2830
Res. 887, Health - Westville Medical Ctr.: Kay Fortune -
Work Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2830
Vote - Affirmative 2831
Res. 888, Sports - Curling (Firefighters' Nat. Champs.): Stewiacke FD -
Success Wish, Mr. B. Taylor 2831
Vote - Affirmative 2832
Res. 889, Culture - Lun. Co.: Architecture - Commitment Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 2832
Vote - Affirmative 2832
Res. 890, Sports - Basketball (Northumberland Reg. JHS Girls Champs.):
Truro JHS - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 2832
Vote - Affirmative 2833
Res. 891, Culture - Old Kings Courthouse Museum:
Anne-Marie Belliveau & Ethel MacKinnon - Fundraisers Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 2833
Vote - Affirmative 2834
Res. 892, Educ. - Strait Reg. Sc. Fair: Organizers & Participants -
Congrats., Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2834
Vote - Affirmative 2834
Res. 893, Lib. (N.S.) Caucus: Collective Amnesia - Concern Express,
Mr. D. Morse 2835
Res. 894, Justice - Queens Co.: Vandalism - RCMP Success Wish,
Mr. K. Morash 2835
Vote - Affirmative 2836
Res. 895, Sports - Curling (N.S. Lions Bonspiel Champs.): Aylesford -
Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 2836
Vote - Affirmative 2937
Res. 896, Sports - Gymfest (Scottish 2000): Flying Kippers Demo. Team
(Lun. Co.) - Success Wish, Hon. M. Baker 2837
Vote - Affirmative 2838
Res. 897, Earle Harding King (Debert): Courageous Contributions
(War & BEM) - Recognize, Mr. W. Langille 2838
Vote - Affirmative 2838
Res. 898, Inst. of Chartered Accountants: Anniv. 10th - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 2839
Vote - Affirmative 2839
Res. 899, Fin. (Can.) - Health Care, Educ. & Hwys.: Funds (Foreign) -
Redirect, Mr. B. Taylor 2839
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 331, Fin. - Taxation: Cuts - Revenue Increase, Mr. D. Downe 2840
No. 332, Health - Care: Physicians - Shortage, Mr. Robert Chisholm 2841
No. 333, Health: Regional Boards - Disbanded, Mr. R. MacLellan 2843
No. 334, Health - Care: Nurses - Shortage, Mr. Robert Chisholm 2844
No. 335, Health - Care: Providers - Consultations, Dr. J. Smith 2845
No. 336, Health - Seniors: Pharmacare Premiums - Changes,
Mr. J. Pye 2847
No. 337, Health - Administration: Cuts - Promise Fulfil, Dr. J. Smith 2848
No. 338, Health - Truro: Family Doctors - Availability, Mr. D. Dexter 2849
No. 339, Health - Reg. Bd. (Northern): Dr. David Rippey - Role,
Dr. J. Smith 2850
No. 340, Health - Hepatitis C: Mr. Bruce DeVenne - Meeting (Premier),
Mr. D. Dexter 2851
No. 341, Health - Lun. Hosp.: Emergency Dept. - Closure, Mr. D. Downe 2852
No. 342, Educ.: Funding Formula Review Work Group - Suspended,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2853
No. 343, Health - New Glasgow: Mental Health Unit Relocation -
Consultation, Dr. J. Smith 2854
No. 344, Pub. Serv. - Privatization: Future - Basis, Mr. J. Holm 2855
No. 345, Sysco - Steelworkers: Pensions - Promise (Premier) Fulfil,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2856
No. 346, Commun. Serv.: Small Options Homes - Regulate,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 2858
No. 347, WCB - Coal Miners (Devco): Gamma Radiation - Exposure,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2860
No. 348, Petroleum Directorate - Pt. Tupper Pipeline: Licence - Remove,
Mr. J. Holm 2861
No. 349, Educ. - P3 Schools: Construction - Date, Mr. W. Gaudet 2863
No. 350, Labour: Occup. Health & Safety Regs. - Delay,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2864
No. 351, Justice - Glace Bay: Court Services - Removal, Mr. M. Samson 2865
No. 352, Educ. - P3 Schools: Community Use - Accessibility,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2866
No. 353, Nat. Res. - Graves Island Prov. Park: Land - Sale,
Mr. K. MacAskill 2867
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 276, Justice - Glace Bay: Court Serv. - Reinstate,
Mr. D. Wilson 2868
Mr. M. Samson 2868
Hon. M. Baker 2873
Mr. H. Epstein 2877
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2880
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 23, Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act 2883
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2883
Hon. N. LeBlanc 2886
Mr. F. Corbett 2889
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2891
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fish. - Seniors: Licences - Reduction:
Mr. B. Taylor 2894
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2896
Mr. J. Pye 2898
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2901
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Mar. 30th at 2:00 p.m. 2901

[Page 2811]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 29, 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 topic for the late debate this evening was submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley:

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the benefits to seniors of the recent announcement which reduces the cost of the general fishing licences to Nova Scotia for this segment of our communities. (Applause) (Interruptions)

Order, please.

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of members of the House to three distinguished educators in the gallery opposite: Donnie MacIntyre of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union; Marg Forbes of the Nova Scotia School Boards Association; and Sandra Himmelman of the Home and School Association. Could you please rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

2811

[Page 2812]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction?

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: No, actually on a point of personal privilege. Am I recognized?

MR. SPEAKER: You are recognized.

MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps too much so.

Mr. Speaker, as we all know in the House of Assembly here, all members of the House, both past and present, are afforded certain rights and privileges. Those rights and privileges have become time-honoured and they have become what they are today because of certain customs and traditions that we have all adhered to.

Mr. Speaker, certainly yourself, this is your home and we certainly respect your opinion and we enjoy many of the rights and privileges that you have afforded us. But recently, as late as yesterday afternoon, we saw a senior public servant come into the Members' Lounge. As we all know, when the House of Assembly is open, the Members' Lounge is reserved for members of the House of Assembly, both past and present, and generally that custom is afforded to Legislative Counsel because of the dealings with all members of the House. Certainly when it comes to any other public servant coming in during the privacy and domain of the individual members into the House of Assembly, I feel that that particular public servant, Mr. James Spurr, who came in, has crossed the line.

Mr. Speaker, obviously I have raised this issue about Mr. Spurr on a number of other matters over the past number of days and weeks and I think at some point in time we have to draw a line. Are we going to change the policy for the security and privacy of the individual members? Are we going to use it as a depot for the functionaries of any particular government department because if that is the case, then we are going to throw all the rules, the traditions and the privileges and the rights of the individual members out the window. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will be brief. This is a matter that had, on a previous occasion, been dealt with. There was a situation once upon a time where the Chief of Staff, Mr. Doucet, Chief of Staff of the Liberal caucus at the time also had been coming into the Members' Lounge. Now there was a slight difference on that occasion in that he had been a former member and Speaker of the House but at that time he was working as a Chief of Staff for the Liberal caucus. The decision was made at that point in time that those who are public servants or those who are working for caucus offices or staff are certainly not permitted to enter that chamber. You know it is not just for security but it is more importantly for what can or cannot be overheard. It has been the tradition that members of this House if

[Page 2813]

they are requested to speak with staff, even if it can be inconvenient, that they leave the inner circle and go outside to meet with them in the library or another room.

It is a matter that, quite honestly, Mr. Speaker, I think had been taken care of on previous rulings and unless the rule has changed through the Committee on Assembly Matters, that I would suggest that the old practices should just continue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I find myself in concurrence with both of the Opposition speakers. It has been a long tradition in this House that that particular room is reserved for members and servants of the House and certainly, people connected with a Party or senior civil servants are not, by virtue of their position, able to get into that room. So I agree with that and I am sure that whatever happened, I don't know who the person was, I am sure it was inadvertent. However, in case it wasn't, this will certainly be brought to that person's attention.

[2:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed by everyone that we will follow the past procedure and precedent that was set?

It is agreed.

On that note, yesterday the member for Cape Breton West rose on a point of privilege. This was a result of comments that were made at a Human Resources Committee meeting by a staff member. I have reviewed the Hansard of that particular meeting and the comments brought forward by the honourable member. I do not feel there is a prima facie case of privilege, but I would say that I believe the committees have the opportunity to hear from staff and if they so wish, I believe that is their right and if they don't wish to have people there and to seek advice of them, that is also within their domain to make that decision.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly respect your decision and rightfully so. However, I believe the impression that is being created at these committee meetings sometimes and particularly with the Human Resources Committee meeting yesterday, is that Mr. Spurr was, in fact, providing legal counsel to all members of the committee. If it is the responsibility of the Legislative Counsel to provide that, then certainly Legislative Counsel was not present to be able to deal with a rather contentious matter at that particular point in time. We would have had to delay the meeting so it was very important that the wrong impression . . .

[Page 2814]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would hope that the honourable member is not questioning the Speaker's Ruling. Thank you.

The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will be introducing a piece of legislation a little later on today and I would like to introduce some of the people who were very instrumental in that legislation being developed. At this time in the gallery opposite and I would ask them to stand as I read their name; Harriet McCready, George Kyte, Dave Kerr, Kimberly Gandy, Paul Fynes, and some staff from the Department of Health; Barbara Hall, Marguerite McMillan, Heather Praught, Heather Marsten, and Menna MacIsaac. These people are members of the Community Health Board Advisory Group.

I would also like to introduce today, Dr. Michael Riding, who is President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society, in the gallery and as well, joining us for the tabling of this legislation is, Mr. Emmett Austin, the Chairman of the Nova Scotia Hospital Board. Thank you. (Applause)

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 865

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

Whereas for more than 30 years, Metro Turning Point has worked with and provided services to the homeless; and

Whereas the recent opening of their new facility is the result of excellent cooperation and considerable determination; and

Whereas this new building is the result of hard work and dedication by all the staff and the Board of Directors of the Metro Turning Point;

[Page 2815]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the commitment of everybody involved in making sure this project was complete.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 866

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

Whereas the newly founded Anemia Institute for Research and Education is having its first Anemia Awareness Week from March 27th to March 31st; and

Whereas anemia is a medical condition that occurs when red blood cells fail to carry enough oxygen to the tissues and can become a serious problem if it remains undiagnosed and untreated; and

Whereas the goal of Anemia Awareness Week is to increase awareness of anemia among health care professionals and patients;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize March 27th to March 31st as Anemia Awareness Week and thank the members of the Anemia Institute for Research and Education for their efforts to create awareness of this medical condition.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2816]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 867

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

Whereas the national 4-H careers conference, Eyes on the Future, starts in Winnipeg and runs until April 2nd; and

Whereas Adam Scanlan of Richmond County and Walter Paige of Hants County will attend the conference to explore a variety of careers, particularly those in the agricultural field; and

Whereas Adam and Walter won national travel awards to attend the conference based on their 4-H activities and contributions to their communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Adam Scanlan and Walter Paige on their achievement and wish them well at their conference and in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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

Bill No. 33 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 160 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Family Maintenance Act. (Hon. Michael Baker)

[Page 2817]

Bill No. 34 - Entitled an Act to Provide for Community Health Boards and District Health Authorities and Respecting Provincial Health-care Centres. (Hon. James Muir)

Bill No. 35 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 213 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Housing Development Corporation Act. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

Bill No. 36 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 86 of the Acts of 1858, An Act to Incorporate the North British Society in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Mr. Timothy Olive)

Bill No. 37 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 353 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Preston Area Housing Act. (Mr. David Hendsbee)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 868

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

Whereas today in a media scrum, the Minister of Education stepped on the Minister of Finance's toes by revealing her department budget figures before the date of the budget has even been set; and

Whereas this revelation breaks the time honoured tradition of Cabinet confidentiality, especially regarding budget matters; and

Whereas the Education Minister is making up for the last sitting of the House when she answered every question, I don't know the answer because I am just new here;

Therefore be it resolve the Minister of Education be congratulated for her budget leak, and hopefully she will continue to breach the Tory code of secrecy and behind-closed-door politics.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2818]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 869

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, 1,350 children have been born into poverty; and

Whereas this heartless Tory Government would prefer to talk only about 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 1,350 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 870

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

Whereas early this year the Department of Community Services introduced minimum training standards for direct care staff working in facilities funded by the department; and

Whereas Community Services Minister Peter Christie has initiated an independent review of the department's Community Based Options Program; and

Whereas the review will assess the current delivery of services to clients who live in settings funded by the province;

[Page 2819]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Minister Christie on his department's work to ensure the 1,800 people living in Community Based Options in the province receive appropriate care.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 871

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

Whereas recently Tory backbenchers have been becoming more and more helpful to Cabinet Ministers; and

Whereas the tag team of the Minister of Justice and the MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley were spotted Monday at a bill briefing; and

Whereas the MLA for Eastern Shore and the Economic Development Minister performed a news conference in tandem last week;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Ministers be recognized for using the buddy system and travelling in pairs since they realize there is safety in numbers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 872

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

[Page 2820]

Whereas in figures released yesterday, it was disclosed that the Halifax Regional School Board receives less provincial funding per child than any other board in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the outcome of this inequitable funding is higher drop-out rates, bigger class sizes and lower literacy rates in the Halifax Regional School Board; and

Whereas the future of 58,000 students depends on whether the Education Minister is prepared to stand up for Education or not;

Therefore be it resolved that this government take immediate action to provide equitable and adequate education funding for all Nova Scotian students.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver and passage without debate.

[2:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 873

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 Kings County Committee for Equal Education has raised its profile by opening an office in downtown Kentville; and

Whereas the committee hopes to implement programs to improve the quality of life for members of the local Black community; and

Whereas the Kings County Committee for equal education has partnered with Acadia University, the Kings County Economic Development Agency, the Black Educators Association and the Department of Economic Development;

[Page 2821]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Kings County Committee for Equal Education on their new office and offer best wishes as they do their important work in this community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 874

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

Whereas yesterday the member for Pictou East issued a press release critical of the Liberal's emergency debate on Sysco; and

Whereas there was a vicious struggle for media attention among a number of Tory backbenchers looking to be moved up to the front benches; and

Whereas the member for Pictou East fancies himself as the frontrunner for the job;

Therefore be it resolved that the member from Pictou East refrain from using issues that affect people's lives as a means to advance his own political agenda.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 2822]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 875

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

Whereas the Tory blue book states, "A PC government will ensure that input from seniors and the interests of seniors are at the forefront of all government decision-making affecting the future of our province"; and

Whereas the Minister of Health has indicated that an increase in fees for health programs where it already pays the cost, such as Pharmacare, are forthcoming; and

Whereas this Tory Government has made it clear that higher co-pays and user fees are the way of the future in this province:

Therefore be it resolved that this Premier and the Tory Government come clean with seniors now and let them know if they plan to increase Pharmacare premiums.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 876

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 NDP member for Cape Breton Centre recently directed criticism through our government to the former Liberal Government for committing to the creation of hundreds of new jobs in Sackville; and

Whereas during last summer's election campaign, this member's colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid attended the announcement to offer praise for the grant to the Staples call centre in Lower Sackville and the creation of hundreds of new jobs; and

Whereas as even the Leader of the NDP amidst a heated election campaign saw no reason to criticize the deal and was quoted as saying the NDP, "like to see jobs created in Nova Scotia";

[Page 2823]

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton Centre explain to this House why he is more interested in playing Party politics than creating good jobs for hard-working Nova Scotians and further, that the member for Sackville-Cobequid tell the people of Sackville whether he is in favour of job creation or against.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 877

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

Whereas seniors in this province struggle to pay Pharmacare premiums; and

Whereas the Minister of Health indicated to the Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, March 23rd, that Pharmacare premiums will be going up in this provincial budget; and

Whereas the Deputy Minister of Health has indicated that Nova Scotia seniors currently pay one of the lowest Pharmacare premiums in the country and quoted the national average of $1,000;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government today assure seniors that they will not be the victims of Tory promises to balance the provincial books at any cost.

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 Kings South.

RESOLUTION NO. 878

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

[Page 2824]

Whereas Monday evening in this House, the member for Cape Breton South accused the deputy minister for Sysco of playing partisan politics, and made reference to him again yesterday during debate; and

Whereas this obvious attempt by the member, the former Minister of Economic Development, to blame a dedicated civil servant for his own wrongdoings is not only inappropriate but completely unacceptable; and

Whereas although the truth may hurt, failing to own up to one's own mistakes serves only to compromise one's own integrity;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton South immediately rise and apologize to all civil servants for the complete lack of respect he has shown by his actions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The notice is too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 879

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

Whereas after 120 years of business in Truro, Stanfield's Ltd. recently gained an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) quality control rating; and

Whereas ISO is a Geneva-based non-governmental body that develops quality manufacturing standards for companies; and

Whereas Stanfield's Ltd. successfully completed a 14 month process to achieve the ISO rating;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the employees of Stanfield's Ltd. for the ISO designation that recognizes their high standards and excellent workmanship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[Page 2825]

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 880

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

Whereas a new family resource centre situated on Cape Sable Island in Shelburne County was officially opened this week; and

Whereas this centre has six staff members who work with at-risk families; and

Whereas the project is named "Open Door" and provides family resource counselling and lodging for children and women re-entering the community from Juniper House in Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly commend the work of these six employees, including Program Assistant Louann Nickerson and Manager Edward Allen, as they strive toward assisting individuals in getting a new start on life.

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 2826]

RESOLUTION NO. 881

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

Whereas Jim Gogan has just completed a successful two year term as Chair of the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation and the Aberdeen Hospital Trust; and

Whereas many initiatives have been achieved in just the past two years; and

Whereas the launch of the program "Leave a Legacy," which will look after long-term giving to support future activities at the Aberdeen, is just one important initiative of the Foundation and Trust;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly acknowledge the great work done by Chairman Jim Gogan and the members of the Aberdeen Hospital Foundation and Trust in recent years, and wish them and the Foundation every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 882

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

Whereas Matthew Holleman, of Waterville, was recently selected as a Southwestern Regional winner for his achievement in running his own business under the Nova Scotia Economic Development's Youth Entrepreneurial Skill (YES) Program; and

[Page 2827]

Whereas Matthew's entrepreneurial spirit and skill as a craftsman make him a worthy recipient of this honour; and

Whereas young entrepreneurs such as Matthew will help shape the province's economy by creating jobs and opportunities for Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Matthew on his achievement and wish him luck in his future endeavours.

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 Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 883

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

Whereas Nova Scotia Power and the Salvation Army launched the Good Neighbour Energy Fund in 1997 to help Nova Scotians in financial crisis pay their heating bills; and

Whereas customers and employees of Nova Scotia Power contribute to this fund in order to help those less fortunate; and

Whereas the Good Neighbour Energy Fund will help more than 200 Nova Scotian families this winter;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Salvation Army, Nova Scotia Power, their employees and customers for truly being good neighbours this season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 2828]

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. 884

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

Whereas Christopher MacIsaac's summer business venture, Chris' Little Shop, was named the Northeastern Regional winner under the Department of Economic Development's Youth Entrepreneurial Skills (YES) Program for the second consecutive year; and

Whereas with consistent business success in his youth, Christopher is destined to have a successful future; and

Whereas the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit Christopher has so ably exhibited is a wonderful example of the promising, entrepreneurial talent of our Nova Scotian youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Christopher on his achievements and wish him well in the future.

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 2829]

RESOLUTION NO. 885

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

Whereas yesterday, the former Minister of Finance criticized our government for including for the cost of the Sysco clean-up in the deficit projection for 1999-2000; and

Whereas our government, from day one, has committed to being open and accountable to the people of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the real question lies in why the former Liberal Government opted to ignore the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and the Auditor General;

Therefore be it resolved that the former Minister of Finance tell Nova Scotians why he chose to hide behind false surpluses and give Nova Scotians false hope rather than come clean and tell the truth about the state of the province's finances.

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 886

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 Shire Town of Pictou recently lost one of its founding industrialists and community leaders with the passing of James Bell Ferguson; and

Whereas J.B. is most known for his association with the family-owned shipyard, Ferguson Industries Ltd., a fixture on the Pictou Waterfront for decades; and

[Page 2830]

Whereas J.B. will also be remembered for his contributions as a former councillor and one-time deputy mayor and his willingness to lend a helping hand to countless projects that dot the landscape of the town he proudly called home;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their sincere condolences to the Ferguson family on their recent loss and salute the achievements of this accomplished individual.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 887

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

Whereas this Friday, after 16 years of faithful and dedicated work, Kay Fortune will be leaving her receptionist position at the Westville Medical Clinic; and

Whereas over the years, Kay has brought a smile to many faces as they have visited their family doctor at the Westville Medical Clinic where she has always been exceptionally helpful to patients and to doctors alike; and

Whereas after Friday, Kay will enjoy spending more time with her family which consists of her husband, five sons and seven grandchildren;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend Kay Fortune for her exceptional work ethic and for 16 years of dedicated and faithful work at the Westville Medical Clinic.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 2831]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 888

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 Canadian Firefighters Curling Championship begins Saturday in Truro, Colchester County; and

Whereas Nova Scotia will be represented by the Stewiacke Fire Department team which will be skipped by the town's own Mayor, Mr. Bruce Lohnes; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia team, comprised of Ron Colpitts, Jamie Barr, both of Stewiacke and Douglas Sibley of nearby Wittenburg have a great chance of victory with their collective talents, along with the leadership of a skip, also of Stewiacke, who is a three time Brier representative;

[2:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House wish our very talented Nova Scotia team the best of luck as they prepare to compete in the Firefighters' National Curling Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2832]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 889

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

Whereas Nancy Watson and Dana Doiron of Oakland in Lunenburg County won a Nova Scotia Home Award for home unit designed by an architect; and

Whereas Alan Creaser of Lunenburg, Lunenburg County, earned first place in the awards for his restoration of a circa-1885 home on Montague Street; and

Whereas Nancy McKnight and Don Himmelman of Zwicker Long Lake, Lunenburg County, received an award for their heavy timber frame and stacked straw house;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the residents of Lunenburg County for their commitment to architecture both new and old.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 890

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

Whereas the Truro Panthers won the 1999-2000 Northumberland Region Junior High School Girl's Basketball Championship; and

[Page 2833]

Whereas the regional title was in addition to the Tri-County championship won two days earlier; and

Whereas the team members showed a great work ethic and dedication to task throughout the basketball season;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate the members of the Truro Panthers and their Coach, Butch Borden, on their championship season and also congratulate the Truro Junior High School for its commitment to both academics and extra-curricular activities.

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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 891

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

Whereas volunteers Anne-Marie Belliveau and Ethel MacKinnon have run more than 70 flea markets over 18 years for the Kings County Historical Society's Old Kings Courthouse Museum, raising more than $42,000; and

Whereas their contributions were recently recognized by the Federation of Nova Scotia Heritage with the President's Award; and

Whereas this industrious duo is handing the torch to the next generation of Kings County fund-raisers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Anne-Marie Belliveau and Ethel MacKinnon for their dedication and tireless efforts to preserve an important part of our past.

[Page 2834]

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. 892

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

Whereas more than 240 students from Guysborough County Schools participated in the Strait Regional Science Fair recently held in Port Hawkesbury; and

Whereas science fair projects ranged from how popcorn pops to how windmills work - in both French and English; and

Whereas the approximate 100 judges present were impressed with the quality of projects and declared all participants winners;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the organizers and participants in the Strait Regional Science Fair for their successful and educational event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2835]

The honourable member for Kings South.

RESOLUTION NO. 893

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

Whereas the Liberal caucus is wasting taxpayers' dollars to mislead Nova Scotians about government taxation policy; and

Whereas the Savage-MacLellan Liberal Government won the dubious title of tax grab champions of the 1990's; and

Whereas during last summer's election both the MacLellan Liberals and the NDP harshly criticized the Progressive Conservatives for being the only Party to give Nova Scotia taxpayers a break after the budget is balanced;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express concern for the Liberal caucus whose collective amnesia is only exceeded by their dismal track record in government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 894

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

Whereas hoodlums ransacked the Old Village Cemetery in Caledonia, Queens County, this past weekend; and

Whereas 7 of the 23 headstones that were knocked to the ground suffered serious damage; and

[Page 2836]

Whereas this futile and pointless destruction deserves swift and immediate punishment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and wish members of the RCMP in Queens County every success in their investigation into this senseless form of vandalism.

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 Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 895

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

Whereas the Aylsford teammates Peter Evans, Jud Corkum, Paul Spicer and Mike Weinberg recently captured the Nova Scotia Lions Curling Bonspiel at the curling club in Meteghan; and

Whereas this Aylsford foursome beat out 31 other Nova Scotia teams in taking home top honours; and

Whereas the Aylsford Lions Club won this curling championship for the second time in four years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly extend our congratulations to this year's champions and wish organizers every success as they prepare to host the 2001 provincial championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2837]

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.

I would just like to remind the members that there is a lot of noise in the Chamber. It is really hard to hear.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell those guys to be quiet.

MR. SPEAKER: Everyone. Thank you.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 896

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

Whereas six members of Lunenburg County's Flying Kippers Demonstration Team are attending the Scottish Gymfest 2000 in Inverness, Scotland, in April 2000; and

Whereas Gymfest is an annual festival in which 40 teams from around the world will be represented; and

Whereas Gymfest represents an opportunity for Nova Scotian gymnasts to show their stuff to the world;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly wishes the athletes of Flying Kippers Demonstration Team the best of luck in representing Nova Scotia at the Scottish Gymfest 2000.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2838]

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 897

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

Whereas Earle Harding King, of Debert, is by all accounts a hero; and

Whereas Mr. King entered the army at the young age of 16, was wounded three times and taken a prisoner of war, only to escape and fight again to defend his country's right to freedom; and

Whereas Mr. King has received numerous honours for his brave and heroic actions, including the B.E. Medal for Bravery in rescuing two Dutch airmen from their burning plane, and the Freedom of the City of Ghent in Belgium;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the courageous contributions of Earle Harding King who has given so much to his country.

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 Minister of Community Services.

[Page 2839]

RESOLUTION NO. 898

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Institute of Chartered Accountants was formed 100 years ago on March 30, 1900; and

Whereas chartered accountants have made a major contribution to Nova Scotia for the past 100 years in terms of addressing not only the business and financial needs of government, business owners and individuals, but also made a strong commitment in their volunteer involvement in non-profit organizations;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the Institute of Chartered Accountants on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of its formation this year and applaud the contribution of the 1,500 current Nova Scotia chartered accountants who contribute to the social and economic well-being of all Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 899

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 federal Liberal Government last year loaned $40 billion to businesses in foreign countries; and

Whereas the federal Export Development Corporation admits that already $2.8 billion has been deemed unrecoverable; and

[Page 2840]

Whereas the loan losses have occurred primarily in Asia, Russia and Latin America, with some loans being routed through state banks and agencies of governments with notorious corruption records;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly encourage the federal Chretien Liberals and their Minister of Finance to examine this issue with a focus to redirect such funds to health care, education and highway improvement here in good old Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time is 2:55 p.m., the beginning of Question Period. We will end at 4:25 p.m.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - TAXATION: CUTS - REVENUE INCREASE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Finance. Page 10 in this book, the Tory blue book, which all of us have learned is the blueprint for their plan for the future, it says very clearly that tax cuts create jobs, and more importantly tax cuts create revenue to the government. My question to the Minister of Finance, does the Minister of Finance stand by the assertions that tax cuts actually increase government revenue?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I suggest that the honourable member read the book in its entirety, where it says that we will give tax cuts in the fourth year. (Interruptions)

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, they are mixed up in their years again. New Brunswick just recently announced it would lower its rate to some 57 per cent of the federal rate. In a press release issued just a week or so ago, the Minister of Finance of the day made it clear and claimed that we in Nova Scotia have the lowest tax in the region. My question for the

[Page 2841]

Minister of Finance, in light of the information, will the minister now reconsider his decision to allow Nova Scotians to have the provincial benefit of the federal tax cut given to them this year?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member brings up a good point. The point is, in New Brunswick they have put their fiscal house in order and as such the tax cut will come sooner. In this province the circumstances are not the same, whereby we first of all have to put our fiscal house in order and subsequent to that we will give the tax cut as we outlined in this very same book that he held up, which indicates that in 2003-04 there will be a tax cut for Nova Scotians, that comes after the hard work.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the failure of this current government to flow through the federal tax to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia has meant that the provincial portion is now 60 per cent of the current federal rate, and by the year 2004 it could be as high as 70 per cent of the federal rate. The reality will be that Nova Scotia will be taxed the highest tax in all of Canada. My question to the Minister of Finance is, is the minister going to wake up and pass on the flow-through to the provincial portion of the tax to Nova Scotians before we start losing jobs and tax revenue to New Brunswick, Newfoundland and every other province in this country?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the inability of the previous government to continue to deal with the difficult problems that they had, whether or not that be from change of leadership or the fact of the minority government, the fact of the matter is that the fiscal situation in this province is very severe. We have indicated up front how we will deal that. We will not be swayed.

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

HEALTH - CARE: PHYSICIANS - SHORTAGE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question is through you to the Premier. According to the Department of Health's own figures, the Province of Nova Scotia needs 60 new doctors. A few examples: in New Glasgow, the Premier's backyard, they need 9 doctors; in Yarmouth, the Finance Minister's backyard, they need 8 doctors; in the Health Minister's riding and surrounding areas, they need 12 new doctors. I want to ask the Premier, given the fact that many thousands of Nova Scotians are without physician services as we speak, why are they planning to cut health care?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that Nova Scotia has been as successful as any jurisdiction in Canada in recruiting new physicians. (Interruptions)

[Page 2842]

AN HON. MEMBER: You weren't saying that a year ago.

MR. MUIR: But I am now.

Unfortunately, there are some areas in the province where there are shortages of physicians and even, as unfortunately as ever, one of them happens to be my home community and I am consciously reminded of that daily.

[3:00 p.m.]

Anyway, attracting and retaining physicians is not only a Nova Scotian problem, it is a North American problem. The training and recruitment of health care professionals is not related to any alleged cuts that the honourable member is referring to.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my first supplementary again to the Premier. All provinces are actively recruiting doctors. A major problem here in Nova Scotia is that doctors, who we recruit, don't stay because of the almost impossible working conditions. Now we have many Nova Scotia communities competing against one another for those scarce doctors. My question to the Premier is, what is he going to do to assure the people of New Glasgow, Yarmouth, Truro and elsewhere that they get the doctors they need?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again a question for the Minister of Health. (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would report to the honourable member that during the past month we have filled five family practice spaces in the province and more than one dozen doctors are scheduled to visit parts of Nova Scotia within the next month with our physician recruiter.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the shortage is real, the crisis is real. This government, this Premier, promised Nova Scotians that he was going to solve that problem and he won't even answer my questions.

Mr. Speaker, Antigonish needs six specialists, Dartmouth needs three doctors. The Health Department's own list goes on and on. I want to ask the Premier again, the Premier who promised Nova Scotians not too long ago that he would solve these problems . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . if he would explain to them what effect cutting health care will have on his ability to solve this problem?

[Page 2843]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what the member for Halifax Atlantic and Leader of the New Democratic Party seems to fail to understand is, that if we don't get the financial affairs of the province in hand, then we will not only have the current situation, we will have a situation in health care and education and all the services that we provide, much worse than it is today.

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

HEALTH: REGIONAL BOARDS - DISBANDED

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, aside from the fact that we now have Bill No. 34, the Health Authorities Act, I want to ask the Premier why he and his government continue to violate the spirit of the Canada Health Act by allowing the Deputy Minister of Health to strip the regional health boards of all authority, leaving no public or hospital input, other than his own, taking on all that authority onto himself, why has he allowed that to happen?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is perhaps the easiest question that I have had in the last two days. The reason is because it puts accountability back in the system. That is why we did it.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is saying that the only way you can have accountability is to have a dictator as the Deputy Minister of Health who controls all of the decisions, leaves nothing to the people of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: No boards, no input. Five months of it.

MR. MACLELLAN: That is exactly what he is saying and that is exactly what this government is endorsing. It is not only with respect to the regional health boards which presently should be in operation but have completely had their power taken away. It also applies to the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation.

MR. SPEAKER: Could we have your question, please?

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to ask why, once again, this government is in violation of the spirit of the Canada Health Act by allowing the deputy minister to control the Canada-Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation with only having two other deputy ministers on the board instead of representatives of the health industry, as was intended.

THE PREMIER: That is a question for the Minister of Health.

[Page 2844]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the reason is very simple. There was money allocated for the Health Research Foundation and because of the action of the previous government the foundation was never set up properly. What we want to do is make sure that money could be disseminated in this fiscal year.

MR. MACLELLAN: What the Minister of Health is saying is simply not true. There were nine names prepared for appointments to the Board of the Nova Scotia Regional Health Foundation, and this government chose to ignore them, not to appoint them, and instead to allow the deputy minister dictate the administration of this foundation with the help of two other deputy ministers, excluding everyone in the health industry. Why has the minister allowed that to happen? Why has the minister endorsed this?

MR. MUIR: The intent was to try to get that money into circulation before the end of the year. It was not possible, as the honourable member well knows. I guess I could ask the question why they didn't do it when they had the opportunity. We felt that this was the best way to get that money into circulation. I can tell you as well, Mr. Speaker, for the comfort of the members in the House, that although that group is there, they are getting advice from others who are in the research field.

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

HEALTH - CARE: NURSES - SHORTAGE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier, referring to a letter that the Premier sent to fellow Nova Scotians where he said that they would make sure that whenever Nova Scotians need health care, it will be there for them. On that basis, I want to say that the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia tell us that, in February, there were 140 nursing vacancies. My question to the Premier who sent that letter to Nova Scotians, will he tell us how budget cuts and user fees will make nursing care available to everyone who needs it?

THE PREMIER: It would appear that the member for Halifax Atlantic, the Leader of the New Democratic Party, wishes to discuss the budget. He seems to have some advance information. If the member opposite has information about the budget, would he please table it because the majority of the people in the House don't have those budget numbers.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It seemed so easy during the election campaign, you make whatever promises you want to make in order to make people happy. Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that I am tabling a memo received from the Abbie J. Lane Memorial Hospital, dated March 23rd, which says that five beds have been closed because of an acute nursing shortage which is part of a wider problem. I want to ask the Premier, will he take urgent action to deal with the acute nursing shortage and other pressing health care needs?

[Page 2845]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is yes, but to elaborate the situation, let me read from a document which I will table. "The number of RNs employed in Nova Scotia . . ." - and this is at the end of 1999 - ". . . is 101 higher than last year. This is a small but significant turnaround representing the greatest percentage increase since 1992. Regular full time is up 122 positions, while casual part time dropped by 64 positions. Nurses employed in hospitals increased by 100, nursing homes by 31."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable Premier to table the document.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Registered Nurses' Association of Nova Scotia told us that in February there were 140 nursing vacancies, five very scarce mental health beds were closed down and are still closed down in the Abbie J. Lane Memorial Hospital as a result of those shortages. That is what is happening now. That is the crisis, Mr. Premier, you have to focus your attention on. You and your colleagues said during the election campaign that fixing health care would be first and foremost. Will you explain to Nova Scotians today and assure them that there will be no more bed closures as a result of nursing shortages? Make that assurance to Nova Scotians.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say that this government, for the first time in a number of years, is taking initiatives to try to deal with the health/human resource issue. Unfortunately it is not just nurses, there are other areas as well, which the honourable member mentioned. We acknowledge that but we have taken concrete steps to try to address it. I think the good-news story, if we can get one from what the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has said, is that despite the fact that unfortunately there are bed closures at the Abbie J. Lane, the system has a capacity to absorb the people who would have to occupy those beds.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East

HEALTH - CARE: PROVIDERS - CONSULTATIONS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister can explain what he means by that last statement to the families of those people who need those beds. My question, also, is for the Minister of Health. Voters believed the Tories when they said they had a solution for health care that would cost $45 million. To date, over four times that amount has been spent with no accountability and no health plan. Now the Premier says that higher user fees are needed to pay for health services. Either the Premier was wrong then or he is wrong now. Can the Minister of Health outline the consultation that is taking place with health care providers in this province to decide what higher user fees are needed to pay for the Tory health care promises?

[Page 2846]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I need your help on this. There seems to me . . .

MR. SPEAKER: There are several questions there.

MR. MUIR: There are a number of them there. He must have some advanced knowledge of the budget, and if he does, then maybe he would like to table that. I would see that as a budget question.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it was that honourable minister over there who said they found lots of fat in the system and the trial balloons they have been flying on user fees. This is quite well circulated throughout the province. Anyway, I had a question and he didn't answer it. I asked him, had he consulted with the health care providers because the truth is, people like Dr. Michael Riding, who is here today, has said, in fact, that no consultation about this has taken place. However, the Finance Minister did say that he told his friends in the chamber of commerce - his friends I underline - that there is lots of fat in the health care system. This government just hired the most expensive deputy minister in Canada and his new staff. Can the minister please outline other areas where there is fat in the health care system? What does he think of his colleague's statements and where is that fat?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Dartmouth East, I think more extensive consultation has taken place about the new plan for the delivery of health care services in this province than certainly took place collectively in the five years his government was in power. His question about administrative efficiencies, as you know, the new system is going to table that bill today and I think probably the answer to that will perhaps become more obvious during the debate on that, but we do believe there are efficiencies that can be gained in the health care system and I think this is recognized by the fact that when we were putting this new bill together that the consultation involved people from all over the province and they all bought into it.

DR. SMITH: Well, it is good to see that there is consultation, that Dr. Riding was wrong on that, so I will have to speak to him. Maybe I can give him a call later and see what he thinks of that.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is the group that is going to fix health care for $45 million, they put $208 million in, the same old plan, no plan, no accountability into the system but new and higher user fees, they will cause hardships for many Nova Scotians, especially our seniors. Will the Minister of Health detail what types of programs that he will implement to help seniors who are negatively affected by higher user fees that they have been warning Nova Scotians are coming?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that does seem to me like it is a budget question.

[Page 2847]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH - SENIORS: PHARMACARE PREMIUMS - CHANGES

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it has come to our attention that last week the Minister of Health had met with seniors. His message was, your Pharmacare premiums are going to increase. My question is to the Premier. It is time now to say in public what your government has so far been saying only in private, what are the details of this government's plan to increase Pharmacare premiums?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If a question is directly related to what is expected in the budget, then it is out of order. (Interruptions)

Order, please. If the member is simply asking the opinion of the minister that is one thing but he is asking about what is in the budget.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, if I am able to respond. I am just asking if, in fact, there was such a meeting and what the details of that meeting were. It has absolutely nothing to do with the budget.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, I did meet with representatives of the seniors and we did discuss Pharmacare.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, when in Opposition, the Premier stood in this House, right over here, and asked the government of the day the following question, which I now ask of him, is the Premier prepared to commit here today that seniors in this province will not have any increase in their Seniors' Pharmacare Program either in premium or co-pay for as long or as short as this government may be in power?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, number one, this gives me an opportunity to say this government does consult with people, because the seniors have been consulted about what it is that we are going to be doing in the budget.

On the other hand, the question that the member is asking is clearly a question that one could not answer without really compromising the Minister of Finance.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is clear-cut. My final question is to the Premier. If the Premier can't be consistent on an issue as important as Pharmacare premiums to seniors, what can Nova Scotia's seniors really hope for?

[Page 2848]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that what Nova Scotians can expect is a responsible government that asks Nova Scotians how they want us to do the task that we were elected to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - ADMINISTRATION: CUTS - PROMISE FULFIL

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Again, I will remind the House that this Tory Government took power based on the promises to fix the problems in the health care system for just $46 million. They were going to find the money by cutting the fat in the system and already they have spent over $208 billion. The new deputy minister has an ironclad five year contract for over $180,000, a record salary for a deputy, and the new deputy has created the position of associate deputy minister and that is a first, Mr. Speaker, and also, in addition, a chief information officer.

My question to the Minister of Health today is, Mr. Speaker, can the minister explain how the empire-building Deputy Minister of Health fulfils the Tory promises to cut health administration?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. I would suggest that he wait until the budget is tabled and he may find that out.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that minister is responsible for the budget and we will be holding him accountable. You can be sure in the days ahead we will be hearing more about that. Don't blame your deputy minister for that. These positions that I mentioned were not advertised in what we call the government blue pages and since the position of the associate deputy minister is a first for Nova Scotia, can the minister tell us what the salary range is for the associate deputy minister position and how the minister and his government justify that salary?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, that position has not yet been filled, it was advertised. The salary range, I am not sure what was advertised. I will have to take that under advisement and provide that information.

DR. SMITH: Maybe that will come out at budget time as well, Mr. Speaker. Another brand new high level position in the Health Department is the role of chief information officer. Can the minister tell us what the salary range for this position is and how that salary is justified by the Minister of Health?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would tell the honourable member for Dartmouth East I will have to get the exact details that were contained in the ad. I am not sure what they are, but I am pleased that he asked that question because one of the things that we are trying to

[Page 2849]

have in this health system here in Nova Scotia, and we think all Nova Scotians will benefit from, are decisions that are made on evidence.

The honourable member knows very well that many of the decisions that were made, not only in the Health Department, but in other departments of this government, have been made on the basis of political expediency or whims or whatnot and we are trying to get away from that. It is recognized and he knows this perfectly well when he asked that question, that the health information system, not only in Nova Scotia, but across this country, is not in good shape and until we get our health information in place, we are not going to be able to make the decisions that Nova Scotians want.

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

HEALTH - TRURO: FAMILY DOCTORS - AVAILABILITY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today there are 6,000 people in central Nova Scotia who do not have a family doctor. The Minister of Health's own riding is short five doctors and the surrounding area needs another six. The Minister of Health says on his website that everyone in the province needs to know that they can access a family physician in their community. I want to ask the Minister of Health why he cannot ensure that people in his own community have a family doctor?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the honourable member that we do have hopefully another family physician coming to the Truro area within two months and optimistically there will be two more coming this summer with a possibility of two additional ones after that.

MR. DEXTER: Possible, Mr. Speaker. I have learned that the Minister of Health has a telephone hotline in his constituency office where people in search of a doctor can call and be put on a waiting list. I would like to ask the Minister of Health why he would have a dial-a-doctor line when there are no doctors available to take the calls?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I have learned in the short period that I have been an MLA is that you try to provide service to your constituents and that is what this is about. We did it last fall and when additional physicians came - it is not a separate line by the way, they call our office and like a good MLA, we will record their name and when we can offer assistance we will pass their names on. I want to tell you, last fall we were able to clear up the waiting list.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health knows that another 1,800 people in the Town of Truro will be without a doctor this week when another one leaves town. Will the minister tell us why his government is talking about cutting health care when he needs 12 doctors in his own backyard and almost 60 across the province?

[Page 2850]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I don't think there has been a whole lot of talk about cutting health care. I do recognize the human resource issue and I can tell you that we are aggressively addressing that issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - REG. BD. (NORTHERN): DR. DAVID RIPPEY - ROLE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Since October, almost six months now, Nova Scotians have had no input into the delivery of the health care system. Boards have been disbanded, regional boards have been disbanded, all the power has been turned over to the Deputy Minister of Health in downtown Halifax. Apparently under this new power structure, the CEO of the Northern Regional Health Board does not have enough to do in his own area. Can the minister today tell us what role Dr. David Rippey, CEO of the Northern Regional Health Board, is playing within the Department of Health?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Rippey is still the CEO of the Northern Regional Health Board, but in addition to that because we have a planning initiative going on, it has to do with the clinical footprint, we have seconded Dr. Rippey or he is sharing his responsibilities and coming into the department to work on the clinical footprint. I would like to point out that the Liberal trend would have been to bring somebody in and pay them a salary to do that, we are using existing resources.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I know it is probably not right to accuse the minister of stealing but I must say . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I would hope not.

DR. SMITH: . . . he is being pretty loose with the facts here. Dr. Rippey has done a great job in the Northern Region and it has been one of our better regions, I think, and that is the sadness of the whole thing, that we have seen this disruption, this dislocation from four regions into nine. We will have a chance to debate that on other days. He has informed the House, it is my understanding, that the salary continues the same as before, there is no change in that other than expenses perhaps. Could he clarify that and what the role of Dr. Rippey is within the Department of Health?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with the exception of expenses, there is no adjustment in salary. We are establishing a clinical footprint for the delivery of services in the province. It involves consultations with a number of people, people from all across the province. Right now, Dr. Rippey is taking a lead in that.

[Page 2851]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, he is a good person, he is a nice person, a good physician and a good administrator. I am glad to see that somebody is there keeping track of all these reviews because I have lost track of how many reviews are being done. We are waiting for the facilities report and maybe he can help that one along. That one was due November 15, 1999. As the minister knows, the Northern Regional Health Board is one of the largest boards, geographically, in the province, and it is still out there in spite of what this government has tried to do to destroy that structure.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: Will the minister tell the residents of the Northern Regional Health Board who is running their health board when Dr. Rippey is in Halifax holding the hand of the new deputy minister?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Dr. Rippey, of course, is still the CEO of the Northern Regional Health Board, and if there are items that necessitate his personal attention during the course of the day, they will be done. The person who I believe is sort of the Acting CEO, if you wish to call it that, when Dr. Rippey is in Halifax is Mr. Peter MacKinnon who is located in Truro.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

HEALTH - HEPATITIS C:

MR. BRUCE DEVENNE - MEETING (PREMIER)

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, today hepatitis C victim, Bruce DeVenne, held a news conference stating that he had dropped his lawsuit against the government. The Premier of this province has consistently refused to meet with Mr. DeVenne saying that he had been advised not to do so while there was a lawsuit outstanding against the government. My question is simple. Will the Premier of this province agree to meet with Mr. DeVenne now that he has dropped the lawsuit?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that I have just within the last hour and a half received some documentation that what the member opposite indicated is true and we will now not have any reason not to meet with Mr. DeVenne and Mr. DeVenne will have a meeting with government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to jog the Premier's memory a bit here, as I have done so in the past, about his opinion on this issue. On June 29, 1998, the Premier presented a resolution which stated, " . . . the most compelling reasons for extending the compensation package are fairness, justice and compassion", and asked the Liberal Government at the time

[Page 2852]

to immediately do what is right, fair and just and open the compensation package to Nova Scotians outside the 1986-90 time-frame. Those are strong words. My question to the Premier is, when will the Premier do what is right, fair and just and open the compensation package?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is the intention of this government to be right, fair and just every step of the way. It will take some time for us to complete all of our commitments but it is our intention to do so.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier once said that delay revictimizes these victims (Interruptions) and I would like to remind the Premier that he said that Premier MacLellan should set an example by compensating all victims of tainted blood regardless of when they were poisoned. The Premier is now in the position to set an example. I want to ask the Premier of this province, when will he take leadership and fairly compensate all hepatitis C victims?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the member opposite that the first step in coming to grips with this situation would be the meeting that the member opposite indicated should happen. We are now in a position, as government, since the court case has been dropped, to meet with Mr. DeVenne who is a very strong advocate and activist on the issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

HEALTH - LUN. HOSP.: EMERGENCY DEPT. - CLOSURE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health as well. People in the Town of Lunenburg - a beautiful town, I might add - know that they have one of the best run hospitals in all of Nova Scotia. They depend on a 24 hour emergency service to this facility and any changes to this service would have a very serious impact on the people of that area and these decisions to change anything along those areas would need proper consultation consideration by the stakeholders in the community. Can the minister confirm to the House today that his new deputy minister ordered the closing of the emergency department of the Lunenburg hospital during the overnight hours without any consultation?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can't give a definite answer to that question, I apologize, but I can say that any decisions that are taken are based on evidence rather than whim.

MR. DOWNE: First he hides behind the budget, now he just hides behind the fact that he doesn't understand what is going on in his department.

[Page 2853]

I will now pose this question to the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is my understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier's Office was informed of this situation and was forced to step in and discipline the deputy minister and to overturn a decision that he had made. It would seem to me that we now have two Ministers of Health. Will the Premier tell us why his office is now setting policy for the Department of Health without the consultation of the community or the Minister of Health?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest very strongly that the member opposite get a new source of information.

MR. DOWNE: It appears the Minister of Health doesn't know what the deputy is doing and it appears the Premier doesn't know what his own office is doing in regard to input to the deputy minister. Not only is the Deputy Minister of Health setting policy, but he is implementing policy without any long-term plan. Will the Premier tell Nova Scotians and us in this House today, how the dictatorial action of the deputy minister fits into their so-called long-term plan for health that was promised during the election campaign.

THE PREMIER: If the member opposite has any documentation that adds credibility or gives any credibility to his question, would he please table it because we don't know what he is talking about.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUCATION: FUNDING FORMULA REVIEW

WORK GROUP - SUSPENDED

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question to you is for the Minister of Education. In a dispirited attempt to get the minister's attention, the Halifax Regional School Board has released a report showing they are seriously underfunded with outcomes of higher drop-out rates, bigger class sizes and lower literacy rates than in other boards. The chair of their board has been unsuccessful in getting to meet with the minister to argue the case of 58,000 children whose future is in the minister's hands. My question to the minister is, why has your department suspended the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group, a vehicle for fair, accountable education funding?

HON. JANE PURVES: The group to which the honourable member refers has been suspended until after the release of the budget, at which time the group which represents all the school boards, school board association and the department will be meeting to discuss the details of the budget. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: That is like putting the cart in front of the horse, Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous. The Minister of Education has said and I quote: "We do not accept the notion that school boards have already been cut to the bare bones." Now apparently, the

[Page 2854]

new Nova Scotia standard for adequate education funding is what we might call the bare bones test. My question to the minister is, what discussions have you had with school boards that led you to conclude that there is still room to cut?

MISS PURVES: I have been meeting with school boards across this province since the month of August. There is room in the boards, in the department, in other areas for changes in order to keep as much money as we can in the classroom.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, parents, teachers and school board members are very anxious over the message that this government is sending out on their education agenda. I would like to ask this minister if she would table, today, her plan for what a bare bones education system looks like so we will know where this minister and this government is going with education?

MISS PURVES: That plan will be tabled shortly after the budget is introduced.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NEW GLASGOW:

MENTAL HEALTH UNIT RELOCATION - CONSULTATION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This week, Monday in fact, the MLA for Pictou East tabled a petition in this House, and if I could read the petition, it is brief. It read, "Immediate and decisive action is required to end or stop the short-term mental health care unit of the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow from being moved to Truro Hospital . . ." and that is the region of the Minister of Health by the way, for those who may not know that, but this is being moved - " . . . by the Ministry of Health and the Northern Regional Health Board." (Interruptions) The member for Pictou East is over there encouraging me, so I will try to do as well as I can.

All power, as we know, over the delivery of health care in the last five months to six months has rested with the Deputy Minister of Health. Can the minister explain what consultation took place before claiming the mental health unit for his own constituency?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I am, in some ways, Mr. Speaker, surprised at that question because everybody in the House should know that the study which made that recommendation to the Northern Regional Health Board was one commissioned by him when he occupied the position that I have now.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I may have commissioned the study but I didn't move the unit to Dartmouth East, did I?

[Page 2855]

One of the 243 Tory promises was a review of all of the mental health services. My question to the minister is, why is the Minister of Health breaking a Tory promise by altering the delivery of mental health services at the Aberdeen Regional Hospital without waiting for the outcome of this review?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again I think the honourable member is misinformed. That delivery service has not been altered pending receipt of the current mental health review.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, with what we have discussed here today and brought forward before the House, we are slowly learning that the Deputy Minister of Health is creating his own little empire in downtown Halifax. Will the minister confirm that since his deputy seems to be out of control, all health policy decisions are now being vetted by the Tory caucus before being made public. I know there have been concerns about decisions. We talked about the Premier denying that his office has interfered. We don't believe that is true. Is it true that all health . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health. (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that most day to day health decisions are done in the districts by the people who are given that responsibility in the department. We make those decisions for which we have been given responsibility. As minister, I make decisions for that which is my responsibility and I will also say that there are certain decisions which we believe are better made by a collective. When we think that is the case, we do go to our caucus and our colleagues. For example, there was a whole group of people in this House today who represent communities and we consulted them, too, before we made decisions.

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

PUB. SERV. - PRIVATIZATION: FUTURE - BASIS

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, when the former Tory Government - led by the Premier's friend Donald Cameron - was in power, the then head of the Nova Scotia Power Corporation, Louis Comeau, told Public Accounts that Nova Scotia Power had been privatized based on "philosophical feelings" rather than any kind of economic analysis. Well, we have done an economic analysis of the sale of Nova Scotia Power and our analysis shows that at a bare minimum Nova Scotians lost at least $140 million. I will table a copy of that.

Now we hear the Premier, of course, musing that the government is considering privatizing any services that the public sector now delivers. So my question to the Premier is, are your decisions going to be based on solid economic analysis or more philosophical feelings?

[Page 2856]

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: An excellent question. The decisions we will be making relative to the issues that you refer to in your question will be made on the basis of solid business plans.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of bill that the last Tory solid business plan cost us, about $140 million, and that's at a very, if I may use the word, conservative estimate. My question to the Premier is how much more of our collective wealth is your government prepared to give away this time?

THE PREMIER: I believe that the public of Nova Scotia would be much better served by questions that have some relevancy to the day and are not simply questions that are backed up by clever props.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if I was the Premier, I would not be too proud of my Tory history in regard to Nova Scotia Power either, so I can understand it. So let me make something very relevant to the Premier in my question. Before you proceed, what guarantees are your prepared to give to Nova Scotians that you will not proceed with one single privatization until you have demonstrated that it improves the services and it provides lasting benefits to Nova Scotians, generally, and not to just a select few?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government makes all its decisions based on the value and the rationale of the benefit to all Nova Scotians. And that will continue to be the basis on which we make our decisions.

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

SYSCO - STEELWORKERS:

PENSIONS - PROMISE (PREMIER) FULFIL

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that last answer was funny. My question is to the Premier. On June 29, 1999 in the speech at Silicon Island in Sydney, the Premier stated, one of his many statements during that period of time prior to the election, "I would rather take the $44 million line-of-credit and invest it in the Sysco pension fund." Well, the $44 million line-of-credit is gone, and this government has not put one more dollar into the Sysco pension plan.

Another quote of the Premier, Mr. Speaker, "Many are just a few years away from retirement, if I could move the retirement date up a few years, Sysco workers would be better off. I can't protect Sysco jobs," this Premier states, "but I promise to protect the steelworkers." Again, Mr. Speaker, all over the lot with these promises. My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier live up to his promise and ensure all Sysco workers are protected with adequate pensions?

[Page 2857]

THE PREMIER: One of the difficulties we have in dealing with the whole issue of Sysco, is that the previous government didn't adequately fund the pension plan up to the level that even accommodates the current retirement plan put in place by that government. So not only do we have to fund any enhancement to the pension fund, we have to put in tens of millions of dollars to fund the pension fund up to the level of the benefits that were provided by the previous government.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Premier, that is nothing but pure bull, and you know it. The government of the former Premier, Russell MacLellan, signed a contract with Sysco steelworkers, the first one in 19 years, and provided $30 million more in the hopelessly underfunded pension plan. This government did that. Your government has done nothing. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member please come to order.

I would ask the honourable member to retract that word that he used, bull, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, I will retract that. I didn't know it was unparliamentary. I heard it in here a dozen times.

MR. SPEAKER: Today it is. Order, please. Again, I would remind the ministers to please shorten up their questions and answers. It is taking way too much time for the rest of the members of this House. Thank you.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My supplementary question is, in the same speech at Silicon Island, the Premier went on to say that nobody at Sysco will be left behind, nobody will be left out. I refer to yesterday's Hansard, ". . . yes, we will be providing additional benefits above those provided by the previous government in the pension plan . . ." My question to the Premier is, if you truly believe that, how much more money are you going to put into the Sysco pension plan and when are you going to sign the contract?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask the Minister of Finance to give some details about the current state of the pension plan that seem to have escaped the minister who had previously been responsible.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, just to bring some relevance to the debate, I was asked yesterday as to how much the underfunded portion of the liability in regard to the pension was and it is $60 million. It is a report that has been prepared for the Minister responsible for Sysco. So at the present time, at the end of the year, we will be in a situation that currently, under the contract, there are insufficient funds to the tune of $60 million to pay out the provisions as provided for in the contract.

[Page 2858]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, that is very nice information, Mr. Speaker, but it doesn't come within light years of answering the question I asked. I asked how much more money the Premier was prepared to put in, as he promised the steelworkers.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier will not get away with doing to Sysco workers what Brian Mulroney did to Route Canada. We know why the contract is not being sold by your government to the steelworkers. You don't want that contract to be signed because you want somebody else to take over the Sydney steel plant and then the pension obligations and contractual obligations . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . will be left to a new company. The Government of Nova Scotia owns this particular plant right now and has a duty to sign a contract before the plant is sold and provide adequate pensions to the members.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member please put the question?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Will you ensure that the contract will be signed with the steelworkers and additional money will go into the pension plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there are two questions. Number one, the answer is no, we are not going to sign a new contract with the steelworkers. That will be up to the new owner.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You own the steel plant, not a new owner.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: We are not in the steel business anymore, Manning, wake up.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: You are in the steel business.

THE PREMIER: The answer to the second part of the question, Mr. Speaker, is we will be negotiating a fair pension package with the steelworkers.

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

COMMUN. SERV.: SMALL OPTIONS HOMES - REGULATE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Yesterday the Tory Government announced that they were going to be holding yet another review with regard to small options homes in this province. There was a review held

[Page 2859]

in 1998 by the Department of Community Services, less than two years ago, and we already have a second review being done by this government. They have also decided that this particular review will look at whether or not regulations are actually necessary for small options homes. They seem to wonder whether or not we actually need to regulate these facilities. My question to the Minister of Community Services is quite simple, given the Sheppard murder a few years ago, why is this government still considering whether we need to actually regulate small options homes?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will recall that when we were in debate last year and we were looking at the estimates, we had undertaken at that point in time to look at the standards of delivery for all of our clients throughout Community Services. This is one of the phases. We have announced additional workers, we have announced standards at the community colleges and this is simply another step to try to ensure that our clients are getting the best possible service.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my problem with the minister's response is quite simple because this is only the first phase and there is going to be a lot more money spent on external consultants. This government announced yesterday there will be $50,000 spent on an American consultant to come in and look at this particular program, something that was already being done by his own department and being done in a more cost-effective manner. My question to this minister is, why does this government continue, with one hand, to waste money while on the other hand it keeps talking about cutting the Department of Community Services?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I heard two questions there. The first one was why did we go forward with this study? The member will know that just recently we have moved the seniors' part of Community Services over to the Department of Health so we can have the more seamless process with the Department of Health to provide those services to the seniors.

Yes, our department is looking at and we constantly are looking at the way we can bring services to people, but perhaps the member opposite has not had the opportunity to speak to people from Sydney, Yarmouth and those places that I have. Those people are constantly saying to us there are new innovations, there are new things that can be done and that is the particular thing we are trying to meet. As to any cuts in Community Services, the member will have to tell me what he is referring to.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this is not about talking with people from Sydney, or Yarmouth, or Amherst, or Dartmouth, or Halifax, because I have been doing that as well. The question is, are you spending taxpayers' dollars wisely investing $50,000 in an American consultant? From my particular point, and I will table this letter dated March 15, 2000, from the Minister of Justice to the Sheppard family which lays out that this government will not have an inquiry into the Sheppard murder because they feel this review by this minister will

[Page 2860]

be a sufficient review, but nowhere in the mandate does it address both the Sheppard murder or the specific instances around that murder.

My question to this minister is, Mr. Speaker, will this Minister of Community Services ensure that the Sheppard family's concerns will be directly addressed in the mandate for this review?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because it is a very important one. The Sheppard family has indicated that they have some concerns and, indeed, this particular review will speak to their concerns and we hope they come forward. I think it is a little more important, the member said that this is not about speaking to people from Yarmouth, Sydney and Amherst, but it is about that because that is where we have talked with people and people have said to us they want additional services, and they have other opportunities. That is what we are addressing.

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

WCB - COAL MINERS (DEVCO):

GAMMA RADIATION - EXPOSURE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Labour. Several months ago some 43 coal miners employed at Devco were determined to have been exposed to gamma radiation while working on the job site. As a result of this exposure a number of these miners have contracted cancer-like symptoms. In fact, one individual has been diagnosed as having cancer due to radiation. My question to the minister is, given the fact that the Workers' Compensation Board has been delaying meeting with these miners since November 1999, could the minister please explain why?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. I can indicate to him that if I take the matter as notice, I could perhaps provide a more thorough answer on a future day than I can at this time.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response but, quite simply, that is not good enough because I spoke to at least one of those miners as recently as two days ago. He advised me that the minister refused to meet with the coal miners and that it was up to themselves to meet with the Workers' Compensation Board before coming to him. They have been trying to do that since November 1999 and that is documented as such.

The chief medical advisor with Health and Welfare Canada who specializes in radiation, stated that the provincial Workers' Compensation Board should consider long-term medical surveillance of these workers due to their combined industrial and environmental exposures. Given that particular piece of evidence, will the minister give an undertaking that he will order

[Page 2861]

the Workers' Compensation Board representatives to meet with these miners as soon as possible to bring closure to the fact that they are not receiving fair compensation?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I again want to thank the honourable member for bringing the matter forward. I will certainly take note of the documents, which I believe he indicated he was going to table. I will have a look at those documents and based on what is there and what the honourable member has brought forward today, I will communicate with the board in an appropriate manner.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised that the minister seems to be so in the dark on this, given the fact that these individuals have already given clear indication that they have corresponded with his office and he has refused to meet with them. I will quote a letter that was sent by Dr. Slavica Vlahovich, medical advisor from the Radiation Protection Bureau in Ottawa, to Lisa Jeffrey.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I hope the member doesn't expect to read the whole letter?

MR. MACKINNON: No, I don't, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Can we have a supplementary question here please.

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely. Quite clearly, Mr. Speaker, the chief medical advisor clearly indicates that these individuals have been exposed to radiation, it is worker related, it is job related and that the Workers' Compensation Board is accountable for this liability. Would the minister give an undertaking to these coal miners that he will ensure that they will receive the compensation as directed that they should by Dr. Vlahovich?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated previously, I will bring that matter to the attention of the board.

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - PT. TUPPER PIPELINE:

LICENCE - REMOVE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. The very day after the National Energy Board refused to give permission to operate the natural gas line to Point Tupper, the Government of Nova Scotia converted a temporary licence to operate the liquids line to a 10 year permanent licence. The National Energy Board had major

[Page 2862]

concerns about the safety of both lines given the fact that they are laid in the same trench and built with the same pipe.

My question to the Premier is very simply, will the Premier instruct that that permanent licence be revoked and replaced with a temporary licence until such time as the safety concerns identified by the National Energy Board have been investigated and any problems resolved?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite has a great deal of experience and I know it was inadvertent when he said it was the Government of Nova Scotia that issued the licence when clearly it was the URB that issued the licence. I will refer that question to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the whole process to be conducted at arm's length and safety is certainly a concern of everybody. But at this point in time, there are no gases being transferred through the second pipe nor will there be until the NEB is satisfied that there is no risk. Certainly the pipe that was approved by the URB was subject to stringent testing and I believe that they acted as they should act without government interference. If the member opposite is suggesting that we should involve political interference in decision making, I don't think that is in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it wasn't a mistake, I knew that it was the Utility and Review Board that had given the licence and I also know that safety should be the first priority and concern of this government and this Premier. The Premier would also know as would the minister responsible that that line had failed twice, that the National Energy Board, which has excellent experience, expertise in this matter, pointed out flaws with those pipes and said that there is a serious safety risk.

My question to the Premier is why are you - you and your government - not so concerned about the public safety when the National Energy Board, an expert in this area, has raised that as a very serious issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, a strange approach for a person that previously had been the champion of arm's-length agencies. I would refer the question to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier on, the issue of safety is paramount in everyone's mind. The reality is the two pipes are doing two different things. The one that was approved by the URB is carrying liquids at a lower pressure and in batches. Both pipelines were tested to a certain level. The NEB, because of the nature of their concerns, suggested some ways in which Maritimes & Northeast can address the problems, and I am confident that the URB, in the determination that they made, are satisfied that there is no risk to safety.

[Page 2863]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how this government is interested in the greatest of arm's length when there can be any issue of responsibility in safety involved. This Tory Government's record on safety in Nova Scotia has not always been all that strong. I want to ask the Premier how Nova Scotians can have any confidence in the safety of the gas distribution system and so on, that is going to be set up around this province, when safety concerns that have already been identified by a body that has expertise in this area, when this government sloughs them off as unimportant, not worthy of investigating, how can any Nova Scotian have any confidence that the system is going to be safe?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, is the member opposite suggesting that this government usurp the power of the URB? Is that what the member opposite is suggesting? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: The URB has consulted experts, they have made a ruling, and if the member opposite is suggesting that the government should usurp the power of the URB, let him stand up and suggest it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: CONSTRUCTION - DATE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. The review of the P3 process commissioned by the Tory Government is complete, and the consulting firm hired to do the review has concluded that there are significant benefits to the P3 process. While the review was in progress a moratorium was placed on the construction of 16 badly needed new schools. My question to the minister, can the minister inform the members of this House when construction of these badly needed schools will begin?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the construction of these schools - actually there are 17 schools now - will begin after we have decided what method of financing to use.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary question to the minister is, on February 8th, in a letter to Janet Savary, the school advisory chairwoman of the Elmsdale Elementary School, you promised that the new Elmsdale school would be built and ready for occupancy in 2001. When will construction of this school begin?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I believe I answered that in my first question, but I will repeat it. The construction of the school will begin when we have determined the exact method of financing for the new schools. (Interruptions)

[Page 2864]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Clare has the floor.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I guess we are going to have to wait and see.

My final question to the minister, along with the elementary school in Elmsdale, the following schools are also scheduled to open in September 2001: Clare P-12, Argyle P-12, Ste. Anne-du-Ruisseau, Petit-de-Grat, and Chedabucto Place in Guysborough. Can the minister assure this House that these schools will be built on schedule, yes or no?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, these schools will be built as close to schedule as we can manage.

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

LABOUR: OCCUP. HEALTH & SAFETY REGS. - DELAY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the honourable Minister of Labour. Yesterday the minister announced, incidentally, via a press release and not a ministerial statement as is the tradition in this House, that the new Occupational Health and Safety Regulations would be delayed for a second time and that five of these regulations therein won't come into effect until November 1st, and then only if they survive review by this government's red tape commission.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very difficult to hear the question. If there are conversations, will you take them outside the House, please? You can't hear when the person is asking his questions.

MR. ESTABROOKS: You don't want me to start over, Mr. Speaker, do you?

MR. SPEAKER: Keep going.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I am particularly concerned that the roll-over protective structures regulation has been delayed. Every year an average of two Nova Scotians are killed in tractor roll-overs and this is confirmed by that minister's very own department. The agricultural season is soon to be upon us so I ask this minister, will he allow two more Nova Scotians to die this summer because he views these regulations as red tape?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Certainly the concern he expresses with respect to the regulation is one which is shared by all members of the House. The important feature of any regulation is the feature of compliance. A regulation is of no value if there is not buy-in with respect to those who are involved in having to live up to the regulation. For that reason we are giving an opportunity,

[Page 2865]

and we are also urging all of those who are in a position to put in place those facilities, protective devices, do, in fact, put them in place.

MR. ESTABROOKS: As far as I am concerned, regulations that were initially drafted in the 1993-95 time-frame have had lots of consultation, they have been agreed to by the stakeholders, yet we have delay after delay. Why, Mr. Minister, are you continuing to drag your feet while jeopardizing the safety of workers in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what we want to achieve is universal compliance with the regulation. We want to have buy-in with respect to this regulation and the honourable member may take himself to parts of this province (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on your final supplementary. I don't know if there is any point in asking it because nobody will hear it anyway. Please, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: My final supplementary is to the Minister of Agriculture. Agriculture, as the minister knows, is Canada's most dangerous industry. The planting season is upon us. Will the Minister of Agriculture advise farmers whether government assistance will be made available to them to help with the cost of implementing the roll-over regulation, when and if it ever is implemented?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect well knows with the announcement, that those particular tractors - some 1,800 of them, pre-1974 - that did not have factory cab roll-over protection or roll-over bars installed since that time, are in question, will not take effect with regulation until November 1st with the announcement. At that point each individual farmer in Nova Scotia who might have one of those vehicles will be advised whether that particular type of tractor requires that restraint, which will make it safe, will be exempted, and each one of them at that point can decide whether they want to use it in their individual farm plan.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - GLACE BAY: COURT SERVICES - REMOVAL

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The provincial government is moving the courthouse in Glace Bay to Sydney in June of this year, proving once and for all that this Government of Nova Scotia has abandoned the people of Glace Bay and the riding of Cape Breton East. Will the Minister of Justice tell the people of Cape Breton East why the province is pulling one of the last remaining provincial services out of Glace Bay?

[Page 2866]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question, because the people who made the decision to close the Glace Bay Courthouse is the Liberal Government. I can table letter after letter after letter showing that that Party closed the courthouse in Glace Bay.

MR. SAMSON: The minister knows well that the government of the day rejected the opinions of staff on this issue, which this minister is not showing the fortitude in doing. Mr. Speaker, the people of Glace Bay are looking to this government for assistance in these hard times, yet we see this government yank more services out of their community. Will the Minister of Justice confirm for us today that the cost per square foot in Harbour Place in Sydney - which I might add, just happens to be owned by Marty Chernin, one of the biggest Tory bagmen in the province - is almost double the cost of what has been proposed to maintain those services in Glace Bay?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is not easily deterred by the facts, for his benefit, I will show a letter dated July 29, 1997, addressed from the Deputy Minister of Priorities and Planning to Alan Mitchell and Donald Downe, who were the ministers involved at the time, where they rated the courthouse facilities in Sydney for the move of the facilities from Glace Bay. (Interruptions)

MR. SAMSON: My question is to the Minister of Justice. It is obvious that Tory patronage is alive and well in Nova Scotia and the people of Glace Bay are the obvious losers.

Mr. Speaker, I have a letter here dated January 28, 2000. This government campaigned to Nova Scotians on a campaign team of Strong Leadership . . . a clear course. Will the minister explain why he ignored a letter from the owner of the building in Glace Bay, dated January 28, 2000, saying he would lower the rate in Glace Bay by an even further 25 per cent if the minister would consider keeping the courthouse in Glace Bay?

MR. BAKER: The honourable member doesn't get it. The difficulty was that in the Sydney Courthouse, his Party, his government, had already rented the space. We would have been left with wasted space, and the suggestion by that honourable member that there is Tory patronage, then he would have to cope with Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Downe and others who were the ministers in charge.

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

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: COMMUNITY USE - ACCESSIBILITY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question involves Education, and I think it is something the minister and I have talked about before. There is a growing concern, minister, in the communities of Beechville, Lakeside and Timberlea about access to Ridgecliff, the new P3 school in Beechville, for community activities in the evenings and on the weekends. As confirmed by the community development office of the Halifax Regional

[Page 2867]

School Board, there are presently only four community groups using that fabulous new facility. There is obviously a problem with the community use of P3 schools. What are you prepared to do, as the Minister of Education, to alleviate this problem about having community use in P3 schools more accessible?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that original problems with community use of the new schools have been alleviated with the various private partners who now charge the same rates as the school boards for the other schools. I believe that problem should have been solved. If it hasn't, I would be glad to pay further attention to it.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Wrong again. I am sorry, confusion is growing in communities about use of these schools. You contact the school board about gym rentals but if you want access to the technology or the cafeteria or a classroom, you must deal directly with the P3 operator and negotiate the rates. Is this the way to make our schools accessible to members of the community?

MISS PURVES: Obviously, Mr. Speaker, schools cannot be open and accessible at all times to any member of the community who wishes to walk in but I will contact people in my department, I will find out the exact policy again and I will table it in this House.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, community members who negotiate with the P3 operator the use of the building, are told that the organizer of the event must have a $1 million liability insurance, personally, before they can use the building. This policy initiated at the insistence of the P3 operator is unfair. Madam Minister, what steps will you take immediately to remove this insurance demand upon users of these precious schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I said, my first step will be to confirm the accuracy of everything the honourable member has said here today and then I will proceed from there.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

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

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Natural Resources. I am sure the minister will agree with me that Graves Island Provincial Park on the South Shore is one of the most popular parks in Nova Scotia. Mr. David Thomsett owns the strip of land adjacent to the park and has been encroaching on provincial land for some time now. The previous Natural Resources Minister refused to sell any land to Mr. Thomsett for private use. Can the minister tell me today if he is considering selling provincial parkland to a private owner?

[Page 2868]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the piece of property in question has a long history with the individual involved and there is the Graves Island Provincial Park, there is an old roadway that he was on and a number of years ago it was straightened. Currently staff is investigating and talking with Mr. Thomsett in regard to coming to a commendation that would allow him a driveway access proper to his house.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the provincial parks are for public use and enjoyment. Just last year, senior department staff recommended against selling any piece of that precious parkland. Can the minister say what local consultation took place before the earlier recommendation of staff was overturned where this very serious and precedent-setting decision to sell provincial parkland to Mr. Thomsett was made?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for 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. 276.

Res. No. 276, Justice - Glace Bay: Court Serv. - Reinstate - notice given Oct. 25/99 - (Mr. D. Wilson)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it certainly gives me great pleasure to rise and speak on this issue. I will read the resolution for members of this House. It is a resolution introduced by my good colleague, who I am sure will be joining us on Wednesday of next week.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is on sabbatical.

MR. SAMSON: He has just gone on sabbatical, as has been pointed out, Mr. David Wilson.

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

Whereas the plan to move court facilities in Glace Bay to Sydney will deliver another unnecessary Tory blow to the Glace Bay economy; and

[Page 2869]

Whereas this move according to the Justice Minister is okay because Glace Bay is only 12 minutes from Sydney; and

Whereas the plan will mean that a Sydney businessman with Tory connections will add another government office to his real estate empire;

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Justice Minister reverse this decision so that the economic health of Glace Bay residents is not sacrificed to line the pockets of a Tory supporter.".

Not surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, when asked for waiver, the Tory members refused to give waiver.

Mr. Speaker, I raised this question during Question Period and rather than show any form of leadership to the people of Glace Bay, who will be watching this, I understand that Legislative TV is carried out in that area and I hope they are watching to see this government, who has campaigned on " Strong Leadership . . . a clear course", immediately, when this came up, cast spurs upon the former government and tried to pass the decision to the former government, claims letters of 1997 to justify their decision and, again, the minister refuses to accept personal responsibility for having followed the advice of bureaucrats and enacted this decision. Yes, the bureaucrats made this suggestion, but it was not acted upon by our government.

Let me give you another example. The minister says he had no choice here. He leaves the impression to the good people of Glace Bay that the Liberals should be to blame for this. Well, if that is the case, why did the minister step in and stop the closure of the Annapolis Courthouse and Prothonotary Office. He showed leadership there. Could it be because that is a Tory riding? Could it be because he has a higher respect for the people of Annapolis than he has for the people of Glace Bay? Could it be? The people of Glace Bay will be the ones who determine that in a few days, as to what they think of this government and the type of leadership that it has shown.

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, having served in government, civil servants make recommendations all the time, but it is up to us, the elected officials and the ministers and the department to take responsibility for decisions that emanate from our department. What we have heard from this government, time and time again, whether it be Health, whether it be Economic Development, whether it be Justice, it is, blame the civil servants, blame the deputy ministers, blame Jim Spurr, blame Tom Ward, blame everybody in sight, but don't accept responsibility for what the people of Nova Scotia sent you here for, to represent them and to lead them. This government has had a sad record when it comes to the question of leadership and Nova Scotians are not laughing. The Tory backbenchers might find it funny. We will see next time we go to the polls whether their constituents find them funny.

[Page 2870]

Mr. Speaker, we all know the situations facing the people of Glace Bay. We all have economic difficulties in our backyard. I have them at home in Richmond County. We have an unemployment rate of over 20 per cent. It is a sad situation. People are frustrated. They keep seeing things go. I saw it in my own home community. I saw the fish plant close, throwing 300 people out of work, a plant that had been there for over 70 years. Our Co-op grocery store, which had been founded by Father Coady, through his movement, had been in the community for years and years and generations, gone. The post office, gone. Little by little.

The community kept falling and falling until, finally, the community rallied around with organizations such as Development Isle Madame, St. Joseph's Credit Union and other institutions that we have slowly been rebuilding. That is what the people of Glace Bay need right now. They need to start rebuilding. They need to start being able to find a future for themselves, a sustainable future. All they are asking from this government is, give us a hand, not a hand-out, give us a hand. Give us a helping hand. Help us in our efforts to try to rebuild our community and bring back the Town of Glace Bay to the glory it once enjoyed. That is not asking too much. What little service they have left in the Town of Glace Bay, a courthouse, an historic courthouse as my colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, has said in the paper, he has read of historic cases that have been heard in this courthouse. This is a pillar in this community and for some metro members they may not understand the importance of what a courthouse is to a community. A post office has tremendous importance to small communities in rural Nova Scotia but to see their courthouse, one of the last services left, the government could have said no. The government could have said we are not going to do what the civil servants are suggesting. We are going to help the people of Glace Bay in their rebuilding efforts by saying we will maintain our services here in this community. We are not going to pull it out.

[4:30 p.m.]

The whole global picture of economic savings for this department, the courthouse in Glace Bay, Mr. Speaker, must be pretty low, at least I hope it is, and that this government has a bigger vision than to think that moving the courthouse in Glace Bay is going to solve the deficits which we continue to hear them talk about. They did it for Annapolis. In fact, I am going to read what the minister said in Hansard, October 26, 1999, following a question by myself. He said:

"Mr. Speaker, it is a very good question from the honourable member. You know when I became Minister of Justice, I was faced with the situation in Annapolis and there was a community there and members of that community in Annapolis County who asked me to give a serious look at a decision made by the former government to close the Annapolis courthouse and prothonotary office. What I am doing is I am doing exactly what I should be doing. I am looking at the information, making sure that the right decision is being made."

[Page 2871]

Well, why will you not do it for the people of Glace Bay? My colleague, Dave Wilson, raised this matter in the House on several occasions. It has been in the press. Two councillors from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Councillors Gerard Burke and Vince Hall, have also raised this because the fact is this is not just a courthouse leaving. When this courthouse leaves, that building will shut down and it will be boarded up. So the Tory legacy in such a short time for Glace Bay will be a bit more plywood on windows on one of their historic buildings. The maintenance jobs will be lost and, again, it will be a tremendous blow to an already suffering community. They have looked to this government for leadership on Sysco. They have looked for leadership on Devco and the door has been shut in their faces on both.

The government has made great fanfare of a lease which had been signed in Sydney and cast aspersions upon this government in saying that they want to get out of it and they would not do the same mistake. The fact is that what the government is proposing is to take a building and building space that is currently being rented and charged to the government for $20 a square foot and they are looking to move it into a building which will cost the taxpayers of Nova Scotia almost $30 a square foot when one looks at the benefits and the bonuses that are in that. This is what they are trying to justify to the people of Glace Bay.

So just to show you, Mr. Speaker, how determined this community is to keep this service in Glace Bay and how desperate, not only the people, but the businessmen have become. I have a letter here, January 28, 2000, addressed to the Honourable Mike Baker, Minister of Justice. It says: Further to my last correspondence I offer the following. The existing rental rate for the Glace Bay court is $20 per square foot per year including heat, lights, air-conditioning, taxes and insurance. Although I believe the existing rate is very competitive at this time, I am proposing to cut the rate by 25 per cent, $15 a square foot.

Where is the government going to find a better deal than this? Yet does the minister say, you know, we are going to stop. I am going to do like I did for Annapolis. I am going to do what I am supposed to do and listen to the community and have a second look at this and see if there is anything that can be done. Where was his leadership on the issue for Glace Bay? I am not going to only criticize the minister, I am going to give credit where credit is due because we faced the same problem in Richmond County. We almost lost our courthouse also. The historic Arichat Courthouse which has been there for over 100 years almost closed. The community rallied together, the municipality rallied together, and I will give credit where credit is due, the Minister of Justice listened, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, through his department, listened, and that courthouse has not only been saved, it is undergoing massive renovations at this time, and will hopefully remain a pillar in our community for many years to come. So I thank the minister for that.

But, as bad as the situation is in Richmond, it is even worse in Glace Bay, and the people are only asking the government, not for a handout, this is not a handout, my God, the government is getting a bargain deal with what is being offered here, they are asking the government, don't abandon us. Don't hang us out to dry. There are so few offices in our

[Page 2872]

community left, so few services. We have to travel to Sydney for everything. There is so little left in the historic town of Glace Bay. All we are asking is keep our courthouse here while we try to rebuild our economy, while we try to find a future outside of the coal industry, and possibly, forced to look outside the steel industry.

Government has a role to play in the development of rural Nova Scotia, and it is not simply by just giving handouts. That is not what I am proposing. That is not what is being asked here. This is an opportunity, in fact, for the government to save money and to be able to say to the community of Glace Bay, we believe in you.

The Minister of Economic Development calls upon the people of Cape Breton to think outside the box. Well, they are trying to do that, Mr. Speaker, they are really are. Community economic development on Cape Breton Island is one of the biggest success stories of community economic development anywhere in Canada, but they need help. They need to know government is on-side, and that the government itself, the Hamm Government, believes that the town of Glace Bay can once again be a glorious town, an economically vibrant town; that the shops will reopen, the boards will come down and that this government will be there with them to take down those boards. They will assist them in doing that. They will congratulate them in doing that. The last thing the people of Glace Bay want is for the government, through the Minister of Justice, to be putting up more boards over the windows and the entrances of these historic buildings that have been pillars in the community for so long.

Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity for the Minister of Justice to show leadership. It has been estimated that the cost of renovating the Sydney building to accommodate the Glace Bay court facilities is in excess of $1 million. The government has an opportunity, the Premier has an opportunity to send a message to the people of Glace Bay by saying we support your efforts, we support your community, and we will be there with you as you grow in a new economy. Through their silence, by attacking our government and claiming that letters that were written by civil servants during our time, are the justification for them failing to make any stop to this move, is not good enough. The people of Glace Bay, the people of Cape Breton, and the people throughout Nova Scotia watching will judge this government on whether they believe that it is appropriate for them to simply cast aspersions at the former government rather than showing "Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course" that they were so big on trying to convince Nova Scotians that that is what they would be doing.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague Dave Wilson, the MLA for Cape Breton East, raised this issue on many occasions. As I said before, to the people in some of the other areas throughout this province, this might not seem like a pressing social issue, but for rural communities and for places such as Glace Bay, this is a pressing issue. Right now, the community somehow has grasped onto this courthouse as the last thing they feel they have left from this government. There is so little left in that town that they are saying, here is our courthouse. They are almost clinging to it, saying, keep it here so that we know we have a

[Page 2873]

chance to rebuild this community and the government will support us in doing that, and we will be there along the way as we do that.

This is an opportunity for the Minister of Justice. He showed leadership in Annapolis. He showed leadership in Richmond. Here's an opportunity to show leadership in Glace Bay. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the Minister of Justice, would the member for Richmond be tabling that letter of January 2000?

MR. SAMSON: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, before I get into the body of my remarks, I wanted to briefly comment on some of the issues that the honourable member for Richmond made. I, like him, share his concern for rural Nova Scotia; I share the concern for how important court facilities are to communities. That is why, as it was indicated earlier, I talked to the people of Digby-Annapolis. That is why I have talked to the people of Richmond County, because the people of Richmond County came forward with a proposal with respect to facilities. In the Strait area we have a shortage of court facilities, Mr. Speaker, and a shortage of court facilities that the honourable member as a member of the Bar would know is quite significant.

This represented an opportunity for the government to assist the people of Richmond County, and in particular Arichat, by providing the kind of assistance to that community that would allow that court facility to stay open for years to come, and we did it. In Digby-Annapolis the court facilities are owned by the public today, as the Arichat court facilities are owned by the public today. It is the same thing.

The difference, of course, Mr. Speaker - and this is where it is very disappointing - is in Glace Bay we are talking about rented facilities, facilities for which the lease had expired. In fact the decision had been made by the administration of which he was a part. In fact I have seen correspondence from the Honourable Robert Harrison, Minister of Justice - I don't have that correspondence, but I have seen the correspondence and I will, in the fullness of time, be glad to provide a copy to the honourable member - a letter written indicating the consolidation of the Cape Breton court facilities to Sydney.

It was a decision, there is a Planning and Priorities memorandum, that I have also seen, indicating that the cost of these facilities is $579,000 in Sydney and that that is over a 15 year period of time. What is even more interesting is that this memorandum points out the fact that it needs Priorities and Planning approval because it was a sole-source contract, because they did not go to tender as they should have done; they paid perhaps more money than the market

[Page 2874]

would dictate. However, when we came to office we were stuck with a lease that had been poorly negotiated by the administration of which the honourable member was a part.

We had a choice, we could have empty space for which we were going to pay $579,000 in Sydney and then duplicate that by renting other space in Glace Bay, or do the right thing by avoiding duplication to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia who can hardly afford to rent two courthouses for one. Mr. Speaker, in this province, I want to assure you we have a very difficult time with court facilities and maintaining decent court facilities because the Province of Nova Scotia received inadequate and rundown court facilities from municipal governments; that has been very much publicized in the media. I, in good conscience, could not spend hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars to duplicate a facility that we were going to be renting in Sydney in any event.

That is the reality and what has happened. The other reality here, Mr. Speaker is that there is a by-election in Glace Bay and if there was no by-election in Glace Bay this would not be an issue. The honourable member for Cape Breton South was the actual Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee at the time this was approved.

[Interruptions]

MR. SPEAKER: Order.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think the honourable minister knows that this resolution was put forward by the member for Cape Breton East when he was sitting as the member for Cape Breton East, before he knew that his election was going to be overturned. Now I want the minister to at least stay on some principle here when he is addressing this issue.

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

MR. BAKER: I do thank the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party for his intervention because you are right, I certainly cannot read Mr. Wilson's mind when he introduced the resolution, but I can assure you that when the Liberal House Leader called this resolution, he knew there was a by-election in Glace Bay. I would suggest if there hadn't been a by-election in Glace Bay the resolution would never have been called for debate today.

What I am talking about, Mr. Speaker, is misleading the people of Glace Bay into believing that somehow this government either chose a friend in order to get a lease awarded - which is patently untrue - or otherwise this government had made the decision to consolidate the courthouse for the first time. In point of fact, it is quite clear that the former Liberal Administration had made the decision to consolidate the courthouse, had let the contract, had signed the contract and begun the work to do it. The deal was done. Honourable members may not like that reality.

[Page 2875]

[4:45 p.m.]

I don't know if the difficulty lies with communication within their caucus, but I would assure you, Mr. Speaker, that it is important that the people of Nova Scotia and, in particular, Cape Breton East, know that the administration are the people, not just bureaucrats, because this group have had a bad habit of blaming bureaucrats for decisions. I am not blaming anybody. I am responsible for the decision, but the reality is, you have to make decisions in light of the economics. I cannot be like the former administration, living like Alice in Wonderland to fiscal reality. That is the kind of thing that has gotten the Province of Nova Scotia into the problem we are in today.

Mr. Speaker, we have got to be clear on this. This facility in Sydney will provide an adequate court facility. It will provide a good court facility, a consolidated space which will provide savings for the taxpayer, over and above, and those savings are going to be because of the efficiency of the facilities that will be there. That is a reality, as well. I feel extremely saddened for the situation of the people of Cape Breton East and Glace Bay because I absolutely understand what it is to lose facilities out of a community. In fact, out of the community I represent, the court facilities in Lunenburg were downgraded during the time when the Liberal Administration was in office. They took all the court officials out of Lunenburg. I understand how upsetting that is because I represent communities in which that happened, but fiscal reality has to grab hold. I am simply not going to be moving people around all over the place simply because there is some kind of temporary expediency.

I understand what is going on, Mr. Speaker, but the reason for making decisions is not a by-election. The reason for making decisions is on principle. If the previous administration made a decision on principle to close the courthouse in Glace Bay, I at least respect the fact they made that decision and I assume they did that because they felt that was the right thing to do. However, to try to mislead people to believe that somehow it was this administration which all of sudden, for some partisan reason, did that is absolutely untrue. The honourable member for Richmond indicated earlier in debate, I can assure you and I can assure all of the House that this government will not choose to put facilities into a community or take them out based on political expediency. We, in fact, are very concerned about all Nova Scotians. I can you assure you of that.

The number one courthouse facility in this province is Port Hawkesbury and the number two is Bridgewater. I can assure you, whether it is Port Hawkesbury or Bridgewater, they will be dealt with as funds become available and there will be no shimmying of the lists. We are going to do this on principle and I can assure the honourable member for Lunenburg West that Lunenburg County will get the next court facility, after the one in Port Hawkesbury, because that is where the priority list lies. It will go in Lunenburg County. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, what I want to also tell the honourable members is that the honourable member for Richmond should be very careful.

[Page 2876]

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order. I have been giving you some leeway with the heckling, but the Minister of Justice has the floor. Let's let him finish his time.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Will the minister entertain a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Will the minister entertain a question from the honourable member for Cape Breton South?

MR. BAKER: I am speaking, I intend to continue with my speech. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Very well. The Minister of Justice has the (Interruptions) I think that is what he means, yes. I will interpret it that way.

The honourable Minister of Justice has the floor.

MR. BAKER: To return to the issue at hand, and I think in particular to the resolution, what we have here is a resolution designed to mislead Nova Scotians into believing that there was either patronage involved in this issue or that there was a decision that was not endorsed by their administration. I simply want Nova Scotians to know that the cost of this facility is $579,000. That was a contract that was let, untendered, by the Liberal Administration. I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that those decisions were made before I came to office. I can also assure you that those decisions, I believe, were made not by bureaucrats but by ministers.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I think it is very important to clarify - the minister keeps saying that both the proponents of the resolution and myself have been trying to mislead the House. I take great offence at that comment. What I have said is that this is an opportunity for the minister to show leadership for the people of Glace Bay and reverse the decision, the same as he did for the people of Annapolis. At no time have I accused him of misleading the House and I take offence to it being said that I am trying to mislead this House and I hope he will retract that statement.

MR. SPEAKER: There is no point of order. This is a dispute between two members.

The honourable Minister of Justice has the floor.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, we have - as my time draws near - a very unfortunate situation that has developed with respect to the community of Glace Bay. While there is a lot of heat to this discussion, we should never forget that the people of Glace Bay, and of Cape Breton East as a whole, have tremendous challenges in those communities. In closing the debate, I do not in any way want to suggest that I don't appreciate those tremendous challenges that the people of Glace Bay face. Once we put all the partisan discussion aside, we should not forget the good people of Glace Bay because they need more than court houses. What the good people of Glace Bay need is economic development.

[Page 2877]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: As a colleague in the beautiful County of Lunenburg, I wonder if the minister would entertain a question about Lunenburg County.

MR. SPEAKER: The Minister of Justice, will you entertain a question?

MR. BAKER: My spider senses say I should say no but I will entertain the question nevertheless.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West on a question. I will remind you both that there is a minute and a half left in this particular . . .

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is about this conversation. I do appreciate the minister taking time to answer a question. He talks about partisanship and I have always held the minister in high esteem and I know that he is trying, he is working hard and he is an honest individual, so I am going to ask a very simple and honest question. In the studies that have been done, and I have seen the studies and the reports for a number of years, it clearly states that the next two courthouse facilities on the list, the second one it said should be in Lunenburg County but it should be specifically in Bridgewater. The question is to the minister, will he say that the second courthouse to be built would be there? My question about this issue to the minister is will he honour that point or will that be only in Lunenburg County?

MR. BAKER: The minister will be very brief. I can indicate the reason I have indicated Lunenburg County, and when I said Port Hawkesbury, I also meant the Strait area. I can be honest with the honourable member that I have not seen all the reports on the issue of where the courthouse location is in Lunenburg County and I don't want to answer that question. The reason I used Lunenburg County was not because there is any subversive motive involved, but simply because I want to make sure what the report said. I mis-spoke myself when I said Port Hawkesbury because I meant the Strait area. It may very well be that that should be Port Hawkesbury, it may be that it is Bridgewater.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: I was beginning to wonder, Mr. Speaker, if this was purely a private fight or whether a casual passerby might also have an opportunity to participate in the festivities. I would like to start, if I may, by clarifying the record somewhat.

I noticed that the previous participants/combatants made reference to several documents and I wondered if I might assist since no one seemed to have copies of them. I have copies of them. I have a copy of the letter of July 29, 1997, from David Thompson, the Deputy Minister of Priorities and Planning, addressed to the Honourable Alan Mitchell and the Honourable Donald Downe, having to do with the consolidation of the Family Court with Provincial and Supreme Court in Harbour Place in Sydney. I have that letter. I will file it.

[Page 2878]

Here is a copy. I will table it. It sets out the cost and it shows the committee, meaning Priorities and Planning, approved this proposal and the sum in question is for a new 15-year lease with a five-year option at $28.10 per square foot or $1,686,000 per annum. I have that letter and I will table it right now.

I have two other letters that I would not mind sending along. Here is a letter dated May 12, 1999. This is from the Honourable Robert Harrison, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, addressed to Mr. Kevin Pembroke in Glace Bay. This is the fellow, I think, who owns the building where the Glace Bay Courthouse is located. He assures Mr. Pembroke that the department has decided that it will continue to lease the Glace Bay Courthouse, but just for one more year to May 1, 2000. At that time he advised Mr. Pembroke they should be ready because there is going to be a move. I will table that letter.

There is a third letter and this is dated January 19, 2000, from the Honourable Michael Baker, it does not have your Q.C. here, I see, but the Honourable Michael Baker, you are a new Q.C., I think, since the December honours, addressed to Mr. Harold Daigle at Pembroke Properties in Glace Bay basically saying, if I can fight my way through the polite language, that he should not hold his breath. Now I will table this letter.

Anyone who wants to refer to the record, I think we have the makings of the official record here and, you know, with all the back and forth we hardly touched on what seemed to me to be the real issues here. There was a lot of talk about rural courthouses and how important they are in small communities. I certainly agree with that. I went around in December and made sure as Justice Critic that I visited all the courthouses and correctional facilities in the province because there has been so much talk about the need to have new facilities in different parts of the province. I thought I had better go have a look at some of them, but that does not seem to be actually what is really up for discussion here.

I think that there are three things that are really at play and we hardly touched on any of them. The first one, of course, is the byelection. That came up. (Interruptions) I lost track of the number of times the names of the former disqualified member - perhaps disqualified is not the right word - the controverted, the former member for Cape Breton East, who lost his seat as a result of the controverted application, I lost track of the number of times his name was mentioned.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Never mind.

[Page 2879]

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Absolutely, never mind, but now this was just amazing. It did not seem to have a huge amount of relevance to the core issue, but it came up quite a large number of times, I was amazed. The other factor that is at work here is a competition back and forth between Liberal landlords and Tory landlords and that is exactly the second and more pressing part of what is actually up for discussion here. I find it amazing that we continue to have this kind of partisan struggle for allocating scarce public dollars back and forth between those business interests whose representatives come here to fight it out for the spoils. We are reduced to looking at the back and forth over a small facility in Glace Bay and a much more significant facility in Sydney.

I said that I thought there was a third aspect to the debate that was not mentioned, and it is this: it is one thing to fight for the money to go into a community in need like Glace Bay, this is a perfectly legitimate problem, it is another thing to ignore how it is that industrial Cape Breton ended up in the difficult circumstances in which it now finds itself. I did not hear anyone mentioning Sysco and the impending loss of jobs there, and I did not hear anyone mention, from my colleagues here on the opposition benches, my friends, the actions of their federal counterparts in making decisions about the future, of lack thereof, of Devco and the people who work there. Somehow these major decisions did not quite make it into the discourse. So I say, a plague on both your houses.

I say that it is obvious that the problem as narrowly conceived and the problem as broadly conceived, has been caused by both of those other parties and the problems are enormous. Is it possible to choose between the two entities, the two black kettles. One black pot, one black kettle, saying, you are blacker than I am, sootier than I am. I do not think it is. On the one hand, it is very clear from the official record that the decision to close this particular courthouse was a Liberal decision. No doubt about it. It is there as clear as it could possibly be, on the record. The Minister of Justice was correct in throwing it back at the Liberals who first brought it up, that they did it. It was their choice, they did it and they stuck to it. They signed the arrangements originally with the Sydney Courthouse. It would be difficult for the government to turn around and say, there is wasted space there, let's just continue to rent empty space in that courthouse. The one in Sydney.

The key question is, what is going to happen now, from the people who are the government, to do something about Cape Breton. I am not saying that it has to be this particular item. What I am saying is the government has changed hands. It is one thing to point fingers and say, you did it when you were the government, and we are kind of stuck with it. Well, you know what, that is partly true. The hard fact is the government has changed, and you are the government now. It is your responsibility to take care of Cape Breton as much as it is to take care of any other part of the province. Do you know what? It is not happening. That is the core issue here.

[Page 2880]

It is certainly true that it is appropriate to understand the history and how we got here and the mess and all the rotten decisions that were made before, no doubt about it, but responsibility has shifted and it is time to do something. I don't see it. I have not heard a word about what positive steps this government that is now in power is about to take in order to do something useful to help that area of Cape Breton. Nothing. It didn't emerge today in this debate and it certainly has not emerged in any kind of election platform that they ran on last year and it hasn't emerged in any kind of policy statement that the government has made since then and I am sure it is not going to emerge in anything that is going to come from the budget when we see it next week.

It is time that this government did something to come to grips with the fact that there is a crisis of national proportions in industrial Cape Breton. I don't think there is another region in the country which is having such a big closure, such an imminent closure of sustaining industries that have been there for a long time, combined with a pre-existing high unemployment rate that was already there. You add that to the out-migration, we recognize that the kids don't see any hope and are moving out; you add that to the out-migration of the middle class and there is a crisis of national proportions staring us in the face and this government is doing nothing.

It is one thing to debate this particular resolution today and focus on the minutiae of one aspect of it, but this challenges the government to come forward and do it now, with a plan to move forward. It is not an acceptable plan to just let people drift; it is not an acceptable plan to let communities be boarded up; it is not an acceptable plan to let children grow up in their communities with no hope for the future; it is not an acceptable plan to say to them, life in your area of the province is dead, you have to go somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think that in examining the history of this and entering into the exercise of blame as to who did what has gotten us very far. The hard reality is that we are facing the future right now, that that government is going to have to do something positive and do something big, and I don't mean at some point in the future, I mean right now. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on this very important topic, this resolution which was brought forth by my on-sabbatical colleague from Glace Bay, Mr. David Wilson. I believe it is an important resolution because it touches on a number of issues that extend well beyond the particular issue in his resolution.

Mr. Speaker, anyone who is in government would have to be pretty naive to believe that all three Parties like to get their political digs in on this particular issue, and the evidence is here today.

[Page 2881]

More importantly, I guess I was a bit concerned by the comments of the Minister of Justice who suggested that we in the Opposition were beating up on public servants. That may be the case in certain instances, but for the most part I think the evidence, no, I believe the evidence is quite clear that we have two schools of thought that operate within government, independent of each other, at various points in time. We have seen witnesses come before this House, through the Public Accounts Committee, that have all but stated that they are operating on their own.

Mr. Speaker, I would draw to the attention of various members of the House the comments that were made by Mr. Jim Spurr when he was a witness before Public Accounts on the Sydney Steel issue. When I questioned Mr. Spurr about sending a letter - and Mr. Speaker I will draw the correlation on this at the toe end of this particular point, because it is critical to the flow of information that seems to have permeated from various members here today on the Glace Bay court issue - Mr. Spurr indicated quite clearly that it was on his own initiative to write letters such as that threatening gag order to the United Steel Workers of America when he advised them that it would be in their best interests to put a lip on it. In layman's terms that is essentially what he had done. When I questioned Mr. Spurr on that as to whether he did it with the knowledge and the approbation and direction of the minister, he said he had discussed it with the minister but the minister didn't say yes and the minister didn't say no.

Mr. Speaker, you wonder why we would take issue with public servants such as the issue that is before us here today. We have a letter signed by a public servant. I am given to understand that a little more than a year ago, the minister of the day, Mr. Robbie Harrison signed a letter issuing a moratorium on that transfer but conveniently that letter didn't seem to surface here today. Howard didn't have it, Mr. Minister didn't have it. It is so convenient to do the spin doctoring, and in this particular case a public servant was used as the whipping agent. I think that is wrong. I think the concern that I have as well is the flow of information, whether it be from the Department of Justice on this proposed courthouse issue, on moving from Glace Bay to Sydney, or whatever.

We go back to another public servant who came before the Public Accounts Committee, Mr. John MacLean. Mr. MacLean stated, when we were dealing with value for dollar on the leasing arrangements on the World Trade and Convention Centre and the Access Centre in Sydney, on Charlotte Street, he indicated quite clearly that the Department of Transportation and Public Works, who is the lead agent responsible for issues such as the courthouse situation in Glace Bay, were not involved in the discussions on the Charlotte Street issue. It wasn't until I tabled a letter signed by the Deputy Minister of Transportation and Public Works that clearly indicated that they were involved in the negotiations that Mr. MacLean backpedalled and said, oh he wasn't the director at that particular point in time.

[Page 2882]

Well, in the name of heavens, that is the issue. There is too much misinformation coming out, not only from the Cabinet but the Cabinet in my view seems to be using the public servants as trial balloons, whipping agents, as fronts for little pieces of spin doctoring that seem to be going on. That is why we would be suspect of what the Minister of Justice has tabled here today, because he didn't table all the evidence. It would have been so easy for the Minister of Justice to bring in the lease that was signed by the previous administration, but did he? Not at all. That wouldn't have been convenient because he would have also had to acknowledge, if it was signed by the previous administration, which all indications are that it was this administration that signed off, the Minister of Justice of today, and not the previous administration, because he would have to also acknowledge the letter showing the moratorium.

[5:15 p.m.]

What a convenience to try and make it look like it was a partisan political issue. Yes, we all get our dibs in here and there, but, Mr. Speaker, that is a valid argument from the Opposition point of view, that we have civil servants who are either going on their own agenda, which is perhaps why it has created a lot of problems for governments in the past, our own included - there is simply lots of evidence back during the Conservative administration under Premier Cameron - or else the government is using public servants to do their nasty work.

Mr. Speaker, our socialist friends to the left really haven't captured the understanding of what the real problems are in Cape Breton; they really haven't. I said in this House, time and time again, that the industrial economy we once knew is gone. We know that and we have to bridge that process and move into the new economy. We all know that; we are facing reality. We know the situation is difficult at Sydney Steel, and we know it is difficult at Devco. There is something wrong when you can go to West Virginia and buy coal for about $15 a ton cheaper than you can have it delivered, and have it delivered at the power site in Cape Breton cheaper than you can get it from the coal mines. That is pure economics, if you look at all the other social aspects of it, and I am not naive to that.

Mr. Speaker, time and time again, it is like the PLI. When I was sitting over there as Minister of Labour, I tell you, it was like a conspiracy. They couldn't get up enough to say all the cover-ups and the nasty, dirty work and untendered contracts and this and that. It wasn't until the Director General for Human Resources Canada published the fact that it was Peter Mancini, the NDP Member of Parliament, who signed off on that contract.

AN HON. MEMBER: Say it ain't so.

MR. MACKINNON: Say it ain't so. Talk about hypocrisy. They did so much for the people in Richmond County and southern economies.

[Page 2883]

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice says we are Alice in Wonderland over here. Well, I can assure him that he wouldn't be welcome, because you don't have Attila the Hun in Alice in Wonderland and that is just about what you are dealing with here on this issue; he had lots of opportunity to make changes in Annapolis, and he did, on the courthouse issue; he had lots of opportunity to make changes in Glace Bay, and he did not. The Minister of Justice, he had the opportunity; he knew. I bet you a dime to a doughnut that he is very well aware of the letter of moratorium, but it is not to his political advantage to state that.

Mr. Speaker, I seem to be kind of rousing the chickens over in the nest there. We all know about Puff the Magic Dragon and his graceful exit, and that will allow a lot of the wannabes to get on centre stage, but really . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Your time is up.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 23.

Bill No. 23 - Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I believe that this bill perhaps provides this House with a rare opportunity to do the right thing. I believe it was the Premier some time ago who stated I believe in this House and in other places that from time to time his government would consider free votes on issues that he considered to be in the best interests of serving the members which are the members of his Party as well as members of this place. The Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act was first introduced to the House on the last sitting of the House on November 15th, by the then MLA for Cape Breton East, Dave Wilson. He felt very strongly about this bill in light of the fact that the government, the present Tory Government, saw fit to cancel the distribution of profits from the Sydney Casino to various charities throughout Nova Scotia.

[Page 2884]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that if members of the government and members of the Tory caucus have the opportunity to vote on this bill, they should be able to vote their conscience. I can only speak for Cape Breton in terms of my intimate knowledge as to what is happening down in the industrial area, particularly of Cape Breton, with some of the serious problems they are having with unemployment. In response to that, the Department of Economic Development cancelled the Winter Works Program this year, and are now reducing the Summer Employment Program this year. We have cancelled grants as a result of that to social service concerns like the food bank in Glace Bay, Loaves and Fishes in Sydney, home for the homeless and dozens of other institutions that depend on this type of funding.

Now Bill No. 23 addresses a number of these issues. I have had much representation from many people who have suggested to me that it is absolutely criminal for the government to take profits from the Sydney Casino, which was set up as a charity casino, 50 per cent of those profits, and I am glad the Finance Minister is here, and put them into the general revenues of the province at the expense of social assistance groups and charities and I say shame on that government. But they have an opportunity to allow a vote on this bill. I would hope that they would have the courage to allow a vote on this bill so members on the backbenches of the Tory Party and yes, front bench Cabinet Ministers could have second thoughts and perhaps vote to reconstitute this board to be set up to deliver funds to the charities that need it here in Nova Scotia. Not only in Cape Breton but all over Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there is nothing wrong with this bill. It is just admitting that we made a mistake, that the government of the day made a mistake in taking the monies from the charity casino away from the charities, and putting it in the general revenues of this province. I am sure that if I polled each member over there and asked them, was that a good move, if they have any conscience at all, they would say, no it was not a good move. It was not a good move to take monies away from Loaves and Fishes or from homes for the homeless, or from transition houses or from women's centres. If the constituents ask you that question, I know what you would tell them, that you did not agree with the Hamm Government taking those measures.

Well, if that is the case, you have an opportunity to vote your conscience here today, if you have the courage to allow this bill to come to a vote. Each and every one of you are respected by the people who sent you to this House, but they did not send you to this House to engage in such Draconian measures of taking profits from a charity casino that was set up for the very purpose of distributing its profits to the less fortunate people in this province. Of all the things that this government has done, I cannot believe that this government would strip away funding from those most vulnerable in our society who depend on funding for their very existence.

The situation, Mr. Speaker, is that the former member for Cape Breton East felt very strongly about this and as a result introduced this bill to the House last November 15th. On November 15th he felt, and he still feels as we do in our caucus, that this was an important

[Page 2885]

bill, one that we felt could go beyond partisan politics, in light of what the Premier has said to allow his members certain free votes on certain matters, that were not putting the government finances in jeopardy.

I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that putting money back in the hands of the very vulnerable, the organizations in this province that need help, is not going to put this province in financial jeopardy, rather it is going to send a message that at least in this area the government cares. I want each and every backbencher in the Tory Government to go home and tell their people, I would like them to tell their people they support this bill, but I am not naive enough to think they are going to do that. At some point you are going to have to explain to the people in your communities why these very valued social service organizations in your communities cannot receive funding from a charity casino because the government wanted to claw back the profits and put them into the general revenues of this province. That is not the purpose of this casino that was set up in Sydney and the government knows that; 50 per cent of the profits from the casino were allowed to go where they were destined to go and I have no problem with that. It is the other 50 per cent I have a problem with.

All the charities in the various areas throughout this province and social service agencies that had hoped, that had made application, Mr. Speaker, for these funds at the time (Interruption) Yes, they did. They made application. I helped some of them. Don't tell me that, Mr. Finance Minister. You are not true. They made application for assistance under that program that you cancelled.

I am saying, Mr. Speaker, that this government has an opportunity to right a wrong. You took money out of the hands of the poor of this province. There are organizations in this province that will probably not be able to function for two reasons: one is they were depending on this funding; the other is that the Department of Economic Development cut off their lifeline in the wintertime to keep some of these organizations going through very difficult times. Some of them are very near and dear to me in my community that are struggling to stay alive because of the measures of this government.

We have a meeting next week in Sydney, the Cape Breton Inter Agency on Family Violence, which is an offshoot organization that is trying to deal with what is happening with the multitude of organizations that are going to be affected. I can tell you they are going to be very loud after this meeting if this government does not do something about restoring some of the funding to these very necessary agencies in many communities across this province.

Mr. Speaker, I can only hope at the end of this debate today that this government will allow this to come to a vote on second reading and give an opportunity to the members of the backbenches of the Tory Party to vote for the people who sent them here and by voting for this bill, not to toe the government line of clawing back funding from organizations that can least afford it. Please, vote your conscience on this issue. The Leader of your Party, the

[Page 2886]

Premier, has told you at least he has told us, that he would allow free votes from time to time. I am sorry he is not here this afternoon to do that, but I can assure you that he probably, if he was here, would perhaps suggest that this bill should come at least to a vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

I just want to say that it is inappropriate for a member to note the absence of another member, but your time was up anyway.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and to speak on Bill No. 23 which was brought forward by the member for Cape Breton East who, of course, is in the by-election right now representing the Liberal Party in the by-election, and that is maybe the focus why this is being debated today. However, the point is an important one and I am pleased that the honourable member has brought it forward. I am more than willing to talk about it.

[5:30 p.m.]

The Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act is one that was established by the previous Liberal Administration six years ago. When they are referring to how important this bill is and how important the programs were that were to be delivered, how imperative it was, I only have to say a few things. One of which is when I first became Minister of Business and Consumer Services, one of the things that perplexed me is why they hadn't moved faster on this bill. If it was as important as was mentioned by the previous speaker, why hadn't it been established and already distributing the profits that it is referring to.

Mr. Speaker, before I go further I want to say that voluntary groups throughout this province provide a service - I think all Nova Scotians know we have problems with our finances now, there is no way that we can provide the service that the many volunteer organizations throughout Nova Scotia provide. If we were to pay for every voluntary firefighter, people who contribute to different entities, whether they be food banks or just recreation groups and the list goes on and on, if you wanted to quantify that, that number obviously would be huge. I think that is prevalent through jurisdiction, not only in Canada but perhaps in North America and the world. That is what makes part of human society special, that people are willing to give of themselves to help others.

In regard to this one specific program, I look at it as a new program, the previous speaker can say that it is not, he can say that it was there - but it had not been delivered. When he said people had made application for it, I am more than willing to go back to my staff, but I am certain that applications had not gone out, so people had not applied. We are

[Page 2887]

in a situation that that was going to come forward. It has been some time since we debated that, and I am willing to go back to my staff and review that.

To get back to the bill, I want to talk about it at length. I think you have to put things in perspective. We do have a fiscal situation in this province that is severe. We tabled a budget in the fall for this fiscal year which showed a deficit of $497 million. Events have taken place which have brought that down and a lot of them are increased revenues to this province, which is good. We have other situations, even NSRL, where our losses are down due to the fact that the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian dollar has changed and as such our debt has gone down, which reduces our losses. Those are good things. We want the deficit to be reduced, and it is down to $388 million.

However, there are still pressures that we have to deal with and I think all members of this House appreciate that the financial situation we find ourselves in is a very serious one. When we looked at whether or not we would initiate this program, we made the decision at that time that it was a new program and we would not put it in place. I appreciate that I even had comments from people from Cape Breton, who felt that this was a program solely for Cape Breton and that when we are moving away from this program that Cape Breton itself would be the only recipient. Obviously that is not the case. This is a provincial program, people across this province could have made application. It isn't a Cape Breton program, it is a provincial program. The previous speaker made mention of that.

I want to say, there was some feeling from Cape Breton that since the monies were coming from the casino that it would only be for Cape Breton or the industrial area. So there was some misunderstanding and I can understand how people could think that. As to what this is going for, there are also some people that think this is core funding for groups to provide services, and it is important for people to understand that was never the case of how this program would be applied. It was to be used for a new project or a new program that would be delivered in a year, but it would not be followed up with funding on an ongoing basis. This was something for new things.

A lot of people have looked at this and I have heard references for food banks, that you are taking money out of food banks, that is not what this program was conceived to be by the previous administration, it was not an ongoing funding formula. As such, Mr. Speaker, for those who feel we are taking away the core funding of organizations, that is not the case. People could have applied for this program for many different purposes. I think the member has offered some suggestions and people in your area perhaps could have made modifications to their facilities. You make reference to different organizations, there could be a multitude of different ones. It could also have been under the criteria that was there, people could have also applied for things such as ball fields or recreational facilities. It was very broad.

[Page 2888]

We looked at the situation that there where a lot of programs that we deliver throughout government that they could apply for. We thought that this was a replication of many of those funding sources that we have within government, and there are many.

One of the things we have done when we have looked through government and all the different funding agencies, we have learned that many different departments fund the same organizations in different capacities, whether they come through Health or Community Services or perhaps Housing, or different groups. I think over the years that government has sort of grown piecemeal. I think anyone who has had experience in government learns that things.

If you try to explain funding to an elementary class and how we fund different organizations, they find it very confusing. They don't understand how groups can get part of their funding here, part of their funding in municipalities and maybe part of their funding from another department, and then they apply maybe to the federal government for other funding. It is very convoluted, it is very complex. I guess what you have to look at is the history, how did this evolve? Most of it evolved piece by piece, and a lot of times if they received funding here, they sort of froze that and then they approached another department and got funding from there.

We looked at government and asked ourselves whether we can make it simpler. It is confusing, and I make reference to speaking to classes. I know that in the past in my capacity as being a government member that I have gone to schools and they have asked me questions. They were asking me how things happened, and it was rather embarrassing to try to explain to them how complicated things were. I really believe that it is just the way that it has evolved.

I know a lot of us have experience when we look at it, I know we have a lot of municipal councillors here and I am sure that is prevalent in your experience in municipalities how that came about. Just to reaffirm that, there were discussions oftentimes between the municipalities and the province to see whether there can be exchange of services to sort of simplify things. They call it simple now, I don't think it has reached that stage but there are discussions in that regard.

So to go back to this specific bill, Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that we made the right decision in the first place, that we are not going to increase the number of programs we have. We believe that the many organizations that are looking to government for support have funding agencies there which are provided to them whereby they can gain access to government through those agencies. I appreciate, especially in the Cape Breton area and I am speaking specifically to those there, and for some reason Cape Breton seems to be the area that has shown the most opposition to it. I think part of the reason is that because the casino is located there. I said in my earlier comments, I received a lot of letters that said these

[Page 2889]

programs were to go to Cape Breton. As I mentioned in my earlier comments that I can understand how that came about, the misunderstanding, but it is a provincial program.

I truly believe that we made the right decision for the right reason. We are prepared to work with the voluntary and charitable organizations across this province to allow them to continue to deliver the service that they do now. I reaffirm that there is no way that we, as government, could ever take their place. Our commitment and our Premier's commitment is that we will continue to support those organizations through the many government agencies that we have here in government and we will work with them into the future.

However, Mr. Speaker, in closing I will say that I will not be supporting the bill. I believe the decision was made in the right instance and we are prepared to work with those agencies through establishing funding levels. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I recognize the member for Cape Breton Centre, I just want to say there is a lot of background noise in the House and if people want to converse, maybe they would think about going outside to have some of those conversations.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise for a few moments and talk about Bill No. 23. It is not by accident that the Liberal Party has brought this bill forward today. Look at the author of the resolutions and this bill, you know why it is here. (Interruption) The Liberal House Leader does not know who the author is, so I guess he will have to go back to his book and find out who the author is. Say his name. Hello? Hello, Dave.

Mr. Speaker, this has a whole lot less to do with what is going one with this government today than I said making an electoral statement. I heard the Minister of Finance say that this was not really a program. He thought it did not exist. For some reason, it was new. I do not know what that minister's idea of new is, but certainly it is double-barrelled. He is at one time saying that this is new and it does not matter, but on the other hand, he is saying that these are the parameters that we understood that you were not allowed to go and access funds in certain ways. Certainly, in the legislation itself it says in Part III, pay out of the Sydney Casino Charities/Profits Trust Fund, such sums as the minister, with the advice of the Sydney Casino Charities/Profits Trust Fund Board of Directors may deem appropriate.

Now, in this document, there are certainly no limitations. There are no set guidelines or limitations other than those set down by the Board of Directors. There is no saying that you can't give it to the Loaves and Fishes program, you can't give it to someone with a baseball fields or you can't give it for someone to repair a roof for a local Kinsmen centre. I do not know where this minister keeps saying that there were restrictions on what we could do with this money. It was clearly, I think, money that was available straight across the board, and should have been. But no, this government decided as one of its first acts, and I think it

[Page 2890]

was on purpose, to set a tone and the tone was, we're tough. What a mistake that was, because the tone did not come out as tough, but mean; mean spirited in every which way, Mr. Speaker. Who did they help with the $2 million they literally robbed from the poor?

The Finance Minister just got up and spoke for ten minutes, and at no time did he say in his dissertation, here is what the $2 million helped; it alleviated this, it helped that. But, had he let that money go there, and it wasn't this government's revenue, it was revenue generated by a business. It is not taxation, it wasn't a levy, it was the profit of a private business. That was part of the deal for them to set up casinos in Nova Scotia. Did this government see fit to honour that agreement? What is funny, in the last few days in this House, this government screamed loud and clear about being on the hook for past governments' contracts; that we had to honour them. We had to give Hoogovens money. We had to give this group money, we had to give that group money, and they blame it on the previous administration. All well and good, and probably in some respects, right, but, when it came to honouring a contract to help the poor in this province, they ran like a bat out of hell. They got so far away from it, took the money and literally ran with it. Now why was that money sitting there, Mr. Speaker? Well, it sat there from time to time, one could think, because the former government sat on its hands until it could put a board together of appropriate friends of the government. It sat there for quite some time. That begs the question, when the former government had the chance to disburse that money, why didn't they? (Interruption)

[5:45 p.m.]

I heard him, the hacker, the member for Cape Breton West, saying the NDP held up everything. Well, you had a majority and could have done it, but you didn't do it. But what they did, Mr. Speaker, was in April 1999, Ronald F. MacDonald from Antigonish, the mayor, chairman, says that he is going to do this. You know what is funny? This government found, in its dying days, gasping for its last breath of free air, to sign off deals to big oil companies. That was no problem. Sign off deals to friends, but, again, when it came to this administration to sign off a deal that would help the poor in this province, that wasn't a priority. The priority was its friends in the oil companies and so on. So they don't feel that they had to honour this. They didn't feel any necessity to get out there and help the poor and the disadvantaged. But, lo and behold, when they got caught out, they want to rewrite history and I say to you that history will find them out for the cads that they are.

We have a government across the way now that is saying there were all kinds of places the poor could go to access money. There are all kinds of places. A good friend, the Minister of Economic Development, if you are from the Bank of Nova Scotia, you are poor enough to get that money, but if you are the poor in Nova Scotia trying to make a few dollars this past winter to get a Winter Works Program, that program wasn't there. If you are a young student this summer trying to find employment in Cape Breton, it won't be there. They have conveniently cut that pie up so they can include more of their Tory friends.

[Page 2891]

The other side of this, Mr. Speaker, which is quite intriguing, they say they are going to help Nova Scotians. We saw the fiasco with the $50 rebate to seniors. Time after time, this group will do anything to help their friends in power. They will help the Sobeys. There are no human cries and then when John Bragg went to court to protect his trust fund, there was no saying the court system is wrong. They said, oh well, that is the wisdom of the court. We have to protect his millions of dollars in his trust fund. But let it be $2 million that will help the poor in this province, and there is none.

I will paraphrase my friend, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, last night when he was talking about the opportunity when one door closes and the other door opens. Well, I think, with this government, for the poor, if the door closes, the other one is a trap door because the poor have not realized one iota of help from this government. This government has shamefully gone out of its way to hurt every disadvantaged group in this province and it shows no sign of stopping. They say they do this because they are tough. You have to make tough decisions.

Mr. Speaker, the axing of the Casino Charity Fund was mean. It is mean today. It was mean the day they did it and they will never, ever convince this side of the House or anybody else in Nova Scotia, whether they are from Victoria County or Yarmouth County, that they did it by fairness. They did it through meanness.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, I will remind you that the chatter in the House is a little high.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of Bill No. 23, an act to enshrine this particular piece of legislation, entitled as Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act. This is an excellent piece of legislation. It shows some understanding and some appreciation for the volunteers that we have across Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, when we were in government we did everything we could to help charitable organizations, and that was quite evident when we established the Sydney Casino Charity Fund. (Interruptions) We are going to hear the grunts from the socialists, but the fact of the matter is they wanted to know why we did not have this committee up and running before we left power, and public record will show in this House it was the N-Dippers who held up the appointments before the Human Resources Committee. It was the former member for Cape Breton The Lakes who spent more time worrying about her pension than helping the poor people. I have never seen such hypocrisy. We brought this forward to help the people in Nova Scotia, the volunteers who wanted to help those organizations that were most in need. We were not just going to talk the talk, we were going to walk the walk, which is more than those socialists N-Dippers would ever hope to do.

[Page 2892]

Mr. Speaker, this is a good piece of legislation. I am very disappointed that the government would go and seize that money from this charity casino board.

We had an organization that was put in place, a framework, a structure, committed volunteers, to show some compassion and understanding and provide some financial assistance to those who need it most. This really was not government money; this was money that was set aside by the Sheraton Group's casinos as part of a formal arrangement with the government to assist charitable organizations across Nova Scotia. I will not use the word "steal" because I know it is unparliamentary, and because I am not allowed to say that they stole it, I will not say that. I may think it, but I will not say it.

So, Mr. Speaker, how can the government stay here in this House and say that they are concerned about the poor and the underprivileged? I notice a nod of support from the Minister of Community Services. I know in his heart and in his actions he does his level best to fight for those whom he represents through the auspices of his department. I know that and I believe that, but there is a bigger picture here. There is a bigger picture because there is clear evidence just on that $50 oil rebate. You know only 10,000 out of a potential 70,000 capitalized on that.

Mr. Speaker, do you know what I find so distasteful? Not only through this piece of legislation that the government will not support, but I have constituents coming to me - numerous constituents and it is becoming more prevalent - they are coming to my office and they are saying that the Department of Community Services says that you should go to the food bank. Go to the food bank. We have a government organization telling the poor people of this province that we cannot give you any more, go to the food bank, yet they will take over $2 million from the poor people, $50 times 10,000, they threw them crumbs. They threw them crumbs, and they have no shame in standing in this House and saying that they did this in the best interests of Nova Scotia. They cannot, in any conscience, support giving back that which they never owned. That is shameful. It lacks integrity.

Mr. Speaker, the volunteers that had committed themselves to serving on this board before they even had an opportunity to have their first meeting to decide what to do with all these applications for some very worthy funding - and, yes, even for food banks and other charitable organizations - the government, like it did with the health boards, surreptitiously said, take a hike. I think that shows not only callousness, but it demonstrates quite clearly that it is not an open and accountable government like it says. Where is the consultation that Premier Hamm and his ministers have proclaimed that they are so open and accountable to?

The profits from the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation are turned over to the Department of Finance and placed in general revenues as if they were already money slated for the charity; or ones that were slated for the charity board. The Minister of Finance is misleading this House and all Nova Scotians when he states that this is money that the government can ill-afford to lose. They did not have it in the first place. What are they going

[Page 2893]

to do next, start raiding children's bank accounts, piggy banks? Give us a break. (Interruption) No, and I would be ashamed if you were a Liberal. (Interruption)

I pray to heavens that you stay with the Tories. (Laughter) With the type of policy initiatives that the member for Preston supports, I am not so sure. I do not see any of the backbenchers on the government side standing up for their constituents. I do not see the good reverend fighting for the charity organizations in his community (Interruptions) that have been so adversely affected. Is it politics or is it integrity? What is it? We have seen a clear example in the last day or so that politics is the number one priority.

MR. SPEAKER: If I can interrupt the member for Cape Breton West, we are drawing to the hour of adjournment. Would he like to adjourn debate on Bill No. 23?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would actually finish, close the debate and call for the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Very well, I recognize the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, since we are drawing close to the end. Maybe you want to adjourn the debate.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I move that the debate on Bill No. 23 be adjourned.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 23. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the business for tomorrow will be Public Bills for Second Reading and we will commence with Bill No. 28 and then go to Bill Nos. 29, 30, 31 and 32, in the order they are on the order paper.

I move that the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour 2:00 p.m. We will sit until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

Since it is the hour of adjournment, it is late debate and tonight it is:

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the benefits to seniors of the recent announcement which reduces the cost of the general fishing licences to Nova Scotia for this segment of our communities."

[Page 2894]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

FISH. - SENIORS: LICENCES - REDUCTION

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and speak on the resolution before the House during late debate. Just to give the House a little background, before 1995 anglers 65 years of age and older were exempt from purchasing a fishing licence. Previous, I repeat again, previous to 1995, and since 1995, all anglers 16 years and older have been required to purchase an angling licence at a cost of $15 plus tax, or seniors in the province, as a consequence of the previous Liberal Administration led by John Savage and Fisheries Minister James Barkhouse, put in, if you can believe it, a fishing licence fee of $17.25 on all seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[6:00 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, in 1994, just a little background, a little walk down memory lane, perhaps some of the Liberals don't want to walk down memory lane with us but in 1994 Natural Resources, DNR, and Fisheries and Aquaculture jointly agreed to require seniors to purchase both fishing and hunting licences at full cost, but, following the negative response that was received by DNR, and Fisheries and Aquaculture staff, they agreed, reluctantly I might add, to continue the seniors' exemption for hunting licences only. I am pleased that that still is in place today. However, can you believe this, as unconscionable as it was, the previous administration, the Liberal Government, required seniors to pay $17.25 for a fishing licence.

Mr. Speaker, I know when you came to this Legislature representing Cumberland South, the riding that you still represent, that on behalf of the seniors in your community and on behalf of the Progressive Conservative caucus, you assisted us in the charge against this dreadful, horrendous cost that was placed upon the seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you tabled in this Legislature a resolution whereby all members at that time unanimously supported the resolution calling for a full exemption. Even the Liberal Government supported the full exemption at that particular time. Now, as a consequence of your resolution, a number of seniors across the province forwarded petitions to the Progressive Conservative caucus because we were very active in this particular initiative and I know myself I tabled petition after petition, day after day, week after week, during the last legislative session that the MacLellan Liberals held office. I am pleased, although my pleasure, if you will, Mr. Speaker, was not full but I was pleased that the previous minister - again I would suggest reluctantly - agreed in 1999 to give seniors who happened on old age income supplement, those seniors who applied who were on the old age income supplement, were

[Page 2895]

eligible provided they notified the vendor they were given an exemption. So while that was a move to assist seniors, only a total of 55 seniors were able to take advantage of that concession, if you will, that was granted by the previous government. Last year 6,500 seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia purchased fishing licences.

Now, Mr. Speaker, many times in this Legislature members opposite are holding up our blue book and we are very pleased that they do. I would challenge honourable members opposite to look at Page 24 very closely. Page 24 references seniors, Mr. Speaker, and if I might, with your indulgence, and I certainly don't plan on reading all the pledges and promises that we made, but relative to seniors, it is very important that a couple of points are mentioned, a couple of pledges that we have fulfilled. Number one, we pledge to, "Remove the grandfather clause imposed on the Property Tax Rebate Program which unfairly provides some seniors with municipal property tax relief, while denying it to others. All seniors who apply and who meet program guidelines will receive property tax assistance." That was another unfair program that was brought in in 1995 by the previous administration.

I know, in this House, you cannot call an honourable member a hypocrite or you probably cannot call an honourable member two-faced, but Mr. Speaker, I have to ask honourable members, what do you call someone when they say, carte blanche? We have to treat seniors in Nova Scotia fairly, irrespective of where they live, especially when they have the same level of income, they happen to be on the Guaranteed Income Supplement. So that was an initiative we took hold of and we did something about and we did a positive thing.

Relative to the fishing licence and the resolution that is before us tonight, Mr. Speaker, on February 29, 2000, Priorities and Planning approved the creation of a new angling licence for seniors age 65 years and older for a fee of $5.00. The previous fee was $17.25. The new licence (Interruption) again, I ask them to go back and look at Page 24, I can read different commitments that this government made in here, but they won't find a pledge in here to completely relieve the seniors of the cut. With the honourable members' opposite indulgence, the new licence reduces the cost for seniors wishing to fish. It also maintains a $5.00 user fee required to manage the resource, and through the return of the licence stub data, it provides necessary biological information.

Are the members opposite against conservation measures such as restocking the brooks and the rivers and the lakes in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker? No, I don't believe they are, but the fact of the matter is, they like to wave the blue book, but they better carefully read Page 24. What we did was, we reduced the cost to seniors by $10. Can you believe that? That is what we did in this difficult financial times. We did something fair for all seniors across the Province of Nova Scotia. We listened to the concerns about the fee for a general angling licence, and seniors have come in to my office and said that they are pleased. They understand the need to conserve a very valuable resource in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2896]

We believe, Mr. Speaker, that we are giving the seniors a break on the cost and, more than that, we believe that seniors deserve that $10 break on the cost of fishing in Nova Scotia. We are exempting seniors from the licence fee and asking them to contribute, like all other anglers, towards sustaining the sport fishing resource. The seniors have not disagreed with sustaining the sport fish resource. The $5.00 that seniors contribute will go a long way to protecting and sustaining and enhancing fish habitat. The seniors are very pleased.

Mr. Speaker, again, the previous government imposed an unfair tax on the seniors of Nova Scotia, $17.25, and in spite of petition after petition, they wouldn't listen to the seniors and, the NDP, they won't listen to anybody, but we listen to seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia. The member for Bedford-Fall River listened, the member for Pictou, the member for Dartmouth South, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, listened. The Minister of Fisheries listened to seniors, the member for Sackville-Beaverbank listened, the member for Shelburne, the member for Preston and all the 30 members of the PC caucus listened to seniors, and the seniors will help us and we are pleased to help them. (Applause)

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of interventions on this very worthwhile resolution that the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has introduced here today. When I look across and I listen to the words of the honourable member, it reminds me of trying to pick a gaspereau out of a brook, there is lots of slipperiness there. He has done an excellent job in trying to make it look like he has done a wonderful thing but there is a lot of backsliding. The honourable member and his entourage, and I believe yourself too, Mr. Speaker, in a previous life introduced resolution after resolution, petition after petition before this House saying, we want it free, we want it free. (Interruptions) It is not what they say, it is what they don't say.

AN HON. MEMBER: You will say it for us.

MR. MACKINNON: That is right, I will say it for them, because the seniors aren't getting a free meal here at all, and the honourable member knows that. That is why he used the words reduce the cost, he didn't say eliminate, because that is just like every member of the Executive Council. What they were saying over there in their previous life, something happened, some invisible dust came down and got into their brain on the way across the floor, and now they are not saying the same thing as they said over here.

Mr. Speaker, I am surprised. He would make a good potential candidate for Cabinet. I think they are looking at the wrong guys. There is the member for Eastern Shore, there is the member for Pictou East, and then there are a few other wannabes down there; the member for Dartmouth South has been really making some pronouncements as if he is the official spokesperson for government policy. But here we have a champion, who knows what it is like to say one thing and do something else and make it sound so good.

[Page 2897]

Mr. Speaker, you wonder why they can give what they can to the seniors, that is because through the charity casinos money grab, they took from the poor. They are robbing Peter to pay Paul, that is really what he is trying to say. Why isn't it in the blue book? Because the issue of Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course has become very clouded. It is just like the honourable member who is walking down the brook where all the gaspereau are and kicking up his heels, now the water gets very cloudy, and he can't really see what the issue is. He reminds me a little of Puff the Magic Dragon, there is lots of fire there but it is not burning much but himself.

Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed that the honourable member has put a resolution before the House trying to champion the cause of wanting to reduce, the word eliminate all of a sudden evaporated. The word eliminate was eliminated in itself. Why? Because he is now singing from a different sheet. Maybe they are whipping him in line there. If he wants to get in Cabinet, he has to get with the program here, say one thing and do something else. Or perhaps he could get somebody in the Civil Service to probably do some of his nasty work for him. Maybe what they did is wrote a letter to the seniors; perhaps they got Mr. Jim Spurr to write a letter and say, you seniors take this reduction or else you are not going to get anything, and don't you criticize us. They are very pleased. (Interruptions) Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member entertain a question?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the honourable member for Cape Breton West - and I know he is in full flight and I apologize for interrupting him - would tell the House and the seniors across Nova Scotia what his position was, just where he stood and how vigorously he protested against his own government imposing that $17.25 on the senior population of Nova Scotia when they had been exempt up until 1995? What position did he take?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is very evident, when Premier Savage and eventually Premier MacLellan took office, they had to deal with the residual of probably one of the most corrupt, bankrupt governments that ever hit the Province of Nova Scotia. Does he not remember John Buchanan or Donnie Cameron? Does he not remember the fact that some of the highest debt per capita in the country was brought in by the Tories? Some of these seniors can remember that, and as painful as paying for a fishing licence is, it is even more painful seeing their children and their children's children being saddled with some of the most disgusting, really disgusting mismanagement that has ever hit the Province of Nova Scotia. We had one honest John and now we have another fellow saying, trust me, I am honest. But he is now saying one thing and doing something else.

[Page 2898]

[6:15 p.m.]

It does not surprise me that the honourable member has not fulfilled his commitment. Maybe he does not have as strong a voice. Maybe the Minister of Fisheries really is not paying a lot of heed to the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley because maybe they are not singing on the same song sheet. Maybe there are other considerations. Maybe they took it from the 4-H members across this province. Some $400,000 or $500,000, they took that from the children. Why wouldn't they say they can give to the seniors. Because they are taking from the children of this province, from a very worthwhile organization that helps their education, their personal development. A very worthwhile organization that supports the agricultural community, one of the cornerstones of this province. They will do some spin doctoring and try to make it look like they are helping the seniors. My gosh, what a sad commentary on public policy. Is that supposed to be compassion? I think that is sad. (Interruption)

I have answered it, and if little Rollie would just cool his heels, there is plenty of time to get in Cabinet. There is lots of time. He and Mr. Dooks will have to fight it out on a future date. He will have to start teaming up with some ministers to get his picture on some of these announcements, even though they are violating the occupational health and safety laws here. Next thing you know they will be telling the seniors they have to wear hard hats to go fishing. What is it all coming to, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I hate to reel the member in, but we are talking about the seniors and the licence fee.

MR. MACKINNON: Absolutely. I think the honourable member here should have had to have a licence to put this resolution before the House. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, this is a very feeble attempt by a member trying to defend a government that deep in his heart, you can tell by his words and his actions, he really doesn't support some of these Draconian measures. I would not be a bit surprised when Mr. Day shows up in another few days from the Canadian Alliance, Mr. Member will be there, front row and centre. He will be fishing to find out what his possibilities are. He is going to have to make up his mind. Is he going to be supporting the seniors of this province? The honourable member has to fish or cut bait, and he certainly hasn't done it in this resolution. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I think that this must have been one of those fishing issues that was concocted in that beautiful fishing cabin down in the Pictou County area.

Mr. Speaker, what really galls me as a member of this Legislative Assembly is when a member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley can stand in this House time after time, draft resolution after resolution, introducing petition after petition about the poor seniors and the

[Page 2899]

seniors' ability to get out there and participate in an activity such as sport fishing and become the anglers of this Province of Nova Scotia. It is people like that who make politicians get the kind of names that they receive. It is people like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who despoil the names of politicians, who give politicians the kind of names that people cannot trust them, they are untrustworthy, they really do not say what they really mean, and that is the kind of member that that member is over there. Once you become a member of the government you can say all kinds of things. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it is that kind of politician over there who tries to pull the wool over the eyes of seniors by implying that in fact there is something good and something gracious in giving you something, half a meal instead of a full meal. When you stand here and you berate day after day in this Legislative Assembly, implying that the best and the most thing that you want to see seniors, is to have a free and be exempt from a fishing licence.

Mr. Speaker, you, yourself, have put resolutions in this House asking for exemptions. When my Party stood here before this House, we supported that member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and, Mr. Speaker, yourself, bringing in those resolutions and asking for exemptions to the seniors' fishing licence. We stood here wholeheartedly and we supported that, much the same as we supported your commitment on Page 24 with the rebate to seniors for exemptions to the property tax exemption.

Mr. Speaker, we think that that is an excellent idea, but to go around this province as a senior member of this Legislative Assembly, to 6,500 seniors, and imply that somehow you are doing something nice and something wonderful for them, after standing here day in and day out, time after time, resolution after resolution, stating that, in fact, you want a total exemption for the seniors' licence. I want you to know (Interruption) The member for Dartmouth South will have ample opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Dartmouth North entertain a question?

MR. PYE: No, Mr. Speaker, my time is free. It is my own time and I wish to continue the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Continue on.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. I want to spend my time in debating this issue and I am not in a position to entertain questions because I really want to bring home the fact that politics stink when senior members of this Legislative Assembly promise to the seniors of this province something and they do not live up to it and they do not fulfil their obligation. That is the responsibility here and it is not uncharacteristic of a Progressive Conservative Government to do that. They say anything and do anything to get elected and to get into power because that is the way the Progressive Conservative Government operates.

[Page 2900]

During the election campaign there was exemption for seniors' fishing licences. There was exemption during this House on many occasions, that very member; and I want to emphasize it once again, time after time, resolutions after resolutions, petitions after petitions by this member on total exemption of fishing licences to seniors. Now, let me tell you what the seniors of the community must think about a seasoned member of this Legislative Assembly who implies that all of a sudden it is nice that they only have to pay a $5.00 fee and you know that that $5.00 fee happens to be . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Why are you against that $10 . . .

MR. PYE: That $10 fee for what the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley says is a conservation fee. Well, you know something? There is a large number of seniors who go hunting through the forests of this province. They have camps, they look after the environment, they are conservationists and you don't require them to pay any conservation fee, they are totally exempt. So allow me to tell you (Interruption) Yes, you certainly do, and let me tell you, you make sure that the herd and the stock is up and its population base is at a minimum level across this province, and that is done by the Department of Natural Resources. Just in case the member for Dartmouth South is unaware of that, I want to bring that to his attention.

This member here has the gall to try to pacify and sell this issue to the seniors as though it is some great thing that the seniors could do. Let me tell you something, you have a lesson to learn from seniors because seniors knew a lot about conservation and about the environment, far more and far longer than you have, who have driven an 18-wheeler across this country. The seniors can tell you about the environment and the conservation of natural resources, the conservation of species in this province and what, in fact, does not exist to this very day and next.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I want to . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I have heard ridiculous rants in this House before but this has to take the cake tonight. The point I am trying to make on the point of order is that the honourable member time and time again has cast aspersion after aspersion on me and my government. It is very unfair. I think, and I want clarification. The point is, I think I heard him say something derogatory implicit about the truck driving profession. He did mention something about an 18-wheeler going across Canada. Perhaps he could give a little bit of clarification on that, if he so desires. The member for Dartmouth North should remember that we brought this legislation in to help the seniors in Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is no point of order. Order, please.

[Page 2901]

The issue raised by the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is a good point and there have been a lot of things said here today that are not the issue we are supposed to be addressing, although there is no point of order. I would remind the member for Dartmouth North that we are talking about the fishing license fee here. You have approximately one and one-half minutes left, and I believe you wanted to relent to your partner there, didn't you?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do want to delegate time to the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, but Mr. Speaker, before I finish I want to say members of this political Party can be as slippery as an eel in a (Laughter)(Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Dartmouth North to retract that. He knows very well that a statement like that is very unparliamentary.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am totally unaware that that is unparliamentary.

MR. SPEAKER: It is; in my ruling it is. It is unparliamentary to suggest that of another member. I would ask you to retract that, please.

MR. PYE: I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, you have 45 seconds.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I want you to know this is a prop. I have no time for it. I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, that in this House the word of Brooke Taylor was a word that seniors across the province respected. A man who lives at 69 Hubley Brook Road said, I am voting Tory because Brooke Taylor is giving me, when they are elected, a free fishing license, and I want to sign that petition. I went to that door how many times and God love his soul, I know that he voted Tory because of a free fishing licence. I don't need a blue book, I believe in the word of Brooke Taylor. Brooke Taylor is the word that seniors across this province listen to. Shame on you.

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

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

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]