The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., May 16, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Victoria: Roads - Maintain, Mr. K. MacAskill 5903
Health - Environmental Illness: Treatment Clinic - Support,
Mr. D. Dexter 5904
Educ. - Beaver Bank: Students - Stay, Mr. B. Barnet 5904
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2085, Health - QE II: Cuts - Negative, Mr. R. MacLellan 5905
Res. 2086, Educ. - Special: Commitments - Unfulfilled,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5905
Res. 2087, HoC (Can.) - By-Election (St. John's West):
Loyola Hearn (PC) - Success Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 5906
Res. 2088, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Ports Day (C.B.):
Organizers - Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 5907
Vote - Affirmative 5907
Res. 2089, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts Special Needs - Condemn,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5907
Res. 2090, Health - McDonald's Corp. (N.S.): Youth Support -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 5908
Vote - Affirmative 5909
Res. 2091, Hon. John James Kinley (Lt. Gov. [N.S.] 1994-2000) &
Hon. Grace Kinley: Contributions Outstanding - Congrats. &
Thanks, Mr. D. Downe 5909
Vote - Affirmative 5910
Res. 2092, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/99 on): Deficit -
Address, Ms. E. O'Connell 5910
Res. 2093, Nat. Res. - Two Rivers Wildlife Park: Mira Commun. Work -
Commend, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5910
Vote - Affirmative 5911
Res. 2094, Educ. - Acadia Univ.: Valedictorian (2000) -
Derek Anderson (Truro) Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 5911
Vote - Affirmative 5912
Res. 2095, Educ. - Children: Special Needs - Funding Inadequate,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5913
Res. 2096, Paraplegic Assoc. (Sydney) & Abilities Fdn. (Hfx.) -
Wheelchair Cross-Can.: Dixon Cole (Inv.) - Success Wish,
Mr. K. MacAskill 5913
Vote - Affirmative 5914
Res. 2097, Lbr. - Occup. Health & Safety: Regs. Delay -
Consequences Regret, Mr. F. Corbett 5914
Res. 2098, Culture - Unisong 2000 Ottawa: Priv. Stock Studio
Singers (Queens) - Reps. (N.S.) Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 5915
Vote - Affirmative 5915
Res. 2099, Econ. Dev. - Stora Enso: Export Achievement
(Millennium Award) - Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 5916
Vote - Affirmative 5916
Res. 2100, EMO - Queens Co. Ground Search & Rescue Aux.:
Vivian Croft & Freda Norman - Award Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 5916
Vote - Affirmative 5917
Res. 2101, Educ. - SW Reg. Sch. Bd.: Bus Transport.
(Gold Achievement) - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5917
Vote - Affirmative 5918
Res. 2102, Educ. - Teaching Ex. (Award [PM]): Paul Barrett
(Cobequid Educ. Ctr.) - Commend, Mr. B. Taylor 5918
Vote - Affirmative 5918
Res. 2103, Environ. - McNabs & Lawlor Islands: Beach Sweep -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 5919
Vote - Affirmative 5919
Res. 2104, Sysco: Continuance - Ensure, Mr. P. MacEwan 5919
Res. 2105, Educ. - Library Techs.: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5920
Res. 2106, NDP Leadership - MLA (Former): Geog. Briefing -
Ensure, Mr. D. Wilson 5921
Res. 2107, HoC (Can.) - By-Election (St. John's West):
Loyola Hearn (PC) - Victory Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 5921
Res. 2108, Dal. Univ. - Transition Year (Class Valedictorian):
Pearlene Wright (Hfx.) - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 5922
Vote - Affirmative 5922
Res. 2109, Peter Mancini & Michelle Dockerill (C.B. MPs):
Spotlight (C.B.) - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 5923
Res. 2110, Health - QE II: Cuts - Implication Info., Mr. R. MacLellan 5923
Res. 2111, RC Church - Ordination (Colby Village 08/05/00):
Father Paul Morris - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 5924
Vote - Affirmative 5925
Res. 2112, Econ. Dev. - Fresh Start Denim Art: Nancy Wentzell -
Entrepreneurship Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 5925
Vote - Affirmative 5925
Res. 2113, Econ. Dev. - Golda & Mike Walsh (Goodwood):
Commun. Activities - Appreciate, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5926
Vote - Affirmative 5926
Res. 2114, Educ. - Moot Corp Comp. (Texas 05-07/05/00):
Claire Biddulph & Nicole Methven (SMU) - Success Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 5926
Vote - Affirmative 5927
Res. 2115, Educ. - C.B.-Vict. Sch. Bd.: Heritage Fair Prog. -
Students Commend, Mr. K. MacAskill 5927
Vote - Affirmative 5928
Res. 2116, Educ. - UCCB: Jack Hartery (Stora Enso Pres.) -
Hon. Degree Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 5928
Vote - Affirmative 5928
Res. 2117, Educ. - Acadia Univ.: Microstructural Analysis Ctr. -
Contributions Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 5929
Vote - Affirmative 5929
Res. 2118, Sysco - Future: Workers - Consider, Mr. P. MacEwan 5929
Res. 2119, Health - QE II: Cuts - Condemn, Mr. D. Wilson 5930
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 715, Health - Reg. Bd. (W.): Media Contact - Restrictions,
Mr. R. MacLellan 5931
No. 716, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Special Needs Compassion,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 5932
No. 717, Health - QE II: Cuts - Treatment Dignified, Mr. R. MacLellan 5934
No. 718, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Special Needs Review,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5935
No. 719, Health - QE II: Info. Technology - Priority, Dr. J. Smith 5936
No. 720, Health: QE II - Restructuring, Mr. D. Dexter 5937
No. 721, Educ. - UCCB: Funding - Cuts, Mr. R. MacKinnon 5939
No. 722, Educ. - UCCB: Funding - Contract Honour, Mr. F. Corbett 5940
No. 723, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Special Needs,
Mr. P. MacEwan 5941
No. 724, P&P: Red Tape Reduction Task Force - Independence/
Budget, Mr. Robert Chisholm 5942
No. 725, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): SW Reg. Sch. Bd. -
Meeting [L'Pool (16/05/00)], Mr. W. Gaudet 5943
No. 726, Animal Cruelty Prevention - Pets: Euthanization -
Regulate, Mr. K. Deveaux 5944
No. 727, Fin. - Taxation: Tobacco - Increase, Mr. D. Downe 5945
No. 728, Educ. - Elmsdale Dist. Sch.: New - Commitment,
Mr. John MacDonell 5946
No. 729, Communications N.S. - Policy Violation, Mr. D. Wilson 5947
No. 730, Health - QE II: Nursing - Cuts, Mr. D. Dexter 5948
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 46, Financial Measures (2000) Act 5950
Mr. R. MacLellan 5950
Mr. H. Epstein 5960
Question Put: 5975
Vote - Affirmative 5976
Second Reading: 5976
Vote - Affirmative 5976
No. 47, Education Act 5976
Hon. J. Purves 5976
Mr. W. Gaudet 5979
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5991
HOUSE RECESSED AT 5:10 P.M. 5995
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:15 P.M. 5995
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5995
Amendment moved (Refer to LA Comm.) 6000
Mr. D. Downe 6001
Adjourned debate 6004
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Pharmacare: Seniors - Costs Burden:
Mr. D. Dexter 6004
Hon. J. Muir 6006
Dr. J. Smith 6009
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 47, Education Act 6012
Amendment [debate resumed] 6012
Mr. D. Downe 6012
Mr. J. Holm 6022
Adjourned debate 6031
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., May 17th at 2:00 p.m. 6032
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2120, HoC (Can.) - By-Election (St. John's West):
Liberal Promises - Response Deserved, Mr. J. Holm 6033

[Page 5903]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 16, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour:

Therefore be it resolved that this government explain to seniors why they are shouldering the brunt of Pharmacare cost increases.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from a number of residents in my constituency. The operative clause reads, "The present condition of our roads didn't happen by accident, it's just an accident waiting to happen." This is a petition that was presented to me and I now present it to the House. I have affixed my signature.

5903

[Page 5904]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of Nova Scotians who support a full-time treatment clinic for environmental illness in Nova Scotia. The operative clause reads, "WE, the undersigned, wish to firmly express our support for (1) More physicians training in Environmental Medicine, and (2) a full-time Environmental Medicine treatment clinic service here in Nova Scotia, that will use treatment protocols and procedures that are accepted and widely used internationally within the field of Environmental Medicine." There are 309 signatures and I have affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by more than 400 students, parents and community members from the Beaver Bank area. The operative clause is, "The schools in our community are not overcrowded. In fact, they are under populated. We, the residents of Beaver Bank-Kinsac, do not want our children to attend school outside of our community. Why empty schools in Beaver Bank-Kinsac to fill schools in other communities? To us it makes neither financial nor educational sense to send our students outside of our community." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 5905]

RESOLUTION NO. 2085

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

Whereas last week the QE II Health Sciences Centre announced it plans to cut 315 positions overall by year's end, in addition to the 103 job cuts continued in the first draft of the hospital's budget in February; and

Whereas the Premier referred to the QE II's plan for 418 staff cuts as a positive step forward in health care delivery; and

Whereas health care professionals across this province have stated that these cuts cannot be achieved without affecting the quality of patient care provided to all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier open his eyes and realize that cutting 418 staff is not a positive step and that these cuts will permanently devastate the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2086

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

Whereas previous Conservative and Liberal Governments justified the closure of institutions for children with handicaps and elimination of support for segregated education by pointing to the policy of inclusion; and

Whereas the 1998 report of the Education Funding Review Work Group states the funding shortfall for special education then stood at $32.2 million; and

[Page 5906]

Whereas the present Premier endorsed that report and committed his government to address the shortfall;

Therefore be it resolved that those who really need Prozac are Conservatives who see the gap between their Tory election commitments and their shameful post-election scramble to break those commitments.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2087

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

Whereas the good people in the federal constituency of St. John's West elected their Progressive Conservative candidate, Loyola Hearn, to the House of Commons yesterday; and

Whereas Mr. Hearn is the former provincial Minister of Education and an 11 year veteran of the House of Assembly; and

Whereas this experience will stand Mr. Hearn in good steed as he brings the concerns of his constituents to the federal government;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the voters of St. John's West for choosing an excellent Member of Parliament and wish Mr. Hearn every success as he returns to elected politics in the beautiful Province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5907]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2088

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

Whereas Ports Day will be held on May 17th and May 18th this year at the Canadian Coast Guard College; and

Whereas this annual event features speakers and workshops that will help guide Cape Breton and its ports through the free-market economy; and

Whereas Ports Day is an opportunity for people with small businesses to take advantage of the exciting changes that are taking place with the area's ports;

Therefore be it resolved that the organizers of Ports Day be congratulated on the initiative they have shown in organizing such an event and making things happen within their own community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2089

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

[Page 5908]

Whereas the Constitution of this country states that, "Every individual is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability"; and

Whereas in today's news, the Education Minister launched an attack on equal benefit of the law for children with special needs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemns the Education Minister's unjustified and reprehensible attack on children with special needs who, with assistance, have overcome the barriers to learning.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2090

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

Whereas McDonald's restaurants have become renowned for their support of charities associated with children; and

Whereas today is McHappy Day, where the McDonald's restaurant organization is donating a portion of its sales to its Ronald McDonald charities, including the Ronald McDonald House in metro; and

Whereas one local sponsor of McDonald's, Mr. David Read, is a prime example of the generosity of the McDonald's Corporation in giving back to the children of Nova Scotia through its corporate programs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the McDonald's Corporation and its Nova Scotia management team for their generosity and ongoing support of programs designed to improve the health and welfare of our young generation.

[Page 5909]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2091

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

Whereas the Honourable John James Kinley, Nova Scotia's 29th Lieutenant Governor has served the people of this province since 1994; and

Whereas the Honourable John James Kinley and Her Honour, Grace Elizabeth Kinley, have contributed enormously to the province by giving freely of themselves and enlisting in several community organizations throughout the province; and

Whereas tomorrow, May 17, 2000, the Honourable John James Kinley will be replaced by Nova Scotia's newest Lieutenant Governor, Myra Freeman, and we wish her all the best in her tenure as Lieutenant Governor;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate and thank the Honourable John James Kinley and Her Honour, Grace Kinley, for their outstanding contributions to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 5910]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2092

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, 1,596 children have been born into poverty; and

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education and social deficits faced by the 1,596 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2093

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

Whereas the Two Rivers Wildlife Park in Mira is now open for summer months with a new amphitheatre and heritage trail nearly completed; and

Whereas the park allows visitors to observe an array of animals in their natural surroundings along five kilometres of trail; and

Whereas the community of Mira has worked together tirelessly, with very few resources to make this project a reality;

Therefore be it resolved that the people of the Two Rivers Wildlife Park be commended by the members of this House for their work as a community, for their community.

[Page 5911]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

[12:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2094

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

Whereas Derek Anderson, BBA, a Truro native and Cobequid Educational Centre graduate is the valedictorian of the 2000 graduating class of Acadia University; and

Whereas Derek Anderson has served as vice-president of finance and vice-president of academics for the Acadia Student Union; and

Whereas Derek Anderson was also a residence assistant, a frosh boss, involved with Acadia's SMILE program, and pioneered a web page where students can evaluate their courses and professors;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Derek Anderson for his outstanding undergraduate career at Acadia and wish him every success as he begins a career in financial analysis with the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5912]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

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

Whereas last week the QE II Health Sciences Centre announced that 12 nurse manager positions would be discontinued and their functions consolidated; and

Whereas these nurse managers supervise many nursing staff and give direction on patient care to LPNs and RNs; and

Whereas the Tory blue book promised nurses that they would be able to properly care for their patients, and the Hamm Government was committed to hiring more new nurses;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government stop "butchering" our health care system and honour the commitment made to nurses to ensure that Nova Scotia can maintain a quality based health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to take a look at that resolution, please.

I rule that resolution out of order. To me butchering would be quite unparliamentary.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: What? No, no.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if I could have a point or order. There are quotation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There are several words that aren't in Beauchesne but it doesn't mean that they are not unparliamentary.

DR. JAMES SMITH: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I respect your ruling. I would like to make the point that there are quotation marks around butchering. It is taken out of a statement by the nurses of Nova Scotia who are very frustrated and upset and angry with this government. They are using words like that and I didn't say in the motion that I was quoting them, but in fact I am.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I made a ruling and I stand by that.

[Page 5913]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2095

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

Whereas the Minister of Education has shown a lack of compassion beyond belief when it comes to special needs children; and

Whereas the Minister of Education has shown an amazing lack of understanding of the needs of these children; and

Whereas the Minister of Education now blames doctors for the number of special needs children in the system;

Therefore be it resolved that the problem for special needs children is not their numbers but lack of adequate funding by this heartless Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2096

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

Whereas Dixon Cole of Inverness has recently launched an attempt to cross mainland Canada in an electric wheelchair; and

Whereas Mr. Cole is making this trip in an attempt to raise money and awareness for the Paraplegic Association in Sydney and the Abilities Foundation based in Halifax; and

Whereas Mr. Cole himself is a double amputee and has a spinal disorder;

[Page 5914]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House wish Dixon Cole a safe journey and much success in his efforts to raise awareness and funds for these worthy causes.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 2097

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

Whereas ceremonies and statements to mark Education Week were cancelled this year because of this government's devastating attack on public education; and

Whereas there were no statements or government events to mark Nursing Week, because it was also the week when this government began to lay off nurses; and

Whereas this week is National Occupational Health and Safety Week;

Therefore be it resolved that this House regret that the recent deaths and injuries linked to this government's delay to new health and safety regulations mean that once again this Conservative Government finds it embarrassing to affirm goals like education, nursing care and safe workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 5915]

The notice is tabled.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. That notice of motion is imputing motives. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader rose on a point of order to say that he felt that notice imputed motive. I will take a look at it later.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2098

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

Whereas the Private Stock Studio Singers received top honours at the recent 2000 Queens County Music Festival; and

Whereas the Private Stock Studio Singers have participated in music festivals across Nova Scotia, delighting audiences with every performance; and

Whereas the choir will represent our province at Unisong 2000 in Ottawa, between June 28th and July 2nd, joining singers from across the country to celebrate Canada Day on Parliament Hill;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Private Stock Studio Singers on their recent distinction, and wish them every success as they represent Nova Scotia to the rest of the country during our national millennium celebrations.

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 Richmond.

[Page 5916]

RESOLUTION NO. 2099

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

Whereas Stora Enso was among nine Nova Scotian companies to be lauded at the 16th Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards last Wednesday in Halifax; and

Whereas a millennium award was presented to each of the nine manufacturing or processing companies with more than 500 employees; and

Whereas located in Point Tupper, Richmond County, Stora Enso is home to PM 2, the world's largest and fastest supercalendered paper machine;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the staff and management of Stora Enso for receiving a Nova Scotia Export Achievement Award.

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 Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2100

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

Whereas on May 13th, the members of the Queens County Ground Search and Rescue Auxiliary held their awards and recognition dinner; and

Whereas members of the auxiliary and the Ground Search and Rescue were recognized for their dedication in assisting people at times of great crisis; and

[Page 5917]

Whereas the auxiliary is the only one of its kind in Nova Scotia, and is believed to be the only one in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Vivian Croft, Freda Norman, and the members of the auxiliary, as well as all certificate award recipients.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2101

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

Whereas the Southwest Regional School Board has recently won a Gold Achievement Award for operating an outstanding pupil transportation system; and

Whereas the criteria for this award consists of staff training, accident prevention, bus maintenance and compliance with the Motor Carrier Act; and

Whereas the total annual mileage for the school buses in the southwest region is more than 5 million miles;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the bus drivers, mechanics and the administration of the Southwest Regional School Board for their hard work in making this award possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5918]

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. 2102

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

Whereas Cobequid Educational Centre band director Paul Barrett was one of 16 teachers nationwide to receive the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence at a ceremony in Ottawa last week; and

Whereas Mr. Barrett is the first Nova Scotian to attain this prestigious award since its inception in 1993; and

Whereas the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence is presented annually to teachers who have best prepared students for the challenges of a changing society and knowledge-based economy;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature recognize and commend Paul Barrett for becoming the first Nova Scotia teacher to win the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence, while wishing him every future success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 5919]

RESOLUTION NO. 2103

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

Whereas on June 4th the Friends of McNabs Island Society will conduct the 18th Beach Sweep of McNabs and Lawlor Islands; and

Whereas since 1991 the Friends of McNabs have collected 6,000 bags of trash from McNabs and Lawlor Islands; and

Whereas this event is co-sponsored by Parks Canada, the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Clean Nova Scotia Foundation, and Murphy's on the Water;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of the 18th Beach Sweep of McNabs and Lawlor Islands and thank the sponsors of this worthwhile 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.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2104

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

Whereas the Sydney Steel Corporation has the only operating rail mill in Canada, and only one of three in North America; and

Whereas Sydney Steel presently generates $30 million in annual payroll and pensions, $40 million in purchases, and $12 million to Nova Scotia Power; and

[Page 5920]

Whereas it is estimated that for every job Sydney Steel provides, at least two other jobs are generated in the economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia should work to ensure the continued operation of Sydney Steel with maximum possible employment, by favouring sale to a bidder capable of meeting these requirements.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2105

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

Whereas libraries in junior high schools are an integral part in the delivery of information services to students, staff and community; and

Whereas this government's cuts to education mean the loss of library technicians from junior high schools; and

Whereas it will be impossible to replace library technicians and their skills by using volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education recognize the importance of library technicians, who are valuable members to the school staff, by ensuring that necessary funding is available to school boards to maintain their positions.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

[Page 5921]

RESOLUTION NO. 2106

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

Whereas geographically, Nova Scotia is predominantly rural; and

Whereas an NDP leadership candidate recently referred to rural Nova Scotia as the sticks; and

Whereas the rural communities are proud members of this province and contribute immeasurably to the economy, heritage and culture of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the former member of the House be better briefed by his Party as to the geographical make-up of this province and the insensitive nature of his comment.

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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2107

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

Whereas the federal Tory candidate for St. John's West focused on health care and education and was positioned to the left of where his Party is now headed; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Tories in the 1999 election campaign positioned themselves to the left on the same issues; and

Whereas Nova Scotians now know that the Tories are a two-faced Party, who will say one thing to get elected and do another after elected;

[Page 5922]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Loyola Hearn on his victory and hope that he doesn't disappoint his electorate like the Tories of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 2108

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

Whereas Pearlene Wright of Halifax has recently completed her Transition Year at Dalhousie University; and

Whereas Pearlene finished first in her class, was named class valedictorian, and received the Morris Stratton prize for excellence; and

Whereas Pearlene is returning to work at the Liberal caucus office;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Pearlene Wright on her academic achievements and wish her success in her 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.

[Page 5923]

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[12:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2109

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 recent pronouncements by the Prime Minister at the New England Trade Exposition demonstrate federal Liberals take Nova Scotia for granted; and

Whereas despite Liberal indifference, Cape Breton MPs, Peter Mancini and Michelle Dockrill, continue to keep the issues concerning their constituents front and centre; and

Whereas these strong voices on behalf of Cape Breton have re-established the region's prominence in the House of Commons, forcing the indifferent Liberals to treat Cape Breton fairly;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Peter Mancini and Michelle Dockrill for shining the spotlight on Cape Breton and for their strong leadership on behalf of their constituents.

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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2110

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

Whereas the Minister of Health stated that he could not guarantee that the quality of patient care would not be affected by the most recent health care cuts; and

[Page 5924]

Whereas during last Thursday's Question Period, the Minister of Health seemed in the dark regarding details of the cuts at the QE II and repeatedly asked that the Opposition members table a document that had been sent to both the media and members of the Opposition; and

Whereas the Minister of Health stated that same day that it was not his responsibility to speak on behalf of the QE II on such matters as health cuts;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health realize that he is the Minister of Health, that he is responsible for hospitals such as the QE II, and that it is, in fact, his responsibility to know how his government's budget cuts will affect the delivery of health care throughout this province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice was way too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2111

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

Whereas Paul Morris, who spent two years at the Pope John XXIII parish in Colby Village, was ordained as a priest on Monday, May 8th; and

Whereas Father Paul celebrated his first mass on Sunday, May 7th, at St. John the Baptist Church in Armdale;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Father Paul Morris upon being ordained into the priesthood and wish him well in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 5925]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2112

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

Whereas Nancy Wentzell, owner of Fresh Start Denim Art, has been an entrepreneur in New Germany for the last six years; and

Whereas Mrs. Wentzell has recycled more than 400 kilograms of denim in the last four months, turning the material into tote bags, quilts and neckties that sell wholesale in 42 stores across Canada; and

Whereas this entrepreneur and her team of two sewers and three cutters recently landed a contract to export products to Iceland with hopes to expand their business to markets in the United States;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate entrepreneur, Mrs. Nancy Wentzell, and her talented team for their outstanding accomplishments and wish them continued success as they take and expand their venture to a higher level.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 5926]

RESOLUTION NO. 2113

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

Whereas Golda's Café in Goodwood on the Prospect Road has opened for another season; and

Whereas Golda and Mike Walsh are involved, active citizens in this growing community; and

Whereas the Walshes have conscientiously committed countless hours of their time to the monitoring of the compost facility on the Prospect Road;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its appreciation to Golda and Mike Walsh with best wishes of a busy and successful season at Golda's Café on the Prospect Road.

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2114

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

Whereas two Saint Mary's University MBA students, Claire Biddulph and Nicole Methven, represented Canada in the MC competition in Austin, Texas, from May 5th to May 7th; and

Whereas the team won the fast pitch competition where the team had 15 minutes to present their business plan for DementiaGuide.com, a disease management site soon to hit the world wide web; and

[Page 5927]

Whereas the team received U.S. $1,000 for successfully pitching the Internet site which will provide doctors, patients and caregivers with up-to-date information about Alzheimer's disease;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Claire Biddulph and Nicole Methven on their success at the MC competition in Texas and wish them continued success 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.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 2115

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

Whereas the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board was one of three school boards in the province to participate in the Heritage Fair Program; and

Whereas students from each participating school had the opportunity to produce projects that highlighted the different cultures of the region; and

Whereas five winners from each participating board will go on to the National Heritage Fair in Ottawa as exhibitors;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the students of the Cape Breton-Victoria School Board for their efforts in celebrating the diverse cultures of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 5928]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2116

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

Whereas on Saturday, May 13, 2000, Jack Hartery, President and General Manager of Stora Enso, received an honorary degree from the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas Mr. Jack Hartery successfully led a team of skilled individuals to build the world's largest and fastest supercalendered paper machine; and

Whereas born in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, Mr. Jack Hartery has contributed to the pulp and paper industry as a member of the Sectoral Advisory Group on International Trade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and as Director with the Canadian Pulp and Paper Industry, Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada and Stora Enso;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the University College of Cape Breton's newest honorary degree recipient, Mr. Jack Hartery, on his outstanding achievements within the forest industry.

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.

[Page 5929]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 2117

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

Whereas the Acadia Centre for Microstructural Analysis of Acadia University has recently received $613,395 to purchase equipment including three powerful microscopes; and

Whereas this new equipment would allow Acadia to do more research and secure industrial contracts while contributing to the development of scientists in Canada; and

Whereas this centre, which is unique in the Maritimes, will support research initiatives such as the study of organisms in the Bay of Fundy ecosystem;

Therefore be it resolved that the Acadia Centre for Microstructural Analysis be congratulated by this House for the contributions it has made and will continue to make to the scientific community.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver, please.

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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2118

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

Whereas the workers at Sydney Steel have endured very difficult work conditions and the nagging uncertainty hanging over the whole Sysco operation for a prolonged period; and

[Page 5930]

Whereas all Sysco workers should get either a decent pension, a full-time job with a new operator, or a fair and proper severance package; and

Whereas the costs of such benefits could be substantially reduced by selling Sydney Steel to a new operator which will maximize the level of jobs and production at the steel plant;

Therefore be it resolved that the government ought to take heed to both these important considerations in determining its course of action on Sydney Steel.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2119

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 happy-go-lucky doctor Premier flippantly stated that the elimination of 418 positions at the QE II was a positive step; and

Whereas one is reminded of the Buckley's Mixture slogan, "It tastes awful but it works"; and

Whereas unlike Buckley's Mixture, the actions of government leave a bad taste in your mouth without actually working;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier be condemned for delivering bad medicine to the 418 staff at the QE II and that the members of this House check the label so that the side effects from Hamm's mixture don't prove fatal.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 5931]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, we have with us today in the east gallery, a former minister of many hats, Mr. Joel Matheson, and with him is Gordon Clark, Harald Norve and Kent Clarke, who have long served this province in many capacities in many volunteer organizations. I would like them to receive the warm welcome of the House, please. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

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

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - REG. BD. (W.): MEDIA CONTACT - RESTRICTIONS

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, in a memorandum dated May 12, 2000, Hubert Devine, the Program Manager, Addiction Services, of the Western Regional Health Board, sent a memo to his staff stating, ". . . Victor Maddalena indicated that he and Brenda Montgomery would henceforth be the official spokespersons for the WRHB, and that management staff should direct any enquiries or contacts from either the media or politicians to either him or Brenda." I want to ask the Minister of Health, why has he put a gag order on staff members of the Western Regional Health Board?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is no gag order. It just happens that in any board there is an authorized means to put out communications. That is simply what that memo indicated to the managers.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I want to quote again from this memorandum. It goes on to say, "Similarly, on the same day, Brenda instructed me not to have contact with anyone from the Department of Health regarding policy issues, budget issues or organizational change." My reading of the memorandum leads me to conclude that Brenda intends this restriction to apply to all staff. I ask you to compare that to Page 7 of the blue

[Page 5932]

book, which says - one of the criteria, one of the promises was - "Ensuring that doctors, along with other health care providers, have a real voice in shaping the future direction of health care;"

Mr. Speaker, I want to address the hypocrisy of this government, and ask the Minister of Health, did he instruct this gag order be put in place?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat the answer I gave before. Organizations have a chain of communication, internal as well as external, and that is important. The Western Regional Health Board established a chain of communication which is acceptable to me.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, this government promised access of all people in the medical profession to health policy and to government. He has gone back on this by imposing this gag order, either done by him personally or his deputy minister, Chauncey Gardner. I want to ask the Minister of the Health, did he or did his deputy minister impose this gag order, and has it been imposed on the other regional health boards as well?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the same question was asked three times, but if the honourable Minister of Health would like to answer . . .

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in the Western Regional Health Board, like other health boards in the province, there is a protocol for issuing communications. That protocol has been established by the Western Regional Health Board, and that is fair enough. If anybody in that Western Regional Health Board wishes to contact people from the Department of Health, in general they are able to do that.

[12:45 p.m.]

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

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

CUTS - SPECIAL NEEDS COMPASSION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the honourable Premier. Nova Scotians thought they had seen the end of the days when some children were simply warehoused, denied an education, denied an opportunity to fully participate in society. The Premier's infamous blue book committed his government to increased resources for students with special needs year after year in a multi-year plan. He said that Nova Scotians are compassionate people who firmly believe their government must work to enhance the quality of life, including our children. Looking at today's cold-hearted comments from the Minister of Education about those children, I want to ask the Premier, where is his compassion now?

[Page 5933]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite did make reference to a multi-year plan dealing with students with special needs, and I would ask the minister to inform the member opposite.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the very sensitive area, special education, is one I have talked about with teachers, I have talked about it with students, with school board members, and what we would like to do in the coming year is to review how we are implementing our special education policies, whether they are servicing students effectively, whether they are consistent across the province, and whether they are serving all students as well as they should. That is the meaning of statements talking about reviewing special education policy, it is not to do with warehousing students.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. In the very week that school boards are deciding how many teachers' aides, program assistants, will be laid off, the Minister of Education suddenly discovers the need to review the policy, but in the election, the Premier knew that additional resources were needed and must be met. The result is you have a parent who was quoted in the Truro Daily News today saying that our kids are our future, unless you have special needs. I ask the Premier, when did the government decide to throw those children overboard?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is quite aware that despite all of the searches for economies that this government has undertaken and are illustrated in our budget, that despite that we still have to in this province go to the bank and borrow another $268 million. If this government does not address that particular problem, neither the students with special needs in this province, or any student in this province, will have a future.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has said that she is in search of a more affordable policy. The Premier has made it clear in his statement here today that this is a matter of dollars and cents. This government is going after the most vulnerable children and denying them a future. I want to ask this Premier how can he justify this latest betrayal of his own commitment, and this vicious attack on children with high needs in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if this government took advice from those members opposite, no child in the province of Nova Scotia would have a future. We will be denying each and every child a future in this province. (Interruptions) The members of the Opposition have not had a single suggestion for government that didn't cost an increased amount of money, absolutely denying any future for this province or the young people in it.

[Page 5934]

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

HEALTH - QE II: CUTS - TREATMENT DIGNIFIED

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, on Page 7 of the blue book regarding nurses it says, "Working with the nursing profession to make sure the work-environment offers a rewarding and positive experience where nurses know they can properly care for their patients, where they know they are valued and where they are empowered to have input into influencing clinical practice outcomes."

Mr. Speaker, there are floor managers at the QE II who were not given any notice of their termination and, in fact, were escorted out of the building by security staff. Is that what he meant in the blue book by treating nurses with dignity, treating people in health care with dignity? Why has this Minister of Health started treating health care workers like criminals?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are some reorganizations and structural changes going on in the health care system. There were some job losses at the QE II Health Sciences Centre, which were announced the other day, and they were handled internally.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I find a great deal wrong with the cowardly attitude of the Minister of Health, blaming administration of the QE II. We have a first class CEO who was put in the job to do the job properly, along with senior management. Now, he is forcing upon them the cuts; not only that, but nurses are being treated like dirt by this government, dirt. They are not allowed to do their job the way they should be done.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: Why is this government imposing this kind of treatment on the people we need most of all in our health care system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government treats all people with dignity. Health care people or other people as well.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it may be fine for the Minister of Health to have some back-room Tories pat him on the head and say, nice Jamie, or the Premier say, nice Johnnie, you have made the cuts. I want to know from the Minister of Health how is he going to face people who need health care in Nova Scotia, families of those who need health care and tell them why that health care is not going to be available, why those nurses are not going to be in the employ of health care in this province?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows well that we are facing tremendous financial challenges in this province and if we don't get our fiscal house in order there won't be any health care system for Nova Scotians.

[Page 5935]

We have also made it very clear that in the reorganization of the health care services in the province, what we are attempting to do is protect front-line services and the health care workers who provide them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Last Thursday, in this House, I asked the Minister of Education if she understood that special needs education has been established in the courts as a constitutional right. She said that she did understand that. Yesterday, outside the House, the minister starting musing about whether integration of special needs students should not be reviewed. I don't think the minister understands at all. My question to the minister is, why are you contemplating a review now after you have already cut funding for children with special needs in the school system?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct one point, if I may. The government has not cut funding for children with special needs. The budget the department provides is more than $41 million, $2 million more than it was two years ago. We have not cut that funding.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, she should tell that to the parents involved with APSEA. It seems pretty clear from the minister's musing both inside and outside the House that this review is being driven by concerns for the almighty dollar and not any sense of what is good for students with special needs. Yesterday, the minister said it is all about affordability and that special needs education is like a prescription for Prozac. I want to ask the minister to admit, today, that this review is about saving dollars and not about improving special needs education for children?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as we go over various components of the education system, including literacy, including special education, including testing, including many things we do in the education system, we are looking to see how we can do what we do better. That is the aim of any review.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this minister and this government are looking at turning back the clock in this province. They dream of a simpler time when special needs students were hidden away in institutions and segregated from mainstream schools. They dream of a golden era when politicians did not have to think too hard and could get away with simplistic solutions to very complicated problems.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 5936]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My final question to the minister, what is it going to take to get you to understand that underfunding of special needs education isn't something that you can just wish away?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what we can do over the next few years, while we are grappling with the difficult financial circumstances in which we find ourselves, is to review many of the things we do in the education system in order to make sure that when we have more money, we are putting it in all the right areas and that is the aim.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - QE II: INFO. TECHNOLOGY - PRIORITY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Earlier this week we heard that the Council of Atlantic Premiers decided the health information systems are a priority for them. However, Tory budget cuts have resulted in nearly one dozen information technology specialists losing their jobs at the QE II hospital. These cuts mean that investment in information technology will be gutted and cutting medical technology will directly impact negatively on patient care. My question to the minister, how can he and his government say that medical information systems are a priority when his government is eliminating so many information technology workers here at the QE II?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I think, Mr. Speaker, it is probably not in the best interests of talking about medical information systems to talk about the system which we are reviewing in the Atlantic Region and to link it to the QE II, just to the QE II, that is probably not appropriate.

DR. SMITH: I have been a member here since 1984 and that has got to be the silliest answer I have ever heard in my time that I have been here. It is getting silly. (Interruptions) I say that with all the respect that I . . .

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have all the promises of the Tory election campaign and our government was committed to an investment in information technology. We know that it makes the system more efficient, it saves money and also impacts on patient care. They did also promise a medical technology advisory committee and I think probably that is up and running. How does this government propose to implement any recommendations of this advisory committee when it is cutting information technology funding and the jobs at the QE II and therefore throughout all of Nova Scotia? There will be nothing to link with the other Atlantic Provinces.

[Page 5937]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government has said time and time again that one of the real deficits that we have in trying to make appropriate decisions about health care in this province is the lack of information. We are working on that on a province-wide basis. He talked about the technology advisory committee, he also knows there is an Atlantic committee to deal with that particular thing. We also have a proposal in to the federal government that if it comes to be, then it will certainly help us get this system up and running a little bit better. One of the things that we would like is that this member - and it is no wonder when I hear his responses and his comments that health care was in kind of a mess when we got there - has to understand that the QE II serves more, is a tertiary care centre and we have to have the systems if it is going to function properly. We have to get an Atlantic Province, or at least a Maritime system. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: I couldn't hear the last part of the answer, I am sorry about that, but I probably didn't miss much anyway. It sounds like it was rambling. That is a far call from the promises during the election. This Tory Government is turning the QE II from a state-of-the-art tertiary care hospital into a stone age hospital. How will the minister make sure that patient care does not suffer as a result of an antiquated information technology policy that he and his government are following?

MR. MUIR: We are doing everything we can to get a health care system that is sustainable and provides quality and is one that we can afford. With your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, just this paragraph from the memo which the honourable member referred to the other day and it is a quote from the CEO and President of the QE II. He says, we cannot allow this reorganization to change our commitment to excellent, compassionate and safe patient care. What must change, however, is the way we organize our priorities and manage our work activities to fit the new fiscal reality. We will all need to consider doing things differently and doing different things. That is what this is all about.

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH: QE II - RESTRUCTURING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, that may have been what the CEO of the QE II said in a memo, but I want to tell the Minister of Health what the CEO of the QE II was saying in the town hall meeting he is holding today with staff to try and explain the drastic changes they are experiencing. Mr. Smith said that the kind of restructuring that they have to undertake at this time to meet financial directives by the Department of Health are, a step

[Page 5938]

backwards, for the QE II in providing high quality health care. I want to ask the Minister of Health why is he forcing the Nova Scotian centre for specialized health care serving all of the Maritimes to take a step backward?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question and I would have to disagree that we are taking a step backwards. As a matter of fact, if you look at it from a realistic point of view, we are moving forward. At the rate health care spending was escalating in this province, we wouldn't have had a health care system to speak of in probably about 10 years and the other thing, and I have said this again and again, everybody knows this, I have said this a number of times, in the last three years including two years under the Liberal Government there has been close to an additional $0.5 billion put into health care in this province and if you were to ask the average individual in Nova Scotia, they will tell you they have cuts. What that illustrates to me is that more money is not the only answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health doesn't understand. You don't simply say, oh, I disagree, it is not a step backwards, that is not the way it works. The CEO says it is a step backwards, and you can't just say, it is not, and it goes away. Shazam and alacazam won't work either. You have to pay attention to the reality. The reality is that there are drastic cuts taking place at the QE II.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: Why is the Minister of Health proceeding to devastate the level of excellence achieved by the QE II in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: What cannot be allowed to change at the QE II is its commitment to excellence. What has to change at the QE II, like it does at every other health organization that delivers health care in this province, is the way it does business. We have to do it in such a way so that we provide quality, sustainability and affordability.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the CEO maintained that any notion of the QE II management and administration being "bloated" or "over-inflated" and capable of handling deep cuts is simply not true. Why is the Minister of Health continuing to pretend and hide behind the notion that cuts to management won't affect services when he knows that is simply not true?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, perhaps a little bit differently than the members of the Libercrat Party (Interruptions) I have a great deal of faith in the people we have working in the health care system in Nova Scotia and their abilities to reorganize priorities and to do things differently so that we can maintain a quality standard of health care in this province.

[Page 5939]

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

EDUC. - UCCB: FUNDING - CUTS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On October 27, 1998, the then Deputy Minister of Education, Lloyd Gillis, wrote a letter to the President of UCCB, Dr. Jacquelyn Scott, indicating that the Department of Education would for the following three years provide $1.5 million in supplementary funding on a per annum basis to support UCCB's trades programming and infrastructure. My question to the minister is, will the minister please explain to the House why this $1.5 million funding for UCCB was cut from this year's budget?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the reason the money for UCCB was cut this year is because the department feels UCCB is adequately funded. Under a new funding formula, UCCB's funding will actually be going up 27 per cent, higher than most other universities.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I will table this particular letter in the event the minister doesn't have it and for all members of the House. I can't see how having less money is actually a 27 per cent increase. In a letter signed by the deputy minister indicating a financial commitment by a government department, providing money is, in fact, a legally-binding document. My question to the minister, did the minister, or any of the officials from her department, enter into any negotiations or have discussions with the officials from UCCB prior to making this financial cut?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I did meet with UCCB officials before the budget. I certainly indicated that we were all looking at hard times. I did not indicate that particular grant would be cut, no. But I certainly indicated to officials that times were going to be tough and they could expect less money.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, will the minister, before the Department of Education is faced with a what appears the inevitable multimillion dollar lawsuit from the University College of Cape Breton, indicate to the officials at UCCB that the $1.5 million in funding for the trades programming and infrastructure will immediately be restored, even if she has to go to the slush fund that the Minister of Finance has.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have offered to sit down with UCCB officials to discuss funding concerns. They haven't responded to that yet but I am hoping they will.

[Page 5940]

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

EDUC. - UCCB: FUNDING - CONTRACT HONOUR

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. While she stands up here and tell us that the funding for UCCB, the $1.5 million, is coming from somewhere else, I will table this letter where she clearly tells the president and the board of directors of UCCB, that the government is unable to fund this money. It is not that they are getting it anywhere else. There is no new money. This government will not fund it. I ask you, why are you breaking a contractual agreement with UCCB to provide the $1.4 million? Why are you breaking that contractual need, Mr. Premier?

MR. SPEAKER: Was the question for the Premier or the Minister of Education? (Interruptions)

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our legal advisors do not agree that this is a binding contract. We will sit down with UCCB officials and talk about funding in the future but there are two areas, there is the university portion of the funding, there is the trades training part of the funding. They come from two separate areas of the department. The overall funding to the university, though, has gone up.

MR. CORBETT: I will table another letter to the minister, as of May 5th, from the full board of directors. Actually, it was to the Premier. The problem here is we are trying to get facts. One fact that she espouses is that the money was garnered somewhere else and it wasn't. She just merely says the government was unable or unwilling to fund. Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, why are you making UCCB suffer more than other universities. The cuts are deeper and greater there. Why aren't you treating them fairly?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, my department feels very strongly that UCCB is adequately funded. It is getting good funding. It is getting rising university funding and it was not supportive of the side deal made by the previous government two years ago to give UCCB that extra funding.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in a span of about six minutes here, this minister has gone from saying that it was the contractual obligation to we didn't agree with the past government's decisions. Now let's be honest. It is this government's dumping one day after another on Cape Breton. I ask you, Madam Minister, when will you go down to Cape Breton, sit down with that board of directors, and tell them what you are going to do? Negotiate; don't dictate to them.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have talked with officials from UCCB both before and after the budget. Department officials would like to sit down with them and talk about funding in the future, any problems that they have. I hope they will do that.

[Page 5941]

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

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a further question to the Minister of Education with reference to the proclamation that appeared in today's The Daily News under the heading of, "Tories to study special needs". I have no idea how this particular manifesto was unleashed. I don't believe there was any press conference or ministerial statement here in the House. It may have just been a scrum out in the hall but the essence of it appears to be paragraph 2 of the news account stating that, "She . . .", that is the minister, ". . . said government needs to see if there is a way to deliver special education more affordably. Classroom supports for special education are in the budget cross-hairs at many school boards looking to shave costs." I take that to mean that special needs education is under attack and I would like to ask the minister through you, Mr. Speaker, since she claims that there is a lack of funding for special needs in the classroom, why is there a lack of funding?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite is quite aware of the financial difficulties in which this and the previous government found itself. What we are talking about with special needs is to try to find ways to make sure that every dollar we spend is being spent in the right way and that is all and we intend to do that.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, our former government solved those financial problems. It is this government that created them, but I want to say this about that, that the minister appears to anticipate some sort of a review process and we want to make sure that that review process is conducted in a fair and objective manner. I want to ask the minister through you, sir, if all stakeholders, including parents, students, teachers, school board members and department officials, will be involved and included in a review of the delivery of special needs education in Nova Scotia? How will it be done?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I should inform the House that the department has been reviewing the implementation of special education policy since the spring of 1999. That review will continue and all people involved in the system, there are various groups of stakeholders, there are school board members, teachers and parents, and they will all be consulted.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, they may be consulted, whether they will be listened to or not is another question. Mr. Speaker, it appears from her comments in today's press, and I don't know if the minister is quoted accurately or not, one can always slither off the hook by saying that one was misquoted by the press but, in any event, it appears that the minister has already prejudged the conclusions of this review which is yet to take place by taking anecdotal comments by individuals as statements of fact. I want to hear more detail from the minister

[Page 5942]

as to how Nova Scotians can be assured that this review will be conducted in an objective and impartial manner by open, unbiased and professional evaluators?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have not set the terms of reference for this review, but when we do, I will make those terms of reference available to the member opposite and to every Nova Scotian.

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

P & P: RED TAPE REDUCTION TASK FORCE -

INDEPENDENCE/BUDGET

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. In the last election campaign the Tories made a commitment for a red tape commissioner and they talked about an independent arm's length commissioner to conduct an inquiry into the whole issue of red tape. Last Thursday they made the announcement and they, by the way, allocated $100,000 to that, they last Thursday announced instead a Keystone Kops type of roadshow involving four government backbenchers. I want to ask the Premier if he would explain here it is getting bigger, now it is even five. I want to ask the Premier if he would inform members of this House why it is that he has decided to go away from an independent commission and what is the budget for the travel, drinks, food, of the MLA backbenchers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member opposite would agree that we do have to reduce the red tape that business in this province has to deal with and what we have done, we have chosen six business people, five business people from our caucus and a business person from the private sector, and that will enable this fact-finding mission to go out (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier was not able to provide us with any information on what this Keystone Kops roadshow is going to cost, but he did promise in the election campaign increased funding for the red tape commissioner; he also talked about more funding to meet the needs of children of special needs. The financial situation back then was bad too, in fact we knew how bad things were, but nonetheless the Premier made that commitment to increase funding for children with special needs. Parents want to know why it is that this Premier has decided to break that commitment and not ensure that funding is increased and provided for children with special needs in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, you can never satisfy the Opposition Parties. When government doesn't consult, they complain about that; when the Minister of Education indicates she is going to consult parents and teachers about how to better provide a special

[Page 5943]

needs program for the approximately 17 per cent of our student population here in the province that require special needs attention. What do you want government to do? Do you want us to consult, or not to consult? This government is going to do what is right for all Nova Scotians, and that is to consult and provide special needs children with the kind of education they require and that parents approve of.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, what I would like, and what parents in the Province of Nova Scotia would like is for this Premier and his colleagues to come clean and tell the truth about what is really happening and to fulfil the commitments they made in the last election campaign. The Premier should know that when the School for the Blind, the School for the Deaf, the children's training centres, when funding was cut for Landmark East, it was because the regular school system, the public school system was going to provide programming for children with special needs. That was the idea, that was the reason behind those institutions closing. Now this government is backing off on that commitment. On behalf of the parents I have already spoken to - like Sharon, this morning, whose child has spina bifida and will be disadvantaged by this policy - I want to ask the Premier to explain to me and Sharon why it is he has decided to ruin the future of these children on some kind of mad dash to give tax breaks to his wealthy and powerful friends?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that was a long introduction to a second supplementary. I hope you will afford me equal time to try and respond. The difficulty that Sharon and her youngster are finding themselves in is because for over 30 years members who have sat in the Opposition benches have encouraged governments to spend more, to keep going to the bank and driving up the debt, and because governments listened for over 30 years, that is why we have the difficulty in providing what Sharon and her youngster need in this province. This government is not going to listen to the suggestions of that Party or this Party to spend more, because we are going to get things under control.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - BUDGET (2000-01):

SW REG. SCH. BD. - MEETING [L'POOL (16/05/00)]

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier believes what he just said to Nova Scotians, that is a big joke. We have seen what the Minister of Finance has done. In the last two and one-half weeks, he came to the rescue of the Minister of Education with his famous slush fund. Following lengthy negotiations between school board officials and officials for the Department of Education, a compromise agreement was reached concerning funding for the school boards for the 2000-01 fiscal year. As a result of this agreement, school boards must now crunch the numbers and come up with a game plan for the coming academic year. My question to the Minister of Education, is the minister aware that the Southwest Regional School Board scheduled a meeting for this evening in Liverpool to begin their budget deliberations?

[Page 5944]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all school boards are involved in their budget deliberations right now. Yes, I was aware of that.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that the Southwest Regional School Board has had to cancel tonight's meeting because it has not received the promised budget profile sheet from the Department of Education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will have to check into that with my department.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, regional school boards were to receive their budget profile sheets last week. What is the minister trying to hide, or is she just trying to delay these budgets until the House recesses? Is this just another example of the total disarray and comedy of errors that exist since the appointment of this new deputy minister? Will the minister please reveal to this House when the Southwest Regional School Board, along with the other regional school boards will receive their budget profile sheets so they can get on with the job of planning for the coming school year before it is too late?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board, for one, has obviously received its profile. It is doing its budget. Other school boards have received their profiles. If there is a particular problem with the Southwest Regional School Board, I repeat, I will check into that with the deputy.

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

ANIMAL CRUELTY PREVENTION - PETS:

EUTHANIZATION - REGULATE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act. There has been news accounts in the past week of Colchester County disposing of stray dogs by shooting them and dumping them into a trench. This is not the only municipality in Nova Scotia doing it. I believe Cumberland County also uses the same practice and so do other municipalities in the province. My question to the minister responsible for the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act, why is this minister allowing municipalities to kill dogs in this manner? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister for the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. As the member opposite would know, on investigation, the arrangement for the proper disposal and euthanization of unwanted domestic pets is the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture which monitors agreements between individual municipalities and the SPCA. These particular situations are monitored and is an agreement between the SPCA and the

[Page 5945]

municipality of Colchester as well as the one in Cumberland, which is an agreement between the SPCA and the municipality of Cumberland.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I don't even know if there was an answer in there. He was reading from his briefing note, but I don't think he actually said anything. This minister who is responsible for the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act has the ability with the stroke of a pen to create a regulation through his Cabinet that will prevent this kind of practice which is very painful and very seriously injuring, obviously, the dogs. They die. My question to this minister is, why won't he regulate to prevent the shooting of dogs instead of using other forms of euthanasia? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member has shot himself in the foot of the New Democratic Party again. That particular method of disposal when an unwanted pet is to be euthanized depends on the approval of the SPCA, with monitoring by the province. This method, whether it is this one, lethal injection or any other number of methods are approved. This is a cost-effective method which is approved North American wide.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: Maybe it is time that Nova Scotians start taking the lead in something instead of always being behind. Particularly since this the only province in Canada with an Animal Cruelty Prevention Act. It is pretty clear that the SPCA says that lethal injection is the proper way to dispose of dogs that are unwanted, but of course, this minister seems to think that paying a buck for a bullet is cheaper than paying the cost of actually doing this in a civilized manner. My question to this minister is, when is he going to start taking his responsibility seriously and start doing something to protect cruelty to animals, particularly dogs?

MR. FAGE: Obviously, I do take my responsibilities very seriously and that is why the SPCA is the monitoring agency and obviously the member opposite has no regard for the SPCA's authority and supervision in this matter, so I would refer him to challenge the SPCA.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - TAXATION: TOBACCO - INCREASE

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Recently we have heard there is a pending increased taxation on tobacco. My question to the Minister of Finance is, in the discussions that have been going on within Atlantic Canada, did the minister put those into his budget projections for revenue for the Province of Nova Scotia, the increased taxation on tobacco?

[Page 5946]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: In regard to the question of the honourable member where he talks about increased taxes on tobacco. There has been no decision as to that issue and, subsequently, there has been no inclusion in our numbers for our budget.

MR. DOWNE: Can the minister inform the House how long those discussions have been and how long they have been going on between the Province of Nova Scotia, the other Atlantic Provinces and that of the federal government?

MR. LEBLANC: As a former Finance Minister, I know the member opposite knows that this is an agenda item at pretty well all the meetings that go on, but recently the federal government has pushed the issue somewhat harder and has asked to meet with the provinces with regard to it. All members of the House are aware, I think it was in 1994-95, that the federal government lowered the taxes considerably on cigarettes and that was due specifically to the amount of smuggling that was going on in this country. I think that the federal government has indicated they would like to consider, at this time, perhaps some increments in that. Whether or not that will happen in the short term or long term is yet to be determined because those discussions are just preliminary right now.

MR. DOWNE: The minister is saying that negotiations are underway to increase taxation on tobacco. My question to the Minister of Finance, if the taxation increases happens this fiscal year, will the Minister of Finance commit those additional revenues go to the Department of Health, which is so badly needed in regard to looking after programs for seniors, and those others that are badly in need of money and assistance in the health care system?

MR. LEBLANC: In regard to the question, it was a hypothetical question. I have indicated to the member, in my previous answers, that there are discussions going on. Those are just preliminary, and for me to give a hypothetical question to a hypothetical answer, I don't think would be appropriate. I do want to say that this is a serious issue and it is one where there are many proponents, people pushing forward the fact that we should be increasing taxes as a deterrent, especially to young people who are smoking. If we do that, we will not be working in isolation, we would be working along with the other provinces and the federal government in doing so. That is still being considered.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

EDUC. - ELMSDALE DIST. SCH.: NEW - COMMITMENT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The minister has stated in this House in Question Period and during estimates that the report on the P3 funding evaluation will be completed by the end of April. Well, minister, you have been busy with other things and you may not have noticed that this is the third week in May and time is up. My question to the minister, the parents and students attending Elmsdale

[Page 5947]

Elementary School are wondering when you are going to get on with the job of keeping the promises you have made to build a new school in Elmsdale?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have committed to a new school at Elmsdale and that school will be built, and it is very likely that school could be completed on time for September 2001. We will be discussing financing options for schools in the very, very near future.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am a little nervous of the likely by 2001. The parents in Elmsdale have been promised that their school will be ready by September 2001. They don't care what method of financing is used, they just want their school. My question to the minister, when will you start construction of the Elmsdale school?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the parents of Elmsdale do care somewhat, as they are citizens of Nova Scotia and they do care about the method of financing and how their taxpayers' dollars are spent. They want the school and the school will be built.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. The parents there have been patient. Presently there is a sign in Elmsdale advertising an urgent meeting for this evening, and it also states that the school has been cancelled. So I want to know, will the minister state categorically here today that you have not cancelled the Elmsdale school, and that the parents with children who attend the Elmsdale Elementary School will have their school by September 2001?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the school will be built. The school has not been cancelled. I have made a personal commitment to that Elmsdale school and it will be built, as will the others.

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

COMMUNICATIONS N.S. - POLICY VIOLATION

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia. Last week the Tories rather sheepishly announced their long-awaited red tape task force, in a late afternoon government news release from Communications Nova Scotia, and that news released violated Communications Nova Scotia policy by making an explicit partisan reference to the Tory election platform. I would like to table that news release, Mr. Speaker.

My question for the minister is, why is this minister once again breaking a Tory election promise by allowing taxpayers' money to be spent on Tory Party propaganda?

[Page 5948]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can simply say we did not break any communications policy.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, yes they did, because the Tory blue book is not a government document, it is a political document. It should never be mentioned in government news releases. Then a government news release last Friday about the Halls Harbour wharf quotes the MLA for Kings North, and Communications Nova Scotia policy strictly forbids backbenchers from making announcements on behalf of Cabinet.

My question to the minister is, when are you going to stop using Communications Nova Scotia as the Tory Party's personal public relations agency?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the honourable member to perhaps read one of the management manuals, so that he clearly understands what the policy is of Communications Nova Scotia.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the partisan reference section of the Nova Scotia Communications handbook, which I will table as well, for the minister to read because obviously he hasn't. This is the same Tory Government that took disciplinary measures against Communications Officer Bruce Cameron for simply doing his job. Now, my question is, why is this minister forcing communications officers to become political hacks for the Tory Party?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, contrary to the policy of the previous government, which hired the whole press gallery, I think, for their communications department, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the honourable member, again, to read the management book that contains the policy for Communications Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour. You have about 40 seconds.

HEALTH - QE II: NURSING - CUTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to give the Minister of Health another example of what cuts to administration mean at the QE II. A nurse manager who used to supervise only two units, 9-A and 9-VIC, had 40 nursing staff to supervise. After the cuts, she is now responsible for 9-A, 9-B, 9-VIC, and the surgery department, Sections A, B, C and D; she will be supervising about 100 staff. I want the Minister of Health to tell me, how

[Page 5949]

will a 150 per cent increase in the number of staff to be supervised improve health care provided by the QE II?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that particular question.

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

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for their time to introduce, in the west gallery, we have with us today the President of the Student Union of UCCB, a namesake of the honourable member for Cape Breton West and a cousin, Russell MacKinnon. With him is the Executive Director of the Student Union of UCCB, Sheldon Gillis. I want to say to members of the House that both of these young men have displayed tremendous maturity and leadership throughout the recent labour dispute that took place at that institution. I was very pleased today to be able to have them as guests of the Department of Labour, and to meet some of the people in the Department of Labour who played a role in helping to bring that dispute to a conclusion.

Mr. Speaker, I think it speaks very well for the future of this province when we have people of this calibre who have emerged in leadership positions. I would ask all members of the House if they would extend a very warm welcome to these young men. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I too would like to make an introduction. I do so not only on my own behalf but also on behalf of the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. In the west gallery this afternoon, we have eight students from the adult high school class held at the Downsview Mall in Lower Sackville. They are accompanied this afternoon by their instructor, Sandy MacDougall. They are down here to get educated, you might say, on the workings of the House. One of the things that you find out, as most people do when you actually come and watch the proceedings of the House, it doesn't always act exactly as the rule books tell you that it does. I would like to ask them to please rise and receive the warm greetings of all members of this House. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 5950]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 46.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party. You have 41 minutes.

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to pick up where I left off last evening. It is nice to see that the members on the government side are much better rested than they were last evening.

I want to talk about the budget and the Financial Measures (2000) Bill, and what I think is a problem with the human face that we have put on this. I am very concerned about civil servants in the province, and the feeling that they have gotten about the job that they are expected to do. As you know, we have reduced the number of civil servants in the past, we have done roll-backs in salaries, we have put freezes on salaries, and now we have gone on a major cutting of civil servants in Nova Scotia. These people are professionals. It was once regarded that Nova Scotia had the best Civil Service in Canada, and that was a few years ago but not so long ago.

I think, quite frankly, now we have caused a major morale problem with our Civil Service in Nova Scotia. This move by the government to arbitrarily cut, indiscriminately cut, to cut the services in the Civil Service beyond where it is not possible to deliver the services that need to be delivered, I think is a mistake. I personally think it is going to be very difficult to recruit good people for the Civil Service in Nova Scotia, the reason being is that they are not going to know what the future holds for them, even if they accept a job.

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber, and it is very hard to hear the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

MR. MACLELLAN: It is going to be difficult for them to accept positions in the Civil Service, even if the beginning salaries are reasonable, if the job holds their interest and looks like a promising career for the future. It is going to be difficult for them to accept it because they don't know how long it is going to be before the next cut comes along, how they are going to be treated arbitrarily by not necessarily the government that is in place at that particular time, but a subsequent government that would come into power later, and thereby cause them to, not waste completely, the years they put in the Civil Service, because they will have had some experience. They will have had some pension contributions, presumably which

[Page 5951]

can be transferred to another job, but they will have lost the momentum of their careers. They will have lost the dedication that they had in the job they were doing.

Quite often, when a job like that is interrupted through no fault of the employee, that employee is really not in a position to be able to transfer his or her employment. It may be a time when that employee is expecting a child, along with his or her spouse. It may be at a point of very high need, a great need for financing, for money. It may very well be this is a specialty position that does not have a comparable position in the private sector.

It is not always possible for these sort of cuts to take place and the people who are being displaced to be treated equitably. This government has decided they are not going to do anything to improve the position of the people they are going to let go. I think that is unfortunate. I think, frankly, they should give another look at this, particularly with respect to the port commission where a lot of people there have been in the employ for a long time and have done a good job and are approaching retirement age, but will not receive the benefits they really should receive.

I think that gives an indication of where this government's thought processes are. Their thought processes are not with people. They are not with the Civil Service. They are not with people in need in Nova Scotia. They are with people in the back rooms who decide the cuts have to be made. There is a bottom line which really permeates all of the thinking of this government. They want to make cuts on the balance sheet, in the profit and loss statements and whatever document you want to attribute their thinking. That is where their motivation is. That is very unfortunate, because it puts this province in a very difficult position, both with the respect Nova Scotians have for government, but also the respect that those outside Nova Scotia, who are looking at the province, have for Nova Scotia.

This is a time of tremendous refocusing of ideas, of career opportunities, of business investments, and where the future is going to be taking us. We, as I said yesterday, have gone through a 15 year period which probably has shown the greatest change in our lifestyle in any 15 year period in the history of mankind. There isn't even another 15 year period that would even come close, Mr. Speaker, to providing the degree of change that has been provided and forced on us in the last 15 years.

The microchip and what we have now come to know as information technology, biotechnology. These areas are rapidly advancing, rapidly progressing for the betterment of our society, and providing very good, new careers for Canadians and people in other countries. We see a lot of young people who are taking courses in information technology, who graduate, and immediately are taken into the employ of corporations that are doing very well and paying these people very well. A lot of our young people are being forced to leave the province.

[Page 5952]

We saw many years ago that in California, the Silicon Valley was an area where a lot of the technological work was being done. Electronics and a lot of work with respect to guidance, radar systems, firing mechanisms, and so on, was done for the Armed Forces in the United States; very intricate work, a very high degree of technology and training in all of the employees. We saw where this sort of thing really started above all.

We also are seeing now that there are other sections of Canada and the United States and, indeed, European countries where in certain areas information technology and the new technologies are in fact centred because they can feed off one another. Employees can go from one company to the other without companies having to pay large severances and relocation expenses and we are seeing these areas growing very quickly with young people, young families, in Ontario, in the Ottawa area, Kanata, and Mississauga in the Toronto area. So with areas like Kanata close to Ottawa, and Mississauga near Toronto, we have a great increase in the population, but what we also have is a gradual settling out of where these high-tech companies are going to be locating in the future.

This is why I always believed that it was very important for Nova Scotia to be aware that this was the time where this great shuffle was taking place, where companies were going to establish where the centres for information technology and the new technologies would be in the future, that in 10 years' time - maybe 15, but I would say around 10 years' time - there were not going to be many new centres of information technology started up because we had gone through the shuffling out, we had gone through the settling in, that companies had decided what areas they wanted to do business in and they would be there with other companies. In fact, the fact that they were in certain locations would be the catalyst for companies to come in and locate there.

If you don't have a reasonable clientele of information technology companies, then in a few years' time you are not going to attract information technology companies because the universities in those areas, where information technology companies have located, will have developed specialized degrees, expertise and information technology. There will be the attraction of students going to those universities because they will be able to do co-op programs and perhaps apprenticeships with the companies that are around the universities. This kind of fostering of benefit between university and the private sector will further increase the fact that these companies will thrive in those particular areas, but it will also mean that no new areas for information technology will start up.

We have in Nova Scotia 11 universities. A lot of them are involved in information technology. Here in Nova Scotia, our universities are very much in tune with the information technology. We have seen the new Frank Sobey Business School at Saint Mary's. We have seen Dalhousie constructing a new computer science centre. We see where St. F.X. now has received a large sum of money from Mr. Gerald Schwartz in Toronto to do a Gerald Schwartz School of Business and Information Technology. We have seen Acadia with the

[Page 5953]

Acadia Advantage and that excellent B.Ed. program instructing teachers to be able to instruct information technology to students.

These are all things that have begun within the last few years, and tremendously positive things. It is really our investment and our universities paying off for Nova Scotia, and particularly the young people in Nova Scotia because they are able to go to these universities and get a very good grounding in information technology. It also provides the opportunity for private sector companies to come to Nova Scotia, to locate in areas where you have this expertise.

This is why I have always been interested, when you are talking about development in Cape Breton, to have UCCB further integrate information technology courses in its program. They have a very good and unique program at UCCB - and that is in addition to the degree-granting program - they have a trades training and technological training program which is very beneficial and very successful, so there are opportunities there to add to what they are already doing in information technology.

Universities are very important. We have seen that from what Harvard and MIT and Northeastern and the University of Massachusetts have all meant to the greater Boston and Massachusetts area. We have seen the way that people who have expertise in those areas have stayed there and worked with the university, worked with others who have like experience and like expertise to develop even new companies, more technologically advanced companies. This is what we hoped would happen in Nova Scotia, but this government has decided they are not going to invest in the future.

If we are lucky they are not going to foul up the oil and gas opportunities, and if we are lucky, they will stay out of the way and allow the private sector to explore and develop oil and gas opportunities in Nova Scotia, but that is as far as they are going to go. They don't believe in developing opportunities; they don't believe, haven't really seen the necessity to grow the economy, and that is tragic. It is tragic for all of us in this province because, as I said last evening, we are not going to be able to manage the debt of Nova Scotia if we don't grow the economy.

We do not have the funding now. We do not have the revenues to be able to provide essential services to Nova Scotians, while at the same time pay down the debt that has to be paid down over a long period of time, unless we accidentally, or in spite of this government's policies, have a growing revenue such as, of course, oil and gas and the hope that tourism will continue to flourish in Nova Scotia. Unless we have these things, and a few other things we may luck into in spite of the policies of this government, we are not going to have this growing economy we need to have. Economies have to be managed; they don't happen automatically.

[Page 5954]

It didn't happen in Ireland because people decided it was a good time to go to Ireland, it happened because the Irish Government invested in education, decided they wanted to keep their well-trained young people at home, that it was a good location for doing work involving an information technology. The Irish put a major investment in that. For decades they have been trying to stem the outflow of their best and their brightest, and they could never do it.

Finally they have been able to achieve that. They are one of the largest makers of computers in the world now; they are one of the largest producers of software; and they have one of the highest degrees of technological expertise and information technology in the Western world per capita. This didn't happen by accident. This happened because they made a concentrated effort, and this is what we want to do in Nova Scotia. I said during the election campaign that our high unemployment was, in fact, a benefit to Nova Scotia. A lot of people ran with that and said, oh this guy is crazy, he believes in high unemployment. That is not what I meant at all.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we have a high unemployment rate because our young people are not able to find jobs. We have, across the Bay of Fundy, in Massachusetts an unemployment rate of about 2 per cent - 2.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent. Now when these trade missions go to New England, and I hope they do, I hope they go with a purpose, I hope they go with a focus, and not just to take a trip. When you go to Massachusetts, you don't go with the idea of trying to get Massachusetts companies to relocate in Nova Scotia, that is not what we are looking for. We wouldn't ask them to do that, that would not be fair, it wouldn't work, and it would in fact be a kick in the face to the hospitality we would receive when visiting the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

What we are looking for is that when these companies expand - as they are, they are expanding and they are diversifying and they are setting up new locations, new plants - that we in fact would be the recipient of those new plants in Nova Scotia. We are as close by air to Boston as New York, and in fact I think we are closer than Washington. We don't have the trade pattern, we don't have the frequency of flights, and the tendency to fly back and forth between say Halifax and Boston that people in Boston do when they fly to New York or Washington or Baltimore or Philadelphia. It is a habit; they don't think of us here.

The large numbers of people from Nova Scotia who went to Massachusetts in the early part of the century have been there so long that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren don't identify with Nova Scotia, as their children did. I can remember, you can remember too, Mr. Speaker, when you were young and living in Springhill, you would see a lot of cars with Massachusetts licence plates, much more than we see now. That was because there were children and grandchildren of those people who went to Massachusetts travelling back to visit their relatives.

[Page 5955]

That pattern of communication has stopped. It has gone out of practice, because we are now into other generations who don't feel a close kinship with Nova Scotia. That is unfortunate. That close kinship was a very significant advantage, as was the fact that in the days of sailing schooners, we very often traded with Massachusetts and along the Atlantic Coast of the United States, down to the West Indies. This was when Nova Scotia had the third largest number of vessels in the world, next to Britain and the United States. We built ships here. We built wooden sailing ships, and they travelled all over the world. We have gotten away from that; times change; we know that.

What happens with Nova Scotia when times change, we are not ready for the new times they are changing to. This is another case, I am afraid, where we are going to be - excuse me, I don't mean to be condescending - missing the boat again. That is a problem. I think I particularly address this to the Minister of Economic Development, because he is in a position to do something, not a heck of a lot, frankly, because I think he has about $1.25 in his budget. The fact of the matter is that there has to be some concentration, some thinking of where we are going in Nova Scotia. There has to be some plan, some idea as to what it is we are working towards.

As I mentioned, it was our belief as a Liberal Government that we were working towards getting our young people ready for the information technology, the new information age, that we would, by the year 2005, have one computer for every five students in our school system. This was what we hoped to achieve. That, of course, has gone by the way. We hoped to develop our community college system to be able to address the new trades that are needed, and that our universities would be able to be there for industry that wanted to locate around these universities and their technological expertise and history.

This way of thinking seems to have gone. Not that I am saying that everything we thought of was right, I am not saying that. We might have missed some things, there might have been other things that we could have filled in that others would say, look, you didn't take into account this, you didn't take into account what is going to happen then. That could very well be true, but we did the best with what we thought we had and we were open to new ideas. What we did have was a plan, developing a plan for the future and we were prepared to go out and market that plan and to aggressively promote Nova Scotia and promote where it was we thought Nova Scotia should be going.

We also felt that we had to be able to tell people who wanted to come to Nova Scotia what they would be in for. It is very interesting and I will give you one case of a wife and four children of a person that we want to have come to Nova Scotia. I can't tell you the name today and I can give it later, but a person we want to have in Nova Scotia, his wife and four children came to Nova Scotia. They came at the time of these education demonstrations. I will tell you, this lady and the four children got back on the plane and they said, look, you can come to Nova Scotia, but we are not going to live in Nova Scotia.

[Page 5956]

It may very well be possible that person can get something going and work in Nova Scotia, but it is going to make it a lot more difficult if his wife and children are going to be living somewhere else. They got spooked by these demonstrations, by what was being said about the reduction of education, about the downgrading of education, the reduction in the number of teachers, the looting of the schools, from taking computers and furniture out of new schools and perhaps putting them in other schools. Just the nickel and diming of education, not the fact that you want to control costs, because no one objects to that - no one really objects to what the Minister of Education said here today in Question Period about making sure every dollar was properly spent. I don't disagree with that, but my goodness, we support that, but the question is where do you think that they should be spent? - and what is happening with this government because they don't know where this money should be spent because they don't have any idea as to where they want to be.

They don't have a plan as to how the money should be spent. The money is being spent in a helter skelter way that this government themselves don't understand. But, while we are doing this, while we are misplacing our future, we are misplacing our money, we are misplacing our ideas, other areas are concentrating on where they want to go. It is significant, you know I mentioned Massachusetts. It is a state that we have done business with in Nova Scotia for over two centuries and we would think that would be the state with which Nova Scotia would have the biggest trade because of the fact that we go back over 200 years in trade and business with Massachusetts, but it isn't.

Surprising feature is, the state with which we have the biggest trade in the United States is South Carolina. The reason for that is because of tires. Because we ship tires to South Carolina and we ship product that they can make tires from to South Carolina. This is where we have our biggest trade, the home state of Strom Thurmond, the 97 or 98 year old - I have lost count how old he is - senator in a very red-neck jurisdiction, but still the one with which we do the greatest trade. That is amazing that we haven't done more with states with whom we have a great deal in common and I would think that this was something that this government would promote, but they haven't. In fact, they have lost a lot of the initiative and a lot of the momentum we had going when we were in power.

We have to tell our young people that there is a future in Nova Scotia. The only way there is going to be a future in Nova Scotia is if we develop one. You look at what this government has done with respect to education. Our young teachers now are not going to have jobs, they are going to have to go other places. I mentioned that new Bachelor of Education degree in Acadia University where young teachers are instructed in how to teach information technology to students in the school system in Nova Scotia. These young teachers don't have jobs. They are not going to be hired. This expertise is not going to benefit Nova Scotia because we are not hiring these teachers any more than we are hiring the young teachers who can teach French immersion. So we are not going to have the young teachers who are bilingual to teach French immersion. We will have to go with older teachers who learned French by rote memory. This is not acceptable.

[Page 5957]

So by setting up this program at Acadia, which was set up under the former Liberal Government, a very good program which blended in with what Liberal Governments thought we wanted to achieve in Nova Scotia, we are now going to be training these young people to teach information technology in Ottawa, Mississauga and North Carolina. That is not good. This is Nova Scotia taxpayers' money that is going into funding this program. Not all of it is taxpayers' money, but a good portion of it is. So we are losing both ways.

We are losing, too, by not promoting where it is we want to be with respect to the Port of Halifax, by securing that Shearwater property, when it is not used any further by the federal government, will in fact revert to the province, and that we can do something there that would be very significant, something in perhaps a trans-shipment vein, or a free port idea. It has an airport. It has wharfage. It is a tremendous area. This thinking is being lost, and not only are we losing momentum, but we are losing valuable time, Mr. Speaker.

Of course, people also want to know if you are going to have a civilized progressive economy and a civilized progressive society, what is your health care going to be like? Well, you have a government that promises nurses, challenges, and respect in their profession, and then escorts them out of buildings like common criminals when their jobs are terminated. You have got a government that says we are going to hire over 100 new nurses in the next year only to find out that the hospitals are closing beds and nurses are losing their jobs. We have young nurses who are coming out of the nursing schools and are saying I would love to stay in Nova Scotia, I want to stay in Nova Scotia, but I cannot. I cannot stay in Nova Scotia because there is no job here for me and even if there was a job, the way the thinking of this government is right now, I don't know how long I would have a job because I would be at the low end of the seniority scale and I would be the first to go. Not only that, thirdly, they would be saying, gosh, we are so short-staffed in nursing that I am going to be just beaten into the ground in the job they are asking me to do.

This is a government that does not realize that by getting rid of nursing supervisors and managers they are actually getting rid of nurses. They somehow, through some misbegotten way of thinking, feel that supervisors and mangers are not nurses, and if they get rid of these nursing supervisors and managers, they are not going to lose any nursing expertise. I mean that is incredible. I don't care where you are in Nova Scotia, in any kind of business, particularly hospitals, there are going to have to be managers and supervisors. You cannot just have chaos in any structured operation. You just cannot do it. So by getting rid of these managers and supervisors, you are going to be superimposing this management and this supervision on nurses who are now just servicing patients in those institutions, so the time that they will have available for serving these patients is going to be reduced because they have to take on a management or an administration role.

It is fine to say, well, we are going to take two floors or two levels, or whatever, and we are going to have one manager for those two levels. You cannot do it, and if hospitals find out that that person managing that increased doubled area cannot do it, they are going to put

[Page 5958]

the job on someone else. That is going to take someone else out of the regular nursing duties and put them into a managerial position, so you are going to lose. Hospital administrators are not going to allow their hospitals to have their efficiency reduced any more than is absolutely necessary.

Now, what is necessary is the reduction in the efficiency that is going to take place because this government has reduced the funding to hospitals. I feel really badly for someone like Bob Smith, the CEO of the QE II. We had a CEO there who was not what we wanted, let's put that mildly, and he wasn't what he represented himself to be. So, he left, and we had a major search, and we found somebody we felt we were darn lucky to have. A first class individual, doing a superb job. We told him, come to Nova Scotia. He was in British Columbia. He had a job at a larger hospital. He had an offer at a larger hospital in Toronto which he turned down to come to the QE II. Why? Because he felt that the way the situation was going in British Columbia, he and his wife didn't want to stay there, and he loved Nova Scotia. He thought he could work here and then he could retire here.

[2:15 p.m.]

I am not giving away any secrets on this man. This is a first-class individual. He came and has done a superb job. He has not only managed well, but he has inspired other people in the QE II. And people in the QE II were starting to get rid of this feeling of being badly done by, of being harshly used, of feeling will there never be a government in this province that understands health care and treats people properly? They were getting rid of that feeling, and the morale was increasing. What happens?

This government steps in, goes right back to what was being done in the past, scares the dickens out of every staff member of the QE II, and every staff member in every other hospital in Nova Scotia, scaring communities now that hospitals may be closed, and really offering nothing. Why? Because, once again, they have no plan, they have no focus. The fact of the matter is, they don't know where they are going in health care. We believed in the Liberal Party that information technology was absolutely vital. Let's use the new technologies to transfer information from one hospital and medical centre to another. Let's use the technologies to store information that would be much more readily accessible. We can save money by doing that, but first of all, we have to invest in this new equipment, this new information technology. We have to invest in training people to be able to do this. It was a great idea. I personally felt very buoyant about this, and that we would eventually save a good deal of money, and we would have a very effective communications system in health care.

This government has just gotten rid of the top level IT people in the QE II. They not only haven't proceeded and developed the thinking we had and we commenced when we were government, they have regressed into getting rid of the people they already had. I don't know how they are going communicate, maybe with two tin cans on the end of a wire. I have no idea. I can tell you that is the thinking of this government. That is the Tory thinking. Go

[Page 5959]

back. Go back to save money. It doesn't matter where you save it, it doesn't matter how you save it, just don't spend it. This is wonderful for a lot of Tory businessmen in the back rooms here in this government's suite of offices. They want that.

You see, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of business people who don't want new investment in Nova Scotia. They don't want it because that may reduce the unemployment rate. If you reduce the unemployment rate, then you reduce the number of unemployed from whom you can pick to work, and you may have to give your employees more money if there is more competition for jobs. The Government House Leader knows this. He is part of that thinking. It is unfortunate. It really is unfortunate that people in the Tory back rooms with those ideas are being listened to and that the government isn't running its own agenda. It is bad, and it is sad for Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, health care is vital. The fact of the matter is that the federal government, hopefully, will give more money for health care. They may be taken kicking and screaming into doing it, but they might do it. If they do, that will be more funding for Nova Scotia. That is going to be part of the solution, but it is not going to be the major part of the solution unless this government develops ideas as to where it wants to go. Instead of getting people involved and bringing people together and, as they said in the blue book, which I agree with, to allow doctors and other people in the health care to be part of the solutions, to contribute ideas and ways that can lead to a better health care system, we now find out that they are putting gag orders on hospitals and health boards, that they are stifling dissent, stifling initiatives of people in health care in Nova Scotia.

I mean, Mr. Speaker, that is so counter-productive and it is so unnecessary. Why would you do that? Why would you actually do that? We had in Cape Breton, and I will tell you I have no hesitation in saying this, we had a bad situation in health care in Cape Breton. We really did a few years ago. But because of the work of the CEO, John Malcolm, and the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Naqvi, and a few others, we were able to get a system in place where we have the main Cape Breton Regional Hospital and then the smaller hospitals that all have a unique role in providing excellent health care.

We recruited a lot of new doctors, not only general practitioners, but specialists, so that now this is probably one of the major success stories in medicine in eastern Canada. We even have a plastic surgeon and I now have my chance to get my facelift which I have really needed for some time, but I honestly feel that that - well, I put the name of the Government House Leader in there as well, but he defies age. Mr. Speaker, he sleeps in a deep-freeze. That is why he looks as good as he does. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, I want to be able to say that I would hope this government would get back to finding out where it wants to go, to telling the people of Nova Scotia where it thinks it should be going. Even if it is not in the right direction, at least people will take some solace from knowing that there is a direction and they will be able from time to time to interject with

[Page 5960]

ideas that, hopefully, this government will accept. I would hope that this government would start thinking like this because right now there is a considerable amount of fear in this province and there is a certain amount of anger that we are losing momentum, time is moving on and not helping our economy, not helping our young people, and not developing the picture of Nova Scotia we, as Nova Scotians, want to see and the picture we want to project to people in other parts of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I say this in all due respect in the way of trying to be helpful. I hope that they will take some advice. They have not to date. They seem to think that advice is foreign and that advice is adversarial. It is not necessarily the case. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was a little puzzled a minute ago in the non-verbal exchange you had with the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party when you were indicating to him that he only had two minutes left. I think you had the two fingers you put up, the wrong way out. I think if you are going to make that gesture, you perhaps do it this way rather than the reverse. I thought you were saying something entirely different to him and given your diligence in policing unparliamentary language in the Chamber, I was a little surprised. I cannot say that I am so enamoured of the recent rulings you have been making about unparliamentary language, but at the same time, I certainly don't propose this afternoon to find myself, I hope, in any kind of violation of your rulings at the same time. The reason for that is that I cannot think that there is language unparliamentary enough for me to express my contempt for the economic theories that have been embodied in the bill that the government has put before us.

It seems obvious to me, that they have gotten it completely wrong from start to finish, that what they have put in front of us in Bill No. 46 is not only completely ill-conceived when it comes to matters of building the base for the prosperity of our province, but ill-conceived both in the short term and in the long term.

Mr. Speaker, it is not all that hard, if you separate yourself from the details of what it is that they have put forward in a 98 page bill, to keep an eye on the big picture. If you keep an eye on the big picture, it becomes readily apparent what it is that the government has proposed. The whole of their economic agenda, the whole of the financial agenda that they have put in front of us, as embodied by this bill and by the accompanying budget that we have already voted on, consists of three things. What they want to do is: first, of course, cut services; second, they want to increase user fees; and third, they want to sell off our assets.

Each and every one of these is the wrong thing to do, but that is the sum of the agenda, and that is the sum of what Bill No. 46 is all about. I reject it. All of us in our Party reject it, and I think the public is not going to find itself very accepting of it. Indeed, we have seen any number of Nova Scotians, not just sending us letters and phone calls and e-mails but showing

[Page 5961]

up in the hundreds and the thousands outside this Chamber to let the government know exactly what they think about the economic agenda, as put forward in Bill No. 46. It is true that those demonstrations have mostly been focused on the cuts to services, but I think that there is no doubt that Nova Scotians are equally upset and will be equally upset the more they learn about the other two thrusts of this Bill No. 46 and the economic agenda of the government, that is to say, the two points about the increase in user fees and the sell-off of assets.

When I left off my remarks on an earlier occasion, with respect to this bill, I had started in on a discussion of the sell-off of assets. I propose now to turn to the other two aspects of what it is that is being proposed through this legislation, and attempt to explain why it is that what has been put before us is not only ill-conceived but will not produce what it is that the government says that it wants. Just to skip ahead, it seems obvious that if on the one hand the government says that it is in favour of the long-term prosperity of the province and the economic betterment of individuals and of communities, then you would think that they would try to do something constructive about that, but that isn't the case.

What possible explanation can there be for the misguided choice of policy instruments? Either they just got it wrong, but they are making a genuine mistake based on their assessment of what it is that is good for the economy. Well, if that were the case, it might be an honest difference of opinion, just a matter on which reasonable people might reasonably differ. But I don't think that is what we are looking at. I think we are looking at something quite a bit different. I think we are looking at a situation in which the government is claiming that it is trying to do one thing, but in fact it is taking a course that is deliberately designed to achieve quite a different objective.

On the one hand, it is saying that it is looking to increase the personal and community prosperity of all individuals in all communities across the province. On the other hand, it is taking steps that will deliberately undermine that stated objective. As I said, in a search for an explanation as to why they would do that, one possibility is that they are simply wrong and unfortunately they made the wrong analysis, and their views are represented on some kind of a spectrum of reasonableness but they are just in the wrong place, and I am in another position on the spectrum of reasonableness. As I said, I reject that.

There is another agenda at work. The agenda that is at work is that there is a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, there is a deliberate attempt to offer one vision and deliver another. What is actually going to be delivered will be a society in our province in which inequality is the key factor. We already know, all across North America, that there is a trend towards polarization of wealth, that those at the top are getting wealthier, those in the middle and at the lower end are getting poorer.

[Page 5962]

[2:30 p.m.]

This comes across in such dramatic statistics as the differences between CEOs' pays and the pay of the average employee in major corporations, but it comes across in general statistics about where it is that the bulk of the wealth in the country is moving. Quite clearly, the bulk of the wealth measured in terms of income and assets owned is moving, migrating steadily inexorably towards the top 20 per cent and, even within that, within the top 20 per cent of the top 20 per cent, inside our nation. Unfortunately, the policies this government has embodied in Bill No. 46 are going to move us in exactly that direction; every Nova Scotian has become less wealthy as a result of Bill No. 46.

I am turning now to the factor of the user fees that are going to be imposed upon Nova Scotians for common uses of services. In the budget bulletins that were released, one of them actually details the cost-recovery measures. You will know that these come in a number of different categories. Certain commissions and payments are eliminated; certain fees are increased. The fees that are increased include quite a number of health care fees, and these have been gone over in detail in Question Period, in the mouths of other speakers, in Freedom of Information Act requests and in public debate. But it is worth remembering that the government admits to at least $14 million of increased health care and social assistance user fees and that that represents an increased cost of being an ordinary Nova Scotian trying to get on with your life in this province. I don't find that acceptable.

In another array of associated costs, certain kinds of sheriffs' and probate fees are going up, the costs of summary offence tickets are going up and, of course our favourite resurrected from last fall, there will be a cost for dialling 911. The difference between the bill we have in front of us, when you combine it with the cost-recovery measures information bulletin from the Department of Finance, and the bill we had last fall, is that we are now told exactly how many dollars the government intends to generate. The answer seems to be $745,000 in the initial year. We had no figure from the Minister of Health in the fall.

Now that we have actually had 911 up and running for one or two years, including one complete year, we now know how many 911 calls Nova Scotians make in the course of a year. It is about 600,000. What that means, if the government intends to take in $745,000 - although we are not told whether this is some kind of net figure - is that the cost of a 911 call is presumably going to be at least $1.25 net to the government. Each time you call 911, $1.25, never mind that I don't think they have asked the CRTC about this; never mind that they never said to the public this is what we are going to do. Does this make sense as a public policy measure?

Why do you bring in user fees? Well, you bring in user fees either because you are trying to discourage the use of a particular service, or because you regard it as somehow a fair charge to make for a special service that is not generally available to the public and is more akin to a business transaction. Let me tell you, dialling 911 is not a special business

[Page 5963]

transaction. Let me tell you, public policy is not and ought not to be an attempt to discourage people, through use of a user fee, from using 911 service. That is wrong. It is just wrong.

What possible policy base is there for that? There isn't. It is just an attempt to increase revenues, cut services. I don't want to be misunderstood on this, I want to be clear that I think there is a place for user fees, but I think it is a very narrow range of potential activities for which the government delivers services for which there ought to be user fees. An extremely narrow base. That is not the policy that we see embodied through Bill No. 46; what we see is something entirely different. What we see is an attempt to make user fees the order of the day; what we see is an attempt to simply make it more expensive to be an ordinary Nova Scotian.

This is just wrong, and yet this is the second central economic policy that is embodied by Bill No. 46. The first being, let's sell off our public assets, although for no money; it is clear that they are going to be sold off for no money. Second, is to increase user fees. There it is, the cost of being a Nova Scotian is going to go up. It makes no sense, it absolutely makes no sense to try to do that and present it as if somehow this is going to improve the lives of individual Nova Scotians; to present it as if somehow it is going to improve the lives of communities in all parts of the province; to present it as if it might remotely do something to stimulate the economy here.

The budget sheet, the cost-recovery measures budget bulletin, admits to about a total of $20 million of this increase in user fees in the first year. In the first year, because let's not forget that there is no proposal that these will disappear. The proposal is that these will be in place from now on, in each and every year Nova Scotians will be expected to pay that additional amount. Let's be clear, this is a tax increase. This is clearly a tax increase. This is not the kind of measure on which the government, then in the Opposition, attempted to sell itself to Nova Scotians last summer.

The agenda last summer was of course that which had been presented so successfully by their Tory counterparts in Ontario. Cut back on government services, and after we get the deficit under control we will deliver a tax cut. We will be tough, we will stick to our guns, we will ignore the protests, we will tough it out and then when the second election comes around we will say to the voters, we did what we told you; you may not have liked it, but it was good medicine, it worked and aren't we tough?

I have said this before and I will say it again, there are at least two things wrong with that in this province. First, it is not what the government said it was going to do when it was running for office. It wasn't up front about attacking the public sector, it wasn't up front about attacking education, it wasn't up front about taking $80 million out of health care, it wasn't up front about adding at least $20 million to user fees. That is the first thing that is wrong with it. The second thing that is wrong with it in Nova Scotia is Nova Scotians don't

[Page 5964]

like it. They don't want it, they wouldn't have voted for it if you had frankly said last summer, that this was what you were going to do.

So you are going to be in big trouble when the time comes a couple of years from now and you start saying to people, well, we just did what we said we were going to do. The Premier can get up in Question Period three days a week and say, there is nothing for the future for our children unless we get the deficit under control. But do you know what? There are alternative ways to get the deficit under control. Again, I don't want to be misunderstood by suggesting that it is not a useful and important public policy objective to get the deficit under control. We all think it is. We were very clear that we think it is. We were clear in last year's election, we are clear again now. The question is, how do you get there? There is a much different way to get there to which I will turn in a moment.

I reject the first two aspects of what it is that Bill No. 46 embodies. I reject the sell-off of public assets at fire sale prices. I reject the added tax burden to Nova Scotians in the guise of increased user fees. I reject the third element, which is cuts in services. That is just plain wrong. I don't have to go into a huge amount of detail because each and every minister on the other side of this House and each and every one of the backbenchers knows the extent of those reductions. The more those cuts work their way through the system, the more they are going to be apparent to each and every Nova Scotia community.

We have dealt fairly extensively here with cuts to the education system. We are now beginning to see the details of what the implications are for cuts in the health care system. The way it works in terms of the budgeting for hospitals, regional health boards, is that first they are told what their global amounts are and then they have to work through the implications for their own budgets and then bring those budgets back to the Department of Health for approval. Because that process takes a number of weeks, it means that it is only now that those budgets are being worked out by the regional health boards, by the regional health authorities, by the hospitals for being sent back to the Department of Health.

It will only be over the next couple of weeks, if the government is prompt, that we will get the details of what it is that the Department of Health is prepared to accept. But that means that during the rest of this month of May and during the month of June, those details are going to become known in each and every community all across Nova Scotia, and they are choking on it. The communities don't like it, they don't want it and they say to themselves, is this what we voted for? The answer is not hard to find. The answer is, no, that is not what we voted for. Citizens of Nova Scotia are saying to themselves, what happened?

The longer this goes on, the more apparent it is to Nova Scotians that something has gone drastically wrong between what they hoped for last year and what is being delivered this year. In the third year or fourth year of this government's mandate, if they are able to deliver a tax cut, will that make any difference to Nova Scotians? Well, do you know what? I don't think it will, because in my experience of Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians are people who don't

[Page 5965]

mind paying their taxes so long as they get the services they pay for in exchange for those taxes. Also, so long as they see themselves as part of a fair tax system. That's important to Nova Scotians.

I can see that in cutting back on public services, the attempt is being made to set up a climate of opinion in which Nova Scotians will say to themselves, well, if we are not getting any services we might as well pay a smaller amount of taxes. That was clearly the Ontario agenda and it was clearly the federal government's agenda. But do you know what? That is at odds with the Canadian instinct and it is at odds with the Nova Scotia instinct. Our instinct is to build community. Our instinct is to invest in building a community. Our instinct is to say, we want to do our fair share towards building our communities and making them stronger, healthier, safer, better places in which to live and bring up our families. That is what Nova Scotians and other Canadians are interested in. So, the government has it wrong. They have misread what it is that the public of Nova Scotia wants now, and is going to want and expect three or four years from now.

[2:45 p.m.]

Furthermore, how much of a tax cut can this government deliver once it gets the budget deficit from year to year under control? The federal government proposed a tax cut this year. It would have been $16 million to $20 million maybe a little more for Nova Scotians if it had been allowed to roll through to Nova Scotians. But that is what the thrust of this bill is all about. The bulk of those page after page after page of Bill No. 46, making it 100 pages long, virtually, is to rewrite the Income Tax Act in Nova Scotia precisely so the federal tax cut will not roll through to the average Nova Scotian taxpayer. Not only are they not passing the $20 million of tax cuts that Nova Scotians might have enjoyed this year, they are adding $20 million, and more I should say, in user fees. Just how much is that tax cut going to be in third or fourth year? I don't think the Minister of Finance has really told us how much of a tax cut he thinks Nova Scotians are going to, so called, enjoy in the third or fourth year. I haven't seen a percentage or a number about that.

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

MR. EPSTEIN: If entertain is the word, Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I remember hearing this member say in the past that we don't pay very much tax in Nova Scotia. I think you took the amount of revenues we had and divided by the number of people and you said we don't pay that much and we can afford to pay more. Now today, I was just listening to the member opposite saying we should have a tax cut, and you want to have tax cut now. Are you saying that if we want to have that

[Page 5966]

tax cut, we would try to achieve that by cutting back more on programs? Could you just clarify that for the attention of the House? I think people want to know if you have listened to what you said before and what you are saying today. Which is it? Do you want to have more taxes, less taxes, and if you have less taxes, do you want to cut back on additional services?

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to answer it if, in fact, the question made any sense, but it doesn't. What I think I can do is offer an alternative vision, which is, in fact, exactly where I am going with my remarks. I think the honourable Minister of Finance will learn in due course if he pays attention what it is he should have done in Bill No. 46, and what he should have done in his budget, because I don't intend to try to duck that question at all. I do think that, although it is fair enough for those in the Opposition to criticize what the government does, I also think there is a certain responsibility to try to lay out an alternative vision to say what is it that we could do differently? What, in fairness could be done differently in order to build a sense of community, in order to strengthen the economic life of our province?

I have had the opportunity to have a quick look at the blue book in the interim, Mr. Speaker. I actually do see that the projection in the third or fourth year is perhaps towards a 10 per cent tax cut, so I see then that perhaps a number has been put out in the past. I would find that interesting to see. But do you know what? I am sure at least part of each individual taxpayer in Nova Scotia would say to themselves, sure there are few dollars in my pocket. All else being equal I wouldn't mind that. In the abstract, individuals would like tax cuts. Companies would like tax cuts. It isn't all else being equal, it isn't in the abstract.

In politics we are stuck with where we are now; even if we can agree on where it is we want to get to, we start where we are. You have to deal with the problems that exist right now. That is what we are in politics for, to deal with practical problems.

There is not a lot of point in delivering a 10 per cent tax cut, if in the meantime you have taken steps to undermine the effectiveness of the health care system or the effectiveness of the education system that everyone in Nova Scotia wants. That makes no sense. As I said before, it is not what Nova Scotians want. There may be some kind of sense of bitterness at the end of four years in which a bitter individual, seeing that their tax dollars are not being used to deliver to them the services that they feel they were paying for, might say, if that is all I am getting, what the heck, let's take a tax cut. But it is not their first preference, it is way down the list of their preferences.

What is it? I will pause again to remind members that the whole of the economic agenda embodied in this bill consists of three things: first, sell off public assets; second, increase user fees; and third, cut public services. That is it. That is what this 100 pages is all about. That is it. Now what is the alternative, what is it that we should be doing? What is that the honourable Minister of Finance should have been doing? What is it he should do over the next

[Page 5967]

number of years that would achieve some of the stated aims and lead us to prosperity, lead us to a sense of community, and improve the position of Nova Scotians, individually and collectively? It isn't all that hard to figure out.

Let's start with a small discussion of the debt and deficit problem. The debt and deficit problem is the one we hear about now, unendingly, from the Premier and the Minister of Finance. This seems to be the central motivating factor for the Premier, his Minister of Finance, and that whole government. We don't disagree. I said before, I will say it again, we don't disagree that getting the deficit under control makes sense. The deficit is the annual amount by which we spend more than we take in. Quite clearly, in general, it is not desirable to keep on doing that year in, year out, because it adds to the debt. Ultimately, yes, there is only so much debt that we can carry.

Let's just talk sense about debt for a moment, debt of governments. I have had a number of conversations with members opposite which makes me realize that for some reason, they have the wrong picture in their heads about debt and governments. A number of them draw analogies between families and their debts and governments and their debts. There is a big difference. We know that as individuals, we can't just keep increasing our debt, and that there is a life history that goes along with being an individual in a family unit.

Here is what happens, you get your education, you get a job, you generate income, you have kids, perhaps, you acquire a mortgage, other assets, but you get older, every year that goes by you get older, you get white hairs, your ability to generate income tends to go down, especially when you have to retire at age 65. It makes sense for individuals to have paid off their mortgage by the time they are 65, and if they have kids who are going on to post-secondary education, to have saved all the money they need to pay for those kids, by the time they are age 65. It doesn't make sense, as you get older, to tend to take on new debt, because your ability to generate income when you reach 65 tends, in almost all cases, to go down. That is a normal life history. That makes sense for individuals. But it doesn't make sense for governments.

Governments don't reach age 65 and have to retire. They don't reach age 65 and have their incomes go down. Governments, like corporations, particularly large corporations, have perpetual existence. I don't want to be misunderstood as saying that you can add to your debt forever, obviously you can't, even a government, even a corporation. But there is not the same kind of pressure on governments or corporations to suddenly say to themselves, we shouldn't be carrying debt because our income is about to go down, we are about to reach age 65. It doesn't happen.

Certainly governments reach age 65, we have had responsible government here for a couple of hundred years and it is going to go on. The federal government is going to go on as well. It is not panicking. In fact, there is a nice example to be drawn from the federal government. You remember all the debt panic that we used to hear about the federal

[Page 5968]

government a number of years ago? You don't hear one single word about that now and yet, virtually none of that debt has been paid off. A minuscule amount of the debt has been paid off. You know what has happened is that they got the annual deficits under control, which is fine and so they should have so they are not adding to the debt. That makes sense.

The other thing that happened is that interest rates went down compared to what they used to be, so it was not so much of a burden to pay for the debt and furthermore, the size of the economy grew so debt is a proportion of the economy of the Gross Domestic Product no longer is so significant. This is the second time in Canada's history in my memory that this has happened. At the end of World War II, Canada's debt as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product was 100 per cent. It was 100 per cent of Gross Domestic Product at the end of World War II. In the 20 or 30 years after World War II, it shrank to the point where it was 30 or 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product. Do you know what? Not one nickel of the debt was paid off in that 20 or 30 years. It shrank because the size of the economy grew.

In the 1970's, we started to move in the other direction. This is cyclical, but the important thing, the lesson for Nova Scotia is we should be doing the same thing here. You have got to get a grip, you can't have a picture in your mind that says, government debt is like family debt.

Now, if we had the opportunity to pay off debt, that would be nice. How could we pay off our $10 billion or $11 billion debt? Well, you know what? We built it up over the last 25 years, I have heard some people say, well, let's just pay it off gradually over the next 25 years. That isn't going to work. Are we going to run $400 million surpluses every year for the next 25 years? I don't think so. The thing to do is grow the economy. If we got some large and unexpected lump sum of money coming in from some source that was a non-recurring annual revenue source, then that money could well be used to pay down a portion of the debt.

In fact, Sable gas revenues are probably in that category because they are non-recurring. They are going to be of limited duration and of course, Section 60 of the Provincial Finance Act . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member entertain another question?

MR. EPSTEIN: I would be happy to entertain a question from that honourable minister and with hopes that it would be more sensible than the last question.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Listening to the comments of the honourable member I would understand from his comments that, and I wonder if he would agree, that he is

[Page 5969]

endorsing the thoughts of Bob Rae in Ontario when he attempted to buy the province out of its doldrums by adopting a new debt of $10 billion for the people of Ontario?

MR. EPSTEIN: I love that question because I am going to punt it from here to Truro. Number one, the clear reasons for the increase in the debt during the time of the NDP Government under Bob Rae in Ontario had nothing to do with deliberate deficit financing and adding to the debt, it had to do with the deep recession that was North American wide during that period of the early to mid-1990's. That is what it was that drove up the debt. Number two, since that time, the debt under the Progressive Conservative Government of Mr. Harris, has continued to rise. Number three, of course, as a matter of economic theory, this is not what Bob Rae did, but as a matter of economic theory, there are some limited circumstances in which it does make sense to acquire debt. That wasn't one of them, and that isn't what happened during that time. (Interruption) Number four, that isn't what I said at all. The honourable member wasn't hearing me.

[3:00 p.m.]

I wasn't advocating adding to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, when he interrupted me, I was talking about the limited circumstances in which we should find resources, money to pay down the debt. What I was saying was that we are not going to have the regular surpluses from normal revenues in Nova Scotia to pay down the debt, so what we have to do is grow the economy. If, I said, if we had some extraordinarily large amounts of money coming in from non-recurring sources, we could use that to pay down a portion of the debt.

The example I gave was Sable gas revenues. Indeed, Section 60A of the Provincial Finance Act says that not less than one-half of the net royalties from Sable gas have to be used every year to pay towards the debt. That makes sense, because Sable gas is a non-renewable resource. It isn't really something we can count on as part of our normal revenues every year, especially if they start pressurizing the line and it is 14 years' life in those fields. It might be different if we had a different picture of the wealth and the extent of the wealth of our offshore, but we don't yet. Not yet.

Here is another example of an extraordinary revenue that might come in if the government unwisely decides to sell off some of our public assets, and by some miracle actually manages to pocket some money for selling off the assets of the public, then that money should go towards paying down debt. That would make sense, because that is non-recurring revenue. You can only sell an asset once. Everyone knows that. I hope the government will act on what it is that everyone knows. But, the picture is, the debt in Nova Scotia is probably not going away. We might be able to whittle away at it a little bit. If some magic miracle were to take place, maybe we can whittle at it a little bit more, but that is the picture.

[Page 5970]

What we have to do is grow the economy. That is the major thing this government should have been doing through Bill No. 46, and it is what it is not doing. We will grow the economy in Nova Scotia as others have pointed out by making it an attractive place to live. You make it an attractive place to live by having good, public infrastructure in place, by making it a healthy province, by making it a province with a good education system, with a strong cultural sector, by having good regulations in place to protect the environment, by orienting ourselves towards making this a clean and healthy and well-educated province that people are attracted to, and that people, our youth, want to stay in. That is what the government ought to be doing, not cutting back on public services.

Now, the government would undoubtedly look at this and say, even if they are prepared to engage me on a discussion about this, but wait a minute, we are running deficits every year. We can't afford to do this. I agree that we have to get those deficits under control, but we don't have to get them under control in two years or three years. We can take four years, we can take five years. You know what, in five years, it will be gone. The deficit in Nova Scotia will be gone through natural growth in the economy and there is, if the government feels it has to find additional revenues, there is an obvious alternative that they have not even remotely turned to in Bill No. 46.

The obvious alternative is resource rents. I am sure that is a term that is obvious in its import to a number of the ministers opposite. But, let me be clear for those who might wonder what resource rents are. Resource rents are the amount of monies paid to the government for such things as cutting timber on Crown land or extracting minerals from underneath the ground in Nova Scotia. We in Nova Scotia derive a very small proportion of our own source revenues from resource rents. It is a scandal how low the resource rents are in Nova Scotia.

I started to talk about this the other day when I drew comparisons between Nova Scotia and what I think are the three appropriate comparator provinces in Canada and those are New Brunswick, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. I chose those provinces because our economies, our population size, where the population is located as between rural and urban areas, are almost exactly the same. We have about 950,000 people in Nova Scotia. There are about 650,000 people in New Brunswick. There are about one million people, a little more, in Manitoba and the same in Saskatchewan. You cannot compare the Nova Scotia economy with P.E.I.'s. It is minuscule. It is quite a bit different.

AN HON. MEMBER: Or Ontario.

MR. EPSTEIN: We certainly cannot compare it with Ontario's or Quebec's. Those are the largest population bases in Canada. They are the provinces where there is the most advanced industrial manufacturing facilities. We don't have those here. Alberta is in quite a different position because, although it has a similar urban/rural split, it has a significantly larger population and its natural gas and oil sector is much more mature than ours and

[Page 5971]

certainly B.C. has a much larger share of the national economy, but there are four provinces with which we can compare ourselves.

When I look at what it is that the revenues are to those other provinces from their resource rents, I am appalled when I compare them with Nova Scotia's because in New Brunswick, in Saskatchewan, in Manitoba, they get easily four, five, six, 10 times the number of dollars in resource rents for their forestry and for their mineral. What is going on in Nova Scotia? What on earth is going on? Is there anything in Bill No. 46 that addresses this problem? There is not. They ignore it.

The honourable Minister of Finance chooses to put additional costs, at least $20 million in additional user fees, on the backs of Nova Scotians, of ordinary, everyday Nova Scotians trying to dial 911, or use an ambulance, rather than go to Stora and Kimberly-Clark and the mining companies, the gold companies, the gypsum companies, and say 2 cents a ton is an insult to us and we are not doing that any more. We are going to bring ourselves into line with the kind of resource rents that you ought to be paying and would be paying if you were doing this in Saskatchewan, Manitoba or in New Brunswick, next door, and if that were the case, you could take this $20 million of user fees and scratch it right out. It would not be necessary, not even remotely. There would be an additional $20 million, $30 million, $40 million, $50 million of resource rents that ought to flow to the Government of Nova Scotia and this is not unfair.

I am not talking about raising these resource rents to the skies. I am talking about raising them to the level of the average of those three other fair, comparator provinces. How can that not be a part of what it is that this government proposes to Nova Scotians as a way forward? Are we not a resource-based economy here? We continue to be in many respects. Would this not be good for all of us in Nova Scotia? Would this not be good for those in rural areas as well? Of course, it would. Wherever you look, it would make sense.

Why is it that this is not happening? Does the government think that somehow the pulp and paper companies are going to pick up and go away? They aren't. They have highly skilled workforces here. If they leave, it will be because of international conditions, competition from new big forests that will be opened up to the international market from elsewhere in the world, not because of what has been going on here and, most wickedly, it will be because we are continuing to abuse our forestry resource here, as we all know, and will know soon to our sorrow on a level that makes the collapse of the groundfish fishery look relatively insignificant. That is coming in Nova Scotia, unless we do something about it.

As long as we are in the business of forestry extraction on Crown land, as long as we have some minerals, and we are not a mining powerhouse but we do have some, we should be getting a fair price. We have been extracting our forest products so greatly for so long that the damage is done. Fortunately, trees do grow again, you can replant. You can't do that with minerals, minerals are a non-renewable resource. There is only so much of them out there. If

[Page 5972]

we don't get the right price for our gypsum, which we have never gotten, really, in Nova Scotia, never, it will ultimately be gone. There are limited lifetime expectancies on mines.

It is just as obvious as it could possibly be that this is an area where the government should have acted if it wants to be serious about giving stimulus to the economy and, at the same time, protecting Nova Scotians while they move towards balancing the budget. Why didn't they do it? There is not one word of explanation from them as to why they have neglected this source of revenue. You are led to say to yourself, there must be some other agenda at work.

Do you know what the agenda is? It may be that a number of those backbenchers who came from rural Nova Scotia and who think of themselves as parts of communities where people are mainstreet, there are regular folks who live in those communities, they own a small business, maybe the local pharmacy, maybe the local hardware store, maybe they are the people who work at the car dealership, maybe they are the nurses, maybe they work for the municipal government, maybe they are the police, maybe they work a little bit on the outlying farms, maybe they cut a little pulp, regular folks, small-town folks, the heart of Nova Scotia.

That is not who is in control of the Tory Party, and that is not who is in control of the agenda that we see here. Those regular folks don't own cottages with the Sobeys, and those regular folks are not patricians, and those regular folks don't pal around with the upper-level owners and managers of the biggest of the economic concerns. That is who is calling the shots here. That is the difference between what is being said by the government about its objectives, and what it is actually doing. The policies that they are adopting are policies that are not good policies for main street, regular-folks Nova Scotians who don't think of themselves, and correctly don't think of themselves, as the economic powerhouse of this province.

So I say that there is an alternative, I say that this government could get the deficit under control within a reasonable period of time, and I say that they can do it without cutting back on essential public services, and I say they can do it without adding to user fees and putting those unwanted taxes on the backs of Nova Scotia, and I say they can do it in a reasonable period of time without selling off precious public assets. I say that if they don't do it, they are going to be in big trouble. They have chosen the wrong path, and they have chosen it for the wrong reasons. I think that the wrong reasons and the wrong path are going to be increasingly evident to every Nova Scotian.

[3:15 p.m.]

Let me just summarize a bit about what it is I said was the alternative. I want the government to grow the economy. I want them to look at resource rents; I want them to look at a fair taxation system; and I particularly want them to give a good, close look at the bundle of benefits, particularly the royalties that come to us from natural gas on the offshore. When I talked about resource rents, I talked about minerals and I talked about forestry; I didn't talk

[Page 5973]

yet about the royalties for natural gas. That is an important potential revenue source for us, and yet we know that the regime that was entered into by the previous Liberal Government isn't giving to Nova Scotians the full flow of revenues that we ought to get at a level we ought to get.

Now I am not going to go into the details of that. We all know why it is. We all know that the formula is tied to the profitability of the company; we all know that is SOEP; we all know that it is in stages; and we all know that they have to reach certain kinds of levels inside the system. The worst part of it, of course, is the 70 per cent or so offset through equalization.

It is that last bit, Mr. Speaker, that I want to focus on here as something we should have heard from the Minister of Finance that we haven't heard. I am going to acknowledge again in this House the initiative of Premier Brian Tobin of Newfoundland, who actually has engaged with the federal government about a potential change in the equalization formula. I tell you that if Premier Tobin is successful in getting that change to the equalization formula, and it also applies to Nova Scotia, the dollar value to us here over the next 10 years, if that is the period they are talking about, is about $1 billion. That money, if the Newfoundland Premier on our behalf is successful in doing that, seems to me to be the single biggest opportunity to get an injection of cash into this province that we have seen in many years - $1 billion - and as I say, a lot of that, maybe even all of it could well be used to pay down the debt or part of the debt. That would be wonderful.

Do you know how this works? Under the equalization formula right now, for every dollar of Sable gas royalties that Nova Scotia gets, about 70 cents of that dollar comes off our equalization payment. It is a reduction, so we only get to keep 30 cents on the dollar from the Sable gas royalties. Now, we know that the projected royalties over 25 years, if the project goes that long, and it won't make any difference if they pressurize the line and it is only 14 years, and the gas in the six SOEP fields is gone by then, we know that the projected royalties are $2.5 billion. We finally got that figure out of the former Minister of Natural Resources, Mrs. Norrie, a couple of years ago.

What we got last year, which was much more important, was we got a clear statement, for the first time, from the Petroleum Directorate that showed that net to Nova Scotia, after the equalization offset, over the full life of the project, would be no more than about $835 million; clearly about 30 per cent of the total royalty revenues over the life of the project, after the equalization offset. Well, if we didn't have to do that, over 14 or 25 years, although they are only talking about 10 years, that is my guess, that it is about $1 billion over 10 years that we could have in extra revenues here.

I am amazed that the Minister of Finance is in Halifax at all. I am amazed that he isn't spending all his time in Ottawa talking to his counterpart, the federal minister, about getting that proposal from Brian Tobin in place now. Why not? It is the best thing he could be doing,

[Page 5974]

but is there anything of that? No. It is not in Bill No. 46. It is not in the Towards Prosperity document - this laughable excuse for a step towards adopting an economic plan for growing the economy in Nova Scotia, a lot of nonsense - it is just not there.

What is it we see in the modern information age? I think, as the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party was saying, there is a new economy out there. There is a new economy in the world. Change is the byword. Change is what is going on in the economy, and in North America if we are going to compete, it will be through education. We have a fax machine for a Minister of Education, who has the emotional range of a fax machine. But we are missing the boat on this; education is where we have to invest if we want our population to grow in prosperity, as individuals, or in their communities, or in their regions, or as a whole. We have to invest in education, nothing could be clearer.

It is the single most important investment the public could make here and yet we are seeing squeezes, that is all we are seeing, a short-sighted attempt to squeeze dollars out of the Department of Education. How can that possibly fit with the idea of growing prosperity for Nova Scotians? It does not even remotely come close and that is what Bill No. 46 should be about, but it isn't. All it embodies is the agenda of Mike Harris blindly adhered to - sell off our assets, increase user fees, cut services. That is what Bill No. 46 says in 100 pages and it is wrong. It is absolutely wrong. It is wrong by any measure that anyone can think of.

How can they do this? How profoundly mistaken can they be? It will not work. Not only will it not work in terms of building prosperity, it will not work in terms of fooling Nova Scotians. It certainly will not work in the next election. I can hardly wait for a by-election, another one, that would be great. How much of a look-in did the Progressive Conservatives have in the last by-election? Wait until the next one. Wait until the one after that. There is going to be a message there. There are already messages coming in to the government members. Some of them are afraid to go home to their rural constituencies. This is simply not going to work for its stated purpose and it is not going to work for what it is that they hope, namely getting re-elected.

I want to see, make no mistake, we in our Party want to see a thriving economy here, but we see a different route to get there. We see that this can happen. We see that the future of Nova Scotia can, in fact, be a good future, but we see an entirely different way . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on an introduction.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the attention of the members of the House the presence in the gallery, today, of Mr. Bruce Clark, a former mayor of the former Town of Glace Bay, and a distinguished Cape Bretoner. Mr. Clark, welcome to the Legislature. (Applause)

[Page 5975]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 46. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells to the satisfaction of the Whips.

Are the Whips satisfied?

MR. JOHN HOLM: No, we will try for 15 minutes.

MR. SPEAKER: Ring the bells for approximately 15 minutes.

[3:24 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied? The motion that is before the House now is that the question be now put for second reading. A recorded vote has been called for.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[3:39 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Christie Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Baker Mr. MacLellan

Mr. Russell Mr. Downe

Dr. Hamm Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Holm

Mr. Muir Mr. Robert Chisholm

Miss Purves Ms. O'Connell

Mr. Fage Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Balser Mr. Corbett

Mr. Parent Mr. Epstein

Ms. McGrath Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Olive Mr. Dexter

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. MacEwan

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. Gaudet

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. MacKinnon

[Page 5976]

Mr. Taylor Mr. Samson

Mr. Dooks Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Langille Mr. Wilson

Mr. Morse Mr. Pye

Mr. Hendsbee Mr. John MacDonell

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 28. Against, 21.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The second motion is for second reading of Bill No. 46. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 47.

Bill No. 47 - Education Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education. (Applause)

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to put forward Bill No. 47, amendments to the Education Act, for second reading. My goal as Minister of Education on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia, is to offer the best possible public education system for all Nova Scotians. It is a significant task to make any improvements in the education field. The issues are complex and our fiscal situation poses some very real challenges. However, we are taking every available opportunity to move ahead. I know these changes to the Education Act will advance public education in Nova Scotia to serve our children better today and tomorrow.

[Page 5977]

Mr. Speaker, the amendments proposed today represent changes in four specific areas but they are specific for the education system as a whole. They reflect some strong convictions that we will pursue throughout our mandate. We are convinced there must be greater accountability for money spent on education. We are committed to providing strong community involvement in decisions affecting our children. We want to continue with efforts to improve conditions for African-Nova Scotians and Blacks who have faced tremendous discrimination over time and finally, when changes are made, we will treat everyone affected fairly.

[3:45 p.m.]

I would like to take a minute to speak to the purpose of the amendments we propose in the House now. The first series of amendments looks at school board structure. These are the result of a thorough process of consultation with Nova Scotians on school boards three years after amalgamation. Last December, I appointed a task force on school board boundaries, fulfilling a government promise to do so. I asked the members of this task force to review the effectiveness of school boards and to consider whether boundary changes are needed. After travelling across the province in January and receiving submissions from hundreds of Nova Scotians, the task force recommended no changes in boundaries, but it provided a very useful analysis of how well school boards are working today. These amendments reflect part of our plan to implement their recommendations.

The task force found that some communities feel shut out of school board decision making. They suggested a number of ways to address this and a key recommendation involved replacing the Southwest Regional School Board with more management at the school level. We analysed their advice and the amendments we propose now respond to the spirit of that recommendation. I believe we have found a more balanced approach.

It is proposed to create two district school boards within the Southwest Regional School Board boundaries to focus on education and program issues only. The South Shore District School Board will cover the Counties of Queens and Lunenburg and the Tri-county District School Board will encompass the Counties of Shelburne, Digby and Yarmouth. A director of education will be accountable to each district board. A Chief Executive Officer will handle administration and operations for the entire region.

Since the districts are smaller, they will allow for more community involvement. Freed up from day-to-day operations and administration, the district boards will have more time to focus on what matters most to parents and communities - the education being offered to children in the classroom.

The amendments are also about accountability. The CEO will be appointed by the minister and will report directly to the Deputy Minister of Education. This structure will keep the lines of communication open and create clear accountability between the department and

[Page 5978]

the school board for expectations and results achieved. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia taxpayers spend more than $0.75 billion a year on public education. I know they want to be assured that someone knows where every dollar is spent and that it is spent on the right things. This structure will enhance that accountability.

There is a provision in these amendments to apply this structure to other school boards. Right now, the Minister of Education can remove a school board for reasons of financial mismanagement, health and welfare of children and educational welfare. The amendments we propose strengthen the minister's authority to remove a school board that is not meeting educational standards. I believe it is valuable to have some flexibility to deal with situations as they arise. I don't take these powers lightly, I see this authority as more like an insurance policy - it is worth having there in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, we have been working with school boards to plan for the year ahead. Both school boards and the government face some budget challenges and I am very pleased to report that many of these have been resolved in recent days. The amendments proposed in this bill were designed to alleviate some of the pressures faced by school boards on the issue of teacher lay-offs. I have said many times that the Department of Education's budget was never intended to cause lay-offs of teachers and it is clear now that there will be no lay-offs of teachers as a result of this budget. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I regret the hardship for teachers who received lay-off notices unnecessarily in recent weeks. These amendments also have the effect of rescinding those notices. These provisions have given boards some much-needed flexibility as we worked through this process.

Another amendment in this bill responds to a long-standing concern of Nova Scotia's African-Canadian community. The Black Learner's Advisory Committee, back in the mid-1990's documented the historic educational disadvantage that have faced African-Nova Scotians and Blacks in this province. African-Nova Scotians have had limited access to what they needed to excel in our public schools. The BLAC Report recommended a number of remedies for that historic problem and the amendments proposed here today are one way of helping to overcome these historic wrongs.

This legislation will provide a designated seat for an elected African-Canadian representative on all regional and district school boards, the first in Canada. African-Canadians will be able to fully participate in the planning and decision-making process at the school board level across the province. The Education Act already makes provisions for the minister to appoint a Mi'kmaq member to an elected school board. Representatives of the province's Mi'kmaq community sit at five school board tables now. Following school board elections this fall, each regional and district school board will also have an African-Canadian representative. I think that is a very good thing. (Applause)

[Page 5979]

Mr. Speaker, the final series of amendments allows Nova Scotia to charge certification fees to first-time applicants. There are costs associated with processing applications, and government must recover these costs. The fact is most provinces charge fees to cover the cost of certification of teachers. This brings Nova Scotia in line with that practice. Certification fees are charged in most other professions, including others who work in the public sector, such as nurses. The fees are applied only to new teachers and those looking to renew or replace certificates. The amounts are modest, $80 for a new applicant, and $35 for a renewal. This is not an annual fee, this provision is designed to apply only to first-time teachers, whether applying from within the province or from outside. This one-time fee will give them a permanent teaching certificate to teach in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to put forward these initiatives as outlined in Bill No. 47, An Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96, the Education Act. They will address some very important issues in public education today in Nova Scotia. They will strengthen the accountability of our school system and focus on what we all value the most. Nova Scotia students should be able to leave our public school system with the confidence that they have the skills and preparation to succeed. As I said, we have to take every available opportunity to improve the system. We are doing so now, where we are able, to make sure the system encourages every student every day to advance as he or she should. On behalf of these students, I will be looking for more opportunities to move forward over the coming months. These amendments to the Education Act are the first step. I now move Bill No. 47 for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill 47 - An Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96, the Education Act. This bill was introduced by the Minister of Education on Thursday, April 27th. This bill is not about splitting up the Southwest Regional School Board, it is about getting rid of all the school boards in Nova Scotia. That is what is in this bill. (Interruptions) That is right. I have read the bill. That is exactly what is in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, when I heard the minister, in her opening comments, saying that this will allow her to remove school boards that are not meeting educational standards, well, I am sure in the next little while I will have a chance to speak on exactly what this means. Nowhere in the famous Tory blue book did the Tories say that they would get rid of elected school boards in the province - nowhere. Maybe I have missed it, but I can't recall having seen (Interruptions) Okay. Nowhere in that blue book did I see that this Tory Government, when they were out there during the last election, talk about removing elected school boards.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things this Tory Government said during the election, and now they are doing the exact opposite of what they said they would do if they were elected. The school board members in this province were elected by the people in their respective

[Page 5980]

jurisdictions. These school boards have to be accountable to the Minister of Education. If the minister feels that any school board is not doing their job properly, then it is her job, the Minister of Education's job, to bring them back in, modify what they are doing. This is not what this bill is all about. This bill, Mr. Speaker, gives full authority to the Minister of Education to appoint a person to carry out the duties of a district school board if the minister feels the district school board is not carrying out policies and directives of the Department of Education. Well, it is a big responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, the question that comes to mind here is, why would the minister replace a school board and appoint a person in charge? Well, I believe it is one way to tell school boards to behave, not to criticize her government, or she will exercise such authority and make them disappear. So is the Minister of Education issuing a gag order to school boards across the province with this bill? I think so. Well, I hope not. Let's look at the events in the last few weeks. Before the Minister of Education introduced this piece of legislation back on Thursday, April 27th, on April 11th, when this Tory Government brought down a budget that we all know was devastating to public education in Nova Scotia, this Minister of Education directed school boards throughout our province to cut $20 million in teaching salaries, to cut $7.3 million in specified areas. That is a $27.3 million cut to public education in Nova Scotia.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, school boards have said time and time again they needed an additional $26 million in funding just to maintain the existing education system. The Minister of Education failed to acknowledge that the school boards needed this additional funding. Finally, as we have seen in the last little while, her department officials have finally agreed with the Nova Scotia School Boards Association, with the school boards, with the Teachers Union, the home and school associations, and every one that came out. So finally they agreed that school boards needed that additional funding in order to cover salary increases, to cover high fuel costs and to cover pre-existing deficits.

Mr. Speaker, in total, with this $27.3 million cut, plus the additional $26 million needed to maintain the public education system, school boards across Nova Scotia were cut $53.3 million, and that is the reality behind this budget that was tabled on April 11th. From day one, when this budget was introduced by this Tory Government, this government has been very secretive about the full amount that was cut in public education and that is a shame. This Minister of Education knows this Tory budget was devastating to education in Nova Scotia, she knew. The impact of these cuts will have a destructive effect in our classrooms and right through the whole system.

[4:00 p.m.]

Many teachers will lose their jobs. Now we are hearing, well, no teachers will be losing their jobs. I will be saying a few words on that later on. But when this budget came down, many teachers were going to lose their jobs. Initially, and I remember, Mr. Speaker, because I remember asking the Minister of Education the question back on March 29th in this House,

[Page 5981]

if there were going to be any teacher lay-offs, any cutbacks? Do you know what I heard? The minister said, no teacher cutbacks, no lay-offs, no jobs would be lost. Well, then we heard back on April 11th, a little ways after that, then we hear that the minister was looking at laying off 400 through retirement and through attrition. But after checking out with all the school boards and checking with the NSTU, we discovered that only 88 teachers were scheduled to retire this year, not 400, but only 88. So then we had to rework the plan, 400 through retirement or through attrition.

Well, furthermore, many support staff will be losing their jobs and we still don't know how many support staff will be losing their jobs. Secretaries, teachers' aides, teachers' assistants, janitors, librarians, library technicians, clerks, bus drivers, cafeteria workers and others. We can understand why the NSTU, the NSGEU and CUPE are upset after this Minister of Education and after this Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, in the last three weeks, we have heard, time and time again, from students, from parents, from teachers, from support staff, from school board members and from everyone else who joined them across this province to protest these cuts. People right across this province have been telling what the impact of these cuts will have on public education in Nova Scotia. We are looking at larger class sizes. We are looking at reduced services to students, or even completely taken out, programs cut or reduced. We can recall the minister saying, basically, in this House, that 22 programs that were actually going to be introduced this year are now being put on the back burner. That information was tabled here in this House.

We are looking at a higher drop-out rate right across this province. We are looking at possible school closures and I will get to that in a few minutes. We looked at, possibly, moving students to neighbouring communities. I know, in Clare, Mr. Speaker, when the Southwest Regional School Board was looking at the proposed cuts, initially, they were looking at closing down three schools in the Municipality of Clare and driving those students either to Yarmouth or to Weymouth. I can't agree that the minister would have allowed this, but, thank goodness, under the Education Act, if the school board wishes to close a school, they need to advise those communities with one year prior notice. So, right now, this has been removed, thank goodness. Will it come back? Who knows. So, ultimately, what these cuts meant, that community again, would suffer. There is no doubt, not just Clare, but communities across this province would have been affected, in some possible way, by this budget that was tabled by the Minister of Finance back on April 11th.

Mr. Speaker, if we recognize that these cuts to Education are part of the plan to eliminate school boards in Nova Scotia, then we can move on. So these cuts are part of the plan. We recall the Minister of Education announcing these cuts to school boards, but now this Minister of Education is hoping that some school boards will refuse to make these budget cuts. I guess you cannot blame the school boards for not going ahead to make these cuts because, of course, they don't want to be seen as the bad guys throughout all of this. So in

[Page 5982]

the end, guess what, Mr. Speaker? If they refuse to do as the Minister of Education says, they are giving the Minister of Education the excuse to take them out. I think that is very unfair for this Minister of Education; or yet if they decide to go ahead and make these cuts, then the public will support the Minister of Education to eliminate them. So, either way school boards cannot win. They are in a no win situation.

Mr. Speaker, in the end regardless we know that school boards are on their way out. We know on one side they cannot win if they go ahead and implement these cuts. On the other side, if they do actually make the cuts, we know how popular those will be in our different areas of the province. We know that the public will be blaming the school boards for having made these cuts. They will not be blaming the minister. So if the minister decides to take them out, I am sure those communities will support the minister. So how can she lose? This Bill No. 47 gives the authority to the Minister of Education to eliminate school boards in this province. That is what this bill is all about.

Mr. Speaker, let's go back to the Minister of Education's press conference on April 27th where she said, with the following recommendations from a school board boundary task force, "The task force recommended replacing the Southwest Regional School Board with more management at the school level." Well, if we want to know the truth about who really recommended that the Minister of Education replace the Southwest Regional School Board, then let me go back to the front page of The Yarmouth Vanguard on Friday, April 21st. The headline reads, Education protest hits the streets.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is The Vanguard?

MR. GAUDET: That is The Vanguard. Mr. Speaker, I am just going to read a few comments from the MLA for Yarmouth, what he had to say, "Parents and students are mostly directing their anger at the provincial government, but politicians are accusing school boards, including the Southwest board, of creating a frenzy of fear and uncertainty. We've asked the school board to cut 2.6 per cent of their overall budget so what did they do? All they did is put fear into the community, into the students and the parents saying we're going to cut teachers and close schools,". That is what Yarmouth MLA Richard Hurlburt said.

Further, he said, "Is that showing leadership and looking at this thing constructively and finding ways of saving money? No. They're going to hit right in the areas that they know the communities will not accept, so I'm blaming the school board for that." (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, now we know why these amendments to the Education Act are before us. This bill will allow the Southwest Regional School Board to be divided up into two district school boards, the South Shore District School Board and the Tri-county District School Board. The South Shore District School Board will include Lunenburg and Queens Counties. The Tri-county District School Board will include Shelburne, Yarmouth and Digby Counties. I have received some letters from people from Queens telling me that they are not in favour

[Page 5983]

of dividing up the Southwest Regional School Board, and furthermore, they don't want to be under the South Shore District School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I will table a letter that I received, which is to the honourable member for Queens, Mr. Morash, from Mrs. Marion Baxter, R. R. 2, Caledonia. She sent me this note, and we were talking to her today to see if we could table this letter in this House, and she agreed. It says, I would also state that I am not in favour of splitting the Southwest Regional School Board, if Queens and Lunenburg are together. I would prefer Queens be split with Shelburne and Yarmouth, as I do not feel we would have much say in the goings-on with Lunenburg. I am also not happy with one CEO in charge, as this is too much responsibility and control for any one person. I will table that. (Interruptions) No, but I will certainly provide the table a copy if they so wish.

Mr. Speaker, I know the government has not done any consultations with the people of Queens to find out what district school board they want to be under. This is the Tory Party. This is the Tory Government who said that they wanted to be open and accountable and transparent. I hope the people of Queens will not be ignored through this whole process, and that the Minister of Education will listen. I hope that the Minister of Education will listen to the people of Queens County. I am sure the honourable member for Queens will represent his constituents' concerns and bring those concerns directly to the Minister of Education's attention.

AN HON. MEMBER: I don't think so.

MR. GAUDET: You don't think so?

AN HON. MEMBER: I wouldn't put any money on it.

MR. GAUDET: Well, we will just hope that the honourable member for Queens will get that opportunity.

AN HON. MEMBER: I am a betting man and I wouldn't put any money on it.

MR. GAUDET: You wouldn't put any money on that? Mr. Speaker, these district school boards as envisaged, and this legislation, will not be accountable to the people who elect them. They will only be accountable to the Minister of Education. Let me explain. The district boards will be responsible for the employment of a director of education, teachers, and teachers' assistants, but the Minister of Education will appoint, first, the director of education. District school boards will also be responsible for policy development and the implementation and monitoring of education programs and services. The Department of Education, not the district board, will be responsible for evaluating the director of education. The minister will be responsible for that. The district board, which represents the people, they should evaluate this director. This Tory Government is now showing no respect for elected school board

[Page 5984]

members by pushing them to the side and telling them that they will have no say in evaluating the Director of Education, and I don't think that is right.

[4:15 p.m.]

The Director of Education is appointed for a three-year period only and if the district board wants the director to serve beyond three years, then the director must go through a competition for reappointment. The district board will have very little say in this whole matter, Mr. Speaker. There is one thing that I am pleased about, that the Director of Education must be the holder of a teacher's certificate. The Director of Education is mainly responsible for teaching staff and programs, so how can the Director of Education maintain a safe, orderly, and supportive learning environment when he or she is not responsible for buildings, equipment, and maintenance?

Mr. Speaker, even though the Minister of Education is planning to divide the Southwest Regional School Board into two district school boards, the minister still plans to keep the Southwest Regional School Board in place. Now that is strange. With the Southwest Regional School Board remaining in place, the minister will appoint the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board for matters of financial management, school conveyance management, facilities management and human resources management. The government has created another level of bureaucracy that didn't exist before. So if you are going to create two new boards, why do you need the Southwest Regional School Board to oversee the activities of these two new district school boards? I don't know.

Actually, the all-powerful CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board is also, Mr. Speaker, responsible for the two new district boards. Now the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board does not need to have a teacher's certificate. So by creating a CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board, the department has created a powerful individual who is only answerable to the minister. It will be interesting to see how the CEO is going to be recruited and I can tell you, just in the last few weeks since this bill has been introduced, there is a lot of speculation out there, and there are a few names that are circulating as to who this new CEO is going to be.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who is Guy LeBlanc?

MR. GAUDET: Well, Mr. Speaker, it will be very interesting to see who is going to be the new CEO appointed by this Minister of Education to overlook these two new district school boards, who will be heading the Southwest Regional School Board, answering to the minister directly. I anticipate maybe a few more names will be actually added to that list of who . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Leroy Legere?

[Page 5985]

MR. GAUDET: . . . will be added to those potential candidates for the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board. Let's not forget, we are talking about the Southwest Regional School Board here but what is the next school board? So I would anticipate there will be more CEOs appointed across this province very shortly. I think that group of names, it will certainly include a few more before this bill actually gets through.

Mr. Speaker, in summary, we now have a CEO appointed by the minister, running two district school boards with two Directors of Education, one for each district school board appointed, as well, by the minister. She is going to be busy doing all kinds of interviews for these new positions, Director of Education, one for the South Shore District School Board and one Director of Education for the Tri-county District School Board. At the same time, she is going to be busy finding a new CEO for the Southwest Regional School Board that will be accountable directly to her.

Technically, through her three appointees, the Minister of Education now replaces the Southwest Regional School Board and she is now in full control. This reminds me that this is exactly what is happening in health care, what she is now proposing to do for public education in Nova Scotia. Three deputy ministers. Well, at least that is not what is in this bill, that is not what they are being called at this time, but who knows?

It is going to be interesting to see all the major decisions in education now they are going to have to be made right here in downtown Halifax in the Minister of Education's office. That is where the major decisions are going to be made. (Interruptions) Her Deputy Minister of Education is now in Nova Scotia on a full-time basis.

The obvious next question is what school board will be next to come under the Minister of Education's control? I don't think we are going to have to wait too long, that will probably surface in the next little while. The Southwest Regional School Board is the first one to go once this bill goes through, then I would anticipate there will be more. I know the task force, as the Minister of Education indicated, actually had made this recommendation, that the Southwest Regional School Board needed more management at the school level. They have also looked at the French School Board, CSAP and I would anticipate, in the not too distant future, to hear something about this from this Minister of Education.

Is she proposing the same package for the superintendent of the CSAP, the French School Board, is she proposing directors of education who will be appointed in the sub-systems that it is being looked at, talked about? There are lots of rumours out there. I guess we are going to have to wait. Wait to see once this bill goes through, and at the end of the day we know that this Bill No. 47, amending the Education Act, will go through. The Tory Government has the majority in this House so it is only a question of time before the Minister of Education has full control on doing away with school boards in this province and appointing her own people in these positions to look after public education in Nova Scotia.

[Page 5986]

Another amendment in this bill will allow the Minister of Education to delay the issuance of lay-off notices to teachers to June 16th. Currently, under the Education Act, school boards have to issue termination notices to teachers by May 15th, so why is the Minister of Edcuation extending this deadline to June 16th? Delaying of the issuance of lay-off notices accomplishes absolutely nothing.

We have the minister in her opening comments saying no teachers will be laid off. That is encouraging. I can't understand why she needs this amendment in this bill to delay the May 15th deadline to June 16th. The Minister of Education has said that no teacher would be laid off, more money has been given to school boards to prevent these lay-offs taking place. This bill was tabled on Thursday, April 27th. Now, this article that appeared in The Daily News on Friday, May 5th, where we have the Minister of Education saying, it is now clear that probably only 150 to 250 teachers will take retirement. The government had wanted to shed 400 teachers through attrition. We estimated that 400 teachers would likely take up this offer. If only 150 or 250 take up the offer, then the boards don't have to make up the difference. So there are not going to be any teacher lay-offs.

If the Minister of Education, having said in this article, where she was quoted that the boards will not have to make up the difference, why do we need to delay these lay-off notices until June 16th?

AN HON. MEMBER: It doesn't add up.

MR. GAUDET: It doesn't add up, it doesn't make sense, unless she is up to something. All this amendment does to extend the deadline for lay-off notices. It raises the stress level of teachers who have already received lay-off notices. Will these same people receive another notice on June 16th? Probably yes. Who knows? I honestly cannot see the need for this amendment in this bill, unless the Minister of Education has a hidden agenda, just like this Tory Government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you think? Do you think they are sneaky enough to do that? To have a hidden agenda?

MR. GAUDET: Yes. But, Mr. Speaker, seriously, some of these people who did receive lay-off notices earlier - and now with this bill, lay-off notices are now delayed until June 16th - some of these people will have to live for the next month with the false hope of thinking that they won't be laid off, unless the Minister of Education is ready to withdraw that amendment to this Education Bill. There is no doubt in my mind, there is a hidden agenda behind this amendment. Furthermore, all of these teachers that have received these notices earlier, not knowing if they were going to get them back, who knows? I hope not, but if they do get them back after June 16th, these individuals will miss out on an opportunity to get employment elsewhere, while waiting to see whether or not they will still receive a lay-off notice.

[Page 5987]

Mr. Speaker, what this government is doing to these teachers and their families is terrible, and it is uncalled for. I hope the Minister of Education will reconsider this amendment and withdraw it immediately so that these teachers can get on with their lives. But through this whole debate, and I have raised this on different occasions, students and parents don't understand the difference between a part-time teacher, a part-time term teacher, a full-time term teacher, a probationary I or probationary II teacher, or permanent teacher. We have asked this Minister of Education to table in this House, to inform members of this House, to inform school boards across this province, to inform Nova Scotians how many teachers will not be back next September. We don't know. We still don't know and after hearing the Minister of Education here earlier this afternoon in her opening remarks on this bill, she has clearly stated that there will not be any teachers laid off. So, I hope that the minister is right, that no teachers will be losing their jobs come next September.

[4:30 p.m.]

School boards, Mr. Speaker, have been negotiating with the department deputy minister and other department officials for the last two to three weeks. We still don't know the details of those negotiations. We know that the school boards will not be provided with the $53.3 million that they need. We know that the school boards will have to make cuts at the end of the day, at some point in time. There has been all kinds of speculation, all kinds of rumours, yet, we still don't know, as we stand here today, exactly how much school boards' budgets will be reduced by. We still don't know where our school boards will be making these cuts. We don't know if the Minister of Education actually told the school boards exactly what areas they would be allowed to be making some of these cuts.

We heard last week that the Halifax Regional School Board was looking at closing libraries in junior highs. Basically, asking volunteers to come in and keep these libraries open. There is a possibility of taking out some teachers' assistants. We know, Mr. Speaker, there are many students out there who have special needs and those students who have special needs need that extra hand in order to help them with their education. But, unfortunately, we still don't know how many of these teachers' assistants will be cut.

So I invite the Minister of Education, as soon as possible, to tell the school boards exactly what they have to work with, as far as money goes, in order to prepare for next September. I know the Southwest Regional School Board was planning on having a school board meeting tonight, Mr. Speaker. Their profile sheet from the department has not been provided to them, still. So, unfortunately, they had to cancel that meeting tonight. I hope, in the very near future, that they will be provided that information, that they can get on their way and to do exactly what they have been asked by this Minister of Education to do.

Mr. Speaker, this bill also allows creation of a seat on the school boards for an African-Nova Scotian representative in the upcoming school board election. This is welcome news. It will provide the Black community with the voice in our province's education process. I can

[Page 5988]

tell you, when I was in the Department of Education, work was being carried out at that time to allow the creation of a seat on the school board for an African-Nova Scotian, in time for the upcoming school board elections in October of this year. So a lot of work was carried out on this amendment to make this a reality in the upcoming school board elections this fall. Mr. Speaker, I fully support this amendment in this bill, to allow African-Nova Scotians to sit, that is a very good move on behalf of the Minister of Education and her government to table this in this bill. (Interruptions). I am not going to go there. (Laughter).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. Mr. Speaker, this bill completely erodes the democratic process with respect to education in Nova Scotia. It is an insult to the democratic process, it centralizes power with the Department of Education here in downtown Halifax and it takes powers away from the people throughout this province. This bill gives the Governor in Council power to exempt regional school boards from any provision of the Education Act. Is this democracy? I guess not. Joe Howe, standing beside you, the champion of free speech and the democratic process, would never put up with the shenanigans that the people of Nova Scotia are being subjected to by this Tory Government.

This bill will allow the Minister of Education to eliminate school boards across the province. It will allow her to appoint, more than likely, some of her close friends in some of these positions.

AN HON. MEMBER: Very close friends.

MR. GAUDET: Very close friends. The Director of Education that is being proposed for the South Shore District School Board and the Director for the Tri-county District School Board will allow the minister to make these appointments, they will have to report to her. This bill will allow the minister to appoint a CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board that will basically be responsible for these two district school boards in the end. Ultimately the Minister of Education is responsible for the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board, is also responsible for the directors of education in both of these district school boards, so the power will come back to the Minister of Education's office right here in Halifax. Not to the elected school board members who are out there sitting on these district school boards. The real power will be right here in the minister's office.

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the Minister of Education - it is not too late to table some amendments to this bill because honestly I cannot see the need to extend the deadline for providing teachers with lay-off notices until June 16th. At the same time we have the minister indicating that there were not going to be any teachers laid off. So there are mixed messages here and this bill allows the minister to extend this deadline to provide teachers with lay-off notices. At the same time the minister here, this afternoon, and as I pointed out in the article that The Daily News carried on May 5th, the minister said that school boards will not have to make up the difference.

[Page 5989]

There are mixed messages here, whether this deadline is needed for some unknown reason that we are not aware of at this time. Maybe the minister could clarify at some point in time exactly what this extension of this deadline is needed for. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, this bill will provide the minister and this Tory Government with the authority to get rid of school boards across this province.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure in the next little while, especially once this bill goes through this House and is approved - and I would expect that will be still some time, I don't think that will take place in the next 24 hours, no, I would anticipate members on this side of the House have many concerns and they have heard many concerns from people from their riding, from people who have been protesting here practically every day after the budget was tabled here on Tuesday, April 11th. I know in our caucus office, I know in my constituency office and at home, we have been receiving e-mails, faxes, petitions, letters, telephone calls from people from all over the province. People from all over the province are very upset at what this government is proposing to do for public education in Nova Scotia.

Then, lo and behold, after the Minister of Education said time and time again in this House there was no new money for public education in Nova Scotia, well, what happened? We saw the Minister of Finance coming to her rescue. We still don't know exactly how much money was put on the table for the school boards. This sort of information has been sort of cloudy, clouded over with the numbers, very shaky. So I hope that the Minister of Finance will be able to rescue the Minister of Education once again, if time shows, especially in the next little while, that she needs her support and I am sure he will be there once again.

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to see that the Minister of Finance came forward and helped the Minister of Education to bring the school boards to the table and negotiate. Normally the Minister of Education brings the school boards to the table before the budget is drafted and the school boards' representative, along with the Department of Education's official, have a chance to exchange what the concerns are, exactly the type and the level of funding that is needed for the next school year, but in this situation it did not take place. We heard the Minister of Education saying that she could not allow the Formula Review Committee to meet before this budget was drafted. This budget was very secret.

Now, lo and behold, the Minister of Education invites the school boards to sit at the table after the budget has been tabled in this House. That is normally not how things work out, but in this situation that is exactly the events that took place. Now, school board officials are meeting with representatives and the Deputy Minister of Education and hoping that they can certainly respond in a much more positive way to these cuts that were initially tabled here back on April 11th.

[Page 5990]

[4:45 p.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, I hope before this House rises that members of the House will actually get a chance to see a copy of these latest negotiations, what exactly was negotiated, exactly how much money was provided to the school boards, and by how much in the end school boards will have to cut their budgets. I just hope the Minister of Finance is not too far behind the Minister of Education with his slush fund, just in case the Minister of Education needs another helping hand along the way with these school boards. Yes, Mr. Speaker, some progress has been made along the way, but still not knowing the full details of what exactly is before the school boards, I just hope in the end the students across Nova Scotia will not have to suffer in any possible way because of this budget that was tabled on April 11th.

This is about investing in the future of the students of Nova Scotia, it is not about balancing the books on the backs of those children. The deficit did not just happen overnight, and we don't anticipate that this government will balance the budget overnight on the backs of these children. I just hope that all members of this Tory Government will certainly reconsider, because I know in the last four or five weeks, all the members on the government side have been approached by the public of Nova Scotia. They had a chance to air their difficulties with the budget that was tabled, and I would suggest that those protests, demonstrations, discussions that took place had an impact on when the Minister of Finance came forward to give the Minister of Education a helping hand with the slush fund.

There is still some money set aside in the slush fund in case someone else in the Cabinet needs a helping hand. It is good to reassure those ministers, whether it is the Minister of Agriculture or the Minister of Health or others.

AN HON. MEMBER: There is still $61 million of it left.

MR. GAUDET: There is $61 million, I am being told, set aside in that slush fund that is waiting to be invested in order to meet some of these cuts that are being proposed in this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was $88 million.

MR. GAUDET: Yes, it was $88 million.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I will take my seat and listen to what my colleagues on this side of the House will have to say in regard to Bill No. 47. I thank you for the opportunity.

[Page 5991]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we have certainly been on a bit of a roller-coaster ride in this province in the past three weeks or so with respect to education and, I would submit, with Bill No. 47 that roller-coaster ride is far from over; in fact it may only be beginning for education and educators, parents and communities, in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is any question that all members in this House agree on the absolute importance of education for our province, for the future of our children, for our economy, and for the health of our province, but I think that is where the agreement ends. I think we are not in agreement with the approach this government is taking and the approach we have seen with respect to the restructuring of the district health boards, and now with the restructuring of school boards in Nova Scotia.

Although this bill wraps itself in a sort of a dialogue about how this is a special case and a special project, there are other aspects of this bill that would indicate that this is much more than a special project in one particular region of the province. But it is the beginning of the end of democratically elected school boards responsible and responsive to communities at a local level. So, Mr. Speaker, this has to be of considerable concern to people in Nova Scotia because, really, what Bill No. 47 does, in all of its features, is it takes power away from school boards. It concentrates power in the hands of the Minister of Education and in the Department of Education in the Trade Mart Building in downtown Halifax. Far from being a piece of legislation that involves the community and provides for greater community control and involvement, in fact, it is quite the opposite. So we need to spend, I think, a considerable amount of time debating the important change in direction that these amendments represent for the delivery of education in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we went through an election campaign in the summer where this government had a particular number of promises they made with respect to where they would take education in Nova Scotia. This was not the direction that was indicated in the blue book and I would like to, just briefly, give a bit of an overview, because I find it quite curious that, in such a short period of time, the commitments that were made to Nova Scotians last summer have been set aside, buried, forgotten about and replaced with a completely new agenda, with respect to education in this province.

The Tory blue book said, and this is a quote from the Premier at that time, saying, "It's time government started looking at education as an investment in our future rather than simply as a cost to government." Yet, the only thing we hear when we come to this place and we discuss where education and where this government is taking education in Nova Scotia, is an argument from the government that what they are doing with education is all about cost. It is all about the province's financial picture. The discussion about investing in education has disappeared.

[Page 5992]

In the Tory blue book, there were a number of commitments made to Nova Scotians, commitments to set up a provincial education council, for example, Mr. Speaker, and this council would recommend changes to Nova Scotia's education system. Reading these promises, you would think that there would have been some process of consultation prior to introducing these kinds of potentially sweeping powers to the Minister of Education. There was no public discussion or public consultation that would lead one in this direction.

Last evening, I, and some of my colleagues here in this caucus, had an opportunity to attend a meeting in Auburn Drive High School, organized by members of the school board to explain to people in the area what some of the options were that were being considered in terms of how to make the $11 million in cuts that are necessary as a result of the Education budget. As I listened to parents at the microphone come and ask questions and express their concerns, it became very clear to me that if there was anything we could do for parents and teachers and students in Nova Scotia that would be a useful, productive exercise to help us preserve our public education system and provide some stability in the system, it would be, right now, to stop the restructuring, the reorganization, the rearranging that has been endemic, it seems to me, in this province since Donald Cameron was the Premier and launched the very beginning attacks, I think, on education and on the school system.

People, teachers, parents, communities, they have sustained, over a 10 year period or more, a constant assault. They have been the object of a constant assault by their government changing the rules and tinkering with the structures. It is not that change isn't important and that you shouldn't be looking for more workable ways of delivering public services, but the objective of what has been happening over 10 years has had very little to do with improving public education, for example. It has had everything to do with trying to wring, trying to rip more and more money out of the public education system. The system cannot take very many more cuts and cannot take very much more restructuring, reorganization, retooling, whatever the words are.

When I look at this particular bill I think, what an opportunity has been lost in some respects, because we continue to go down the path of repeating mistakes that have been made by former governments and we don't seem to be able to learn very much from that process at all. The minister, in introducing the bill for second reading, told us that there is a need for greater accountability for every dollar that is spent in the education system.

It is hard to disagree with this. It is public money, the public wants to know that their money is being spent wisely and it is being spent effectively. But you know, I fail to see how centralizing the control over the public purse will result in greater accountability. In fact, if anything, what that could very well mean is that all of those areas where there could be savings that are understood on the front lines and at the local level get missed because the decision making around expenditures is made so far away from the point of service delivery.

[Page 5993]

It is a fallacy to stand here and indicate that school boards, up until this point, have not been accountable to government. Under the current Education Act, there are very clear provisions for the accountability of school boards, for the expenditures of public funds, to the Department of Education. I would like to cite some of those sections, Section 64(1) of our existing Education Act says that school boards are accountable to the Minister of Education, right there in black and white in the current Education Act.

[5:00 p.m.]

School boards are required to submit an annual report containing information as required by the minister. The minister currently under the Act can be involved in hiring and evaluation of the school board superintendent. The government-appointed regional education officers visit schools and school boards and report to the minister under the Act. There are a set of financial audit requirements to be followed by school boards, all very clearly laid out in the Act. The Act requires that the books, the records and the accounts of school boards be open to the public.

I believe, not so long ago, we amended the Education Act in a way that school boards would be subject to freedom of information applications to ensure that all matters except of a private and personnel nature would be made available to the public. So there is in the Education Act now a fair amount of accountability and the mechanisms for accountability. So, in some ways to suggest that the accountability wasn't there, and this bill is going to introduce greater levels of accountability is really smoke and mirrors, Mr. Speaker. It is not the most accurate way to present the current situation under the Education Act and what these amendments will actually do.

Now, as I was saying, one of the justifications that I continually hear from the minister and from the government for these changes is that there is a need for greater community involvement in the education system. But in reality, we are moving away from the involvement of communities. If communities have no ability to have a say about the finances because, as Bob Dylan once said, money doesn't talk, it swears.

I am not sure that he said it like that, Mr. Speaker, but nevertheless. If you don't have any control over the financial decision making, then it is very difficult to have any meaningful control or involvement in the actual development of programs and delivery of programs. It seems to me this is a fundamental problem with centralizing more and more of the power for the financial operations of school boards in the Department of Education. What this actually suggests is that the funding that will be available and provided to school boards in the future will, in fact, continue to diminish. That has serious implications then for the quality of education in our schools.

[Page 5994]

As I was saying, we went through a very tumultuous period here when the Minister of Finance introduced his budget and we were all quite startled to learn what the true impact of the Education portion of that budget would have on schools. The lack of planning on behalf of the Minister of Education in terms of consulting with the Education Funding Formula Review Work Group, that would have taken into account the very serious operating deficits that the school boards were carrying as a result of deficits that often were forced on school boards through the process of amalgamation and the costs that were associated with restructuring and buyouts and early retirements and all of those kinds of costs that occurred in those forced amalgamations meant that an awful lot of teachers were facing losing their jobs and an awful lot of students, therefore, were facing losing programs and ending up in classes of sizes that are completely unrealistic.

Although the Premier and his government were able to find their way, to crawl their way out of the hole they had dug themselves into by using the mechanism of a slush fund that had been set aside for these kinds of political firestorms that might build without their anticipation. The other mechanism they used, of course, was to take the deficits of the school boards and place them on the debt of the province, possibly in a feat of accounting acrobatics that is quite inappropriate in terms of the proper kind of accounting procedures that should be in place but, nevertheless, that is what they did.

The result of that is that it is anticipated that all of those teacher lay-offs and all of those notices that went out to the term teachers in particular, will now no longer be a requirement at the end of the school year. If, indeed, that turns out to be the case, and we don't know with absolute certainty that it is, Mr. Speaker, because the school boards are pretty well meeting as we speak, still crunching the numbers and still trying to manipulate the money they are getting from the province with their existing demands for their service and trying to determine whether or not they can prevent lay-offs in the classroom. I understand that the minister has given school boards a very clear set of criteria and guidelines in terms of what areas the Department of Education prefer not to be touched versus those areas they will not protect in the same way.

We know the areas that are not being protected are considered to be areas that are not direct classroom teaching. This is also a very peculiar way of looking at the education system and what it is we provide to students in Nova Scotia. Frankly, I find it very hard to imagine how you can have junior high schools, for example, with libraries and computers and no librarians.

AN HON. MEMBER: No library technicians.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Or no library technicians. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I have a tickle in my throat. I have ordered a glass of water. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Would you like five minutes?

[Page 5995]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Sure, thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: We will recess for five minutes.

[5:10 p.m. The House recessed.]

[5:15 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member is prepared to continue. We will bring the House back to order.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I think I have more or less found my voice again. (Interruption). I know the Minister of Finance is so happy.

Quite specifically - I know we are not supposed to talk on the specific clauses of these amendments in this bill - but I think it is really important that we lay out what this bill does in terms of what it says it does but then, where it goes a little too far. You know, the bill was introduced and the rationale was given that this bill was to take the Southwest Regional School Board, where there have been difficulties - I think we all recognize there have been difficulties there - and within that board there have been some ongoing conflicts and difficulties. There had been a decision taken to review not just that board, that board is not the only regional board that has had difficulties. After amalgamation, many of the boards had to grapple with some really extreme change that occurred, that was imposed on the boards and imposed on boards in ways that they had not asked for or anticipated.

Most of the regional school boards have, over the course of amalgamation, been able to work out some of the difficulties they have had. There were some people who actually felt that the Southwest Regional School Board in fact was moving in the direction of working out some of the difficulties that were confronting that board. But other people did not share those views. Indeed, the minister appointed a review of all of the boundaries of all of the school boards and the upshot of that was a recommendation that the other boards be left alone, but that the Southwest Regional School Board needed to have some intervention and that intervention needed to provide for more local control and a different management structure at the school level.

Now, one has to question whether or not the recommendations of that task force, with respect to the Southwest Regional School Board, are in fact this mechanism that has been provided for us by the Minister of Education. I am not completely convinced that this was what was intended in the review that was conducted.

[Page 5996]

I would be quite surprised, in fact, if I were to learn that this was what was intended: that that board be divided into two districts; that a chief executive officer be appointed by the minister; that that chief executive officer would have all of the responsibility for the financial management of both districts; and that the chief executive officer would be responsible and accountable, not to the districts, but to the minister.

I am not sure if that kind of structure or mechanism was what was envisioned by the recommendation that management be more at a local school level because that doesn't seem very much like local management to me, Mr. Speaker. It looks quite the opposite of local management to me. It looks very much like direct ministerial control and involvement in the delivery of education into a particular region.

That is a source of concern to members of this caucus, I would suggest. But what even is a greater source of concern, if you can imagine that, are the clauses, the provisions in this bill that would allow this particular set of arrangements to then become the way of operating in any of the other boards in the province, without ever coming back to this Legislature for debate, without ever having the people from the Strait-Richmond area or from the Chignecto Central area ever having an opportunity to come here before the Law Amendments Committee and have their say about the restructuring of their board in a way that would give the minister and the government complete and direct control and involvement in the day to day financial operation of a school board. That will not ever happen if this particular bill goes forward in the state that it has been presented to us here.

So this is of some significance and it is of great concern because, Mr. Speaker, if this bill and these amendments are a way to introduce a pilot project, then let's introduce amendments that say, this is a pilot project and that is it. It will have a beginning. It will have an end. It will have some mechanism for review. That review should involve public discussion and it should involve consultation with all of the relevant players and stakeholders and then that is the end of it. If, as a pilot project, it is a wildfully successful project and people agree that in the course of arranging the delivery of education in this way, a number of things are accomplished, such as good financial planning and management, high quality education, greater community control and participation, if all of those objectives are accomplished and are demonstrated to be accomplished through some sort of a rigorous evaluation process that we can see at the end of a pilot project, which I would think would be the role of the pilot project, then you could say, well, that pilot project was very successful and we would now like to try this out elsewhere. We would like to adopt it as our model in the entire province.

It would seem to me that that might be a sensible thing to do. But, this way, it doesn't allow that kind of smooth and quite logical process to develop, to unfold. It suggests that there are other considerations at work here with this government and with this minister. I think we have to be very cautious and we have to take our time trying to unravel what, in fact, are all of the motivations that are driving this particular bill, Mr. Speaker. Education is

[Page 5997]

such an important issue, I think that it deserves a greater degree of time, in terms of looking at the implications of this bill.

Having pointed out some of the concerns that we have with this particular bill, I would like to say that we, certainly, don't look at the entire bill in a negative light. There are provisions in this bill that are laudable provisions, Mr. Speaker, and are certainly long over due. Those provisions, the provisions we can readily support and agree to are the representation of African-Nova Scotians, African-Canadians on school boards as elected members of school boards or the district boards in each of the regions or districts. We would agree with these provisions because they are not only the right thing to do and the just thing to do, but they make a lot of sense with respect to reflecting in our school boards the greater diversity of our province and the absolute importance of committing our province to reflecting that diversity in our education system, but also in increasing the success rate of education in African-Nova Scotian communities.

The Black Learners Advisory Committee report in 1994, a three-volume report on education called Redressing Inequality and Empowering Black Learners is an excellent report. Unfortunately, many of the recommendations of this report have still to find the light of day because governments have been so slow in implementing many of the recommendations of the Black Learners report. But, nevertheless, this idea of giving African-Canadians representation on school boards as we have already seen occur in the Mi'kmaq community is very important.

Having said that these provisions are important provisions and provisions we can support, we have a problem, Mr. Speaker. The problem is these good provisions that we can support are included in a piece of legislation with a lot of provisions that are very suspect, and that we are not going to be able to support. So, knowing that was the case, I believe it was, I introduced a Private Member's Bill that reproduces in absolute, precise and similar detail the provisions in the minister's bill amending the Education Act outlining African-Canadian representation on the school boards. This is something I am sure we can all agree with in the House, and it would be a relatively straightforward bill to debate and move along. That way we wouldn't end up with a flawed piece of legislation with the provisions the minister has set out here in the Education Bill, failing on the floor of the House and at the same time these very good provisions around African-Canadian representation on school boards failing as well.

We wouldn't want that to happen, Mr. Speaker, so we have made an attempt to find a way to ensure this good piece of this Education Bill will go forward. So, it is important, I think that we acknowledge that the minister has brought forward these provisions with respect to African-Nova Scotians as a very important and a very good thing for her to have done, however, let me say at the same time, it is a shame that these provisions are being brought forward at the precise moment that the minister and her government are disempowering school boards.

[Page 5998]

They are taking power and centralizing it downtown in her own department and in some ways that undermines this whole idea to have elected school boards at a regional level, people who come from those communities and have a good understanding of the different history and culture and issues and needs and features of those communities. It is at this very time that finally, after all of these years African-Nova Scotians are going on the school boards.

[5:30 p.m.]

Maybe the minister will, throughout this debate, see the weakness in the bill that she has introduced and withdraw those provisions of the bill that will give her expanded powers that go way beyond anything that is required by her government and allow the proper role of elected school boards at a much more local level to make decisions about the future of education and what is required in the various regions and how best to get there.

The final thing that I would like to talk about with respect to the changes that are being proposed here in this Education Bill are around the introduction of fees, the teacher certification fees. I believe that these fees actually are fairly common in other provinces that all of the provinces with the exception of the Province of Quebec, charge fees for teacher certification. It is true that many of the other professions, engineering, registered nurses, dentists, social worker, a whole variety of people in different professional groups, do, in fact, have to pay certification fees for an annual licence. It seems to be not a totally unreasonable provision and process to use here in Nova Scotia.

Having said that, this caucus and this Party have gone on record more than once in this Legislature about the real concerns we have about the growing number of user fees that have been introduced into all kinds of government departments here in Nova Scotia. I recognize that there is a difference between the cost of a professional licence and a user fee, but I would hope that the amount of money that is charged for a licence is very much in relation to the actual administrative costs of licensing various groups and that it never goes beyond that. I think that there are some professional groups that would actually argue that some of their licensing fees have gone far beyond the administrative costs of being licensed in their professions, so let's hope that this doesn't become a slippery slope or open the door to some abuse on the part of government as a means to grab money from Nova Scotians.

Now, I want to end by talking about how important it is that we keep in mind the importance of education and we try to find a way to resolve our differences around how to best deliver quality education to Nova Scotians. Given the meeting I attended last night and the discussion I had with parents there, and the discussion certainly I have had with a lot of parents in my own riding, I do believe there are many, many Nova Scotians who are hoping desperately for a resolution to surface with respect to the ongoing cuts and the ongoing reorganization of public services, especially health care and education. People are really genuinely tired of the constant process, the never-ending process of change and the

[Page 5999]

downward spiral they feel caught in around the loss of public services like a good quality public education system that they feel very strongly about.

In the long hours of debate in this House, I had an opportunity to go back and look at some of the speeches that Bob Stanfield made when he was Premier here in Nova Scotia. He held the Minister of Education portfolio the whole time he was Premier because he knew the absolute importance of eduction for Nova Scotians. He said on March 5, 1962, in this place, "We regard the role of our schools as fundamental in the drive for a more prosperous Nova Scotia." I think that is as true today as it was then. Our schools and our education system, they hold the key to whether or not we will be a prosperous province here in Nova Scotia.

As Mr. Stanfield said as Premier, we are not a big province, we don't have a large resource or manufacturing base. What we have is people, and therefore our first priority needs to be investing in education and in people. As Premier and as Minister of Education, he was responsible for the expansion of education in the Province of Nova Scotia through the introduction of technical and vocational trades training, and the expansion of post-secondary education and the expansion and the professionalization, if you will, of the Primary to Grade 12 system in Nova Scotia. It was a time of profound change and the closing of one-room school houses, the consolidation of schools, the building of new schools, the certification of teachers, and the training and the expansion of teacher training.

So I look at what it is we have been doing in Nova Scotia, what this government and this Minister of Education is doing with education, and we are not going in that direction. We are seeing, and we no doubt will see, the closing of schools; we will see the increasing of school sizes; we are seeing, as a direct impact of this government's policy, the decrease in teacher training and the investment in the training of teachers. This will not take us in the direction of a more prosperous Nova Scotia whatsoever; in fact it will pull us in the opposite direction. People around Nova Scotia know that. They sense it, and they see it. They see it in their schools.

The loss of a school secretary or a few hours of a school's secretary's time still means that somebody has to do the work that the school secretary would be doing. So, it is very short-sighted the direction this government has taken in terms of education and policy. I really wish that there was some way that we could convince the Premier and the minister to do the right thing which would be to do what it was they told Nova Scotians they were going to do with the education system in their blue book. I want to return to what was laid out in the blue book, "We must refocus our education system on its most important priority -- what it delivers in learning for students in the classroom at all levels." We must establish a visible, consistent and functional education system. We must ensure our schools are safe places to learn.

[Page 6000]

Mr. Speaker, the results of this Education budget has meant that the security guards in Cole Harbour High, in all probability, will be laid off as a result of this Education budget. When parents are polled about what their priorities are around their children's education, they are obviously concerned about the quality of education that their children are getting, but they generally focus on three things. One of the things is they want safety in schools, especially now that we have seen instances of beatings, assaults and violence in the schoolyards. They want smaller class sizes because parents recognize that smaller class sizes result in better quality teaching and learning, less stress for teachers and less stress for students.

They also, interestingly enough, want after-school programs which they see to be a fundamental piece in the continuum of what you provide in an education system. So many of the important socialization skills that children learn, and young people learn, in those extra-curricular programs really contribute to good physical and mental health. We need to think about our education system in a much more holistic way and it is not that anybody would disagree that the classroom and focusing on the classroom is very important, but let's not kid ourselves. This government is not focusing on the classroom in a way that is going to result in higher quality education. Class sizes will still go up. Class sizes are already too large in many instances.

The quality of education has to become a priority for this government in a way that they promised it would when they ran in last summer's election. They promised to review funding formulae to protect schools in areas of declining enrolment from detrimental and untimely reductions in the teaching staff. So we know that these things are not being protected. We know that the Minister of Education, in fact, with the Education Bill under the pretense of introducing a pilot project to see how it will work in the southwest region, is moving in a direction of taking much more power to the minister herself and onto her department and this will not result in better quality education because the people in the Trade Mart, while they are probably very nice people and very well-intentioned people and they have lots of expertise in a lot of areas, a bureaucratic approach to planning and delivering service is not the best way.

I think really, Mr. Speaker, what we need to do, and I would like to make a motion, to move an amendment, that the motion be amended by removing all the words following that and inserting, therefor; the subject matter of Bill No. 47 be referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, is that motion in order, recommending that the subject matter be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments?

[Page 6001]

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We have even had traditions in this House because it is not the bill, of course, that is being referred, it is the subject matter. The Government House Leader will know that the Committee on Law Amendments has, as do some other committees, the ability to hold hearings and those hearings can be held not only when the House is in session, but also when the House is not in session. We had some discussions earlier about another bill, Bill No. 99, which had . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In response to the honourable Government House Leader's question, the motion is in order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the subject matter of Bill No. 47, the Education Act, be referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments. I am pleased today to rise in this House to give our view and to discuss this issue of Bill No. 47, the Education Act. It is with pleasure that I have the opportunity to speak to the government front benchers and to the backbenchers about this bill and its ramifications and implications to the educational system.

I recently read a quote, we have to learn to think in a new way. This key approach to the post-atomic world was set out in a manifesto back in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, together with nine other distinguished scientists. It remains true as we enter the new millennium. It remains true and vitally important for our young people. The leaders of the new millennium are in our classrooms today. How prepared are they, the young people and the classrooms? Herein lie some of the issues that we would like to bring forward with regard to Bill No. 47. How prepared are our children and how prepared are the classrooms in the 21st Century?

I know that there is a lot of discussion going on about the technical merits of the resolution that just passed, but I would like them to carry on that conversation somewhere else so I can get on and discuss the bill. (Laughter). I really feel that in the bill itself, we are cutting our teeth in some ways, in some of the initiatives that are in this bill, cutting our teeth in a bad way in regard to the implications that are here.

I think that the former Minister of Education pointed out that teachers still are not out of the woods when it comes to this particular bill and the budget for education. The former Minister of Education and now Education Critic, Mr. Gaudet, pointed out in a news release today, that outlined major flaws in the government's Education Act during the debate for second reading. This Act contains an extension date by which school boards must give teachers a notice of termination. He goes on to point out, and we will be discussing this matter in detail if the minister does not intend to go back on her agreement reached with the school boards last week. Then why wouldn't the government simply remove this part of the bill? It would leave you with the impression that the Minister of Health told this House a

[Page 6002]

number of months ago, oh, by the way, the 911 fee that was in his bill was only just there for ministers in the future who might want to deal with it and they had that opportunity.

Finally, the minister, after great protests, agreed to take it out only to have the Minister of Finance bring it in. Now I would have to tie the two together because here the Minister of Education is saying, we are going to live up to our word. If they are, then why don't they deal with it in the bill, and why are they going to the period of June 15th or June 16th, which in other words, they are hoping that this House will close so they can do the work they want to do and that is to start the process of dismantling provincial school boards, and for the first time in the history of Nova Scotia have full-time teachers in jeopardy of losing their job.

I think that Education Critic is right on because there are a lot of people within the community of education who are asking the same question - if this bill is so good, why? If this arrangement is so good between the school boards and the Minister of Education and that the word of the government is so right, then why do they need to have that extended period of time in there?

Normally I am not a sceptical type of individual, someone who is thinking there is a devious plot to an issue, but after watching this band of renegades go on, - maybe not renegades, is that a legal word? It is pretty good - to be able to get up and say one thing and then turn around and do just the exact opposite, one would have to start asking the questions to something that you would hope would be the facts before us. The facts are before us, they are leaving that particular issue in the bill so the Minister of Education and her gang can actually go ahead and start laying off teachers whenever they think this House might be closed.

For the first time in Nova Scotia's history full-time teachers are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. I recall back when Buchanan was around, he did everything he could to keep the teachers happy; Buchanan would have done anything to keep anybody happy, we all know that. That is why we have such a massive debt in the Province of Nova Scotia. He was perceived as being a great and skilful politician by the Conservative Government, but probably a very poor fiscal manager. He tried to buy his way to victory. It is interesting that some of those same members are on the front benches today. I see some Ronald McDonalds across the way, Mr. Speaker, who were cooking their breakfast this morning, I saw them on TV. They were on Breakfast Television. The Premier and another member from Dartmouth were there, as well as other people in other Parties were doing the same thing, but not with the same fanfare for a cause. It was nice to see them stand for a cause, maybe just for a 30 second sound bite or a little TV coverage.

I would like to see them stand up for a cause that they ran part of their campaign on and that cause is education and I don't see this government doing what they said they wanted to do. (Interruption) It is a good idea that they do that. The members from the Halifax area here are too busy trying to be sarcastic to the . . .

[Page 6003]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member would try to stick to the title of Education Bill. In response to the honourable member's question about the word renegade, I would advise him that, although it perhaps doesn't show up in Beauchesne, it certainly doesn't sound very nice.

MR. DOWNE: It wasn't intended to sound nice, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for your ruling. The Minister of Education had the gall to stand in this House and announce there would be no teacher lay-offs. Do you remember that? Do the backbenchers over there remember that? Do you remember that, backbenchers? Do you remember the Minister of Education saying that, and we all said, what was that again? The Minister of Education said, there will be no teacher lay-offs. Do you remember that? The backbenchers said yes. I remember the Minister of Finance saying to Nova Scotians and he announced that there would be no teacher lay-offs. Do you remember that backbenchers? Agreed.

Yet, we are having Bill No. 47, that in fact allows this minister to be able to fire and lay off full-time teachers, and she is afraid to take it out of the bill. So what would you say, backbenchers, to that? Would the minister possibly be planning to do exactly what she said, and her Minister of Finance said they weren't going to do? (Interruption) We are here for a long time.

It just proves that from one day to the next, this government really doesn't know where it is going or what it stands for. This government has no idea of the direction it is taking. In fact, I feel that maybe the Minister of Education is in such a storm that she, herself, is having a problem understanding what is going on. If it wasn't for the back-room boys as it were, the back-room people, that are telling her what to do, she would have been able to put her foot down and stand up and say, we have to go ahead with a plan, and we cannot continue at the rate we are going. This government has no plan for health. This government has no plan for agriculture. It certainly has no plan for education.

As I said in my opening comments, we have to start thinking in a new way. It is time for all of us to think in a new way as we enter the 21st Century, the new millennium; a new way, with a plan that actually shows there will be success at the end of the day. Yet, this is a government that has not done any kind of analysis of what they are doing with the issue of education. This is a government that is not talking about outcome measurements. This is a government that isn't talking about benchmarking where we are and where we are going. This is a government that is not looking in a new way when it comes to dealing with our youth. What I believe we are seeing here is that this government is focused on one issue, and that issue is the bottom line and that bottom line is a number on a balance sheet. Their responsibility is more than just a number on a balance sheet.

As I said, we have to learn to think in new ways. In 1993 under a Liberal Government, we certainly moved in that direction. That is why we brought in regional boards, much to the chagrin, the screaming and crying and gnashing of teeth of the Progressive Conservative Party

[Page 6004]

to any change. They resisted change. They resisted change in a way that one would have to think they were back in - Mr. Speaker, did you want to . . .

[6:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. There was a draw on the Adjournment motion and the winner was the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

HEALTH - PHARMACARE: SENIORS - COSTS BURDEN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand this evening to take part in the debate of the resolution I introduced which reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that this government explain to seniors why they are shouldering the brunt of Pharmacare cost increases."

In light of much of what has been said today, you hope that when you stand in this House and you start in on a debate like this that you can educate the members of the government caucus, the Minister of Health, and you can try to influence what it is that they are doing in a very positive fashion.

I think many of us are under the impression that somebody on the government bench bought a copy of Renegade in Power and each day they are reading another page and it shows up here in the Legislature. I think that that is truly unfortunate. I know that, certainly I have heard people refer to the government as rebels without a clue, Mr. Speaker. I guess all of this derision comes about because they get a sense that there is no direction on behalf of the government. I don't think anywhere in anything that they have done so far, is this more evident than with respect to the costs of the Pharmacare Program and how those have been unwarrantedly set down on the shoulders of the seniors of the province.

I remember, as I suppose many members of this House remember, that during the 1998 election, in a document called, I believe, The Priority is People, that the Progressive Conservative Party put forward as part of their platform, they had, under the Health Care section, a particular commitment that they made to people that said, in consultation with seniors, restructure Pharmacare to eliminate premiums. Following that March 1998 campaign, the Conservatives were not elected. They finished third and they were seized with the opportunity to try to implement some real change. They could forge the hand of the

[Page 6005]

government. They decided, instead, that what they would do, and we refer to them, frequently, as the Liberal auxiliary, what they did is they came in, they propped up a Liberal Government that had been faltering badly.

One of the things that did happen, and I thought, very interestingly, just a couple of short months after those results were known, was that the Minister of Health, as he then was, now the member for Dartmouth East, made an announcement. In that announcement, he proposed that they would establish a committee to review and to propose alternatives to the Nova Scotia Pharmacare Program premiums. The goal was, and I remember, in fact, I have here and I will table, from the government website, the press release at the time. It said, Government intends to eliminate senior's Pharmacare premium. I think, clearly, that was an attempt on behalf of the minority Liberal Government to court the favour of the Conservative Party which, at that time, held the balance of power. I think, clearly, it was aimed directly at one of the commitments that was made by the Progressive Conservatives over the course of the campaign.

So how did we get to this point? Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, there are many ways in which this disastrous Tory budget will adversely affect most Nova Scotians and those are continuing to be revealed. I think it is fair to say that Education has received the most scrutiny and health care is now starting to get the attention that it needs. This includes the devastating 33 per cent increase in Pharmacare costs to seniors. The Finance Minister, at first, tried to justify the increase by saying that Pharmacare costs were out of control. In the end, he had to admit that the numbers that he put forward were just plain and simply, wrong. The fact is that the government contributions to Pharmacare have remained relatively stable. It is the seniors who are bearing the brunt of the cost increases.

The Health Minister has said that the seniors would be contributing $4.4 million more and later he had to admit and we found out that, in fact, the government is actually taking $8 million out of seniors' pockets, Mr. Speaker, but let's leave the Tories' troubles with math aside and take a serious look at the impact of the Pharmacare changes. Any increase in Pharmacare costs to seniors, whether through premiums or co-pay, makes the assumption that they have the ability to meet the increase and the fact of the matter is they do not. The majority of seniors rely on some form of a public pension for the majority of their income; 72 per cent of Nova Scotian seniors live outside the metro region and 60 per cent of those earn less than $15,000 a year.

People on fixed income just simply don't have the extra dollars nor the opportunity to increase their income to pay for these kinds of increases. I think it is particularly telling that Canada's Association for the 50-Plus has called the Tory increases to Pharmacare highway robbery of the most blatant sort. Increasing Pharmacare fees, Mr. Speaker, is not only hard-hearted, it poses serious health risks and we have made this point to the minister on many occasions. We know that the poorest and the weakest in our society use the health care

[Page 6006]

system the most and any increase in costs will influence and affect, therefore, those who can least afford to pay.

When the Quebec Government increased Pharmacare co-pay, there was a decrease in drug consumption which lowered the government's costs, but those cost benefits were lost when the seniors stopped taking their medication that they could not afford and ended up in emergency rooms. They ended up in hospitals and, sadly, Mr. Speaker, some of the seniors died. Quebec was left with neither the financial savings nor the social cost savings.

As the population continues to age, we can naturally expect that the Pharmacare costs are going to increase but, to talk about the increases spiralling out of control is simply creating a panic, much like the Tories have tried to do with the provincial deficit, Mr. Speaker. Panic forces us to believe that increased fees is the only way out and, you know, that simply isn't true.

So I am going to make some constructive suggestions for the Minister of Health. We believe that instead of doing what he is doing, if he were to work with the Nova Scotia Medical Society to address the issue of overprescribing by physicians, that would be a constructive way to help combat the increases in Pharmacare. He could implement a trial prescription program which other provinces have shown cuts down on drug waste. He could introduce better compliance packaging, such as pills packaged by the day of the week. He could expand and improve the use of drug utilization reviews which monitor prescription use. He could implement a medication review program which would see physicians or nurse practitioners sit down with patients on a yearly basis to review their medications. All of these are constructive ways in which the Department of Health could work within the system to save money and to better serve the seniors' population.

As a first step, the Minister of Health should immediately establish a review committee to conduct an in-depth cost-benefit analysis of Pharmacare to the health care system in Nova Scotia because this has never been done, Mr. Speaker. We join with the many seniors' groups calling on the Hamm Government to rescind the changes to Pharmacare until a more well-developed plan is devised. Minister Muir talks constantly about evidence-based outcomes and what better opportunity is there to show his commitment to this approach than now, Mr. Speaker. With those comments and what I think are constructive suggestions for the minister, I would ask that he advise the House that he will take us up on the opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House to say a few things about the Seniors' Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia which remains among the very best in Canada. When I hear my colleague from across the House, from the New Democratic Party, standing up and making all kinds of suggestions about the

[Page 6007]

decreasing costs, it clearly illustrates that, like most things he talks about, he has not done his research because a number of those things, cost controls, are already in effect.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the fact is that notwithstanding the best efforts of the department to try to restrict drug usage and to educate about drugs - and, by the way, in cooperation with the Medical Society - the usage in Nova Scotia does remain high. The increase in costs to the Department of Health over the past three years really was as it was presented, it was about $42 million. It is something that people are trying to spin out, that the government now does not participate in the seniors' drug program. Well, I want to tell you, according to figures that we have, it is projected in 2000-01 that the government will pay about 74 per cent of the cost to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. So, really, the contribution of the government is about three-quarters of the total cost of the program. Last year the government's contribution was more than 78 per cent, or the senior's contribution then was less than 22 per cent.

I just want to go back, and we go back three years, Mr. Speaker, and we can see where the anomaly crept in. In 1998-99, the province was paying slightly less than 74 per cent and the year before that that province was paying less than 27 per cent. So really what has happened this year, if you are looking at the percentages which are important to look at, then the province's and the seniors' contribution is roughly where it was a couple of years ago, two and three years ago. So it was not a great increase, it was simply moving back, sort of, to a ratio that had been established before.

I have mentioned in the House, Mr. Speaker, that the original ratio was expected to be around 50/50, and the honourable member for Dartmouth East was there, I think, when this ratio was proposed. It never was implemented, for one reason or another. However, if we do take a look at our Seniors' Pharmacare Program, it is one of the few in the country that does have maximums. There are some seniors in this province whose drug bill would run around $70,000 to $75,000 year, who would be on the Seniors' Pharmacare Program and, if we were to take a look at the Pharmacare Program overall, with some of the high-cost drugs, which the price had been borne by the QE II last year, but it was rolled over to the Department of Health this year, about $8 million. I think the honourable member for Dartmouth East knows that very well, the government's commitment to a prescription drug program is very considerable.

Now I would like to be Santa Claus, like the honourable member across the way, and be able to wave my hands, or, come down the chimney or something, and make an $11 billion debt disappear, or I would like to be able to make more than $900 million worth of debt-servicing costs in the course of a year disappear, or I would like to be able to wave my hands and make the projected $268 million deficit disappear, but I can't. So what we have to do, Mr. Speaker, in Pharmacare, as with all government programs, we have to try to ensure quality, but we have to also try to ensure sustainability and we also have to be concerned about affordability. Living off the credit card really means that if we hadn't lived off the credit card for so long, then it is quite conceivable that this government, or the government which

[Page 6008]

preceded us, or whomever comes along, that you would not have to be taking a look at altering the cost or the price or the premiums each year for Seniors' Pharmacare. Another thing they seem to have missed is that there was no change in the premiums for seniors or the co-pay for seniors since 1994-95.

[6:15 p.m.]

We really would have liked to have been able to maintain that, but with the increases in drug costs, the increased use of pharmaceuticals, and I think we have to recognize, Mr. Speaker, and I know you do even if the others don't, because you are an honourable gentleman, that the improvements, the technology of medicine which has led to improvements in pharmaceuticals and the costs of drugs continues to rise. We have to find a way of absorbing these costs, but we also have to find a way of ensuring that we have a fair program, one that responds to the needs of seniors.

It would be very easy, Mr. Speaker, to continue spending and spending and spending, and not trying to recognize the financial things. In 5 years or 10 years we would not be able to afford any Pharmacare Program for seniors or other citizens as well. You have to remember that Pharmacare is not an insured program under the Canada Health Act. This is something the province has implemented and it is done right across the country.

I will just give you an example, Mr. Speaker. We are talking about our programs. If we go to our sister province of New Brunswick, if you are a GIS, you have Pharmacare coverage. If you are non-GIS, then you get it through a private drug plan where the premium is just about $700 a year per individual, and the co-pay is more than $9 a prescription. That is in New Brunswick.

In Nova Scotia, the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, he knows. He referred to 60 per cent of the seniors in Nova Scotia, at least his words, I believe were, had an income of $15,000 a year or less. Is that correct? Now you know that those seniors do not pay the Pharmacare premium. The province picks that up. Anybody, if you get under $18,000 a year for a single person or $20,000 a year for a couple, if you are below those levels, then the province picks that up. They don't have to pay premiums.

That is a thing that the province does. We didn't begin it, I don't think. Actually I think it was begun by the government in front of us. There is also no denying, Mr. Speaker, and I think it is important for people to realize that the average age of Nova Scotians is increasing. The percentage of seniors in the population continues to go up, drug therapy is becoming more common and, of course, seniors because of their age are the highest users of prescription drugs in the province.

[Page 6009]

Now, some of us are getting close to that age, I appreciate that, like the honourable members for Dartmouth North and for Victoria. But I can say as well that we want to provide a service for seniors, we want to protect Pharmacare. We have the interest of all Nova Scotians, including seniors, in our decision making. We would very much like to be able to wash our hands of the financial situation in the province. But, believe it or not, when the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour reaches the age of a senior and is interested in Seniors' Pharmacare with the attitude that he carries now, if he were to make the decisions, there would be no Seniors' Pharmacare then and probably not much money for medicine or anything else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak to the late debate resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that this Government explain to seniors why they are shouldering the brunt of Pharmacare cost increases." That was brought in by the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

The debate is an interesting one for a tri-Party system because you can get up and from each side of the House and depending on your perspective and where you are standing at that particular day, you can have various points of view. The point is, as was mentioned earlier in debate, this is a program that is national in its happening, but is not a national program. The trial balloons were floated by the federal government the last year or so, along with Seniors' Pharmacare and along with home care. I believed we would see a national home care program long before a Pharmacare program because of some of the reasons we have debated here today. It is expensive and it is getting more expensive.

There are many factors here involved. So I have been in Opposition and I have been in government and I try to look at this as objectively as I can. I believe our program here in Nova Scotia has been good, it has been the best in Atlantic Canada and it is competitive with, outside of a couple of provinces, say Ontario, it is as good as any in the country.

The purpose of my comments here today was, I just want to caution against user fees, which is really a tax on the poor, and also, again, maybe more looking at the principle of what various Parties have stood for relative to Seniors' Pharmacare, because the Tories are singing a much different song than they played when they were the third Party, and I remember that well.

In 1998 the Tory election platform called for putting people first, our priorities for Nova Scotia. On Page 3 of the 1998 Tory election platform, it says that in consultations with seniors, a PC Government will restructure Seniors' Pharmacare to eliminate premiums and ensure private insurance companies pay first and taxpayer funded plans pay second.

[Page 6010]

On Wednesday, June 10, 1998, in this House John Hamm introduced a resolution that said, "Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government . . .", that is when he was the head of the Third Party, ". . . adopt the Pharmacare initiatives proposed by the members of the Progressive Conservative caucus which will relieve seniors of the $215 annual premium and end the multimillion dollar subsidy Nova Scotian taxpayers are providing the federal pension plan."

In the 1999 election, one of the 243 promises contained in the blue book said that the Tory Government would, on Page 24, " Ensure that input from seniors and the interests of senior are at the forefront of all government decision-making affecting the future of our province."

Premier Hamm broke his promise to eliminate Pharmacare premiums and he broke his promise to consult seniors about this increase in the price of Pharmacare. The price increase will cause a hardship for many seniors across this province. We have heard and we know that many are exempt, but there are others on the borderline that this will impact dramatically.

The Tories didn't tell the truth to seniors about the cost of the Pharmacare program and Finance Minister LeBlanc said in his Budget Address that the cost of Pharmacare nearly doubled in recent years. On Page 30 of the Budget Address he said the cost almost doubled from $42 million to $83 million, but this is just not true. I think he needs a new calculator and I think it has been very confusing to follow this debate and I think it is an important topic for this particular time, but he told an untrue fact. He forgot, or intentionally misled - no I can't say that, is is not parliamentary - intentionally, or by mistake, to include a $22.6 million payment from the trust fund that covered a portion of the drug costs to low-income seniors. That is where that money goes into that program.

The truth is that the government's share of Pharmacare actually remained relatively stable for most of the last decade; the cost of Pharmacare fluctuated between $60 million to $70 million until 1998-99. Based on wrong numbers, false figures, and faulty accounting, this government has made the cruel decision - and that seemed to be the basis of some of those numbers - to increase the burden of the seniors.

Without warning, Pharmacare jumped - the very midnight the budget was brought in, within a few hours - from 20 per cent prescription cost to 33 per cent. The Tories raised the maximum yearly co-pay, as was said here earlier, from $200 to $350 a year. Why didn't they consult with the seniors? They said they would and they did not. They maybe had some cursory discussion with a group of nine, but I think those people raised objections, and the government went and did what it wanted to do anyway. Based on this, we see a lot of projections, and I don't want to get into a lot of numbers because everyone has their own set of numbers. It is very difficult if you start off with the wrong set to really come to anything. But, we can look at some premiums and some projections. The year 2000-01, the premium of $215 and maximum co-pay of $350. The following year you would see premium of $270

[Page 6011]

and maximum co-pay of $440. In 2002-03, premium of $340 and maximum co-pay $559. So that follows.

Many seniors, Mr. Speaker, can expect to pay about $702 in co-pay by the year 2003-04. That is the last year of the Tories' mandate. We won't go beyond that, because then maybe there will be somebody else making the decisions.

So we talk about the rising drug costs, but we won't go to the Minister of Finance for that. But they are an issue, and we all know that. The truth is that due to the cost of new drugs that was mentioned by the minister - we agree, the increased price of drugs, more people using drugs, there is no question, the baby boomers are starting to go through - we have to control prescribing habits of physicians. Many physicians instead of ordinary penicillin that works quite well in the community prescribe second, third and fourth generation medications where lower costs would do as well. Some physicians, the way they let their patients believe they are up to date is prescribing the latest medication, when sometimes another type of medication would do. So there is work to be done there, and I think we all agree with that and the president of the Medical Society would agree with that.

Instead of tackling these issues, in my opinion, they are attacking the seniors, and they are blaming them for their illnesses and their ageing and their various needs for medication. The Minister of Finance said he was going to establish a drug inflation index in order to adjust the cost of the premium. I don't want to get on, and we will leave the Minister of Finance. I have a few notes there, but I really don't want to prolong that.

The basic reason Pharmacare was brought in was to protect the seniors from the rising drug costs. That was the reason. They have difficulties. They just can't go out like other age groups and get into a private plan. This government is punishing seniors by raising the Pharmacare premiums and co-pay without any protection from the drug inflation costs. They must be protected from the rising costs. It is not their fault they have to take this medication. Yet, the Tories are punishing them for that. They promised to consult with the seniors. They said, well we did some consultation. In fact, what they gave were several options to the seniors and they could take one. It is sort of like, would they like to face the firing squad, lethal injection or perhaps even the guillotine. But I know, being French, you would want me to have that thrown in, being a Francophone. I didn't want to leave you out, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you could have the choice of the guillotine. But that is really what this Tory Government is doing to our seniors and the Seniors' Pharmacare Program this day.

Every time you mix it up with the Minister of Finance, something gets all messed up. This is a prime example this time. I have one minute left. The seniors did show up here, Mr. Speaker, in the House one day, a group of seniors. They took to the streets in fact to protest this cruel hike in Pharmacare fees. The Tories were so determined not to listen to any consultation, they actually disbanded the Pharmacare board like they disbanded the regional health boards and they are now in the process of disbanding the school boards. So instead of

[Page 6012]

moving everyone into the community for decision making, any decentralization that has been done in the last few years has just been swept aside. So what it is replaced with is deputy ministers and associate deputy ministers from out of province who are brought in here to bring government back to downtown Halifax.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to thank all the honourable members for having taken part in tonight's late show.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 47 - Education Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think the previous speaker said in spades what Nova Scotians are telling us, that this government is absolutely determined to virtually dismantle most of the things we have in place in the Province of Nova Scotia; dismantle for the purpose of self-control and manipulation so they will be, in fact, able to contr ol what they consider as their agenda, an agenda that was never brought forward to the public of Nova Scotia during the election campaign, an agenda that was never exposed in its reality to the public of Nova Scotia.

[6:30 p.m.]

The agenda they won an election on is not the agenda that we are dealing with here today. I don't ever remember, during the election campaign, when they said that they were going to disband the school board structures across this province. I don't remember them saying they are going to allow the opportunity, in a bill, to let go of full-time teachers in the province of Nova Scotia. I don't remember them selling their view and their so-called ideology to Nova Scotians when it comes to the reality of what we are seeing, not only in education but in health care, and the list goes on.

As I said earlier, we, the Liberal Party, had moved toward regional boards and we have done that because, as I said in the opening comment, we have to learn to think in a new way. What this government is trying to do is dismantle the initiatives that the Liberal Government brought forward in 1993. We brought forward the issue of having regional bodies so that we had regional and reasonable input, but at the same time allowing the control of the destiny, to some degree, to the communities that are actually having the children in the school system.

Mr. Speaker, I think what this government is trying to do is move it so that the control of education will be at the minister's office and the deputy minister's office, and the entourage of staff that the deputy minister will be able to hire under the budgetary processes in place today. You know, if somebody speaks out against education and the cuts they have

[Page 6013]

ravished upon Nova Scotians, if anybody speaks out and dares to challenge the government, do you know what they do? They find a way to silence them. They find a way to put the big old John Buchanan boot right to them and they are prepared to boot them right out of town. They will boot them out of town because they think they can scare people into submission. As the Minster of Economic Development admits, he would like to be able to intimidate everybody he can into submission, into their way of wanting to go forward with the bill.

Well, we will soon see how this intimidation really works. You know this Buchanan era is back again. They kept a couple of the old seeds, the old genetic strain, the old genotypes and they stuck them in the front bench and they planted them among the rest of the ministers. Much to the dismay of all the Conservatives in the province that old regime is growing and flourishing and that old way of doing things in the Buchanan-Cameron approach is starting now to grow, germinate.

Those kind of Draconian measures are coming to the forefront and I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that the backbenchers are nodding their heads because many of them understand just exactly what this, and they, themselves know they will get the proverbial boot in the event they would ever challenge anything that is going on. Is that an agreement back there? Do you agree that you would be given the boot? I know the backbenchers are there and they are nodding their heads. Of course, they can't say anything in fear of what has been planted in the front row. To be able to keep this prodigy alive for all those years of dormancy, it shows that the strain of the Buchanan era was a tough one, one that said that we will conquer and we will demand control over whatever it is that we want.

Enough of that, Mr. Speaker, I want to move and continue with the bill. (Interruption) Yes, I could go a little further on it. Being a farmer, I could certainly add to it a lot. The reality is that they are going to add to it themselves. We will see it ourselves. I don't know if there is such a thing as a biological agent against them, but I do believe there is. The biological agent against that possible weed infestation will be an election, so that the Liberals will get back in power and kick those Tories out once and for all. (Interruption) That is how it is going to be done. I have found the biological process here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh! Oh!

MR. DOWNE: This government sees the Department of Education as an arena where they can actually cut to the bone to find savings, on the backs of children, on the backs of teachers and full-time teachers and term teachers. Well, the Department of Education should not be able to allow this government to consider it a cash cow for the Minister of Finance. In reality, the Department of Education was one of the foundations and one of the pillars for which this government said it is going to build the future of this province upon.

[Page 6014]

The reason for the departure from Education, in my view, is that this government has said their higher priority is not education but, in fact, their proverbial bottom line, not for which I disagree with the bottom line, but they need to learn to do it in a balanced approach. They need to do it in a way that realizes that government is about people. It is about the future. It is about developing plans and strategies to grow the economy and allow that, someday, our children will have an opportunity to stay home to find meaningful employment. That is one of the dreams that, I am sure, everybody, even the Conservative Government, wishes.

But you know, they have never developed a plan to do that. What they are also doing, besides not having a real economic strategy, they are taking away the ability for our youth to be able to move that economy forward in the future. This government is proving that where they put their education priorities is, in fact, more on the bottom line than on the top echelon of priorities of this government. This is a government that thinks 50 children in a classroom is okay. Private schools have classroom sizes of 15. They have legislation or criteria that they only allow, in private schools, a certain number of children.

I don't know if the good member for Yarmouth, or the good member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, or the good member for Shelburne, or the good member for Queens have their children in private schools, I don't know, or if they, themselves, have gone to private schools, I don't know. But I know one thing, they know when a class size hits 50, it is too many. I know that the members for Kings County know that a class size of 50 would be unbelievable, unacceptable and wrong. I know the member for Shelburne knows all too well, whether it is in Clark's Harbour or anywhere else in that beautiful community of Shelburne, that 50 children in one room is just an impossibility. Well, we think that way, too.

One day this government will realize that they cannot continue to do it. This is a government which thinks it can be acceptable (Interruptions) These guys are worked up back there, Mr. Speaker. I am glad that the backbenchers, even if they cannot speak out loud, they can make some rumblings back there about how wrong this government is handling education. I ask them to agree with me and they say, yes, but quietly because they are scared of the proverbial big boot from the front bench.

The Minister of Education needs to be reminded on a constant basis that the budget process that she is involved with is important, but the budget process that she is involved with is for her to stand up and fight for education. She is the Minister of Education and she needs to learn to fight for the department and for the children of this province. She needs to start fighting for the children with special needs. She needs to start fighting for those children who are less fortunate than others.

This is a government, Mr. Speaker, over here that had all the answers. This is a government over here on this front bench, the second bench and the third way back there, that said that they had all the answers and they had the compassion and caring to fight for

[Page 6015]

education. We have seen this so-called compassion and caring and all the answers to education and in the fact we have had demonstrations almost on a daily basis here and across this province. We have had children, our youth, e-mail, phone calls, letters and petitions day in and day out in this Legislature. They were not singing praises to this government. They were saying wake up, government, because you sucked us in when we put you into power. You took advantage of us.

This is a government with no plan. This is a Premier with no plan. This is a Premier with no idea what in the name of Heavens was going on in his government. This is a Premier who allows his political crony, back-room boys, as it were, to dictate the direction of where this government is going. He never allowed the backbenches to have an input into it, did not allow the backbenchers to have any say, did not allow Nova Scotians to have a say; his back-room individuals advised him wrong and I feel sorry, Mr. Speaker, for this front bench. I feel sorry for the second bench and I feel sorry for the third bench because they have to wear the blame that somebody over in some high office tower who is advising the Premier, saying, don't worry, this is what we are telling you you have got to do and everybody will forget it.

As I said before, they will not forget what this government is doing. I heard the comment said that the bloodletting will dry and people will forget about it. Well, I want them to know that the blood is not going to dry, it is on their hands and it will stay on their hands every single day that I am able to speak on these issues and I am going to make sure that they don't forget.

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

MR. DOWNE: No. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I now want to move on to school boards. The Minister of Finance said that the province is going to assume the debts of the school boards, that is how they are going to help fix the problem that they have. We agree that there is a responsibility there, and it is the proper thing to do under the circumstances, the problems that the regions were having with this poorly put together budget. In fact, the government has turned around and they have done the same thing with health boards. What bothers me is, why didn't the Minister of Education or the Minister of Finance or this Premier realize - with health boards they wrote all those debts off - why wouldn't Education debts be an issue as well? Why didn't they wake up to that? There are members over there who are teachers or ex-teachers, and they understand the problem, they understand the dilemma. I think they do, I thought they did.

[6:45 p.m.]

Why would this government go around and create all this frustration and stress on teachers, on parents, on children, on youth over the last number of weeks if they had a real clear plan? They didn't have a plan. What they did is simply come out with what they figured would be able to be shoved down the proverbial throats of Nova Scotians, because they didn't

[Page 6016]

want it all to get out there. What they did in health care is they fired everybody so nobody would complain, and then they put a gag order out, telling everybody, if you say one word to the media, to an MLA, the Buchanan team, the Buchanan seeds will get you, and the foot and the boot will come. That is how they are governing. It is not a matter of logic, it is a matter of the bully in the yard.

Anyway, the Minister of Finance comes in with these boards and he says well, what we need to do now is throw some money at the problem because we realize that we are wrong, we realize we failed, we realize that we didn't have a plan. Maybe this minister fought for it, but she couldn't convince the rest of the front benches or the backbenchers or whoever is controlling this government that they needed to put more money into it.

I remember this government as the government that took money away from the Sisters of Charity. I remember this as the government that took money away from the profits of the casinos that went to not-for-profit organizations. This is the same government. This is the same government that tried their best to take money away from the future of this province, and that is the educational system.

Now, this government had a realization that they were wrong. What did they do? They went to the slush fund. The slush fund had been set in motion for a long time, that $88 million Minister of Finance slush fund. I was Minister of Finance, not very long, for a while, but I was part of the Liberal Government for about seven years. I don't ever remember, in seven years, a restructuring fund used to simply bail out departments. That is why we have coined this a slush fund, because that is exactly what it is. It is a slush fund.

Why wouldn't they have just saved all of the hassle they have given everybody by doing it right in the first place? No. No. They didn't want to do that. They had to go and do something as mean and as frustrating as they could, because they wanted to tick people off. They wanted to be able to go to the Board of Trade and say, boy, we cut, we cut the sacred cow of Education. Now, they are trying to get their stripes on their arms, being a government that is tough. Well, it is one thing to be tough, but it is another thing to be stupid. The way they went after the educational programs and the board funding was really not very brilliant, especially the fact that we are back there now.

The other thing they have done about the school boards is that they have started a process to start dismantling what the Liberals brought in, for no other reason - it worked, that is not the issue, it wasn't perfect but it was in the right direction - than they want to dismantle it. It reminds me of the fact that when we brought in a program in the budget a year ago that was there to help with ramps and elevators for people in rural Nova Scotia. They threw it out the window, only to have it come back because they realized it was the right thing to do. I wish they weren't so insecure to realize that, because the Liberal Government brought something in and it is good, they should be able to admit to that. They should admit to that.

[Page 6017]

The member for Dartmouth South would admit to it if he was in front benches. But he is not, so he has to stay back there and keep quiet. He knows the boot will come if he does speak out. I will be glad when he sits on the front benches, because I think he would be a good frontbencher, and then he would be able to stand up and say what is truthfully there. But they made a mistake. There are things this Liberal Government brought in that were very good. I know that he would agree with that - not everything that was done was wrong - he would agree with that. He would probably agree that many of the things we did were right. (Interruption)

He is asking me not to stretch it too far. Well, I am not stretching the fact that this second generation Buchanan Government that is being formed here has a strategy to undermine and destroy the school board structures in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the bottom line. If they don't get their own way, they are going to make it their own way.

When the CEO of the Southwest Regional School Board stands up and challenges the Minister of Finance on his numbers, that the numbers were wrong, that the minister is saying publicly, then he says, I am going to take you out. If any other member and any other MLA in that government says, if you dare challenge our government, if you dare, and I remember the member for Kings South when his eyes literally almost came right out of his head. His eyes were as big as saucers and he said, how dare you. Do you remember that? How dare you ever question our budget in Education. (Interruptions)

Do as I say. Anyway, I remember the poster boy over there questioned it. But deep down inside, before he had that rage - before he came unglued, off the deep end, over the top, out of control, before he got to that point - I think what drove him there was because he knew what we were saying was right. He knew that he, himself, could not agree with the way they have gone after the educational program. This is the same member who has been both sides of the Acadia bill I think 15 times. One of these times, as he jumps over that picket fence, it is going to hurt because he might not make it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is that unparliamentary?

MR. DOWNE: No, he is actually in pretty good shape. He is a good athlete, and he can jump pretty good.

I think what is happening with the latest article that we read today into Question Period, that not only in Education but in others areas of government, people are starting to get scared. But, you know one thing about Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians are strong-willed and they are fighters. They are scrappers. You can push people around for a little while. I know the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, he will take a little bit for a while but, by gosh, you push him against the wall one too many times, and he is going to be one upset guy, and he walks around with nitro in his pocket, so you have to watch out.

[Page 6018]

I can tell you something. He is like any other Nova Scotian. When you push them against a wall too far, they are going to fight and they are going to stand up, no matter how much repression and dictatorial approach this government wants to throw down their proverbial throats. So watch out guys, watch out.

The minister herself, I think, is out there trying to do the best she can keeping all the fingers in the dyke as the dyke is springing leaks, left, right and centre. Along comes the Minister of Finance, after the direction of the Premier and his Cabinet and, more importantly, his backbenchers, saying, listen guys, wake up, we are destroying what I believe we stood for when we ran the election campaign. By turning around and putting money into the system, and it is not just simply money, it is a lot of other things that need to be done there and I agree with that. But they tried to, literally, torch the educational program and they tried to sell Nova Scotians on a mere $20 million cut of a $1.2 billion budget. The reality was $53.3 million and they knew it.

What they continue to do, and it intrigues me, I think it is almost every department in government, they have actually increased the budget of the deputy minister and senior staff substantially, some departments have almost doubled; tourism has actually has doubled. Community Services went up incrementally, I don't know, I can't remember the exact numbers, but they all went up and so there is a reason for that. These guys have got some devious plot of how they are going to bring in people. Maybe they are going to bring in some of their crony friends to be able to take over control of health boards and regional boards and regional education boards. The fact that they are doing this so-called little trial in the southwestern end of the province is only the beginning, because there are some fundamental questions that have to be asked. What are the specifics of that plan? What happens to the rights of individual teachers? Where do they stand in the collective bargaining process? Are their terms and tenures carried on to this restructuring. All these issues are not answered, but, yet, we are asked to go ahead and vote in favour of this.

This government is doing one thing and that is taking community control away from the school boards and giving it to their senior bureaucrats. Senior bureaucrats are going to do one thing, especially the ones that they hire, the new ones they are bringing in, they are going to do what this government says they want done, their way and they don't want to hear anybody complain. They don't want any criticism. They don't want any constructive criticism. They don't want anybody to speak out. That is like stick your head in the sand, be happy, don't worry, we know what we are going to do. I remember that big old cliche, people are tired, take the summer off, go have a barbecue, barbecue some chicken. That was the only good thing about it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

[Page 6019]

MR. DOWNE: I think it was the Minister of Agriculture, or something. I am not sure. I think it was the Premier. The Premier said, go take the summer off. He started his campaign to, basically, take away everything that has been built, and the foundations of whether it has been built, in the educational system. The Department of Education is determined that they will want to control what happens in Education.

We go to consultation. This is a government that also said that their hallmark is going to be consultation. They are going to go out and consult with everybody. I remember them on this side of the bench. I remember them when they were sitting over there in corner as the Third Party. They said, we will consult. We are not afraid to consult. We are not afraid to have open discussions and open dialogue. We will allow everybody to do what they need to do to express themselves. They are doing just the opposite now. Their priority is not to consult. The government has plenty of people letting them know what they think about the Education budget, because of the demonstrations, the letters and the phone calls. They wanted the government to hear what they thought about this budget.

These guys, I am sure that they were brought into the Cabinet Room or the caucus room just before the Legislature started and they were probably told - I can hear it now - listen, ladies and gentlemen, there are going to be demonstrations and there are going to be people crying out there and screaming and hollering. Don't worry about it. They don't mean anything, because we are right. Don't worry about it, in fact, we want them to get all upset because we are doing the right thing. They probably took a script out of the Klein Administration and of course the Harris Administration and they said, this is normal, what we are going to go through, so don't get weak-kneed, keep a strong back and don't listen to what Nova Scotians are saying. Well, finally they broke under some of that pressure because they realized Nova Scotians know what they are saying is truthful and they can count on it.

[7:00 p.m.]

I am going to have to move on here a little bit - am I doing all right?

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, yes, 16 minutes.

MR. DOWNE: Well, the government listened to the chatter and to the concern of Nova Scotians and came out with a slush fund of $88 million and added it to the minister's budget to help alleviate some of the problems. But all the problems are not going away, we still have I think $10 million that has to be found internally in the Department of Education, if I recall correctly. (Interruption.) I don't know where that $10 million is going to be found, but I hope it is not on the size of classrooms and the backs of teachers and children.

I want to say one thing to the minister's credit, here. We have brought up in the Legislature a number of times about the issue of base funding and I talked about the Southwest board, about equity, and this minister said it was part of the base funding and we

[Page 6020]

discussed it two or three times. I will give her credit for this, she went back and investigated and found that that information was not accurate and she did make the change. For that I want to publicly thank her because I know she kept her word, and that is why I really question whether this is her master plan or is it the master plan of the back room people somewhere in downtown Halifax that don't necessarily have to go out on the campaign trail like the poor backbenchers have to do, and don't have to go out in their constituency weekend after weekend like the poor people in the other side of the government have to do to get beat up to let it run forward. I really don't know and we will hopefully find that out at some point just really what is going on with that side of it.

Employees' rights. There is a transfer of employees from school boards to the new districts, but they haven't provided any level of protection to our knowledge yet. The concern is, with no recognition of the collective agreements that are there, no recognition of the districts and their successors under the Trade Union Act, the question really is, what protection do the employees have? When the Liberal Government introduced regional health boards, we protected the rights of employees to continue to work. Now that is not rocket science but it is fair and it is just and it is reasonable.

When our government introduced the educational Act we gave all employees the ability to continue to work. That is a little bit of humanity, it is a little bit of basic respect. We haven't seen that in regard to this particular bill and I ask the question why? If they have nothing to hide why don't they come forward and explain to Nova Scotians that they will, in fact, replicate what the Liberals did on the health boards and the education boards. I am sure the Minister of Finance would agree that that is the right way to go. So then why haven't they done it? Our government respected the employees and recognized their years of dedication and service that they have provided to Nova Scotia. The Liberal Government did that. This current government and the Minister of Education have ignored all these basic principles and values that we all stood for as members of this House. This bill does not protect the workers' rights in this legislation and one has to ask the simple question, why? Why won't they protect the basic rights of the individual workers in the province?

That is the second or third question we have, Mr. Speaker, that we wonder what is going on. Number one, they kept the right to be able to not let the employees know when they are hired or fired or staying or going until sometime in June, even though they say the deal has been struck and there won't be anybody let go.

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't need legislation to do that if you give them enough money.

MR. DOWNE: They turn around and they say that we are going to treat everybody fairly, in the right way, even though they have nothing in the legislation to prove that. Then they sit back and say trust us, we know what we are doing. They know what they are doing. Well, tell that to the teacher and the family that is wondering what they are going to do after

[Page 6021]

this summer. Tell that to the young teachers who have gone to university and are looking for a future in Nova Scotia to teach. I don't know if they are going to treat the teachers come June the same way they treated some of the health care workers and paraded them out the door with the proverbial box, take your belongings, and goodbye. I hope not. I believe protecting the rights of workers is mandatory, it is not an option. It is not an option and this government may think it is, but I don't believe it is.

The issue of special needs to high needs students. In my riding, Mr. Speaker, we have a place called Verge House. I have brought this up before. These are high-needs students, tremendous students, and it is a joy to work with them. It is a joy to come to the classroom. It is a joy to be able to sit there and watch them progress, to build self-confidence, to build self-esteem about themselves that they can do something, and when I go to the Ark Industries and I see how they, too, allow these individuals, these young adults, to build self-esteem and to be a part of the 21st Century in a positive way, but yet, according to the newspaper reports from the paper of May 16th, the minister's stance on special needs' students is somewhat disturbing. Maybe the minister did not mean what she said, but we would like to see what she really meant by this issue.

I would invite her to come to Lunenburg County, specifically in Lunenburg West, and meet these children and these young adults and realize that we are just talking about some very basic principles and values of allowing these people to have dignity and the ability to learn. We don't want to see them fall through the cracks. We don't want them hidden in the back rooms any more. We don't want them kept away from society.

AN HON. MEMBER: We did that, the old way.

MR. DOWNE: That is the old Buchanan approach maybe, but it is not the way to meet the 21st Century. These people have rights. They have rights and we have the responsibility as elected people to make sure that their rights are enshrined, enhanced and respected. Not everybody can send them to a private school. We have a responsibility as a society, in my view, to stand by our people because that is our responsibility.

We talk about freedoms, rights, democracy and openness. These guys got some tough decisions to make, Mr. Speaker, and I respect that, but on the backs of special needs' students is where they are going to find the bottom line. The member for Kings South says how dare you challenge the Education budget. That member over there who maybe knows people who have special needs, what gives him the right to sit back judgmentally over these people, to say how dare you challenge or question this budget on Education because it does not meet those children's needs? He, above all, should know better. He was brought up in a family of professionals who understand these people and the needs that they have. How dare he stand up here and point his finger and challenge anybody on their stance. This member does not have the heart that is required as a government.

[Page 6022]

Governing, besides responsibility, is about heart, it is about caring, it is about compassion, it is about doing the right thing. It is about putting our fiscal house in order and yes, making some tough decisions. But it is also doing it in balance, to make sure that we as a society have a future for our children.

I want to close as I opened and I quoted from the beginning, from the manifesto issued in 1955 from Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein together with other distinguished scientists. These same two in this manifesto state in their closing remarks, remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise, but if not, the question continues.

That is why I say that this bill does not answer the questions that have been posed to the minister and this government time and time again. I believe they want to get rid of the school boards across this province so that they can quiet, in silence, any opposition. I believe that they want to have full authority and control at the ministerial level, in a senior staff level. I believe that they want to be able to control and manipulate the process so that they direct the destiny of education and not the people and not the communities and not the students and not the parents who want to truly have a say in the future of this sector.

They are afraid to come forward and delete the issue of lay-off notices from May 15th to June 16th because there must be an alternative plan or they would have done it. They would have simply done it and taken that question away from this Legislature. They have more questions that they could have answered that they didn't. Before that I am anxious to hear other members of this side of the House get up and speak because I know the members on the other side don't want to, aren't allowed, are scared to because I am sure they remember the proverbial boot that they will get if they dare speak.

It is just like what the Minister of Health has said to the regional boards, you send out a memo making sure that nobody speaks to anybody about any changes. It is a sad day in a democracy that that has to happen. Mr. Speaker, thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. (Applause)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Let the record show that the loud applause we just heard was not for me, but it was for the previous speaker from his colleagues saying (Interruptions) Oh, well, I am getting some disagreement there, Mr. Speaker. Some members of the Liberal caucus who are saying that it was split and that it was also for me.

I welcome the opportunity to rise this evening, my first intervention on Bill No. 47 and to talk about what I consider to be a responsible amendment that has been brought forward by my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham. I am going to be talking about why it is responsible and I am going to be talking about what can be done as we go forward this

[Page 6023]

evening in the debate and I look forward to members of the government benches, as well, taking part in this debate.

I know that members do not need any reminder as to what the amendment before us says, but I am going to repeat what the amendment is so that I can fashion my comments in the context of what the motion is saying. Now, Mr. Speaker, what the motion says is that the subject matter of Bill No. 47 - this Bill No. 47, as we all know, is a piece of legislation which contains 11 pages of clauses and a couple of explanatory notes - and the content of that bill from Clause 1 through Clause 11 is the subject matter of the bill. What we are saying is that subject matter should be sent on or referred to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments.

[7:15 p.m.]

Why would one send the subject matter of a bill to the Law Amendments Committee? Some members might say, well, when a bill passes second reading, it goes to the Law Amendments Committee, so what is different here? Well, I have had the honour of being in this House when the Law Amendments Committee has dealt with other legislation where the subject matter is sent to the committee, like a bill, I think the number was 99, under the former Conservative Government. I think the gentleman who just joined us in the gallery was at that time working as an executive assistant or something to the then as yet unelected Liberal Leader of the day. I think the gentleman now works for another institution of higher learning.

Mr. Speaker, when Bill No. 99 was referred to the Law Amendments Committee, they did an interesting thing. The Law Amendments Committee, to members opposite, doesn't only have to meet down at the end of the lobby. The Law Amendments Committee . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Could I ask the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid if he would supply me with a copy of the amendment?

MR. HOLM: Oh, certainly. This is the amendment, Mr. Speaker, that was ruled in order two Speakers ago, and what it has to do with is sending the subject matter of Bill No. 47 to the Law Amendments Committee. I apologize. I am sure a copy would have been provided to the member who was serving as Speaker at the time, because he had ruled it at that time, after reviewing it, in order.

Mr. Speaker, the Law Amendments Committee can travel. The Law Amendments Committee can seek input on legislation. The Law Amendments Committee, in the process that is being referred to here, can make recommendations back to the House. Do you know, there are a number of considerations, because the Education Act and the legislation that is before us, there were a number of committees. For those of us who, on this of the House in our caucus, wanted to be responsible, who wanted to try to live up to the commitments that were made to Nova Scotians, there were a number of options we had.

[Page 6024]

We could have, for example, sent it on to the Committee on Human Resources, because the Committee on Human Resources also has a mandate for education. That committee could have had public hearings. I can remember in the days when that committee travelled the province and had extensive hearings on children with learning disabilities. The gentleman in the gallery, I am sure, will remember that as well, and I believe the gentleman in the gallery then actually made a presentation to that committee, if my memory serves me correctly.

Mr. Speaker, we also had that committee dealing with children who were gifted, as they were referred to. But that committee does not normally deal with (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, I see the member for Kings South is waving his hand at me.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South on a point of order.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Could I make an introduction?

MR. HOLM: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Thank you to the honourable member. Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the gallery, Royden Trainor who is presently with Acadia University, if he would perhaps stand and take the warm applause of the House. (Applause)

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think he used to work for somebody else at one time, but before that he also had a very responsible position as the head of the Nova Scotia Students Union, I think that was the proper title, very progressive in those days before he slipped a little bit and went to work for another political group. I will not mention their names although they normally sit to my right. However, we have a little bit of fun from time to time.

Mr. Speaker, I want to get back to the purpose of the amendment and we have to look at what this legislation is actually doing. We have to look at what the Tories in Opposition promised and we have to look at ways that we can try to resolve that. There are a couple of ways you can sum up this bill actually quite concisely. First of all, and I will expand upon this a bit later, but the first thing that is being done here is that the minister is seizing control of education. Under this legislation, no longer is it a partnership between school boards and educators and parents and school councils and home and school associations and the Department of Education. Under this legislation you might say that the minister is obtaining the hammer.

I know, Mr. Speaker, I look across at the members opposite, I look to the member for Queens and the member for Queens would have gone out during the last election, as did his colleagues, the members for Kings West, for Pictou East and for Pictou Centre, for Cumberland South, they gave people their word. The member for Kings South and the

[Page 6025]

member for Kings North gave their handshakes to their constituents. They gave their handshake, their word. They not only did it as a word and as an actual handshake, but they made commitments. They made commitments by signing on and running as Tory candidates.

Some of those commitments, Mr. Speaker, had to do with education and the blue book. Our amendment that we have before us here actually will be helpful to the government because it will give them an opportunity to help to meet a commitment they made in the blue book. There are some things, I want to say, that I do agree with the blue book on and there are a couple of changes in the legislation that I also agree with, that I will come to.

It says in the blue book that, "A strong education system is the foundation of an economy of sustained growth." Absolutely, and do you know if you speak with those who are involved in economic development, one of the things that they will tell you today, one of the most important infrastructures for attracting and maintaining employment to an area is the quality of the education system. Everybody has telephone wires. Everybody has electricity. Everybody has roads. They are not all equal. But you know, one of the most important things now that industry and businesses are looking at, as we are moving into that next generation of employers, the high-tech and knowledge-based industries, it is the quality of the education system. So, Mr. Speaker, that comment is extremely important from the blue book, and I agree with it totally. It is absolutely correct; it is extremely important.

The blue book also said that the PCs would, ". . . dedicate itself to an education system which is adequately funded, fully focused on the student and the classroom and which will prepare young Nova Scotians to compete in the job markets of today and tomorrow." They go on, Mr. Speaker, talking about how they must do away with problems that were created by the former Liberal Government. I know that the former speaker, I have to agree with some members on the blue benches, if they were believing that the previous speaker used a little bit of creative history in his remarks - a revisionist history, anyway - however, I will agree with the Tories in the election campaign, and we said the same thing, that we had to address issues like overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources.

The blue team also said that they would establish, ". . . a P-12 Provincial Education Council, including representatives named by organizations such as the Nova Scotia Home and School Association and the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union." Now, I want to pick up on that point, because that wasn't done. Instead, we have an education bill before us. However, should we, Mr. Speaker, have this subject matter of this bill referred to the Law Amendments Committee, that Law Amendments Committee could travel around the province. I seem to remember having meetings in the riding of Pictou. In the County of Pictou, we had meetings there.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much did that cost?

[Page 6026]

MR. HOLM: Well I hear a member of the blue team asking how much did that cost? I don't know how much it is going to cost for the red tape commission, made up of a number Tory members who are going to be travelling around the province. I don't know how much the price of that is going to be, who is going to pay for their food and their lodgings and so on.

This Law Amendments Committee is an appropriate Standing Committee of the House, which is struck by legislation and it has the authority of this House to go out and listen, not just the authority of a Premier, it has the ability to go to Pictou, it could also cross the harbour, if need be, and go to the member for Dartmouth South's riding, who seems to be so upset about the consultation process - they can go to Lunenburg, to Yarmouth. They can go right across this province.

What we have in this legislation is the minister giving herself, and any successors, whoever would follow her - if this legislation is passed - the authority to put herself in charge of every other school board without even coming back to this Legislature. Now, Mr. Speaker, I heard the Minister of Education, I heard the Minister of Finance, I have heard these great, wonderful, flowing words, it is all about accountability. Hogwash. This isn't - and I am being polite, I am using parliamentary language - that is not about accountability in this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, this is totally about power. This is an absolute power grab. I would suggest to you that those who live in Cape Breton, those who live in metro, those who live on the South Shore, all have a right to have a say about the education system that is going to go on.

[7:30 p.m.]

I can't be sidetracked by rabbit tracks, but you know I wait anxiously for the member for Dartmouth South to get on his feet, and he can even ask his questions of me, Mr. Speaker, because there is a perfectly wonderful answer I would love to give him back. That member could even be on the Law Amendments Committee.

AN HON. MEMBER: He didn't get on the Red Tape Reduction Task Force.

MR. HOLM: No, he didn't get on the Red Tape Reduction Task Force. However, if he wants to travel our beautiful province, he certainly can, and that would be up to the committee to decide how extensive the travels would be in consultation with yourself, Mr. Speaker, in terms of the budget. This legislation has nothing to do with accountability. This is being proposed or put forward, as a minister, even in the explanatory notes. I can't say that something is dishonest because, well I could say it is dishonest the way the wording is dishonest, because I am not referring to any individual making a dishonest comment. I would suggest to you that the phrasing, by way that this is just somebody calling it a pilot project, if it is trying to leave the impression that things could not go any farther than a pilot project in the Southwest Regional School Board, if that is the impression that is trying to be left by this legislation in comments, then those comments are less than honest.

[Page 6027]

I say that, because if something is truly a pilot project there has to be a process for evaluation. There has to be a termination point for that. If something is a pilot project and if this is only to be a pilot project, can you answer for me, members on the government benches, through you, Mr. Speaker, why it is that this legislation would give to the minister and the minister's front bench buddies the power to do away with all other school boards exactly the same way as is being done with this Southwest Regional Board, supposedly as a pilot project, without coming back to the legislature?

I have been told I am a little naive. Maybe I am a little bit idealistic, too. I thought that the 52 of us in this House were elected for a reason. I thought we were elected to represent the constituents and the best interests of Nova Scotians and to be willing to get on our feet here in the House to learn what is going on and to make laws for the good of all Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, this must be the Tory way, but I didn't realize that my obligation now was to come to this House, to have a piece of legislation brought before us and then for us to vote to give up all future obligations and responsibilities, dealing, for example, with education. Do you know in this bill, this is really repugnant, it is absolutely repugnant, this legislation gives Cabinet some powers, in Section 146 of the Education Act, that is where the regulatory power making is. This legislation, if passed, will give Cabinet the authority to define, redefine, to expand, give whatever kind of creative meaning they want to any word that appears in the Education Act.

They can expand it to mean whatever it is they want. Also, it can give Cabinet - that is that group, 11 members I think it is, the front benchers, the power downstairs in the bunker called the Cabinet Room where you pull your blue veil of secrecy around you, where the minutes are confidential, nobody has a right to know what goes on in there, the only thing you know is whatever decision is reached, and that decision is reached when the Cabinet issues an Order in Council. A lot of people are a little bit naive. I am not the only one. A lot of people out there in the general public are under the misguided notion that we, in here, have a say in regulations. We don't. We know that, that is downstairs in the bunker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that he is speaking to the amendment to refer the Education Act to the Standing Committee on Law Amendments, and if he could bring himself back to that I would appreciate it very much.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my next couple of sentences are taking me right there. Because in this power, one of the things that it does in this bill and Nova Scotians need to be consulted on this is, Clause 11, Subsection 146(1)(b)(yf), "exempting the Southwest Regional School Board, and any regional school designated pursuant to Clause (ye), from any provision of this Act;".

What do we have them for? I can remember being in this House when the current Education Act was passed. It was under the Liberals. Now where there are clauses that are called obsolete about four or five years later, that Education Act had something like 200, it

[Page 6028]

was the most amendments ever made to a piece of legislation at the Law Amendments Committee. I was there then. Great moments. I can't remember how many it was, it was either 129 or 229, all I know is that it was massive. So, it wasn't a wonderful piece of legislation when it went in, but it was better when it came out.

The Law Amendments Committee, if the subject matter of this bill is referred to it, I would like to know what the people down in Clare, what the people down in Argyle think about the minister and the front benchers having the ability to say that the boards are exempt from the bill. Wouldn't it make some sense to have the Law Amendments Committee, the committee that deals with legislation and which has that experience and expertise and also even has Legislative Counsel sitting in with it - the legal people - all-Party. My colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, member of the Committee on Law Amendments - you know, as he correctly points out, members of all three political Parties are in that process. I have, over the years - and I don't think that this is a misstatement - but you know when members of all three political Parties get on the road and on committees, political differences actually tend to disappear.

The reality is, and members on the government benches who have sat on those committees when they have had hearings out of town will tell you that you can actually learn from each other and you learn to trust each other more as individuals and you can also, Mr. Speaker, benefit by those discussions to try to find ways to make something better. Surely the objective here is to improve the educational opportunities of people in this province.

Now, the Law Amendments process. We hear that this legislation is supposed to do a number of things. Well, about boards and making them more accountable. Mr. Speaker, I think that it would be very important for us at the Committee on Law Amendments process, a body that I also served on for many years, I haven't had the privilege over the last couple of years because the NDP caucus grew so significantly in numbers over the last number of years, but I can assure you in the days when there were two or three of us in this House I spent more than my share of time on the Committee on Law Amendments process. We can hear the school boards come forward and explain all the ways that currently right now they are accountable to the Minister of Education, because they are. They are also accountable financially and even through the audit of the Auditor General. There is accountability built in and just because a minister or government says we are doing something for this reason, does not mean that that is so.

If I can use an example, I remember way back when there used to be a grocery store chain and the grocery store chain ran advertisements, why do more people shop at Dominion? The answer was, in the commercials, it is mainly because of the meat. I also remember hearing why that ad was made, the reason that I heard why that ad was made is that they had conducted some surveys to find out what people did not like about that store and why they did not shop there. What they discovered was that most people who didn't shop there didn't shop there because they didn't like the quality of the meat. So they put out an advertisement -

[Page 6029]

yes they did set out to try to improve it - but they put out an advertisement that ran totally contrary to what the public perception was and they ran it over and over again.

Minister and government are saying we have to do this for accountability. Mr. Speaker, I challenge that. The accountability is there, it is there now. They may not be necessarily following the lines and being the puppets for this government, they may have the audacity from time to time as they did on the funding crisis to speak out against this government about what would happen towards education, however, I would contend that having a partner who is willing and able to stand up and speak out on behalf of the charges under their responsibility, the children of this province and their education, that that is a good thing. At the Committee on Law Amendments, if that committee were given the opportunity to travel around this province, I believe we would hear over and over again, it certainly would give them the opportunity, not only for the school boards and elected board members, but also for the parents and those within the communities, who value education, an opportunity to come before that committee to speak out as to why it is important to have school boards and bodies that actually do have power, and that have the ability to stand up for the quality of education.

[7:45 p.m.]

Boards right now are required to submit annual reports containing the information that is requested by the minister. That is part of accountability, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Education is currently involved in the hiring and evaluation of school board superintendents. So maybe through this the Law Amendments Committee process, we can find out why it is that the minister feels that they need to really be involved in hiring the first CEO. There are all kinds of questions about that Southwest Regional School Board.

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury - that is a very large constituency geographically - he is a very nice member, I have no questions with that, and I was very pleased to hear that the riding of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury will benefit in a few years when it finally comes through significantly from the new assessments. I say that sincerely, for the oil and gas industry. That is going to be very positive. But, Mr. Speaker, his riding, his school board, could be like the Southwest Regional School Board. Bang. Gone. Set up in effect, divided up, where the Chief Educational Officer, the CEO, is in effect, an employee of the minister. That becomes the board. I really think we have to do some evaluation here.

Under this new southwest region, the Southwest Regional School Board is going to continue. Here is where I am really having difficulty getting my head around it. You are going to have the school board continue, but the school board really is going to mean one person who is employed by the minister, the CEO. That person is going to be in charge and responsible for all money matters, all matters dealing with the infrastructure of the schools and so on; all those powers are going to be centralized in one person, responsible to the minister.

[Page 6030]

Then you are going to have your district school boards. Now, you have your regional school board, which is your CEO, then you are going to have two district school boards underneath that CEO. That is where your so-called elected school board members are, and they are going to be responsible for educational issues.

Mr. Speaker, part of being responsible for educational issues has to do with money. You tell me how those school board members are going to have really any power or any say over educational matters if they cannot have any kind of input into where the expenditures of monies are going to be. Whether there are going to be textbooks there, whether the schools will even be kept open. We are setting up a system here that I truly - and I am not just saying this to eat up time - I say in all sincerity, I truly do believe has to be examined extremely carefully. We are setting up pitfalls here. We are setting up conflicts, and I am very much afraid that we are setting up a system designed to fail.

Let's not play games. If it is the intention of the government to set up a system designed to fail, then let's not play that charade. Come clean. Announce school boards are over and the government is going to take over responsibility and authority for school boards. If that is the plan, then this legislation can be amended very easily and we would not have to have this go on to the Law Amendments Committee process for any review, you would just do it. The government has the numbers; if they want to do away with school boards, then say so, but don't set up a system where school boards are designed to fail. This minister has the power right now to hold school boards accountable.

Under this legislation, Mr. Speaker, there are all kinds of weird and wonderful things that are being proposed, like the minister can set standards and can set policies, no idea what the policies are, how the policies are going to be set; guidelines can be set and those guidelines and policies are not even regulations. They are not defined. The areas are not defined and school boards all of a sudden have to follow them. They are not even regulations. This minister, and this government, is in one massive power grab and if that is what you want, say so. Let's stop the charade. Let's stop playing games. Explain that to the members on the backbenches and I invite the backbench members, the three or four of you who are listening (Interruptions)

That woke up the Cabinet Ministers, Mr. Speaker, and through the Cabinet Ministers who have woken up, I say now to the five or six backbenchers who are listening, please, read Bill No. 47 introduced by your Minister of Education; read it. Then you don't have to go very far, down to the Legislative Library, and you can get a full copy of the Education Act. If you don't understand it, go and ask a staff member of the Department of Education, or somebody else, to please sit down and to cross-reference the areas because the explanatory notes tell you very little and look at what you are actually being asked to endorse.

[Page 6031]

It is not, Mr. Speaker, a matter to simply set up a pilot project for the Southwest Regional School Board. The Halifax Regional School Board can be toast. Where is the input going to be from the local residents, from the communities?

HON. JAMES MUIR: What about school advisory councils?

MR. HOLM: I hear the former principal of the Nova Scotia Teachers College who used to be there before it was done away with by the former Liberal Government. I think, Mr. Speaker, it might have helped to motivate the former principal to run for politics and now he is the Minister of Health. He says what about school advisory councils. The Minister of Health would know that school advisory councils are simply that - advisory in nature. He will also know that although you have a small number of very committed, dedicated citizens who give very generously of themselves and of their skills to assist their school community by serving on those advisory councils, he would also know that those advisory councils have very small participation and that you really only have to have the parents of four or five students in an entire school and they can form the entire advisory council. They are not elected broadly.

If the Minister of Health is suggesting that elected school boards should be relegated down to the capacity of advisory councils, which he seems to be implying, with the support of the Minister of Economic Development, who himself used to be a superintendent of schools and a teacher, as well. I would have thought that both of these fine gentlemen would have been standing strongly in support of the communities' elected school boards remaining a vital and vibrant part of the education system. Because, for virtually no pay, school board members are virtually volunteers, in terms of the remuneration they get and they give long, hard hours of dedicated service, with very little thanks from either this Tory Government or the last Liberal one, for all of the efforts that they put forward. What do they get instead from this government? They get criticized and told that they are unaccountable. They are told, Mr. Speaker, they can't be trusted and that is why the Minister of Education has gone power hungry, power grab, to wrestle it all onto herself.

Mr. Speaker, let's take a look, during the time that I have left this evening . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to adjourn debate?

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, if it is your request, I will, adjourn the debate. If that is the Government House Leader's wish.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 47. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 6032]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, I would ask the Opposition House Leader to detail the business for tomorrow and the hours.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow will be from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. We will be dealing with two resolutions, Resolution No. 1369 and Resolution No. 2047. One of them deals with health and safety and the other one deals with the Department of Community Services. If it is the wish then, based on the hours and time, I would be happy to move that the House do now rise and agree to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that we do now rise to return tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

[The House rose at 7:57 p.m.]

[Page 6033]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2120

By: Mr. John Holm (Sackville-Cobequid)

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

Whereas the federal Liberal Government has launched a strategy to convince Atlantic Canadians that they really love us, and the Liberals manufactured a vacancy in St. John's West so they could demonstrate their winning ways in this region; and

Whereas Finance Minister Paul Martin, Transport Minister David Collenette and Heritage Minister Sheila Copps all came down to lend their support; and

Whereas the Liberal candidate came third, dropping way below the 1997 mark;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the voters of St. John's West for giving federal Liberal propaganda and promises the respect and the response they richly deserve.