The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Wed., May 17, 2000

First Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 6035
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Environmental Illness: Treatment Clinic - Support,
Mr. D. Dexter 6036
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. P. MacEwan 6036
Educ. - Bras d'Or: Busing - Distance Lower, Mr. F. Corbett 6037
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Downe 6037
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6037
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Wilson 6038
Educ.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Downe 6038
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Highway Signage - Regulations, Hon. R. Russell 6038
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Twinning - Update,
Hon. R. Russell 6041
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2121, Hon. Myra A. Freeman (Lt. Gov. [N.S.] 17/05/00 on) &
Hon. Larry Freeman: Best Wishes - Extend, The Premier 6044
Vote - Affirmative 6045
Res. 2122, Tourism - TIAC: Rendez-vous Canada 2002 -
Halifax Site Selection Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6045
Vote - Affirmative 6046
Res. 2123, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Halifax Port: Econ. Importance
(N.S.) - Recognize, Hon. R. Russell 6046
Vote - Affirmative 6047
Res. 2124, Culture - Museums: Internat. Day (18/05/00) - Acknowledge,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6047
Vote - Affirmative 6047
Res. 2125, Agric. - Jost Vineyards Ltd. (Malagash): Wine Superior -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 6047
Vote - Affirmative 6048
Res. 2126, Educ. - HSSO: Tour (Hfx. Eng.) - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 6048
Vote - Affirmative 6049
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2127, Environ. - Youth Conservation Corps: Hiring - Reduction,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 6049
Res. 2128, CBC - Cuts: Discontinuance - Urge, Mr. R. MacLellan 6050
Vote - Affirmative 6050
Res. 2129, Bernard & Anne Gillis (Sydney): Golden Wedding Anniv. -
Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 6050
Vote - Affirmative 6051
Res. 2130, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Cuts - Classroom Impact,
Ms. E. O'Connell 6051
Res. 2131, Sackville-Beaver Bank MLA: Non-Gov't. Member -
Realize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 6052
Res. 2132, Exco - Gasoline Dealers: Aid (Regs. Amdt.) - Support,
Mrs. M. Baillie 6053
Res. 2133, Health - Bds.: Legislation - Read (Min.), Mr. D. Dexter 6053
Res. 2134, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Back Pitt Rd.: Repair -
Consider, Mr. R. MacKinnon 6054
Res. 2135, Eastern Shore MLA - Mistakes: Appointments
(Gov't. [N.S.]) - Chances Improved, Mr. J. Pye 6055
Res. 2136, Educ. & Health - Investment: Debt (N.S.) High -
Flexibility Lost, Mr. B. Taylor 6055
Res. 2137, Justice - Gun Registry Prog. (Can.): Challenge - Support,
Mr. W. Langille 6056
Res. 2138, Econ. Dev. - Bowater Mersey Paper Co.: Export
Achievement (Millennium Award) - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 6057
Vote - Affirmative 6058
Res. 2139, P&P - Red Tape Reduction Task Force: Good Wishes -
Extend, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 6058
Res. 2140, Justice - FOI Officer: Role Permanent - Recognize,
Mr. W. Langille 6059
Res. 2141, Sports - Sports (N.S.) Awards of Year: Brian Todd
(Sailing Coach) & Peter Todd (Skiing [Alpine]) - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 6059
Vote - Affirmative 6060
Res. 2142, Health - Sackville Hearing Ctr.: Service - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 6060
Vote - Affirmative 6061
Res. 2143, Paraplegic Assoc. (Sydney) & Abilities Fdn. (Hfx.) -
Wheelchair Cross-Can.: Dixon Cole (Inv.) - Bravery Acknowledge,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 6061
Vote - Affirmative 6062
Res. 2144, Educ. - Jay Potter (Prince Andrew HS): Essay Publication
(Forest Serv. [Cdn.]) - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 6062
Vote - Affirmative 6063
Res. 2145, Educ. - Middleton RHS: Fund-Raising Breakfast - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 6063
Vote - Affirmative 6063
Res. 2146, Sports - Cycling (Gt. Hbr. Challenge Bicycle Race [Lun.]):
Sponsors - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 6064
Vote - Affirmative 6064
Res. 2147, Tourism - Dept. Separate: Initiative - Support, Mr. J. DeWolfe 6064
Vote - Affirmative 6065
Res. 2148, Culture - CJLS Radio (Yar.) [News Dept.]:
Atl. Journalism Awards (2) - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 6065
Vote - Affirmative 6066
Res. 2149, Educ. - Maritime Provs.: Robots East Comp. (Fredericton HS) -
Pugwash DHS (2nd Place) Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 6066
Vote - Affirmative 6067
Res. 2150, Culture - Theatre: Mulgrave Rd. Production "Brantley
Town" - Tour (N.S.) Appreciate, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 6067
Vote - Affirmative 6067
Res. 2151, Culture - Dal. Univ. Art Gallery: Home: The Art of Preston -
Display Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 6068
Res. 2152, Queens - Merrill Denzel Rawding (MLA 1945-53):
Birthday 95th - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 6068
Vote - Affirmative 6069
Res. 2153, Culture - Music: Gospel Heirs (N. Preston) -
Gratitude Express, Mr. D. Hendsbee 6069
Vote - Affirmative 6070
Res. 2154, Justice (Can.) - Immigration: Trafficking
(Women & Children) - Address, Mr. B. Taylor 6070
Res. 2155, Gov't. (N.S.) - Info.: Ferreting Ability (Opp'n. & Media) -
Appreciate, Mr. M. Samson 6070
Res. 2156, Eureka FD - Anniv. 51st.: Service - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 6071
Vote - Affirmative 6072
Res. 2157, Educ. - Kingston & Dist. H&S Assoc.: Fund-Raising -
Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 6072
Vote - Affirmative 6072
Res. 2158, Libercrats: Choirmaster - Appoint, Mr. F. Chipman 6073
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 731, Pet. Dir.: Fuel Prices - Regulation, Mr. Robert Chisholm 6073
No. 732, Tourism: Fuel Prices - Impact, Mr. D. Downe 6075
No. 733, Exco - Elections Act: Eastern Shore MLA - Violation,
Mr. J. Pye 6076
No. 734, Pet. Dir. - Pt. Tupper Pipeline: Safety - NEB Question,
Mr. R. MacLellan 6077
No. 735, Commun. Serv.: Family Violence Prevention Initiative -
Funding, Mr. K. Deveaux 6079
No. 736, Exco - Code of Conduct: Legislation - Introduce,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6080
No. 737, Health - QE II: Beds (Post-Operative) - Shortage,
Mr. D. Dexter 6081
No. 738, Educ. - Hfx. Reg. Sch. Bd.: Budget - Cuts Verify,
Mr. W. Gaudet 6082
No. 739, Health - Rehab Ctr.: Prostheses Delivery - Timely,
Mr. D. Dexter 6083
No. 740, Health - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Hospitals Impact,
Dr. J. Smith 6084
No. 741, Justice - Victims Assistance Fund: Cuts - Rationale,
Mr. H. Epstein 6085
No. 742, Exco - Code of Conduct: Legislation - Introduce,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6086
No. 743, Animal Cruelty Prev. - Pets: Euthanization - Disposal,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6087
No. 744, Health: C.B. Reg. Health Care Complex -
Emergency Serv. (Summer), Mr. D. Wilson 6089
No. 745, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Privatization: Roads -
Costs Increase, Mr. W. Estabrooks 6090
No. 746, Pet. Dir.: Houston Trip (Premier) - Benefits,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 6091
No. 747, Fin. - Budget (2000-01): School Bds. - Deficit Figs.,
Mr. H. Epstein 6093
No. 748, Educ. - C.B.-Victoria Reg. Sch. Bd.: Schools New -
Completion Date, Mr. K. MacAskill 6094
No. 749, Health - QE II: Cuts (Mgt.) - Care Impact, Mr. D. Dexter 6095
No. 750, Educ. - Strait Reg. Sch. Bd.: Schools New - Equipment
Availability, Mr. M. Samson 6096
No. 751, Tourism - VICs: Closure - Impact, Ms. E. O'Connell 6097
No. 752, Nat. Res. - Budget (2000-01): Cuts - Christmas Tree
Specialists, Mr. D. Downe 6099
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 2047, Lbr. - Health & Safety: Workplace - Promote,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6101
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6102
Hon. A. MacIsaac 6104
Mr. R. MacKinnon 6106
Mr. F. Corbett 6108
Res. 1369, Commun. Serv. - Soc. Assist.: Cuts - Unpromised,
Mr. K. Deveaux 6110
Mr. K. Deveaux 6111
Hon. P. Christie 6114
Dr. J. Smith 6116
Mr. J. Pye 6119
Hon. R. Russell 6122
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. - Rural (N.S.): Importance - Support Recognize:
Mr. J. DeWolfe 6123
Mr. R. MacLellan 6126
Mr. W. Estabrooks 6128
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 18th at 12:00 p.m. 6131
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 2159, Educ. - Budget (2000-01): Plan Absence - Info.,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 6132

[Page 6035]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 17, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on an introduction.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure this afternoon of making an introduction through you and to all members of the House. I preface my comments by saying that the guests in the Speaker's Gallery this afternoon are at the invitation of the Speaker of the Nova Scotia Legislature, the Honourable Murray Scott.

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon we have No. 1859, the Springhill Cadet Corps and as part of the citizenship studies within the cadet movement, the Springhill Cadet Corps is touring the House of Assembly at the invitation of the Honourable Murray Scott, MLA, Speaker. After the tour, the cadets will be moving to Citadel Hill for a guided historical tour. In the morning, the cadets had a tour of the Nova Scotia Museum of the Atlantic and I understand they are enjoying this very fine city and this very fine day and the weather. The cadets, as well as the officers, look forward to these well-earned trips with the great assistance of Cadet Headquarters in Halifax.

6035

[Page 6036]

The number on tour today is 28 cadets and the officers are Lieutenant Hunter and 2nd Lieutenant Moore. Let me see here, now, we have some acronyms, Mr. Speaker, that I am not quite sure what they mean regarding their office but we have officer cadets Steeves and we have CIC Barton who is the Administration Officer. I wonder if the officers and cadets would please stand and receive a warm round of applause from the Nova Scotia House of Assembly. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, this evening's subject for the late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Pictou East.

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the importance of rural Nova Scotia and the supportive steps being taken by this government to develop rural Nova Scotia.

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

The honourable member for Pictou West on an introduction.

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery this afternoon are two very good citizens of the Village of River John and part of my family, my sister-in-law Norma Baillie and her son Jeffrey Baillie. Would they rise, please, and accept the greetings from the House. (Applause)

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: 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 physician training in Environmental Medicine, and (2) 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 118 signatures and I have affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from 446 good people of the constituency of Inverness. It states, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts

[Page 6037]

will have a devastating impact on the students of the province. We demand the Premier reinstate Public Education Funding." I have affixed my signature to that petition and certainly endorse its content.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing 32 signatures from the parents and grandparents of the children who live on Villa Drive in Bras d'Or, Cape Breton. The petition calls upon the government to lower the minimum distance for busing children to Gannon Road Elementary School and Bras d'Or Elementary School. These children are forced to walk along or across the Trans Canada Highway to get to school with no sidewalks and these parents and grandparents quite rightly feel it is an unsafe road for the children. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria on an introduction.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today we are fortunate to having another fiddler with us. It is good to have one on the floor and one up in the attic in case we need two. I want to welcome Charlie MacCuspic from Hunter's Mountain to the House this afternoon and maybe after the House closes, we may hear some fiddle music. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present a signed petition. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest the reductions in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from students in Grade 3 and Grade 4 at the J.W. MacLeod School on the Purcell's Cove Road. The operative clause of this petition says, "Government taking our teachers jobs. We need to learn and we can't do that in huge classes, and kids who need extra help deserve it - and we need janitors to keep the schools safe and clean. Please we need them. Don't take them away from us!" I have affixed my signature along with the signature of 46 students.

[Page 6038]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition entitled, Voices of Concern, from the good people of Inverness and area. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." The petition bears the signatures of 52 people and I have affixed my name to it as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I have another petition signed by 51 individuals. The operative clause of the petition states, "We, the undersigned, protest a reduction in the Public Education Budget recently announced by the Minister of Finance. These cuts will have a devastating impact on the students of the province." I will affix my name to that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to inform the House that the long-debated issue of highway signs is nearing resolution in Nova Scotia. Two posts and a placard can do as much as anything to stir the fires in many a Nova Scotian as I am sure all members of the House are aware. Indeed, highway signage is an issue that is not only near and dear to the hearts of Nova Scotians, it is very important to motorists who travel our highways and people who operate businesses in our communities.

With my colleague, the Minister of Tourism and Culture, we are today releasing draft regulations that I believe shape a new highway sign policy that will give travellers the information they need in a clear and concise fashion; that will make our roadsides more attractive; and will create a level playing field that gives business new opportunities to advertise on the roadside.

[Page 6039]

The new business logo sign program is something never before allowed on our controlled access highways. It provides business identification and directional information for eligible food, fuel and accommodation services on 100-Series Highways.

With this opportunity for business to advertise in a clear and effective manner, the committee has proposed removal of other advertising signs within sight of controlled highways. This step alone will give travellers consistent service signs and eliminate some of the oft-maligned sign pollution that clutters some of our roadsides. The committee is also proposing a new standard system of intersection directional signs to help guide motorists to traveller-related businesses, services and sites of interest.

[2:15 p.m.]

These regulations have been drafted after an extensive public consultation process that involved more than 400 Nova Scotians from around our province. The committee was made up of people from government, business and the tourism industry, and as the final stage in this consultation, we are asking Nova Scotians to let the committee know what they think of these new proposals before final recommendations are made to government. Today those 400 people who gave their time to participate in the consultations will begin receiving details of these new regulations in the mail. The regulations are also available on the Department of Transportation and Public Work's Internet website to give all Nova Scotians an opportunity to voice their opinion. I should also mention that a copy will be going out to every member today.

Mr. Speaker, we have had input from people across Nova Scotia. This proposal for highway signs strikes a balance and reflects their input. I again encourage people to read the regulations, view the sample sign plans available on-line, and let us know what they think. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, at this opportunity I would like to thank the speaker for personally getting these statements delivered to me at the caucus office. I much appreciate that good service, personally delivered with a phone message.

This is good news because of the consultation. I know, in particular, the St. Margaret's Tourist Association and active tourist operators such as Shelley and Karl Webb, have had strong views on sign pollution. It is something that I congratulate the minister and the Tourism Minister for having some input on. I also congratulate the minister for providing copies to every member here, because this is something of real consequence to all of us who have tourist destinations, and I am sure all of us have scenic spots and wonderful, unique spots across Nova Scotia that they have the opportunity to come and visit.

[Page 6040]

It is particularly important that I notice there is a certain neighbour across the bridge that is well ahead of us. Prince Edward Island has set a tone, and I am glad to see that we are following their example. All sarcasm aside, it is good work, and I congratulate on the good job. Thank you, Mr. Minister.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would think my initial reaction to at least one aspect of what the minister has stated is that very little time has been allowed for consultation, because the ad that is to be run in tomorrow's papers asked that all submissions be in, the deadline for response is June 15th, which allows just four weeks. In any event, I want to say there has been a moratorium on the enforcement of existing signage regulations in this province since 1984, which is a long time.

This is one of the issues that was addressed by the outgoing Liberal Government, headed by Premier Russell MacLellan. As the Minister of Transportation and Public Works in that government, the honourable Clifford Huskilson stated, "Public consultation is the key to establishing the best possible policy for Nova Scotians." In the spirit of that sentiment, there were a series of public meetings held in October and November 1998, under the direction of the former minister, to determine if there was a consensus on the direction that a new signage policy should take.

Now we have reached the next stage. I want to commend the hard work of the committee members who served under Mr. Huskilson, who have put this draft policy together. I want to commend the government for allowing the additional public input made at that time to stand and to allow that input before any final decisions were made. I am, however, concerned that the government is not now allowing sufficient time for a response to the announcement made by the minister today.

There is less than a month before the deadline for submissions will come down. This is not enough time, in my view, for interested parties to digest the new regulations and to formulate a response. It perhaps is not enough time for me either to formulate an adequate response, because I would want to measure very carefully what the minister has stated and I would withhold judgement on the total impact of this on various existing commercial signs. Perhaps around the Trans Canada Highway, around Antigonish, you might want to take a look at that and how this announcement will impact on some of those who donated so generously to the election of a certain candidate in that constituency. I thank you at this time for allowing the time for me to make these observations. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Are there any further Statements by Ministers?

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

[Page 6041]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have one more . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Very busy time.

MR. RUSSELL: Very busy, very busy.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a very important man.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Take the rest of the day off.

MR. RUSSELL: Thank you very much, I will have to speak to my boss about that.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss Highway No. 101 and to give an update on the steps we are taking to make sure this highway is twinned, and to make sure that this highway is as efficient and safe as possible.

Today we are asking for the public's input on the upcoming stage of twinning, from Mount Uniacke, at Exit 3, to Ellershouse, which is Exit 4. We are providing details about the project and any potential and environmental questions about this 21 kilometre stretch. As highway design goes, our experts tell me this stage is a relatively straightforward piece of work. We have taken great pains to ensure that all our construction activities and the road itself will either avoid delicate parts of our environment altogether or, if that is impossible, we will reduce any impact to well within acceptable standards.

Public consultation is a big part of this process. Under environmental rules, and the environmental rules are the federal rules, our government is expected to cost share in this project, it is a necessary step and one that will bring us much closer to the twinning we are so committed to. We are consistently asking for the public's input. After all, they are the ones who drive the road, they know the road. and they know the importance of twinning. By getting a better idea of the general public's thoughts, we are better able to get this done. With the support of the public and the blessing of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, we will move forward on this twinning as fast as we possibly can; that means starting work this construction season.

To make this system as simple as possible, we have prepared a clear, one page fact sheet about this phase of the twinning, followed by a short survey with about a dozen questions in all attached to it. Anyone interested in responding can call, toll free, 1-800-307-7669, or in the Halifax Regional Municipality call 424-3933 and we will send out a copy of the questionnaire. The questionnaire is also available on the Department of Transportation and Public Works website.

[Page 6042]

The estimated cost of this 21 kilometre twinning project is $20 million, a significant cost especially for a province grappling with fiscal difficulties. Happily enough, Highway No. 101 is part of the national highway system and, as such, the federal government is obliged to pay one-half of the cost of construction.

I say Ottawa is obliged to, because at this point Ottawa has not committed to any cost-sharing program with this province; in fact we have a decidedly unpleasant view before us. For the next two years this province will receive no federal money for highways, and for the next four years after that, we are offered a mere pittance from the federal table. Why is this, you may well ask. I look across the Chamber to my Liberal colleagues and I remember, during their star-crossed adventure in government, they were unable to achieve a single cost-shared agreement with Ottawa with regard to highway construction.

Clearly, this is unacceptable, and I am committed and this government is committed to making sure that will change. We must get Ottawa to pony up its fair share. Every year Nova Scotians pay $125 million in fuel taxes to the federal government, yet none of that is returned to be reinvested in our highways. Not a loonie; not a nickel; not a cent. The coming twinning phases of Highway No. 101 will cost a total of about $75 million. We all know how difficult it would be for the province to pay that kind of bill on its own. It would be nice to get at least some of that fuel tax money to put directly into our roads? We need Ottawa to step forward and do its share.

I think that most in this Chamber acknowledge that divided highways make sense. They save lives and reduce accidents; they help our economy by getting goods to market more quickly and affordably, and make travelling better for commuters and tourists alike.

Mr. Speaker, we are confident that by paying close attention to public concerns and safety, by respecting the environment, and by always seeking ways to improve our highways, our roads can indeed be the envy of this region, and that will help all Nova Scotians.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I know there are Nova Scotians all over this province, particularly the ones in the Annapolis Valley who are disappointed with another delay. I can tell you that during the July election, I didn't hear anything about environmental reviews. When I picked up the Hantsport or the Hants West papers, I didn't hear anything about environmental reviews at that time. But I can tell you this, when this group over here was the government, and I had to deal with the so-called wonderful Minister of Transportation, Clifford Huskilson, I can tell you I had to put up with an environmental review - an environmental review on the twinning of Highway No. 103. When I was told the environmental review was coming over the Nine Mile River bridge because that was the next step before the twinning of Highway No. 103, and Highway No. 103 hasn't got another lick of highway. We have an environmental review. Big deal.

[Page 6043]

The issue is this: if this is straightforward project and we are all in agreement, if we are looking at 10 months after there were those pledges during the July election, then let's get on with it. I think in some ways this environmental review will be building up the hopes of the people in the Valley thinking it is going to come, it is going to come.

I understood the last part of your statement, Mr. Minister, I agree with you. The Liberals in this province and the Liberals in Ottawa have to put their money where their mouth is, safety ahead of politics, and respond. But that environmental review has to be put in perspective, Mr. Speaker. I heard what the honourable Clifford Huskilson said about Highway No. 103 and the environmental review. Highway No. 103 from Exits 3 to 5, one of the busiest stretches of highways in this provinces is still not twinned. So, let's not look at the environmental review as a very logical step. We are in many ways a long way before this federal Liberal Government helps us out with this issue. Now I will cede the floor. I am sure he has some gems of wisdom on why they haven't come forward with the money. The honourable friend from Cape Breton Nova. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, unlike the minister's last announcement in which a very strict time deadline was imposed of June 15, 2000, you will note that there was no deadline contained in the current analysis. No deadline.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are slipping, Ron.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: A work in progress.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, we trust that the work will continue. Mr. Speaker, this history begins back in June 1999 when an announcement was made by the honourable Clifford Huskilson, Minister of Transportation, that the province would begin work on Highway No. 101 without federal cash. The statement at that time, "There is no promise of federal money yet, but the province began pre-construction work Monday on Highway 101 between Mount Uniacke and Ellershouse. Transportation and Public Works crews are surveying and conducting screening and subsurface exploration. 'This is a necessary step of upgrading Highway 101,' Transportation Minister Clifford Huskilson . . ." stated. I have these statements here, and they might perhaps be tabled since they are matters of current concern to the House.

When that statement came out, there also came out, combined with that, the need for environmental review, an analysis, before actual construction could proceed, and guess who attacked that, Mr. Speaker? A chap by the name of Ron Russell, Progressive Conservative candidate for the riding of Hants West. I have here a Progressive Conservative News Release

[Page 6044]

dated June 30, 1999, "'Robert Chisholm clearly is out of touch with the real world if he feels extensive community consultation is required before deciding which stretch of Highway 101 will be twinned,' Hants West PC Candidate Ron Russell said today."

[2:30 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: He was right.

MR. MACEWAN: Again, the Hants Journal on July 14, 1999, Progressive Conservative Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. Ron Russell On Roads. "Ron Russell And John Hamm Led PC Government Will: move immediately to begin Twinning Highway 101 between Mount Uniacke and Windsor . . . On July 27th Re-Elect Ron Russell - PC Hants West." Again in the Hants Journal of July 7, 1999, "Highway 101 twinning. No need for more public input." (Laughter) A lengthy epistle from the honourable Hants West Progressive Conservative candidate and so on and so forth, Mr. Speaker. I have a lot more here and I could go a little longer . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What is the point?

MR. MACEWAN: . . . but I think you get the general point.

Now we have a new version. Highway No. 101 twinning project to start in September, according to the press of March 11th of this year, but there have been repeated twists and turns, shall we say, along the road and this is the latest. So we will continue to watch the universe unfold with bated breath, Mr. Speaker, and I look forward with eager anticipation to the next announcement by the minister contradicting his former position and announcing further delays and further stalling in getting on with this important project. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 2121

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas today in the Red Chamber at Province House, Mrs. Myra A. Freeman was formerly installed as Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Her Honour is making history by becoming the first woman and first Nova Scotian of the Jewish faith to hold the province's vice-regal position; and

[Page 6045]

Whereas through her many years of volunteer service and working in public education, Her Honour has shown an outstanding commitment to the people of Nova Scotia and especially to young Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend best wishes to Her Honour, Lieutenant Governor Myra A. Freeman, her husband Larry, their three children and their entire family on this special day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2122

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

Whereas Atlantic Canada will once again host the country's largest travel trade show, Rendez-vous Canada, in Halifax in 2002; and

Whereas Rendez-vous Canada brings together buyers from around the world and sellers of Canadian tourism facilities and services and generates millions of dollars in business; and

Whereas our region will also benefit from a significant economic boost during the conference with organizers, delegates and sponsors expected to spend several million dollars during their stay;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join me in thanking the Tourism Industry Association of Canada for once again choosing Halifax as the site for this significant travel trade show.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 6046]

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 Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 2123

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

Whereas the Port of Halifax has been a major contributor to the economy of Nova Scotia for two and one-half centuries, providing a central transportation infrastructure to Canadian importers and exporters; and

Whereas the port continues to improve its container business at a rapid pace, increasing volume by 10 per cent and tonnage by 13.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year, as more traffic than ever is shipped through Halifax to the American Midwest; and

Whereas this increase in container cargo is creating steady employment for longshoremen, watchmen, gearmen and maintenance people;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the importance of the Port of Halifax to the economic well-being of Nova Scotia and express their appreciation to those who make port operations so efficient and urge governments at all levels to work together to promote this invaluable facility.

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 6047]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2124

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

Whereas Nova Scotians are blessed with a diverse heritage that is celebrated at museums across the province; and

Whereas the museums of Nova Scotia are an integral part of community life throughout the province; and

Whereas museums are an important means of cultural exchange and heritage preservation;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in acknowledging tomorrow, May 18th, as International Museum Day.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 2125

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

Whereas Jost Vineyards Limited of Malagash, Cumberland County, is one of the premier wine making operations in the province and indeed Canada; and

[Page 6048]

Whereas the superiority of Jost's wines was recognized on Monday when its 1999 Vidal Ice Wine beat out 594 other Canadian wines to be named Canada's Wine of the Year, and Best Dessert Wine in a national competition; and

Whereas this win represents the first time a vineyard in a province other than Ontario and British Columbia has won this prestigious award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate Jost Vineyards for producing such a superior quality wine, for using locally grown grapes from the Annapolis Valley and for bringing such positive national recognition to Nova Scotia and its agricultural industry.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2126

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

Whereas the Halifax Schools' Symphony Orchestra played six concerts from May 10th to May 15th in Halifax, England; and

Whereas the exchange trip, on which Halifax students meet other students and musicians and tour historic and educational facilities, has been a tradition between the two Halifaxes since 1980; and

Whereas the schools' symphony is a stepping stone for young musicians who aspire to play at a higher level, such as the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra or beyond;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate these musicians on their enjoyable musical tour of England.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 6049]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2127

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

Whereas today the Environment Minister issued a news release saying, "Youth looking to protect the environment, earn money and work with a great group of people should check out the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps"; and

Whereas less than 60 young people will be hired this year; and

Whereas the Conservation Corps had steadily grown to 172 jobs last year, up from 92 in 1996;

Therefore be it resolved that youth looking to protect the environment, earn money and work with a great group of people have been let down badly by the Tory decision to wipe out two-thirds of the Youth Conservation Corps.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 6050]

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2128

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

Whereas CBC is considering programming cuts that would eliminate regional news programs such as the 1st Edition and Maritimes Tonight; and

Whereas any reduction of this news service will leave Nova Scotia under-serviced by Canada's national broadcaster and will have a negative impact on the local economy as a result of the elimination of 75 highly-skilled jobs; and

Whereas yesterday the President of the CBC showed that he is not listening to Canadians by renewing his commitment to gutting CBC programming in Atlantic Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge CBC President, Robert Rabinovitch, to take his head out of the sand and start to listen to Nova Scotians instead of continuing his cuts to CBC.

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 Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2129

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

Whereas Bernard Gillis and Anne (MacPhee) Gillis have been lifelong residents of the Sydney area; and

[Page 6051]

Whereas Mr. and Mrs. Gillis were married May 13, 1950, and are now celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations, along with the Gillis family, to Bernard and Anne Gillis on reaching this milestone of marriage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2130

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 last night, in the budget released by the Halifax Regional School Board, the region will see the elimination of 60 education program assistants, 11 student support positions, 11 ESL teachers, 35 library technicians, and 5 circuit teacher librarians; and

Whereas this budget also eliminated the community collaborations department, cut $240,000 from custodial services, cut $210,000 from casuals, and cut 24 administrative positions; and

Whereas the cuts at the school board will also see the elimination of English as a second language in the former county schools and a reduction in school supplies;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to this House how these cuts will not affect the classroom and the teaching of our children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 6052]

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2131

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

Whereas front benchers are members of the Cabinet and as members of government they are duty bound by government policy; and

Whereas backbenchers have a duty to represent their constituents in this House, as the MLA for a particular area, not to protect the front benches of the government; and

Whereas contrary to what the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank may think, backbenchers are not members of government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank to realize he is not a member of the government, and, unless he represents the interests of his constituents, his stay in this House will be short lived.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 6053]

RESOLUTION NO. 2132

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

Whereas during the election this government pledged to protect retail gasoline dealers from the downloading of national advertising campaign costs; and

Whereas in the months following, Cabinet approved an amendment to Section 15 of the Motive Fuel and Fuel Oil Approval Regulations; and

Whereas this amendment will prevent oil companies from charging local retailers for wholesale promotions, like customer reward programs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House support this government in its effort to aid retail gasoline dealers.

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-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2133

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

Whereas Captain Chaos, the Minister of Health, introduced legislation to take control of health boards and their spending, as well as to prevent hospitals from running deficits; and

Whereas when hospitals now act upon Captain Chaos' cuts to their budgets, he would like to have us believe it is not his fault, and he is not responsible for these lay-offs; and

Whereas Captain Chaos would prefer to operate in the background, never taking responsibility for his actions and his cuts;

[Page 6054]

Therefore be it resolved that Captain Chaos should sit down, read his own legislation that gives him sweeping powers and makes him responsible for the actions of hospitals, and then rise in the House and give his standard reply, "I am unaware and unconcerned."

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce my resolution, I would beg leave of the House if I could introduce to you and through you to all members of the House a number of very distinguished Nova Scotians who have come a long way to visit with us here today and follow the proceedings of the House. The students of Gowrie Memorial School in Port Morien are here as part of their educational curriculum. With the students here as well, is Principal John Reid, Geraldine Vallis Beaver, teacher, and as well accompanying them chaperones Sheena Bach, Marlane Nicholson, Doris Butts and Wendy Curtis. I would ask if all would please rise and receive the warm approbation of the House. (Applause)

As well, I would be remiss if I didn't indicate that the Minister of Education was kind enough to take a moment and meet with the students earlier.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2134

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

Whereas high quality infrastructure is a key component to the economic success of a community; and

Whereas the Back Pitt Road leading from Port Morien to Birch Grove is in dire need of upgrading and repaving;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works give utmost consideration to this project when evaluating his capital construction projects for this fiscal year.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 6055]

RESOLUTION NO. 2135

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

Whereas a Tory MLA is in hot water again and an investigation has been suggested into how the member for Eastern Shore spent municipal funds; and

Whereas this is the same MLA who had an illegal dump on his property; and

Whereas the Premier seems to feel that the former business owner is a good choice to sit on a committee investigating government red tape;

Therefore be it resolved that it would appear that the more mistakes and bad deals you make, the more likely you are that the Premier is going to appoint you to a special position within his government.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2136

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

Whereas the comments of the socialist Party and the spend, spend Liberal Party on the budget and the government's effort to tackle the debt have been highlighted with the concern that government is in too much of a hurry; and

Whereas their don't worry, be happy philosophy supports the Opposition's wish list, growing by millions each day; and

Whereas this philosophy, however, ignores an $11 billion debt and a servicing charge this year alone equal to our investment in public education;

[Page 6056]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the loss to our flexibility in our ability to invest in vital areas like health and education if we, like they, adopt a don't worry, be happy philosophy.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for 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.

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

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Education did not know that a meeting to begin budget deliberations within the Southwest Regional School Board had been cancelled; and

Whereas last week the Minister of Health was embarrassingly unaware of cuts announced at the QE II; and

Whereas the Minister of Health proved that he does not know any more than the Minister of Education;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Health, also known as Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber, take the time to find out what is going on in their departments.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2137

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

[Page 6057]

Whereas on August 30th the Justice Minister announced the province would join Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut, New Brunswick and Ontario in fighting the legislation; and

Whereas the annual cost of running the gun registry program is now expected to be 10 times higher than what the federal government originally predicted; and

Whereas already the centre itself admits that 1.6 million gun owners are yet to be licensed by year's end, with an application backlog getting close to 45,000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the expense and bungling of this red tape federal government project and support this government's efforts to challenge the expensive and ineffective gun registry program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2138

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 Bowater Mersey paper company of Queens County is one of only nine companies to be honoured with a Millennium Award at the 16th Nova Scotia Export Achievement Awards today in Halifax; and

Whereas Bowater Mersey is one of the largest private sector employers in this province; and

Whereas Bowater Mersey has a long and impressive record of exports abroad, demonstrating that Nova Scotians can compete successfully with companies from around the world;

[Page 6058]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the management and staff of the Bowater Mersey Paper Company for this distinction, and wish them as much success in the decades to come as they have enjoyed in the decades past.

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2139

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

Whereas the Leader of the Liberal Party recently criticized the newly-established Red Tape Reduction Task Force by saying, "If you ever wanted to throw a game, that's the team you'd put on the field."; and

Whereas the member's performance in the last two election campaigns proves that his ability to pick a winning team is questionable; and

Whereas Premier John Hamm's record of putting a winning team on the field will continue with the Red Tape Reduction Task Force;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House offer good wishes to the Red Tape Reduction Task Force as it sets off across Nova Scotia to break through the barriers that hinder the growth of business and prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6059]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2140

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have always called on their governments to be more open and transparent; and

Whereas in November, the Justice Minister amended the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; and

Whereas the amendment establishes the key position in this process, the freedom of information officer is a full-time employee, moving the position from a temporary contract position;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the significance of ensuring the province's freedom of information officer has a permanent role in supporting this government's commitment to openness.

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 Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2141

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

[Page 6060]

Whereas Brian Todd is the national sailing coach who sails out of the Bedford Basin Yacht Club, while his son Peter Todd is a star alpine skier at Bishop's University; and

Whereas Brian Todd was selected by the 10 member committee from Sport Nova Scotia to receive the Sport Nova Scotia's Coach of the Year award at the Sport Nova Scotia excellence in sports awards; and

Whereas at the same event, Peter Todd was selected as the Alpine Skiing Male Athlete of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Brian and Peter Todd and the Todd family on their hard work and commitment to amateur sports.

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 Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 2142

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

Whereas Susan English-Thompson, a certified audiologist, is celebrating the 1st Anniversary of the Sackville Hearing Centre; and

Whereas during its first year of operation, Susan has worked hard to generate public awareness of the centre and the services it provides; and

Whereas recently the centre expanded to add the service of a speech-language pathologist to its office;

[Page 6061]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Susan and all who are involved with the Sackville Hearing Centre on their successful first year of operation, and wish them all the best as they grow in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 2143

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: 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 launched an attempt this week to cross mainland Canada in an electric wheelchair to raise money for the Canadian Paraplegic Association and the Abilities Foundation; and

Whereas Dixon was diagnosed as a child with a spinal disorder, and is now a double amputee; and

Whereas Dixon hopes to complete the journey four months from now in Vancouver, British Columbia, raising the spirits of those who find it difficult to remain active given their physical challenges;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House acknowledge Dixon for his bravery and wish him a safe and successful journey.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 6062]

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 on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to call to your attention and members of the House, in the west gallery, five people. They include Kate Crosby from Dartmouth, who is doing work on her Bachelor of Science honours program at Queen's University; Amy Hunt from Halifax, originally from Albert Bridge in Cape Breton, who is taking a double major in international developmental studies and history at Dalhousie University; Meredith MacGray from Halifax, taking her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology at Dalhousie. Those people are accompanied by Tracey Preeper, a special assistant to Senator Bernie Boudreau's office; and also Charlene Baker, who happens to be a constituent of mine and also works in that office. I would ask them all to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 2144

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

Whereas 15 year old Prince Andrew High School student Jay Potter is one of only five students from across Canada to have an essay included in the Canadian Forest Services publication, State of Canada's Forest Report; and

Whereas Jay's article, The Future of Forestry in Canada, identifies the importance of educating people about responsible forestry practices so we can all give something back to a resource that gives so much to us; and

Whereas in recognition of Jay's literary accomplishment, he will receive a white spruce tree and a plaque, along with a bursary for $500;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jay Potter on the publication of his insightful article and wish him well with all his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 6063]

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2145

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

Whereas the Middleton Regional High School recently held their Spring Fling Pancake Breakfast; and

Whereas the breakfast was a fund-raiser to help with a wide array of school activities involving students; and

Whereas teachers from Middleton Regional High School, and parents, played an active role in making, from all reports, this fund-raising breakfast an overwhelming success;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs praise the staff and students at Middleton Regional High School for their efforts in organizing and promoting their Spring Fling Pancake Breakfast.

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 Justice.

[Page 6064]

RESOLUTION NO. 2146

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

Whereas the Town of Lunenburg is hosting the Great Harbour Challenge Bicycle Race on May 22nd; and

Whereas this event requires excellent bike-handling skills and will draw racers from all over Nova Scotia and the Maritimes; and

Whereas this event is the official Bicycle Nova Scotia Race and is sponsored jointly by the Town of Lunenburg and Lunenburg Bicycle Barn;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the Town of Lunenburg and the Lunenburg Bicycle Barn for their sponsorship of this event and wish the best of luck to all racers.

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.

Before the next resolution, the resolution introduced by the honourable member for Cape Breton East, I am ruling it out of order; unparliamentary language.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2147

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

Whereas tourism is one of the most important facets of our economy; and

[Page 6065]

Whereas in 1999, this government pledged to the people of Nova Scotia to set up a separate Tourism Department in order to capitalize on the province's tourism potential; and

Whereas immediately upon taking office, the government set up a separate Tourism Department;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House support this initiative aimed at further boosting this already growing industry in this province.

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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 2148

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

Whereas the news department at CJLS Radio in Yarmouth was honoured this past weekend with two Atlantic Journalism Awards; and

Whereas News Director Gary Nickerson received the Byron MacGregor Award, recognizing the radio station which displays overall excellence; and

Whereas CJLS also received honourable mention for feature reporting for Ray Zinck's documentary, Back to the Front, a story of Canadian war veterans returning to their World War II battlegrounds;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the news department at CJLS Radio in Yarmouth, especially Gary Nickerson and Ray Zinck whose commitment to excellence and dedication to their profession is evident in the quality of their work.

[Page 6066]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[3:00 p.m.]

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 Agriculture and Marketing.

RESOLUTION NO. 2149

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

Whereas the annual Robots East Competition was held recently in Fredericton; and

Whereas the team from Pugwash District High School in Cumberland County placed second with their robot; and

Whereas the team was comprised of the following Pugwash District High School students: Scott Matheson, Jeremy Smith, Alex Seitke, Matthew Trenholm, Nicholas MacLeod, Russell Elliott, Tom Mattinson, Amy-Lee Kouwenberg, Juliette Kouwenberg, Kerri Coulter, Joseph Lawless, Chris Geroux and Daniel Holt;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate these fine young people for their hard work, their passion for technology and for their well-earned and well-deserved second place finish in this prestigious competition.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 6067]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2150

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

Whereas the Mulgrave Road Theatre is busy preparing to tour the province with Brantley Town, an exciting new play by Nova Scotia playwright Lance Woolaver; and

Whereas Brantley Town, a small town close to Wentworth, settled by Black Loyalists, is brought back to life in this funny encounter between two men, their cultural differences and the power of their friendship; and

Whereas Brantley Town, directed by Mulgrave Road's Artistic Director Philip Adams, featuring Jeremiah Sparks and Craig Wood, opens June 2nd in Guysborough and will be presented in communities across Nova Scotia until June 17th;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their appreciation to the Mulgrave Road Theatre for bringing this unique story to stages across Nova Scotia and wish the cast and crew of Brantley Town every success as they endeavour to entertain, enlighten and enrich the lives of their audiences.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 6068]

RESOLUTION NO. 2151

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 exhibit Home: the Art of Preston is on display at the Dalhousie University Art Gallery between May 5 and June 18, 2000; and

Whereas this exhibit was organized by curators David Woods and Dr. Harold Pearse and sponsored by The Black Artists' Network of Nova Scotia and The North Preston Cultural Association; and

Whereas the artists featured in the exhibit include Justin Augustine, Cortonio Beals, Kim Cain, Chrystal Clements, Avery Crawley, Bolivia Czernon, Frances Dorrington, Alexander Fraser, Fabian Fraser, Jolene Gordon, Angel Gannon, Clara Gough and Lara Martina Harbord, as well as writers Natasha Williams Matheson, Maxine Tynes and David Woods;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to the curators, sponsors, artists and writers whose creativity, imagination and determination made Home: the Art of Preston such a success, and thank them for sharing with all of Nova Scotia the talent and culture of this historic community.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2152

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

Whereas Merrill Denzel Rawding of Queens County, Nova Scotia, celebrated his 95th birthday on May 8, 2000; and

Whereas Mr. Rawding enjoyed a successful career in this House, serving as Liberal MLA for the constituency of Queens between 1945 and 1953 and as Minister of Highways and Public Works between 1946 and 1953;

[Page 6069]

Whereas this distinguished Nova Scotian is one whom all residents of Queens County are proud to call a friend and neighbour;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Rawding on the occasion of his 95th birthday, wish him many happy returns, and acknowledge and thank him for his distinguished service, not only to the constituency of Queens, but also to the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2153

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 Gospel Heirs of North Preston have inspired audiences with their repertoire of spiritual music for more than 20 years; and

Whereas they exemplify one of the purest and most renowned gospel traditions in North America; and

Whereas their message of love, faith and salvation is as important today as it was at the time of their first performance;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House express their gratitude to the Gospel Heirs for enriching the lives of all Nova Scotians, and wish them every success as they share their talent and their message with others in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 6070]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 2154

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

Whereas a recent federal internal audit shows the federal government is operating in a domestic policy vacuum concerning the trafficking of poverty-stricken women and children into prostitution, the drug trade and mail-order marriages; and

Whereas this audit is made public at the same time we find out that the feds have had time to compile personal and private information on 33 million Canadians; and

Whereas one federal government report indicates that underworld profiteers are earning in the range of $400 million annually in illegal trade of more than 10,000 women and children;

Therefore be it resolved that the federal Liberal Government immediately crawl out from underneath this policy and information vacuum and begin addressing this growing and very serious problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2155

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

Whereas since the budget was announced, Opposition members, media, and all Nova Scotians, have had to ferret out this devastating budget; and

[Page 6071]

Whereas last week the Liberal caucus, under the guidance of the member for Dartmouth East, was able to inform the Minister of Health on the lay-off of more than 400 employees at the QE II; and

Whereas the current Minister of Health is obviously unaware of his portfolio and has been unable to ferret out the meaning of secret passages within his government's budget;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Tory Government appreciate the ability of Opposition members and media to ferret out information on their behalf instead of coming into this House ill-prepared to represent their departments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2156

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

Whereas the Eureka Fire Department, at a banquet this past weekend, celebrated their 51st year of service; and

Whereas an awards night was also held that saw Clifford Jardine being named as the recipient of the Arthur Ward Firefighter of the Year Award; and

Whereas long-service medals were presented to a number of firefighters, including Ken Ward who was honoured for his 35 years of service to volunteer firefighting, and to Doug Gray for his 25 years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs congratulate all members of the hard-working Eureka Fire Department, and wish Fire Chief Tim Ward and his fellow firefighters all the very best in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 6072]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2157

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

Whereas the Kingston and District Home and School Association recently held a Medieval Spring Fair; and

Whereas the spring fair raised funds toward the new Kingston school library; and

Whereas this event was held because of the dynamic organizing ability of students, teachers and parents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Kingston and District Home and School Association, teachers, and students, be given high marks by all members of this Legislature for their efforts in raising funds for the new Kingston school library.

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 Annapolis.

[Page 6073]

RESOLUTION NO. 2158

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

Whereas the word unison is derived from the Latin word unisonus, which means sounding the same; and

Whereas harmonious is defined as singing together in harmony, and the definition for choir is an organized company of singers; and

Whereas the Libercrats continue to vote in unison and speak in harmony;

Therefore be it resolved that the Libercrats appoint someone from among their ranks of 22 as choirmaster to direct their chorus.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period begins at 3:10 p.m. and will end at 4:40 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the New Democratic Party.

PET. DIR.: FUEL PRICES - REGULATION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct my question through you to the Premier. Last October this government promised to do something about skyrocketing gas prices - back then gas was about 65 cents a litre - but since then the government has done nothing to bring prices down. Now gas prices are much higher, 14 cents a litre higher, in most stations. Today a small-business owner, whose advice is so worthwhile and recognized, in fact, he was picked for the Red Tape Reduction Task Force has spoken out about fuel costs;

[Page 6074]

of course, it is one of the Premier's own Conservative colleagues saying that it is time to look at price regulation.

I want to ask the Premier, why won't he listen to that backbench MLA, member of the task force, and finally bring the big oil companies into line by ordering public hearings to determine how unreasonable these gasoline prices really are?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't have to have public hearings, Nova Scotians are contacting us on a daily basis telling us how high gasoline prices are, telling us how high furnace oil prices are. In reality, however, they understand why they are high, the cost of crude has risen dramatically. If you look right across this continent, certainly right across Canada, those prices have gone up and they have gone up relatively proportionately in all jurisdictions. One thing we are doing is we are going to foster competitive pricing, because as of June 15th, all retail outlets of gasoline in the province will be forced to display the price so motorists can see the price and do selective shopping.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: The Premier is really putting the pressure on the big oil companies by making sure that they tell people how much they are going to gouge them. Nova Scotians deserve to have fair prices, and they deserve to have fair prices now. Truckers like the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and many other drivers only look across Northumberland Strait and see the lower prices in P.E.I. I want to ask the Premier, do something for Nova Scotians, authorize the URB to investigate the price hikes and empower it to order a roll-back of unreasonable prices. Do something.

THE PREMIER: If the member opposite would go back in history, he can certainly determine, as we all can, that since deregulation came into this province, relative to gas pump prices, in general and overall the consumer has benefited. If he examines what is going on across the country, including what is going on in Prince Edward Island, he will also understand that exclusive of taxation, the base price of fuel in Prince Edward Island is relatively equal to what it is here in Nova Scotia. There is no benefit, even in this time of rising crude prices that has accrued to the people of Prince Edward Island, because of regulation.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has all kinds of excuses, he could go on all day long, and I am sure he does that when people stop him in his community and say, the prices are going through the roof, I can't afford it. I want to say to the Premier, I think it is time he listened to Nova Scotians like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, prices are too high, we have to bring them down. I want to ask the Premier, how much higher do gas prices have to go, how much more pain do small-business people, drivers, people who own homes have to experience before he and his government are going to do something about gas prices?

[Page 6075]

THE PREMIER: It would appear that the member opposite would like to have the Premier of Nova Scotia travel to Saudi Arabia and break the Arab oil cartel. The one thing that the Leader of the New Democratic Party is never reluctant to do is to suggest to government any solution that has been brought to his attention, whether or not it is valid. This government can't do any more than other provinces, in controlling the base price of crude oil, the world crude oil price.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

TOURISM: FUEL PRICES - IMPACT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the Minister of Tourism, realizing that the Premier has no answers on the issue of gas prices and no desire to fix any problems in the province. My question to the Minister of Tourism, gasoline prices have not gone down, the impact is going to be tremendous not only in this area of Halifax but throughout the province in the tourism season, and the tourism season as we know is fast approaching. Has the Department of Tourism done any economic impact studies to assess the high price of gas and its impact on tourism in Nova Scotia?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Gas prices, of course, is one of many variables that affect tourism in this province, as well as across Canada. As mentioned before, this is something which is happening globally, it is not just happening here in the Province of Nova Scotia. What I can say to the honourable member is that there haven't been a great many people from the tourism industry contacting my office regarding this issue, but they are concerned of course. I guess the numbers speak for themselves, the number in enquiries, the number of people who are booking our accommodations in Nova Scotia is up in January and February of this year.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I have heard a lot but now the Minister of Tourism is saying let the price of gas continue to rise, because it is not going to have an impact on Nova Scotia or Nova Scotia tourism. How ridiculous of the minister to make a statement like that. Without question, this minister has had ample time to ask his department to do a study to determine the impact of the high cost of fuel on tourism. My question again to the minister, could the minister inform this House if the department is going to do anything useful to alleviate the effect of high gasoline prices on tourism?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, again it is a global issue. Again, the numbers are going up. The tourism industry, although there is some concern, it is not of grave concern. We are looking forward to a good year in tourism. Again, the numbers are going up. What more can I say?

[Page 6076]

MR. DOWNE: It is apparent that this government, whether it is the Premier, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Finance or anybody else on that front bench are going to do nothing with regard to dealing with the high price of fuel and the cost to tourism or to any other person in Nova Scotia. My final question to the minister, will the minister take a more active role in his portfolio and find out the impact of the high price of fuel on tourism across this province? They have modelling now to determine the benefits of tourism to the economy, I want them to come forward with a modelling to show what the impact of these high fuel prices will be and what impact it will have on the budget. Will the minister at least allow his department to do that?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member. I will certainly take the advice of the member under advisement. It is an issue that we continually monitor on an ongoing basis. I will take that under advisement.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

EXCO - ELECTIONS ACT: EASTERN SHORE MLA - VIOLATION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be directed to the Premier. We were distressed, and I am sure that many Nova Scotians were distressed also, to read in our newspaper this morning that a Tory backbencher is being accused of throwing around a municipal slush fund during the last election. My question is that I want to ask the Premier, what steps is he taking to look into the possibility that the member for the Eastern Shore violated the Elections Act?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say is that I have no information that any member of my caucus violated the Elections Act. If the member opposite has any information, I would suggest very strongly he provide it to the Chief Electoral Officer of the Province of Nova Scotia so it could be investigated.

MR. PYE: I would remind the Premier that during the election campaign he was the one who justified the credentials of the MLA for this constituency. Also, Mr. Speaker, the member for the Eastern Shore, of course, is not the only Halifax Regional councillor who ran for the Tories and was elected. The member for Preston and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank were HRM councillors and also had access to discretionary funds that were allegedly misused. I want to ask the Premier what steps he has taken to satisfy himself that the member for Preston and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank did not violate the (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the honourable Premier heard the question and would like to answer, I did not, but . . .

[Page 6077]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is a sad situation that four questions into Question Period, the Opposition Parties are reduced to asking questions about rumour and innuendo. If the member opposite has any evidence that any member of this House, including members who sit on this side of the House, has contravened the Elections Act of this province, I ask him to contact the Chief Electoral Officer so it can be investigated. Otherwise, let's get on with Question Period with questions that are relevant to the concerns of the people of Nova Scotia. (Prolonged Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, it is that Premier who told Nova Scotians that integrity would loom large in his government. Nova Scotians are concerned and the Premier seems unwilling to take this matter seriously. This is the same Party that spent over $1 million to buy the Bedford-Fall River Minister of Community Services. My final question to the Premier is this, I want to ask the Premier, to protect the integrity of his government, will he direct his three backbenchers to provide this House with a list of projects approved from the member's discretionary fund during the six months prior to the July 27th election? That is what you have to do. (Interruptions)

THE PREMIER: The member opposite obviously is a great proponent of McCarthyism because that is really what this member is indicating, that he wants this House to become that kind of an organization. If the member opposite has information, then let him provide it to the Chief Electoral Officer; let him provide it to me and it will be looked after. If he wants to deal in innuendo, I am not interested. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

PET. DIR. - PT. TUPPER PIPELINE: SAFETY - NEB QUESTION

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Residents of Guysborough County are genuinely concerned about the condition of the gas pipeline and the liquids pipeline that is going to be going through their county. As the Premier knows, Paul Vandall, a consultant, is equally concerned and is telling all of those who are prepared to listen what the state of these two pipelines can cause. I want to know why the Premier has not asked the National Energy Board to examine the liquids pipeline to determine whether, in fact, it is safe to carry liquids to the Strait? Will he do that and when will he do it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite is aware, the licensing control of the gas liquids line is in the URB and they have done pressure testing and the gas liquids line has been pressure tested to in excess of four times the current operating pressure. Lloyd's Registry of London have been involved in the certification of that line, and as well, the URB

[Page 6078]

has indicated that they will be doing ongoing monitoring of that line through internal pigging. I believe that at this point, that satisfies all the requirements of safety relative to that line.

Now, the other process that is going on is that the National Energy Board is looking at the gas line, which is a partner line of the gas liquids line, and will be examining that line. I will be looking at that process with a great deal of interest.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, it is a question of safety, not just a question of economics. The National Energy Board is examining the natural gas line. There is no reason they can't examine the natural gas liquids line. Only this government can put a cloud on the sunshine of our oil and gas industry and the prospects for that industry. Why won't the Premier and this government ask the National Energy Board to examine the natural gas liquids line so that we can reassure Nova Scotians that that line is safe?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has confidence in the regulatory board of the URB. I would remind the member opposite that he played a large role, as did his predecessor, in naming the members to that board. I accept the competence of the board. I have watched and examined very carefully what it is they have done to assure the safety of that line. I believe that they have done their job. I believe there is a margin of safety built into that line, that at this point, I do not believe, is in danger of being compromised.

MR. MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, the Premier knows as much about natural gas lines as he does about clothes lines. I want to say, it is not a trick. Just ask the National Energy Board to do an examination, for safety. The National Energy Board has a lot more experience in this field than does the URB. That can't be discounted.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACLELLAN: I want the commitment, as do all Nova Scotians, from this government, when will the Premier ask the National Energy Board to examine the natural gas liquids line so we can reassure Nova Scotians that that line is safe?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear the member opposite has had a change of heart, because he was a Leader who made a decision, and the government preceding his, made a decision to make the URB the licensing body for that particular gas line. Now we are to assume that they have lost faith in the URB, the organization they actually put in place to control the licensing feature of the gas line. I really can't understand why the member opposite had such a change of opinion. (Interruption)

[Page 6079]

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

COMMUN. SERV.: FAMILY VIOLENCE

PREVENTION INITIATIVE - FUNDING

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Earlier in this session, it was announced that $250,000 and the Family Violence Prevention Initiative were going to be removed from the Department of Community Services' budget. That program had done good work with information for citizens of Nova Scotia and training for government employees with regard to family violence. I want to ask the Minister of Community Services if he can confirm, has that money been eliminated, or has it been transferred over to transition houses and women's centres so that they can do the work?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member is incorrect. I did not say $250,000 was eliminated. I indicated to him in estimates that the cost of Community Services' involvement with the Family Violence Initiatives was $55,000. That had been taken out of the budget. I indicated to him at the time that the training was going on in the Department of Health and the Department of Justice, and that there were programs available in the transition houses, and that continues.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, the minister seems to be saying, Mr. Speaker, that that money is no longer in Community Services, it is in Health, and it is going to be done through the transition houses and through women's centres. My particular concern, though, is that the transition houses and women's centres have not been told that they are actually going to receive any extra money. In fact, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Community Services specifically told them last week there will be no new money, and there will be no new programs to help them do the job that originally was done by the Family Violence Prevention Initiatives. So my question to this minister is, what is the truth with regard to this matter? Where is the money? When are the transition houses and women's centres going to get the money they need to address the family violence issue that this government isn't willing to address?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat for the member again, the program that was involved with Community Services, was $55,000. The honourable member will indeed remember that last year, the funds for women's transition houses were substantially increased. Most of them went from $55,000 and $60,000 to $100,000. We did that because there was an array of programs they were hoping to deliver. We increased that money last year and that is the monies and those are the things that they are going to use to deliver the programs.

[Page 6080]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: Let me get this straight. Last year the Liberal Government increased the money to those programs because they needed it and they had been asking for it for several years and then you cut the money this year and instead of actually putting more money in to help with these new programs, you expect them to take it out of a pot that they have been demanding for years. That is an insult to women, that is an insult to the transition houses, that is an insult to women's centres across this province. My question to this minister is, when are you going to start taking family violence seriously and start funding in a way to ensure Nova Scotians have programs to help prevent family violence?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I don't seem to be getting through to that member. What I had suggested to them was that last year the monies going to transition houses went up, but transition houses have requested additional money to supply additional programs. If that member is suggesting we shouldn't have given money to transition houses because they didn't need it, then I disagree with him. We have given them money . . .

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

EXCO - CODE OF CONDUCT: LEGISLATION - INTRODUCE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question is for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, the Premier promised very early during his government's tenure to bring forward a code of conduct for the Executive Council and last session we saw this code introduced, which was good. Also there was an undertaking for some legislation yet no legislation has followed as promised by the Premier. My question to the Premier is, now that we are in the late stages of this session of the Legislature, are we to assume that the code of conduct is not going to be introduced through the legislative process?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite I know is aware that we have introduced in this place a code of conduct which now applies to Members of the Executive Council and I believe it was an important step, one that perhaps had not occurred soon enough. I am unsure as to where the member is going with his question relative to legislation.

MR. MACKINNON: It is quite simple. A code of conduct is not legally enforceable in any court of law. Mr. Premier, through you Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that was raised earlier on in this session is the fact that the Premier himself has been investigated by Mr. Justice Merlin Nunn and I guess my question would be, is the fact that the Premier's being investigated through this process, is that one of the reasons for delaying this legislation?

[Page 6081]

THE PREMIER: All I can say is that I provided the information to the commissioner that was requested and I am waiting for him to report to the House. There certainly was not an intention by government to bring forward any legislation. What we brought forward is a code of conduct for the use of the commissioner.

MR. MACKINNON: Quite clearly, that is simply not good enough and I believe that the Premier in his heart knows it is not good enough so I would ask the Premier, would he commit to passing a code of conduct into law before this House rises for the summer?

THE PREMIER: The short answer is no. The long answer is what I find particularly amusing is that while the member opposite, who was a member in this place since I have been - with a short hiatus - since 1993, was a member of a government that could not even bring in any kind of a code of conduct despite committing to the people of Nova Scotia it would do so. We said we would do it, we did it, and we are proud we did it.

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

HEALTH - QE II: BEDS (POST-OPERATIVE) - SHORTAGE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I have here a copy of a letter that was written to the Minister of Health that I would like to table. I feel it is important to bring up this issue at this time because the Minister of Health is in a state of denial about the health care system in the Province of Nova Scotia. This person was slated for major surgery at the QE II, and after waiting for seven hours the surgery was cancelled because there was no post-operative bed available. On the new date he was rescheduled for, two other cancellations are also booked. In the meantime he sits at home in a state of considerable discomfort. My question to the Minister of Health is this, is this what you call quality health care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows I don't talk about particular cases on the floor of this House. The fact is he knows as well as I do that people who require essential surgery in this province receive it, and that is a fact.

MR. DEXTER: Well, they don't receive it, Mr. Speaker, and as that letter points out, that is also a fact. Staff at the QE II said these kinds of cancellations are a recent occurrence. The CEO of the QE II told him that the blame for the cancellation could be placed squarely on the shoulders of the present government who has made deep cuts. This letter points out that all of the costs for preparing him for surgery, including the surgeon waiting around for over three hours, will have to be paid out again. My question is, is this what the Minister of Health calls cost-effective health care?

[Page 6082]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it always amazes me to have an honourable member stand up and talk about cuts in health care when, indeed, he knows and everybody knows that the reductions that are taking place have not really, for the most part, occurred. To say this is a direct result of our budget is probably fairly ridiculous.

MR. DEXTER: The minister claims to be evidence-driven. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how much more evidence will you need before you will realize the damage your cuts are doing?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is referring to surgery. I assume he got a letter from somebody which he may have tabled. I did not see it. Unfortunately, in this province for some years there have been delays in elective surgery, a surgery that is not deemed to be right away essential. That is probably what happened there and we will probably have some of those delays in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Clare.

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: BUDGET - CUTS VERIFY

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Today's news report indicates that the Halifax Regional School Board will have to eliminate 210 positions next year. These positions include teachers, support staff and administration. The report further states the board must slash $11.5 million from its 2000-01 budget. My question to the minister is, will the minister please reveal to the House how the figure of $11.5 million, as the amount that must be trimmed from the Halifax Regional School Board's budget, was arrived at?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there has been a lot of talk about school boards and budgets in this House. The member opposite knows what the government provided to school boards. How the Halifax Regional School Board arrived at their $11 million is best asked to the Halifax Regional School Board.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I don't believe it. Included in the cuts is the board's entire community collaborations department which is responsible for continuing education and community development programs. So much for lifelong learning which the minister is always talking about. My question to the minister is, will the minister please explain how residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality will be able to take continuing education programs following these drastic cuts?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all of the school boards, including the Halifax Regional School Board, still have to make difficult decisions. This is a fact. That is a good program. There are other programs available for adult education. HRM gives its own programs. People who need programs like that will be able to receive them.

[Page 6083]

MR. GAUDET: We are going from HRM to the Halifax Regional School Board. Mr. Speaker, my final question is, last Wednesday, in answer to one of my questions, the minister said that the Halifax Regional School Board's budget was still under consideration. Well, since the budget is still under consideration, is the minister considering taking money from the Finance Minister's slush fund to ease the pain still being experienced by school boards across the province?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, when we reached some consensus with the school boards several weeks ago, they said that the help we had given them would make their budgets and their cuts manageable and that is what they are trying to do now, manage their budgets.

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

HEALTH - REHAB CTR.: PROSTHESES DELIVERY - TIMELY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I recently received a letter from a mother with a distressing story. Her 13 year old son, Phil, is an amputee. As a growing boy, he frequently needs to have his artificial leg recast and refitted. The problem is that the service at the rehab centre has slowed to the point where he has outgrown a leg by the time it is ready for him. My question for the minister is, what is the Department of Health doing to ensure that prostheses, particularly for growing children, are delivered in a timely way?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the prostheses, most of those are now done here in Halifax and unfortunately, like a good many other services, there is a period of time and you don't always get the immediate feedback that you would like. But I do believe that the service is satisfactory to meet the needs of Nova Scotians.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, Phil's mother despaired so much of getting timely service that she flew to Montreal at her own expense, with the assistance of the Shriners and the War Amps, just to get an artificial leg that would fit. It is a real shame when Nova Scotians have to leave the province just to get adequate health care. My question to the minister is, why should Phil's mother have to go to Montreal just to get the basic requirements of an amputee, which is a prosthesis that fits?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, from what he has told me, the decision for the mother to go to Montreal was a matter of choice, not a matter of necessity.

MR. DEXTER: My final question to the minister is, what assurance will the minister give Phil and his mother that they won't ever have to go through this hardship again?

[Page 6084]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that if, indeed, what the honourable member is reporting is factual - and I don't know that because I have not seen the information - it does illustrate its great support for our efforts to reorganize the health care system to better meet the needs of Nova Scotians. Clearly, the structure that is in place now needs some rejigging.

We are also in a position where, unfortunately, our costs are running amuck. If we had the $900 million that we are paying on debt services costs this year, if the honourable member would think about that and if the honourable members would support this government to get the finances of this province in shape so we can do all of the things that they would like to do, then we would be a lot better off. If these Libercrats would get together and support the efforts (Interruption)

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruption)

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - BUDGET (2000-01): CUTS - HOSPITALS IMPACT

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thought my turn would never come with the Minister of Health just going on and on. There is a gag order throughout the Department of Health and throughout hospital administrations in this province. It is real. They are having trouble getting information relative to their hospitals. We hear in Guysborough County the concern about the Guysborough Memorial Hospital, the possible overnight closure of the emergency department in the Hants Community Hospital, and the downgrading of the Digby and the Strait-Richmond Hospitals and possible closure of others. My question to the Minister of Health, what assurance can the minister give people in these areas that hospital services will not be affected by the massive budget cuts?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in terms of massive budget cuts, some people tell me that they are not as steep as they should have been, but I would just like to remind the honourable member that the estimate for this coming year is greater than the estimate was for 1998-99. So let's put it in context.

As the honourable member knows, there are business plans that have been submitted by the regional health boards and the NDOs. These plans are being reviewed, and decisions about clinical services and other matters relating to those business plans will be dealt with as soon as we can.

[Page 6085]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is the point of my supplementary question. It is now obvious that the government is deliberately holding back on this information, plus the gag order to keep everyone quiet about not expressing their concerns publicly. They fear that there will be another storm of protest here at the House. My question to the minister, when will the minister commit to giving health administrators - it would normally be the boards and that is why I am searching for words here because there were health boards out there, they have been disbanded - so what is left of the health boards and the administration, when will that information be available to begin making plans to deal with the cuts?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, just to correct the honourable member for about the eighth time, he knows those health boards still do exist. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: He is rude.

MR. MUIR: He is. Not nice. (Interruptions) Secondly, we received the business plans from the regional health boards just Monday and Tuesday of this week, and we have not yet had a chance to go through them as carefully as we would like. We will make, obviously, every effort to review these plans and get back to the people who are affected as quickly as we can.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to table the concerns of the Guysborough Municipal Council and what they are saying about the concerns in their area. I would like to table that. Communities like Guysborough and Shelburne and all those communities are concerned. They are concerned about job losses, they are concerned about the recruitment intention of doctors and nurses, and they are concerned about the distance that people have to travel when their institution closes. My question to the minister, what plan does the government have to keep rural areas, to help these areas deal with the impact of downgraded health care facilities that we can see coming down the pike as soon as this House is closed?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to putting in place a health care service that serves all Nova Scotians well. I repeat again the business plans of the regional health boards have just been received by my department. We are examining those. We also, as he knows, have a clinical footprint out there floating around. When we get a chance to examine that, there will be decisions made as quickly as we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

JUSTICE - VICTIMS ASSISTANCE FUND: CUTS - RATIONALE

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. I have another example of a poor budget decision. It has to do with the Victims Assistance Fund which supports crucial projects for the welfare of citizens in this province last year to the tune of $732,000. That is for the delivery of victim services. But, this government has

[Page 6086]

inexplicably cut many of the programs supported by this fund, programs in Truro, Sydney, Halifax, Bridgewater, Barrington, New Glasgow, Cumberland County, Annapolis Valley, all eliminated. I would like to ask the minister, how can this government justify cutting these essential programs when the monies from this fund are supposed to be designated to expressly support these kinds of services?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I wish to assure the honourable member that all the funds presently accruing to the fund in question, which is the fund that, as the honourable knows, comes from the victim fine surcharge, all of those funds are being used to promote programs to assist victims.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the Victims' Rights and Services Act calls for an annual report to this House showing the details of how the Victims' Assistance Fund is to be spent. The balance sheet that was presented last year gives no details as to what programs the funds supported. I wonder, when will the Minister of Justice be able to table in this House a detailed breakdown of which programs the Victims' Assistance Fund supported in 1999-2000?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that is a reasonable request. I will check with departmental staff and endeavour to provide the information requested at the earliest possible opportunity.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, here is how the fund works. There is a 15 per cent surtax on all fines paid in Provincial Court, and this money is earmarked for this particular purpose, but the government has given no credible reason for shutting down these programs. Will the minister detail for this House, and give assurances, that all the money from the Victims' Assistance Fund will be supporting in this coming fiscal year only those kinds of services, or is that money, or any part of it, going to go into general revenues?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, all of the funds from that program go to support Victims' Services in one form or another. The honourable member will receive, as will other members, information about where those funds are being expended, when they are available.

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

EXCO - CODE OF CONDUCT: LEGISLATION - INTRODUCE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. I believe that the Premier misled all members of this House on a previous question that I asked earlier today. I would like to remind the Premier of his press release dated November 18, 1999, where he states, "Legislation enacting the new code will be introduced in the spring." I will table that for all members of the House, and I will send an extra copy over for the Premier. My question to the Premier, what part of that statement does the Premier not understand?

[Page 6087]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, again, is confusing the issue. We indicated that we would bring forward a code of conduct; that was to complete a commitment that was made in the blue book. That is in the hands of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and is operative at this time, and I indicated that was the case. At this particular sitting of the Legislature, we do not have a specific piece of legislation prepared that is complementary to the code of conduct.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's own statements are quite clear. His statement is quite clear, legislation will be introduced in the spring. It is an issue of credibility for this Premier and this government. My question is, when will this legislation be introduced, and why is the Premier delaying?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite very kindly provided me with some information and I would refer him to the day of the issuance of this release, I indicated that the code is government policy and is in effect today. The issue of legislation that was referred to is not going to be coming forward in this spring sitting because the legislation is not yet complete.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the issue of credibility is on the line. The Premier knows that. He made the commitment to all Nova Scotians, this legislation will be introduced, and left the impression that it would be approved this spring session. My question, given the persistent allegations surrounding the government on a number of issues, why would the Premier wish to avoid his commitment to the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government will not back away from any of its commitments to the people of Nova Scotia. We have indicated that we would bring in a code of conduct, that was part of our election platform. The code of conduct is in place and is in effect now. The companion piece of legislation is not yet ready, but when it is it will be brought forward.

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

ANIMAL CRUELTY PREV. - PETS: EUTHANIZATION - DISPOSAL

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister responsible for the Animal Cruelty Prevention Act. Mr. Minister, yesterday you said in this House that a shot to the head is a cost-effective way of disposing of unwanted dogs. I wonder sometimes if there is anything that this government won't do on the question of reducing a few dollars and cents. As late as last year and maybe even now, many hundreds of dog carcasses were disposed of in Colchester County simply by bale filling them. These carcasses are classified as bio-medical waste and this method of disposal is in violation of regulations. It could have easily lead to the spreading of disease. My question to the minister responsible, what are you doing to ensure that animals are disposed of in a way that is not only humane but also environmentally appropriate?

[Page 6088]

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I would say that the honourable member is misconstruing his facts. I did not make that statement in the House yesterday regarding the putting down of a pet. That was in relationship to a question asked outside of this House. I will say to the member opposite, on his second question in regard to the proper disposal of stray pets after they have been euthanized, it is the responsibility of the Department of the Environment. I would ask the member to direct his question to them.

MR. ESTABROOKS: That was a hand-off, while you fumbled it in the back field, your left half-back is gone. The information that we have comes from someone in the know, and I would like to table this, namely a former compost operations supervisor with the municipality in Colchester. She has thoroughly documented the disgraceful, disgusting is perhaps a better way of explaining how the county disposes of unwanted dogs. She says the employee involved actually bragged to a compost worker about how he disposed of some dogs. He said, I slam their heads on the door of my truck, I put my gun in their mouth, and I blow their heads off. I left out the adjective.

My question to the minister responsible, yesterday when this issue was raised, you made a joke at the expense of one of my colleagues, Mr. Minister, do you think it is still funny now?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again, he misrepresents everything that has been said. What I will say to the member opposite is the SPCA is responsible for the monitoring and destroying of unwanted animals. Obviously, Truro, Colchester County, is monitoring the situation. The SPCA has never charged. This is purely a matter designated to the municipality. Certainly we do not condone any actions that the member opposite alleged. Colchester County has suspended their actions as of today and the SPCA will continue to monitor. My job, as the authority, as minister, is not to instruct the SPCA. It is their job to monitor the situation and if the member opposite has a problem with the SPCA, he should take it up with them.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, obviously it was the question and the exchange yesterday with my good friend, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, that had this municipality finally act. It wasn't the actions of that minister, who hasn't been involved. Shooting and the bale filling of these animals is unhealthy and it is certainly cruel. My final question is, now that this information is out in the open - and I have tabled it here today for your information - about this disgraceful and illegal method of disposal, what steps are you going to take to ensure it never happens again?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question even though he has misconstrued different people's roles. My role as minister responsible is to encourage the SPCA to suggest courses of action. I don't have the authority, under the legislation, to pose how municipalities deal with their animal control issues. That is very clear in the

[Page 6089]

legislation. The issue dealing with the disposal of a stray animal carcass is an issue dealing with a municipality and the Department of the Environment and I would suggest the member address the minister. I cannot answer that member but I will certainly take an undertaking to have the Department of the Environment address the concern for the honourable member.

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

HEALTH: C.B. REG. HEALTH CARE COMPLEX -

EMERGENCY SERV. (SUMMER)

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Cape Breton Regional Health Care Complex has several sites including the Glace Bay General, the New Waterford Consolidated, and the Northside General. Every summer there is always the possibility of a summer restriction of services that could see patients from those catchment areas having to travel to the hospital in Sydney for emergency services. While that is not uncommon, the fear this time around is that budget cuts will result in a permanent restriction of hours. My question is, when seconds count, can the minister ensure that people's lives will not be in jeopardy because of budget cutbacks?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we have probably the finest ground ambulance system in the province and people are (Interruptions) Let me rephrase that, please, in the country. Obviously there are times when seconds do count in health but I think I can pretty well stand here and assure Nova Scotians that the danger that is implied by the member for Cape Breton East does not exist.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I can assure Nova Scotians that that minister had absolutely nothing to do with having the finest ambulance service in this country. The people of Glace Bay and elsewhere could be at a serious disadvantage when it comes to emergency care if this came to be true. My question is, will the minister do the right thing, then, and restore full funding to acute care in industrial Cape Breton?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton East is, as usual, uninformed. The difficulty with emergency room services up there is not related to funding at a particular time, it is related to a shortage of physicians and I am pleased to say that they have a person to take a locum in the Glace Bay General Hospital this summer which should alleviate that problem.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton East is very well informed on this matter, as a matter of fact. Residents of Glace Bay have gone through a restructuring in the system. The Cape Breton Regional Health Care Complex had a balanced budget before you stuck your nose into it with budget cuts, Mr. Minister, and now you have pulled the rug from underneath them. My question to the minister is, why won't he demonstrate compassion

[Page 6090]

and assure the residents of Glace Bay, New Waterford and the Northside that they will have access to adequate health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member for Cape Breton East that the residents of Glace Bay, New Waterford and the Northside will have access to adequate health care.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PRIVATIZATION:

ROADS - COSTS INCREASE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Transportation. The minister has told us on a few occasions that he is looking at privatizing road maintenance in this province, but if we look at other jurisdictions, we can tell already it is a bad idea. In Ontario, in fact, the Auditor General of that province told the Tory Government they have not saved any money by privatizing road maintenance. He said, "outsourcing may ultimately result in a significant increase in the cost of highway maintenance." I want to ask the minister, since the experience of other jurisdictions, particularly Ontario, show clearly that privatizing roads costs taxpayers more money, why are you taking your department in that direction?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, strangely, I appreciate the question. The business of privatization (Interruption) I don't get that many questions. It is lonely. I welcome it because I intend to indeed reply to what the honourable member just said.

The Province of Ontario and the Province of Alberta are both proponents of privatization of roadwork, in particular, putting out areas to both summer and winter maintenance. In Alberta, which has been pretty well done it right across the province, it is cost neutral. It has not saved money and it has not made money. In the Province of Ontario the experience is that unless an area demonstrates that the cost of the private sector carrying out the maintenance is 5 per cent lower than the cost of the government doing it, they will not go ahead.

We intend in this province, Mr. Speaker, to select pilot projects. We will accurately cost what those areas are costing us at the present time. We will then put it out to tender and if the tender can deliver to our mandate and at 5 per cent less cost than the government, then we will put it out to tender.

MR. ESTABROOKS: It is nice to hear the Minister of Transportation's voice for a change. The problem, however, is also one of safety. The government wants to try to show they are saving money so they demand cheaper contracts and that means cutting corners. In northern Ontario alone, Mr. Speaker, there has been a 450 per cent increase in highway

[Page 6091]

fatalities since the Tories in that province privatized winter maintenance. I ask the minister, since the experience of other jurisdictions shows that privatization obviously results in unsafe roads, why are you planning pilot projects that experiment with Nova Scotians' safety?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is repeating socialist dogma which says that every time the private industry does something, it is either unsafe, it is going to cost more, or they are going to lay off people. It is not so. The experience in both Ontario and in Alberta is that the majority of the people who were previously employed by the government have been taken over by the private sector and that will happen in this province as well. As I say, we will maintain quality at present levels or better through the private sector.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the minister is ignoring the facts, the safety facts, the cost factor. This is Nova Scotia. This is not Ontario. This is not Alberta. Sometimes an idea is just plain bad. We don't need these pilot projects. I want to ask the minister, why don't you drop the act? You are not just trying out privatization, Mr. Minister, admit it to the highway workers, you are going to force it down their throats.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will be piloting about three or four areas around the province for a pilot project. If those pilot projects do not deliver at 5 per cent less or more than the present cost to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia; if the private sector does not deliver a quality product as good or better as what is presently being delivered by the government employees, we are not going ahead with privatization.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

PET. DIR.: HOUSTON TRIP (PREMIER) - BENEFITS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier, during his recent trip to Houston, Texas, paid much lip service to local benefits for Nova Scotians, specifically from the onshore aspect of offshore development where more benefits can be given to average Nova Scotians. My question to the travelling Premier is, what specific measures or actions has the Premier taken since his homecoming from Houston, to begin the process of maximizing the benefits to the average unemployed Nova Scotian who is looking for training and work in the industry?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I would do is refer the question to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate to indicate the more powerful approach being taken to that question that had been taken by the previous government.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member's question, we have established a person in the Petroleum Directorate who is responsible for monitoring Nova Scotia benefits. He is in direct contact with the industry. We have a close

[Page 6092]

working relationship with Nova Scotia Community College to ensure that training programs are available, so when the opportunities present themselves we will be ready with a trained workforce.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: When the opportunities present themselves? The opportunities are here now, Mr. Speaker, and people in Nova Scotia who are unemployed can take cold comfort in that statement from the minister who wasn't even in Houston. The Premier refers questions to the minister responsible who wasn't even at the conference in Houston. My first supplementary is again to the Premier. The Premier has demonstrated a good deal of hypocrisy now that he is in government. Since the Premier took a lead role in Houston, according to him, he should at least take a lead in answering the questions and not sloughing them off to somebody else. Again to the Premier, what specifically has been done to ensure that a majority of Nova Scotians who are concerned about work in this industry, to obtain employment in the offshore, and how many Nova Scotians do we have now that are trained to do the job, and how many can expect training in the next few months in Nova Scotia?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in terms of tier one, Nova Scotian benefits, the level of employment exceeded the initial expectations. In terms of what will happen into the future, obviously, what PanCanadian has discovered off the coast has caused a great deal of renewed interest. I believe, and am confident there will be a great many opportunities and that Nova Scotians do have the skills that will ensure they will gain employment as we move forward. Nova Scotia is, for all intents and purposes, the centre of oil and gas exploration on the East Coast of Canada.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate just set a new standard for bafflegab in this House. I don't know if one Nova Scotian understood one thing that minister said in his statements here in the first supplementary. Again, I will go to the Premier on the second supplementary. The Premier has done absolutely nothing to ensure a Nova Scotia First policy. He is not making any statements on that. He is not doing anything to ensure that Nova Scotia businesses will provide the training for the workforce in the offshore on a regular basis and be given the opportunity to do so.

[4:15 p.m.]

My question to the Premier is, now that he has been in government for 10 months, what has he done to ensure that Nova Scotians have access to training and employment in the onshore aspect of the petroleum industry, including support for Nova Scotia businesses?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is getting confused in his own words. He originally said that I had made a statement in Houston that this government would be requiring higher benefits from the oil and gas industry, then he gets up and now he says

[Page 6093]

that I have not made any statement. What I have said, and why I said it, in Houston is down there talking about the development of our offshore resources, I issued the statement so that the major oil and gas interests that will be working here in Nova Scotia will understand that this government will require a higher standard of benefits to the people of Nova Scotia and the workers of Nova Scotia than had been the case with the previous government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - BUDGET (2000-01): SCHOOL BDS. - DEFICIT FIGS.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: A question for the Minister of Finance. Mr. Speaker, part of the government's so-called solution to its education funding crisis was an agreement to fund school board deficits and also some bridge financing. I would like to ask the Finance Minister, how much of the $268 million deficit that is shown in the balance sheet for 2000-01, that is to say this year, is money for school board deficits and bridge financing?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer the question; the answer is none.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that is quite correct, the answer is zero. You know on May 5th the government's news release about the education bailout said that these measures will have no effect on the province's bottom line or the projected deficit. Now how can that be? The Premier's explanation was that school board deficits would be added to previous years, but today the Auditor General tells us that the prior years' deficits of the school boards have already been booked.

I want to ask the Finance Minister, your government has authorized an extra $33.8 million for public education. Good on you. Why won't you tell Nova Scotians how this is going to add to your bottom line?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I can't speak in regard to what the Auditor General said today, but I will say what the facts are. The amounts of the deficits and the cumulative debts of the school boards will be shown in the previous year, 1999-2000. Some of those refer to prior years and will be shown as such and it will not reflect in this year's financial statements.

Mr. Speaker, we said to hospital boards that they had accumulated debts of $281 million, which the previous Liberal Government allowed to accumulate. School boards deserve the same treatment and, as such, we are allowing them to have those deficits taken care of and we have afforded them the same benefits we did to hospital boards.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if this is what the Minister of Finance thinks of as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, usually referred to as GAAP. The GAAP is a credibility gap right here; the emperor has no clothes, he just won't admit it. They have

[Page 6094]

agreed to spend money on public education this year. That extra spending has to appear on this year's financial statements, so I ask the minister, why is he only telling half the story? Why won't he admit how much of this bailout will appear on this year's financial statements as school board deficits and bridge financing?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I do know that the member opposite has a law degree but perhaps he doesn't have the accounting background. I want to say in regard to GAAP (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, he may feel that I have no clothes, but I think it is vice versa.

On this issue the fact of the matter is that under GAAP, under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, under consolidated financial statements, those debts of those school boards would show in the statements of the Province of Nova Scotia for the year ended March 31, 2000. That is a fact; that is how GAAP works. I would be more than prepared to give the honourable member the accounting explanation for it, if he wants further details, subsequent to the House rising today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

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

SCHOOLS NEW - COMPLETION DATE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Education. It is a follow-up to a question I asked a week or so ago and I got some information, but I am looking for more today. There has been considerable discussion lately surrounding the construction of new schools in this province and in my constituency there are three new schools that are scheduled to open this fall. They are the schools of Highland Dingwall Elementary, Ingonish Neils Harbour Elementary and renovations to the Boularderie School. (Interruption) I find it hard to hear.

My question for the minister is this, will the minister assure this House today and the residents of these communities that these schools will be opening on schedule with the original equipment as was specified for these new schools?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have explained to this House before, we were looking for ways to make savings in new schools. But I also explained that no furniture or technology would be ripped out, torn out of schools in Cape Breton or anywhere else. We have now come to the conclusion that most of the projects are too far advanced, too many promises have been made and therefore the schools that are partially or almost completed now, the furniture, equipment, technology will remain in those schools as promised to the boards and the principals.

[Page 6095]

MR. MACASKILL: I want to thank the minister for her answer and it is comforting to hear that the plans that were originally planned for these schools will take place. Still, there is much anticipation and anxiety within these communities about the level of equipment, furniture and computers and other materials that are necessary to teach the children properly. I ask the minister today, will she assure the parents and teachers and the students of these communities that the original technological equipment that has been scheduled to be placed in these schools will be placed in these schools?

MISS PURVES: The answer to that is yes.

MR. MACASKILL: Again I want to thank the minister and I am sure the people of these communities will be pleased to hear that. My final supplementary to the minister is, the minister is well aware that despite the agreement that was reached with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board concerning their funding, that the board is still struggling to meet its budget targets. My question, Mr. Speaker, will the minister request of the Minister of Finance to allocate additional funding from his new-found fund to help the board meet its budget targets?

MISS PURVES: I realize the boards are still struggling with their budgets, but the boards have said the savings we requested are manageable and therefore I won't be making further requests in that regard of the Minister of Finance.

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

HEALTH - QE II: CUTS (MGT.) - CARE IMPACT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. The Health Minister maintains that the cuts of the 47 management and administrative positions at the QE II will not impact on patient care. We are hearing otherwise from front-line health care workers. Nurses tell us that because their nurse managers will have double and sometimes triple the supervisory duties, they won't have someone to turn to when they need direction and that this will affect patient care. My question to the minister is, what do you say to nurses who say that they know these cuts will impact on patient care?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The QE II did some restructuring. They removed a number of administrative positions and have done some consolidation of the services that were done by these positions. I think, my understanding is, to be quite frank, that none of those folks are yet gone. So to say that there has been a deterioration in patient service may not be entirely accurate.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health ought to get out of his office some time, maybe go over and talk to some of the people who are on the floors. Nurses who work on the front line of the QE II say that morale at the hospital is now at an all-time low. They

[Page 6096]

are exhausted, stressed out and rundown. One nurse said that she entered the nursing profession because her job was to be everything for her. Now, with all the changes and cutbacks taking place, she simply goes in and does her job and "can't wait until her shift is over." My question for the Minister of Health is, what will you say to nurses who now say that the impact of these cuts will make their nursing conditions unbearable?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I guess we realize that change in anything does create some uncertainty among those who are affected by the change. I am pretty confident that the immediate effect of changes that will be effected will soon pass and things will be back to normal.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable that the Minister of Health says that he simply hopes that patient care will not be affected. The cuts coming from his department and what we are hearing from nurses say something quite different. The minister is either out of touch with health care in this province or he simply doesn't care. My question for the minister is, are you out of touch, or are the financial objectives more important than the working conditions and patient care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the major thing that the Department of Health is concerned about is, indeed, the quality of patient care or the health services that are being delivered to Nova Scotians. Unfortunately, the province has a serious financial problem. If we don't get that financial problem under control and stop adding to our debt - we have over $900 million this year that is going to be applied to debt servicing charges. I wonder if the honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour could divide that by $50,000 for me and tell me how many more nurses might be able to be hired, or how many more doctors, or how many more clinics could be built. The fact is that they just show an absolute disregard for responsibility of anything.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - STRAIT REG. SCH. BD.:

SCHOOLS NEW - EQUIPMENT AVAILABILITY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. There are seven new schools scheduled to be completed in the Strait Regional School Board in time for the opening of school in September 2000. Schools include Central Inverness, International Academy, East Antigonish Education Centre, North Inverness Education Centre, Richmond Academy, South Inverness Education Centre, and West Antigonish Education Centre.

Last week, we learned that the minister's staff was raiding new P3 schools of computer equipment to put into other schools as a cost-saving measure. My question is, will the minister assure the parents, teachers and students of the Strait area that the computer

[Page 6097]

equipment scheduled for these seven new schools will actually be there when the students arrive?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I hope that yes has more meaning to it than when she said there would be no cuts to special education. On my first supplementary, these schools are designed to provide students and staff with the latest technological equipment to allow students to be able to use this technology and become fully participating and positive contributing members of society in the 21st Century. My question is, will the minister assure the parents, teachers and students of these schools that the funding earmarked for the administrators and network support staff necessary to operate this new technology in the schools will be maintained?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, the staffing of schools for whatever reason are school board decisions, and I cannot give the assurance the member opposite wants over any particular area of the school board's turf. But I will guarantee that there will be sufficient people and equipment to operate the computers in the schools.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear that from the minister because I know that was a great concern of the school board that they would be left with equipment with no one to operate it. On my final supplementary, parents of students in the Acadian program have been very patient with this minister as they await new P to 12 Acadian schools in the communities of Petit-de-Grat and Pomquet. In fact, the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provinciale has given notice of intent to sue this minister for failure to construct these schools, a blatant violation of the constitution. My final supplementary, will the minister be allowing this lawsuit to go forward or will she do the right thing and begin construction of these new Acadian schools?

[4:30 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the construction of new Acadian schools and the other schools will begin as soon as this government has determined how to finance them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

TOURISM - VICs: CLOSURE - IMPACT

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. At least three times today, since 2:00 p.m., the Minister of Tourism and Culture has patted himself on the back for the growth of the tourism industry and yet the imminent closure of many of the province's 84 visitor information centres will result in lay-offs and either less or no service to tourists. The 56 per cent cut in Provincial Employment Program

[Page 6098]

funding has not only resulted in planned closures in central Nova Scotia, it has also meant that the Evangeline Trail Tourism Association has cut its hours of service by more than half.

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister, given your admission that those who visited tourist bureaus stay longer and spend more money, why is your government crippling a vital industry and turning your back on rural Nova Scotia?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you to the honourable member. Again, the provincial VICs will be fully staffed this summer, the ones at the key locations. With regard to the community VICs, for the honourable member's clarification, a block funding comes from Economic Development through the P&P program to my department. We then distribute that through the tourism associations around the province. From there they look after the community VICs.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, so then what the minister just said to me was that they did not fund them and now nobody is funding them. The minister shows a lack of concern and knowledge about the urgency of the matter. Last week he said in this House, "We are making an investment in Tourism. We are making an investment in the marketing side." I don't know what you call tourist bureaus if they are not the marketing side. So my question to the minister is, when will he listen to tourism operators who are warning of the dangers of this government's cuts to tourism in the province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, we are listening to Nova Scotians and we are listening to tourism operators. Look at the initiative today regarding signage, an issue that the previous government did not deal with and this government is going to deal with it. There is a fine example.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, so the tourists who cannot afford the gas to get to see the signs cannot get any advice at a tourist bureau to tell them where to go. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MS. O'CONNELL: So I am going to ask the minister, how do these cuts fit in with the government's commitment that it made to strengthening tourism in this province?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again, my department, like all other departments across government, had to take a look at our priorities and we have done so. We have asked the regional tourism associations to do the same. We are making key investments to tourism. The development fund is one example and we are going out to key stakeholders around the province as we speak to get their input on where those funds should be. This government is committed to making a difference and we will make a difference and the numbers will reflect that this summer.

[Page 6099]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

NAT. RES. - BUDGET (2000-01):

CUTS - CHRISTMAS TREE SPECIALISTS

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. As the minister knows, the Christmas tree industry contributes between $30 million and $40 million, annually, to the economy of this province. This industry is especially important in Lunenburg County, as it is known as the balsam fir Christmas tree capital of the world. In the fact of this reality, the Tory Government has reduced funding to the industry by $93,000 that has resulted in the loss of the two Christmas tree specialists in Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, has the minister assessed what impact these losses will have to the Christmas tree industry, especially in our competitive position, now and in the future?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: There is no question, the Christmas tree industry is extremely valuable to Nova Scotia, and certainly a huge part of the industry is centred in Lunenburg County. What we are attempting to do with this budget, as the member opposite knows, is address a $600 million deficit from the previous government. To prune down a deficit, you have to reduce dollars and look for alternative service delivery mechanisms. What we have proposed in discussions is that we are offering $50,000 to the Nova Scotia Christmas Tree Producers Association to provide the services of the two specialists who are currently employed with the department.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this government is doing everything it can to take away the economic opportunities of this province. An export industry of Christmas trees increases the revenue to the Province of Nova Scotia. This minister threw out a $50,000 offer to the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia. I quote out of their report, "We refuse to accept the $50,000 grant or to negotiate with the Department of Natural Resources on how that money should be used." They are demanding that this minister and this government live up to its commitment and support the Christmas Tree Council. My question to the minister is, why did the minister, at least, not consult with the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia in regard to the loss of two very important components to that industry, and that is their specialists who advise Christmas tree producers throughout all of Nova Scotia?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly we do consult with the industry, and every range of Natural Resources industry in Nova Scotia. Currently, we are in discussions with the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia, and the best way to ensure those services are delivered. We will be meeting with them later this week. We do meet and we do discuss, and we will be discussing this particular issue later this week.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this minister obviously did not realize the impact of the Christmas tree specialists is going to have an impact on some 2,000 Christmas tree growers throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. On Page 29 of the so-called Tory election blue

[Page 6100]

book, they promised to "Support and promote the Nova Scotia's Christmas tree industry." Another lie, Mr. Speaker, another lie (Interruptions)

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

MR. DOWNE: I will not retract. That is a lie, that is what . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member will retract that statement or I will ask him to leave this Chamber. Order, please. Order, please. I am naming the honourable member for Lunenburg West, and I ask Mr. Downe to remove himself from the Chamber. (Interruptions)

Order, please. I order the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove him. (Interruptions) Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. I would ask that the member be removed. (Interruptions) Good-bye. Order, please. Sergeant-at-Arms, remove him. (Interruptions) Order, please. Good-bye. (Interruptions)

[The Sergeant-at-Arms escorted Mr. Donald Downe from the Chamber.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East, you have about 15 seconds.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, a hard act to follow. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Save it for another day.

The time for Oral Question Period has expired.

The honourable member for Clare.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to you and through you and to all members of the House, I would like to introduce a guest in the west gallery, Madame Lyette Doré, the Director of Corporate Affairs for the National Film Board of Canada has joined us for Question Period today. She is in Halifax on business. I would ask her to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 6101]

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Yes, Mr. Speaker, as the Deputy House Leader for the NDP, I am calling the order of business today. Would you please call Resolution No. 2047.

Res. No. 2047, Lbr. - Health & Safety: Workplace - Promote - notice given May 15/2000 - (Mr. W. Estabrooks)

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Before debate begins, I would just like to raise a point of order. The member for Dartmouth North had, in my view, breached our rules in Beauchesne by indicating either directly or indirectly or implying that members of this House, myself included and other members, breached the Elections Act. Mr. Speaker, I find that having done some research on this, his comments were certainly out of order. I ask you to rule on that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, I didn't hear that, the honourable member for Dartmouth North did what?

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, Paragraph 487(2) in Beauchesne indicates that, "Words may not be used either hypothetically or conditionally, if they are plainly intended to convey a direct imputation." The member for Dartmouth North used words, in my opinion, conditionally to imply that myself and other members of this government have breached the Elections Act and therefore, I would ask you to consider that and maybe at a later date determine whether or not this ruling is . . .

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

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think a pretty quick and cursory examination of Hansard will quite clearly reveal the purpose of the member's question. You can then rule on that, if you would like. Maybe if the members had been paying attention, instead of shouting at the top of their lungs, they would have heard what it was that the member for Dartmouth North had to say. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will review Hansard. I thank the honourable members for their intervention. I will review Hansard and report back later.

The honourable New Democratic Party Deputy House Leader.

[Page 6102]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, to members opposite and to the members of the Liberal Party, if we could adjust our time by compensating for that time, I know that we can make the adjustments so that we share the time equally on this important topic.

This is an important topic this week because if you look closely at Resolution No. 2047, it reads, "Therefore be it resolved that this House endorse this week's message of promoting workplace safety and health, and urge the Minister of Labour to get with the spirit and put in force the roll-over protection regulations."

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the comments of the minister and of the Liberal Party. I know we all received, as members of this House, and I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Labour Department for publishing this very worthwhile occupational health and safety newspaper, which I actually received in my copy of The Daily News this week, so that shows good initiative.

I would like to draw the minister's attention to Page 7, if I could please - if it is necessary for me to table this, I shall, Mr. Speaker, but I know that all members have a copy of it - New OHNS regulations go into effect May 1st. That is the headline. Isn't that wonderful? It seems to me that if we turn over to Page 9 under, Test your knowledge of farm safety facts, the question goes - and again, I will table this for members who don't have a copy - did you know tractor roll-overs are a leading cause of fatal injury on Canadian farms. I go on and quote, tractor roll-overs were the cause of one in five work-related farm fatalities between 1990 and 1996.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we go from the positives of this week and the importance I know that we all share of members present, of the safety of our workers, safety in industry, safety in health care, safety in the school system, but what about safety where most serious injuries are happening these days, on our farms?

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify for members present that the enactment of the safety regulations have included such things as mechanical safety, construction safety, electrical safety, fall protection, scaffold protection. Let's talk about the regulations that have not been enacted, that have not been brought forward by this government, and I should point out, and I know we will hear from the previous Minister of Labour here in a few moments, and I am waiting to hear his explanation, but we have not heard, and we have not had the leadership on such issues as indoor air quality; those regulations have not been brought forward. Mining safety, violence, violence in the work place, now there is an issue of consequence. We also look at some women and men involved in health care and the disposal of some of the very dangerous materials they are dealing with.

[Page 6103]

That is a misleading headline on Page 7 of this worthwhile project, where it says OH&S regulations have been brought forth on the first of May. There is a proviso, though, that it seems to me that one of the most dangerous workplaces in this province, that of course deals with one piece of this legislation, the roll-over protection. There are lots of excuses, the number one excuse I am sure the minister is going to bring forward is - and I assume the minister is going to speak on this issue - we have to hear from the people in the workplace, we have to consult more.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you know as well as I do from the time that I spent in this House, previously under the minority government and now in this current government situation, we are very well aware of the long-standing commitment dating back to the early 90's, of the review of the occupational health and safety regulations in this province. There has been lots of time to consult, there have been too many delays. In fact the current minister's predecessor announced a six month delay back in 1999 and I will tell you the response from all involved was unnecessary. Employers have had their say, employees have had their say.

Now, let's look at the dangerous work that many of these men and women who are operating these tractors have had to put up with. Roll-over protection is a major concern. It is unfair at this time to bring out certain tragedies that recently have happened in this province, but there have been a number of accidents since this House began this sitting. This is a dangerous time of year on the farms in this province, on the farms across this country. The number of roll-over accidents or farm accidents that have been attributed to roll-over, increases with every planting season. That is something the minister must address, not make excuses for the fact we have to, after all, delay and consult because those delays are costing these workers, in this dangerous industry, their lives.

Roll-over and the cost of putting that roll-over on the tractors in this province. There are some older tractors in this province that are dangerous to operate. There are farmers in this province who perhaps could use a hand up, not a handout, but a hand up on this matter. It seems to me that the Minister of Agriculture as he cuts and slashes and burns and basically gets rid of his department, is a concern that the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour should share. It seems to me that farms in this province would obviously be much safer if roll-over bar protection was on these older tractors in this province. Now are we again going to put a cost factor on safety? I hope not.

It seems to me, considering the fact that this is Occupational Health and Safety Week, this is a major concern of workers in this province. Safety for workers in all segments of this province. Health care workers, people who are involved with construction, people who, after all have had in the past to put up with regulations that have been delayed for far too long. I see no excuse possible, although I am looking forward to hearing the minister's comments on this matter, for a delay, particularly when we look at the tragedies that have happened on farms in this province over the last couple of weeks and I urge the Minister of Labour to get with the spirit of the week, to put in force the roll-over protection regulations and to do so

[Page 6104]

immediately. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time and I understand the compensation there, that is fine with me, we can stay with the original schedule that we initially said.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if I might be told the time allocation.

MR. SPEAKER: The time scheduled is according to the sheet that has been provided, so we are going from 4:50 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect for bringing this resolution forward today because it is an opportunity for not only members of the House to debate this very important topic, but it is also an opportunity for the public if they are informed about the debate to be able to again reflect upon the need for regulations with respect to roll-over protection. The important aspect of any regulation is that there be compliance with that regulation.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect made reference to three unfortunate accidents that occurred this spring. Accidents that occurred while tractors were working in the forests of this province. There are in place regulations with respect to the operation of tractors in the forests and those regulations require that if the activity is of a commercial nature, that roll-over protection is required and should be installed.

With respect to those accidents, there is in fact in place in this province regulations covering them if it is an activity of a commercial nature. It would appear that two of those accidents are accidents which were not of a commercial nature, but nevertheless were forestry related accidents. If they were in a for-profit activity, then they, of course, would have been covered by the regulation. The important lesson for us in this circumstance is that despite the existence of a regulation, there was no compliance with those regulations in the circumstances that occurred this spring.

Clearly, the enactment of a regulation in and of itself will not ensure the compliance that we need in order to move forward and to increase the level of safety in our workplaces as it relates to the use of roll-over protection on tractors and other vehicles within this province.

It is important that we discuss this issue. It is important that we use all opportunities to remind Nova Scotians that indeed there is a need for compliance with the regulation. I would encourage all Nova Scotians who were involved in this kind of activity to not wait for November 1, 2000, in order to install these devices on their machinery. I would encourage them to do that now. Do it as soon as they possibly can, but there are issues related to the installation of these devices and those issues relate to the fact that many individuals who are in marginal operations, individuals who are hobby farm type of operations, are individuals

[Page 6105]

who need assistance in order to comply with these regulations that we have to be geared to be able to provide that sort of assistance.

I want to commend the honourable member for Lunenburg West who wrote to me in my capacity as Minister of Labour and he made a very positive suggestion with respect to what we might be able to do in regard to roll-over protection and ensuring that we have the compliance we need. He made a suggestion that we try to create an engineering standard that could be available to people, and they could use that standard to assist them in making the kind of adaptations that are required to the machinery so they can comply with these regulations.

Now, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) I want to emphasize again, that we should make no doubt about the fact that this regulation will come into effect November 1, 2000. There should be no doubt about that. You will see it, and again, I want to commend the honourable member for bringing the topic forward because it provides us with an opportunity to focus on this important issue. The more we focus on it, the more we talk about it, the more we are going to be able to get the level of compliance that we need.

There is another consideration, since we are talking about it, that we have to spend some time thinking about, and that is that the installation of the roll-over device in and of itself is not sufficient. The roll-over device without seat belts, Mr. Speaker, is useless and, indeed, creates a more dangerous situation possibly than if we had a vehicle without roll-over protection. So, not only is it a matter of convincing people that they must install the device, they must also put in place seat belts and develop the habit and the culture of buckling up every time they sit in their tractor or the vehicle that requires this device. That requires education. It requires a considerable amount of talk, and reminding, and most of all it requires on the part of the people who use these vehicles a change in how they go to work and conduct their work every day. They must, Mr. Speaker, develop the culture of buckling up when they get into their vehicles.

We believe that when this regulation goes into place on November 1st, which will be after the harvest season of this year, people who may have had financial difficulty in coming up with the money that is required to do this, will be able to arrange financing. We believe that those who want to do their own engineering with respect to this will be able to develop the capacity to do that engineering, and we believe - with the suggestion that was made by the honourable member for Lunenburg West, which we are exploring now with the Department of Agriculture - that we indeed may be able to facilitate those individuals in putting in place their roll-over protection.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the issue is one which is important enough to be debated, and I can say to you that we will and we are determined that this regulation will go into effect on November 1, 2000. There is no doubt about that. What we can do between now and that date is ensure that everyone in this province who needs to comply with that regulation will be in

[Page 6106]

a position to comply with that regulation on November 1, 2000. Not only will they be in a position to comply with the regulation, but they will have begun to develop the culture of buckling up when they get into their vehicles, whether it be a tractor or a four-wheel drive vehicle or anything else that is required.

Mr. Speaker, again I want to remind honourable members of the accidents we spoke about previously, already covered by regulation, and no compliance. The issue is compliance with the regulation and that is what is very important. Once again, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing the resolution forward. It was an opportunity for us to bring it to the attention of Nova Scotians. I would urge all honourable members to remind their constituents that we are bringing this regulation into effect on November 1, 2000.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on this particular resolution that was introduced by the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, Resolution No. 2047, essentially an occupational health and safety resolution, encouraging the government to proceed with the roll-over safety regulations as was outlined on a number of occasions and recommended for approval.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think what we have to do is review a little bit of history here, and I think the member for Timberlea-Prospect captured the essence of that. This is a process that goes back to 1993, when the working committees representing industry and labour were initially set up after extensive consultation, and I don't know how many hundreds of briefings and hearings and discussion papers. We essentially had a series of regulations prepared, and effectively the regulations on this particular issue were prepared and recommended and accepted for approval on October 1, 1999.

Mr. Speaker, what happened was the minister of the day, who is now Minister of Transportation and Public Works, delayed those regulations because he wanted some time to be able to review a number of concerns, one being the roll-over protection regulation. Lo and behold, that minister passed on to another department, and we have the present Minister of Labour who wants to review the situation once again. Personally I don't have a problem with being a bit cautious and not wanting to jump into something that is going to create a lot of hardship for individual farmers, especially the small, family-type operations that have to make a considerable investment and adjustment to that, notwithstanding the many large commercial operations. It is a big adjustment, and the minister is right when he says that you have to buy into the culture and adopting rules and regulations simply isn't enough.

[Page 6107]

Mr. Speaker, with regard to this particular issue, I think we have had some considerable lead time on it and the minister is giving us some quality assurance here today that they will be adopted in the latter part of this year, without any question. Why I am a little bit nervous about that is we do have the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council, which is the official legislated body representing industry and labour across this province, and there are some indications that the government is finding a way to bypass the mandate of this particular committee and handing it off to a politically appointed committee.

The Premier indicated in the House yesterday that this committee is comprised of five well-qualified business representatives from the Tory caucus, as well as somebody from the private sector. Well, I am not sure that I would agree entirely with the Premier on that statement, any more than I would have agreed with him indicating to the first question in Question Period that in fact he didn't promise to bring in conflict of interest or code of conduct legislation, and then when I asked him the question the second time, he backtracked, he did a complete flip-flop and apprised the House that it wasn't going to be ready for this session, but they were drafting it. So it does become an issue of credibility.

This politically appointed body is essentially going to be a stopgap for the government to be able to circumvent the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council. Any which way you look at it (Interruptions) The minister is indicating that is not going to happen, but we have clear evidence of that already by virtue of the fact that it is publicly acknowledged that the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Council recommended unanimously a safety regulation governing the issue of linemen in attendance on emergency and routine calls for Nova Scotia Power.

Nova Scotia Power wants to save some money, so they don't want to send two linemen out in an emergency situation. They want one lineman to go out and if that lineman gets in trouble, if they happen to get zapped with 20,000 volts, they are expected to call on their cell phone back to the office and say I have just been zapped, I have just been fried with 20,000 volts. So that is essentially I think an erroneous philosophy, given the fact that Nova Scotia Power's own representative on that council supported this particular initiative.

What the government decided to do was to put that on hold and refer it to a red tape commission. If you have Nova Scotia Power officials lobbying the minister and Cabinet officials behind closed doors, my golly, it is only reasonable to expect that the five Tory backbenchers are going to do exactly what the government wants them to do, and that is to capitulate to the wishes of Nova Scotia Power, hence putting the business interests, putting money, capital gain ahead of the safety of the workers and that will, in the long term, have a detrimental effect even to the government, even to the attempts by the government to save money because there is the cost of workers' compensation, there is the cost of litigation, there is a whole myriad of issues that will kick in, that will create problems not only for this government, but for future governments as well.

[Page 6108]

This Red Tape Reduction Task Force is a similar type initiative that was commenced by Donald Cameron when he was Premier. All the things that he was going to do to streamline government and red tape and so on. Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe, with all due respect to the honourable Mr. Cameron, who was the Premier at the time, and even in his previous life when he was Minister of Economic Development and a representative for the Pictou County area, we saw how government intervention into the regulatory process ended up in that particular county, and I don't want to go back too much in history, but I don't want it to repeat itself either.

The facts are the facts, Mr. Speaker. A lot of good people were killed. A lot of good public servants, their reputations were essentially destroyed, and we saw a government tumble because of it. We cannot afford to turn back the hands of time. On this particular initiative, I guess for myself and perhaps the Liberal caucus, the fact that my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, has made that proposal is a positive, and the fact that the government is reviewing that proposal is another positive, but really the concern is delay.

If the minister is giving that undertaking that it is an absolute, that that will be put in place by this fall and that there is considerable adjustment, then fine, I believe the Liberal caucus is prepared to give the government the benefit of the doubt because we are not here to over-regulate anyone to the point of being bankrupt and nobody being able to do anything, but I certainly don't want to adopt the position of the Minister of Economic Development when he was in Opposition, and he wanted to do away with safety regulations period. He introduced a Private Member's Bill to do away with safety regulations, and there are already exemptions and provisions that would allow the government to deal with certain extenuating circumstances. So it was a lot of either political capitulation for certain business interests or it is an indication that this government is going to put big business and politics ahead of safety.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place. I realize my time has expired and I thank the honourable member for bringing in this resolution and I thank the minister for his comments.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to thank the member for Timberlea-Prospect for moving this resolution forward. I would like to say a few words on it. You know, it is extremely interesting, the position the minister puts it in because these are regulations that all of a sudden have come forward overnight. He has talked about putting them in the terms of a culture, that the regulations are not effective if they are not bought into.

Well, on that very basic level I agree with him, but it is like a paper tiger. That is what his ministry must do, enforce those regulations. Now I was somewhat dismayed earlier in the spring when a televised report attributed to the Minister of Justice was telling groups of

[Page 6109]

farmers not to worry, that these regulations will not be enacted, don't worry about them. That causes me some fear. I wonder on what authority the Minister of Justice was talking from.

This province, probably more than any since the last 10 or 15 years, has to be aware of the effects of workplace safety. Now you know, we have to be vigilant, and I think what strikes at the minds of all Nova Scotians is Westray. Certainly, I come from a part of the province where heavy industry has been a way of life for over 150 years. Now along with heavy industry comes many large workplace catastrophes, if you will, Mr. Speaker, and that causes fear. So we move forward and as we are being told we are moving towards more of an information-style workforce, we have to start wondering, are our regulations keeping up with those.

Mr. Speaker, we have talked in this House about the effects of the budget on the health care providers and we wonder, are the by-products of the health industry becoming a danger to the workers. Many nurses who work long and tiresome hours are dealing with such things as needles, or sharps as they are referred to in the industry. If they are tired at the end of their shift and they are gathering these things up, there is a propensity to have an accident with these.

Then yes, we look at house cleaning, how well trained are they in the handling of biomedical wastes. If we are cutting back, we have fewer people doing this. We look back at our workers in nursing homes, Mr. Speaker, and we see the amount of workers being phased out, fewer workers and doing much more strenuous work, much more lifting and a larger range of duties throughout a day. So we are wondering, where is the protection for these workers.

Well, as a previous speaker stated, it causes fear because we don't know where these regulations will be left. Will they be left with an independent board or will they be handled by this red tape commission, a group that will certainly be directed by government? We must be diligent, Mr. Speaker, because these workplaces, as I have mentioned, are changing, they are evolving almost on a daily basis. We have not even begun the conversation or the debate around homework, as more and more people are taking the work from the traditional office setting, if you will, especially on the information side, and bringing it over to work at home. Where does the WCB fall on that? Where do regulations fall in that line of thinking, Mr. Speaker?

[5:15 p.m.]

So, that is why what we do with this roll-over protection regulation becomes extremely important, because, as it is, people look for direction. They look for a cue, if you will, to see which way a government is being thrust in. Are they delaying these regulations merely to allow, as the minister says, the culture to catch up with these regulations? I don't know. If the minister wants to take the position that it is cultural and we can't do anything about it,

[Page 6110]

then there is just no way around it, unless the minister wants to beef up regulation with enforcement. That was the part in the minister's insertion in this debate which was surely lacking, was where, upon the enactment of these regulations, is he going to get involved with enforcement. There was not one single word about enforcement. We have seen from this government their cutbacks in other areas of inspectors and so on. Is this another black ominous cloud that is hanging over us that will have fewer people inspecting work sites?

Another thought the minister had put forward was the fact that two of these recent accidents were not of an industrial setting, but a not-for-profit type situation. Well, as we have seen, Mr. Speaker, workplace safety carries over to the home, carries over to many facets of life. If you become a safety-conscious worker in the workplace it carries over, and you tend to do those things in your domestic life, if you will. So, if we enact these regulations, and if we enforce these regulations, then by definition, they will broaden and make us that much more conscious of those things in the home front.

Again, I have to go back. It disturbed me that the minister, at no point, talked about enforcement of these regulations, because it is important that in any kind of regulation or law, when it is enacted, there has to be an enforcement component. If there is no component there, Mr. Speaker, it becomes, as I said earlier, a paper tiger. I think the minister would like to see, as all Nova Scotians, I am sure, that these regulations not only become enacted, but become effective. Whether you are in a tractor on a farm - which I may add most agricultural workers by virtue of that industry are not covered by workers' compensation - but whether you are operating a tractor on a farm or roller apparatus on the highways, these things have to be enacted, and there has to be enforcement. If we don't enforce these, then it is of absolutely no value to the people it is supposed to protect.

Mr. Speaker, one other thing, as I see my time is growing short, I realize that until we made seat belts mandatory in this province, very few people used them. But, when we made them mandatory, certainly their use has gone up. I believe across this country we are one of the largest populations that participate in safety restraints in their vehicles. I think it is one of those things I think would easily carry over from one vehicle to another. I don't think we have to go too far and wonder if we are going to have a problem enforcing that. I think we will. I would like to congratulate the minister for his involvement in the speech today, and that certainly I would be looking forward to his enactment of these regulations. Thank you very much.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1369.

Res. No. 1369, Commun. Serv. - Soc. Assist.: Cuts - Unpromised - notice given Apr. 17/2000 - (Mr. K. Deveaux)

[Page 6111]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I just want for the record to identify the resolution which was introduced on Monday, April 17th, Law Day. It says:

"Whereas more hunger, longer lines at food banks and soup kitchens, and homelessness await Nova Scotia's poor as a result of Tory cuts to welfare; and

Whereas the province's neediest will lose out because of $5.6 million in social cuts; and

Whereas hurtful changes include a $100 per month cut in social assistance, an increase in Pharmacare premiums for the elderly, and a clawback of the national child benefit increases;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Party be reminded that these cuts and increases were not part of the Tory blue bible and not what Nova Scotians voted for."

I guess I want to take some time to deal with some of these issues separately, but the overriding concern here, Mr. Speaker, is that this government believes, both in their actions with regard to this budget and in the rhetoric that they use in this House or outside these doors, that there are those in Nova Scotia who deserve assistance and those in Nova Scotia who do not. There is the deserving poor and there is the undeserving poor. Time and time again, this government has continually attempted to create this divide and conquer mentality with regard to Community Services.

A few examples; we have a direct assistance program that this government provides, I think it is $125 a year that you can get in assistance if you are not receiving social assistance or family benefits, Mr. Speaker. That has now been limited to people with families. There are a lot of seniors out there and there are a lot of other people who would like to be able to take advantage of this, but they are not able to. Again, the government seems to be identifying those who they think are deserving and those who are not.

You see with social assistance and family benefits, and this is only the first, as I like to say, this is the first shoe to drop. We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop, Mr. Speaker. You have with social assistance a reduction in rates for people on family benefits, particularly those families with children, which is a real irony. This minister time and time again has said, we want to put more money into eliminating child poverty, we want to put more money into families on assistance to help them be able to get off assistance, we want to provide programs to help them get off assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to you that is rhetoric. It is nothing more than a drop in the bucket and that when you really look at the hard numbers, this government isn't serious about that at all. It starts with the family benefit rates going down. If you require family benefits as of April 1st of this year, then you will not be getting the same rate. Your rate will be reduced

[Page 6112]

up to $112 a month. That is a lot less money for those people who need it and considering the rates are not that extravagant - we already have the lowest rates in Canada when you consider the clawback of the National Child Tax Benefit - to remove another $112 a month, up to another $112 a month, really is devastating to those families.

If this government is serious about attempting to give those people a chance to get ahead, to get the training, to get the assistance, to have the day care, to have the Pharmacare in order for them to move from welfare to work, it will not be done by cutting their rates. It will not be done by putting them in a position where they are making less money, where they have to take from their food budget in order to pay their rent, where they have to take from their rent budget in order to pay for their clothes and clothe their children. They have to take from their clothing allowance, well, quite frankly, maybe even the clothing allowance has been eliminated. I know that it has been reduced drastically and the miscellaneous things have been reduced as well.

So this government seems to be consistently hammering at those on assistance; again, identifying a difference between the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. That is the real problem with this government and how it is treating people on assistance.

Mr. Speaker, if we are really serious about this, if we are really serious about attempting to move people from welfare to work, to give them a long-term opportunity to succeed, it takes more than just words. It takes more than just a drop in the bucket. This government talks about 100 day care spaces and says that that will help move people from welfare to work, when there are 8,000 single mothers on assistance in this province. Now, 8,000, you have to assume not all of them have one child. So that means more than 8,000 children would need day care in order to ensure that those mothers have an opportunity to move from welfare to work; 100 extra spaces is a drop in the bucket and will not do the job.

That is the real sin about this particular budget and about this government's attitude. It is that it is rhetoric, it seems to be words, and when you look at the numbers, when you look at what they are really doing, it is something very different and it is an assault on those on assistance and it is an assault on those people who need assistance.

Let me talk a bit about what could be done, and this government seems to be moving in the opposite direction. First I think it is important to remember that, and my numbers might not be exact, but the point is, 10 years ago this province had 15 per cent or 16 per cent of children living below the poverty line. It is now 23 per cent; 10 years ago we were the fourth lowest poverty rate in Canada, we are now the highest. So, in 10 years, successive Tory Liberal Governments have continued to push up the rate of poverty for children in this province, and when children are in poverty that means their parents are in poverty as well. So the rates keep going up and up and there does not seem to be an end to it. If this government was serious, it would begin to talk about a vision for, first, in the short term, lowering the rate of poverty. It is going up, not down; let's start moving it down.

[Page 6113]

In the long term, let's talk about some serious goals. As I have said in this House in the past, there was a common understanding 20 or 25 years ago, amongst governments that we needed to address poverty amongst seniors and we have, and that has been greatly reduced. What we need to do now is do the same thing for children, because the difference between seniors and children in poverty is that children still have a long life to live and they have a life that will only result in more poverty with less chances for them to succeed unless we begin to nip that in the bud and do it at an early stage.

Let's talk about early childhood intervention programs, let's talk about training for new parents, let's talk about investing in more day care spaces. Yes, it will cost something, but this government has to learn that slash and burn mentality is not working. It will only result in more people with less education, more dependent on the health care system, more dependent on the assistance of government, more caught up in the legal system and, quite frankly, less able to be able to get good paying, long-term jobs. This slash and burn mentality will only result in creating cheap labour for call centres and McDonald's. That won't revive an economy. That won't create a tax base that will pay down a debt, that will eliminate deficits.

This government has to look at it differently, must see that an investment in community services, in the short term, will result in long-term revenue growth for the province and long-term better benefits for those in this province. For every child of those 23 per cent that we have in poverty, there is a real problem. A real face, a real situation and it won't be fixed by trying to burden them with less assistance or fewer programs. The minister will probably get up and say, we are not cutting programs, we are increasing them. Again, it is important to recognize that a drop in the bucket just won't do. One hundred extra day care spaces is not going to address the problems.

The rates are being cut. The minister will probably get up and tell us there is an extra $50 in August for children going back to school. He probably won't tell this House there is also, through the year, $25 or $20 a month in clothing allowance being cut. Which adds up to a lot more, substantially, than the $50 they are going to get in August.

This government seems to be more worried about the PR and about saying we are doing something by providing nominal amounts of money towards it when in fact they are more concerned about trying to burden and to download the costs of debt elimination on those who can least afford it.

The people who are poor in this province are poor because our government has failed them, because we haven't provided the proper economic development strategies, we haven't provided the proper health care and education systems to ensure they have the ability to succeed. It is the government's job to ensure they can succeed and I would hope this government would learn this in the short term and not use another four years of wasting our resources and destroying people on assistance so that we have another generation that is

[Page 6114]

going to be dependent on assistance and won't be able to prosper as much as they can. That must change. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join the debate on the resolution introduced by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. While the member does bring forward an important resolution and the resolution refers to the fact that some social assistance numbers are coming down, what the member didn't tell you and what he didn't refer to in the resolution was that over the last number of years, over the period he is referring to, the social assistance recipients, our clients, have gone from 49,000 down to 38,000. Of course, when you have the number of people going down on the roll, the grants, the monies available and the monies necessary go down also. That is the reason the cuts have been going down.

[5:30 p.m.]

I think part of the reason for that, as I say, the right reason, is that people will recognize the effort of the Department of Community Services working with their employment services, to get people back to work. The employment services sector has developed a fairly good track record over the last number of years, in attempting to get these people back to work and attempting to address how people get reorganized, how they get retrained and how they get back into the workforce. Of course not all people find full-time employment but the goal is that we try to help those people on assistance get back to work.

The other thing that was not mentioned here was that in this last budget $1.5 million has been added to the employment support sector. The member is quite right, you can't just say that we want people to go back to work; you have to provide resources. That is why the extra $1.5 million was added to the employment support program, so people could help them get back to work.

Clearly the other part is that people on assistance need to have a full range of employment services - counselling, job placement and other employment and things such as special needs, to address their needs while they try to get back to work. We also recognize that to move people towards self-sufficiency and to provide the support they are looking for and to keep a job is a major task. We don't take that lightly, it is a major task. We will have to continue having people apply for assistance to have their employment readiness assessment done so that they are ready and able to identify those areas that they need work, those areas where they need support, and to develop the appropriate back to work plan.

[Page 6115]

Now it would be unrealistic for us to expect that all people would be able to fully participate in the workforce. For this reason some people will need extended assistance and support. Nova Scotians understand that there are disabled among us and they will need our help and they will get our help.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution we are debating here tonight makes reference to a $100 a month cut in social assistance. It does not make reference to the fact that people who are on assistance until May 1st will stay there, maintaining their current rate and, for quite a number of people, the assistance has not been cut but it has gone up. The task of determining a new rate was a major one. The Department of Community Services has been moving towards a standardized rate since 1995. There has been a lot of discussion on it, there has been a legislative committee that has gone around the province and been involved in that, moving towards that. We believe that such a system is more efficient and more effective.

We will be introducing legislation this fall which will have the single-tier system for those people who are coming on assistance and we believe that we have to, during that period of time, find the right balance between Nova Scotians who don't have a job and a growing economy so they will have a chance.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution we are debating today makes reference to an increase in Pharmacare fees but it does not make reference to how many people this program is helping in Pharmacare. As with all government programs, we have to ensure equity and we have to ensure that the program stays. People on social assistance, the increase has gone from $3.00 to $5.00. Our costs last year in Pharmacare for people on assistance were $29.4 million. We have indicated time and time again that those costs for Pharmacare do not relate to disabled people.

Mr. Speaker, just as a point of information, 80 per cent of all the Pharmacare costs are for people who are disabled - 80 per cent of that, and those are not affected. They do not pay for Pharmacare now and they will not pay in this budget. That is our commitment to those people who are disabled. We have indicated to them and we have had that discussion.

This is a transition year, Mr. Speaker, as we head towards the new, single-tier assistance program. We will be focusing on how we help and make people independent. During the coming year we will be exploring ways where we can provide support to people who move off assistance, as they go back into employment. The National Child Tax Benefit is one of those programs that provides benefits to help all low income families. It is designed to provide benefits for people leaving assistance and going back to employment. The Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit's main contribution is to the National Child Tax Benefit. It is an income supplement given to all low income families, those currently on assistance and to people who are going on assistance, and to people as they move back to full employment. Starting this July, 35,000 families with 59,000 children will receive the increase in the Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit.

[Page 6116]

Mr. Speaker, the resolution we are debating today makes reference to drastic consequences to people in need. It does not make reference to the fact that one of the most effective and immediate ways to help reduce poverty is to get people back to work, and programs such as the Nova Scotia Child Tax Benefit, a school supply supplement, additional subsidized child care seats, and refocusing direct assistance to low income families will help address those issues. The honourable member mentioned that 100 child care spaces is not enough. That brings the number of spaces to 2,500 and, yes, there has to be more. There are always going to be people who, as they need to go back to work, need to have that program and we need to continue to go towards that.

What we did not mention again today is that we are investing $4.3 million in new social workers, and it makes no reference to the $13.7 million we are investing in subsidized child care. This, Mr. Speaker, along with the back to school, along with the $12 million we are spending on special needs, is support to people who are on assistance and who are trying to get back to work. More importantly, there is $55.7 million we provide to community-based agencies, and $23.5 million is invested in the Nova Scotia child fund. All of these are to help people on assistance and people as they try to come back to work. We are also involved in spending $1.8 million in early intervention programs.

We are continuing our restructuring of the Income Assistance Program in this province. Our goal is to build a modern, efficient and affordable assistance system that encourages people to get back to work. We will continue to help and support those people on assistance as they go from assistance and go back into the workforce, and we will continue to help those people who need long-term assistance who cannot get back into the workforce.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this this evening. Our government is committed, as we look at all those initiatives we have made, to trying to bring attention to the people on assistance as we try to help them get back to work.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I guess I have until 5:48 p.m., is that correct?

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, 5:48 p.m., honourable member.

DR. SMITH: Thank you for the opportunity to speak to Resolution No. 1369, relative to the Department of Community Services, and the minister just made his comments on some of their initiatives.

I will take us back briefly to the Tory election promises. What did the Tory blue book say about social assistance and family benefits and other programs offered through the Department of Community Services? It is no surprise, of course, that they said very little about such things, but one of the few promises that the Tories did make was to, "Work with

[Page 6117]

the Disabled Person's Commissions and groups who represent Nova Scotians with disabilities to expand accessible transportation services throughout the province;"

What happened then, Mr. Speaker? I will tell you. Funding for the Disabled Persons Commission was cut by nearly $18,000 in the recent budget. That is how they addressed the Disabled Persons Commission. A public outcry forced this government, the Tory Government, to reinstate the Access-Ability Program which they cut last fall. The Tories were harshly criticized across this province for cancelling the Access-Ability Program, which was introduced by our previous Liberal Government. It was designed to improve access to public buildings throughout Nova Scotia for people with disabilities. The program would have received $350,000 per year if it was allowed to run its course, as outlined in our budget. It was $350,000 per year for two years, a review after two years, I believe assuredly would have resulted in an extension of that program.

The program will end up receiving under this government, approximately $200,000 less per year. Because the Tory Government delayed, the disabled persons of this province will have to wait yet another year to benefit from what I consider to be a very worthy program. The Minister of Municipal Affairs admitted that there was no question about the need for this program, so it should never have been part of the Tory program review in the first place. This is another example of this government's contempt for people with disabilities. It is their fault. We blame those with disabilities, and this government is telling them, we know what is best for you.

Another promise this government made was to introduce or revamp the adoption legislation. This is one I was quite involved with, initially some changes we made as a government. This may have been a noble promise initially, but the legislation was introduced with little or no thought about the consequences of its implementation by this government. Even Tory backbenchers like the MLA for Kings North had problems with the legislation, is my understanding, Mr. Speaker. So the result is the adoption legislation is in legislative limbo at this time. They certainly were not using their heads on this one.

This government also promised $1 million for a secure treatment centre in Truro within one year of being elected. So, if you look at the calendar on the wall, they better hurry up because time is running out on that promise. Just another promise. The government promised to fully restore the National Child Tax Benefit. During budget estimates, the Minister of Community Services said he would have to talk to the feds about this, plus the minister has never told us what programs will receive a cut in funding as a result of this National Child Tax Benefit promise.

The Tories also promised to meet with the volunteer community to identify ways in which government can encourage and support volunteers. Instead, the Tories shamefully cut $2 million from charity and community groups in one fell swoop. It is obvious they have a very poor record in keeping their promises within the Department of Community Services.

[Page 6118]

The lack of the Tory commitment to community services is blatantly obvious in this nasty budget and the cuts suffered by that department. While those with special needs are being forced to live on less, the budget for the Minister and the Deputy Minister of Community Services has been increased by $123,000. That is the administration that they were going to take the monies out of to pay for some of these programs for disabled persons and others with special needs. The Community Services budget was presented with a certain lack of honesty in my opinion, and certainly one of lack of credibility.

The budget is supposed to help people become self-sufficient and get back to work. The minister mentioned that a few moments ago. In the documents, The Course Ahead and the Budget Address, there was a lot said in the Department of Community Services. It was said that the emphasis of Community Services will make people self-sufficient by helping people get back to work. Perhaps the minister should say, force people back to work, since income assistance payments have been slashed by nearly $6 million in one year. Slash social assistance, and then you talk about transitioning people back to work. Approximately 75,000 people in Nova Scotia depend on the Family Benefits Program or the Social Assistance Program. Anti-poverty groups, and there are several of them, have called the Community Services budget a disaster for the poor. The bottom line is, Mr. Speaker, most people who receive income support will get less money next year. I fail to see how this is going to help people get back to work.

People entering the workforce have new expenses. It costs more to go to work, like work clothing, transportation and certainly child care. Yes, the government did say it expects people on social assistance to prepare for the workforce while they are being forced to live on less. The Community Services budget also assumes that a lot of the people are going back to work. That is the assumption based on those cuts. Those cuts are based on the assumption that you have all these people going back to work; yet, they will have to get back to work on less money than they had previously. Those who have exceptional difficulty finding work, for whatever reason that might be - it might involve a post-mentally ill person, there might be disability of a physical or a mental nature - they will be forced to live on less because the government says they will. The philosophy behind the Community Services budget is flawed and I want to point that out. The supports are not available to help those entering the workforce and those who don't get a job will be penalized for that, again putting the penalty on those persons because they are poor and they don't have a job, perhaps because they are unable to get a job.

[5:45 p.m.]

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, brought up a good point in this House when he talked about the impact Community Services cuts will have in areas of high unemployment. For instance, cuts to social assistance benefits will cause greater hardship in Cape Breton than in other areas. I know the members from Cape Breton speak out so often for their area and they do it very well. There are also other parts of this province that are not

[Page 6119]

far-removed and perhaps even ahead of parts of Cape Breton in the difficulties of people securing full time employment and meaningful work.

It has been said that there are two economies in Nova Scotia. There is one economy in metro Halifax and a different economy for the rest of the province. It is not unreasonable to suggest that there are more jobs available in metro Halifax than in other parts of Nova Scotia. I think that is reasonable, Mr. Speaker. For example, the unemployment rate for southern Nova Scotia, where I grew up, is 11 per cent, compared to metro Halifax at only about 6.3 per cent. Therefore, if you want people to enter the workforce, they will stand a better chance of getting a job here in metro. But Nova Scotia is a lot more than just metro. People are just starting to understand, and they will understand in the weeks ahead what these cuts mean.

The minister spoke in terms of child care; I compliment that. It has been a struggle and the previous Tory Government did practically nothing for child care. The Savage Government from 1993 onwards was committed, did the best we could under challenging times and I applaud the minister for the 100 spaces. But here again, the philosophy is one to enable people, particularly women, to get back to work. It misses the fact that child care is basically for the social and educational development of children and to respect the personal safety and the rights of children. That philosophy of this government ignores that healthy child development.

I know my time is short, Mr. Speaker, there are many more things we could speak of; the cancellation of the Family Violence Prevention Initiative . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise to speak on a very important issue. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North does have the floor, please.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to rise on a very important issue which my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, brought forward. It is an issue that many Nova Scotians don't fully understand, and that is the issue of social assistance in this province. I don't want to go down the road but I think it is time that we go down the road to 1995. In 1995, the Minister of Community Services was very much aware that the Province of Nova Scotia recognized the inequality in the delivery of social assistance across the province and that there needed to be some semblance of reality in the delivery of social assistance to those people who are on social assistance across this province. So in 1995, the Department of Community Services and the government of the day made an agreement with

[Page 6120]

the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to take over the full share and the full cost of social assistance throughout this province.

Mr. Speaker, that minister over there was a Mayor of the Town of Bedford during a time when, in fact, there was equality in social assistance. Let me tell you, there was, in fact, a number of inequities. I remember that, in fact, people who were on social assistance moved across this province to get the best possible rate they could because it was impossible for them to live. I remember in Annapolis Valley during the month of August to October, during the harvest season (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please, order please. Honourable members, there is a lot of chatter on the floor of the Legislature and it is difficult for the Speaker, and I am sure it is difficult for all honourable members to hear the speaker who has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to go on with this train of thought and remember that those individuals were, in fact, social services recipients who were expected to go out and bring in the harvest. Our farmers at that particular time were expected not to receive any social assistance unless they made a commitment to the harvest.

Also, across this province, there were such inequities that people became transient and moved between municipalities in order to make sure that their quality of life was much better and let me tell you that because of that, municipalities that gave a better portion of the social services allotment to individuals were the recipient of a number of individuals who were in fact on social assistance. What I want you to know is that I go back to the blue book and I once again want to reiterate that there were two socially conscious Parties out there during the 1990 election campaign.

As a matter of fact, in this blue book I just want to make a quote under social concerns and the quote is this: "Nova Scotians are a compassionate people who firmly believe their government must work to enhance the quality of life . . ." of Nova Scotians, particularly those who are hard pressed. Also I want to note that in this blue book one of the bullets was that they would in fact, provide people on social assistance with a National Child Tax Benefit.

Allow me to tell you that is significantly important to all those social services recipients. Allow me to tell you, unlike the working poor who in fact receive the benefit, the social service recipient gets that clawed back, dollar for dollar. I also want the Minister of Community Services to be very much aware that there is a very serious issue here. He talked a bit about Pharmacare and there is a significant cost in Pharmacare and that we have to haul it in and the minister openly admitted there is an increase from $3.00 co-pay to a $5.00 co-pay.

[Page 6121]

What that minister did not tell Nova Scotians and no doubt did he tell his backbenchers is that $5.00 from the single parent who is on social assistance comes from their allotment. That comes out of their allotment that has already been allocated to those individuals. That means less dollars for food to each and every child in that family and we have already determined that most of those people live on 93 cents a day. Every one of those backbenchers are very much aware of what it costs to live. I can tell you that they make sure that when they put in their per diem rate that it is accounted for.

I also want you to know that it is significantly important to understand that the minister had made this assumption that 48,000 social service recipients have dropped down off the roll to 38,000. That is approximately 10,000 social service recipients within a year have dropped off the roll. Some of that has been as a result of the economy, but some of that has been because people have given up hope of even trying to get social assistance and are now street people, living on the streets. People are living in conditions that are totally unacceptable in third world countries and I can take this minister on a walk throughout this province on some of those very important issues and that minister is very much aware of that as well. What the minister doesn't realize is that he says that because of this we can carve back our budget. What the minister doesn't realize, that $100 still comes off of an inadequate allotment to people who are on social assistance.

The United Nations condemned Canada and condemned Nova Scotia for its treatment of people on social assistance. I just want you to know that an honourable member on the government side serves or represents a constituency that has the largest food bank in Nova Scotia. I just want to quote from a letter from the Executive Director, Diane Swinamer, with respect to her concerns about what will happen for people on social assistance. She says, as the provincial government tries to fix the standing financial problems, it is important to put into perspective the real impact and the choices it has made on other individuals. Also, she goes on to say, there are 15,000 people each and every month in the Halifax Regional Municipality, and more than 24,000 across the province who rely on food banks three to four days a week.

The most telling fact is . . .

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

Order, please. The honourable Minister of Community Services sat down two minutes early, and we started the time for the next honourable speaker at 5:48 p.m., and the honourable members were given the time that was allocated on the sheet that was presented to me.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 6122]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, am I speaking on the resolution, or has time expired?

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, we have until 5:58 p.m. if you are going to speak on the resolution.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, I didn't intend to speak on the resolution.

AN HON. MEMBER: But you are going to.

MR. RUSSELL: However, I am probably going to. I was listening with great interest to the remarks from the member for Dartmouth North. I must say, quite frankly, they were incomprehensible. I don't know if it was from the background noise or whether it was because he did not have his facts in the right order. I believe that, in this province, while we have not been able to accommodate everybody who needs assistance, we have done our very, very best over the past years to try and do that. Let's face it, we are in dire financial straits at the present time. (Interruption) We, therefore, have to do the best we can with the dollars available to accommodate the needs of people who require assistance. Mr. Speaker, I can assure you this government is determined to do just that. As the honourable Minister of Community Services said, we are trying our very best to improve the situation.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Resolution No. 1369 has now expired.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the hours for tomorrow will be from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., and the order of business after the daily routine will be Question Period, followed by Public Bills for Second Reading. We will continue with Bill No. 47, and should we complete Bill No. 47, we will go into the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Before I move adjournment, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to advise the members since we have a long weekend coming up as to the hours on Friday and on Tuesday. On Friday, we intend to set the hours from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., it will depend on what progress is made, and on Tuesday when we come back, we will sit Monday's hours, but carry out Tuesday's business. In other words, we will sit from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, and we will have the normal Tuesday daily routine of Question Period and Government Business.

Mr. Speaker, I move adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, the hours for tomorrow, May 18th, are from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., and the motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

[Page 6123]

It is agreed.

We have reached the moment of interruption, and as I indicated earlier there was a draw for a debate on the Adjournment motion. The draw was won by the honourable member for Pictou East who wishes to debate the matter:

"Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the importance of rural Nova Scotia and the supportive steps being made by this government to develop rural Nova Scotia."

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

ECON. DEV. - RURAL (N.S.):

IMPORTANCE - SUPPORT RECOGNIZE

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to say a few words here today. Few people will argue that the unspoiled beauty of rural Nova Scotia is one of our province's greatest assets. From the fishing grounds off the shores of Yarmouth to the beautiful Northumberland Strait and the magnificence of the Cape Breton Highlands, the scenic pleasures of Nova Scotia are unrivalled. Unfortunately, voter-rich urban regions often were the beneficiaries of the former government's attention and largesse; too often. Too often at the expense of rural areas in Nova Scotia, but I can tell you this, Mr. Speaker, no more.

This government is committed to rural Nova Scotia. In fact, I will wager the legacy of the Hamm Government will be a renaissance, a rebirth of rural Nova Scotia and that will be a proud legacy indeed. There is no doubt we are experiencing difficult financial times here in Nova Scotia, we are all aware of that, but this government has taken a balanced approach when dealing with Nova Scotia's finances. We are balancing the needs to put the province's fiscal house in order, at the same time protecting the priorities of Nova Scotians, and balancing that we will ensure that the rural communities in this province will get their fair share once and for all. We will not be swayed by political expedience and we will be fair and equitable. It is too bad the honourable Leader of the NDP is not here, because he claims to have discovered rural Nova Scotia.

For many Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, the province's roads and highways are an economic lifeline. They are certainly the economic lifeblood of many of our rural communities. Instead of choking off this lifeline as some governments have done, our

[Page 6124]

government is giving a transfusion of $9 million for some long-awaited improvements to Nova Scotia's secondary roads. We understand the importance of well-maintained roads to the thousands of Nova Scotians who travel on them every day and we are taking action. An investment in our roads is an investment in all Nova Scotia. We understand that good, well-maintained roads means a better quality of life, a safer school bus drive for our children and an uninterrupted drive to markets for farmers and other small business owners. Not only do we understand these facts, we are taking action. We are putting the gravel back on the gravel roads, we are patching more pavement, we are carving out more ditches and we are doing what we said we would do. We are staying on course. (Interruptions)

Already, many communities are benefiting from this government's commitment to improving our roads. Tenders have already been let to resurface 82.8 kilometres in Lunenburg County; 24.8 kilometres in Kings County; 11 kilometres in Queens County; 4.2 kilometres in Yarmouth County and 10.9 kilometres in the Municipality of Chester. Even more recently a tender was called to repave 23 kilometres of 100-Series Highway in the beautiful Pictou County and Kings County. Mr. Speaker, this government intends to show its commitment to public safety on Highway No. 101 by securing environmental approvals and proceeding with first construction steps from Mount Uniacke to Ellershouse this year. Unlike our friends from across the floor this government will pursue the federal government to pay its fair share of Highway No. 101. I recall in Opposition, in the years gone by, we were always pressuring the former government to do just that, and they failed.

There are many benefits that come along with living in rural Nova Scotia, as you very well know. The tranquillity and the comfort - it is a wonderful pace of life in rural Nova Scotia, it is unparalleled and the envy of many. Unfortunately though, one of the disadvantages that comes from living in a rural area is the feeling of being cut off from the services and the benefits of living in a more urban setting. I can tell you that I am happy to report that within 12 to 18 months, our government will have succeeded in making Nova Scotia the perfect place to live. We will bring the services of the city to the counties by providing every county in Nova Scotia with access to one-stop shopping, where they can get a wide range of government services, from tender information to the licensing renewals that we need each year.

When you think of rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, you automatically think of farming. In Nova Scotia our farmers and the agriculture sector make very valuable contributions to the province's economy, and we appreciate that contribution. We, on this side of the House, appreciate that contribution they make and we ensure that the contributions will be sustained for a long time into the future. That is exactly what we did by putting in a new beneficial deal with the cooperation of the federal government.

Our minister made sure Nova Scotia farmers got their fair share. Our farmers will receive a virtual doubling in federal contributions under the new, three-year agreement because we fight for our share from the federal government, and that brings the federal

[Page 6125]

allocation to almost $6 million. This funding will come from the federal $1.1 billion fund for basic safety nets and income disaster programs and that, Mr. Speaker, is the minister right there who went to Ottawa and got that for us here in this province. (Applause)

The package includes the Net Income Subsidization Account Program, crop insurance and companion programs designed to address specific provincial needs, as well as the Agriculture Disaster Assistance Program. This agreement is good news for the farmers in Nova Scotia; it is good news for this important sector of the province's economy; and it is good news for all Nova Scotians.

Speaking of farmers, Mr. Speaker, this government took steps in the budget to strengthen the farm communities in Nova Scotia. We preserved funding for the 4-H Program and rural youth programs in this province and we established a New Entrants Program to encourage young farmers to continue the tradition of farming by making low-interest loans available to them. These programs will ensure that young Nova Scotians have the practical know-how, and the financial ability to carry out farming in this province. We will see the positive results from this for many, many years to come.

To safeguard the viability of veterinary farm services and a healthy farm animal industry, this government has maintained full funding, Mr. Speaker, for the veterinary fee subsidy for large farm animals. It is arguable that the race horse is the most elegant and noble of all farm animals, and in this province race horses, through the harness racing industry, provide jobs for hundreds of Nova Scotians, whether they are the harness drivers, breeders, grain growers or sellers, or any of the hospitality industry jobs associated with it. Our government, despite the howls from across the way, took steps to protect these hundreds of Nova Scotian jobs by financially supporting the harness industry. This government cares about the jobs and the people who perform them and it cares about rural Nova Scotia.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to rural Nova Scotia. That commitment, however, is not reserved only for the agriculture component, it also includes rural development in this community. This government is also setting up a $100,000 project fund to support strategic initiatives undertaken by community museums, so that our rich heritage is preserved for future generations.

The programs I have mentioned are only a few of the many and, yes, a measure of our firm commitment to Nova Scotians. Through these programs, and others, our government is ensuring that rural Nova Scotia communities continue to be vibrant, dynamic, and self-reliant hometowns for many generations to come. I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words and I will take my seat.

[Page 6126]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACLELLAN: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I just heard a caption from Charles Dickens, fiction land, or what. It is a good resolution, but coming from the wrong person representing the wrong Party, because here are the facts. Here is what the Hamm Government has done since its election; seven regional Department of Agriculture offices closed; the entire Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture has been eliminated; the entire Rural Leadership Branch of the Department of Agriculture eliminated; five jails closing; the total number of courts closed is 12 and some reports are being a little more generous in saying only 10 or 11.

School boards throughout the province are forced to lay off teachers. We are short some $33 million because of the Department of Education's slashing and burning. We forced the Minister of Education, after several weeks of pounding in this House, and finally the minister conceded that she was in error and they had to come up with an additional $20 million, part of it coming from the slush fund hidden away by the Minister of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, we saw cuts to rural hospital budgets across Nova Scotia; greater fees for ambulance use. This Tory Government has done more to take power away from rural Nova Scotia communities than any government in recent memory.

Last fall the Minister of Health secretly took power away from the regional health boards and gave all authority over local health care to his deputy. Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Pictou East is being a bit unfair at this moment. For the first time in the history of the Province of Nova Scotia local communities have no say, no input . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member wish to elaborate on that, so perhaps the Speaker could help him if another honourable member is being unfair, I would certainly like to do what I can to assist the honourable member.

MR. MACKINNON: All Tory members are unfair, Mr. Speaker, you know that. It doesn't matter how big or how little they say; it doesn't matter whether it is by words or actions, it is all unfair.

Another area where power has been taken away from the community level is in education. The Education Bill now before the House of Assembly is the first step in placing more power in the hands of the Minister of Education, and we all know the capable hands that she has demonstrated before this House. The education of rural Nova Scotian children is suffering because of these Tory cuts. Certainly the previous Liberal Government had a plan to build schools in rural communities and the only thing that the Tories are building is complete frustration. The Tories have stalled on the construction of 17 new schools across Nova Scotia - one in your riding, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would suspect that at the first moment's break from the Chair you would be encouraging the Minister of Education to get

[Page 6127]

on with the job and stop foot-dragging and using the honourable member for Pictou East to just spew out some propaganda that has very little basis in fact. We can go on and on.

Other issues - the Department of the Environment, this government has eliminated its funding to the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps. This funding will result in the loss of some 150 jobs for students, high school and university students across this province. Mr. Speaker, how can the honourable member say that is good for rural Nova Scotia? The Youth Conservation Corps provide young Nova Scotians from the ages of 17 to 24 with training and employment opportunities in the environmental field. This program also benefited rural Nova Scotian communities by enhancing and protecting the local environment. How can the honourable member say that these actions are protecting and enhancing rural Nova Scotia? Last year it offered 175 positions; this year, with funding coming only from HRDC and the Department of Economic Development, that number of positions has dropped to 60 - less than one-third.

Mr. Speaker, all we have to do it look at the total number of losses revealed so far in the youth programs, a huge reduction of 700 jobs to the provincial employment program for students and the elimination of the Student Loan Remission Program. How can that honourable member stand here with any sense of decency and say that is good for rural Nova Scotia, when they are slashing and burning and cutting the ankles from all these young people across rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Winter Works Employment Program for areas of high unemployment, and where is unemployment the highest? Rural Nova Scotia. What does this government do? They slash and burn and eliminate that program. When we were in power, the Liberals spent $1.6 million on that Winter Works Program and provided jobs to some 800 rural Nova Scotians, much-needed jobs. It is very unfortunate that the honourable member doesn't see the wisdom of such activity.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the program provided work for up to 18 weeks for these people who had little or nothing, who were otherwise forced to go on social assistance. Economic Development covered 50 per cent of the wage paid for businesses, municipal governments and non-profit groups.

Let's look at the tax credits for rural Nova Scotia. The Tories are doing very little, if anything, to support the film industry outside metro Halifax. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they even cut the tax credit program that was assisting them in the southwestern part of Nova Scotia and in industrial Cape Breton. When we were in power, we committed to raising the film tax credit to 37.5 per cent from the 32.5 per cent for areas outside metro. What did the Tory Government do? Disposed of that. They didn't like it because they didn't want to help rural Nova Scotia. They wanted to help their big, powerful friends in big business, the Murray

[Page 6128]

Coolicans, who has a ticket and one of those keys to get into the Premier's office any time he so chooses. That is shameful, the type of arrogance shown by this government.

The Tories instead are promoting metro Halifax only - which is fine to promote metro Halifax - but not at the expense of rural Nova Scotia. The honourable Government House Leader, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, last week stated that we should be taking from the richer parts of the country and giving to the poorer. That was in his response to some proclamations by elected officials in Ontario and British Columbia. This is what our Government House Leader says. If it is good enough for Canada, why isn't that same philosophy good enough for Nova Scotia? Why isn't it good enough for rural Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker? I don't know if the word hypocrisy is a legitimate word in here - but that is a no-no. What that minister said, and what they are doing, is a no-no.

This Tory Government also failed to implement a new media tax credit like we had proposed in our budget that was voted down with the help of their auxiliary, the socialists. What about social assistance? My colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, on a number of occasions, has raised concerns about this issue, Mr. Speaker. Cuts to social assistance benefits will cause greater hardships in rural Nova Scotia than in the urban centres, because is it much more difficult to travel to a place of employment, to have a job interview, and to seek out these employment opportunities. Not like in an urban centre where you can walk a mile or two miles. That is another disadvantage for rural Nova Scotia. The government did very little for that.

We can go on. What about the $500 tax credit that the Tories, when they were in Opposition, promised that they were going to introduce for volunteer firefighters? What about our 8,000 volunteer firefighters across this province. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, in a previous life, were in support of that initiative, and I suspect in your heart you still support that. But what has the Tory Government done? They have reneged on that. Who would it benefit it most? Rural Nova Scotia, because that is where the majority of all the volunteer firefighters are. The only good thing they did was to ratify what we had proposed and initiated and included in our budget, and that was free license plates.

I know my time is drawing to a close. Four seconds, I say honourable attempt, dishonourable . . .

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it is with some pleasure, but with some humour that I respond to this prepared speech by the honourable member for Pictou East. When members of that caucus were here, they shot from the hip. There were no prepared speeches then. They spoke from their heart, they spoke openly, they spoke truthfully. At times

[Page 6129]

I wonder when you get a prepared speech put in front of you, what does that say? It says to me that somebody doesn't trust you. It also says to me, maybe I might say something that might embarrass those frontbenchers. That member, he stood in his place over here and I heard him speak passionately on topics, I heard him put questions to that government at the time about what the previous speaker just spoke on, but he stands in his place today in late debate and speaks from prepared text.

I wonder what that says for the honourable member. I know the honourable member can come in here and speak for more than 10 minutes on any topic at the drop of a hat, but when it comes to this particular resolution, prepared speech. That the members of this House recognize the importance of rural Nova Scotia absolutely. I live in rural Nova Scotia, I live in a part of this province where the deer come right out on my back lawn. I know that the part of the province that I live in are some of the things that this honourable member said, scenic and wonderful, but I live in the HRM.

People say I am part of the great amalgamation. We won't go there. I know that is a strong topic for you and your constituents, it certainly is for me, but let's review the balance sheet, if we could. The balance sheet. Let's have a look here. Let's talk about some of these tenders that have been called. I got a note sent to my office on the tenders that have been called and I might be incorrect, but I would like to check where these tenders are. They are in Pictou. Now it says to me that Pictou Centre, East, West, I believe those are Tory constituencies. Chester-St. Margaret's, Town of Chester, Yarmouth - well, lo and behold. I wonder are we going to get some work done on that famous road in Yarmouth? Queens. Now there is another coincidence. And then of course, Kings.

I haven't heard Timberlea-Prospect mentioned there. I haven't heard anything doing with construction on the Prospect Road. Is that a coincidence? Well, we will come back to roads in a moment because we can start with the balance sheets, but then we are going to look at the absolute answers here. I would like to point out, for example, tourism. Now I heard the member speak and I have heard the Minister of Tourism stand in this House and explain to us that there will continue to be - I thing that is what he said - that these visitor information centres in Oxford, rural Nova Scotia, Joggins, Pugwash, the home of the thinkers, Elmsdale, those are rural parts of this province.

Are those visitor information centres going to be open or not? By the answers we are getting, we are questioning it. It seems to me that if we are trying to get visitors moving outside of the HRM, moving outside into rural Nova Scotia, and I will tell you when people come to this province, they do not come to go to the casino - heaven forbid, terrible decision, wherever it is built - but I will tell you they come to see rural Nova Scotia. They come to go to those visitor information centres in some of the places that I have mentioned.

[Page 6130]

Yet, it seems to me that we are having cuts here. Let's talk about some more cuts. Rural Nova Scotia. From what I have heard, comments the Minister of Justice has been making, courts, now I am not quite sure about the courthouse in Springhill, I know that is a rather sensitive topic, but let's move on from cuts to courthouses to some of the things that I have heard about agriculture.

I hear my good friend from Hants East in this House ask many questions to the minister and it seems to me that the cuts that have taken place, whether it is the Christmas tree industry or in Mabou or in some of the regional offices - that is helping rural Nova Scotia? I think not. I must disagree strongly. It seems to me that in many ways, that the calls for this government, much like the calls for that government, are made by the big boys downtown. We are downtown right now, but I come to downtown Halifax only when I have to. My constituents expect me to be in their area and representing them. It seems to me that if we continuously emphasize that Halifax, Halifax/Dartmouth, the HRM is going to get all the goodies the decision makers should be out there in rural Nova Scotia. So I would like to point out a few of these.

I would like to talk about schools. I hope that member opposite clearly reads the Education Act and the amendments. It is called the centralization of power of the minister, in Halifax. The people who once had services from the Southwest Regional School Board no long have that power, Mr. Speaker, and it is being centralized in the hands of the minister and I am sure the deputy minister and the assistants within that department over there in the Trade Mart, but it is here in Halifax. That is good for rural Nova Scotia? I think not.

Let's look at another issue. Let's look at an issue that is perhaps of some concern if you are in the business of septic fields. Mr. Speaker, people in rural Nova Scotia know about septic fields, right, we know about dug wells, but no longer is the Department of the Environment having anything to do with septic fields. Now those sewage disposal fields, because of the new structure that has been brought forward by this government, no longer will the DOE be involved. Is that better for rural Nova Scotia?

I hear I can have one-stop shopping at every county in Nova Scotia, where I can go in and I can go to one government, and an inspector can do everything from labour standards to the environment, to whatever else is going to happen. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, the people of Nova Scotia are not going to be impressed by the fact they are going to be paying for these extra fees. These are basic services.

I was at a meeting in Bridgewater recently, Mr. Speaker, when I had the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians express their concern about the fact they had to call Halifax for everything and they were always put on hold. If they possibly did have a chance to talk to anything but an answering machine, it was always in Halifax. Now, let's have a look at these cuts, Mr. Speaker. I know in the areas where I am the critic, where I constantly ask the minister how many of your staff, who are involved in some of these cuts, are going to be

[Page 6131]

outside of Halifax? The answer in the Department of the Environment, as in the Department of Labour is, they are going to centralize some of those offices. There are going to be less offices, more regional offices.

The cuts being made in some of these departments are not all the bureaucrats here in Halifax. Many of them have safe jobs, unfortunately, with their $120,000 and $140,000 jobs. It is the people out there, the people who are providing the services in Bridgewater, in Kentville, up in other parts of the Valley, or in Cape Breton, those people feel they have been forgotten.

Let's turn to Inverness, Mr. Speaker. I remember the previous member for Inverness - oh, I wish I could forget him - who spoke out constantly for his community. That member, I am sure, is looking back on what is happening now with the cuts to services that are going to happen in his community, cuts to schools, cuts to the tourist bureau, cuts, of course, to the Agriculture Office in Mabou. I understand because of the influence of the Minister of Tourism who comes from that particular constituency, that now the common pasture is going to be reinstalled. Rural Nova Scotia is not happy. When I listen to the people in my constituency they consider themselves living outside of Halifax, they do not consider themselves part of the city or urban. They consider themselves living in rural Nova Scotia, along the Peggy's Cove Road, down in East and West Dover.

Mr. Speaker, I am telling you something, you will see, I don't want you to see necessarily, but when the time rolls around in three, three and one half years, rural Nova Scotia is going to speak out. When I take my trip this weekend down through Pictou County, I want to know about the Durham Road. The Durham Road, what has happened? Has the good member for Pictou West spoken up about the Durham Road? Still neglected, the Durham Road is in poorer shape than it was when the good member, previous, was there who brought it up all the time. Rural Nova Scotians will have the final say where they put their x next time around. I assure the member opposite that will be a day of reckoning. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes late debate, honourable members.

We stand adjourned.

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

[Page 6132]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 2159

By: Ms. Maureen MacDonald (Halifax Needham)

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

Whereas this government has decided to put the cart before the horse or the table scraps ahead of the meal each time it hacks and slashes another program; and

Whereas after cutting funds to school boards so that special needs students are now being affected, the Minister of Education has decided to consult; and

Whereas my mother always told me, think before you act;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain why no plan was formulated before her disastrous budget was introduced and why she and her department are now scrambling to address the problems they have created, why didn't you think before you cut?