The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Thur., Nov. 2, 2000

First Session

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Justice - Lunenburg Correction Centre: Closure - Cease, Mr. D. Downe 7897
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2989, Educ. - Jr. Achievement: Economics of Staying in School -
Prog. Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 7899
Vote - Affirmative 7899
Res. 2990, Educ. - CEED (Ctr. For Entrepreneurship Educ. & Dev.):
Innovation - Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 7900
Vote - Affirmative 7900
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 73, Nature Reserves Protection Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 7900
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2991, Educ. - Lifelong Learning: Premier - Beliefs Moratorium,
Mr. John MacDonell 7901
Res. 2992, Irish Players (St. Patrick's HS) - Student Abuse:
Awareness - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 7901
Vote - Affirmative 7902
Res. 2993, Agric. - Col. Co. Fed.: Anl. Meeting - Members Congrats.,
Mr. B. Taylor 7902
Vote - Affirmative 7902
Res. 2994, Commun. Serv. - Wages (Child Care): B.C. & Sask. -
Lead Follow, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7903
Res. 2995, Tourism - Min.: Arrogance - Condemn,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 7903
Res. 2996, Leger, Susan (Queens Co.) - Run for the Cure: Efforts -
Applaud, Mr. K. Morash 7904
Vote - Affirmative 7904
Res. 2997, Gov't. (N.S.) - Budget Balancing: Women & Children -
Exploitation Cease, Mr. K. Deveaux 7905
Res. 2998, Agric. - 4-H Week (30/10-5/11/00) - Recognize,
Mr. D. Downe 7905
Vote - Affirmative 7906
Res. 2999, Rec. - Lansdowne Outdoor Rec. Assn./Leese, Dave:
Recognition - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 7906
Vote - Affirmative 7906
Res. 3000, Sports - Rugby: UCCB (Men's Team) - Title Congrats.,
Mr. F. Corbett 7907
Vote - Affirmative 7907
Res. 3001, Health - Min.: Rose-Coloured Glasses - Remove, Dr. J. Smith 7907
Res. 3002, Sylliboy, Tonia, Maxim & Anastasia: Bravery -
Recognize, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 7908
Vote - Affirmative 7909
Res. 3003, Health - System: Problems - Premier Adjust, Mr. D. Dexter 7909
Res. 3004, Premier - Animal Kingdom: Members (Noble) -
Examples Follow, Mr. K. MacAskill 7910
Res. 3005, Col.-Musq. Valley - MLA (Mr. Brooke Taylor): Service -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 7910
Vote - Affirmative 7911
Res. 3006, Health - Care: Boudreau, Bernard - Record Remember,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7911
Res. 3007, Reddy, Cyril - Job: New - Effectiveness, Mr. P. MacEwan 7912
Res. 3008, Tim Hortons - Porters Lake: Opening - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Dooks 7912
Vote - Affirmative 7913
Res. 3009, Gov't. (N.S.) - Income: Families (N.S.) - Improve,
Mr. H. Epstein 7913
Res. 3010, St. Anne's Commun. & Nursing Care Ctr.: Anniv. (15th) -
Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 7913
Vote - Affirmative 7914
Res. 3011, Econ. Dev. - Sparkling Spring Water Ltd.: Expansion -
Congrats., Mr. W. Langille 7914
Vote - Affirmative 7915
Res. 3012, CBC Radio - Phone-in Show: Tobin, Brian -
Boudreau, Bernard Replacement, Mr. J. Pye 7915
Res. 3013, Sylliboy, Maxim, Anatasia & Tonia: Bravery - Recognize,
Mr. B. Boudreau 7916
Vote - Affirmative 7916
Res. 3014, Culture - Evans & Doherty: Music Ind. -
Contribution Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 7916
Vote - Affirmative 7917
Res. 3015, EMO - Officials: Glace Bay Flooding - Damage Assess,
Mr. D. Wilson 7917
Res. 3016, Hfx.-Cornwallis Cdn. Prog. Club - Awards: Nominees/
Recipients - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 7918
Vote - Affirmative 7918
Res. 3017, Sports - Golf: Blenkhorn, Kevin - Accomplishments
Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 7919
Vote - Affirmative 7919
Res. 3018, Econ. Dev. - Counsellors (10): Certification - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 7919
Vote - Affirmative 7920
Res. 3019, Health - Facilities: Min. - Attend, Dr. J. Smith 7920
Res. 3020, Himmelman, Pauline & George - Boston: Christmas Tree -
Provision Applaud, Mr. D. Downe 7921
Vote - Affirmative 7921
Res. 3021, Couvrette, Roger - NDP-Leave/Liberals-Join: Decision -
Commend, Mr. P. MacEwan 7922
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 964, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: MacPherson (Dr. M.) -
Resignation Consequences, Mr. D. Dexter 7922
No. 965, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Cuts - Decisions Reverse,
Dr. J. Smith 7924
No. 966, Health - Care: Northern Reg. - Fix, Mr. D. Dexter 7925
No. 967, Educ. - Illiteracy (Adult): School System - Responsibility
Question, Mr. W. Gaudet 7926
No. 968, Econ. Dev. - Unemployment: N.S. - Rural, Mr. K. Deveaux 7927
No. 969, Educ. - Hfx. West HS: Upgrades - Details, Mr. W. Gaudet 7928
No. 970, Lbr.: Min. Wage - Rate, Mr. F. Corbett 7929
No. 971, Exco - State of Prov. Add.: Premier - Comments Explain,
Mr. D. Wilson 7931
No. 972, Nat. Res. - Sempra: Targets (C.B.) - Ensure, Mr. F. Corbett 7932
No. 973, Agric. - Truro Raceway: Stability - Fin. Information,
Mr. D. Downe 7933
No. 974, Health - Home-Care Services: Comprehensive Plan -
Timetable, Mr. D. Dexter 7934
No. 975, Health - Cuts: Lunenburg (Constituency) - Details,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7936
No. 976, Justice - Proceeds of Crime: Account - Funds, Mr. J. Pye 7938
No. 977, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Bone Densitometer -
Acceptance, Mr. M. Samson 7939
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 7940
Amendment [debate resumed] 7940
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7940
Vote - Negative 7946
Mr. P. MacEwan 7946
Mr. John MacDonell 7961
Mr. D. Downe 7967
Mr. B. Barnet 7976
Mr. H. Epstein 7977
Mr. D. Wilson 7990
Adjourned debate 7992
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Educ. - Eastern Passage: High School - Need:
Mr. K. Deveaux 7992
Mr. W. Gaudet 7995
Mr. B. Barnet 7997
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8001
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 8002
Mr. D. Wilson [resumed debate] 8002
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8009
Adjourned debate 8020
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. M. Baker 8020
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Nov. 3rd at 9:00 a.m. 8021
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3022, Agric. - Great Atl. Weigh Off: Hebb, Ben - Winner Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 8022
Res. 3023, Wentworth - Cenotaph: Volunteers - Congrats., The Speaker 8022
Res. 3024, Remembrance Day: Sacrifice - Recognize, The Speaker 8023

[Page 7897]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Kevin Deveaux, Mr. David Wilson

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

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the need for a high school in Eastern Passage, as part of a plan to address overcrowding at Cole Harbour District High School.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition.

"To: The Honourable Michael Baker, Minister of Justice, Province of Nova Scotia.

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has proposed and announced the closure of the Lunenburg Correctional Centre, scheduled for August 1, 2001 -

7897

[Page 7898]

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia as follows:

That the Lunenburg Correctional Centre remain open because

it provides an incarceration facility for two police departments and five RCMP detachments . . . "

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. You can't hear the speaker. The honourable member for Lunenburg West, start again, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We still can't hear you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member has the paper in front of the microphone and we can't pick it up. There we go, thank you.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. (Applause)

"To: The Honourable Michael Baker, Minister of Justice, Province of Nova Scotia.

Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia has proposed and announced the closure of the Lunenburg Correctional Centre, scheduled for August 1, 2001 -

We, the undersigned, petition the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia as follows:

That the Lunenburg Correctional Centre remain open because

it provides an incarceration facility for two police departments and five RCMP detachments

it is beneficial to the rehabilitation progress of inmates to remain in their community

it provides volunteer work programs beneficial to Lunenburg County

its staff provide an Alcohol/Drug Outreach Program to youth in schools

it represents about $850,000 in the local economy and provides 18 jobs

Further, closure of the facility would

increase cost of legal council

increase transportation costs of inmates to and from court

displace staff and families"

Mr. Speaker, this is a petition of 500 signed individuals from Lunenburg, Queens County, for which yesterday we had another 500, bringing the total to over 1,000 signatures to this petition. I table it today.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 7899]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2989

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

Whereas over 4,000 Halifax area Grade 9 students are taking part today in Junior Achievement's Economics of Staying in School program; and

Whereas this program will introduce students to budgets, the cost of living on their own, and exploring types of careers to match their lifestyle expectations; and

Whereas the Economics of Staying in School program helps Grade 9 students to understand the importance of education and the personal and economic costs of dropping out of school;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize the efforts of Junior Achievement of Mainland Nova Scotia in promoting to students the benefits of staying in school.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 7900]

RESOLUTION NO. 2990

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Centre for Entrepreneurship Education and Development, CEED, received a silver award from the Institute of Public Administration of Canada at a national competition; and

Whereas CEED received its award for innovative management in the public sector and is a catalyst for youth entrepreneurship; and

Whereas it is the first time in the 10 year history of the award that Nova Scotia has been a finalist for this award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature recognize CEED's role as an innovator and for helping start 700 businesses and create 1,200 jobs in Nova Scotia in the past five years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 73 - Entitled an Act to Enable the Establishment and Protection of Nature Reserves in Nova Scotia. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read for a second time on a future date.

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

[Page 7901]

RESOLUTION NO. 2991

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

Whereas the Premier claimed yesterday that lifelong learning is one of the prongs in his policy pitchfork; and

Whereas the Tories have proposed a sunset clause for workplace safety, instead of a sunset clause for outdated classroom materials; and

Whereas this government's decision to stop updating textbooks and curriculum means our students will fall further behind in the knowledge economy, which says it all about the Tory dedication to lifelong learning;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Premier to institute a moratorium on his claims to believe in lifelong learning until his government ends its attack on learning opportunities for Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2992

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

Whereas the St. Patrick's High School drama group, Irish Players, is using drama to address student abuse; and

Whereas yesterday, the Irish Players performed their 20 minute play for students at Park West School in Clayton Park; and

Whereas already two students who had previously seen the play have sought help with student abuse problems;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Irish Players for their work in making other students aware of the seriousness of student abuse.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 7902]

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. 2993

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

Whereas agriculture is the most important resource industry in Colchester County; and

Whereas Colchester County has the largest concentration of dairy farms anywhere in Nova Scotia with approximately 5,800 cows situated on 111 farms; and

Whereas Colchester County, while first in the production of dairy cattle in Nova Scotia, is second in total vegetable acreage, production of hay and fodder crops, and the production of rabbits;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly extend our best wishes to the executive and membership of the Colchester County Federation of Agriculture, as they hold their annual general meeting tonight.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

[Page 7903]

RESOLUTION NO. 2994

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

Whereas providing quality child care is a complex job requiring specific knowledge, skills and abilities; and

Whereas the salaries of teachers and assistant teachers have remained virtually static in Nova Scotia over the past 10 years; and

Whereas failing to meet the needs of adults who work in child care threatens not only their well-being but also that of the children in their care;

Therefore be it resolved that this government follow the lead of the NDP Governments in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, who incrementally improved the wages of child care staff through wage enhancement grants.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2995

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

Whereas yesterday in this House, the Minister of Tourism and Culture refused to support economic development in his own backyard; and

Whereas with only one portfolio, surely the minister would have time to serve the needs of his local constituents in Inverness; and

[Page 7904]

Whereas yesterday in this House, the minister claimed that the residents of Inverness were lucky to have elected a Tory Government and MLA;

Therefore be it resolved the members of this House condemn the Minister of Tourism and Culture for the supreme arrogance of his statement, while failing to live up to the needs of his constituents.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 2996

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 Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy Run for the Cure campaign on September 22, 2000, was again a success in Queens County; and

Whereas Mrs. Susan Leger is a teacher and the key organizer of the Terry Fox Run for the Cure at Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy; and

Whereas the Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy raised over $5,500 for this year for cancer research;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of Grade 4 teacher, Susan Leger, and all those who volunteered and supported the Run for the Cure to raise funds for cancer research.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 7905]

RESOLUTION NO. 2997

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

Whereas this Tory Government appears to have an anti-woman, anti-children agenda; and

Whereas cuts at the Colchester Regional Hospital to paediatric care will affect women and children the most; and

Whereas revision to social assistance will adversely affect women and children the most;

Therefore be it resolved that this government stop trying to balance the budget on the backs of defenceless women and children.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2998

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

Whereas October 30th to November 5th has been designated National 4-H Week; and

Whereas 4-H members and leaders from across Canada will participate in the National 4-H National Members Conference as well as the National 4-H Volunteer Leaders' Conference to celebrate the accomplishments of the 4-H program and the role it has played in developing talented, confident citizens both young and old; and

Whereas 11 4-H members and leaders from Nova Scotia will travel to Toronto to participate in these educational and information sessions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize this week as National 4-H Week and commend all members and leaders for their commitment to 4-H and the 4-H movement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7906]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2999

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

Whereas Lansdowne Outdoor Recreation Development Association has been recognized by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association; and

Whereas the Lansdowne, Pictou County Park, which attracts approximately 15,000 people on an annual basis, was recognized for their innovation and leadership in the parks and recreation field; and

Whereas the innovation and leadership demonstrated included a mix of outdoor activities and amenities at the park, which include fishing and camping, and a space for traditional outdoor games specifically designed for senior citizens and the disabled;

Therefore be it resolved that Members of the Legislative Assembly, through this resolution, congratulate curator, Dave Leese and the association for being recognized nationally, and wish the association continued success in the years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7907]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3000

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

Whereas rugby has been a popular sport in Nova Scotia for many years; and

Whereas one of the finest teams in Nova Scotia history was the Caledonia team from Glace Bay; and

Whereas on Sunday, October 29th, UCCB Capers kept the tradition alive by defeating the Nova Scotia Agricultural College 12 - 0 to win the Rugby Nova Scotia College Division 2 title;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the players and coaches of the UCCB Men's Rugby team for a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3001

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

Whereas in this House the Minister of Health referred to cuts at the Colchester Regional Hospital as a minor dispute; and

Whereas today we have learned that nine doctors will withdraw their obstetrical services at the Colchester Regional Hospital because of paediatric nursing cuts; and

[Page 7908]

Whereas the so-called minor dispute the minister referred to yesterday will put health of children at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health be forced to take off his rose-coloured glasses so he can see the chaos that he has created in our health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 3002

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

Whereas three brave Nova Scotians - Tonia, Maxim and Anastasia Sylliboy - were recently honoured by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission for rescuing two children from drowning in the Bras d'Or Lakes; and

Whereas while the lives of two young children were saved, tragedy was not avoided as Maxim and Anastasia lost their own lives during the rescue; and

Whereas Tonia and the heirs of Maxim and Anastasia Sylliboy will each receive a bronze medal and U.S. $3,500 from the Carnegie Hero Fund honouring the bravery and courage of these three individuals;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Tonia, Maxim and Anastasia Sylliboy who through their brave and selfless actions are true heroes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7909]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my resolution, I would like to make an introduction. It is my very great pleasure to introduce to the House this morning, in the Speaker's Gallery, Iretia Cox, a union activist for many years, who I have known for a considerable amount of years now, but who also is the spouse of our Sergeant-at-Arms, Mr. Knockwood. With her this morning is Keith Barr and Mike Foley, a friend of Keith's. I understand they are doing some job shadowing. They are from Sir Robert Borden Junior High School. I understand they are in the French immersion course there. I would just like the House to extend to them our welcome for joining us at our deliberations this afternoon. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3003

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

Whereas the Provincial Health Council released its report yesterday on the state of health care in this province stating, "The system is in chaos and people feel their concerns aren't being heard."; and

Whereas Barbara Hart, the chair of the council states, "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out our system needs more money."; and

Whereas the Health Minister feels good about it when referring to our health care system in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health's attitude of "Don't worry, be happy" is not cutting it with the people of Nova Scotia and that he get serious about correcting the problems in the system now.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

[Page 7910]

RESOLUTION NO. 3004

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

Whereas yesterday, in his State of the Province Address, the Premier compared his government to the turtle, one of the slowest animals on Earth; and

Whereas if he wants to make a comparison with an animal that sticks his neck out, the Premier would be more accurate by choosing the ostrich with its head in the sand; and

Whereas other animals the Premier could use as an example of his government could be the sloth, the vulture, the weasel or even the ferret;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should come out of his shell and aspire to follow the examples of more noble members of the animal kingdom.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 3005

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

Whereas seven years ago today the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley was elected in a by-election to represent his constituents in this House of Assembly; and

Whereas the member has not disappointed his constituents in his fierce commitment to represent their needs in all the seven years he has served; and

Whereas this public service for the good people of Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is an extension of his previous two years' service to the area as a municipal Halifax County councillor;

[Page 7911]

Therefore be it resolved that colleagues in this House join me in congratulating the member for his service to the people of the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and as this member has often said, we hope that in his commitment to public service he keeps on truckin'.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3006

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

Whereas in a year at the Cabinet table the Liberals' supposed great hope to lead a Liberal revival in Nova Scotia has failed to deliver the necessary health care dollars this province desperately needs; and

Whereas ex-Senator Bernie Boudreau would have us think that health care is priority, number one, after he personally oversaw the biggest health cuts in this province's history; and

Whereas ex-Senator Bernie Boudreau has proven to be an ineffectual advocate for Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remind the people of Nova Scotia that ex-Senator Bernie Boudreau has a terrible record on health care and as an advocate for this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 7912]

RESOLUTION NO. 3007

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

Whereas the latest epistle from St. Mark suggests that Cyril Reddy is not providing effective communication between the government and its backbench; and

Whereas the latest epistle from St. Mark points to the need for a great deal of overtime work by Mr. Cyril Reddy; and

Whereas the latest epistle from St. Mark suggests that Cyril Reddy will have to shape up if he is not to ship out;

Therefore be it resolved that the latest epistle from St. Mark suggests that so far Mr. Cyril Reddy is as effective in his new job apparently, as he was at the Truro Raceway.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 3008

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

Whereas more than 1,700 Tim Hortons stores throughout Canada play an active role in their respective communities through programs such as the Tim Hortons Childrens' Foundation; and

Whereas the first Tim Hortons on the Eastern Shore recently opened in the Porters Lake area; and

Whereas Tim Hortons stores are about much more than just coffee and donuts, they provide valuable employment opportunities as well as a place where residents and visitors alike can come together in a true sense of community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate staff and management as well as the owners of the new Porters Lake Tim Hortons, Bruce and Dawn Vienneau and wish them every future success.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 7913]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax-Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3009

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

Whereas few governments have ever pursued a policy of income levelling to bring everyone down to the lowest level; and

Whereas it is even more unusual for a government to punish anyone who is believed to have more than their neighbour; and

Whereas the Premier of this province is suggesting that government's role is to ignore family needs and reduce the income of those living in poverty who might have more than their neighbour;

Therefore be it resolved that this government should dedicate itself to improving the income and economic situation of Nova Scotian families rather than using the language of class warfare and jealousy to justify pushing children deeper into poverty.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3010

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

Whereas St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre recently celebrated its 15th Anniversary; and

[Page 7914]

Whereas this centre provides emergency outpatient services, long-term care services as well as numerous outreach clinics from obstetrics to internal medicine; and

Whereas for the past 15 years, this centre has served the health care needs of more than 4,000 Isle Madame and Louisdale area residents;

[12:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the board of directors, the ladies auxiliary and the administration and staff of St. Anne Community and Nursing Care Centre on their 15th Anniversary and wish them success as they continue to provide first-rate health care services.

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 Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3011

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

Whereas Sparking Spring Water Limited recently completed a major expansion at their plant in Valley Station, Colchester County; and

Whereas the expansion saw the plant grow in size from 14,000 square feet to approximately 24,000 feet; and

Whereas the Vice-President and General Manager of Sparking Springs, Dave Ring, sees business growing in leaps and bounds over the next 5 to 10 years, including their international export business, which he expects will increase between 25 per cent to 50 per cent over the next three to five years;

[Page 7915]

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs extend our congratulations to Dave Ring and his staff at Sparking Spring Water Limited on their recent expansion and wish them the very best in all of their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3012

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

Whereas Liberal stalwarts in this House and across the province have pinned their hopes to the coat tails of ex-Senator Bernie Boudreau and his promise that he will be kept in Cabinet; and

Whereas ex-Senator Boudreau's previous Cabinet record was so dismal that he lost his own Party's provincial leadership race; and

Whereas ex-Senator Boudreau's record of representation for his home constituency in Cape Breton was so miserable that he quit and moved to Bedford;

Therefore be it resolved that the national Liberal campaign must know something about ex Senator Boudreau's performance, because they chose former Newfoundland Premier Brian Tobin as the Liberal representative on a CBC Radio phone-in that takes place in Dartmouth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7916]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3013

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

Whereas on July 15, 1999, Maxim Sylliboy and Anatasia Sylliboy of Eskasoni died attempting to save two drowning children; and

Whereas 28 year old Tonia Sylliboy was able to bring the two children safely ashore; and

Whereas all three Cape Bretoners have been awarded the Governor General's Medal of Bravery as well as the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission Medal;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize and commend the outstanding acts of bravery demonstrated by Maxim, Anastasia and Tonia Sylliboy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3014

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

[Page 7917]

Whereas the Halifax-based musical team of Kevin Evans and Brian Doherty have long brought the best in traditional Irish music and listening pleasure to Nova Scotians and audiences around the world; and

Whereas the latest production for Evans and Doherty is a new Halifax pub called The Old Triangle Irish Alehouse that will feature sections called The Snug, The Poorhouse and the House of Music; and

Whereas in their new venture they will provide us with food for the body, wine for the spirit and music for the soul;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Evans and Doherty for their tremendous contribution to the music industry and wish them much success in their new business venture.

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 Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3015

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

Whereas steady rain over the last few days is continuing to cause severe damage in the Glace Bay area due to flooding and forecasts suggests there is no end in sight; and

Whereas extensive damage is poised to become worse, causing undue hardship for the people in that area; and

Whereas this situation requires the immediate attention of the government;

[Page 7918]

Therefore be it resolved that government immediately send EMO and Public Works officials to Glace Bay to assess the damage and alleviate the undue hardship caused by extensive flooding before the problem gets any worse.

Mr. Speaker, I also have e-mail photos of the extensive damage, which I received this morning and I would like to table them at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3016

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

Whereas six women who have made outstanding achievements in their field were recognized at the annual Halifax Cornwallis Canadian Progress Club Women of Excellence dinner yesterday evening; and

Whereas guest speaker, Barbara Turnbull, a Toronto Star reporter who became a paraplegic at 18 when she was shot during a robbery, captivated the audience with her story of courage; and

Whereas the gala event has raised nearly $300,000 in the last 11 years to support Phoenix House youth programs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the distinguished work of the Halifax Cornwallis Canadian Progress Club, the nominees and the award recipients, Kate Carmichael, Sara Lee Lewis, June Jain, Wendy Scott, Andrea Gillis and Dr. Louise Cloutier.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7919]

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3017

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

Whereas Amherst native Kevin Blenkhorn has qualified for the World Long Drive Championships in Mesquite, Nevada; and

Whereas his commitment to practice and continuous improvement are a wonderful inspiration for any individual looking to achieve greater heights; and

Whereas Mr. Blenkhorn is ranked second in Canada, and has had a long trail of tournaments, regional and district championships to his achieve this status;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Kevin Blenkhorn for his accomplishments and wish him all the best in his continued efforts to achieve the pinnacle of any golfer, to have the longest drive in the world.

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 Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3018

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

Whereas 10 counsellors with the Department of Economic Development were certified by the Canadian Institute of Small Business Counsellors; and

[Page 7920]

Whereas this certification will allow these counsellors to help businesses become independent; and

Whereas these newly certified counsellors are to be commended for their initiative in seeking accreditation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to these employees of Economic Development on their significant accomplishment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3019

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

Whereas yesterday, the Provincial Health Council report revealed that Nova Scotians wanted to stop the chaos in the health care system; and

Whereas the Minister of Health stated during yesterday's Question Period that there exists no real chaos in our health care system; and

Whereas the minister claimed that Nova Scotia has one of the best health care systems in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health be forced to spend the day in one of our health facilities to experience the chaos that he has created and that is faced by all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7921]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3020

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

Whereas the Boston Christmas tree will this year come from Petite Rivière, Lunenburg County; and

Whereas the 15 metre tall white spruce tree will be provided by Pauline and George Himmelman of Petite Rivière; and

Whereas this tradition began 28 years ago when Nova Scotia offered one of its native evergreens to the good people of Boston as a gift of thanks for their help after the 1917 Halifax Explosion;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Pauline and George Himmelman for having grown one of Nova Scotia's finest evergreens to be used this Christmas as a token of gratitude to the people of Boston.

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 Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 7922]

RESOLUTION NO. 3021

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

Whereas veteran New Brunswick NDP organizer, Roger Couvrette, has joined the Chretien Liberals as the best way to fight the right-wing agenda of Stockwell Day; and

Whereas at Windsor, Ontario, yesterday, Alexa McDonough was introduced repeatedly as Audrey, while another NDP spellbinder referred to her as Alexis; and

Whereas with their provincial Leader now being referred to as Mary MacDonald and their federal Leader as Audrey, it does not seem that the NDP have their act together;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commends Roger Couvrette for his realistic decision to leave the NDP and join the Liberals, as indeed the Party he left is obviously in no condition to affect the outcome on election day.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:40 p.m. and end at 1:40 p.m.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.: MACPHERSON (DR. M.) -

RESIGNATION CONSEQUENCES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question, in the absence of the Minister of Health, is to the Premier. I want to table a memo from the former paediatrician - the former paediatrician - at the Colchester Regional Hospital. Dr. Marilyn MacPherson wrote this morning to the hospital administration and to her colleagues, "It is with much regret and dismay that I am unable to continue to provide in-hospital pediatric services safely." The hospital has known of Dr. MacPherson's intentions for some time now and that date has arrived. I want to ask the Premier, what is he going to do to ensure that children are not at risk as a result of Dr. MacPherson's reluctant decision?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I was only recently made aware that Dr. MacPherson has resigned. Yesterday the Minister of Health assured members of the House that there would be no staffing changes until the situation was assessed. I believe that

[Page 7923]

assessment was to be done by the Reproductive Care Committee of the IWK-Grace Hospital, which seemed a reasonable thing to do. Yesterday the minister acknowledged that care would not be compromised until this situation could be assessed. That, I believe, was a responsible position for government to take and, as I say, I am disappointed to hear the news.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if he was disappointed by that, then he is going to be disappointed by this. This is another letter, this time to all of the physicians at the Colchester Regional Hospital from the staff at its Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The letter states, "We support Dr. MacPherson in her decision; however, we are left with no pediatric coverage and as such, . . . we feel this is an unsafe situation in which to practise obstetrics. Unfortunately, we can no longer provide obstetrical coverage under these conditions and as of Monday, November 6, 2000 patients should be advised to present to either the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow or the Grace Maternity Hospital in Halifax."

Mr. Premier, the Colchester Regional Hospital will no longer to be able to deliver babies, and women and children will be placed at serious risk. Will you take immediate action to suspend your government's plan for that hospital?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what has been happening over there is there is a reorganization as to how they will be looking after all of the young people in the hospital: sick infants, older sick children, and neo-natals. My understanding is that new arrangement was agreed to by staff. They are obviously questioning the process as to how that will be staffed. The government has put in place what we feel is an acceptable solution, to have an outside assessment. As well, it is my understanding that the deputy and CEO of the hospital have agreed to meet with the doctors as soon as possible.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier should know that this situation is not acceptable to the people of Nova Scotia and is not acceptable to the doctors at that hospital. The situation has reached a level of crisis that is unfathomable, given the seriousness of the consequences. I want to ask the Premier again, will he intervene to protect women and children in the northern region and immediately suspend the board's decision?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does not have to remind government that the situation is serious. The process is in place. The appropriate people are going to be meeting with members of the medical staff to ensure that there is a safe level of service at the Colchester Regional Hospital.

[Page 7924]

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.: CUTS - DECISIONS REVERSE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier and the absent Minister of Health, who yesterday described the crisis at the Colchester Regional Hospital as a minor dispute. Today, we have learned that the paediatrician has withdrawn her services. That Premier knows, as a physician, paediatricians are the most kind and most caring of all physicians, and that was not an easy decision for her. We have seen flip-flops in health care throughout this province. My question to the Premier is, will he not listen and reverse this decision for the sake of the safety of the children in that Truro region?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the safety of the children at that hospital will not be compromised. A process is in place to resolve this situation, and the process will be allowed to unfold. I will repeat, the safety of children will not be compromised in that hospital.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are seeing the dismantling of health care in the community hospitals, such as Tatamagouche and now in the regional hospitals. We fought hard, the people of Nova Scotia fought hard to have paediatricians and obstetricians in regional hospitals, and now we are seeing this dismantled. The basic health care in those communities is being dismantled. Does the minister not believe that the safety of the patients in that community is worth $100,000? The $100,000 we are talking about here, that is expected to be saved with this shortsighted decision. Does the Premier not think that the lives of women and children . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, there will be no children's health compromised by what is going on at the Colchester Regional Hospital.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that Premier must be the last person in Nova Scotia who would believe that. To stand here today, when we have a paediatrician withdrawing services, the obstetrician is withdrawing services, and you are going to have nurses in separate wings of the hospital, the plan that they have is to talk on walkie-talkies, does he think that he can deliver a paediatric nursing service by providing nurses talking to each other over walkie-talkies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the concern of the member opposite. He has received the assurance that the safety and health care needs of those children in that hospital will be met.

[Page 7925]

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

HEALTH - CARE: NORTHERN REG. - FIX

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, November 2nd marks the implementation date of the northern region's business plan. As of today, Tatamagouche will lose five acute care beds that will result in increased cost and increased risk to patient safety. Pictou will have severely reduced outpatient hours, which means longer wait periods. Springhill will lose all of its acute care capacity, and patients will have to travel to Amherst or Truro. Truro will no longer be able to deliver babies, and children at the hospital will not have specialist care. My question to the Premier is, you said you would fix health care, is this what you call fixing health care?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government is undergoing a process of changing health care, and has implemented very positive changes in the health care delivery system. Granted, there have been rough spots and there will be rough spots, there always are when change is as far-reaching as is required in this province, but we are going to fix the health care system and we are going to fix it so it will work not only today, tomorrow, but for years to come.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, here are the facts. Since this government started the reforms, communities in the northern region have organized themselves in an unprecedented way to say that these cuts must stop. Physicians are saying that they have nowhere else to go but to the public because no one in charge is willing to listen when they say safety is at risk.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: The CEO of the northern region is quoted as saying his own . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member put the question, please.

MR. DEXTER: . . . implementation process is flawed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, put the question, please.

MR. DEXTER: My question to the Premier, when will you put an end to this chaos and suspend this government's northern business plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite would be the first to agree that the changes initiated by the previous government have not worked. The Provincial Health Council reporting yesterday indicated that the seven years of reform have actually hurt

[Page 7926]

the system. We are now going to fix the system. There will be rough spots, yes, there will be, but doing nothing which is what you are suggesting is not an option.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in fact, this is what we have, decisions that communities do not want, decisions made in isolation, decisions that risk the health of the people of Nova Scotia. I want to ask the Premier again, when will he listen to communities and physicians and suspend that business plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the process that has been undertaken has been to move to evidenced-based decision making and the business plans will be assessed using that kind of criteria. In those cases where things are not working, they will be fixed. The basic changes that we have made are sound and they will continue.

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

EDUC. - ILLITERACY (ADULT): SCHOOL SYSTEM -

RESPONSIBILITY QUESTION

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. In the state of the province address yesterday, when referring to adult illiteracy, the Premier stated, "We will also be announcing the steps we will take to make sure the public system does not perpetuate the problem." My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier implying that the school system is somehow to blame for the problem of adult illiteracy in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate an opportunity to speak on what is a serious topic. Forty per cent of adult Nova Scotians have a literacy problem. What we have to ensure is that the current public school system does not perpetuate those kinds of statistics.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, all Nova Scotians would like to know what the Premier means when he makes veiled threats to those working in the education system. My question to the Premier is, if it is not (Interruptions)

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

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, if it is not a threat, why was the Premier delivering such a message in a confrontational way?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure, I was there, 500 other people were there, perhaps by a nod of the head the member opposite could indicate if he was there? No.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

[Page 7927]

THE PREMIER: So the member opposite is quite prepared to make a judgement about whether or not I was confrontational when I would guarantee that a very large majority of the people who were there would say that the Premier was not confrontational.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the language of the Premier's speech was inflammatory and borrowed straight from the Mike Harris play book. My last question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier clarify his statements so teachers and others in the education system do not feel threatened?

THE PREMIER: Because the member was not there, I want to tell him what I said yesterday. I talked about vision and I talked about hope and I talked about opportunity. I talked about hope and opportunity that will come from economic development, the changes that that minister introduced. I talked about vision, hope and opportunity that we are going to be providing to the people who are on social assistance. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

ECON. DEV. - UNEMPLOYMENT: N.S. - RURAL

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I relish the opportunity to talk about opportunity and hope, particularly for people in rural Nova Scotia. This Premier and the Minister of Community Services have been boasting that their new welfare program is tied to a boom economy. Well, I would suggest the people in rural Nova Scotia who are looking for work have a different attitude. Let's remember the fact - and I will table this - that under the Premier's watch, unemployment in the four rural areas of Nova Scotia has gone up since this government has been elected. So, my question to the Premier is, where are the jobs in rural Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: What the member opposite fails to understand is that the employment statistics for those who have training are much better than for those who do not have training, and this is the opportunity that we will be providing for those people on social assistance. We are going to provide them with training opportunities. That makes their employability prospects go through the roof. That is why this plan is going to work and that is why many recipients are excited about the prospects of what we are doing in government.

MR. DEVEAUX: If the Premier read the press releases from the Department of Community Services he would know that it is very vague as to whether there will be any job training or what type of job training will be provided for the people who are receiving welfare. The Premier spoke yesterday of all the help-wanted ads in the store windows and in the papers. I want to give the Premier a reality check. Statistics came out yesterday - and I will table those as well - that Nova Scotia is the only province in Canada that had a drop

[Page 7928]

in help-wanted ads in the last year. My question is, how can the Premier talk about moving people from welfare to work when employers are reducing the amount of jobs that they are actually seeking people for?

THE PREMIER: The member fails to realize the group that has the most difficulty in accessing the job market is the group that does not have a proper education allowing an easy entry into the job market. The program that the Minister of Community Services is explaining to you is all about providing training opportunities that make it easier for any Nova Scotian to access the job market, whether it be somebody on community services, somebody in our high school, or somebody on the streets unemployed. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEVEAUX: It is becoming increasingly clear that this government's proposed welfare program is not based on facts. So, when is the Premier going to admit there is not a booming economy in rural Nova Scotia, there are not enough jobs out there as it is now, and that he is failing the people of this province who are in poverty, those who are working and those who are not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite fails to understand is that there are many jobs in Nova Scotia out there to be had, but we don't fill them with Nova Scotians because Nova Scotians do not have the proper training. We are going to fix that. We are going to provide the proper training for Nova Scotians so they can access many of these jobs, which employers now have to take people in from outside to fill. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There must be something in the water here. (Interruptions)

Order, please! If the honourable members don't come to order when asked, leave the Assembly now, and that is for both sides of the House.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

[1:00 p.m.]

EDUC. - HFX. WEST HS: UPGRADES - DETAILS

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Recently, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, our Party's Environment Critic, and I had the opportunity to visit Halifax West High School. I couldn't believe what I saw. I don't think I have ever been in a building that is in worse shape. Not only is the building falling apart, it is 42 years old and nearing the end of its effective lifespan. My question for the minister is, even though she has not visited the school, the minister has announced $8

[Page 7929]

million to upgrade and renovate the school, so will the minister please inform the members of this House, what work is included in the $8 million price tag?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, before I answer that question, I would like to congratulate the member opposite on his new-found interest in Halifax West High School. Certainly, it was never on any priority list during the previous government. We are almost through a complete engineering study on Halifax West High School to determine precisely what that $8 million will include. That information will be ready within a few weeks.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will certainly be interested to see what kind of interest this minister shows down the road. Anyone familiar with the present location of Halifax West High School is well aware that it is no longer a suitable location for a high school. My question for the minister is, was the location of the high school taken into consideration when the decision was made to clean up and renovate the present building?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the engineers from my department have taken all relevant factors into consideration in their estimate of the money required to turn Halifax West High School into a very decent, clean school. That is what we plan to do with that $8 million. As I said to the member, when the report is complete, I will give the member opposite the information.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the minister didn't even come within a mile of answering that question. I have met with the chair of the Halifax West Feeder School Group. The group feels that the only solution to the Halifax West High School problem is the construction of a new school. The building has outlived its life cycle, both in terms of the building itself and its ability to deliver today's programming standards. My question is, does the minister agree that the only solution to the problem is the construction of a new school?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the previous government's solution and the previous two governments' solution to the school problem was to build every new school they possibly could, wherever. They did not renovate where they could have, they left us with a list of 57 renovation projects that were not funded. We are proceeding to renovate where it makes sense, and build where it makes sense.

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

LBR.: MIN. WAGE - RATE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, on January 1, 2001, the minimum wage in Prince Edward Island will increase by 20 cents, reaching the $5.80 an hour mark. On that day, the only province with a lower minimum wage than this province will be Newfoundland. In this province, at least 7,000 heads of families, the main breadwinners for these families, are working for the minimum wage of $5.70. Will the Premier tell Nova

[Page 7930]

Scotians while he was chawing down with the financial elite yesterday at the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce here in Halifax, bragging about his low-wage policy while he is punishing thousands of families in the process, why are you punishing low wage earners in this province, Mr. Premier?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must understand that this government does understand the difficulty of working for low wages. We have a lot of difficulties to overcome. One of the things that we are talking about is our economic growth strategy which was introduced. That is the kind of initiative that a government can implement that will make a difference, that will make salaries higher, that will make better jobs available for Nova Scotians. That is the way to fix the problem.

MR. CORBETT: The gall of that Premier to say that, when yesterday he deliberately pitted the poor against the poor. That is what this government is doing. This welfare reform has nothing to do with welfare reform but it has the poor fighting with the poor. Why doesn't this Premier do something for the working poor by agreeing here and now to start increasing the minimum wage level today, not down the road?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will refer that to the Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the House that the subject of minimum wage is something which we observe very carefully. We also recognize, as the Premier pointed out, that the real solutions to wage levels in this province lie in growing the economy of this province, and that is where the emphasis of this government will lie.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, there are many talks here about the brain drain and everyone alludes to physicians and other professionals. Well, I am going to tell this government that the people who are leaving here are people like construction workers and so on, because this government is not doing anything for fair wages, not a thing. There is an issue of thousands of families who are working in poverty. What are you going to do, Mr. Premier? Will the Premier increase the minimum wage or does he want to stand by a policy that amounts to more poverty for longer and more often? Which one is it going to be?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, minimum wage legislation will not end poverty in this province. What will end poverty in this province is a government that is prepared to work with the private sector to grow an economy and that is exactly what is part and parcel of the economic development strategy of this province. Over the next short while, we have seven strategic directions. We have 15 action points in the next 12 months. These are the kinds of actions that are (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

[Page 7931]

EXCO - STATE OF PROV. ADD.: PREMIER - COMMENTS EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Yesterday in the State of the Province Address, the Premier stated, "The bottom line is: No one who is on welfare and who is capable of working should be better off than their neighbour who is struggling sometimes at one or two jobs to make ends meet." Well, in Glace Bay, close to 4,000 men, women and children, are receiving family benefits and social assistance. There is an unemployment rate hovering unofficially at 50 per cent. Could the Premier explain to this House how many of those 4,000 people in Glace Bay are better off than those working one or two jobs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings an important topic to the House of Assembly, and that is the very unacceptable employment rates in industrial Cape Breton, and he makes particular reference to his own area of Glace Bay. That is one of the reasons that this government has made more investment in employment opportunities per capita in industrial Cape Breton since it came into power than any other part of the province. For example, we have contributed to the growth fund. We have contributed to the very successful implementation of the EDS call centre in Cape Breton. We are very aware of the unemployment statistics in Glace Bay and industrial Cape Breton. That is why we are paying particular attention to job creation opportunities in that area.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would love to see the Premier table those supposed facts that he is talking about, how much you are helping the people of Glace Bay. I think clearly the Premier has no idea how bad the situation is in Glace Bay. It is the height of ignorance to believe that people on social assistance . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member should actually retract that. That is unparliamentary. It is.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I retract that. It is the height of arrogance then, okay. It is indeed the height of arrogance to believe that people on social assistance in the area are better off than working families. The best form of social assistance may be a job. Mr. Speaker, there are no jobs in Glace Bay. Will the Premier commit today to ensuring that unemployment is alleviated before you attack the most vulnerable in society?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite has his heart in the right place, and he wants to represent his constituents. One of the great challenges that faces this government will be to provide ample opportunities for employment in several areas in this province, not the least of which is his own area. But, I would remind the member opposite that when yesterday we were debating another issue, a government program, the family assistance program that would help many, many constituents in Glace Bay, he was criticizing the government for advertising the program so his constituents would know about it and could apply.

[Page 7932]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will remind the Premier that we have yet to see how much that has cost, as a matter of fact. I thank him for saying I have a heart. At least I can say I have one, and it is in the right place, not like that crew over there. We don't need to be pitting Nova Scotians against Nova Scotians based on whether or not they are on social assistance. Will the Premier please commit to becoming better educated about the plight of people on social assistance, especially in areas of high unemployment, instead of adopting inappropriate and totally unnecessary language to describe those most in need?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all MLAs are aware as they perform their constituency duties of the plight of those who are on social assistance, because much of the work we do as MLAs is attempting to assist those people. The member opposite makes a point. Should I become more conversant with the problems in his area in industrial Cape Breton? I can say that since I became Premier of this province, other than my own constituency and visiting here in Halifax to perform the duties of government, I have visited industrial Cape Breton more than any other area in this entire province. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

NAT. RES. - SEMPRA: TARGETS (C.B.) - ENSURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. We know that if the NEB rules that the lateral to Cape Breton is not as sound as many have argued, Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline Limited will not be able to send the full complement of gas through the line to Cape Breton. I met with Nova Scotia's natural gas distributor, Sempra Atlantic, and they told me that if their lateral does not contain a full complement of gas, it will affect whether Sempra can reach its home distribution targets in Cape Breton.

[1:15 p.m.]

I want to ask the Premier, what steps is he taking to ensure Sempra will meet its Cape Breton distribution targets regardless of the amount of gas allowed through the lateral, and does this issue jeopardize distribution of natural gas in Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. At the current allowable pressures - and as this is mandated by the NEB, as you know it is not the URB - at approximately 71,000 btus can be transmitted daily. Right now, the sales are about 15,000, so the capacity, even at the reduced pressures, is far and above what will be needed in the foreseeable future. As you know, the company is developing technology that they believe will provide satisfactory evidence to the NEB that will allow the line to function at a higher pressure. We will have to await the results of that testing, and whether or not the NEB would then be in a position to license the pipe at a higher pressure.

[Page 7933]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the Premier must be prepared in the event that the NEB rules that the lateral cannot safely transport a full complement of gas. They have to be prepared for that. My question to the Premier is, are you considering forcing Maritimes & Northeast to lay another lateral if the NEB rules the current one is not fit, so he can ensure that Cape Breton will receive gas in a timely fashion?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at this point that is a hypothetical question. There is a reasonable suggestion that in fact with internal testing, with a small PIG that is being developed that in fact the line may well be recertified for a higher pressure. It would certainly be premature to start speculating at this point, that that procedure will fail.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, with those answers, will the Premier commit today that Sempra will meet its distribution targets in Cape Breton, no matter how the NEB rules on the safety of the lateral? Are you going to commit to that today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I can say is that Sempra has an arrangement, an agreement with the province, that requires them to meet certain objectives. We are not anticipating making any change in those requirements for Sempra.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

AGRIC. - TRURO RACEWAY: STABILITY - FIN. INFORMATION

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Agriculture. Last April 5th, I raised a question to the Minister of Finance about the $1 million subsidy for the harness racing industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, particularly the Truro Raceway, once managed by the Tory Caucus Cabinet liaison, Cyril Reddy. At that time, the Finance Minister claimed, ". . . what we brought about is some accountability, and that will be administered through the Department of Agriculture." Today, I wish to put that accountability to the test. Could the Minister of Agriculture inform the House as to the financial stability of the harness racing industry in the province, with particular reference to the Truro Raceway?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member knows, this year the Province of Nova Scotia pledged $1 million, down from $3 million, which the former government had pledged. Certainly, Nova Scotians questioned that type of expenditure. We pledged $1 million to this industry to allow them to have a conversion year, and to bring back a plan for us on the long-term viability of that industry. We are currently awaiting that report.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for the response, but he obviously didn't answer the question. I believe that Nova Scotians would like to know if their $1 million was put to good use. Will the minister commit to providing a detailed

[Page 7934]

financial statement for the Truro Raceway, including a breakdown of their share of the $1 million?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member, again, for his question. As I should remind the honourable member again, $3 million was spent by the administration he was part of. We had a serious look at that type of expenditure and we gave the industry $1 million to put their House in order and a business plan. We are awaiting that business plan and, as the honourable member knows, there are more racing facilities in Nova Scotia than Truro.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister always wants to revert back. The fact is it was $3 million over three years, which is $1 million a year; obviously the minister is not aware of that. The manager of that facility (Interruptions) The front bench know about it, but the backbenchers, obviously, do not know the manager very well, even though he has been hired, by them, to look after them. The manager of that facility indicated that the state of the harness racing industry in the Province of Nova Scotia should be in good shape . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: . . . but now that he has left that job, my question to the minister is very simple, very clear and very to the point; hopefully, he can give a straight answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Will the minister give his assurance to the people of Nova Scotia that the Truro Raceway will stay open and, if it folds, he will resign? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That was a two part question. The second part was hypothetical. I will allow him to answer the first part.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, when the report comes forward, the government and my department will make a recommendation, but if the member opposite is offering to resign his seat if the money he is talking about is not put to good use, well, we will help him hold a by-election for his seat.

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

HEALTH - HOME-CARE SERVICES:

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN - TIMETABLE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Provincial Health Council's report is a stinging indictment of the lack of action of this government on many issues, many of which have been obvious since before 1983. One of the glaring problems is the tremendous need

[Page 7935]

for home-care services. In my constituency an elderly gentleman brought his wife home from the hospital with a promise of three hours of home care a day, and here we are three weeks later and no home care.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, is a comprehensive plan for home care part of the clinical services footprint and when will we see it? (Interruption)

HON. JAMES MUIR: I am pleased that the honourable member raised the issue of home care. As we move into the district health authorities and expand our concept of primary care, an integral part of that service is going to be home care and the single-entry process that we are going through, and a classification too, Mr. Speaker, will help us better allocate our resources in that regard.

MR. DEXTER: I guess that means there is not a plan.

Mr. Speaker, the report of the Provincial Health Council says that proper home care will prevent other problems such as unnecessary injuries to those who try to exceed their physical abilities; they are talking about caregivers at home. This is another safety issue. What does the minister say to allegations that people are being unnecessarily injured because of the lack of adequate home-care services?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will say that I know that not all people get as much of the home-care service as they would like. We try to make assessments to determine what is an adequate level of home care to be offered to those who need it. I am sorry if somebody was injured when there was not a home-care worker there but, to be quite candid, I have not had a report that somebody was injured because of the lack of home care.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, part of the chaos in the health-care system is the poor coordination of home-care services. The report says that there are unnecessary multiple assessments, that there are gaps in the services provided. I want to know from the minister, will he undertake to end the chaos and table the plan for home care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think chaos is probably a misleading word for the honourable member to use. Like other elements of the health system that we have in the province, we know that there are better services that we would like to offer. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I think the term chaos is inappropriate. It was a term in that report but as the honourable member well knows, when the chair was asked to define chaos it probably was defined in terms of not having access to a family doctor when they would like one, and it does not go that much further than that. We are endeavouring to improve our services, and our move toward the district health authorities and the full

[Page 7936]

integration of services to make a seamless continuation of health services in the communities should improve our delivery system.

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

HEALTH - CUTS: LUNENBURG (CONSTITUENCY) - DETAILS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health, as well. According to a document marked Confidential, which was eventually obtained through a freedom of information request, the plan to close six beds at the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital and to convert it into a transitional care unit would save some $600,000. I will certainly table that document. Since then the Minister of Justice has said that the business plan was wrong and that the beds would not close. My question to the minister is, what cuts to staff and services in other areas is the minister going to let happen in order to make up for the $600,000 in the Justice Minister's riding?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question. The reason I am pleased to have it is that one of the things this government is trying to do, Mr. Speaker, is to make health decisions based on evidence and not on political expediency. I know that would be a foreign way of doing business for those rascals on the other side of the House. The fact is, when the original plan was proposed and it was re-examined, it was determined that the decision which had been originally made was not in the best interest. I think the honourable member knows that the Lunenburg facility is part of the South Shore Health Care Complex, so you would have to look at the two of them as a package. What it came down to was taking a look at all of the data, it was determined that there weren't sufficient beds. We made that decision (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the business plan is the business plan and it did take into consideration the points the minister makes. Really what he is saying, through all that gobbledegook, is that it was a political decision. We have a similar situation in Shelburne, where the MLA threatened to quit if seven beds at the Roseway Hospital were not returned to acute care level funding. This cut at the Roseway is going to save some $200,000. My question to the minister is, will the minister explain where the former western region took the $200,000 from to keep the Shelburne MLA in his seat? (Interruptions)

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

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, again, I do understand that they don't understand making decisions on the basis of evidence rather than on the basis of political expediency. Clearly, I think the fact that there were still some major improvements suggested in the Provincial

[Page 7937]

Health Services report, despite the fact that they had controlled the agenda for five years. It would indicate that they weren't much good at doing anything.

[1:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you in the case of the Shelburne situation, the honourable members may be aware that we had facility problems at one of the long-term care institutions down there. A number of the people from that long-term care institution were moved into the Roseway Hospital. The plan called for a certain number of acute care (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West on your final supplementary.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, really what the minister is saying through all that fluff is that the business plan . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Fluff is there. (Laughter)

MR. MACKINNON: Excuse the Freudian slip. Really what he is saying is the business plan is a farce.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACKINNON: So all that work by the professionals doesn't mean anything. Mr. Speaker, I have further documents that show that the former western region is forbidden to incur a greater deficit than it already has nor will it receive any more money from the province. This is a letter that is dated July 12, 2000, signed by the Deputy Minister of Health.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. MACKINNON: My question to the minister is, how are the former health regions expected to address their budget shortfalls when the minister can just arbitrarily flip-flop on the cuts that are proposed in the business plan?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear to all members of the House, there was no flip-flop on the business plans. The changes that were made were made on the basis of evidence. Now if the honourable member is over there suggesting that there should not be acute care beds in the Roseway Hospital, I wish he would just come out and tell the people of southwestern Nova Scotia that. (Interruptions) And it was. However, in reference to the dollar, there was no question, we have been slower moving towards the business plans.

One of the things this government did, Mr. Speaker, in that business-planning process that you know (Interruptions)

[Page 7938]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

JUSTICE - PROCEEDS OF CRIME: ACCOUNT - FUNDS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Justice. The minister is aware that assets and items used in major crimes and drug heists are sold off or auctioned off by the province. The money is then placed into an account known as the proceeds of crime account. Can the minister tell this Legislature the amount of funds in that account?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can't answer that question today. I know that it is a very great deal of money and I also know that there are arrangements (Interruption) No, and I also understand that there are arrangements being made to pay some of those funds out of that account to certain police services.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, then the minister is also aware that in some other provinces, some of the monies from the proceeds of crime account are given to municipalities to help unsolved crimes. Will the minister consider doing the same for municipalities in this province?

MR. BAKER: I guess the short answer is yes, Mr. Speaker. That is what the whole plan is, is to give it, I would say, not to the municipalities but to the police services of the municipalities because obviously the department would kind of like it to go into police services but that is the whole purpose of the exercise, to make sure they have the resources. Obviously we want to have those resources targetted to solving crime.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see that the minister has recognized that other municipalities have done this. The minister is aware that in the Halifax Regional Municipality there are a number of unsolved crimes so will the minister commit to giving funding from the proceeds of crime to the Halifax Regional Police service to combat some of the crimes that we have already identified in this community?

MR. BAKER: Again, for the benefit of the honourable member, I am pleased to report that I spoke at the annual meeting of the Nova Scotia Association of Chiefs of Police at which time the Chief of the Halifax Regional Police Force was there, among many other chiefs, and I told them just that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 7939]

HEALTH - COL. REG. HOSP.:

BONE DENSITOMETER - ACCEPTANCE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Minister of Health has said time and time again that your government only makes health decisions based on evidence. A week ago he said that the evidence did not support accepting a bone densitometer by the Colchester Regional Hospital Auxiliary. Yet today we learned that after talking to the MLA for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley that the Minister of Health is going to reverse his previous evidence-based decision. My question to the Premier is, what new evidence does your Minister of Health now have that would prompt him to ignore his old evidence and now accept the bone scanner?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would be quite willing to answer the member's question if, in fact, he would quote me correctly, because what the member opposite has said was clearly not what I said about bone densitometers in Truro.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I said that the Minister of Health clearly said that what they were doing in health was evidence-based decisions. Clearly that is not taking place here. The Osteoporosis Society of Canada says that the average cost to the health care system for a fracture in an older patient is $25,000, but the Minister of Health says he does not want to accept the bone scanner because treating people with osteoporosis will cause the costs of Pharmacare to rise. What cost-benefit analysis was done to allow the Minister of Health to say that Pharmacare costs associated with early detection of osteoporosis would cost more than treating breaks and fractures after the fact?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Premier. (Interruption) He directed the question to the Premier.

THE PREMIER: I apologize, Mr. Speaker, we thought on this side he was directing it to the Minister of Health. But, regardless, I direct it to the Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question because, as usual, it demonstrates that he has part of his information correct and most of it wrong. The report to which he refers - and I don't know the report to which you are referring - the issue of bone densitometry in osteoporosis, there is no question that that is a helpful tool for diagnosis, and if it was going to be used for the diagnosis of osteoporosis, that is fine. The issue is we don't have a protocol established and it is used for regular screening.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that didn't come out in that Truro thing that people should have known better, is that you have to pay radiologists to read those screens. Even a radiologist in Truro stood up and said it is not going to cost anything, yet it is going to cost . . .

[Page 7940]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond on your final supplementary.

MR. SAMSON: This minister clearly said he did not want that piece of equipment because it would diagnose people, raise the costs of Pharmacare, and then he went on further to say these women were to blame for their lifestyles. That is what the Minister of Health said. He said it himself in a CBC report. My last supplementary to the Premier is, how can the Premier say he is taking politics out of the health care system when the Minister of Health is about to flip-flop once again on a decision based on a conversation with a fellow Tory MLA?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier, you have 15 seconds.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the clauses of the code of conduct which applies to members of the Executive Council, is that . . .

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 62.

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, again for members of the House who paid such rapt attention to my earlier comments, the concern that comes out time and time again is the resulting hostility that has come about because of how this piece of legislation has been brought forth. That hostility you have heard from members here. You have heard of some of the dissention, the difficulties and the bad feelings that have resulted among Nova Scotians.

[Page 7941]

We truly believe, Mr. Speaker, that this hoist would provide the opportunity for this government to learn and benefit from the experience that previous speakers in my caucus have outlined. That is the sort of listening, that is the sort of caring approach which many Nova Scotians felt they were getting when they elected that Premier and that government in July of the previous year, and that is the concern.

The result is going to be, of course, when this particular hoist amendment is defeated, and we understand that it is going to be, we are going to understand the fact that we are eventually going to go to the Committee on Law Amendments and that revered procedure that we follow there and the concern, again, is that Nova Scotians have to come to this House, in the capital city of this province. On the other hand, if this government had been listening to us - and I think there are some backbench members over there who have been listening to us - I think they would understand there would be a benefit, that if this hoist went forward and that if a committee went forward and listened to Nova Scotians in such places as my good friend, the member for Dartmouth North, has pointed out, if my good friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, had been listened to, that the people in New Waterford would have an opportunity, or the adjoining community of Glace Bay or, Mr. Speaker, it would be a wonderful opportunity for members of this government to have the opportunity to go to Lakeside and to meet and listen to people from that community who have concerns about this piece of legislation.

It would also be a wonderful opportunity, Mr. Speaker, for caseworkers throughout this province, who otherwise have to come all the way to Halifax. This is a cornerstone piece of legislation. It must be done correctly. We have pointed out the flaws and the fact that those regulations and the details are of much consequence. Nova Scotians are asking difficult questions.

Last night during the late debate we were told by the member for Pictou East that the tough, difficult decisions are being made by this government, the tough, difficult, right decisions. Well, we are giving the advice to this government, Mr. Speaker, that if you have the right evidence, the correct evidence from Nova Scotians, you will have the opportunity to make the correct, right decisions. It is our belief that this hoist would allow, for a period of six months, Nova Scotians from other parts of the province to be heard.

You know, Mr. Speaker, I think we all agree there is for Nova Scotians a certain intimidating factor to appear and come to Halifax, into the Red Chamber in front of the Law Amendments Committee, and make their views known. Many Nova Scotians are saying, I am not a lawyer, I do not have the prepared text, maybe I do not have the skills to be able to present it as it is supposed to be presented. I want Nova Scotians to know all they have to do is just show up and they will get their chance. They will get their opportunity. We want to hear from them, but this hoist amendment would cut down on that intimidating factor and we, as good legislators, Mr. Speaker, would go to Nova Scotians. We would go to Stewiacke,

[Page 7942]

we would go to Lakeside, we would go to New Waterford and we would say, what do you think of this piece of legislation?

Instead, we are asking many of the very people who cannot afford some of the basic expenses that have been outlined by the other members of my caucus, we are asking these Nova Scotians to come to Halifax, to make the special arrangements to have to come to Halifax, whether they are taking the bus, whether they are arranging some form of transportation to come here, to be able to take more of that money which they cannot afford, to come here to have to speak to the members of this government. The hoist amendment is based upon common sense. It is based upon courtesy for some of the many people in this province who cannot afford to take the time to come here. Nova Scotians across this province, they would like the opportunity, as we have expressed many times over the last couple of days, to be able to have their say on this matter, and they don't believe they have had that opportunity.

[1:45 p.m.]

Oh, yes, there will be people who will come in front of the Law Amendments Committee, and they will reflect, hopefully, all of Nova Scotia. The point is - and you have been on the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker, you have seen the procedure at work - many times there are only people from metro who are here; people who are from the HRM who can conveniently arrive, make their presentation, answer the questions. That is not the case for Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other. Cape Bretoners would love the opportunity to be able to speak to legislators about this piece of legislation.

What is wrong with that? Do we not want to listen to what these Nova Scotians have to say? How are they going to make their views known? They have told us, they have told the member for Cape Breton Centre they were not being listened to on this; instead the finger is being pointed at them because they are poor. Bill No. 62 is an attack on the poor. Bill No. 62 is not an attack on poverty, and Nova Scotians of all financial backing would like the opportunity to be able to express their opinions on this bill.

The way to allow that is this six month time to allow people from Yarmouth, perhaps, and I have heard from the previous MLA for Yarmouth on this matter - he has spoken to me at length because we maintain our friendship although he has gone through some rough times himself - the previous member from Yarmouth has said to make sure in the House that those legislators know that there are people in Yarmouth who believe they should have something to say on this particular bill, and it would be to the benefit of the people of Yarmouth.

[Page 7943]

That good, past member of this House, who keeps in contact with legislation, wants to know what exactly will be the opportunity for someone from Yarmouth to come to this House. That unfortunately is a costly event. Not only do you have to drive down that dangerous Highway No. 103 all the way in to Halifax, but it is an overnight trip unless you turn around and drive back in the dark along that same dangerous road.

I use Yarmouth as an example because John Deveau, the previous member, of whom I am speaking, he wants the opportunity to be able to express some of the concerns that he has heard and, as you might be aware, Mr. Deveau, through his own health problems has to go out of his way to make that sort of presentation. But we are not talking about a past MLA here, we are talking about average Nova Scotians who want their say. The benefit of this is there are holes in Bill No. 62 that you, Mr. Speaker, could drive your truck through, and the opportunity has to be for the very people that you represent to have their say.

The one example that I must return to is the definition of a person in need. That will be determined by regulations - regulations. Now, what is a person in need? Surely the people who draft legislation should have the courtesy to us as legislators, to Nova Scotians, to be able to express in language that we can understand and not tied up in legalese, what is a person in need. That is the question Nova Scotians are asking. Nova Scotians want that clear definition. What is a Nova Scotian in need? The answer is that it will be determined in the regulations.

When you deal with a piece of legislation, this is not on blind faith. If this is a cornerstone piece of legislation, if this legislation is so important to this government, why are there so many questions being asked by Nova Scotians?

More importantly - and this is the factor that concerns me most - the hostility that has resulted. As legislators we do not want to be the target and I know members over there do not want to be the target of personal abuse. In their heart of hearts they believe they are making the correct decision, but what we are saying is, and it is very clear, that there has to be a good thorough review of this entire issue of reform when it comes to legislation of this sort, but it has not been done correctly and if the process is not being done correctly, Mr. Speaker, there is a right and a wrong way to do everything, the resulting hostility because of how this bill is being presented, because of the opportunity from people across this province who now will not have the opportunity to sit in their local legion, to sit in their local Lions' Club and meet and listen so that we can have an opportunity, as legislators, that would be a benefit for this piece of legislation.

Now, this six months' hoist is something that I believe in, Mr. Speaker. It is something that I think the people of New Waterford believe in. I know the people who have spoken to me on this matter and I bring up that constituent of mine who asked for this piece of legislation. He is no lawyer, as I am no lawyer, but when I look at a piece of legislation now when it first hits my desk, I want to see some meat on that skeleton and there is not a lot of

[Page 7944]

meat on this skeleton. That constituent of mine who lives on the St. Margaret's Bay Road in Timberlea, his reaction is this, is this all there is to this bill, as in the bill in front of us, not the Bill who is speaking, is this all it is, Bill? Yes, that is all it is. That is the sort of legislation that is flawed. That is the sort of legislation that Nova Scotians have so many questions on.

So for the members opposite, the question Nova Scotians are asking, what are you hiding? That is the sort of question that questions our character, that questions us as individuals and as legislators. If this is such an important piece of legislation, there should have been many more details provided and this hoist, Mr. Speaker, would allow the opportunity for Nova Scotians to ask those questions. Instead, we will be going through the Law Amendments Committee procedure, unless members opposite perhaps have thought this over and listened to some of the advice that we have been giving, and I hope they have. I think there are members over there who perhaps are aware of the fact that there is a value to hoisting this bill, to allowing that opportunity for Nova Scotians over the next six months so that on May 1st we could have a piece of legislation.

Six months hence, Mr. Speaker, we could have an opportunity to present to this House a piece of legislation on this important matter that reflects Nova Scotians unified voice on what they feel and what they think on this important topic, but is that going to happen? I hope it does because the result is hostility, conflict, Nova Scotians pointing fingers at Nova Scotians, conflict where the media is jumping on the fact that he said, that she said, that they said, and that is the sort of dissension and division that this society and this province is not known for.

Mr. Speaker, this is not Ontario. This is not a Mike Harris Government although at times I think they must understand that the kinder, gentler government which we appreciate in this province is not reflected in this legislation. So I ask the members opposite to consider this hoist, to consider the value of listening to average Nova Scotians. It will be better for all of us as legislators. It will be better for all Nova Scotians and it is something that hopefully we can have the support of the House on. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable members. Seeing no further interventions on the (Interruptions)

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[Page 7945]

[1:54 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied? No, they are not. Okay, we will begin ringing the bells for (Interruptions) Well, we will not be ringing them any more than an hour, honourable members, but we hope that perhaps we could come to a vote before that, but that is up to the discretion of the respective Parties.

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

The Whips are satisfied. The motion is on the floor, and I will read it. The amendment to Bill No. 62: That the motion be amended by removing all the words following "that" and inserting therefor the words: "Bill No. 62, The Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence."

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[2:54 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. MacAskill Mr. Christie

Dr. Smith Mr. Baker

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Russell

Mr. Downe Dr. Hamm

Mr. Manning MacDonald Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Holm Mr. Muir

Mr. John MacDonell Miss Purves

Ms. Maureen MacDonald Mr. Fage

Mr. Deveaux Ms. McGrath

Mr. Corbett Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Pye Mr. Olive

Mr. Epstein Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dexter Mr. Taylor

Mr. MacEwan Mr. Dooks

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. Langille

Mr. Samson Mr. Morse

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Hendsbee

Mr. Wilson Mrs. Baillie

[Page 7946]

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 20, Against, 26.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

Order, please. We are back on debating the original motion on Bill No. 62.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak against this bill, and I hope that in the time allotted to me, I may be able to outline some concerns as to why I feel this bill ought to be opposed.

Events are unfolding very rapidly. In the past 24 hours a new perspective has been put on this matter by the Premier's inflammatory speech yesterday made at the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce Dinner, where the rich . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Were you there Paul?

MR. MACEWAN: No, I was not there Mr. Speaker, I have never been at such an event in my life and I hope never to be. (Applause) At that gathering of them that have, the Premier outlined a philosophy, and I commend him for having outlined his philosophy because very frequently they keep us guessing as to where they really stand and where they are coming from. You see, what is underway here is an attempt to completely rewrite the rules of the game.

I am all too well aware that the existing rules are inadequate. They grew up over the years, they are a hodgepodge, they remind you somewhat perhaps of the Internet because there is a bit spliced in here and a bit spliced in there and over the years the system just grew until it came to where it is now. If the system is to be realigned, if the system is to be rewritten, I would hope it would be in a way that it would be done objectively by perhaps a non-partisan committee or some group of experts in the social field that at least had a heart and were looking for the best interests of those that are affected by these programs, rather than being designed in a political way for the political advantage of the government.

[Page 7947]

I think what the government is trying to do here in the long-range senses is cater to the right-wing, red neck point of view. Those who feel that the people who are in want, or in need are there because of their own fault, and that if they wanted to work, they would be working, but they don't work because they are lazy good-for-nothings. That is the essential point of view that I think has been reflected, that has been expressed, and the government has been chastised for expressing that point of view and understandably so, but I think perhaps they have at least been honest and explained truthfully where they are coming from.

This government came to power by a fluke. I do not think that they expected to form the government. They were sitting down there roughly where the honourable member for Dartmouth North and the Page that he is now with sit, 12 or 13 of them and they never expected to form the government. My goodness, they were Her Majesty's loyal rump. They were the third-place Party and then lo and behold the NDP got very anxious to somehow put them into power and pulled the rug from under the feet of the government that was in office at the time and catapulted them from third place to government, and this is the result. This bill and this program and this platform and this outlook which was expressed yesterday at the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce is the result. That is the history of it, that is how they got into office, that is by whose grace they hold the controls of power.

Mr. Speaker, when our government was in office, I would be the first to agree that the rates of assistance paid were not sufficient. I would be the first to admit that. I would say that the rates of assistance paid to those who were in need by any government in human history have been inadequate. They have never been sufficient to meet needs, because there is insufficient money available in the public purse to meet those needs adequately. I thought we did the best we could. I compared the rates that we were paying with those who were paid under those provinces that have NDP Governments. It was a very interesting thing that when the NDP is in power, they are very right-wing.

There is probably very few governments in Canada more right-wing than those of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, possibly Ralph Klein's administration in Alberta and Mike Harris' in Ontario would be a shade more to the right, but it would only be a very fine distinction. The philosophy of Gary Doer's Government in Manitoba and Roy Romanow's in Saskatchewan are virtually identical to those of Mike Harris and Ralph Klein. That is what the NDP does when they are in power.

When they are in Opposition, of course, especially in a province where they know that they will never form the government, they can advocate anything they want, because it is politically expedient to do so. So, in Nova Scotia the NDP fights for the poor, because they know they will never form the government and they will never have to deliver anything on the expectations that they raise. In provinces, however, where they do form governments, such as Saskatchewan, they are cost-cutters and budget-balancers and hospital-closers and those who legislate strikers back to work in a jiffy. They do all those terrible right-wing things that they condemn Tory Governments for doing in Nova Scotia, Alberta and Ontario.

[Page 7948]

That is something of the history of this thing, and how this government came to power, and what leads to this bill.

I want to tell you a little bit about the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government, and how we approached the topic. (Interruptions) I could talk about Sir Wilfred Laurier if I wanted to, but I don't think it is too relevant to this bill. (Interruptions)

I want to tell you about the Liberal Government of Russell MacLellan and what we did in the short time we were in office, in terms of trying to address the needs of the community. For some reason, at that time, it seemed to the government, in its wisdom, that it was the field of workers' compensation that most needed action, perhaps more so than the Social Assistance Program at that time. So what happened was that the government of that day set up an all-Party select committee that conducted enquiries throughout the province, heard representations by stakeholder groups, and finally came back with an all-Party recommendation for reforms to the Workers' Compensation Act, which were put through this House and which was the largest package of workers' compensation reforms and improvements in the history of Nova Scotia. That was just part of the record of the MacLellan Government, together with the largest program of school construction in the history of Nova Scotia, and many other great things. (Interruptions)

In this field of social services, I can tell you that after we concluded with our work on workers' compensation, we were going to get into this field next, and take the same approach, but some others pulled the rug out from under our feet and catapulted the Tories into office, and so we couldn't do that. I am sure that when the Liberal Party is elected to power in the next provincial election, it will do justice to the people and not the injustice contained in this piece of legislation. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I do not know why I thought of Fidel Castro when I heard those words, but if somebody to my left wants to speak, they will have their turn.

Mr. Speaker, one of the assumptions that this bill is based on is that there are jobs out there for those who want to work if they would only go out and get them. So what the government feels it has to do is create conditions that will entice the poor to get off their welfare and get out and get those jobs. Now, where I come from I will tell you one of the hardest things that a person can possibly be asked to do is to find a job. I have files of job seekers that pile the walls of my office, all kinds of résumés of all kinds of talented people, but to actually try and find a job in industrial Cape Breton today is well-nigh impossible.

I have two grown sons, one is in his 30s and the other is 29, neither of them have ever had a real job in their life because there are not any jobs for them. There are not any jobs and that is the way it is in family after family. We have children who grow up and they have children of their own, but they do not leave home because they have no money, they cannot go anywhere because they have no jobs.

[Page 7949]

You have a whole different type of culture in industrial Cape Breton as compared to what you have in more privileged parts of the province, like perhaps Bedford where - I cannot call him by his name here in the House - the Minister of Community Services comes from, because that is probably the most affluent community anywhere in Nova Scotia. So I can well understand why the minister would come from that community that they would appoint to the portfolio of Community Services, but in a poorer community, one like my friend from Glace Bay represents, or one like Whitney Pier, or one like Sydney Mines, or many of the other communities, New Waterford and industrial Cape Breton, there are no jobs, very, very few, and those jobs that were supported by government in the coal-mining field and in the steelmaking field, again, the government has pulled the rug from under those particular opportunities for employment and all those who fed off that, such as suppliers of goods, truckers and all kinds of service industries and so forth, they have all had the rug pulled from under their feet by the decisions of this government.

That is well-known. I do not think I should have to argue for half an hour to persuade people of those facts, because they are very true; they are very real. In communities like Glace Bay, or Digby, or Shelburne, there are not available jobs. If you have people who are depending on social assistance, in the first instance, to survive and you take it away from them and there are no jobs for them to take, what is that going to lead to? Well, it is going to lead, Mr. Speaker, to social catastrophe. That is what it is going to lead to.

We, in this country, have built up what we think is a humane and decent society. Prime Minister John Chretien boasts that Canada is the best country in the world in which to live and that is because different independent organizations, the United Nations and various other such organizations, have ranked the countries one by one and they find it is pretty good to live in France, it is pretty good to live in the United States perhaps, and it is pretty good to live in England or in Germany, but Canada is number one by a variety of indicators in terms of the level of services, benefits, opportunities, and educational chance there is to develop. In all the things that make up the standard of living, Canada is the best country in the world.

Now, a very important component of how Canada got to be the best country in the world lies in the fact that we look after our people. We try to as a country. That has been a priority until now of every government that has held office in Canada federally during the 20th Century. This may change if the Canadian Alliance gets ahead, but we certainly hope that they will not get ahead, Mr. Speaker, and that they will be roundly and soundly thrashed come November 27th, but in any event that point of view that we ought to look after our people has been fundamental to the development of the social assistance system in Nova Scotia.

In order to collect social assistance, you have to be a person in need, which is a legal concept. There is legal definition to a person in need, and it is basically a person who has no wherewithal to support themselves. They have no assets. They have no net worth. They have no income, or they may have a small income, such as perhaps $200 a month from some

[Page 7950]

pension or some alimony or some maintenance payment or some other such source, but they do not have enough to meet a minimum standard of living under guidelines that are extremely rigid and severe in the first place.

There are various amounts prescribed by regulation. For example - this is before the Tories got their hands on things, I don't know how it is today, but I know how it was when the Liberals were in office - $18 a month was provided as an allotment for transportation. I think the Tories have done away with that. But there was $18 a month provided and an arbitrary series of components that, when added together, would make up the budget of a recipient or of a family. Where did it come from? It came from the taxpayer. That is where it came from, Mr. Speaker, and rightly so. Those that have ought to support those that have not. That is the essence of our system here in Canada. It is the essence, in my view, of a decent society.

When you have those in power that want to cut that stuff out or cut that stuff away, reduce it, whittle it away, in my view, they are destroying the basis on which the Canadian society is based or attempting to do so, whether it be in the field of social services or in the field of health care or in the field of education, or in the field of any of those services that make up the total package that government delivers to enhance the lives of the people.

Now, they want to tell people in communities where there are no jobs to go out and get a job. Get off welfare and go out and support yourself because you should be working. Well, Mr. Speaker, there are some countries in the world that do not have as advanced forms of social services as we have here in Canada.

For example, in India, they do not have a system such as this bill attacks. In the City of Calcutta, if you have no means to support yourself, you can apply to the municipal council to be licensed as the holder of a begging bowl, and as a licensed holder of a begging bowl, licensed by the municipality you have the right to go and seek alms. In Egypt, they don't have the system of benefits that we have here in Canada. Those that have gone there as tourists will be accosted by large numbers of people, young and old, mostly young, seeing baksheesh which is alms, help me, money. That is what you will have if you don't have a system of public assistance here that people can live on that will provide them with an adequate standard of living. You will have alms seekers, you will have beggars, you will have thieves, you will have robbers. These things happen. Crime thrives on an absence of the wherewithal to meet what one needs to be able to eat.

I am reminded of that definition of poverty by the poet, Shelley, who defined poverty as saying, "'Tis to hunger for such diet as the rich man in his riot casts to the fat dogs that lie surfeiting beneath his eye." That is poverty, poverty. This bill enhances poverty and would tend to create a society in which those that have not would be considered very well off if they were to receive the food that the rich man would feed to his dog. We don't want that kind of

[Page 7951]

society in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. We don't want a bill that would tend to produce that kind of society.

I want to tell you a bit about this bill. This bill doesn't contain the fine details of what it proposes to do. It is a blank cheque. It is an enabling bill. I have gone through in the past in the House various historical examples of enabling legislation. Enabling legislation has characteristically been passed by the Legislatures of countries when they are on the brink of going into an era of dictatorship. An enabling bill can be passed that will give the government carte blanche to do whatever it wants. It can rule by decree, of course, what we call here an Order in Council, and it can pass laws without having to have them referred to a Parliament. It can do just about anything it wants including the denial of civil rights and liberties and the suppression of freedom of speech and all of the other characteristic freedoms that we enjoy here in this democracy in which we live.

Now, this is a law of that type. This law, if passed by this House, will give the Governor in Council the power to pass regulations which are not brought before the people for their approval, which are not brought before the Legislature for its approbation. Instead, the Governor in Council, which meets behind closed doors in a private chamber, will pass regulations that have the force and effect of law that will completely rewrite the rules of the game with respect to the payment of social assistance.

[3:15 p.m.]

I am not prepared to support that kind of legislation. I am not. I have been in this House now for 30 years and during those 30 years I have fought with every fibre of my being to try to improve the lot of those in need. I have done everything I could; I have wrestled with Liberal Governments, I have wrestled with Conservative Governments - I have not wrestled with NDP Governments because they never will be the government - and I could say that I have even wrestled with the NDP to try to fight for better conditions for the people, especially the poor people, who need the help of government.

I agree with those who say that there is a class of people that does not need the assistance of the government. Those who have made it, those who have risen above the rank and file, they do not need the help of government; possibly they need the restraint of government and possibly they need the taxation of government, but they do not need the government to help them. Although, frequently government does anyway in the forms of largesse and hand-outs and so on and so forth, that is justified as being prudent investment decisions, but we won't get into that.

I want to tell you that over all the years I have been in office, whether it was the Liberals in power or the Conservatives, there has been throughout all those governments of the past a gradual improvement in the lot of life of the people on social assistance. When I was first elected to office in 1970 under the Tory Government of G. I. Smith, whose Minister

[Page 7952]

of Public Welfare I defeated when I was first elected to this House, I can tell you that the rate that was paid to a widow or a woman with dependant children in those years, maximum, was $175 a month regardless of the number of dependants. I think that one of the greatest achievements of the Regan Government was that it opened the doors to paying an incremental scale of benefits based on the number of dependant children so that if there were more than one or two children, if there were three or four, there was extra money allotted per month for each additional child.

I can tell you - and it may not be germaine to the bill - back in the days of G. I. Smith and Robert Stanfield, they imprisoned people for debt and there were people in that government who would defend that and say that was the way things should be. We see the reincarnation of that miserable, Grinch-like spirit in this Bill No. 62 before the House today, so it is relevant to the bill to that extent.

I want to tell you that under the Regan Government, the conditions for the people on social assistance were vastly increased and improved. Under the direction of the Honourable Allan Sullivan, Minister of Public Welfare and the Honourable Harold Huskilson, the largest increase, percentage-wise, in the history of these benefits being paid in Nova Scotia was granted

AN HON. MEMBER: Who was the Premier?

MR. MACEWAN: The Premier was the Honourable Gerald Augustine Regan, Q.C.

Now, when he was replaced in 1978 by honest John Buchanan and crew, I can tell you that they did not right-wing it like this group is trying to do. Instead, they increased benefits, they increased the rates of benefits paid and permitted new programs, including opportunities for recipients to go to university or to college and be sponsored. It was never done on the scale I would have liked to have seen; it was perhaps only a small group of those who had waited in a line-up for maybe three years or something that would finally get the sponsorship of the department and be able to go.

Those new advances were made. The direction in which things were moving was gradually ahead - maybe at a snail's pace, but there was forward advancement. Then came the years of the Liberal Government from 1993 to 1999 and I can tell you that especially under the Honourable Russell MacLellan, there was genuine intent to move forward in this field once again, but those opportunities were denied us by the NDP/PC axis which gained power in the last provincial election, and now we are here today.

After 30 years of advancement, now we stand on the brink of a terrible plunge into Lord knows what. Mr. Speaker, I don't trust this government and I don't trust the direction in which they are going one bit, but I can tell you what they have done already. What they have done already in the 15 months since they came to power, thanks to the NDP, they

[Page 7953]

certainly haven't done a very great deal. (Interruption) Oh absolutely. They prayed for it night and day, more fervently than St. Mark over there.

Now, in June of this year I penned this article, The Coming Social Assistance Cuts, which appeared in the New Waterford Community Press, to which I know all honourable members subscribe and renew their subscriptions annually. I can't read the article but I will be pleased to table it, Mr Speaker. It indicates that there are approximately 38,213 families and individuals in Nova Scotia who depend on these benefits for survival. If the number is not exactly accurate, it is more or less. It is approaching 40,000 either single individuals or families that are impacted on by these programs.

That is a significant number of people. It is a lot more than ever worked in the Cape Breton coal mines. It is a lot more than ever worked at the Sydney steel plant. They are spread out throughout the province. They are not perceived as being a strong and powerful and well-oiled lobby like perhaps the medical profession or the business community or some of those well-organized groups, including the Teachers' Union, to which I belonged when I taught school. They are mostly private individuals who are just living from hand to mouth, who can't organize mass demonstrations and put great pressure on the government by flooding its wires with e-mails. They are simply people who are very much in need and are looking to this government to have the charity and the good sense to see that they are not left high and dry altogether.

I don't know if I can provide an adequate description of what it is like to be on social assistance because I have never had the experience. I know from many close friends of mine who are, people who work for me in every election, people in whose homes I am a regular visitor, people whose children know me on a first-name basis; I know from going into those homes what it is to scrounge and what it is to scrape and what it is to try to squeeze out of money that you don't have. I know of people, for example, who go and pick blueberries. They look forward to the blueberry season because when the blueberry season comes, they will go and work 14 or 15 hours a day picking blueberries so they can take them from door to door and sell them and raise a few bucks.

I have a fellow who lives next door to me and we always give him bottles because he can take them down to the bottle exchange and get a few pennies for them. To him, that is a big deal. That is important. That makes a big difference for him. That is the kind of people we are talking about here. People who are really up agin it. These people, in my view, ought not to get less, they ought to get more. They ought to get a lot more. I don't know how much more because I suppose that the reserves of government are never equal to the needs of the people, but you have to do the best you can. You have to open up your heart a little bit and help those people if you can. Now this government has set its face in the opposite direction and said no, we are going to squeeze them because this is one way in which we can deal with the deficit. Well, I am not going to say that that is a proper way to deal with the deficit.

[Page 7954]

I promised to table this article on the coming social assistance cuts, so let it be tabled. The purpose of tabling this is to note that I was already on to what they were doing some months ago, but I wasn't the only one. I don't claim exclusive insight into that question. This pamphlet I have here in my hands was prepared by the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service for the Community Advocates Network and it is called, The New Provincial Budget Hurts People on Social Assistance. I think I should table this one too because it contains a very well documented outline of what the government's intentions were. Let me speak on it for a little while before I table it. It gives a very detailed breakdown.

You know, this field is much like workers' compensation. It reminds me a great deal of workers' compensation because most people don't care that much about the detailed regulations and the line-by-line fine interpretations of what this means and what that means and how this works. It is only the people who are directly affected, and most of them perhaps have never read the regulations in detail and just know how much their cheque is each month, they don't really know how it is calculated. These people who wrote this pamphlet did the research, and they came up with exact numbers. They found out just how much this government was prepared to pay under the old program that this bill is going to change and make even worse, and how for one adult the poverty line was $14,613 annual income per year. I don't know how anybody could get by on that, but somebody somewhere has said, well, that is the poverty line. On family benefits, one adult would get $8,568 a year, which is 59 per cent of the poverty line income. On social assistance, which is an even lower pay, they get $7,680, which is 53 per cent of the poverty line.

Many of those people I know get $153 a month to live on, that is the rate, $153 a month. I think this government says they intend to increase that a little bit. Whoop-de-do, $153 a month. That is for a single unemployed person who has no job, who is living at home with their parents, but the parents may not have any jobs either. The parents are frequently old age pensioners who are living on the Old Age Pension and the guaranteed income supplement, and that is it. They might also have some income from perhaps Canada Pension or something like that.

This is a recipe for dire poverty, and the government intends to cut these, to cut them even lower by abolishing family benefits and merging it into income assistance so that it is one program instead of two. I frequently wish that I had a greater knowledge of the detailed regulations of these programs. I have been able to obtain the management manuals, they are great big, thick, hardcovered, looseleaf binders. Usually what happens when I get one of these manuals, somebody comes down to my office and they want to read it. So I lend it to them and I never get it back. One year later, I get another one.

There is a very detailed and methodically worked out series of regulations that define all of these programs and cover every angle of delivering them. Lord help the poor person who runs afoul of those regulations. One of the things that they do when you are on social assistance is they spur you on to try to get any other income that you can. If you ever paid

[Page 7955]

into the Canada Pension at any time, they pressure you to apply for your disability benefits. The disability benefit is usually lower than the social assistance entitlement would be, and the goal is simply to have that money coming in so they can subtract it off your social assistance entitlement and simply pay you the difference.

In other words, it is a cost-cutting measure to government, it doesn't increase anybody's individual income, unless the Canada Pension benefit should be higher than the social assistance when it comes. In those cases, you lose it altogether. You lose your social assistance altogether, and with it, frequently, your free drug card. I can go to work and win a fellow's Canada Pension disability after a rigorous appeal, only to find out he has lost his free drug card and his prescriptions cost $400 a month. Instead of being better off than before, he is worse off.

Anyway, the Department of Community Services expects their recipients, their clients, to pursue all avenues, including Canada Pension appeals, which they require them to pursue to the third level of appeal, which is the Pension Appeals Board of Canada. A great deal of legwork is involved in doing those appeals and, of course, the Department of Community Services doesn't do it for their clients, nor is there any legal aid program that will take on such work that I know of in the Sydney area; there may be in Halifax but there certainly isn't where I come from. Above and beyond that, there isn't any office like the Workers' Advisers Office that was set up to help people with trouble with workers' compensation. These people are left on their own to pursue their Canada Pensions. Frequently a lot of that work falls on my shoulders, and I do it the best way I know how. Be that as it may, I know it is federal, but the federal MPs we have in Cape Breton right now are absolutely useless, we might as well not have anybody there, so I do the work.

Now, to get back to the bill. I want to say this, after all these efforts are made and these poor people get their Canada Pension, they frequently are awarded retroactive benefits, and these may go back for a year or two or three, depending on the length that they have been appealing their denial. Of course, the Department of Community Services is right there in line to get all that money and confiscate it on them, which I think is wrong. I think it is absolutely wrong. It wasn't that way under the Regan Government. I can tell you they were penalized one month, one month's Canada Pension benefits but the retroactive cheques they were allowed to keep. (Interruptions) Yes, sir. Absolutely.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you this, when these retroactive cheques kick in, frequently the arithmetic isn't quite harmonized between the Canada Pension and the Family Benefits Program. It will work out that family benefits didn't get quite what they thought they should have gotten. Do you know what they set up? They set up what they call an overpayment. I have seen some overpayments that were pretty big. A couple of my constituents, one of them, a neighbour who lives just around the corner from me, got an overpayment with the department of $50,000. That is not typical. That is the highest I know of. Many of them are

[Page 7956]

in the realm of some thousands of dollars because of Canada Pension and social assistance not being absolutely harmonized on this confiscation.

[3:30 p.m.]

So, what happens is that the Overpayment Recovery Program gets to work, and they shave off the small amount of money these people are allowed under the program a deduction, a clawback, an off-tax to use a term frequently used in the coal mining areas of Cape Breton. You can have $15 a month taken off. You can have $30 a month taken off. I have seen $45 a month taken off these tiny little entitlements that are already 59 per cent and 60 per cent below the minimum standard of living necessary to be above the poverty line because the Department of Community Services operates on the premise that what we are owed, we are entitled to recover, regardless of how much it hurts you.

Now, I realize that is not an absolute truth what I just said. It is a relative statement, because one can appeal on compassionate grounds, on humanitarian grounds to the department, to the minister, to the senior district manager, to the deputy minister, to other senior officials of the department, and ask that the overpayment recovery of John Smith or Jane Doe be reduced. That request might be granted. Instead of taking $15 a month off Mrs. MacGillicuddy, we are only going to take $10 a month off of her. But, of course, there will continue to be a deduction because overpayments are rarely written off, even under the most understandable circumstances where there has been no fraud, where there has been no guile on the part of the recipient. The department has traditionally been most unwilling to write off overpayments. That is just one aspect of social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you about another aspect while I have the floor here for a few minutes, and that is the matter of people that are on social assistance also working, because we are told that the purpose of this bill is to encourage people to get off social assistance and go to work. Well, you have to judge people, not by what they say, but by what they do.

Now, when this government came to power, the regulations of the Department of Community Services provided for a person that had a family and was married or did not have a spouse but had dependant children to earn $200 monthly without penalty; $200, and beyond that, it was charged against their budget at 75 cents on the dollar. For a single individual, they were permitted to earn $100 a month and without penalty, and then beyond that, they could earn money, but it would be charged against them at 75 cents on the dollar. Due to that provision, which had been in effect for a great many years - in fact, when the Liberal Government was in power, I was one within that government, and I did this within the Community Services Committee, so this wasn't entirely behind closed doors - I urged that those amounts be increased, not decreased, increased, because it was commensurate with the outlook of encouraging people to go to work if there was work available, that they should be allowed to keep a greater part of their actual take-home earnings.

[Page 7957]

Since this government got into power, Mr. Speaker, already they have reduced those amounts that I just outlined to you by 50 per cent. That is what they have done. Everybody knows that. So how can they say that they are encouraging people to go to work who are on provincial social assistance when their record in power has been absolutely the opposite? You know, it is like a crook coming up to you and saying, trust me because I am honest. It doesn't wash. It doesn't wash. No one with any intelligence or credibility is going to believe that this group wants to help people that are on social assistance to go to work where work is available. What they have done since they came to power was to cut by 50 per cent the amount of money people were permitted to earn while on social assistance benefits.

I am speaking here without notes, Mr. Speaker. They have given me all kinds of research material, and 18 pages of copy which I probably can't read because my eyes are getting bad with old age. In any event, there is a wealth of material available to support the essential thrust of what I am saying here this afternoon. There is a wealth of material available, but then up until now they had posed as the good guys, the ones who were really trying to help the people, until yesterday and the speech at the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce. Is that the outfit headed by Murray Coolican?

AN HON. MEMBER: It used to be.

MR. MACEWAN: Used to be.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is Ian Thompson now.

MR. MACEWAN: Ian Thompson now. (Interruptions) So they have brought before us here a bill containing a number of clauses enabling them to do whatever they want and I can tell you a person in my position is being bombarded with requests. I have one here from Lorraine MacNeil of Victoria Mines and her question is, is in-home supports going to be cut under this bill? Now, the only answer I can give Lorraine MacNeil is I do not know. I do not trust the government. I suppose they want to cut everything they can cut, I do not know.

Why is she interested in that question? Why does this concern her? Well, I will tell you why, Mr. Speaker, because her husband is a double amputee, with both legs amputated at the top because of diabetes and she is very concerned about the continued provision of in-home support because she cannot cope unless that program is there. The two of them live alone in an isolated location, some distance between Sydney and New Waterford, and they need in-home support. Is in-home support going to be cut under this bill? There is nothing in the bill to say yes. There is nothing in the bill to say no. The bill says trust us. It reminds me of Richard Nixon, trust me, read my lips, you know. I am not prepared to trust them.

AN HON. MEMBER: That was Bush.

[Page 7958]

MR. MACEWAN: Was it Bush who said that, all right, all the worse. All right, which one is that, George or George W.? Mr. Speaker, I do not want to get into American politics. We have got enough trouble right here in Nova Scotia, but I want to tell you about David Webb, another constituent of mine. David Webb has just about everything wrong with him that you could imagine. He has the highest blood pressure of any constituent who I know of. I bet you his blood pressure is high enough that if I gave the numbers to my good friend, the member for Dartmouth East, you would probably see his blood pressure go through the top; his blood pressure is terrible, absolutely terrible.

This man has been found disabled under the Family Benefits Regulation but, lo and behold, his medical report did not get in in time before the new regulations of the Tories came into effect, the cut-off date being May 1, 2000, and any applicant who applied after May 1, 2000, could not qualify for the old higher rate paid to the disabled because their application had come in after the cut-off date. David Webb applied back in February, but his doctor was on vacation and by the time the doctor got back from vacation and got around to doing that paper work and got around to putting it in the mailbox and Canada Post got around to delivering to the Department of Community Services, it was a couple of days after May 1, 2000. So the medical report did the man no good whatsoever.

He continued to be paid. Now, let me tell you what they are paying David Webb. This man is a homeowner who maintains his own home in South Bar in my constituency and his monthly rate of assistance is $288 a month. If the old regulations of the Russell MacLellan Liberal Government had remained in effect and he had been able to apply for family benefits as a disabled person and gain them, he would have gotten about $580 a month, more than twice as much. That is the difference between the Tories and the Liberals. Some say that there is no difference between the Tories and the Liberals, but I suggest that the amount that David Webb would have been paid by Russell MacLellan as compared to the amount he is being paid by John Hamm demonstrates that there is indeed a very great difference between the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives.

AN HON. MEMBER: How did the Tories get there?

MR. MACEWAN: Well, you ask the NDP about that. Now, David Webb's health is so poor, but his income is so low, that the last time I was talking to him he said, Paul, I have got not choice, I have got to go back to work. My blood pressure may be at a level where my head is about ready to burst, but I have got to go back to work. I cannot afford to live on $288 a month. Now, he is a pretty skilled mechanic and he is the kind of person who is kind of in demand for what he knows. I am sure he will be able to find work, but I do not know how long he can last at it because the doctors say that the man is incapable of doing any kind of work and suffers from a severe and prolonged and life-threatening disability. That is one of the effects, one of the results of the Conservative approach to "welfare reform".

[Page 7959]

They are forcing people to work who have the knowledge of a trade or a skill but who are medically unable to work because of their health. They are saying that your health doesn't matter, go work anyway because we won't pay you enough so that you can eat; we won't pay you enough so that you can get any oil to heat your home; we won't pay you enough so that you can pay your power bill. You can cut off the lights, doesn't matter. What did Ralph Klein say? I wouldn't be allowed to say it here in the House, what Ralph Klein said about the eastern so-and-sos, let them freeze in the dark, he said. That is the attitude - Ralph Klein's attitude - that this government has towards the poor people in this province. Let them freeze in the dark; it doesn't matter.

Mr. Speaker, we are not able to support this bill for those and many other reasons that may become more apparent as the debate continues. I didn't get up to speak on the filibuster to hoist the bill - what was it? - twelve months or something?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Six.

MR. MACEWAN: Six, three, whatever.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't you think that is a good idea?

MR. MACEWAN: No, I think the bill should be defeated on second reading; that is what I think. (Applause) I think the bill should be defeated right here and now, on second reading.

I notice that our good friend from Kings North has had a change of heart, has had qualms of conscience. Possibly there are four or five more over on that side who might be able to go thou and do likewise. Possibly there might be enough found in the House who might have the courage of their convictions, who would vote against this bad bill and would see it go no further. Then we can get on to some of the other legislation that is here before the House, such as the Sydney Steel Corporation Act and other measures that I am sure we want to debate.

Mr. Speaker, in summation, I would be the last one in the world to defend the existing system of social assistance regulations and policy and programs. I would say of it as Winston Churchill said of democracy, that it is absolutely the worst form of government known except for any other. Certainly with all its flaws and with all its shortcomings, democracy in Great Britain, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere, has worked much better than that other kind of government in the socialist bloc.

In any event, the system we have of social welfare is not perfect; it is far from perfect. Under it, countless injustices and cruelty has taken place, and I would be the first to admit it. I have spent a very major part of the past 30 years fighting, both at the policy level and on an individual case-by-case basis. I have taken countless numbers of individuals before the

[Page 7960]

Social Assistance Appeal Board and argued for them, and won many of those cases, and have been able in some small way to beat the system back a little bit. It reminds of me of the struggle for civil rights in the United States of America, especially in the 1930's, 1940's and 1950's, when the going was slow and there wasn't great leaps forward like there might have been in China in 1958. Instead, there were very small steps. One step forward and two steps back.

In any event, bad as the system may be and as unjust as it may be, we have been able over the past 30 years to develop something in Nova Scotia that is worthy of improving rather than destroying. Worthy of improving. How could that be done? I would suggest that the approach that Russell MacLellan's Government took to workers' compensation would be a very good approach.

I am not going to move an amendment in the interest of trying to kill all kinds of time and make a spectacle here in the House, but I can tell you that if a select committee of this House was established by all-Party consent and conducted hearings throughout the province, like we did in the field of workers' compensation when this Party was in power, and heard from the people and heard from the stakeholders and heard from the social workers, Mr. Speaker, yes, because I can tell you this, for all I have criticized the system, I can tell you some of the most dedicated people in Nova Scotia trying to help those in need are the staff who work for the Department of Community Services. That is absolutely true. (Applause)

I know many of those people as personal friends. I will tell you that those who live in my constituency invariably vote for me, because they think I am a good MLA and my heart is in the right place, which I hope it is. They are people who also suffer with those they serve. It is impossible, in my view, to ever achieve perfection, or Utopia or any of those nice things, where everybody is happy and everybody is properly looked after, that sounds like (Interruption) No, I don't want Marie Antoinette heading that committee.

In any event, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that there is something that could be done here. If the government really had its heart in the right place and wanted to help the people, it could take a non-partisan approach to this, come up with an all-Party recommendation for improvements that would be in the realm of fiscal reality. I realize, just as much as I am against this bill because it writes a blank cheque for this crowd across the way that I don't trust, I realize it is equally impossible to write a blank cheque for the Department of Community Services and say, regardless of how much it would cost for every person in Nova Scotia to be warm and never have their power cut off anymore and pay for their telephones which are not paid for right now and won't be certainly under this bill. (Interruptions) No, but we were moving in that direction, and we would be doing it by now if you guys hadn't pulled us out. You have a lot to answer for there.

[Page 7961]

[3:45 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think I have made my point. I have never been one to believe in obfuscation or blather simply for the sake of killing time. I believe that time is the most valuable resource that we are given in life, and we ought not to waste it, but I do want to make my points on this bill while I have floor. I will not repeat en Francais, but possibly l'honourable député du Richmond could do that, and I look forward to the participation of other members in the debate. I may speak on this again at further stages in the bill.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to speak on this bill. I think one has to ask themselves why offer any social assistance to anybody at all? Certainly we could say that there is no really relevant reason to offer social assistance, and the question of what good reason would the government have, if we consider a society in which we don't help anyone, that we leave people to whatever natural devices that befall them in order to fend for themselves, take care of their families, or whatever? That is a world that has existed prior to the world that we know.

So if that condition did exist in the past, and history shows that it has and still does in many jurisdictions, then why would Canadians feel that some level of assistance is necessary. Well, Mr. Speaker, I would say that Canadians feel that some level of assistance is necessary, because Canadians are compassionate people, and a lot of Canadians have the ability to try to walk in another person's shoes and realize the position that person is in and to say, if I was in that position, then what would I want to have done to help me and my family. That, I think, is the reason that Canadians have moved to a system that provides for those who are not well off.

The question has to be, what is the purpose of this bill? Why would the government want to move in a direction that actually erodes support, although the minister, I know, will stand and say that is not the case, we are actually offering more support to people. The question still is, from our perception, why would the government want to move away from that? Well, it is obvious that the numbers are in enough on the benefit of social programs to show that they save dollars; actually, they are an investment and not a cost to society.

So purely for political reasons, the government has moved away in the hopes of saving a few dollars so that in a couple of years the bottom line is better and therefore they have a chance of balancing the books, possibly coming in with a surplus and selling that to Nova Scotians on the notion of getting re-elected.

That is fair enough but it also is a case of pitting Nova Scotians against Nova Scotians. In other words, if you can allow Nova Scotians to buy into the myth that there is an exorbitant number of people on social assistance and it is taking dollars right out of their

[Page 7962]

back pocket and they don't want that to happen any longer, then for sure they will jump on that bandwagon. We saw the government do this in the last election. They pitted the mainland against Cape Breton and now will pit the well-to-do or those who are better off against those who are poorer off.

It also is the myth that people on social assistance somehow want to be there, that that is a better way of living than being able to work. Well, I want to tell members opposite that anybody who contacts my office does not have any decent quality of life on social assistance and if they could be off it, they would be off it. The question of whether or not this bill offers them any outlet, any way to secure a better quality of life, has not been proven to me yet in this House.

I would like if members opposite, they can show by hand gestures or whatever they feel comfortable, but if they could indicate what . . . (Applause) Thank you. That wasn't what I was getting at, Mr. Speaker. I would like to know what number the members opposite think, what percentage of the population makes use of social assistance. Well, it is not a great number. It is 7 per cent, 7 per cent of the population make use of social assistance. (Interruption) I hear the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank saying 6.8 per cent. Well, close enough. Not a significant number or not a significant part of the population and around one-quarter of those people who are recipients of social assistance are disabled. That should, I think, dispel the myth that we have a large number of able-bodied people who don't want to work and that this bill will somehow provide them with opportunities.

This is the way this is being sold, that Nova Scotians on social assistance are actually going to have an opportunity to get into the workforce. Whether it is in this House or on the street or where, people who would support this legislation try to make the case that people on social assistance are somehow better off than those who are working. Well, if I can find the right piece of paper . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You don't speak without notes, John?

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Well, I am just going on the notion that I am noteworthy. The actual evidence indicates that at the minimum wage of $5.60 an hour, on a regular 40 hour week, which would accumulate 2,080 hours in a year, I believe, somewhere in that range, that a person would make somewhere in the range of $11,600. A single adult on social assistance would make somewhere in the range of $7,600 so how can anyone say that anyone on social assistance is better off than somebody who is working and even working at minimum wage? Actually, for someone making that $7,600, that works out to somewhere around $3.50 an hour would be their wage.

Now members may be interested, and the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, although what I may lack in flare when I speak, I hope to substitute with quality. The honourable member certainly, and perhaps rightly so, when we stand in the House we are

[Page 7963]

probably fair game when it comes to jabs from the other Parties but I certainly want to set the record straight. It wasn't our intention to run in the 1999 election to put the Tories into power. (Interruptions) I do want to inform the member for Cape Breton Nova that over the past seven years there has been $1 billion cut out of social programs by the federal government (Interruption) which is one of those programs, and the member avoided making that statement. (Interruptions)

I think, Mr. Speaker, as the member for Cape Breton Nova has indicated, the United Nations has recognized Canada as the number one country in which to live, and that is true, but what he didn't mention was the last time that Canada was given that designation there was also a statement made that Canada was slipping in its regard for poverty and especially poverty for children, and women's equality. Even though Canada may be recognized as the number one place in the world to live, the number one country, there is still that recognition that Canada is not pulling its weight, that other countries are, countries like Australia, New Zealand and the Scandinavian countries.

I think that it would be good for all members of the House to recognize that economic security does not necessarily mean employment. There are those countries that recognize that it is worth putting money into programs that allow a family or individual to have some stable, consistent, quality of life and that pays dividends to the whole country.

I have real concerns about this piece of legislation because the legislation seems to be based on the premise that there are jobs out there. It seems to be based on the premise that somehow this government is going to give a level of training that would secure jobs. Well, that is not the case, there is no evidence to indicate from anything that any of the members, and particularly the minister, have stated that is going to do that.

I worry because all the information that has come to our caucus would let us know that if we look at the community college system, there are twice as many applicants applying every year than there are placements for and there is no information from this government to indicate that they are going to increase the number of seats in community colleges. If people are going to get the jobs that this government indicates must be out there, then what kind of training are they expecting people to have.

I would say that in the case of rural Nova Scotia, definitely the facilities are not there, the transportation infrastructure is not there and actually the day-care facilities are not there and the spaces are not available; not to mention the trained people to take care of those children. Bill No. 62 does not address that either.

There also is another myth about the individuals on social assistance and this was raised by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto and that is that the people on social assistance are individuals who are all at low levels of education. They don't seem to realize that 11 per cent of people on social assistance are people who have attended a post-secondary

[Page 7964]

institution and the minister would remember the other day I brought an individual to his attention for him to meet and that individual actually had been denied social assistance and he was a thesis away from an MBA.

That does not necessarily fit the stereotype for people on social assistance, but I think members opposite are missing an important point here, and one is that there are events that occur in people's lives that they have no control over and that throws their life into jeopardy in one way or another. They are left scrambling to try to meet their responsibilities which, number one, is usually family. Through no fault of their own, they are thrown into the social assistance system, if they can get into it. Some of these individuals are long term, some are short term, but it is not the generational thing that the government seems to spell out.

[4:00 p.m.]

If it is true that a government or a country is measured by how it takes care of its most vulnerable, then this government in Nova Scotia has a ways to go. I heard the member for Pictou East last night speak about the wonderful job the government was doing. One of his first statements was that sometimes the right decisions are not always the easy decisions. I want to tell the honourable member that having the right to do something does not necessarily mean you are doing the right something, and this bill is not the right something. This bill basically attacks the people who are most vulnerable in society, and that is women and children.

People seem to somehow think that the women on social assistance seem to have more children than women in the rest of the population at large, that women on social assistance have children to get more income. Well, for members opposite, 51 per cent of the women on social assistance have one child and another 30 per cent only have two. Those numbers are no different than the numbers for the rest of the population.

I have real concerns about what this bill will do to people who are disabled. My experience in trying to negotiate disability pensions for constituents of mine and actually in a couple of cases for people who are not constituents of mine, and what I have found in dealing with the federal government for Canada Pension disability, the only way that I think you can get disability from the federal government is, you do not have to have a pulse; in other words, if you can blink they think you can do some kind of work. My fear is that this government will take that same approach.

I want to tell members about one particular case, of a lady who I went to a tribunal to speak for, her physician, therapist and specialist all agreed that she cannot sit, stand, bend or lift and she was denied. So I do not get any comfort from what this government is doing because my experience shows that for people who are disabled there is not a lot of support there and I would expect this government is going down that same road.

[Page 7965]

We would assume that if the population was fiscally in good shape, in other words, that we do not have any great need for social assistance, then we would think there would be no great need for food banks. In other words, the better off people are, the less dependence they would have on food banks.

Well, considering the present system of social assistance, and we assume that if the government is assuming that people are getting too much money, which must be the direction they are going, then we would think that we wouldn't need many foods banks in this province. The reality is that, in Nova Scotia, we have double the percentage. In other words, about 7 per cent of people in Nova Scotia use food banks; actually, about the same number as those on social assistance. The next lowest users of food banks are in Newfoundland, Quebec and Manitoba and they have 3 per cent of the population that makes use of the food banks; a little over twice the percentage of what happens in Nova Scotia.

I think members should ask themselves, is there some connection between the population in this province that is on social assistance and the population in this province that makes use of food banks? If that is the case, that they are basically the same, then maybe they should think, we are not helping those people enough. To me, you shouldn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure this out. So why are we working toward trying to get people off social assistance when we have nothing for them to go to?

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova had mentioned the lack of telephones for social assistance recipients and this was also something that was mentioned by the member for Halifax Chebucto. I have to admit that I am amazed that social assistance recipients don't get the use of a phone or don't get enough assistance for the use of a phone. If we are moving into a situation where these people are actually supposed to find work and don't have a phone, then I am not sure how it is that they are supposed to search for those jobs, unless that is going to become purely the responsibility of the caseworker.

So we have a situation where we are going to turn social assistance recipients into the working poor. I would think that one of the first things the government may want to do is actually bring out legislation or a policy or regulations that would affect the working poor, to try to improve their lives rather than force other people to become the working poor. The integrated child benefit was increased to $133.33 per month for children under six. For children older, up to 18 years old, that benefit was basically cut back. It still goes to the $133.33 a month, but they were receiving more dollars previously. I want members to be aware of what $133.33 a month means. It means about $4.43 a day for a child under six and that is for everything, food, clothing, you name it.

Now, this morning, before my children left my house - and there are four of them, the oldest is 13 and the youngest is 8, and I will be the first to admit that my morning routine, at the best of times, is a scramble, Mr. Speaker. My wife leaves for work before I do. So that means that getting the kids off to school, et cetera, is my responsibility. Throw any other

[Page 7966]

event in the routine, and things go haywire, and it happened this morning. At least in the case of two children, I told them they could buy their lunch and I gave them the money. So $5.00 apiece is what I gave them and I warned them to bring back the change. But, in each of their cases, I don't think either of my children could buy a lunch for less than $3.00 at the school.

I have to say to the government, if children buy a lunch at school for $3.00, then how can $4.43 be enough to cover all their needs in a day. We are talking about a child under six years old, that is what I have mentioned, but this amount of money is the same amount of money for a child up to 18 years old. If members opposite can juggle that, then I would like to hear how they do it, because I can't. I wouldn't expect any social assistance recipient to be able to do that either.

I stated earlier that taking care of people is an investment, it is not a cost. I think the numbers have been known for a long time, that the better we take care of people, it cuts down the costs to the health system and it cuts costs in the educational system. Actually, children who are better fed, better taken care of, do better in school. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova talked about poverty and the increase in the number of thieves. Well, certainly I think there are numbers to indicate that there is a certain expense to the judiciary with poverty. I want to make it clear that my view of the world is such that thieves are not limited to the poor, at all.

Mr. Speaker, I want to relate to members of the government, the case of an individual who has contacted my office. This individual received, until recently, $914 per month. Her oldest child, and she has three children, turned 19 and applied for night school to obtain a GED. Consequently, according to policy, her budget was pared down to $691.54. Her basic bills for shelter, power and heat total $690. Family allowance totals $200 per month, out of which she must buy clothing, school supplies, toiletries, laundry and groceries. She called my office seeking help on all fronts. She doesn't have enough after her bills to buy adequate groceries for her family. Her oil tank is empty. She threw herself on the mercy of the local church last year, with the understanding that they would help her out with her oil bill only that once.

She understands that the caseworker cannot put more into her budget because of policy. What she would like to know, what she can't understand, is how the policy makers can expect anyone to live on this. She wants to know where she can turn for help. Christmas is coming and she says she doesn't have enough to pay the co-pay portion of her prescriptions, of which there are five, let alone purchase her Christmas gifts. If any of the members opposite would like to convey to me how this bill will help her, I would be more than happy. They can approach me afterwards.

I think the expression, the devil is in the details, applies to this piece of legislation. We don't know the regulations that are really going to have the major impact on this bill, and there certainly should be no problem for the government to bring those forward and allow

[Page 7967]

all members and Nova Scotians to know exactly how this bill is going to impact on their lives.

So, without continuing any longer, Mr. Speaker, I do want to say that I am opposed to this piece of legislation, and that I think if the government was really concerned about how it treats people on social assistance, it would look at the money it spends on the basis of what money it will save down the road. That certainly hasn't been the case. All systems are going to cost more. If you are of the mindset that you are not going to spend more money, in other words, if you are going to cut money out of health, then that doesn't matter. Let the chips fall where they may, and whatever happens to these people happens. Unfortunately, I don't share that view. I don't support this bill, and I look forward to interventions by other members. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the members opposite will be clapping just as ferociously after I speak as they have before I started. As I walk through parts of this bill, a bill was presented to us earlier in this session.

I want to say in the beginning that in Bill No. 62, there are some aspects of this bill that I think in principle have followed very much along some of the train of thought and some of the initiatives that we have tried to work towards as a Liberal Party. That is finding ways to help people get out of this spiral of frustration of being part of the delivery of the community services programs, whether family benefits or whatever. As an MLA for about eight years now, one who is a business person and understands the plight of some of the concerns of business, I have learned over the years the concerns and frustrations of those parents, mothers, children, fathers, individuals of what this system has really created. They say, Don, how can I find something because there are so many barriers against my finding a job? Or the fact that there are opportunities out there for a job, but maybe that job will not be able to provide me enough to look after my children. Or those individuals themselves have medical problems, and the revenue that is there is not enough to look after their needs, just in the medical and food component.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that the government is trying to move in the right direction, but the reality is, we do not see the detail of what they are trying to bring forward to give us that security that we need to say that this bill is absolutely perfect, this bill is absolutely the right bill. What they have given us is a framework, a framework for the parents and those on social assistance who are saying to themselves, gosh, how do we trust them? How do we know what they are saying is really going to materialize and that I will be better off by being helped to move forward wherever I can? The detail, and as the member who just previously spoke, the devil is in that detail. Where is the beef to deal with the issue of what is the regulatory

[Page 7968]

process going to be for those individuals that need help, that need assistance. We haven't see that. If I know this Progressive Conservative Government like I have learned how they are over the last year and some-odd months, they will not be forthcoming with this (Interruption) Pardon me?

The Minister of Health is saying it is the best government, it is good government. Well, I don't know. I think the public is indicating in the poll numbers I have seen, they are not overly impressed with this government. The poll numbers I have seen indicated they are not impressed with this government in the way it has approached the issues of governing in the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, the Leader is slipping away. The poll numbers are saying that support for the Progressive Conservative Party is going down, not only federally but it is going down provincially as well. Part of this is because they have not been forthright with the public of Nova Scotia and they are not forthright on Bill No. 62, by allowing those who are in the audience today the facts of that this bill is all about.

How often have they spoken to those people in the gallery today and said, here is what we guarantee you at the end of the day. (Interruption) My colleague from Dartmouth said, more consultation than we have ever had. Well, it seems to me, as I look across the way at a few of those members in the back, the members in the back were consulted and we went around the province on issues of community services. Some of those members spent days on the road, dealing with community services. We consulted thousands of Nova Scotians about community service initiatives. So the member opposite is saying that they consulted; I fail to see that.

What we want and I believe people want is a system that not only brings us into the 21st Century that is fair but also just and compassionate for those who really need help. I had a phone call today from an individual who said, Don, what is going on with all this stuff that is in the media lately about people on social assistance, people on family benefits. I said, look, I don't think what we are saying here is about people who can work and should work and so on and so forth, nobody is talking about that on this side; we are not talking about hiding and protecting people who are trying to abuse the system, absolutely not. We are not talking about building a system that allows people to never get out. We are not saying to devise a system to allow people to abuse it. I don't think that is what they want; I know that is what I don't want. I don't want a system that says whatever you want, you can have, and stay home, never work or never have a future, never do this or that. We are not saying that.

What we are saying is that there are a lot of people in the system, by far the majority, who have real, legitimate problems and concerns, whether they are health issues or physical issues or psychological issues that have to be dealt with. What is the system doing to help those people? What security do we have in this bill that will provide that assistance to those people, whether it is monetary or whether it is medical or whatever it is, to help those people?

[Page 7969]

The minister speaks in great platitudes about this but we haven't seen the reality of the regulatory regime that will go with it. I happen to think that it is coming forward in January 2001, I understand. Well, it seems to me that this government has, in fact, drafted those regulations. I believe this government has those regulations, if not totally finalized, they have the framework in place. They know what they are going to do. Why are they ashamed or afraid to table that as a draft position of the regulatory regimes, to the House today? Why are they afraid or ashamed to provide that information to the many mothers and children who are out there, scared to death of what the impact of this bill will mean to them?

This government is saying, trust us; believe in us; we are the ones who will be there to help you; we are the social safety net; we are the conscience of society. Can you believe that Mike Harris/John Hamm approach to government? They are saying to those on the system who are trying to get out of the system, trust us. I am asking the question on behalf of the people who phoned my office saying, well, you want us to trust you, why don't you trust us with some of the information you have in regard to how the details of the regulatory system will be so these people and these families and these individuals know they can trust you.

Instead, we have a framework, a skeleton as such. Where's the beef? Where's the flesh? Where's the substance of the body of what we are talking about in Bill No. 62?

I believe very strongly that a system that is fair, just and compassionate is real to a society that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia. As I indicated before, I would not support a program that encourages abuse, that is not concerned about moving forward for an individual's development. I think we need to find a system to help those individuals who are first, second and third generation living on social assistance as a way of life. We need to break that system. We need to do whatever we can to help those people find another way of life and I feel very strongly about that. The backbenchers over there on the other side are sticking up for Bill No. 62. Well, I can understand what he is doing, sticking up for Bill No. 62, I asked him to put an addendum to that and stick behind Bill No. 62, the framework of the regulatory system, so that we can take that to the bank as well as the bill that he is waving in front of our faces. Trust us, trust us, I hear him now speaking to those individual mothers who are concerned about their children.

You know I hear the Tory rhetoric, I hear the rhetorical comments made, single mothers. You know I had in my office a few weeks ago a single mother now simply because her spouse left her. He left her and he does not have any substantive income to be able to help her. She has two children and she is saying, Don, how do I survive? This is a person who is a professional. This is a person who works. This is a person who now cannot provide food to her children because she is left alone. This is a person who wants to be the Tory approach of self-reliant, but the system drags her back.

[Page 7970]

I have had people in my office who were not necessarily working, but their spouse left. They are alone with children and those children are sick or have medical problems. In fact, I talked to a former minister who told me that the largest percentage of those individuals on social assistance normally have some sort of asthmatic problems, medical problems, problems that cost money to service and many of the people who come into my office are saying to me it is a matter of whether I have money to buy prescription drugs or over-the-counter drugs that are not covered under the system or food for my children. The reason these women, generally, are so strong about this is because who would not want to fight to the bitter end for their children. As a man, I guess if you leave you could try to find something else. It is rough when you are there with your own children trying to survive.

As an MLA, I can tell you I do not know if you Progressive Conservatives on the other side ever have these people come to your office, but when they come and literally are hungry, they are scared to death, they have nowhere to go. They go to a counsellor and a counsellor says, you know, I cannot help you, you cannot have a phone, you cannot have a vehicle, you cannot have this, you cannot have that, you are just supposed to barely survive. Those people come to my office and they cry because they do not know what else to do. They have nowhere else to go. Now we have Bill No. 62 that says trust us. We have their answers. Well, they do not want to trust you. They do not want to trust that because they are scared to death. They are scared that they will not be able to provide and survive for their children.

As a businessman, I could have the same rhetorical kind of comments as anybody in this room about building and helping people get out of the system and go forward. I think most people understand that about me. But I am going to tell you something. There is another component here, it is not a matter of just black and white. There is another component here that we are talking about, and that is children. This bill is about people, but it is about children. How are children affected by this bill?

[4:30 p.m.]

I say this sincerely. I think the minister is a reasonable, fair man, and he trying to do what is right. I really think he is. But, you know, that is fine for me to say. I have an income. I have food at home. I have kids in university and they are all doing reasonably well. But what about the people back home who have nothing, and they are at the mercy of somebody providing the bare necessities so they can survive. If they speak out on their concern, they are going to lose it. There is a family resource centre in Bridgewater, and I go visit there, a resource centre that tries to help women and families to move forward in their life, to help them find a way to build that self-confidence in that future to help them go forward as part of society.

I can tell you - and we are all talking back here in different kinds of conversations - I think more people in this room should go and meet these people, meet these family members who are concerned and scared; I think maybe we would all be a bit better off. I want a system

[Page 7971]

that helps people move from the system that we currently have wherever possible, to move to better themselves whenever possible, and allow that self-dignity they want to be brought forward. I want them to have confidence in themselves, and I want them to have a life that is worth living, one they feel is worthwhile, and not just simply surviving.

I ask myself the question, looking at this bill: why is the minister saying wait until January, a few months away? I have heard people say that we should stall until then. They have the majority. They are not going to hold this bill up. They are going to drive it down the proverbial throats of members in this Legislature no matter what we say on this side of the House. They have the power, but they also have the responsibility. The responsibility, if this bill is so right, to give the assurances to the people who are the most vulnerable in society, the ones who are the most affected in society, the children and the parents of those children who, by no fault of their own, are stuck in the system. If I had told the individual who phoned me this morning what I am talking about, those who are physically disabled is who I am fighting for here. I am fighting for the people who are physically disabled, who are affected because they cannot go forward. They are scared to death.

I had a woman in my office again last week, literally scared and crying for her future and her one child's future. I ask the question, why is the minister not prepared to be more forthcoming with some of the facts, and the foundation that the body of which that regulatory system will actually be implemented for people who need help? Ferret out is undoubtedly the term that this government wants us to use. Ferret out. Quite frankly, they have the majority of votes, they have the power, and what they will do is simply let the clock run along, and then they will call for the vote, and they will vote it in. They will vote it in with or without the answers to the questions of the people throughout rural Nova Scotia, and throughout urban Nova Scotia who are scared about their future and the future of their kids.

That is why I am standing up here today. We can give statistics back and forth to each other, and I know the good minister has studied many of them, because I know he takes his job seriously. I think he does.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hope he does.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, I hope he does. I think he realizes what he is up against here. But, you know, if the minister were to say after this process is over and we get into the Law Amendments Committee so we can allow Nova Scotians to come forward with their comments, I hope that the minister, at the end of that, could put some calm and sense that this government has a side of compassion for those that really need the help. I applaud them for helping those to get out of the system. I applaud them for some of the vehicles that are in place that I think are right, helping those people to move out of the system in a way. That is great stuff. I support that. But, boy, there is a real vulnerability here for those who are really sick or those who are physically or mentally challenged, or those who have medical problems themselves or their children at home. This is not addressed to me and to my

[Page 7972]

satisfaction. It is not addressed to the parents at home that are scared to death, Mr. Minister. You have not addressed them, in my view.

You have not given them the sense of security that they need, or the sense of compassion that you should be showing, or the sense of caring that you, as a government, have a responsibility to give to those individuals in society. I think if this government has any stewardship at all, they will be forthcoming with this before January 1, 2001, when this is all going to be passed. We will see.

We could go on and talk about the employment plan and there are holes in that. The minister knows there are holes in the employment plan and trying to get people going forward. I don't think it is a very specific plan. I think there are some real issues here. I had an individual yesterday, when I was there listening to the Premier speak, I heard a comment when he talked about getting people into the system. I was there. I listened to him. There was some good-news stuff there. I agree with that. Many of those initiatives were started by the Liberals, by the way, and those are all positive initiatives. I am glad you saw a way to support that. Anyway, I won't follow their rabbit tracks. They are trying to get off the issue here because they don't want to talk about children. They don't want to talk about the fact that there are legitimate concerns out there by people who are vulnerable in society. They don't want to go there. They want to go somewhere else. Well, I am not going anywhere else. I am right here and I want to talk about the specifics of that issue, and not follow the rabbit tracks that they want to try to (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: How many times did you increase assistance for children?

MR. DOWNE: I think the member opposite knows that, in 1993, our Liberal Government increased Community Services expenditures and spending each and every year. (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not true.

MR. DOWNE: I will take a look at that. I can tell you something. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: I remember the Liberals that gave increases to day-care centres, subsidized day-care spaces at a time when cuts were being made because of the abuse that Buchananites and those over there are spending. I remember all that. But I am not going to go there. They can't win that argument. I could sit there and argue with them all day long and I could talk to them from a business way or whatever way they want. That member over there knows the Rollie Thornhills of the world and all the other ones that were part of that system that spent money, built hospitals, roads to nowhere and everything else. The bottom line is, we are here talking about children. We are talking about parents that are scared to death and

[Page 7973]

we are talking about individuals that are the most vulnerable in society. That is what we are here to talk about and not this political wrangling over there that they want to fall into.

The reality here is, Mr. Speaker, they don't have a specific plan. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am willing to allow a certain amount of banter across the floor, but at some point it has to be within the confines of civil debate. The member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: I am talking about an economic plan and the comments were made that if you want to get people off the system, open up seven days a week shopping and increase the minimum wage to a level that people can actually survive on.

I don't know what this government is going to do, but clearly somebody with two children making minimum wage, they cannot survive in today's society living in Halifax. I daresay anybody here making minimum wage and trying to provide a living in an environment for one or two children at home, nobody here could survive. Not one of us could survive. Not one of us and that is why these people are scared.

I see the Minister of Tourism laughing about that and as he fiddles his way across Cape Breton and the province, he laughs about the fact that somebody on minimum wage - I would like to see his constituents that are on minimum wage with one or two children trying to survive, I would like to see him laugh in their faces when he goes back to his constituency and laughs at the people that are making minimum wage. So, maybe there is an issue there that maybe this work plan and this employment plan should try to address.

I think the other concern I have is with regard to the caseworkers. That is a tough job being a caseworker in the system. Now we have the Minister of Finance making fun of the comments being made here, but that is fine. The caseworkers that are in the system and the minister knows this - the minister is paying attention, I appreciate that. Even the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is paying attention and I appreciate that. (Laughter) I thought he was, maybe he is not.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. The member for Lunenburg West should focus on Bill No. 62 and direct his comments to the Chair please.

MR. DOWNE: The issue of the caseworkers and the concern I have about the caseworker program that we have there when we talk about the employment plan is, what are these caseworkers going to do to help those people find work? Are they becoming employment workers or are they going to be caseworkers? What is the training program going to be? How are those people going to be given that way to shepherd them through the maze?

[Page 7974]

Let's take a look at somebody who has been in the system maybe one or two generations and you are trying to bring them into another system. How are you going to do that? How are you going to handle that? Because there is a cultural issue here, there is a cultural shift, there is an educational shift. Giving them an opportunity to help them through it, I don't know how you are going to do it - I am not clear about that. Yes, you are going to provide this or that or something else, but that is not enough. These people are going into a new world and they need that help and I do not see that in this bill, the type of help that I think these people really do need. These are the ones who are really trying to get out of the system and want to get out of the system, and I think all of us are supportive of that.

The fact that those that are disabled are the most vulnerable, it keeps going back to that, because those are the ones that I spend most of my time in my constituency dealing with. As the previous speakers have spoken about the fact that this government has cut back assistance and cut back on programs, we know that. We see the effect of that every day in our ridings, every day in our constituency offices and we try to help those people who are seriously hurt and I have talked to the minister about a couple of those individuals myself to bring to the forefront situations where people are falling through the cracks and they need that help.

I think there is more in that system than we give it credit for, but sometimes when you hear the strong rhetorical comments by the government opposite, they give you the impression that most of the people that are under this assistance program - they call it welfare - that they are just a bunch of people out there trying to take advantage of a system. I am glad to hear the minister is saying that he is not (Interruptions)

[4:45 p.m.]

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member is making aspersions that no member of this House on this side has said and he needs to withdraw his remarks. It is not a matter of the public record, either here in this House or outside in these halls.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would submit that the sentiments that the honourable member has just expressed are his view, and mine, too, of the very premise on which the whole bill is based.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. This is a dispute between members, this isn't a point of order. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. The issue I have just referred to, and maybe the minister can address that later on, is how we are going to deal with these caseworkers and what kind of training programs are going to be there to help them assist the individuals in the system to move forward in a way that provides them with that safety net

[Page 7975]

and that transition that will work in the long term, not a short-term remedy. Are they going to be retrained? Are the workers going to be retrained; how is that whole process going to work? I am sure the minister could give us more detail on that issue.

The other one is, how do we deal with environments or areas of this province that have chronic, high unemployment? Maybe it is in Yarmouth, or Digby, or whatever area of the province that has high unemployment, how do we deal with that? How are we going to work with that system there? How do we provide a program to assist in that area? I hear my colleagues say that people want to find a job, they want that job. They don't want this system, they don't want to go on this system. What alternative do they have? That is the issue. How do we deal with that?

Now we have a minister who is talking about a new strategy for economic development. Even if that was perfect, which it isn't, but even if it was it will take a while before that is implemented. Every minister knows that. It is not going to happen overnight, so the question is, how do we deal with the immediate problem today? That is what the people at home are scared about. They are worried about today, they are not worried about a year down the road or five years down the road, they are worried about surviving today. They are worried about feeding their children today, providing medical services for their children today and clothing for their children today. That is the reality I deal with in my office, Mr. Speaker.

We have two economies here and I know that that will have to be addressed. We have day-care problems and they have to be addressed. I think you are allowing $400 for day-care services. Well, that is great, I appreciate that, but that might not be enough. If it is not enough, then what do we do? Those are the kinds of questions I get asked. Four hundred dollars is great, but for me, how do I - somebody said to me, you guys must be awful stupid up there. I have children, I have to buy over-the-counter drugs that are not covered under the system, I have to provide that somehow or they are in a situation where they have to be provided over-the-counter prescriptions that are not covered under the program. Then you are going to get them to juggle it. They don't have the clothes to wear so they say, well, I have to have something. Clothing allowance is part of this program, I see that in there, because that is a real issue. I have had people come to my office asking, how do I get clothes to go out and get this job? So that is part of that program and that is a plus.

The other part of it is, how do they get to and from their work opportunities? There is going to be transportation assistance for those, I understand, Mr. Speaker, on the medical side, but are there going to be transportation programs provided to go to and from work? If those individuals happen to get a job, it may be in a company that has shift work, are they going to be able to provide the safety net for looking after their children, which is their primary concern at home.

[Page 7976]

Those are the issues, Mr. Speaker, that I think the minister could be more forthcoming and more specific and we could see a regulatory regime that will make that work because people don't trust what is going to happen. When I am in my riding people are scared. They are worried, they feel betrayed, they don't trust. They are worried this is all about taking away their ability to provide an opportunity for their children to have a livelihood and, for themselves, just survival for those that are physically challenged or challenged in society.

With those few words, Mr. Speaker, I wait to hear the minister at a later date to bring forth some program or something where these individuals who are concerned and scared will feel that this government will have some sense of compassion and caring. Thank you.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am please to rise in my spot today to speak about Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance. The member opposite sounds good. I would say the substance is in the bill and it is in the title as well.

Mr. Speaker, over the last week and a half I have spoken to a number of Nova Scotians in my constituency and the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, and the constituency of Halifax Atlantic, and the constituency of Sackville-Cobequid, of many constituencies across this province, and the people whom I have spoken to have overwhelmingly said that the government is going in the right course with this particular piece of legislation.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition members' vote against this bill does nothing more than sustain the existing status quo. We have heard, the Opposition members, particularly the New Democratic Party Opposition members, give resolution day after day talking about child poverty in the Province of Nova Scotia, but by voting against this piece of legislation, it sustains that same poverty, that same situation that constituents in the Province of Nova Scotia face on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is not about a minimum wage legislation. It is about providing opportunities to Nova Scotians. It is about giving them the opportunity to make a living for themselves, to help themselves so that they can live in prosperity the way many other Nova Scotians live. There are 68,000 people in this province that are recipients of family benefits in Nova Scotia, and to me, that is not good enough. It is certainly not good enough for the people who are on family benefits. Anything that this government can do - and if the Opposition has any ideas to improve upon this bill, I am sure we will listen to them - but anything that this province and this government can do, anything we can do to help the people of the Province of Nova Scotia that need the help the most, I think we need to do it.

[Page 7977]

Mr. Speaker, we have seen letters to the editor on a whole host of issues, and we have seen letters to the editor with respect to Bill No. 62. We have gone out in our constituencies, and we have talked to the people of Nova Scotia, and they have overwhelmingly said we don't want to step on these people and cause hardship. We want to help them. That is what the people of Nova Scotia want to do. They want to provide the type of programs that we are going to offer in the future so that the people of Nova Scotia, particularly the people on family benefits, can live a decent life and make a decent wage and support their families, support their children, so that they don't have to live on poverty for the rest of their lives.

Mr. Speaker, in the minister's address, when he introduced this bill, he spoke clearly about investing and re-investing funds in this program. One of the points that seems to have been lost over the past couple of days and seems to somehow get overlooked is the fact that this government is re-investing $20 million to help people, to give them the kind of opportunity that they need. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I won't spend a lot of time talking about this. Certainly, I am prepared to listen to the members opposite to help me form my opinion, but I must say that the minister has done a great job in terms of bringing this together. He has consulted with Nova Scotians. He has consulted with his employees. He has consulted with case workers.

Mr. Speaker, I will say that the people I spoke to in my constituency have overwhelmingly supported the government's initiative. They believe that the progress and the process that we are moving forward is the kind of process that should have happened a number of years ago. They would prefer to give people a hand-up than a hand-out. So I would encourage members opposite to think about this. That if they vote against this, all they are doing is sustaining the status quo. We heard them, time after time, say that is no longer acceptable. To vote in favour of this is to vote in favour of giving people opportunities. I think that is what Nova Scotia is all about. That is what this bill is all about. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: The most astonishing thing about Bill No. 62, and I want to be clear, I am not talking about the worst thing about Bill No. 62 because Bill No. 62 has many bad things associated with it. What I want to talk about is, initially, the most astonishing thing about Bill No. 62 is that the members opposite actually seem to believe that they are doing something good through this piece of legislation. I find that the most astonishing state of affairs, that the members opposite could possibly have fooled themselves into thinking that they have brought forward a progressive piece of legislation. But the hard reality is that through this bill the government opposite, and each and every member, is showing themselves as hard-hearted and as grinch-like. None over there is more hard-hearted, more grinch-like than the Premier and his Minister of Community Services. I find

[Page 7978]

it completely astonishing that the members over there have the gall to try to pretend that this is a good measure, because it isn't.

I only have one hour, so let me just be clear right off the bat what it is that is wrong with this bill, because it is nice and simple. Number one, the money for people in receipt of social assistance isn't nearly enough. Number two, this bill not only doesn't make the situation better, it makes it worse. Number three, poverty in our province is a serious problem and this bill doesn't do anything for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't read it.

MR. EPSTEIN: I just heard some member opposite suggest I haven't read the bill. Let me assure the member opposite, I have read this bill. Every word of it. I stand by the three points I made and I will make them again, so they remember them and everyone out there gets it nice and clear. People in receipt of social assistance in Nova Scotia don't get nearly enough money to support them. Second, not only doesn't this bill not improve the situation, it makes it worse and, third, the problem of poverty in our province is a serious problem that this bill does not come to grips with.

Let's start with my first point, the question about whether people who are in receipt of social assistance in Nova Scotia get enough money. The first major report that I remember reading about social assistance in Nova Scotia was written 10 or 12 years ago. It was called, How Can the Poor Afford to Eat? That was written by people here in metro who were professionals involved in the system and who knew the system intimately. I'll bet that every member of this House, even if they haven't read that report, will know from its title exactly what it documents. I, like many other members on this side of the House, found it not only astonishing, but offensive, to hear remarks made by the Premier the other day when he suggests that the principle that seems to be guiding his government, in his Bill No. 62, is that those who are in receipt of social assistance ought not to be allowed to somehow gallop ahead of those who have jobs. Whenever you hear someone say words that are clearly expressed, at least partially, in a code you have got to think about it. What is that the Premier was saying? He was trying to say that somehow it is a cushy ride being in receipt of social assistance in Nova Scotia. I say phooey.

[5:00 p.m.]

I want to give the Premier and the members opposite a small piece of arithmetic that might just help them along. If you look at what it is that a single adult is paid on social assistance in Nova Scotia, one adult - $7,680 is the total annual allowance. Now we know that if a person had a job and were able to have that job 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year - that is to say 2,080 hours - and were paid at the minimum wage that prevails in Nova Scotia, it is easy to do the arithmetic. The person would get $11,648 - that is their gross. One person, minimum wage job, on the assumption that they might be able to have that job for 40 hours

[Page 7979]

a week - not part-time work but full time. On the further assumption that they were able to find that job for the full year, 52 weeks, that would be, under the minimum wage in Nova Scotia, $11,648. Let me tell you, if you compare that number of dollars with $7,680, it is pretty obvious that they are not the same and the person who is receipt of social assistance is making a significant amount less. They are making 34 per cent less. Do you know what that wage is if you translate it into an hourly wage - $3.69 an hour. That is what the social assistance rate is.

Do you know what that implies? That implies first that it is not possible for a single adult to be better off on social assistance than a person who has a minimum wage job. Why did no one take the Premier aside and do the arithmetic for him before he went in to make that speech the other day? Do you know what else it implies? It implies that the social assistance rate would have to be increased by 34 per cent before it came to the minimum wage rate. Never mind that the minimum wage rate is low in this province. Never mind how hard it is in many areas of the province to find work, let alone full-time work, let alone work for the full year. Is there anyone over there who still thinks that the rates that are paid to people on social assistance - even with the revamped formulas - are generous? Do they even think that they are enough? They are not enough.

What we have seen is that the amount that a person is paid, a single adult on social assistance, is significantly less, 34 per cent less, than what you get on minimum wage. If you compare the minimum wage annual amount that a person could get if they had a full-time job, that is still only 80 per cent of the poverty line for a single adult. If you have minimum wage for a full year you are still at 80 per cent of the poverty line and we are paying people on social assistance 34 per cent less than that. Yet we hear astonishing words from members opposite suggesting that they are doing something good with what it is that they are proposing.

I was just talking about one adult. If you look at the situation of one adult with two children - because it is less for one adult with one child - one adult with two children, that is the first time under our social assistance rates that you get to the point where the number of dollars coming in is almost exactly the same as the number of dollars coming in if you had a minimum wage job for 12 months which, as I pointed out, the minimum is still at 80 per cent of the poverty level. That is for one adult, not for one adult with two children and that number of dollars that comes in for the parent with two children is 47 per cent of the poverty line.

How is it that anyone over there can possibly have the gall to think that the government has done something right and if the rates do not go up, then people are going to be left mired in the situation that is an impossible situation. I pointed out yesterday and the day before what it is that is keeping the system afloat. The only thing that keeps the system afloat in Nova Scotia is the extensive use of food banks. So, essentially, because the government has abdicated its responsibility to do the right thing in our province, those of us who are fortunate

[Page 7980]

enough to be able to make donations to charity are supporting a system that ought not to exist and in doing so we are supporting a system which is the only thing that makes life even close to supportable for those people who are in receipt of social assistance. This is a disgrace.

I want to remind members about something that occurred in the federal Parliament 11 years ago. It was the last day that Ed Broadbent was there. He brought forward a resolution, and we all bring forward resolutions regularly in this House and sometimes they are meant to be of significance and sometimes they are not but, do you know what, Ed Broadbent brought forward an important resolution. This was in 1989. This was 11 years ago. His resolution was that Canada should adopt as one of its policy objectives the elimination of child poverty in our country by the year 2000. That was 11 years off and, do you know what, that resolution received the unanimous support of the Parliament of Canada.

Well, here it is the year 2000, 11 years have gone by. The situation not only has not changed for the better, the situation has changed for the worse and this is the place where any government that is trying to be honest should say we are prepared to try to turn that around. We are not prepared to tolerate having children living in poverty. We are not prepared to allow that to be a feature of life in our society. The impact on children, of course, is the worst. For adults, many of them may have made their choices or found themselves in their difficult circumstances already. We should always focus on the children because it is always appropriate when you are choosing social policy to focus on those who are least able to stand up and do something effective for themselves and in social policy that means children because children are least able to stand up, speak for themselves, do something organized on their own behalf, to make their way in the world independently, they cannot do it. It is the government's main job to do the best that it possibly can for the children.

We know what it is, what the negative effects are of having to live in poverty for children. It is not so hard to figure out. If you are not properly nourished, then there is physical damage. If you are not properly nourished, then you are less ready to learn. It means those children start off their lives at a deficit right away. If there is low birth weight, then they are immediately in trouble. If they continue to be undernourished, then they come to school less ready to learn. If they are not able to go to day care, they come to school less ready to learn. If you are poor, the odds are that you are living in a dysfunctional family, much more likely than if your circumstances are a lot easier. That is bad for children. That is bad for everyone, but it is especially bad for the children. The children in that situation are much more likely to have behavioural problems. You ask any teacher. You ask any social worker. You ask any parent who is living in that situation. You ask anyone on this side of the House who has interaction with people in their district who are in tough circumstances trying to keep their lives together in receipt of social assistance, because we can see it in our constituency offices when we talk to the people who come talk to us.

[Page 7981]

These children will have problems in their schooling all the way along. These children are more likely to be children who will not get on in the world. These children are more likely to find themselves in difficult circumstances later on, without jobs, or if they have jobs, without decent jobs. In doing this, in failing to come to grips with it, we are creating an even greater social deficit than we already have. This is unconscionable, this should not happen, and this should not be allowed to happen.

I referred earlier to the title, the very striking title of a localized study here in Nova Scotia from some 10 or 12 years ago. In fact, there was a study done across Canada about a year and a half ago that has an equally striking title, and I am referring to the book by Mel Hurtig. Do you recall that one? It is titled, Pay the Rent or Feed the Kids: The Tragedy and Disgrace of Poverty in Canada. Again I say that even if the members opposite haven't read the book, I am sure they are able to figure out from the title exactly what it documents. It documents it in a lot of detail.

I want to quote from something in that book. The person that Hurtig is citing is Loren Fried who at the time was the Executive Director of the North York Harvest Food Bank. Here is what Loren Fried had to say, "In 1995, when Paul Martin replaced the Canada Assistance Plan with the Canada Health and Social Transfer, he unleashed the most destructive chain reaction of government domino-downloading and government cost-cutting of welfare and social spending that has ever been inflicted on Canada's poor and marginalized population."

Now that set the stage for what it is that has been going on in all the provinces since that time, something voters might think about in a couple of weeks time. It was also the failure in preceding years to do something meaningful about the elimination of poverty. So I stick with my first point, that people in Nova Scotia who are in receipt of social assistance are not getting enough in the way of supports.

[5:15 p.m.]

I want to turn to my second point, that this bill is going to make the situation worse, this whole range of programs is going to make the situation worse, never mind the failure to make it better. I believe that what we are looking at is an initiative that will make the lives of the people who are now in receipt of social assistance even more difficult for them to carry on than they have been in the past.

Here is how it is going to happen. The whole thrust of this bill is expressed in terms of language of going from welfare to work. All of us are familiar with the art of spin doctoring and we can recognize something that is a handy slogan when we see it. In this case that is what we are seeing. The key is always, what exactly is going on here; the key is always, what are the details? I am not just talking here about the huge amount of information yet to come in regulations, I think that is a serious flaw in this bill. I think if the department

[Page 7982]

is ready to give details, they ought to give them. We have already seen enough of the detail to know the general trend of what it is that is being proposed.

The proposal comes down to this. In setting up the newly-structured system, people are going to be encouraged to move out of the system that exists in order to give them a little bit towards their livelihood and move to jobs. At that point, you have to say but, what is the true circumstances of a person who moves off social assistance on to a job? There is a built-in assumption that there are jobs to be found. We know that in the different regions of this province it is going to be very difficult to find jobs. What we don't know yet is how the department will treat people who are honestly out there looking for work but not able to find it. We get suggestions from the minister . . .

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I am wondering if the honourable member would table that assumption he referred to, that there are jobs out there. He just made the indication that there were jobs and that people would be moving to jobs. I wonder if he would table that piece of information.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, I guess that is more a question, honourable member. Are you prepared to table a document to back up the assumption?

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the honourable minister could have heard what I said, perhaps I will repeat it. What I said was, that the thrust of the legislation, the thrust of the policy is to encourage people to move from welfare to work. What I said was that the assumption behind that is that there are jobs out there that people can find. What I am saying is that is a gratuitous hypothesis. What I am saying is that in many parts of the province there are not going to be the jobs. I hope I understood the thrust of the minister's question to mean that he was agreeing with me, that in many parts of the province there are not going to be the jobs.

The question is, how is the system, as manifested through the details of the regulations, going to deal with that? How will the minister and his officials deal with people who are looking for work in regions where it is hard to find work? What are they going to do?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: The same as they are doing now.

MR. EPSTEIN: The minister is suggesting that there is not going to be any change. I am suggesting that if the minister thinks he is going to be saving millions of dollars, which I think is the only assumption that anyone can make, based upon his passing reference to $20 million being available to be reinvested, then he must be assuming that enough people are going to be forced off the system to allow him to save $20 million that he can put somewhere else in his system.

[Page 7983]

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

MR. EPSTEIN: I would be pleased to.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: I would thank the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto for allowing me this introduction. In the gallery today, we have a very active member of the Kings North community in one Gary Randall. He is here today, I see, to take in the proceedings of the House and I would ask the House to give him their traditional warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome, Mr. Randall, and all our guests that are in our gallery today.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we don't know how it is that people in those regions are going to be treated. I suspect that if the minister hopes to save money through this system, he can only be hoping that people will move off the system. But it is not clear that they will be moving off to situations which will be fair to them. Remember the calculation I did before? Even if a person can find a job, if they don't have higher-level skills, they will find a job at minimum wage. If they find that job at minimum wage, they are going to be make about $4,000 a year less. Sorry, they still are not going to be making an amount of money which is going to support them. I said it the wrong way around a moment ago. I apologize. They are still not going to be making enough money to support themselves, if they are a single adult, or if they are a single adult with one child, because they will still be way below the poverty line. This is not a desirable state of affairs.

If they then move off, temporarily, away from the social assistance system, but they lose their job, then we don't know how the system will treat that person coming back into it. I worry about that and that is the kind of detail, that I think, the minister has an obligation to give us in advance of a final vote on this bill. I don't know why it is that this cannot come forward. It seems to be clear that the minister should be able to give us this kind of detail about what the long-range plans are going to be, because if we don't get them, we are left wondering why it is that the minister believes that the new system is going to save him money.

You know, when we look at the rates that came in this spring, one of the ways in which the system affects people is because the rates are less and people will have to move from the family benefits to the social assistance rates and they are less. This is a very retrograde step for any system to actually put in place rates that have gone down. The minister can't honestly expect us to think that because in, perhaps, one or two of his categories, he is able to show that some of the amounts that will go to people increase slightly that doesn't offset the other reductions.

[Page 7984]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the honourable member just mentioned that the rates that were introduced, everybody went down. Now he knows that is incorrect. All people who were on social assistance have seen an increase in the rates. So I would ask him if he would, when he is indicating those, use the correct numbers.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services certainly does raise what appears to be a very valid point. I would again advise the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto he does have the floor, and it certainly is his time.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I would like to give an example of a change. Family benefits, shelter rates.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member just reference the document he is reading from for the benefit of the House and then perhaps he could table it a little on.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, these are just some of my own notes that I have made for myself based on what it is the minister had to say at his press conference when he introduced the legislation. Shelter rates for one person, $235 a month is the rate; family benefits, formerly $519. Now the minister knows this is a reduction. I wasn't suggesting and didn't say that in absolutely every category of the rates that there had been reductions. What I did say was that there was a sufficient number of reductions so that they are not offset by the few categories in which there had been changes.

I think the people who are likely to be among those who are worst off are those who are under disabilities. I don't see that this is a group that the minister has any business suggesting to us might be better off. In fact, as I understood it, the Premier, in his speech yesterday or the day before, whenever it was, was suggesting to his business audience that the rates had gone down. That is what he was trying to tell them. So, I believe that this is going to have a negative effect on individuals and on their family lives.

One of the things that the new system overlooks is the benefit to the child in the early years of being at home with the mother. I would have thought that was something the minister would have taken into consideration. In the drive to move people back into the workforce, I think that situation has been overlooked, so I worry about that. That is one of the reasons I think that the situation of those who are in receipt of social assistance will be made worse by this program.

Here is one of the ways that it will work. If it turns out that mothers are forced or induced to put their child in some form of care that is not certified proper day care, either because it is not available or they can't afford, which they certainly cannot on the changed rates. I will pause and give the minister this example since he asked for it before. It is certainly the case that the number of dollars allocated for child care space has increased

[Page 7985]

under his new proposal, but it is still not enough. It still doesn't meet the amount that is actually charged out there. If it is not enough, it does not matter whether you increase it because you cannot pay the rate for a day-care space so it does not matter whether it is a theoretical increase or it is not.

[5:30 p.m.]

What will happen is that mothers will be forced, if they have to get out to work, to put their children in places which are not proper day-care places. We do not want that to happen. A comprehensive system would come to grips with that and start with the infrastructure needs that have to be put in place in order to support people who genuinely are able and want to move back into the work place. That would mean a serious increase in the number of subsidized child care spaces in our province.

I know this number has been given to the minister a number of times in this debate, but he knows perfectly well that there is a serious deficit in terms of numbers of subsidized spaces in our province. A little less than 2,500 subsidized child care spaces, but the demand that is out there on the part of the children who are already in families that are in receipt of social assistance is over 17,000 - almost 18,000. That is a huge spread and I do not see what it is that the minister can expect other than that single mothers who are being induced to go back into the workforce - pushed to go back into the workforce or enter the workforce for the first time - are going to do with their children if they can't afford child care spaces. They are going to find inadequate substitutes, which is going to cause them worry, which may not always work, which may turn out to be problematic in a whole variety of ways. This is failing the children yet again and it will not do anything to help the mothers move into the workforce.

I said a moment ago that I thought that the disabled are going to be in a difficult position and I think that is true as well. Persons with disabilities, if they are going to move into the workplace need special kinds of physical aids to support them in their transition. Those are either wheelchairs very often or communication devices equally often. We know that there are relatively few accessible transportation systems that operate, even in metro at an adequate level.

I am sure many of us have met with the League for Equal Opportunities and talked with them about their concerns about accessible transportation. Never mind accessible taxis, Access-A-Bus is problematic and certainly even though there are some pilot projects going on outside of metro, the situation is still problematic.

I was observing that even with the pilot projects with accessible transportation that are going on elsewhere in the province, there is a serious problem with respect to accessible transport and if this kind of infrastructure support is not put in place, if this kind of

[Page 7986]

infrastructure support is not there to help those who have disabilities, they won't be able to get back into the workforce the way the minister has suggested to us.

This is problematic again. Why is it that something isn't being done about it? Why isn't it part of what it is that the government is making its initiatives. And, here is another problem - we already know that the caseworkers are burdened with huge numbers of individuals that they need to counsel and assist. Any of us who have ever spoken with any of the caseworkers know this. They have very difficult work situations. They are frustrated by what it is that they are faced with in terms of the system that they have to administer.

Yet, if what the minister is saying about the new that they have to administer and yet if what the minister is saying about a new system in which they are expecting to try to go through the full panoply of cases with an eye to helping and individualizing the assistance that is needed for those people, is really the case, surely he needs more staff.

What he is doing is he is saying we are going to give the caseworkers a different dimension to their work. We are going to say to them, here is something that is now going to be central to the task that you have in interacting with your clients and it will be the predominant philosophy. I know that a lot of the caseworkers are expected now to engage in this kind of assessment and I know that there are some specialized staff within that department who work particularly at the task of assessing people and readying them for moving to the work place, but if this is going to be the overall theme in the department, then the minister should be standing up and saying to us, we are going to hire several dozen new staff in order to do this. Maybe it is 100, maybe it is 50, but the minister should be saying that and he isn't and if that is the case, if he isn't hiring new staff, but he is going to rely upon the existing number of staff to do the task that they are already doing and then some, this is another way in which the thrust of the legislation is going to be to make the situation more difficult, not just for the staff, but for the clients because in that system, if they do not have proper contacts and supports inside the Department of Community Services, they are going to be at a loss.

Mr. Speaker, I have been asked if I would yield for an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, for allowing me an opportunity to make an introduction. In the gallery before me are a group of students from the Maritime School of Social Work who are here with a member of the faculty, Jean Fay. I would like to read their names and ask them to stand, Jane Stephen, Mitsuko Ninomiya, Fatina El Kurdi, Lori Doiron, Jennifer Young, Chris Chapman and Maureen Brennan. As well, I see some other students from the Maritime School of Social Work all of whose names I do not know, but

[Page 7987]

I know one of the young women is doing her field placement in my constituency office. So I would ask them all to stand and receive the welcome from the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I just thought to make the record complete and help the honourable member for Halifax Needham, I just happened to come across a few names here that you would probably recognize. These are, as she mentioned, students from the Maritime School of Social Work. I understand it is Carolyn Campbell, Karen Thayer, Angela Vogt, Bernadette Fraser, Melanie MacKenzie and if they would stand to be recognized maybe a second time. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We would certainly like to recognize and welcome all our guests to the gallery this afternoon.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, there is one other point that I want to make about the new system that I think is not likely to improve it but, in fact, is likely to make it worse and it is this. It is the fact that there has been this blending of the system into one. No longer is there a recognition of those who are likely to be on social assistance for a short term and those who are likely to be on social assistance for a longer term. The underlying thought here is that everyone who is in receipt of social assistance should be regarded as potentially able to move into the work force. We know that this is simply not the case. We know that, unfortunately, there are those who are likely to be either permanently, or for a very long term, in receipt of social assistance.

The difficulty is that in taking the single view, it sets the stage for what may well be a harsh approach to those who are in the most difficult of circumstances, whom we now might think, reasonably, are not ever able to go into the workforce or back into the workforce or may not, for a very long time. There is nothing in what the minister has said to us that indicates why they cannot make this kind of distinction. In eliminating that, it causes us worry. We have reason to worry when we see that kind of blending of the system. So this is a very difficult and, I would say, retrograde step in terms of the design of how it is that everyone wants to see a system work.

I don't find any comfort from this. I don't think those who are in receipt of benefits are likely to find any comfort from this. I think, in fact, they are going to find themselves in much more difficult circumstances under this new system than they found themselves in previously.

Now there is a third point that I indicated at the beginning, that it should be our stated objective to engage with poverty at large. This bill doesn't do that; this bill engages purely with those who are in receipt of social assistance benefits. Poverty goes beyond that. We know there are many who have jobs . . .

[Page 7988]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable members would just turn down the volume on their personal conversations a bit, so we could hear the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. Thank you.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We know there are those who are not in receipt of social assistance but who are equally extremely poor, whether their source of income is from a minimum wage job or from something else. Pensions would be another example. We know there are many people out there on fixed incomes or very low incomes. This bill does nothing to engage with that. This bill has nothing that says to us, it will be an objective, it will be public policy in Nova Scotia that we will eliminate poverty.

It doesn't set targets. It doesn't say poverty will be gone from Nova Scotia in 10 years. It doesn't do what the Ed Broadbent 1989 resolution in the House of Commons did. It doesn't say, let's dedicate ourselves to the elimination of child poverty.

Now we know, unfortunately, that adopting resolutions or policy objectives of that sort does not guarantee the result. What it does do is declare a message that serves to remind all of us what we ought to be doing - especially if targets are attached. It gives us a measure, it allows us to stand up every year and say, did we achieve our goal this year? Are there fewer children in poverty this year than there were last year? If not, why not?

I would rather see the minister come forward with that kind of adopted objective, with specific targets, than come forward with what he has come forward with in Bill No. 62. We could to it, it is not impossible to achieve. If any country in the world is better placed to eliminate poverty, I don't know what that country is. I think we are better placed than the United States, as wealthy as it is. We are better placed because in Canada we have less inequality; the spreads are not happy spreads from the top fifth to the bottom fifth but, nonetheless, we are placed in Canada in a position where we could eliminate poverty. It is achievable within a time horizon that we can see. It is achievable, not just within our lifetimes, but the 10 years or 11 years that Ed Broadbent talked about in 1989 was an achievable goal. It could have happened and it can happen now, but it won't happen if the government of the day doesn't come forward and say we intend to do this. We intend to be the government that will engage with poverty; we intend to find solutions in all corners of our province to this terrible problem.

[5:45 p.m.]

Even if the core message of this bill is what drives the authors of it - the core message being that every person in society is a potential worker and that is how you have to regard them, even if that is their view, everyone has to fit into the workplace somehow, those who take an enlightened view of how it is that such a system could work recognize that it is not to their advantage, even as employers, to have people out there who are so ground down and in such circumstances that they do not have money to invest to buy goods that are produced

[Page 7989]

elsewhere, or that they don't have levels of education that will enable them to become productive members of society on their own and contribute to the general wealth - even if you take that view, that we are all economic actors and nothing else, then there are different approaches to take to that.

One says the more there is of mine, the less there is of yours and that is fine; the other says that we are all in this together and that you have to think about how we all interact economically, and that if there is a section of society that lives in poor circumstances, that is a drain ultimately on the rest of us.

There are calculations that have been done. This is not so hard to figure out, because if the poor in the circumstances that I described earlier require extra attention in school, then that costs more to run the school system. If they are malnourished and in ill-health, that will cost the health system. They are more likely to smoke, and that will cost the health system. If they end up needing special attention in youth centres, that will cost the justice system. If they end up in jails, that will cost the justice system. Now, such calculations are not difficult to do and they have been done. If that is the only framework that those opposite are prepared to adopt, then they should recognize that it is to our economic advantage as a society not to have poor people. To that I would add, if we don't have poor people they are working and paying taxes and, as a government, they should be happy about that.

I don't hear the government opposite saying this. I don't hear the government opposite saying it is our stated objective to eliminate poverty and we will do it with the following targets. We will look at the segments of society that are in the worst circumstances and we will make a massive effort, phased in over a period of a few years to do it. I don't hear them adopting the kinds of objectives as we saw the other day with the Quebec proposal, that no steps will be taken that benefit the top 20 per cent of society before we take steps that will benefit the lowest 20 per cent of society, in terms of their economic status.

I don't see emergency measures being brought in to say that we have to deal on an emergency basis with people. I don't see the government saying that it is a disgrace that 7 per cent of the Nova Scotia population, double the rate of any other province in Canada, rely on food banks. I don't see the government saying, this is a disgrace. We are ashamed. We won't tolerate that.

This can be done. I reject the thought behind this bill because it is inadequate to the problem. The problem is a greater problem that this bill even suggests. Mr. Speaker, I cannot find myself thinking remotely of how it is I can support this bill. It doesn't do the job. I think it will make the situation worse. It ignores the true problem.

With that, Mr. Speaker, thank you and the members opposite for their attention. I hope they will reconsider what it is they have done and are proposing to do with this bill.

[Page 7990]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I have been listening with great interest this afternoon to the honourable members who are making their points, I think, and very valid points, to begin with. I have listened with great interest to a number of statistics and so on. I do believe it was the member for Hants East who mentioned a lot of statistics concerning the actual amount of money that is received on social assistance by people who are on social assistance in this province. Without me getting into those amounts again, I would refer anyone to Hansard, perhaps, and the comments from the member for Hants East. I don't want to go over that again.

Mr. Speaker, I think what I will attempt to do here and attempt to explain to anyone who is listening is what I feel personally about this bill. I may state, categorically, right now that I happen to think that this bill that is being proposed is, indeed, nothing short of insidious. What I would like to see is the government withdraw this legislation until we know just how these proposed changes are going to affect people and how they are going to affect people who will bear the brunt of any kind of reform. We don't know that because the regulations that are governing this legislation won't even be ready until January.

Mr. Speaker, I think one of the statistics that was referred to, at one time, during debate, has been that about 7 per cent of the population of Nova Scotia, approximately, makes use of social assistance. I can tell you, I come from a riding which encompasses the old Town of Glace Bay, which is a fantastic riding, is a fantastic area. It has tremendous people in it, very proud people in Glace Bay who have worked very hard. We have a history of very hard workers in Glace Bay. But, unfortunately, we also have a problem in Glace Bay and that is a very high unemployment rate.

Mr. Speaker, I would inform the members of the House that we also have, in Glace Bay, to the best of my knowledge, approximately 1,000 clients of social assistance. That would translate, in Glace Bay and area, to upwards of 4,000 people, 4,000 men, women and children who are receiving family benefits and social assistance, and I say again, the unemployment rate officially is 25 per cent, but the realistic unemployment rate in Glace Bay would be closer to 50 per cent at times.

As we all know, Mr. Speaker, from the Premier's address that has been in the news quite frequently in the past 24 hours or so, as the Premier addressed an audience in Halifax, one of the quotes that came from that address was, to summarize, when he was speaking to the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, is that people on welfare shouldn't be better off than working people. Let me quote from that speech as a matter of fact, "No one who is on welfare and who is capable of working should be better off than their neighbour who is struggling sometimes at one or two jobs to make ends meet." That is the exact quote that he told that business crowd at the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce, which

[Page 7991]

I sadly report, and has been reported through the media, drew a very loud applause after the Premier made those comments.

Mr. Speaker, I did, during Question Period today as a matter of fact, challenge the Premier, in my riding alone anyway, to please show me the people in Glace Bay and other parts of Nova Scotia who are better off on social assistance than the people who are working, than the people who have one job or the people who have two jobs. I beg the Premier and other members on the government side of this House to show me those people and how much better off they are because they don't have a job.

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

MR. WILSON: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you, honourable member, for allowing me to make an introduction. Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring the attention of the House to a councillor in my area who was just acclaimed in the area of Whycocomagh, the previous UNSM President and a fine councillor and one who works very hard. I would ask the House to acknowledge Duart MacAulay from Whycocomagh. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just want to inform the House that we have a native-born Nova Scotian here, who was actually born on Lower Water Street here in Halifax some 57 years ago. World travelled, he is an author and a father of four wonderful children and he is returning to Halifax. He is a businessman, President of Cometvale Offshore Incorporated, registered in Nova Scotia, and that is Mr. Bruce Coyle, and he is here watching the proceedings. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, and again, welcome to all our guests and visitors in the gallery. The honourable member for Cape Breton East perhaps might want to adjourn debate as we are approaching the hour of interruption.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was just getting warmed up, and I wouldn't want to get warmed up again and then cooled down and have to warm up all over again. I certainly would move to adjourn since we are approaching the hour of interruption.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on Bill No. 62.

Is it agreed?

[Page 7992]

It is agreed.

Debate on Bill No. 62 is adjourned until 6:30 p.m.

The subject for the Adjournment debate is:

"Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the need for a high school in Eastern Passage, as part of a plan to address overcrowding at Cole Harbour District High School."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

EDUC. - EASTERN PASSAGE: HIGH SCHOOL - NEED

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak on this motion with regard to late debate, dealing with an opportunity for a high school in Eastern Passage. Predominantly because there is overcrowding in Cole Harbour District High School, there is a desperate need for this government to recognize the need for a high school in Eastern Passage.

I want to start first of all with a little background, Mr. Speaker, about some of the facts as to why Eastern Passage needs a high school. I want to start first with some population numbers. When I grew up in Eastern Passage it was a community of maybe 3,000 or 4,000 people. One in which there weren't many people who - well, we were always in place where we had to go out of the community to go out of the school. First it was Graham Creighton Junior High School, then when I was younger, it was Cole Harbour District High School, and it still remains Cole Harbour District High School where those students go. Now Eastern Passage, with its sister communities of Cow Bay and Shearwater, has a population of over 11,000 people. That is a lot of people. In fact, I will note, it is the largest community in Nova Scotia without a high school. It is by far the largest community in Nova Scotia without a high school.

There are not many communities bigger. Amherst is bigger; Bridgewater is bigger; Truro; Sackville, obviously, is; Cole Harbour; Bedford; Halifax-Dartmouth; Sydney; and a couple of the communities in the industrial Cape Breton area. All of them have a high school. The only community that does not have a high school, none of them are this big, 11,000 people, is Eastern Passage and that is of concern to the people of that community. It is a community of hard-working people who feel their children should not have to be bussed out to go to another community.

[Page 7993]

[6:00 p.m]

A couple of other statistics according to the recent census, 25 per cent of the people of Eastern Passage are under the age of 15. That means there are almost 3,000 children who are of school age or will be of school age in the near future in the community. It had an 8 per cent growth rate between 1991 and 1996 and it currently has over 400 students at Cole Harbour District High School, a number that in two years will increase to 560 and in five years, quite frankly, it will be well over 600 students.

Cole Harbour District High School is expected to have only about 1,100 or 1,200 students at that time so there will be over one-half the students in Cole Harbour District High School who will be coming from Eastern Passage. A community that does not have its own high school will be bussing its students to a school in another community in which they will be the majority of students. There is something wrong with that and it is something that must be changed. I want this opportunity to implore the government to think long and hard about what they can do to try to ensure that there is a high school in Eastern Passage.

It isn't just about the fact that the population of Eastern Passage warrants a high school. The school that the students are going to currently is overcrowded. The government's own study back in May, Mr. Speaker, pointed out that by 2010, Cole Harbour District High School will be the only high school in the Halifax Regional Municipality that will be overcrowded. Given that, clearly there is a need to look at how that overcrowding is occurring and what we can do to address it. I will again note that being a community that is over one-half the population of that school, the biggest driver of overcrowding in Cole Harbour District High School is Eastern Passage students and, therefore, addressing the need of those students by building a high school is clearly one option, and I would suggest the only real option, for ensuring that you address overcrowding at Cole Harbour District High School, you address the needs of the people of Eastern Passage as well.

There are three options that the government has been talking about, well, really two. I will talk about the third one. The two options that this government has been talking about, Mr. Speaker, are with regard to boundary changes and expansion of the Cole Harbour District High School. Let me take both of those separately.

Boundary review, first of all, it is a very complicated process with, I might add, a lot of political problems. As the member for Preston, who is here, might recognize, in that area the political problems involved in boundary reviews in the eastern suburban area of Dartmouth. There is a long history going back to Graham Creighton, going back to Cole Harbour District High School when it used to be Cole Harbour and Gordon Bell and then when they developed Auburn Drive High School as well. It is a complicated problem and one that no one wants to revisit. On top of that, when you have 600 students from Eastern Passage, you are going to have to move them somewhere and if it is not Cole Harbour District High School, then it is Auburn Drive High School or Prince Andrew High School,

[Page 7994]

or Dartmouth High School, schools that are even further away than Cole Harbour District High School is from Eastern Passage.

I do not see the boundary review as an option because you are still going to have too many students in the four high schools that are currently in the greater Dartmouth area.

The second option, Mr. Speaker, is expansion of Cole Harbour District High School and this is the one the government has promoted. Well, let me say that its own study points out that an expansion will only result in delaying the overcrowding of that school for up to 15 years. It is only a short-term solution and if we are serious about addressing the problem at Cole Harbour District High, expansion does not solve it in the long term. Some say the cost could be as much as $8 million to $10 million of an expansion. I do not know the exact number, but the point is to expand a school and pay that kind of money, why do we not just build a separate high school in a community that obviously has the majority of the population for that school, for only a few million more. Then you are not only addressing the problem in the short term, you are addressing it in the long term as well.

Those are all compelling reasons why Eastern Passage should have its own high school, cost-effective, vast number of students, a growing population and over-crowding in the four schools in the greater Dartmouth area, with not enough classrooms to meet the growing demands, not only for Eastern Passage, I will point out again to the honourable member for Preston or from other areas, areas like Lake Echo and Forest Hills are also growing areas. Of course there is no more class space available. Cole Harbour District High School is already overcrowded; Auburn Drive High School is already at its limits. If we do not build another high school somewhere, we are going to have a situation which is only going to get worse and there is going to be a lot more overcrowding.

I ask and implore this government to be proactive, to look at the fact that in the next five or six years the biggest growth in population for high school students at Cole Harbour District High School will be from Eastern Passage and there should be an opportunity for those students to stay in their own community, to not be bused but be able to reflect the fact that it is a growing community, it is the largest community in Nova Scotia without a high school. It deserves a high school, it deserves an opportunity for those students to be able to stay in their community and learn, to be educated and have an opportunity to graduate from a high school in Eastern Passage.

The other options are not viable; they are not legitimate, they don't solve the problems in the long run. I would suggest to you that the only option is a high school in Eastern Passage, one that can, in the end, result in everyone winning - the people of Eastern Passage, the students of Eastern Passage and, of course, those in the other parts of the Dartmouth area where they do not currently have enough classroom space. Space would be opened up, they would have an opportunity to ensure that their growth is also met without having to build another school somewhere else.

[Page 7995]

So, given those, and my shortness of time, I guess I am looking at you to see how much time I have left - two minutes? Okay. Well, let me just take a couple more seconds to talk, then, about the issue of population. At 8 per cent growth for five years, which is what it was between 1991 and 1996, in the next five or six years the population of Eastern Passage is likely to reach 12,000 or 13,000 people. It is a very young community, with a lot of young families. That means there are going to be 3,000 or 3,5000 students who will be of school age, my family being one of those. There are many young families moving into or deciding to reside in Eastern Passage. Those are a lot of students, In some areas of this province that is a whole school board, or close to it. It is at least a whole feeder school system. I would suggest to you that for the benefit of the people of Eastern Passage, for the benefit of the people of the greater Dartmouth area, everyone wins if this government begins to look at the need for a high school in Eastern Passage so that the people of that community can send their children to school in their own community. Thank you.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to say a few words on this resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the need for a high school in Eastern Passage as part of a plan to address overcrowding at Cole Harbour District High School."

Mr. Speaker, I can certainly understand why the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has submitted this resolution for debate tonight. As the honourable member has pointed out to members of this House, with the expanding, rapid growth that has taken place in Eastern Passage, a full review of the high school situation in the community is necessary. The present population of Eastern Passage is approximately 12,000 and it is increasing day by day. High school students from the community are presently bused to Cole Harbour District High School, a school that was built to accommodate approximately 800 students but which presently has well over 1,100 students. This is a situation that cannot be allowed to continue for much longer. Not only do we have a problem in Eastern Passage but we have a building problem all across the province.

A recent report from the Halifax Regional School Board says that 72 schools, nearly half of all the schools in metro, should be replaced, shut down or undergo a major renovation. Does the Education Minister and the government care? No. Their answer to the crisis in education was to cut $53 million from the Education budget this year on April 11th.

Not only did they slash the Education budget, they also went back to building schools the old fashioned way and this means that Nova Scotians can expect their children to be taught in the same cookie cutter schools that are causing so many problems today. Despite what the Premier says, the facts cannot be ignored.

[Page 7996]

Nova Scotia needs new schools now. The previous Liberal Government was committed to a realistic and affordable program that saw new schools built where they were desperately needed. Not only did we replace old schools that were mouldy and falling apart, but we also built new schools in communities such as Eastern Passage that did not already have a school for their children. We need schools with modern labs, libraries, gyms, fine arts areas and other classrooms needed to offer current programs.

Communities such as Eastern Passage need more input into the design and construction of their schools. They don't need the present government's secretive process of school construction which totally ignores the needs of these communities. Schools are the heart and soul of a community. It is only fitting therefore that the community be involved in the planning, design and construction of their new school.

During the last election, the Premier said, "It's time government started looking at education as an investment in our future rather than simply as a cost to government." Well, teachers, parents and especially our students are still waiting for this investment. There is no way this government can address the education crisis by reverting to the old fashioned traditional methods.

I challenge the members of the backbench across the floor to go out and visit the schools that were built by the previous administration. Go out and talk to the parents and students in Hammonds Plains, in Mabou, in Amherst, in Barrington, Monastery, Lakeside, Beechville, ask them what they think about their new schools.

Yesterday in his address to the Halifax Metro Chamber of Commerce, the Premier talked about the province's economic strategy and he said, "The third prong . . ." of the economic strategy ". . . is developing a culture of learning in this province that runs the gamut: from cradle to grave - everyone from the very young to the very old."

This is a worthy goal, but will the government accomplish it when they are ignoring the very structures that will cause this to happen? You cannot have a culture of lifelong learning if you do not provide the tools to create that culture. It is fine for the Premier to say that Nova Scotia has the highest percentage of post-secondary graduates in the country. That might be true now, but what about the future? If the government does not meet the needs of growing communities, Nova Scotia will lose its status as the province with the highest percentage of post-secondary graduates in the country.

During the election campaign, the Tories again said in their famous blue book, "A strong education system is the foundation of an economy of sustained growth. A PC Government will dedicate itself to an education system which is adequately funded, fully focused on the student and the classroom and which will prepare young Nova Scotians to compete in the job markets of today and tomorrow. We are committed to rewarding effort and excellence in our schools."

[Page 7997]

Well, the obvious question which comes to mind is, how can you reward excellence and efforts in schools when you don't have the schools in which to reward excellence and effort? I guess you cannot on one hand significantly cut the education budget and hope to produce a quality education system. It just does not go together.

The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has been visiting schools across the province these past few months and his message has been that the public must continue to let government know that education is suffering from a lack of adequate funding. He has noticed this lack of funding all across the province, not just in one area of the province, but right across.

This government has to put its money where its mouth is instead of paying lip-service to excellence in education, it has to make the necessary funding available to build the quality education system that is mentioned in their blue book. Thank you.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to the resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the need for a high school in Eastern Passage, as part of a plan to address overcrowding in Cole Harbour District High School."

Before I debate the merits of that particular resolution, I want to point out the fact that the constituency that I have represented over the past three years has had either the fortune or misfortune to be the recipient of three P3 schools, one for the Hammonds Plains area that was desperately needed - it fell short of resolving some serious overcrowding in Hammonds Plains Elementary School and some of the feeder junior high schools. We also had the opportunity to have a new P3 school built - Sackville Heights Elementary replaced an existing school and, as well, students who reside in Beaver Bank are now going to school at a new high school in the Fall River - Waverley area.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the reason that I point that out is because I have taken the time to go around and visit the schools, particularly the new schools, to see the kind of construction and the issues surrounding these new schools. I will point out to members of this House and to all Nova Scotians that not everyone in my constituency is happy that they are going to a new school. In fact, the people in Beaver Bank are very upset. They went to a school in Sackville, Millwood High School. It is a school that is at capacity, certainly not above capacity, and now they are being forced to take a long bus ride, well out of their community, to a new school to support the construction of a school - to support what some say is the election of a then Cabinet minister of the previous Liberal Government.

[Page 7998]

The people in the constituency that I represent remember only too well the election signs that year - we build schools. Although they didn't know exactly what that meant to them, they certainly found out after the fact. The previous government built a new school in Fall River but there was no consideration as to who was going to go to that school. In order to support the construction of that new school, they had to rejig the boundaries. What they did was pull students out of Millwood High School to support the construction of this new school after it was already built. Those students are the same students that had moved from Sackville High School to Millwood High School when it was built. Now they have moved from Millwood High School to this new school. Those students and the parents of those students are very concerned about the fact that they have been used to help support the election of a previous Cabinet minister of the previous government.

In addition to that, a P3 school was built to replace Sackville Heights Elementary. I have searched throughout the community that I represent asking, who was it that was looking for this new school? Were there parents? Were there students? Were there teachers? In fact I have had a hard time finding anybody that was looking for that new school. What they asked for was for their existing school to be renovated. It needed some help, it was an older school, it had a small gym, it wasn't overcrowded, there wasn't a capacity problem but they needed some renovations. They didn't get that, what they got was a brand-new Cadillac, P3 school.

The unfortunate and the difficult part of this particular initiative of the previous government was the fact that they built the school on land that was outside of the service boundary so there was no capacity to put sewer and water to this school. They were able to wrangle a deal with the developer and the municipality; somehow they got services there. Then they realized, now we have sewer and water, how are we going to get the students to the school? There was no way for them to walk, there were no sidewalks. After they were able to wrangle a deal with the support of the minister here and we were able to resolve some initiatives around the sidewalk - we had sidewalks built, then they had to decide who was going to go to that school. It turned out, they built this brand-new school - day number one they were drawing students from another school that was under capacity and now we have two schools, relatively new, both under capacity. So it begs the question, who was at the wheel when they were building these schools? Because, quite frankly, they were building them at the whim of, we are not quite sure who and we are not quite sure why, but they were building them. Wherever they thought they could find a piece of land to put a school, they were building them, in some communities.

Mr. Speaker, the past couple of months has been particularly difficult for the students and the teachers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Would the member permit a question?

MR. BARNET: No, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 7999]

AN HON. MEMBER: I wonder why not.

MR. BARNET: No, because I have something to say.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If the honourable member would please review the processes that were put in place by the Department of Education, some of the same staff and senior bureaucrats who are advising the present minister, he would find out there was a consultative process with the parents, with the school board, and with the community at large.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. According to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, that is not a point of order. It is a point nonetheless and, again, we yield the floor to the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite raised a point; it certainly, in my mind, wasn't a good point. As a parent of students who went to that school, I know that I certainly wasn't consulted and I have spoken to a great number of people. In fact, we have had protests, talking to the school boards, trying to resolve issues surrounding how we are going to get those children to the school, and there wasn't a single soul that I could find who actually asked for that school. So we are not quite sure what the member opposite is talking about, but he certainly wasn't out to the community of Middle Sackville to ask the people if they wanted that school, and if that is where they wanted it built, and if that was the resolution to the problem of an undersized gym and some renovations.

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the information that I was given is that there were 10 schools going to be built in the Halifax Regional Municipality. The school board had two days to make a decision to pick one because the school that they were planning on building, Millwood Elementary, there wasn't any capacity for land and they had to pick a school anywhere. So, tomorrow, you have to come up with a solution to where you are going to build the school. They said, how about if we put one over here? There is a good spot. There is a piece of land there and we can build it. It is owned by the developer and sure we can weasel municipal council to bring services to that school.

Mr. Speaker, that is not the way this government is going to go. The direction this government is going to go is we are going to decide how these schools are going to be built in a consultative process. We are going to resolve issues surrounding boundaries. We are going to resolve issues around how we are going to get those students to and from the schools. We are not going to max out the P3 credit card like the previous government. We know for a fact that the people in the Province of Nova Scotia who need schools deserve schools, but we can't go around wasting this opportunity. The previous government wasted opportunities that are costing the people of Eastern Passage a school, because every time we build a school that is not needed, nor wanted, nor desired . . .

[Page 8000]

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, the honourable member is either totally ill-informed or he is deliberately misleading the House. The Auditor General, himself, has come before . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a . . .

MR. MACKINNON: I am not finished my statement, so how would you know if I am out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I am not allowed to finish?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order, honourable member. You are making an editorial comment.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, and not a very good editorial comment either. If he were able to listen, if he would just stop talking and start listening, what he would hear are the decisions that were made by the previous government that have hurt the opportunities of the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage to get a new school sooner, because every time you build a school in a community that is not needed, every time that you do that, a community that might need a school and does need a school is pushed further and further down the list.

The other point, Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the floor of this House is the fact that the school board is integral in the development of the list of how these schools are going to be built, and who, and where, and when. It is my information that the school board has not recommended that a school in Eastern Passage be built at this point in time, but I understand the desire of the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage because he certainly needs to fulfil the commitments that he made to his constituents. He understands the needs; he has had representation from his constituents looking for a school, as have other members. I know the constituents that I represent in Beaver Bank have said to me, on many occasions, that they would like to have their own high school. I know the constituents I represent in Hammonds Plains, who are now somehow forced out of a high school and a junior high, would like to see a high school at some point in time.

I, too, represent one of the fastest growing areas of this province, Mr. Speaker. The community of Hammonds Plains has thousands of building lots under development right now, and there are hundreds of new students coming in on a daily basis; the constituents of Upper Sackville and Beaver Bank, as well. There are hundreds of building lots. These are thriving, growing communities. One subdivision alone in Hammonds Plains will have over 750 building lots when it is completed. Those are 750 homes, and they are going to need a school at some point in time. It is not fair for me, and it is not fair for any member, to circumvent the process. What we have to do is analyse where we need these schools built based on sound facts.

[Page 8001]

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect who has approximately three minutes.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I will take those three minutes, Mr. Speaker, on this important topic.

Having heard the members from both sides, previous governments, what is needed is planning and what is needed is clear thinking, because when we go to build schools, you know you have heard that expression from the Field of Dreams, build it and they will come. Well, we are representing growing communities, and those growing communities, because of the very fact that residents, young families are moving into our communities, they want the questions answered about adequate schools in their communities.

I would like to, in particular, bring to the attention of the House tonight, Mr. Speaker, Sir John A. Macdonald High School. Sir John A. Macdonald High School is a 33 year old high school, and there are two portables in back of it. It is overcrowded, yet the principal and the community and the students who attend that school have been given absolutely no direction by this government and no direction by the previous government, because what is needed is clear thinking, a strategy based upon a time-frame so that people will be aware of the fact that this school is going to be overcrowded. You don't have to be Einstein. I heard the previous speaker who was in the real estate business. You look at the number of lots that are being sold. You look at the number of people that are moving into communities. And it always seems we are playing catch-up when it comes to building schools. Sir John A. Macdonald is a high school in need of renovations. It is in need of expansion.

What is needed from this Minister of Education is to make herself available to that community to meet with the department officials who represent the school board to go into that community and sit and listen to the points of view of the parents and the teachers who work in that school. That is what is needed, no apologies afterwards for why and when and where we build schools, but a time-frame so that it is clearly laid out, so that people in the community can be made aware of the fact that currently, we will put up with the state of affairs at a school such as Sir John A. Macdonald High School, or as my learned friend, the member for Eastern Passage brought forward, we can put up with it, but we need a light at the end of the tunnel; that light of hope that we will be treated fairly, like other growing communities, and that the children who attend these high schools will have the opportunity to attend a high school or to attend an elementary school, a middle or junior high school that will provide the quality service necessary to educate the young people in our growing communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you honourable members for that very entertaining debate. That does conclude the time allotted for that resolution as was submitted by the honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 8002]

We will now resume debate on Bill No. 62.

[6:30 p.m.]

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 62 - Employment Support and Income Assistance Act. [Debate resumed.]

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, again, I will continue discussion on Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self Sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance, as it is formally entitled.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member yield the floor? I know he is ready to get into full stride, but a colleague of his would like to do an introduction, the colleague to his immediate left.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is certainly a pleasure for me to rise in this House this evening to introduce my daughter Tammy and her friend Sandy. It is my daughter's, and her friend's, first visit here to this House. I would ask all members to give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes indeed. Welcome to Tammy and her friend.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as long as we are sure there is no one else before I start. Again, Bill No. 62 is what we are talking about here today. I had started earlier before the moment of interruption and had made some points regarding what I actually thought about this bill, that it is what I termed an insidious bill that is nothing more than an attack on the underprivileged in this province. I would like to continue along those lines.

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it was just after Question Period, today I believe, that a reporter outside the Chamber asked the Premier what he thought about a program that, if there was no work in areas, which is what I think he was trying to get across, that this government has said to get you off social assistance, we will give you a job, we want to get you a job. Of course we know there are not a lot of jobs in certain areas of this province, to begin with.

[Page 8003]

Anyway, what the reporter was saying was that perhaps there should be a program to relocate people on social assistance, if there is no work. He asked the Premier if perhaps there should be a program of that nature. Later he also asked me the same question. I replied that we already have a program in this province whereby people can be relocated because there is no work and they can't find work. That program is called a Tory Government.

From my perspective, as the member for Cape Breton East, which I have explained is the old Town of Glace Bay, this bill not only attacks a certain segment of society, it attacks those regions located in a poorer than average part of our province. As I mentioned, in Glace Bay alone, there are 1,000 social assistance cases. That is cases, Mr. Speaker, and that would translate, I would think, although I stand to be corrected, to upwards of 4,000 people - men, women and children - who would be making use of social assistance. As I said before, if that is not bad enough, unemployment is perhaps officially 25 per cent in my area; unofficially, it would be closer to 50 per cent in Glace Bay.

Now if you have an unrelenting desire to get off social assistance, in my area and in other parts of this province, the fact of the matter is that you cannot because there are simply no jobs; there is no work. I have seen many programs come through Cape Breton that have retrained people for work, all with good intentions in mind. The bottom line and the end result, at the end of the day, whatever little phrase you want to use, there is no job, there is no work to go to. It is as simple as that.

Mr. Speaker, I know on the other side of this House that various members have defended this bill. For instance, the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank feels that people want to remain on social assistance, that they are somehow better off. I know, and I think the other members in this House know, too, that is not true, that is a fallacy. I suggest that perhaps in that case the member do a little more research.

Let me compare Sackville to Glace Bay, that would be a good comparison. Unemployment in metro Halifax, now under 7 per cent (Interruption) under 6 per cent, I am corrected by the honourable member. There is a new Staples call centre, I believe, in Sackville and there are certainly a number of construction initiatives in that area. There are about 30,000 people in that area, let's say. There is certainly what you would call an affordable transit bus system in place to take people to work.

There is that word again, Mr. Speaker, it takes people to work, anywhere in metro. There are a large number of private sector, commercial employers to choose from and I would be the first to admit, you know, Sackville is not a bad place to live, probably a better place to find work than most other areas of this province.

So let's compare it, Mr. Speaker, to Glace Bay. Let's compare that to Glace Bay. The population is about 20,000 people and of those 20,000 people, one in four are on some form of assistance. I have already told you about the unemployment problem we have. Most

[Page 8004]

commercial activities in the area have been consolidated in the Sydney area. Certainly I am not speaking out against the Sydney area, but that just happens to be where most of the commercial activities have been consolidated about 13 kilometres away. The transit system is rather expensive. It is also infrequent, at the best of times, and the retail and commercial activities that exist in Glace Bay have employed the same people, in some cases, for over 20 years.

Do you know why and my point, Mr. Speaker, there are no job openings? There are no jobs. We are back to the job issue again. For instance, if you have a job at a fast food restaurant in my riding, you are probably on permanent staff there at that fast food restaurant. There are very few opportunities for students and so on in my riding when they are actually competing with their mother or father for work at these facilities. Construction is very limited. The only construction that has taken place lately is, I am very glad to say, a new Superstore and a new Sobey's store but, you know, the fact of the matter is that no matter whether you are on social assistance or working, or whatever, you have to eat.

AN HON. MEMBER: Look at what you had to do.

MR. WILSON: Absolutely, and I did, I struggled a lot. The honourable member is right.

AN HON. MEMBER: I mean look at the job you had to stoop to.

MR. WILSON: Good point. It all makes Glace Bay still a pretty good place to live, I am proud to say. But, there is a sad note to that because there is very little opportunity that exists. Mr. Speaker. For instance, Bill No. 62, which we are talking about here, does absolutely nothing to address that problem. This bill and the entire initiative that is being put forth by the Tories does not in any way, shape or form, by any stretch of the imagination, by any member on the other side that would stand up and try and justify it - does not address the reality of a place like Glace Bay. It is, simply, you cannot force someone to work when there are no jobs. It just does not make any sense whatsoever.

Earlier today in Question Period, and I guess I felt a little bad after Question Period, I have to say, because I felt that just maybe I was a little too hard on the Premier, but the Premier said during Question Period when I asked my question concerning this bill and concerning the people of Glace Bay, he was glad to see that I had a heart and that my heart was in the right place.

My comeback to that, Mr. Speaker, was that at least I had a heart, not like the heartless group of Tories across the way. Again, I did think about that for a moment afterwards and I felt a little bad about saying it, but then again, I said to myself after some very sober second thought, perhaps I was right on. You know, I know I have a heart and I know I care about people. I know I care about the people in my riding and I know that it does not make any

[Page 8005]

difference whether they are on social assistance or working whether or not I care about them. I do not care any less about a person who is on social assistance than I care about a person who has a job or who has two jobs as the Premier has. I take great exception to people, whether they be the Premier of this province or whether they be ordinary members of the Legislature, I take great exception to people who are trying to pit one Nova Scotian against another, who are trying to say that because you are on social assistance, you are different than people who have a job. We don't treat you the same as people who have a job.

It is hard enough, and very fortunately, I have never had the experience. I hope and pray that I never have the experience, that I would be in the position, that I would be forced to go to an office somewhere in a great building with very fancy offices and people around who are going to interview me and say to me, you need help, you need assistance, here is how much we are going to give you on social assistance.

Whether or not we want to admit it, and I am sure many people here would admit it, but we have attached a stigma to people who require help and require social assistance. I am sure we have all been guilty of it at one time or another, maybe not on purpose. Maybe it has just been a slip in conversation with some people. Maybe it is the way we have whispered conversations behind people's back. I hope I am not in that position. I can't imagine how difficult it would be. And I have talked to people who have said they have overcome that and they have taken the first step, and they have gone to look for help. Now, the next hurdle they have to overcome is, not only do they have to ask for social assistance, but now they have to deal with a system that simply does not give them enough to live on. They don't have enough for their basic needs. They don't have enough for food and clothing. They don't have enough for power. They don't have enough for a place to live.

Yet this government has decided that is not bad enough that that exists already. What we are going to do is take that amount that you are receiving, and we are going to cut it. We are going to make it less so that in the future you will have less money for your basic needs. Mr. Speaker, I would ask anyone in this House to please explain to me how that makes this a good piece of legislation.

Let me say I am still, even though I have been here for a year and some months, I am still a rookie Member of the Legislative Assembly. I had no idea, no idea, that you would be dealing with issues that would have people walking into your office, single mothers with three children at home, expecting another child, sitting in your constituency office, crying because she wasn't getting enough on social assistance to feed her children. Crying because a social worker had just told her that not only are you not getting enough now, but it is going to be less, and what are you going to do then? Crying, Mr. Speaker, because if she wanted to go to university to better herself, she would require a student loan. If she were to receive that student loan, she would no longer be eligible for assistance, and that student loan did not pay her enough to feed her children, to clothe her children, to give her children a proper place to live.

[Page 8006]

Mr. Speaker, we have a problem in this province, and I think most members would admit to that. We have a problem with poverty in this province. There is nobody in this great Chamber that would not like to see poverty eliminated. It is a very lofty goal, but it is a very difficult objective to achieve. Nobody in this room wants to see children starving, nobody in this room wants to see men and women going down and begging for assistance, but the fact of the matter is that the system that we have right now of social assistance has some serious problems. I agree with the government on that; problems that have to be addressed. I do not agree that those problems are going to be solved by cutting the amount of money, the amount of assistance that people get and forcing them into nothing less than a workfare program in an area of high unemployment, such as my riding where there is no work available. That is a problem with this bill, nothing has been mentioned, it is not addressed in Bill No. 62, in any way, shape or form.

[6:45 p.m.]

There are people on social assistance who are already complaining about the fact that their caseworkers are extremely overworked in this case. The changes to social assistance and Bill No. 62, part of it is to develop an employment plan for each and every person on social assistance and that is going to put an incredible burden on some already overworked caseworkers. They are very hard-working professionals, we know that, and they struggle to do the best job that they can with some very limited resources. Now with this bill, what the Tories are doing is just simply piling an extra responsibility without first consulting with caseworkers.

I think, basically, this Legislature has been asked to debate Bill No. 62 on nothing more than blind faith. It is something like the bogus budget that was introduced back in the spring. We do not have enough information, we don't have the proper data to make informed decisions on this bill and that is very similar to the budget because we are being asked to vote before we had a chance to examine a complete picture. Again, we are being asked as Opposition members to find the details, or that very tired phrase that I am sick of hearing, to ferret out the information, because the details are not in this bill.

As I mentioned, Bill No. 62 is primarily focused on getting people back to work. There are people out there who have very little chance of finding a meaningful job. There are people out there who just cannot work and I think those are the people for whom such a thing as a social assistance program or a social safety net is put in place, that is why those programs are there for those people.

What happens to them? What do they do? Do we take them and put them on an ice floe and ship them out to sea? Do we forget about them? Do we not even think about them? It is a reality, they exist throughout our province, throughout our communities, but these changes to social assistance that are being proposed, they are so centred on getting people back to work that they are actually ignoring those who truly depend on social assistance.

[Page 8007]

There are very legitimate cases that depend on social assistance. Bill No. 62, in my opinion, tends to be a little bit too job specific. What the Tories have created is a program that is work-centred and it no longer addresses the needs of those who have to stay on social assistance through absolutely no fault of their own.

As I mentioned, I know and I am sure the honourable members in this House know that there is abuse within the social assistance system. Nobody wants to see it, nobody believes that it should continue and we all agree that something should be done about that. It should not be done on the backs of those who legitimately . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. My goodness, there seems to be quite a racket in here. I wonder if members could try and do something about that.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Let me give you another example - I compared Sackville to Glace Bay. I want to make it very clear that I am not pitting one area of the province against the other. The people in Sackville are very fortunate to have the community they have. They are very fortunate to have jobs; they are very fortunate to have a great community to live in. I guess I just wish that the area where I live was as successful and as prosperous as Sackville, and I am sure that the people in Sackville wish that would happen to other parts of this province.

In Ontario - Ontario is a great province. They have a guy there by the name of Mike Harris. Now Mr. Harris used workfare to pit one segment of society against another. If I make another comparison, it is rather similar to an anti-Cape Breton policy that the Tories used to win seats on the mainland, here. Anyway, workfare is popular in Ontario with those who believe that the poor should be blamed for their situation and then punished. You are poor, so you put yourself in those shoes, it is your fault that you don't have a job, it is your fault that you don't have any work to go to, it is your fault you are on social assistance and therefore, you should be punished for that. I think that is what the Tories in this province are saying; you are poor, well, it is your fault for being poor. It is not our fault, we didn't make you poor. If you are poor, maybe you should live in a poor region. We don't want you around here, this is a rich region of the province. If you are poor, you shouldn't get an increase in social assistance, you should get a decrease in social assistance because you are poor. Why should you get enough money to live on? We wouldn't want that.

Mr. Speaker, workfare is a program that promotes the belief that the unemployed are lazy and they don't want to work. There is a similar danger in Bill No. 62 that is going to promote those same feelings in this great Province of Nova Scotia. For instance, Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, they have all experimented with workfare type programs. There are studies that show that workfare fails to help people find permanent jobs, jobs that pay more than minimum wage, so it certainly doesn't do anything to fix up the problems of poverty. As a

[Page 8008]

matter of fact, workfare doesn't reduce unemployment or create jobs, all it does is create a very large pool of cheap labour. That is all it does.

Mr. Speaker, in Ontario workfare can be considered a failure. There is no municipality that could meet the unrealistic goals of workfare; we don't even know yet what those goals are here in Nova Scotia so how are we going to know whether or not it is going to be successful?

I indicated to you, Mr. Speaker, that I would speak until approximately 7:00 o'clock and I know that my time is drawing close but again, in closing, I would like to say that I hear, on a daily basis, from people who receive assistance from the Social Assistance Program in this province, and I am sure we all do, as MLAs. Their problems are real. I am sure we have to be compassionate. I know we will listen to those problems. I know we will try and understand those problems and I know that we can do something about those problems if we are all committed to one goal and that goal has to be not to punish these people; that goal has to be to take care of our own people.

Mr. Speaker, the incredible statistic associated with this is that in our province, as unbelievable as the figures may be, there are over 38,000 individuals and families in this province who are on social assistance and family benefits. I do not think a lot of us realize the enormity of that problem and how many people are out there. There are people with disabilities included in this group. Of that 38,000-some on assistance, three-quarters of those individuals are either people with disabilities or they are children, two of the most vulnerable groups in our society and we cannot cast them aside and forget about them.

Another statistic, Mr. Speaker, I know I said I was closing, but anyway another statistic is that there are about 8,000 single-parent women on social assistance in this province. I would think, and I have done it in some cases, that there are some people who perpetuate the myth of social assistance, that sometimes we have to plant our feet and make the argument that not everyone on social assistance is cheating the system, not everyone on social assistance is making wads of money that they can go out and buy all sorts of stuff, not everyone on social assistance does not want to work, does not want a job.

As a matter of fact, in my experience I have found the exact opposite. I have talked to individuals on social assistance who have said, I do not want to be on this system. I would rather be anywhere else in the world than receiving a social assistance cheque. I would rather have a job. I would rather be doing something useful, but what they have found is that there are so many hurdles in the system, so many difficulties to overcome and encumbrances that they simply cannot make that leap without first having that safety net that provides for themselves and for their families.

[Page 8009]

Mr. Speaker, I have had the displeasure of dealing and working with individuals who have asked me for help regarding social assistance and because of policies in place, not being able to do anything for them and having to say the only thing that is left, because I cannot change the system and because the system does have these problems, the only thing left is for me to send you to a food bank. In Glace Bay the Glace Bay Food Bank Society feeds approximately 325 children every week; 325 children who come from families trying to live on social assistance; 325 children who cannot and do not get enough money from a social assistance program to afford something to eat and are forced to go to a food bank to get a meagre order because they simply do not get enough from a social assistance program.

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the honourable members of this House that that is not right, that should not exist in this province. We should not have any area in this province where 325 children a week are forced to get their food, their milk, from a food bank and I would hope that we would be working towards programs that would not only alleviate that problem, but would eventually eliminate that problem. Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 62, in my opinion, is not that program.

[7:00 p.m.]

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude my remarks, and of course the remaining time that I have left, at a future time I would certainly be willing to continue. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my remarks I would like to make an introduction or two. This evening, in the gallery, we are joined by people who are very interested in the second reading debate on Bill No. 62. I would like to introduce Sister Joan O'Keefe, who has joined us here this evening. Sister Joan works at the Single Parents Centre in Spryfield. If you would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause) I would also like to introduce Mary Rothman, who is here. Mary Rothman works with the Association for Community Living. (Applause) As well, Paul O'Hara from the North End Community Health Centre has joined us here this evening. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 62, we have been told, is a bill that is about getting people into the workforce. But, you know what? It is actually no such thing. The Premier exposed what this bill was really about yesterday when he spoke at a $50-a-plate business luncheon. It was about showing off to your friends. That is what this bill is about, really; this is a bill about showing off to your friends. It is about showing your friends how tough you are, how tough you can be, and this Premier proved it yesterday.

[Page 8010]

It is really reprehensible to do this kind of thing to the most vulnerable members of our community and it is definitely not acceptable. We have a responsibility, I think, Mr. Speaker, to call the Premier precisely on what it is that he is doing. I have listened to people throughout this debate, I have listened to the Minister of Community Services talk, and the depth of what is being said is so thin, the information that is being provided that really needs to be provided for a fully informed debate here can only lead us to one conclusion, that this debate is not meant to be an informed debate that will really help us devise the kinds of mechanisms that would be of assistance to people who live in poverty in this province, that would realistically help them find better opportunities than what have been provided to people to date.

This entire debate, under the auspices of the Minister of Community Services, is just a thinly-veiled attack. It is poor-bashing at its worst. So I think we need to get some strong evidence and information about what the reality is in this province for people who are poor, and what has actually been going on with respect to social assistance recipients and the numbers of people who have needed social assistance in Nova Scotia in the past 10 years.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a document that outlines the numbers of people on social assistance over a time-frame of March 1993 to March 1999. This particular document can be found in a book published by the National Council on Welfare, Welfare Incomes in 1999. They put this book out on a regular basis. It helps give us a snapshot of what is going on in all of the provinces across Canada, so we can compare where we are, or we can actually see some of the trends within our own province. In this particular book there is a table that tells us that the number of people in receipt of social assistance in Nova Scotia is actually declining at a relatively significant rate. This is a very important thing for us and for the public in this province to know. Right at a time that this government would like to leave the impression that the numbers of people on social assistance is growing, and it is somehow growing out of control, and there are all of these jobs out there and yet you have all of these people sitting around getting assistance, the evidence suggests something quite the contrary, Mr. Speaker.

The evidence suggests that, for example, in 1993, this table indicates that the number of people - now this would include children as well as adults - the number of people in receipt of assistance in Nova Scotia was approximately 98,700 individuals in receipt of assistance. By March 1999, the number had dropped to 80,900 people. Mr. Speaker, that is a drop of 18,000 people. I would like to table that document.

Now I think it is important to put this document on the record for a couple of reasons, because I have a feeling that where this government is going is, they are out there promoting this kind of approach with their friends as we saw the Premier do yesterday, and perhaps this time next year, they are going to stand up and they are going to say, look, we were right. We decreased the number of people on social assistance by 2 per cent, and that just proves we were right. What I think the record needs to show very clearly right now, Mr. Speaker, is that

[Page 8011]

the rate of people on social assistance in this province has been steadily decreasing over the past five years. It sort of hit a peak, and it bottomed out, and now the trend is a downward trend. So, let's be very clear about what the current situation is.

There are a number of other pieces of information I would like to bring forward, but before I do that, I would like to talk a little bit about people who need social assistance. Particularly I would like to start first, and I would like to talk a bit about people who can't work, because this bill, this is the Social Assistance Program for the Province of Nova Scotia from now until some other government has the moral gumption to do something different. So, this is a bill that will be the social safety net eventually, if it passes. And I have no reason to believe that it won't pass because the members over here, we are not enough in number to defeat this piece of legislation ultimately. So, this will be the safety net for the entire Province of Nova Scotia. We all know that there are people who live in this province who are unable to work. They are unable to work today. They will be unable to work tomorrow. They will be unable to work this time next year. They will be unable to work because they have intellectual disabilities or they will have a physical disability. They will have maybe a mental health situation that means they are unable to be in the workforce.

This is a bill that promotes itself as being the social program that will take people from welfare to work. Now, where in the world is this group of people who are going to be unable and are unable to be employed going to fit in this legislation. They are reflected nowhere in this legislation. They are reflected nowhere in the discourse around this legislation, and they fear and I fear what their fate will be under this legislation and with this government. We have already seen the way this government has dealt with people with disabilities and it hasn't been a pretty picture.

I would like to table, in a moment, another document, and I am going to read a few excerpts from this particular document. It is a letter I received from a woman who is a constituent in my riding. She is a person who also works with a not-for-profit organization that supports many people who rely on social assistance, the Canadian Mental Health Association here in Nova Scotia. In this letter she raises quite a few substantive issues and she asked me to bring these questions and these issues to the floor of the Legislature during the second reading of this bill. So this is what I intend to do. She asks in this letter, what about individuals who have a mental illness? She says the entire bill is geared toward employment. She says that she has many issues around special needs. She asks, will people with disabilities be disqualified for special needs if they cannot work because many of the special needs appear to be tied to employment supports? She says that this process for assessing special needs laid out in the minister's statement, I believe, was problematic. She talks about transportation, household supplies and telephones as real needs.

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, when the Standing Committee on Community Services went around Nova Scotia to nine different locations and heard more that 156 presentations, it was very clear from the presenters that people in this province who are either on assistance

[Page 8012]

or who work most directly with people on assistance, who know firsthand because of their daily contact with people on social assistance, know all too well the absolute requirement of a telephone in a social assistance budget. Yet this government not only has no intention of moving in that direction, the direction that people recommended over and over again but people on assistance are going to end up with lower amount of assistance than they currently have.

This defies logic, it defies the claim that this government makes that this is about assisting people to get employment. How in the world does anybody, in the year 2000, make themselves available for employment without a telephone? I would really like somebody to tell me how this can happen. Is the department thinking that people on social assistance should have carrier pigeons or something? Quick communication is a very important feature of being able to get employment, not to mention what is required if you have any kind of medical needs. I think that there are so many questions that remain unanswered that contribute to a very strong, a very clear impression - a conclusion, really, that we can reach - that this, in reality, is not a bill about assisting people, providing them with opportunities and assisting them to be self-sufficient, to get into a labour force and participate in a way that is satisfactory and provides adequate income for many individuals and families.

The author of this letter talks as well about some other aspects of the new legislation and the restructuring that has gone on in the department that has not been addressed and we don't know anything about. We don't know what the status of community supports for adults are. We don't know whether or not individuals in the mental health community will be able to participate in part-time work and keep how much of their salary. The legislation, the discussion, has been around sheltered or supportive employment, it hasn't necessarily addressed what is going to happen to the project 50's and 60's. I think these are certainly serious questions. I would like to table this, and perhaps the minister would have an opportunity to look at the details, because there are many more questions that are raised. I know that Ms. Isenor is wanting a response to these questions.

[7:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, for many years I worked as an advocate for people who were poor, people who were in receipt of social assistance, and when I look back on that experience, and when I think about that work, one thing that I recall very clearly is just how badly single, unemployed, able-bodied people were treated by the social assistance system in this province. My fear is now that the very bad treatment of that particular group, who were categorized as employable, will now be the treatment that every person on social assistance will be subjected to, single mothers, people with disabilities, and other groups.

I want to tell you a little bit about some of the instances of single people, no dependents, considered employable. I remember doing a social assistance appeal for a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and who was given a fairly short period

[Page 8013]

of time to live. She was a part-time worker at the post office, as a cleaner. She was devastated by this diagnosis. She quit her job and she applied for social assistance. She hadn't been working at this particular job long enough to have accrued the number of weeks that would be required for unemployment insurance. She was denied social assistance because she had quit her job.

In the existing regulations, I think what people in this province don't know is just how rigid, just how inflexible, just how punitive the current regulations are with respect to enforcing forced work on people. In this situation, this woman was refused assistance. I remember going in front of the Social Assistance Appeal Board. It turned out, in this case, that we actually had a very good hearing, and the chair of the appeal board was appalled. He looked at the medical information, he wasn't a medical person, he listened to this woman. She was a woman who was in her early 50's, she had had a very hard life, she had worked all her life. She had children, she actually had young grandchildren. He responded with compassion and empathy and I believe he did the right thing - he applied his judgement to the case, he sent it back to the department to reconsider her application. In fact, she ended up being assisted for a four month period and then she died.

I often think about this woman and just how rigid and how poorly this system we call a safety net had treated her. That was probably back in 1977 or 1978. If there is anything I could ever hope for it is that this system would change and would move away from its roots, which are in the Elizabethan Poor Law Acts. The Elizabethan Poor Law was a British law in 1601 that designated there would be people who would get assisted because they were unable to work and there were people who would not be assisted because they could work. This categorizing of people on the basis of whether or not they could work was entrenched in ideas about who is deserving and who isn't deserving. This has haunted social welfare programs in Canada, in this province, in the U.S. and in Britain to this day.

We had, for a brief moment, I think, with an imperfect Canada Assistance Plan, moved away from some of this sort of moralism. We had moved in a direction where we had a definition of people in need and we had an income test to look at when we would provide assistance to people.

This piece of legislation gives us nothing. It doesn't even tell us who will be considered a person in need. If the minister and this government don't know that and can't provide that to this Legislature by now, then this truly is a bill that is unworthy of being passed in this Legislature because we don't know how bad it can actually be.

The Elizabethan Poor Law Acts were amended in 1834. They added a principle to the deserving and undeserving, called the principle of less eligibility. I want to read a little passage about what this means because it reminded me so much when I read it of what our Premier said yesterday. The Poor Law Amendment of 1834 added the principle of less eligibility. The living conditions of the lowest paid worker should be superior to that of the

[Page 8014]

able-bodied, destitute person. This principle was put in place to make sure that public assistance never became a more attractive option than gainful employment - 1834.

So, as I said when I had an opportunity to speak on the hoist bill, if this government thinks they are coming in with some new and innovative approach to social policy and dealing with people in poverty, in our province then you can think again. What you are doing is rooted in the Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, and in that amendment of 1834, so welcome to the new millennium. You are truly a group of dinosaurs, I have to say, with this kind of approach.

Now, the way the social assistance system treats people today, and I would like to go back to people who are unable to work, is not a lot different than that lady who came to see me in the 1970's when I worked as an advocate out of the Legal Aid clinic. I have a constituent who lives on less than $300 a month. This is a woman who for 26 years worked at a drycleaning service at minimum wage, she raised her family, she is now a grandmother, she is in her early 50's and a few years ago she had a mental health breakdown and she was no longer able to work. She gets income support from the Province of Nova Scotia, she gets the grand sum of just slightly less than $300 a month. Last winter she called my office and asked me for assistance getting her a winter coat and boots. I would really like to know, I would really like the minister to tell me what he thinks this particular piece of legislation is going to do to improve her life and the lives of many other men and women just like her.

I have another constituent who worked for many years at The Daily News, in their print shop, who was injured in an automobile accident and she gets CPP, she gets less than $500 a month and she has many medical needs. She needed a back brace, she needed all kinds of special needs, she needs a special diet because she has to be very careful about not putting on weight and dealing with her cholesterol because of all of her medical problems. She was expecting a cheque from the Department of Social Services because she was getting a small supplement of maybe $120 a month from them. I will tell you how they treated this particular woman. She thought she was going to be able to pay her telephone bill because that small supplement would be deposited directly in her bank account. It didn't show up. Nobody called her to tell her that they were disentitling her. Two days before the day that normally the supplement would have gone into her account, she was asked to provide additional medical information, update the medical information. The woman is permanently disabled for gosh sakes. She is on CPP, but she provided the information, but apparently the department was so anxious to disentitle her that they had made the decision before they even got the information.

This is going on each and every day. I bet you there is not a member in this House who could not stand in their place tonight and give a litany of information about individuals in their riding who cannot get prescription drugs, who cannot pay for an ambulance they had to take, who cannot get eyeglasses, who cannot send their children to the school outing, who

[Page 8015]

cannot do any of these things. Why can't they do these things? Because what we provide to people is so thoroughly inadequate it is almost a crime.

[7:30 p.m.]

I'd like to go back to these tables about the adequacy of 1999 benefits out of the National Council Welfare's publication. For the Province of Nova Scotia, the total income of a single, employable person, on average in Nova Scotia, on income support, do you know what it was, Mr. Speaker? You are not going to believe this. Hold on to your seat. The total income, on average, was $4,374 a year - the annual income of a single, employable person. Now, the poverty line for a single person is $14,727 a year. So welfare income in this province, as a percentage of the poverty line for a single person, is 31 per cent. Now isn't that shocking? Is that not shocking?

This is what we do with disabled people. A disabled person, on average, in Nova Scotia has an annual income of $8,568. The poverty line is the same as before, $14,727, so it is 60 per cent and so on. With a single parent with one child, their total income, on average, in Nova Scotia, their total income, a parent and a child, is $12,558 annually. The poverty line is $19,963, as a percentage, 63 per cent. A couple with two children, the average income is $16,000, 57 per cent of the poverty line. I will ask the Page to take this. I will table this.

I have talked a bit about people who are disabled. You know, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people in this province who are desperate to work and they are on social assistance. I have people call me all the time, and I am sure other people in this House do as well, who are on social assistance, who are desperate for anything. They will call me and say, just a few hours, anything I can get, anything you can think of. Can you help me find some work? Can you point me in the right direction? You would have to be living on another planet not to recognize the incredible restructuring that has been going on in the labour force, in our labour market here and around the world. There are a huge number of people who have been thrown out of work.

Before I was elected, I worked with a research team and we looked at the restructuring of the Nova Scotia labour market. One of the really incredible things that we found was that jobs were vanishing in Nova Scotia. Jobs in the resource sectors, in particular. Jobs that you could get with a Grade 9 or Grade 10 or Grade 11 education, jobs that required hard, physical labour were disappearing and were being replaced by technology. Those kinds of jobs were disappearing and the new jobs that were emerging were jobs that required the use of technology, even in farming, Mr. Speaker. We saw this government send out a rather Draconian kind of letter to people on assistance in the Annapolis Valley area. I want to tell the minister about an interview that our research group did with farmers in the Valley who ended up importing labour from the Caribbean. It is not as simple as people think. Oh, there is a labour shortage in the farming community. We will just go find some people on welfare,

[Page 8016]

and they will do the jobs. This particular farmer in the Annapolis Valley had been there, done that, and he said it was a disaster. Why was it a disaster? It was a disaster because the people on social assistance who were sent to work on his farm weren't well enough. They were not well enough to do the hard, physical labour that was required. That was one experience.

The second experience was that quite a few people who are in this situation had left school early. They had low levels of literacy. They hadn't had a lot of opportunity to learn how to handle highly mechanized equipment. This farmer, he had pieces of farm equipment that were worth $1.4 million, big machines, huge machines that he owed a lot of money for. His entire livelihood relied on the use of this farm equipment. I can remember so clearly, he said, do you think, do you really think I am going to put some 47 year old person who had to leave school in Grade 6, who might have a driver's license, but that is about it, on a $1.4 million piece of equipment and send them out in my field? I don't think so.

So this idea that you can just move people around like they are robots, and they are going to fit into these particular needs in the labour force, is totally wrong. It simply does not work like that, Mr. Speaker. So I am very concerned that we don't know more about what this government's plans are with respect to the very large numbers of people who have been displaced from a labour market that used to exist that no longer exists because the skills and the experience that they have does not match the requirements of a labour market that essentially has become more mechanized and requires much higher levels of literacy.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn now and talk about women, women on social assistance, because I think if there has been anything that has sparked controversy to a certain extent, it has been the discussion of single mothers, and whether or not single mothers should be forced into the labour force and what precisely that means, and whether or not this legislation is going to deal fairly with women and with children. I would like to start first by asking the minister some questions that we are still waiting for answers to. These questions are: What can we expect with respect to women who have young children and your plan for employment? At what stage are you going to require that a single mother participate in your welfare-to-work plans? A parent, a mother, a single father for that matter, but they tend to be single mothers, a single mother who is a teenager and in school, is she going to be permitted to complete school? What if she has to stay in school for more than two years to complete school? Are you going to limit the amount of education that is available? What are you going to do to support someone like this to get their high school education and go on? Are there restrictions being placed on the amount of time and the kinds of education that people will get and will there be exceptions made and how? How will you treat different groups of women, very young women? A single parent, a single mother who has an infant six months old, will they have to participate in this program and where will they get infant day care because as far as I know there isn't too much infant day care around, no spaces, very few spaces.

[Page 8017]

When you look at the different welfare-to-work programs across the country, they have quite serious and significant differences. Alberta, for example, forces women, as soon as their infants are six months old, to go out into the labour force. They boot them out as fast at six months old. Provinces like Manitoba do not require participation in these programs until children have reached age seven. In other provinces it is school age.

I think the proper thing for the government to do before this bill goes forward is to give us an answer to that kind of question. We need to know. We need to know what does this mean. What is this government's position on parenting, on families, on children? At what stage do you, as a government, think it is no longer proper, it is no longer permitted for a parent to be with an infant or a toddler, or a young child?

I think we need to know how you are going to treat parents who have children with disabilities who require a full-time parent. We need to know that. I want to tell the minister that in my constituency there is a public housing area called Mulgrave Park where the tenants recently did a survey of the needs of children. They provided me with a copy of their interim report and I was quite struck by one of the findings in this report. There were not quite 300 children who lived in this particular housing area and almost 50 children were identified in this survey as being children with special needs and disabilities and I thought, wow, that seems to be a very high proportion of kids with special needs. But, you know, it is not surprising because we know there is a connection between income, poverty, inequality and disability. So how are those parents going to be treated and, more to the point, how are those children going to be treated who need a full-time parent?

What about a parent who has an adolescent who is having behavioural problems? It is tough being a parent these days, not that it has ever been easy, but it is real tough and raising children by yourself is a full-time job for lots of people because it can be very difficult not having enough income for food, adequate clothing, recreation. These are serious problems so we need to know how you are going to deal with these kinds of exceptional and not exactly uncommon situations.

[7:45 p.m.]

I want to know what this government plans to do about women who have been abused and how they fall into this little plan for welfare-to-work. There have been lots of analyses done by various groups in the past 10 years about the cost, both human and financial, of violence against women. It is quite significant and it is something that we have to deal with.

I will give this government some credit; I was really pleased yesterday to hear that Dawn Russell, that the Minister of Justice had appointed the Dean of the Law School - I think her name is Dawn Russell - to do a review. I think this is positive, this is a good thing, but you have to ask, do you guys talk to each other? I see so many inconsistencies between

[Page 8018]

what one department is doing and what another department is doing that I wonder, don't you get along? Don't you talk?

I think that with respect to women who are poor and who are trying to raise their children in circumstances that are often not optimal, we need to know more about what this government's plan is. It may play real well on the talk shows; it may play very well in certain communities, to beat up on single mothers, but you know as long as there are members here in this Party, there are people who will stand up and ask the tough questions about what it is you are going to do with this group. Single moms may not be able to come to this Legislature to express their point of view, although I certainly hope we will see some. There are people here who are quite prepared to carry that little piece of work and I know there are people in the community who are prepared to do it as well.

Before I move from single mothers to talk about some other issues, I would just like to table one last piece of information that I think the minister and people in his department, and maybe the Premier, should have a look at. In October's Canadian Medical Association Journal there is an article by Dr. Lynn MacIntyre and some other members of a research team at Dalhousie in the faculty of Health Professions, on child hunger in Canada. Lynn MacIntyre has been doing this research for a number of years. She has developed a reputation of having some expertise on feeding programs, on breakfast programs in particular. One of the things Dr. MacIntyre has found in studying hunger among children is something she didn't set out to find, which is often the hallmark of good research - you find out things you didn't expect to find. She found that yes, there is child hunger, there are children who are hungry but guess what? There are more parents who are hungry than there are children.

If I could read just one little piece from her article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal of this October: In our study parental self-deprivation in response to lack of food far exceeded child deprivation. She does on to tell us that there are things you can look for, there are things that family doctors need to be aware of that they can look for in identifying families that are hungry, children who are hungry and parents who are hungry. She tells us that one of the most significant features of these families are that they are the families who receive social assistance. Maybe the Premier should take this article back to the group he met with yesterday and offer an apology to the people who live in poverty on social assistance in this province, because the evidence does not support the claim that he made yesterday.

Now I see my time is drawing closer to the end. Before I finish, I would like to talk a bit more about communities that are particularly vulnerable, because so far I have had a chance to talk about people who are disabled and people who have been thrown out of the labour force through no fault of their own, through labour-market restructuring, single parents, but there are vulnerable communities in the Province of Nova Scotia, communities where the level of unemployment vastly outpaces the level of unemployment in other communities. Specifically, I am talking about the off-reserve communities of Aboriginal people who come into our urban centres who are unable to get employment, who are often

[Page 8019]

unable to get the training they require and find themselves in contact with the social assistance system. Of course the African Nova Scotian community is another community where the levels of unemployment, and opportunity for employment and opportunity for education historically has not been equal to what other communities have enjoyed.

Mr. Minister, your legislation does not help us understand how members of these communities are going to be supported. (Interruption) Well, the minister says nothing has changed, but the minister tells us this is the bill about moving people from welfare to work, and what I am asking the minister is, what the heck are you going to do to really help these communities? If this is really a bill about helping people from welfare to work, then something has got to change and there should be a plan to change that, and there is no plan is what I am hearing from the minister.

I read the Minister of Economic Development's little blueprint for prosperity that my colleague the member for Dartmouth North likes to display over here. Nothing. Nothing about these vulnerable communities; nothing about what you are going to do. People in these communities want to work. They want to work, and they need a plan. This piece of legislation provides no plan. It says nothing to those communities. It says you are invisible. We don't see you. Your particular needs that should be front and centre should be of paramount concern because of the over-representation of these groups among poor people, and among people on social assistance, and among people who are unemployed, and among people who can't get training. That should be a priority, for crying out loud.

If you are really going to do something about moving people from welfare to work, job one, priority number one, look at vulnerable communities. Develop a plan. Talk to your colleagues. Get it together. It is not there. It absolutely is not there. So how could we conclude anything other than this isn't a bill about assisting people, giving them more opportunities, all of the flowery, glossy language, more opportunities and more of this stuff, lead them into prosperity. This isn't what this is about. This really is a page from the Mike Harris book. It is a page that is being waved around for the friends of the government to show them what good guys, what tough guys you are, that you know who your friends are, you know who your supporters are and they sure as heck aren't people who are poor. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to adjourn debate?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8020]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, with the permission of the House, I would ask that we revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 60 - Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act.

Bill No. 61 - Electronic Commerce Act.

Bill No. 63 - Labour Standards Code.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, each without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. and the House will rise at 3:00 p.m. Tomorrow is Friday, so it is go home day. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading. We will continue with Bill No. 62 and, on the conclusion of Bill No. 62, we will commence Bill No. 70, the

[Page 8021]

Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act. It is expected that we will be adjourning, perhaps, a little before 3:00 p.m. if it is the will of the House to do so. I move that we do now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

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 House will adjourn until tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 8022]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3022

By: Mr. Donald Downe (Lunenburg West)

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

Whereas Wileville resident Ben Hebb is the new world record holder for the largest squash grown; and

Whereas Mr. Hebb, a dairy farmer who grows squash and pumpkins, participated in the 16th Annual Great Atlantic Weigh Off on October 7, 2000 in Windsor; and

Whereas Mr. Hebb's prize-winning squash weighed in at 990 pounds, breaking the previous world record set at 962 pounds;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mr. Ben Hebb on setting this new world record and wish him all the best growing next year's gourds.

RESOLUTION NO. 3023

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas on Sunday, November 5, 2000, at Wentworth Valley, Nova Scotia, a memorial will be unveiled to pay tribute to those who fought in conflicts for this country, a project of the Millennium Memorial Project Committee from the Wentworth area; and

Whereas the cenotaph will contain the names of those who never returned from World War I: Frank Langille; William Smith; and Ernest Forsythe; and from World War II: Ernest Cummings; and

Whereas there are also 95 other names of men and women on the honour roll from the community who enlisted and fought in the four wars because in the words of Faye Henderson, "Both those who died and those who came back are a treasure that should be recognized and honoured for their sacrifice.";

[Page 8023]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the community of Wentworth, its citizens and volunteer committee for their hard work and effort on erecting this monument to commemorate those individuals who fought on behalf of all Canadians.

RESOLUTION NO. 3024

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas in each year at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Nova Scotians pause to honour and remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country; and

Whereas more than 100,000 Nova Scotians participated in the two World Wars and the Korean Conflict; and

Whereas Remembrance Day must be honoured by each of us in recognition of thanks given for the supreme sacrifice made for our country;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House pause on November 11th to reflect on the true meaning of freedom and recognize the monumental contribution made by the thousands of men and women who gave so much for our freedom.