The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on
April 25, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Nov. 7, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Standing Committees of the House of Assembly - Membership List,
Hon. R. Russell 8236
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3116, Health: Medical Radiation Technology Week (6-10/11/00) -
Recognize, Hon. J. Muir 8236
Vote - Affirmative 8237
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 77, Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act, Hon. E. Fage 8237
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3117, Educ. - Lunch Supervision: Funding - Restore, Mr. W. Gaudet 8237
Res. 3118, Barkhouse, Mr. Averill (Rawdon): Accomplishments -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 8238
Vote - Affirmative 8238
Res. 3119, Fish. - Canso Trawlermen's Co-op: Min. (Fed.) - Meet,^
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 8239
Res. 3120, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Repair - Delay Explain,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8239
Res. 3121, Cape Breton (Ind.) - Legal Liability Limit: Gov't. (N.S.) -
Plans Drop, Mr. F. Corbett 8240
Res. 3122, Lake Echo & Dist. Fire Dept. - MacDonald, Ron (Deceased):
Contribution - Acknowledge, Mr. D. Hendsbee 8241
Vote - Affirmative 8241
Res. 3123, Law Amendments Comm. - Internet: Submissions -
Position Reassess, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8241
Res. 3124, Health - Care: Liberals (Fed.)/Alliance - Plan Implementation,
Mr. D. Dexter 8242
Res. 3125, PC Party: Election (Cdn.) Candidates - Find,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8243
Res. 3126, Girl Guides - Location: New - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 8244
Vote - Affirmative 8244
Res. 3127, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roadwork (Hammonds Plains
Rd. Area): Priority List - Publicize, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8244
Res. 3128, Hargrove, Basil "Buzz" - NDP Shift: View - Support,
Mr. P. MacEwan 8245
Res. 3129, Johnson, Jan & Rick (Bible Hill) - Business (Cdn. Tire):
Success - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 8246
Vote - Affirmative 8246
Res. 3130, Exco - Methods: Secretive/Dictatorial - End, Mr. H. Epstein 8246
Res. 3131, Strait Reg. Sch. Bd. - Technology Lab: Boudreau, Wilfred -
Designation Commend, Mr. M. Samson 8247
Vote - Affirmative 8248
Res. 3132, Sports - Middleton Wall of Fame: Inductees - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 8248
Vote - Affirmative 8248
Res. 3133, Commun. Serv. - Child Poverty (17/08/98 on): Deficit -
Recognize, Mr. J. Pye 8248
Res. 3134, Remembrance Day: Poppy Campaign - Participation,
Mr. B. Boudreau 8249
Vote - Affirmative 8250
Res. 3135, Medicare/Pub. Sch. Systems: Funding - Source, Mr. D. Morse 8250
Res. 3136, Women: Right to Choose - Reaffirm,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8251
Res. 3137, Pine Hill Div. Sch.: Contribution - Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 8251
Vote - Affirmative 8252
Res. 3138, Boudreau, Bernard - Hfx. West: Voters - Election (Cdn.)
Choice Explain, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8252
Res. 3139, Health: Medical Radiation Technology Week (06-10/11/00) -
Recognize, Dr. J. Smith 8253
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT RULE 43:
Gov't. (N.S.) - C.B. (Ind.): Disaster - Assistance, Mr. D. Wilson 8254
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Justice - Lunenburg Correction Centre: Closure - Cease, Mr. D. Downe 8256
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 978, Health - Flu Vaccinations: Quantity - Ensure, Mr. W. Gaudet 8257
No. 979, EMO - C.B.: Flooding - Relief Time-Frame, Mr. F. Corbett 8258
No. 980, Health - Kentville: Physicians - Shortage, Mr. W. Gaudet 8259
No. 981, Health - Flu Vaccinations: Quantity - Ensure, Mr. D. Dexter 8260
No. 982, Health - Shelburne Co.: Physicians - Shortage, Dr. J. Smith 8261
No. 983, Sysco - Sale: Details - FOI Policy, Mr. F. Corbett 8262
No. 984, EMO - C.B.: Flooding - Assistance Time-Frame, Mr. D. Wilson 8263
No. 985, Health - Hants North: Physicians - Shortage,
Mr. John MacDonell 8264
No. 986, Tourism - Growth: Negative - Min. Explain, Mr. D. Downe 8266
No. 987, Health - Cutbacks: QE II - Surgery Cancellation,
Mr. D. Dexter 8267
No. 988, Fin. - Dollar (Cdn.): Revenue Projections (N.S.) - Impact,
Mr. D. Downe 8269
No. 989, Fin. - Fuel Tax Rebate: Info. - Min. Retract, Mr. J. Holm 8270
No. 990, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Salt: 80/20 Rule -
Abandonment, Mr. P. MacEwan 8271
No. 991, Environ. - Twin Mountain Const.: Laws - Enforcement,
Mr. John MacDonell 8273
No. 992, Educ. - School Const.: Site Selection - Policy, Mr. W. Gaudet 8274
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 70, Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act 8275
Mr. B. Boudreau 8275
Mr. H. Epstein 8281
Amendment moved 8289
HOUSE RECESSED AT 2:46 P.M. 8289
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:50 P.M. 8289
Ruling: Out of Order 8289
Mr. H. Epstein 8290
Hon. R. Russell 8291
Previous Question Put 8291
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8291
Mr. D. Dexter 8298
Mr. D. Wilson 8303
Mr. J. Holm 8306
Adjournment of debate moved 8312
Vote - Negative 8313
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8313
Adjourned debate 8320
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Premier - C.B. (Ind.): Disaster - Duties Neglect:
Mr. D. Wilson 8320
Mr. F. Corbett 8323
Hon. E. Fage 8325
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 70, Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act [debate resumed] 8328
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8328
Hon. G. Balser 8328
Question Put: 8334
Vote - Affirmative 8335
Second Reading: 8335
Vote - Affirmative 8336
No. 64, Dairy Industry Act 8337
Hon. E. Fage 8337
Mr. John MacDonell 8338
Adjourned debate 8338
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 8th at 2:00 p.m. 8339
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 43:
Gov't. (N.S.) - C.B. (Ind.): Disaster - Assistance:
Mr. D. Wilson 8339
Mr. F. Corbett 8342
Mr. W. Langille 8345
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8346
Mr. K. Deveaux 8349
Mr. Ronald Chisholm ^^^Mr. B. Boudreau ~ 8356 8353
Mr. K. Morash 8358

[Page 8235]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7, 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. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I was wondering if we could revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees?

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

8235

[Page 8236]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, my apologies. This came over to me last evening. I beg leave to table the updated membership list for the Standing Committees of the House of Assembly. All three caucuses were consulted and any and all changes were submitted and incorporated into the tabled list.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3116

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

Whereas medical radiation technologists are highly trained medical professionals who provide excellence in patient care and safety for their role in diagnosis, treatment and assessment in Nova Scotia's cancer centres, emergency rooms, clinics and hospitals daily; and

Whereas wait times for radiation treatment for cancer in Nova Scotia are shorter than most other provinces, thanks to the hard work and extra effort being put in by the province's medical radiation technologists; and

Whereas medical radiation technologists play an important role in counselling patients on the management of possible treatment and imaging side effects and often develop a close relationship with patients and their families;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join Cancer Care Nova Scotia in recognizing the week of November 6th to November 10th as Medical Radiation Technology Week in appreciation of the critical role these professionals play in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer and other diseases and in the comfort of patients and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8237]

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. 77 - Entitled an Act for the Conservation of Agricultural Marshland. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3117

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 Halifax Regional School Board charges non-bused students a fee if they stay at school for lunch; and

Whereas this fee can be as much as $200 per year, causing hardship to many families; and

Whereas this fee has to be charged because the school board is not receiving adequate funding from the Department of Education;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Minister of Education to restore adequate funding to school boards so that free lunch hour supervision can be provided for all the students.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8238]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader in the House for the New Democratic Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3118

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

Whereas becoming a quadriplegic is a devastating tragedy to befall anyone; and

Whereas in the face of adversity the human spirit often shines the brightest; and

Whereas Mr. Averill Barkhouse of Rawdon became first a stockbroker and then an accomplished award-winning artist whose work can be found all over this country in spite of suffering the limitations of becoming a quadriplegic at the age of 20;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Barkhouse for his accomplishments, by dint of his perseverance and his undaunted spirit.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

[Page 8239]

RESOLUTION NO. 3119

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

Whereas the Canso Trawlermans Cooperative and Manager, Pat Fougere, have been strong advocates for the fishery workers in the Canso area; and

Whereas federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal cancelled the meeting originally scheduled yesterday with co-op members because of this unnecessary federal election; and

Whereas the co-op members have asked for a meeting with Minister Dhaliwal and his predecessors for over three years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the federal Liberal Government for cancelling this long-awaited meeting and urge the next federal government, regardless of political affiliation, to direct the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to meet with the Canso Trawlermans Cooperative as soon as possible after November 27th.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3120

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

Whereas it has been suggested that the Department of Transportation and Public Works is in between summer and winter budgets and had no additional money to spend on some much needed roadwork; and

Whereas last week a fierce storm hit Cape Breton Island causing flooding and washed out roads and bridges; and

[Page 8240]

Whereas an old proverb states, that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister explain to the members of this House why he is waiting for another storm to ravage through Cape Breton before he repairs roads and bridges in the area.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3121

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

Whereas this government is proving to be neither open nor honest in disclosing information on the Sysco bill; and

Whereas this government has failed to provide the details of the Sysco sale; and

Whereas limiting lawsuits in regard to Sysco means Cape Bretoners will have no say on the tar ponds, about their livelihood and about their well-being in their community;

Therefore be it resolved that this government drop plans to limit its liability to environmental and health concerns in industrial Cape Breton so that Cape Bretoners may have legal recourse if they develop illnesses related to the tar ponds, coke ovens, or steel plant.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

[Page 8241]

RESOLUTION NO. 3122

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

Whereas firefighters of the Lake Echo and District Volunteer Fire Department this past weekend commemorated the life of a former colleague who died tragically in a motor vehicle accident as he responded to the needs of another person in a car crash on the Eastern Shore; and

Whereas the 1997 death of volunteer firefighter, Ron MacDonald, of Porters Lake, has been honoured through a memorial to all firefighters lost in the line of duty, unveiled in his name outside HRM Station 21 in Lake Echo - a monument paid for by the other 28 volunteers of the local fire department; and

Whereas this tragedy illustrates all too clearly the very real danger faced by all of our firefighters each time they heed the call of duty for an unknown emergency scene and put themselves in harm's way every day without hesitation;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the contribution of the fallen comrade and friend of the members of the Lake Echo and District Fire Department and community and applaud their recognition of their loss through the monument as a testimonial of brotherhood and friendship for a man who, as his colleagues said, just loved to be a firefighter.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3123

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

[Page 8242]

Whereas on Friday, November 3rd, I tabled a resolution asking the House to support submissions to the Law Amendments Committee via the Internet; and

Whereas several members on the government side of the House, including the Government House Leader, said no when requested to waive notice and pass the resolution without debate; and

Whereas by denying passage without debate, government members have denied Nova Scotians their democratic right to present their views on government policy;

Therefore be it resolved that the government reassess their position on this matter and join with members on this side of the House to allow submissions to the Law Amendments Committee via the Internet.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3124

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

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas the federal Liberals would have us all believe that the Alliance is the only Party that advocates a two-tier health care system; and

Whereas the federal Liberals have actually allowed a two-tier health care system to occur in Alberta; and

Whereas instead of demanding the closure of private, for-profit hospitals in Alberta, the federal Liberals have taken a wait-and-see approach;

[Page 8243]

Therefore be it resolved that the federal Liberals admit they have already implemented the Alliance health care plan, and are in fact overseeing the complete demise of the health care system Canadians want.

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. 3125

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

Whereas the Progressive Conservative Party was unable to find any devoted Tories to run federally on Cape Breton Island; and

Whereas the local Tory executive was forced to adopt two full-time provincial employees and part-time professional candidates; and

Whereas Anna Curtis Steele and Alfie MacLeod have moved from their jobs to enter the political arena;

Therefore be it resolved that the Progressive Conservative Party would be well advised to find candidates instead of the professional candidates who are constantly regurgitated at election time.

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.

[Page 8244]

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 3126

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

Whereas the Girl Guide movement in Nova Scotia has taught girls about fun, friendship, adventure, leadership and new challenges for generations; and

Whereas many of the women who are today leaders in our society attribute some of their success to the contributions of the Guiding program; and

Whereas Guide House, the home of the Girl Guide movement in Nova Scotia, has a new location on Dutch Village Road in Halifax, in the former Royal Bank building;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Girl Guides of Nova Scotia on their new, more visible location, and thank them for the valuable contributions the Guiding movement has made to our province, and for their confirmed service to the young women of our province.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3127

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

Whereas this government promised "a comprehensive, non-partisan, multi-year plan for maintenance and upgrading of secondary roads, based on need rather than partisan politics"; and

[Page 8245]

Whereas area residents who regularly use the Hammond Plains Road want to know where their neglected roads are on this mythical list; and

Whereas improvements to the Hammond Plains Road, Yankeetown Road, the paving of subdivision streets in Haliburton Hills, Highland Park and Kingswood are important to these residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works make public the priority list for roadwork in the Hammond Plains Road area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3128

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

Whereas Basil "Buzz" Hargrove, not to be confused with former BC Premier, Mike Hargrove, is President of the Canadian Auto Workers Union and a prominent backer of the NDP; and

Whereas Hargrove has been sharply critical of his Party over the past three years for its abandonment of the workers' cause and aligning itself on the capitalist road by pandering to big business; and

Whereas the NDP has executed an eleventh-hour policy shift in a death-bed repentance, putting on a show of attempting to recapture its traditional base of support;

Therefore be it resolved that this House supports Hargrove's view that the new drastic shift of the New Democratic Party line comes " . . . just too late to make a difference in terms of electoral support."

[Page 8246]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3129

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

Whereas Jan and Rick Johnson of Bible Hill have been co-owners of Truro's Canadian Tire store for five years; and

Whereas their store currently employs 100 full- and part-time staff, has an annual payroll in excess of $1,400,000, has contributed $350,000 to an employee profit-sharing plan, and paid over $518,000 in real estate and business taxes; and

Whereas in the past five years their Canadian Tire store has given more than $125,000 in donations to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Jan and Rick Johnson on their five years of successful business, recognize their outstanding contribution to their community and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3130

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

[Page 8247]

Whereas on Page 5 of John Hamm's Plan for Nova Scotia, the Premier promised his government would be "open and straightforward"; and

Whereas he promised "much greater disclosure of government information" as one way he would achieve that goal; and

Whereas his government is now so closed and serpentine that ministers are refusing to provide the details of legislation before the House;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should end the secretive and dictatorial methods that his Cabinet has adopted to try and avoid accountability to the people who elected them and to this House which represents all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3131

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

Whereas the Strait Regional School Board has designated the technology lab in the newly opened Richmond Academy to be known as the Wilfred Boudreau Information Technology Lab; and

Whereas the designation to be made during Richmond Academy's grand opening will honour Mr. Boudreau's commitment to students in the Isle Madame and Louisdale area; and

Whereas Mr. Boudreau served as school administrator with the former Richmond District School, and unfortunately passed away in 1979;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Strait Regional School Board for designating the new technology lab in memory of Mr. Wilfred Boudreau who devoted his life to the education of our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8248]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3132

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

Whereas the third induction ceremony was held recently for the Middleton Sports Heritage Wall of Fame; and

Whereas inductions into the Wall of Fame were made from three separate categories: athlete, builder, and team; and

Whereas the inductees were: Marion (Cox) Briere, Judith (Roop) Mosher, Don Parker, Paul Shaffner, S. Albert Johnson, and the team inducted was the 1966-67 Middleton Regional High School men's volleyball squad which represented Nova Scotia in the initial Canadian Winter Games in Quebec City;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly congratulate the inductees for their outstanding accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3133

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

[Page 8249]

Whereas every day in the Province of Nova Scotia six more children are born into poverty; and

Whereas since August 17th, this Tory Government's first full day in office, 2,688 children have been born into poverty; and

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

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government start waking up to the health, education, and social deficits faced by the 2,688 children born into poverty under this Tory Regime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3134

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 November 11th, Canadians all across the country will stop and pay tribute to the men and women killed in Canada's wars and military operations; and

Whereas for millions of Canadians the poppy has long been the flower of remembrance for those who served our country; and

Whereas thanks to millions of Canadians who wear poppies each November the little red plant has never died, and neither have Canadians' memories of their countrymen who died in battle;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House participate in the poppy campaign and remember those who selflessly gave of themselves so that we could all live in peace.

[Page 8250]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3135

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

Whereas the Bloc Quebecois and Alliance overtly agree on major devolutions of federal powers to the provinces impairing Canada's fiscal ability to provide comparable health and education services across the country; and

Whereas the federal Liberal Government has de facto acted in concert with these Bloc and Alliance aims by virtue of their massive cuts to the CHST since 1993 and 1994; and

Whereas the federal Liberal Government proposes to slam the door on a larger federal proportional contribution to Medicare by virtue of stripping their fiscal ability to do so by not incorporating at least a full restoration of 1994-95 CHST now before calculating their tax policies;

Therefore be it resolved that Canadians consider whether their vision of the greatest country in the world includes Medicare and public school systems based solely on each individual province's ability to pay or national standards supported by a strong fiscal presence.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The notice of motion was way too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

[Page 8251]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3136

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

Whereas women should continue to have the right to choose what they do with their bodies; and

Whereas the abortion issue in Canada has been decided in the courts and does not need to be revisited in any form; and

Whereas divisive and unnecessary referendums on such issues divide rather than unite;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House reaffirm today a woman's right to choose.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3137

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

Whereas on yesterday's date in 1878, the Pine Hill Divinity School was founded; and

Whereas in 1971, Pine Hill joined with the divinity faculty of the University of King's College and the Holy Heart Theological Institute to form The Atlantic School of Theology; and

Whereas The Atlantic School of Theology is fully accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada;

[Page 8252]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the significant contribution made by Pine Hill Divinity School to the religious fabric of Nova Scotia and wish its successor institute, The Atlantic School of Theology, many more years of continuing service to the Christian community of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3138

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

Whereas ex-Senator Bernie Boudreau found Geoff Regan's abilities were not up to scratch and therefore he ended Geoff's employment in the Liberal Cabinet Office; and

Whereas Senator Boudreau felt that the approach taken by his Savage Liberal colleagues was more suitable despite the voters' negative verdict of the Savage record; and

Whereas the Liberal Party is now suggesting that while Geoff Regan was not good enough to work for Senator Boudreau, he is good enough to sit quietly on the Liberal back bench like he did before;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the former Senator to explain to Halifax West voters why they should elect someone who was not good enough to be kept on the Senator's own staff.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8253]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3139

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

Whereas this week, November 6th to November 10th, has been designated Medical Radiation Technology Week; and

Whereas radiation therapists are highly trained medical professionals and members of the cancer care team who contribute immensely in the care and treatment of cancer patients across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this Tory Government is doing very little to address the shortage of RTs nor is it investing much-needed money to enhance the MRT program in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this week as Medical Radiation Technology Week and that this Tory Government recognize the invaluable service of RTs to the care of cancer patients throughout Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

[12:30 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is my very great pleasure today to introduce to you and to the other members of the Legislature, in the west gallery and in the Speaker's Gallery, students from Mount Edward School. There are 40 Grade 6 students and they are accompanied here today by teachers, Joanne Stonehouse and Tyler Rutledge; Bill

[Page 8254]

Dobson, one of the teaching assistants; and parents, Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Martell. They had a tour of Province House this morning and they are joining us for a little while to watch some of the deliberations. I would ask the House to give them a welcome and ask them to stand, if they wouldn't mind. (Applause)

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am hereby giving notice as per Rule 43(2) that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance. As per the rule, I sent you a copy of my request earlier today. The matter is as follows:

Mr. Speaker, over the last week industrial Cape Breton has been hit with torrential rains and flooding. The damage is in the millions of dollars and homeowners in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are struggling to cope. Emergency assistance under the province's disaster assistance policy appears to be inadequate. While the Minister of the EMO has viewed the damage personally, there seems to be no real sense of urgency in alleviating the damage caused by the flooding.

The disaster assistance policy failed to provide any help for residents of Richmond and Guysborough Counties earlier this year. The disaster assistance policy announced after storm damage in Cumberland County has been slow in alleviating that situation. Indeed, claims filed last spring are only being honoured today.

The economic situation in the Cape Breton region means that many homeowners will not be eligible under the disaster assistance policy. The situation requires the immediate attention of the government and the members of this Legislature. Most important, the Premier must take a leadership role in assisting with this disaster. The time to act is now and I urge you and the members of this Legislature to allow for an emergency debate. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise in my place today and tell you that I support the member for Cape Breton East . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is no debate on this motion. The honourable member for Cape Breton East has requested an emergency debate. The request was presented to my office, which required a prior two hours' notice before the House sitting, which has been met.

After having reviewed the rules, I have determined that the matter is proper to be discussed and will be heard this evening. I will read the motion and I will call upon the House for support for the motion.

[Page 8255]

The member for Cape Breton East hereby requests that I am hereby giving notice as per Rule 43(2) that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgent public importance. The matter is as follows:

Mr. Speaker, over the last week industrial Cape Breton has been hit with torrential rains and flooding. The damage is in the millions of dollars and homeowners in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are struggling to cope. Emergency assistance under the province's disaster assistance policy is inadequate. While the Minister of the EMO has reviewed the damage personally, there seems to be no urgency in alleviating the damage caused by the flood.

The disaster assistance policy announced after storm damage in Cumberland County has been slow in alleviating that situation. Claims filed last spring are only being honoured today.

The economic situation in the Cape Breton region means that many homeowners will not be eligible under the disaster assistance policy. The situation requires the immediate attention of the government and the members of this Legislature. Most important, the Premier must take a leadership role in assisting with this disaster. The time to act is now and I urge you and the members of this Legislature to allow for an emergency debate.

I would ask all members if the member has leave of the House to discuss this this evening.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Hearing no objection, it will be discussed this evening at the regular hour of adjournment which is 8:00 p.m. (Interruptions)

Order, please. As well, this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton South:

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier has failed in his duties as provincial Leader by neglecting the disaster situation in industrial Cape Breton.

I believe we have an agreement by all the members of the House that this will be heard at 6:00 p.m. and the emergency debate will be heard from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8256]

The late debate will take place from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the emergency debate will be heard from 8:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, may I have permission of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions?

MR. SPEAKER: There has been a request that we revert to the order of business, Presenting and Reading Petitions.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members of the House for accepting this.

"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 Correction 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 petition that I present has some 500 signatures, bringing the total to 2,500 signed petitions with regard to this concern. I beg leave to table it to the House.

[Page 8257]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:38 p.m and will end at 1:38 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

HEALTH - FLU VACCINATIONS: QUANTITY - ENSURE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today we have learned that the minister did not order enough flu vaccinations to treat all Nova Scotians who either need them or will request one. As a result, doctors will be sent a letter from the Department of Health telling them to refuse flu vaccinations to anyone who is not a senior or someone at risk. A few weeks ago this minister made a big deal about encouraging all Nova Scotians to get a flu shot. My question is, since the minister has already demonstrated very poor planning how can he ensure that there will be enough flu vaccinations to treat seniors and those at risk?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question because one of the things that it does is something that I said would happen, is that this year this government would implement a very successful flu vaccine program in this province and we did.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, we are seeing how successful this program is going to be. Has this minister not heard that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Very soon, our emergency rooms and hospital beds will be occupied with people who have the flu. Last year alone, over 2,500 people were hospitalized as a result of the flu. There is no question that the flu vaccine shortage will have a very negative impact on hospital budgets. My question to the minister, is the minister prepared to provide extra funding to acute care facilities to help them deal with the influx of patients?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat, this government said that it was very interested in a preventative medicine program, and the flu shot campaign this year has been extremely successful. We are not charging for the flu shots this year, which is in sharp contrast to what that bunch did when they were giving it out. I can tell him that we are expecting more vaccine from the suppliers at the end of the month, and we have already given out more flu shots this year, to this point, than we did all last year. That is a successful program, that is a good news story, and they should recognize it.

[Page 8258]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, a Department of Health medical officer has been quoted as saying the vaccine supply may have to be redistributed to go where it is most needed. My question to the minister is, how is this minister going to decide who gets a flu vaccination, or is he going to flip a coin between seniors and those at risk?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the direction we have been taking health care is to allocate resources where they are needed the most. I will assure the honourable member for Clare that the flu vaccine will reach those who need it the very most.

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

EMO - C.B.: FLOODING - RELIEF TIME-FRAME

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Last week the people of Cape Breton were hit by severe flooding that has ravaged many peoples' homes and businesses. Indeed, this minister was in Bernie Burke's home in Lingan this very weekend. The minister said it is one of the worst floods he has ever seen. I want to ask the minister, the people of Cape Breton who are trying to repair the damage to their communities would like to know, when can they expect this government to fast track the process of disaster relief so they can get on with the business of rebuilding their communities?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, indeed, I empathize greatly with the people in his constituency and that of the neighbouring constituencies, those of the members for Cape Breton South and Cape Breton East. They were affected by some water damage. I can tell you that that process is moving along very smoothly, and it is moving as quickly as can be reasonably expected at this time.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as we speak, losses continue to pile up. I am going to quote from Mr. Hamm, when he was in Opposition, this time Nova Scotia needs a government's help. Give the people some hope. These words hold as much truth today as when they were spoken by the Premier, when he was in Opposition, on February 4, 1998. At that time, he pointed out that the then-Premier Russell MacLellan was dragging his feet, having waited a week before effectively dealing with the flooding that struck Truro. Now, it has been a week since the flooding began in Cape Breton. Can the minister assure this House and the people of Cape Breton that this government will move faster and not let things drag on, as the Liberals did three years ago?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to inform the honourable member - perhaps just to correct - my understanding is there was absolutely no assistance for the folks in Truro, who were flooded four years ago. You may wish to check that with some of the people who were there then. I want to tell you that this government did take steps. There seems to be more frequently-occurring natural disasters. This government, for the first time in this province's

[Page 8259]

history, did put a policy in place last spring. Now people know what type of assistance they can expect.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, once again we see this government say one thing in Opposition and another thing in government. They set the benchmark at a week, the week has come and gone. Where is the relief? Many residents affected by this flooding in Cape Breton are on fixed or low incomes, which this government knows all too well, and cannot deal with the costs of repairing their homes on their own. Many of these people cannot afford insurance, because of the dire economic circumstances that are facing people in industrial Cape Breton. Could this minister assure these people that they will be assisted in their efforts to repair their homes back to their original state?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is a disaster financial assistance policy that this province has and there are guidelines as part of that policy. I can assure the honourable member that those people who have damage to their homes and their properties that are covered under these guidelines, they will be compensated as per the policy.

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

HEALTH - KENTVILLE: PHYSICIANS - SHORTAGE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Last week we revealed that the Medical Society cannot handle the number of calls from people who are desperate to find a family doctor. The minister denied there was a crisis in doctor recruitment in Nova Scotia. Kentville has been dealing with a shortage of about six doctors for some time now. About one-third of the patients who go to the outpatient's department do not have a family doctor.

Mr. Speaker, there is a doctor now practising in the U.S. who wants to raise his family in Kentville. My question to the minister is, has the minister spoken to any doctors about filling the void in Kentville and, if so, what commitment was made?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I believe there were two questions that he asked and I will answer the first one. The answer is, yes, I did speak to the individual personally of whom you were talking about.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the minister did. This doctor feels that he has been getting very little support for consideration from this Health Minister. This is a doctor who is willing to take a massive pay cut in order to work in an emergency room in Kentville. Why has the minister failed to do everything in his power to encourage this doctor to return to Nova Scotia?

[Page 8260]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think that it would be fair to state that I not only spoke to the gentleman, I also spoke to another member of his family and my staff has spoken to him in the last two days on at least two occasions.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I hope those discussions will continue. This minister has abdicated his responsibility for bringing new doctors to Nova Scotia. Will the minister commit to dealing with the doctor shortage in Kentville immediately?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the recruitment efforts of this government to bring new physicians to this province is as good as any in Canada.

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

HEALTH - FLU VACCINATIONS: QUANTITY - ENSURE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was pleased to table in this House a resolution that was adopted unanimously by the House encouraging all Nova Scotians to get their flu shot. I noted at that time that flu shots decreased the employment days lost to illness and eased the strain on overburdened emergency rooms. Today the Department of Health says that they are running out of the flu vaccine. So my question to the minister is simple, how did you manage to miscalculate so badly that you cannot even deliver flu vaccine to the people of Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, this is an example of how effective the government's preventive medicine programs have been this year in contrast to the past. When we made it a government policy to encourage all people who we would put into the high risk categories, including all health care works, to receive flu shots, the take-up rate was very good. Mr. Speaker, this is a good news story for this province.

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, usually you prepare for success by buying additional vaccine, apparently not what this government did, and yesterday I had my flu shot at an employer's clinic run by the VON on behalf of an employer. The Province of Ontario is asking all of its citizens to be inoculated and are providing the vaccine free. In fact, Ontario is part of the supply problem, because the uptake has increased. I want to ask the minister, could the Minister of Health tell Nova Scotians why they have to pay for vaccines - when it is available - while Ontarians get it for free?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the flu shots this year for health care workers have been provided free of charge, and this is the first time that has happened.

[Page 8261]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, maybe he didn't understand the question, I said for all Nova Scotians. The flu season is just around the corner, when will the department resolve the supply problem and provide all Nova Scotians with the vaccine, like you said you would?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, clearly, we would like to supply all Nova Scotians, at the current time we are more concerned with the high-risk groups than everybody, if there is a limited supply. I can assure the honourable member - and it is a good question - we have sufficient vaccine on hand to deal with the high-risk groups and there is more vaccine expected in the province at the end of this month.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - SHELBURNE CO.: PHYSICIANS - SHORTAGE

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question, as well, is to the Minister of Health. The proof is mounting that the doctor recruitment process in Nova Scotia is coming off the rails. We recently learned about a doctor shortage in Noel Shore, up in Hants County, as well as problems with recruitment in Kentville, as was mentioned in the House today. However, Barrington, Shelburne County and area, have been coping with the loss of a local doctor for over several months now. Doctors from Yarmouth and Shelburne have agreed to provide a locum service in Barrington, as long as someone covers overhead costs of approximately $4,000 a month. My question to the minister is, what is the minister doing to address the doctor problem in Barrington and Shelburne County?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we are actively trying to recruit physicians to go down to the Barrington area. One of the good things about this is the cooperation of the physicians down there to provide service until another practitioner comes in. We are doing everything we possibly can.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, over 5,000 people were affected by the inaction of this government. I understand that the Barrington municipal clerk has received a response from the Health Department about the overhead costs. Dr. David Webster was in contact with the Assistant Deputy Minister, Cheryl Doiron, about providing overhead costs nearly a month ago. My question to the minister is, what is taking the minister so long to respond to this doctor problem that started over six months ago?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia, between the years of 1995 and 2000, recruited more doctors on the average, it is twice the national average of recruiting of physicians. Our doctors are younger than the national average. Our recruiting efforts are second only to Alberta.

[Page 8262]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, let's set the record straight here. This is the program for doctor recruitment that our Liberal Government had brought in. What we are seeing, again, is not only the dismantling of the health care system, we are seeing the dismantling of the doctor recruitment program. There is upwards of over 5,000 people in the Barrington area being affected by the situation. There is a doctor who is looking to return to this area, as well as there was in Kentville.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. SMITH: My question to the minister is, what back-up plan does the minister have in the event that the doctor who is looking at the Barrington area discovers that he does not want to work in the crumbling Nova Scotia health care system?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I welcome that question because it gives me the opportunity to say, once again, that what we are trying to do is put a health care system in place that is responsible and sustainable, and not the crumbling effort he left for us to deal with.

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

SYSCO - SALE: DETAILS - FOI POLICY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act. On June 21st, this government entered into an agreement to sell Sydney Steel to Duferco, and our Party immediately applied under the Freedom of Information Act for a copy of that agreement. The government refused to release it. On September 25th, the FOI review officer said the NDP was entitled to a get a copy of that agreement. The government still refused. So my question to this minister is, how long has it been a policy of this government to defy the Freedom of Information review officer and force the Opposition Parties to go to court to get information it has the right to see?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. As I indicated, or as was indicated in the letter of response, we were at a very tenuous point in negotiations with the potential purchaser. We indicated in that letter that once we had passed that, and at the appropriate time, we would release the document. In response to debate last evening, I indicated that that document would be tabled at the end of second reading so it could proceed to the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The question the honourable member asked related particularly to the FOI and the policy. I would ask that no questions about bills before the House, but that isn't directly (Interruption) Isn't that what I said? (Interruption) Just don't (Interruption) Order, please. I am just asking that none of the questions relate to bills before the House, in regard to that company.

[Page 8263]

MR. CORBETT: Well, I see this minister knows about as much about FOI requests as he does about Sydney Steel. It is incredible, but true, that yesterday the minister responsible for Sysco said he didn't want to release the sale agreement because the Opposition might want to debate it. The minister says he will release the agreement after debate is over. Mr. Speaker, if he could release it then, why can't he release it now? So my question has to go to the Premier. When will you do the right thing and order your minister to release the Sysco sale agreement immediately?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite would recall the minister made a definitive statement relative to the release yesterday and he will keep his commitment.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, they are obviously hiding something. This Premier and his famous ministerial conduct code. The first line of the ministerial conduct code says that ministers must be truthful and forthright. Must be forthright. Could the Premier please explain what is truthful and forthright about his government's decision to limit debate by keeping the Sysco sale agreement a secret until after debate is over?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member will just contain himself until the minister has an opportunity to speak to the bill, he will find that the minister is truthful and forthright.

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

EMO - C.B.: FLOODING - ASSISTANCE TIME-FRAME

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. It was good to see the very busy minister go to Cape Breton and examine the flood damage. As he has seen with his own eyes, the damage has been extensive; it is probably in the millions of dollars. The minister himself said it was the worst he has seen, but unfortunately the process of assisting with the damage has been slow. My question, Mr. Speaker, is what is the minister doing to fast-track the process so that area residents in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality can get their lives back to normal?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. What I did initially, after my visit, was I instructed staff from EMO to meet with the mayor- elect from the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to review the policy that is in effect to provide assistance. He and another local representative from EMO also briefed the CBRM council last evening.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I am pleased the minister has taken the time to assess and comment on the damage, but the Premier has said and done nothing. The last time I checked, he was Premier for the whole province. The problem with the disaster assistance

[Page 8264]

program is that a lot of homeowners in Cape Breton may not qualify. Many don't have the means to fix the damage. My question to the Premier is, will he demonstrate leadership and do something to help with the disaster that has befallen the Cape Breton Regional Municipality?

[1:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I share the concern of the member opposite who asked the question for those who have been affected by the flooding in Cape Breton, a very unusual event for Cape Breton. It is the first time that I recall flooding of such a serious nature down there. The minister showed responsibility. He immediately visited the flood area but it is impossible for the government to react until we have a proper itemization of what exactly has happened. It is my understanding that it is still raining in Cape Breton and until such time as we are aware of the extent of the damage, it would be extremely difficult for the government to do anything. The first thing that has to happen is an itemization of the damage that has occurred.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the people of Cape Breton, myself and the Liberal MLAs from Cape Breton, the members of this House, the people especially from Cape Breton are looking for help right now. We don't want itemization. We need help, Mr. Premier. There are serious health and safety concerns in CBRM. Many mining communities are dealing with subsidence already and that situation is getting worse on a daily basis. My question is, will the Premier commit to allocating funds immediately to deal with the Cape Breton disaster?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's concern but the government is prepared to apply its policy and if there are issues of immediate concern, let the member opposite bring them forward. What I perceive to be the first requirement is to itemize the extent of the damage. Is there something that should occur before that? If there is, let the member suggest it. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader in the House for the New Democratic Party.

HEALTH - HANTS NORTH: PHYSICIANS - SHORTAGE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question to the Minister of Health. The minister is well aware of the looming crisis facing residents of the Hants North area and as of November 18th, Dr. Peter Rothfels will cease his 12 year practice. The nearest service community, Kennetcook, has two doctors who can't take any more patients. Residents are scrambling to find a new doctor in communities such as Elmsdale, Truro and Windsor, communities 40 minutes or more away, and that is over good roads,

[Page 8265]

communities that have shortages of their own. I want to ask the Minister of Health, what will the people of Hants North do after November 18th when they have this medical problem?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that the people who are served by the doctor in Noel can continue going to that office because we have arranged for a two week locum.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister would know that that locum had been arranged some time ago, actually, before this crisis came on the horizon. Two weeks will have little effect. Dr. Rothfels has been requesting support for some time now. He has handled his heavy patient load of 2,600 patients alone. He sees patients at home and on weekends.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to the minister about this issue months ago. Will the minister explain to the House and to the residents of Hants North why he has let the issue rise to this level of crisis that it is today?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in addition to having been able to arrange the locum to take the immediate pressure off, I can tell the honourable member that a physician who seems to be extremely interested in perhaps locating in Noel will be visiting that community for three days next week.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the minister will be aware of Upper Rawdon and the fact that we had a doctor wanting to go there and a community that wanted it and were stonewalled by the Department of Health in trying to get him there.

The Hants North community built the health centre, they have shown their commitment, so minister, when will you show yours?

MR. MUIR: I believe the Minister of Health and his department have shown his commitment to the residents of Hants North. Clearly, I would like to stand up here and tell the honourable member that we have solved this physician shortage right across this province, but I can't. I can tell you that we are working on it, we are making great progress. I can also tell the members of this House and the honourable member for Hants East knows this that we did find, as part of our agreement and working with the people in that community, a physician who is working half time in Rawdon to take some of that pressure off.

[Page 8266]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

TOURISM - GROWTH: NEGATIVE - MIN. EXPLAIN

MR. DONALD DOWNE: My question is to the Premier. Since 1993 we have seen tourism as being one of the fastest growing phenomena in the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, tourism in the last few years has had an average growth of over 10 per cent with some 33,000 Nova Scotians employed and $0.5 billion in payroll. Today we heard from the Minister of Tourism that tourism, instead of a 6 per cent projected growth, has declined by 1 per cent - a negative growth of 1 per cent this year. The minister goes on to say that this is a minor market correction. While other ministers have a multitude of portfolios, can the Premier explain to this House and to all Nova Scotians, why the full-time Minister of Tourism and Culture with one portfolio presided over the first loss in the tourism industry in over five years?

THE PREMIER: The members on the government side are concerned about the performance of the tourism industry in the past summer and there are a number of external influences that have resulted in that, but because of the fine efforts of the Department of Tourism and the Minister of Tourism and the industry as a whole, we have fared out better than the other Atlantic Canadian provinces in that we have had the smallest decline. (Applause)

MR. DOWNE: It is interesting. The Premier did make one point that is clear and that is the industry itself has done a tremendous job in bringing this industry forward this last fiscal year and they deserve the credit, not this government and not this minister for sure for the efforts of growing the tourism industry.

Despite constant growth in the tourism industry under the Liberal Government, the Tory blue book stated, the Liberal Government has put tourism on the back burner and has completely failed to recognize the vital contribution it makes. Besides the fact that this statement is an untruth, the success of the Liberal Government under the former Minister of Tourism beside me . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Does the honourable member have a question?

MR. DOWNE: Yes. My question again to the Premier. Could the Premier explain what steps he will take to help improve Nova Scotia tourism's performance and put it back on the growth potential and the growth track that the Liberal Government had in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite - I am not sure what his question is supposed to prove, but this government has acted in a responsible fashion. We believe that there is great potential for tourism growth in Nova Scotia. There has been a setback in Atlantic

[Page 8267]

Canada and in fact, tourism right across North America in the past twelve months, but we have fared better than others because of what we have done and because of the efforts of our minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it was that Premier who said that they will, in fact, continue and expand the growth of tourism, not have it decline as we have seen in Nova Scotia. It was that Premier who made that statement and nobody else.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: The Premier said that tourism would be a priority of their government. Well, it is clear that it is not a priority and it is clear that people in the tourism industry would probably rather see dollars invested in the Department of Tourism instead of a minister who does nothing for the province. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Lunenburg West, could we have the question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Can the Premier give an explanation as to why the appointment of a full-time Minister of Tourism has failed to make any significant growth in the Department of Tourism in the province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the effort of the member opposite to make the government accountable, but I would point out to the member opposite there is always a downturn in tourism in a presidential election year and that is what we are facing. They are voting today and it has always happened and it has happened again (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. The first one was long enough.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - CUTBACKS: QE II - SURGERY CANCELLATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, when he was minister, we could not get him to answer a question, now we cannot get him to shut up.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health's determination to push ahead with dismantling of services in rural Nova Scotia is causing the emergence of new problems. Let me give the minister an example. I will table a letter from a physician at the QE II. In it the doctor says, "We have tremendous pressure on our beds. We have been cancelling surgery on the

[Page 8268]

Orthopedic Service of late, due to a lack of beds." The doctor goes on to say that the, ". . . cancellation of surgery will continue as the lack of available service outside the QE II continues."

Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Health tell us whether he is even aware that his cutbacks are putting pressure on beds at the QE II and that this has led to the cancellation of surgery?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will tell the honourable member, as I would tell the other members in this House, that those who have immediate surgery needs receive it and they receive it at a very good, very competent and high quality level.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the problem is not limited to the QE II. Here is a letter from a physician at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow about transferring cardiac patients to that facility. It says, "Beds are at the premium everywhere. As you know, we have had our own problems with patients waiting for two or three days in the Emergency Department because of the unavailability of beds in the hospital."

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health is, can you tell this House what you intend to do to ensure that your cutbacks will not result in people waiting two or three days in the emergency room for a bed?

MR. MUIR: I can tell the honourable member that the changes that are going ahead in the health care system are indeed an effort and an attempt and a very good direction to make it sustainable and responsible. I just will tell the honourable member perhaps in response to his question, is that he will remember, obviously, where there was some pressure on the QE II a couple of weeks ago and because we have gone to this district health authority, we now have people at the Dartmouth General Hospital and at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre able to work as a team to serve the Halifax Regional Municipality along with other facilities.

You will note, Mr. Speaker, and he knows too, that because of the pressures at the QE II, they are able to work together with the Dartmouth General and some of the beds which were scheduled to be closed at the Dartmouth General at that time were kept open so we could serve the needs of the people in this area. This is an example, Mr. Speaker, of how we are responding to medical need . . .

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on your final supplementary.

[Page 8269]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, really, that response is incomprehensible, completely incomprehensible. The minister has created a crisis in health care across the province and those cuts are causing new pressures at other areas in the system. Will the Minister of Health tell us why he thinks that cancelled surgery at the QE II and a three day wait in the emergency ward of the Aberdeen is acceptable?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to have a situation where nobody would wait for anything. I would like to have a situation where we had an oversupply of medical personnel but I want to tell you if the plan which we have does not continue to go ahead - and should be supported by these people - the waits would be much longer, the personnel would be much less and the service that is delivered in Nova Scotia would be at an unacceptably low level.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - DOLLAR (CDN.): REVENUE PROJECTIONS (N.S.) - IMPACT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. He is no doubt following the Canadian dollar with a great deal of interest. The minister projected in the spring budget that the dollar would stay at approximately U.S. 68.40 cents; the dollar closed at approximately 65 cents yesterday. Has the minister calculated what a dollar pegged at 65 cents will do to the revenue projections of the province?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up a point of concern, not only for Nova Scotia but for other Canadian provinces, especially those provinces that have a great deal of their debt in foreign denominations. I would like to point out to the member that since last fall when I tabled my first budget, 49 per cent to 51 per cent of our debt was in foreign denominations, that percentage has lowered itself down to 33 per cent and I think that is a marked improvement.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, when we took over it was at almost 80 per cent and the minister has followed suit on that track that we have taken and I think he would acknowledge the efforts of the Liberal Government that helped move it in that direction.

We all know that the Canadian dollar is out of hand and these issues of the Canadian dollar currency are not necessarily the responsibility of the minister himself. I know that and he knows that, although maybe last time he was blaming me for the world event. My question to the minister really is that continency plans should be in place at this point in regard to the Canadian dollar and its potential low levels that it is at currently. Is the minister counting on additional revenue sources, such as income tax, the HST, prior year adjustments or, of course, the motor fuel tax increases to offset this loss?

[Page 8270]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Lunenburg West is well aware that the budget during the year is modified through our quarterly reports, as we get more information both on the expenditure side and also on the revenue side of it. So the first quarter has been released and some updates were given not only to the members but to the people of Nova Scotia. The second quarter will be coming out shortly and at that time all the information he is referring to will be modified as well as the one issue that he brought here today, which is in regard to the impact that the change in the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian dollar has had on our budget.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the current Minister of Finance said that he will report back to the House as soon as possible. I assume it will be within the next week or two with regard to some of this information and the details of those projections on the second half would be appropriate, but the bottom line is that the minister has not addressed the issue. Has he a plan for the shortfall in the Canadian currency?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am rather surprised by the line of questioning by the honourable member. We all know when we put our budget together that a lot of the assumptions that we put in place will change. We list all those factors at the back of our Budget Speech, in fact, the U.S. dollar, what the short-term borrowing rates will be and also other factors of what the economy will grow by. As they go through the year, those factors may change as we know that they are no constant. So the honourable member will be made aware of it as we file our second quarterly report and all that information will be made public, as we normally do.

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

FIN. - FUEL TAX REBATE: INFO. - MIN. RETRACT

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Finance. I, like most compassionate Nova Scotians, was extremely disappointed in the minister's very dismissive comments last week in response to the request from the NDP Leader that there be a fuel tax rebate given to people in this province. The Minister of Finance said that the HST revenue windfall has been offset, that is from the fuel revenues, by spending cuts, or drops in other areas. The minister offered, of course, no evidence because he knows that the economy is growing and that the province is continuing to receive more and more in the way of HST revenue. I want to ask the minister, will he retract the inaccurate information that he provided to the public last week?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the answer is obviously no. This brings up the point, I would like to be able to ask a question and ask that he retract the inaccurate information that he presented.

[Page 8271]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, there was an interesting line in last Saturday's Chronicle-Herald. It said, "The Finance Minister couldn't explain how the economy can grow without more spending." He couldn't explain it because, in fact, it is not true. I want to ask the minister, now that he has been embarrassed by the truth, to drop his excuses and tell Nova Scotians when they are going to get the tax rebate system that they deserve.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member asked the question because it gives me a chance to pick up on it. The reporter who asked the question asked how the economy could grow without HST growing. We were talking about the impact of HST on fuel. I said at that time that people have only a certain amount of disposable income in their pay cheques and they will spend that money on different items which have a value-added tax, which is the HST. If they spend more on fuel, they will spend less on other things. Overall the economy is growing, but we are having a debate as to whether or not we are having a windfall on fuel and the answer is no. The honourable member can make it look any way he wants, the obvious question is that we are not.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is absolutely correct. If people are having to spend more money on fuel, they can't spend as much on other things like prescription drugs, clothing for their children. The minister's press releases, his inaccurate information and his answers in this House won't do one single thing to help heat one home this winter, nor will his hot air. I want to ask the minister, will he save his breath and agree to put in place a tax rebate system now and give back to the consumers the windfall you are taking in in HST from higher fuel costs? Will you or won't you?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I can honestly say the only one with hot air is more on the other side of the floor. I will say this in regard to the issue of HST, people don't differentiate how the tax is applied to fuel, most of it is fixed. A certain part of it is based on the value. That is the HST. When we are looking at what that honourable member is saying, he said we should lower the motive fuel tax. For every cent that we would do that, that would take $12 million out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. This member is saying we should spend more all the time, while at the same time we should balance the budget. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - ROAD SALT:

80/20 RULE - ABANDONMENT

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to put a question to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works on the topic of road salt. Last year the highway salt was transported to the various Transportation Department locations by members of the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia, under what they called the 80/20 rule, which meant that 80 per

[Page 8272]

cent of the trucks hired for that work would be owned by local independent truckers. This policy kept local truckers employed and contributed to the local economy. I wonder if the minister could explain why the 80/20 rule was abandoned for the hauling of salt this year?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the rationale for going from the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia to tendering was indeed to achieve economies in the transportation of salt. It was costing us more money to have the salt hauled for the Department of Transportation than it was for the Halifax Regional Municipality or for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

MR. MACEWAN: That was the answer I expected, but unfortunately it doesn't correspond with the facts, at least not with the information that I have. I would like to table a chart, based on information prepared by the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia, indicating that the differential between the costs this year, under the new system, and last year, under the old, are up substantially, in fact, they are up in every case except for Pictou County. In Pictou County there has been a saving of 3.5 per cent. In all the other divisions, there has been an increase in costs; the highest in Cape Breton with 37.5 per cent higher costs this year compared with last; 31 per cent higher in Hants County; 31 per cent higher in Colchester County; 13 per cent higher in Halifax East; 15 per cent in Cumberland; and so on and so forth. Let me table this chart so that honourable members can avail themselves of that information.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. MACEWAN: I would like to ask the minister - in view of the information that that chart contains, based on information provided by his department - I wonder if the minister would be prepared to confess to the House that his new policy has been a failure?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the numbers that the honourable member is producing to the House are entirely correct, but that was the initial tendering price. We went back and requested that the companies that tendered in the first place re-tender, and they did so, and the effective cost, I think, in Cape Breton came to a cost increase of about 15 per cent. I would advise the honourable member that that tender is being let today. The Truckers Association of Nova Scotia actually won the tender in Cape Breton. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: I understand that is the case, and also in Richmond and in Inverness, that the Truckers Association of Nova Scotia won the tender, but the alleged purpose of the change was to save money, and, in fact, costs have been increased, by the minister's own admission, by 15 per cent, which corresponds with the information I had that said costs had increased by an average of 16.42 per cent. Could the minister explain why, when fuel prices went up last year and his department refused to pay a surcharge to local

[Page 8273]

independent truckers to reflect the increased costs of fuel, now through the tendering process his department is paying 15 per cent more than it did last year? Where is this all going to end?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, may I suggest to the honourable member that there is a great difference in the price of motive fuel today than back last January when we were held to ransom by the truckers in Cape Breton, who would not permit the delivery of salt to the salt domes in Cape Breton. We turned to the private sector to have those deliveries made, and they were made at a cost which was indeed comparable to the other costs to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

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

ENVIRON. - TWIN MOUNTAIN CONST.: LAWS - ENFORCEMENT

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question to the acting Minister of the Environment. The sludge pile at Twin Mountain in the Annapolis Valley is poisoning the groundwater. It is only because of the persistent efforts of a group of environmentally concerned citizens that this issue is even on the public agenda. Some of those citizens are in the gallery today, once again bringing the issue to the government's attention. They have fought and fought with the provincial government just to get it to enforce existing environmental laws. My question to the Acting Minister of the Environment is, why should concerned citizens have to fight their own government just to get environmental laws enforced?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I thank the honourable member for the question. Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raises a question which is of concern for citizens in that area and the department has been monitoring that situation very carefully, and they will continue to monitor that situation very carefully. I can say that I have been quite pleased to be involved in terms of creating an awareness within that community with respect to the issue surrounding that.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I think in that case the monitor is shut off. After months of foot-dragging, the government finally got around to issuing a ministerial order to clean up the site, which the owner ignored. After more months of foot-dragging, the government finally got around to charging the owner with violating the ministerial order. Meanwhile the sludge pile is still there and the acting minister shrugs his shoulders. My question to the acting minister is, you have the power to clean up the sludge pile and bill the cost to the owner, so when are you going to do the right thing and exercise the authority you have to get rid of this environmental disgrace?

[Page 8274]

MR. MACISAAC: The honourable member knows that matter is currently before the courts and it will be dealt with based on that decision. In the interim we are continuing to monitor this situation very, very carefully.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: One large component of this sludge pile is human waste. Kings County has a by-law that makes this use of human waste illegal, but obviously it is not being enforced. Some of this waste is being transported and sold as fertilizer around the province with no sort of by-law to regulate it. This situation calls for immediate and decisive provincial action, not piecemeal action by municipalities. My question to the acting minister is, when will you bring in provincial legislation to deal with this issue?

MR. MACISAAC: As I indicated to the honourable member previously, we are monitoring very carefully. The honourable member will appreciate that this situation is one which requires testing, and we are conducting that testing. We are looking at the results and we have also indicated to the residents who are concerned that, if they wish us to test their water, we will provide that service to them as well.

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

EDUC. - SCHOOL CONST.: SITE SELECTION - POLICY

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: My question is to the Minister of Education. Now that the government has taken over the process of new school construction, could the Minister of Education explain her department's policy with respect to site selection for the construction of a new school?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our process for site selection involves many of the elements the former government used. One of the biggest changes though is involving municipalities in the site selection process so that we are not left with surprises on every school construction site such as sewer, water, et cetera.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, recently, without the knowledge of the Chignecto- Central Regional School Board or the local school communities, the Deputy Minister of Education visited the county to look at potential school sites. I have an article from The Evening News, New Glasgow, dated Friday, October 27th, commenting on the deputy minister's visit, which I wish to table. No word yet on new school site, is the headline. My question to the minister is, is this a lack of consultation with the local community, or the Department of Education's new way of doing business?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the member for Clare that, yes, the deputy visited New Glasgow and contrary to this demonstrating lack of consultation, he precisely visited New Glasgow to talk to town council and people in the municipality about the site they preferred and to look at the other sites, and no decision has yet been made.

[Page 8275]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, first we have the Department of Education taking over the purchase of textbooks without consultation. Now we have senior officials visiting communities without consulting local school boards. I wonder what is next. Will the minister come clean and tell Nova Scotians now, that it is her government's plan to abolish regional school boards and run everything from the Department of Education's Minister's office here in Halifax?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I could not hear that question. I wonder if the honourable member could repeat the question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party, you have about 35 seconds.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, first we have the Department of Education taking over the purchase of textbooks without consultation, now we have senior officials visiting communities without consulting local school groups. I wonder what is next. Will the minister come clean and tell Nova Scotians now that it is her government's plan to abolish regional school boards and run everything, essentially, from her own office here from downtown Halifax?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for 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. 70.

Bill No. 70 - Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. You have 43 minutes remaining.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, as we adjourned debate last night, the honourable Minister of Tourism was kind of upset with some of the comments I was making and stood up and referenced the fact that I did not attend a news conference at the Highland

[Page 8276]

Village. I would like to indicate very clearly why I did not attend that press conference. There are two reasons: one was that I was busy in my constituency dealing with the evils that are being imposed on my constituency by this government; the second is because the honourable Minister for Tourism, because I believe he was fearful the truth would arise regarding this issue, did not have the courtesy to invite the good member for Cape Breton The Lakes, nor did he have the courtesy to invite the good member for Victoria. So if this member was aware that this facility actually is located in the constituency of Victoria and not Cape Breton The Lakes - although I would bring to the attention of this House that this facility is a vital part of my community in which residents from my area work and contribute a great deal. That facility is second to none in Nova Scotia and on this side of the House we are very proud of the fact that the Liberal initiative for this facility was, of course, followed up on by this government. That is why there was no invitation to either me or the good member for Victoria because the minister was afraid that the truth would come forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. BOUDREAU: So I indicated last night (Interruptions) Yes, Mr. Speaker, now that we have cleared that up, we will continue with my comments. I will continue on with my remarks in regard to the Sysco situation. As I indicated last night, I was discussing a speech that was made by the honourable Premier who at the time was the Third Party Leader in this House. The speech was made, just for reference purposes, by Dr. John Hamm, who was the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, on Tuesday, June 29th at Silicon Island in Sydney, Nova Scotia. During that debate, and this is one paragraph of the speech, and this is what Dr. Hamm had indicated to the audience in that particular facility, I would rather take the $750,000 a month we are paying Hoogovens and give 10 small businesses $75,000.

Mr. Speaker, he would rather take the $750,000 a month and give 10 small businesses $75,000 each per month. Tourism, information technology, the University College of Cape Breton, that is where the money could be better used. This comes from the Premier. Now, we know that tourism in this province this year was the worst year recorded in five years. I would suggest there is a problem. When we look at the University College of Cape Breton, funding commitments that were made by the previous government, were denied by this present administration. I would suggest that these comments were not in order.

I will continue along in the speech, if a tourist business created two long-term jobs, jobs with a future, then we would be better off. Well, Mr. Speaker, that is what we are looking for now. Since the Premier has followed through on his commitment to destroy the Sydney Steel plant at all costs, piecemeal, whatever, then as I indicated last night, I want to step into the future and I, along with my colleagues, am going to hold this government accountable. We are going to close the steel plant and the Tourism Minister, who is supposed to be the representative for Cape Breton in Cabinet, somebody better pinch him and wake him up because there are major issues on that Island regarding Devco, the steel mill, the hospital, unemployment levels are unacceptable, health care, issues that are vital to any

[Page 8277]

community. Yet we have not heard one vocal minister defend any area of Cape Breton Island. So I would suggest that maybe the Premier could revisit the Island of Cape Breton so that he could give proper representation in Cabinet.

[1:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would be the first to admit that the minister would have his hands full being the lone representative for Cape Breton in Cabinet. I would suggest that, and I would agree with that, particularly when I look at the rascals that are in this Cabinet, the minister from Cape Breton has not indicated, no verbal commitment whatsoever on behalf of his community. I believe he is letting Cape Breton Island down on a daily basis. I would suggest the minister get up earlier in the morning, because it is unacceptable to his Island.

There are some good things happening. There is a bridge being replaced in Margaree which is a vital link to the Cabot Trail. I would suggest that was good. There are some water treatment facilities going into Mabou, and we support those initiatives. But, Mr. Speaker, there are other initiatives in that community that need someone in that Cabinet over there to recognize and push for these issues. There are water issues and woes throughout Cape Breton Island, particularly in my community, the Coxheath and Westbound area, and Glace Bay.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just in the event the honourable member forgot, we are talking on second reading of Bill No. 70, the Sysco bill.

MR. BOUDREAU: Well, this all falls in with the Sysco plan. The day after the closing of the facility, what is this government going to do to ensure that Cape Bretoners have the right to work in this province? That is what I want to know.

Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons I wanted to speak on the issue, because as I indicated last night, I have a great deal of confidence, as do the residents that I represent, in both members for Cape Breton Nova and Cape Breton South. I just want to make sure this government is aware that we are going to hold this government accountable for commitments they are making throughout Nova Scotia and for me, personally, particularly Cape Breton. We want jobs down there, and we want opportunities for our children so that we can have the ability to live in our communities where we were raised and brought up. I serve notice today that I will be holding this government accountable on every turn to that event. I will be reminding both the Premier and his Cabinet members of their commitments to all Nova Scotians.

I don't believe that the Premier or the Cabinet really can identify with the impact this closing is going to have. For instance, more than $15 million per year is purchased off Cape Breton Island for materials earmarked for Sysco. I would suggest those are mainland companies that are going to be affected; $15 million is not just a drop in the bucket, this will affect business throughout Nova Scotia. It will affect employment levels at these companies

[Page 8278]

that are suppliers to Sysco. This government must have a plan in place for the protection of these workers.

Although this government probably doesn't identify with that, Mr. Speaker, I bring that to the attention of the minister and the Premier, because that impact will be felt a little later on down the road, which means probably by the time Christmas comes people who work in these companies throughout mainland Nova Scotia, particularly areas represented by Tory MLAs, will begin to receive their lay-off notices.

Mr. Speaker, the backbench MLAs on that side of the government must be prepared to hold their Cabinet Ministers and their Cabinet and their Premier accountable for the people they represent. If they believe, for one moment, that this issue only affects Cape Breton Island, then these members are very wrong. When it starts affecting their areas, it will be this member who will stand up in this House and remind those members that they were given full warning that the plan must be put in place today, and it should have been put in place prior to any bill coming into this House, regarding Sysco.

Mr. Speaker, these materials were purchased all over Nova Scotia, but they were also manufactured in Nova Scotia. People, real people, ordinary Nova Scotians who toil in the various industries every day are going to be affected by this closure. This government must be prepared. I would suggest there could be several hundred people affected by these spin-off jobs, and I hope I am wrong on that particular number. I believe several hundred people are going to be affected throughout mainland Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there are companies all over, I know of one personally in Dartmouth, that does a tremendous amount of business with Sysco. How will this affect their operations? Will it mean job losses at that facility? That is why this government, and its backbench, is ill informed on this issue. This is not a mainland versus Cape Breton issue, as was sold with the likes of this. This is an issue that will affect the economy from one end of Nova Scotia to the other end of Nova Scotia. It will affect jobs in virtually every market place in this province. This government hasn't recognized this, they have no support system in place for these facilities. There are no employment programs, no training programs.

Mr. Speaker, confidence levels in this government are very low, I would suggest nil, when I look at other issues, like training programs. I sat back in the last 15 months and watched Brian Tobin in the Province of Newfoundland train and prepare a workforce for jobs that were only in theory, but when they became a reality he was prepared and he had a workforce that was prepared to apply, and they would qualify for those jobs when they became available. That is the type of direction this government must go forward in. We must prepare the community for the opportunities of the future. More importantly, we have to be able to recognize where these opportunities will begin to come forth and ensure that our workers are trained and are knowledgeable enough that they will not only qualify but will obtain opportunities.

[Page 8279]

Mr. Speaker, the e-commerce bill, I sat here for 15 months, the most exciting industry, rapidly expanding right across North America. In fact, in Cape Breton, it is a very highly successful industry; 15 months we come in with one-half of a bill. This is an industry that can be developed into a leading industry in Nova Scotia, particularly because it is accessible from any rural area in this province. This government must recognize these opportunities in advance, not 15 months behind schedule.

Mr. Speaker, this is why I am eager to spend my time speaking about Sysco, because those individuals want the opportunities for themselves and their children in that community. We want this government to stand up and fight for all Nova Scotians, which includes Cape Bretoners. In fact, I always regard myself personally as a Nova Scotian first, a Cape Bretoner second. We believe in this province and play a vital role in the development, historically, and we want to play that role in the future.

Mr. Speaker, that government can stand up all it wants and criticize the former government. Well, the only initiatives that were created for Cape Bretoners were by the former government. I have yet to see any new initiatives announced by this government; no training programs, nothing. We see opportunities evaporating before our very eyes. Steelworkers want their children to have the right to work and live in the community in which they were raised. The steelworkers I talk to are totally disgusted because that type of propaganda has no room in today's society. We must put that aside and work together for the betterment of all Nova Scotians and not just proportionately one section over another.

Mr. Speaker, the steelworkers that I talked to felt betrayed. I can sit here and condemn the government, I have no interest in embarrassing this government, I really don't. I stand here before this Premier and his Cabinet today because I want them to get the message that the people in Cape Breton want the right to earn their dignity. We don't want you people giving us anything; we want you to give us the opportunities to fund training programs and to create with other governments and agencies and, yes, individual companies, opportunities to allow our children to live and work there. That's not unreasonable. That is one of the major reasons the steelworkers and the union members accepted the contract offer.

They accepted that contract offer because they knew for their well-being it was historically finished because this government, and that minister, in particular, made it very clear what he thought not only about the steel plant and the workers and their families but the community as a whole. They want to send this Premier a message, Mr. Speaker, and they have asked me to deliver that message - this type of activity is unacceptable. We want those opportunities for our children. We want them. We are asking for them but we are not going to be put on the back burner on this one, Mr. Premier. We will stand up very shortly demanding that these opportunities be made available for our children. We want our young people to stay and work in that community. We want our children to have a strong education in an educational system in this province that we can rely on and have confidence in, and will have the ability to teach our children nothing but the best.

[Page 8280]

[2:00 p.m.]

From what I have seen of this government, it has been dragging its feet in the last 15 or 16 months, and that is not the type of government we require in this province. We need a government that is aggressively pursuing opportunities for Nova Scotians. Mr. Speaker, that is what the Premier told the audience at Silicon Island on June 29, 1999; that is what we expect from this Premier and we will be accepting nothing short of it.

Sysco, unfortunately, I cannot stand here and say I am going to vote for it or against it. This caucus is on record as supporting the sale of Sysco, but we want to see the deal. We want to see the details. For some reason, this government, we see it on a regular basis with these bills coming forth, with Community Services creating stress for people in a disadvantaged situation in this province, creating unnecessary mental anguish for people, and that is not what governing this province is about. Tell the people up front and be honest like the Premier indicated in his speeches.

It is very clear what this Premier told Nova Scotians; very, very clear. One comment in particular I will be reminding the Premier of on a regular basis as we as a Liberal caucus seek out the opportunities for Nova Scotians - and yes, Cape Bretoners in my case in particular, but all Nova Scotians - we will be pursuing those and holding this Premier responsible. "A good leader accepts the truth and tells the truth, no matter how painful." That is the statement I will be reminding this Premier of on almost a daily basis when I get the opportunity, because our young people have had it up to here filling up the trunks of their cars with every belonging they have and driving, using the highway system to clear out of town because there are no opportunities, none, and they go out West.

I had a call from a young man who ventured out there last week; over the weekend he was sleeping in his car in Edmonton. Is that the future we want Nova Scotians to enjoy? No. I know this Premier and this Cabinet, this whole bunch of rascals, they have to have feelings, and they must seek out opportunities and prepare our workforce for those opportunities, not after they occur like what took place with me at Marine Atlantic, not after the jobs were posted and Newfoundland residents applied and were more qualified than our residents. We want those training opportunities today, for tomorrow. That is what a good government will do, they will prepare our society for the opportunities that are being enjoyed by this government, the opportunities that came ashore with the gas, and the revenues that are going to benefit this province for many years ahead. This government, this caucus over here initiated that program, but that government has the responsibility to manage those opportunities on behalf of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I know this Premier and this Cabinet were shocked in July 1999, when they all had to basically sit down and understand why they were elected, because they didn't expect to form the government any more than the man in the moon. But they have had 15

[Page 8281]

months and they have enough experience over there to lead this province where it should be, not where this government is taking us. (Interruptions)

In closing, I want to remind this Premier and this Cabinet that they have three short years left, and if they can't manage the affairs of Nova Scotia in a proper manner, then this caucus has that ability and there will be a Leader who will do the job for all Nova Scotians and not just one section. Thank you. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, every time this House gets together and has a discussion about Sysco, it is a serious occasion. This is indeed a serious occasion, like the many others that preceded it. It also happens to be the case that every time this House gets together to discuss Sysco, it is primarily a sad occasion. This too is one of those sad occasions. I suppose it should be observed that in addition to being serious and sad, this occasion is really an historic occasion. It seems likely that with the adoption of this bill or some variation of it, finally a question of the public involvement in the ownership of a steelmaking enterprise may well come to an end.

It is worth recalling some of the history that has led us along this path. It was a controversial decision that was made originally when the government decided, more than 30 years ago, to become involved in the steel business. It was seen as serious then, and it has been seen as serious on every other occasion on which we have discussed Sysco and our predecessors in this House have discussed it. It was seen as appropriately serious when the original decision was made to take over public ownership of the enterprise. The focus at that time was on whether the resources of the province should be used to support an enterprise that was seen as of overwhelming importance in the economy of Cape Breton. That has been the focus of much of the discussion in the intervening 30-plus years, whether there is a continuing role for the government in owning what in other places is a private sector enterprise.

That is a serious question, and that is one that I think we always have to focus on. How appropriate is it? I will get to that point, but I want to indicate some other aspects of the seriousness of this matter. It has been serious, as so many Nova Scotian taxpayers are well aware, because of the huge amount of money that has been spent on Sysco over the years. I think it is worthwhile pointing out that those dollars have not only been provincial dollars but federal dollars. There has been participation by both of the senior levels of government in underwriting the operating costs, in buying equipment, that is making capital expenditures, and in other aspects, for example writing off accumulated debts.

That wouldn't have happened unless our predecessors thought there were serious and pressing reasons to do that. I shouldn't be understood as saying that those choices were always right. I think many of them have been very dubious, and I know many Nova Scotian

[Page 8282]

taxpayers have felt the numbers of dollars over the years have been excessive. But this adds to the seriousness. On the one hand, we see that there is a serious problem in the economy in Cape Breton that has existed for decades. We know it would have been an enormous shock at any time to have Sysco close up, especially when there were higher levels of employment and especially before other forms of enterprise had had the chance to develop elsewhere in Cape Breton. In saying that, I have in mind, for example, the development at the Strait.

We know this enterprise was of great importance and continues to be of great importance as an economic driver in Cape Breton. At the same time, we know equally well that the numbers of dollars that have gone into it have been of great importance to many of us in Nova Scotia. We know that Sysco was of importance for additional reasons, one of which was its tie to one of the other economic mainstays of Cape Breton, that is the coal mining industry, because of course, part of the raw materials, the energy-producing part of the raw materials that went into the making of steel was coal. If Sysco had closed up 30 years ago, that would have been a big blow, not only to those who worked directly at Sysco, but to those who mined the coal that was marketed to support Sysco. So, yet again, that is another reason why at every turn, it has been an important question.

I think all of these are serious and important questions for us. Unfortunately, we also know from reading history that Sysco has been approached in other ways in terms of the seriousness that has been accorded by successive governments. Sysco has often been seen as one of the roots to political power in this province. In times past, support for Sysco has been seen as the root to political power. In the most recent election, we have seen those who thought that the quick abandonment of Sysco was the root to political power. Two different conclusions, the same set of circumstances, the same facts, the same public involvement.

I want to say for the record, because I don't think I have had the chance to observe on this yet, just how profoundly ashamed I was as a resident of metro Halifax, as a taxpayer here, as a mainlander, and I assure you as a Nova Scotian, when I saw that postcard campaign in the last election. I didn't enter politics - and I hope that others in this House did not enter politics - to promote divisions in our society. I entered politics because I saw the opportunity to promote a sense of community throughout our province.

Now, I think I ought to at least take a moment to explain what perhaps I normally wouldn't have to explain or to make personal comments that I wouldn't always necessarily wish to make because they bear on this particular question the political use of Sysco and the drive that has now led to Bill No. 70. I want to put on record, with my colleagues here, something I am sure they will know if they have read biographies that are easily available and it is first off this, that I worked as a labour lawyer representing unions for many years and, believe me, I am very sensitive, given that history, to the interests of organized labour as one piece of what it is that makes up our province.

[Page 8283]

Another personal fact is that my late mother happens to be from Glace Bay. I was not brought up there, I grew up here in metro, but let me tell you, her early history growing up in Glace Bay was always a relevant fact in my household when I was growing up and I have never forgotten for one moment that my family on my mother's side has roots in Cape Breton and I think about that a lot. So I pay attention to economic initiatives and serious policy decisions that affect Cape Breton and feel that I have something of a personal stake in them even more than I might otherwise have.

I have other factors influencing my views as well. Members will know that I have worked at one point as the Executive Director of the Ecology Action Centre and have a strong orientation towards environmental issues. Consequently, of course, I am appalled, as I am sure everyone in this province is, at the extreme environmental devastation that has resulted from years of steelmaking at the Sysco site in Cape Breton. I am appalled, I should say as an aside, at how long it is taking anyone to come to grips seriously with that problem, but that is another stream of my thinking that comes to bear on this because I look at the energy source, I look at the amount of energy that is absorbed, I look at the enterprise and I look at how it has been carried on and, as an environmentalist, I have to be seriously worried about that; more than worried, worried is a mild word. I think we all have to be extremely concerned and upset about the potential long-range ill health effects on people who live within significant distances of the tar ponds and the associated areas.

Now, those are personal facts, but to which I would add one other. I represent a mainland constituency where people, of course, are not happy as taxpayers to continue to put money into subsidizing an industry if they think that that industry is essentially a sunset industry or is able to make it in some measure on its own. So I come, Mr. Speaker, with a complex array of perspectives to this question, but it gets me back to the main point I wanted to flag at the beginning. I was profoundly ashamed as a Nova Scotian of the attempt to divide Nova Scotians over the issue of Sysco in the last election and this is quite a different thing from a Party running for office standing up and saying enough is enough, we cannot afford it anymore. That was their position. That is a perfectly defensible position. They could have advocated it, but not the way they did of attempting to drive a wedge between the mainland community and people on Cape Breton Island.

I did not go into politics for that and I would hope that members opposite and all of us here will never again yield to those kinds of temptations, to use that kind of divisiveness. It is just wrong. It is one thing to speak up for your own constituency, to say you like it, to say it is beautiful, to say it is the most beautiful place in the province, it is standard fare, Mr. Speaker, but it is another thing to promote one interest so markedly at the expense of others. I say it was wrong.

[Page 8284]

[2:15 p.m.]

The success that the Government Party has had in becoming elected I do not think really turned on this issue. I will say that now that they are the government, we have to look at what it is that their agenda is and the privatization bill that we have in front of us is part of an array of privatizations. It is the centerpiece; it is the main one; it is the one that was repeated throughout the last election campaign; it is the one that the Party made the most of during the last election campaign, but it is not the only one.

Before we turn our minds to this particular privatization, I think we have to wonder a bit because this is the first opportunity on which this philosophical plank of this government has really come for scrutiny before this House. There has not been, I don't think, since the election 15 months ago, an opportunity to look in detail of what it is that is involved in privatization or what it is that the government thinks is the appropriate occasion for government involvement in the economy of our province, especially through the tool of public ownership.

This is a serious question. We know, but we have yet to see any legislation, if indeed any is required, that the government is proposing privatization of some aspects of the Liquor Commission. They may call it short-term experiments and whatnot, but that is what it is. We know from other examples that an attempt is also being made to do some experimentation with some privatization of some services in the Department of Transportation. Well, these are minor moves, but none of these have really come before the House for discussion. Bill No. 70 is the first time that the government has really come to us and said, here is a bill that manifests our economic philosophy with respect to public ownership.

The message here, of course is, apparently they don't believe in public ownership or if they do believe in it, it has severe limits. I have to say that is not the view of the members of our Party, but I also want to say that we are not doctrinaire on this. We don't believe that a government should own everything, not by any means. Everyone knows that. What I do say and what we say is that there is a place in the panoply of economic instruments available to government that includes public ownership. We know that a government can tax and we know that a government can regulate and these are powerful tools. Indeed, the government should use them extensively to manifest its policies. Tax and regulate, no doubt about it, but every once in a while there are circumstances in which public ownership makes sense.

I would observe that it is through the mechanism of public ownership that the country that we live in, that Canada has grown over the years. There came a time in many of the enterprises upon which the wealth and prosperity of this country was built. There came a time in which government ownership was no longer the right instrument and we have seen that with respect to Trans-Canada Airlines, later Air Canada. We have seen it with respect to Petro-Can and we have seen it with respect to the railways and the canals and the bridges.

[Page 8285]

There was a time when the development of this country had to go hand in hand with government investment, along with the investment from the private sector, and that is in fact what happened to build this nation. Anyone who reads the history of Canada is immediately struck by that. We are immediately struck as well by the fact that even though there has been enormous sell-off of government-owned, or partially government-owned enterprises over the last decade, that there is still an array of enterprises owned or partially owned in the public sector.

Indeed, in our province, I have heard many members wringing their hands over lost opportunities with respect to the offshore and public ownership. Just think about the back-in rights, as whether they ought to have been taken up, maybe not taken up forever but taken up, perhaps, for a short period of time, and sold off later on. That would have been a good business deal. But it didn't happen. There is no point in being doctrinaire about this, and we are not doctrinaire. What we do say is that good business decisions have to be made, and that every once in a while it is appropriate to use the tool of public ownership. Of course there comes a time - history moves on - when it might well be appropriate to sell off the assets that the government has invested in. I think that often happens.

Mr. Speaker, there is a term that economists use when they describe a private enterprise business which has gotten into trouble but which has been taken over by the government for a number of years in order to receive an injection of cash and is then sold off again; economists call it, in a very vivid word, hospitalization. They talk about a particular business having been hospitalized for a number of years. We saw this, maybe not so directly, with Nova Scotia Power. Nova Scotia Power was the last big privatization that the Tory Government engaged in.

AN HON. MEMBER: Gave away.

MR. EPSTEIN: I will get to that in a moment, because I hear some members saying it was a giveaway. In 1992, after 20 years of public ownership, the predecessor Tory Government decided that it was prepared to divest the government of ownership of Nova Scotia Power. Well, it was a bad precedent, and it is exactly this bad precedent that makes me worried about this Bill No. 70. Probably the word hospitalization is more accurately used with respect to Sysco, because it is clear that is why it was that it was taken into public ownership in the first place; that is, it was in trouble as a private sector enterprise.

Now we have reached the point where it ought to be sold off. I could wish that it were in better economic shape, and that a better job of hospitalization had been done over the years, but clearly the province has reached its limit in terms of its ability to continue to pay. If that is the case, then some kind of sale makes sense. It is interesting that on this all Parties are united, I don't think there is one Party here or one member of this House that says that Sysco ought not to be sold off. We have no philosophic objection. We are not saying that

[Page 8286]

public enterprise, in general or in this particular case, must continue. What we are saying is, clearly the moment has been reached where this step is appropriate to be taken.

This is a business matter. When you reach the stage of saying that something ought to be sold, then quite a different array of questions comes into play. It is no longer a philosophical question. At that point, it is a practical business question, and you ask yourself, what is the deal? You have to say to yourself, not is privatization in the abstract a good thing or appropriate, what you ask yourself, if you are a responsible government, if you are a responsible member of the Legislature on either side of the floor, is, how good a deal is this? You ask yourself, would it be possible to get a better deal? You ask yourself, how much money is involved? You ask yourself, will money be flowing to the provincial coffers, or you ask yourself, will money be flowing out of the provincial coffers? Are we having to pay someone to take this asset off our hands? And you ask yourself, what are the risks, who is assuming what risks?

These are business questions. These are the kinds of analyses that have to be gone through by every party when they are entering into a serious business deal. I ask myself these questions about Bill No. 70 that has come before us. I say to myself, well, what are the answers to those questions? I say, might there have been a better deal? I say to myself, has the deal been accepted that provides the most number of jobs? I ask myself, how much money is flowing into the provincial coffers as a result of this sale? Conversely, I ask myself, by any chance are we paying someone to take this asset off of our hands? If so, why do we want to do that, and how much? I ask myself, what risks, in terms of lawsuits, will we as a government be accepting, we as a people, we as a province be accepting as part of this deal? What risks will the purchasers accept? How viable are they? Do they have insurance in place, and given, of course, that the tar ponds has been described as one of the most toxic waste sites in Canada, or the most toxic waste site in Canada? There are serious questions.

[2:30 p.m.]

I cannot tell you how astonished I am not to have available the fine print. We have a short bill that tells us virtually nothing. It tells us virtually nothing. The questions are no longer abstract questions of whether there ought to be a sale or not. The questions are hard-core business decisions. That is what is in front of us. What is in front of us is a practical bill in which we have to turn our minds as guardians of the public trust and say, is this a good deal? That is the only residual question. All the information that could lead to an answer to that question is in this missing agreement.

The bill talks about a June 21st agreement that has been entered into, apparently, between several parties. There even seems to be two Duferco companies, a Duferco Holdings and a Duferco Steel. What are the roles of those companies? Who are the principals; what are the assets; what is the difference; what is the interrelationship; what does it mean that

[Page 8287]

there are two companies; how are the responsibilities being split? The answer seems to be in the June 21st agreement. The answer is in the missing June 21st agreement.

I don't think you or I, Mr. Speaker, would conduct our private business this way. I don't think you or I would sit down to enter into some kind of sale arrangement with another party and sign an agreement, because that is what this comes down to. Never mind that there was an agreement signed on June 21st. Bill No. 70, going through the House, is the equivalent of signing the business deal. You and I would not do business that way. We would not sign an agreement that says, all of the important conditions are in another document somewhere and we are not going to show it to you. That is completely astonishing. What is more astonishing, and I would say the minister who brought this bill in has more nerve than an aching tooth, as my mother used to say, to bring in a bill that is structured that way. As I followed it, the only thing that has induced the minister to say that he will show us the agreement is the fact that there is public pressure out there as manifested by the hostile questions he is getting from the press that say the Opposition is right on this. They know we are right on this. They know that the public should not be asked to do this.

Mr. Speaker, do you know what, the suggestion that it is a matter of trust and faith I find utterly astonishing. Do you know what? If I wish to go somewhere and express my faith in a higher power, I will do it in my chosen place of worship on my chosen sabbath. I do not come to the Legislature so that I can manifest professions of faith in a higher power over there and I do not think that is what the public expects us to do - to come here and accept on faith because it comes from a higher power the details of multi-million dollar agreements. This is unprecedented. I cannot think of any other piece of legislation in any jurisdiction in Canada, no other province, not at the federal level, nowhere, I cannot think of any other legislation that has ever come forward in this way. If the minister is able, as he suggests to us he is, to give us the document after second reading, he can give it to us right this moment and he should have given it to us last week when the bill was introduced.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is right.

MR. EPSTEIN: Now, in the absence of this agreement we are left to speculate as to what is in it and this is nonsense. This cannot be the case. It cannot be the case that we are simply allowed to guess what is in the agreement. That is irresponsible. It is not what it is that our electors expect of us in this House.

Although I find this the most astonishing and, as I say, completely unprecedented part of the bill, it is not the only objectional part. I am referring here when I add to the list the extremely poor policy choice that says to us that at least one of the pieces of the deal that has been struck is that a certain amount of legal protection is to be afforded to the purchasers and we can see manifested in the bill the one year limitation period for any lawsuits.

[Page 8288]

Mr. Speaker, do you know what, if that clause goes through, I hope that law firms out there in our province are listening to this debate because I hope that they do the following thing. I hope that they start lawsuits right now against the province, against the purchaser, against Sysco, against everyone in sight, and they start it and then the one year time limit would no longer be a barrier and do you know where they would be? They would be under the Civil Procedure Rules of a Supreme Court where judges do have discretion to continue to extend period of time.

I hope that is what they do, but even more than that, I hope the government just abandons this part of the provision or explains why it is that this clause has been brought forward, why it is that this provision has been brought forward. Was it an intimate part of the deal? I am driven to the conclusion that it must have been. If it is not for that clause, will there be no deal? We have not been told. The voters of Nova Scotia deserve to be told the details about what it is that is involved there and, furthermore, as someone who has some experience reading legislation, and I know we will get to third reading on this at some point, but as someone who has experience reading legislation, I have to tell you that that particular clause is so convoluted it is not clear what the heck it means.

[2:45 p.m.]

Now, I find that if we don't have the agreement, we can only go by some of the information that we do have, and we get it in stray bits and pieces. So when I ask myself, is this a fair deal, I know I am missing the major piece of information, but I am not missing all the information, because we do know that apparently some of the marginal side agreements have tended to favour the purchaser greatly, above and beyond what it is the government has previously announced. So to the extent that I am in any position to judge whether this is a good financial deal for Nova Scotians, all of the evidence seems to be the other way.

All the evidence seems to be that this is a bad financial deal for Nova Scotians. In saying this, I have in mind in particular the suggestion that has been made over and over again that income from previous rail orders has been made available to the purchasers. Now this is something that has to be looked at. If it is the case, that has to be quantified, and it has to be part of our deliberations with a figure attached to it so that we know what it is we are dealing with.

Mr. Speaker, when I go back and I think about what it is and I read Bill No. 70, and I continue to read it, and I think about it, I see it in a context of a process that started very badly. It started with the politics of division during the last election. It started before that with a whole history of bad, and I would say political, decisions being made by many governments, including the predecessor Tory Governments of course about Sysco. It has continued in a context of poor public policy. The precedent of this government's privatization record is so astonishingly bad, by which I mean the Nova Scotia Power privatization in 1992, that no one could possibly accept on faith that the government would go ahead and do the

[Page 8289]

right thing. Even when they were open with Bill No. 204 in 1992, we could see it was a bad deal, and it was widely criticized at the time. It was a bad deal because it was sold off underpriced, it was sold off as a monopoly, it was sold off to the largest and wealthiest people in this province. That is who ended up on the board. That is who ended up in control. There were no guarantees for Nova Scotians. It was just sold off underpriced and in the wrong circumstances, and in the wrong way, contrary to the lessons that privatization worldwide had taught governments.

So the history of Bill No. 70 is mired in poor decision making and in a context that cannot encourage any of us to feel happy about what it is that is put forward. When I think about the arrogance of the minister in not giving us the agreement now so that there is an opportunity for extensive public debate, I continue to be astonished. We are, however, not without a remedy.

Mr. Speaker, I have a motion, and I move:

That the motion before this House be amended by removing all the words following "that" and inserting therefor the words:

Bill No. 70, the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time after the Minister responsible tables in this House the Agreement dated June 21, 2000, between the Company, Her Majesty in right of the Province, the Purchaser and Duferco Participations Holding Limited in respect of the sale of certain assets of the Company.

Mr. Speaker, that is my motion. I so move. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to, perhaps, possibly take five minutes to review this motion. It is a little different from our three regular motions. With the indulgence of the House, we will reconvene in five minutes.

[2:46 p.m. The House recessed.]

[2:50 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to bring the House back to order.

Honourable members, the second reading amendment as submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto is out of order, and if the honourable member is with us he certainly can carry on and debate the rest of the time that is available for second reading of the bill, but the amendment is in fact out of order.

[Page 8290]

Order, please. The amendment is out of order and the honourable member can get back up again.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. That was my understanding that once a member moves a motion, whether it is in or out of order, the member automatically loses his or her turn at the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, I did confer with counsel on that very aspect, as to whether or not the honourable member could continue, and the information I received was that the honourable member could continue. I would recognize the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, and the honourable member has until approximately 3:06 p.m.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have to say that there is probably one virtue to Bill No. 70 as presented. The one virtue is that it comes at a time when although in a context in which the circumstances for the employees of Sysco is an extremely difficult one, nonetheless, there has been a settlement worked out with the union representing the employees.

I don't say that the circumstances surrounding this were happy, or to the government's credit, but at least some settlement has been worked out. After protracted negotiations and very difficult negotiations, there has been movement towards a working arrangement with respect to the pensions, and I am happy to see that this will now be embodied in the legislation.

That said though, that is the only minor virtue I can see in this legislation. Nothing on that score offsets the terrible, negative aspects that I have identified earlier and that I have heard other members identify. They have been identified with scorn because they are so astonishing. It is true that some agreement has been worked out with the union representing the workers, but that cannot possibly outweigh the scandalous proceedings that are manifest in the bringing forward of this legislation as it has been brought forward to us. I don't find myself in any position to feel comfortable with this bill.

I am sorry that the Speaker saw fit to rule out of order the motion that I made. Clearly, it was intended to give us all the opportunity to engage in an informed debate on what has been brought forward. It was designed to allow the public to engage in an informed debate on the bill and even though the motion has been ruled out of order, that does not mean that the minister could not bring the agreement forward.

Clearly the minister could bring the agreement forward at any moment. I do not understand his rationale for continuing to want to keep that agreement private to his Party if, indeed, all the members opposite are even aware of the contents and if some of the members opposite, those who do not sit on the front benches, do not know the contents of that agreement, I hope they are searching their consciences as well and I hope they are

[Page 8291]

making representations to the minister to get him to change his mind. This is a sad ending to what has been a serious, difficult and sad process at virtually every turn for more than 30 years.

Mr. Speaker, as I yield my place to other speakers, I have to say that to the list of experience and perspectives that I mentioned earlier, I would add that of my legal training and in that context, along with the others, I find it and continue to find it astonishing that any Legislature could possibly be faced with a bill of this sort. Thank you very much for your attention.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the previous question be now put.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the previous question be now put.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, does this mean that closure is being invoked on this particular bill? We still have speakers to speak on second reading of this particular bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members who have not spoken to Bill No. 70 in second reading are still permitted to speak during second reading of the bill.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: What is the reason for the motion then?

MR. SPEAKER: I understand that the motion would certainly take away the dilatory amendments.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the motion that was put was not voted upon so I am not sure if the intent of the honourable Government House Leader was to have that motion approved or not or whether (Interruption) That is fine.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a number of observations on Bill No. 70 An Act Respecting the Sale of the Assets of Sydney Steel Corporation. Let me say at the outset, I support the principle of this particular piece of legislation. I believe that the privatization of Sydney Steel is long overdue. I believe it is something that governments of different political stripes have grappled with for a number of years and certainly it is coming into focus and the realization of this privatization is only a matter of time, as has been prescribed by the Governor in Council and, indeed, the Minister of Economic Development

[Page 8292]

by virtue of the fact that he has indicated he does have an agreement that he will table at the end of second reading.

While it would certainly be a little more helpful to have that during the debate in second reading, there will be some opportunity to offer some intervention at the Law Amendments Committee. There will certainly be some opportunity to make some intervention at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, but on the principle of the bill, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to reflect on the past, the present and the future and perhaps we could look at it in three different time-frames.

Obviously the past for Sydney Steel as a private entity was very successful until 1967, thereby under, I believe, Premier G.I. Smith with the assistance of the federal Liberal Government, with the assistance of the honourable Allan J. MacEachen, made a policy decision to take it over as a Crown Corporation and an entity. Some would argue in retrospect perhaps that was one of the biggest mistakes we made in terms of the economic and social development in Cape Breton. Hindsight is always 20/20, and one could I suppose argue for the next week both sides of that particular issue, but given the dynamics of the situation at that particular point in time, Mr. Speaker, where we had upwards of 3,000 or 4,000 employees, just to abandon that private-sector entity without government intervention at that particular point in time, would have been I think counter-productive.

The government of the day, as I understand, didn't have a lot of alternate action plans in place because it was dealing with some difficult situations such as the government Crown Corporation for industrial development, Industrial Estates, which created a lot of problems in terms of economic and social development for the government at that particular time. So, in many respects, the Government of G.I. Smith was put in a position where they pretty well had to move in and become interventionists on this particular issue.

[3:00 p.m.]

So we can fast forward over the next 33 years and we will see that for all intents and purposes, Sydney Steel was a money-losing operation. There are no two ways about it. It became a large liability for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Whether the value for dollar was realized through the sale and the employment efforts for many of the stakeholders, particularly, the employees, their families, and the community at large is something that can be debated for many years.

Now, we fast forward to the present, Mr. Speaker, and what we have is the realization of this privatization that is taking place. I recall back in 1989, probably a year after I was first elected, when someone asked my opinion on Sydney Steel, if I had to decide what to do, what would I do. Well, in my own naive fashion, and maybe it wasn't so naive but rather a simplistic view of business and industrial development, my response was quite simple. If you can't make money, sell it or shut it down. I was asked that again in 1991, and I was again

[Page 8293]

asked that in 1993, and several years thereafter. My response simply as a small businessman, I maintain that position. Now I realize there are a lot of dynamics and complexities that go far beyond a small family-type business operation, but I think the principle is pretty much the same. I was saddened.

I watched even before I came into politics, I watched a lot of politics on both sides of the House, both Liberal and Conservatives Administrations, and I have seen politics played by the NDP as well. They had a vested interest because they were always the biggest benefactors every time it came to political contributions from the labour pool, and on the business side, the other two mainline Parties seemed to benefit from the corporate side. The facts speak for themselves. So in that respect, we all have a responsibility, and we all have to share the responsibility of the errors and omissions as well as the successes of yesterday.

I recall during the modernization process, when we were going to an electric arc furnace. This was hailed by the government of the day, I believe, under the Honourable John Buchanan, who was Premier, that this was going to be the next best thing since sliced bread, this was going to solve our problems. We have gone through various retrofits at Sydney Steel, and so on, and I believe this modernization - I stand to be corrected - was somewhere between $400 million and $450 million. Lo and behold, after that modernization took place, we found out, once we scratched the paint off the electric arc furnace, that it was 30 years old, it was a used electric arc furnace from somewhere down in Pittsburgh. No one seemed to know that at the time this deal was signed and everything was put in place. We always seem to be behind the eight ball when it came to government intervention.

Again, we could argue, who are the benefactors and who are the losers, but in the final analysis, the bill kept building up to the point where we are today. It is a question of value for dollar. Personally, I think it is very unfortunate that the extremities of politics became very exaggerated at the provincial level, at the provincial election, that pinched a nerve and made people draw themselves on one side of the line or the other, i.e. the Canso Causeway. It made it look like one part of Nova Scotia seemed to not want to move in a very progressive fashion and hang on to government dependency, as opposed to the counter position on the other part of the province. I found that very distressing as a Nova Scotian. I think no one would want to argue against the fact that sometimes changes have to be made.

Let's review history in that context as well. It was not more than 75 years ago when three-quarters of all the revenues that were generated for the provincial coffers came from the resources of Cape Breton Island. They are documented facts. It is much the same argument as the Premier has made and the Prime Minister has made with regard to the good fortunes of southern Ontario through the Free Trade Agreement, through the good fortunes of Alberta with the natural gas and the oil exploration, and the good wealth and fortunes of British Columbia through their growth factors over the last number of years; thereby through equalization payments, we help those who aren't as able to help themselves, given the cycle

[Page 8294]

of economic and social development. This is just one of those opportunities for us to realize there has to be a balance.

On the principle of the bill, yes, we certainly support it. I suspect that perhaps when the agreement is tabled by the minister that we will have an opportunity to realize that perhaps this is the best deal that we will ever get for the Province of Nova Scotia. If it is certainly an opportunity to generate several hundred jobs and to put a lot of the shackles of yesterday's industrial revolution behind us, yes, we have to do it. It was much the same through the various machinations that we went through on the Devco situation, on the proposed sale of certain assets from the Cape Breton Development Corporation. There is also the issue of making sure that we treat those individuals who have contributed so much in a fair and equitable fashion.

Let's look at the third perspective on this, and that is looking into the future. What are the safeguards that are being put in place to help bridge the vacuum that will certainly be created? I know there have been some pretty tough negotiations going on between the office of the Minister of Economic Development, the management at Sydney Steel and, indeed, with the employees, in terms of retirement packages, superannuation, different benefit packages, and, indeed, in making sure that we have a quality workforce to be able to carry on with this new privatized Duferco Steel (Nova Scotia) Corporation. There are also some other aspects I believe that the government seems to be sidestepping. They seem to be sidestepping because of the environmental issue. This bill obviously is going to protect Duferco from environmental liabilities, and that is certainly an issue that was put forth back when the honourable Donald Cameron announced the proposed sale of Sydney Steel. He took measures then to separate the immediate active zone where Sydney Steel has been operated, as opposed to the older, abandoned sites, whether it be the coke ovens, down through the old rail yards, I believe, and the open hearth section. All these sections and the extra pieces of acreage, close to over 200 acres, were excluded from this sale package.

What we have here is a major economic catastrophe for industrial Cape Breton, and separating the new steel owner from this, I can certainly understand the government in terms of making a value judgement in creating economic and social development opportunities into the future, but the government also seems to, by process of this particular legislation, be alleviating itself of some of these environmental responsibilities. We have, as per the Minister of Finance's own estimates, upwards of $300 million booked for this fiscal year for environmental clean-up. Quite frankly, I don't believe they have spent 5 cents. (Interruptions) They have developed lots of letterhead, that is correct, but they have not spent 5 cents on this environmental remediation.

So, what is going to happen to that $300 million at the end of the year? It certainly makes it look as if the previous administration was doing a terrible job on this accountability process, but if the money was booked for that purpose, and the Auditor General concurs that

[Page 8295]

it should have been booked because it is a potential liability, then why don't we spend it and do some good and put a lot of these people into the market place in a very active fashion?

We have heard estimates on the environmental clean-up of that site. It could be in the vicinity of over $1 billion. If the booking is only $300 million for this year and they are not going to spend it, how far down the road is it going to go and what are the implications of that?

I had the fortune of working at Sydney Steel, albeit for four hours, it was probably the shortest work term (Interruption) A valued employee or not. I have to admit I did work at Sydney Steel for a total of four hours and (Interruption) No I got paid for four hours, but it is the irony of it. I went to work there, I was offered a good pay, that was back in 1974, at $12.50 an hour and that was a real good pay by anybody's standards. But I didn't like the result, the environment, the air quality, in my view, was a bit too much for me to handle, so I figured if this is what these individuals have to put up with, if I can't hack it for more than four hours, I don't know how they can hack it for 20 years.

I just simply thanked the project manager for hiring me, picked up my lunch can and went home because I just could not breathe the air that many of these people were forced to breathe over long periods of time. Several of my relatives, two of my uncles, worked, one in the open hearth and one over at the blast furnace, both of them within a year after their retirement died of stomach cancer and brain cancer, and all, in many respects, according to medical reports, are related to the environment at Sydney Steel. I am sure there are literally hundreds of individuals, Mr. Speaker, that would be pretty much in the same situation, so our family wasn't unique.

Therein lies the residual factor of what is going to come of this health and environmental issue that still exists. It is a major problem. We can do studies, and I applaud the efforts of JAG, but I recall at least two, perhaps three, years ago attending a press conference where all the stakeholders were there, the federal Minister of the Environment, the provincial Minister of the Environment, the provincial Minister of Transportation and Public Works. You can go on and on, all the representatives from JAG, the community at large, steelworkers, Sydney Steel representatives in management. The action plan was put in place then. The only thing I have seen so far is a proposed action plan on how to channel a lot of the residual water flow from that site in a controlled fashion into the collector-line system that was installed by the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. That collector system, by the way, was initially budgeted at $5 million and then came in off target to the tune of $12 million.

[Page 8296]

[3:15 p.m.]

We are now, still again, at this polarized position, which in many respects, Mr. Speaker, falls back on this particular piece of legislation on how the government will respond with the $300 million that is now budgeted for this fiscal year, in all likelihood will not be spent. If they spend $0.5 million, even $1 million - I will be generous - if they spend $1 million out of that $300 million that is budgeted, I would be very surprised. There are a lot of engineers and geologists and hydrogeologists and environmental experts that are doing more studies and preparing more action plans, but whether that is the right way to go or not, I am not an expert, but all indications are, we have been there, done that. It goes back to that elaborate $50 million scheme that was planked right in the tar ponds under Premier John Buchanan. That became a fiasco. What happened to that $50 million? They didn't clear so much as one teaspoon of sludge, and that was all studies by experts.

The bottom line is, we are still at a crossroads for another major impasse on how to move on after this sale with Sydney Steel, and they are related, because to simply divert all the - if I could use the word, for lack of a better word - juices, the fluids coming out of the tar ponds area into that collector system without treatment is going to destroy the marine life and the outer reaches of Sydney Harbour for those communities on the Point Edward and the Westmount side of Sydney Harbour. To date, the provincial government hasn't done anything to address that particular problem.

Perhaps we may be better off, if we are not going to delve right into the clean-up process beyond what the JAG leaders are providing at this point, we may be better off taking a good chunk out of that $300 million and put it towards a sewage treatment plant, thereby at least, whatever negative factors, hydrocarbons or pollutants from the site would at least be treated before they go into Sydney Harbour. Whether that is something the government would want to consider, Mr. Speaker, I believe it ties in hand with this particular piece of legislation.

I think we have had our political sparring matches back and forth on the approach to this whole issue of Sydney Steel, and whether the government was heavy-handed or whether we were not moving as fast and as forward as we could have, given the time-frame, but that is all history now. The bill is before the House, and the facts are quite simple. Do we want to privatize Sydney Steel; do we want to support the sale of this? I believe it is a reasoned and a fair question. Yes we do. Again, I believe, as we have submitted to the Minister of Community Services on his legislation, it is only fair to ask that sufficient data be provided so as to allow the Opposition to make a fair and reasonable conclusion.

It was much the same as what happened with Boat Harbour, when all those issues came before the House, and the environmental clean-up of that. That was a major disaster here in the province. These things have side effects and they have consequences, not just for the people in industrial Cape Breton, because a report that was done - I believe, less than a year

[Page 8297]

ago - concluded that there were over 500 people in and around the metro area who were employed as a result of activity at Sydney Steel, through the supply and services that were required at Sydney Steel in order to allow this particular company to operate.

Mr. Speaker, there is a multiplier effect, there is a domino effect also from the taxpayers' point of view, and obviously that is a major concern. Certainly as a small private business person the bottom line is, are you going to be paying more out at the end of the day than you are taking in, and will it benefit the community at large, and will it benefit the taxpayers? These are fair and reasonable questions. Hopefully, when the minister tables the agreement - so that we can move on to the next process - that will tell us exactly what the full dynamics and the cost implications are.

Mr. Speaker, we can look back, and we can - I am not going to become repetitive - chastise the Minister of Education for her approach to the issue, but certainly that is an issue . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: She needs much education.

MR. MACKINNON: We all learn, it is a learning process. That is a perspective that many people have held in Nova Scotia, rightfully or wrongfully, because of coming from a different, I would say a totally different, perspective on how Nova Scotia functions as a province vis-à-vis all the different interactions, whether it be Sydney Steel, whether it be Stora Forest Industries, Bowater Mersey, whether it be some of the universities here in metro. We can go on and on about the issues of subsidies and what is appropriate and what is not appropriate.

We can certainly go on and continue to drill at the way the government really wasn't up front with the people of Nova Scotia on the eleventh hour, on the eleventh minute of December 1999. I believe the people of Nova Scotia are fair-minded people, and they would have said, okay, this was their target date, he didn't fulfil his political commitment but at least we are getting close. That is what really upsets people, when governments try to spin something out that isn't correct. That is what happens with a lot of governments of different political stripes, and this is the type of thing we are the asking the government not continue to do, because it is very counter-productive.

No two ways about it, Cape Breton, the economy, people are hurting, and they are hurting a lot and they are fearful. What we need is a calm and reasoned approach, whether we are in government, whether we are in Opposition, and people want - from my experience - politicians to cooperate and get things done. If government, elected officials, whether they be in Cabinet or backbenchers on the government side, are not forthcoming, if they are not making a reasonable effort to be fair-minded on the dynamics of disbursement on our funds provincially at the budgetary process or, indeed, in terms of making sure that all the different regions are allocated, the human resources, the technological skills, and it does not always

[Page 8298]

have to be money, you know, to satisfy a particular community's needs but people want to make sure that we are working together and we are making an effort to make this province a better place.

In many cases I see it on both sides of the House. The walls are up. The defence mechanisms are there, you know. I applaud the Minister of Health coming down on the weekend. I think that was a very good sign but, you see, it is the follow-up. One of the first things that was put to myself afterwards by some of the municipal politicians - because, naturally, people become suspicious in politics - is the minister trying to co-opt the new mayor of the regional municipality into (Interruption) Well, very much so. It is all about value for dollar, it is very much, and being cooperative and making sure that we have sufficient detail to make a fair and reasonable decision as a responsible Opposition and if the member for Dartmouth South thinks that we should not have sufficient information to be able to vote on this legislation, let him stand in his place and say that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, instead of making hand signals . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Perhaps he would like to go back to the days of John Buchanan - you know, he did not pick up the nickname Little Rollie for nothing - the old school of politics, but it does not wash anymore. People will not allow it irrespective of whether we are in Opposition or on the government side because governments for years have been spending to win elections, they have. Now there is no money. That is what governments are saying now, we are just saddled with debts. We are saddled with debts at the municipal level. We are saddled with debts at the provincial level. We are saddled with debts at the federal level and who is going to pay the bills? There is only one person to pay the bill and that is the taxpayer. (Interruption) That is right, Mr. Speaker, we have to have sufficient information to make an informed decision and I do not think that is too much for the Opposition to ask of the government.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that we support this bill in principle. Certainly there are some details that have to be ironed out and I believe the minister has at least put the olive branch out, albeit it is a little late coming; it would be nice to have it during the debate on second reading to make it a little more productive, but we are not finished with the debate yet and he understands that and we understand that as well. So with that I take my place.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you and the House for the opportunity to join the debate on this bill, An Act Respecting the Sale of the Assets of Sydney Steel Corporation. I think it is worth taking a few minutes to look back and to remember that Sydney Steel was, in fact, a great experiment brought about by the Tories back in 1967. The Progressive Conservative Government at the time talked about the

[Page 8299]

necessity of the government to intervene with Sydney Steel and to, on a temporary basis, get into the steel business. That is what they said.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, if I can, I would like to read a little bit of the quotes from the Premier at the time. G.I. Smith said, in talking specifically about Bill No. 2 with respect to the Sydney Steel Works, the bill has the effect of putting the province into the steel business, at least on a temporary basis, and will place a substantial burden on the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. The cost is great, but the cost of any alternative is even greater. Indeed, it seemed to the government that closing the plant suddenly on April 30th next would result in such a social and economic cost that it could not be accepted if there was any way possible to avoid it.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that was on Friday, December 1, 1967. He went on to explain that the government at that time didn't want to move into the steel business. I hear many times the Conservatives, the members of the other side talk about the amount of money that was put into the steel plant and how much of the debt as they say was attributable to the Sydney Steel plant. The great irony of that, of course, is that it was run up by successive Conservative Governments who made that decision over and over again to support the plant and its losses. Immediately, though what they did was not actually get into the steel business. What they did was they decided they would assume the losses. Later that day, Mr. Speaker, the Premier at the time, G.I. Smith said, our immediate inquiries indicated that it was likely not all the above loss was in respect of Sydney, and that during the first four months of the next year, it was likely the plant could operate at no greater loss than it had during 1967. This led us to the conclusion that the plant should be kept in operation as a going concern for the first four months of the next year at a loss or cost not likely to exceed $4 million and likely to be less than that. The government, therefore, decided on October 17, 1967, Tuesday, to try and buy the time from January 13th to April 30, 1968.

Then Hansard records a special title that says, the Proposal of Nova Scotia. It says, accordingly it was then proposed that if Dosco would keep the plant operating as a going concern until that date, the government would pay the loss involved in so doing for the period of January 13th to April 30th, subject to a careful definition of what would be included in such loss and to adequate inspection to protect the province. Then it goes on to talk about what Dosco's conditions were.

But essentially, Mr. Speaker, what they do is they set out for the Legislature the terms of the agreement that the people, the taxpayers of this province, are going to be responsible for. It is set out in Hansard, and there is a debate about the terms and conditions on which the Province of Nova Scotia, under the Conservative Government will enter into the business of Sydney Steel, enter into the business of steelmaking.

[Page 8300]

How does that compare to what is happening in this Legislature today? How does it compare? Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to take a second just to have a look at some of the provisions within this bill, because I think it is important to remember that when you have a bill like this one that has clauses in it, you know what the agreement is, is defined. It says the agreement is the agreement dated on June 21st, and it names the parties, and it says this is the agreement that we are referring to. Then there is a clause of the bill that says, where there is a conflict between this bill and any other Act, this bill prevails. Now that is not the least bit unusual. In fact, that is called paramountcy, when you want to make sure that you are understood that this bill is to take precedence over all others, you simply state that. You will see it if you were to examine the Statutes of this province, that it occurs from time to time throughout the Statutes. I don't think it would be considered unusual. However, the next clause says, "Where there is a conflict between the Agreement and any other Act, the Agreement prevails." Now, that is a whole different ball of wax, to use the technical term.

Mr. Speaker, this is the devolution of the power and authority of the Legislature to some other body, the make-up of which we don't even know. The management structure of Duferco has more to say about the legislation that is coming before this House than the people's elected representatives. They are the ones who get to discuss and to negotiate the terms of the agreement, not the elected representatives of the people of the province. How can a government in an elected position, an elected democracy, how can you subjugate the Legislature to the will of company representatives without reference even to the Legislature? It is not just undemocratic. It is anti-democratic. It sets out to deliberately undermine the democracy of the province. It is contrary to the basic tenets of democracy.

You know, Mr. Speaker, back in at 1215, a place called Runnymede, King John was forced to sign a document called the Magna Carta. He signed it under a great deal of pressure and protest, and in fact, he expected to be in a position to be able to rip it up the next day. He didn't mean it. He didn't intend it, but because he was in a position where he couldn't negotiate it, he decided he would sign it. Well, you know, Mr. Speaker, what the Magna Carta did, among many other things, is it enshrined one of the most basic tenets of our law which is that any individual, any person in their dealing with government, has the right, in advance, to know the case they must meet. That is a very fundamental part of the golden thread of the law.

Mr. Speaker, what this piece of legislation does, is it wipes that out. The members on the side opposite have decided that the elected representatives on this side have no right to know what the case is that has to be met. That we have no right to know what agreement has been put in place, that our only function here is to sit in our seats and to vote as we may against this piece of legislation if we so choose, but not to know what the fundamental substance of the bill is about. Now, surely, that must seem in anyone's mind a travesty, Mr. Speaker. It takes away what is truly one of the most basic fundamental rights of the Legislature which is to have full disclosure from the government side of its intentions with respect to an Act of the Legislature. It is the equivalent of blacking out a section of the bill,

[Page 8301]

covering it up so you can't see it and saying look, trust me, just pass this and everything will be okay. In fact, we will tell you what the provisions of the bill are after you pass it. Don't worry about it. You can trust us. We have done so many good things in the past, surely you believe us.

Mr. Speaker, is that reasonable? Is it palatable? Is it even vaguely democratic? Of course it is not, and it is hard to believe that the members opposite could sit there in their places and accept this kind of legislation as reflecting any of either the spirit of democracy or the will of the people, because it can't be. It just can't be. If you were to go out into the streets of Halifax and explain to people on the streets that what you are going to do is bring forward a bill and not tell people what is in it and demand that it be passed through the Legislature, I think people would be outraged, and justifiably so. Yet that is exactly what this bill tries to do.

Mr. Speaker, I think unfortunately, we have seen that tendency on behalf of this government already, and I don't know whether it is just simply the case that they don't know what they are doing and they have been led around by bureaucrats who say, this is the best way to get this legislation, to get things through the House so that you don't have to put up with the headaches of debate. You don't have to worry about protests outside the window. You don't have to worry like you did with the paramedics. You don't have to worry about people showing up and being angry. You can avoid all that. You can avoid all the protests. You can avoid all the controversy. You can avoid all of the disruption in your lives if you simply don't tell people what it is you are going to pass when you bring your bill forward. That is all you have to do. Do not tell them what you want them to pass. Just bring it forward, hide your intent, hide the true provisions of the bill behind an agreement with a third party that will be referenced in the definition section and then made paramount to the legislation itself. It is a travesty, it is antediluvian, it is undemocratic, it is destructive to the very nature of our democracy.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, it is an unfortunate practice of this government, it is certainly not unprecedented with respect to rules like those that are promulgated under regulations. As we saw with the Community Services Act, they would not produce the regulations under the Community Services Act but, unfortunately, there is some precedent for that.

At least regulations are promulgated by the Executive Council and passed by an Order in Council, people who are at least elected by the people of Nova Scotia. The management structure of Duferco, who were the architects of this agreement, are not elected by anybody; in fact, they are not even Nova Scotians. I doubt they are Canadians, Mr. Speaker, but yet they are going to have more to say in the text of this legislation than the member for Cape Breton Nova, than the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, more than the member for Hants East, more than the member from Springhill. Is that fair? Is it right? Is it even

[Page 8302]

vaguely what would be expected of the Legislature of the province? I do not think so and I do not think they have really thought about it.

I think what they have done is said, look, let's just find a way to get this bill through the Legislature in the fastest fashion and the heck with the rest of them and the Premier, which I guess makes it so much worse, sits back and says, you know, after the debate on second reading is over, then we are going to produce the agreement. Well, what the heck is the good of it then? I mean this is the fundamental purpose of this part of the procedure of the Legislature, to debate the bill, to debate its purpose, to talk about the substance of the bill, and yet the very thing that the bill is about has been extracted. So we are here standing in our places to say that we do not know what it is that we are supposed to be discussing because the government has decided that they want us to pass an Act in which the sum and substance, the core, the nub of the legislation, has been taken out.

Mr. Speaker, I am trying to appeal to the sense that the members over there have who have been elected by the constituents in their ridings on an impartial basis in an election that was run fairly, I am asking them to support one of the basic tenets of the democratic process, that we on the Opposition side have the right to know what the substance of the bill is that you are asking us to debate and pass. The minister should stand on his feet. He should recognize that what he is doing is undermining the authority, undermining the purpose of this Chamber and provide us with the agreement if he truly wants to have a debate that is worth having.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what is the purpose of the Opposition if we do not have the ability to see the legislation, to do the analysis, to offer our advice - whether accepted or not - to the minister and to the Executive Council and to the members opposite? I think that the people of the province believe that the Opposition fills an important function in our society. As has been said many times, the Opposition's job is to be a passionate observer. It is our job to look at what it is that the government brings forward, to offer the advice, and to be passionate in our defence of those things that are left out. Of those people who are going to be harmed or perhaps overlooked in the process, it is our job to hold the government to account for every piece of legislation it brings forward.

Yet, this government has decided rather than treating us as partners in the process by which good legislation becomes the law of the province, instead of doing that, what they are going to do is extract the very purpose of the bill out of the legislation and not let us see it, and yet, in the end say that we were complicit in its way through the Legislature and that there was full debate on the bill itself.

[Page 8303]

That is simply not true. It cannot be true when the minister decides that he is going to take an agreement, make it part of the legislation and subjugate the will of the people of the province through its elected representatives to the negotiators on behalf of the board of Duferco. That is what is happening here. We are not being allowed to fulfil our function, we are not being allowed to represent the interests of the people of Nova Scotia because the government has decided that it will take this agreement and exempt it from consideration by the Legislature through this part of the process.

It is truly unprecedented. Why is it? We asked this of the Minister of Community Services with respect to the regulations, what are you hiding? What are you hiding? If you are not ashamed of what it is you intend to do, why don't you bring it forward? Why don't you have us have a look at it? I do not understand it. As I have said, it is absolutely unprecedented to subjugate the Legislature and the elected representatives of the province to an agreement which has had no input or scrutiny from the public.

When you get to the point where all of the purpose of your job has been undermined, then all you can do is draw to the attention of people that democracy is suffering because of it. I believe that message is getting out there. I believe that as people watch this unfold, they understand. They understand that the government's been acting as they did with the Community Services legislation, as they have with this - in a secretive, in an undemocratic, an anti-democratic fashion - and I believe in the end they are going to be forced to crawl out of that bunker, they are going to be forced to move back the curtain and to show this agreement and, in the case of the Community Services legislation, the regulations to the light of day.

When that happens, we are going to be there to hold them accountable for the things that they are trying to sneak through. You know this is their history, they would not release the business plans while the House was open in the last session, they had to wait; in fact they waited until the day after the House closed. They treat the public of Nova Scotia and the elected representatives of the people of Nova Scotia with disrespect, with scorn, with disregard, but the public will have the last word; the people of Nova Scotia will have the last word. I think this piece of legislation in its present form, whether it accomplishes its aims or not, this is a sham, this is in fact a travesty, it is a blight on the reputation of the government, and they should understand that. Bring forward the agreement. Let us see it. Mr. Speaker, with those comments, I will take my place.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to address the House on Bill No. 70, and to give you my personal observation on exactly what this bill means to Nova Scotians and, in particular, to Cape Bretoners. I would have you know, for instance, that Sysco has meant a great deal to the people of Cape Breton, not just to the Sydney area but to many areas within Cape Breton itself, including my riding in Glace Bay, Cape Breton

[Page 8304]

East. There are, indeed, many steelworkers who actually live in Glace Bay and have travelled back and forth between Sydney and Glace Bay over many years to toil very hard at the Sydney Steel Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, I worked in Sydney for about 20 years, and actually lived there for a period of time, a great city. (Interruption) When was it? I am actually forgetting exactly when it was, but it was in the 1970's, when Sysco was certainly not at its peak. At one time, Sysco employed literally thousands and thousands of people in its heyday in Cape Breton, and provided to the economy of Cape Breton, to the economy of Nova Scotia, indeed, a workforce that was second to none. Having lived in Sydney, I had no idea until I actually lived there exactly how much the Sydney Steel Corporation and Sysco meant to the people who worked there.

My neighbours were steelworkers and my friends were steelworkers, not only in Glace Bay but, in particular, when I am talking about living in Sydney, and it meant everything to them. They lived on a daily basis - this was the most absurd thing that I have ever seen - not knowing whether or not they would be returning to work the next day or if, indeed, they would have work, if they would be laid off or if the plant would be closing. In truth, I would stand here and say that the Sydney Steel Corporation has been a political football for decades in this province. The games that have been played with that plant over the many years have meant that people have been bounced up and down like a basketball, which is not fair to a lot of people. As I mentioned, the plant meant everything to a tremendous amount of people, in particular to the City of Sydney and the people who worked there.

Mr. Speaker, I believe and I believe very strongly that we as Opposition members in this House have the right to know the substance of this bill before we can vote on it. What we are debating here today lacks substance. You cannot form opinions on something unless you are truly informed to begin with. In order to come up with any kind of informative opinion on something you must be given something to work with, you must be given the facts. We have not been given the facts here in any way, shape or form. As a matter of fact we have been given nothing. I would say to the minister and I would say to the government that if there is nothing to hide then the solution is very simple, the solution to this whole thing is to give us the details, show us the deal. Then we can come up with an informed opinion on whether or not we should or should not vote for the bill that is before us today.

You can't muzzle opposition. As a matter of fact, I would suggest to the honourable members here today, through you, Mr. Speaker, that indeed if you try to muzzle opposition, not just to this bill but to anything, in fact you are guaranteeing there will be more opposition to what you are proposing, because you are telling people, or at least you are leaving the perception that you may not want to be truthful, that you may not be willing to disclose all of the facts in this matter. I think that automatically makes people think that you are hiding something. So why not just simply put the deal on the table. Let us have a chance to take a look at it, and we can sit down and do our job as Opposition members, do our jobs as

[Page 8305]

Members of the Legislative Assembly, and make an informed decision on what the government is proposing here.

I would suggest that perhaps what we need here is what has become the norm in the legal profession. I am no lawyer, I won't add to that, but I would suggest that what we are looking for here is full disclosure. Full disclosure to us as Opposition members as to what we are dealing with here, and then again we can make the judgement.

One of the comments I guess throughout this whole debate that has been printed has been the Premier saying that he can't protect Sysco jobs, but he can protect the steelworkers themselves. Again, Mr. Speaker, we want that sort of guarantee that steelworkers are going to be protected. I don't have an accurate figure on how many steelworkers there are in my riding in Cape Breton East, but I would easily suggest that there are probably a couple hundred people (Interruption) My well-informed colleague, the member for Cape Breton South, informs me that 186 people live in Glace Bay and work at Sysco. Of course, that would translate into the number of spin-off jobs that would be associated with those direct jobs and businesses that those people support, not only in Glace Bay, but in Glace Bay, Sydney and area. I would suggest in an economy such as Glace Bay, that 186 jobs would be a big deal to try to protect, certainly nothing to take lightly. Even one job in my area is something that is much appreciated if it is protected and guaranteed.

Mr. Speaker, I again would call on this government to think and sit back and give this matter some sober second thought as to whether or not you are providing us with the information that we have a right to know what this deal is about. It is not just a matter of playing games. It is not just a matter of playing politics. We have the right as Opposition Members of the Legislative Assembly to know what is before us and to be able to make our own opinions, to be able to talk to our constituents and say, what do you think about this deal? Give me your opinions on this before I make up my mind. But I have not been able to do that in this instance, because I don't know, nor does anyone - well, perhaps there are a few people within the Legislative Assembly that know - but the majority of us, and I would dare say including Tory members do not know what is in this deal.

I would suggest further, Mr. Speaker, that not only is this not a good situation, I would suggest this is a dangerous situation. A dangerous precedent to set for democracy in general. If this can be the case in this instance, where we are not informed of what is in this deal, then what is next? What is next that we are not going to be informed of? What are we not going to be told about, and what is going to be kept from us? How are we supposed to do our jobs as Opposition members, as Members of the Legislative Assembly?

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 70, as I said, I would truly love to stand up here and say that I was well informed on this matter, and that I could make a decision as to whether or not I should or should not support Bill No. 70 regarding Sysco. But it is too important a matter to

[Page 8306]

be dealt with lightly. It is too important a matter to be dealt with in secrecy. This is a matter that affects the lives of a tremendous amount of people in one area of our province.

As my colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes pointed out earlier today, it also affects a tremendous amount of people, the spin-off jobs and so on that are created by Sysco doing business throughout this province. Sysco is not just a Cape Breton steel company that was put there to employ Cape Bretoners. Sysco has meant hundreds and hundreds, billions of dollars to Nova Scotia's economy over the years. We, as Opposition members, do not want to see anybody, the economy, anybody's job, individual jobs, in jeopardy in this province, nowhere in this province. I am not just here to speak on behalf of the people of Cape Breton East but I am also here to speak on behalf of Nova Scotians who may not agree with this legislation either.

[4:00 p.m.]

I wanted to keep my comments brief and I have told fellow Opposition members that I would do exactly that. I wanted to go on the record as stating that I feel this legislation is bad. We have not been fully informed. I think that is wrong. It should have happened that we should have been given the full details on Sysco so that we could make informed decisions on behalf of the people who put us here in the first place. Having concluded my remarks, Mr. Speaker, thank you.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I hadn't really intended to speak on this bill until I heard the minister's comments on the radio this morning. When I heard the minister's comments, there was no way I wasn't going to get on my feet and tell the minister and this government exactly what I think of the arrogance and the contempt that they are showing to this House and to this province. The arrogance and contempt is just dripping off their lips.

Mr. Speaker, if a chief executive officer of a company acted in as contemptuous a manner as the minister is, the board of directors and the shareholders would fire his sorry ass right out the door. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member retract that, please, it is unparliamentary.

MR. HOLM: I will the retract the word, Mr. Speaker, and I will substitute derrière. They will fire his sorry derrière out the door. The intent is known.

Mr. Speaker, here we have a situation. The minister is sitting with the agreement on his desk. We are being told, oh the minister is going to be so generous to us all, we perform like little good boys and girls, according to the minister. We take our seat. We don't dare to

[Page 8307]

open our mouths to ask any questions, the minister will favour us and then put the agreement on the table.

AN HON. MEMBER: Meow.

MR. HOLM: Do you know, I hear some little pussycats on the other side meowing. They think it is funny. They obviously take their jobs very seriously. Here they are, the lemmings, the backbench members of the Tory caucus, following, being led by the nose by the minister, by the Premier, by the bunker crew, the front benches, being told that we are supposed to pass a piece of legislation and a part of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, is an agreement that was negotiated in secret and that agreement, if there is any conflict between that agreement and any law, any Statute of the Province of Nova Scotia, that secret agreement prevails. We haven't got a clue what is in it. Maybe the minister understands it and maybe he doesn't but it is an absolute contempt of this House, it is a contempt to Nova Scotians, to expect that we would be told to vote on a bill that has the effect of putting some secret, negotiated contract above the laws of this province. That is contemptuous.

AN HON. MEMBER: Meow.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the member - which one is over there in the back corner who is crowing away or meowing away - thinks it is funny . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: They all think Sysco is funny. It's a delight that they can get rid of it.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that is contemptuous. Where there is a conflict between this Act and any other Act, this Act prevails. Where there is a conflict between the agreement, the one that the minister is hiding and says, oh, I will give it to you after everybody is good and sits down and shuts up, so we cannot have a debate, that if there is any conflict between that agreement and any other Act, that agreement prevails.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot vote for something and I am not going to vote for something now that I have not had an opportunity to know what it says. Just picture some company, you can go down to your buddies at the chamber, go down and talk to your big honcho friends and ask them, ask Murray Coolican, what would happen if the company were to decide to sell off major investments and they refused to share that information, the details of what they were selling, what they were getting, the terms, what the conditions are, and they were not going to share that information with the shareholders.

If they tried that, Mr. Speaker, those executive officers would be not long for that job. Business does not operate that way and, let me tell you, as much as you might not like to hear this, Sydney Steel and its assets do not belong just to the few members who are sitting on the Tory benches. It is an asset that belongs to the people of the Province of Nova Scotia and all

[Page 8308]

members of this House, not just those few select ones who were chosen by the Premier to sit on the front benches, not just those few members have the right to be making the decisions for all of this Legislature and for all Nova Scotians.

Every one of you on the government benches ran and you promised to be accountable. You promised to be up front, to be forthright, to be honest and, Mr. Speaker, I hope this does not trespass on being unparliamentary, but I will try it anyway. I will say it is being far less than honest to hide the information from the people of this province. It is far less than being honest with the people of this province to do that. I have no hesitation to say that.

We hear some members opposite saying that, oh, the steelworkers are calling and demanding that this gets passed right away, that the debate ends right now. If that is the case, Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister to table that information too because we have not heard it and people have contacted them. It is not helpful to the debate to have the minister on the radio, this morning, being interviewed and saying, well, we decided not to release it because, gosh, that would just encourage more debate and discussion in second reading.

What a strange notion. Democracy, you know, who was it, I think it was Winston Churchill who said democracy - this is a very loose paraphrasing - but democracy is not always the most convenient or the fastest form of government but, do you know what, it sure beats the alternative. Well, I am just wondering which alternative members on the opposite benches prefer, because this is not democracy. I believe, Mr. Speaker, to the core of my being, that what the government is trying to do, and is doing here, is contemptuous and it is wrong, but they can do it because they have a majority, and the lemmings on the backbenches of the government benches, maybe you are hoping to become Cabinet Ministers, but look at the legislation yourselves. Don't take my word for it. Look at it.

Mr. Speaker, this bill, when it passes second reading, and it will, is going to go down the hall to the Red Room where the bill will be discussed in the Law Amendments Committee. That is the bill and the bill only. We will have an opportunity, and the general public, in the Law Amendments Committee process has an opportunity to talk about the 11 clauses in this, basically, three-page bill. That is what will be at the Law Amendments Committee.

The agreement that the minister oh so generously - look, it must have broken his heart. He must think he is Santa Claus. He is going to, after the debate is finished, release the document that the Freedom of Information officer said he should have released before. He is going to release it, but it cannot be included in the discussions down at the Law Amendments Committee. The Law Amendments Committee process is not looking at the agreement, but as a part of the legislation it could have made very interesting discussions during the second reading debate.

[Page 8309]

I heard the minister on the radio saying, those in the Opposition, they are just going to delay things and do you know, they are giving misinformation. They are putting out suggestions and they are saying things that are not really true, they do not exist in the agreement. I was driving down the road and I was listening to that and I was saying, shame on me, I am saying or thinking something that may not be true because the minister says that it is not. Yet, that very same minister is sitting with that agreement that could answer any questions, could set aside any doubts about what is being said. But, oh no, we have not been good boys and girls in this House. We, over here, on both sides of the Opposition benches - and I am saying both Liberal and NDP - have been asking questions. So, we have not been good, in the minister's mind, as supported by our open and accountable Premier.

Canadians might have reason to be a little concerned today or maybe a little bit wiser, because I heard on the news that The Globe and Mail, today, obtained a copy of the background document behind the Reform/Alliance platform. I don't know if all agree with me, but that caused me, when I heard some of that, some considerable concern to hear some of the things that they are talking about behind closed doors and what their hidden agenda is. Well, I say, Nova Scotians have every right to take stock of what this government is doing when they also have secret documents they refuse to introduce and to lay on the table before.

AN HON. MEMBER: They better take Stockwell.

MR HOLM: They better take that Stockwell, that is right, Mr. Speaker, because this, what is being done, is contemptuous. Now, I am sorry when I say that, and I had some hidden little shots in there at the Canadian Alliance, that I offended some who appear to be supporters of the Alliance Party, on the government benches. However, if they want to stand in their place and indicate they think that I should apologize for slighting the Party they support, I will.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hit a nerve there, John.

MR. HOLM: Possibly, they hadn't realized, and I might have offended them and quite truthfully, I don't care but in my discussions about An Act Respecting the Sale of the Assets of the Sydney Steel Corporation, if there is a conflict between the agreement and any other Act, the agreement prevails. The company, Duferco Steel (Nova Scotia) Corporation, they know what that agreement is. They know what the agreement is. Oh, now, there is a member. Look, he speaks again from his seat. The member for Dartmouth South says oh, another company there, they must be bad. Actually, Mr. Speaker, they are doing much better than Nova Scotians, especially their shareholders, because the information in the agreement would have been shared with their board of directors. But you know what? This same member doesn't think the government of which he is a part and of which he is proud to defend their contemptuous arrogant ways, he doesn't think the Government of Nova Scotia should have to act as a good corporate citizen and a responsible citizen towards its own shareholders - the people of this province.

[Page 8310]

[4:15 p.m.]

Governments come and go (Interruption) Little Rollie, little Rollie. Rollie wannabe. (Interruption) So do you. (Interruption) Anyway, Mr. Speaker, the attitude being expressed says it all. (Interruption) You gotta get there before you know - you gotta get there he says. In other words, they key is not how you perform, not how you act, it is whether you win the game, and winning the game means not being responsible. That is not the issue. He doesn't mean that you have to be accountable. What it means is that you sit on the government benches. I guess it doesn't matter from certain members of the Tory benches what you have to do get in the government benches. Or how you perform once you are on the government benches.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would remind the honourable member he is to be speaking to second reading of the bill and ask him to bring himself back to that issue. Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: I want to thank you as well, Mr. Speaker, because I have been allowing myself to be sidetracked by the rabbit tracks from people like the member for Dartmouth South who really, although they are rabbit tracks, it does afford a bit of an opportunity for a diversion in using up some time, I thank him for that, but the truth of the matter is I promise you I won't be sidetracked by his rabbit tracks anymore, so long as he doesn't make any. Even then, if he does, I will try to refrain from my natural tendency to want to give him a little bit of a snap.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in addition to the contempt that this government is showing, in addition to its contempt for its failure to release this information, the government has slipped in here this little provision that they cannot be held accountable or sued unless that action is brought within a period of one year. The standard is six years. But you know, the government is again saying to all of those who have lived in and around the steel plant while it was operated by this government, all of those who may have been adversely affected, whether that be in health, whether it be in property values, whether it be contamination of their soil and their homes, the government with all of its financial resources is saying to all of those citizens, you have but one year to bring action, instead of the standard six. That tells me the government is afraid. That tells me the government is fearful that there are and that they are at risk in many potential lawsuits. I don't know, the members for Cape Breton may know better than I on this one, but it sounds like this is throwing down the red flag to the people who live around that plant, that you better rush out to get a lawyer now, get a start and lay it, lay your charges now. That is what you are doing.

[Page 8311]

Mr. Speaker, I have had tremendous privilege to be in here for a long time. And I have seen a lot of legislation go through this House where I have objected strenuously to the fact that all of the regulations were going to be put into place down in the bunker, down in the Cabinet room without public consultation. But, you know, regulations, if they are adopted and passed by Cabinet, even if it is done in secret without public input, if the public objects strenuously to those, those regulations can be amended the same way by a future decision of Cabinet. So even though they may pass bad regulations, those regulations can be altered or undone.

Instead, Mr. Speaker, they are doing something in here which is far worse. The Tories are putting into law the agreement that they will not share with Nova Scotians, and once that agreement becomes law, they can't just go and undo it by regulation changes. They would then be in breach of that contract and then the high-priced lawyers would be at work again. I ask the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, do you know what is in that agreement? If so, stand up and tell the people of this House. It is not only Sydney that is affected. To the member for Shelburne, do you know what is in it? Has Cecil Reddy told you? Or Cyril Reddy. Close enough. (Interruption) The Premier's former campaign manager, anyway. Has he told you? Think about it.

Maybe the minister is counting on the press being so overworked, so wrapped up maybe in the American election that is going on today, or maybe he is contemptuous of the press too and thinks they are too lazy to report it or too slow to understand the significance of what you are doing, but I have a little bit more confidence in them. Maybe the minister and the government are hoping that the press won't get word out to Nova Scotians about exactly what you are doing and how contemptuous you are being of those Nova Scotians. I have more confidence that the media can see through the sham that you are trying to pull off than that.

The minister still has a chance. He knows that by refusing to put that information on the table now, it cannot be part of the second reading debate. He knows that it cannot be part of the Law Amendments Committee process and, Mr. Speaker, when the bill comes back, you cannot in the Committee of the Whole House amend the agreement. You can only go and do a clause by clause discussion and what have we got here? I mean I can tell you there are things that I would want to say right off the bat. I certainly would not want to say that that agreement or this piece of legislation takes precedent over each and any other piece of legislation in the Province of Nova Scotia, that is human rights, that is pay equity, health and safety, you name it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Worker's Compensation Act.

MR. HOLM: The Worker's Compensation Act, you name it, it is in the legislation. Now, I have not any idea which ones could be in conflict because the minister has not the intestinal fortitude and the government has not the integrity to put that agreement on the

[Page 8312]

table. Yes, those are strong words. I mean them to be strong words and I do not apologize for them.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Do not fall off your box.

MR. HOLM: Oh, there is the member for Yarmouth, do not fall off your box. Well, I wish you would get up off yours and say something and start to work for the people who are concerned.

MR. HURLBURT: Maybe you should say something new.

MR. HOLM: The member says I should say something new. He should say something, period.

Mr. Speaker, the minister still does have a chance to have this be part of the debate. It cannot be nearly as meaningful now because of the lateness of it, but at least he could have the intestinal fortitude to put it on the table before the bill is finally passed. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I move that the debate on Bill No. 70 be now adjourned.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for adjournment of the debate.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[4:28 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville Cobequid had moved an adjournment motion on the debate on Bill No. 70. A recorded vote was called for. The Clerk will call the roll. Those in favour of the motion will please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay. I would ask the honourable members to keep the noise down while the Clerk calls the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[5:28 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. MacAskill Mr. Christie

Dr. Smith Mr. Baker

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Russell

[Page 8313]

Mr. Downe Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Manning MacDonald Miss Purves

Mr. Holm Mr. Fage

Mr. John MacDonell Mr. Parent

Ms. Maureen MacDonald Ms. McGrath

Mr. Corbett Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Epstein Mr. Olive

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. MacEwan Mr. Taylor

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. Dooks

Mr. Samson Mr. Langille

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Morse

Mr. Wilson Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 17. Against, 24.

The motion is defeated.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me, when I recall that drive this morning, my good friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid told me he almost drove off the road. I do not know if other members heard the good member for Digby-Annapolis who is currently the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act, because you know, at one time, that member sat over here. In fact, if I remember the logistics quite correctly he sat about here. During those debates which we prolonged at the time, when the dark force was over there, we sat here and understood that at times, it is important to put into effect the Rules of this House, the process of this House, the precedence of this House. I think it would be a real lesson, not that I will get into one here tonight, but historically, it would be a real lesson for backbenchers to have a close look at this wonderful little green bible, if I can use that expression. This wonderful book which has for some reason or other, caused such disconcertion over there.

[Page 8314]

It seems to me that the current member for Digby-Annapolis, the Minister who is responsible for Sydney Steel Corporation Act, when he sat here, and when members of that front bench, and many of them were here, as loyal members of the Opposition, they at that time, along with the members of my caucus at that time, we used the rules, we used the procedures, we used the process to ensure that legislation that moves through this House and across to the Red Chamber, was legislation that we properly could review and debate and discuss at length.

Yet, today, Mr. Speaker, when driving in my vehicle, I was told by a member opposite, I should have changed the channel. Well, I like to hear what the minister has to say when he says, oh, the Opposition will just drag out the debate, that will just allow the Opposition to score more political points. I say to that member opposite, does he not remember sitting here or, more importantly, does that member, the current minister not remember standing on his feet, fighting the good fight for legislation, pointing out the flaws of legislation that were brought forward at that time?

There are members opposite who sit in the backbenches, and they are in a big hurry. They constantly want to move ahead, move ahead, get it through the Law Amendments Committee, let the people come in and have their say, get it back here, put the rubber stamp on it, and move it forward. That says to me that those members perhaps don't understand how this institution works, not that I know it all when it comes to this revered institution, but I would think the front benches could point out to the backbenches, this is how it works. These are the particular points that the Opposition is looking at, to try to point out that there are flaws in various pieces of legislation. Those precedents, those procedures are treasured within this institution.

Let's recall again what Winston Spencer Churchill said, and it has been referred to on a couple of occasions - Winston S. Churchill, in capsule form, said democracy is not perfect, but it is better than anything else. It would seem to me, when we look at inefficiency - and we take too much time to discuss and debate and, let's face it, argue - when we look at the fact that at times we in the Opposition want every t crossed and want every i dotted, that says to me as a member of this House's Loyal Opposition, that we are doing our job. Yet, in return, we are to just rubber stamp legislation. We are just to allow legislation to go ahead.

Now, it has been pointed out by numerous speakers in both Opposition Parties, some of our concerns. The number one concern that continually was brought forward by the members of this caucus is that Clause 3(2) says that the agreement prevails over any other Act. That is a dangerous precedent - any other Act. So, let's remember Workers' Compensation. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, you remember those prolonged debates, those heavy-duty hours of discussion when it came to WCB legislation, but this agreement will take absolute precedence over any WCB legislation. That is a dangerous precedent. More importantly, any piece of environmental legislation that has passed through this House, any piece of environmental legislation about the ongoing concerns with this particular site at

[Page 8315]

Sysco, this agreement will overrun that legislation in a whisper. Why? Because that is, after all, one of the overriding factors that concerns Nova Scotians - not just Cape Bretoners - Nova Scotians.

Let's also look at the other major concern, the statute of limitation. As we are well aware, Mr. Speaker, and you yourself are, when we looked at some of that Workers' Compensation legislation or environmental illness - and I think those members of the Law Amendments Committee that went through that review when I was a member remember those endless questions which I used to ask every witness. What about environmental illness? It takes years for the effects of the environment and some of the difficulties with the environment to finally be medically chronicled. Yet we have a statute of limitation here which says after one year. What does that say? That says to the people who live near this site to go out and get a lawyer. That says that these people must immediately begin to look at whether they are going to, in any way, whether it is environmentally, Workers' Compensation or any other form, put forward through legal reasoning, some particular part of this bill that they are going to tangle with. Is that the sort of precedent that we want? I recall listening to the minister, you know when he sat in this place here I had a lot of time for that member. I heard him explain to the media that no, one year is just fine. Well, what about the fact that in most kinds of limitation, it is five years or six years? No, one year is what we are sticking to. That says to me, that is a dangerous precedent that Nova Scotians have many questions about.

As we sit in Opposition, we are aware of the fact that, at times, our job is to be critical. Our job is to make sure that legislation that moves through from one reading to the next, that moves through the Law Amendments procedures and then comes back in to the Committee of the Whole House, that that legislation is improved in our opinion as best it can be. We have brought these concerns forward, yet sitting over there on that member's desk, sitting over there on that minister's desk, is what we have been asking for and, as he waves it to us, we said before it is like we have to be good little Do Bees because if we don't behave we are not going to get our reward at the end of the day. Now is that the way, if that member there was sitting here and he was part of this process, would he not look at that sort of response as really a very childish and immature way to do legislation that we must deal with in a serious responsible way?

He said to me before: just sit down and I will give it to you. I have had enough, I don't want to hear any more. Those are the sorts of concerns that we feel have to be addressed up front. Now why weren't they? That is the concern; that is what people are asking. If that agreement could help this debate - and that is after all what we are here for - then that member should have, in all good conscience, brought it forward.

[Page 8316]

He says that when I take my place, it will be tabled. My colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid has pointed out, quite rightly, what can be discussed at the Law Amendments Committee, what can be held as we go through clause by clause, and those very things say that agreement cannot be part of that process.

That sort of childish, short-sighted approach to this legislation is not what I expect from that member. As a Cabinet member, now he has a responsibility - and his department has a responsibility - to bring forth legislation that we can discuss in an open, transparent manner. That government was elected with those sort of buzzwords; the sort of buzzwords as open and transparent. Yet what did that minister say today? We have to get through this debate; we have to not allow the Opposition to continue to look at the details; we must hurry this through. Yet, as we ask - and the number of processes and procedures that we have gone through - the backbenchers continuously say, why are you holding this up, what is the delay?

I think that the good minister should take this particular document and he should hold an in-service with his backbenchers. He should be able to sit down and say to them that there are precedents in his book. There are rules, there are regulations, there are things that have historically proven that is how we make legislation better in this province and in this country.

To be as short-sighted, to say to us that is not part of the process, that we should not debate the details, that we should not after all raise these concerns. These are some of the very concerns that Cape Bretoners and Nova Scotians are bringing forward. I have heard the member say he has heard from union members who said to get this through. I say again, if you have heard, Mr. Minister, from union members, you put it there on the table. We would like to know who they are. Who have you been speaking to? Who has said to you, I am in such a hurry to get this through?

When you look at that statute of limitations, when you also look that it is absolutely unheard of for a private agreement to supersede legislation, those are the sorts of concerns that workers, whether they are in Cape Breton, Yarmouth, or any part of this province, have. Yet, when we ask to show us those names, give us those telephone numbers as we would like to call them and point out why we are raising these concerns, why we are moving these adjournment motions, why we are concerned about this piece of legislation, the groans from across this other side are come on, let's get on with it, let's get on with it. That is not how democracy works. Under no circumstances is this caucus, or am I, as a member of this Legislature, going to accept something on blind faith. Blind faith - heaven forbid that we would allow it, rubber stamp it, move it through. We have some concerns but, more importantly, as the rabbit tracks from my friend for Sackville-Cobequid are not helping me, we respect the traditions of this House.

[Page 8317]

[5:45 p.m.]

In the notes that I have here with me, that is a word that keys so many important feelings for us all, tradition. After all, there are certain things that happen in this House for a reason. There have been many who have gone before us, and I am sure there will be many who follow, and they will learn from the experiences that we have. You have heard it said many times, forget your history and you are condemned to relive it. So are we not supposed to, as members of this Opposition, point out our reservations, deal with our concerns?

Instead, that minister sits there and says, just sit down and you will get all the details. That is not how to deal with legislators and legislation. That is contemptuous of the Rules of this House. That says a grave concern because that member is looked upon by other rookie members, if they can still be called rookies after the time they have been in here, when they are still questioning why certain things are being done - those annoying bells, we have been told. They are not annoying, incidently, Mr. Speaker. Those bells are part of the tradition of this House and any model Parliament in any high school will tell you if you are in the position, you make democracy work. It doesn't have a set timetable of what is going to happen at 5:50 p.m. and what is going to happen at 6:35 p.m. Yes, we have traditions with such things as late debate and the emergency debate tonight, and I congratulate you for that decision.

The concern is, and it has been raised many times, what is the big hurry? We have concerns and if those concerns in this sort of historic Chamber cannot be addressed, then perhaps we should revert to what Churchill replied to. This is not a perfect system. This might not be the best system, but it is the best one we have and we are not going to take legislation shoved down our throats. We are not going to take legislation on blind faith and we are not going to have a minister who, probably when I take my place in a few minutes, can wave triumphantly, look what I have. Here are all the details. Out of courtesy to us, as legislators and as colleagues in this House, would it not be a more appropriate, would it not be a more cooperative way to deal with all of these things up front so that they could be discussed openly. But, no, instead that minister is concerned about the Opposition scoring political points, scoring political points so that we can make him look bad. Whether we make the minister look bad or not in one of his ridiculous ties is not the issue, Mr. Speaker.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am more than prepared to listen to the member's comments. However, when he starts talking about attire, I think we are getting carried off. We could start talking about his stupid Bruins ties, but we are not going to do that. Stick to the point and I think all members will benefit.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Although some members may agree or disagree, it also says in Beauchesne, that some things that are unparliamentary today, may not be as well tomorrow. It just appears to me, particularly in the last few hours today, the demeanour of some of the members is getting a little personal. It is a serious issue and this is second

[Page 8318]

reading of Bill No. 70. I will ask the honourable member to keep his comments to that and not what members are wearing or not wearing in this House or, as well, name calling of members, which has happened in the last few minutes. I would ask the honourable member to bring his remarks back to the second reading of Bill No. 70.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, the concern that I have is not whether we are making that minister look bad. He can do that on his own. I am not talking about his looks. I am talking about what he is saying or, more importantly, what he is not saying. We aren't talking about this legislation because we are playing games here. We are talking about this legislation because we want what is best for the workers and the people of Cape Breton and the people of all of Nova Scotia. That is what we are talking about here.

When we look at the fact that we have concerns that are brought forward, and that minister can say what he said, does he not expect us to be somewhat passionate and emotional about this discussion? Does he not expect that, Mr. Speaker? Instead his backbench buddies will give him the nudge with saying, what is he doing now, what are they doing now, why are the bells ringing now? Do we have to sit in this place and stand in our place and give lessons in democracy? Is this not part of what every member gets in this House? Yet in turn there are members opposite over there, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, in a hurry. My God, Mr. Speaker, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank wants this legislation over in a minute.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. For the second time I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to second reading of the bill and not to members opposite. For the second time I ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to second reading of Bill No. 70. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: So let's look at this Bill No. 70. An Act Respecting the Sale of the Assets of Sydney Steel Corporation. You look at the sale of agreement, and there are members over there, I understand, Mr. Speaker, and maybe there are members here who perhaps are in the real estate business. Now if you are in the real estate business, and the fine details aren't there, and the agreement details aren't there, are you going to put your X on the line and say, oh yeah, I'll take that? I don't think so. I don't think that is the way you go through with an agreement for sale. When you look at an Act respecting the sale of the assets, what is the short and long-term benefits of those assets. That is everything. Then, part of the legislation says, ah yes, and this agreement will override every other piece of legislation in Nova Scotia. That is the sort of private commercial agreement that is going to be put above, it is going to be put on a higher plateau than legislation that we pass democratically in this House. And we are not supposed to be concerned about that, Mr. Speaker?

I think it is important enough for members opposite when the time comes that they will sit back over here where they originally deserve to be, and when the time comes for them to be here, they will be looking at the facts of some of the very precedents, some of the very rule

[Page 8319]

interpretations that you have made correctly, and that the House Leader, the good member for Sackville-Cobequid has brought forward numerous times in this House. So there is no hurry. There is no great rush because of the concerns that will constantly be brought forward as we move this legislation along.

That is why I personally might have stepped over the line, Mr. Speaker. I might have stepped over the line. I thank you for bringing me back in, because I personally had respect for that member when he say here. Yeah, but now he is a minister. He has reverted in my view to a decorum, and I am making the judgement call here, a decorum that does not reflect well for a Cabinet Minister. He sits there in front of us. So here he is, here it is, just sit down and I'll give it to you. That is not how we should be operating in this House. That devil-may-dare sort of approach. Don't step over the line or you will be punished. Is that how we, as legislators, are supposed to deal with a bill that is as important as this for the people of Cape Breton and for the people of Nova Scotia.? That is the concern. It has been brought to this House's attention many times. Yet, there hasn't been any kind of cooperation on that part.

If we look in particular at Occupational Health and Safety, Mr. Speaker, and we look at the concerns and the details - I know members opposite were involved in reviews of that Act and I know the Minister of Labour has many ways and members of this Party here have expressed their concerns over that particular piece of legislation and the neglect of it at times, particularly by the past Minister of Labour - but Occupational Health and Safety, Mr. Speaker, it says again and I note that this agreement prevails over any other Act.

One of those Acts, Mr. Speaker, is the Occupational Health and Safety Act. All that work, all those hours, all of that consultation and all of the things that we, as legislators, have done in this House, no, a private commercial agreement is going to in this case override the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Is that the way that we are to accept legislation in this province? The answer is, of course, no. I would hope that members opposite and that minister, in particular, learns his lessons from this. He after all has much to learn as a Cabinet Minister, much as I have to learn from this side how to continually be an effective member of the Opposition, but let's face it, that government on this piece of legislation has made a couple of classic mistakes.

They have mocked the fact that democracy has been forgotten, yet we in the Opposition are to blindly go along. We are to trust the good minister with this legislation. The details? Oh, the details, we will tell you about that later, just sit down and we will tell you the details. So should we not be concerned? We are concerned. We remain concerned, Mr. Speaker, because of the dangerous precedent that is there. When we review legislation in future, there will be precedents served here this evening, there will be precedents over the next couple of days on how this legislation is moved along and there will be a sort of fight that we will have time and time again, and that good minister over there might be looking to get himself in the history book somewhere, but I will tell you he will be a footnote because this is the sort of flawed legislation, this is the sort of legislation that is brought forward that

[Page 8320]

causes the conflict and causes the difficulty that we in the Opposition and members of the public raise concerns about.

I mean, that is after all the challenge that we have ahead of us. We are to work together, to cooperate, to bring forward legislation that is the best for Nova Scotians, whether it is occupational health and safety; whether it is the environment; whether it is, of course, this Sysco situation that tragically has been allowed to linger on for so long. Now, Mr. Speaker, the way to deal with the solutions is to treat them openly, to treat it fairly.

AN HON. MEMBER: With respect.

MR. ESTABROOKS: To treat it with respect and we have not received that in this House from that minister. I, personally, am going to remember this. This is the sort of thing that when we finish here and the details in the agreement hit the table, we are all to make it bedtime reading, are we? So the minister has won. This is not a contest between children in a sandbox. This is after all important legislation that we have reservations and concerns about, Mr. Speaker, and that minister has treated this Legislature and members of this Opposition with distain. He has done it at times that is almost flagrant. Is that member making those decisions on his own, or is somebody else within the Cabinet saying to him this is how you should do it because we do not want them to know all that stuff?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of the debate so we can go to the late show?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Yes, I so move.

MR. SPEAKER: The Adjournment debate resolution was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton South:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Premier has failed in his duties as provincial leader by neglecting the disaster situation in industrial Cape Breton."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

PREMIER - C.B. (IND.): DISASTER - DUTIES NEGLECT

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to speak on this motion because of a very serious situation which has occurred throughout the ridings of industrial

[Page 8321]

Cape Breton as of last week and that, of course, I am referring to the flooding that has taken place after a lot of rainfall. There has been a tremendous amount of damage in the area.

Mr. Speaker, I think that it is clear to me anyway, as it should be, I would hope, to all members of the House that, in this instance, the Premier has abdicated his responsibility for the disaster that is occurring in Cape Breton.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is customary for Premiers to take a personal interest in disasters that occur in their jurisdiction, but unfortunately our Premier has not. It is unfortunate because the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act went to Cape Breton to examine first-hand the wrath of the flooding that has taken place. I guess the minister, being from the Truro area, would understand the kind of devastation that can occur during a flood. In the winter of 1998, there was a flood that damaged some 86 homes and 57 commercial properties in Truro. I am sure the minister has some empathy for what can happen when water overtakes a town like Truro, or a community, for instance, like Glace Bay. Back then, the Premier immediately went to tour the area and the current Premier condemned the trip as a photo op, but then Premier, Russell MacLellen went simply because he cared. The damage was extensive in Truro and several other counties as well. It may have caused upwards of $3 million in damage.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that the devastation brought on by flooding in Cape Breton will prove to be much worse. If it is raining in Sydney, Glace Bay, Dominion, New Waterford and area today, as it has in Halifax, then I fear the damage could even increase. The point of this debate however, is to get the Premier to display greater interest in this issue. As the Premier, he has an obligation to take the lead in a situation such as a natural disaster. He has an obligation to do everything in his power to speed-up the process of relief and to provide, more importantly, some comfort to those who have suffered because of the damage.

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid the Premier has no comprehension whatsoever as to what the people of industrial Cape Breton are going through right now. There are many families with damage, families that simply cannot afford to do the immediate emergency repairs that are needed to help ensure the health and safety of their families.

Mr. Speaker, we learned today there is a shortage of flu vaccines, and that will increase the burden on the medical system this year. Well, in Cape Breton, some people are going to suffer because of mould and air-quality problems if their homes and businesses are not repaired and brought back to, at a minimum, livable condition, let alone mention the costs of replacement value of the valuables they have lost.

[Page 8322]

Mr. Speaker, I am suggesting that the Premier simply doesn't get it. Even the Premier must recognize there are dire human and economic consequences on the horizon if flood victims are not helped. Unemployment in Cape Breton hovers around 18 per cent, officially and, we all know much higher, unofficially. My question to the Premier would be, how does he expect those without jobs to fix their homes and residences?

Mr. Speaker, the Premier forgets much about his past. Today, I will take this opportunity to remind him that he was not so passive when flood waters ravaged the Truro area. At the time, then Opposition Leader John Hamm said in The Chronicle-Herald that flood victims need help now. If he felt so strongly about the people of Truro, then he should feel equally strong about the people of Glace Bay or New Waterford or Howie Centre or Sydney. I am not going to suggest that the Premier doesn't care, perhaps because there is not one Progressive Conservative riding in the area, but it certainly leaves one to wonder.

Back in 1998, John Hamm was calling for many things, including emergency aid and an emergency Cabinet meeting. In 1998, John Hamm said of the Truro flood in The Chronicle-Herald on February 4, 1998 that this time Nova Scotians need government help. Give the people some hope. What about the hope of the people of industrial Cape Breton? Where is the hope when the Premier does not appear to care? Doesn't even bother to visit, doesn't even bother to issue a statement regarding the flooding difficulties.

I visited homes on a personal basis, I have seen video footage of the damage that has been done to businesses and I have talked to the people who are most affected in my riding and some other parts of the industrial area. They have been hit and they have been hit hard. In some cases, four to five feet of water in a basement. In other cases, water damage that is not covered by their insurance.

There has been a lot of damage done to infrastructure in the area. In my own riding, the main street that runs between the former town of Dominion and the former town of Glace Bay connecting that area, a culvert there is probably going to require upwards of between $50,000 and $75,000 alone to repair. There is a danger of it caving in.

The Canadian Red Cross has set up emergency centres in Cape Breton because they have realized the scope of this disaster and they are helping to the best of their ability. Volunteers are on hand and I would also take this opportunity to thank the volunteers who came down with truckloads of cleaning supplies and pumps from Home Depot who came down all the way from Halifax. Industrial Cape Breton does not have any such facility or business as a Home Depot store, but those people came down with supplies to hand out - disinfectants and so on. Fortunately, the president of Home Depot is from Glace Bay, that is probably the connection, but again, they have had people from Halifax come down to help the people in Glace Bay and area.

[Page 8323]

But one person in Halifax who has not bothered to visit the area and has not bothered to issue one word on this emergency, is the Premier of our own province. I find that despicable. I find it an uncaring attitude that people will remember - I would suggest for a very long time in the future.

What the people are asking for right now is not for some officials to go around assessing the damage when we already know that the damage is going to be enough to kick-start an emergency disaster fund. What we are asking for is that fund to be implemented immediately. We know there is an emergency, the government of this province knows there is an emergency in many areas of Cape Breton.

I am very pleased that we are going to approach this topic at a later time this evening in an emergency debate on the flooding situation in Cape Breton. At that time, I will certainly be commenting more on some of the inadequacies associated with the direct assistance policy that is in place through the Emergency Measures Organization.

Again, to reiterate, there are some people who are in desperate need right now in Cape Breton who do not have the means to repair where they live. They do not have the means to take care of their families right now. At this point in time, I will leave the rest of my comments for later on tonight, in the emergency debate.

Again, in closing, I would beg the Premier of this province to please implement emergency assistance for Cape Breton immediately. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Well, Mr. Speaker, as many times as you stand up in this House and you say the words, it gives me great pleasure to stand in this House today and speak, well, this is one of the ones that is just the opposite. While I appreciate the putting forward of this debate, I don't like being here because of what is happening to people in my riding. I really do have to agree with my Liberal colleague, the member for Cape Breton East when he says, in a lot of ways it is one of leadership.

At various times in this House we have asked questions about concerns, being a member for Cape Breton, we talk about things that are going on in Cape Breton. The Premier will stand up and with great gusto tell the people in this House about how much time he spends in Cape Breton. He should. He should spend a lot of time in Cape Breton because it is the second-largest concentration of population in this province. He should spend it, but the glaring fact about this Premier when it comes to Cape Breton, as soon as there is a problem in Cape Breton, he is like that famous turtle he talked about last week. He sticks his head in, and he is nowhere to be found. When things were at the lowest with the workers at Sydney Steel, was the Premier in Cape Breton showing leadership? How often did the Premier come to the table and say look, it is important, extremely important that we get a deal for the

[Page 8324]

economy of Cape Breton and for the workers, and that the deal reflects the best deal for all of this province. Mr. Speaker, I submit to you, there was none. He was absent from that table.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we have another problem in Cape Breton that the Premier will not take a leadership role in, and that is the disaster that is befalling the people because of these floods. We can talk quite a bit about the 1998 flood in Truro and the lack of substantive leadership that was shown at that time. I guess the one upside about then Premier MacLellan that he did go, but quotes from that time were, I am not here with any plan or anything. So, I would not want this Premier to show up in Cape Breton and tell us, well, I am here, but I have no plan. You know, the vast majority of those people that are affected by what happened this past weekend - and you know it is continuing because as you can hear from the open window, it is still raining, and I am sure if it is not raining at this moment in those areas of Cape Breton, the rain is moving in that direction, so the flooding is not over, the devastation therefore is not over.

So, what substantive things is this government doing to help those people? The minister showed up for a couple of hours on Sunday morning, and then bid us a fond adieu and left with no concrete solutions, Mr. Speaker. We can look at the government's proposed help for people as they face disasters and look at the $1,000 deductible and $50,000 maximum and how they would bring their houses back to some level of habitability, but these problems befall a bigger picture. A lot of these people are not covered simply because it is one of the frills, homeowner insurance is one of the frills they had to let go because of the economic situation there. It is a sad day in this province when homeowner's insurance is considered a luxury you can't afford.

[6:15 p.m.]

So it speaks more, Mr. Speaker, about not just that there is an emergency and a need in industrial Cape Breton today, but it speaks volumes how governments have ignored the plight and when you do that, what is the residual effect? Well, we are seeing that today. We are seeing the residual effect.

There are many things I am going to talk about, Mr. Speaker, but I will save some of these comments for later tonight for the emergency debate. I asked the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization today what he was going to do, because there was one fellow, he was at his house, who lives in my riding, Bernie Burke, who is one of those guys who is caught in the Devco maze, not enough years in and where is he going from here. His family has had roots in that community for over 100 years. They are one of the oldest families in that community. He was facing the task of moving on because of what was foisted on him by him, I would say, an uncaring federal government. Now, his provincial government is giving him a kick when he is down.

[Page 8325]

This gentleman's home, his basement floor, looks like a volcano literally erupted and moved the concrete up three to four feet. He has a watermark four and one-half feet, around his basement. The minister has seen this house, personally. What is to be done for Mr. Burke and his family. Is it fair to say to him, wait it out. We don't know what damage there is. Structurally, many people in the construction industry will tell you that he should get out of that house because they fear for the integrity of the concrete walls in that basement. But, where does Mr. Burke go? Is he to house his family in a school auditorium or a church hall somewhere? Is that what Mr. Burke is to do? He is not getting any direction, in a leadership way, from this government, to help him.

Mr. Speaker, these are people that have, for a lifetime, said, all I want to do is work and provide for my family. That is what Mr. Burke and fellows like him and families like him tried to do, nothing less, nothing more. In times like this, when they are hit by something that is so far out of the ordinary that most people just can't comprehend it because it is not things that happen everyday. You don't build a structure like that for the extraordinary. It is like everything else. You build it for what are considered the building norms in this climate. You just can't construct a home envisioning that type of disaster.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk more about this later on during the emergency debate, but I cannot say in strong enough terms that the Premier has showed such a lack of leadership on this. You can use words like compassion. You can use words like empathy. You can use all those types of words, but it comes down to leadership. He has to come out and he has to go there and he has to be showing that he is the Leader for all of the province, not just the ones he has seats in. He has to show that he is a Leader for all Nova Scotians, and he should do that forthwith. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria, on an introduction.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to your attention and to the members of the House, sitting in the Speaker's Gallery, the Director of EMO for the Province of Nova Scotia, Mike Lester. I recall, when I was the Minister responsible for EMO and working with Mike Lester, the terrific job he has done in that portfolio and, particularly, during the time of the Swissair Flight 111 disaster. Mike, in my opinion, has done just a great job in his capacity as Director of EMO for Nova Scotia, so I would ask Mike to rise and receive the applause of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to rise and talk a few minutes about the situation in Cape Breton. It certainly is a situation, and not a pleasant one. I rise to speak about facts on leadership, facts on the situation and how real people who run into problems address those problems. First of all I want to apologize that the minister responsible, the Honourable Jamie Muir, cannot be in attendance tonight. He is in Cape

[Page 8326]

Breton conducting department business as well as receiving updates on the flood situation, the rain situation in Cape Breton this evening. Mr. Muir and certainly our government take situations such as floods or unseasonable weather conditions very seriously. I want to make a comment about leadership. Certainly the leadership of the Premier, the Honourable John Hamm, and this government is second to none in this area, in comparison to previous governments.

I want to point out to the members opposite that for the first time in the history of this province there is a disaster assistance policy, and that arose because there have been these types of incidents on the increase over the last number of years. Premier John Hamm was very saddened and viewed the distress and problems of the people of the Truro area during that flood in 1998, and he witnessed the then Liberal Government use the occasion for a photo op or two and contribute nothing - the hardship of those individual businesses and communities. That is why, when we formed government last fall, we were determined to deal with that situation and ensure that there is a policy in place so that people who, by no fault of their own, suffer damages to their properties that are of the nature of structural and those type of situations, and have a policy in place in this province and can know and rely that if a situation develops like this, it can be addressed.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, communities in the riding you represent, last fall suffered such an occurrence with rapid flash flooding from rapid rainfall over a short period of time, as well as the storm surge in the spring of this year. Coastal communities around Nova Scotia suffered those same kind of damages and that policy was in place to ensure that it did help those communities, and payments are being made as we speak.

MR. DAVID WILSON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The minister knows full well that the other disasters that he is talking about did not get one cent out of that policy because they did not qualify. The minister is quite aware of that.

MR. SPEAKER: The minister mentioned about two areas. Are you talking about the first or the second?

MR. WILSON: Specifically I am talking about the disasters, you were referring to Richmond and Guysborough Counties I would take it, and they did not get one cent out of that policy, not one.

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly a point of clarification I guess.

MR. FAGE: The honourable member obviously has his opinion on the facts, but I think if he checks with the officials of EMO he will note that payments have been made under that policy and, when he does check, hopefully he will stand corrected.

[Page 8327]

As I go on in my remarks there are a number of things that I want to point out. This province has a very strong volunteer community when disasters strike, they kick in, and when we look at the situation in Cape Breton right now, certainly local volunteers who have been trained by EMO were the first on the job to assist and assess. Once it became clear that the local communities and volunteers could not handle it, the municipal government with their training and leadership, which is again provided by EMO, a provincial department that does that training year in and year out to ensure those types of assessments on weather conditions, on formulation of plans and emergency and disaster relief are kicked into place, then the provincial government kicks in.

Certainly, members from the Department of Transportation in many cases have been working around the clock since last weekend to ensure that safety concerns are addressed with highway and infrastructure. Members of EMO and the Red Cross have set up stations for communities cut off, and provide services to ensure that those individuals affected had emergency relief, and people who could help direct them and take care of them in their hours of need. That is what emergency relief and disaster relief is all about. I am certainly pleased there has been no loss of life during this problem, and certainly, hopefully, there have been no serious injuries. EMO and the communities and the volunteers and many volunteer organizations are to be roundly commended for the appropriate actions they have taken, Mr. Speaker, and have done properly.

Assistance on property and structural damage under this policy has a number of guidelines, of course, like any good sound policy. As we move forward, those individuals certainly that have damage that would meet the guidelines and are not covered by commercial insurance, then assessment, Mr. Speaker, of each one of those damaged properties will occur. It is not an instantaneous process where government starts handing out money, and obviously the members opposite hopefully would realize that. It has to be a policy that helps the people who are truly in need, and certainly has guidelines around it.

But on the issue on which the two members rose, I take strong exception. This government, this Premier has shown strong leadership. This is the first time there is a disaster relief policy in place, Mr. Speaker. Instead of bemoaning and talking about it and political pandering, this government made sure there was a policy in place, a policy if there is a disaster of such a magnitude, that those citizens who qualify for that receive that disaster relief. That is leadership, and it is putting the mark and responsibility where it should be, that those people, out of no fault of their own, who have structural problems can apply, and when they do apply, they do receive compensation from a fair and compassionate government, and the citizens of Nova Scotia are approving of those situations.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make a couple of remarks on behalf of the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. Thank you.

[Page 8328]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I must draw to the attention of the honourable members the fact that the time allotted to the Adjournment debate has expired.

We will now resume debate on Bill No. 70.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 70 - Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor, and you have 32 minutes left.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I will use about two. I want to make it very clear that I make no apologies for the earlier comments, comments based upon emotion. They are based on the concerns and precedents of this House. They are based upon the respect that we all want to show to each other. I just hope that the minister opposite has learned his lesson. I hope that he remembers the experience he has had to endure. When I take my place, I am sure that he can say see, now we have finally done it my way. It is not a question of my way or our way. It is a question of the right way. It is a question of the right way for Nova Scotians and for Cape Bretoners.

It seems to me this need to know basis, the need to know basis, Mr. Speaker, when you need to know, we will tell you. That is no way to deal with legislation in this province, in this historic Legislature. I look forward to the next stage because we are going to continue to bring these concerns forward for Cape Bretoners and for Nova Scotians on this flawed piece of legislation. Thank you.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand at this juncture, although it took some time to arrive at this point. By way of beginning I fully intend to honour the commitment that I made as I take my seat in a few moments. Before I do that I want to take a slightly different tack than perhaps the members opposite have taken in the last little while about how we have arrived at this point.

I believe that what we have before us in this bill and in the agreement is a chance to end a 30 year history, a history that certainly was repeated and analysed to some degree in the discussion opposite, as I said, to reach this point. I believe that rather than dwelling on the past, Mr. Speaker, and looking back to what was and what if and what might be and

[Page 8329]

where we were, I think we need to look ahead. What we will accomplish by passing this bill and by transferring Sysco or the assets of Sysco to a private sector company is we will be creating an opportunity for a new culture to emerge, a new culture that will transcend a heavy reliance on oil and coal; a change in the economic base of Cape Breton that people have been asking for for quite some time.

I think it would be appropriate to take a few minutes to recognize that we reached this point because of the hard work and the efforts of a great many people. To begin with I would like to publicly acknowledge and thank Duferco for their belief in Nova Scotia and in particular in Cape Breton, and more especially in the workforce in Sydney and the fact that they were patient through a process that started in July and dragged on for some time and, in fact, has been even more protracted in the last few days when we listened to a number of people opposite talk about the history, if you will. So, publicly, to Shasheel Patrica, to Mike Hrycyk and to Rich Young of Duferco, thank you for putting up with us if you will, and again as we move forward I am sure that we can expect to have a long and positive association with Duferco.

I would like also to thank the steelworkers, who I know have come through a very difficult and problematic time, and I thank the executive for the fact that they were able to convince the membership that this was in the best interests of all concerned, that we could no longer afford to endlessly pour money into a money-losing operation and that by reaching an agreement, first with the province around pension obligations and then secondly with Duferco as the new owners, that they would be able to move forward.

I remind the members opposite that we have reached this point, the union membership have on two occasions endorsed the program and policies that were put forward that allows us to reach this point; 85 per cent of the unionized workforce voted to support the pension agreement that was put forward and negotiated by the province with the union. Again when Duferco reached their tentative collective agreement, the executive asked them to support that and they, in fact, did. To the union, thank you very much and I am confident that you will find your relationship with Duferco to be positive.

The other group that certainly needs to have their efforts acknowledged is Ernst & Young, and in particular Matt Harris of that operation. It is interesting that in every failed sales attempt in the past we have gone outside of the province to look for expertise and this time we found within the Province of Nova Scotia the level of expertise and commitment to get the job done. In fact, I would go so far as to say that those people worked even more diligently to make this happen because they are Nova Scotians and they believed that there was a future for the steel industry in Cape Breton if they could find the right match between a private sector operator and the assets that were there. They were able to do that when I think on a number of previous occasions - in large part because we thought we didn't have the capability in the province itself to deal with that issue - we failed. Therein lies the fundamental difference.

[Page 8330]

When we were leading up to the election and when the previous government was here, we said it is no longer possible to believe that the Hoogovens plant would ever in any way move the plant operation into a positive cash flow situation - $40 million annually as a cheque to the province and an accumulated debt that is astronomical could no longer continue and so we said, we will either find a private sector operator or we will move to liquidation. Again, it is fortunate that we did not have to go down the liquidation route.

I would also like at this point in time to thank our negotiator who was able to bring forward a collective agreement with the unionized work force on our behalf. Karen MacAskill worked long and hard with their team. I would like to acknowledge also that along with Karen MacAskill there were people who work at Sysco on the plant floor every day who were part of that negotiation. Dave Nalepa and Yvonne Williams worked again long and hard and had first-hand understanding of what the issues were and so to them, thank you on behalf of the province for a job well done.

That extends also to Mr. Jim Rudderham and the management team at Sysco who on a day-to-day basis had to deal with the issues before them and they served the province long and well and they served the operation of Sysco long and well and so I acknowledge their participation as well.

The other person who has been involved in this throughout the number of attempts and failed attempts to sell and, in fact, I think will feel some level of satisfaction and vindication in that this agreement will, eventually we hope, be successful and that is Mr. Blois Colpitts who has been involved for a number of years through the failed attempts, so for his hard work and efforts, I would like to say, thank you very much.

Now the other group that obviously has been subjected to a fair amount of scrutiny - and in some instances even abuse at the local level . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable members please give the same respect to the minister that they gave to other speakers.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: We are.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. During the time the speakers are speaking, the honourable Minister of Economic Development has the floor.

MR. BALSER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was saying, I would like to publicly acknowledge the hard work and effort of the board members of Sysco. Board members who, by and large, live in that community and who were very concerned with trying to move this forward to a successful conclusion.

[Page 8331]

To the chairman of that board, Teresa MacNeil, her efforts are greatly appreciated. To Mr. Jim Gogan who was involved too. To Ed Harris and to John Kingston, to Phillip Murray, Peter Sodero, Jackie Thayer-Scott and to Wayne Weatherbee. I know that throughout this your fundamental concern was to ensure that if in any way possible, we could find a private sector operator for this facility that we would do that and they worked long and hard to ensure that happened. Again, those people believe in Cape Breton and they believe in a steel industry and they believe it is possible in a way that would ensure a private sector operation.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I was just wondering if the minister would entertain a brief question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable minister (Laughter)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The point is that I am sure that all those who he is thanking have seen the agreement that he has refused to share with members of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Not a point of order, but a point of clarification. The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

MR. BALSER: Throughout this process, the Opposition members have expressed some concern about the intentions of this government with regard to Sysco and as we have said consistently and clearly throughout this piece, we were moving steadily towards removing the Province of Nova Scotia from the steelmaking business. We will, if everything moves forward in the way we would hope, make that possible.

But as we stand here in the House discussing this bill, there are people in Cape Breton, steelworkers, who are anxious to go to work, a new owner who is anxious to go to work and we are sure that with the assistance of the members opposite, we can accomplish the right thing and move this forward.

I know that some members opposite have talked about the process by which we would approve this bill, and they know full well that at the end of second reading - which is discussion in principle of the bill - that it goes from this Chamber to the Law Amendments Committee, which is in fact a public forum, an opportunity for the public to become involved in discussions around the bill. Then, once that has been exhausted, and once the public is satisfied that they have recommended changes to the bill that will improve the bill, it would come back here for discussion, clause by clause, in third reading. At that point, the members opposite, obviously, will have had a chance to look at the agreement, digest its contents and discuss it clause by clause. (Interruptions)

[Page 8332]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The only reason I knew the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid wanted to speak is that I could see him standing, I couldn't hear him. I would ask the honourable members to keep the noise down a little, please, until we get through this.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The point is this, the minister is suggesting in his comments that the public will have an opportunity to amend or speak about the agreement, and that there will be an opportunity to amend the agreement in the Law Amendments Committee process, unless I misheard the minister. I want it very clearly stated on the record that in fact the agreement is not what the Law Amendments Committee process will be looking at, it will be looking at the three-page piece of legislation, and there is no opportunity for the Law Amendments Committee to make any suggestions or recommendations to amend the agreement, not one bit. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: As I stated earlier, I couldn't comment on that because I couldn't hear what the honourable member was saying, but it is certainly not a point of order. A good comment, well made. The honourable Minister of Economic Development hopefully will finish.

MR. BALSER: The quality of the comments, I guess, would depend on your perspective in terms of the member opposite. What we have before us, there has been a great deal of rhetoric around this bill, the intention and the content thereof. In fact, the bill has two primary functions, the first is to ensure that the pension agreement, the pensions to which these workers are entitled, are protected. To make that happen, by and large, the bulk of the clause deals specifically with that, to ensure that those people who have accepted the pension offer on the part of the province will have their pensions guaranteed into the future.

The second part of that bill simply allows for the assets of Sydney Steel to be transferred to the new owner, Duferco. There is no sleight of hand intended at all. What we have attempted to do in this bill is accommodate those two fundamental issues. From Duferco's perspective, they want to know exactly what it is that they are buying, and have a clear understanding of what the liabilities and issues that exist around Sysco will be with regard to them. In every one of the previous sales agreements, all those failed agreements, there was a clear recognition on the part of the province that they had responsibility for any environmental issues that might be outstanding.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing in the discussions by members opposite are around the intentions of one year limitations and so on, the issues around occupational health and safety, workers' compensation and so on, are not germane to the Act and, in fact, are outside of the legislation, and are not part of the discussion. I believe the members opposite, to some degree, were trying to divert attention around the real purpose of this particular bill.

[Page 8333]

Mr. Speaker, the other thing is that with regard to issues related to things that come forward because of the province's ownership of Sysco in the past, there is an understanding and a recognition in law that if it can be proven that the issues that emerge are directly traceable back to the ownership by . . .

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The minister stands in his place there and tries to chastise members of the Opposition for trying to debate a bill that he didn't have the courage to present the substance of when he kicked off debate or when he should have kicked off debate on Bill No. 70. I think that is uncalled for, that that minister would suggest that and not have had the courage to make those comments at the beginning, which every other minister, when they are introducing a piece of legislation, does.

[6:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, but certainly a disagreement of facts between two members.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, when the bill introduced. I was not in the House. I was out of the province, so it would have been very difficult for me to speak on the introduction of the bill.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The minister will know that I spoke with him about that very issue, and suggested he get up on a point of order the following day and we would give unanimous consent for him to make his opening remarks because he had not been here the day that it was introduced, and we afforded him that opportunity and he willingly chose not to take it; gutless.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, it is not a point of order, but a clarification.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development, continue please.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, just in response to that, we had an agreement that was obviously not honoured on either side. I would say, at this point, it seems that we have digressed into a back and forth repartee. So, at this point, I would move second reading. (Applause)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As I said, when I took my place I would table the document. I will do so now.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. He should have copies for all members. (Interruptions)

[Page 8334]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am sure the House will make provisions of copies for all members.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would like to suggest to you, does the honourable minister expect us to vote on second reading on this bill tonight when he just passed this agreement in here now, before our people can have a chance to look at the agreement? We are voting on a bill with 11 clauses in it. That is dumped on us right now and they expect us to vote for second reading here this evening. This is an affront to the House and I, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There are two motions presently before the House. The first one, the one we will be voting on first will be that the question be now put. Is the House ready for the question?

A recorded vote is being called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[6:48 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

The question that is before the House is that the previous question be now put. A recorded vote was called for. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[7:47 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Christie Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Baker Dr. Smith

Mr. Russell Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Hamm Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Holm

Miss Purves Mr. John MacDonell

Mr. Fage Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Balser Mr. Corbett

Mr. Parent Mr. Epstein

[Page 8335]

Ms. McGrath Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. MacEwan

Mr. Olive Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Boudreau

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Wilson

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Morse

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 25. Against, 14.

The motion is carried.

The second issue the House will be voting on is for second reading of Bill No. 70, the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act. Is the House ready for the question?

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, our caucus supports the privatization and the sale of Sydney Steel. The purpose of the second reading is to debate the principle of this deal. The government has tabled the key document, the agreement between Duferco and the Nova Scotia Government upon the closing of the debate on second reading. Expecting the Opposition to vote without an opportunity to review this critically important document has put our Liberal caucus in an impossible position as to whether to support or reject this government initiative at this juncture. As a Liberal caucus we will be abstaining for the vote.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, please, Mr. Speaker, the agreement that the minister tabled at the end of wrapping up, in fact after they wrapped up, is not even signed in all sections, so we are being told to vote on a document that can even change.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 70. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

A recorded vote is being called for.

[Page 8336]

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[7:50 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[7:53 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Christie Mr. Holm

Mr. Baker Mr. John MacDonell

Mr. Russell Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Dr. Hamm Mr. Corbett

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Epstein

Miss Purves Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Morse

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 25. Against, 6

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[Page 8337]

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

The honourable Governement House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 64.

Bill No. 64 - Dairy Industry Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce Bill No.64, the Dairy Industry Act for second reading. How much time do I have, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: You have about three or four minutes.

MR. FAGE: Three minutes? Thank you. The Dairy Industry Act is a balanced, progressive piece of legislation that recognizes the changing national environment that our dairy farmers have to work with in these present times. It allows the dairy farmers more control over how their industry is to be run and ensures that those issues that impact consumers are still regulated by the government. That means there will be no effect on the current price of milk for Nova Scotians and in the grocery stores or change in the home delivery markets or service.

The Dairy Industry Act creates a new farm organization, the Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia and paves the way for phasing out the Nova Scotia Dairy Commission. The current Natural Products Marketing Council which regulates provincial marketing boards will take over the regulatory function of the commission that impacts processors and consumers. Decisions dealing with the on-farm production of milk will be delegated to the council and to the new farm organization. This will eventually eliminate one government commission, Mr. Speaker. This is similar to other jurisdictions and legislations in six other provinces in Canada and those are the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

Specifically, Mr. Speaker, the legislation outlines the following roles and responsibilities. The Natural Products Marketing Council will regulate milk quality, distribution, retail prices and the licensing of processors and distributors, and will also be responsible for the delegating of authority for on-farm production to the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia. As delegated by council, the dairy farmers of Nova Scotia will have the authority to regulate the on-farm production of milk and the price of raw milk, which is the milk sold to processors. Any decision the farmers make regarding the price of raw milk must be ratified by the council.

[Page 8338]

The dairy farmers of Nova Scotia will also be responsible for the selling of raw milk to processors. Under the current system, processors buy raw milk directly from individual farmers. Agreements will ensure processors have an adequate supply of milk. The council and dairy farmers of Nova Scotia will also be signatories to the national agreement. Right now, only the Dairy Commission has the authority to enter into a national agreement on behalf of the industry. The legislation was drafted at the request of the Nova Scotia Milk Producers Association and the industry discussions have been ongoing since 1998. Government has held extensive consultations with both the farming and processing communities since May 2000. The proposed changes will be phased in over a maximum of an 18 month period, with sections of the bill proclaimed to coincide with the transition of responsibilities.

Mr. Speaker, the dairy industry is one of the largest agriculture sectors in Nova Scotia; 360 dairy farmers produce approximately 170 million litres of milk per year, with a farmgate value of approximately $100 million.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to move second reading. (Applause)

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would, at this time, move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member moved adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 64.

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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. and the House will sit until 6:00 p.m. and it is the Liberal Opposition Day.

[Page 8339]

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, we will debate a resolution on health care and I know that we intend to debate another one on fuel oil. But the exact numbers of those resolutions, I was not prepared to indicate, because the House Leader and the Leader have that information.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: I can't remember the numbers, but I know that the Liberal House Leader did share those numbers with me and hopefully, with the Government House Leader. With the agreement of the House, I am certainly prepared to accept that the business be that which he told us privately. I know I have already passed the numbers on to our office.

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.

The House will now rise until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

Time has been set aside for the emergency debate. As agreed, we will go from 8:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. Each caucus will share a one-half hour debate, divided by the time they so wish amongst members, with a maximum of 15 minutes per member.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

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

GOV'T. (N.S.) - C.B. (IND.): DISASTER - ASSISTANCE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as suggested and the fact that we are still here in an emergency debate on the situation in Cape Breton and the flooding that has taken place there, the name itself would, indeed, state that we are in an emergency situation in a lot of areas in Cape Breton. Indeed, as I speak, Mr. Speaker, the rain is forecast to continue in Cape Breton, and the situation will undoubtedly become much worse. The situation that really, I don't know if it could get any worse as a matter of fact from what we have seen and the damage, the severe damage that has been done in many areas of Cape Breton.

[Page 8340]

[8:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the people of the industrial area cannot afford to take such a hit without assistance from the government. We need help, and we are asking this government for help. We are asking for that help now. Immediately. No one asked for this much rain. That is for certain. Most of the areas in Cape Breton that we are talking about that have been flooded have not been built on flood plains. The scope of this disaster has touched every neighbourhood in every town of industrial Cape Breton. For instance, in Louisbourg, close to 300 millimetres of rain fell during the week. That is about 80 millimetres more than what fell in Sydney where, in Sydney alone, there was a good deal of damage. The rain, as I stated, keeps coming. There has been absolutely no chance to dry out.

What we are dealing with here is a disaster assistance policy. While the policy is certainly well intentioned, it does not appear to be adequate to meet the needs of the citizens of this province, and in particular now, the needs of the citizens of Cape Breton. Mr. Speaker, it is time that this government set up a fund to deal with situations such as Glace Bay, and if we start investing now, there will be money available for when the next disaster comes along. And it will come. In fact, Mr. Speaker, don't take my word for it.

The government is ill prepared to deal with a disaster on the scale of Glace Bay or, heaven forbid, even worse. Certainly, Mr. Speaker, Emergency Measures Organization and officials were on the scene quickly. No one is criticizing the volunteers that have been helping out in this effort. But dealing with the aftermath has been less than sufficient. In fact, the Insurance Bureau of Canada pointed out that after the floods in the spring of this year in Cumberland County, they pointed out the insufficiency. The Insurance Bureau of Canada does not think that this Tory Government is doing enough to help people deal with natural disasters. In April the province announced a new disaster financial assistance policy, and the Insurance Bureau of Canada said April's announcement was, timely. As experts predict, there will be more violent storms and resulting damage in the years ahead. In February of this year, the Insurance Bureau of Canada launched a plan to put a national strategy in place to protect communities from the growing trend of natural disasters. The bureau wants all levels of government to take a role in starting a fund to finance local projects which will help communities deal better with local hazards.

Mr. Speaker, the Tories have not publicly made any movement on this plan. What has happened is that Nova Scotians are literally being left to dangle in the wind. This Tory Government needs to take some concrete action that is needed to address the increase in natural disasters, and they have to be prepared for when natural disasters occur in this province, and the effect they are going to have on Nova Scotians. It is time that the government acted on the concerns of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, because they have suggested a plan. Yet the government has not acted.

[Page 8341]

Cape Breton is this government's opportunity to act, an opportunity for a pilot project for the people of industrial Cape Breton. The Insurance Bureau of Canada is once again suggesting a comprehensive natural disaster adjustment plan for the people of this province. In fact, it was brought up today on CBC Radio, again, that government and insurance companies shell out millions after cleanups after storms and then there are the homeowners such as those in Glace Bay and Sydney and area who discover that the damage is not covered under their policies. The Insurance Bureau of Canada is lobbying government to adopt a natural disaster reduction plan.

Mr. Speaker, in some ways the disastrous conditions in Cape Breton could be a blessing in disguise. Fortunately no one was killed. It could serve as a wake-up call for the government to take action to assist with future disasters. It hopefully will be a test of this government's ability to respond when people are most in need.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and members of his caucus like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, called assistance to the Truro area, when flooding happened there, woefully inadequate. What is woefully inadequate is the lack of response by the Premier himself. Natural disasters have not been common in Nova Scotia and government is constantly learning how to deal with storm damage. Now is the time to ensure that such disasters are handled better.

Mr. Speaker, the damage in Cape Breton is, to say the least, severe, not only to infrastructure throughout the municipality which, I would without even hesitating to estimate, is in the millions of dollars of damage, but the damage to people's homes and what will occur even after the water is taken out of those homes, there is a health hazard. There is a big problem that we have on our hands and now is the time that we should be acting and acting immediately to help the people of Cape Breton.

The insurance companies have responded in some cases, but again not adequately. Some policies are covering some of the damage, in most cases that I have learned of personally, they do not have insurance coverage or they do not have a clause in their insurance policy that would cover such things as sewer back-up. In some cases insurance companies were saying you had a sewer back-up clause, but this is not a sewer back-up, this is groundwater and we do not cover that. We don't cover groundwater if it comes up through your sewer pipes. If it flows through your windows, you might have coverage.

What we have are people who do not have the means, in any way, shape or form, to try to bring their homes back to the condition that they were in. Again, the financial emergency assistance policy that we are talking about, that this government is saying might kick in - they haven't said it will kick in because there is a level it has to reach yet, which I think we have reached rather quickly and the assessment is being done rather slowly, but should you qualify under that policy - you may or may not qualify, first of all because it says in the policy that it will help restore your home perhaps to a liveable condition. Now a

[Page 8342]

liveable condition may not cover the furnace that was under three feet of water, the washing machine or dryer that were floating, in some cases - I have seen this personally - in three or more feet of water. So the many damages that you have in your home may only be covered to the tune of pumping it out and drying it out and you are still left with a lot of money that has gone down the drain.

Mr. Speaker, the government can do something good here and that good can be done by providing assistance to the people of industrial Cape Breton; the kind of emergency assistance that is required now, the kind of emergency assistance that is required immediately. That is why we are here in this emergency debate and hopefully we are here to help the people of industrial Cape Breton overcome a severe natural disaster. Thank you very much.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to get up and join in this debate tonight, because it is of extreme importance to the people in my constituency who are suffering through this disaster. We can say that the relief is coming, but that is not good enough. In an earlier debate, I wanted to highlight some of the Premier's own words. The Premier, in various debates in this House, has said that he goes to Cape Breton more often than to most of this province. He likes to cite the fact that when he is not in this House or when he is not in his own constituency, there is a good chance he is in Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I would say a couple of things to that. One, he should be in Cape Breton a lot. It is the second-highest population density in this province, so he should be there. He probably doesn't want to go there because he has very few representatives in Cape Breton Island, but nonetheless he should go because he is the Premier for all the province. He says he goes but the other side, the other more telling side, about this Premier is his trips to Cape Breton become very short and scarce when he is really needed there. We have just gone through a debate on Sydney Steel and, while those workers were trying to bang out a deal over pensions, this Premier was nowhere to be found. He wouldn't cross the causeway if his life depended on it.

Then, to try to move this along, the Industrial Cape Breton Boards of Trade sent out an olive branch to this Premier, and he refused to accept it. Now, once again, Cape Bretoners are in need, and what does this Premier do? He refuses to go to Cape Breton. He sends the minister for a couple of hours, and that is supposed to serve as his emissary to Cape Breton, and that is it; my work is done here.

Mr. Speaker, it says much more about this government's lack of sympathy or empathy - whatever you want to call it - for the people of that island. There are many costs affected by this disaster, and many layers that will have to pay for it. If you want to start here and say that, first and foremost, insurance companies should honour their policies, that homeowners

[Page 8343]

should have had policies that would affect this, that is fine. I believe insurance companies should pay, but the real problem here is this disaster has arrived in Cape Breton in an area where its economy is well below the average anywhere in this province; it is on a downward spiral, it is not a one-time blip, it has been a steady downward spiral.

The government has to look at that. I believe that is the role of government, to get in there and help those in this province - or whatever level of government you have to be at - to help your constituents get over horrific things that they could have foreseen. I want to talk about the costs, because look at the infrastructure that the Cape Breton Municipality has to try to rectify.

[8:15 p.m.]

You know, one could assume - and it wouldn't be a far-fetched assumption - that some of the back-ups and so on that occurred through the sewer system were because of a lack of maintenance because they just don't have the money; they just don't have the money to go out and do preventative maintenance. They don't have the financial wherewithal to have crews out doing street cleaning maybe as often as they should, that would have eradicated some of the leaves and so on that have gone down sewer drains and blocked off what should have been a properly maintained sewage system, but because of a lack of financial wherewithal, this was not to be the case, Mr. Speaker. The municipality in itself was faced with this problem and does not have the money to move forward. The province should rectify that. The province should be able to go in.

For another debate, we can talk about forced amalgamation and how they went in cash-strapped, but that is a whole other debate, Mr. Speaker. Indeed it plays a role in putting that municipality in the financial situation it finds itself in today. But we go on and look at another example, and that is the damage to other infrastructures, ones that are probably not the domain, if you will, of CBRM but that of the province, the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Mr. Speaker, a lot of people like to tell us about - and they are good - disasters bring out the good in people. That is fine. It is neighbour helping neighbour. But you know what? Even in this province, where as much as we may disagree in this House; many Nova Scotians are sincerely good people, I think we believe that, but I will tell you, one of the things that sprung out of this disaster is many of my colleagues across the way may have seen last Friday, I believe it was Tomertary Drive in the Floral Heights Subdivision, the road was basically swept away minutes, if not seconds after a school bus had just traversed that.

Well, as we may well know, too - and I tell the Premier this because I think it would be interesting for him to know, I am sure he is aware - there was a young lady injured in an automobile accident there. You know what, Mr. Speaker, while she was in the hospital being diagnosed with her many injuries and being treated and her husband at her side, and her four children out being looked after, her house was burglarized. Now you talk about being visited

[Page 8344]

by disasters. Now I am not saying this to the government to say that it is your fault. I am not saying that. I am just trying to tell this to this government in this way to see, that is the need out there, Mr. Speaker. I started out last week when people were asking me about this very situation. What really amazed me was when Toronto was hit by a snowstorm, the most affluent city in this nation was hit by a snowstorm, and we sent the military in. We had volunteers from Nova Scotia. We had volunteers from Prince Edward Island, volunteers from all over Canada go in when the most affluent city in this country was hit by a snowstorm.

Well, you know, why isn't it done in reverse? We have one of the poorest regions in this country, people of sturdy, hardy stock, Mr. Speaker, who are being beaten down, they have been beaten down for the last number of years economically. You know, it is not an easy life for most people living in industrial Cape Breton. We have just seen the basic closure of the coal industry. We have seen the sale of Sydney Steel which I don't believe is a good deal and that whole negative impact of no jobs. Yet, to have this foisted upon them. This disaster of humongous proportion when you take that economic hit into effect.

Mr. Speaker, we are used to sitting and watching news reports of typhoons in southeast Asia and so on, and the devastation in India and other Asian and African countries. We see that and we see the huge loss of life and that is just horrendous; it is hard when you talk about lives lost in the thousands. It is hard to comprehend that. In no way am I trying to put them side by side, but what I am trying to do here is to say how affluent we are. Look at this; look at the plain we are playing with here. This whole idea is that we should be sharing this wealth, but we are not because these people are not being looked after the way they should.

Mr. Speaker, am I saying to this government, write out a blank cheque? I am sure what is going through the government's mind is saying, look, if we do this this week, then what are we going to do - I would suspect that it is probably more likely that we will be revisited by floods in the Truro area again before Cape Breton. I think that is probably a fairly good assumption, just because of the geography.

Mr. Speaker, what I am asking here in this debate and why money should move forward quickly, and maybe we should look at things like the $1,000 deductible and so on and look at those with and without coverage, because I think we have to look at the ability of these people to pay. We have to look at the idea that these people didn't, per se, build on a flood plain. This was a group of people, as people in the construction industry have said to me, they have built to the norm industry standards. You put the amount of weeping tiles down that you are supposed to and you gravel it properly and you put your sumps in and so on, and this is, for the most part, what happened here.

There are lots of people who maybe have done that, but what happened is they didn't have homeowner insurance. The question then is asked, why wouldn't you carry such a basic thing as homeowner insurance? Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it is a very easy one to answer. They just see that as a luxury. It is the Russian roulette of economics, if you will. They

[Page 8345]

loaded that chamber and spun it and didn't think it would go off, but it did and in a way that is causing these groups, these homeowners, these people. all kinds of financial, and I would say, maybe financial risks and health risks. While I had some damage happen at my house, I was lucky that when I got the workers to come in, that they also had sprayed disinfectant so some of that mould and that that formed, wouldn't cause my family any injury, but there are lots of people who do not have that coverage.

In this emergency debate tonight, Mr. Speaker, I am asking this government to, while they are - and I will acknowledge this - the first government of this province to have a financial assistance policy for disasters, look at it and say that this is not etched in stone. There are two things we have to do; we have to effect some real work on the ground immediately and we have to assess the $1,000 deductible; and we have to look at the economics of the area and say that we realize that you can't do this and some of this has to be done on an as-needed basis. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester North.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, tonight I will be talking about the Cape Breton flood and I also wanted to talk about our geographical location in the Maritimes. As you know, in the past several years we have experienced torrential downpours and flooding which are not part of the norm. One example of this is Elephant Rock in Prince Edward Island which was there for years and all of a sudden it is gone. We have had flooding in New Brunswick. We have had flooding in the Eastern Shore. We have flooding in Truro. Part of this is due to our geographic location. We have had towns built that are on sea level or very few feet above sea level.

I just want to give you an example in the Truro area, where the Salmon River comes down to the Cobequid Bay, it is traditional in the springtime with the right conditions that there are icepacks and they back up causing flooding over the dykes. This is part of the norm for the Truro area and it occurs every 20 years or so, but what happened in Cape Breton is what I would call a flash flood. Now, a bit of background in Cape Breton, they had for the past 10 days or so approximately several hundred millimetres of rain. This is not the norm for this time of year, especially for Cape Breton. This rain has caused damage especially to a culvert and bridge that washed out.

One wash-out is at Howie Centre. It stranded as many as 200 families. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has responded and looked after the immediate needs of the persons who were flooded out by building a small footbridge across the creek. It is becoming clear that damage to essential public infrastructure is significant. As of mid-afternoon on Friday, November 3rd, the Department of Transportation and Public Works says it has incurred about $500,000 worth of damage to the public road network. The threshold at which the province's financial assistance policy comes into place is $1.00 per capita of eligible

[Page 8346]

costs or about $949,000. I should point out that the Bailey bridge should be installed by today, if not yesterday.

The Emergency Measures Organization's own controller is working closely with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality's Emergency Measures coordinator to ensure the situation continues to be responded to in a timely and efficient manner. EMO is also in an ongoing consultation with Transportation and Public Works and the Environment Departments. The Department of the Environment and the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are both expressing concern about water supply issues. Surface water contamination of various water supplies is a significant risk and almost certain in some cases.

Emergency Preparedness Canada has been advised that the financial assistance threshold may be exceeded. It is apparent at this early stage that much of the damage to individual homes and businesses will be from sewer backup. Sewer backup is an insurable loss and thus is not eligible under the financial assistance policy. The Mayor-elect, John Morgan, is quoted in the media as saying he has contacted the federal officials to inquire about assistance. We have not been able to confirm what exactly the Emergency Preparedness Canada is prepared to do at this time.

This is a flash flood and it is a concern. The floods have subsided now and I think that the threshold, that if it exceeds, which it appears that it will, there will be financial relief coming. However, you cannot just pump money into an emergency like this. There has to be assessments of damage and this takes time. However, the cosmetics can be done, like fixing the bridges, repairing the roads and so on, and this is being done as I speak. I believe we, as Nova Scotians, have a commitment and a duty when a disaster strikes to band together. I don't think we should be critical. I am glad this government brought in the Emergency Measures Act. I watched on television as the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act, James Muir, toured Cape Breton and went to the house where the concrete was pushed up by the water. This was not a sewer backup. I believe we are in a position, hopefully, to give assistance to the people of Cape Breton when the threshold is met. Thank you very much.

[8:30 p.m.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the opportunity to enter into this emergency debate on the flooding, not only in industrial Cape Breton, but I am sure in a number of communities across Nova Scotia. The honourable member for Colchester North is absolutely correct about the minister touring a number of sites in Cape Breton. That is a very positive initiative. It is a very noble gesture but it doesn't answer the question at hand, what is the government going to do? Yes the government has stated that it has developed a policy, guidelines, terms of reference, whatever the terminology you would like

[Page 8347]

to use, to be able to design a program so as to be able to determine whether an individual homeowner or landowner is eligible for flood relief.

Now, that having been said, one has to ask themselves, what is the threshold, and is that threshold acceptable? Now, if you were to apply that based on the premise of the discussion that was initiated by the new mayor-elect for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, you would find that for the most part, nobody in Cape Breton would qualify for financial assistance, at least the overwhelming majority. So that having been said, it sounds good that the minister has come to review the situation, and maybe to a lesser extent, or maybe a more subtle gesture to co-opt the mayor into being part of this process because the province can go back and say oh, this backup from the storm sewers, this flooding, this drainage problem is a municipal responsibility as much as it is a provincial, so we expect you to put up, too. Hence comes the buck-passing. That is what happened in past situations, whether it be the federal government, the provincial government, irrespective of what the political stripe. It sounds like a noble gesture, but the fact of the matter is the question remains to be, when will action be taken?

When will the government put the bucks on the table? We know what the terms of reference are, but when are they going to do something. It is ironic. In The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, The Mail Star, February 4, 1998, one week after the flood victims, the residents of the Colchester area were affected, the then leader of the Third Party who is now Premier, said, referring to Premier Russell McLellan, the Premier has had his photo op a week ago today, referring to Mr. McLellan's visit to the flood ravaged Truro and Shubenacadie, he has had a week to determine what he is going to do to help the people. (Interruption) Well, well, well, well. He has finally decided to enter into the debate. Now, he wants us to accept the fact that words are going to be enough. We don't want more talk and paper shuffle, a terms of reference which may or may not be good for Cape Breton or good for just Truro or good for Colchester County or Cumberland County. We saw how long it took for the residents in Springhill and area to be compensated under this new policy, or without this new policy but under this administration, over a year.

The Premier can sit here and say, but we now have a policy. Well, isn't that champion, cavalier. That doesn't solve the problem for the residents down in Sydney; it doesn't solve the problem for the residents in Glace Bay; it doesn't solve the problems for those who need financial assistance now. They cannot wait for bureaucratic red tape. One of the things that is itemized in the terms of reference that would allow somebody to qualify for financial support is to exclude anyone with wharfage or anything to do with the coastal area, particularly for the fishermen and for all those small shops and businesses and homes on the waterfront, such as in Louisbourg. What happened last year? Close to $300,000 damage, and how many received compensation? Not one, with or without the policy. That is what really counts. Money is what talks in serious situations such as this.

[Page 8348]

Mr. Speaker, while it was very noble and very honorable for the then-Leader of the Third Party to take a position, to champion the cause for the residents in Truro, and I support him on that, I supported him then and I support him now. I am sure the residents in Truro aren't interested in escape clauses through a bureaucratic red tape; I am sure they are not interested in explanations as to why things aren't being done. It is like a hungry child. You can't explain to a hungry child why they are not going to have a meal. All they know is, at the end of the day, if they don't eat, they are hungry and they need nutrition.

It is the same with the flood-ravaged victims. They don't need explanations while their personal assets continue to deteriorate; they don't need explanations as to why the government has to reallocate dollars from one budgetary process to the next; they don't need explanations as to why the provincial government should be negotiating with the federal government as to whose responsibility it is - up the ladder or down the ladder to the municipal level, because that I can see, ultimately, is what will happen in industrial Cape Breton. I can see that happening in the CBRM because of the situations.

Some of these businesses in Glace Bay are really built on reclaimed marshlands. You have to go back and say, well, should they have been allowed to build there? Was proper drainage in place? Then you start, well, maybe it is the engineer's fault, or maybe the municipality didn't ensure the proper drainage system there, maybe a whole lot of different things. The bottom line is there is no help forthcoming. I wouldn't want to see the same thing happen to the residents of industrial Cape Breton or the residents of Truro as what happened to the residents in Springhill, where 13 months, 14 months later, they are finally starting to get their first cheques. That doesn't do them a lot of good, in some cases. The wishing well isn't quite enough. I realize that the government can't be expected to do everything, and there is the matter of due diligence, there is the matter of, perhaps, insurance liability. Some of these things are covered under homeowners' policies and the commercial insurance, and so on.

Mr. Speaker, it was the government that took the initiative, because of the complaints and the pressure that was exerted on the Minister of Health, in the Truro area, to try and devise this policy so as to appease the political pressure that was put there. That was good then, but now that the policy is in place, the Premier and the Cabinet, particularly the Minister responsible for EMO has to stand up, come up to the base and say, here is what we are prepared to do. Because this figure of $950,000 plus or minus or whatever, I know that is far exceeded right now just from the newspaper clippings and the editing that has been done so far. I would suggest we are up into the millions. By the time the paper work and all the analyses has been done, why aren't the residents being allowed to file their notices of estimates with EMO now? Why isn't there a process in place? There should be.

These are the issues. Mr. Speaker, I realize my time has come to an end. I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this debate.

[Page 8349]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I feel fortunate to be able to speak at this emergency debate that the member for Cape Breton East brought to the House today and I think it is an emergency obviously and it is an important debate that we must discuss. Not just for Cape Breton, but for all Nova Scotians because what I think we are seeing in this disaster that has been inflicted on industrial Cape Breton, is the real test of how this province will deal with other natural disasters.

We can talk, and others have, about the history of how this province has dealt with natural disasters. We can talk a bit about what this government did earlier this year with their announcement with regard to a program for funding in certain circumstances and I will get to those in a minute, but I think it is important to recognize that what this really comes down to is what is a government, any government - Tory, Liberal, NDP, any government - what are they willing to do for people when they are in need?

There are many ways you can define need. It can be someone who is without a house, someone who is homeless, someone without food, but it is also someone with major damage to their property because of flooding or hurricane or fire.

At no fault of their own, they are in a situation where they need help. I think the one thing we must remember as politicians, as representatives of the people of this province is that a real test of any government is what you do for people when they are in such severe need that they are reaching out.

People are proud, people don't want to come cap in hand looking for help. But I think it is upon all of us to think about what would happen if we were in those circumstances. I can think about my own house and what I do think of first is knowing that the member for Cape Breton Centre personally suffered flooding from this particular flood in Cape Breton. I have been to his home and my first thought was, gee you don't live on a flood plain, you don't live in an area that I would think would normally be flooded.

So, my thought is of my own place, I thought, well I am not in a place that could ever be flooded, but now because of Cape Breton, I am wondering whether that is the case. Is there any place that is safe from flooding? But, if it is not flooding, it could be something else. It could be a forest fire, there are lots of woods around where I live. It could be a hurricane, my house is close to the coast. So, quite clearly, any of us in this House could be in a circumstance tomorrow where we are the people who are victims of a natural disaster, no fault of our own. No opportunity for us to save those cherished belongings, no opportunity for us to be able to think straight quite frankly. Given the amount of damage that things can cause because of it.

[Page 8350]

Let's just think about this. There was enough rain that roads were ripped up in Cape Breton. What force and what level of rain and water do you need to be able to tear roads apart? A lot. The damage it can do to individual homes and we have heard some of the instances is enormous. The question is as a government, as a people, what do we do to help people when they are in those circumstances? Do we stand behind regulations, do we stand behind bureaucracy and say, it must be $1.00 per capita in order for us to be able to ensure that money will be provided to people.

It is always easy to give answers. It is always easy to have the bureaucratic answer, but the question of a people and in this case of Nova Scotians is, what do we do for people when there is a natural disaster? As I started off by saying, Cape Breton is a shining example, potentially, for this government to do the right thing. Do not worry about the bureaucracy, do not worry about regulations, do not worry about per capita damage, but to say, these people are hurting, these people have had major damage, we need to help. Yes, it should have been for Truro, yes it should have been for Springhill, let's reflect and say that in this day and age maybe there are more natural disasters than there have been in the past and maybe it is our time now to say we will treat these things and treat these people with more seriousness and more dignity.

[8:45 p.m.]

I think there has always been in our province, and the member for Cape Breton Centre noted this briefly, I think there is a tendency for us to always think of natural disasters as somewhere else. We are a small province, yes we have the odd hurricane, but by the time they come up here things are usually not so severe, we never have the major damages that other places have. Floods always seem to happen in Bangladesh or India or Vietnam, major typhoons always happen in China, Taiwan or the Philippines. I think we have a tendency to forget that natural disasters can happen here. I think back about 12 years ago in Edmonton when they had that major tornado outside the city where I think several people passed away because of it - died. It was after that that Canadians started to realize that deadly disasters can happen here, but until it really happens close to home it is hard to reflect what it can mean.

This is our opportunity, it is the opportunity for this government, it is the opportunity for all Nova Scotians to say how are we going to react? What are we going to do? The ice storm in Quebec is another shining example. An example of something that was no fault of the people but caused major damage, both to the power lines, the hydro lines and to individual homes. These are natural disasters and by nature and by definition they are not the fault of the people who end up suffering. But what do we do to make sure that they are going to be given an opportunity to actually get back up on their feet and be able to move on?

The answer I heard, and - I will quote first of all from the Ministerial Statement which was tabled at the time it was made on April 13, 2000 by the Minister for EMO, James Muir. Mr. Speaker, he goes on with regard to this new program and think the threshold was $1.00

[Page 8351]

per capita. He says, "Government is not in the insurance business, nor will we be. It is still an individual responsibility to insure property." Now, in my practice of law I never really dealt much with insurance but I can remember back to my law school days and I can remember - I think we all know anecdotally what insurance companies are there for and they are not necessarily there to always pay out. I think we have to remember that and I will give you a couple of examples.

I have in my own riding, back in 1998, shortly after I got elected, there were some major storms that winter and there were a lot of sewage back-ups in the area - in Eastern Passage - and this was an ongoing problem. This was the third or fourth time about a dozen houses suffered sewage back-ups because of an overflow in the sewage system and in the storm drainage system. Most of the residents there told me that their insurance companies would no longer cover them. The first time they did, the second time they grumbled and fought it and finally they were able to get it. The third time the insurance company said no, we are not going to cover these anymore, you became too much of a risk.

Well, I think that is the point we have to reflect on here. People can buy insurance, people can say, I have insurance. Insurance is not always going to cover you. Let alone the fact that there are deductibles that can be upwards of $1,000, let's talk about the fact that insurance companies are good at finding ways to avoid having to pay out. I think it is important that we recognize that in some circumstances the government must be in insurance. Yes, an insurance of last resort. Yes, people must get insurance. Yes, people must have an opportunity to protect their own property, for a lot of reasons, for pride - they want to be able to look after themselves because they will cover things that are not going to be covered under the basics as was noted at that time, but after all that is done there are a lot of people in this province for a lot of reasons that may not have insurance. This province must be prepared to help those people.

I understand that there is some ability under the program that was announced in the spring and we can bicker about how much can be provided over what subjects or what objects or what details will be paid. What is important, Mr. Speaker, is that we do not do that bickering, that we recognize that in this province, we have a problem. We have people who are suffering because of no fault of their own, and it is important that we allow them to be able to move on, to be able to re-build their lives, and if they do not have insurance, if they cannot cover the deductibles, then the province must step in and quickly help them; not 12 months from now, not two years from now - now.

The government has the money. It has the ability to help them. Yes, claims must be dealt with in a way to ensure that people are getting what they deserve, but at the same time, Mr. Speaker, let's not drag our feet. Let's not hide behind regulations. Let's make sure we are able to help those who need help. There will be other natural disasters in the future in this province, and I may suggest - I hope this isn't the case - they may be worse than Cape Breton, but this is the one we are first testing these new rules in place by this government. I think it

[Page 8352]

is important for the government to reflect, after this is done, to say, how did we react? How did our rules check up with what happened, and how can we make them better? Because natural disasters is not a time to hide behind bureaucracy, it is not a time to try to avoid paying out what needs to be paid. We have insurance companies for that. We need a government that is willing and able to work to help people who need help. That is what the government must do, because there are Nova Scotians in need, and that is what a government is for, it is a collective. On behalf of all Nova Scotians, it is there to help those who need help the most.

Mr. Speaker, that is something that can take many forms, but let's not forget as well, as some of the members have already noted here tonight, that Cape Breton has been suffering through a long-term economic downspin. There are a lot of people unemployed, over 30 per cent by some counts. In some parts of industrial Cape Breton, as many as 50 per cent are not working who want to work. These aren't people who can necessarily afford insurance, and what do we do? Do we twiddle our thumbs? Do we say that there are regulations that must be followed? These are houses that could be very old. These are houses that could have been in the family for generations. There could be severe damage, more damage, quite frankly, than what happens with newer houses. But do we say, tough luck? Do we say there are regulations that must be followed, or do we take the time to say as a government, we care for all Nova Scotians, and if you cannot afford insurance, if you cannot afford a deductible, then we will help you. That is what a government must do.

That is one of the true tests of a government, not whether they balance the books, not whether they are able to promote economic development. Yes, those are important but just as important is, when times are tough, when people are in need, is the government there for them, or is the government there against them? That is the test that you, on the other side, must think about and must determine with regard to Cape Breton.

This is going to happen again. It is going to happen somewhere else in this province. It could be in your riding. It could be your home. If you don't ensure that the system is in place to protect all Nova Scotians that are in need - this isn't some distant spot. This is a part of Nova Scotia, and they need our help. Some of the people are particularly destitute, not only because of the floods but because of years of economic downturn.

This is when we must step in and take the extra time to help them. Let's not ignore them. Let's not shower them with paperwork. Let's not wait a year in order to pay out the money. Let's get in there and do this right, so the next time and the time after that and the time after that, we have set a precedent to say in Nova Scotia, we care for each other. We like to say that. We like to tell people a hundred thousand welcomes when they come here. But quite frankly, unless we are willing to help those who need help the most, unless we are willing to say to Cape Bretoners who have had flood damage that they need our help, and we will be there to help them, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, that hundred thousand welcomes doesn't mean anything. We have to be willing to help other Nova Scotians who are in need.

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It starts here. It starts today. It starts with the damage that has been caused in Cape Breton, and it starts with your government. I implore you to do the right thing. To do what you need to, to make sure the people in need are getting the help. Let's not worry about bureaucracy, we will worry about that later. Let's just get in there and help them. Then we can make sure that they are going to know that Nova Scotia and your government is going to care when they are in need. Thank you.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House at this time to participate in this very important debate. It is not one I can say that I take pleasure in debating because, as you know, in some parts of Cape Breton life has been far from normal these past few days. I would like to also apologize on behalf of the Honourable Jamie Muir, the Minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act, who unfortunately cannot be here tonight for this very important debate. Minister Muir, as you know, this evening is on government business and will be getting a full update from both provincial and municipal officials on the current status of the flooding situation in Cape Breton.

I would like to start off by recognizing the hardships some Cape Bretoners are now experiencing due to flooding caused by heavy rainfall over the past several days. The wording of the resolution we are now debating demonstrates a lack of understanding about how the emergency response process works within Nova Scotia. I would like to take a few minutes now to explain that process, which by the way has been proven time and time again to work very well. In fact, Mr. Speaker, it is working very well tonight in Cape Breton. Emergency preparedness is something which this government promotes on individual, municipal and provincial levels. You may recall, not long ago, that my colleague, Minister Muir, and his staff at the Emergency Measures Organization issued a news release advising Nova Scotians that hurricane season was approaching and suggesting ways in which people could prepare in advance to keep themselves safe, and minimize the impacts of adverse weather.

That is one example, Mr. Speaker, of this government promoting public safety in terms of emergency preparedness. The first level of response to an emergency is at the individual level. EMO also promotes emergency preparedness at the municipal level. As individuals, we should have an expectation that the communities in which we live are prepared to respond in an emergency situation. That is why we have legislation in this province mandating municipalities to have emergency plans in place. Once the emergency escalates beyond the capabilities of individual Nova Scotians, such as in Howie Centre, local emergency measures officials step in. Each and every one of the 55 municipalities in Nova Scotia has an emergency measures coordinator. That person is a key player in emergency response at that local level. EMO Nova Scotia works closely with those emergency measures coordinators in the areas of emergency preparedness, emergency management and emergency response.

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In terms of emergency preparedness, EMO delivers basic emergency preparedness courses to municipal officials as well as various emergency responders. Each year 100 people in this province are trained at that basic level. On the course, participants learn to assess the degree of risk within their area associated with various weather events and man-made emergencies. Then they learn how to write a plan to deal with such emergencies if they arise. They also participate in a table-top exercise for some hands-on experience in emergency management and decision making. They learn the key skills in pulling an emergency response team together so all the resources of the community are used to their best possible advantage in this situation.

Advanced training in the areas of evacuations and emergency preparedness in the special-care sector is also available. An information session has also been provided for mayors and elected officials in several municipalities. In addition, EMO convenes a meeting each spring of all emergency measures coordinators to discuss issues and develop solutions. In partnership with Emergency Preparedness Canada, EMO makes it possible for eligible Nova Scotians to participate in more specialized courses at the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College in Arnprior Ontario. Such courses include design, emergency site management and emergency operations centre management. Training is just one way in which the provincial EMO assists municipalities in preparing for emergencies. EMO zone controllers are in close contact with the emergency measures coordinators as they work within their municipalities to prepare and exercise their emergency plans. Just in September alone, the provincial agency lent a helping hand to two municipalities who ran emergency exercises to gauge their level of preparedness. With this training behind them, local emergency officials are well prepared to deal with most emergency-related events.

[9:00 p.m.]

When the emergency escalates beyond the resources available at the local level, the municipality calls upon EMO Nova Scotia. The provincial agency is the window to all provincial and federal government resources, and has the means to access any amount of supplies and human resources in an emergency situation. The provincial EMO is also the owner of a new government policy introduced last spring, that is the disaster financial assistance policy.

Until that time, Nova Scotia never had any sort of disaster assistance policy. There was never a yardstick against which to measure disasters to determine if assistance was warranted. We now have that measuring stick, and with the increase in weather-related disasters we are now experiencing, we will be putting it to good use. One disaster financial assistance program has already been run and it is in its final stages. Nova Scotians in Cumberland and Queens Counties have already received disaster financial assistance under this new policy.

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Mr. Speaker, as you are aware, a threshold of $1.00 per capita of eligible costs must be reached as a result of a specific disaster before a program is launched. In the Cape Breton situation, EMO officials are in the process of tabulating those eligible costs to determine if an assistance program is warranted. That threshold is approximately $940,000. We should know within the next few days the exact extent of the damages and the resulting eligible costs.

You may wonder why I make a distinction between damages and eligible costs. In terms of this policy, and in the terms of the related federal policy, damages refers to the cost of repairing or replacing structures or goods damaged in a disaster. This figure can be quite high. Eligible costs, on the other hand, are usually much lower. They are determined in strict accordance with the narrow guidelines laid out in the federal government's disaster financial assistance arrangements. In order to qualify for cost-sharing under these agreements, provinces must follow these guidelines.

Here is an example. Insurable losses do not count as eligible costs under the policy, regardless of whether the homeowner had insurance or not. In other words, it is up to the individual to protect their investments through insurance programs that are available. For some circumstances, such as overland flooding, insurance is not available. Therefore, those uninsurable losses may qualify as eligible costs.

Mr. Speaker, now that I have highlighted how the process works, let's revisit what has happened and what is happening in Cape Breton. When the emergency escalated beyond the means of the individuals affected, the municipality stepped in. Their main concern, as taught in basic emergency preparedness, is to get people out of harm's way and to look after them. CBRM responded admirably to this situation. They put their own resources to work and accessed resources from the provincial government.

For example, arrangements were made with the Department of Transportation and Public Works to get a Bailey bridge in place as soon as possible so traffic could flow freely in and out of the Floral Heights Subdivision. Since then, the Department of Transportation and Public Works' crews have been working steadily, around the clock in some locations, to repair damaged areas and washed-out roads. All supervisory staff are now on-call and are responding to calls from the public. Work is proceeding on a priority basis.

On the Department of Community Services' side, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality made a request for services on the afternoon of November 2nd. That same afternoon, a reception centre was established at the Howie Centre Fire Hall to look after the needs of those 200 families who are unable to get home because of the washed out culverts. In partnership with the Canadian Red Cross, Community Services ran that centre, providing food, blankets and lodging to those who required it. They also ran a registration and inquiry service so family members could find one another.

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The situation in Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, while it is tragic for those involved, is an excellent example of emergency management in progress. Because of the behind-the-scenes work done beforehand, through training and advice, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality was able to handle the current situation. They were quick off the mark to respond and called in additional resources, as soon as the need became apparent. As we speak, Minister Muir is talking to the very people who made this response go smoothly. I am sure he is congratulating them for a job well done.

Like CBRM, the staff of this government should also be proud of their response efforts. We cannot control the weather, Mr. Speaker, but by working together, we can certainly affect the outcomes. Thank you.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, because my time is limited, I am going to get right to the point and I want to follow up not with propaganda as did the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. He didn't indicate how much funding went down there. All the Red Cross volunteer efforts in the regional municipality. There was no support whatsoever provided by the provincial government.

I would suggest this issue should be of great interest to all Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. Unfortunately, it may not be too long from now and, hopefully, it will be a long time, but a disaster could hit metro Halifax overnight. This government should be prepared to deal with that. I don't want to suggest that the Premier would react quicker for Halifax than he would for any other part of Nova Scotia, but it is obvious that that would be the case.

Mr. Speaker, just to give a little on the issue, the point of the debate, of course, is to get the Premier to play more of a role and to create some interest on his behalf. As the Premier, it is obvious that he has the obligation on behalf of his government to take the lead in situations like this. We are talking about a community here that is facing unemployment rates that are hovering around the 18 per cent range. We all know those figures are not accurate, those of us who represent areas in Cape Breton, and I will go on record to say it is likely double the 18 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, in Cape Breton, many of the people will suffer just from illnesses, from mould and air quality problems, no help. Even the Premier must recognize the dire human and economic consequences facing this community in the past are even greater as a result of this disaster. These flood victims need help and they need help today. They don't need a bunch of words with no action.

Mr. Speaker, in Truro, in 1998, the Third Party Leader, at the time, said, in The Chronicle-Herald, that the flood victims need help now. They needed help immediately. Well, if he felt so strong about the people in Truro, which I believe he should, then he should

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feel equally strong about the people of Cape Breton. I am not going to suggest that the Premier doesn't care about Cape Breton because there is not one PC riding in the area, but it does leave one to wonder, which brings me around to the topic of the lone representative for Cape Breton. I have sat in this House and I have seen issues on Devco, Sysco, the unemployed, just direct hits on the poor. When we look at the food bank issue last fall, the elimination of the Winter Works Program for the people in disadvantaged areas in this province, particularly in Cape Breton, this minister said nothing, not one word, not one word did this minister representing Cape Breton Island say publicly and it is obvious that it was not discussed in Cabinet.

It is time the Premier and his band of merry men began to take governing this province seriously. They have had 15 months and their time is up. This caucus is going to begin to hold these people and these representatives responsible for the people of Nova Scotia.

When Mr. Hamm appointed the Tourism Minister to Cabinet, he told the people in Cape Breton not to worry about anything. That he would not penalize those people for voting anything other than PC and that he would provide the same attention and quality leadership to that area of the province as he would in any area in the province. That proves not to be true. That statement is far from the truth.

Back in 1998, Mr. Hamm, the current Premier was calling on our Premier, Russell MacLellan, to call an emergency Cabinet meeting. Well, where is that direction today? Where is it? We don't see any of it.

When Nova Scotians need government help, give the people some hope. This is what the Premier said. What about the hope for the people in industrial Cape Breton? What about that hope? The scope of this disaster has touched every neighbourhood in every town in the industrial area of Cape Breton and we have seen nothing. The Premier, who accused our Premier at the time for a photo op in the Truro area, did not hesitate to send his Minister responsible for EMO for the photo op, but he was afraid to go himself for the photo op, so he sent one of his ministers which I would suggest was inappropriate.

There is a policy in place put forth by this government and it is another issue that is very clear that this government is a do-nothing government. It puts out the theory that they are proposing to do something. The Insurance Bureau of Canada indicates very clearly that this policy is not adequate; that in fact, it smells and it is not proper for disaster relief for ordinary people in communities throughout this province - not in one area or the other, throughout the province - which I would suggest is and should be of interest to all Nova Scotians. This Tory Government needs to take some action to address the increase in natural disasters that we are seeing almost on a regular basis here in this province. Nova Scotians need to be prepared and they need a policy in place that provides action relief for people in these dire straits.

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The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury stood up and indicated that blankets were passed out. Blankets were passed out by the Red Cross. The call centre was put in place by volunteer firemen in the community of Howie Centre, not by this government. EMO, which I was very close to as a municipal representative in the CBRM, management and staff were on the bit in that unit. It was that management team that saw action move in right away. It was not the direction of this provincial government. In fact, Mr. Speaker, they did diddly on behalf of any individual in Cape Breton. This Premier and members of his caucus, like the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, called the assistance of the Truro area woefully inadequate. Well, the activities to date with this present provincial government is totally inadequate. It did less. While they stood over there and criticized the Liberal Administration, they have done less in a similar situation for the people in this province.

[9:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this morning I stood up here and I served notice that representatives for Cape Breton are not going to take any more of this guff, and we are not. We want responsible government for that part of the province. This Premier and this Tourism Minister, who is supposed to represent the Island of Cape Breton in Cabinet, will be held accountable. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand tonight to speak on this very important subject.

Due to the severe weather conditions over the past week, roads, and in one case a culvert, have been washed out. It has been a very difficult time for the people in Cape Breton and our hearts go out to them. This is a situation which all of us wish was not happening, but which we are all powerless to prevent; Mother Nature will take her course.

On the bright side, community spirit and pulling together under adversity has never been more evident. Although it goes on all the time in this province, the ability and willingness of Nova Scotians to reach out and help those in need always shines in situations such as these. For example, of the 200 families displaced from their homes in the Floral Heights Subdivision, only a few were not offered accommodation elsewhere and availed themselves of the sleeping arrangements provided by the Department of Community Services and the Canadian Red Cross.

The response at the municipal level unfolded smoothly as emergency measures officials put a detailed emergency plan into action. As mandated in the provincial legislation, local governments are responsible for handling emergencies in their jurisdiction. It is also clear in the legislation that the municipality need only ask and the necessary provincial and

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government resources will be made available as soon as possible. In this case, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality asked and the provincial government responded. Early in the process, the eastern zone controller for the provincial Emergency Measures Organization made contact with the local emergency measures coordinator to offer assistance.

Other government Departments, most notably Transportation and Public Works and Community Services, have also responded to a municipality in need. On Sunday, my colleague the Honourable James Muir made a trip to Cape Breton to see for himself the extent of the damage; in fact he is back in Cape Breton tonight, and I apologize on his behalf for him missing this very important debate.

One of the most commonly asked questions is if the province is going to provide assistance. That is certainly a fair question, and we hope to have an answer in a few days. The provision of assistance hinges on the extent of eligible costs incurred as a result of this disaster. The disaster financial assistance policy, which this government introduced last spring, spells out the circumstances in which an assistance program will be put in place.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to provide a refresher on that policy, so we are all clear on how it works. I would also like to point out this policy, a yardstick by which we can measure the impact of a disaster, is the first-ever disaster assistance policy in this province. Any assistance program in the past had been very ad hoc in nature, and very slow to get up and running. The policy defines the government aid to be provided to Nova Scotians when a disaster inflicts very severe but uninsurable damage on the province. The policy provides for assistance to individual Nova Scotians, to help them restore their primary residence to a basic level of habitability; it also provides for assistance to small businessmen, to help them get back on their feet; and it provides for assistance to municipalities, to help them restore essential public services to a pre-disaster condition.

I referred earlier to the policy as a measuring stick; here is where the measuring comes in. Anytime a severe weather event or other disaster results in at least $1.00 per capita of eligible costs, right now a total of about $939,000, a disaster financial assistance program will be triggered. Eligible costs are defined under the federal government's disaster financial assistance arrangements of the DFAA, a federal-provincial cost-sharing arrangement for disaster assistance. For example, if a home basement is damaged due to overland flooding and the province's total eligible costs exceed the $939,000 threshold, disaster financial assistance could cover part of the cost of removing the damaged goods, drying out the basement, applying anti-fungal treatments and essential furnace repairs. Assistance would not be provided to replace non-essential items such as a pool table or something other.

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing I would like to make clear, however, government is not in the insurance business nor will we be. It is still an individual responsibility to insure property. Under this policy, assistance is provided to offset the costs of repairing or replacing uninsurable losses only. In Nova Scotia a good example of uninsurable loss would be that

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caused by overland flooding. Since even the best insurance policy does not cover this type of flooding, we would provide assistance if the total eligible costs exceed the $1.00 per capita threshold. On the other hand, flooding related to sewer backup is insurable so people who do not have insurance or people whose policies do not cover sewer backup flooding will not be eligible to receive assistance under this policy. For individuals and small businesses assistance is provided to cover eligible costs to a maximum of $50,000. A $1,000 deductible applies.

After each disaster we will assess if assistance is warranted. In accordance with this policy, subsequent applications will be judged on a case by case basis. We are currently at the assessment stage in relation to the situation in Cape Breton. We are tallying up those eligible costs to determine if the threshold of $939,000 will be reached. If the threshold is reached, the policy allows for this government to launch a program to help cover those eligible costs. We hope to know the results within a few days.

I started off by saying that this policy does two things. It provides for aid to Nova Scotians when a natural disaster inflicts uninsurable damage to the province and it defines the level at which government becomes involved in the disaster recovery. I have just discussed the former in detail. Now I would like to focus on the latter. Since we have taken office, this government has devoted considerable effort to assessing what business we should be in and what business we should not be in. Insurance is definitely a business we should not be in. Nova Scotians have always been able to rely on their neighbours and communities to help them out in tough times. In fact, as I mentioned earlier, the people of this province are known far and wide for their generosity and their response to human need. These characteristics are part of who we are and I hope nothing ever changes that.

The concept behind this policy is that government will step in once the degree of assistance required is too large for the people of a community to respond on their own. We have based our criteria on when the federal government comes to share the cost of disaster financial assistance. In other words, we are taking a balanced approach to this issue. We are balancing the responsibility of the provincial government with that of municipalities, business owners and individual Nova Scotians. We believe this approach is not only balanced, but also fair. Most provinces use a similar approach to providing disaster financial assistance. The deductibles and maximum payable are consistent with similar jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, there has never been an official disaster financial assistance policy in place in this province. Each time a disaster occurred, the government of the day was put on the spot about how it would respond. We believe that an ad hoc response is not appropriate for disaster financial assistance. Nova Scotians deserve better. We now have a yardstick in place against which to measure disasters to determine if financial assistance is warranted. Already as a result of this policy, Nova Scotians in Cumberland and Queens Counties have benefited from disaster financial assistance. That program which was launched last spring was the first such program under the new policy and it ran quite smoothly. Officials at the

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Emergency Measures Organization will use the same yardstick to determine if an assistance program is warranted in the Cape Breton situation. In short, Mr. Speaker, the policy allows government to be more responsive to requests for assistance following a storm, flood or other disaster.

I would like to take just a minute to talk about the issues that occurred in Queens County with a large flood that we had there. It was a considerable amount of rain that came down in a short period of time and the culverts and everything that we had and we expected that would take care of any run-off in water certainly were not adequate for that size storm. Similar is the case in Cape Breton. These things are designed for one in fifty-year or one in hundred-year flows or floods, and unfortunately our weather seems to be able to give us those more often than once every fifty years.

In a number of cases we had culverts and roads that were washed out, we had basements that were filled in and a couple of individuals who I went to visit, unfortunately showed me the level of water that was in their kitchen. One gentleman who I know relatively well, showed me the high-water mark in his kitchen after the ditch overflowed and brought the river right in through his kitchen. His wife opened the door to let the water go through because she was concerned that the door was going to bust. We had a considerable amount of flooding, we have had septic systems that have been exposed and washed out, and in those cases this system worked for the individuals who were involved. We have been looking at other ways of taking care of situations, and we are still working at some additional work with Transportation to see if we can expand the size of culverts in the area, to see if we can change some of the waterways.

One of the problems we have run into since we started looking into this is that individuals tend to do some of their own backyard filling. In some cases where natural waterways may have been able to accommodate some of the water, or the majority of the water that was flowing into basements, people have filled in their backyards using whatever materials they may have. In one situation we are dealing with now, they used different pieces of pipe of different sizes. We have six inch pipe running into twelve inch pipe running back into six inch pipe, as well as some rocked-up culverts and just places where the water can't simply flow. If the water could get to the flow-off area we wouldn't have any difficulties.

These are very difficult to correct and fix for a number of reasons. One is that they are in the backyards of properties where heavy equipment would have to go in and would most likely disturb the septic systems currently there. As well, there is no guarantee this would actually solve the problem. However, the engineers with the Department of Transportation suspect that if the natural waterways had not been altered the water would have been able to flow off and not fill up basements. With this past week I can say I have been very concerned and we have been fortunate there have only been a couple of calls to the Department of Transportation with flooding in our area. We have been very lucky that the rains have been

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spread out to the extent that the natural waterways and ditches could take care of the amount of rainfall that was coming down.

Unfortunately, in Cape Breton, there was such a massive amount of water that came in such a short time-span that I don't believe any of the natural waterways could take care of that amount of water or that amount of run-off. Unfortunately, there is a lot of damage, we certainly are aware and assessing the damage in Cape Breton and our hearts go out to the people down there who have had their lives disrupted by this act from Mother Nature. We certainly will do everything we possibly can to help them out in the situation by using the program and processes that are in place.

In closing, I would like to say thank you for this opportunity to explain the province's first ever financial assistance policy and I would like to move adjournment of debate.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Before we adjourn, I would like to advise the House that the resolutions we will be calling for discussion tomorrow are Resolution Nos. 3082 and 3102. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would thank the members for participating in the debate. The hour of debate has ended.

The House now stands adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:30 p.m.]