The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Tue., Nov. 14, 2000

First Session

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Health - Colchester Reg. Hosp.: Cuts - Oppose, Mr. D. Dexter 8666
Educ. - Eastern Passage: High School - Need, Mr. K. Deveaux 8666
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Educ.: Adults - Nova Scotia High School Diploma, Hon. J. Purves 8666
Nat. Res. - Forests Act: Amendments - Implement, Hon. E. Fage 8669
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3254, Gaudet, Bernadette - Caregiver of the Year: Award -
Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 8672
Vote - Affirmative 8673
Res. 3255, Tar Ponds - Neglect: Liberals - Explain, Mr. John MacDonell 8673
Res. 3256, Acadia Univ. - Post-Secondary Educ.: Position - Recognize,
Mr. D. Morse 8674
Vote - Affirmative 8674
Res. 3257, Christmas Seals - Campaign: Participation - Encourage,
Dr. J. Smith 8674
Vote - Affirmative 8675
Res. 3258, Henneberry, Tim: Humanitarian Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 8675
Vote - Affirmative 8676
Res. 3259, Soldiers Mem. Hosp. (Middleton) - Ladies Auxiliary:
Efforts - Acknowledge, Mr. F. Chipman 8676
Vote - Affirmative 8677
Res. 3260, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Ingonish Ferry Protection:
DPW & DFO - Min. Contact, Mr. K. MacAskill 8677
Res. 3261, Law Amendments Comm.: Cape Breton - Visit,
Mr. F. Corbett 8677
Res. 3262, Sport - Dal. Tigers: Women's Soccer - Achievements
Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 8678
Vote - Affirmative 8679
Res. 3263, Law Amendments Comm. - Appearances: Suppression -
Premier Explain, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8679
Res. 3264, Naugle, Frances and Gerald: Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 8680
Vote - Affirmative 8680
Res. 3265, Gov't. (N.S.) - Democratic Rights: Disallowance -
Condemn, Mr. M. Samson 8680
Res. 3266, Health - Cochlear Implants Access: IWK Grace -
Min. Apologize, Mr. D. Dexter 8681
Res. 3267, C.B. Reg. Library - Adopt-A-Book Campaign: Participation -
Encourage, Mr. B. Boudreau 8682
Vote - Affirmative 8682
Res. 3268, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Prospect Rd.: Improvements -
Residents Inform, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8682
Res. 3269, EMO - CBRM Flood: Moral Support - Premier Provide,
Mr. D. Wilson 8683
Res. 3270, Commun. Serv. - Welfare Reform: Premier - Stance,
Mr. H. Epstein 8684
Res. 3271, Law Amendments Comm. - Actions: Critics -
Silence Attempt, Mr. Manning MacDonald 8684
Res. 3272, Town Hall - Boudreau, Bernard: Son - Appearance,
Mr. F. Corbett 8685
Res. 3273, P&P - Red Tape Task Force: Tory Agenda - Deflection,
Mr. D Downe 8686
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 1031, Health - Dartmouth Gen. Hosp.: Cuts - Patient Safety,
Dr. J. Smith 8687
No. 1032, Educ. - Child Poverty: Hunger - Food Prog.,
Mr. John MacDonell 8688
No. 1033, Justice - Sunday Shopping: Municipalities - Downloading,
Mr. W. Gaudet 8689
No. 1034, Educ. - Special Needs Students: Bus Monitors - Adequacy,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8690
No. 1035, Environ. - CBRM: Water Supply - Treatment Assistance,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8691
No. 1036, Environ. - Mark-Lyn Const. (Coldbrook): Contamination -
Action, Mr. John MacDonell 8692
No. 1037, P&P: Red Tape Reduction Task Force - Funding,
Mr. D. Wilson 8693
No. 1038, Sysco - Environ. Act: Sydney - Hearings Hold, Mr. F. Corbett 8695
No. 1039, P&P - Red Tape Reduction Task Force: Committee -
Make-up, Mr. D. Downe 8696
No. 1040, Health - Highland View Reg. Hosp.: Patients (Intensive Care) -
Treatment, Mr. D. Dexter 8697
No. 1041, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 102 (Bayers Lake Pk.):
Traffic Volume - Address, Mr. B. Boudreau 8699
No. 1042, Health - Physician Shortage: Hants North Residents -
Apologies, Mr. John MacDonell 8700
No. 1043, NSRL: Sale - Value, Mr. Manning MacDonald 8701
No. 1044, Nat. Res. - Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea: Subdivision -
Proposal, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8702
No. 1045, Tourism - Highland Village (Iona): Jobs - Creation,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8703
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 75, Law Reform (2000) Act 8705
Hon. M. Baker 8705
Mr. M. Samson 8706
Mr. H. Epstein 8708
Hon. M. Baker 8715
Vote - Affirmative 8717
No. 78, Nova Scotia Business Incorporated Act 8717
Hon. G. Balser 8717
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8720
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8731
Mr. R. MacKinnon 8740
Hon. G. Balser 8748
Vote - Affirmative 8750
No. 80, Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act 8751
Hon. M. Baker 8751
Mr. M. Samson 8755
Mr. H. Epstein 8762
Hon. R. Russell 8767
Adjourned debate 8768
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Environ. - Drinking Water: Cleanliness - Prioritize:
Mr. B. Boudreau 8768
Mr. John MacDonell 8770
Mr. B. Barnet 8773
HOUSE RECESSED AT 6:28 P.M. 8776
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:33 P.M. 8776
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 70, Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act
[debate resumed] 8777
Hon. M. Baker 8777
Vote - Affirmative 8778
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 6:38 P.M. 8778
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:56 P.M. 8778
CWH REPORTS 8778
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Nov. 15th at 2:00 p.m. 8779
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3274, Taylor, Ms. Bev. - S. Cumberland Commun. Care Ctr.
(Parrsboro): Initiative - Congrats., The Speaker 8780

[Page 8665]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that the government make clean drinking water a priority for all Nova Scotians.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

8665

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MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Truro and surrounding area. The operative clause reads, "We the undersigned are opposed to the planned cuts to the pediatric nursing staff at Colchester Regional Hospital scheduled to begin on November 2, 2000. We believe that a 50% reduction in nursing staff will put our children at risk of being treated in an unsafe health care environment. We demand that the administration of the Colchester Regional Hospital find alternative funding solutions." There are 1,003 signatures on this petition. I will affix my own and it brings the total to 3,004 signatures on petitions on this matter so far.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Eastern Passage. The operative clause reads, "According to the 'Evaluation of High Schools' report produced by the Department of Education in May, 2000, Cole Harbour District (High School) is the only school whose projected enrollment exceeds the 'theoretical building maximum'. Given the fact that over 50% of that school's population comes from Eastern Passage and the inability, for logistical reasons, to transfer these students to another school with less capacity pressures, it is our opinion that the only alternative is to build a high school in our community." I have affixed my signature and I ask that it be tabled.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to tell this House about an important initiative in adult education. All members of this House surely agree that learning is the foundation for Nova Scotia's social and economic prosperity. We must find every opportunity to foster a culture that supports learning both in the home and in our communities. I am here to tell my fellow members that we are moving forward with a plan to do that by providing more support to adults who need to complete a high school education.

Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons why some adults do not manage to achieve a high school education in their youth. The fact is there are a great many more reasons why we must provide a second chance for those people to get the education they missed. We have an

[Page 8667]

obligation to make sure Nova Scotians get the programs they need to improve their skills, broaden their opportunities in the job market and increase their quality of life.

A lack of education is closely linked with poor job prospects and low income. It is clear that people need support to help them overcome the barriers to getting the education they need. Mr. Speaker, we intend to start providing that support.

The Department of Education will create a new Nova Scotia High School Diploma for Adults that will serve as a foundation for all high school level upgrading programs. Graduates will meet similar high school graduation outcomes as those in the Nova Scotia High School Diploma. The system will be a flexible system. It will give people credit for prior learning and it will be offered in both English and French. The Department of Education will also create the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning to coordinate the delivery of programs that lead to the adult high school diploma.

The idea is to give students improved access to programs and one place to track their progress, but most important, to make sure it is at an affordable cost. I am pleased to inform this House that students enrolled in the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning will pay no tuition fees. (Applause) The Government of Nova Scotia will invest at least $3.5 million in this initiative at full implementation. At that time we will be able to serve at least 1,400 adult learners.

In the first year alone, starting in September 2001, we will invest $1.5 million, which will cover tuition and program costs for 800 Nova Scotians. Adults should be able to access courses at more than 50 sites across the province. And Mr. Speaker, we will make every effort to expand the investment in future years to serve more adults. We are encouraged by the possibility of contributions from other partners, including the federal government.

The Department of Education will be responsible for coordinating both the diploma and the School for Adult Learning and we will build on the good quality courses already in place. Programs will be offered primarily through the Nova Scotia Community College, College de l'Acadie, and school boards. In addition, we will continue to support agencies under the Community Learning Initiative in the delivery of basic literacy programs to adults beginning the learning process. This system delivers high-quality programs, whose graduates will be sought after by educational systems and employers alike. I look forward to working with many others over the coming months to develop a good quality diploma and adult learning system for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and respond to the minister's statement. First, I want to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of her statement. Also, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the government and to

[Page 8668]

congratulate the Minister of Education for this announcement. Any time government introduces an initiative to help individuals upgrade their literacy skills it improves their opportunities for employment. Research shows that in the near future knowledge jobs versus primary jobs will increase, and it is our responsibility to prepare our citizens for these knowledge jobs. This adult upgrading program is one way to prepare Nova Scotians for these jobs. Also, I am pleased that this literacy program is being offered in both French and English.

While I applaud this minister's announcement, I have to ask the minister, why is the program beginning in September 2001 and will only accommodate 800 Nova Scotians? I hope the minister will revisit this commitment before September 2001 and allow more Nova Scotians to benefit from this program. In closing, I commend the minister for this initiative, but at the same time I want to remind her that she has cut $53.3 million from the public education system, and unless she puts more money back in the public education system, she will need to put more money in adult high school programs in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for her announcement today, and I want to say that I had an opportunity to attend the press conference this morning when she initially made this announcement. One of the officials from the Department of Education, in the question and answer period, indicated that this is a capacity building process that is underway now. I think this is a very good thing, because we have to keep very firmly in mind that there is very little capacity in the system right now for adult learning and the support of adult learners. While $1.5 million will not solve the problems, the very serious problems for adult learners in the province, it certainly is a start. I think the minister and the government are to be congratulated for starting this process.

However, I think it is important to say that the devil will be in the details of how this process unfolds. The minister has said that the government is moving forward with a plan. Well, with all due respect, there isn't a very well-developed plan here, what we have is an idea. We have an idea and a plan remains to be developed. In the context of the cuts that have already occurred under this government and through this minister, I am hoping that the children who are in the system today as children will not be the adults of tomorrow who will require this kind of initiative. Unfortunately, that may be the case. Because of the cuts, we know that reading recovery has been cut in many schools; we know that student support services have been cut in many schools; we know that class sizes have increased; we know that an adult high school has closed in the Annapolis Valley; we know that an entire continuing education department in a school board has been wound down.

Certainly we need a plan; we need to see a plan from this government. We need to know, for example, the entry level for this new initiative that has been announced. Will it apply to people who have left school with a Grade 6 or a Grade 7 education or will it be

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targeted at people with a Grade 11 or a Grade 12 education? Where are the supports for families, for women with child care responsibilities? What about people with disabilities who require technical aids and transportation? What about those people who are in the labour force who can only do adult learning at night and on weekends?

[12:15 p.m.]

We need to understand the degree of support and flexibility that actually is going to be or not be a feature of this plan. We do not have a plan here. We have a lot of questions that need to be flushed out and I would like to say, Mr. Speaker, we look forward to seeing a detailed plan. We hope that the process is one will involve many of the people who have been crying for access to education and the deliverers of educational services in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Natural Resources continues to move forward with the forest strategy for Nova Scotia and the implementation of amendments to the Forests Act and the new forestry regulations.

As many of you are aware, more silviculture work needs to be done on small private lands to ensure that our forests are sustainable for the future. The department has said we would continue to look for voluntary means for such programs. That is why, today, I am happy to tell the honourable members that the department recently signed an agreement with the Association for Sustainable Forestry. This forestry organization will administer and carry out a silviculture pilot project on small private woodlots throughout Nova Scotia. Valued at $400,000, this project will be completed by midsummer next year. Funding for the project will come from the Department of Natural Resources' current private lands silviculture budget.

Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent opportunity to explore new ways of delivering silviculture programs in Nova Scotia as well as an opportunity for the association to demonstrate a possible means of using the Sustainable Forestry Fund.

Mr. Speaker, this fund is a special account established under the Forests Act to ensure that silviculture work is carried out on private woodlots across the province. In future, monies for the fund will come from registered buyers who harvest over 5,000 cubic metres of solid wood each year, or approximately 2,200 cords of wood, from the primary forest of this province. Registered buyers must provide the department with a wood acquisition plan, conduct a silviculture program or contribute to the Sustainable Forestry Fund. This project is an opportunity for woodlot owners, industry and government to work together to ensure that our forests are sustainable in the future. As well, this government has said it will work

[Page 8670]

with and support private woodlot owner associations and we are putting that commitment into action with this agreement.

The Association for Sustainable Forestry is a partnership of woodlot owners and forest industry associations. It includes the Nova Scotia Forest Products Association, the Nova Scotia Federation of Woodland Owners, the Nova Scotia Landowners and Forest Fibre Producers Association, and as well the Forest Council of Western Nova Scotia. I congratulate these groups for their initiative and cooperation. This partnership between industry and woodlot owners is an important step in ensuring that silviculture work is carried out on private lands and that our forests continue to be a sustainable resource in the future. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for providing a copy of his statement earlier so we would have an opportunity to review it and look to see what we find there and what is not there. It is good to see that the minister is following through on an initiative started by the previous Liberal Government. In 1997 we were proud to bring in a Framework for Sustainable Forestry. This framework was never carved in stone and it was designed to include input from all stakeholders. This was seen as a positive step forward by the forest industry and the public at that time.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, small sawmill operators have not been happy with the way the current Tory Government is developing this plan. Sawmill operators do not feel that the Minister of Natural Resources has listened to them. Small sawmill operators agree that they should pay their fair share but they feel the feel structure developed by the minister is unfair. This comes at a time when the lumber industry is facing its lowest prices in over 10 years and it is somewhat ironic that this minister is taxing small sawmill operators in order to fill a Tory blue book promise.

Mr. Speaker, the Tories promised additional $8 million in new money for silviculture, however, the first thing they did was cut the $1 million in new money the previous Liberal Government had budgeted for silviculture. This was not seen as a positive step by the sawmill operators, they feel that this tax will put them out of business. This is too bad, because the forest industry contributes $1.5 billion to the economy of Nova Scotia annually. When indirect jobs are factored in, forestry employs nearly 20,000. There are approximately 30,000 small woodlot owners in Nova Scotia and this current government and this announcement has a huge input on them.

In Nova Scotia, we have undertaken an integrated resource management process for Crown lands. The approach is designed to optimize long-term sustainable benefits and minimize conflict among users. Under the previous government, Nova Scotia worked toward a sustainable approach to the forest industry by: requiring wood acquisition plans from wood

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buyers to ensure that the appropriate levels of silviculture occur after harvesting; operating the wood buyer registry and reporting system, January 1998; work with industry and land owners to generate public and private funding for private land silviculture activities; completing the Forest Practices Code, which promotes sustainable forestry, integrated resource management, biodiversity and ecosystem-based management. Nova Scotia through the Department of Natural Resources is part of the Nova Forest Alliance and an extension of the Fundy Model Forest. This puts the province in close touch with nearly 30 interest groups and stakeholders involved in the project who are members of the alliance.

Mr. Speaker, the types of initiatives were all done after full consultation, but now we have small sawmill operators who say they have not been consulted. I hope the minister plans to work with the small sawmill operators to fix this problem before he goes any further. Thank you.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to, first of all, start out by thanking the minister for a copy of his statement prior to us coming to the House today. That was helpful. I do want the minister to know that I see this as a good first step. So, I don't want him right off the bat to think that my opening comments will be negative.

I think that the industry and, certainly, private woodlot owners are concerned about the forestry in the province. They are concerned about gaining the maximum benefit from their woodlots. I think it is important for the province to recognize that what people have in their forests or on their property may mean a number of different things to different people. I think it is important that when we are designing a silviculture program that we consider all of the socio-economic factors that are involved. I think that the industry right now is in a downturn, some mills are quite concerned about low prices and trying to maximize their investments.

I think it is a shame that we come to a situation whereby one of the only things that may have really saved the forests of Nova Scotia was a downturn in the industry. I think for the most part, the major driving force in forestry in Nova Scotia has been greed, Mr. Speaker. We have allowed forestry and forest harvesting practices to go on, basically unchecked, for a number of years and whatever the market would demand, we cut it and loaded it on trucks and saw it, for a large part, leave the province.

I think we have to pay attention to the association that the minister has drawn together here; I think this is an important step. I think the minister should take into consideration, as this moves along, it is indicated in his statement of a pilot project, that the Federation of Woodlot Owners were one of the last organizations to sign this agreement and they had some reservations about how this agreement would work. Considering that they were not comfortable and actually felt that they better be part of the process, rather than not have a voice at all, was their initiative to sign, I think that is really a worrisome condition for buying

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into this process but they consider it a good first step. They would like to be there at the table when decisions are made and they would certainly like to see a system whereby money is distributed evenly throughout the province, and that woodlot owners and accessibility to this money by woodlot owners is made relatively easy all the way across the province and I think that is going to have to be very important.

One thing I do worry about - and I have expressed this to the minister - is the fact of the sustainability targets we are hoping to achieve by the year 2070. This was under a process of research that the previous Liberal Administration had initiated, that the cornerstone of achieving sustainability in the forests in this province is based on two things: one of those is silviculture programs or money put into silviculture programs, and the other one is that if we cut no more that 5,800,000 metres cubed, and anything the minister has done on the Forests Act or otherwise that puts a limit on that, and until that is addressed we will always be playing catch-up.

This is a good first step and I applaud the minister for taking that step. I would certainly like to see him do more. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3254

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

Whereas Bernadette Gaudet of Clare is the year 2000 Atlantic Provinces recipient of the Caregiver of the Year Award; and

Whereas this award is given to non-professional caregivers who give daily care to people who are seriously ill; and

Whereas Bernadette has provided care for her daughter, Rosalie, for the past 48 years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to Bernadette Gaudet for her many years of unselfish care for her daughter.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3255

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

Whereas the Chretien Government's last budget included another $139 million for the heavily subsidized tar sands project in northern Alberta; and

Whereas the Chretien Government has not made a similar allocation of funds for the clean-up of the tar ponds, North America's most toxic waste site, in the middle of a major urban area; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservatives have put all their effort into exempting the tar ponds from the Environment Act, instead of demanding the federal contribution needed for a clean-up;

Therefore be it resolved any Liberal who claims they are sorry for seven years of neglect and betrayal should explain why they put their dollars into more subsidies for the Alberta oil industry, while neglecting a national disgrace like the tar ponds.

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 Kings South.

[Page 8674]

RESOLUTION NO. 3256

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is renowned as a world leader in post-secondary education because of its excellent university system; and

Whereas for the second year in a row Acadia University ranked second out of 21 undergraduate institutions in Canada in Maclean's magazine's annual review of Canadian universities; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas this is a reflection of Acadia's quality facilities and cutting-edge programs as well as the continued commitment of the faculty and the staff to academic excellence;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Acadia University for being recognized as a national leader in post-secondary education and further recognize the important role this institution plays in preparing tomorrow's leaders for the challenges that lie ahead.

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3257

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Lung Association is celebrating its 100th Anniversary; and

[Page 8675]

Whereas the arrival of the brightly coloured commemorative Millennium Edition Christmas Seals signals the beginning of the lung association's annual Christmas Seal Campaign; and

Whereas more than one in four Nova Scotians suffer from lung-related diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, pneumonia and lung cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House participate in the Christmas Seal campaign by using Christmas Seals on all holiday mailings, recognizing the outstanding work done by the lung association to improve the quality of life for all Nova Scotians.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 3258

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

Whereas the recent floods and tropical storms in Vietnam have prompted the world community to come forward with assistance, including fund-raising concerts in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi; and

Whereas Eastern Passage musician, Tim Henneberry, will be the only Canadian act performing at the concerts scheduled for November of this year; and

Whereas Mr. Henneberry is a shining example of Canadian generosity toward those less fortunate in other parts of the world;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates Tim Henneberry on his humanitarian efforts and wish him all the best as he leaves to perform in Vietnam.

[Page 8676]

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3259

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 Soldiers Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in Middleton, in conjunction with the support of smaller communities across Annapolis County and the Kingston-Greenwood area of Kings County recently held their annual Carousel; and

Whereas the Carousel is the major fund-raiser of the auxiliary which provides Soldiers Memorial Hospital an additional source of funding; and

Whereas over $24,000 was raised this year through a fun community event which includes a chicken barbecue and sales of crafts, books and baked goods;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the great effort put forth by the Soldiers Memorial Hospital Ladies Auxiliary with help from a number of smaller community auxiliaries and commend these volunteers for their hard work in making the 2000 Carousel a great success.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 8677]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3260

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

Whereas a recent rain storm has caused extensive damage to a natural beach at Ingonish Ferry; and

Whereas that beach acts as a shield to the village against the ocean surf and storms; and

Whereas another storm of that magnitude or less could cause severe damage to the village as well as to the Cabot Trail;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works direct his department to contact the federal Departments of Public Works and Fisheries and Oceans to take the necessary steps to protect the Village of Ingonish Ferry from further damage which would include homes, highways, as well as other infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I heard a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3261

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

Whereas Cape Bretoners should be provided with the opportunity to talk to the Law Amendments Committee about the sale of Sysco; and

[Page 8678]

Whereas the sale of Sysco directly affects people living close to the plant as well as people living in industrial Cape Breton; and

Whereas the Sysco sale agreement has raised concerns about environmental concerns and labour standards;

Therefore be it resolved that in the best interests of Cape Bretoners that the Premier instruct the Law Amendments Committee to travel to Cape Breton and hear the concerns of the very people this sale will directly affect.

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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3262

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

Whereas the Dalhousie Tigers played in the Year 2000 Canadian Inter-University Athletic Union (C.I.A.U.) women's soccer final; and

Whereas the Dalhousie Tigers won against the Ottawa Gee Gees with a score of 2 to 0; and

Whereas the Dalhousie Tigers became the first team in CIAU history to win back-to-back women's soccer titles;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Government recognize the Dalhousie Tigers' achievements in the CIAU women's soccer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8679]

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. 3263

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

Whereas the Tory blue book is a pronouncement of how a John Hamm Government would be open, accountable, responsive and one that will consult with the people of Nova Scotia on matters of public policy before implementation; and

Whereas the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, who hails herself as "an ordinary Nova Scotian", voted to suppress the rights of Nova Scotians by denying persons the right to appear before the Law Amendments Committee; and

Whereas the member for Halifax Bedford Basin demonstrated her complete lack of knowledge and understanding of Nova Scotia's unique democratic process by simply stating she was "asked to do so by someone" whom she refused to identify;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier Hamm and his minions explain why the will of the people is suppressed by the dictates of Conservative lobbyists.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of members to the west gallery where today we are joined by Elizabeth Bruce and Norma Hudson, who are adult learners. They are accompanied by Julia Moore, who is the

[Page 8680]

administrator of the Community Learning Centre in Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the members. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3264

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

Whereas on October 14, 1950, Frances and Gerald Naugle were married; and

Whereas Gerald and Frances have had a loving marriage that has included two children, Sheila and Robert, and three grandchildren, Daniel, Meagan and Shaun; and

Whereas Gerald and Frances Naugle recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Gerald and Frances Naugle on their 50th Wedding Anniversary and wish them many more years of happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3265

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

Whereas last Friday, the MLA for Halifax Bedford Basin tried to slip the Sydney Steel sale agreement through the Law Amendments Committee, without giving the public a chance to comment on it; and

[Page 8681]

Whereas the government voted against a motion to allow people to make more presentations on Bill No. 62 after Tuesday; and

Whereas this Tory Government promised the people of Nova Scotia that they would be "open and accountable";

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government be condemned for not allowing the people of Nova Scotia to exercise their democratic rights.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3266

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

Whereas the Minister of Health would have us all believe that the IWK-Grace Health Centre is responsible for his government's failure to fund cochlear implants in this province and to have them serviced here; and

Whereas the Minister of Health blames the IWK-Grace Health Centre for not making this a priority in their business plan; and

Whereas the IWK-Grace Health Centre has repeatedly asked for extra staff to meet this demand, but has been turned down by the Department of Health, which approves the business plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health apologize to the IWK-Grace Health Centre for trying to lay the blame on the hospital and admit today that it is his department's fault that people must go out of the province for cochlear implants.

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 8682]

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3267

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Regional Library will hold its Adopt-A-Book 2000 Campaign throughout November; and

Whereas the campaign is being held to help purchase 500 new books for 13 branch libraries and two bookmobiles in Cape Breton County; and

Whereas adoptions can be made in the form of a gift, in memory of a loved one, or from a specific group of individuals;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House be encouraged to participate in the Cape Breton Regional Library's Adopt-A-Book Campaign.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3268

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

Whereas traffic increases daily on the Prospect Road due to the arrival of numerous tourists on their way to the many scenic coastal communities from Terence Bay through to Peggy's Cove; and

Whereas this road has numerous treacherous intersections; and

[Page 8683]

Whereas these notoriously dangerous spots have been neglected by the Department of Transportation and Public Works;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works inform residents of the communities along the Prospect Road if his department has plans for improvements to this heavily used highway.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3269

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

Whereas the Minister responsible for EMO announced a flood relief policy for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality; and

Whereas that relief policy leaves a lot to be desired; and

Whereas the Premier, as provincial Leader, did not go to Cape Breton to survey the damage from the flooding;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier must realize, as provincial leader, he has an obligation to provide at the very least moral support for those struck by disaster, unfortunately he did not.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8684]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3270

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

Whereas federal Tory candidate, Anna Curtis-Steele, cannot fathom why the Premier is cutting back on welfare for new applicants and prodding all recipients into the workforce; and

Whereas Ms. Curtis-Steele states, "As a Tory, I think, gee John, where the heck are you coming from?"; and

Whereas we are sure a great many, perhaps all, Nova Scotians are wondering the same thing;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier tell this House and Nova Scotians where the heck he is coming from when dealing with welfare reform.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3271

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

Whereas last Friday this Tory Government shut down the Law Amendments Committee, sending Bill No. 62 and Bill No. 70 back to the House of Assembly; and

Whereas through the MLA for Halifax Bedford Basin, the government tried to sneak through the Sydney Steel sale agreement; and

Whereas the Tories tried to push Bill No. 70 through without giving members of the public a chance to comment on it;

[Page 8685]

Therefore be it resolved that for a government that claims to be so open and claims to care what the people think that their actions on Friday can only be seen as an attempt to silence the numerous critics of this Hamm-handed regime.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3272

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

Whereas the United Mine Workers, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and all members of this House have stated forcefully that the federal government's Devco transition fund is too little too late; and

Whereas Senator Bernie Boudreau defended the Chretien Government's arrogant decision to provide inadequate funds and to keep the funds under the thumb of the Prime Minister's Office; and

Whereas 20 years of politically inspired mismanagement from Ottawa by the Liberal Party have destroyed the keystones of the Cape Breton economy;

Therefore be it resolved that it is little wonder that the only person the Liberals could find to appear on the CBC TV National Town Hall and defend the Liberal job record was the son of Senator Bernie Boudreau.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 8686]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3273

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

Whereas the Red Tape Reduction Task Force revealed its report on Friday despite the fact that there was little or no interest from average Nova Scotians; and

Whereas despite the lack of interest and lack of submissions, the task force is pushing a Sunday shopping agenda; and

Whereas we have learned that the task force is planning to make recommendations that could eliminate what is left of the rural bussing systems;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the Red Tape Reduction Task Force is designed to deflect attention away from the more unpalatable parts of the Tory agenda so that the Premier can wash his hands of difficult decisions.

[12:45 p.m.]

I ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The Oral Question Period will begin at 12:45 p.m. and end at 1:45 p.m.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 8687]

HEALTH - DARTMOUTH GEN. HOSP.: CUTS - PATIENT SAFETY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have learned that as of November 6, 2000, due to budget cutbacks the Dartmouth General Hospital will be without 24-hour engineering maintenance support. These supports will - and I say hopefully - be available if required by cell phone. This reduction compromises the safety of patients in that there will be times during the night when there will be no one on-site available if oxygen pressure in the lines go down or if there is a fire in the hospital. My question to the Minister of Health is, how can the minister guarantee all patients, whether they be current or future patients, that their safety will not be compromised by this reduction in service? I would like to table that memo.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth East well knows that in making adjustments in business planning processes for acute care facilities that patient safety is a number-one priority and, obviously, decisions would not be made that would have an effect on patient safety.

DR. SMITH: Well, it is not so obvious to me and it is not so obvious to the nurses who work in that intensive care unit, I will tell you, Mr. Speaker. In the case of emergencies, this overworked nursing staff at the Dartmouth General Hospital will be forced to try to contact the switchboard to get the cell phone numbers of on-call engineering and maintenance staff. This is as bad as communicating by walkie-talkie in the paediatric unit of the Colchester Regional Hospital that the minister is going along with.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, if the oxygen lines run out, or the ventilators in the ICU go down, or if there is a fire in the hospital, is the minister satisfied that he can rely on the cell phone technology to get immediate help for those nurses?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, they have a very competent administration at the Dartmouth General Hospital and the plans which would go into effect, should one of those things that the honourable member for Dartmouth East has mentioned occur, they will be taken care of appropriately.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, at least three times in the past year the intensive care unit ran out of oxygen at the Dartmouth General Hospital and threatened the lives of those people there and put a lot of stress and strain on the overworked nurses, but the engineering and maintenance staff were there to handle it. We are now asking the nurses to handle more in a crisis situation than they have currently been used to. My question to the minister is simply put, why is the minister forcing overworked nurses to take on this extra responsibility?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the very good administration of the Dartmouth General Hospital and the soon-to-be fully functioning capital health authority have plans to operate their facilities. These are good plans and the concerns that the honourable member has just

[Page 8688]

mentioned about running out of oxygen, dealing with a situation like that this would be part of an internal plan of that hospital.

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

EDUC. - CHILD POVERTY: HUNGER - FOOD PROG.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. The metro school board in the most prosperous region of our province is today launching a fund to help feed and supply students. The superintendent says sometimes behaviour is not a matter of improving school security or making your code of behaviour more stringent or suspending more kids, sometimes the answer is giving them something to eat. Nova Scotia suffered one of the worst increases in child poverty in recent years. I ask the Premier, how can he justify the cuts in social assistance and a minimum wage that buys less each year when schools feel they must step forward to deal with the hunger that many children face?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question. The member opposite is as aware as all members of this House that we believe there are some 24,000 children in our school system who are living in poverty. What is a real solution for this? The burgeoning economy we have had in the last few years has done nothing to alleviate the problem. As a matter of fact, we are reminded, on the government side, on a daily basis that the problem is, in fact, increasing. That is why we have revamped the approach to community services in this province, to allow families who have young people living in poverty to escape the poverty cycle and to better themselves. That is why that program is in place.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, if poverty isn't being reduced in the most prosperous part of this province, how is cutting the benefits to social assistance going to help feed those children? There is not much hope if you can't feed your children, and if you have no means of transportation, and if the provincial government has cut incentives to get off of assistance. We know the Premier pays careful attention to the income needs of his deputy ministers, why don't the poor families and hungry children of Nova Scotia get equal care and consideration, Mr. Premier?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious problem that the member opposite brings to the House of Assembly. It has never been adequately dealt with in this province because we have the statistics that show that childhood poverty is increasing despite the relative buoyant economy. We are making steps to allow those who live in poverty to access the benefits of the growing economy here in Nova Scotia.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the mantra of that Party opposite is, as long as you have a prosperous economy, that will take care of poverty. Now that it is shown that it is not being done, then they have no plan to take care of children who do without in this

[Page 8689]

province. The record of this government is clear: money talks. The highest paid deputy ministers get cash on the barrel head. Kids can go hungry; hope is always next year. How can the Premier be so sensitive to the income needs of those who earn more than $100,000 a year when he doesn't understand the needs of people who can't even afford to put food on the table?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite means well, but on the other hand he brings no solution. This government is bringing its solution to one of the most serious problems that faces this province. There is an old saying, and the member opposite has heard it but I will remind the member opposite: give a man a fish, he can feed his family for a day, teach him how to fish, he can feed his family for a lifetime. We are going to teach people how to fish.

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

JUSTICE - SUNDAY SHOPPING:

MUNICIPALITIES - DOWNLOADING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It is now obvious that the Premier's red tape task force was just a politically motivated make-work project in order to keep five backbenchers out of trouble last summer. The task force was just a way for the Premier to give his big business friends, like Sobeys, what they want, while avoiding the controversy surrounding Sunday shopping. My question for the Premier is, why is the Premier failing to act like a Leader and dumping the responsibility for Sunday shopping on the municipalities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite must have information that we don't have here on the front benches, because we have simply received a report from the red tape task force and have yet to decide what to do with the recommendations. There has been a consultation held because this government believes that eliminating red tape will, in fact, benefit the economy of this province. We will sort through all of those recommendations and we will make the right decision on all of them.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Independent Food Stores Association says dumping the responsibility for Sunday shopping on municipalities is a coward's way out. My question to the Premier is, how does the Premier expect to cut red tape when he plans to accept the recommendation to create 55 different sets of rules for Sunday shopping?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite's question at this point is entirely hypothetical. We have not decided what we are going to do with the recommendations of the task force, other than the fact we will give each and every recommendation serious consideration, and we will do the right thing by that committee, look at the report, look at the recommendations, and we will make the right decisions.

[Page 8690]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, if the final decision hasn't been made, I certainly will be waiting to see what that final decision will be. Figures from Statistics Canada show that Sunday shopping in New Brunswick cost businesses more and did not create any new jobs. The task force only heard from 22 real businesses. My final question to the Premier is, since the Red Tape Reduction Task Force was a failure in terms of public input, what evidence does the Premier have to prove that Sunday shopping will not harm small stores in favour of big businesses?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the reactions that the report did elicit was a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who indicated that there would be a penalty paid by small businesses if in fact the recommendation of the task force was adopted. There are a great number of issues that have to be considered on this particular subject, and we will consider all of the issues. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. All members will have an opportunity.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - SPECIAL NEEDS STUDENTS:

BUS MONITORS - ADEQUACY

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. I want to raise with you the story of a seven year old student who travels to school every day on a special needs bus. This student has grand mal seizures almost weekly. Before, she had a nurse who administered life-saving medication and oxygen, but this September the nurse was no longer on the bus. Instead the bus monitors were given three hours of training and told to administer the life-saving medication and oxygen themselves. I want to ask the Minister of Education, does she believe it is safe to have a bus monitor replace a nurse in the care of this child?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, in the situations of children with special needs, we have highly-qualified staff making these decisions. Although I am not familiar with the particular case the honourable member refers to, and I will endeavour to look into it, I have every faith that the people in the system know what they are doing.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's offer to look into the situation, but my concerns go far beyond one child. There are many children with special needs now in the care of school bus monitors, who are paid minimum wage or slightly above, with little or no training. My question to the minister is simply, how can she justify the pressure she has placed on school bus monitors in order to cut costs?

[Page 8691]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are many pressures in the system placed on people looking after children with special needs. That is one of the reasons that we have a special committee looking into how special needs children are looked after in the school system. We expect a report from that committee by the end of the year. In the meantime, I will repeat, I do have faith in people monitoring the system, that the children who need the most help will get it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the minister understands the seriousness of this situation. This child I have spoken about, her life has been placed in the hands of a bus monitor with a few hours of training. One monitor has resigned because she didn't want to be held responsible for this young girl's life. I want the minister to tell this House today what steps she is taking to ensure that all children with special needs are properly cared for not only at school but on their way to and from school.

[1:00 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, children with special needs need a great deal and variety of care. What we are looking into now is whether or not that care is being provided in the way it should. That is what we are doing to see that this child and all children are properly looked after.

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

ENVIRON. - CBRM:

WATER SUPPLY - TREATMENT ASSISTANCE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Acting Minister of Environment and Labour. The communities in and around Glace Bay, Reserve Mines, Tower Road and Dominion have been issued a boil order for their water supply in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality which obviously proves that the water supply and the treatment is inadequate to feed the needs of some 30,000 residents. I have spoken with CBRM officials earlier today. We know what CBRM is planning to do. My question to the minister is, what is the province planning to do to help alleviate this situation?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the province is prepared to work very closely with CBRM to address all problems of that nature.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is bad enough that these people have been subjugated to the high level of THMs but now they have to contend with high coliform counts which is as much a provincial responsibility as it is municipal. I believe the minister would agree with that. My question to the minister is, when will the province make the right decision and provide funding for a water treatment plant at the Sand Lake water site?

[Page 8692]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we will work with the municipal unit with respect to this problem. I would like to point out that the fact that we have so many boil orders is an indication that the province, with the new regulations it has put forward, is assisting in identifying some very real problems and steps will be taken in order to address those problems.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the fact that we are having so many boil orders is due to the fact that all they are doing is blowing off steam over there and they are not doing anything about the problem. That is the fact because we wouldn't have to have this many boil orders if the problem was addressed with a water treatment plant. My question to the minister is, will he commit today to ensuring that a new water treatment plant for the Sand Lake area to address the problem for these 30,000 residents will be provided before someone is seriously hurt by an unreliable water supply that is some 30 years obsolete?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can also indicate to the House that the problems we are dealing with today are not problems that have come up overnight. Indeed, the honourable member opposite might want to speak with his seatmate with respect to seeing what they were doing when they were in power to address this concern. I can say that we will work very closely with the municipal unit in seeking a solution to all such problems.

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

ENVIRON. - MARK-LYN CONST. (COLDBROOK):

CONTAMINATION - ACTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for whoever is today's Acting Minister of Environment and Labour. Mark-Lyn Construction based in Coldbrook is approved by the Department of the Environment as an organic composting facility. This site has been ticketed and investigated on several occasions for violating the Environment Act. The residents of nearby communities in Kings County are upset that a wet bog near their homes has been contaminated with faecal coliform sourced from Mark-Lyn's site at a count of 804,000 units per 100 millilitres of water. A count is considered high when it is in excess of 200 units per 100 millilitres of water.

Given the shocking faecal coliform count reported more than 4,000 times above acceptable levels, why has the Department of the Environment not issued a public warning regarding this site?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I can tell the House that officials of the department have been at the site and are there at the site today. They are attempting to ascertain the site and to conduct the proper investigation and to respond appropriately.

[Page 8693]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I am glad to hear that the investigators are at the site today, but investigators knew about this on May 25th, yet the situation continues. Residents are understandably concerned that faecal coliform counts this high will affect the health of their families and especially since wells are located less than 250 feet from this site. Some water-borne pathogenic diseases that can result from counts this high include typhoid fever, viral and bacterial gastroenteritis and hepatitis A. My question to the acting minister is, how long will this situation continue and why hasn't his department addressed the concerns of these affected communities?

MR. MACISAAC: I can tell the honourable member that the department will work as expeditiously as possible to ensure that the matter is addressed and I can tell you that I have had conversations with the department today and I have asked that this matter be given the highest priority.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: The Department of the Environment's own website points out that the presence of faecal contamination is an indicator that a potential health risk exists for individuals exposed to this water. The department's own records indicate that the contamination in question originated from the Mark-Lyn construction site. Will the acting minister assure the residents of Kings County that this situation will end and end soon and will he let us know by what date they can expect this site to be cleaned up?

MR. MACISAAC: I want to thank the honourable member for the question and I understand the concern that he is bringing forward and while I will not deal with specific dates at this time, I will undertake to advise the honourable member and the House as to the findings that occur by the department and to inform the House as to the action that will be taken.

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

P & P: RED TAPE REDUCTION TASK FORCE - FUNDING

MR. DAVID WILSON: My question is for the Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee. As the whole province now knows and as we knew from the very beginning, the minister's Red Tape Reduction Task Force was a complete failure with only about 22 small businesses bothering to make an appearance. The report, which was only a make-work project for Tory backbenchers, was two months overdue and cost taxpayers nearly $50,000 to date. The total budget for the task force is $100,000. Since the task force has eaten up half its budget in only the first quarter of its two year mandate, how much more taxpayers' money does the minister plan to spend to keep the boys of summer, known as the Tory backbenchers, busy for another year and one-half?

[Page 8694]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I thank the honourable member for the question. The task force actually has spent something in the neighbourhood of $40,000 at the moment; $46,000 is the estimate that will be coming in at the end of the period, but however, at the present time it is $40,000. I would also advise the honourable member that most of that cost was incurred through advertising and the rental of halls and such matters. There were no salaries paid to any of the persons who took part in the studies that the task force did.

The task force report is an interim report; this is an ongoing work which will not be completed for at least two years and even beyond two years they will continue to monitor regulations in this province.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, if the minister is saying it is an interim report, I would like to know. The minister said on Friday that you were already implementing many of the recommendations of that task force, so you are implementing recommendations on an interim basis, if that is the case. On average it costs $4,000 per appearance at that task force, less than six people per meeting appeared at that task force. Since the Tories are psychic enough to act on recommendations before they are made, can the minister explain how this task force is not a complete waste of time and money?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the honourable member that it is quality of representation not quantity that counts. (Interruptions) I was going to say that it reminds me something of what goes on in the Law Amendments Committee on occasion. However, insofar as the task force is concerned and the implementation by the government of the recommendations that have come forward so far, I can assure the honourable member that the Cabinet will take into consideration very seriously every one of those recommendations that have been made and, in fact, a great many will be implemented before Christmas.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister made reference to the quality of presenters, but apparently the quality of the task force itself wasn't good enough for even one of your Tory backbenchers who quit that committee before it even went on the road. The task force report spoke about a one-window access to government services, and that process was actually started in 1996, and it is probably about 90 per cent completed currently. How can the minister justify spending $100,000 of taxpayers' money for nothing more than simply re-inventing the wheel?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a gross exaggeration by the honourable member. I have already said that the cost of that task force is $40,000-odd to date, and that the expenses for that task force in the future months will be much less. In fact, it is quite conceivable that there will be no further expenses by that particular task force.

[Page 8695]

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

SYSCO - ENVIRON. ACT: SYDNEY - HEARINGS HOLD

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, there is a bill currently in this House which would severely limit the legal rights of people in industrial Cape Breton. I am talking about the Sysco bill. This bill would impose an unprecedented one year limited period on environmental lawsuits. It would also exempt the government from having to follow its own Environment Act. My question isn't about the bill, it is to the Premier. There are parts of this bill that can affect only the people of industrial Cape Breton. When is your government going to hold hearings in Sydney instead of limiting them to downtown Halifax?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That question pertains to a bill that is before the House today, and is not allowed.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, what consultations did his government have with the people of Cape Breton about eliminating the Environment Act in Cape Breton?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite clearly doesn't understand what is going on, and I would ask the Minister of Economic Development to (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the issues around Sysco have been in the public purview for some number of months now. In terms of the process by which legislation is amended, the Law Amendments Committee meets on a regular basis and entertains submissions to improve and enhance the bill. I expect people who have submissions will follow that procedure.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, obviously this government doesn't know what is going on over there, about their own Environment Act. Last week the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries introduced the Agricultural Marshland Conservation Act. In that, he was going to go and do advertising around the province in newspapers and so on . . .

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please! There is too much noise in the Chamber. The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: So, Mr. Speaker, as I said, there is much advertisement going to be done around the Marshland Conservation Act, so I am going to ask the Premier again. If the Marshland Preservation Act is worthy of public meetings across the province, why is your government not holding one single, solitary, public meeting so the people of industrial Cape

[Page 8696]

Breton can tell this government about the legacy that 100 years of steelmaking has done to their environment?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite still expresses a misunderstanding of what is going on. The member seems concerned that the people in industrial Cape Breton are somehow not a part of this process. The people of industrial Cape Breton - and we have spent some consideration time there - are very anxious that the bill move forward and the bill be passed so that the new company can take over the operation of the steel mill. So I would hope that the member opposite express his true concern for the people of industrial Cape Breton by allowing this bill rapid process through the House.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that answer is an embarrassment. He doesn't care about the environment of Cape Breton or whatever. So I want to tell the Premier that today the NDP members of the Law Amendment Committee will propose a resolution stating that the committee will hold hearings on Bill No. 70 in Cape Breton. I am asking the Premier, will you personally support that resolution, and if not, why not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite still fails to understand that the government is accepting the environmental liability on the Sysco site up until the time of the sale. Following that period of time, the new owner will accept any additional environmental damage that results from their operation of the industry. That is extremely clear, it is extremely fair, and it is the right thing for government to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

P & P - RED TAPE REDUCTION TASK FORCE:

COMMITTEE - MAKE-UP

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. The Premier, in the last election, indicated that he would lead a Party that would properly consult with all Nova Scotians on issues and that he is prepared to show leadership and make decisions on behalf of Nova Scotians. Just recently we heard the report of the Red Tape Reduction Task Force and a question was posed to the chairman, was this decision on Sunday shopping, and what is in this report, driven by the fact that the government had politically interfered with the process? The chairman replied back in saying, no political interference, yet the make-up of the committee consists of five Tory wannabe Cabinet Ministers, backbenchers; nobody from the New Democratic Party and nobody from the Liberal Party. The question I ask the Premier is, how can he stand here in the House today and say that that committee is nothing but a bunch of partisan backbenchers that are there to do your dirty work that you are afraid and cowardly enough not to want to do yourself?

[Page 8697]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. Honourable member for Lunenburg West, I would ask if you would retract the word "cowardly". It is unparliamentary and I would ask him to retract that. (Interruption) Thank you.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is extremely difficult when the Opposition Parties can't get their act together because we have one Party indicating the government doesn't consult enough and you have the other Party saying we consult too much. We can't satisfy everybody but we are going to satisfy the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. DOWNE: Again, the Premier failed to answer the question. Either he doesn't hear it or he can't hear it. One of his own members, one of his own rising stars, elected back in 1993 quit that committee because he knew the shell game that this Premier was really playing. My question to the Premier on the issue of Sunday shopping is, will he or will he not allow Sunday shopping in Nova Scotia? Mr. Premier, you are the Leader, you are the Premier, answer the question, will you or will you not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, like all important questions that come before this government, we will analyse and we will come up with the right decision for the people of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, $4,000 per presenter. The dream team comes in with this so-called list of high priorities of this government. The Premier has said very clearly that he will take the task force recommendations under consideration. Yet the leader of that committee, the dream team committee, Ron Russell, said they will be implemented. My question to the Premier is, who is calling the shots here, and will he stand up to be the Premier of the province and answer the question once and for all, not his Cabinet Ministers, on Sunday shopping?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite seems to be getting himself incensed because the government has done the right thing. We have taken the issue of red tape very seriously. We have gone out and consulted with the people. We have received the report. We will analyse the report, and once we have completed that process we will, as this government always does, make the right decision.

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

HEALTH - HIGHLAND VIEW REG. HOSP:

PATIENTS (INTENSIVE CARE) - TREATMENT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. This past weekend the Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst was not able to admit

[Page 8698]

any intensive care patients because they did not have an internal medicine specialist. Residents brought in with serious conditions, such as a heart attack, had to be transferred to Moncton, Truro or Halifax. My question to the minister is quite simple. Will the minister explain how a one hour ambulance trip is an acceptable way to care for intensive care patients?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. Clearly, our preference would have been to have an internal medicine specialist available this weekend at Highland View. However, I think people all over Nova Scotia recognize that we do have a first-class transportation system. I can only speak for myself, but I think I can speak for a good many Nova Scotians, the fact that there was service available in relatively quick order in neighbouring communities, including Moncton, represents, at least, some comfort if we could not have a person on-site.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, apparently he feels that the residents of Amherst do not have any problem going to Moncton for their care. The crisis faced today by Highland View has been building steadily under your watch, Mr. Minister. Highland View Regional Hospital has not had core staffing for the past year and one-half. That means that there are not enough core staff to meet the basic minimum of staffing levels required to ensure adequate patient care. I want to ask the minister, how can patients in Amherst have confidence in their hospital when it does not even meet core staffing levels?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the people who are served by the Highland View Hospital that, indeed, they are getting excellent health care service. I would also like to inform the honourable member that we will have a second internal medicine specialist arriving in that facility probably within four or five months.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister tries to present a justification, but I want to tell him this, through you, a nurse told us this morning that she finds her co-workers crying on the unit, crying because they are exhausted, because they have too much work to do and they do not know where to start. Nurses are on mandatory call-back. Many will not answer their phones because they desperately need a break and time to spend with their families. My question to the minister is, this is unsafe and it is unfair, when will the minister stop bleeding rural health care and start showing nurses some support?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there has been no government in recent history that has shown more support for nurses than this one with the initiatives that we have implemented this past year. I find it hard to believe that an honourable member would stand up in this House and try to foster a spirit of fear among the residents in Cumberland County for political purposes.

[Page 8699]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 102 (BAYERS LAKE PK.):

TRAFFIC VOLUME - ADDRESS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Yesterday afternoon there was a three-car crash on Highway No. 102, between the Kearney Lake Road and the Lacewood Drive exit. The accident resulted in a serious injury to one person. Motorists present at the scene said the accident could have been prevented if more had been done to control traffic headed into Bayers Lake Park. My question, yesterday's traffic in and around Bayers Lake Park was the forerunner of traffic pile ups that will occur at this particular exit now that the Christmas rush shopping season has begun. What immediate plans does the minister have to avoid similar traffic tie-ups on Highway No. 102?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that is an excellent question. The Bayers Lake Park is attracting a tremendous amount of traffic, much more than the park highway system was designed to accommodate. Part of the problem is actually due to traffic lights that are not supplied by the Department of Transportation but are supplied by the Halifax Regional Municipality. We are going to have to do something with regard to the design of the entry to the park off Highway No. 102, probably with extra laneage in that area. Certainly something that HRM is going to have to do is to take care of the entry as you come off the ramp.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that Highway No. 102 is part of the provincial highways network. It is quite obvious that this highway is heavily travelled within the boundaries of HRM. What are the minister's long-range plans to upgrade all these entrances and exits from this highway?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, you cannot speak lightly about upgrading exit ramps unless you have considerable sums of money available for capital construction. There is no doubt that we can do things, and they will be done to expedite traffic off Highway No. 102 at the entrance to the Bayers Lake Park.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, recent newspaper reports indicate that the Halifax Regional Municipality will continue to experience significant economic growth. Along with the economic growth, of course, a significant increase in population will occur. This population will also bring an increase in motor vehicle traffic. Can the minister indicate what his department's plans are for improved highway access to and from the Halifax Regional Municipality?

[Page 8700]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would presume that what the honourable member is speaking about is the access from the 100-Series Highways. As the honourable member knows, we are pursuing, with the federal government, cost-sharing for upgrading of the 100-Series Highway system.

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

HEALTH - PHYSICIAN SHORTAGE:

HANTS NORTH RESIDENTS - APOLOGIES

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Health. Last week the Minister of Health told us that the physician shortage in Hants North is under control. Hants North residents are upset because the minister said publicly that they could travel to Kennetcook for physician services, then he later admitted that he knew full well this was not an option. The minister's assistant has offered an apology to the residents but they want to hear this apology from the Minister of Health himself. Will the minister apologize here, today, to the residents of Hants North?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the issue of physician recruitment is something this province has been very successful at, although, notwithstanding our ability to compete, we clearly don't have the number of physicians in the province we would like to have. We are a better recruiter than the average province, and indeed other provinces are visiting us or having our personnel visit them to set up recruiting programs.

Mr. Speaker, if I indeed misled the people of Hants North by a statement I made last week, it was certainly not intentional and I certainly will apologize to them.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the minister say that. He just might get the opportunity. The residents of Hants North are beginning to doubt the minister's commitment to finding them a doctor. In June of this year, I, along with members of the Hants East Community Health Board met with one of the minister's senior staff. This staff member said very clearly in a meeting that it made more sense to close down the facility in Hants North and have the doctors practice out of Kennetcook. I want to ask the minister, is it possible that the facility of Noel will be closed down with residents having to travel elsewhere?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member and some of his constituents out that way that we in the Department of Health, and speaking as the minister, have no intent to close down the facility in Noel. If that facility was to close down, I would reckon it would be done by the community.

[Page 8701]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, again, I am glad to hear the minister say that, because that facility does belong to the community and they certainly don't have any intention of allowing the department to see it close down. When will the minister assure the residents of Hants North that the Department of Health will continue to make this area a high priority in the recruitment efforts and will he agree to meet with the community in the near future?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I will assure the honourable member that recruiting physicians for Hants North is a high priority of our department, as is recruiting physicians for my home community of Truro, or the Minister of Finance's, and the honourable member for Yarmouth, the community down in that area. As I say, our recruiting efforts are recognized Canada-wide as being among the very best. Indeed, if you go back and take a look at our record, we would be second only to Alberta.

Mr. Speaker, in terms of meeting with the people of Hants North, if they think that is going to help speed up the recruiting efforts, once the House rises I would be pleased to meet with them. There is a finite supply - I would like to be able to snap my fingers and say, a physician in Noel. As you know we were able to get a locum there, we are having someone come in for an interview, I believe it is this week. He knows we have not ignored Noel . . .

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

NSRL: SALE - VALUE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for the sale of NSRL. On June 14th of this year, the Government of Nova Scotia requested the board of Nova Scotia Resources Limited to begin a commercial sale process. As the minister is aware, natural gas prices are very high compared to a year ago. NSRL owns 8.4 per cent of the Sable project. My question to the minister is, what is the minister doing to ensure we are not giving away an asset instead of disposing of a liability?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I guess the initial answer would be that I wouldn't do what the previous administration did and give a ROFR for absolutely no value to the Province of Nova Scotia. So to pick up on that, we are involved in a serious process of dealing with NSRL and its sale. That process is ongoing. The honourable member says it is a valuable asset. I don't dispute that at all. That process is moving on and hopefully before too much longer, we will have a better idea exactly where we are going on that. The process is ongoing.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister is obviously making sure that as much profit as possible goes to the private sector and not to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. NSRL ensures Nova Scotians have at least an 8.4 per cent share of natural gas production. It gives the province leverage in negotiating for a petrochemical industry and it

[Page 8702]

gives an opportunity to eliminate a significant portion of the NSRL debt. My question to the minister, can the minister assure this House that the value of NSRL, as assessed, will be released to the House prior to the final sale?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, there has been an assessment done of NSRL as to what its value will be. There is a bidding process going on for the sale of that asset. The honourable member is asking us to divulge that before that process finishes. That would not be in the best interests of the Province of Nova Scotia. The answer to his question is very clearly, no.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: So, Mr. Speaker, never mind that the taxpayers might like to know that, you know, just another deal done in secrecy over there that the taxpayers have no right to know. My final supplementary. The bulk of NSRL debt was run up during Donnie Cameron's reign so you can see why I would be sceptical. Based on the handling of Sysco, I want to make sure all Nova Scotians know what we are selling prior to legislation being tabled in this House. I don't think that's an unreasonable request. Will the minister commit to being upfront by tabling a sale agreement prior to any sale of NSRL, release the full assessment, Mr. Minister, and what assurances would you give that we are not giving away an asset?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, there were so many mistakes done by the previous administration in regard to the offshore development (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Resources Limited has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this bunch across the floor gave a right of first refusal to the SOEP partners for absolutely nothing after the project was well underway. There was no justification for doing that. If that is the type of leadership that they want us to do, we are not interested, we are going to do what is right for the province and if they disagree with that, so be it.

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

NAT. RES. - BEECHVILLE-LAKESIDE-TIMBERLEA:

SUBDIVISION - PROPOSAL

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Natural Resources. The residents of the growing communities of Beechville- Lakeside-Timberlea are working to develop the abandoned rail line into a recreational trail for these communities. Regrettably, a 10,000 home subdivision proposed by Parkland developments plans to place a four-lane arterial road across the existing roadbed and Governor Brook. My question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, will the minister

[Page 8703]

assure these communities that this development will not be allowed to proceed if it negatively impacts on the Rails to Trails and Governor Brook?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member knows the Rails to Trails project across this province has many important and worthwhile volunteers who support the project throughout Nova Scotia. To facilitate property owners throughout Nova Scotia, there are hundreds of easements across their properties so they may cross. In this particular case, certainly planning is a municipal, HRM, affair but as far as this particular project is concerned, there is a temporary easement issued like any property owner would be allowed to have; there is no permanent application in place, so I would not speculate on the conjecture.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, so let's talk permits. Mr. Minister, Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea has a history of dealing with unscrupulous developers who get their way without explanations, without permits. Parkland developers have removed trees from public land where this proposed road will cross the trail and Governor Brook. Can the minister inform the residents of these communities why the developer has been allowed to proceed without such permits?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, simply, any subdivision plan is dealt with by the municipal planner within the HRM and certainly not within Natural Resources.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there is no point talking to that minister. I would like to talk to today's Acting Minister of the Environment. My community is watching. An environmental assessment report has been prepared by the Department of the Environment detailing the effects of this proposed road across Governor Brook. Will the Acting Minister of the Environment of the day provide a copy of this report to the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails Committee as soon as possible?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that I will look into his request and respond to him and the House at a later date.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TOURISM - HIGHLAND VILLAGE (IONA): JOBS - CREATION

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism. After years of growth under the previous government, the Nova Scotia tourism industry has recorded a drop in numbers. One area affected by the failure of this new Tourism Minister is the Highland Village in Iona, which saw less visitors this year than last. The minister said last week that jobs were created at the Highland Village as a result of being brought into the Nova Scotia Museum family. I would ask the minister, today, can he tell the

[Page 8704]

House how many full-time jobs were created at the Highland Village as a result of this move?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I can update the member on a couple different things about the workers at the Highland Village. Four staff have extended their service terms at the Highland Village; as well, there are two new full-time managers who will be hired after Christmas. In addition, six more seasonal interpreters will be hired for the next upcoming season.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable minister for putting a bright picture on the floor, but I want to inform him that the truth is that the jobs at Highland Village were created as a result of an HRDC funding program. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, if I may continue. A Tory MP in the House of Commons has attacked the HRDC program. So my question to the minister is, what plans does he have to prevent further decline in numbers at the Highland Village, which may result in the lay-off of staff?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess what it goes to show is that this government does a much better job of leveraging federal dollars than the previous government ever did. I should also say that this is a government that works from the ground up. There is a program proposal now being worked on by staff and people in the community that he represents down in Iona, working together to come up with a proposal for the upcoming season. I am sure it is going to be a tremendous success.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria, you have about five seconds.

MR. MACASKILL: From Peter to pay Paul, he took money from the Gaelic College.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 75.

[Page 8705]

Bill No. 75 - Law Reform (2000) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on second reading of this legislation. This legislation is necessary because of two separate court decisions. The first is a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, which was rendered last year; the case is known as M. and H. In that particular case, the court found that spousal support provisions which apply to married and heterosexual common-law relationships must be extended to same-sex common-law couples.

[1:45 p.m.]

As a result, Mr. Speaker, we were required to amend our legislation to ensure it complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In order to comply with the decision of the court, we are putting forward an omnibus bill that will amend several pieces of legislation. The Family Maintenance Act gets a new name change and now becomes the Maintenance and Custody Act. The amendment we are proposing will provide a definition of common-law partner which will apply regardless of the sex of the partner, provided they have lived together for three years. This represents a change in the time-frame to establish a common-law relationship from one to three years as was outlined in the former Family Maintenance Act. This brings us in line with most other jurisdictions in Canada and provides consistency among our own Statutes. It also ensures that the law recognizes that relationships of permanence attract an obligation to support.

We are also introducing amendments to our pension legislation and also the Income Tax Act, the Pension Benefits Act, the Members' Retiring Allowances Act and the Provincial Court Act. Essentially the amendments deal with the division of pensions after the breakdown of a marriage relationship.

Definitions in the Income Tax Act are amended to bring us in line with federal legislation. The second decision which has prompted legislative change is known as Walsh and Bona. In this case the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found that the Nova Scotia Matrimonial Property Act, which defines a spouse as a married individual, discriminates against common-law spouses and therefore contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court gave the Province of Nova Scotia 12 months to enact legislative change. We are complying with this decision by amending the Vital Statistics Act.

The new section allows individuals to register as domestic partners. Essentially, they can file a domestic partnership statutory declaration. Once filed, the declaration means that the legal rights and obligations under several Statutes would apply to the partners. This outlines the process for the division of assets should the partnership break down, Mr. Speaker. The partnership would be ended if the parties lived separately for more than a year,

[Page 8706]

if they entered into a separation agreement, filed a statement of intention to terminate, or if one of the parties marries.

Again, these amendments are being made to ensure our legislation complies with two recent court decisions and with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to make a few comments on Bill No. 75. One of the most interesting comments, I guess, to make right off the bat is that Bill No. 75 seems to be a refurbished version of Bill No. 33, the Family Maintenance Act, which was introduced in the last sitting. As you will recall, that bill was brought in as a result of the Supreme Court of Canada decision, M. and H. which the minister alluded to, and Bill No. 33, in essence, said that the government was going to change the Act so that common-law spouses and same-sex spouses would receive the same benefits as married couples who had been together for one year.

Now surprisingly, that has never been called. We never even finished second reading and the minister never brought it back after that. I remember sitting in caucus, Mr. Speaker, and discussing legislation and they said well, why didn't the Tories call Bill No. 33? They introduced it, the minister introduced it, why didn't they call that? Certainly, looking at Bill No. 75, it is similar in many ways, but suddenly they have changed the requirement from one year to three years and we are only left to wonder why they have done that. Why didn't they do it in Bill No. 33 when they had the opportunity there? Is there any decision that has required them to move it from one year to three years or is this just new Tory social policy, public policy that they have just decided upon?

One is left to wonder if it was not because of a caucus revolt or Tory Party revolt that Bill No. 33 itself was never brought forward. Who would it be for me to assume that the great Tory Party would have revolted and said, we will not support Bill No. 33 and they did not support the Minister of Justice moving forward with Bill No. 33, so as much as I assume by his size and stature that the Minister of Justice had overall authority over the caucus, it appears that even his own caucus was able to put a stop to Bill No. 33 and force him and his staff to scurry to find something which would be more acceptable to his own Tory caucus.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is a big teddy bear. (Laughter)

MR. SAMSON: Well, back in Richmond they have different terms, teddy bear not being one of them, but, anyway, he did bring us money for our courthouse, which we are very thankful for, so we are not going to be too hard on the minister.

[Page 8707]

I would hope that the Minister of Justice will stand in this House and explain to Nova Scotians why he did not bring forward Bill No. 33 which would have brought a more expedient change to this. There are certainly thousands of people who are affected by this legislation and we could have had this bill passed in the last sitting, and it could possibly, even have been law at this point. Instead, the minister chose not to do so and we are extremely concerned as to why that was done and why they did not move forward and I am left to assume that it was because of concerns within his own Tory caucus of having to accept and extending same-sex benefits and to common-law couples that this did not move forward.

On Bill No. 75, as it has been pointed out, we were prepared to debate and discuss Bill No. 33 when it first came forward and we have not changed that position. We agree with the changes, but again, we are certainly interested in seeing how this is going to play among conservative Tories throughout this province.

As it has been pointed out by the minister, several pieces of legislation are being amended in order to comply with two recent major court decisions. It has been pointed out by the minister, in the case known as M. and H., the Supreme Court of Canada found that spousal support provisions which apply to married and heterosexual common-law relationships must be extended to same-sex common-law couples.

As a result, pension benefits legislation and the Family Maintenance Act are being amended to ensure that they comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The amendments provide a definition of a common-law partner that will apply regardless of the sex of the partners as long as they have lived together for three years.

Now, again, it is our intention to look upon this bill favourably, but we are only left to guess as to why the minister and his government have moved the provisions from one year to three years. We understand they say it is in keeping with some of the other provinces, but Nova Scotia had a one year requirement - it was one year for quite some time - and suddenly, we are seeing a shift in Bill No. 75 that was not there in Bill No. 33 and we have no reasonable explanation as to why that has taken place. I would hope that the minister would be able to provide that in his closing comments on second reading with a reasonable explanation. Hopefully, we will not have to discuss this bill for an unnecessary amount of time. So, I leave that with the minister and his more than capable staff.

We are concerned with the three year provision. I know of people in common-law relationships and after your first and second year, they become completely dependent on each other. The idea that after two and one-half years or two years there is a separation that there would be absolutely no consideration there at all, or no rights, is of concern to me and I believe is of concern to many Nova Scotians. We are more than open to hearing the reasons for this and why so that we make sure that we do not pass legislation that will unduly harm Nova Scotians. Unfortunately, in common-law relationships, in many cases, one of the partners can be left in a very dubious position when only one of them is an income earner,

[Page 8708]

and all of a sudden the other partner is left with no income and, in many cases, no home, no vehicle and no appliances. It is certainly a great concern for our caucus.

The other big question for us, I guess, is being we are here for one year, the question is of future court challenges. Has the minister and his staff looked at whether moving from this one year to three year provision is going to stand up to scrutiny in the courts, or will it open up this province to court challenges and tie up his staff with having to deal with that? As I have pointed out, our big concern in going to the three years, is that it seems to limit the protection for people who become economically dependent on their partner which is a common case. In one bill this reflects a change in the time required for establishing a common-law relationship from one to three years. To change it to three years, as has been pointed out, brings Nova Scotia in line with many other jurisdictions in Canada, and makes Nova Scotia Statutes more consistent on this issue. But again, we hope to see the reason for this.

The change will not affect the obligations for the maintenance of a child. In the second decision known as the Walsh and Bona decision, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal found that the Matrimonial Property Act which defined a spouse as a married individual, discriminates against common-law spouses, and therefore contravenes the Charter. The court gave the province 12 months to enact legislative changes, and the province will comply with the decision by creating a new section in the Vital Statistics Act. The new section would allow individuals to register as domestic partners. As a result, the legal rights and obligations provided under several Statutes will apply to the partners and will outline the process for dividing assets should the partnership dissolve. As well, several provisions in the Income Tax Act will be amended to ensure they apply to all common-law partners.

Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out by the minister, this is an omnibus bill, and it does impact quite a few sections of legislation, but the big concern that is left there is why was Bill No. 33 brought forward for debate when introduced by this minister, and again, why has the government suddenly decided to move from a one-year provision to a three-year provision without providing us with any formal reason or even court decision, should that be the case, as to why this has been done? We look forward to hearing from the minister to explain this to the House prior to moving further on debate on this bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am happy to say that the main provisions of this bill are, in my understanding of public opinion these days, not controversial. I am very happy to report that, and I am happy the government has seen fit to bring forward this bill which is essentially designed to put same-sex conjugal relationships on the same equal footing as heterosexual conjugal relationships. Now, it doesn't do that entirely with respect to the full spectrum of all legal rights and obligations, and I will get to the one main exception I have in mind in a moment. But the basic underlying idea is one that is clear. It

[Page 8709]

is one which, as the Minister of Justice has said, has been mandated by the Charter as now confirmed by litigation.

I suppose in that context, it is at least partly the case that this legislation may be characterized as grudging on the part of the government, but at the same time predecessor governments have moved in the past in order to begin to bring the laws of Nova Scotia into line with what it is the courts in an emerging series of cases have told us is the appropriate interpretation of the Charter when it comes to discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation.

So it is only right that this matter come forward. It is only right that the government now turn its mind to a complete review of all Nova Scotia laws that ought to be changed in order to bring them into line with the requirements of the Charter. I believe about two years ago, we saw a predecessor provision with respect to some limited aspects of the law, and we were happy to adopt it at the time. It was during the time of the minority government. Our Party's position at that moment was that, instead of limiting the changes to income tax and the associated Income Tax Act changes, there ought to be a changed definition that extended to all Nova Scotia legislation. At the time, the government of the day, the Liberals, chose not to do that. Now, in the face of further court decisions, including the decision of our own Court of Appeal in Nova Scotia, the government has complied with the order that is usually made to give a government a certain amount of time to bring their Statutes into compliance with the court's interpretation of the Charter. As I say, it is probably only fair to regard this kind of bill as grudging acceptance of what it is that the courts have said.

[2:00 p.m.]

I think that all members of the House should be given the opportunity to indicate, in no uncertain terms, whether they actually support this or they don't. When the time comes, it is our intention to call for a recorded vote. I will tell members this now so they can turn their minds to that. I think that all members should have the opportunity to go on record with respect to this and say whether they support it or they don't.

Mr. Speaker, I have followed some of the statements that have been made by the Party opposite in election campaigns about whether they are prepared to allow a certain degree of freedom of conscience among members in their Party. I haven't seen this characterized as a matter of conscience by the Minister of Justice or by anyone opposite, but I think that since the Minister of Justice sponsored this bill as a matter of government policy that probably all members of the government caucus will not hesitate to stand up and show in a recorded vote that they support this. I will be interested to see whether that is exactly the case when the time comes.

[Page 8710]

Everyone knows that there has been extended litigation leading up to this matter. We are aware of the M versus H case that the Minister of Justice referred to; there was Egan; there was Rosenberg. There have been a number of cases in different provinces that have dealt with this matter, and they have all arrived at essentially the same conclusion. Even in the absence of litigation, there have been some negotiated settlements. We are mindful of the Jim Bigney case here in Nova Scotia. There have been a number of instances in which governments, when forced to, as I say, have actually acknowledged that it is appropriate to do the right thing. It will be interesting to see whether all members of the government opposite are prepared to go on record with respect to this.

Indeed, across the country, both nationally in our federal Parliament with Bill C-23, and in a variety of other provinces, legislation has now been amended to bring stray Statutes into line with what it is that the courts have said is appropriate, and finally faced with this kind of litigation, governments are no longer waiting to do it piece by piece, that is to say, not waiting to look at it each Statute by each Statute. Finally the movement is to bring all Statutes into line. That is right. As I say, I and my colleagues in our caucus will have no hesitation in supporting this bill and going on record with respect to Bill No. 75 and what it does.

At the same time, I think it is important that we note a couple of things about this bill, because there are at least two things that this bill does not do. One of them is that it does not extend the recognition of full equality before the law to other forms of dependent relationships besides those that are to be characterized as conjugal relationships. What do I mean by that? We know that there are any number of people who live together and support each other without having what I suppose could be and is called in this bill a conjugal relationship. Everyone is aware of brothers, sisters, brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchild, aunts and nephews, aunts and nieces, friends who live together and take care of each other and recognize that they have certain deep bonds including, they would regard it, obligations of support to each other. I know that because of the wording of this bill that recognizes the equal position of same sex conjugal relationships, that unfortunately, the ambit of this bill does not seem to go beyond a relationship which is founded in a sexual activity. Now, it may be that the minister has a different intent, but I don't think I can read it that way.

I know there was a national conference held just over a year ago at Queens University Law School on the problem of other forms of dependant relationships. In fact, I happened to see the proceedings of that conference, and I noted that one of the lawyers from the Department of Justice in our province attended that meeting. Unless I am wrong, I think it might actually have been Mr. Davies who attended that conference. There were papers delivered in which it was strongly suggested by the academics in the field that one possible approach to this whole question is to recognize other forms of dependant relationships beyond those that are to be described as conjugal relationships.

[Page 8711]

Now that doesn't seem to have been reflected in this legislation. I hope that the minister turns his mind to this outstanding question. It may be that he has and has determined that it is not appropriate to make any changes to the law in Nova Scotia at this time. It may be that officials in his department are thinking about it; maybe officials in his department, as a substitute for the Law Reform Commission, are considering it in their spare time. I hope there isn't a glacial rate of progress in considering this question. It is an important one. We all know in each of our constituencies, many groupings or many pairings that are forms of dependant relationship that perhaps ought not to be characterized as conjugal relationship, and I think the minister ought to consider whether it is appropriate to make changes to the law to recognize those kinds of relationships. Under his bill, it is not possible to register that kind of dependant relationship. It is not possible to register it, because his bill calls for the existence, as a precondition, of a conjugal relationship.

Enough said on that point, Mr. Speaker. I said there was a second matter that is not in the bill. The second matter that is not in the bill, let us be clear, is the possibility of same-sex marriages. This is not something that is legislated in this bill. Now, it is not clear what the exact constitutional status of the ability to deal with same sex marriages might be. We are all aware that under the allocation of federal powers under the Constitution Act, Section 91(26) assigns the subject of marriage and divorce to the federal Parliament. At the same time, we are also aware that the Constitution Act under Section 92(12) assigns solemnization of marriage in the province to the provincial governments.

So now, it is not clear whether the question of marriages by persons of the same sex is within provincial or federal jurisdiction. At the same time, the common-law position as enunciated by the courts is fairly clear. It was clear in the Egan case. It was clear in Layland versus Ontario before that in 1993, that the common-law position is that a marriage is a joining together in front of the law of two persons of the opposite sex. That is the common-law position.

This Statute does not come to grips with whether any changes ought to be made. I haven't heard the minister, yet, say whether he has any advice for us as to what public policy ought to be. At the same time, we know that in other jurisdictions this is being debated and changes have been made. In Europe, the Dutch Parliament has now made changes to their laws that quite explicitly allow same-sex marriages. The State of Vermont, somewhat closer to us, in the United States, has done the same thing. I believe there are other places that have done it. I don't have a full list.

Again, in terms of what isn't in the bill, I draw the minister's attention to this second aspect. It may be that he is of the view that it is just not constitutionally within our purview. He might tell us. There is at least one piece of federal legislation that deals with marriages, it is the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Act. It has to do with degrees of consanguinity and what is prohibited in terms of closeness of relationship when it comes to marriage. The federal government has asserted some jurisdiction over the question of marriage pursuant to

[Page 8712]

the constitutional power it does have under Section 91.26. This is not an end to the matter. It may be that it is one of those areas of divided jurisdiction, and the province might legitimately legislate. I look forward to hearing from the minister as to whether he has any advice for us as to what it is that public policy ought to be.

I would like to turn to this question of a change to the law that has been made that seems really to have nothing to do with the direction of the courts with respect to the position of same-sex couples. This is the point about how long a couple, whatever the sexual orientation, has to be together in order to be recognized under law as a couple. The bill in front of us actually has two different time periods. It is quite interesting. For purposes under the Income Tax Act, it says if you live together for a year you qualify as a dependent and as a spouse. I assume that the one year provision is to bring us into line in that context with what it is that federal legislation does. I suppose it may be that when it comes to claiming a financial benefit perhaps one year was seen as adequate. I am not sure, I haven't seen an explanation that has been offered that nails this point down.

In all other respects under the bill we are told that three years is the appropriate amount of time to live together. I recall that there was a time, and I think perhaps this goes back a good 20 years or more in Nova Scotia, when indeed that was the position under the laws of Nova Scotia. That is to say, living together for three years was the amount of time that was necessary in order to establish a common-law relationship that would lead to recognition of obligations of support, that would lead to recognition of the equivalent-to-married status for purposes of maintenance, for example.

At some point, in there, it was changed to be one year. Now the minister is proposing to change it back to three years. Here is a matter which is not being mandated by decisions of the court. This is a matter which affects couples, heterosexual or same sex. It has nothing to do with what it is that the Charter might require, it has nothing to do with what it is that the courts have said in their interpretation of the Charter.

Quite clearly, the government has made a policy decision with respect to what ought to be the nature of the rights and responsibilities of people who choose to live together in a conjugal relationship. The public policy decision is that if it is less than three years then it doesn't really have the same status as a full conjugal relationship.

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

MR. EPSTEIN: Absolutely.

[Page 8713]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to draw to the attention of members of the House a delegation from the Country of Bhutan, who are visiting

with us in Nova Scotia and they are at St. Francis Xavier University and they are part of an ongoing program of St. F. X., to give these head teachers or, as we would call them in this country, school principals, who are over here studying. With them is Brenda Berthiaume. I might add that Brenda is the mother of two boys who are best friends with my two boys. A very special relationship. (Interruption) The honourable Minister of Health asks if they are hockey players - he knows full well.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I welcome these head teachers to Nova Scotia to our House of Assembly, and I hope that their visit and their studies at St. F. X. will be very productive. If all honourable members could give them a traditional welcome. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, and welcome to our guests and all visitors in the gallery. I also would like to recognize the honorable member for Cape Breton The Lakes on an introduction.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: It is certainly a pleasure for me to stand in the House today and introduce, to all members of the House, a young individual visiting from Cape Breton; in fact, he is searching out universities to see which one he will be attending early next year. I would like to introduce Graham Boutilier from North Sydney, and Graham is accompanied by his friend, my son, Cory. Thank you. (Applause).

MR. EPSTEIN: I had just reached the point where I was posing a question for all of us. I was really wanting us to turn our minds to the issue of whether three years, as a period to establish as a matter of public policy the equivalent to a married relationship, is the right period.

I can well understand that faced with the realities that we all have either seen or experienced, or seen our children go through or the children of our friends, that many of us would look at one year and take the view that is too soon. The social reality today is that, particularly young people, many young people will choose to live together in a conjugal relationship prior to official marriage. This happens in many circumstances. It happens at university; it happens with young people who are away from home, working or not working. It is a common fact in society today. Everyone knows this. And they don't have to be young people; people in their middle and older years do this as well. So the question becomes, what is the appropriate policy with respect to when it is that we, as a society, are going to say to

[Page 8714]

them, after a particular time, if you are living together in a conjugal relationship, you have become common-law spouses?

Many of us would look at it and say one year is quite a short period of time for that. On the other hand, many of us would look at three years and say that is quite a long period of time to say that no obligations would arise. I have not really heard how it is that the minister and his government have decided that three years is appropriate. My instinct is that it is quite a long period of time; my instinct is that something a lot less than that might be appropriate. I'll split the difference with the minister. If I heard two years I wouldn't really be raising an eyebrow about it, but I would say that this is a question which ought to be decided by facing it squarely.

If the minister is saying to us that he has sociological evidence that shows that something happens at about the three year mark that is different than what happens at the one or the two year mark, then I would be interested in hearing it. Or if professionals have told him that there is something psychologically different at that point that is of significance, then we should certainly take it seriously and do it. Maybe the minister is telling us based on his own personal experience that there is something different there. Mr. Speaker, I don't know. I think, though, that there is an obligation on the minister to let us know why it is that this Legislature is being invited to make what I think is a major change in our legislation.

There are a large number of people who may be affected by this. Now, I am not suggesting that people entered into the relationships that they entered into feeling that they had a guarantee that after one year there would be an obligation of support or that a common-law spousal relationship would enter into it. We know that most of the people who enter into those relationships probably don't even turn their mind to that at all. It is precisely because they don't turn their minds to it that we have an obligation in this Chamber to turn our minds to it. Okay? We are not expected that they will make these kinds of decisions which they make based on their emotions, their love, their mutual attraction to also be made with an eye to the legal consequences. I don't think that is the case. But it is incumbent upon us to think about the legal consequences. A lot of the people involved may be too young to consider the legal consequences, but we have to think about them for them.

So, I hope the minister will offer to us what the nature of his thinking was when he decided to move in this direction. As I say, I cannot see this as anything else except a major change in public policy. I think we have to face this one very squarely.

Finally, let me say that I should clear up one small point I made on another day in this House with respect to Bill No. 33 that is also on the order paper. I think at one point I suggested that the minister had abandoned Bill No. 33. In fact, it seems fairly clear that the provisions that were in Bill No. 33 have now been incorporated into Bill No. 75. I apologize to the minister for having overlooked that on an earlier occasion.

[Page 8715]

In summation, I will say that although the government brings forward this bill with what I think can only be characterized as some grudging support, that it does the right thing. I would only ask that the minister consider this major change in public policy with respect to three years. I would ask as well that the minister let us know what it is that his department is going to do about other forms of co-dependency relationships. Finally, if not on this occasion, then soon, I would ask the minister to let us know what his thinking is with respect to same-sex marriages. Mr. Speaker, just again to make it clear, members in our caucus will certainly be supporting this bill on second reading.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to very briefly address the issues raised by the honourable members opposite, particularly relative to the two issues raised. One was the time period. I think it is fair to say that I had understood there was some information which indicated that relationships of one year - this is sociological information - that indicated that relationships of one year were of sufficient brevity to not necessarily be relationships of permanence. I think it would be fair to say that members opposite would concur in the view that these kinds of relationships that should attract maintenance obligations are permanent relationships, ones of sufficient length and standing that people would, at least if they address their mind to the issue, say, yes, I have a responsibility to this person, that we are not just dating, to use that phrase, and that what we are looking at is clearly getting at relationships of permanence as opposed to a dating relationship where it may be done.

I am prepared, in brevity, I will talk to the members or the critics opposite and we can have a discussion about the length of period of time. I certainly am not wed to any particular period of time, but shortly put, I am prepared to talk to members opposite on that. With respect to the other issue, which is the issue that the honourable member addressed, is whether it should be to other relationships beyond conjugal relationships, I suggest the appropriate thing is we can talk about that as well.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I close debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 75. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

A recorded vote is being called for.

Are the Whips not satisfied?

[Page 8716]

We will ring the bells then up to a maximum 3:26 p.m. but, hopefully, in five minutes we will come back and have the vote.

Ring the bells.

[2:26 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[2:40 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Christie Mr. Carey

Mr. Baker Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Russell

Dr. Hamm

Mr. LeBlanc

Mr. Muir

Miss Purves

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Langille

Mr. Morse

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. Hurlburt

Dr. Smith

[Page 8717]

Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Downe

Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. John MacDonell

Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Corbett

Mr. Pye

Mr. Epstein

Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Dexter

Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Samson

Mr. Boudreau

Mr. Wilson

THE CLERK: For, 41. Against, 2.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 78.

Bill No. 78 - Nova Scotia Business Incorporated Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a privilege to rise today to speak to this Legislature about An Act to Establish Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. This bill is a structure that will support the province's new economic growth strategy. That strategy was announced, as you may remember, just a few weeks ago. As I mentioned during the formal announcement, the significance of these changes cannot be overstated.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand the process that has brought us here today. Opportunities for prosperity is this government's plan for the economic future of this province. It is a strategy which we believe is the best course of action if we are to take advantage of those opportunities that lie before us, to take advantage of those opportunities . . .

[Page 8718]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is terribly hard for the Speaker to hear the member who has the floor.

MR. BALSER: . . . for our children and for our children's children. To do this, all Nova Scotians must have confidence in the motives and the decisions around economic growth and development activities. We must begin to restore a feeling of confidence, that is the key objective of the growth strategy and the structural changes which will support that work.

[2:45 p.m.]

That is why, in developing our plan, we spent months consulting with communities across this province. We held over 100 public meetings involving stakeholders and community leaders in every part of the province, meetings from Yarmouth to Sydney and points in between. We heard from people in business, large companies and small companies. We heard from academics; from educators; from municipal leaders; from sectoral representatives, including manufacturing, oil and gas, information technology companies, life science companies, the labour and service sector, and those are but a few.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the time to public acknowledge and thank those hundreds of people who took time out to come forward and to talk to us, to express their view and their concerns, and to participate in the development and refinement of this strategy. I believe that each and every one of us has a part to play in ensuring that this strategy works. This strategy and the changes we propose will become the foundation for economic development in the Province of Nova Scotia for years to come.

Mr. Speaker, we gave Nova Scotians a say in how we would move forward to make Nova Scotia the best place in Canada to live, to work and to raise a family. Over and over again we heard people tell us to find the way to harness and build on our natural strengths, our foundation industries, and at the same time to support and promote our promising new growth industries. In a rapidly changing and competitive environment, it means striking a balance, a balance that allows us to focus our efforts without hemming ourselves in. Effective support of the economic development strategy needs to have flexibility, it needs to be able to evolve and to change and to adjust as social and economic conditions change around us.

Opportunities for prosperity has been developed with a view towards the longer term. Something else we heard in our meetings, in fact in meeting after meeting, during the consultation phase is that we must move the decisions around economic development outside of the political realm. People told us that confidence must be restored if important decisions on how to grow the economy are to be made. They want them made, as much as possible, at arm's length from government.

[Page 8719]

Ladies and gentlemen, these are the comments we took very seriously. This new approach to structure, which this legislation addresses today, is a direct response to the concerns brought forward by Nova Scotians. Nova Scotia Business Incorporated will be managed and run by a board of directors from the private sector. The board will appoint a person who is not a member, to be the president and chief executive officer. The corporation's objective is to promote economic growth in Nova Scotia through business development. This will include encouraging and helping new businesses to establish themselves, retraining and expanding current businesses in Nova Scotia and, of course, encouraging and assisting in export and trade development.

These activities will be in line with the strategies and the direction that was set out for the new Department of Economic Development. The government body will establish the policy guidelines within which Nova Scotia Business Incorporated will be accountable. The agency will monitor the business climate to ensure that it consistently improves and remains competitive. The accountability of this process is another issue of paramount importance. The reporting requirements of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated are stringent and offer to Nova Scotians that they will have the ability to monitor and track the progress of this new structure and that monitoring will occur on a regular basis. Each September the corporation will submit its financial statements to the minister, together with the report on the work during the previous fiscal year. This information will be tabled by the Minister of Economic Development at the next sitting of this House.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, each year the corporation, with the department and stakeholders, will assess the province's economic development and the province's competitiveness as measured against other jurisdictions. The aim here is to regularly identify and re-evaluate Nova Scotia's economic strengths and weaknesses to ensure that we are constantly striving for improvement and excellence. We will continually refine and strengthen that approach as a means to add value to the process. We believe that this process gives Nova Scotians the opportunity to keep track and monitor the results for themselves.

Beginning in its first year, the corporation will be required to submit a five year strategic plan. That plan must include budgetary requirements and a detail of the overall business plan and strategy. The legislation requires the first of these on September 30, 2001, with a business plan that will extend for the fiscal year 2002-03. Business plans for subsequent years must be submitted in September of each year. This will allow Nova Scotians to keep a watchful eye on the activities and plans of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. Within six months of the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year, the corporation must submit to the minister a detailed evaluation of its activities compared against its initial five year strategic plan and they must also give a new plan for the coming five years.

[Page 8720]

Mr. Speaker, these strict planning and reporting requirements will be critical to the success of the new structure and, more importantly, to the success of our economic growth strategy. They will give Nova Scotians the transparency and accountability that they deserve and demand of this new structure and new process. It will also ensure that the activities of the corporation are consistent with the policies, aims and objectives of the government of the day.

We have a very exciting opportunity before us, Mr. Speaker, to make this happen. To make this happen, it is critical each of us sees ourselves in the new structure and in the new process. Not only must we see ourselves, we must also do our part. Hundreds and hundreds of people have already taken up that challenge. We are talking about making Nova Scotia a better place in which to live, to work, to raise a family.

We have launched the strategy and have committed to follow through step by step over the next years until all elements are in place, Mr. Speaker. With Nova Scotians working together, we can capture this momentum to make our province literally the best province in Canada. We are committed to following through. We are promising to support economic growth with this legislation and with this new structure over the next few years. As I said earlier, all members of this House and all members of this province have a role to play and with all of us doing our part to move the legislation through the House and into Act, we can shape the future of the province and capture the economic opportunities that lie ahead. I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to hearing the comments from our Opposition members about how the bill can be moved forward in an expeditious manner.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I listened with interest while the minister once again told this House that we should just heel and allow this bill to go through the House like every other bill, and a "trust me" attitude; there is no time for democracy here. This is another bill that is good for Nova Scotians, another very thin bill which is indicative of the bills that have been coming before the House, again with no information in it except some clauses here that are meaningless and useless.

What this deal does amount to is the gutting of the Department of Economic Development, and I will speak to the bill where the minister didn't speak to it. It is a gutting of the Department of Economic Development and, I think, an affront to the staff who have developed that department over the last number of years, with the success rate that they have had in this province of over 97 per cent in terms of dealing with small- and medium-sized corporations in this province. But, more importantly than that, the department at least, rightfully or wrongly, and even when the department erred, at least there was a public accountability there. There was a public accountability for that department to explain to Nova Scotians on the floor of this Legislature when, at various times during its mandate, it was felt that they did not perform perhaps in the best interests of taxpayers use of dollars.

[Page 8721]

That has happened in the past, but for the most part there has been some pretty good deals put through that particular department over the past number of years. What do we have here now? We have An Act to Establish Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. Nova Scotia Business Incorporated, that is just a misnomer. No, it's not a misnomer I guess, in other words, it is a gift to the friends of the government is what I am trying to say here. It is a gift to the friends of the government because now there is going to be a corporation set up here with people appointed to this corporation and who is going to be appointing the people to the corporation but the government. I am sure that the government is not going to ask me or any friends of mine, or any friends of my friends to the left here to serve on this board, unless they want to make a deal. (Laughter). I saw the Premier perked up there in a hurry.

What is happening here is that there has been a dismantling of this government in this particular department. Let me tell you that it reminds me, in my former life as Mayor in Sydney, that there was an institution around in those days called Industrial Estates, that was charged with the responsibility of developing parts of this province, and various business interests were involved in it but there was very little accountability to the floor of this place, and this place that we sit in and stand in and debate in should have the ultimate responsibility for decisions that are made that affect the lives of Nova Scotians and also the spending of taxpayers' dollars.

I believe that what is happening here is that this particular bill is going to bring the operation of this department outside of the political process. Well, I don't believe it should be outside of the political process, because it is the political process in this province that is responsible for the appropriation, and if any missed opportunities come as a result of those appropriations, I think it is our responsibility, in this place, to be able to discuss and debate those missed opportunities.

However, there is going to be no chance for any discussion of this because these deals are going to be made, and I wonder at first blush how they are going to be made. While this is a grand document for setting up a new structure in this province that will obviously provide more friends of the government to belly up to the trough, if you will, in Nova Scotia. I believe that even they are going to be mislead because along with this bill comes no budgetary requirements for this particular business incorporated bill.

The gutting of the Department of Economic Development didn't only occur with its structure, it occurred with its financial clout as well. I refer to the situation in New Brunswick, for example, where New Brunswick has three times the budget for economic development than the Province of Nova Scotia does. It has been difficult enough for us to attract and keep businesses, and try to encourage businesses in Nova Scotia with the limited budget that we had.

[Page 8722]

Now we are going to be very selective, along with a smaller budget that has been one-third cut. We are now going to have a situation where few are going to cherry pick here and decide which is in the best interests of Nova Scotians to pursue, which is in the best interests of Nova Scotians to support financially, and which is in the best interests of Nova Scotians to support for the benefit of the government, not for the benefit of Nova Scotians. That is clearly what this document is doing.

[3:00 p.m.]

This document is setting the stage for not less politics in terms of accountability in this place, but more politics in terms of political consequences for the governing Party. There is a vast difference between accountability on the floor of this House and political subservience to the masters who support them, namely the government in power. I believe this corporation is going to be playing fast and loose when they have the opportunity with government money, and there is going to be some direction given to this corporation by the political masters. Does anybody really believe that this corporation has been set up for any other reason than to serve the government? To serve the government and the government's interests. In other words, don't bother coming to the Department of Economic Development with a good idea for a business venture, just go to this corporation, and we will send a note along with you when you go to the corporation saying that you are a friend of the government and they are to talk to you. If you don't get a note to go, don't bother going, because they won't talk to you. That is what is happening here.

I believe this particular bill deserves much debate because it should be seen for what it is. What it is, we are taking the responsibility away from the legislators in terms of spending government money. In the past there was an accountability, rightly or wrongly, no matter what happened, there was accountability. At some point, you had to publicly account for what you had done in this department or any other department of government. That is not going to be the case anymore. Friends of the government are going to run the show, and they are going to quote Clause 15, "The object of the Corporation is to promote economic development in the Province through (a) business development, retention and expansion; (b) the establishment of new businesses in the Province;" Okay, how are they going to do that when the budget is cut by one-third? The minister didn't mention any new money. The budget is cut by one-third.

Also, it is going to be involved in receiving and holding mortgages and dispose of real and personal property and all of that kind of stuff. It may do all of that without any need to bother with the nuisance of coming to the House of Assembly and saying, here is what I have done with taxpayers' money, without the nuisance of having to do that. We will just do it in our own corporate offices, and we know we have support of the government because they set us up here to do that. We don't care whether the Opposition has an opportunity to debate this. It is like the Sysco bill, no opportunity to debate. It is like the other bills that are coming before this House, no opportunity to debate.

[Page 8723]

It is like the NSRL when the minister today tells us, oh, we will tell you what the agreement is with the ten bidders after the deal is done. Well, that is just fine. So the taxpayers of Nova Scotia won't know whether it is a good deal for them or not until after it is done. Then it is too late. So that is what majority government has brought to Nova Scotia, particularly Tory majority government, and we have seen what Tory majority governments have done in this province in the past. I go back again to some of the other so-called Crown Corporations that were set up to deal in the best interests of spending taxpayers' money without their knowledge.

Mr. Speaker, I go to Clause 32 (1), "Within six months after the end of the 2005 fiscal year, and every five years thereafter, the Corporation shall submit to the Minister . . ." every five years thereafter, the corporation shall submit to the minister. Not yearly, not in the form of a budget statement or an accountability statement every year, which is what happens on an annual event called budget deliberations and Speech From the Throne. Never mind that with this, just come along every five years and tell us you are doing a good job and then we will let you go back and spend taxpayers' money for another five years as long as you support the government. If you do not, we will take you off the committee and put somebody else on who will support the government. Again, I refer back to cherry-picking, what businesses and what particular interests in Nova Scotia you are going to support.

In other words, the Department of Economic Development with its professional staff who are making these decisions in the past are no longer needed. The expertise that we have had in that particular department, Mr. Speaker, is now becoming redundant, very fast. In other words, we do not need you anymore. Your 97 per cent success rate, your growth in various parts of the province that you have achieved here with various interest groups, with various small businesses, with various medium sized business and, yes, with some large companies that are friends of the government, all of these are gone for naught.

The people who did those deals in Nova Scotia, what the government is now saying to them, they are all bad deals. The people who are working in Nova Scotia as a result of the initiative of the professionals working in the Department of Economic Development are now being told, those people are now being told, well, you are not needed anymore. We do not need you to bring jobs to Nova Scotia anymore. We do not need you to develop the economy in Nova Scotia anymore and, Mr. Speaker, this corporation is going to do it. This group of people who are hand-picked by the government are going to do it and they are responsible to the minister.

So, again, democracy flies out the window. Accountability flies out the window. The bunker takes over. The Executive Council mentality takes over here, that we know what is best for all Nova Scotians. The Legislature is just a place where legislators gather a couple of times a year to sound off about their problems and then go home. Well, I am sorry, but I do not accept that. I think the Legislature is a place where accountability should prevail; among all else, accountability should prevail here, accountability in all departments.

[Page 8724]

Any time we see a bill coming before the House that takes away from that, I get concerned. I get concerned about the fact that we will not have a say as legislators. More and more it is becoming evident that we do not have a say in matters that affect Nova Scotians on a daily basis; environmental measures, for example, as we witnessed in the Sysco bill. When the Premier comes out and states, well, after the sale goes through we will no longer have any responsibilities if anything happens environmentally, you know, I mean what kind of a statement is that to send to Nova Scotians or in a bill like this, where the Legislature is not going to have any jurisdiction and, by the way, Mr. Speaker, then play that off against the need to get this bill through in a hurry because there are people waiting for pensions. So in other words, we will sacrifice our environmental liabilities so we can pay out some pensions right now and everybody will go back to sleep in Cape Breton. Well, I do not think that is going to happen at all.

Believe me, Mr. Speaker, there is going to come a day when this government is going to realize that they have been hoodwinking Nova Scotians into thinking just trust us, we have a majority government here, we know what is best for Nova Scotians, let's not bother with the debate end of this whole thing. Let's not bother with the wasting of time discussing these types of bills. Like the minister said earlier, we would like to get this through the House expeditiously so we can get on with life. Well, I have heard that on every bill that came through the House since we started this session. Never mind discussing these bills, we know what is best for Nova Scotians and we know what is best for you people, meaning the Opposition over here. We know what is best for Nova Scotians. We have a majority government. We are going to look after our friends here whether the Opposition likes it or not.

I am going to tell you, once you take a department as important as the Department of Economic Development, which seems to work very well in other provinces, including New Brunswick, that it is no longer any good for Nova Scotia and, in particular, parts of Nova Scotia like Cape Breton, who are struggling to get new businesses, is this group seriously going to go down to Cape Breton and say we have to provide new jobs in Cape Breton because we are part of this corporation? No.

The political fact of the matter is that if you look at the ridings of the members opposite, not too many of those ridings are in Cape Breton, particularly, none of them is in industrial Cape Breton. None of them has any hope of getting into industrial Cape Breton in the near future.

So how does that translate, when you don't have accountability on the floor of this House, when you don't have questioning of deals that have been done or are about to be done in this province? When you don't have that, what do you have? You have the Tory Government cherry-picking where they are going to put their support. They are going to have their backbenchers saying, we want development in our particular constituencies, and in areas that don't support us, Mr. Corporation, you just take a soft look at that and come back

[Page 8725]

to it another day. That is what is going to happen when you have this corporation type of set-up here, when you don't have the Department of Economic Development responsible to this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a set-up for the friends of the government, dealing with limited dollars, and we are dealing with limited dollars here. Some of the members opposite are new to this place and are starting to find out what the political system is all about. Some of them have been around here when the political system was operating very efficiently, with the last Tory majority Government in this province, back in the Buchanan days. There are a few esteemed ministers on the front benches who are still around from those days.

I can recall an incident, when I was Mayor of Sydney and needed something from the government. All it took was a phone call, because the particular person I was talking to in the government wanted something in return. I said, that is fine, I think we can probably make a deal, but I need to get this for my municipality. The appropriate minister wasn't even informed that this transaction was taking place until he read it in the paper. That is the way business used to be done in government. I can see it coming to that point again, where you have a corporation that doesn't have the responsibility to report on an annual basis to this Legislature in terms of accountability, it reports to the minister every five years. Then the minister, if the government of the day is still in power, will either say you have done a good job for us, the government, the ruling Party, or you haven't. If you haven't, I am sorry, we are going to change directors here, and it has been nice knowing you.

It is an affront to democracy, that we have taken this department and gutted it. We have gutted this department. It is almost down to nothing now. I am telling you, the senior people who work in the Department of Economic Development, I would suggest to you, are severely disappointed at what is taking place here. (Interruptions) All of the above. I believe that these people are professional enough to want to try to make any new type of organization work, but it has worked. I often come back to a statement I make: if it isn't broken, why are we trying to fix it.

We have cut that department and cut that department and cut that department. In the past number of years, look around you, look in Dartmouth, look in Halifax, look in Cape Breton, look at other parts of Nova Scotia, the Department of Economic Development has had a positive impact in: one, bringing job opportunities to the province in those areas and; two, retaining them in the province; and, three, employing Nova Scotians, be it in the offshore, or be it in the call centre operations that are in the province, or be it in other types of manufacturing, or be it in high-tech industries, all of which have been successful; 97 per cent of them have been successful. That is not my figure, those figures have been well documented.

[Page 8726]

If it isn't broken, why are we trying to fix it? Do you know why we are trying to fix it? Because there is too much accountability, too much public scrutiny under the Department of Economic Development, too much interference by the Auditor General, perhaps, too much interference by the press, perhaps, about certain deals that may be going on, if we try to do something. This will take care of all of that. We will just go underground with it. We will just go underground and we will put a bunch of friends of the government in here, and we will slip them a note and tell them who to go see and who to do something for, and then come back and if they are happy, we are happy. Everybody is happy. The public is none the wiser to what is going on. That is what is happening with this bill.

That is not only pertinent to this bill, that is what is going on in every bill that is coming through here. This is as autocratic a government as I have ever seen in my life and witnessed in my 23 years in public service. I can't believe that this government is attempting to subvert democracy in this province that it is doing with bills like this.

[3:15 p.m.]

I really have difficulty with this bill as it is. There is not much in here, but that is by design as well, because there is no information on this bill. All it is is a bunch of clauses effectively gutting the Department of Economic Development in favour of a private corporation, that is Nova Scotia Business Inc., quasi-private if you will, whatever it is. Whatever moniker you put on it would be a misnomer anyway because it is going to be a vehicle to allow the government to do what they want, for whom they want in this province, and not necessarily open the process to small business interests in this province that want to have a vehicle to access government. That takes us right out the window, because what is going to happen now, unless they have a note from their MLA on the right side of the fence or the minister, then they are not going to get in the door. We know that. This is politics at its finest, this bill. This is bringing it right back to square one.

The old boys' network in Nova Scotia is alive again through this bill. If you are not on the government side, if you don't have access to these guys or gals here who are appointed by the government, then you are out of luck. Don't come back to the Legislature and complain because we won't have a vehicle to record your complaint. Don't come at budget time and want to know where the facts and figures are on this corporation because it won't be there because it is going underground.

Now I would suspect also, Mr. Speaker, that the money that will be allocated for this department, which has been reduced by one-third in the past year will perhaps suddenly be reinstated. In other words, the money will start to grow instead of diminish to allow this corporation to do its deeds throughout Nova Scotia to help the government out here in its re-election attempts in a couple of years' time. I believe you will see the budget of this department mysteriously grow again. They will find the money for the department. The new Nova Scotia Business Incorporated's budget will grow. There is no question about that

[Page 8727]

because the government in power will get greedy. The government in power will want this corporation to look after all these people who are going to try to get re-elected. They are going to want to look after them all. The money that is in the budget now is not sufficient to do that.

So there is going to be a hierarchy set up or a pecking order and those who are friends of the front bench will probably have some work done or some businesses or some small loans given out in their areas, and in my particular case, speaking for our members from industrial Cape Breton, we don't have much access to the bunker downstairs these days, nor do we have much access to the front bench, nor do we have MLAs who have the ear of the front bench or will have the ear of this Tory-appointed corporation that is going to be set up.

What I am saying, Mr. Speaker, is that, along with gutting the department to set it up - and this is a set-up - you reduce the level of assistance in this department down to a point where it becomes redundant, where it becomes insignificant and then, lo and behold, you come in with this document that is going to rejuvenate it, regenerate it, regurgitate it, whatever you want. Then what will follow is, there will be more taxpayers' money found for this corporation. Amazing. We had to gut the department to set it up so it is redundant. Now we can come in with a new bill that has approximately 40 clauses, 28 of which mean nothing, and few here that are setting out the rules and regulations of this corporation, one of them being that they have to report every five years.

I can tell you one thing that is for certain, they won't be reporting to the same minister every five years, in this particular department, because this minister has succeeded in working himself out of a job. When this government started off, this minister had half the portfolios in the government, at one stage, and now he has slowly worked himself out of every one of them. Now, he is relegated to picking up the coffee at Cabinet meetings, and when a Cabinet Minister can't find an answer to a question, they point to him and he gets up and says nothing. (Interruptions) I will yield the floor for the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism, with an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you to the honourable member for giving me some of his time for an introduction. In the east gallery we have some friends of mine from home. We have with us John Cameron, first of all, who is a consultant with the Strait Regional School Board; we also have Nicola Marshall, who is from Scotland, and she is here on work experience from the University of Strath Clyde; we also have Mary Janet MacDonald, who is a managing director of some type for the Strathspey Place, which is a new auditorium in the Mabou area; and a friend to this side of the House by no doubt, the gentleman beside her is Mr. Daniel Rankin, who is also with the group today. I would ask the members to give a warm welcome to our guests in the gallery. (Applause)

[Page 8728]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, just to continue with a few more comments, and I am going to be brief, I know there are other people who want to speak on this issue. Let's call Bill No. 78 what it is, this is a political document. It is not a document that is crafted in the best interests of serving the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, it is a document crafted in the best interests of serving the Tory Government in Nova Scotia. That is who it is crafted to support. It is a vehicle by which members of the government side can access public funds for their constituencies, for their businesses they may set in the constituencies, without bothering to explain to the Legislature where those dollars are going to be spent, because this corporation will do it. This corporation, again, I said, will cherry-pick where they are going to support businesses.

Nothing in government runs perfectly, but I can tell you this, at the end of the day in government there is always accountability. In the Department of Economic Development, there was accountability. There were professionals in the Department of Economic Development who were out there doing what they thought was in the best interests of Nova Scotians, on a daily basis, to promote the Province of Nova Scotia. They were accountable to their political masters, and their political masters were accountable to this House, for the actions of that department. I can tell you, as a past minister of that department, we were accountable, we had to stand up in this House and we had to answer for each and every deal that was done in the Province of Nova Scotia that involved taxpayers' money. This is not going to be the case in this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I think that is an affront to democracy in this province, that you are now going outside the political arena here and giving the ability for a group of people in this province to determine who is going to get public funds, where they are going to get them and why they are going to get them without coming to the floor of this Legislature and having to answer questions as to why public money went to one business or another. I think that is an affront to democracy. It is not something I am surprised at, because since we started this session of the House, that is all we have seen, on a daily basis.

We have heard minister after minister state, let's get this through in a hurry because it is in the best interests of us. It is in the best interests of getting on with the job. It is in the best interests of good legislation, in their estimation. So why bother to talk about it? There will probably be closure on this after a few hours if there seems to be too much discussion going on it. That will probably be pulled and then brought back in a couple of weeks' time, along with everything else, like the Sysco bill they are trying to pull through the House; because this government does not have any time for democracy. Imagine taking the Department of Economic Development's budget, ripping it apart, destroying it, and then coming in with another bill to build it back up under the guise of good development in Nova Scotia. What a joke that is.

[Page 8729]

The money will find its way back into this budget to be distributed among friends of the government throughout Nova Scotia, friends of the government will benefit from this as they benefitted from everything this government has done to date since it came to power. There is a chronology of that starting to evolve here. We are starting to get a list, and at some point people in Nova Scotia are going to catch on that this is the game of this crowd supporting big business in this province. This crowd looking after their friends. This is another example of that. We have seen it in virtually every department of government and we have seen it virtually from every member of the front bench on a daily basis. We have seen it from the Premier on down.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. There is a little too much noise in the Chamber. Will the members take their private conversations outside please. The member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: As I said at the outset, a gutting of one department for political purposes is not serving the best interests of the taxpayers and the people of this province. There are parts of this province that are hurting and need economic development. There are parts of this province that need to have a voice in economic development. They do not need to be subjected to the political whims of a government that happens to enjoy a majority and can literally do what they want, including invoking closure on bills, including distributing funds to a corporation that will not face the scrutiny of the House on a regular basis.

Can you imagine any corporation reporting every five years on how they are doing? I find that somewhat laughable; report every five years on what you are doing in the House. Also, a corporation that literally has a blank cheque to do what they want in economic development in this province without bothering to go through the legislative process at all. Just forget about the legislative process, forget about it. It is an unnecessary evil that we have democracy here, we do not need democracy, we know what is best. That is what the government says. We do not need democracy; we do not need to bother with votes; we do not need to bother with discussions, debates; we do not need to bother with accountability. All we need to do is get more votes than the crowd over here and this is one way to do it, in their estimation, to bring forth Nova Scotia Business Incorporated.

I wonder if much discussion was carried out with the senior staff of Economic Development and how they felt about it? Was there much discussion with the people who would tell them how that department helped them out over the past couple of years, including those in metro Halifax who have been assisted, some of them in buildings within a nine iron shot of this place here that are doing very well because of initiatives by the government in Nova Scotia to assist them. (Interruption) For some of us it might be a nine iron, for others it might be a three wood.

[Page 8730]

[3:30 p.m.]

Anyway, what we have seen here is no consultation with those companies that have been helped. Some of them were very fortunate that this didn't apply when they were looking for assistance because, unless they were friends of the government, they probably wouldn't get any assistance. What we have done here is segregated businesses in this province to the point where those who are friendly to us will, those you aren't won't. There is the danger of that happening here.

People will say to me, well you know, why are you cynical? Why don't you trust the government, Mr. Speaker, in this matter? I will refer back to a statement I made earlier. If it isn't broke, why is the government trying to fix it? It is not broke, it hasn't been broken. We have 97 per cent success. Ask the companies that are working out there right now. Some of them are in your constituencies who received assistance from Economic Development and Tourism. Then what happens is they take the Department of Economic Development and they gut it. Then they take Tourism out of there, and they try to make Tourism a political whipping boy by setting it off by itself because that was a political promise.

They do that, Mr. Speaker, and they appoint a minister. Yet they can't see themselves in a position to appoint full-time ministers to some other departments that should stand alone, but they have done it in Tourism. That was the start of the destruction of the Department of Economic Development in this province. First of all, take Tourism out of there, cut off the wings like Communications Nova Scotia, Innovacorp and others, start slicing them off, then all you will have is the Department of Economic Development standing by itself. So we will take the departmental name off it because it is now too small. The next thing we will do is we will take the financial budget of that particular department and we will gut it by one-third, so we will further make that department insignificant. Once we do all of that, we will come in with this document, Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. We will come in with that document, Mr. Speaker, which clearly puts the Department of Economic Development, or whatever they are going to call it at the end of the day, back in the political realm of the government. So the government will have full control because they will appoint the people here. They will tell it what to do. They will give it some money to do it, and they will say to them, you do what we tell you or we can replace you.

Mr. Speaker, if you don't think that will happen, then I am going to tell you, Nova Scotia political history will tell you that anybody who doesn't think that is going to happen in this bill is naive, extremely naive, because this is a political document setting the friends of the government up to distribute public money to their friends. That is what is going to happen here. For areas of the province that don't have the political clout, perhaps that other areas do, will be left out because the professionals in the Department of Economic Development - who, by the way, have done an excellent job over the past number of years in developing this department - have recognized throughout the province that there were pockets that needed government support for small business. They have attended to that, and

[Page 8731]

I can give you three good examples in my area of call centres that were placed down there because of the experts that we had working for the Department of Economic Development went out and got those businesses (Interruption)

I am glad the minister mentioned that. The EDS Call Centre, the Tories take great delight in congratulating themselves in having got that job done, after we had put three call centres in there before that. The facts of the matter, Mr. Speaker, are that EDS came to Cape Breton because of massive government support at the federal level, number one. Number two, it came into Cape Breton because of the incentives that were put there by the previous government including payroll rebates that they take credit for, but I am not going to take credit for that because it was the staff in the Department of Economic Development that recommended the payroll rebate system, that brought EDS to Cape Breton. They didn't wake up some morning and decide that EDS would be good for Cape Breton, I can tell you that. If they spent as much money there as they are spending on the clean-up of Sydney Steel, which they booked for this year, then they don't have much to blow about when it comes to spending money or talking about EDS. You want to do something in Cape Breton, spend the $318 million that you booked to make the debt of the province look worse and then blame it on Sysco and the people of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, when I hear that kind of talk, that the Tory Government brought EDS to Cape Breton, that is nothing short of laughable. EDS came to Cape Breton because of government initiatives based on provincial policies that were put in place by the professionals who worked at the Department of Economic Development, namely the payroll rebates. They wouldn't have been there for any other reasons. As a matter of fact, if this government could have stopped it and put it somewhere else, they would have. Only there was so much federal money involved in there, they couldn't do that.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I don't want to hold up the debate. My few remarks will be followed by some further discussion when this bill comes back to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills, because there are a number of comments and a number of clauses in this particular bill that I would like to discuss at the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. Having said that, I will take my seat. I believe there are other speakers who want to have a go at this bill as well.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, during those last comments from the member for Cape Breton South I was reading one of my books, I wouldn't say it was one of my favourite books. I am aware, as you are, of course, there is a time and an appropriate place to read in this House. It seems rather convenient to point out that Harry Bruce, a Mount Allison University graduate from years past, wrote a famous biography about a famous Nova Scotian called Frank Sobey: The man and his empire. I think it might be prescribed reading for this minister, because if you look - there is a lot of big words in it, so it will take him

[Page 8732]

some time - at what Frank Sobey and a particular organization called Industrial Estates, and if you are aware (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Obviously, there is a number of members opposite who want to be on the waiting list for this book. Maybe this is the way to look at this, but that famous old catcher, number eight, who squatted in there behind the plate and caught those deliveries from Whitey Ford and Don Larson, Yogi Berra said it right, déjà vu all over again. What have we learned from IEL? What have we learned from that experience? I guess when you have an old idea, you make it older by just recycling it. You just bring it back up again because some of the lessons of history have obviously been forgotten by this particular government.

Let's look at certain sections of this book, and I have to be careful, because I don't want to quote from it too explicitly, but let's try this one on. Frank Sobey, of course, was the President of IEL for 12 years, well-connected, and I want to point out - there is a great picture in here of June 1965. Mr. Speaker, where were you in June 1965? If you look at that picture in the Red Room, and you have G. I. Smith, Robert Stanfield and every other good Tory around, they are sitting there around that IEL table, that they conveniently held, of all places, in the Red Room. Let's just look at this one quote, if you wouldn't mind, I would just like to read it into the record, and for the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, I will table the book so he can read it later.

"The location of Scott Maritimes, Michelin, Clairtone, and the smaller industries in what was once Bear Brook Park aroused criticism that Frank wielded excessive influence on behalf of his own bailiwick. But according to Stellarton-born Lance Hale, later of Halifax, the reaction to such criticism along the East River was . . ." Excuse me, I am quoting. "'Goddamn right. We knew Frank wouldn't let us down.' As so many said, Frank was a Pictou County man first."

Now this book says it all. What have we learned from history here? If we allow the private business person to get his or her hands in the public cookie jar with little or no accountability, what will happen to those dollars? Now that minister over there says trust me. I want to share some quotes because my good friend for Dartmouth North has made this bedtime reading for me, of course, Opportunities for Prosperity. Let's try on a few of these quotes. The minister said government has to get out of the way of business. There is a big difference between getting out of the way of business and having this minister basically get out of town. This minister has always said in his statements, Nova Scotians are not happy with economic development decisions, so it is important to have arm's length decisions. Mr. Speaker, arm's length decisions, when it comes to public money, is no decision at all from public officials.

[Page 8733]

More importantly, the most revealing quote this minister read into the record earlier at the press conference, which he held a couple of weeks ago, was this is not a detailed business plan, it is a framework for action, it is a work in progress.

AN HON. MEMBER: Back to the future.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Now, back to the future we come again. This is a framework; this is a work in progress. But trust us because after all business can do it better. Business can make the decisions that Economic Development Ministers can't make. Maybe in this case, that might be the case, but I truly think that minister has relinquished his authority because of the creation of this particular Crown Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, let's have a look here. The minister says that the Economic Development Department is now going to be the watchdog. That is one of his snippets, but I am saying to you that that watchdog is very quickly going to become the puppy dog of big business. The watchdog who isn't doing his or her job as minister and has become puppy dog, or lap dog, answering to somebody else who is well-heeled and has been given the keys, as I have said before, to the public piggy bank. That minister, when you look at Page 10 in that bill, when you look at that minister's job description, and it is one of the final pages in the bill, I don't want to get into the specifics of the bill at this time, but you look at what has happened to the Economic Development Department, and that minister. There no longer is a Economic Development Department.

Basically, this department has been gutted. They have cut it far enough back, and they took the Tourism component aside - for various other political reasons that we won't get into here - when we look at what is left in the Economic Development Department, I don't even know why we have a minister anymore. Maybe the Premier can answer that question for us someday in Question Period. From what I see we won't need a minister in the Economic Development because the hard decisions, the tough decisions, that minister no longer has to make them, he says, because this is arm's length, this is hands off. We want to get out of the way of business as they make the tough decisions about public funds.

Mr. Speaker, there are some considerations which I think we should look at very carefully here, and there are some questions which Nova Scotians ask. When we look at such things as the selection of the board, we look at the fuzzy lines of communication. Do members actually believe, do they think Nova Scotians believe that when it comes forward with a good solid deal, $3 plus million to the Sobeys, are you telling me, and does that minister believe that Nova Scotians believe that that sort of decision will not be discussed around the Cabinet Table? How naive does this group think Nova Scotians are? Those are the types of decisions that in a leadership role politically in this province, those members and those ministers opposite, have to have the final say. Where does the buck finally stop in the Economic Development Department's criteria? Where does it stop? On whose desk should it stop? Should it stop at a private member of the business world who is probably well

[Page 8734]

connected with that group over there or should it stop on the Economic Development Minister's desk? That is where it should stop because he then should take that recommendation on to Cabinet.

[3:45 p.m.]

Those fuzzy lines in decision making, Mr. Speaker, oh, the answer is it is a work in progress. This is not a firm plan. This is not a detailed plan. This is just a framework for decisions and that is the concern that many Nova Scotians have. Nova Scotians are concerned because we have this, "trust us, we know better than you do" attitude. That concern came out earlier when we heard the member for Cape Breton South although I must point out that that when the member for Cape Breton South was that minister, he was less than forthcoming with some of those reports that we were supposed to have our hands on. I will tell you there were times that we stood in this House and that member was on this side at that time, the Minister of Economic Development sat here and asked those questions as they leaned back against the wall, but now we have the provisions of trust me, I know better because I am going to allow my well-heeled business partners, my well-heeled friends in the Tory Party, to eventually become the decision makers when we look at this particular piece of legislation.

There are concerns and some of the concerns that I have heard, for example, what will be the role of the development agencies across this province? How will they get their say? I mean after all when we look at some of the disasters that IEL had, Clairtone springs to mind, when we look at those particular examples, what have we learned? What have learned from those? The important factor in these decisions, Mr. Speaker, is to make sure that the decision makers are publicly accountable and those decision makers must sit around that Cabinet Table.

Now, let's have a look here at seven strategic directions. Think about this. This particular plan isn't going in one direction, it is going in seven directions. It reminds me of one of those vicious circles, it is pointing every way in, seven strategic directions. Yet, again, when you look at those seven strategic directions and they involve such important topics, Mr. Speaker, as business climate, infrastructure, innovation, labour force, investment, exports and regional capacity, we are told those details are a work in progress, just details, we will get to those details. So, in turn, this particular piece of legislation, we are supposed to go on blind trust, blind faith? Not the case, Mr. Speaker. There are far too many questions in this piece of legislation and there are certainly not enough answers.

Now, if I can return to the reading at hand, Mr. Speaker, the concern that Nova Scotians have is that there will be another Frank Sobey. There will be another well-connected friend of the government who after all is going to be in the business of feathering his or her own nest. That concern will result in all kinds of allegations, finger pointing and controversial conflicts in here in Oral Question Period. Surely that minister and surely the

[Page 8735]

members of that front bench, the member for Hants West in particular, he must have learned from some of the negative experiences that he suffered in other government, yet it seems they must reinvent the wheel. They must allow their well-heeled friends to make those decisions because after all they know better. They know better what is best for Nova Scotians.

There are areas of this province, Mr. Speaker, that are hurting. You know them. In fact, you come from one of them. I question whether this particular Nova Scotia Business Inc. is going to listen to the people in your area. I honestly question whether they will go out of their way to make sure that, there are areas of this province that are not as fortunate perhaps as other areas served by members of the Opposition, I am sure that there will be a pecking order when it comes to particular business initiatives - and I will make the allegation at this time - I am sure that Tory constituencies will get to the trough before others. Those Tory constituencies will be taken care of.

Not in the best interest of Nova Scotians, not in the interest of your riding, for example, in particular, or the more rural part of my riding where we would like to have a hand up, not necessarily a handout, but we would like to have a hand up when it comes to taking care of some of the business interests in those communities. Instead, this particular piece of business structure, if you are well connected and you have a pipeline in then you are going to have your say. Now, what kind of guarantees does that make for the people of Glace Bay? What kind of guarantees does that make for the people of New Waterford, or rural areas, my area, where we are looking at the fact that there are people who would like to have some form of assistance, but how do they get to the decision makers?

Now this minister can say, arms' length. Don't talk to me, I don't deal with that anymore, instead you must make your appointment through whatever process is going to be done. You must after all, take care of that through private business. The business men and women of this province, they know better or what is best for Glace Bay, New Waterford, rural Nova Scotia, Terence Bay, other parts of this wonderful province. I question that philosophy. If you cannot stand the heat in the kitchen, then you get out, and that is what that minister has done.

That minister has said, there are tough decisions ahead so I can help Nova Scotians all over this province. Instead, they have created or re-created IEL all over again. And, what about the people who work in the Economic Development Department? What about them? I think at last count there were 130 or so members of that department. If you look carefully at this bill, many of these people are going to be switched into private and that is a concern for many of them I know.

Now, we hear some of the assurances in the bill, or we read some of the assurances in the bill, the concern, however, is that if the Economic Development Department and that minister is just going to be a watchdog, then what is the purpose of having a minister or having a department?

[Page 8736]

The concern comes down after all to the chain of command, if we could use that military analogy. Now Nova Scotians are to believe that this public funding will be distributed fairly and objectively by business people and the Economic Development Minister will purely play a watchdog role; that he or his successor - perhaps it will be a she - that Cabinet Minister just basically has to keep a lid on things, has to answer questions in this House when things blow up in his face as a Cabinet Minister.

That is not the way we expect leadership to happen on the topic of economic development in this province. That is not success, that is not the way that we should be going when it comes to dealing with things that are going to be best for Nova Scotians in all regions of this province. You see, there are too many questions and there are not enough answers. Truly, there is a difference between getting out of the way of business and having the Cabinet Minister involved, basically, just getting out of town.

That concern will be reflected time after time in the months to pass when we look at some of the decisions that that minister can say, oh, I don't make those decisions; I am sorry you cannot bring that up in here; that is not part of my mandate anymore as the Minister of Economic Development.

Well, I ask you to look at one of the final pages in that bill. I will assure you that is a job description for an Economic Development Minister that is close to Casper the ghost, because that particular minister no longer has any responsibilities. He does not have any responsibilities. He has been gone from his others. When we first started to put up with this government, he was the master of all departments, but now, maybe because of the good foresight of the Premier, he has taken one responsibility after another from him. Now that he is getting rid of Sysco and no longer has any responsibilities when it comes to economic development, that minister is much like Casper the ghost. We will never see him and he is far from friendly, let us guarantee you that.

It seems to me that if we look at this particular piece of legislation as it moves to the Law Amendments Committee, hopefully there will be some concerns come forward. But, because of how things operate in the Law Amendments Committee - and there is a lesson for you today, but I would rather not go there - when we look at what happens at the Law Amendments Committee, it will be in and out and back in here, we will be on the Committee of the Whole House, and we will be going clause by clause, because either that minister has some kind of golf appointment that he has to rush off to, or he has some other particular kind of commitment, because this bill is going through. Philosophically, that group over there believes firmly in the fact that as political representatives, we don't know what we are talking about when it comes to representing the economic interests of this province.

You tell me, Mr. Speaker, how I, as an MLA, can no longer go to the Minister of Economic Development and say to that minister, as I have in the past, and to the previous Minister of Economic Development, give me the background, for example, on a particular

[Page 8737]

fish plant that was going to be changed over to another project, which perhaps you have heard something about. Do you know that that minister's staff, after appropriate time, got back to me with the details and told me, yes, there was a grant of how many thousands that helped out with the architectural fees to the particular fish plant in Terence Bay. How do I get that information in the future?

What happens to us as individual MLAs? Do I, after all, have to make an appointment with the government-appointed CEO, appear in front of the board? What happened to the days where I can ask a minister, as I have asked ministers over there on other occasions other forms of business, they are accessible, they are accountable, they are here in the House, but that member right there, that member won't be accessible. He won't be accountable. He won't have to give the answers because, Bill - excuse me for using a first name here, Mr. Speaker - it's arm's length, I've washed my hands of that decision making. I am a watchdog now. I don't get involved in those tough decisions.

That is not how you do business, Mr. Speaker. We, as legislators, have to feel comfortable with the fact that we can approach Cabinet Ministers when we have a particular concern. Now it seems the rules of the game are going change in Economic Development. No longer am I able to just place a call and try to get some information. Now I have to, it seems this way anyway, through a series of jumps and whistles and whatever other hoops I have to go through, deal with a private board that, after all, is going to make public decisions, eventually. But they are making decisions about public funds. There is something wrong with that.

Nova Scotians are going to find out what is wrong with that because inevitably and eventually that political leader has to make tough decisions, and just because he hasn't got the intestinal fortitude to go ahead with that and continue to show some leadership, but instead relinquish that decision-making process because it is convenient to him to make sure that some well-heeled friends of the government - and I will be very interested in whether any of them are outside of Tory areas, it will be very interesting to see in the future who gets appointed to this particular board. When they sit in the Red Room, as they did in June 1965, and the Premier and the minister sit there, and if we look through the political pedigree of those people, if they have a photo op such as that, it will be very interesting to see how well connected they are politically.

Mr. Speaker, what do we have to learn from history? Well, we have to learn, from my experience, if you forget history you are condemned to repeat it. Industrial Estates had a number of major disasters. IEL was created, basically, so well-heeled friends of the government - and here is one, a 12-year president. For 12 years, this private businessman ran IEL. For 12 years that man had more input than other members of the Cabinet. For that reason, as I quoted earlier, for those sorts of reasons we saw that that particular private member of the business world did more for the people of Pictou County strictly because that was where he was from. How many on this board are going to be from Cape Breton? Perhaps

[Page 8738]

the minister opposite should designate that so many on the board, regionally based, should be from Cape Breton, should be from northern Nova Scotia, should be from outside of the HRM. That would be a very progressive amendment which, hopefully, members of the Law Amendments Committee won't, in typical fashion, nay it and forget it because after all, it is the sort of suggestion that might have some merit.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as this bill moves through to the Law Amendments Committee, there will be reservations expressed by Nova Scotians. For the few moments I have spoken here today, I have brought them to the attention of the House. The concern I come back to on numerous occasions is a concern that the minister has relinquished his authority. The minister is not demonstrating the leadership which is necessary if we are going to progress economically in this province. Instead, the minister has decided that other people, unelected people, are going to make these decisions. Those decisions that are going to affect average Nova Scotians all the way across this province, ordinary Nova Scotians whom we hear a certain opposite member talk about, those decisions must reflect some political will. That political will isn't there from this minister. This minister has decided, and I am sure there are people in the Department of Economic Development who are saying, well, why are we here now? What is our role now? We haven't really got anything to say with this whole process. We have to get out of the way of business because business knows about economic development in this province better than we do, as political leaders.

Now, Mr. Speaker, business leaders should be consulted, let's be very clear on that. Business leaders should have input, they should be listened to because of some of the expertise and some of the wise business decisions they have made in the past. Here is the key point, they shouldn't be making the final decision.

Now, the watchdog here, oh, he will be watching them as they make that final decision, but will that final decision be made around the Cabinet Table? We are not sure of that, Mr. Speaker. Now I am very sure that when it comes to handing out a couple of million to a particular business, Sobeys for example, is that minister telling me that that isn't going to be discussed around the Cabinet Table? We are not that naive, as Nova Scotians.

The concern that comes back, and I bring it to your attention again, if we look - and we will, as we move through from clause to clause - at some of the decisions, or suggested decisions, that are in this bill and I don't want to go clause by clause at this time, Mr. Speaker, because I understand the intent of this particular debate, but if you look at Page 10, the Department of Economic Development, after this is done, after Nova Scotia Business Incorporated has that blank cheque to do what they want to with public funds, check out what the watchdog is going to be doing. He is going to be coordinating, promoting, collaborating, assessing, promoting, cooperating.

[Page 8739]

Sometimes I look at this, Mr. Speaker, and I say to myself, does the minister have a job left? After all, those sorts of buzzwords, and they are, if I may point to, for members opposite, Clause 38, Section 33(2)(a) through to Clause 38, Section 33(2)(h), those are the buzzwords that are included there.

Now, so conveniently the minister stepped back; so conveniently the minister can say to himself ah, there it is, another responsibility I don't have anything to do. If you look at what has happened to the Department of Economic Development, and if you look at how staff continues to decrease, it will be very interesting when we look at the budget this spring, whether they actually even get one. I suppose the minister will have to make sure that he has a travel account of some sort and I am sure there will be some staff in the office. You know when we realize the fact that many of the staff are going to be basically chopped off and moved into the private sector because, after all, those are the people in the department who have the expertise who are going to support the Nova Scotia Business Inc. Those are the people, in Nova Scotia Business Inc., and that elite board of directors with the CEO, who is that board going to depend on, Mr. Speaker? They are going to depend upon Economic Development people currently working in the department. They are going to depend on those very public servants who have the answers now.

That minister doesn't want to have to make those decisions because it seems to me that when you have to relinquish your authority, you either don't want to make the tough decisions or you just can't make them. Which way is it, Mr. Minister? It seems to me that when you started, you had a full plate but right now you are in the soup line of responsibilities. Can you not see the writing on the wall that whoever is bringing this legislation forward and putting it on your desk, they are saying, there is the door and you are on the way out? You no longer have any authority. You no longer have any clout in that Cabinet. Instead, if the Premier wants to know, when it comes to business development, he can make sure that he contacted - very much like G. I. Smith and Robert Stanfield, they wanted to know what was going on, they placed a long-distance call to Stellarton and talked to Frank Sobey.

Mr. Minister, I challenge you, you look very carefully at this piece of legislation, the writing is on the wall. You are in a position that you are going to be in the want ads, looking for some jobs. Right now, when this bill does come through, you are no longer going to have any responsibilities, you are not going to have any department to work with. So the concern will come back, as it moves through, goes into the Law Amendments Committee, and you rush it back in here, because I guarantee you this spring, when it comes to budget decisions, this will be a focal point, because there really will not have to be any further delay in the fact that we don't need an Economic Development Department and we don't need an Economic Development Minister.

[Page 8740]

Mr. Speaker, with that, and my quick history lesson, I will make this book available, it is in the library, excellent work. Two copies in there. Harry Bruce makes some good points, particularly Chapter 9, on IEL. I thank you for your time.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and offer a number of interventions into this debate on Bill No. 78, An Act to Establish Nova Scotia Business Incorporated. The first optics of this particular piece of legislation would appear to be quite good, because the general principle and the philosophy of this particular piece of legislation, as I understand the minister and indeed the government, is putting those who are the experts in this particular field in charge of their own destiny. At first glance that would seem to be a pretty good initiative.

What do we have to judge the merits of this piece of legislation and the principle of this legislation, in terms of whether we can support or reject this particular piece of legislation? As in Opposition we don't, as the government well knows, and as most people well know, certainly the members in the Opposition well know, the government doesn't always provide the information on the complete analysis of the legislation, to be able to be 100 per cent sure in our minds that we are giving our approbation after a complete and full analysis.

What I did was go back and see if there were any fingerprints or blueprints that have been marked in time and history, that would be of some value to be able to give some assessment on the principle of this particular piece of legislation. Obviously, the only die or the only tool of measure that we have before us, and it has been referenced on a number of occasions, was indeed the Industrial Estates Act of 1956. I believe that particular Act was formerly known as an Act relating to an agreement between Her Majesty the Queen and Industrial Estates; in short, it is known as the Industrial Estates Limited Act.

Mr. Speaker, as I was listening to the Minister of Economic Development in his opening statement, I couldn't help but be amazed at the parrallelism between the comments of the sponsor of the bill from 1956 to the bill of today. It is just absolutely astounding. The principle and the objectives of the legislation of that particular day pretty well, it is almost as if we went back in a mirror of time.

Mr. Speaker, I was somewhat intrigued to read some excerpts from a book entitled The Life and the Times of Industrial Estates Limited by one Roy E. George. He was a professor at the Institute of Public Affairs, Dalhousie University. Now, obviously we don't want to get off the track altogether here, but it is important because the comparisons and the analogies, the parallelisms, the whole philosophy, it is almost like we have gone back in time.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bring back Clairtone.

[Page 8741]

MR. MACKINNON: Bring back Clairtone, Deuterium, you have it. What concerns me, Mr. Speaker, when you read this particular bill, An Act to Establish Nova Scotia Business Incorporated - and I certainly don't want to belabour some of the points that have already been made - but I found it most interesting. I can't help but quote this little excerpt from the preface of Professor Roy's booklet. It says: Like some of its counterparts elsewhere, IEL has come in for some strong criticism from time to time. After a few unspectacular years, when it scored some minor successes and failures, it became ambitious and went out to seek excitement and recognition. It goes on to say: It focused on both Deuterium, a heavy water plant, and Clairtone, a television plant. Each of these ventures ended disastrously. Then it goes on and on to conclude that: The public was scornful and suspicious.

Now, Mr. Speaker, one of the ironies of that particular time-frame of industrial development in Nova Scotia was that there were never really any measures put in place to check to find out whether we were getting value for dollar. Now, today we have the Public Accounts Committee which is fairly active and so on, but what we saw transpire then was that there were a lot of things that stood out in reflection that I can see at first glance you wouldn't notice with this particular piece of legislation, but if anyone were to be a little suspect of what the minister's, and indeed the government's, objectives are, it would take very little time to come to the conclusion that this particular piece of legislation is, in fact, somewhat of a barrier or kind of a buffer zone or a smokescreen for the government's economic development initiatives to be able to enter into the equation a number of factors: number one, patronage; and number two, some preferential treatment even within the government ranks itself.

I will introduce some evidence to show that history is indeed on the stage of resetting itself all over again. In fact, if you go and look during that particular point in time, in Chapter 7 of this particular booklet, here is the irony. If you look at Pictou County and Colchester County, these two counties, at that particular point in time, who was the Premier of the day? Robert Stanfield. As we all know, he became very well-known throughout the province for his successes and failures, but in Industrial Estates Limited, Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a particular issue in terms of the number of dollars per capita that were spent in various regions of the province. Who was the number-one man in the Stanfield Government at that particular time?

AN HON. MEMBER: G.I. Smith.

MR. MACKINNON: G.I. Smith, a senior minister. He was the minister of everything, I guess, there for a while. What district did he represent? He represented Pictou County.

[Page 8742]

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, ironically, or coincidentally, however you would like to look at it, Pictou County and Colchester County got the highest investment on a per capita basis from industrial development than all the other counties in the Province of Nova Scotia.

AN HON. MEMBER: I am sure that was a coincidence.

MR. MACKINNON: That may have been very well a coincidence. In fact, Pictou County got $773 per capita while Colchester County got $467 and then, of course, it goes downhill from there, after that on average it is less than $100 per capita. So that is coincidence number one between what happened under Industrial Estates Limited and what this particular piece of legislation will lend itself to in its general form.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other ironies is if you look at the representation in the other jurisdictions at that particular time-frame in history, I notice under Industrial Estates Limited, counties such as Richmond County, Inverness County, Antigonish County, got nothing. Now, what was the representation, as a rule? Well, they just happened to be, for the most part, Liberal members. It could have been NDP members. It could have been banana republic, whatever, but the fact of the matter is, that is point number two, patronage, number two point.

What we look at, Mr. Speaker, is what really is transpiring. Let's fast forward just a little on this particular piece of legislation and the forerunners that have been presented before this House both physically in the representation of the former Minister of Economic Development - I forget what his title was at that time, they kept changing the title - but it was the Honourable Donald Cameron when he was Minister of Development, I believe it was. Now, ironically, when he was a minister in the government under John Buchanan, 85 per cent of every dollar that was spent from that department went to Tory-held ridings whether it was an absolute necessity or not. It was pure out-and-out patronage in the worst form.

In fact, Mr. Speaker, that is in all likelihood why Industrial Estates Limited failed because of that political buffer zone that was created there with the lack of accountability, for the political hacks that were put in place. Yes, Mr. Speaker, many of those individuals were very honourable individuals, very honourable men and women, but their first loyalty was to the government and if it was to the success of Industrial Estates Limited, I am sure that in all likelihood it would still be a success story today because, as we all know, not all ventures are going to be successful. In fairness to Industrial Estates Limited, we have the success story of Michelin here in Nova Scotia, despite the wrinkles of whether they should all come under one body so that the collective agreement vote could be put, or not put, or whatever. Aside from all that, it is truly a success story in economic development in Nova Scotia. Now, that is one out of how many?

[Page 8743]

What about Deuterium of Canada, I have a tongue-twister here, going back to the days of Spevak who was a good friend of the Premier and the government of the day. It started off as a $30 million investment, Mr. Speaker, and what happened? Over $100 million later it became a disaster and who bailed them out - the federal government - but there was an unknown story not told in this entire issue. From the time that the federal government took over, they paid a lot of money to the provincial government over that 30 year period, right up until I would suggest two years ago when the province was still receiving somewhere between $1 million and $2 million a year.

I don't know if it was royalties or some type of an agreement between the federal and provincial governments, a financial arrangement on that transfer of assets and liabilities, but it was a win situation in the end for the province, not because of IEL, not because of the government of the day, but because the federal Liberal Government bailed them out. That eventually became the heavy water plant and, of course, we all know what happened there when Sinclair Stevens sunk his teeth into Cape Breton.

Then we have the issue of Clairtone. Well, the first year, Mr. Speaker, the shares there I believe were running at what, $35 or $15 a share? Within two years, they were down to less than $1.00, I think less than 50 cents, because the board of directors made some value judgements which were not correct. Now, you have ask yourself, was it because they weren't good business people or had a terrible business sense about the way they were doing things? Not so. The significant difference is, it wasn't their money, so they weren't as conscientiously bound to the impact of what was transpiring. I can see a similar type situation developing again here, that is a concern.

What has happened to Nova Scotia, through that particular period, and what will happen under this particular initiative? Now, in fairness to IEL, the majority of the investments made at that particular point in time were to small towns and communities with less than 5,000 people - towns and villages, communities, however we want to determine them - but for the most part they were failures.

If we watch the trend of what happened between, I would suggest, 1978 and 1992 or 1993, there was a major shift in population in this province. I may not be exactly on the number here, Mr. Speaker, but I think the Minister of Economic Development would agree I am going to be close. There was a 5 per cent shift from rural Nova Scotia to urban Nova Scotia, i.e. the centre, Halifax Regional Municipality. Essentially, this population went up by about 5 per cent in that time-frame, and the rest of Nova Scotia, taking into account all fluctuations, went down 5 per cent. So what we have is a shift. What we need to know is how this particular piece of legislation will impact on rural Nova Scotia vis-à-vis urban Nova Scotia. Now that shift took place without Industrial Estates. The majority of the growth factor in and around metro took place without institutions such as IEL.

[Page 8744]

If you look during that time-frame, when that particular piece of legislation was brought before the House, Mr. Speaker, the Halifax City and the Halifax County areas received the least amount of dollars per capita for investment. Maybe that is because they didn't need that support system, maybe for a whole lot of reasons, but the minister and the government have to tell us what direction this board is going to go to satisfy areas such as Queens County, Lunenburg, down through the Valley, the Eastern Shore, Guysborough County, all these areas. Guysborough County, under the previous legislation you will note, suffered immeasurably because there wasn't a vote in Cabinet, albeit, that particular piece of legislation was supposed to be arm's length from the government and run by experts. At what point did we cross from a social mandate to economic development?

There are a lot of problems, Mr. Speaker, that I can foresee coming with this particular piece of legislation. One of the ironies of this particular initiative is the fact that the government - and this independent report, albeit you have to judge one's opinion as to how independent or how subjective it is, but as a professor for the Institute of Public Affairs, I would consider that it was reasonably independent. What was most interesting about that, and I can see the same mindset developing again by virtue of these government appointees and the mandate of, if we want to call it, the new Industrial Estates of the year 2000, because that is just about what it is sizing up to be, is the lack of accountability and the perception by the general public that it was nothing but a colossal football.

We have seen enough political footballs in Nova Scotia to last us quite some time. We have seen Sysco, the heavy water plant, Clairtone, we have seen lots of them, and we can go on and pass the blame around and the responsibility, but the fact of the matter is there is one fundamental difference this time around. We have a very high debt in Nova Scotia, so we do not have a lot of room to manoeuvre because the Minister of Economic Development is in a position where his budget has been slashed. There is not much left to pick off the carcass over there in Economic Development. He is right down to the bones, and if they cut any more they are going to be digging into the marrow. That is how small it is getting over there. So the room to manoeuvre and the room for error and omission with this new Industrial Estates Year 2000 Inc., if you want to call it that, is very small.

So what input is the small- and medium-sized business community in Nova Scotia going to have into this? Perhaps they might be able to dig into that slush fund that the Minister of Finance seems to have buried away. He is not using any of that money for the clean-up, the $200 million to $300 million environmental fiasco at Sydney Steel, so at the end of the fiscal year perhaps he will do like the former Minister of Economic Development did with the $20 million that was set aside for tourism infrastructure in Cape Breton; he let it sit in the account until the end of the fiscal year and the next fiscal year he transferred it, this special federal/provincial agreement, into the general revenues, so out of $20 million, I believe Cape Breton Island received approximately $200,000 or $300,000.

[Page 8745]

Is that the sleight of hand that the Minister of Finance will be doing so as to prop up the political initiatives here in a vain attempt to try and buy some seats? Well, that seems what it is shaping up to be. He has already indicated and admitted to propping up the amount of money he needs for restructuring in government, because that is quite evident, they had to pump some of it back into Education and Health. So we have really two slush funds. We have one within the Ministry of Finance on the restructuring cost and, by his own admission, he has kind of given what they call a cushion, so that could be very easily transferred back over to Economic Development. Plus, we have all this money that, by all accounts, will not, and I cannot emphasize clearly enough, will not be spent in this fiscal year. The likelihood of the Minister of Finance carrying that over, is very small and we see evidence of that just by this Sydney Steel bill.

For the Minister of Economic Development to stand in his place here and say he is taking the politics out of it and by putting a distance between government and this Industrial Estates organization he is attempting to put in place, it's not correct, it's a myth. He is misleading the people of Nova Scotia into thinking there is no patronage there. This is a smokescreen, much the same as what the Premier was doing with Sunday shopping. The red tape commission was to cut down on red tape, so everybody was focused on all the regulatory regimes that were put in place, when in fact the real initiative was somehow to placate the interest within the government benches and business interests on Sunday shopping in certain jurisdictions, whether it be in Cumberland County because of the cross-border issue that even we faced as a government, but we stood firm. We didn't capitulate. We didn't hide behind smokescreens like the Premier is doing.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is exactly what this particular piece of legislation is doing. I kind of feel bad for the Tory backbenchers, because they are going to be relegated, kind of in a pecking order fashion, to get in line to meet these faceless private sector bureaucrats, if you want to use that terminology, to be able to determine whether they are going to get some type of development in their county or in their constituency or community A, B or C, whatever. The fact of the matter is that is what it is. The government, the Cabinet, the Minister of Economic Development will make these value judgements and then lo and behold, and I will stand to be corrected, and we will see if history will not repeat itself, because all indications are, by the wording of this legislation, because even in Clause 15 - and I don't want to get into it clause by clause, but it goes to the general principle of the bill because it is almost identical in the thrust to what took place back in 1956 - "The object of the Corporation is to promote economic development in the Province through (a) business development, retention and expansion; (b) the establishment of new businesses in the Province; and (c) trade development and expansion,".

[Page 8746]

It sounds pretty global, pretty all-encompassing, but that is exactly the mandate of the last group. That is the mandate and the scope of the last organization. I think what we are really doing is we are missing the boat. We are missing the boat. The government is missing the boat. If anything, he is not in harmony, he is not taking advantage of a lot of the global opportunities that are there before us. We heard before the Public Accounts Committee last week, the Halifax Port Authority talked about the potential for 2,000 jobs in the construction industry for the development of the next terminal here in Halifax. The multiplier effect for jobs after that, I believe, 400 or 500 full-time jobs after that again, still.

The government hasn't made any commitment there. We don't need a private corporation for the government to make a commitment, to make that an economically viable opportunity. It is all about supply and demand in the market place. All indications are subsequent to the free trade agreement and the fact that the northeastern United States are essentially at maximum capacity there. By their own accounts, they are virtually landlocked, unless we open up another corridor from the New England States up through from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and right up through the New England States, right into Halifax. This is one of the key corridors. They need us as an economic entity to be part of the whole process.

The government made lots of commitments when it first came to office on Shearwater, and now they seem to be backing away. Where is the commitment there? We don't have to bother with a private entity to be able to live up to a public policy commitment that would in fact create many long-term private sector jobs. That is ultimately what seems to be the philosophy, put everything into the hands of the private sector. So why take a chance, putting millions of taxpayers' dollars in the hands of what has already proven to be not very successful with the Tory philosophy? I would suspect that much of the advice the government is receiving on this particular initiative is from some of the advisers from the previous failure.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at rural Nova Scotia. What has the government really done for rural Nova Scotia since it came to power? What has it done down the Eastern Shore? Not a lot for the member for the Eastern Shore. What about the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley? I think he got 10 miles of asphalt when the Liberals were in power; I am not sure if he got even one-tenth of a kilometre when - and you say you need good roads to be able to transport your goods to market. (Interruptions)

What the honourable Minister of Health doesn't understand is, as a member in Truro, that is a town, an incorporated entity, and they come under a different financial structure with the Department of Municipal Affairs. He is kind of bogged down with rabbit tracks.

[Page 8747]

Let's look at the development within Truro. Since they came to power, what has the provincial Department of Economic Development done for the Town of Truro? Let's go around. Let's go down to Guysborough. I will bet you don't hear too much on success down there, very much on the fringe.

AN HON. MEMBER: Good member.

MR. MACKINNON: He is a good member. Maybe, Mr. Speaker, they can put him on a task force for rural Nova Scotia. They have to find something to do with these members because this new bill isn't going to do much for them. If history is anything, I am afraid there is nothing here for you. You would be getting as much as Antigonish, Richmond and Inverness did. The government hasn't laid out a master plan of how they intend to see this particular piece of legislation work.

The initiative on the call centre in Cape Breton, that wasn't initiated by the provincial government. They came in as a silent partner because, what were they doing? They were fulfilling that financial aspect of the Devco fund commitment. It was something initiated by the previous Minister of Economic Development. It was in the preliminary stages. (Interruptions) I hear some ministers back there saying, not true, but, Mr. Speaker, I don't see them standing up to the bat today on any new initiatives, ones that perhaps they have initiated since they have come to power. They had kind of fed off the opportunities of yesterday.

To keep focus on this particular piece of legislation, really, what type of representation are we going to have from the private sector? Will it all be from Colchester and Pictou Counties? Is there going to be some regional representation there? (Interruption) Perhaps somebody from Digby, maybe somebody from Balser Trucking. We need to know these things, Mr. Speaker. Maybe somebody from Bedford or, as I refer to it, the good community of Bedrock. There are good economic success stories out there and that is good, Mr. Speaker. Certainly some opportunity for the good member for Dartmouth South.

If anyone is talking about the success of business in Nova Scotia, it is the honourable member for Dartmouth South, but can that honourable member stand in his place and identify some of the economic opportunities that have been brought to his community through the initiatives of the provincial government in the last year? Absolutely. We will be waiting with bated breath.

Mr. Speaker, I don't presume to belabour the issue too much. Obviously the single biggest concern is it appears that the Department of Economic Development is becoming more of a cheerleading process than it is an economic development leader from a governmental public policy position. I applaud the minister in his efforts in looking to the private sector as much as he possibly can to try to see that the private sector has to be a driving force. Sometimes there is a misconception that government has to create x number of jobs a year or else they are not a success on a score sheet. Yes, from a government point

[Page 8748]

of view, we have to put policies and initiatives in place to create the environment, to be able to allow the economy to be stimulated and for people to come and invest, but we also have a social responsibility as well. If we were just to adopt the two schools of thinking that here in metro is strictly just for all-government offices and agencies and the military and universities and so on like that, they are essentially funded by taxpayers' money, there is a derivative.

There is a multiplier effect to that into the private sector and so on, but there has to be a balance to rural Nova Scotia somewhere, otherwise we are going to continue to drain to the point where the Minister of Community Services, his number one clientele is going to be all the jurisdictions outside of metro. As honourable as the intent is in reforming the community services process or the Minister of Education putting in some programs for adult education, they are not going to work because it will be like a band-aid on the side of the Titanic. That is what will happen. The cost to the taxpayers will continue to go up. There will have to be some checks and balances put in place.

I believe the minister would not find that an unreasonable request from the Opposition. I think we have to be very cognizant of that, because what we found through previous experience is sometimes we start relying on the experts that weren't home-grown as well. That has been a mistake by a lot of governments. I suppose one could argue both sides of the equation, but I think more often than not, we have never given ourselves the full due of how capable we are of controlling our own destiny. On that general sense, that general philosophy and thrust, I can applaud the minister on that.

Mr. Speaker, I do have some concerns on this particular piece of legislation because I somehow sense that we are moving in the direction of repeating history. Perhaps the minister, when he is wrapping up in debate will be able to enlighten us as to how he might be able to address some of those things or perhaps through the Law Amendments Committee process or even if it comes back to the Committee of the Whole House, we will have ample opportunity to review that again. With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make these observations.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the Minister of Economic Development it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, just a few comments in light of the references made by members opposite. They talked a bit about gutting the department. In actual fact, what we are doing is responding to a number of the concerns that were brought forward through the process of public consultation. What they suggested, what the people who participated in the public consultation process suggested was that we would, in fact, be better served if we had an arm of the department that was tasked specifically with business

[Page 8749]

development, promotion, creation and enhancement, and that we have a second arm, if you will, that would be charged with policy implementation and development. That is important to remember.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, members opposite would leave you with the impression that this was some structure that was dreamed up on the whim of a government. In fact, what we have developed here is a structure and a model that is reflective of what we have heard through the over 100 meetings that were held across this province. A number of people also have made reference to the likeness to IEL. In fact, when we undertook to look at how to restructure the department, we looked at best practice models around the world. If you talk of the Irish model, looking very briefly beneath the surface of the structure that is in place in Ireland or in Michigan or in the Carolinas, the structure there is very reflective of the old Industrial Estates model. In fact, if you look at the research available around economic development and promotion globally, many of those documents cite the IEL model that was developed here in Nova Scotia as being leading edge. Certainly, if something works and works well, there is no reason to cast it aside.

What we have done in the restructure that we have brought forward is attempt to incorporate what was best in IEL. Members opposite pointed to some of the problems that occurred, but they failed to point out some of the significant successes, some of the businesses that were attracted to Nova Scotia as a direct result of the work of the IEL model. Certainly much of the economic growth and stimulation, long-term, major employers in this province are companies that were brought here during that time.

The other thing that really bears commenting on is the way in which some members opposite spoke disparagingly, I think, of some of our more successful entrepreneurs in this province. In fact, I think if we are looking to how do we grow and stimulate the economy, how do we ensure that we continue to have an economy that is leading, how do we ensure that we have the tax base available to support education, health care and community service programs? The only way we can do that, Mr. Speaker, is by ensuring that the business community can grow and prosper. I think if we can look at successful entrepreneurs and how they have been successful and use some of their wisdom and insight into how to grow the business climate in this province, it would be a good thing.

Mr. Speaker, they also spoke at some length about the lack of accountability, if you will, the reference to five-year reporting cycles. In fact, what I said, in my opening remarks, was that there would be an annual report tabled in the House and that we would expect there would be a five-year strategic plan for setting the stage for how we will grow the economy over five years. The intention of this legislation and the structure that is being promoted here is one that would transcend electoral cycles.

[Page 8750]

One of the things that the business community said repeatedly was that they needed to have some level of comfort around whether or not changes in government would, in fact, change the rules of doing business in the province. What we are suggesting is that by creating Nova Scotia Business Incorporated and the Economic Development Agency, those two vehicles will stand the test of electoral cycles and, subject to the five-year reviewing process, will be able to adapt and refine their work so that the business community will have a level playing field out into the future.

The other thing that really bothers me, Mr. Speaker, are the assumptions that are being made by members opposite about who will be on this board. If you think back to the day on which we announced the strategy, the response from the business community was overwhelming in its support. People - unsolicited, I might add - came forward with positive comments about the new direction and the new view and the new way in which the province was going to be promoting economic development. In fact, I think that we will be in the envious position of having more people coming forward to put back into this great province some of the things that they have gained and benefited from.

So I believe, Mr. Speaker, that geographical representation will not be an issue; I don't think gender representation will be an issue. In fact, I think, as I have said earlier, we will be in the enviable position of having so many exemplary candidates to choose from that we will have a difficult time winnowing it down to the 12 members who will ultimately form that board. I think, too, the issue of whether or not the public can have faith and belief in the change that is being promoted today will come as a result of who those initial appointments are. Once we have the first board members in place, I think that merely looking at the calibre and quality of these individuals will allay many of those fears and suspicions that some of the members opposite are alluding to.

Mr. Speaker, rather than delay this process any longer here, I look forward to the bill moving to the Law Amendments Committee and then back here for third reading because I believe that at the Law Amendments Committee process you are going to hear from people who believe this is the right direction to be moving towards. I believe when we come back to the House for third reading and debate clause by clause, that overwhelmingly you will have the message that Nova Scotians believe in what we are doing and they believe that by working together we can create an environment that will stand the test of time.

Mr. Speaker, I move second reading. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 78. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

[Page 8751]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 80.

Bill No. 80 - Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to this bill on second reading. This is, again, an omnibus bill which deals with a number of pieces of legislation. This is quite a large bill and it encompasses a number of different legislative areas. These amendments are designed to streamline, modernize and clarify the legislation and the operations they govern. They are changes needed as a result of the restructuring process which began earlier this year.

Mr. Speaker, we firmly believe that government must operate as efficiently and as effectively as possible. In some cases this has meant a merger of services and a relocation of duties. We are amending the Gaming Control Act, the Theatres and Amusements Act and the Liquor Control Act to abolish the legislative authority for the Board of Alcohol and Gaming Authority. The Utility and Review Board will now have the power to license premises for the sale of liquor and conduct hearings relating to licensing. The inspection duties relating to these Acts will now be provided through the Department of Environment and Labour. It is a much more logical approach to the provision of these services as it segregates the quasi-judicial function in the URB and allows for the routine police-type of operation in the Department of Environment and Labour which is, of course, the department which has a number of regulatory Statutes.

There are many justice-related amendments. The first I will discuss is to the Barristers and Solicitors Act. Many of these changes are housekeeping in nature, Mr. Speaker. You may have seen media stories relating to one revision in particular and that certainly has been a great deal of interest. That deals with the prohibition with respect to lawyers seeking business. It is a recognition of the fact that it is appropriate for lawyers to advertise and seek business in the public provided it is done in an appropriate manner. I do not believe we are going to see the hammer-style advertising which has been so popular with, I think, Mr. Shapiro and others in the United States.

While Mr. Shapiro may be a very successful attorney, I think, if you will excuse the pun, we in Nova Scotia are more conservative than that. So I think our professional code of ethics and, frankly, the market place in Nova Scotia are going to ensure that advertising be more tasteful. So I do not believe there needs to be any concern on the part of the public, or in the Bar for that matter, that we are going to degenerate to what I think has been somewhat of a more demeaning style of advertising found in other places.

[Page 8752]

Another change we are proposing will permit the Barristers' Society's Executive Director to apply for an injunction against those practising law without authority. Mr. Speaker, just to give an illustration to honourable members about how important this is, there was an individual who was a former lawyer in Lunenburg County. This individual, and he has now had some other legal troubles, but this individual was doing wills. I remember seeing this person's letterhead from the days when he was a legitimate practising lawyer. His letterhead had his name and the fact that he had a Bachelor of Laws Degree after it, so it had his name and LLB. Underneath that, his letterhead used to say Barrister, Solicitor and Notary Public. Well, after he ceased to be a lawyer as a result of some disciplinary transgressions, all he did was remove off his letterhead the style Barrister and Solicitor and continued to, in point of fact, practice law. He was doing wills. He was giving legal advice to people. He was doing all those kinds of things which a person ought not to be if one is not a practising lawyer from the point of view of protecting the public. He was carrying on in this manner as it turns out to the obvious detriment of the public as subsequent proceedings in court have shown.

This will allow when those kinds of facts come to light the Executive Director of the Barristers' Society in the protection of the public interest to go to court to prevent someone from holding themselves out as being entitled to practise law. Quite clearly, from the point of view of the public, there was no outward change to the individual that had occurred as a result of his ceasing to be able to practise. This is frankly a measure, Mr. Speaker, which is designed to protect the public.

Another change involves the number of members of the Council of the Barristers' Society, a reduction of the number of counsellors from 45 to 31. Of these, 21 must be selected from the four judicial districts. The structure of the liability claims fund is changed, and the insurance program made mandatory. Both of these changes were approved by the Bar Council and, of course, the society has been consulted regarding these changes.

Mr. Speaker, we are also putting forward changes to the process, should legal consumers have questions regarding the fairness of their accounts. It is this process which is known among lawyers as taxation, and I have no idea why the phrase taxation came up. It seems a rather odd phrase. In any event, the process is called taxation. As a result of these changes, taxation of accounts will now be done by the Small Claims Court. There were a number of reasons for doing that, one of them, of course, was the fact that Small Claims Court is a process which is familiar to the average person on the street. It is a process which I think they feel comfortable with and one they can access. While there was some jurisdiction to deal with taxation of accounts beforehand, if they were under the Small Claims Court limit, there was no ability in the Small Claims Court under the previous legislation to deal with accounts that were over the Small Claims Court limit. Where the amount claimed by the solicitor was in excess of $10,000, there was no jurisdiction at that point to deal with the taxation of that matter.

[Page 8753]

The intention is, of course, that all taxations would be able to be done by the Small Claims Court. In point of fact, where there are taxing masters who have expertise in this area, they would be allowed to continue until their ordinary retirement in the ordinary course. The intention is not to remove taxing masters who have ability and interest in doing taxations, but it is frankly to make the system much more accessible to the public.

I might add, Mr. Speaker, by way of an interjection on that matter, we were finding it very difficult in many parts of this province to find people who would serve at Small Claims Court as taxing masters. So we were having large areas of the province which did not have taxing masters, and it was becoming very inconvenient for the public and for the Bar to deal with taxation matters. This will now effectively solve the problem on both fronts. It will make a system that is much more accessible, that is much more understandable to the public and which will provide for much of the same services and in many cases where there are taxing masters, by the same people who have done that service in the past. Quite frankly, it is an attempt to rationalize the system.

I should also indicate that there is another new change, and I think it has again attracted some interest in the media, and that is the creation of the new Judicial Council, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia now has the option of establishing its own judicial council or a joint one with the other Maritime Provinces. I would indicate, to be honest with you, that I believe there is some advantage if we can strike an appropriate arrangement with the other provinces in the Maritimes, to have a Maritime Judicial Council because in the Provincial Court area, which is what we are talking about in this matter, there are a lot of similarities between the issues that would arise in the Provincial or Family Courts in all three provinces.

[5:00 p.m.]

However, Mr. Speaker, whether or not we are able to reach an arrangement, we need to have a modern judicial council process in Nova Scotia. That judicial council process must, first and foremost, have the transparency that comes with having lay people involved in the process. Many professional organizations now have, as a requirement of their discipline process, the Bar Society as an example, where there is an opportunity for lay people to become involved in the discipline process, so that the public can be satisfied that the standards being brought to bear on professionals are the appropriate standards. Doctors have the same thing; many professions have those provisions in their professional Statutes.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the time has come for us to have the same issue of having lay people involved with respect to the Judicial Council. That is why this provision provides for the appointment of lay members to a Judicial Council, as well as members of the practising Bar because very clearly, the public and the legal profession have interests to make sure that the system is open and transparent.

[Page 8754]

Mr. Speaker, the process of a complaint is that if it is received, first, it would be transmitted to the Chief Judge. The Chief Judge may dismiss the complaint and provide written reasons, in limited circumstances. The Chief Judge may also attempt to resolve the complaint or he may refer it to the Judicial Council, with or without a recommendation. The Chief Judge can recommend the complaint be dismissed, be resolved with the agreement of the judge, or referred to a further committee for investigation.

The Review Committee may also dismiss or resolve the complaint. They may also refer the matter to a Hearing Committee. Obviously this is going to be in those situations where there is, at least in the opinion of the Review Committee, some merit to the allegation and it requires a public hearing. My understanding, Mr. Speaker, is that these hearings will be public and obviously have an opportunity to have the safeguards involved in any public process.

Mr. Speaker, obviously there are a number of options that the Judicial Council, at the hearing stage, can do. Of course one of them is to dismiss the complaint; another would be to require the judge to take a leave of absence with pay and finally, to recommend the removal of the judge from the bench. Should that be the case, then that would be referred to the Executive Council by the Judicial Council, also with a recommendation being required by the Minister of Justice of the day.

Now, Mr. Speaker, another area where there is a change is with respect to Justices of the Peace. As a result of court decisions, there is an increasing requirement by the Supreme Court of Canada that people who possess quasi-judicial functions appear to be and actually be independent from influence by government. This is an attempt to ensure that those JPs who are dealing with matters where there is a significant discretion involving people's privacy, such as search warrants and, obviously, incarceration, that those people be perceived to be and actually be acting independently.

These new changes will mean that these people who are called presiding JPs - as opposed to the JP who may just be swearing an affidavit or some other kind of process - that JPs would be not able to be removed from their position without a recommendation from the Chief Judge of the court involved, so that people would, in fact, have independence in the way they carried out their responsibilities. Cabinet will no longer be able to revoke their appointments for presiding JPs without a recommendation from the Chief Judge after an inquiry is held.

Mr. Speaker, I also suggest another change, with respect to the Summary Proceedings Act, to allow peace officers to obtain search warrants by phone, fax or computer. This is an important matter in that it allows in situations where it is impossible to get the appropriate order from a JP or a judge on short notice, typically in the night time, weekends and so forth, for that to be obtained. There are certain types of proceedings where I used the example earlier of deer jacking, where there may be a real urgency in making sure the evidence does

[Page 8755]

not disappear, quite literally, the evidence may be eaten, and once it is cooked it is a little harder to tell the date when the wildlife was killed. So, this is a practical, administrative matter, to allow the police to do what they can already do with respect to, for example, indictable offences, which is to obtain what is loosely described as a tele-warrant. There are processes in the bill indicating how those are to be filed.

We are also making changes to the Assessment Act. The changes are intended to clarify exactly what is assessable property in the oil and gas industry. The amendments mean that the pipelines, gas plants, fractionation plants, petroleum industrial plants and petrochemical plants are subject to business occupancy assessments. Most provinces have special Statutes that deal with natural gas assessment and taxation, our Assessment Act does provide for the determination of the value of natural gas assets for assessment purposes. However, we want to ensure that there is absolutely no confusion. These assets are taxable property, subject to municipal taxes and they need to be taxed. Beyond the issue of who is to collect the taxes is the issue if there are taxes to be paid, and there is of course the issue of quantity of tax, and that is clearly subject to the ordinary rules for determining the value of the asset and the amount of tax. This is by no means an attempt to cut off any legitimate discussion that goes around the value of the property and how much taxation is payable.

It is, however, designed to make it clear that there is an obligation on the owners of those assets to pay taxes to the appropriate municipal unit or units. I believe that Nova Scotians support that and I believe it was very clear that when companies have come to Nova Scotia, in, for example, the pipeline industry, that they are expected to pay tax and we are just simply making sure that expectation is fulfilled and that they have the opportunity to pay the tax they had anticipated.

I believe these are a number of various Acts that are all addressed under one bill, but I think they have something in common, and that is, I believe in most cases, they are not highly controversial, but they generally improve the state of the law in the province. Therefore I move second reading and would hope that honourable members opposite would also see fit to support the bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: I rise today to make a few comments on behalf of our caucus in regard to Bill No. 80. As the minister wrapped up he said, it is a bit of an extensive bill and deals with quite a few matters, needless to say I believe there is possibly up to a dozen Acts which are all being amended here under this bill. When one looks at Justices of the Peace and assessment of natural gas, if the Minister of Justice can say that those two go together and are a natural fit, I look forward to his closing arguments on second reading to explain that to the members of this House, because I am kind of lost as to why both of those aspects fall under the same bill.

[Page 8756]

We are seeing a number of bills that this government is bringing in where they are throwing in all sorts of different amendments and different revisions of legislation all being thrown under one bill and the government hoping that it is all going to be passed. There are some matters which we would probably like to discuss a little bit further and there are some other matters which we would agree on and it seems it is the new Tory way of throw everything in and hope that there are enough good things in there and not too many bad things in there and then they will let the bill go. Mr. Speaker, certainly, I think they should have learned since their election that when they try to pull such tricks with the Opposition, it makes for very long days and long nights. Hopefully, in the future, they will deal with the bills as appropriate pieces of legislation dealing with the specific changes.

One of the first things I wanted to discuss on Bill No. 80 is the changes to the Assessment Act. I am pleased to see that this government has made a clear indication that all of the assets and all of the infrastructure from the natural gas coming here in this province are going to be fully taxable. I am pleased to see that that has been put down and that has been reinforced because, as we all know, the tax assessment for last year, 1999, is currently being challenged in court by the natural gas people, so it is good to see that the government has reinforced their intention to see that this utility be taxable.

It is unfortunate the government did not take the extra step, especially with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, of making a clear statement that those counties where that gas utility will go and where that pipeline will go will be the counties to retain that tax money. They had an opportunity and they wasted that opportunity and I would say the reason why the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations did not bring in his own bill to reinforce this was because this government did not have the gumption or intestinal fortitude to be able to come forward and make a clear decision on this.

Mr. Speaker, they don't need to hear from me how important this is because a number of their own members have made it clear that they support that this taxation remain within the counties where this gas line will go. I believe the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has already spoken clearly on that. I believe the MLA for Colchester North has also indicated his support. The MLA for Cumberland South, the Speaker of this House, has also indicated his support. Unfortunately, the Minister of Agriculture has yet to speak up on behalf of his own constituents to also support that the taxation remain in that area. But here was a golden opportunity wasted by this government. They leave that out there where there is still debate.

I have to say, for myself, in Richmond County, there is a vested interest, without a doubt. We are currently home of the gas fractionation plant. There is the pipeline. There is also a section of pipeline going through Richmond County and there will be more when the gas does reach the Cape Breton County area. It is unfortunate that my colleague on the other side of the strait, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has not yet made it clear that he supports that the good people of Guysborough be able to keep this taxation money,

[Page 8757]

because Guysborough County, which has long suffered economic depression, stands to gain in the range of $6.5 million to $7 million per year - money that could very well be used by Guysborough, money well deserved by Guysborough, money which I feel they should keep. It is unfortunate the member has not joined his other colleagues in government to be able to issue that support. I would only conclude that it is the pressure coming from the good mayor of Port Hawkesbury, which is preventing him from making such a declaration, as the good mayor is one of the many mayors who would like to pick the pockets of Guysborough and take that money for himself, without the pipeline even going through that town.

As I was saying, I am pleased that the government has decided to finally make sure that it is clear that this utility will be fully taxed and I want to assure the government, to assure the members on that side, we will continue to put pressure on them to make a final decision on this to finally show leadership and say, quite clearly, what their intentions are on the issue of taxation and how that taxation will be divided between the municipal units. Time is ticking by and this is creating great division in our province and one would hope that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations would show some leadership and make a final decision on this, rather than leave this to fester and continue to cause division amongst the municipal units.

Mr. Speaker, as was pointed out earlier, we had a quick news conference on Friday by the Minister of Justice where he threw this bill out. It is quite a lengthy bill. There are over 40 pages to this bill dealing with a great deal of different matters. We again raise concern that the government is throwing all of this into this bill and hoping they can slip stuff by without anyone noticing. This really questions whether the government is just being lazy in this case by throwing them all into one bill or if there is any deceit at all that they would be trying to slip in there. Certainly we truly hope that would not be the case by this government.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as was pointed out by the Minister of Justice, these changes are being made supposedly as part of the new Tory Government's plan to update and improve the administration of justice and to streamline government operations. The omnibus, Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act includes amendments intended to clarify assessments in the oil and gas industry. It has also been pointed out that there are several justice-related changes, including changes to the Family Court Act and the Provincial Court Act. As has been spoken already, there will be a new Judicial Council to deal with judicial discipline for family and provincial court judges. Nova Scotia now also has the option of establishing its own council or creating a joint council with other Atlantic Provinces. Only time will tell whether this new spirit of cooperation that the Premier said he would be bringing in will help lead to the creation of a Maritime or Atlantic Judicial Council.

[Page 8758]

One of the changes will be that the Judicial Council will now include laypersons who will work with a clearly defined complaint process. It was asked by the media what the reaction was. I think clearly what we have seen in the past is that the addition of laypeople to these types of committees, to these types of councils has been very positive. It removes any veil that may have been there, and allows people to be directly inside where these changes are being made, where these decisions and these debates are taking place. I know that in the Bar Society for quite some time now, they have had laypeople. In fact, they have even gone so far as to try to make sure those laypeople represent different ethnic groups, cultural groups, linguistic groups, to try to have a proper balance as much as possible. Certainly I believe that the addition of laypeople is seen as a positive thing and, in the end, will work out to be a positive thing.

Clearly, with the Judicial Council, the process will have to begin with the Chief Judge and a complaint may be referred to review committee and finally a hearing committee before it is finally decided. Sanctions against people, which will range from counselling to removal from office, are clearly laid out in this bill. The Executive Council may order that a judge be removed from office only after a recommendation has been received from the Judicial Council and the Minister of Justice. One of the other big changes is that the Justice of the Peace Act is amended to allow for the appointment of full- and part-time Justices of the Peace. The changes recognize that justices of the peace who perform judicial functions are entitled to a degree of judicial independence. It also separates Justices of the Peace in specific categories based on the functions they perform. Cabinet will no longer be able to revoke appointments for presiding Justices of the Peace who may be removed only on the recommendation of a judge after an inquiry has been held. Certainly, this is a positive change, and it removes any fear that Cabinet itself may be wielding political influence on certain Justices of the Peace. We certainly commend that.

The Summary Proceedings Act is changed to allow for the use of telewarrants where it is not practical for a police officer to personally appear before a Justice of the Peace to get a search warrant. Mr. Speaker, yourself being a rural member of this House, would know full well that Justices of the Peace is often a challenge in rural Nova Scotia. I know in Richmond County in the Isle Madame area, we have 4,500 residents, one full-time Justice of the Peace and one part-time semi-retired Justice of the Peace. I have heard a number of times from an RCMP Corporal in the area who has asked, can we get more Justices of the Peace? The one full-time, if she has gone on vacation or she has gone away or she is sick or anything, that means we basically have no one here. We have to travel to Port Hawkesbury or travel to St. Peters or travel somewhere else.

I would still encourage the minister to consider within his staff to appoint more Justices of the Peace throughout this province, especially in rural Nova Scotia where it is a serious problem, and we don't want to see a day where justice is being delayed or denied because of the fact that there isn't a sufficient number of Justices of the Peace. The changes clearly today, with the telewarrant system do make it simpler for rural officers, and officers

[Page 8759]

throughout the province, that if the Justice of the Peace is not available, they can access others without the burden of having to travel long distances to be able to talk to them face-to-face or get their signature on a piece of paper.

I believe this will be seen as a positive thing, but on the other hand in saying that, one has to question whether the Minister of Justice is going to provide Justices of the Peace in rural Nova Scotia with fax machines or photocopiers or computers for e-mail or secretaries. What are they going to provide them with if I am an RCMP officer in Arichat and I have to contact the Justice of the Peace in Antigonish to fax them for a search warrant and get it back, I am just curious where the Justice of the Peace in Antigonish is going to go to find a fax machine to be able to send that information? There still needs to be some work on this if this is going to happen, because I believe these changes are meant to assist in rural areas, where this is certainly a bigger problem. If it is going to be successful, clearly, there is going to be a need for more work on this if it is going to work.

What the changes do, in essence, means that the amendment means an officer may submit sworn information by phone, fax or computer. The information must outline why a personal appearance is not practical and must be filed with the clerk of the court as soon as is reasonably possible and within seven days after the warrant is executed. Clearly, there are some safeguards being put in place there so this is not abused. I think it is safe to say, in my own experience and I think in everyone's experience, the law enforcement officials here in this province are not out to abuse the process but are out to try to make sure that justice prevails and that the rule of law is always predominant. This is one more attempt to make it easier for them to be able to carry those functions out.

As has been pointed out by the minister, there are a number of amendments to the Barristers and Solicitors Act which are mainly housekeeping in nature. One of the big ones referred to by the minister was in regard to the advertising clause for barristers throughout this province. For many years, barristers were prohibited from any form of advertising, and those were loosened a little bit to allow for more advertising. There have been a few commercials which have shown up on television in the last couple of years, a few ads on the front pages of The Chronicle Herald have started to show up. I made the comment at the press conference, when he said we are now going to have the Attorney General known as Mike "the Hammer" Baker, but he assured us he would not be changing his letterhead at his old law firm to refer to him as that.

Just thinking offhand, certainly, as has been pointed by the minister, Nova Scotians have a certain level, degree of respect for the profession and how the profession should run itself. In many ways, that itself is going to be a safeguard. If I am not mistaken - and my colleagues here in the House who have many more years of experience in the Bar than me - there actually is a provision in the Barristers and Solicitors Act, in the professional guidelines, that prevents lawyers from being able to puffery claims, being the best insurance law firm, those kinds of things. I think there are already some safeguards within the

[Page 8760]

profession itself that are there to prevent any of these types of ads saying, we will make sure to get you the money that others can't, those types of things. I believe those are already not allowed, as it exists. Hopefully this won't be too much of a big change for consumers here in this province.

Especially we see, with the emerging oil and gas industry and with e-commerce, we now have companies from throughout the world who are doing business with us here in this province. It will be important for them to be made aware of which firms are dealing with which aspects of law, and that they are clearly able to advertise their services and make themselves available to the different businesses which will be approaching this province and who will operate in this province.

The number of elected members to the Bar Council is reduced from 45 to 31. Certainly, I think that is a positive change. Bar Council was only a few members less than having as many as we had as members of House of Assembly here in the province. Needless to say, the body was a little too large. I had the opportunity to make a presentation shortly after being elected to the Bar Council, and I almost felt like I was right back in the House of Assembly when I looked around the room and saw how many representatives there actually were on the Bar Council. (Interruptions) Yes, an even less friendly crowd, to say the least. I am pleased to say that it was not on a disciplinary matter or anything of that nature. Clearly, I believe that is a positive change, considering that they represent the entire province, that 45 was certainly a high number and quite difficult at meetings to get business done and get things addressed.

Another change is that the structure of the Liability Claims Fund is now changed and the insurance program has been made mandatory. One other big change is when consumers of legal services have questions relating to the fairness of their legals bills, they can now appear before a Small Claims Court Adjudicator. So I think that clearly this is a positive change. I know the old taxing master way of doing things, I don't believe, for your average layperson, was a very friendly process as again, it involved, in most cases, senior lawyers. I believe using the Small Claims Court process is a more user-friendly to laypeople throughout this province and will be seen as a fairer method, and probably a more open method, of dealing with concerns they have over any of the bills.

One of the changes pointed out by the minister was the one giving the Executive Director power to suspend someone who has been practising law illegally. He has made reference to a certain individual in Lunenburg who falls under this. I was kind of surprised to hear the minister talk about this because my understanding always was that in this province one was barred from being able to practice law for remuneration if one was not a member of the Bar Society (Interruption)

Well, the minister says that is the law, and I am not saying that that law has not been infringed upon or pushed to the limit. I can tell him that that has not been done only in Lunenburg County, I know that closer to home we had similar circumstances. I was not

[Page 8761]

aware that this was a problem and that a new law had to be brought in to change this, so this is news to me, that the minister feels the Executive Director needs more power than he had before. My understanding is that it was always there and could be enforced. The minister shakes his head, no. I will take his word for it. Certainly there is a need to make sure that Nova Scotians who are getting legal service are getting competent legal service which is insured, to protect them, and if there are abuses taking place in that, then it is important that the minister reaffirm that provision. (Interruption)

The Minister of Health says you pay the same price whether they are competent or incompetent. The problem is that if they are not insured, then you have no real recourse for the incompetent service you may have received, so it is essential to make sure that Nova Scotians relying on barristers do have the proper personal protection and insurance there in case they are wrong or they are not properly represented. Certainly if that provision was not strong enough before, I am certainly pleased to see that the minister is giving it more teeth.

In keeping with the government's restructuring process that began earlier this year, the Gaming Control Act, the Theatres and Amusements Act and the Liquor Control Act are all being amended. The amendments are now being moved over so that control of this is now being given to the Utility and Review Board, to license these premises for the sale of liquor and to hold public hearings relating to licensing. The amendments transfer inspection duties outlined under these Acts to the Department of Environment and Labour. This allows for the elimination of the Alcohol and Gaming Authority Board.

One of the concerns raised at the press conference - and the minister gave an answer but I am not sure if he was clear on that - was on the classification of films in this province. The question was whether that had moved from the Alcohol and Gaming Authority to the Utility and Review Board. I don't think the minister was sure at that time if that was the case or not. I think it is important that Nova Scotians know this function is still going to be carried out, in a professional way in this province. Certainly parents have expressed concern, yes, by the same people. The question is, where do they fall now, now that the Alcohol and Gaming Authority has gone? Where is their new home? I hope the minister will address that in his closing comments, as to where they now fall, and reassure us that their functions are still being carried out here in this province.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as has been pointed out, the changes to the Assessment Act clearly define accessible property in the oil and gas industry, which is extremely important and it is something that I am pleased to see the government has reinforced. The amendments will ensure that pipelines, gas plants, fractionation plants, petroleum industrial plants, and petrochemical plants, including all fixtures and attachments, are subject to business occupancy assessment. The Municipal Government Act is changed to ensure that any

[Page 8762]

outstanding municipal taxes are paid from the proceeds of the sale of personal property that may have been taken or repossessed.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to again encourage this government, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, to stop the bickering in this province that is going on right now and make a final decision on what is going to happen with that tax money for the pipeline. There is division being created; there are bad feelings going on there. The debate is getting heated. You have members of your own Party who have clearly called upon you to make a final decision and to make sure that those counties housing any of this utility keep that tax money. You had long enough to make a decision. They are tired of waiting. It is up to you to show leadership and we would hope that this government, before this House rises, will make a final decision on this so that we can move together, continue to grow together, and not be fighting with each other.

I encourage the minister to speak to his colleague, you, Mr. Speaker, who has also made your views clear on this as to how you feel that tax money should be used and that it should stay within the counties that host that. That is clearly my own position. I am not speaking on behalf of my caucus, but I am speaking as the member for Richmond and would hope that the minister makes a final decision on this and puts closure to this important issue.

With that, Mr. Speaker, we will look forward to the closing comments from the Minister of Justice, hopefully addressing some of the concerns we have raised and at that point we will make our final decision on whether to move this bill on to second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is a very peculiar piece of legislation and it is peculiar not because of its content, but because of the way it is presented as an omnibus bill. It covers a huge amount of territory and really, I think, in fairness it should have been brought in at least three different bills before this House. We find a clutch of bills, or a clutch of measures quite properly within the expected jurisdiction of the Minister of Justice: the amendments to the Barristers and Solicitors Act, the Provincial Court Act, the Judicature Act, the Justices of the Peace Act, the Taxing Masters Act, Summary Proceedings Act.

Measures like that undoubtedly have a place in a bill that is brought before us by the Minister of Justice and yet this is not purely a bill that deals with the structuring of the justice system. It has taxing measures for example. The amendments to the Assessment Act and Municipal Government Act are measures that quite clearly fall within the responsibility of the Minister of Municipal Affairs. The Assessment Act provisions have to do with making it clear that the apparatus having to do with natural gas pipelines is subject to certain kinds of municipal taxation, and the Municipal Government Act provisions, the Municipal Government Act amendments have to do with priority at time of sale for taxes or sale upon repossession of mobile homes.

[Page 8763]

These matters, it seems to me, are probably matters that should have been dealt with by the Minister of Municipal Affairs in a focused way, particularly the oil and gas matters, because they are matters that ought to be focused on quite specifically and dealt with with an explanation apart from being bundled up together with a whole variety of other measures.

The third area that is brought before us in this omnibus bill has primarily to do with terminology under a clutch of other Acts: Theatres and Amusements Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Pay Equity Act, the Fire Prevention Act. Now, I suppose the Minister of Justice might have been the person to bring in such a bill, but given that these are purely housekeeping matters, it seems to me, again, they might have been hived off and dealt with separately.

The final area that I, again, think we might well have seen a separate bill on are the amendments to the Gaming Control Act and the Liquor Control Act. Again, there is some substance to what it is that is being proposed there. This is not purely terminology. There is something there that should probably be looked at and be spoken to by the minister who has responsibility for these bills and allow the members of this House to focus on these as a separate item.

It is not that there is anything particularly problematic about the content. I don't think that what we have been offered is objectionable or difficult or even unexpected or unusual. It is just the presentation. I know that as the minister finds various proposals coming before him from various departments to make amendments to their legislation, I would encourage him, in future, to think about the possibility of keeping these bills separate. I know, in the past, we have seen bills, sometimes very short ones, coming from individual ministers responsible for individual departments, even when what they want to do is primarily to be called housekeeping. I don't think that would have been too difficult to accomplish and I recommend to the minister that he think about this as an approach on future occasions.

That said, I want to turn to the content of some of the provisions in Bill No. 80. I want to start with the small amendment to the Barristers and Solicitors Act that deals with advertising. I want to deal with this because it is inherently interesting, also, because I would like to talk with the minister about a small piece of Nova Scotia legal history that I happen to know a fair bit about. This has to do with the whole question of barristers and solicitors in this province advertising. I do know a fair bit about this. What has happened in this is that we are finally now, 22 years after the first member of the Bar in Nova Scotia actually did advertise, removing from the Barristers and Solicitors Act, a clause that might have been interpreted as prohibiting advertising.

We all know that lawyers in this province have been advertising for a long time. We also know that there are limitations on what it is that lawyers can do by way of their advertising. The Barristers' Society has not hesitated to exercise control, through the device, of deciding what is and is not appropriate professional conduct. Amending the Barristers and

[Page 8764]

Solicitors Act now to remove Section 5(4) of the Act merely makes it clear that what used to an outright prohibition against what is often called touting for business, or perhaps even champerty, in a more pejorative term, is not the appropriate standard by which advertising is to be judged.

Mr. Speaker, in 1978, at which time I had been a member of the Bar of the Province of Nova Scotia for five years, I returned to Nova Scotia, having spent some time working in Ottawa with the Department of Justice and some time teaching in Toronto, I came home in order to set up a law practice. I secured offices across the street on Granville Street. I secured offices in a building that no longer exists. It was an office building that used to be where we now find One Government Place. This was a building at that time owned by a local businessman, Mr. Grover Cleveland and in that building was a law firm, Pace, MacIntosh and Donahoe. They were on the second floor of a walk-up, it was an old-fashioned building, quite a pleasant place to be with a fine cafeteria on the ground floor.

Well, I secured offices one floor above Pace, MacIntosh and Donahoe - that is to say, a good two flights up that a person had to walk if they wanted to seek out my legal services. I was faced with the problem that many young lawyers face, which is how to secure clients in a time when one was unknown. I chose, among the other approaches that anyone would make, to do some advertising. Here is how I advertised: I ran a small ad in the newspaper that gave my name and it said barrister and solicitor and it gave my address and telephone number and it added four words. It said, "Reasonable fees" and it also said, "Evening appointments."

No other lawyer in Nova Scotia so far as I am aware, had ever chosen to do any kind of advertising. I considered that I was entitled to say what I said. I considered that what I said was in good taste, I considered that what I said was informative for potential clients. And yet, you would not believe the amount of fuss and bother among my fellow members of the bar there then ensued, as a result of those four words.

I have to tell you that this topic of lawyers advertising in 1978 was regarded as something of a hot button issue around the country. I believe another lawyer in British Columbia had started advertising and I think some in Ontario might have started advertising. All of this was done in an unregulated atmosphere. It was unregulated because the Barristers' Society had no guidelines, no rules. What they did have was a tradition that prohibited any kind of touting, any kind of champerty.

Because this was topical, the news media began to run stories about it. One of the local television stations interviewed me about this question of lawyers advertising. I was quite amazed to find that the following thing occurred. When they showed the program and I was being interviewed, they said, here is how much he charges for a will, here is how much he charges for an uncontested divorce and they ran across the screen the prices for the different items.

[Page 8765]

I should point out that I had not bought any advertising time on the television and I certainly had not run any ads that listed the fees I proposed to charge, but there was the television station taking an action that tended to inflame the situation even more greatly. I am not sure if it was the fact that there was additional detail offered to the public or the fact that my prices were so much lower than those that were generally prevailing in the profession that outraged my colleagues. Nonetheless, the result was that one of my colleagues actually filed a complaint with the Barristers' Society against me. I am happy to report that upon due investigation, the process worked well at the Barristers' Society and because they knew that I had not solicited the advertising or done any of it on my own in that respect, that this complaint with respect to the television show, was dismissed as a complaint against me.

There was then convened a very large, well attended, general information meeting by the Barristers' Society to debate the subject of whether lawyers in Nova Scotia ought to be allowed to advertise and, if so, how this ought to be regulated. Believe me, I remember all of this quite vividly. I was particularly struck by the presentation that was made to other members of the society by William Cox, Q.C., one of yours. What Mr. Cox said was that indeed there was nothing objectionable in proper, regulated advertising being done by individual lawyers or by law firms. The time had come when we had to recognize that it was an accepted mode of interaction in the market place, extending to the activities of professionals, advertising had a place. When my time came to speak, I simply said, I adopt without changes and without reservation everything said by Mr. Cox.

[5:45 p.m.]

Ultimately, that was certainly the view that prevailed, and the Barristers' Society in Nova Scotia has, since that time, operated with some guidelines for lawyers to engage in advertising. The clause that is in the bill that is in front of us now merely tidies up what I think is a stray detail of the law. It is a stray detail because right on its face, the existing Section 5(4) of the Barristers and Solicitors Act might go contrary to what has been the prevailing practice now for more than 20 years, the prevailing practice being that the Barristers' Society allows advertising but superintends it according to the dictates of good taste and appropriateness and professional standards. I have no doubt that the Barristers' Society has carried out its mandate well in this regard, and that the stance it has taken has both served the public well and served its members well.

Forgive me, Mr. Speaker, if I have strayed into a little bit too much detail, but I thought this was an interesting, albeit small, piece of Nova Scotia legal history that the honourable minister might like to hear. (Interruptions) I hear some odds and ends of comments from the members opposite. They should know that I am not in the active practice of law anymore, and I am not in any way seeking any clients. Shall I choose to go back into the practice of law, I will engage with that issue when the time comes.

[Page 8766]

This is only one small part of the omnibus Bill No. 80 that we have. There are a number of other amendments to the apparatus of justice in this province, all of which seem to me, quite sensible. I think it is sensible that we now have a proposal to establish a Judicial Council in the province, and that there be a mechanism to allow it to be an inter-provincial Judicial Council. It seems to me this is entirely appropriate. I think it is about time. I think it is appropriate that the old role of taxing master now be given over to the Small Claims Court. I see no problem with that. I think it is the right thing to do. I think as the minister quite correctly said, the public will not find it intimidating to go before the taxing master if it is a small bill, and I would think that the profession will not find it difficult or inappropriate to go in front of the Small Claims Court adjudicators when it is a matter of taxing bills of opposing parties after a lawsuit. I think that is, indeed, going to be a welcome addition to the apparatus of judicial administration here in the province.

I think that the provisions for allowing expeditious issuance of documents through the amendments to the Summary Proceedings Act are also the right thing to do. I see no difficulty with any of the other amendments that are being put forward, so far as the judicial apparatus is concerned. I think the minister has done the right thing and has brought forward quite appropriate measures.

Remember what I said at the beginning, that this was an omnibus bill with a whole variety of different kinds of provisions. If we had nothing but the provisions that had to do with the apparatus of judicial administration, I think this bill would go through with no difficulty, but, because we have other measures that are rolled together into this bill, I think we need a little more explanation from the minister. If the Minister of Justice is going to take on what would, for example, normally be the obligations of the Minister of Municipal Affairs to bring in a provision with respect to municipal assessment, then I think we need an explanation and I think we need more of an explanation than we have been given.

I think it is not good enough simply to say that the amendments to the Assessment Act make it clear that a variety of facilities come under the jurisdiction of the Assessment Act. I think that the questions that have been raised about whether the individual municipality in which the facilities are located will be able to retain all of that amount is a question that needs to be squarely addressed by the minister. We know the rivalries that have been up for debate for many years among the municipalities over the way that property of Nova Scotia Power is treated under the Assessment Act. We know this is a divisive matter, and we need to hear from the minister exactly how things are proposed to work with respect to oil and gas facilities, to which I would ask whether the minister has to say as well, because these are federally regulated buildings and pipelines, whether there is any question as to whether the municipalities can exercise this power.

I would have thought the minister would have given us commentary on this, but because he hasn't, we are left to guess, and it is not appropriate that everyone be left to guess. What I say to the minister is that if he is going to take on this responsibility and bring in

[Page 8767]

under his wing, as Minister of Justice, amendments to a whole variety of Acts, he has to be prepared to speak to them in a way that is more detailed than he has. That, though, is really the one question that I wonder about, this question about the Assessment Act and how it relates to oil and gas facilities.

Other questions under the Occupational Health and Safety Act or the Pay Equity Act or the Theatres and Amusements Act or the Fire Prevention Act, I see as matters of terminology. They are not problematic; I have no real questions about them. Even, stretching a point, I suppose the amendments to the Gaming Control Act and the Liquor Control Act might be regarded as terminology amendments. If that is the case - and there doesn't appear to be much more of substance in those amendments - then again it doesn't raise anything that, over here, we wonder about or worry about. It is really that question about the Assessment Act.

Mr. Speaker, with that point made, I hope that we will hear from either the sponsoring minister or from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, what it is they expect that those clauses amending the Assessment Act will actually do in practice, on the ground, and to the revenues of all the affected municipalities in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Government House Leader it will be to close the debate.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am taking the liberty of closing this debate; however if the Opposition would rather that I did not, we can certainly go into the hour of interruption.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my only comment is that I know that a number of points were raised during the debates and I don't know if the Government House Leader has the responses that the Minister of Justice intended to give in terms of answering those questions. If he has all the answers, fine. If not, then maybe we could wait and get the answers after the break.

MR. RUSSELL: I have no difficulty with that. I did though, in truth, listen to the remarks of both the member for Richmond and the member for Halifax Chebucto. Just speaking to the bill for the moment, I think that there were some very cognizant points raised, Mr. Speaker, by both parties, in addressing the bill. It is, indeed, a large bill, but as the member for Halifax Chebucto said so eloquently, the thing is that these are small points that are being brought together to form a very large and complex bill. But, nevertheless, each individual point, from the point of view of the administration of justice, is important.

[Page 8768]

So, Mr. Speaker, we will consider this the moment of interruption and the Minister of Justice will wind up the debate after he gets back.

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.

[6:00 p.m.]

The subject of this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Lunenburg West.

"Therefore be it resolved that the government make clean drinking water a priority for all Nova Scotians."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

ENVIRON. - DRINKING WATER: CLEANLINESS - PRIORITIZE

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, today we find out that thousands of residents of Glace Bay, Dominion and Tower Road have been ordered to boil their water. On October 19th, I, as the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, issued a press release asking the government to step in to find out what the source of contamination was. The government hasn't done anything to date, nothing. It is a symptom of lack of caring for the health and safety of Nova Scotians.

A $200 million infrastructure program has been announced for green projects. So far, the Tory Government has remained silent as to whether projects for Glace Bay or Westmount or Coxheath, which is located in my area, will ever be covered. There is no reply, Mr. Speaker. What we do know is that any municipality that wishes to participate in this program has to come up with one-third of the funding. Many of the municipalities, like the CBRM, do not have the one-third cost of the funding. The Premier has already indicated he will not help poor municipalities.

[Page 8769]

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is not the type of government we require for the Province of Nova Scotia today. Municipalities throughout the province are experiencing difficulties in many areas, particularly with water. We need a provincial government that supports municipal infrastructure and municipal priorities. I say shame on this government and shame on this Premier. There was also a serious problem of THMs in water throughout the province. There is no indication that this current government is dealing with the problem in any way, shape or form. They seem to just stand up and make statements on these issues, but we don't see any action. There is never any action or any funding allotted to these units that are in trouble.

Mr. Speaker, we need leadership from this provincial government. We need a government that fulfils its promises. This government, as we are all aware, has made many commitments, through its blue book, and we have it documented, that they were going to provide support and strong leadership for all Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that it is time for this government to act, so we can all have safe drinking water. Of course we are very familiar with the incident in Ontario and we certainly don't want that to be repeated here in Nova Scotia. Recently in Moncton we had a major issue in that city. This government should be taking the lead and getting its priorities in order. Drinking water is an essential element in today's society. We need it for cooking, bathing children. I visited homes just this weekend in which four children have to be taken, on a daily basis, outside their residence for bathing purposes. When a child comes home from school, particularly with the weather we have here in this province, they play in the mud, they get messy, they are young tots who are outside, doing their recreational activities during school hours and they require water when they get home, so moms can have fresh meals on the table and an opportunity to throw them in the tub and clean them up.

Mr. Speaker, if for just a moment you could put yourself in the place of a Nova Scotian having to come home from work after a busy day at the office, whether you are a pipefitter or whatever field you work in, come home, you don't have water, you don't have the security, you have to come home and try to get supper ready, feed the kids, pile them in the car, take clean garments and clothing with you and go down to mom's, as far away as 20 kilometres, bathe the kids and bring them back home so they can relax and enjoy their home.

Of course then there is always the paranoia of mom running around the house, don't get dirty and all this. So this government is turning its back on the issues affecting Nova Scotians today. We need, and have the right to, clean water in this province. Now the Department of the Environment, and of course it is well known and documented that they are responsible for groundwater in the Province of Nova Scotia. I refer again to the CBRM because I am familiar with that particular municipality. The CBRM just recently went to a groundwater source for the residents of Sydney.

[Page 8770]

Now, Mr. Speaker, if something were to happen to that municipal water supply, there would be a major catastrophe in that area. That is what is taking place in areas like Glace Bay, Dominion, Tower Road, Coxheath, Westmount, Keltic Drive, the list continues. I could stand here for the next 10 minutes and list communities that are devastated with their water woes.

Now the Minister of the Environment has done absolutely nothing, Mr. Speaker, not a thing. The only thing we hear is a grunt here and there. The fact of the matter is that the Minister of the Environment, the acting minister, the part-time minister or whatever, he has accepted the responsibilities and he must fulfil the mandate. Now the Department of the Environment is responsible for groundwater throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. He has a responsibility to the residents he serves.

What has he done? Nothing, absolutely nothing, Mr. Speaker. We see Municipal Relations - I don't know, maybe the title changed again today it has changed that many times in the last 15 months, my head spins, so I will just imagine what ordinary Nova Scotians out there are going through. I am here every day and my head still spins from the title changes.

Anyway, this minister has done nothing. They haven't even ordered the municipalities to take proper water samples, to increase water samples to ensure that with the amount of ground water the province is experiencing in surface water or entering the water supplies, there are not indications that this minister has asked the municipalities to increase testing for water levels, various elements in the water. There is absolutely nothing. We have a Premier who is on record as saying, we are not going to help the municipalities, we are not going to help them. We don't have any time for them. We don't have any money for them. We don't have any advice for them. You are on your own.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the only activity I have seen to date is downloading costs on municipalities. Another promise by our country-family-doctor-Premier. Honest John. He has broken more promises since I came into this House than I can believe. Carters doesn't have enough liver pills to keep these guys going. It is unbelievable. You stand up here during Question Period, you ask a question and expect a reasonable answer. All you get are replies far from the truth, in my opinion. I think it is time that this Premier accept the responsibility he put himself in and do something for the residents of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. Thank you very much.

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

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I really would have preferred to go last. I like the opportunity to listen to the member from the government side and at least I get a chance to rebut it.

[Page 8771]

Mr. Speaker, this resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that the government make clean drinking water a priority for all Nova Scotians.", you have to ask the question, is there anything that Nova Scotians and Canadians take any more for granted than having a good supply of clean water. I will tell you, it certainly is something we don't think enough about, and we never realize how much we need it until we don't have it. Anybody who has ever been forced into a situation of water problems whereby you had to carry water to meet your family needs, you realize the volume of water that we use in a day for a single family.

Mr. Speaker, since our earliest evolution, humans have not been able to distance themselves from the water environment. From the earliest days of the first organisms that evolved in a water environment, humans have not been able to distance themselves very much. As a matter of fact, even for our species, fertilization can't even occur without water. Over 90 per cent of the human body is made up of water. All cellular activity requires water, our cells are bathed in water, and we never stop and think about all the other chemicals that are produced and their ability to move throughout the body based on the fact they are fluid and have a high percentage of water in those substances, and the first one that comes to mind mostly is hormones.

Mr. Speaker, all members should maybe stop and think. I hear a chuckle from the Liberal side when I mentioned hormone, but they should think about the variety. The fact that so many other functions, whether it is the endocrine system or glands that have ducts, the substances that are produced - adrenalin, for example, is a hormone. Certainly it is one that if anybody is familiar with the expression fight or flight, then certainly they would be familiar with the purpose of adrenalin.

Mr. Speaker, I would like members to think about the seriousness of not having some type of strategy for good clean water in this province. We only have to look back to the catastrophe that happened in Walkerton to realize the necessity for some responsibility on the part of government to ensure that water quality is maintained. That I would certainly hope is the extreme, that no other community will ever have to go through what Walkerton went through and that we will have learned something from that.

Right now I do not think that I see any evidence on the part of this government and I was leafing through my briefcase actually prior to standing in the hopes I could find a letter that came to me from the assistant superintendent of operations at the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, Mr. Dale Sabean, who was writing me with his concern about the fact that the province is downloading on the board its water monitoring and water testing and how unfair he felt that was.

We are seeing the same thing; it has been addressed to me by the CAO at the Municipality of East Hants. Mr. Ian Glasgow has mentioned as well that the municipality feels that the province's downloading of water monitoring to them is unfair as well and this is exactly what happened in Ontario with the Tory Government there. I think that all Nova

[Page 8772]

Scotians should really be concerned about that direction. The government does have a responsibility in this regard.

The concern was raised about the communities in Cape Breton around Glace Bay, Balls Creek and Keltic Drive, Mr. Speaker. There was a release by the province about funding projects for groundwater exploration around Arichat, the Judique water treatment plant, the Port Hawkesbury sewer treatment plant which I think the Cape Breton Regional Municipality would be really glad for help on that initiative from the government on that, but there was nothing in that announcement that dealt with the area of Balls Creek which had the high coliform count earlier this fall.

The member for Cape Breton The Lakes mentioned THMs, trihalomethanes, and a number of communities in the spring around the province showed higher than usual counts. I remember this because Elmsdale, in my constituency, was one of those and there was some concern. They are referred to as carcinogenic substances and more related to long-time use if they are in the water supply, but they are produced from a reaction of chlorine and organic compounds in the water, usually from the breaking down of leaves, et cetera, but also in Glace Bay now, I think probably as a result, as indications would show, of the flooding that occurred there, there is an increased coliform count in the water supply in Cape Breton, in Glace Bay. I think that the community there certainly is concerned.

The recent infrastructure program that was promoted by the federal government which requires one-third provincial funding, one-third federal funding and one-third municipal funding, I think is certainly better than no initiative. The program is not quite ready to get underway yet, but I do worry about those municipalities that cannot afford one-third of the cost for the infrastructure in their areas, Mr. Speaker. I think that they have every reason to be worried about the things that they need to have done, but do not have the dollars to do that.

I do applaud the government for their legislation in the spring that would prevent the bulk sale or bulk shipment of water. I think that this actually should come under the realm more so of the federal government. It is somewhat worrisome that whether or not this would meet the test of the free trade agreement and I think that in itself is probably part of the reason why the federal government hasn't drafted its own legislation and has asked the provinces to draft theirs. I suspect the question of whether or not that could pass the free trade agreement would be part of the reason why the federal government has not done that.

[6:15 p.m.]

I want to draw your attention for a minute to a committee report on the Nova Scotia Environment Act in regard to water. In 1990-91, the minister's task force on clean water held 14 public meetings and four workshops to examine water quality issues. The task force on clean water was provided the mandate to develop a new water resource management strategy.

[Page 8773]

In 1995, this was revisited by the Liberal Government and as of 1999, a draft strategy was developed but implementation has been delayed pending revision and formal approval. So there is a case where we have had certainly some direction from the previous Tory Government to tackle this problem and yet pretty near 10 years later, we still do not have a strategy.

I think it is imperative that we set something in place to deal with this. I think the committee's report on the promise is dragging its feet is something that the province, the government, the minister should take into consideration. It has gone on too long and all the more reason for developing a national strategy, which is what the federal NDP is proposing and I thank the members for their time.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, before I begin, what I would like to say is that certainly the issue of clean, safe drinking water is something that I agree with members opposite that Nova Scotians often take for granted. Until you are faced with an issue where your water supply is either eliminated or gone completely or has been contaminated with bacteria or a whole host of things, do you understand the seriousness of this issue?

I had the opportunity from 1995 until I was elected to the provincial government, to serve on the Halifax Regional Water Commission. During that time, I was fortunate enough to be able to work with good quality staff at the Halifax Regional Water Commission, a good commission itself, management and the staff on the streets at the Halifax Regional Water Commission without any doubt - or probably one of the best commissions on delivering water service anywhere in Canada. In fact, they pride themselves as being among the best in Canada for the delivery of good quality, clean, safe, drinking water.

One of the issues that we have had to face in the Halifax Regional Municipality is the issue of expanding into unserviced areas. We have had a growing requirement from the suburban areas, the fringe portions of the Halifax Regional Municipality, formerly the County of Halifax, where they were looking for the opportunity to connect onto services. The ironic thing about one of those communities - Upper Hammonds Plains, the Pockwock community - it actually is one of the host sites of the major watershed and treatment plant. Unfortunately for 20-some years the water came from that community by pipeline to Halifax and part of Dartmouth and part of the county, but it never actually served the community where it came from.

We were fortunate enough over the past year and a half, two years, to be able to provide those constituents with water service. For 20 years the pipe went down the road and past their homes, past their community and for 20 years they have dealt with supply issues and with issues surrounding coliform bacteria and a whole host of things.

[Page 8774]

The issue that has been brought to light tonight and discussed in some detail is this issue of THMs. It is one of those side issues or a side effect of a larger problem. The larger problem that I speak of is the fact that when you treat water for bacteria, often what happens is it will create another reaction. In this case, because of organic material in the water that you are treating, you end up with this THM and that in itself is like a negative side effect of your earlier treatment.

Many health officials have said that, although it is an issue that needs to be dealt with, that it is not the pressing issue. The most important thing, immediately, is to take care of the bacteria in the well water. Municipalities for a number of years have done so by simply treating it with chlorine and thinking they have done their job. Now we have discovered over years, and more recently as a result of some research, that THM is something that we have to look at. It takes more than just adding chlorine to get good quality safe drinking water, you have to filter that water as well.

Our government has made a number of steps, Mr. Speaker, and I am somewhat surprised by the negative attitude of members opposite because the steps we have made simply could have been taken two, three, four or five years ago. The steps we have made are testing the water for THM; that hadn't been done in the past. Quite frankly, I am somewhat surprised. Municipalities haven't been able to do that on their own and they needed help from the provincial Department of Environment, and I am pleased to say that our government has taken the initiative to go out and test that water to find out what is in it, so we are able to help municipalities in the future.

The other important thing, as was touched on, we passed regulations dealing with the bulk sale of water. We have to realize that this water is not going to be here forever if we just simply allow it to go down the road and we don't service our own constituents. More importantly, Mr. Speaker, is the department's ability to work with municipalities to try to help them resolve their problems. I know it is of little comfort to people who are boiling their water today to know that in the very near future we will be able to work with municipalities and work with other agencies to deal with this through the infrastructure works program. In fact, that very program was one that was able to help the constituents in my riding receive municipal water. The benefit of this program is the federal government in their wisdom - and let's give them a little bit of credit here - said it is important to look at issues like sewer and water, the underground infrastructure, the non-sexy stuff that often gets overlooked.

In the past, Mr. Speaker, the stuff that the infrastructure works program has been dealing with is marinas and recreational centres and these types of things. They are all great and wonderful, but if you don't have any clean water, quite frankly they won't do you any good at all. So the infrastructure works program, the state we are in right now, the province has signed off on that, the federal government has signed off. We are waiting for an approval of the applications from the federal government, and very soon we are going to see where municipalities will be able to apply to the province through that program, receive money to

[Page 8775]

help them filter their water so they can not only treat it with chlorine, but filter it as well. These issues surrounding the spikes, the THMs, will be resolved by good filtering, by good water management, but more importantly they will be resolved by the fact that we will be able to monitor this from now and into the future.

The other thing that has been somewhat disturbing and has caused a lot of concern to Nova Scotians and to Canadians are issues like Walkerton, where we have had municipalities that have been either neglectful or derelict in their responsibilities to their constituents. Mr. Speaker, I say that without knowing all the evidence and the facts surrounding Walkerton, but I do know it is a serious public issue, and we need to get water commissions and water authorities and private individuals who are supplying water to deal with this.

Our government has done that. We have taken steps to require that people who serve more than 25 people with water in this province have to now go through a regimen of testing. That was never required in the past. In fact, the only time people tested their water in the past, Mr. Speaker, was when they either bought or sold a property. So if you owned a campground for example, in Nova Scotia, and you had an operation that lasted 30, 60, 90 days throughout your tourist season, you had hundreds of campers come in, and the only time the water was ever tested was when the person bought the campground or somebody took the initiative to test or somebody got sick.

Now it is a requirement that water be tested and there be a regular testing procedure registered with the Department of the Environment. That wasn't here before this government came into place. That wasn't here at all; in fact nobody tested the water before, and now we are requiring that to be tested, so that the people who operate those facilities and receive the profits provide a safe service to the people who pay that money. Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, I am surprised that it wasn't something that had been dealt with by previous governments, but it certainly is something that needs to be dealt with, and it is something this government has taken the initiative to deal with.

Now, I spoke about the supply of safe water. Safe water is something I deal with almost on a daily basis in my constituency. I have communities like Hammonds Plains, like Middle and Upper Sackville, and Beaver Bank that are desperately looking for municipal water. In fact, the community of Beaver Bank has had a Department of the Environment study that was done in 1992, or maybe even earlier, that showed that 70 per cent of the wells were either contaminated with coliform or had no supply or very little supply of water at all. In fact, we have spawned a whole new industry in Beaver Bank, delivering water to people because, quite frankly, there was no opportunity for them to drill their wells deeper because all they ended up with was another hole in the ground of a couple of hundred feet, with no water in it, or the water was not safe to drink because it had septic leaching into the well water.

[Page 8776]

I was pleased over the past couple of years, in my mandate as a municipal councillor, to be able to bring the service trunk laterals out to Beaver Bank and I am pleased that in the very near future, Mr. Speaker, the municipality will move forward, bring those services in, so that the people who live in subdivisions like Tucker Lake and Danny Drive, and Green Forest Subdivisions, where you have a 70 per cent failure of your septic system and you have your wells that are seriously contaminated, they are going to be able to get sewer and water. Those people have lived for a long time trucking in their water, not drinking it and boiling it. It is more than an inconvenience, it is a difficult way to live.

Now I know the member opposite talked about the biology of water. People really don't understand how essential good, clean drinking water is until they lose it. I know there are probably people at home watching this who are saying, what is this guy talking about? Here he is, standing up talking about water and all they have to do is turn their tap on. If they live in the Halifax Regional Municipality and they are connected to water, they get some of the best water in the world, but there are a lot of people in this province who don't have that luxury. There are other people in this province who have municipal water, they could turn the tap on but they can't trust the quality of the water coming out of that tap.

I am pleased to say that our government has taken steps to make that water better, so that the constituents and the people of Nova Scotia can rest at ease in the near future they will be - I am out of time? Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired for the late debate. I thank the members for taking part in this very interesting debate this evening. (Applause)

We will now revert to Bill No. 80, the Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice will be here in just a moment. He is just wrapping up and handing over to somebody else in the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Do you want to take a five minute recess? We will recess until 6:33 p.m.

[The House recessed at 6:28 p.m.]

[The House reconvened at 6:33 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will resume debate on Bill No. 80, the Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act.

[Page 8777]

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 80 - Justice and Administration Reform (2000) Act. [Debate resumed.]

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to close debate on second reading in the House on this matter. I have been briefed to the extent that it is possible on the eloquent remarks of the member for Halifax Chebucto. I lost part of them because I had to go to the Law Amendments Committee, but I understand that he is quite an eloquent speaker on the issue of advertising and the travails that came to the profession when that subject was first raised. Of course, there were issues raised by the honourable member for Richmond and I will try to address the issues raised by both honourable members with respect to the bill.

The first one would be with respect to the Theatres and Amusements Act. Film classification will reside with the Minister of Environment and Labour. The same people will do it who did it before, but appeals would go on a classification issue to the Utility and Review Board. So that, for example, if there was a dissatisfaction with a classification issue, a decision that was made by the Department of Environment and Labour, the classification people, for lack of any other way of putting it, those people would have the right of appeal by the distributors of the films, which is typically the way this works, to the URB. I understand that that system is designed to have the quasi-judicial function done by the URB.

With respect to the broader issue of the content of the bill - and both honourable members addressed that in their submissions - for the future, I received the message loud and clear from both honourable members that, in the future, it would be desirable to have a bit more weeding done when bills are brought forward and I recognize that perhaps this is a very omnibus bill in the sense that it does deal with a number of different issues. There was some feeling that the issue of the URB, although not directly under the Department of Justice, had a certain Justice flavour to it, but then we have the piece I recognize with respect to assessment. While that has some connection to a court case and hence a Justice issue, I do recognize that it might be in the future a good thing to try to be a little more circumspect in narrowing the focus of the bills to matters - even if the matters are not controversial, I do accept that the honourable members were making a legitimate point in that matter.

I also would like to suggest to the honourable members that if they have - and I made this offer with respect to the earlier bill - matters of particular concern, I would be more than glad to speak to either critic from either Opposition Party, whether it is the honourable member for Richmond or the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto, because I truly

[Page 8778]

believe that the intention of the government in these matters was to bring in good legislation of a fairly routine and housekeeping nature that would have broad support in the House.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would close debate on the basis that I believe this measure will be able to go forward with broad support, not just to the Law Amendments Committee but hopefully to third reading. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 80. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

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

The motion is carried.

[6:38 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Kevin Deveaux in the Chair.]

[7:56 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 64 - Dairy Industry Act.

and the chairman has been instructed to recommend this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 8779]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, I would ask the honourable New Democratic Party House Leader to advise the House of the business for tomorrow.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, there will be two resolutions I expect to be called. Of course, if the government is very cooperative and passes both of them early, we will let them out early. The two resolutions have already been given to both the Government House Leader and the Liberal House Leader. They are Resolution No. 2463 and Resolution No. 3220.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise and meet tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House is now adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House adjourned at 7:57 p.m.]

[Page 8780]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3274

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas Bev Taylor, who is the Recreation Coordinator at the South Cumberland Community Care Centre in Parrsboro, has undertaken a fund-raising campaign to purchase a wheelchair-accessible bus for the residents of the long-term care facility there; and

Whereas according to Ms. Taylor, this bus would offer an opportunity for residents to travel for visits, outings and appointments and to just simply enjoy a drive to get outside of the building; and

Whereas this undertaking is a major task which Ms. Taylor has taken on solely to benefit the residents of the South Cumberland Care Centre Facility;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate Ms. Bev Taylor on her initiative to assist the residents of this facility and wish her all the success in this very worthwhile and well-deserving campaign.