The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., Nov. 24, 2000

First Session

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3531, Educ. - Commonwealth Educ. Ministers Conf. (26-30/11/00):
Partnership Building - Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 9281
Vote - Affirmative 9282
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3532, Sports - Sports Awards: Celebration - Success Wish,
Mr. W. Gaudet 9282
Vote - Affirmative 9283
Res. 3533, Savage Liberals - Policies: Premier - Support Confirm,
Mr. J. Holm 9283
Res. 3534, Econ. Dev. - New England Trade Mission: N.S. Companies -
Support, Mr. C. O'Donnell 9284
Vote - Affirmative 9284
Res. 3535, NDP Leader (Cdn.) - Leadership: Failure - Recognize,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9285
Res. 3536, Call to Remembrance - Zone 14 Competition:
Participants - Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 9285
Vote - Affirmative 9286
Res. 3537, Crohn's & Colitis Fdn. (Can.) - Research: Efforts -
Recognize, Mr. J. DeWolfe 9286
Vote - Affirmative 9287
Res. 3538, Health - Dist. Health Auths.: CEOs - Min. Promise,
Dr. J. Smith 9287
Res. 3539, Breton Educ. Ctr. - Drug Awareness Walk: Approach -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 9288
Vote - Affirmative 9288
Res. 3540, Queens. Co. - Ground Search & Rescue Assoc.: Role -
Acknowledge, Mr. K. Morash 9288
Vote - Affirmative 9289
Res. 3541, Justice - Sunday Shopping: Anaka, Ron/Gow, Peter -
Stance Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 9289
Res. 3542, Educ. - Learning: Environment - Safety Ensure,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9290
Res. 3543, Sports - Reekie, Harry: Amherst Baseball Hall of Fame -
Induction Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 9291
Vote - Affirmative 9291
Res. 3544, Gov't. (N.S.): Firefighters (Volunteer) - Untruths,
Mr. K. MacAskill 9291
Res. 3545, Health - Cuts: Support - Liberal Consistency, Mr. D. Dexter 9292
Res. 3546, Cape Breton Centre - MLA: Name Change - Encourage,
Mr. B. Taylor 9293
Res. 3547, Election (Cdn.) - NDP: Influence - Attempt Futile,
Mr. D. Wilson 9293
Res. 3548, Sports - Atlantic Bowl: Halifax - Min. Retain,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 9294
Vote - Affirmative 9295
Res. 3549, MacDonald, Cst. Wayne/MacMillan, Cst. Christopher:
Medal of Bravery - Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 9295
Vote - Affirmative 9295
Res. 3550, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 333: Paving Plan -
Abandonment, Mr. H. Epstein 9295
Res. 3551, Stora Enso - ISO 14001: Certificate - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 9296
Vote - Affirmative 9297
Res. 3552, Little, Kevin: Statements - Heed, Mr. J. Pye 9297
Res. 3553, Exco - Members: Traditions - Respect,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9297
Res. 3554, Sweeney, Reg - Enfield Vol. Fire Dept.: Service -
Congrats., Mr. John MacDonell 9298
Vote - Affirmative 9299
Res. 3555, Tourism - TIANS: Min. - Representation, Mr. D. Downe 9299
Res. 3556, Dominion - Santa Claus Parade: Organizers - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Corbett 9300
Vote - Affirmative 9300
Res. 3557, House of Assembly - Gov't. (N.S.): Traditions -
Dismissal Publicize, Mr. W. Gaudet 9300
Res. 3558, Health - Hospitals (Rural): Assault - Min. Cease, Mr. D. Dexter 9301
Res. 3559, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp.: Paediatric Dept. - Min. Action,
Dr. J. Smith 9302
Res. 3560, Law Amendments Comm. - Efficiency: Parties -
Responsibility Accept, Mr. W. Estabrooks 9303
Res. 3561, Election (Cdn.) - PC Candidates: Chances - Premier Assist,
Mr. K. MacAskill 9303
Res. 3562, Cape Breton MLAs - Liberal: Sympathy - Express,
Mr. H. Epstein 9304
Res. 3563, Econ. Dev. - Economic Zones: Glace Bay -
Premier Implement, Mr. D. Wilson 9305
Res. 3564, NDP - Nova Scotia: Concerns - Represent, Mr. J. Pye 9305
Res. 3565, Mun. Rel. - UNSM Gag Order: Min. - Action Condemn,
Mr. B. Boudreau 9306
Res. 3566, Liberal MLAs - Leg. Library: Usage - Encourage,
(by Mr. John MacDonell) Mr. Robert Chisholm 9307
Res. 3567, Educ. - S Woodside Elem. Sch.: Breakfast Prog. -
Organizers/Volunteers Congrats., (by Mr. D. Dexter)
Mr. K. Deveaux 9307
Vote - Affirmative 9308
Res. 3568, Commun. Serv. - Commun. Advocates Network: Awards -
Gov't. (N.S.) Accept, (by Mr. J. Pye) Mr. K. Deveaux 9308
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING:
No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act 9309
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 9309
Mr. K. MacAskill 9313
Mr. H. Epstein 9317
Adjournment of debate moved 9327
Vote - Negative 9329
Mr. D. Morse 9329
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9330
Mr. Robert Chisholm 9345
Mr. D. Wilson 9355
Mr. J. Holm 9359
Mr. B. Boudreau 9363
Adjourned debate 9367
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Nov. 27th at 2:00 p.m. 9368
NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3569, Sports - Baseball N.S. Hall of Fame: Induction -
Recipients Congrats., The Speaker 9369

[Page 9281]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 24, 2000

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

First Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 3531

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

9281

[Page 9282]

Whereas from November 26th to November 30th Nova Scotia is hosting more than 700 delegates and international participants from 45 countries during the 14th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers in Halifax; and

Whereas the conference and a parallel symposium and trade fair provide a unique opportunity to showcase Nova Scotia's universities, colleges and schools; and

Whereas Nova Scotia was selected as the host province for the conference which is held every three years and which Canada last hosted in 1964;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature recognize that the conference will build long-term educational partnerships with international institutions and businesses and strengthen our ties to the 1.7 billion people in the 52 independent Sovereign States of the Commonwealth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3532

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

Whereas tomorrow, Saturday, November 25th, Sport Nova Scotia will be hosting the 2nd Annual Investors Group Sport Awards; and

[Page 9283]

Whereas this gala is Nova Scotia's premier event for recognizing the outstanding accomplishments of the province's grass-roots coaches, officials and volunteers during the past year; and

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Scott Logan is committed to enhancing participation by all Nova Scotians in sporting activities that contribute to the health and well-being of our society;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wishes Sport Nova Scotia every success for its 2nd annual sports awards celebration.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 3533

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

Whereas the Premier's answer to the people of Pictou County who for two months have been petitioning him to keep his election promises was, "Until we have the evidence, we can't make a decision."; and

Whereas the Health Minister has already admitted that at least 152 hospital bed closures have been decided, without regard to the Tory election promise of "more hospital beds"; and

Whereas this government has not yet presented evidence to any community to justify the loss of another 152 acute care beds;

[Page 9284]

Therefore be it resolved that Pictonians and other rural Nova Scotians, who thought they were hard hit by Bernie Boudreau and the Savage Liberals, are learning that the Premier really meant it when, in October 1995, he said he supports the policies of Savage and Boudreau.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 3534

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Premier accompanied nine business leaders from across Nova Scotia to Boston in September; and

Whereas the purpose of this trade mission was to expand opportunities for the Nova Scotia business community by strengthening our economic ties to the New England market; and

Whereas each representative from Nova Scotia had a full slate of meetings with contacts in the Boston area and beyond;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House express their support for those Nova Scotian companies that pursue business opportunities with our partners to the south, and encourage them to intensify their efforts in the months and years ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 9285]

RESOLUTION NO. 3535

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

Whereas the old saying used to be that there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes; and

Whereas after the federal election campaign another certainty will be added to the list; and

Whereas now there is death, taxes and the fact that the NDP will not form a national government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members recognize that the leadership of Alexa McDonough will be deemed to be a failure, and that there is, indeed, a fourth certainty in life, Alexa McDonough will never be the head of a provincial or national government, much to the relief of those who know her best, Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3536

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

Whereas remembrance of war has become a major thrust in our efforts to prevent it; and

Whereas the Call to Remember - Zone 14 Competition for school students was held at Hants North Rural High School on November 21st, this week; and

[Page 9286]

Whereas the competition was hosted by Zone 14 and won by Fairview Junior High School, with three newcomers this year being Oxford School, Ridgecliff Middle School and Sacred Heart School, bringing the total competitors to eight;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Hants North Rural High, the Zone 14 competition organizers and especially the team of students representing Fairview Junior High for their superior knowledge of Canadian wartime history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3537

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

Whereas November is Crohn's and Colitis Awareness Month across Canada; and

Whereas the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of Canada has chapters in Nova Scotia, including an active Pictou County chapter; and

Whereas the foundation was able to invest more than $2 million in the inflammatory bowel disease or IBD research during the 1999-2000 fiscal year;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the significant research and fund-raising efforts being undertaken to cure those Canadians afflicted with this terrible disease which can strike anyone at any time and thank the volunteers in communities like Pictou County who assist so many through their tireless work.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 9287]

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. 3538

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

Whereas a year ago the Health Minister said that all new district health authority CEOs will be in place by August 2000 with the district health authorities in operation two months later; and

Whereas since all the CEOs will not be in place until January, it will be at least March before the district health authorities are in operation; and

Whereas this should give the Health Minister plenty of time to reveal his clinical footprint which is now six months late;

Therefore be it resolved that the Health Minister should get himself a watch, a calendar and a calculator because he has already broken his promise to deliver a new health care system on time and on budget.

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.

[Page 9288]

RESOLUTION NO. 3539

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

Whereas Breton Education Centre of New Waterford recently held a walk in support of drug awareness; and

Whereas students from Grade 7 to Grade 12, local fire departments and police officers from CBRM participated in this walk; and

Whereas this walk was spearheaded by a group from within the school - Peers helping Peers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the students of Breton Education Centre for their proactive way of combating a very serious problem facing our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3540

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

Whereas the National Search and Rescue Secretariat has described this province's search and rescue capabilities as being one of the best anywhere in Canada; and

Whereas the Queens Ground Search and Rescue Association plays an integral role in assisting Nova Scotia's ground search and rescue workers being recognized as leaders across this country; and

[Page 9289]

Whereas 2000 is a significant year for the area association, having recognized a number of members for their 5, 10, 15 and 20 years of consecutive, dedicated service;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the essential role played by the Queens County Ground Search and Rescue Association, while thanking them for always being there in times of need.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3541

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

Whereas two local Bridgewater business owners, Ron Anaka of Canadian Tire and Peter Gow of Gow's Home Hardware, have taken a brave and public stance against Sunday shopping; and

Whereas members of the Liberal caucus, including myself, have never been afraid to state our objections to Sunday shopping; and

Whereas this strong stand is in contrast to the Premier who is hiding behind the Tory task force report by downloading responsibilities off to municipalities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ron Anaka, Peter Gow and all Nova Scotia business owners who have the courage to stand up against Sunday shopping despite the lack of leadership shown by this Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 9290]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3542

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

Whereas after years of neglect by Tory and Liberal Governments schools are literally falling apart in this province; and

Whereas it will take approximately $1 billion to repair years of neglected maintenance and deferred renovations; and

Whereas in metro alone the cost will be $500 million, with $100 million of which is considered critical;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education explain to this House and to Nova Scotians how she will ensure that children learn in a safe, healthy environment.

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

[9:15 a.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

[Page 9291]

RESOLUTION NO. 3543

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

Whereas Stellarton native Harry Reekie is being inducted into Amherst's Baseball Sports Hall of Fame this Saturday; and

Whereas Mr. Reekie earned this honour thanks to a late-budding talent driven by this Pictou County man's desire and love for the game; and

Whereas his career was highlighted by a memorable three-title year in the 1950's with the Stellarton Albions, during Halifax and District League championships, a team where, to be a local amongst the many imported American players, you had to be good;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud this great Nova Scotia baseball player for this well-deserved recognition for his career in the sport, a goal achieved not because of money or fame, but merely due to an honest love for the game.

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3544

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

Whereas the previous Liberal Government introduced free license registration for volunteer firefighters; and

Whereas at that time the Progressive Conservatives complained that it was not enough, and demanded that more be done for firefighters; and

[Page 9292]

Whereas since coming to power, the Tories have broken their promise to give tax breaks and insurance for firefighters and search and rescue volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory Government be ashamed for not telling the truth to volunteer firefighters who do so much for rural Nova Scotian communities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3545

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

Whereas Liberal MLAs have shown genuine distress that NDP Leader Helen MacDonald revealed the extent of Tory bed closures; and

Whereas shutting down hospitals is a sensitive topic for Liberals because Senator Bernie Boudreau led the charge to shut down needed services; and

Whereas the Senator closed 1,200 hospital beds during his first two years as Finance Minister, and a total of 1,600 before he was driven out of office and left Cape Breton in disgrace;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberals have demonstrated remarkable consistency by defending Tory cuts to hospital care just as vigorously as they defended Bernie Boudreau's Liberal cuts to hospital care.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 9293]

RESOLUTION NO. 3546

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

Whereas Communist Russia gymnast Olga Korbut was the pigtailed darling of the 1972 Summer Olympics; and

Whereas the socialist NDP member for Cape Breton Centre, the woven-haired darling of this House of Assembly, is also an Olympic-calibre gymnast with his verbal gymnastics and free-speaking somersaults; and

Whereas last Friday the member for Cape Breton Centre suggested that I change my name to that of the very talented, fragrant and extremely beautiful star of stage and screen, Elizabeth Taylor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House encourage the socialist member for Cape Breton Centre to change his first name to Olga, so he may share the name of someone who can relate to his socialist policies and his unique gymnastic abilities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3547

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 provincial NDP have attempted and failed to support their federal cousins even though they have spent most of the session fighting the federal election; and

Whereas on Monday their failure will become evident when the NDP lose several seats including Bras d'Or-Cape Breton; and

[Page 9294]

Whereas Canadians and Nova Scotians can take great comfort in the fact that the NDP will not form a national government;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the NDP's futile attempts to influence the federal election on Monday and that their provincial constituents have suffered as a result.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3548

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

Whereas it takes more to promote the game of football than being tackled a few times; and

Whereas for a sleight of hand in the strategy of football, the quarterback can call a "screen" or a "flea flicker" or to distract the opposition the drama of the "Statue of Liberty" or better still, a "naked bootleg" could be called; and

Whereas this is no time to fumble the ball on the historic tradition of football in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission, with her extensive knowledge of the game of football, step into the huddle, lead a scoring drive to the end zone and keep the Atlantic Bowl in Halifax.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9295]

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3549

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

Whereas Constable Wayne MacDonald and Constable Christopher MacMillan of the Cape Breton Regional Police are going to receive the Medal of Bravery; and

Whereas Constable MacDonald saved a man's life by pulling him out of a burning building on September 16, 1999; and

Whereas Constable MacMillan helped to save a drowning woman on August 6, 1998;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these two North Sydney men, Constable Wayne MacDonald and Constable Christopher MacMillan for their heroic acts.

Mr. Speaker I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3550

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

[Page 9296]

Whereas sections of Highway No. 333 from Indian Point to Peggy's Cove, which is located in the constituency of Chester-St. Margaret's, continue to be neglected by this government; and

Whereas during the second year of a scheduled paving plan from Upper Tantallon to Peggy's Cove, no paving has occurred; and

Whereas this route is one of the most heavily used tourist routes in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation explain to the residents of Tantallon, Glen Haven, Glen Margaret, Hackett's Cove, Indian Harbour and Peggy's Cove why this three year paving plan has been abandoned.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3551

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

Whereas Stora Enso received a Certificate of Registration for its environmental management system under the ISO 14001 standard; and

Whereas this realization was a company team effort involving an extensive environmental assessment and review of every area of the paper mill operation; and

Whereas in December 1998, Stora Enso's woodlands division was the first forestry operation in Canada and the second in North America to achieve the ISO 14001 certification;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the management and staff of Stora Enso and recognize their outstanding contributions to our local communities.

Mr. Speaker I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 9297]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3552

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

Whereas recently published public opinion polls put the numbers of unknown and undecided voters as high as 52 per cent; and

Whereas many of these voters are being urged to ensure that Jean Chretien has a majority government so the Liberals can continue to govern without regard to Canadians' wishes or Liberal promises; and

Whereas undecided voters will be looking to an independent source whose advice is not tainted by self-interest;

Therefore be it resolved that the undecided voters should heed the words of Liberal candidate Kevin Little, that Liberal promises are, "all a sham, a rouse . . . a total lie."

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3553

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

Whereas while the NDP Leader has been playing musical chairs, Tory Cabinet Ministers have been playing musical portfolios; and

[Page 9298]

Whereas this past week, Tory Cabinet Ministers have been disappearing faster than marshland in Hants County; and

Whereas the Acting Acting Premier should tell his Acting Whip to make sure that all Cabinet Ministers are in their seats when the House is in session;

Therefore be it resolved that this peekaboo Cabinet is disrespectful to the traditions of this House and insulting to Nova Scotians.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3554

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

Whereas volunteerism is recognized by society in general as a most noble occupation; and

Whereas rural fire departments are entirely dependant upon the faithful commitment of volunteers; and

Whereas Mr. Reg Sweeney was recently recognized by the Enfield Volunteer Fire Department for 25 years of years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Sweeney for his recent award and for his faithful service.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 9299]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3555

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 Minister of Tourism has said "it is quite funny when he speaks about TIANS because since the TIANS conference, the honourable member hasn't asked me one question on TIANS"; and

Whereas the fact that the minister is responsible for so few duties, you would think he would know that he does not speak for TIANS; and

Whereas, in fact, the one thing he is responsible for, raising the profile of Tourism, he has been a dismal failure;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the Minister of Tourism and Culture has too much time on his hands, which has led him to believe that he speaks for the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia, when in fact he is just another Tory Minister failing to live up to his mandate.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Olga, Olga, Olga.

[Page 9300]

MR. FRANK CORBETT: If I don't do a backflip and go over there and do something, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter)

RESOLUTION NO. 3556

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

Whereas on Sunday, November 26th, the Town of Dominion will hold its Santa Claus Parade; and

Whereas this fun-filled event will bring much joy to so many young people from Dominion and area; and

Whereas events such as this parade would not be possible without the hard work of many volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chairman Donnie Campbell and the rest of his committee, Willie McInnes, Reg Finalyson, Fred Turnbull and Donald MacAuley, for a job well done.

Mr. Speaker, I seek 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 Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3557

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

Whereas when the House opened at 12:00 o'clock noon yesterday, there were five members of the Executive Council absent from their seats; and

[Page 9301]

Whereas when a vote was taken in the Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday, November 21st, the members of the Tory Government refused to accept the very clear result and consequently forced a second vote, which ended up being favourable to this government; and

Whereas these are only two examples of this Tory Government's many actions which show a total disregard for the traditions, rules and forms of procedure of this House;

Therefore be it resolved that this House immediately make Nova Scotians aware of the Tory Government's total dismissal of the democratic foundation of this, Canada's oldest seat of government.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3558

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

Whereas Pictonians protested cuts at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital yesterday at this House; and

Whereas the Tory MLA from Pictou West was forced to table a petition on their behalf, with 4,650 signatures protesting these nursing cuts; and

Whereas in recent years this hospital has lost emergency services, lab technician services, nursing and administrative services, dietary services, secretarial services, and maintenance and housekeeping services;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier instruct the Minister of Health to stop his assault on rural hospitals, and begin enhancing the health care system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 9302]

[9:30 a.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3559

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

Whereas yesterday in this House the Minister of Health indicated there is a delay in the reproductive care report on the merger of the paediatric/obstetric unit at Colchester Regional Hospital; and

Whereas the minister said they would make the report available, "as soon as he can"; and

Whereas the minister failed to commit that renovations will take place before the merger, once again putting at risk the health and safety of patients;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health take a leadership role rather than using stall tactics and finger pointing to cover up his lack of action on this very important health issue.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 9303]

RESOLUTION NO. 3560

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

Whereas the Law Amendments Committee is a valued tradition in this House; and

Whereas the Law Amendments Committee process works well if all Parties involved bring forward amendments for improvements to legislation; and

Whereas the Liberal Party has yet to introduce a single amendment to the committee in this session on any legislation;

Therefore be it resolved that all members in all Parties accept their responsibility to make the Law Amendments Committee process work in this historic Legislature.

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3561

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

Whereas the federal Progressive Conservative candidate for Sydney-Victoria says that being associated with the Premier of Nova Scotia will hurt her chances; and

Whereas the blunders and scandals of this Tory Government caused Anna Curtis-Steele to say about the Premier, ". . . where the heck are you coming from?"; and

Whereas it looks like there will be the same number of Tory MLAs after the next provincial election as there will be Tory MPs after Monday's federal election;

[Page 9304]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier improve the chances of the federal PC candidates by keeping quiet and out of sight until after November 27th.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3562

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

Whereas the Liberal Party has developed something of an obsession over the presence of the Leader of the NDP at Province House; and

Whereas the Liberal backbench fear of the Leader of the NDP is palpable; and

Whereas the obsession over the Leader of the NDP by the Liberal Party is a clear sign of the nervousness on the part of Cape Breton MLAs who know their seats will soon be in danger;

Therefore be it resolved that this House express our sympathy for Cape Breton Liberal MLAs as this endangered species has clearly seen the future and it is the NDP under the leadership of Helen MacDonald.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 9305]

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3563

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

Whereas Glace Bay's unemployment problem is a provincial disgrace; and

Whereas the Premier promised to allow for special economic zones to help areas of high unemployment, a promise he has yet to fulfil; and

Whereas questions to the Minister of Economic Development have been met with answers that indicate the minister erroneously thinks Glace Bay's situation is like any other town;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House demand that the Premier should implement his election promise without delay so areas like Glace Bay can immediately stop the economic bleeding.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3564

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

Whereas this Monday Canadians will go to the polls to elect a new government; and

Whereas the current government has disdained the people of Nova Scotia for years, surfacing only in time for the election to pretend they know we exist; and

[Page 9306]

Whereas the federal NDP caucus has stood as the guardians against cuts to health care, EI and as the only champions of the environment in Parliament;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians remember how bad things can be with an unchecked, uncaring Liberal Government in power, without a strong NDP voice to represent the real concerns of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3565

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

Whereas this Tory Government has a very thin skin, especially when it comes to criticism of their own policies; and

Whereas the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations tried to impose a gag order on members of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities; and

Whereas the Minister has ordered the UNSM to "take steps" to make sure that members do not openly criticize government policies;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations be condemned for his inappropriate actions and for trying to shoot the messenger.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

[Page 9307]

The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3566

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

Whereas the Liberal caucus has been clearly discombobulated by the fact that the Leader of the NDP is often at work in the Legislature Library; and

Whereas Liberal MLAs seem to be afraid to enter the Library and are confused, distressed, cranky and out of sorts by this evidence of leadership; and

Whereas Cape Breton Liberal backbenchers are understandably apprehensive of the impact the Leader of the NDP will have on their own electoral fortunes;

Therefore be it resolved that Liberal MLAs be encouraged to suck it up, brave that which they fear and avail themselves of the Library even if the sight of a Party Leader hard at work is so out of the ordinary for Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3567

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas it is proven that a student is better able to learn and is more likely to succeed when the student has a full breakfast; and

[Page 9308]

Whereas South Woodside Elementary School is an excellent example of a school that recognizes the needs of its students and tries to address them; and

Whereas since June 2000 South Woodside Elementary School has been providing breakfast to over 60 students each day as a means of helping students learn;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Anna Marie Sarto, the staff of the South Woodside Elementary School and the volunteers in the community who are providing an invaluable service to the students and families of South Woodside.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3568

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas yesterday the Minister of Community Services won an award from the Community Advocates Network titled Marksmanship Award, for taking lethal aim at people forced to live in poverty; and

Whereas the Premier was honoured with the Back to the Past Award for taking Nova Scotians from the year 2000 to the year 1834, in how it deals with the poor; and

Whereas the Tory backbenchers were not left out, they were awarded the Rear End Award for voting for the bill and turning their backs on their own constituents who are living in poverty;

Therefore be it resolved that all Tories in this House should accept these awards with shame and throw away their own badly flawed legislation.

[Page 9309]

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

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 Third Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR THIRD READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham, you have 14 minutes.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I guess I want to start at the point where I left off last evening, where I was talking about the kind of work that people on social assistance generally are forced into by workfare kinds of programs. I was making reference to a presentation we heard at the Law Amendments Committee by a woman who lives in my constituency who told us that about a year ago she had started delivering newspapers, which required that she get up and be out at 4:00 o'clock in the morning and between 4:00 o'clock in the morning and 7:00 o'clock in the morning she would do this.

Now at the moment of interruption I was talking about the fact that quite a few people who engage in this work are, in fact, people on social assistance. I know this because I have worked with people on social assistance for many years. It is an area where people can get access to employment.

[Page 9310]

A really interesting thing happened after I made those comments last night, Mr. Speaker. We had the moment of adjournment and a senior member of the government, on the way out of the Chamber asked me if I had ever delivered newspapers, as if you could only talk about these things if you have. I am not sure precisely what the point was. I said no, I hadn't been a newspaper carrier.

He went on to say that he had been a newspaper carrier, that it was good work and that it taught people hard work and work ethic kinds of skills. I responded to him, Mr. Speaker, that that may very well be the case but I would find it very curious if he, in fact, had had to support his family doing this. I think that is the point. The point isn't that the work is not worthy work, the work is important work. There isn't any activity that doesn't make a contribution to our lives, the quality of our lives and our communities.

I certainly value the work of people who bring The Halifax Chronicle-Herald to my doorstep in the morning and the people who put other important flyers, and what have you, around the community. The point is, often this work is paid by the piece, it is done at extraordinarily unsociable hours and you have to ask yourself if this is the kind of work that you want single mothers, like the woman who came before the Law Amendments Committee, to be forced to do.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wonder, would the honourable member for Halifax Needham accept a question?

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Halifax Needham accept a question?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.

MR. RUSSELL: I wonder, would the honourable member for Halifax Needham describe to the House what she means by unsociable hours of work?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is quite a large literature on the sociability of hours; I am sure that the fine librarians in the Legislative Library would be happy to provide the minister with a detailed account of the many sociological studies that have been done on this. Unsociable hours, in a nutshell, are hours outside 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., when the majority of the work world, occurs. (Interruptions) I would remind . . .

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I don't know how many studies she has looked at but, to be quite truthful, the world works on a 24 hour day at the present time, and I am sure that the honourable member would be delighted if everything shut down at 5:00 o'clock in the afternoon. I think that that is unsociable conduct.

[Page 9311]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order, but rather a disagreement of facts between two members. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am astonished that the honourable member doesn't understand this. All you have to do is go to collective agreements. Look at the provisions in collective agreements of nurses, of firemen, of policemen, of all kinds of members of our community who work the kinds of hours that the honourable member talks about, that have been able to have recognized in the collective bargaining process as having a right to some kind of compensation because they don't confine themselves to what we consider the regular world of work, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., government offices, public services. I am sorry, but there is a growing movement in this country and elsewhere, particularly in the European countries around something called family-friendly workplace policy. I suggest that those members on the other side who don't seem to be aware of any of these issues make themselves informed. It is an extremely important issue. It is important for women, it is important for parents, and it is important for working people. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: That comment from the honourable member about people not wanting to work, does not dignify a response. We heard from many people on social assistance, in front of the Law Amendments Committee, who were working, Mr. Speaker, who want to work and who are working and that is the point. (Interruptions)

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, I find some of the comments the honourable member for Halifax Needham is making to be an affront to the biggest employer in this country, and that is the trucking industry. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, if a person picked up a load of perishable goods in Boston and had to deliver them to St. John's and only drove from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order. That is not a point of order. The member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is not complicated. It is absolutely not complicated. The kind of country that members of this caucus promote is a country where the work of people is valued, and the fact that people have to get up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning to deliver people's newspapers when they are single parents, when they have adolescents or young children at home, is a source of concern. That is the point, and that is the only point that is being made here.

To have members, any member of that government suggest that that kind of work will lead to self-sufficiency is absolute bunk, Mr. Speaker. It will not lead to self-sufficiency, and it may have been great work for an honourable member when he was 12 or 13 years old in the 19-God knows what, but that is not the world we are living in today.

[Page 9312]

Mr. Speaker, I worked as a waitress. It was great work, I enjoyed it, but I have to tell you, I lived at home. I didn't have to pay rent, I didn't have to buy food, and I didn't have to support a family. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. If the members for Dartmouth South and Dartmouth North want to argue across the floor, I would ask them to go outside this Chamber and take it outside. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the point is that Bill No. 62 is promoting a very kind of unsociable work on families, on people who have young children, people who have teenagers, and there is a big question about whether or not promoting this kind of employment will lead to self-sufficiency. That is the only point here.

Now, you have to ask yourself about how serious this government really is about addressing poverty. They are not at all serious about addressing poverty. They haven't addressed the inadequacy of the rates of benefits. (Interruptions) The members on the other side think this is funny. I wonder how funny they will think it is in a year's time when members of their constituency, who they represent, will have even less money to live on when they apply for social assistance than they do now. It will not be funny. There is nothing funny about having to stand in line at a food bank and there is nothing funny about leaving a food bank with no fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables, but canned goods. There is nothing funny about not being able to adequately provide nutritious food in a family. There is nothing funny about being a person with a disability and not being able to get a wheelchair unless you can sell pencils on some street corner to raise the money to do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: A lot of people are doing that.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, there are a lot of people doing that, and even if there was only one person doing that, it is one person too many. It is demeaning; it is degrading; and it is unacceptable in a wealthy society and we are a wealthy society.

We need to develop in this province the kinds of programs that are provided for people with disabilities in many other Canadian provinces. We have had our priorities in this province a little mixed up for far too long, Mr. Speaker. We have no difficulty as a province, previous governments and this government have no difficulty giving millions of dollars to profitable companies and corporations as a first priority, where people with disabilities who require technical aids, just your basic ability to get around in a wheelchair, have no access to the kinds of supports that would allow people to go into the labour force. The same people are paying for those supports who pay for the big money that has gone to Sobeys. We are simply saying get your priorities straight. (Interruptions)

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

[Page 9313]

Order, please. Bring yourselves under control.

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the members opposite that I will go easy on them. It may be my nature to go easy although it may not be my wish sometimes, but I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this bill for another few minutes: Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this is an inherently flawed piece of legislation. As you know, and we all know in this House, we have been vigorously against this bill from the very get-go. The foundation of Bill No. 62 appears to be in the regulations, and the impact of this legislation can only be found when the regulations are scrutinized. But we cannot even examine those regulations, the government has kept them a secret from the House and has left us walking blindfolded in the dark. There are very few details in this bill. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

With the lack of details and the lack of regulations, it would be counter-productive to propose any amendments. By amending such a bill, you are in effect showing support for such a bill.

The purpose behind Bill No. 62 is noble, however, it is somewhat misdirected. This bill could have been effective. It could have helped many people in this province but when the Tories tried to please their friends in big business, this bill lost its purpose and its meaning. Instead of helping people on social assistance, this bill degrades them. It has turned into poor-bashing and imitates the polices of iron-fisted Mike Harris in Ontario.

We have often said that what works in Ontario does not necessarily work in Nova Scotia. Workfare did not work in Ontario, it failed, and it will fail here, Mr. Speaker, in our Province of Nova Scotia as well. Instead of removing barriers for unemployment, this bill only reinforces those barriers.

One of the barriers is the stigma that is attached to people on social assistance. The Premier, himself, only reinforced this stigma in his speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. He almost had Nova Scotians convinced that his heart was in the right place, but his comments were perceived by many as shameful. Obviously, the Premier is not convinced that this is a good bill; otherwise he would not have made such hateful comments pitting the poor against the working poor, which is not what this bill should be about.

[Page 9314]

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus believes that the best form of social assistance is a job. That is why the previous Liberal Government believed in growing the economy. We are proud of our record of job creation in Nova Scotia. The previous Liberal Government created more jobs between 1993 and 1999 than at any other time in the history of this province.

Mr. Speaker, moving towards a system that allows more people to find meaningful employment is a good idea, but Bill No. 62 does not clearly define the difference between a meaningful job and just any job. In Ontario, the Mike Harris Government never clearly defined what a job was supposed to be. This led to a serious breakdown in the workfare program. Being able to find a good, stable job is important to breaking the cycle of poverty. That is why this bill does not address the problem faced by many people in areas of high unemployment in our province. How does this government expect to meet its goal of forcing people off social assistance in a place where unemployment is high?

We cannot let ourselves be fooled by this bill. This bill is not clear. It does not clearly outline what it hopes to accomplish, nor does it outline how it is supposed to help those on social assistance. This bill is ambiguous and open to any number of interpretations. Are the Tories saying, Mr. Speaker, that you can only have an acceptable quality of life if you have a job? What about the severely disabled or what about our seniors, are the Tories saying that they do not have an acceptable quality of life?

This bill says that social assistance is no longer a right for people in need. As Liberals we have a big problem with that, Mr. Speaker. It was the Liberals who helped build this social safety net in Canada and we believe it is the right of every Canadian to receive assistance, if they need it and if they are in need, but the bill removes that right. Bill No. 62 alienates those who, through no fault of their own, cannot find a job. That would apply, to a large degree in the riding I represent. It says that people only have a right to social assistance if they are looking for a job, but what about the people in rural areas who do not have access to jobs by means of transportation, or do not have access to that kind of transportation that is available to them in the urban or the metro areas? They are shut out because of this bill.

[10:00 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 62 lays the foundation for learn-fare. We saw, in Digby County, the difficulties of forcing people to take training programs. Unless you first address these difficulties, you cannot expect learn-fare to be successful. In Ontario, learn-fare was tried, and it has been a failure. In Ontario, like Nova Scotia, it became mandatory to take job training and other skills and education programs, but in Ontario this training was never designed to help people find jobs. In Ontario, there is no evidence that this training was very effective.

[Page 9315]

Mr. Speaker, Ontario Works focused on the shortest route possible to get a person a job. This meant that training programs did not offer the skills needed to get meaningful employment. In Ontario, there was no room for real career training or in-depth career counselling. Therefore, Ontario Works only led to part-time, low-paying jobs that did nothing to help the problem of poverty in that province.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 62 leaves too many unanswered questions. This bill opens the door to the privatization of the social assistance system. This bill gives the minister power to delegate to persons or classes of persons. This means that people other than government employees, such as staff at the Department of Community Services, will be in charge of some aspects of the program of social assistance. This could mean that the Tories plan to set up private companies to administer social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, where are the safeguards and the protections for those in need? A private business will have no compassion or respect for those on social assistance. Again, this is something that the Tories under Mike Harris did in Ontario. The Tories are giving up their responsibility for those in need, just like they did in Ontario. The truth is we will not know the full impact until the regulations are brought forward. In its present form, Bill No. 62 is flawed, and I don't believe it deserves to be passed by this Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services said that Bill No. 62 is the most significant piece of legislation introduced by his department. It is just too bad that such an important piece of legislation is only being released in piecemeal fashion. It has become the policy of this secretive government to release important information in dribs and drabs only. Nova Scotians will not see the regulations for Bill No. 62 until the beginning of the new year, 2001.

This Legislature has been asked to debate Bill No. 62 on blind faith. Like the bogus budget introduced in the spring, we did not have enough information or the proper data in order to make informed decisions on this bill. Like the budget, we were being asked to vote before we had a chance to examine the complete picture. Again, the Opposition is being forced to ferret out the details because the details are certainly not present in this bill.

Bill No. 62 and the meaning behind it is based on the Conservative belief that everyone should be required to pay their own way. This belief is popular with voters in Ontario and it has proved that it may have been.

The title of Bill No. 62 has a lofty ring to it, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-Sufficiency. It is a great title, but you cannot judge a book by its cover. It is too bad the reality of Bill No. 62 does not live up to its grand title. There are serious concerns about the requirements to develop an employment plan. What will such a plan look like? How will it be developed? Has the Minister of Community Services set

[Page 9316]

targets for getting people off social assistance? How will we know if these changes are a success? How will we know if they are a failure?

The development of an employment plan for each and every person on social assistance is a way of looking at the problem of an individual, one-on-one basis. This may be effective, but what about looking at poverty as a problem in the province? Changes to social assistance in Bill No. 62 seem to ignore the big picture of poverty and we cannot expect everyone on social assistance to achieve self-sufficiency until we address the bigger problem associated with poverty.

Developing an employment plan for each and every person on social assistance puts an incredible burden on overloaded caseworkers. People on social assistance already complain that they do not get enough time with their caseworkers as things are now. The caseworkers are hard-working professionals who struggle to do the best job they can with the limited resources that are available to them. Now the Tories are piling on extra responsibility without consulting with the caseworkers. This is an unrealistic and unreasonable burden to put on caseworkers.

In Ontario there was never a clear outline of what qualifies as a job. Caseworkers are now expected to become employment counsellors and they are expected to become experts at labour market research and job placements. To date, caseworkers have been in the dark concerning these massive changes and they are now getting calls from their worried clients but they do not yet have any answers to give them, and there will be no answers until January 2001.

On Page 23 of the Tory blue book, it says that the government will, "Ensure that front-line Community Service workers are fully briefed on all relevant changes to government policies and procedures . . ." This is obviously a broken promise since front-line community service workers were not consulted about the changes in Bill No. 62. The minister said in this House that August 2001 - that is the implementation date - will allow plenty of time for consultation. However, this is consultation after the fact. This is not meaningful consultation because community service employees will have no say in the process.

Mr. Speaker, how will these employment plans be developed? What model will be used and how will they be evaluated? There has been very little information released about these employment plans. For instance, we don't know what penalty a person will suffer if they fail to develop an employment plan. Also, what penalty is there if somebody fails to follow these plans?

Mr. Speaker, it isn't possible to intelligently debate Bill No. 62 until we see the regulations. There are too many unanswered questions about the impact of Bill No. 62, and we don't have enough information to evaluate it. For instance, what qualifies as a job under these new changes? To be realistic, the only type of job someone just coming off social

[Page 9317]

assistance can expect to get is a job that pays only minimum wage. Unless the government is prepared to pay millions for education and trade programs, low-paying and part-time jobs are all that some people on social assistance can expect, if they can even find that.

These are the same young people and university students who depend on their small low-paying jobs out there today, young people need those jobs to help pay for their education. Forcing people on social assistance to get low-paying jobs will only displace other young workers. Without these jobs young people may not be able to afford more education, and they will not have the training for higher-paying jobs. These changes to social assistance, I believe, could actually make the cycle of poverty worse.

Mr. Speaker, with those few remarks I will take my seat and allow the next speaker to have an opportunity to speak on this bill. Our caucus believes this bill is not salvageable, therefore, we will be making no amendments, and we didn't make any amendments because we believe this bill should be completely restructured. It is not what Nova Scotians are looking for. It is not what they need. We will hope the government will reconsider.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is third and final reading of Bill No. 62. Bill No. 62 is the government's revision of the Social Assistance Program in the Province of Nova Scotia. I want my constituents to know that I am ashamed to be part of the process that has to deal with this bill. By reason of being a member of the Legislature I have to engage with what it is that the government has brought forward, but I am not happy about it. To the extent that I can take any comfort, it is knowing I am free to vote against this bill. I intend to vote against this bill. I voted against it at second reading. I certainly found even more reasons to support my view that this bill is profoundly flawed during the Law Amendments Committee, when we heard from members of the public.

I think that I am in a fortunate position to be able to stand up freely and say that I oppose this bill. The people who I think are in a difficult position in this Chamber are the backbenchers in the Party opposite. I want to address my remarks as much to my own constituents as to the backbenchers opposite, because I am hoping that they will find it in their hearts to vote against this bill. I am hoping they will find, upon close examination of their conscience, that they cannot support this bill and there will be a revolt of the backbenchers. I really only have that one point to make in my remarks today. It will take me a little while to get there and explain to the backbenchers opposite why it is that they ought to do that, but I hope that by the time I and the other speakers have finished, they will realize that that is indeed the course of action that they ought to take.

[Page 9318]

[10:15 a.m.]

We have heard from a whole variety of speakers in this Chamber what the flaws are in Bill No. 62. We have heard that it is more accurately to be characterized as an attack on the poor than an attack on poverty. This is clearly the wrong policy choice. What we expect is, that when the government finally engages in a revision of the rules that have to do with the final social safety net that exists for people in our society, they will take seriously their duty to eliminate or move as much as they can towards elimination of poverty, but that is not the case with this bill.

We have heard, time and time again, the flaws identified. The last speaker reminded us that the regulations that are to come have not yet been circulated for all of us to read. In the absence of regulations, of course it is difficult to know exactly what the details are. At the same time, we already know that there have been changes in the rates that have been put in place earlier this year and announced as going into effect for a wider range of persons sometime next year.

The net result is going to be that many persons will be financially worse off under the arrangements that we are looking at here. I find that morally repugnant, which brings me to immediate consideration of what it is that the government front bench seems to think is the main thrust of the bill that they presented. What we are told is that this is a piece of an overall strategy designed to move people from welfare to work, from welfare to employment, and the centrepiece statement was found in the speech of the Premier given some weeks ago now, I believe to the Halifax Regional Municipality Chamber of Commerce gathering. What he said, of course as everyone knows, is that people should not be better off on welfare than if they went to work.

I was struck by two things. One is that this statement is absolutely devoid of meaningful content. If you try to analyse it thinking about the real facts, it does not hold any water at all; it just does not make any sense. You should not be better off on welfare. How could you possibly be better off on welfare? The reality is that most of the recipients of social assistance get very little money. The rates are so very low, not just in terms of absolute dollars, they are low in terms of their relationship to the poverty line, by any measure. So when you think about what it is that individuals, single individuals, or single parents with children, or two adults, or parents with more than one child actually need, in virtually any part of this province, in order to support themselves, the rates are just plain too low. Instead of lowering the rates, clearly the first useful step would have been to raise them.

In terms of what the Premier said, I can only find, upon analysis of the numbers, one circumstance in which it might be conceivable that individuals in receipt of social assistance, a family in receipt of social assistance, could be slightly better off than if there was a breadwinner who had a job outside the home and was able to make minimum wage. This is if they were at the absolute top of the social assistance scale. That only comes in when you

[Page 9319]

have a family of two adults and three or more children. When you look at the numbers, there are very few people, among the social assistance recipients, who are in that category. Even then the total number of dollars flowing through the social assistance system to that family of five is about $15,432 for the year, to support a family of five. This would put them ahead of where they were, they would be, if one of the adults was the sole breadwinner for that family and they had a minimum wage job. At $5.60 or $5.70 an hour, they would have $11,500, maybe $12,000 coming in.

We heard, going back to what the Premier said, there is virtually no one in receipt of social assistance in this province who is better off staying on social assistance than they would be by achieving work. Upon hard analysis of the facts, what the Premier actually said was meaningless. It conveyed no useful information, it wasn't a useful way of thinking about the problem. I will tell you what it was, it was a signal, it was a coded message, and not very deeply coded at that. When people make those kinds of statements and upon analysis they turn out not to mean anything when you actually look at the facts behind them, then you have to analyse the statement in terms of some kind of sign or signal being sent.

It was obvious that what the Premier was meaning to say was that the government was on the side of business, and the government was against poor people. That kind of statement is divisive. That kind of statement presumes that the audience that the speaker addresses - in this case the Premier - wants to be against those on welfare, or that there is a constituency somewhere in the province that enjoys having some kind of negative attitude towards people who are in receipt of welfare payments. Even if there is no such constituency, although we all know that there is probably a small constituency that thinks that way, to make that kind of divisive statement encourages people to think in an us-and-them fashion. It encourages people in what is all too easy, that is to adopt a prejudiced attitude.

I have to say that is wrong; it is wrong for the Premier to stand up and encourage divisiveness in our society. That is not the role of a Premier who is taking a community-building responsibility but that is the attitude that this government seems to think brought it to power and that is the attitude that this government seems to think will help it get a second term. It is precisely because that attitude is wrong and will not work, that there ought to be a revolt of the backbenchers, even if they are not prepared to revolt in terms of what is right and what accords with their conscience. They ought to revolt because it won't work. They should take a practical view of it, if they are not prepared to take the moral view of it. It won't work with the electorate here. The front bench has misjudged the electorate and they are going to get you, the back bench, in trouble.

Now I will explain in more detail why I think that. Let's look at what is a remarkable convergence of similar thinking between what the Premier said in his remarks, that people shouldn't be better off on welfare, some of the comments made to us in the Law Amendments Committee by people who came to us and said the other side of that coin is that we shouldn't be worse off by going to work. In fact, both of those statements, if you take just

[Page 9320]

the bare words, amount to much the same kind of thing; you shouldn't be worse off by going to work.

Well, for the most part, no one is going to be worse off by going to work. There are very few recipients of social assistance at the moment who would be in that position. On the other hand, there is a huge range of supports and assistance that need to be given to people to actually put them in the workforce at a reasonable level of employment. As I read it, one of the points of convergence is that one of the steps the government should be prepared to take is simply to raise the minimum wage. I think that is one of the implications of what it is that people said to us, and we heard from a lot of well-informed people at Law Amendments Committee. For my constituents, for others at home listening or reading this, let me explain that at the Law Amendments Committee, which is part of the process of the adoption of legislation, we hear submissions from the public. When bills are going through this House, it is an opportunity for members of the public to come and talk to a committee of about nine MLAs and give their views on bills.

On Bill No. 62, we heard first from Jeanne Fay, of the Dalhousie Legal Aid Service. Now Jean Fay has been at Dalhousie Legal Aid for a long time. One of the main mandates of the Dalhousie Legal Aid service, located on Gottingen Street in Halifax, is to do what they call poverty law. They represent the inner city poor. They will represent them in landlord-tenant disputes; they represent them in their interactions with the Department of Community Services; they represent them because, of course, they cannot afford their own lawyers and because the ambit of Nova Scotia Legal Aid does not extend to what it is that is covered by the students and staff at Dalhousie Legal Aid.

[10:30 a.m.]

One of the main points made to us by Jeanne Fay on behalf of the Dalhousie Legal Aid service and its accumulated experience in representing this community is that there was no commitment on the part of the government to provide support to those who are going to be in receipt of social assistance at a level that was adequate. Nor was there a definition of need. If need is the measure, as the bill attempts to say, then we should know more about what it is that the government thinks comes within the ambit of need. We should certainly have a better definition than what is offered.

If payments are going to be made, why would the government not commit itself to making those payments adequate? I want people to know that during the more detailed examination of Bill No. 62, our Party attempted to amend this bill to require that the standard of adequacy, even at that a word which leaves room for further definition, was not accepted. It was just not accepted by the government members. They were not prepared to support that.

[Page 9321]

I find it incredible that that should be the case. It was not as if we simply made up this amendment, the idea of adequacy is anchored in United Nations' Conventions to which Canada is a signatory. The idea of adequacy is anchored in common sense. The idea of adequacy was anchored in the representations that we had from Dalhousie Legal Aid, but this government was not prepared to accept that, the front bench so determined and all of the members opposite voted against that.

We heard from Mary Rothman from the Nova Scotia Association for Community Living. She spoke on behalf of persons with special needs. She pointed out that although the bill recognizes that there are people who have special needs, people with physical and mental disabilities, again, there is no definition of the full ambit of how those needs are to be met or how they are to be defined. Again, this was an experienced person coming from an organization that does good work and that represents a significant number of the people who are in receipt of social assistance because, make no mistake, to suffer a serious physical or mental disability or even a mild physical or mental disability in our society often means that you will be unemployed, perhaps unemployable or you will only be at the lowest end of the employment scale. Many of the social assistance recipients are in that category.

At the Law Amendments Committee we heard from Paul O'Hara. Paul O'Hara is the long-term social worker at the North End Community Health Centre. The North End Community Health Centre provides medical and other health services to people in metro's inner city core. Paul O'Hara has been there for a long time. Paul O'Hara takes a wide - as does the clinic - view of the kind of services that are necessary in order to try to help people get out of poverty. Paul O'Hara told us that he was pessimistic about the system as it exists now. He told us that his interactions over the years led him to realize that there are a couple of particular points that ought to be addressed in any system that wanted to take a serious and coherent look at what it is that is needed to attack poverty. And all of them were missing from this bill he told us.

Let me just remind you of some of the points that he made. First he said that the housing needs for the poor are extreme. The private sector typically has been building housing at a great rate in metro, but not housing for the poor. They do not make a profit from it. The housing, the private sector developers have been building apartments all over metro; on the peninsula, in Dartmouth, in the surrounding suburban areas. This is obvious to anyone who takes a look around, but this housing is not affordable housing. This housing is one of the major needs of people who are among the poorest. There is a pressing need for decent housing. This bill doesn't deal with it. The government has no strategy to deal with housing for the poorest. Nothing is happening, the federal government is not moving on this; this is such a big void in terms of a strategy for attacking poverty that it is astonishing.

Now here is another thing Paul O'Hara told us. One of the minister's main points has been that the housing for shelter allowance is going to be increased. Paul O'Hara said to us, do you know what happens with an increase in shelter allowance, it doesn't make the

[Page 9322]

recipients any better off. That goes instantly and 100 per cent into the pockets of the landlords. Here is how it works. You and I, Mr. Speaker, as members of the middle class, if we rent an apartment, we will have a lease, it will probably be at least a year, maybe a longer lease. It will be in writing. If we have any doubt about what is in it we will hire lawyers to tell us and interpret it or negotiate it for us. If there is a dispute we know that there is a Residential Tenancies Board and we are perfectly capable of going there and speaking on our own or hiring someone to speak on our behalf. If there is a problem we will be able to take care of it.

If, all of a sudden we get an increase in our salaries, the landlord isn't going to be able to come to us and say, I hear you got a raise last week, your rent is going up. That isn't going to happen. We will be able to tell the landlord to go pound sand. We have a lease for a set period of time, we know what our rights are, we are all set. For poor people who live in their housing arrangements, for the most part they don't have leases. If they live in rooming houses, they don't have leases. Even if they live in apartments where they do have leases it isn't going to matter because they are not in a position to enforce their leases.

This is what Paul O'Hara told us. This is his experience and I have known Paul O'Hara for many years. I used to be on the board of the North End health clinic, and when I was on municipal council in HRM I dealt with Paul O'Hara because he worked with all the local housing groups trying to get a special by-law brought in to regulate rooming houses. He knows all the rooming houses in metro, Halifax and Dartmouth, he knows them all and he knows the landlords and he knows the interaction. When Paul O'Hara comes and tells us what is going to happen is that if the shelter allowance goes up by $10 or $15, that money is going to go directly into the pockets of the landlords, we can believe Paul O'Hara. That is exactly what is going to happen and everyone knows that. So if there is an increase in the shelter allowance in some categories, as the minister is telling us, that doesn't help anyone. It doesn't help the recipients of social assistance because they are not going to be able to put that money into buying more food, they are not going to be able to put that money into buying more supplies for themselves. That money is money that goes just into the pockets of the landlords.

Now here is another point that Paul O'Hara brought up with us. He said that telephones are needed. He said that if the government wanted to take a concrete step forward and help those who are on social assistance find work, make their lives a little bit easier, they should have a specific allowance to pay for basic telephone every month. This ought to happen, it is a basic necessity in terms of modern life. It is especially a necessity if you are thinking about wanting to get people off welfare and into the workforce.

I want people at home to know that we brought forward an amendment to this legislation to require the government to provide basic telephone service as one of the categories of need that had to be met. Of course - no surprise - the front bench and the backbench of the government voted against that. They voted it down. In the Opposition we

[Page 9323]

don't have enough votes if the government stands up unified in opposition to one of our amendments. So that is what happened to the phone amendment and, in sum, all of the points that Paul O'Hara made to us, the government is not acting on.

After that at the Law Amendments Committee, we heard from a whole range of people who are specialists in the study of social welfare systems. We heard from faculty members at the Maritime School of Social Work; we heard from sociologists at Saint Mary's University, who specialize in this matter; we heard from people who are at social assistance agencies like Veith House; and we heard from lawyers like Vince Calderhead at Nova Scotia Legal Aid, who specializes in poverty law. The overwhelming consensus from these people is that the steps that are being taken by the government are not only inadequate, they are wrong-headed, that they don't move in the proper way to engage with the real issues of poverty.

We heard from the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers. This is the association that represents all 1,400 professional social workers who have jobs dealing with the system or administering the system because many of the members of the NSASW will be employees of the government who have to administer this system and, let me tell you, the Nova Scotia Association of Social Workers was not appearing in front of the Law Amendments Committee to tell us that Bill No. 62 is going to advance the interests of those who are in a position of poverty, especially those who are in receipt of social assistance.

We heard of course from people who are, themselves, recipients of social assistance, although notably we didn't hear from the most downtrodden, which I think is no big surprise. Those who are in the worse position are fearful; those who are in the worse position are not able to come often and speak for themselves. Either they are not aware that the system is undergoing change, or they don't know how to get a hold of the Legislative Counsel Office and make arrangements to come speak, or they have too much of a daily struggle in order to keep their lives together to do it.

But who we did hear from, who were people in receipt of social assistance, were those who are at the same time students. These were people who are working hard to get themselves off social assistance. They were in the process of acquiring a higher level of education than they had. Their stories were very compelling. It was obvious that they weren't happy being in receipt of social assistance, but it was the only thing that enabled them to get through the rough patches in their lives, typically that meant being single parents, typically a mother with a child. They were taking steps in order to better themselves.

[10:45 a.m.]

When we hear from the minister that his thrust is to get people off welfare and into the workforce, one might somehow think that the initiative had to be taken in this by the government. That is part of the message that the minister would have us believe. People who

[Page 9324]

are in receipt of social assistance are already themselves taking the initiative, and have, at all points and in all parts of this province, to try to get themselves off of social assistance. No one I have ever met wants to be on social assistance. No one, despite what the Premier tried to signal, is leading a soft life on social assistance.

We heard from nuns, we heard from Sister Helen Wallace, a member of the Sisters of Charity, who happens to live in my constituency. I know Sister Helen Wallace. What was striking about her message to the committee was that she told us that she knew from her work that the wrong message was being sent by the Premier in what he said, and that the wrong message was being sent by this legislation. She found it offensive. Sister Helen Wallace, she didn't hesitate to say to us, is over 80 years old, but as spry and as vigorous a person as one could want to be at that age. She, in her long life, had seen a lot. She, in her long life, has dedicated herself to working with the poor.

This really gets me to the heart of the message I want to bring out as clearly as I can for the backbenchers of the government members opposite. When a Roman Catholic nun comes to the Law Amendments Committee and scolds the members of the government who are on that committee, for not paying attention and for having a wrong-headed piece of legislation, I think that it is time for the members of the backbench to start thinking about whether this bill really serves their interest. Sister Helen Wallace was not the only person who came to us from the church community in Nova Scotia.

There were two other submissions that I was particularly struck by and that seemed to me to be the ones that the government backbenchers ought to think about. I have written off the front bench, it is the backbenchers that I think ought to think about that. I have these two submissions right here, and I am going to just remind the backbenchers of what it is that we heard over in the Law Amendments Committee, if they haven't been told about it already.

One is a presentation that came to us from the St. Paul's Family Resources Institute. Jennifer Benigno came on behalf of the St. Paul's Food Bank. St. Paul's Food Bank is operated in the Spryfield area of Halifax. Here is what was so striking about Jennifer Benigno coming. Jennifer Benigno and the people in her church who organized that food bank were all middle class people. Jennifer Benigno was a solid dues-paid-up member of the middle-class and she came to us and she said, as we knew from the statistics, that it is really only the food banks that are keeping the poor alive in Nova Scotia. It certainly is not the social assistance system because the rates are too low. She said to us that in their church they raise their own money themselves. They are not in receipt of government grants. They are not representing recycled tax dollars. They raise their money from their members themselves out of their wages in order to support their food bank and they do a good job of it. Unfortunately, she told us that in the years she has been involved, she has seen a huge increase in the number of people who have to use that food bank.

[Page 9325]

Here is the message. The solid middle class, who go to church and who work in their food bank and who put their dollars into it, are coming to the Law Amendments Committee and saying to us the rates on social assistance are way too low and you, the government, are doing nothing about it and Bill No. 62 does not do the job, why are you not listening?

Now, if you did not believe her, here is another one. Do you know who else came? Reverend Margaret Sagar, the Minister at St. Andrew's United Church in Truro, came to us on behalf of the Colchester Anti-Poverty Network. I want you, especially the members opposite, to think about that for a moment. The Colchester Anti-Poverty Network sends its representative to the Law Amendments Committee from a district represented by the Minister of Health and their representative is the United Church minister at St. Andrew's United Church, Truro. She comes and she is furious. She is furious with what the government has failed to do over the years. She is furious with what it is that is being done in Bill No. 62 and they give us a very detailed breakdown of the nature of poverty in Colchester County.

Here is one statement from their submission. Now, remember, this was not an individual submission from Reverend Margaret Sagar. This was a submission on behalf of a group. This had obviously been well thought out and this is a 12 page, 15 page report that they gave us. I just want to read one statement from this report, when full-time low wage employment is insufficient to support a family, when there are many barriers to employment, including lack of jobs, it is not possible to address poverty through employment alone.

Surely, Mr. Speaker, this message strikes at the very heart of what it is that the government is saying it thinks its legislation is all about. Reverend Margaret Sagar is saying to the government that its plans are inadequate. So this gets me to the main point that I want to make to the backbench members opposite. Who do they think they are representing? Who do they think they are playing to? Who do they think they are going to make happy by Bill No. 62? Who do they think is applauding out there when they failed to engage with the real issues of poverty in our society?

If they think that it is small-town, main street Nova Scotia, the solid middle class that works hard, has a paycheque, goes to church, what are they saying when Ms Benigno and the Reverend Margaret Sagar come to us at Law Amendments Committee and they say, you have it wrong. Who on earth do they think is the voting public? Do they think these people don't vote? This is exactly who does vote.

So what puzzles me, Mr. Speaker, is why it is that the backbench has not revolted against the front bench over there. Why have they not put two and two together and realized that the agenda the front bench is imposing upon them is the wrong agenda. Now never mind the question of conscience (Interruption) or the absence of conscience, thank you - never mind the question of conscience or the absence of conscience, why don't they have the good political common sense to look out for their own survival and self-interest? That is one of

[Page 9326]

the things that puzzles me even more than the absence of conscience. Why is it that the backbench has not taken the front bench aside and said, what on earth are you doing to us?

It is obvious; we know what the government agenda is here. The government agenda, as we have pointed out, and I think in the simplest of terms, time and again, is as follows; it is a pale imitation of the Ontario Mike Harris agenda. You balance the budget by cutting services; you give a rough time to the most defenceless and weakest of society; you sell off and privatize as much as you can; you deliver a small tax cut and then you seek re-election.

Well, that is it, that is the government agenda in Nova Scotia. It is the five point Mike Harris plan from his first term. You know what? It isn't going to work in Nova Scotia. This is not what Nova Scotians want. It doesn't make sense - you balance the budget, absolutely. Everyone agrees that you ought to balance the budget. You balance the budget by cutting services? I don't think so. Nova Scotia does not have an expenditure problem, it has a revenue problem which is where the government should be concentrating its efforts, but it isn't.

Why is it that there is so much upset about the health care system and the education system in Nova Scotia? Because the government isn't putting the money into it and taking care of it the way it ought to do. There is a huge amount of resentment about that. So balancing the budget by cutting services is not what Nova Scotians want. Beat up on the poor. That is the one we are at right now, that was this year's agenda - beat up on the poor, the most defenceless, and privatize things.

You know what? It turns out that both of those are very controversial in Nova Scotia and no one likes it. So I ask my question again, who is it that the members opposite think that they are playing to? Who is it that they think is going to vote for them by doing that? Not Reverend Margaret Sagar I will bet.

Now never mind that the Minister of Health already has a petition with 5,000 names, and growing, in his home constituency about his health care policies. He is soon going to be finding petitions and resentment in church when he goes, if he goes.

This is unbelievable to me that the backbench has not realized the situation it is being put in. Remember the fifth point was the tax cuts. You know what? Tax cuts aren't going to matter to Nova Scotians; they are going to look at it and say, it is minuscule, it is not of importance to us and we are not grateful, thank you very much. So there it is, there is your whole agenda, there is your whole five-year plan, four-year plan, three and a half-year plan, whatever it is. There it is, it is in shreds and tatters, it isn't going to work.

What I want to know is, why is it that the backbench, faced today with one of the most offensive parts of this five point plan, is not in a revolt against the front bench? You know what? I say to you backbenchers, the front bench almost exclusively - I think there are only

[Page 9327]

two of them who haven't been elected twice - the front bench have been elected twice, they are secure.

AN HON. MEMBER: Most of them, not all of them.

MR. EPSTEIN: No, I know, there are two of them who haven't been but most of them are perfectly secure, in terms of their position here, but the backbench, they are all new. The backbench is virtually all new, and you have to think seriously about re-election next time. I am trying to make this appeal. I have had trouble appealing to the members opposite in terms of finding their consciences. I am trying to say to them because I find it such a profound puzzle, why have they not taken steps in their own self-interest? Why is it that there isn't a big fight over there? Why is it that if some members of the backbench can stand up and say as a matter of conscience, they won't vote for Bill No. 75 and explain outside that it is because of their Christian religion, that they can't do the same thing with bill No. 62? I would have thought that common sense over there would have led the members on the backbench to the conclusion that they have reached a time when they have to join the Opposition here in expressing their rejection of this piece of legislation.

[11:00 a.m.]

This is it. This is the point. This is the time. This is a serious piece of social engineering. This has to do with the final social safety net. The Community Services Social Assistance Program, welfare, is the final social safety net. This is the point that the members opposite have to come to grips with. This is the time now with Bill No. 62 to stand up and be counted against it.

I think that perhaps the backbench members opposite have had too much faith in the front bench, and I know all members of the backbenches also sat on the Law Amendments Committee and had the opportunity to hear the submissions that the rest of us heard. (Interruption) But some of them did, and I hope they are talking among themselves. I hope they are passing onto each other the lessons of what it is that people like Reverend Margaret Sagar and Ms. Benigno and Sister Helen Wallace gave to her in the Law Amendments Committee. But because not all members of the backbench opposite were able to hear those submissions, I felt it was important to let them know what it was that the employed middle class, the solid middle class they think perhaps they represent and who probably voted for them the last time, is saying to us - and it is not applause. Now if the members opposite in the backbench have not yet had the chance to talk among themselves, to figure this one out, and to give the message to the front bench, Mr. Speaker, I am prepared to give them the opportunity now. They should take a moment to talk among themselves and ask hard questions of their front bench.

In order to accomplish that, Mr. Speaker, I wish now to move that we adjourn debate on this bill and request a recorded vote.

[Page 9328]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[11:04 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[12:04 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Dr. Smith Mr. Christie

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Russell

Mr. Downe Mr. Muir

Mr. Manning MacDonald Miss Purves

Mr. Holm Mr. Fage

Mr. John MacDonell Mr. Balser

Ms. Maureen MacDonald Mr. Parent

Mr. Deveaux Ms. McGrath

Mr. Corbett Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Pye Mr. Olive

Mr. Epstein Mr. Rodney MacDonald

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Robert Chisholm Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dexter Mr. Dooks

Mr. MacEwan Mr. Langille

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Morse

Mr. Wilson Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

[Page 9329]

THE CLERK: For, 17. Against 24.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

We will resume debate on Bill No. 62.

The honourable member for Kings South.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I don't intend to speak for a long time, but I do feel passionately about this. This goes back to when I was first elected as councillor to represent New Minas when there was a problem harvesting the crop. Concerns were raised that we had able-bodied social assistance recipients on the municipal rolls, and as we investigated this we discovered there were certain obstacles that actually punished them for going out and picking berries. That was a great concern to me, and it is a great concern to our community.

I took some time as a municipal councillor, at that time, with the aid of Ted Nicholson who was a former social worker and Chairman of the New Minas Village Commission, and a retired teacher. We spent about 50 hours talking about this in a random poll, to residents of New Minas. We spoke to people who were taxpayers and not on social assistance and we talked to people who were taxpayers and who, at some point in their life, had been on social assistance and we talked to people who were on social assistance. Mr. Speaker, it was absolutely remarkable the conviction and the agreement from the community that we had to take steps to address some of these obstacles to employment.

I am extremely pleased that Bill No. 62 addresses many of the concerns brought forward during this time. In fact, for members of the Opposition who are really interested in this, they can even refer to . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the member would entertain a brief question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Kings South accept a question?

MR. MORSE: No, Mr. Speaker, that member always . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The answer is no.

The honourable member for Kings South has the floor.

MR. MORSE: That member tends to get up whenever something happens that perhaps distorts his point of view and he likes to interrupt.

[Page 9330]

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, yes, on a point of order. The member is suggesting that I am trying - he is up there somehow making comments that would distort my point of view. Mr. Speaker, I was very interested because the member was talking about this report. I just wanted him to table the report and the study he has done, so we could better understand the analysis upon which he is basing his comments. So his comment about my supposedly distorting is totally out of order.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order but certainly if the honourable member has documents that he refers to in his comments, he will table it.

The honourable member for Kings South has the floor.

MR. MORSE: Actually, Mr. Speaker, I was just going to offer the Opposition the chance to research it. It is in the Kentville Advertiser and the date is Tuesday, October 29, 1995. I am sure that if you want to send one of your researchers, they can dig up that information. What it is, it was my practice whenever I did one of these polls, I would always send it in as a Letter to the Editor and I achieved a reputation for this in the community, and you will note that I am here today.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is what I want to say about the bill. I do want to mention, though, that the previous speaker was suggesting that somehow or other the Conservative backbenchers should perhaps vote against the bill, because I think the insinuation was that there was some perceived personal gain, that if somehow or other we were to vote against this bill we would be more likely to acquire a second term, and presumably the benefits that come with a second term. I would just like to put on the record that I would never vote against my conscience, or the wish of my constituents, for perceived personal gain and that I will be voting, as I am sure my colleagues will, in the best interests of the province.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, that certainly is a hard, stirring debate to follow. I think what that member should do is do a poll on his own popularity down in his riding.

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to enter the debate on Bill No. 62, a piece of legislation that is now before this House, and my first thought about this particular piece of legislation, reflecting on the bill, what comes to mind here is this is certainly a long way back from the just society objectives of the late and great Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, when he envisioned the just society in Canada that would see all people eventually becoming equal in this great country called Canada.

[Page 9331]

Pierre Trudeau had a vision to that end, and he put that vision in the form of amendments to the various Social Assistance Acts throughout this country, and out of that came a document called the Canada Assistance Plan, which was a document that gave the provinces the opportunity to partner with the federal government to ensure that basic human rights and basic allowances were made available to people in Canada, guaranteed by the Government of Canada, at the time.

It appears to me that we have gone full circle on that and we are slipping back to a numbers game here, particularly in this province where the bottom line is that the government is trying to claw back funding from the very groups in society that can least afford it. We have gone back to a system, where those who have will get more and those who do not have will ultimately get less, that was keeping the class society in Nova Scotia alive and well. There is more than one class in Nova Scotia. There are the haves and there are the have-nots. Certainly this government has convinced the haves that what they are doing is right, because if you pay particular attention to what the Premier said recently in an address to the board to trade, that august group that seems to be the think-tank for this government, nobody on social assistance should be better off than those who are working.

Unfortunately, that statement sends a message that there are two classes in this province. What he has done is drive a wedge between various groups of people who are in the have-not category in this particular province. There are community advocacy groups who are going to be hurt by this legislation, in many ways, because those groups support people in the communities that need an advocate. They support them in various ways, such as counselling, and they also act as an advocate to the various government social service agencies to help these clients out. I think it is fair to say that the clients who need counselling, for example, or who request counselling from these advocacy groups and also those who are in need, need housing or need adequate food supplies and other necessities, that is going to be more difficult to attain, even the basic needs, from various groups in this province and it makes the work of the advocacy groups much harder.

[12:15 p.m.]

The bill is flawed and the amendments that were talked about in this House before are not going to make the bill any better. My colleague for Cape Breton Nova already said it very clearly that you cannot make this bill better. This bill is simply a bill that is flawed to the point where it should not go in any amended form through this House unless the amendments brought forth by the government are such that they could make the bill better. How would we know that because we have not seen the regulations that are going to be put in place as a result of this bill. As I said before, it is a cash grab, it is a divisive bill that is going to further split the haves and the have-nots in this province.

[Page 9332]

Can you imagine workfare in industrial Cape Breton? That is nothing short of a joke because the unemployment rate in industrial Cape Breton - there are people down there in my area who are not going to be able to work anymore and have to be adequately looked after by a government that has the responsibility to do that. We are not talking about an area of full employment where there are people sitting down doing nothing by choice. We are talking about an area where even people with a university education and people with major skills cannot find work. So how in the name of heaven is this program going to work in an area like that?

I want to go back to the 1970's for a moment and just speak directly to the minister and his people regarding what I perceive to be a fundamental change from the way we do business and the delivery of social assistance in this province. Some will say it is for the better, but I spent 10 years on the front lines of municipal social assistance in the 1970's and they were pretty tough times, but I want to remind the minister - the minister has probably heard me say this, or at least his staff has heard me say it before - that at least in the 1970's we were not dealing with numbers, we were dealing with people. We were dealing with faces, with people in need and we were dealing with those people on a direct basis. We were not dealing with numbers and names loaded into a computer, we were dealing with individuals, individual cases and in my particular case I had a caseload of 75 clients give or take a few depending on what month it was or the caseload in the department. But I had a caseload of 75 clients and their families and I knew every one of them. I knew every one of them by their names and I had a hands-on approach to dealing with those families because I knew them and their needs.

I will tell you what I could do in those days that cannot be done today and that is make a judgement call on an individual who was in need. The creed that I lived by when I was the social worker in municipal social services was that when I was in doubt, I gave. If there was a doubt there, I always erred on the side of the client. In other words, we were able to give more perhaps than the budget called for at the time because we had the latitude to look into the circumstances of clients and their families and decide that extra funding or extra needs of one kind or another were absolutely necessary in order for that family to survive and we had the latitude where we could do that. Mind you, in some cases we had to explain it to our supervisors, but in those days we could do that. We could make a case for the client receiving more money.

Sadly, that situation has changed dramatically because today what we are seeing is a numbers game, we are seeing clients loaded into a computer and the computer spitting out amounts every month based on a budget that was done by a worker who would visit homes, do a client analysis and then load it into a computer and the computer would spit out the amount of money that client was going to get and that was it. There was no judgement call by the community social service worker as there was in my case.

[Page 9333]

What there is now is a standard of allowance that is paid regardless of the circumstances. It is a numbers game. The personal contact has gone out the window at the Community Services' level when it deals with family benefits. You do not need social workers there these days. What they have there in a lot of cases are number crunchers. They load all the numbers into the computer and the computer spits out the amount and then after that there is a follow-up and there is a situation where the worker then has to determine from time to time whether that client has indeed maintained his or her or their eligibility for assistance or that amount is going to be changed because their income level either went up or went down, but the personal contact, and I say again, Mr. Speaker, I had a maximum at any one time of 75 clients. Today, I understand the workers in that department, their clientele is up in the hundreds if not thousands. That is unacceptable.

People are being treated like a number only. There is no human face put on the problem in many cases and that is not the problem of the social worker dealing with a case. That is a problem of the system. The system is flawed. The system is basically flawed. It does not take into consideration any more the individual needs of people, our brothers and sisters, our relatives, people who we know in this province who are in need, and in the year 2000 it should not be a need. There should not be a need in this day and age the way our economy is, but they are in need and they are in desperate need. Bill No. 62 does not address that.

When you talk about what makes the headlines in this particular department, Mr. Speaker, in a lot of cases what makes the headlines are the people who abuse the system. One thing that has not changed from the 1970's when I was in that business of, hopefully, trying to help some people, I was very idealistic at the time. I thought that if I spent 10 years in that business, I would cure all the ills in my municipality. Well, at the end of that time I did not achieve that, but I thought I made what I considered to be a useful mark at the time. I thought I made a difference in some people's lives at the time, but I decided it was time to move on because I was also experiencing another thing that a lot of people in this business experience and that is burn-out. When you see this day in and day out, year in and year out, there comes a time when you literally get burnt out.

So what I did in 1978, some people suggested I went from the frying pan to the fire when I went from being a municipal social worker doing municipal caseloads into the mayor's chair. Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, being Mayor of Sydney was a piece of cake compared to being a municipal Social Services worker in Sydney, I can tell you that, in that period of time, but I had burn-out and decided that perhaps I could do it from the fourth floor rather than the first floor by trying to put some of my policies into place and keep them in place that were employed when I was with the Social Services Department.

When we hired people in the Social Services Department, Mr. Speaker, one of the criteria I insisted on was that they were caring people. Naturally as time moved on, we had to hire people with degrees. It has now gotten to a point where if you do not have a Master's Degree in this business, you are not easily hired, but in those days the first criteria was that

[Page 9334]

they knew the community, they knew the profile, they were adequately educated obviously, they had to be, but the criteria was that they were caring people, that they were people who cared about their fellow citizens in the particular community. In this case it was Sydney.

One of the things that has not changed, there is a lot that has changed in the delivery of social services over the past number of years since we have come from the poor laws in Nova Scotia, the charities to the poor laws, and then we really came a quantum leap forward. We renamed the whole department that was responsible for charities and the poor in Nova Scotia, we came from the Elizabethan Poor Laws to the grand name of welfare. After a period of years calling the department the Department of Welfare, in Nova Scotia, we then decided that that name was no longer appropriate. Then we changed the name of the department to the Department of Social Services. Then after a while that name didn't seem to particularly fit the day so then we changed the name to the Department of Community Services. I think there were a couple of other names in between there which escape me.

The point is, Mr. Speaker, a rose by any other name it is not. In this particular department we may have changed the name but the game is still the same, there are people in this province who need assistance far and above what we are giving them. It doesn't make any difference whether this crowd is in office or whether another crowd is in office, what hasn't been tackled here is the fact that we expect fellow citizens in this province to live on far less than we, ourselves, would live on or could live on.

Can anybody on the government benches imagine living on the kind of funding that some of their neighbours receive on a monthly basis, particularly single moms with two or three children they are trying to bring up? Can you imagine anybody in this room trying to raise their children on that kind of meagre assistance? I can't.

What you hear a lot of the time, Mr. Speaker, is there are cheaters in the system, there are people abusing the system. Well, I am going to tell you another fact that hasn't changed from the 1970's when I worked in that field, until now; the percentage of abusers in any social service program in this province, and I suggest in other provinces as well, is in the 2 per cent, perhaps 3 per cent range. Those were dealt with accordingly in my day and they should be dealt with accordingly today. It is not the 2 per cent or 3 per cent we should be preoccupied with, it is the 97 per cent to 98 per cent who are genuinely in need of assistance in this province and are not getting adequate assistance. You can change any bill you like, you can rewrite any bill, any Statute, you can bring in regulations by the volumes, but unless we tackle the basic problem that people are asked to live on meagre incomes they cannot sustain themselves on unless we address that problem, then any bill or any regulation is not going to be adequate for this group.

[Page 9335]

We still expect people in this society to live in substandard conditions, we take that for granted. We still expect people in our society to live with substandard incomes, substandard housing, inadequate education in a lot of cases. We take that for granted because the rest of us in the province are too busy trying to get more as haves, and apparently the way to do that is to take more from those who can least afford it. Think about that. In order for those who have, to get more, take from those who have not so we will not only get more but we will keep them down.

I think that is tragic, Mr. Speaker. I think that is something we, in the year 2000, in Nova Scotia should be ashamed of, that there are people in our province who are living in the kinds of conditions they are living in and we take a good life for granted, and all we want is more. Well, with an economy growing in this province there should be a little bit more for those people who don't have what we have or don't have what, in a lot of cases, the majority of Nova Scotians have. Clients in the department, and I know it is a structural thing that is hard to change, but somewhere, sometime, somehow, this province and other jurisdictions are going to have to come to the conclusion that we need to put people on a level playing field, whenever we possibly can.

[12:30 p.m.]

I talked to a single mom last week, one of my constituents, who is trying to go back to university. She has two children, she is trying to go back to university to complete her degree. She can't get any support from the Department of Community Services to do that, because there is a set of circumstances there, which I won't go into in detail because I respect this lady's confidentiality, but she is totally frustrated with the system. She is trying to improve herself because she wants to get off the system, she wants to get out of the kind of dilemma she finds herself in. It is difficult for her to do that because the system does not allow her the kind of latitude she needs to accomplish her goal.

I don't see anything that this government is proposing that is going to take care of situations like that. Again, I go back to the fact that somehow we have to start dealing with the clients who are on the social assistance rolls of this province as individuals, as individual cases. We have to go back to what I said before, we have to go back to the days when social workers are employed, given a small number of clients, and are asked to make the lives of those clients better by working with them on a regular basis, not a computer system that spits out a cheque every month, and then some investigator comes along to see whether or not you deserve the meagre allowance that is being kicked out of the computer each month.

People on social assistance in this province are becoming nothing more than numbers. There is no human face on the problem anymore. There is no human face on the problem, as far as the department is concerned. That is tragic. Not only is it tragic, but it is bordering on the criminal that we allow people in this province to live in the circumstances they are living in, while we enjoy a standard of living that is probably the best of anywhere in the

[Page 9336]

world. Everybody doesn't enjoy that standard of living, but everybody could enjoy that standard of living, if the government cared enough to zero in on the problems of the people of this province and to correct those problems.

I am talking about the problems with housing, the problems with inadequate allowances for educational opportunities, I am talking about inadequate allowances for the necessities of life, like such mundane items as food, adequate food for children, adequate food for single moms, so they can take care of their children, adequate support for those who want to get out of the system, to say goodbye to the system. It is a multi-generational thing; it has been. I have heard people, over the years, talk about new plans and new programs that are going to end the dependency on social assistance. This is not something new. I have heard this before. This is not the first reform that is coming or the second or the third or the twentieth. There have been reforms in Community Services right back to the turn of the century and before. None of them made the system any better.

As a matter of fact, I believe we have come full circle, where perhaps the charities could be doing a better job with this than the government is doing with this, if the charities had adequate funding, because the advocacy groups in the communities, such as the people connected with the Salvation Army, for example, or the people connected with the women's centres, or the people connected with the various other organizations that are in our communities to try to help people in need. If those people were given the adequate resources, I would suggest to you that they could probably handle it much better than the structure of the entire Social Service Department is doing or Community Services Department or whatever it is going to be called next year.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you again that I think each and every member of this House and the backbenchers, who I am looking at, across the floor on the government side, are going to have to continue to explain to their people why they are not able to get out of the system, why they are not able to support their families.

Somebody mentioned earlier - and I forget now who it was - but it was a telling comment that the face of this place has changed dramatically since 1993. As a matter of fact, there are 52 seats in this House, who are only eight people in this House that were here in 1993. There are a considerable number of one-termers that are around here and I suggest that trend will not go the other way after the next election if members of this House do not pay attention to the needs of the people they represent and there are some areas in this province other than Cape Breton - and I speak for a lot of members here who are from Cape Breton - but there are a lot of people in this room who have constituents who are hurting and I can tell you that the only weapon they have is to tell their MLA that I am sorry but you did not represent me, you did not look out for my needs, or the needs of my children or the needs of my family so I am not going to elect you back to the House of Assembly in the next election. If you do not think that can happen, you talk to some of the people who sat in this House in 1993 and are no longer here. Some just passed through, they were not even here long enough

[Page 9337]

to get their feet wet. If you think that you are going to get a free ride in this place after the next election if you do not pay attention to the needs of your constituents, you are fooling yourselves. Because you will become one-term wonders.

I go back to the numbers game. There are only eight people here in the year 2000 who were here in 1993. I suggest to you that this particular bill and the people that it affects - I am looking for example over at the member for Preston. The member for Preston represents a constituency that has a high unemployment rate. There are a number of people dependent upon what I call the system, as inadequate as it is. (Interruption) And two one-termers, heading for three.

If the member for Preston supports this legislation and the regulations are put into place, that member will be a one-term member, I will guarantee it, in an area of high unemployment. I can point to others over there who are going to be in the same boat if they let these regulations come into play. They have to explain this legislation and they also have to explain the regulations to the people they represent. The people that put them here in this place and the people who put them here can take them out of this place just as easily and it has been done before. Remember government members, backbenchers and I said it here at least on two previous occasions, you are not members of the government. You are MLAs on the government side of the House who are sent here to represent the people of your constituencies. Front bench, members of the Executive Council, the Treasury benches, they do not have that luxury. They are members of the government, they defy government policy in this regard and they are out. There is no question about that, I know the rules, but the back-benchers do not have that problem.

The backbenchers are only here to represent the people that sent them here, to do the work they are sent here to do on behalf of their constituents and of course, toe the Party line on voting. To hear the member for Kings North trying to justify this bill is nothing short of laughable. But at least he got up and gave his . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Kings South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Kings South. Sorry about that. Maybe I will have the same problem with the next member for Kings South after the next election, but anyway

you are welcome.

The bill could have been effective. I go back again to the fact that we are losing sight of the real problem here. The real problem is not a reworking of the social assistance regulations in this province, the real problem is dealing with the people in this province who need our help and are not getting it. There are too many people falling through the cracks in the system in Nova Scotia. I will give you an example of the frustration. People in need require an advocate. Do you know that people in need in this province have no hope at all

[Page 9338]

in trying to get somebody to listen to them unless they have a political advocate who can make a phone call on their behalf?

Put yourself in the position of a client who has a problem that needs attention immediately. It will literally drive you crazy trying to get answers to a problem question that a client has. We call and we can get answers or we can get platitudes, but there is something new now that has happened in the system; there is another buffer between the worker and the client. That buffer is a new word that has come out "confidentiality." Just when you can use your elected position as an MLA to try and get some background information. or try to get the reasons why a client is being adversely affected by the department, now the client has to come in and sign some kind of a clause now so the worker can speak to the MLA. That advocacy role is going out the window; they are blocking that now. So the duly elected people who represent these people cannot even access government workers anymore.

I am sure the government worker would love to tell me what the problem is in any particular case, and in most cases would like to help because I may be able to tell them some information they don't know, or I may be able to tell them the circumstances that are evident in this case that perhaps aren't in the computer. You know that computer that spits out the cheque every month from the number of the client, without ever meeting the client. The compliance is there. They have to comply with all the regulations that are in the computer, then that is all they get.

I have never seen a computer talk to somebody who is on community services and make a judgement call like we used to do in the 1970's. We used to sit down, visit their homes and see first-hand the need for a furnace to be fixed, or the need for the wiring to be redone in a house or be able to look in the fridge and see nothing there when there is five days to go before a cheque. We don't have that anymore; the workers can't do that anymore, they have thousands of clients.

What they do is they take a request for assistance, they fill in all the blanks, then they categorize the client and they shove it over to somebody who puts it in pay; that is the sum total, in most cases, of the involvement. We don't have people we can talk to anymore in the department. We call up and get I'm sorry, all our lines are busy - if you get in line, somebody will take your call, and then the person comes on and you say I would like to speak to so-and-so who is the worker for a constituent of mine. I would like to speak to that worker. Fine, yes, sir, Mr. MacDonald. They put the phone down, put me through to that worker, and what do I get? A recording from the worker. So when I get that recording, I try to get back to the original person, and then I have to hang up and call again to get through there.

What I am trying to say is that if we are trying to fix this system, we have to put a human face back on the system for those in our society who need an advocate. I don't need an advocate; you people don't need an advocate; nobody over here needs an advocate. We are fine, thank you very much, but the people in our constituencies who need an advocate

[Page 9339]

depend on us, and they should not have to. They should not have to go the political route every time they are being adversely affected, but they have to because they cannot get anywhere with the system.

[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this system is not designed to help those who need it. It is designed to get the government from one election to the next election. They know that their polls will tell them that if the Premier speaks to the Halifax Board of Trade and they are all smiles when he tells them that he is going to move to get people off social assistance and nobody is getting a free ride in this province. That was the message; but nobody is getting a free ride. As I said earlier, 97 per cent, perhaps 98 per cent of the people who are accessing public assistance in this province need it and deserve it. They need it and they deserve it and they deserve more than what they are getting.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I would have hoped that the government would have come up with legislation that would ensure that people get adequate funding to survive, and I use the word survive because they certainly cannot live adequately on the kind of monies they are getting. Survival is the name of the game here and, again, I would challenge any member of this House to go into a home of a social assistance recipient in this province, be it a disabled person or be it a single mom with two or three children trying to survive. Go into their homes like I do and have always done, and try to do something for these people, because you will come out of that situation saying, how in the heck can these people live on the kind of money they are getting. There is no way.

Some people glibly talk about people who are misusing the system. In some cases there is misuse there, but why is there misuse there? There is misuse because there has to be misuse in order for that person to survive. If they want to go out and steal a day's work here or a day's work there and not report it, they are doing that not for themselves, they are doing it for their children, they are doing it to pay the excess rent they have to pay that Community Services will not allow them because of the totality of the budget. The budget is in a box and once you hit the magic number it does not make any difference what you are paying, you are not getting any more. Remember what I said earlier, the judgement call has been taken out of the system and I think that that is a step backwards. I do not think, for example, that Mr. Trudeau ever envisioned that we would be standing here in the year 2000 talking about this. I do not think, for example, that Tommy Douglas would welcome the fact that we are sitting here in the year 2000 talking about this.

Mr. Speaker, the area I come from, we could have broken that cycle years ago had we done some of the things I am talking about here today, such as providing adequate housing, such as providing adequate food allowances not based on some stupid Canada Food Guide maybe that says you only need $12 a week - it used to be - and that is all you are going to get, but being realistic with people, saying to people that there has to be a minimum amount of

[Page 9340]

money that is necessary for this family, this single mom or this disabled person to exist, and I use the word exist because certainly nobody is doing anything else off this system but existing.

I have always felt very strongly about that, that we missed the boat somewhere along the line because we did not truly pay attention to that just society that Mr. Trudeau was talking about, or what the Canada Assistance Plan was set out to do. Somewhere it got off the rails, because governments of all stripe, not only this government, but governments of all stripe have not paid the kind of attention, be they provincial or federal, to those in our society who are affected by our very own legislation and are getting more adversely affected as we speak.

There has to be a day when we, in our society, can say that these people have to enjoy a standard of living like we do. With all our resources, we can make that happen, if we put our minds to making it happen, if we put our energies to making it happen, if we decide politically it is the right thing to do.

Now I have never seen anybody get a lot of votes on what I am saying today. This Party knows that, they have done polling. It is no accident that the Premier is making those kinds of Draconian speeches out in the community; it is resonating with people who are enjoying the good life today. The economy here in metro, for example, is very good; the unemployment rate is very low, so it is resonating with people. People are starting to forget that they are having it so good that they are keeping away from their thoughts the fact that other people aren't having it so good in this province and are struggling.

They are not thinking about it but this government should be thinking about it and this government should be acting on it. I would say that what we need here in this province is to go back to the days where we had individual contact with clients, when we had the kind of client-worker ratio that worked, that the workers knew who every one of their clients were, on an individual basis, and could take the time and make the judgements in looking after those clients. Is that such a bad thing to want? Is that such a bad policy to put in place?

The honourable Minister of Health says, who made the change? Well, I will tell him who made the change; the change was made, Mr. Speaker, by all governments, from approximately 1970 onwards, who decided that there was a better way to do things in Community Services and have done nothing but botch the system since then. It doesn't make any difference what political stripe. The difficulty is we are now talking about a Tory Government in Nova Scotia that has the responsibility for this. We are not talking about a history lesson here, on which government did what. You can blame the 10 provincial governments, you can blame the federal government or you can blame the present government here. I am saying that somewhere along the way the ideals that were put out there by Pierre Trudeau and by Tommy Douglas and by other people who I thought were way ahead of their times in those days, those ideals somehow got off the rail, that we are our

[Page 9341]

brother's keeper. That somehow got off the track, that we somehow have forgotten that there is another part of our society because we have it so good.

I said earlier, I don't need an advocate, you don't need an advocate, nobody in this room needs an advocate. I will tell you, what there is going to be is, there is going to be a judgement day for MLAs who do not look after the interests of their constituents. I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that most MLAs are decent individuals. I believe that to be the case. As a matter of fact, I think all MLAs, all people in this place are honourable, but I suggest that perhaps some are forgetting that at the end of the day there comes a day of reckoning, that these people are going to have to explain to their constituents why there are people in their constituencies who are hurting terribly because of government policies, instead of saying, what can I do as an MLA, to try to make those policies better, to try to encourage the minister and his Cabinet colleagues that yes, there has to be a new direction here. The direction has to be to lift people up out of the kind of situation they find themselves in, and the first way to do that is to provide adequate allowances that will take care of the necessities of life for these people.

You can't do anything with any group of people until you give them the necessities and the tools to work with. If you insist on keeping them at substandard levels of existence, then we are always going to have that have-not group with us that I talked about earlier. Unfortunately that have-not group in this province is getting larger because of the shift in the economy, because of the demands the workplace is employing today, the demands on people, the kind of situation where you literally have to have one or two or three degrees now to get a half-decent job, and a lot of these people aren't equipped. Even if they are equipped to do that, in certain areas of Nova Scotia, the jobs aren't there. So they still need some kind of safety net, a safety net that is being drawn tighter and tighter and tighter.

People are told now, look, there is coming a day here when you are not going to get any assistance from this government. You are going to have to go out on the streets and beg, or you are going to have to move to another province where it might be a little better. I don't know where that would be, but certainly those options aren't very good options for people.

It has been said that we drive a wedge between areas of this province for political reasons. We have done that. It is not satisfactory, Mr. Speaker, that in Nova Scotia you have an unemployment rate in one part of the province which is probably the lowest in Canada and 250 miles down the road you have an unemployment rate that is probably the highest in Canada. There is something fundamentally wrong with that. No matter how you cut it, there is something fundamentally wrong with that, and the government has not only not adjusted their thinking to try to correct that, but they have also not done anything to address that in this bill. Again, they have constructed the bill that is a universal bill. It applies right throughout the province. It doesn't take into consideration that there are pockets for example, in my colleague's area of Cape Breton East. His constituency has probably in excess of 50

[Page 9342]

per cent unemployment. Who is addressing that problem? The government is not. The government is treating that situation the same as they would downtown Halifax.

When you look at the political set-up in this province, what chance do we have? In the have-not area of the province called Cape Breton, when we have 11 members out of 52, do we have an opportunity, the 11 of us, to go, and I include the member for Guysborough in that too, and take our concerns (Interruption) That's right. And I do that because that member knows he has a lot of problems in his constituency as we do here. (Interruption) Well, I won't go that far, but he is a good member, yes. Anyway, he has some problems down there. He would be one of the 11, and there are others in rural Nova Scotia, but one of the 11 that should have an opportunity to look at the set-up in our area of the province, the unemployment statistics. The number of people on community services in our area of the Province of Nova Scotia that are hurting big time. But we don't have that opportunity because we are the same as the other 41 members in the House. We were all treated the same. Well, that is fine. If we are all treated the same in economic development, that would be fine. But somehow, there is a great difference there between one group of Nova Scotians being helped economically and the others forgotten economically, yet when it comes to social service legislation, they are all together.

I would suggest that perhaps not enough attention, Mr. Speaker, is given to the areas of the province, the so-called have-not areas, some of them, by the way, in Tory ridings. I suggest to those Tory members that if things don't get better economically, and if people do not start getting looked after in those ridings with decent affordable housing and decent allowances for food and other necessities of life, then those members won't be back here after the next election. I will guarantee you that. They won't be back here. They may be nice people, but they won't be back here if they forget about people that sent them here. That is a fundamental rule in political circles. If you don't look after the people that brought you to this table, those same people will take you out from behind those desks.

Remember what I said. Only eight people are here in the year 2000 that were here in 1993, and there has been a lot of them gone through here since then. I am going to tell you that if we, as legislators in this province, don't start paying attention to that group out there who are genuinely hurting, then shame on us. I am going to tell you, not one person in this room could exist longer than a day in the circumstances that some of these people are trying to exist in. You have no idea, some of you, how some people are living in this province. I know a lot of them are friends of mine, they were former clients of mine when I was in that department years ago. They will tell me that they are no better off today, but at least we gave them the option of talking to them directly, of adjusting their allowances if we felt it was necessary.

[Page 9343]

[1:00 p.m.]

All of that is gone now, there is no judgement call any more. You can't sit down with a family and take a look at their needs and say, you should be getting more than the system allows you and I have the latitude to do that because I know your circumstances are special, I know you have a sick child that you had to look after this month and therefore you had to take money from one budget and put it in another budget, but I am going to compensate you for that, because I know that your circumstances were tough last month and you simply couldn't get from the first day of the month to the end of the month. So here is an additional allowance for this month. You can't do that any more. They are only numbers now.

That, to me, is a fault of the system, not the people in the system. We have excellent people working in the system in Nova Scotia. I know a lot of them personally. They are good, caring people, but the system doesn't allow them to employ their hearts in this situation and in many situations. It doesn't allow them to act from the heart, they have to act from the head because the computer has told them how to act. The computer says that they are only getting so much this month and that is it.

It has nothing to do with need, it has to do with governments balancing the bottom line. Again, if the government is going to balance the bottom line, what better way than to take it from the most vulnerable people in society, the people, as I said earlier, who do not have any advocates, people who don't have strong unions that can go to battle for them to gain contracts, people whose only access was their MLA, and I got told this week that I can't ask a question about a client now, because the client has to trot up to the Community Services office, go in, if she can get to see the worker, she has to sign a form saying that the worker can tell me what is going on with their financial case. (Interruptions) I am serious, that happened to me this week. I wanted some information and I couldn't get it. It is getting worse. They are getting insulated.

Unfortunately for the people who need assistance in this province, there was nobody sitting at the board of trade meeting last week who needs any assistance from anybody, thank you. The Premier talked to them and said, we are going to look after you, you are the people of the future of Nova Scotia, but in order to do that we have to keep other groups in this province in their place; the people who can least speak for themselves are being kept in their place.

I think that is a terrible way to balance the books, to take those most vulnerable in our society and, again, fool around with their lives, disrupt them, tell them that in six months' time there are going to be cuts, tell them that there are going to be new regulations, but don't tell them what the regulations are going to be, don't give them a heads up on what is coming, don't give the Legislature a heads up on what is coming. Just get this bill through the House, and then we will worry about the regulations, we will put the regulations in place, out of sight of this place. This winter they will start to work on them. In the meantime every client

[Page 9344]

who is getting any type of public assistance in this province is going to be cringing at what is coming. They have set the stage to scare the heck out of people in this province as to whether or not they are going to be able to live next year, or if they are going to exist on less money than they are getting now.

It has been said that some people are going to access more money out of this system. That is fine, but for that group I do not think it has gone within light years of being good enough, because my earlier statements reflected on the fact that even with modest improvements it does not go far enough. These people cannot live on the kind of meagre assistance they are getting in the year 2000 in Nova Scotia, that has the kind of economy that we have.

Shame on us for asking people to live on the kinds of funds that they have at their disposal; shame on us for allowing that to happen. There are people with children in this province living on less than $12,000 a year. Can anybody in this room live on $12,000, $13,000, $14,000, $15,000 a year? If anybody can live on that and raise children, get up here and tell me so now, in this debate; get on your feet and tell me that you can live on that kind of money.

So, we expect other people to do that, and consider that to be okay. I am not saying that we can sit here as legislators and cure all the ills overnight because, God knows, the person who can do that is far better than I am, I can tell you that. But from experience in this department, and experience on the front lines that I have had and I have seen and continue to see, we have to try. We all have to try to help the single mom with her children, the disabled people, and the people out there who need the assistance of legislators in order to make their lives a little bit better.

It is not appropriate that we can just say that we stood in our places and we argued against this bill. This bill is going through - it may not go through today, it may not go through Monday, it may not go through Tuesday, but it is going through - without any regulations, and then the regulations will come in and the Premier will have gotten his wish, because he told the board of trade that he was going to solve the problems of this province and they are going to be part of the solution, and the problems out there are going to be looked after because we are going to keep those people down. What we are developing here is a class system in this province that is not appropriate in the year 2000.

As a matter of fact, what is appropriate in the year 2000 is we move towards making equality of life in this province the goal. It will not be achieved easily, but it is a goal that has to at least be attempted, because we cannot sit back on our laurels here and say that we are doing something for the people of Nova Scotia. The economy is good in Nova Scotia for people who are working in good jobs. That is fine, they can afford to pay for things, but there is an underclass in this province who cannot afford to pay, who are just existing, and quite frankly I do not know how they are existing.

[Page 9345]

I challenge any of you in this room, in this place, in this Legislature, to go into the homes of your constituents and make a list. Sit down with that constituent and let he or she, and their families, tell you how they are living, and then take that information back to your caucus and tell the front benches and tell the Minister of Community Services that you as an MLA agree and here is the evidence that these people cannot live on the allowance they are getting in this province, and that something, Mister Minister, or something Mister Premier, other than talking to the board of trade has to be done. Something has to be done here.

We cannot, Mr. Speaker, allow this kind of situation to perpetuate itself any longer. What we have to do is make a genuine attempt to bring people's income levels up to a point where they can live. I understand my time is nearing an end and I just want to say that I was pleased to be able to join this debate today because I feel very strongly about the fact that we have to turn our attention to doing something for the people in this province who deserve to be treated better than they are being treated today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in the debate on Bill No. 62 at third reading. I have been sitting and listening to the previous speaker and others about this bill and thinking back over some of the things that I have had to say at different stages on the bill. I find it somewhat interesting in the nature of the debate here and the nature of the debate maybe outside on the street as to what this government is trying to do in this bill and what it is in fact doing.

I think, for example, as we have said, the government, the minister and the backbenchers and the others on the government benches say that the intention of Bill No. 62 is to encourage people to make that transition from welfare to work. I think encourage is a cute word that I would suggest should be a little different to suggest that it is encouraging them to move there. Some would say it is forcing them to make the transition from welfare to work and it is doing so regardless in some cases of whether or not a person is fit financially, physically, mentally, or otherwise by circumstance to make that particular transition.

So the question becomes, well, if they say they are trying to do that, but if that is not what they are doing, then why are they doing this? Are they doing this to try to save money? The minister has suggested that there will not be any savings, but others, in particular people who made presentations at the Law Amendments Committee, have said that there will be a reduction in the Community Services budget again this year and there will be a reduction because there will be, and the minister has confirmed this, upwards of 4,000 less people receiving social assistance and that, in fact, is without this bill.

[Page 9346]

Members may recall that we have cited statistics that are available that show that from 1993 to 1999 the number of cases, the number of people receiving welfare in the Province of Nova Scotia, has been reduced by 18,000; a 20 per cent reduction over that six to seven year period and that is followed by an additional 4,000 since this government has come into power. So, either because of the economy or because of changes that the Liberals made in social assistance rates, particularly as they affect single employables which have reduced those rates to the point where those people have gone onto the streets and into halfway houses, either because of that or because some people have been successful in getting employment, Mr. Speaker, the number of people receiving welfare has been systematically reducing over the past decade.

On the one hand that is a good thing; on the other hand we are worried about the people - I mentioned the single employables - and I would suggest teens between the ages of 17 and 19 who are falling through the cracks and ending up on the streets, Mr. Speaker, in the shelters and receiving their food and clothing from charities, that is a real concern.

[1:15 p.m.]

I have attended a couple of meetings this week which have been quite interesting, in contrast to this debate, because this Premier and his Minister of Finance have been telling us that the economy has been booming in the Province of Nova Scotia, we are seeing an increase in the HST revenue from gasoline, we are going to see an increase in revenues over those predictions in income tax and corporate tax, in transfers from the federal government. So in other words, Mr. Speaker, the estimated surplus for this year and the actual amount received will be greater than was predicted. So in other words, we are going to be in a better position. So the plan to reduce to balance the budget over three years is well on track.

We all knew that certain things were done, that was very much a probability, but the economy is chugging along at such a rate, the growth this year has been greater than predicted and therefore, our ability to balance the books, to get rid of the deficit and begin paying down the debt, is at a pace faster than predicted. That being the case and given that there seems to be a natural reduction in the number of people on welfare, there seems to be, to some extent, something going on in terms of people being able to find jobs. Why is it that this government is bringing in a piece of legislation forcing more people off welfare and into work? That is a question.

I am going to go on and explain how erroneous I think the conclusion is, that because of this legislation, people are suddenly going to find all kinds of work. That is an interesting question, given the fact that the economy seems to be doing so well, if we are surpassing revenue projections and the economy is doing well, why do we need to continue to pound away at the people who are less able to help themselves? That is a question that surely has to come into the minds of the members opposite. We know that what they are planning to do in year three or four with the economy chugging along at this pace, as we achieve or realize

[Page 9347]

the elimination of the deficit, that this government plans on a tax cut, an income tax cut for Nova Scotians which will benefit the more wealthy in our population. So those people can expect to see some benefits from this economy. Why, then, is the government starting off on this track by pounding it to the less fortunate, those people who are less able to help themselves. To me, it doesn't make any sense and I don't understand where this government is headed.

So let's look at the idea that through this legislation, people are going to be in a better position to be able to access employment. Well, Mr. Speaker, it is important to remember that there are basically two categories of people on social assistance: long-term recipients of social assistance, and short-term recipients of social assistance. This legislation doesn't appear to distinguish between the two and seems to lump them all together and suggest that regardless, we are going to move people off the welfare rolls and we are going to - and they say this in quite grandiose terms - provide people with employment supports so they will be able to make that transition. It is without recognition, unfortunately, of the fact that there are real barriers to some people that go well beyond what is provided in this legislation, and I will get to that more in a moment.

Mr. Speaker, the idea in this legislation is that there are a number of - I am trying to search for the point I wanted to make at that point. It was a comment made by the member for Kings South. He said that why he is so happy with Bill No. 62 and why he is so proud of this minister and this government is because, as a result of this bill, there will be people available in his community, in his constituency to pick berries. He is saying there are people sitting home - that is what he is suggesting - on their hands receiving social assistance who should be out there helping farmers who need their berries picked.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic allow an introduction at this time?

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to introduce in the east gallery, Ms. Ajoa Yeboah-Afari. She is the Public Affairs Officer with the Commonwealth Secretariat and one of the hundreds of people who will be in town during the next week for the Commonwealth Education Conference. Would you rise and receive the welcome of the house, please. (Applause)

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome our guest in the gallery. Again, in discussing Bill No. 62, Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, and the stated intent by this government to encourage people to make the transition from welfare to work, I was referring to comments made by the member for Kings South that what this bill

[Page 9348]

will do is make sure that farmers in the Valley have more people available to pick berries. He is suggesting that this bill is necessary. (Interruption) Maybe we should rename the bill as the berry-picking bill or the bill to facilitate the picking of berries.

The problem faced by farmers in terms of the harvesting of crops in the Valley and elsewhere in this province is real. It is a real problem, Mr. Speaker, but the answer is not to go with a stick out into the houses of people who are receiving social assistance and beat them out of their homes and into the fields. That is not the answer. Surely we are not going to go back 100 years and start bringing out work crews and putting them in chains and having overseers responsible to make sure that they do what they were dragged out of their homes to do, pick berries. That is just not good enough. I don't want to be part of a society that thinks that that is good use or a good way to treat their fellow human beings. I thought we were trying to progress in this society, not to head back by 100 years. That is what that member is, in fact, referring to.

We already know, this fall, that social assistance recipients in the Valley were receiving letters from the local office threatening them that if they didn't go out and pick berries or participate in various harvests their social assistance would be cut off. Mr. Speaker, what that mentality signifies is the idea that people on social assistance are a bunch of lazy bums, ne'er do wells, and that they need a good kick in the pants to get them out to work. That is disgusting. It is an unbelievable attitude and an attitude that the minister himself should ensure is shaken out of his department, wherever it exists. It shouldn't be an attitude that is reflected and represented by this government. It is simply not good enough.

As I said to you before, I am from the Valley. I spent a good many years working in orchards and in fields harvesting crops, and I know how important it is to have crops harvested in a timely and efficient manner and to be harvested properly. I know that there are problems from time to time in getting a workforce to do that, but I say to you that it is the system that penalizes people on social assistance or people on EI for making additional wages, additional income that is responsible for the problem, as much as it is anything else. It is certainly not people living on social assistance who do so through no fault of their own.

It is simply unconscionable that any member of this House would try to suggest otherwise. When I hear people say that I think to myself, they have never been in an orchard or they have never been in a strawberry field, they have never been on their knees in the hot summer sun picking strawberries for eight hours a day, because if they had been, they would never bring that kind of an attitude to this Chamber. It is hard work, and it takes someone in good physical condition, someone who understands what the work involves, because you don't just go in there, grab and rip away at the berries, you don't go into an orchard and just rip apples down off the tree, because of the damage that you create to the plants and to the trees. It is hard work, it is work that takes a specific skill, and members of this government, if they don't know that, better inform themselves of how that all takes place.

[Page 9349]

This bill should not be intended to solve the problem faced by farmers in the Valley. It will not solve the problems faced by farmers in the Valley, I will tell you that. We know, in the past, when there has been forced labour that farmers tell you it creates more problems for them than it does anything else. You get people who are not up to it physically because they are so bloody poor they don't eat properly or can't eat properly, they don't have the strength, they don't have the stamina to be able to carry out that hard work, and they don't know the work, they haven't been trained, they don't know the skills that are required. Anybody being forced to do something against their will creates a problem, and it ends up creating more problems for farmers and more cost than it does trying to solve. I say to the minister, I say to the member for Kings South and any other members across the way who believe that is what this bill is for, and good for them to be able to bring forward a bill, it is going to solve the farmers' problems, they are wrong, it is not going to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move on now, for a moment, if I may and talk to you and talk to members of this House about the fact that it has been said before that the changes made in the spring to the levels of social assistance, basic social assistance across the board, will be less than they were. Let's be clear about that. There has been a reduction in the basic rates to be received by people on social assistance. We heard that from every single presenter who appeared at the Law Amendments Committee. Every single person, over 50 presenters representing individuals and groups, organizations that work with the poor people living on social assistance, reported as a group, one after the other, that the rates themselves are less.

[1:30 p.m.]

The idea that the new system creates employment incentives is simply fatuous, Mr. Speaker. It does not exist in reality. The idea that suddenly someone is going to be able to attend 25 hours a week GED upgrading without adequate child care, without proper transportation, is simply not realistic. The training and the availability of training already in the metropolitan area itself is sadly lacking. I said to you before that there is only one GED program for Grade 8 to Grade 10 for the entire Halifax Regional Municipality and that is in Spryfield. Let me tell you that it is not easy to get out to Spryfield and it is not easy to get back here from Spryfield on the bus.

MR. JERRY PYE: Particularly if you live in Dartmouth.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It is not easy to travel throughout Halifax Regional Municipality in the buses and, as my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North says, imagine if you have to come from Dartmouth. Imagine if you have to come from Musquodoboit. Imagine if you have to come from Sackville and Upper Sackville, Mr. Speaker. It is just not that easy and childcare, I mean, there are not enough subsidized child care spaces in metro let alone throughout the rest of the province.

[Page 9350]

We heard from childcare workers outside these premises earlier this week who were attesting to the fact that parking lot attendants are receiving a rate of pay greater than childcare workers. I say good for the parking lot attendants, but what does that say about the priority in which we hold the work of childcare workers? I mean, surely, the comparison and the contrast is not lost on members opposite. I know some of you drive lovely cars, lovely vehicles, but surely those vehicles are not as important as your children, surely, nor are those cars as important as children, period, in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Childcare workers, people who have received early childhood education degrees, Mr. Speaker, are people to whom we are giving the care and custody and responsibility to look after those children at a very important time in their lives. They are dedicated professionals and they deserve an appropriate wage and $17,000 a year for taking care of the most precious thing in any of our lives, in any of our communities, is simply not good enough. It results in a high turnover rate in childcare work. People are feeling frustrated. They are feeling undervalued and, as a result, it makes it a difficult working environment for them but they do a heck of a job. There are still not enough subsidized day-care spaces in this province. Let's remember, I am talking about metro, to a certain extent, because I relate this and the experiences I talk about are related to my riding, which is predominantly urban in Spryfield, but takes in rural as well. We think we have transportation problems in metro, imagine if you live in the Valley or in Ecum Secum or in Parrsboro or other places in this province, imagine the problems you have with transportation.

We have heard it before, the difficulties people have getting from Pictou to New Glasgow, because the services have been cut back so badly at the Sutherland-Harris Memorial Hospital in the Town of Pictou, the difficulty people have getting to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow. Imagine, if you are someone on social assistance, a single mom, if you can find subsidized day care somewhere, how do you transport your children to that day care spot and how do you get yourself out to a job or to a training spot somewhere in that community? It is unrealistic.

What this government is presenting as options are not real options at all. That, Mr. Speaker, is a problem. As every single member of this NDP caucus has said, we recognize the problems with social services in the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, we are so committed to it that we re-activated a moribund the Community Services Committee in 1998, chaired by my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, and that committee, together with representatives from all Parties, travelled the province and heard representations from hundreds of Nova Scotians. We recognize just how serious this is and how much that system needs to be reformed, to make it more responsive.

This does not do it. Income supports, like day-care spaces. Transportation is not available in many communities throughout this province. If the day-care spaces were available, $400 a month per family for child care that costs in the area of $25 a day, $540 a month for one child, $400 doesn't cut it. It simply is not good enough, Mr. Speaker, and I say

[Page 9351]

to you that this government is misleading people when they suggest that we are putting it all in place and, for those people who are able to work, away they go.

What about people on disability benefits? I talk about transportation problems for the able-bodied, what about disabled people who need transportation - Access-A-Bus. What do we have here in metro? How difficult is it if you are in a wheelchair, to get from point A to point B in metro?

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to give 72 hours advance notice.

MR. CHISHOLM: Do you hear that? Then they will not show up sometimes, because of problems, because of appointment difficulties or some other problems. So what do you do? That is in metro. Can you imagine what it is like down in Liverpool or what it is like in Woods Harbour, or in Halls Harbour, or at other communities throughout rural Nova Scotia? What about people who need, in order to be able to work, motorized wheelchairs? What about people who need hearing aids, prosthesis? What about people who need those kinds of technical aids to be able to communicate? They are not available and they are not going to be made available under this system.

Mr. Speaker, so what happens to people, as it is laid out in this bill, if they don't avail themselves of those employment supports? I will tell you what happens, they get cut off, they get cut off. I want to ask members of this House if they can imagine for themselves what it is like for someone living well below the poverty line, who can hardly make ends meet, is always shuffling from one pile to the next, the cheque they get every month to pay for rent, to pay for medications, to pay for food, to pay for clothing, to pay for transportation, what happens and if you haven't experienced this because a constituent brought it into your office, I have to ask you, what are you doing? What are you doing, because it sure comes up a lot in my office, and I know my colleagues experience it, and if you are not I have to wonder if you have your door locked or you are hiding your sign and people don't know where you are. Imagine, if you will, if you were in that circumstance where that juggling act happens every month, and all of a sudden somebody calls you and says you are not getting a cheque this month.

What are we right now - November 24th. The cheques come out next week, November 27th. You expect to get your cheque. You are down to $10. You have $10 between now and then and you try to figure out - let's not overstate it, let's say $25 between now and then. One child, you have to make that $25 stretch until November 27th. You have all these bills. You have your rent; you have your lights; you have your bus pass if you are lucky enough to get that, or some stamps so you can get to a couple of appointments you have in early December, the doctor, maybe the dentist for your child. You have all these bills that are piling up. What are you going to do about a warm coat for your child; you are trying to figure out how to do that. Somebody calls your neighbour because you don't have a phone, you can't afford a phone, somebody calls your neighbour and a message comes over to you to call your

[Page 9352]

caseworker. So you go out and you find a phone and you call your caseworker, your caseworker says, because you have not availed yourself of this training program your social assistance is being cut off. Image what that is like.

[1:45 p.m.]

I don't know what happens in your offices, but I deal with those situations in my office, not all the time but enough, let me tell you, enough to know it is real, it is a problem. This legislation will make that problem worse. The reason that person gets a call may be as simple as this, it may be because the person on social assistance and the caseworker were not able to talk, or that the message that was left by the person on social assistance to explain why they were not able to get to a training program, or attend this course or whatever, for legitimate reasons, that message did not get to the caseworker because the caseworker who is so overburdened with cases, who has a stack of messages on her desk a foot or two high, had not gotten to that message yet - four days old, five days old - because she's been dealing, he's been dealing with crises upon crises every single day, every hour of every day, still has not been able to get to that individual problem.

So the caseworker finds out and says, whoops, you should not have been cut off, but there is nothing I can do. We will restore it next month and we will pay you back. But what does that woman do? What does that person do for that month? That is the reality that I am afraid this government ignores. When you have the member for Kings South get up and say we need to deal with the problems farmers are facing with the lack of berry harvesters and this bill will do it and I am proud to vote for it, it misses the point completely.

I frankly find it shocking because the consequences of that kind of lack of knowledge, that ignorance of what is really going on, the consequences are so traumatic, it is so drastic, it is so, it is like life and death. It is the difference between people being on the street and not being on the street, or it is the difference between someone living in an abusive situation and not living in an abusive situation. It is the difference between a child going to school hungry or not going hungry, or being beat up or not being beat up. We are talking about people living under social circumstances that are so difficult when survival is that immediate, when your immediate concern is survival, the stress and strain of that has consequences that you and I cannot imagine.

That is what we are dealing with here and I tell you when I listened to the Premier this week at the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council address where he talked about the economy and how things are just cooking along, I thought about what we were dealing with in here and how we were further penalizing the poorest of the poor. I just thought to myself, are we in a time warp here? What did those people do; what did those people do to you? What did those people do to this government to deserve this kind of treatment? I do not understand it.

[Page 9353]

We have tried to get some changes in this legislation. I know the Liberal caucus have said that this bill is a bad bill and no change would make it any better. Well, that is true to a certain extent, that it is a bad bill and we do not agree with it, but one little change that we were seeking had to do with telephones. I want to share this with you because somebody said to me the other day, after we had brought this amendment for telephones to ensure that people on social assistance had telephones because if you are requiring people to avail themselves of these employment supports, training, making calls to employers childcare and so on, there should be some means of communication. That is what we were talking about. Do you know what somebody said to me? Someone outside said to me, so I heard you guys are trying to make sure that everybody on welfare has a cell phone, ha, ha, ha, like it is a big joke, that we are trying to make sure that everybody on welfare gets a cell phone and maybe a CD player. It is like trivializing a very serious problem. It is a very serious problem.

Mr. Speaker, we were asking in our amendment - and the fact that it is not being supported is another real hardship - and had it passed, I say to you, it would have made a difference in the lives of some people because some people simply do not have access to a phone. They do not have enough money or they have made certain choices as they have juggled that ever-reducing social assistance cheque, they have juggled it in such a way that they have not paid their bills and their phone has been cut off, but under this bill those people need to be able to be making calls to employers. They need to be doing an active job search. They need to participate in training. They may need to have contact with medical people, with education people, with day cares.

You would know, Mr. Speaker, and surely other members can relate this to some degree to their own circumstances, when you go out the door in the morning, you have your schedule all set up that this is what you are going to do, you have appointments made, and all of a sudden the school calls and your daughter is sick and she has to come home. They say come and get her because she is sick to her stomach and she cannot stay here. We do not have the capacity to take care of her. So then what do you do? There is no one else at home. There is no one to come in. There is no one else to go pick her up. So you have to go pick your daughter up. You have got all these appointments, right. You had to get to a training program and if you do not get to that training program, then you are going to get cut off social assistance and yet you have to get your daughter at school because she is sick. So what are you going to do?

What you will do is you will call ahead to the office or you will call that person who you are supposed to have an interview with, or that you have a meeting with, and you will say, listen, something has come up, it is an emergency, I cannot make that meeting, I have to go pick up my kid. So you go and you pick up your kid, you take them home and you look after them, make them feel better, put them to bed, and then you call your next appointment and you say, I am sorry, I have to cancel. My daughter is home and I have to be home here to look after her.

[Page 9354]

Imagine if you were a person living on social assistance who did not have a phone, who did not have a car. You got word through your neighbour, let's say, that your daughter was sick at school. Now, you have to get there, say three miles away, you have to get from your place to that school, how are you going to do that? Well, the bus runs every hour. So you check your pockets and you have $10. It is supposed to last you for the rest of the week. Well, I have to get my daughter, she is sick. She is throwing up. The school is going to leave her out in the hallway, I have to go get her. So you take your $10 and you call a cab from your neighbour's and you go and get your kid, you are frantic.

You are on the way there and you think, oh no, I was supposed to go to this course, this training program which was part of my employment support, the employment incentive program, and if I don't get there, then my social assistance will be cut. But what is on your mind is getting your daughter out of that school and getting her home as quick as you can. You get to the school, the cabbie says, don't take too long because it will cost more than $10, and that is all you have, $10. You can't go into the school and ask somebody to use the phone, because that will take you too long. You grab your child, you take her back and put her in the cab, and you take her home. You get home, you take her into your apartment, put her to bed and give her some toast, whatever.

Mr. Speaker, by then, you are two hours late for that training program, two hours late. You say, now what do I do, do I go over to my friend's, my neighbour's and use the phone; I don't like to leave my daughter but I have to go. So you go over to your neighbour's, you pick up the phone, you make a call to your caseworker, and you get a recording. You leave a message, and you tell your caseworker what happened. I don't know if people understand, that is the way things work in this system right now. Invariably that person would have a disruption in their social assistance because they didn't make that training program. Had they had a phone, a basic telephone service, communication, then they may well have been able to avoid that disruption.

Mr. Speaker, that is why that amendment was introduced by this caucus. That is why I get so troubled when I hear people try to make it a trivial matter. We are trying to ensure all people on welfare get a telephone. It is demeaning, it is disrespectful, and there shouldn't be any of that in this House.

Mr. Speaker, I am opposed to this legislation. I think that is pretty clear. Others may disagree with this, but I don't just blindly vote against or for - hopefully the people opposite don't blindly vote for something - legislation. There are lots of bills that go through here that I vote in favour of. I don't understand the government's rationale. I don't understand why Bill No. 62 is here. The numbers of people on welfare continue to go down, as I said earlier, 18,000 reduction between 1993 and 1999, a further 4,000 since this government has taken office. In many communities throughout rural Nova Scotia, there are no jobs. It is not going to deal with the berry-picking problem that the member for Kings South talked about.

[Page 9355]

The only thing that is going to happen is negative, with this bill. It is going to create greater hardship on people who require assistance. It is going to create greater hardship on those people who do not deserve that kind of pressure at a time in their lives when they need a hand-up not a foot on their head. It is not going to deal with the real problem of the increasing rate of poverty in this province. The fact that the number of children living in poverty in Nova Scotia has increased by 36 per cent since 1989. This bill isn't going to deal with that, it isn't going to help that in any way at all. In fact, I think it is going to continue to exacerbate that problem: women in poverty, 7 out of 10 children living with a single parent live in poverty in Nova Scotia. This legislation is not going to help that situation; it is not going to rectify that problem.

[2:00 p.m.]

There are people, who some people refer to as generational, who have been receiving social assistance and have been on the system for a long period of time. Dealing with that problem requires special, and I think more sensitive levers. The Community Services Committee looked into it, had some good suggestions on how to deal with those problems, how to deal with that issue. None of those recommendations are contained in this bill.

When, through no fault of their own, through injury, through illness, people require a basic level of assistance, surely we should be there to provide that assistance, provide those people with assistance to then be able to participate, in any way they can, in their particular community. That may not be through gainful employment, Mr. Speaker, that may be in other ways. This bill does none of those things. This bill creates greater hardship on the poorest of the poor and this government should be ashamed of itself for bringing this legislation, Bill No. 62, into this Chamber.

They say they are trying to deal with the problems and welfare reform. They are making the problem worse, not better. If they think that this is one of the hallmarks of their first term in office, I say it is something they shouldn't be proud of, it is something they should feel ashamed of because what it is doing is making the poorest of the poor carry more burden and feel more hardship, at a time when this government totes itself as being a government that is going to balance the books, turn the economy around and make things better in this province. Why are they doing it, on the one hand, so they can give the most wealthy in this province a tax break, while on the other, they are putting the boots to the poorest of the poor. It is unfair, it is mean-spirited and it is something that this government is going to be remembered for, for many years. I am voting against Bill No. 62. Thank you.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak on Bill No. 62, An Act to Encourage the Attainment of Independence and Self-sufficiency through Employment Support and Income Assistance. As I have said before, this

[Page 9356]

is basically a flawed piece of legislation. I see no other way to look at it, in any other way, shape or form. The foundation of Bill No. 62 is supposedly in its regulations. The impact of this legislation can only be found when those regulations are scrutinized and we take a very close look at them and examine them. We can't do that, we can't examine the regulations because we don't have them. They are in secret somewhere, they are being kept from this House and they have left us, I guess, just walking blindfolded, trying to find some sense to this legislation, trying to see exactly what impact this legislation will have on people in this province, but we cannot do that.

There are very few details in the bill. I think the old saying is that the devil is in the details - is that correct? So we can't really see the devil - although we have some indication of who the devil is - we can't see the details in the devil in this case. With that lack of details and lack of regulations, in my opinion, it would be rather counter-productive to propose any amendments. This is not to take exception with the NDP caucus who has proposed amendments to this bill. Indeed if you amend such a bill, then in effect, maybe you are showing support for it. I don't know. As I say, I am not taking exception with the NDP caucus, however. I have a fair understanding of the legislative process, and I don't think it is misdirected.

I think the bill could have been effective. It could have helped many people in this province, but the fact of the matter is, this is flawed legislation. Bad legislation is bad legislation. I don't know if every amendment that the NDP caucus had proposed would have made this a better bill. Would it have made it acceptable to the people of Nova Scotia? If that is not what you are getting at (Interruption) It is going through anyway, but if you are telling me that every amendment that was made by the NDP caucus to this bill would then make that a palatable bill to Nova Scotians and people who are on social assistance in this province, then probably those amendments would have my support as would the bill have my support. In this case, neither the bill nor the amendments have my support.

Yesterday in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker (Interruptions) As I said, I am not taking exception with the NDP caucus. It is just a personal opinion I am expressing here right now. I think this is a place you can express personal opinions, if I am not mistaken. It is the House of Assembly after all. (Interruption) Some day I will be in government, and some day we will have a chance to finally fix the things that are going wrong in Nova Scotia. Believe me, I look forward to that day. I can't wait for that day to happen.

Mr. Speaker, let's get back to the relevancy of the whole thing in Bill No. 62. But before I leave my honourable friends in the NDP caucus, the member for Cape Breton Centre did stand here yesterday and address the House on Bill No. 62. I take great exception with the comment that was said, and to summarize, that only the NDP caucus knows what it is like to care about those who are on social assistance. That is what the member for Cape Breton Centre said. I take great exception to that, because it is simply not true.

[Page 9357]

I was sitting in my seat and said out loud to the member for Cape Breton Centre, you are not the only one who has a social conscience in this House. I care just as much about the people in Cape Breton East who are on social assistance as the member for Cape Breton Centre cares about his constituents who are on social assistance, and I took great exception to that, and I still do. I hope some day perhaps the member for Cape Breton Centre would apologize to myself and the House for making those comments. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, at that point in time, I am sure he misspoke. I know he misspoke, because I know the member for Cape Breton Centre, and I know that he knows me, and he knows I care. I will sit back and wait for that apology to come forth.

Mr. Speaker, as we sit here now in this House, there are just over 9,900 people in Cape Breton alone who are on social assistance. As I have mentioned time and time again to the people in this Legislature that of those 9,900 people, approximately 1,000 clients are in Glace Bay alone, which is in the riding of Cape Breton East. That represents, as I have said time and time again, 4,000 men, women and children in the riding of Cape Breton East, in particular in Glace Bay and surrounding area who are now on social assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I have seen first-hand, and I can describe them in no other fashion as horror stories that are associated with some of the stories that are described to you from social assistance clients. I have heard speaker after speaker here today, the member for Cape Breton South, the member for Halifax Atlantic, the last two recent speakers who have said these horror stories include mistakes that are made within the system itself. These horror stories include, as the members have described, that some people are just cut off social assistance without being given a reason; it is done, it is a bureaucratic decision that is made and it does not give them the chance to tell their story. We heard here today as well that it can be a horror story to someone on social assistance, something as simple as trying to get through to your caseworker. As the member said, reaching the answering service or voice mail can turn into a very traumatic event.

These are long, complicated stories and I do not want to go into detail about a lot of the ones that I have heard, but I can tell you that in the position as MLA for Cape Breton East I have heard some stories and I have experienced first-hand people telling me their situations. It is something that you are not prepared for when you become a Member of the Legislative Assembly. Nobody prepared me for it anyway, that I would be dealing with situations where the very lives of people were affected by a decision - whether it be by a caseworker, through no fault of that caseworker, but by a decision of a system that has so many rules and regulations that it is just not workable any more. It is just not there. This bill does absolutely nothing at all to try and fix the system that I am talking about right now.

One of the barriers to social assistance is the stigma that is attached to people on social assistance. I do not plan on taking the full amount of time that is allotted to me, but before I did finish up I wanted to touch on the fact that the Premier of this province has only reinforced that stigma with that now infamous speech to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

[Page 9358]

He almost had Nova Scotians convinced that his heart was in the right place. Almost had them convinced. But, actually, his comments were nothing short of shameful and inflammatory. That is exactly what they did - they inflamed people who were, number one, social assistance recipients, those who were classified - which is another stigma - as the working poor in this province and simply pitted them against each other. That was the whole purpose of the Premier's comments to begin with, to deflect the criticism from this piece of legislation and to have one group fighting against another in this province. You know, divide and conquer I guess is the phrase that you could obviously use.

Obviously, the Premier is not convinced that this is a good bill either; if he was convinced that this was a good bill, I do not really think that he would have made such harmful and hurtful comments. When you pit one group against another - in this case you pit the poor against the working poor - that is not what this bill should be about. The Liberal caucus believes that and we also believe as it has been stated in this Chamber many times that the best form of social assistance is a job. We all believe that in this House. I can tell you now without any doubt in my mind that if there was an influx of jobs into Cape Breton East tomorrow, in the hundreds, the social assistance rolls would decrease by an amount that would be unprecedented.

I know that people who are currently on that social assistance system would be leaving it in droves to go get a job, with the exception of those who legitimately cannot work, the disabled, people who cannot find a job for whatever reason, but even then the social assistance system, if there were jobs available, if there is retraining available, you know, it is possible that they could find work. That list would grow smaller and smaller by the day with the right support that should be in place for people who are looking simply to find work. Work is the key to the whole thing.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 62 does not clearly define the difference between a meaningful job and just any job as well. In Ontario, for example, a person there by the name of Mike Harris and a government, they never really clearly defined what a job is supposed to be. Now, that led to a serious breakdown in that workfare program or what everyone now in this province is deciding to call a learn-fare program. This bill does nothing to address the problems faced by areas of high unemployment, again which is an area that I proudly represent. Unfortunately, it is an area that does have a very serious problem with high unemployment.

Mr. Speaker, this bill opens the door as well, I am afraid, to the privatization of the social assistance system. This bill will give the minister power to delegate powers to persons or classes of persons and this means that people other than government employees, such as staff of the Department of Community Services, will be in charge of some aspects of social

[Page 9359]

assistance perhaps down the road. I think that is a very dangerous precedent and a very slippery slope that we are on.

It could mean that perhaps private companies are set up, that is possible. It is quite possible. Mr. Speaker, I use that in context because anything is possible with that government, absolutely anything. Nothing would surprise me in terms of what that government would do and I use that in that context.

In closing - because I know there are many people who want to speak on this bill - in its present form, as I said, Bill No. 62 is certainly flawed. It does not deserve to be passed by this Legislature. It does absolutely nothing for the 9,900-some people who are currently on social assistance in Cape Breton, for the 1,000 clients who are currently on the system in Glace Bay and surrounding area, those 4,000 men, women and children in Glace Bay and surrounding area, who every month wait for cheque day to try and make a meagre living on whatever is there, just to wait now as they are, very stressfully, for this government to take more money from them at the end of the month. It truly is shameful legislation and it is legislation that this House should not even be considering.

This bill has no place in this House whatsoever and every member of that government should be totally ashamed that this bill has even hit the floor of this Legislature. This caucus certainly will not be supporting this bill. This member certainly will not be supporting this bill and, in closing, again I say that this is a bill that does not in any way, shape or form deserve to be passed by this Legislature. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I recognize the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I understand a few others across the way say that they also recognize me. My comments are going to be uncharacteristically brief on this legislation simply because, quite frankly, other members of the caucus have spoken on the bill and there will be more to follow. They have laid out the position quite clearly, but there are a couple of things I just have to get on the record.

Mr. Speaker, I keep coming back to a fact that this caucus has been raising each and every day in this House. That is that under this Tory Government, each and every day six more children are born into poverty. That is something maybe members on the government benches, as they have listened to these arguments and have heard that, are again becoming even more callous to, and are even totally ignoring that fact that it doesn't faze them anymore.

Since the Tories have come to power a little over 15 or 16 months ago, we have had approximately 2,800 children born into poverty. I take a look at the piece of legislation that is before us. I ask members opposite what does your bill do to address poverty, whether that

[Page 9360]

is poverty that exists and is deep-rooted in some parts of my constituency of Sackville-Cobequid; whether that be in Cumberland County, and there are pockets of real poverty in Cumberland County; and people who do not have the skills or the means to get out of that poverty situation; the many members who are disabled, Mr. Speaker, who need technical aids, they need transportation, they need other things in order to become self-reliant and independent, this bill does nothing.

In fact, what really disturbs me I think almost more than anything else about this legislation is the attitude behind the bill, and the underlying attitude of the members on the government benches who are supporting it. We had one member of the government bench get up and speak today. One. It is sort of comical if it isn't so pathetic. What the member for Kings South really seemed to be saying was that we have to have this kind of legislation because we can't get enough cheap farm labour to go out and pick certain crops at certain times of the year. That is what he seemed to be saying. He supposedly had some kind of study. I am sure it was very deep and thorough because he did it, the member for Kings South, five years ago, so you know how thorough that is, Mr. Speaker, and you know how much attention it really deserves. When I get up to see if he would take a question, no, no, he can't do that. I think there was a little bit of chicken feathers in there. When I got up on a point of principle to point out that what he was then accusing me of doing was incorrect, he refused to table the report. He said, oh, you can send your researchers out to do it. He has the report, supposedly, he has done this great study, so why would you repeat what he has done if it is so good. It should have been put on the table.

Mr. Speaker, this bill shouldn't be about just making sure you have enough people to go out and pick berries for a few weeks of the year. What we should be looking at is if there is any truth to what the government is saying, and that is that they want to help people to become independent and self-reliant. Then what we should be looking at are concrete ways to address the concerns, to address the roadblocks that are prohibiting that.

I listened to the member for Preston the other day, I didn't even turn the channel on the radio as I was driving along, he was on with his provincial affairs praising the Minister of Education for establishing some more seats or a little bit more assistance for adult learners. The same government that is making it harder for our children to learn in the schools. Just today we passed a resolution congratulating a school because they run a breakfast program. They deserve to be congratulated, but we as a society, and this as a government, don't deserve to be congratulated as long as we are forcing the elementary schools to be establishing breakfast programs so that the children who go to those schools can actually have a nutritional breakfast and then learn. They certainly aren't to be congratulated when one of the fastest-growing businesses in this province are food banks.

The legislation before us is mean-spirited. I was talking a few minutes ago about attitude, and it is hard to believe that government members voted down an amendment - oh, it would have been so radical to insert the word "adequate" into the legislation, to say that

[Page 9361]

those who need assistance, those who must - and in almost all cases it is because of situations beyond their control - receive some assistance, whether that be in the short term or in the longer term, because of disabilities, because of things beyond their control, the government resists, in fact it rejected outright, saying they should have adequate assistance.

What does that mean? It means we have more food banks. It means that our volunteer organizations have to be asked even more often to provide the technical aids that those who are disabled need, and more schools being called upon to run breakfast programs for the children because the government is unprepared to say that those who are disadvantaged deserve adequate assistance.

Now I know that some members, and maybe the member for Kings South isn't the only one who believes this, that the main thing that should be of concern is whether or not you have enough pickers going out getting strawberries in the strawberry season, and you know if somebody was able to eat year-round, maybe they wouldn't do that.

Mr. Speaker, we as a society, and you as a government, are going to be judged about how we take care and how we help those who are disadvantaged help themselves. We have a wealthy society; our biggest wealth is our people. I do not believe, and I refuse to believe, that the majority of Nova Scotians are mean-spirited. I do not believe that the majority of Nova Scotians would resist or resent those who are truly in need being given adequate assistance to help them feed their children and their families.

We hear people opposite talking about violence, home invasions, and how we have to put an end to those kinds of problems. I agree totally, but part of the way, Mr. Speaker, is to address the underlying, fundamental problems that lead to violence, that lead to crime, that lead to desperation. That means, yes, assisting education; that means, yes, identifying individuals and families who are in crisis and providing genuine assistance to help them and their children, because this is about children and those who cannot help themselves.

Some members opposite would like us all to believe and like to go around like the Premier did, and I could make the same statement he did, that there are some people on welfare who are making more money, getting more money than those who are working two or three part-time jobs. You know, that is quite possible. If you have a large family and you become disabled and you cannot work and if you have five or six children, yes, Mr. Speaker, you may be getting more than somebody who is working at the minimum wage for 20 to 30 hours a week. In fact, if you have that size family and you are working 20 or 30 hours a week, then you would also qualify for assistance through social services.

[Page 9362]

[2:30 p.m.]

The Premier is trying to throw in red herrings, he is trying to create this kind of illusion that there is all kinds of abuse and laziness out there. That is not the issue. What are the Tories prepared to do to address the minimum wage that is grossly inadequate in this province? What is this Tory Government prepared to do to ensure that those who are the working poor get a raise by having a fair, decent minimum wage, and to make sure that they do get the benefits, at least on a prorated basis, that other workers in this province are entitled to? Nothing. As I look across the floor and I see the government members paying the usual amount of attention to what members in this House are saying, which is zilch, because they have made up their minds. They have been given their marching orders, and like good little lemmings, we know exactly how they are going to vote.

Mr. Speaker, mark my words, when they go home, and a constituent calls them up and a constituent needs more money for food or their children need a pair of glasses for school, if they have a special need, then they are going to be calling the social workers in their constituency and saying, what can you do to help? On an individual basis, when they are confronted by people they know and who depend on them, oh yes, they are quite prepared and they will probably even try to get the social workers to bend the rules that you are about to pass. You will say, oh, we can't do anything, it is not our fault, we would like to but the rules are there, and it is not our fault that you have to go hungry. Think about that.

Mr. Speaker, there isn't a member on the government benches, I don't believe, who hasn't been approached by a family or by an individual who is in genuine need, who the system is failing. Yet, you are dealing with those individuals. I was going to say you are pretending concern, it is not pretending, it is genuine at that time. At the same time, you have that genuine concern for that individual or that family then, you are prepared here, in this House to vote for a piece of legislation that is actually going to make it worse. It blows my mind, as to the logic; absolutely blows my mind.

Families with older children will get less per child. This legislation does not deserve to see the light of day. The minister deserved the awards he was given yesterday, as does the Premier. I wouldn't have been quite so kind in the way I would have named the awards given to the backbench members who are blindly following and just voting in support of this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will probably not be reviewed for a long time to come. It is being passed without the regulations. Despite all of the squawking and all of the government comments, oh, you are fearmongering over there, don't worry, we are not going to take the homes of those who are disabled or disadvantage and who might fall on to assistance. They didn't even have the authority to pass regulations to prevent that from happening, until we pointed it out to them. They didn't have the intestinal fortitude or the integrity to actually put it in legislation, because, oh no, that would look bad. They have to save face.

[Page 9363]

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that our caucus, and in this one I will say the Liberals as well - even though they didn't bring forward any amendments to try to improve things - they, on this side of the House, did not play the silly games that the government members did, in trying to - as we very easily could have - talk it out so that the minister couldn't have gotten that amendment through, because we are trying to make things better.

Mr. Speaker, I assure you I will be voting against this legislation and I do so with a very clear mind and a very clear conscience on my vote. I honestly do believe that voting for this bill is wrong, wrong. I truly wish, before this bill is going to be voted on another day, I truly do hope government backbench members will look at and actually see what is being done, look at what is being done. Don't just take the press releases that are coming out; don't just listen to the spin doctors for the minister, look for yourselves and think about what kind of impact it is going to have upon the most dependent families living in your constituency, the people who you have sworn - not only been elected to, but actually sworn - to represent their best interests. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, originally I thought I would stand up here today and shout out my message, point my finger and do the theatre role over here and tell all Nova Scotians what mean, nasty individual rascals are on the other side of the House.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as I sat here in the House last night and listened to the debates from the various members, I realized later in the evening that a group of Boy Scouts came in here. From my seat I could see them. I think they were very shocked because it was at the end of the day and most members here were tired, and myself as well, I had my feet up, trying to relax, because there were just a few minutes left at the end of a long day. I had the opportunity to see those children walk into the Chamber, and saw the look on their faces. They seemed shocked that this was government at work.

I guess I sort of reflected very quickly. Mr. Speaker, I feel very privileged sitting here today. I agree with all the members on this side who previously indicated that this bill should not be before this House. It shouldn't, there is no room for this type of attack on people who depend on the social service network in this province.

Each and every time I listen to my colleagues to the left over here, blame the individual Tory members on the other side and this government, but in all fairness, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to recognize that this bill wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for their direction, approximately 16 months ago, when they failed to seize an opportunity for all Nova Scotia and work with a minority government that was committed to prosperity. They failed; they lost that opportunity.

[Page 9364]

For the 16 months that I have been in this House, I have had a chance each day to say hello to individual members. I think we are all here for the same reason. I am not going to stand here and beat up on the minister and tell everybody how mean and nasty he is and all that stuff because I am one of the guys over here who believes personally that the minister and the individual members over there are not bad Nova Scotians, but they are out of touch, in the same manner as the NDP caucus was just a short 17 months ago. They have to come to grips, Mr. Speaker, rapidly.

There is a lot of responsibility to govern this province and this government took it on. The Premier provided a platform and the people of Nova Scotia swallowed it. As I look over there I see many of my former colleagues; I don't know where they went, really, I can't understand how they can just sit there and do what the merry men on the front lines tell them to do. It is obvious, as I indicated the other day, that this is not the minister's nor this government's agenda, it is somebody else's agenda, in my opinion. It is a very important agenda. It is an agenda we should be using a lot of caution when proceeding.

Today, I decided to stand up here and not criticize or poke fun or try to embarrass anybody, or condemn the NDP. What I want to do today, Mr. Speaker, is plead on behalf of the more than 38,000 people, individuals and families, who rely on this social services network in Nova Scotia. They rely on it for their very existence, for the things that we rely on. Three-quarters of those individuals are people with either disabilities or children. Children, that is what hit me when the cub pack walked in here last night; that is where our future is. When I consider that there was another 8,000 single mothers out there that rely on this network, then this is a very vital issue for all of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, there is so much that could be said. This is a paper I received that was prepared by the Dalhousie Legal Aid Society for the Community Advocates Network. This is what they say in this information pamphlet, and I don't think they are too far off. I really do believe they are hitting here, and there are messages in this document if the members want to realize that. They say that more people will go hungry, more people will become homeless, people will die without life-sustaining medications. Fewer people, of course, in the future will be able to acquire any assistance. Single low-income wage earners are going to be hit extremely hard with this bill.

It is not fair for me to say that entirely, Mr. Speaker, because we have not seen the complete package. It is very difficult to analyze something when you are only given a partial amount of information. That is why I have decided here today to stand up and plead on behalf of these people, plead to the minister, plead to the backbenchers to take an active role in creating these regulations. This is the avenue in which this government could relax the impact of this bill.

[Page 9365]

Mr. Speaker, I don't really believe that the Premier or this Cabinet or the caucus want a Nova Scotia where people have to resort to begging, borrowing and stealing. I don't believe that is the priority of this government, but this is all going to increase. Charities will become much more in demand, and there will be much more of a burden on volunteers throughout this province, as I indicated the other evening.

I just want to indicate a few things. What I believe we should be doing in this province - and I agree with some sort of welfare reform, I don't want to be mistaken or misunderstood because I feel that system should be reformed. This caucus is on record of supporting the reform; however, not in this present form and that is why this caucus did not move any amendments. We do not recognize this legislation at all, it should not be here, it is bad, it is just mean and it should not be here.

[2:45 p.m.]

Last night as I sat here I heard several of the members indicate that the Liberals did this and the Liberals did that. I should not be too hard on the NDP in reality for the direction they decided to take 17 months ago when they forced themselves on Nova Scotians. Well, we all realize and accept the results of that direction, but in all fairness, I would not even be here today addressing this House if they did not take that direction so I do not want to gang up on them too much.

I do want to make it very clear that one of the things that attracted me as the candidate for the Liberal Party was the direction that Russell MacLellan's Government was going forward into. He had this province number one in economic growth in Canada in two short years. When we look at welfare reform, Russell MacLellan's Government and the previous minister was headed in a positive direction. There were over 8,000 opportunities and jobs opened for low income earners by that government - 8,000 in two short years.

That did not come easy, it did not come easy. It came because they had a plan and a direction and they knew where they wanted to go to bring this province to the level that we could be at. Programs like the community employment innovation project that is currently underway in Cape Breton. It is a program partnered with Employment Insurance, HRDC and the Community Services Department. I have to congratulate the present minister because he has recognized the importance of this project and this program and has made the decision to carry forward with this program. I believe it should be recognized that the minister had enough intelligence to recognize that this program will have a very positive effect on that particular area of the province.

One client, and I would just refer to her comment - a lady coming off the system, able to get an opportunity for a real job at a meaningful employment level with some benefits - it is an excellent opportunity for both me and my two children. Mr. Speaker, that is the direction that I believe Nova Scotia should be going forward in.

[Page 9366]

When you look at Enterprise Cape Breton, another federal initiative, a marketing approach to promote the three industrial parks of industrial Cape Breton and hopefully the honourable member for Inverness will realize that industrial Cape Breton is a high unemployment region, probably the highest in the country, especially with the downturn in the two traditional industries of coal and steel, but those former employees both at Devco and at Sysco, are committed to their communities. They are committeed and they are making it very clear to me that they are not going away. They want real opportunities for both themselves and their children and that is fair.

Mr. Speaker, for a government to come forward and . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Just more sort of a point, Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member that unemployment is a problem in industrial Cape Breton and that there is a high unemployment rate, but he should also realize, I believe, the unemployment rate in rural Cape Breton is actually higher than in CBRM. So I just want to point that out.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order, but it is a point.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that because I definitely agree with the individual member because I am also a suburban rural representative in this House. I agree and I am very much well aware of that fact, but industrial Cape Breton is where the answers are and if this minister could realize that and have a little bit of foresight and prepare himself to take on the challenges that are available for that community in the future, then we could see positive results in the decline of unemployment in that area of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I am glad the honourable member stood up because this is a majority government, and Nova Scotians know we are not going to be able to stop this bill, Nova Scotians are aware of that and that is why we have not, as a caucus, put any amendments before. I mean the numbers are real. We are not going to stop this legislation. We know that. We cannot. It cannot be done because there are more faces over there and more noses than there are over here. In this House, at the end of the day, they vote.

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that we cannot stop this bill and all Nova Scotians are aware of that. They believe that. Everywhere I go they tell me that. So they are aware that as Opposition members here, our role is limited. It is those members on the other side that people will be holding accountable for what happens to the poor people in this province. They will be held personally responsible, as they go door to door, sooner or later; now they may go as long as four more years, but I would suggest it will be in at least three, and they will be the ones who will have to defend the direction that this minister and this government provided for Nova Scotians.

[Page 9367]

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, economically this province went from number one in 15 short months to last in economic development, last, from 1st to 11th. That is what the honourable member who stood up and acknowledged to me that there was a rural problem with unemployment in Cape Breton, right across this province; not only in Cape Breton, I can mention many areas of rural Nova Scotia that are experiencing difficulties supplying opportunities to its youth and its unemployed. These are facts that from 1st to 11th, it is a failure totally, absolutely, undebatable, it is just a total collapse of our economic prosperity for this province. Unless this government turns the corner and looks at initiatives that the previous government provided and pick up the ball and continue to run with it, then we will continue the decline. As a result, the poor will get poorer and the rich will get richer.

Mr. Speaker, I know that time is limited, so at this point in time I would like to make a motion to adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes is requesting to move adjournment of debate. I understand there is an all-Party agreement to allow that motion at this time.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at the hour of 2:00 p.m. The House will sit until 8:00 p.m. or possibly a time before then we will adjourn. The order of business will be Bill No. 62 in Public Bills for Third Reading and Bill No. 70 in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 9368]

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 2:55 p.m.]

[Page 9369]

NOTICE OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3569

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas on Saturday, November 25, 2000, Baseball Nova Scotia will be hosting their Annual Awards Banquet at the Wandlyn Inn in Amherst, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas each year at the awards banquet Baseball Nova Scotia recognizes the outstanding achievements of those who have contributed to the great game of baseball by inducting them into the Baseball Nova Scotia Hall of Fame; and

Whereas it has been announced that this year's recipients include players Bill Hopper (Amherst), Neil Ross (Springhill), and Don Yorke (Parrsboro); Art "Sonny" Foster (Amherst) as a builder; Adam Gray (Joggins) as a coach; and the Maccan Royals (celebrating their 80th season) and the legendary Springhill Fencebusters;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate all these individuals and teams on this most prestigious recognition and thank them for many years of entertainment, dedication and sportsmanship, and wish them all the best in the future.