The Nova Scotia Legislature

The House resumed on:
September 21, 2017.

Hansard -- Fri., Oct. 27, 2000

First Session

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2000

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Route 233 (Whites Lake): Crosswalks -
Upgrade, Mr. W. Estabrooks 7479
Health - Lillian Fraser Mem. Hosp.: Acute Care - Bed Closures Oppose,
Mr. W. Langille 7479
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Prospect Bay Rd.: Crosswalks - Upgrade,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 7480
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
NSLC - Privatization, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 7480
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 64, Dairy Industry Act, Hon. E. Fage 7487
No. 65, Lunenburg War Memorial Community Centre Dissolution Act,
Hon. M. Baker 7487
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2840, NSLC: Privatization - Priorities, Mr. John MacDonell 7487
Res. 2841, Surette, Allister - Francophone Colleges Network: Pres. -
Appt. Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 7488
Vote - Affirmative 7488
Res. 2842, Nat. Res. - Hunting Season: Safety - Promote, Hon. E. Fage 7488
Vote - Affirmative 7489
Res. 2843, Educ.: A.J. Smeltzer Jr. High School - Repairs, Mr. J. Holm 7489
Res. 2844, Bus. Dev. Corp.: Small Business Week (22-28/10/00) -
Recognize, Mr. Manning MacDonald 7490
Vote - Affirmative 7490
Res. 2845, Educ. - Centre Consolidated School: Network of Innovative
Schools Member - Recognize, Hon. M. Baker 7491
Vote - Affirmative 7491
Res. 2846, Gov't. (N.S.) - Legislation: Introduction - Preparedness,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7491
Res. 2847, Fin. - Revenue Figures: Availability - Min. Assure,
Mr. D. Downe 7492
Res. 2848, Educ. - Curriculum: Cdn. History (Gr. 11) - Mandatory,
Mr. W. Langille 7493
Res. 2849, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Accident (21/10/00) -
Families Condolences Convey, Mr. Robert Chisholm 7494
Vote - Affirmative 7494
Res. 2850, SMU - Honorary Degrees: Recipients - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 7495
Vote - Affirmative 7495
Res. 2851, Banks - N.S. (Rural): Construction - Encourage,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 7495
Res. 2852, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Mun. Elections (HRM/CBRM):
Mayors (Outgoing/Elected) - Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 7496
Vote - Affirmative 7497
Res. 2853, Educ. - MacDonald, George: Achievements - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Wilson 7497
Vote - Affirmative 7498
Res. 2854, Environ. - Anna. Royal Waste Mgmt. (Dittrick, Mark;
Nette, Adrian): Presentation - Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 7498
Vote - Affirmative 7498
Res. 2855, Sports - Soccer Championship: Riverview Reds (C.B.) -
Congrats., Mr. B. Boudreau 7499
Vote - Affirmative 7500
Res. 2856, Wallace, David - Kentville: Promotion Efforts - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 7500
Vote - Affirmative 7500
Res. 2857, Chamber of Commerce - Strait Area: Club 25 Champion
Awards - Winners Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 7501
Vote - Affirmative 7502
Res. 2858, Health - Concerns: Proper Channels - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 7502
Res. 2859, Environ. - Gov't. (N.S.): Heath Responsibility -
Abdication Chastise, Mr. R. MacKinnon 7503
Res. 2860, Rec. - Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea: Rails to Trails Org. -
Initiatives Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 7503
Vote - Affirmative 7504
Res. 2861, Workers' Comp. - Information: Premier - Obtain,
Mr. P. MacEwan 7504
Res. 2862, Richmond: MLA - Censure, Mr. H. Epstein 7504
Res. 2863, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Mun. Elections: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 7505
Vote - Affirmative 7506
Res. 2864, Tourism - Bell Museum: Attendance - Figures Question,
Mr. K. MacAskill 7506
Res. 2865, Gov't. (Cdn.): Election - Leger Poll, Mr. P. MacEwan 7508
Res. 2866, Culture - Hiltz, Allan: Museums - Commitment Recognize,
Mr. John MacDonell 7508
Vote - Affirmative 7509
Res. 2867, Dartmouth South MLA: Freedom of the Press - Danger,
Mr. D. Wilson 7509
Res. 2868, Agric. - Great Atl. Weigh Off: Hebb, Bob - Winner Congrats.,
Mr. D. Downe 7510
Vote - Affirmative 7511
Res. 2869, Environ.: Nat'l. Environ. Illness Awareness Month (October) -
Recognize, Dr. J. Smith 7511
Vote - Affirmative 7512
Res. 2870, OH&S: Red Tape Task Force - Disband, Mr. R. MacKinnon 7513
Res. 2871, NSNU - Henderson, Heather: Pres. Re-Election - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 7513
Vote - Affirmative 7514
Res. 2872, Commun. Serv. - Disabled: Service Stations (Self -Serve) -
Conversion Cease, Mr. J. Pye 7514
Res. 2873, Nat. Res. - Coastal Properties/Islands: Access -
Task Force Appoint, Mr. W. Estabrooks 7515
Res. 2874, Environ. - Energy Council: Mandate - Expand,
Mr. H. Epstein 7515
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 60, Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act 7516
Mr. J. Holm 7516
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7521
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7525
Hon. R. Russell 7527
Vote - Affirmative 7527
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 59, Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act 7528
Hon. A. MacIsaac 7528
Mr. J. Pye 7528
Mr. B. Boudreau 7529
Hon. A. MacIsaac 7529
Vote - Affirmative 7529
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 61, Electronic Commerce Act 7530
Hon. M. Baker 7530
Mr. J. Holm 7532
Mr. D. Downe 7533
Mr. B. Boudreau 7536
Mr. H. Epstein 7539
Hon. R. Russell 7544
Vote - Affirmative 7545
No. 63, Labour Standards Code 7545
Hon. A. MacIsaac 7545
Mr. F. Corbett 7547
Mr. R. MacKinnon 7548
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 7549
Dr. J. Smith 7551
Hon. A. MacIsaac 7556
Vote - Affirmative 7558
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Oct. 30th at 4:00 p.m. 7558

[Page 7479]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 27, 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

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition entitled Upgrades to Crosswalks, signed by 129 parents in Whites Lake on the notorious Route 233 in Terence Bay. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition containing 4,866 signatures strongly objecting to the closing of five acute care beds at the Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital in Tatamagouche. (Applause)

7479

[Page 7480]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Colchester North has the floor.

MR. LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to the petition for tabling purposes.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table another petition about the notorious Prospect Bay Road and the Pinedale Park subdivision. There have been 170 parents who signed this crosswalk petition and I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, today I want to report to members and to all other Nova Scotians, the government's intentions following an extensive review and analysis of options for private involvement in the sale of liquor. At the outset, the government said any privatization of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission would have to make sense for the taxpayers of this province. It is, after all, the taxpayers who benefit from NSLC profits. Last year, commission profits contributed $135 million to the general revenues of the province.

We also said we would carefully consider the impact of any decision on service to the public; on the employees of the Liquor Commission; on licensed establishments; and on our ability to control the sale and distribution of alcohol.

The government has concluded that there is a place for more private sector involvement in the retail liquor business. That conclusion is consistent with the practice in every other jurisdiction in Canada. But, we have also concluded that a wholesale sell-off of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission does not make sense for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. Before detailing our plans, it may be useful to briefly remind members of the careful process the government has now concluded.

[Page 7481]

We engaged, through an open tendering process, the services of PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a full financial analysis of seven operating models for the liquor business. I am pleased to table that analysis and report now. Those models ranged from the status quo - in essence a publicly-held monopoly; to full privatization - a wide-open, free-market environment.

The analysis is not decisive, in that each of the three best options would return basically the same revenue to the province. Those three are: the status quo; an agency store system; or a private, retail system. Against that analysis, other considerations took on greater significance. A government consultation panel, supported by a working group of senior officials, conducted detailed discussions with a range of interest groups and, via the Internet, with the general public. Mr. Speaker, I will table a brief summary of that process.

Some Nova Scotians told us to sell off the Liquor Commission and let market forces prevail. Others advocated more limited private involvement. A few said keep things pretty much the way they are. Many people counselled caution. We heard repeatedly, however, that regardless of our ultimate decision, things have to change at the NSLC. I want to make it clear that the management of the NSLC has participated fully in this process and that the commissioners themselves have expressed their support of this effort.

The NSLC has a mandate to maximize return to the province from the sale of alcoholic beverages. It has become very efficient in carrying out that mandate. However, the Liquor Commission is a monopoly and understandably, I suppose, has assumed a monopolistic approach in some of its business dealings.

The Tourism Industry Association, among others, told us that the NSLC must be more responsive to the needs of licensees. Some of the issues they identified are: slow response to requests for special products, no credit card purchases, and 9.3 per cent surcharge on products sold through licensed premises.

[9:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to growing the Nova Scotia economy and removing needless government-imposed barriers to economic growth. The action I am announcing today removes barriers by addressing, in a positive and decisive way, issues raised by licensees. Starting today the NSLC will behave less like a government-owned monopoly and more like a serious oriented business.

Mr. Speaker, first, the commission has been directed to immediately make the necessary adjustment in its operations to accept credit cards from licensees. The 9.3 per cent surcharge on products sold to licensees will be cut in half. That surcharge was originally instituted to cover the cost of regulating and monitoring liquor sales, it brings in considerably more than is required for that purpose. Therefore, the Alcohol and Gaming Authority has

[Page 7482]

been directed to devise an equitable charge that recovers only the actual costs of regulatory activity.

Third, during the session legislation will be introduced to fundamentally change the governance of the NSLC. It will become a Crown Corporation, accountable to a board of directors drawn from a cross-section of Nova Scotians. The directors will be accountable to the shareholder, the government. Make no mistake, the shareholder is accountable to the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, there is a place for private sector involvement in the liquor business. Initially, that place is meeting market demand not satisfied by the NSLC. Privately owned and operated agency stores will be permitted in Nova Scotian communities that are not now served by and that are some distance from NSLC outlets. The commission anticipates that at least eight agency stores will be up and running within a year. In addition, the NSLC has been instructed to develop a mechanism to permit privately operated wine and specialty liquor stores to fill that market niche. NSLC will issue a call for proposals to determine if there is a business case for contracting out the operation of its liquor warehouse facilities.

Finally, from now on, new liquor stores anywhere in Nova Scotia may be privately operated or NSLC outlets depending on a business case analysis that includes a projected return to the taxpayers.

Mr. Speaker, these actions open the door to increased private sector presence in the market place, and they do so while protecting good jobs for more than 700 NSLC employees who live, work and make a contribution to their communities across this province. Service to customers will be enhanced and the province's responsibility to regulate and control the sale and distribution of alcohol is fully maintained. Government's action announced here today exercises the diligence so many urged upon us as we undertook this review. All relevant factors were carefully considered. We said we would get out of the liquor business if such a decision made sense for the taxpayers. There is no demonstrable benefit for Nova Scotian taxpayers in the wholesale privatization of the liquor business.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the working group of public servants, and all those Nova Scotians who provided advice or made their opinions known to us. I want to thank all employees of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission for their professionalism and their patience during a process that I know was difficult for them. I want to thank my Cabinet and my caucus colleagues for their wise counsel, and I want to thank all members for their attention. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 7483]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to rise and to say a few words this morning on the minister's announcement. As I look at the minister's statement, it starts off with the phrase "Check against delivery". I think it is very appropriate and it is good advice to all Nova Scotians that they should be checking against delivery because we heard the minister make some statements, and how it unfolds we have yet to see and Nova Scotians darn well better be on their toes to make sure that they are checking to make sure the minister is actually doing most of what he says.

Mr. Speaker, it is also very interesting to note that the government can move very quickly on cutting the surcharges that are being . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: A government, Mr. Speaker, which is reaping in windfall profits on HST on home heating fuel and energy costs and is doing absolutely nothing to help the seniors and those families on low incomes address those costs. I just put that out there to put it in a context of where the government's priorities are. Now I want to touch on a number of other items and there are some things in this which are encouraging.

It is encouraging to see quite clearly that the government has backed away from the ideological bent they had at the outset, and that was to privatize, Mr. Speaker. That was quite clearly the ideological bent of this government and it is very interesting and it is very good to hear that the efforts of those employees who work in the Liquor Commission, those who have common sense, those who have been looking at this, have persuaded the government away from that at the initial stage anyway, because there are still concerns in this announcement, many concerns.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly am very pleased that the government has made a commitment, that those long-working, dedicated employees who work in those Liquor Commissions have been given a job guarantee. That is positive and I say so up front. I hope, however, down the road as they are looking at the new private liquor stores that can be set up, that that commitment truly stands, because it looks like it could be the wedge that can be used to, in fact, have the private stores replace those public ones.

Mr. Speaker, I have no objection whatsoever to having those licensees who are purchasing liquor being able to use credit cards, the same as any other customer goes in, that is just simply common sense and that is not a big deal. I also have no difficulties with the idea that the surcharge amount that is being charged should be a proper amount to cover the costs. So those things I have no difficulties with whatsoever. (Applause)

[Page 7484]

However, and I hope my next comments will elicit the same positive response from the government benches that my former remarks have made, Mr. Speaker. The minister in his statement talks about how the government wants to remove barriers to economic growth and that this is supposedly going to be somehow promoting economic growth. Mr. Speaker, all this is going to be doing is shifting where dollars are being spent. It is doing absolutely nothing to promote economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, we now have, finally, many months after it was promised, we have the PricewaterhouseCoopers Report being tabled. I would like the minister today to also agree to table any other reports and analysis that he has done that justifies what you are doing today. I want those tabled on the floor of the House today, because this report said that it was inconclusive. This report says that there are no advantages to this. So, why has the government chosen to move into a private field? This doesn't justify it. So I want to see those other reports.

Mr. Speaker, the minister talks about all of the consultations that have gone on. Those consultations have gone on in secret behind closed doors. The public discussion, the public debate actually begins today. It has not happened yet.

We also have some very serious concerns and questions about this Crown Corporation that is being established. There are a number of things that I want to know. I want to know how they are going to be appointed. Is this another place where you can appoint good Tory friends to a board where they can go in to be making the decisions and to separate the government from responsibility supposedly because these decisions towards more privatization are going to be made by the board? This Crown Corporation board? Not the government, these hand-picked Tory appointees who will carry out the Tory Government's agenda?

Mr. Speaker, will that Crown Corporation have to release publicly audited financial statements? Will that Crown Corporation be subject to the freedom of information requests? Will that Crown Corporation be subject to audits by the Auditor General of Nova Scotia? I expect that the answers to all of those is yes. At least it darn well should be yes, if there is to be any kind of accountability as the minister talks about.

I have to ask as well, Mr. Speaker, and my time is probably starting to wind down, but I have to ask if there is no financial advantage in going this route, why is it that the government chose to go to the private sector instead of expanding the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission into those areas that are not well served. The Nova Scotia Liquor Commission's employees have demonstrated and shown their willingness to cooperate with the government, cooperation to make the services more efficient, to provide better service and to make it as profitable as possible for the government. That kind of cooperation has been shown. They have even offered to have the stores open on Sunday during the tourist season.

[Page 7485]

Mr. Speaker, one has to wonder why it is that the government hasn't decided to move into expanding in those areas that are currently under-served under the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission instead of going this private route under this supposedly separate board which is going to be controlled by the commission. We have seen that some Tories, like the owners of the current warehouse that got that contract under a former Tory Government, know that there are good dollars to be made when you are friends of the government. Let's hope that history does not repeat itself. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, first off, I would like to thank the minister for advancing me a copy of the report. While we were pleased to get the report, we weren't exactly pleased with the content, but at least we were glad to finally hear something from the minister relative to this important topic that we have heard much about over the last year or more.

Mr. Speaker, it has been the practice of this government to raise a spectre of privatization, whether it be in transportation or on provincial resorts and then fall silent on the issue. As the former speaker has said, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission is doing very well, turning over a profit of last year I think $135 million to the province or somewhere around 37 per cent return on investment. The Tories have left many workers wondering about the future or why a move at all in this direction.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus can see no reason why there is any need to make any change in the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission. We have always contended on this side of the House that the public system is the best option. We can make improvements to service while government should still control the sale and distribution of liquor products. One positive change we see is the permission for the licensees to use credit cards. We agree with that, and I think it is time that was done. This is a service improvement, Mr. Speaker, that does not require the wholesale sell-off of the Liquor Commission and the government liquor stores.

[9:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the minister has talked about consultation and that it has been going on for some time but I am wondering with whom because I have talked to the board of directors of the commission. They didn't know what was going on and this was as late as yesterday. I have heard from many of the workers in the present system. They haven't heard much of what was going on so I beg to question who the consultations were taking place with.

AN HON. MEMBER: Behind closed doors.

[Page 7486]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I would assume it was behind closed doors.

In keeping with the theme of improved services, it is extremely important to ensure that rural Nova Scotia and rural liquor stores are maintained at the same high standard as those in urban areas. The minister talked about this move would grow the economy and I must say, Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much chatter in the Chamber and it is very hard to hear the speaker. The honourable member for Victoria has the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I must say that this whole process has brought unnecessary strain to the employees and their families. We must keep liquor stores public to ensure another monopoly like the Sobeys empire does not unduly benefit.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus is very concerned that the government is turning the liquor stores into a Crown Corporation like Nova Scotia Power. We all know what the board of directors of Nova Scotia Power are receiving and this will make it much easier to sell the entire operation - lock, stock and barrel - to anyone that the government chooses. If the government or the Premier, himself, is friends with the directors of a large corporation, then that puts the public system in peril.

Mr. Speaker, there is also a question of potential conflict of interest. What happens if a board of directors is made up of those with a vested interest in the liquor business or any other retail operation?

AN HON. MEMBER: Well, you know that is going to happen.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, instead of pursuing the privatization option, the government should have been working with management and unionized employees to improve the service if there were flaws in it. If the government moves down that road, we can support such initiative. If the government pursues the privatization option any further, we will continue to oppose it.

Mr. Speaker, the minister comes from a rural area of Nova Scotia, as I do, and the minister well knows that you have to drive, in some cases, further to fill you car with gas than you would to go to a liquor store.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think growing the economy by establishing more liquor stores is the route this government should be taking. As far as thanking his colleagues for their wise decision, let's wait for another six months and see how wise this decision is going to be or will be and then we will get a response from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

[Page 7487]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 64 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Regulation of the Dairy Industry. (Hon. Ernest Fage)

Bill No. 65 - Entitled an Act to Dissolve the Lunenburg War Memorial Community Centre. (Hon. Michael Baker as a private member.)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

The honourable member for Pictou East, on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a fine gentleman in your gallery, Mr. Steve Cunard, who is a retired police chief for the New Glasgow/Westville Police Department. Steve is also a friend and colleague of my colleague, the honourable member for Colchester North, Bill Langille. They no doubt worked together in Ontario. Please receive the approbation of the House. (Applause)

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2840

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

Whereas the Minister responsible for the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission announced today that private sector involvement will be allowed in the liquor business; and

Whereas the minister trumpets that the 9.3 per cent surcharge on products sold to licensed premises will be cut in half; and

Whereas Nova Scotians will be happy to hear that owners of licensed premises have been given a break while many Nova Scotians wait in vain for relief on the high cost of gasoline and fuel oil as winter approaches; (Interruptions)

Therefore be it resolved that this House asks this government where its priorities are when it allows the necessities of life to take a back seat to booze.

[Page 7488]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2841

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

Whereas Mr. Allister Surette, President of the Collège de l'Acadie and former member of this House, has been elected President of the Canadian CEGEP and Francophone Colleges Network; and

Whereas the francophone Colleges Network, created in 1995, represents 48 post-secondary collegiate teaching establishments in Canada; and

Whereas the Francophone Colleges Network's mission is to establish a true partnership among the Francophone colleges of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Mr. Surette congratulations and best wishes for a successful term as the president of this valuable Canadian educational organization.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver, please.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2842

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

[Page 7489]

Whereas today, October 27th, is the opening day of the general season for hunting deer in the Province of Nova Scotia and many hunters will be eagerly heading off into the woods; and

Whereas hunting is an important and integral part of our heritage enjoyed by many Nova Scotians; and

Whereas our safety record has been excellent over the years with few injuries and fatalities;

Therefore be it resolved that hunters continue to take care in the woods throughout the hunting season and make safety their number one priority.

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully 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. 2843

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

Whereas a study by the provincial government determined that over 1,500 public buildings in Nova Scotia have faulty joists in their roofs; and

Whereas those public buildings include 19 schools in the metro area and the Halifax Regional School Board has been aware of the joist problems for over two years; and

Whereas one of the schools affected, A.J. Smeltzer Junior High in Sackville, just opened for operation this fall after a year's closure, due to a fuel oil spill on the premises;

[Page 7490]

Therefore be it resolved that this House asks the Minister of Education to explain to parents, students and staff of A.J. Smeltzer Junior High School, why the joist problem in A.J. Smeltzer was not dealt with at the same time as repairs due to the fuel oil spill?

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. 2844

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

Whereas October 22nd to 28th has been designated Small Business Week; and

Whereas Small Business Week is sponsored by the Business Development Bank of Canada under the theme "CyberBIZ" Innovations on the Leading Edge; and

Whereas sponsors are encouraging small businesses to get involved in the e-commerce revolution which will, researchers predict, generate cost savings of the $1.25 trillion by 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this week as Small Business Week and see small businesses as a dynamic sector picking up steam.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 7491]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2845

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

Whereas Centre Consolidated School has been offering an IT program for a number of years; and

Whereas Centre Consolidated School has previously been named to the Network of Innovative Schools Honour Roll, a national organization which recognizes schools for innovative use of technology; and

Whereas this year Centre Consolidated School has been named as a member of the prestigious Network of Innovative Schools joining 55 other schools from across the country and has been awarded $10,000 in prize money;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates Centre Consolidated School on being recognized for its innovative use of technology within the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, I ask waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 2846

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

Whereas yesterday in this House the Minister of Community Services tabled a bill to overhaul the welfare system, but without the necessary regulations; and

[Page 7492]

Whereas those regulations that are missing would spell out exactly how people would be affected by the proposed changes; and

Whereas the Minister of Community Services expects members of this House to trust him and just pass this bill, without having the proper information;

Therefore be it resolved that if this government is serious about changing the way government works that it should come to this House with bills only when it has all pertinent information necessary.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2847

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 Finance has failed to live up to his election promise for detailed quarterly financial statements by not providing a detailed summary of revenue sources including motive fuel taxes, personal income tax and HST; and

Whereas this information was clearly visible on all quarterly reports issued by the previous Liberal Government; and

Whereas in a typical response, the Minister of Finance urged those who did not have the information to ask better questions even though the average citizens have little opportunity to question the minister on a daily basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance recognize that the people of Nova Scotia should not have to ask for detailed revenue source figures, that they should be included in quarterly reports, and that average citizens have the right to know, not just journalists and Opposition politicians who ask the right questions.

[Page 7493]

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.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. This is the same document that the honourable member tabled yesterday which lists all of the explanations for all of the other revenues that are there, so I invite the member to start reading because the people of Nova Scotia can read it very clearly. Obviously, he has a problem.

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

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2848

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

Whereas there has been growing concern among parents, academics, organizations such as the Royal Canadian Legion, and others that students are graduating without an understanding of Canadian history; and

[9:45 a.m.]

Whereas a 1998 Angus Reid poll found that many young Atlantic Canadians are not even familiar with some of the key people and events in their own history, with fewer than 1 per cent enrolled in Canadian history courses in Nova Scotia high schools this year; and

Whereas in order to provide high school students in Nova Scotia with an understanding of the history of their province and country, this government has announced a decision to make Canadian history a mandatory subject in Grade 11 as of the fall of 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that as we approach the time of year when our sense of past and love for country is so strong and citizens commemorate our service personnel past and present who have fought to retain our democratic freedoms in Canada, members of this

[Page 7494]

House express support for an initiative which will help to ensure continued pride for our country and in its history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

[The notice is tabled.]

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2849

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

Whereas Hilda and Vince Jackson, Loretta Sanford and Amie Stoddart were killed six days ago in the most recent fatal accident on Highway No. 101; and

Whereas as Chief of the Kentville Fire Department Vince Jackson led a team of citizens dedicated to saving lives; and

Whereas volunteer fire chiefs along Highway No. 101 are witnesses to many serious, tragic accidents taking place on the stretches of that highway which can no longer safely accommodate present traffic levels;

Therefore be it resolved that this House convey its deepest condolences to the family and friends of those who were killed on October 21st and to all of those whose lives have been changed by the deaths and serious injuries taking place along the unsafe, heavily travelled sections of Highway No. 101.

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.

[Page 7495]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2850

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

Whereas on October 22, 2000, Saint Mary's University held its fall convocation; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's chief justice, a Palestinian activist and a primary care physician are the newest recipients of honorary degrees from Saint Mary's University; and

Whereas honorary degrees were granted to Chief Justice Constance Glube, Hanan Mikhail-Ashrawi and Dr. Anne Elizabeth Duggan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to all honorary degree recipients at Saint Mary's University as well as all graduating students on their accomplishments and wish them continued success in all future endeavours.

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

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

Is it agreed?

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. 2851

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

Whereas at a time when Canada's national banks are often closing, not constructing branches in rural Nova Scotia; and

[Page 7496]

Whereas it is still encouraging to see that at least one of the national banks is showing confidence in rural Nova Scotia by constructing a new 4,300 square foot branch in downtown New Glasgow; and

Whereas the Bank of Montreal's state-of-the-art facility is scheduled to open next spring and offer a wide range of everyday and specialized financial services;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly encourage our banking institutions to follow the lead by investing, not abandoning rural Nova Scotia.

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. (Interruptions)

Order, please. There is so much talk in the Chamber it is hard to hear the speakers. It is hard to hear the response. I would ask the members if they are going to talk, to go outside, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 2852

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

Whereas the residents of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Halifax Regional Municipality elected new mayors on October 21st, John Morgan and Peter Kelly; and

Whereas the outgoing mayors, David Muise and Walter Fitzgerald, have demonstrated considerable commitment and dedication during their terms as mayors and in other public services; and

Whereas these amalgamated municipalities, CBRM and HRM, pose particular challenges to anyone who is honoured by the voters with election to council or the mayor's chair;

[Page 7497]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates David Muise, Walter Fitzgerald, Peter Kelly and John Morgan, the outgoing and the newly elected mayors of our province's largest municipalities.

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 member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2853

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

Whereas on October 27, 2000, former Glace Bay High School administrator, George MacDonald will be honoured by the Nova Scotia School Counsellors Association; and

Whereas as a counsellor for 27 years, Mr. MacDonald devoted his service to students at Glace Bay High School, Reserve District High School and St. Michael's Senior High School; and

Whereas Mr. MacDonald was instrumental in creating several key programs including peer counselling, peer mentoring and guidance for adult students;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. George MacDonald for having played an integral part in the lives of hundreds of students in the Cape Breton area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 7498]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2854

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

Whereas the Town of Annapolis Royal was recently represented at the 22nd annual Canadian Waste Management Conference in Halifax; and

Whereas Mark Dittrick of ACEPA and outgoing town councillor Adrian Nette participated in a discussion of the town's waste management policies; and

Whereas delegates from across Canada have expressed an interest in travelling to Annapolis Royal to take a closer look at the town's in-community composting program, which has meant the removal of the cost for long-haul trucking;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly take this opportunity to congratulate Mark and Adrian for their excellent presentation, as well as the Town of Annapolis Royal for being recognized as a Canadian leader in waste management.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 7499]

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

Whereas a group of widows came to this House yesterday to confront this government and ask hard questions; and

Whereas one widow wrote in a letter, why don't you adhere to the ruling of the Supreme Court judge; and

Whereas she also asks, why are you not following the lead of other provinces in doing what is fair, just and right;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier answer Linda's questions today in this House.

[This resolution would later be ruled out of order.]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2855

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

Whereas the Riverview Reds won the Cape Breton High School Division 1 Girls Soccer League Championship on Sunday, October 22, 2000; and

Whereas the title entitles the Reds to host a Nova Scotia Schools Athletic Federation provincial qualifying tournament beginning today, October 27, 2000; and

Whereas the Riverview Reds were second during the regular season, with a 5 to 3 victory;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the Riverview Reds on their victory and wish them success in this weekend's tournament.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 7500]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2856

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

Whereas Kentville Town Planner David Wallace is the only municipal employee in Canada, and one of the six nominees, in the Unique Achievement Category for the Distinction Awards 2000, part of the Technology in Government Week Awards to be named in the coming weeks; and

Whereas Mr. Wallace was nominated by his employer, the Town of Kentville, for his leadership and work on several projects going on within the town this year; and

Whereas his nomination was based on several initiatives, including the design and implementation of the Web Cam for the town's web page in which the 2000 Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival was shown live, resulting in over 5,000 hits from around the world in a two hour period;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislature congratulate Mr. Wallace for his efforts in the exposure and promotion of the Town of Kentville, which helped increase the town's visibility on a worldwide basis.

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 Centre.

[Page 7501]

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

Whereas in a letter tabled in this House yesterday, Annie C. Nelson talks about the death of her first husband in 1969 at the Trenton Power Station; and

Whereas Annie struggled to raise her young daughter on money she received from Workers' Compensation; and

Whereas Annie remarried in 1971, she was cut off from benefits she and her daughter had been receiving from Workers' Compensation, causing her undue financial hardships;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier take some advice Annie has for him if he would just do the right thing by the widows, "When you retire, you can say I did one good thing when I was in office. I gave the widows of Nova Scotia what they had already won in court in April, 1999."

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2857

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

Whereas on October 24, 2000, the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce held its Small Business Week Dinner in Ports Hawkesbury; and

Whereas during the dinner, the Chamber presented its Club 25 Champion Awards to Jim Marchand of Canso Realties, Lawyer Art Pickup of Pickup and McDowell and Tony Rooyakers of Rooyakers Farms; and

Whereas 101.5 FM The Hawk was also inducted into Club 25 in recognition of the station's 25th year in the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all Club 25 Champion Award winners and wish them continued success as they continue to serve their local communities.

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

[Page 7502]

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 for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2858

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

Whereas the Minister of Health stated in this House yesterday that the concerns of doctors in Truro had not gone through the proper channels; and

Whereas the doctors in question met with their MLA on Sunday morning, October 21st in Truro; and

Whereas the MLA for those doctors and for the area in question is none other than the Minister of Health himself;

Therefore be it resolved that if talking to the Minister of Health directly after all other appeals have failed isn't a proper channel, then this government should explain to Nova Scotians what exactly is supposed to be the proper channel.

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 for Cape Breton West.

[Page 7503]

RESOLUTION NO. 2859

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

Whereas the provincial Tory Government is downloading responsibility for water inspections and water quality to municipalities, school boards, other agencies and individuals; and

Whereas this provincial Tory Government is also downloading the costs of such services; and

Whereas the provincial Department of the Environment has been reduced to that of a shadowed clearing house;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial Tory Government be chastised for abdicating its responsibility to provide for the health and safety of communities across Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2860

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

Whereas recreational needs for the expanding communities of Beechville, Lakeside and Timberlea must remain a priority for all involved; and

Whereas an active group of community volunteers have founded a Rails to Trails organization for the abandoned rail line which stretches from the Lakeside Industrial Park to Sir John A. Macdonald High School; and

Whereas the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails executive consists of Katherine Klefenz, Wayne Rogers, Heather Stewart and Terry Henley;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Beechville-Lakeside- Timberlea Rails to Trails group for its initiative, with best wishes of good luck in future endeavours.

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

[Page 7504]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[10:00 a.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 2861

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

Whereas yesterday a group of women seeking an audience with the Premier on workers' compensation issues tried to talk to the Premier; and

Whereas the Premier indicated that workers' compensation involves public money and the government has to be careful in how it spends public money; and

Whereas workers' compensation is not public money, but is part of an accident insurance fund set up by the payment of employer premiums by every firm doing business in the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier should be educated on the subject of workers' compensation, so that he can discuss intelligently matters relating to a topic on which he obviously needs much instruction.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 2862

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

[Page 7505]

Whereas yesterday in this House the member for Richmond, in asking a question of the Minister of Justice, defamed two persons by linking their names with the actions of others who are suspected of committing criminal frauds; and

Whereas doing so, the member for Richmond did something which, were it not for the special statutory protection afforded members while speaking in this Chamber, would have made him liable for damages in an action in a court of law; and

Whereas the member for Richmond, being a lawyer, knows full well that if he had any special knowledge of criminal action by these two persons, which he certainly does not, he would be under a duty to report them to the RCMP;

Therefore be it resolved that this House censure the member for Richmond for scurrilously taking advantage of his position as a member to defame these two persons, and calls upon him to apologize to them publicly forthwith. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I do not seek waiver of notice because I would like to have this debated. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2863

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

Whereas municipal elections were held throughout Nova Scotia on October 21st; and

Whereas municipal government is the form of government closest to the people; and

Whereas many Nova Scotians offered themselves as candidates, demonstrating their commitment to the democratic process;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate all those involved in the municipal elections across this province, and that Mr. Speaker convey this resolution on behalf of the House to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7506]

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. 2864

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

Whereas Alexander Graham Bell, who spent much of his time at Beinn Bhreagh, was an innovator who changed the way the world communicates and sends messages; and

Whereas this Tory Government sent the message that tourism was a priority and thus appointed a full-time Tourism Minister; and

Whereas as a result the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck saw a 5 per cent decrease in visitors - almost 6,000 people - after a banner year in 1999;

Therefore be it resolved that this House question why tourism is suffering under our full-time Tourism Minister, despite the world-class service offered by the staff of the Bell Museum who are ambassadors for Nova Scotia.

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.

Order, please. I would ask members who are standing to please take their seats, and if they wish to speak to go outside the Chamber. Thank you.

[Page 7507]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

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

Whereas yesterday the widows who won the Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision for reinstatement of pension from Worker's Compensation came to this House looking for answers from this government; and

Whereas these women who were very young when their husbands died on the job suffered financial hardships after losing their husbands; and

Whereas this Tory Government seems intent on making them suffer even more;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Minister of Justice explain to these widows how they can be so completely mean-spirited and hard-hearted.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am ruling that motion out of order because it does directly relate to, as I mentioned yesterday, issues before the Appeal Court in this province, and if I allow it to be tabled, it can be called for discussion. The same with the member for Cape Breton Centre, the resolution, as well, is out of order.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, on a point or order. I would like to refer you to Beauchesne and particularly Paragraph 511 that says, "The freedom of speech accorded to Members of Parliament is a fundamental right without which they would be hampered in the performance of their duties. The Speaker should interfere with that freedom of speech only in exceptional cases where it is clear that to do otherwise could be harmful to specific individuals."

Mr. Speaker, the only party that would be specifically affected by any questions being brought here would be the government, not a specific individual, let alone the fact that in Beauchene it is quite clear that with regard to civil matters, not criminal matters, there is no clear rule with regard to sub judice being applied and on top of that, this is not a matter that will be directly affecting any individual. I would ask you to reconsider that decision and take into consideration the fact that this is not affecting individuals, but this is a matter that must be dealt with and is a fundamental right of the members of this House to speak on it. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order I would submit to Your Honour that the Rules of this House are that rulings of the Speaker are not subject to appeal except by way of substantive motion.

[Page 7508]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I made the ruling yesterday and again today I am stating that I rule those motions out of order for the reason I explained yesterday and they are out of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2865

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

Whereas last week's mini-budget and the addition of Brian Tobin to the federal Cabinet has consolidated the Liberal Party's lead according to the latest cross-Canada poll by Leger Marketing; and

Whereas this poll indicates the voter intentions are firm with 48 per cent of decided voters for the Liberals as compared with 21 per cent for the Alliance, 10 per cent for the Bloc Quebecois and 8 per cent apiece for the PC and NDP; and

Whereas when asked which Leader is the most honest, the majority chose Prime Minister Jean Chretien, with only 16 per cent choosing Joe Clark; 15 per cent, Stockwell Day; and 8 per cent, Alexa McDonough, just a shade above Gilles Duceppe with 5 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leger poll demonstrates how the Liberal Party is headed for re-election as the Government of Canada, and how support for fringe Parties, which only plays into the hands of Stock and the Bloc, is at least ill-considered.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2866

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

Whereas dedication to service, especially when it promotes this province to the outside world, deserves recognition quite often not bestowed; and

Whereas such dedication sometime puts personal concerns on the back burner; and

Whereas Allan Hiltz of Forties, Lunenburg County, is being honoured this evening for 31 years of dedicated service as director of the Ross Farm Museum;

[Page 7509]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Board of Trustees of the New Ross District Museum Society for seeing fit to recognize Mr. Hiltz for his service, but most importantly members recognize Allan Hiltz for his commitment to the museum, thank him for his service and wish him well in his retirement years.

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 Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2867

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 member for Dartmouth South has taken it upon himself to become the Tory media attack dog by lambasting the coverage of the Truro Daily News; and

Whereas the member went on to accuse the Truro Daily News of failing to discharge its responsibility to be fair and accurate; and

Whereas this assault on the freedom of the press clearly demonstrates contempt for the media, especially the media who disagree with that member;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Dartmouth South represents a danger to the freedom of the press in Nova Scotia, and that the Premier would be well advised to keep him out of the Cabinet before he is in a position to damage Nova Scotia's free press heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

I hear several Noes.

[Page 7510]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

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

Whereas the Premier said yesterday to widows, "what we're simply trying to sort out is what our responsibility is to you and to others"; and

Whereas the Premier need only look to both the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and the Workers' Compensation Appeal Tribunal to find out what his government's responsibility is to the widows; and

Whereas the Premier must answer the widows' main question: how many times do we have to win to get what is fair?

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier need look no further to find out what his responsibility is. It is to compensate these women who have suffered so much for so long.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That notice of motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2868

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

Whereas Wileville resident Bob Hebb is the new world-record holder for the largest squash grown; and

Whereas Mr. Hebb, a dairy farmer who grows squash and pumpkins, participated in the 16th Annual Great Atlantic Weigh-Off on October 7, 2000 in Windsor; and

Whereas Mr. Hebb's prize-winning squash weighed in at 990 pounds, breaking the previous world record set at 962 pounds;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mr. Bob Hebb on setting this new world record, and wish him all the best at growing next year's gourd.

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

[Page 7511]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

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

Whereas in a letter tabled in this House yesterday, Gary Seward talks about the difficulties encountered by his widowed mother; and

Whereas Gary talks about how his mother did without so that her nine children could have the necessities of life; and

Whereas Gary indicates that his mother, like the other widows, should be enjoying their later years instead of fighting with the government in court;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain to Gary why his mother and the other 61 widows are being forced back into court by this heartless Minister of Justice.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice of motion is out of order.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2869

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

Whereas the month of October has been designated National Environmental Illness Awareness Month; and

Whereas 15 per cent of Canadians are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and Fibromyalgia (FM); and

[Page 7512]

Whereas on November 18th and 19th, the EISC will host its "Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide" conference, at which participants will be taught about the links between environment and health;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize October as National Environmental Illness Awareness Month and do their part to allow all Canadians to live healthy lives.

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

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 Centre.

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

Whereas in a letter tabled in the House yesterday, Queenie (Reid) Cole talked about the death of her first husband, who was killed in the bump in 1958 in Springhill; and

Whereas due to her Christian beliefs she remarried several years later, thereby losing out on her widow's pension from Workers' Compensation; and

Whereas in her letter, Queenie pleads with you, Mr. Premier: "Please sir, in my twilight years, allow me to be able to live with some dignity . . . ";

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier explain to Queenie and all the other widows why his government has continued to pursue their heartless course of action by appealing the court's decision.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is out of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 7513]

RESOLUTION NO. 2870

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

Whereas the new Occupational Health and Safety regulations will become law on November 1st following scrutiny by the red tape commission task force; and

[10:15 a.m.]

Whereas these regulations flow from a review process involving management and labour which began in 1993; and

Whereas these regulations were ready for the implementation at least six months ago but were delayed as a result of the actions of the red tape task force;

Therefore be it resolved that the government immediately disband its make work project for Tory backbenchers, the red tape task force, which instead of getting rid of red tape is causing more red tape by delaying implementation of necessary safety regulations.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2871

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

Whereas Heather Henderson was re-elected President of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union; and

Whereas this election is the first time the nurses have endorsed a full-time president's position; and

Whereas nurses have chosen a strong, assertive leader to carry their message of concern on health care to the government;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Heather Henderson on her re-election as President of Nova Scotia Nurses Union.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 7514]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2872

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

Whereas the number of disabled persons in Nova Scotia is about 21 per cent, according to Statistics Canada figures; and

Whereas major oil companies and independent dealers in this province are converting their service stations to total self-serve; and

Whereas this province is promoting a barrier-free environment for disabled persons;

Therefore be it resolved that the provincial government notify these major oil companies and independent dealers of their displeasure over this move and encourage them to stop this practice.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 7515]

RESOLUTION NO. 2873

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

Whereas access to coastal properties and islands for traditional recreational purposes is becoming an increasing problem for Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Nova Scotians want the opportunity to have their say publicly on this emotional issue; and

Whereas, as legislators, we have a responsibility to listen to all involved on this controversial topic;

Therefore be it resolved that this government form an all-Party committee of MLAs to tour the province to listen to the views of Nova Scotians, and non-residents alike, on the continuing problem of access to and use of coastal properties.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 2874

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

Whereas Halifax Regional Municipality has been studying the possibility of a commuter rail system for several years; and

Whereas a transportation modal shift to commuter rail would help to improve air quality and lessen traffic pressures on residential neighbourhoods in peninsular Halifax; and

Whereas this government has no transportation policy to promote reduction in use of automobiles;

Therefore be it resolved that the mandate of the Energy Council be expanded to include the development of a responsible transportation policy.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[Page 7516]

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 Second Reading.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 60.

Bill No. 60 - Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor and you have 56 minutes left. (Interruptions)

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am being motivated by some government members to stand up and to say I welcome the opportunity to say a few words which is normally what I would say if I were planning to stretch it out for about an hour but I am no necessarily intending to do that today, unless I should happen to get so motivated.

I do want to pick up and continue, however, on a vein that I was starting on yesterday when I began my remarks. As I do that, Mr. Speaker, I also do say that I agree pretty well with speakers from all sides who have said that it is regrettable that it is necessary for us to have to have a code of conduct. But whether it is needed or not, perception is reality. Certainly we have had situations in the past which have given credence to the need to have such a code of conduct. So the perception is, in fact, the reality.

Mr. Speaker, my concern is not really that we would have a code of conduct, nor is my concern that the code of conduct could be expanded so that it was to include not only Cabinet Ministers and senior members of the bureaucracy like deputy ministers, but my concern is that, really, the code of conduct, as it is being introduced has very little in the way of teeth.

Mr. Speaker, we are in second reading debate. Yesterday, I said that, for example, without any hesitation I would be voting for this legislation to go forward to the Law Amendments Committee, and I will. That is my intention. But I hope at the Law Amendments Committee process or here in the Committee of the Whole House stage that there may be a willingness on behalf of the government to look at making some amendments to it.

[Page 7517]

Mr. Speaker, I am not interested in going back and digging out, some of this has been done by others previously, and I am not interested in going and looking at what some others may or may not have been accused of doing, whether they were or they were not found guilty; that really, although it may have been the substance or the basis for having this code of conduct brought forward, is almost beside the point. Quite frankly, it doesn't matter which political Party - and I say this in a totally candid way because all political Parties across the country have had situations where some members have been called into question, so this should not be a partisan issue and it shouldn't be something that needs or requires that we go in and look at or try to cast stones at some either present or former members. That is not necessary.

My concern with the legislation is that what it is doing is it is only putting into effect the code of conduct that was tabled in this House by the Premier back in 1999. It does say that the Governor in Council may adopt a code of conduct for members of the Executive Council, that would be a code of conduct that would be different from that which is referred to in subsection 7A(3), where is says, "The ministerial code of conduct tabled in the House of Assembly by the Premier on November 18, 1999, is the Ministerial Code of Conduct until it is amended or replaced by the Governor in Council pursuant to this Section."

Mr. Speaker, I think that there should be some broader consultation, and I also want to point out a couple of what I consider to be glaring problems with the code of conduct. I am not talking about whether a person can or can't sit down and have a meeting with a business person or a labour representative or a community representative over lunch, talking about issues. I am not talking about whether or not a member can have shares in a credit union in order to have an account there. What I am talking about is the process.

Mr. Speaker, under the code of conduct, as it is introduced, it says that, "The Conflict of Interest Commissioner, upon receipt of a complaint or question forwarded to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner by resolution of the House of Assembly, or by the Executive Council, may investigate, report and make recommendations or responses in writing to the House or Executive Council, as the case may be." Well, that code of conduct says that the Conflict of Interest Commissioner can only investigate a complaint if the House of Assembly as a whole votes and passes a resolution.

If we have, as we do today - and I am not suggesting that this government would do it because I am trying to keep partisan politics out of it completely - but if you have a situation where you have a majority government, whatever stripe may happen to be on the benches at that time, if there is a concern that there could be a conflict of interest that could be embarrassing to the government members, I wonder just how likely it is that the government of the day which holds a majority would be willing to pass a resolution to send that to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, if that could be embarrassing. Some governments may, some others may not.

[Page 7518]

If somebody has a concern with freedom of information, you don't have to go through this House. Once upon a time, and the Minister of Finance will remember the days when we used to spend a lot of time on Opposition Day doing House Orders. You could put forward a House Order, Mr. Speaker, and that was the only way, really, Opposition Parties could get any information, you wait until the House would come into session, you gather up all the things that you want information on, you submit a House Order and if it is innocuous enough, it might get voted on and passed and you might get the information. There was often a provision put in those House Orders when they were passed and the provision from the minister would be something along the line, well, whatever is available or whatever we can provide to you. So, in other words, whenever the House Order was passed, basically what it meant was we will give you what we decide we would like to give you. Then we got a Freedom of Information Act.

Under the Freedom of Information Act, we made some major steps forward. You no longer have to only come to this House and put a resolution forward and hope that you get a House Order passed and hope that the government is asleep at the wheel and that they don't know exactly what you are looking for and that they agree to it holus bolus. That happens sometimes. Mr. Speaker, at that time, too, even if it was passed they would say, yes, we will give it to you but they didn't say when. It might have been six months, a year and, of course, it might never have come. If they don't provide it as was promised in those days, you might try to censure the government, bring in a resolution to criticize the government, to censure the government for not having done it. So where does that go, it doesn't get passed. So we made a major step forward with the Freedom of Information Act.

What I am suggesting here, Mr. Speaker, is that it should not only be a situation where you have to have a resolution passed on the floor of the House of Assembly in order to have the Conflict of Interest Commissioner look at something, nor to only have the Executive Council ask for that to be investigated. We have a process under the freedom of information that not only members of this House but any citizen in the Province of Nova Scotia, if they have a request for information, then they have a right to apply under the Freedom of Information Act. There could be some modest costs involved, paying for the photocopying and those kinds of things, and there can be reasons, certainly valid reasons, given for denying the access to that information. But under this code of conduct, the only opportunity to file or to request that the Conflict of Interest Commissioner look at something is restricted to members of this House. Only to members of this House.

Why can't members of the general public who feel that there is a conflict of interest, why can't that person make that presentation or make that request to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner? Yes, indeed, I am sure that the number of complaints, the number of requests could increase and that could cost a little money. That is a reality. However, Mr. Speaker, it might also instill a lot more confidence of the public in elected officials.

[Page 7519]

[10:30 a.m.]

I believe - maybe naively, but I don't think so - that somebody of the calibre of our present and, in fact, our past, Conflict of Interest Commissioner as well, that if a scurrilous or a frivolous or a vexatious complaint is made that they would very quickly be discarded. I don't think for one minute that any attention would be paid to a possible conflict of interest if a resident said that they saw a particular minister having lunch with so and so at, I don't care if it is Harvey's or if it is another fast-food outlet or some expensive downtown restaurant. I don't think that that would be deemed a conflict of interest and it wouldn't be given any attention

If somebody has some evidence of real conflict of interest, what could they do under this? They could have it politicized by bringing it to a member of a political Party and ask that the political Party bring forward a resolution to try to get the House to pass it to have it go on or if the member of the public has hard evidence, they could then make that presentation directly to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.

I don't think that that is a bad idea. In fact, I think that it might do something to instill a greater confidence in us. So that is the kind of thing when I am talking about the rules under the current code, Mr. Speaker, that I think would be an improvement to the legislation that is before us.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that we will have an opportunity to have more discussion about this legislation in the Law Amendments Committee process and also in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills. I have talked about the one main thing already and how I would like to see it expanded, but I can't help but point out the irony of something else here.

Guideline 1 says, "Ministers must be truthful and forthright. Ministers must not deceive or knowingly mislead the House of Assembly or the public, or permit or encourage agents of the Government to deceive or mislead the House or the public." Mr. Speaker, I am sure you would agree - well, maybe not but I am sure that most members on this side of the House anyway - that sometimes a minister, when they are called upon during a Question Period, is less than forthright with the full amount of information. In fact, our own rules state that a minister doesn't have to answer a question. That is our own rule, believe it or not, they don't have to answer.

I can remember a former Premier who, in his minister's day when asked a question, stood up and said, na-na-na-na-na and sat down. A certain Minister of Agriculture might even know to whom I am referring. I think he won the silver tongue award that year from the press gallery for his articulate response. He won it a few times.

[Page 7520]

My point is, Mr. Speaker, we even have a conflict between our rules and the guidelines because the rules say you don't have to answer and under the guidelines here, it says that a minister has to be truthful and forthright. How are we going to enforce this? Can you imagine?

Now, the Minister of Finance is always - and I'm keeping a straight face here - truthful and forthright completely. He lays out all of the information, never tries to hide any information, never would do that, no. Never would. And you can't see my tongue-in-cheek at all as I am speaking, I am sure. But, let's say that we discovered that the minister or another minister of the benches was being less than candid, less than completely forthright and truthful.

How do we get these guidelines enforced because of course he would be in breach of the guidelines? Some might even suggest that, gosh, some of these ministers have been in breach of these guidelines, probably even after the day they were tabled. So what can we do? The member for Cape Breton West or Dartmouth East or Dartmouth South or anyone of them, Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, Halifax Needham or myself, we could introduce a resolution saying, oh, the minister was bad, wasn't truthful, and ask for a resolution to be passed by this House to send it to the Conflict of Interest Commission. Now, do you think that we would have a very good chance, Mr. Speaker, of having that passed?

The Minister of Agriculture is nodding his head, yes, he is the eternal optimist. Yes, Mr. Speaker, that optimism, and a buck - what is it, five? - will get you a little cup of coffee as you go through the drive-thru window and nothing else. The reality is let's not hang our hats on this resolution or on this bill as being a solution to all the problems, especially those, and I don't know if there is ever going to be an answer or if there can ever be a complete answer, and in this kind of system, let's be quite candid and honest about it, the kind of parliamentary system of debate and back and forth. I don't know that you are ever going to have a situation or could have a situation where you would expect the government members or know that a government minister, regardless of the political stripes - it didn't happen under the last ones and it hasn't happened under this one - where a minister is going to stand up and say, oh yes, you ask such an interesting question and yes, here is a complete answer, and by the way, even though this hurts our government, I got to tell you this: we didn't do this or this either. I don't really see that happening.

But surely, Mr. Speaker, we can at least make some progress by asking that the legislation be amended in such a way that you don't have to only go through this Chamber or through the Executive Council to have the Conflict of Interest Commissioner look into what is seen by members out there in the public as a conflict. As I have given my remarks, I have tried to steer clear of talking about individuals, whether of this Party, the government's Party, the Liberal Party across this country. That is not necessary. The public expects that there should be, and they have a right to expect that there should be a code of conduct. I think

[Page 7521]

that as well as expecting that there should be one, there should be a way for the general public to have input into having what they perceive to be conflicts of interest investigated.

With those briefer than sometimes remarks, Mr. Speaker, I indicate, as I take my seat that I will be voting in support of this bill going forward. I look forward to the cooperation of members on the government benches as they are going to, of course, eagerly want to ensure that the conflict of interest legislation that is before us is going to in fact be strengthened so that their promise to be accountable to the general public will be strengthened. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and say a few words on Bill No. 60, Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act, an amendment to the 1991 legislation that was brought before this House.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to take a slightly different approach on this particular piece of legislation on the principle of this bill as opposed to some of my colleagues. There is one thing I have found over the years and that is that you cannot, no matter how hard government tries, legislate opinion. You cannot legislate opinion. You cannot legislate conduct. One thing we found from my experience over the years, and in many cases, the optics of a particular piece of legislation is as important and certainly from a government point of view in many cases more important than the actual substance. That does not diminish in any way, from my perspective, the importance of this particular piece of legislation because our caucus will support this piece of legislation going on to the Law Amendments Committee.

We support the principle of this particular piece of legislation and we support any opportunity to make improvements in the process by which not only Ministers of the Crown conduct themselves, but certainly all members of the Legislature. One of the things that we seem to overlook is that this legislation does not necessarily apply to individual members who are not members of the Executive Council.

Mr. Speaker, I understand somebody is looking for an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, honourable member, would you allow for an introduction? Thank you.

The honourable member for Kings South on an introduction.

MR. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cape Breton West. We are privileged today to have the Balser family in the gallery. Up there we have his wife, Wendy; daughters, Erin, Jill and Anne; and we would like them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 7522]

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, welcome to our guests in the gallery, all our visitors.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am a bit concerned that this particular piece of legislation does not extend to all members of the Legislature. I believe that it should in a different measured form, but I believe there is some opportunity to make some amendments at the Law Amendments Committee and certainly I would hope that the government would support these particular amendments. To understand, I think, the importance and the mechanics of this particular piece of legislation, without going back and naming names and digging up old bones as one would say, I think what may have been acceptable 30 years ago is certainly not acceptable today. What was acceptable 10 years ago would certainly not be acceptable today and that has a lot to do with attitudes.

HON. JAMES MUIR: What was acceptable 16 months ago is not acceptable today.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, that is absolutely correct. The Minister of Health says what was acceptable 16 months ago is not acceptable today and that is right, Mr. Speaker. We were prepared to put $600 million to help the people of Nova Scotia in health care whereas he did not think that was good enough. He would rather lay nurses off, close down hospitals and see doctors leave their communities, but I will leave that for another day.

So that having been said, Mr. Speaker, when we are talking about code of conduct, certainly that is incumbent on every member of the Legislature to conduct themselves in a professional, courteous and respectful manner, not only towards ourselves, but to all Nova Scotians and, of course, if we fail in one form or the other, we eventually pay the price because that is the good part of democracy. As Winston Churchill said one time, just after the war, you know democracy is a terrible form of government, but all others are worse. We can thank our lucky stars that we live in a province like Nova Scotia where things are so good. As tough as times are in certain areas and on certain issues, we can be thankful for that.

[10:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this particular piece of legislation affords us the opportunity to take us to the next level, because things are not as editorialized as they once were in Nova Scotia. If we go back 20 or 30 years ago, in the media, for example, and the access of what happened in the Legislature here or in government in general, whether it be at the bureaucratic or the political level, generally the people wouldn't learn about that until, perhaps, a few days later or maybe a week later, in an editorial comment from some major newspaper or perhaps some local newspaper would be lucky enough to capture a local perspective on that particular issue. Then it would become well known. Today everything is pretty well instantaneous. What happens in here today, even as I speak, is being broadcast, for the most part, right across this province.

[Page 7523]

The politicians, the media and so on have different roles to play today. They have different responsibilities. It is incumbent on us to respond to that different form of accountability. That, in many ways, is why this particular piece of legislation is before the House today, because of the actions of individuals in the past that have required government to respond to public opinion. Their opinion is that what we did in the past was not acceptable, because when one politician does something, it reflects badly on all of us, if it is a bad deed, irrespective of what political stripe.

Mr. Speaker, that is why this particular piece of legislation is, as flawed as it may be and as much as it is about optics as it is, about really making some substantive changes, because there are considerable loopholes in this particular piece of legislation, although when you get behind the scenes and you really get into the mechanics of it and the rationale, it is like the government is being dragged, slowly, towards its point of destination in giving the people of Nova Scotia what it so rightly deserves.

Mr. Speaker, also, I believe I would be remiss, and I have heard it mentioned in other jurisdictions, not only here in Canada but across the United States, when we are talking about code of conduct, and yourself, Mr. Speaker, pro tem, is well aware, in the media, how sometimes the media can communicate a message that doesn't necessarily reflect the accuracy of the circumstance or the issue before us. I have heard it suggested on a number of occasions that perhaps we should bring in some code of conduct legislation for the media and those in telecommunications. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps that would help to eliminate some of the suspicion, the mistrust that exists between the various stakeholders that play a major role in communicating what we do as legislators, as public policy makers, as community leaders here in Nova Scotia. Because when you think about it, we have 52 members here out of close to 1 million people. It is quite an honour, a very special honour to be chosen to come before this House and represent the concerns, the interests and many of the issues that the people across Nova Scotia want represented here. They want them done fairly. They want them done with honour, respect, courtesy, and for all politicians to be truthful.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, perhaps there are times when we don't show as much respect for each other as we should.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for the Speaker to make an introduction, please?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 7524]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. I would like to introduce in the gallery today Major Harold Long, who was Sergeant-at-Arms here at the Nova Scotia Legislature, and the longest-serving in the country as a matter of fact, from 1956 until 1990. Today, Major Long is accompanied by his wife, Stella. Welcome. (Applause)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to extend a special welcome to our former Sergeant-at-Arms. He was a very delightful individual to work with, and he certainly kept the Tory benches in check back when John Buchanan and company were on that side, and I see some ministers here today who were in that government then, who certainly had a lot of positive experiences with Major Long. I don't know if he took enough of them out by the arm or not, some of them are back here, but we will leave that for a future day.

Mr. Speaker, back to the topic of code of conduct, also consideration has to be given to what type of punishment is appropriate, should an individual member, a minister, breach that sense of trust that is put in their charge. What happens if after a member retires from politics it is found out that that particular member, either he or she, breached that code while they were in office? Is there any recourse for after the fact? Certainly we can't go back in time, but we can't start grandfather-clausing some of these activities and keeping some things in check.

If it is found that a Minister of the Crown could very well be concealing an inappropriate action or a participation in an action that is contrary to the code of conduct and to the trust that was put in their charge, if that is not found out until after the fact, after that member leaves public office, should they not be held accountable? Or will that only add to the cynicism and the contempt that people have for politicians and the political process? So if we are going to do things, I think we have to look at the whole picture.

I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that should certainly apply to backbenchers on the government side, and certainly to Opposition members. With that having been said, I believe we have to give some serious consideration to the process from which this type of information is disseminated. I do have some concern about the fact that we would have to come back to the Legislature here to be able to refer something on to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner. That is certainly not the case now, albeit that the teeth are not into the process now because it is more of an optional thing than it is a legislative requirement, as it presently stands. There is nothing legally in many circumstances that could be done even if one wanted to. So we go back to the issue of perception is reality.

If this particular piece of legislation turns out to be just about optics, then I think we will miss a golden opportunity. I recall when Premier Cameron came before this House with conflict of interest legislation, this was going to end all the ills that caused the government so much grief during that particular tenure under the administration from 1978 until 1992-93. But it didn't, Mr. Speaker. Under the following administration, under the Liberal

[Page 7525]

Administration of Premier John Savage, further amendments were brought in. Now we are back here again for a third round to achieve what we all said was going to be cured in the first round. I highly suspect that if optics is more important than the reality of what we are trying to achieve, if perception is what we are trying to achieve more so than reality, I strongly suspect we will be back here in another year or two years down the road.

With that having been said, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to make these interventions on this particular piece of legislation. As I said, we certainly will be supporting this going on to the Law Amendments Committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to make a few remarks on Bill No. 60, with respect to the Ministerial Code of Conduct. What I would like to say about the introduction of this code is that I think we all are aware, everybody in this Legislature, that there is a growing concern in the public, and certainly in Legislatures all around the world I would submit, there is a loss of public confidence in representative democracy.

Recently I had an opportunity to participate in a CPA seminar where a member of the U.K. Parliament from Westminster spoke about this very problem and indicated that in the U.K. certainly the view is that the decline in the public confidence in parliamentary democracy is largely because governments have failed to deliver on campaign promises they make during elections and that this, in fact, is where the deep cynicism comes from in terms of public confidence in representative democracy. I must say I couldn't have agreed with him more when he made this statement. So I think I want to give that as a context for the comments I will make about this Ministerial Code of Conduct.

I would say to this government while this may be a very important step in terms of introducing some kind of guidelines, as weak as they appear to be in many respects, the really important thing that is required and the thing this government needs to keep in mind if they are serious about restoring any kind of faith in the political process in this province, is that the first thing they need to be thinking about is, in fact, keeping the political promises they made to the people of Nova Scotia in the election campaign two summers ago. I am afraid their record to date with respect to health care, education and the disadvantaged shows, in fact, they have forgotten the important lesson and they are failing to keep promises they made around investing in health care and improving education and what have you. So Ministerial Codes of Conduct aren't the number one thing on the public's mind. When people get up in the morning and go to work or take care of their children, drop them off at the school, they are not thinking about whether or not this government has introduced a Ministerial Code of Conduct. They are thinking about what this government had to say about investing and improving the health care system, which hasn't occurred, for example. So, those are the first remarks I would like to make.

[Page 7526]

Mr. Speaker, a number of members have spoken on Bill No. 60, saying it is regrettable we have to have a code of conduct or that it is unfortunate we have a code of conduct. I am not sure I see this in the same way. I would ask, what took so long to have a code of conduct? Why would people in this Legislature feel they are any different than other professional groups that have codes of conduct and codes of ethics and have had them for many, many years? The medical profession, the nursing profession, the social work profession, the legal profession; these are all groups for whom codes of conduct have been a standard feature of everyday professional practice. If you think about ministers and the Executive Council, the members of Cabinet are extraordinarily powerful, they make decisions about the expenditure of $5 billion annually in public funds in this province. So, of course there should be a code of conduct that would regulate and hold them accountable so that the expenditure of those funds will be done, for example, and all of the decisions regarding those decisions and expenditures are made, in an open and transparent way, that public dollars aren't being used for partisan purposes or they are not being used for personal gain. This is what a code of conduct is designed to do, or should be designed to do.

[11:00 a.m.]

Therefore, it is only proper that there be a Ministerial Code of Conduct, and time will tell, I would assume, whether or not this particular set of guidelines will be effective, will go far enough. This code of conduct has been critiqued somewhat already, by members of my caucus, so I am not going to cover that ground. I think it is important that we recognize that this is the first step, but it is a step that has some weaknesses. Perhaps in the Law Amendments process, we will have an opportunity to address and strengthen this particular set of guidelines that is being brought forward.

There is one other matter I would like to speak to, because it was a comment that was made by one of the previous speakers, about perhaps this Legislature would consider adopting a code of conduct with respect to the media. I would just like to put on the record that I think that would be a really unfortunate and an ill-advised thing for this Legislature to ever do or to even consider. The media are an independent body; they have an important role in a democracy. Freedom of speech is a fundamental principle of a democratic system, and for anybody to ever imagine that elected representatives should even consider looking at regulating, in any way, the conduct of the media, I think, would be a serious problem. I must say that was not an idea that I think I could ever support, and I am sure that members of this caucus would not be able to support that either. As tempting as it might be sometimes to want to go after our friends in the media, they have their job to do like we have our job to do and with respect to codes of conduct, they are perfectly capable and in fact do have their own media codes of conduct and particular structures for enforcement of this code of conduct and for holding their membership accountable. So I think these are basically the points that I would like to make on this, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 7527]

I think in closing I would like to say that codes of conduct with respect to all of the members of this House are matters that we need to take seriously and not treat in any way as a frivolous matter. While this particular set of guidelines focuses on Ministers of the Crown, other members in this Chamber have obligations to our public. The idea has been expressed that we are held accountable in elections and that, you know, every three to four or five years the public will get to decide as the ultimate court, the ultimate judge, on our conduct.

That is certainly true, Mr. Speaker. However, I think that it is increasingly the case that the public feels that once every three or four years isn't often enough and that quite often there is fairly serious, inappropriate conduct on the part of individual members that members of the public would like to have dealt with before an election is called and they would like to see the members of the various political Parties deal with the conduct of their members. They would like to have confidence that there are some standards by which we would all be judged and by which we would abide.

I think this particular bill opens the door on a discussion that is focused on the Cabinet, but I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that this discussion needs to go much further than this and we need to be prepared to look much more broadly at the public expectations of the behaviours and the quality of representation that people have in this province every single day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be standing to close the debate on behalf of the Premier who is out of the (Interruption) No, he is not out of the province, he is in Cape Breton actually today so he is still firmly in Nova Scotia. I appreciate the remarks on Bill No. 60 from the Opposition and some suggestions were made that could perhaps lead to amendments either in Law Amendments or during Committee of the Whole House. So, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 60.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 60. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 7528]

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 59.

Bill No. 59 - Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act.

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

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time. I want to explain to the House that the bill is required in order to accommodate the changes that have occurred as a result of the amalgamation of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Halifax Regional Municipality and the Municipality of Queens. The Act that constitutes the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities makes reference to the old municipal units that existed prior to the amalgamation, so the purpose of the bill is to recognize the changes that have occurred so that the constitution of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities would be accommodated to reflect those changes. It is very much a housekeeping piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, and if there are any questions or comments that the members have, I would be pleased to address them at the conclusion of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the opportunity to speak on this bill. We know the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has gone from the normal 66 municipal units that used to be in the Province of Nova Scotia down to some 55 units within this province. We also know that there has been a change within the structure of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities and to accommodate this, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has requested the government to bring in Bill No. 59 to meet the request of the new change in the structure of the municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, and I do want to tell the minister that in fact, it is generally a housekeeping piece of legislation. It is generally a housekeeping piece of legislation that I believe the UNSM had requested to have some time ago. As a matter of fact, I think they requested it during the term of the previous government, and it did not come to the Legislature. So I would say that we in this Party support this amendment and this particular change. We do know that a tremendous number of issues are going to come up for the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. I want to make sure that all the officers are at that table, because we have some very important issues.

[Page 7529]

One in particular, Mr. Speaker, that I want to bring forward to this House is the Municipal Assessment Act. That Municipal Assessment Act is now being studied. The concerns from the municipalities are being tabulated. The issues are being addressed as to what municipalities and how municipalities are going to address that passing down of the cost of the municipal assessments to the municipalities. So I think it is very important to know that this legislation allows those table officers to be there as part of the structure of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to be able to deal with some very important issues that are going to be on the table of the UNSM.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that we in this Party support the amendment to the legislation.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, actually our caucus is in support of this bill. I would just like to indicate that the bill, during my former lifetime I guess as a municipal representative in CBRM, was basically an initiative at that time. It had the support of the previous government. However, there was some debate that needed to be carried on throughout the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. I want to thank the minister for bringing the bill in, and I think it will ensure that all areas and all regions of the province will be represented by the table officers. The initial concern for many of the municipalities throughout the province was that this wasn't solved prior to this bill. In fact, we feel that this is a reasonable bill, a decent bill, and again, we want to thank the minister for bringing it forward. We will be supporting it.

[11:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable minister it will be to close debate on second reading of Bill No. 59.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would thank members for the contribution to the debate. I look forward to the bill being considered in the committee stage.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 59. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 7530]

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

MR. SPEAKER: With the indulgence of the House, I would like to refer Bill No. 59 to the Private and Local Bills Committee, I think I had said Law Amendments, so we will make the necessary adjustments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 61.

Bill No. 61 - Electronic Commerce Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to rise with respect to this bill. I will attempt to be quite brief with respect to this bill. (Interruption) Some of my friends opposite think I have spoken long enough already. I would be glad to do them this same courtesy, if they would be glad to do me the same courtesy at another time of my choosing. (Interruptions) Since I think that is unlikely, I will speak briefly to the bill.

The Electronic Commerce Act is a bill, the principle of which is to allow electronic records to be more fully used in legal matters. It is a matter of updating the law to make it consistent with the law in many other provinces in this country. The world has changed over the last number of years. Electronic records are a routine part of government and commerce. Nova Scotia needs to move in with the rest of the world to make Nova Scotia a friendly place to do business and to allow Nova Scotians to compete in an international world market place.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a bill that has been developed as part of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, and it is nothing directly dealing with the minister's comments, but these bills have not appeared in our bill books yet. I am just wondering, for a more informed debate, if it might not be possible that we could have

[Page 7531]

copies of the bills. The last one in our bill book is actually Bill No. 58. I know there was a copy tabled but all members don't get a copy of that bill. I would like a copy. Maybe, because I know there are some other bills coming forward for debate, probably before too long, copies of those could be given to members.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the Pages could circulate the bill. We would certainly ask the honourable minister continue with his presentation.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable NDP House Leader for his intervention. I believe it is appropriate that all members have copies of the bill before them for debate.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, this bill was developed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that legislation dealing with electronic commerce and electronic records is consistent between provinces of Canada so businesses can carry on their operations in Nova Scotia in the way they do in other large provinces in this country. There is obviously much more to be done in the future, but this is one step along the way to allow businesses to operate in Nova Scotia in an effective manner. This government is committed to modernizing the civil law on an ongoing basis to ensure that we reflect the very best in uniform law practices across the country. We have done that with bills, such as the International Wills Act which was passed earlier in the spring of last year, this session, which were developed as a result of uniform legislation, good legislation that provides the uniformity people are looking for. Because in many areas of the law there is no logical basis upon which to have a variance in civil law, people in business are looking for a business environment that is welcoming and friendly in Nova Scotia and I believe that all members of the House are very determined to do that.

I should also say, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this bill - I noted from reading the bill, myself, earlier - is that there are a number of fairly technical provisions in the bill, some of which I know are a little obtuse to say the best, and if members opposite at some point feel that they wish some further information with respect to a particular provision of the bill, I can assure the members opposite that we would be glad to do this, because I don't think this is the kind of legislation that ought to create controversy in the House. The idea, I think, of all members on all sides of the House is to try to make sure that Nova Scotia's legal environment is as welcoming to people as possible.

I believe the principle of the bill is good, but if people have some concerns about the actual meaning of particular provisions, I wish to make the offer to members opposite that we would be glad to provide that information to them. In point of fact, I had one member opposite who requested information from the department and I can assure that member that we will make that information available to them.

[Page 7532]

So with that, Mr. Speaker, I will move second reading of the Electronic Commerce Act.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my comments are going to be a little brief. I am not the Justice Critic. I am looking at the legislation as we speak - I am being candid - and maybe there will be some more informed debate, prior to the passage of the bill, from our caucus members, in addition to what I am going to say. Now how is that for a positive start-off?

I want to say just a couple of things. Certainly the intent of the bill, from what I can understand of it, Mr. Speaker, I have no disagreement with, and I certainly would be in support of it. This is the kind of thing, let's face it, let's face reality, we live in a different age than we did even a few years ago. I know that I use the electronic modes all the time now, and I can think of when I first came to this House, a few years ago feeling that I was quite advanced in that I managed to buy a second-hand electronic typewriter which had a correction ribbon. Then, of course, you end up getting fax machines and computers, and now we are into electronic mail and flipping documents and all those things back, and the old telephone now is a thing of the past in many regards that you don't have to rely on playing telephone tag. I agree with the need to modernize and to bring us in line, and to give some legal credibility or legal standing to certain kinds of documents and the ability to use electronic mail.

Maybe these items are covered in the legislation, but I just want to bring up a couple of issues, a couple of concerns that I have and, as I say, these may well be covered so I may be raising something that is totally unnecessary. I have, as do others, the ability to electronically put my signature on a document that I send over the wire; I could put the minister's signature on a letter too, if I wished. If I wished to be fraudulent and deceitful, I could put anybody's signature because it is a very easy matter to scan something, whether it be the full name or the signature, import that scanned image as a graphic into your computer, including letterhead, put it there and then send it electronically. There are people much wiser than I who know how these systems all work who could even hide where documents come from or even somehow - I don't know how they do it - but they can make it look like it is coming from one source when in reality it isn't.

My question is, if the documents are to have legal standing, how do we assure that the signatures, if any appear in those documents, are in fact legitimate legal signatures? Maybe that is covered, and if it is, that is great, because I think that a hard copy should follow. You can start things and do things by means of e-mail and so on, but I think that if something is going to have a legal standing, we have to make sure that we do have the hard copy. I think the minister across the floor is indicating that that is, in fact, addressed in the legislation.

[Page 7533]

The other thing is, Mr. Speaker, or a number of things, for example, the Governor in Council may, by regulation, specify provisions of or requirements under the law of Nova Scotia in respect of which this Act does not apply. The minister has, of course, in the legislation that has been tabled, listed a number of items that do not apply in respect to this legislation, wills and their codicils, supplements to wills - you can tell I am not learned in the law - trust created by wills or by codicils to wills and so on. There are a number of things that aren't. I would be interested to hear from the minister, however, if there are to be, by regulation, other things that are going to be excluded, what kind of a public process would be involved in developing those regulations? It doesn't apply in respect of negotiable instruments including negotiable documents of titles and those kinds of things. It doesn't limit the operation of any law of the province that expressly authorizes, prohibits or regulates the use of electronic documents and so on. So there are a number of things in here that I think are quite positive from a layman's perspective. So on the basis of that, I certainly intend, unless I hear from more learned people who persuade me otherwise, to be voting in support of this going on to the Law Amendments Committee, where we can have more informed debate from those who are knowledgeable of the legal implications and ramifications of this.

I think, though, that it is a positive move that we are trying to update our legislation, to modernize, coming into the 21st Century. Mr. Speaker, I also say that this is the kind of legislation because of all the many rapid changes that are going on in technology and so on, that this is almost going to have to be a living, breathing document because it is going to have to be flexible to be able to be adjusted to meet the changing realities which seem to occur every time you turn around. What was state of the art and what everybody was using a few years ago is now obsolete. I think that by bringing these amendments forward and doing what is being intended by this legislation, it will make it easier for the conducting of business and exchange of legal documents. Also, I would suggest it would make the development of commerce a little bit easier in the province.

On the basis of those assumptions on my part, I intend to be supporting this bill going on through second reading and to the Law Amendments Committee, where those who may be the experts in this field can give testimony on this particular piece of legislation. So with those very uncharacteristically brief remarks, Mr. Speaker, I will assume my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the previous speaker for probably making very good sense on a bill that he just literally looked at for the first time. But I do realize that he, along with many members of this Legislature, realizes that as we move into the new millennium the time has come when we as legislators are looking at new pieces of legislation that are dealing with moving the economy forward. For that, I am very pleased to stand in the House to first say how pleased I am to see this legislation coming forward and saying that we are actually moving in a proactive way in dealing with some of the issues. From a business point of view, we have been in constraint to some degree, and

[Page 7534]

I don't know if it is a Justice issue or a Finance issue, whether it is an Economic Development issue. More importantly, it is all our issues as Nova Scotians as we go forward.

[11:30 a.m.]

The e-commerce bill is an important bill to the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia. From what I can gather, this particular bill, although we haven't seen it for a long time to study, is very similar to that of Saskatchewan and Ontario. I think probably we are embellishing much if not all of the Act that was presented to those particular provinces, similar bills that were passed in their Legislature to in fact assist economic development and the business community in maintaining some issues of security as we move into the new frontier as it were. Basically, electronic commerce is the ability for businesses, in a more competitive way, to connect computers one-on-one in order to establish traditional ways of connecting together so we can actually do commerce, and also controlling inventory and invoicing and things of that nature which allows them to be more competitive from a Nova Scotia perspective than currently we have been able to be.

I was listening and discussing in the United States not too long ago about the whole issue of e-commerce, and there was a representative from Xerox at the table. Xerox, I understand was one of the first companies that were asked by the American Government at that time to develop some way to connect on a highway for military purposes. They in turn were very instrumental in developing the first real security of communication established by the U.S. military which turned out to be the security transmission information highway that we are talking out, a freedom electronic highway that really hooks us all up on the net.

I want to say that it is very important for this Legislature to have a framework so that business can take full advantage of e-commerce with laws that will protect the validity of electronic documents. I believe that was what the member was referring to, where is the validity? And what is the validity of the signature and whether hard copy would follow or not. That is what I understand the essence - the Minister of Justice who is in deep debate here, but the Minister of Justice I understand, that is the principle behind this is to protect the validity of electronic documents that we are dealing with in business.

CMIB, no stranger to anybody in this room here, has found that Nova Scotians have really led the nation, the second highest in Canada for use of the Internet. In fact, 73 per cent of Nova Scotians have access and use the Internet on a normal basis, the second largest number anywhere in Canada. Yet, when it comes to the issue of e-business, only 26 per cent are actually connected in that way. So we are below the national average. Here is a great economic opportunity for us. Here is a great opportunity for us to move forward. I think some of the areas of why we have been held back is the fact that legislation was not forthcoming.

[Page 7535]

Now more than ever, we must be ready as legislators to embrace and to support this industry so it can allow economic opportunity and growth potential to truly take off for this area. I have been saying for a long time that the Progressive Conservative Party should be taking a very serious look at the economic opportunities that exist in Nova Scotia. In many ways, I think they have been riding the crest of economic growth in the Province of Nova Scotia because of some of the initiatives that have taken place and as well some of the opportunities within the offshore and other sectors. We have been saying to the government that they should continually be looking at new emerging opportunities. This isn't necessarily a new emerging opportunity, but it is an opportunity that we should be embellishing and supporting. As economies change and as cycles do happen in different sectors of the economy, this is an area that I think is one in which we have great potential to move forward. Part of the problem would be alleviated by this legislation. It will ease some of the security concerns that do exist, but I will say that it does not alleviate all the security concerns that I think Nova Scotians and many in Canada feel are real.

This bill covers only one aspect of the electronic market place. The issues of privacy and security, in our view, should be dealt with with future legislation. I don't know if the minister is actually looking at future legislation or not, but I would certainly encourage him to take a look at other legislation that could be forthcoming to allow that to go forward.

In light of that, we actually have a couple of speakers wanting to speak on this issue, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to go too much further into some of the research that we have done, but I do want to say that this is not a new initiative by any stretch of the imagination. I remember the information highway debates in this Legislature and in our Cabinet and in our caucus; the Liberal Government has worked very hard over the years to move us to the forefront of that initiative, and what we are doing right now is building on the foundation that the previous Liberal Government brought forward to this province.

I remember, for example, the Joint Stocks Registry and being able to access that, other than going to the office and going to the facility - whether you are a law firm or whatever - to register your company. That was a major event; it was a major event when the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia brought in technology, and yet we take it for granted today. It was a major hurdle to be overcome; we were still back in the old days where we wanted to lug everybody to Halifax to do business and then they had to drive home, costing the consumer more money, slowing down productivity, and slowing down efficiencies. This is a time to embellish new technology so that not only from a legal point of view, but from an economic point of view, from a business point of view, we can all benefit.

In closing, I remember talking to a Christmas tree producer and I talked to an individual who rents cottages, and they are now doing business on the Internet; they are selling their wares on the electronic highway and they are doing it in a very effective way. So it doesn't mean that it is only for certain areas that these business transactions can take place, they can cover a whole waterfront of opportunity.

[Page 7536]

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting the principle of this bill to move forward. I understand that we have another speaker who would like to speak on it, but I want to congratulate the government for again following the leadership of the previous Liberal Government and moving forward with progressive and constructive policies. Thank you very much.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all I would like to thank the minister for bringing in this bill, because I feel it is needed. Unfortunately, I am a little disappointed that it has taken so long to get here. This government has been here now approximately 15 months, and I felt it should have been a priority for this particular government. For me, at least, fortunately I feel the investments made by the former Liberal Government, like the information economy initiative, are finally paying off. This government has finally recognized that they are building upon the successes of the Liberal information economic initiative, and it is about time that they woke up and took advantage of that opportunity for success.

I believe this is a good bill, and other provinces, based on interprovincial will, are following in the same footsteps as this government. In fact, Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that in the local newspaper, The Daily News, today there was an article saying that Nova Scotia is a hotbed for software piracy. A study found that 51 per cent of the business software in this province had been used in violation of its copyright agreement.

This thievery costs Nova Scotians $9 million in software retail sales and 800 jobs that were not created in this province and that is according to this article today in The Daily News. I would suggest that that lies solely on the shoulders of this government. In fact, the piracy in this province is the third highest in the country and it is only four percentage points behind the leader in the country which is Prince Edward Island according to this article.

Mr. Speaker, small businesses face a huge challenge in this province, particularly when it comes to delivery of the service and goods, particularly the goods, and it is very complex. Dealing with returned items is one issue. I think it is especially important to note that through the Internet we can access markets throughout the world, not only in this province or the country, but in many countries throughout the world. So it is a very important tool for local business and I feel that if the government leads the way, tomorrow could be better in this particular industry. I know this government indicated earlier that it had many learning curves.

I am very pleased to see that they finally realized that this was an opportunity to broaden prosperity within not only job creation, but to support small business initiatives in the province. I think it is very important to realize that companies with 100 employees are now hooked up to the Internet in one way or the other and companies that employ anywhere from 20 to 100 people approximately, 80 per cent of those companies are now connected to

[Page 7537]

the Internet. It is also important to note that companies that employ between 5 and 19 employees, about 71 per cent of those companies now use the Internet. About 600,000 of Canada's 1 million businesses are now connected to the Internet. So we have to recognize the fact that this is a major industry and one that we can advance in and create opportunities in the field. We have to realize that and, as I indicated before, finally this government woke up and smelled the roses on this particular issue.

The most basic Internet application, of course, is the e-mail. I think most Nova Scotians are familiar with the e-mail system, but business is using the Internet more and more, the market, not only their services, but also the items which they sell. Many of these transactions are right online, you know, and most online sites you don't even have to speak to a person. Actually you don't even hear a voice.

We need competitiveness in this market place and I believe this bill is moving this forward in that direction. For instance, you know, large scale firms, it includes the manufacturers, wholesalers, mini franchises, they all use the Internet to purchase both services and items for their business. Regionally, small business is growing strongly all over this province as well as in other parts of the country similar to British Columbia. British Columbia is leading the country with 74 per cent of the business and it is followed by Alberta and Ontario.

[11:45 a.m.]

However, in Nova Scotia there is a high Internet penetration rate of approximately 73 per cent; e-mail is 26 per cent, and that is below the national average. I would suggest, because this government didn't move quicker on this legislation, that is why we are at that low point. I would indicate that in Quebec, after a very virtual start into this area, the gap with the rest of the province has been closed, 59 per cent of Quebec companies now use the Internet and are connected to the Internet, and 25 per cent are using the e-business approaches, which is the best way, they find, to buy, sell or maintain a web presence. Small firms, of course, are using the Internet because of the basic advantages of speed, convenience and reduced transaction costs to enter new markets.

As I indicated before, 52 per cent of e-business sells to markets outside their local geographical areas, compared to only 31 per cent of businesses not connected to the Internet. This is a very important tool for local, rural businesses. It is a vital tool. With more competitors, more suppliers and more customers going on-line, of course it is imperative that small business embrace the e-business. To that end, every effort must be made to ensure that the support system is in place for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.

Most small businesses are convinced of the potential benefits of e-business. The customer, of course, is the key - the customer and customer demand. We find organizations, people, buying products and services that are being asked for on-line, on an on-line channel.

[Page 7538]

There is little incentive for businesses to respond. Fifty per cent of e-business and office businesses say they are concerned about the lack of legislation.

Half of the on-line businesses are convinced to take the plunge, with 28 per cent of e-businesses, which are not fully convinced of the benefits of belonging to e-business. Hopefully this bill will enlighten this and work toward a more positive result in that area. It is also interesting that other concerns identified, such as security, technical requirements, costs, the need for strategies are cited, more by companies that are already using this service and this e-mail business.

The opportunities are tremendous. Internet security is regarded as a major constraint to the enhancement of this industry, increasing ineffectiveness of security measures are eliminating opportunities. This bill should help boost business and consumer confidence in these areas. It is also important, and I am a little disappointed in one regard, because there is no educational portion to the bill. I believe businesses must and should be educated on the initiatives and the development of sound economic and social public policies. That is what I would alert this bill to. There are many commerce surveys regarding these issues; of course PricewaterhouseCoopers, which is a friend of the government apparently. Fair taxation is a requirement for e-commerce transactions and is ranked as the most important issue by companies using e-business. They have many high-ranking views. Business owners see e-commerce as a business issue more than a policy issue. Governments, of course; it has been proven in other provinces Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, that governments can help by adopting consistent approaches among themselves in dealing with their own.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated before, the previous Liberal Government recognized the importance of this new and exciting industry. Finally, approximately 15 months later this government now sees why that Liberal Government had the insight to pursue that area. It is very important to have a framework so that business can take full advantage of the e-commerce which allow us to protect electronic documents. It is vital for their ability to have confidence in this system. A recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business found that 73 per cent of all Nova Scotians had access to the Internet. That was the second highest in Canada. The e-mail business, however, is only 26 per cent and is well below the national average. That is why in this initiative hopefully is a good thing for the province. More than ever, we must see, we must be ready to embrace this industry so that it lives up to its growth potential.

The biggest problem I believe facing the e-business is that 50 per cent of e-business and office business alike say they are constrained by the lack of customer demand. Part of the problem will be alleviated by this bill because it eases some security concerns but not all security concerns. This bill, in my opinion doesn't go far enough. However, it is basically a good start.

[Page 7539]

The bill covers only one aspect of the electronic market place. Issues of piracy and security should be dealt with, I hope, in the very near future by this government. I am encouraging them to recognize the importance of this new and exciting technology that is available within this industry. Nova Scotia is not a trailblazer, of course, regarding this bill. The government should immediately proceed and bring together electronic commerce stakeholders so that a new electronic legislation framework can be developed, and allow input from the electronic commerce stakeholders that work each and every day within this industry.

Proceeding with this bill, I believe, is very pleasing to our caucus. We are a little sceptical that this particular government really understands the full potential of this e-business. It is there. It has to be developed, and if we can develop it within this province, we will share in the possibility of these other provinces that have already proven that the market is there.

According to NovaKnowledge report card, the report card investment in new technologies grew faster in Nova Scotia from 1992 to 1998. It was faster than any other province in Canada. It means that Nova Scotia potentially could become a leader in both the technology of any emerging e-business industry and the business sector. Unfortunately, the government is not making, in my opinion at least, any strategic investments necessary to continue to grow in this particular sector. It is good to see, I think, this province is finally entering the information age. Technology is growing at a much faster rate.

We can't wait another 15 months to see the follow-up bill to this particular bill. I notice the Finance Minister is here in the House, and I certainly hope that he recognizes the importance of this industry. It is an industry, as I indicated before, that the facts are there, there could be as many 800 jobs, basically, created throughout rural areas of this province overnight. The development is vital, in my opinion, at least for the growth of those rural areas. The benefits the Internet brings, of course, are no secret. We can be anywhere, Englishtown, very remote areas can be connected, with a simple phone line, to the world. The longer it takes this particular government to catch up and recognize this new electronic market place, the more Nova Scotians will fall behind.

Mr. Speaker, that basically concludes my comments. To my knowledge, my caucus will be supporting this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Bill No. 61, the Electronic Commerce Act is certainly a piece of legislation that our caucus will be supporting. I wish to put that on the record immediately and without any room for doubt, because I wish to make some observations about ways in which this bill might be improved. I will get to those points in a moment. It is not to the detriment of the main thrust of the legislation, in the end this is something that

[Page 7540]

the government ought to engage on, it is something which this House ought to engage on and our Party will support it.

We should start by an appreciation of the origins of this bill. It is important that we think about the origins of the bill and how other jurisdictions have dealt with it for some reasons that I will point out in a moment. It started out drafted as a model form of legislation through the United Nations. In 1996, the United Nations actually produced a model law on electronic commerce. This was a project that was undertaken internationally because the governments involved recognized that this had now become such a prevalent mode of communication and of commercial interaction, not only within nations but around the world, that something had to be done in order to regulate it.

This isn't much of a gap in time, much of a lag, between 1996 when the first uniform Act was produced by way of study at the United Nations to now, four years later, that we in our province are proposing to adopt it. It is not instantaneous speed, it doesn't compare to the speed of the Internet itself, but it is not unreasonable. Interestingly, Singapore was the first government to adopt legislation dealing with electronic commerce based upon the United Nations model law. Since Singapore did that a few years ago, the United States has followed suit.

There is, in the United States, a piece of legislation known as the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. This is the main American state level initiative on e-commerce. It emerged from a process of further study of the U.N. model law through the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The point to note is that there was a body in the United States that studied this issue. There was a body in the United States that existed to come to grips with this issue. There was a body in the United States that produced model legislation based on the U.N. draft that was suited to the American constitutional and legal circumstances. Australia is moving on this; the United Kingdom is; New Zealand is also; other nations are as well.

[12:00 p.m.]

To focus just on what happened in Canada, there exists in Canada also a body that was able to deal with uniform laws. The entity is known as the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. It operates out of the general umbrella and good offices of the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta and it produced a model law on electronic commerce suited to the Canadian constitutional and legal circumstances. What has happened since it did that is that, and this was only I think a year or so ago, several provinces have adopted laws based on the Uniform Law Conference model.

Our bill, Bill No. 61, is interesting because it is virtually word for word what it is that the Uniform Law Conference proposed, which is fine. Other provinces have done different things. Manitoba, for example, this year in enacting its legislation added in a variety of extra

[Page 7541]

features that had to do with consumer protection. This is likewise a feature of the Ontario legislation, Bill No. 88 in that Legislature, which has just been adopted last week. They, too, saw fit to add to the bill extensive provisions dealing with consumer protection. So we are not alone in this. We are not the first province, we are not the first nation to have engaged with electronic commerce.

The reason I wanted to talk a bit about the origins of this bill and point out that the United Nations had a model, that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada had a model, is that there are a couple of observations to be made as a result of that. The first is it is worthwhile noting how quickly a problem was identified and how quickly it was acted upon when it affects commerce. I am not saying that it should not be dealt with. I said before we support this bill. I said before that it is a useful piece of legislation, but the speed with which a problem was identified internationally and acted upon internationally when it affects commercial transactions that the middle class and the business class is engaged upon is hugely striking and it deserves to be compared and contrasted with the huge amount of time it takes to engage with problems like poverty or illness. We don't see a lot of laws emerging and provincial governments and federal governments rushing to bring in bills to deal with poverty and illness in a comprehensive way. It does not detract from the importance of the bill. We will vote for it, but it is important to note that.

The second thing that is important to note as a result of this is that there actually exists in Canada, in Alberta, the Uniform Law Conference, which is a legal research body that is there permanently and that is able to do the research necessary to make suggestions to provincial governments for amendments to their laws. Now, do you know what? The Uniform Law Conference deals exclusively with areas of the law where it is appropriate to have uniform Statutes all across the country and if there are differences, they are expected not to be major, but to be minor differences, but how useful it is to have such a body able to do this research. How useful and beneficial it is to have the Uniform Law Conference in existence because this isn't the kind of work that we can expect our Department of Justice or every other provincial Department of Justice lawyers to do in their spare time.

How useful it is to have a body of experts on the law, experts on new topics, able to engage with them and do the research that is necessary in order to amend our laws. How disappointing it is, therefore, to recall, when we have the example of Bill No. 61 in front of us, that this government is determined to dismantle and eliminate the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia. That is why I went into the history of where this bill came from.

I want the members here to know that they - especially the government opposite - have brought forward to this House a bill which is modelled, virtually word for word, on a Statute which was suggested by a law reform body that exists to deal with this kind of circumstance. They had benefitted from it. They expect the citizens of Nova Scotia to benefit from it. They expect the commercial interests in Nova Scotia to benefit from it. You know what? All of that is equally true with respect to the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia. That is why

[Page 7542]

we established a Law Reform Commission a number of years ago in Nova Scotia. That is why it should continue to exist. That is why this government is making a big mistake in taking the funding away from the Law Reform Commission. A small amount of funding goes a long way.

What is it that Bill No. 61 does? Bill No. 61 is involved in what is called functional equivalency. Functional equivalency is the idea that essentially legal relations that may be created via the Internet should be regarded on exactly the same basis as if they had been entered into in person or by paper or through signatures. That is the term that the e-commerce lawyers use, functional equivalency. That is fine. That is the thrust of the bill. That is what it does, no more, no less. As I said, it is based virtually word for word on the uniform model bill that has been generated by the ULCC. But there are problems.

I want to draw the attention of the members of this House to two problems. It is not that the bill engages on commercial transactions. That is fine. That is what we expect it to do. The first problem is that it doesn't deal with privacy issues. The second problem is that it doesn't deal with consumer protection.

Members of this House will probably recall that a year ago we were debating amendments to the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. At the time, in debate, I drew the attention of the Minister of Justice to the existence of a federal piece of legislation. A year ago today I pointed out - that is on October 27, 1999 - Bill C-6, which had just been passed by the House of Commons. This was a federal bill known as the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. What that bill does - and this is a federal piece of legislation now in effect - is it offers privacy protection in situations in which the information is being transmitted electronically. This is fine, this should happen, but you know what? That is federal jurisdiction, and it is not provincial jurisdiction. There is nothing in our legislation in Nova Scotia that clearly deals with this situation.

I pointed out to the minister, Clause 30 of Bill C-6, which was a very unusual provision, and here is what it said, "Unless a province passes appropriate equivalent legislation to deal with similar matters within its jurisdiction within a period of three years, then the federal legislation will apply." Well, it is a year later, the minister has had fair notice. He had notice because he knew of the federal legislation, presumably. If he didn't, he certainly should know of it because I drew it to his attention a year ago, and I draw it to his attention, again, now.

So the question is, what is Nova Scotia proposing to do about this? Is Nova Scotia proposing to go with the federal legislation and accept federal intrusion into our jurisdiction in this way? If that is the preferred approach of this government, perhaps they ought to articulate it. I don't find it such an appropriate way to go. I flag this issue because, again, we had the opportunity a year ago, when we were dealing with freedom of information and protection of privacy legislation, to engage on the issue of privacy in electronic

[Page 7543]

communications, and it wasn't done. We have here, again today, in the year 2000, another piece of legislation dealing with electronic communications, and again the government has not chosen to engage the issue of protection of privacy in electronic communications.

We can only hope that the federal protections are adequate, that the province will not contest, and that no one else will contest, because it is always open to anyone to contest constitutional divisions of powers, that no one else will contest whether the federal legislation can legitimately protect privacy in provincial circumstances. We can only hope that either one of those circumstances obtains or that the government is going to come forward with some legislation of its own to deal with privacy issues in electronic communications.

Here is the second main omission from this bill. I said consumer protection was needed. I want to give a couple of examples of how it is that consumer protection is needed. We know that what we are talking about, in part, in this legislation is the formation of contracts via the Internet, for example, for the purchase of goods. We all know that shopping via the Internet is something that is available now. We all know that a growing number of individuals, through their households, through their places of work, are able to access the Internet and are able to engage in these commercial transactions.

Everyone will know, you especially, Mr. Speaker, that contracts are formed upon offer and acceptance. When is the contract formed in e-commerce? Where is the contract formed in e-commerce? What is the locus of the law? How do you deal with conflict-of-laws problems? Where has the contract been formed if you are a resident of Nova Scotia and through the means of electronic communication your server is in Ontario and your supplier in Seattle? Where is the contract formed? Is it formed in Ontario because that is where the offer and acceptance get together? Is it formed only when the goods are received? And where? Does the law of Washington State apply? Does the law of Ontario apply? Does the law of Nova Scotia apply?

[12:15 p.m.]

These are questions that have to be sorted out. Here is another example of something that ought to be afforded consumers by way of protections when it comes to e-commerce. I should say, immediately, that some of the protections I am about to list are really not as strong as they might be in our regular commercial transaction pieces of legislation for normal, that is to say non-electronic, commercial transactions right here in the province. We could do with a great strengthening of the laws of Nova Scotia when it comes to consumer protection. We need cooling-off periods, and we need them specifically for electronic commerce. To a limited extent, they do exist in Nova Scotia. When you read something like the Unfair Trade Practices Act or the Sale of Goods Act, formerly, you see that the provisions that exist to protect consumers from what might be high pressure or impulse situations, are very weak. They certainly apply in the case of door-to-door sellers. If they

[Page 7544]

apply in the case of door-to-door sellers, ought they not to apply when the seller is in your home through the medium of the Internet? We know from studies how susceptible people can be to the glitter and glitz of what appears in colour on the screen. Is a cooling-off period appropriate? I suggest that it is, but is not in this legislation.

Now, it is that kind of protection I have in mind for consumers that ought to be in this bill. Manitoba has done it and Ontario has done it. They have not taken the bare model legislation that the Uniform Law Conference of Canada put forward and adopted it. I know it is a lot easier to take a model bill, fill in the blanks of the name of your province and bring it forward to the Legislature, than it is to actually look at what other jurisdictions have done and learn some of the best points that can be learned from their precedent. I know there will be people who will come to the Law Amendments Committee and say to us, there have to be better protections in place for consumers, because they know it is possible to achieve this.

I want to make one final point if I may. It is important there be uniformity in the kinds of approaches our provinces take. It is important there be rough equivalency around the world if it is possible to achieve that in this subject. Because the foundation is now being laid for the international linkages for commercial transactions, we have to be prepared to engage with that and, so far as possible, make appropriate common, similar rules that all can understand. That would certainly facilitate the activity but not to the detriment of our domestic population, particularly as consumers. So I hope the minister will be able to explain to us in some detail what it is that he proposes to do about privacy questions and about consumer protection questions. If he doesn't, we will look elsewhere and find models for amendments that might be appropriate.

In the meantime, though, Mr. Speaker, I reiterate that our caucus is prepared to support this bill at second reading. We see a use for it, and we will certainly be voting for it. Thank you.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am closing debate on Bill No. 61. I listened with great interest to the remarks from the last speaker, the member for Halifax Chebucto, and I will pass the tenor of his remarks on to the Minister of Justice. I am sure that Party will be coming forth with some amendments. I thank all other members who participated in the debate, Mr. Speaker, and I will now move second reading of Bill No. 61.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 61. Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 7545]

The motion is carried.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 63.

Bill No. 63 - Labour Standards Code.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to say that it is a pleasure to be able to rise today to move that this bill be now read a second time. I noted with interest the references made in the debate on the previous bill with respect to the technology aspect of that bill and understanding that technology. I can assure you, sir, and all members of the House, that our ability to appreciate the technology employed in creating the circumstances which requires parental leave is much easier for us to understand.

However, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that the parental leave provisions contained in the Labour Standards Code that we are proposing today are going to be very important with respect to this province and we, of course, have heard many positive comments from people across the province with respect to this proposal. The reason, sir, is simple. This will allow parents the option of taking up to a full year off to care for their new babies and adopted children. This is good news for the new parents and for the children involved.

Our changes are coupled with improved EI benefits announced earlier this year by the federal government. The federal government will be providing EI benefits to new parents for 50 weeks. In their spring budget they said beginning this January 1st new birth parents would be eligible to collect employment insurance on 55 per cent of their average weekly earnings. This means they could collect up to $413 a week to a maximum of $39,000. That news was welcomed, but it only provided one-half the solution.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the federal government did not do the type of consultation we felt necessary to implement such an important initiative. The provincial government also had to bring about the changes that I am talking about today. This government accepted submissions from family groups, from expectant mothers and from small businesses for although the federal government is providing the benefits, the province had to carefully consider its role in this plan regarding leave and because our government is one that cares about families, we are being proactive on this initiative and we will defend our decision against those who believe otherwise. With this decision we are creating a better Nova Scotia. Some of my honourable colleagues might ask how these changes make that happen. As a former teacher, I know the importance of caring for our children. A child who is nurtured and

[Page 7546]

supported in a loving environment is bound to flourish. I saw it in my classroom and I saw it in my students. These children, sir, are the future of our province and we are very honoured and proud to be able to assist them.

I would like now to point to two major highlights of these amendments. We propose extending parental leave from just 17 weeks for adoptive parents to 52 weeks. This initiative has been called ground breaking by adoptive parent groups. The Advisory Council on the Status of Women recommended that adoptive parents be given the same advantage as birth parents. We listened and we agreed. We decided to give them more time to bond with their new children. In some respects, Mr. Speaker, adoptive parents have a more daunting task than natural parents. They deserve this option. This is a case of Nova Scotia being a leader and not a follower, Mr. Speaker. As I said earlier, this is ground breaking. Other than Quebec, which traditionally had this, we are the only province to offer up to a year's extended leave to adoptive parents. It sets Nova Scotia a standard for the federal government to follow.

Mr. Speaker, anyone who has had the privilege of caring for their baby will know how important these changes are. We can never bring back the time that passes while a baby grows. There is no second chance to recapture it. Mothers and fathers who support us know that. The members of the Opposition know that. We must care for our children.

That brings us to the second highlight, Mr. Speaker. We are extending parental leave from 34 weeks to 52 weeks. This will allow parents to stay at home a full year while their jobs are protected. I am very pleased to announce this family-friendly initiative on behalf of this government. A baby's first year is so important for families. By changing the code, we are allowing more parents to spend more time with their babies and adopted children during that first critical year. Since last week, when we first announced the plan, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. This is exactly the kind of investment we need to make in Nova Scotian families. We have received phone calls and e-mails saying how welcome and progressive this initiative is. It is satisfying to see the support at home as well. Comments like those made in a Halifax paper by a pregnant mother and teacher were welcome to read. She said, I think this is fabulous. The first three years, for any child's development, is crucial and it just gives you that much more time to make sure the child is with you.

Parents will also be pleased to know that the federal government is allowing people to return to work and earn a portion of benefits from their employer while on leave. It means people can go back to work for emergencies and not be penalized. Parents can earn up to 25 per cent of their parental benefits without reduction. That, Mr. Speaker, also enables those parents to stay in touch with the workplace and the changing conditions within that workplace during the time of their leave.

We also know there are concerns expressed by small business about these amendments. But my belief is that business will adjust. Parents were already taking leave under the old system, and businesses were coping. I believe it will likely be easier to fund a replacement

[Page 7547]

for 50 weeks rather than the present 37. It is worth noting that the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour has been supportive of adopting the federal parental benefits changes.

These amendments will make workplaces worker friendly in the early years of child development. They will have little impact on our provincial budget, and it will give our children a great start in life. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I am very pleased to bring these amendments to the code forward. (Applause)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say few words about Bill No. 63, and I would also like to say right of the top that we will be supporting this bill. It is a bill that again occurs with this government's flip-flop because it certainly was not onside when the legislation federally came down, and that it had its minions out there saying, well, we don't know whether we are going to support this or not. They were using some kind of code language for saying, we are worried about what it does for part-time workers and seasonal workers, but yet not really bringing any specifics to the table.

[12:30 p.m.]

When they were forced into supporting this position, as the minister admitted to there, by the many phone calls and so on, they realized that all it really does is bring this province in line with some others. I appreciate that it brings them in line with other provinces and I appreciate the fact that they have been a leader, for once, in an area. This is the first time they have been a leader; with one little caveat of a bill, they have been a leader once in 15 months.

We have a bill concerning labour standards here, Mr. Speaker, on the floor to debate. What amazes me is that many changes could be made in labour standards, but yet this government refused to bring anything else forward. We could talk about things in labour standards that make absolutely no sense, like if you are working and you fall into an overtime situation after 48 hours, all the bill says is that you get time and one-half at minimum wage, not time and one-half at what you are making today. So, there are many changes; that is just one, by way of example, that I think if we want to be a true leader in workers' rights, that we should probably, through the minister's office, take a long, hard look at the totality of this bill and say, what else can we do to amend the Labour Standards Code in this province?

We have been pushed into this bill by the feds. There was one area I said that this government took a leadership role in, but that was it. It was not bold, it did not try to go out and do this in front of the federal bill; it came behind and it came after much public pressure to bring this bill forward.

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Mr. Speaker, I am not going to take up very much time of the House today, but I am going to say that our Party will be supporting this bill in second reading to move on to the Law Amendments Committee, and I am glad, for once, that they are bringing a piece of legislation into this House that is progressive in style for workers instead of regressive. Thank you very much.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and offer a few comments on this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 63, An Act to Amend Chapter 246 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Labour Standards Code.

At the outset, Mr. Speaker, I certainly concur with the minister's comments, that we will be supporting this particular piece of legislation; it is a good piece of legislation. It is one that I believe will help not only in the market place, but in terms of the social fabric in Nova Scotia. It is a very positive initiative, as the minister has indicated. Some of the benefits that will be derived will not necessarily be reflected in a dollar and cents point of view, but certainly in family values and the opportunity to make for a stronger family unit. Any opportunity to do that is certainly welcome.

I do take a little issue, though, with the minister on the consultative process from the federal perspective, because my research indicates that it was quite extensive over a lengthy period of time, contrary to what the minister has said. But that is fair; he has a different perspective. Initially, the provincial government balked at bringing this legislation in, as late as August of this year, and then did a bit of a flip-flop on it, but that's okay, we all make mistakes.

I think the minister should be commended for recognizing the value of this particular initiative, but I was certainly disappointed to see persons like Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business who was totally against extending parental leave for new parents. That is very unfortunate that the business community didn't recognize the value, as have the minister and the federal government and other stakeholders, because I believe that after full analysis, Mr. Speaker, Mr. O'Brien would certainly recognize that it would be a win-win situation for employers as well as the employees and their families.

As well, the fact that it is being extended for one year rather than the initial six months, which I believe was proposed in some circles, is a positive initiative because that way the employer has an opportunity to have a temporary employee on staff who will become somewhat familiar with the work environment and the job description and can adjust. Anyone knows that when you go on to a job, if you haven't worked in that job environment before, it takes a few weeks or probably a month or two to adjust and get right up to speed and offer 100 per cent, value for dollar. If you want to look at it from a business perspective, bringing it up to a year is a good initiative as well.

[Page 7549]

Bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, we certainly haven't gone as far as they do in some of the European countries. As you know, over in Germany, parental leave for job protection is provided for up to four years. Now I am not so sure that would necessarily work in Nova Scotia's environment because of our economy of scale. Certainly in France, they have parental leave for up to three years and again, over the Netherlands, that is an 18 month period. (Interruption) Well, the honourable member to my left is suggesting I propose amendments. I proposed an amendment on a previous piece of legislation earlier today, and we created quite a stir with some circles. Certainly, we pondered the possibility of it anyway.

I think as well, Mr. Speaker, one of the good things about this, and I can certainly relate to some former constituents of mine who are in fact adoptee parents; several years ago they adopted a beautiful young girl from China. It is a long, detailed and complex process that you have to go through in order to adopt a child from China. Just recently, they initiated the adoption process for a second child from China. They were quite successful in that. The fact that they are young parents who have to commit a tremendous amount of their time to nurturing that young child to the adjustment of a new home, a new environment, a new culture, and the bonding that is required, the fact that it is a year instead of six months, really is a positive initiative, albeit that the whole process was initiated by the federal Liberal Government.

I think the fact that the Minister of Labour and the government have decided to come onstream with this, is positive, and I congratulate the minister and I think it is going to be a win-win situation for all the different government departments: the Department of Labour, the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Education, the Department of Community Services; just about every facet of public and private life is impacted in a positive way with this particular piece of legislation.

I suppose one could go on for hours, really, espousing the benefits of this and the positive factors. That having been said, I congratulate the minister for this initiative and will certainly be supporting this going on to the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as our Party's Critic for the Status of Women, I would like to make a few remarks on the amendments to the Labour Standards Code. I was very happy to see this (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much chatter in the Chamber. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I was very happy to see the minister bring forward this amendment to the Labour Standards Code. Throughout the summer I, and members of this caucus, had numerous calls from many people in our constituencies - but

[Page 7550]

not only in our constituencies - across the province who were very concerned that the signals that they were receiving from this government when the federal government announced the changes, that the provincial government here was not going to harmonize Labour Standards Codes in this province so that families could take advantage of the proposed federal changes.

Mr. Speaker, I think members of this House are probably well aware that Canada has lagged considerably behind counties, OECD countries, with respect to parental leave and maternity leave and the federal changes were long overdue. I know that as Canadians we often like to see ourselves as being on the cutting edge of public policy and social policy in many respects and especially we often like to hold ourselves out as being a much more caring and compassionate society than American society, but in fact I would draw attention to the 1996 American elections, when their current president at that time ran on a platform that included extending parental benefits. It was a significant piece of the American campaign.

So it is something I think that had a profound influence on the federal government with respect to the current campaign that they are going into and the need to adopt more family-friendly workplace policies is very apparent and it is something that certainly families are in need of given that there is an increasing amount of pressure on families where there are two working parents and, quite often, maybe not only children to care for but ageing parents who are being looked after in one way or another.

So, Mr. Speaker, I think that increasingly this kind of public policy is important to take some pressures off families and to allow the very important job of caring and providing for each other in the context of the family. I would like to just acknowledge, because I think it is important to acknowledge, on the record that my colleague, Eileen O'Connell, had called on the government to adopt the necessary measures to harmonize the Labour Standards Code in this province with the federal changes. I am so grateful to her for having done that and I think that she would be very pleased today to have been here to see the minister rise in his place, introduce these amendments and speak to these amendments. So I thank the minister for his response in that way.

You know when we were receiving these calls that I spoke of earlier, from people who were very concerned, we thanked them very much for their calls and we recommended, as we often do, that they take up these issues with the minister, that they write, they phone, they fax, and I would like to thank those people as well for raising their concerns and making their views known. I think that that is the way the democratic process will properly work, when you make your views known directly to government through your elected officials or going directly to them.

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[12:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think it is somewhat ironic, though, is it not, that these changes are being introduced, which allow parents to spend time with a newborn child or a newly adopted child in a family, right at the same time that this government, through the Minister of Community Services, is introducing changes to the Social Assistance Act that, in fact, will force a single parent, a single mother into the labour force, into Wal-Mart, into a call centre or into a Tim Hortons, as part of their public policy. There is a bit of a contradiction here, is there not? We have labour standards that are making provisions to allow people to have the choice, to have the option for child rearing, but at the same time we have a Social Assistance Act that is pulling people out of the family unit, away from being home at 3:00 p.m. when the kids come home from school, or whatever. I find this to be a paradox, it is quite ironic.

I think that it is important to say that the people who are most likely to make use of this particular provision in the Labour Standards Code are families who are financially better off, where the Social Assistance Act will be applying to families who are not well off. There is a double standard operating here. I know when the Social Assistance Act comes before this House for debate, we will have an opportunity to talk about that some more.

There is one other area that is important to address at this moment, it is that the Labour Standards Code itself is in desperate need of a complete overhaul. Amending the Labour Standards Code in a piecemeal fashion is, I suppose, depending on the issue and the urgency of the issue, and certainly this particular provision should go forward, but the code as a whole is extremely inadequate in terms of the working realities of the vast majority of people in this province today. I would hope that in the not-too-distant future the Minister of Labour will bring before this House a comprehensive set of amendments to the Labour Standards Code that will address the very serious situations that contract workers are experiencing, that are left out of many of the legal protections that are required, as well as the growing numbers of part-time and non-standard workers. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East. (Applause)

DR. JAMES SMITH: When I hear the clapping from the other side and then to my right, I get apprehensive and feel like sitting down again. (Laughter) I must be being set up for something that I don't know about.

Mr. Speaker, I know it is late in the allotted time for debate, but I did want to make a few comments on Bill No. 63, brought in by the Minister of the Environment and Labour. We will be supporting this legislation as well, and we compliment the government for bringing it forward. In February of this year, federal Finance Minister Paul Martin introduced a budget that increased parental leave in Canada from six months to one year. The federal Liberal Government believes strongly in health development, and they have made a real

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commitment over these last couple of years, particularly, I believe, to early childhood development, intervention programs and also child health programs.

This move gave the parents the opportunity to spend more time with their newborn and their newly adopted children. These changes also have more benefits than a simple tax cut for families. A tax cut does not provide a job or a career. I would like to recognize that I don't have the date, but I know it was an editorial page of Marilla Stephenson. I would like to compliment that journalist. Not only does she understand municipal issues and writes very well on them, but I thought the article she wrote in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald did a great job on this particular issue and points out the difference between a tax cut and these types of initiatives and goes on to give some background information on that particular matter relative to early childhood development. I would like to acknowledge that in the House today. I thought it was a good article and very supportive of children.

We know, Mr. Speaker, that in 7 out of 10 Canadian couples, both work outside the home, 7 out of 10. In only one in five Canadian homes is the male the sole breadwinner, that traditional family that we look at. We know that to be true now throughout our country. In the past, families who wanted children usually made the decision that the woman would stay at home. These changes allow for women and families to fully participate in their child's development and in the workforce. These changes will allow that. I am glad this Nova Scotia Tory Government finally woke up and gave the federal Liberal Government a ringing endorsement. In a news release dated October 26, 2000, the Minister of Labour said that, since he announced the plan to extend leave for parents, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. That is true, and that, I am glad to say was basically a Liberal idea that bears fruit from that.

Unfortunately, this is not what the minister was saying back in August. He said he was under pressure from business groups who did not want to extend parental leave. As of August, the Tory Government in Nova Scotia still had no plans to introduce these changes to parental leave legislation. Even when the Tories finally consented to the federal Liberal initiative, the Minister of Labour and the Minister responsible for the Status of Women were not on the same page so to speak. On October 19th, the Minister responsible for the Status of Women said that businesses may find it easier to fill a year-long vacancy than a shorter one, a statement we support. On the same day, though, the Minister of Labour said that businesses may be opposed to the idea of holding a job for someone for a full year. Two mixed messages. What does that mean, Mr. Speaker?

It is no wonder this government has created so much confusion, particularly in the area of the Social Assistance Act that we see coming forward. Three public announcements by the Minister of Community Services within the last week or ten days and still no real information and no direction. So why did this government stall on making this announcement? Was it because the Metro Chamber of Commerce was opposed to that? As was mentioned earlier, Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business

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was also against extending parental leave for new parents. That was mentioned by the member that spoke earlier, so I won't dwell on that.

Mr. Speaker, the point I would make this morning is that I believe, and it is the feeling of our caucus, that parental leave is not about a business issue, it is an issue about children. It is important to point out some significant benefits to business. You may have to hit them over the head to get their attention and then show them where they can save some money and perhaps do better by their employees. But I am supporting and I am speaking on this bill because of the impact on children. The research is in. We know about the window of opportunity, the first two to three years. We lost the voice of Dr. Paul Steinauer last year, a great spokesperson that brought that to the attention of politicians across this country, the academics, the professional people, the caregivers, and Dr. Fraser Mustard as well. This work is in. We know now that the lack of proper parenting at an early age can have, as the neurosciences say, the hard wiring of the brain can be deficient. These are children who are showing up in our primary schools who are dysfunctional, and they are suffering from that lack of parenting, nurturing and mothering if you will.

A maternity leave of only six months means an employer could lose productivity. It typically takes three to four months for a new employee to be fully trained. That is a point that the business community, many of the more enlightened ones, would understand. Under the new federal Liberal provisions, an employer will not have to pay for the full year of salary. Also, they are likely to get better job candidates if the work term is a year instead of six months. In the meantime, the temporary employee gets a full year of job experience and will be better trained for their next job.

As I said earlier, what this parental leave legislation is really about is children. Studies have proven that extending parental leave has the added benefit of reducing the number of children at risk in Canada. Surely, we know we have far too many children at risk, who are in families where their personal safety is threatened, they lack proper shelter, literacy and personal safety issues, as well as other nutritional and health advantages.

The most important stage of childhood development is from birth to three years old; that window of opportunity. This will support that development, putting in place legislation that recognizes what we already know, what the neuroscientists, the psychiatrists, pediatricians and nurses who look after children already know. That is why our Liberal caucus was prepared to table a parental leave bill for the first day of the sitting of this House. This government knows that. We had the bill ready, it was on my desk yesterday, and I was prepared to table that in the House. I didn't do that after the government did. I would like to feel that in some way maybe that hurried that process along. We were afraid the Tories might get cold feet from their friends in the Chamber of Commerce and other places, and other ill advised and ill informed, and maybe even an uncaring business community. I don't include all business people there, but there are certainly some vocal ones that are there. (Interruptions)

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Well, I am. I am speaking very strongly about some of the short-sightedness of those people who really raised the objection to this type of legislation. You should too, Mr. Minister of Finance. Right now your coffers are starting to overflow and that makes it warm and fuzzy. But don't get too close with those people. As the coins are rolling in the front door, they will be reaching in your back pocket for grants. Sobeys will be back looking for money. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would remind the honourable member that he is to direct his questions through the Chair and not to other members in the House. Save your discussions for outside. The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: I do apologize for that. We were afraid that the Tories would get cold feet, so we had that bill ready to go yesterday. I was very pleased I didn't have to do that, this is a majority government and they should be showing leadership and they should be speaking out for children, not babies as the minister said. I will take him to task on that, I know what he means by babies, but these are children. The Nova Scotia Liberals, like their federal Liberal cousins, were not prepared to sit back and wait for the Tories to make up their minds on this important issue.

Our bill mirrors the federal legislation introduced last February, and it does accommodate adoptive parents. As our member for Cape Breton West said, this is such an important issue, particularly for people who are going through long and protracted adoptions and finally succeed in this initiative, this is a very dramatic event in their life and it does need the support of all the initiatives that we as legislators can bring forward to support all families and those with special needs.

We believe it is important for healthy children to develop and to allow parental leave for a full 52 weeks. I think this government has already proven their lack of commitment to this issue by dragging their feet on this bill as long as possible. The Tories dragged their feet for as long as possible in order to find out what their big business buddies had to say about it. I think they were getting the phone calls like the NDP and ourselves. There are people out there starting to organize petitions that they are going to bring to this House and probably lobby within the galleries of this Chamber.

[1:00 p.m.]

So they knew there was a movement afoot that they would really have to answer to and it was going to be clear and it was going to be a strong message to this government that they had to do this for children. A delay in matching the federal Liberal initiative shows that this government is doing it for political reasons, I am sad to say, not because they believe in helping families and children. A delay in coming forward with this proves the Tories are more worried about what business had to say and I think that is a shame. Since they originally tried to squirm out of extending parental leave, this could be an indication that they

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are looking for some good news. We saw all the standing up and the clapping and all the seals around were flapping because we think that when we look and when we finally see the social assistance legislation, we see the regulations, we see the policies that are going to be enacted out at the local level - the damage isn't going to occur in the House of Assembly - it is going to occur out in our communities, Mr. Speaker, when that social assistance legislation comes in and the weasel words, the core services, the additional services that are being talked about, will just not be realized.

We talk about maximum potential benefits, Mr. Speaker, but that is not what is happening out there in social services today across this province. However, increased parental leave is not about employers, it may not even be about parents, it is about healthy children's development and it should be thus. Research and studies have shown clearly that additional parental leave time reduces the number of children at risk in our country and in our province. It is important to note, as others have, the Europeans; I don't know what happened when we came across the water, but we sure left a lot of good common sense behind because we have struggled with the issues of child protection, the abuse of our children, the sexual abuse of children and how slow we have been to come to their rescue and also their needs of shelter, literacy, nutrition and those of personal safety. The Europeans and the Scandinavian countries have addressed this. Germany has addressed this and France has done a great job.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for a very important introduction? Thank you.

The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, at this time on your behalf I would like to introduce in the Speaker's Gallery a group of young ladies. We have the 2nd Springhill Girl Guides Troop here. We have 11 of the guides here as well as three chaperones and their leader, Joan Brown. Please stand and be recognized by the House. (Applause)

AN HON. MEMBER: Now I know why it was important.

MR. SPEAKER: It was very important.

DR. SMITH: How lucky these people are who are visiting to have such a distinguished gentleman in the Chair who told them how important they were. So they heard it here today because not every (Interruptions) Minister 101 over there, Mr. Speaker, seems to be a bit ill of sorts today.

Mr. Speaker, I am about finished my comments really and I want to thank you for the courtesy of the time that I could address, on behalf of Dartmouth East and our caucus, on this important legislation. We will support this legislation. Children and families need all of us

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on all sides of this House to work and support their healthy social and educational development. People say children are our future. That is true. Children are our future, but their needs are now and the reason I will support this legislation is because it recognized some of the needs of those children now. The needs of children is the responsibility of us as legislators. It impacts on many different departments, particularly the Departments of Health, Community Services, Education and all the other departments that must work together.

I think it is interesting that it is the Acting Minister of Labour bringing this legislation forward on behalf of children here today, but it also impacts so much on all of us as legislators and particularly the ministries that have to stand and be accountable of how this province, in fact the government of this province, supports or does not support children and their families. Children are not babies. They are not small adults. They are children.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Acting Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members for their participation in the debate. Certainly their comments are very much appreciated.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I should have reminded the members that if I recognize the minister it will be to close debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Acting Minister of Labour.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Ordinarily I should just accept the support of members and be polite and sit down. But there were a few things said that need to be addressed. (Interruption) Well, I will be as nice as I can given that it is a Friday afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, to suggest that we dragged our feet is ludicrous. The first day of this session, and that was our first opportunity to introduce legislation to deal with this matter, we brought the bill in. (Applause) How one can possibly describe that as dragging feet requires quite an imagination. The only thing I can see that it does is that it ruined the honourable member's day because he wasn't able to embarrass us. That is all it did. He wasted all that time writing speeches and was embarrassed that he wasn't able to use them. But I noticed he incorporated them in his remarks today. (Interruptions) My blood pressure is doing just fine, because I am having fun.

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Mr. Speaker, we, of course, used the opportunity of this discussion to make some very valid points with the federal government. We did that back in February in Winnipeg. I was able, on behalf of my Atlantic colleagues, the Ministers of Labour representing political Parties other than our own, to urge the Minister of Labour of Canada to come forward with legislation that would address and look at the issue of low income Canadians, Canadians who, by necessity of the economy in which they live, have to deal with the issue of part-time work. We used that opportunity to impress upon the federal Minister of Labour that she needed to go back and speak to her federal colleague about addressing this situation. We saw that we were listened to because the federal Minister of Labour did go back, and the Minister of Human Resources for Canada indicated that they were going to bring forward legislation.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. If what the honourable minister is saying is correct, then why would he ponder after such an extensive consultative process, why would he make such a public admission that businesses may be opposed? Wouldn't he have known by October 19, 2000 where he stood? That was less than two weeks ago. Surely to heavens the honourable minister had a more extensive consultative process than that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. It is just a discrepancy of the facts between two members. The honourable Minister of Labour continue please.

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I will not be deterred by rabbit tracks, and I will deal with that. We brought forward these points, and as I said it was on behalf of all Atlantic Ministers of Labour. The federal government reluctantly came forward, but unfortunately, they didn't bring the legislation forward before they called this needless election. That issue is left on the order paper of the Parliament of Canada. It could have been addressed. They could have done something to help part-time workers, low-income Canadians. They missed that opportunity. Where are those people over there when they didn't press upon the federal government the need to go ahead and bring that legislation forward? Where were they in their consultation with Baggage Bernie, Mr. Speaker, when they didn't do that. There were opportunities, and they missed those opportunities. We brought the issue forward. It was sedated. (Interruptions)

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

MR. MACISAAC: He doesn't have baggage, he has freight. (Laughter) So, Mr. Speaker, we used that opportunity. We made a point, I think a very valid point to make on behalf of Canadians. We were very pleased to consult with Nova Scotians with respect to this very important matter. We had a very clear timetable in mind when we carried out our consultation. We knew when the House was going to sit, we knew when we had to be prepared to bring the legislation forward, and we brought it forward at the very first opportunity, and it will be passed with the cooperation of the members opposite in time for

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it to take effect so that it can be implemented in conjunction with the federal legislation. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, there is no conflict whatever in terms of my comments with respect to business. As I said in my remarks in moving second reading of this bill, some businesses will be slow to get on side; they will eventually get there. Other businesses have embraced the legislation and are prepared to support it from day one. That is part of the process, part of the consultation. I want to thank, again, members for their support of the bill. I couldn't help but take some exception with some of the points that were made. I hope I have helped to set the record straight, and that is a safe statement to make when you are concluding the debate. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 63, Labour Standards Code. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at the hour of 4:00 p.m. and we will sit until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be second reading of public bills. We will be proceeding with Bill No. 62, then Bill No. 64, Dairy Commission Act, upon completion of Bill No. 62.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The House will now rise until 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 1:13 p.m.]